Zionist Founding Fathers’ Plans for Transfer of the Palestinian Arabs

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

The following quotations by early Zionist leaders are from Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of “Transfer” in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948 by Nur Masalha, published by the Institute for Palestinian Studies.

Nur Masalha opens his book with

When in the late nineteenth century Zionism arose as a political force calling for the colonization of Palestine and the “gathering of all Jews,” little attention was paid to the fact that Palestine was already populated. Indeed, the Basle Program adopted at the First Zionist Congress, which launched political Zionism in 1897, made no mention of a Palestinian population when it spelled out the movement’s objective: “the establishment of a publicly and legally secured home in Palestine for the Jewish people.” (p.5)

It was in order to secure support for their enterprise that “the Zionists propagated in the West the idea of ‘a land without a people for a people without a land,’ a slogan coined by Israel Zangwill” (who is quoted a number of times in this post).

Even as late as 1914 Chaim Weizmann (one of the founding fathers of political Zionism) stated:

Chaim Weizmann
Image via Wikipedia

In its initial stage, Zionism was conceived by its pioneers as a movement wholly depending on mechanical factors: there is a country which happens to be called Palestine, a country without a people, and, on the other hand, there exists the Jewish people, and it has no country. What else is necessary, then, than to fit the gem into the ring to unite this people with this country?

But “neither Zangwell nor Weizmann intended these demographic assessments in a literal fashion. They did not mean that there were no people in Palestine, but that there were no people worth considering within the framework of the notions of European supremacy that then held sway.” (p.6)

20 May 1936, according to Arthur Ruppin, head of the colonizing department of the Jewish Agency, Chaim Weizman (to become the first president of Israel) replied, when asked about the Palestinian Arabs

“The British told us that there are there some hundred thousands negroes [Kushim] and for those there is no value.”

Zangwell made the meaning of his slogan clear in 1920:

Israel Zangwill
Image via Wikipedia

If Lord Shaftesbury was literally inexact in describing Palestine as a country without a people, he was essentially correct , for there is no Arab people living in intimate fusion with the country, utilising its resources and stamping it with a characteristic impress: there is at best an Arab encampment.

But Zangwell and other Zionists also were very well aware that far from being an empty land, the Palestinians were there in very large numbers. Zangwell had visited Palestine in 1897 and in a speech in 1905 said:

Palestine proper has already its inhabitants. The pashalik of Jerusalem is already twice as thickly populated as the United States, having fifty-two souls to the square mile, and not 25 per cent of them Jews.

Early Zionist texts do indeed show that its leaders were concerned about what to do with the “Arab problem” or “Arab question.”

As an example of the attitudes of Zionist groups and settlers concerning the indigenous Palestinian population, Zionist author and Labor leader who immigrated to Palestine in 1890, Moshe Smilansky, wrote:

“Let us not be too familiar with the Arab fellahin lest our children adopt their ways and learn from their ugly deeds. Let all those who are loyal to the Torah avoid ugliness and that which resembles it and keep their distance from the fellahin and their base attributes.”

Minority Jewish voices against racist attitudes

Some Jews spoke out against these attitudes. One was Ahad Ha’Am (Asher Zvi Ginzberg), a liberal Russian thinker who visited Palestine in 1891. He published a series of articles criticizing the “ethnocentricity of political Zionism as well as the exploitation of Palestinian peasantry by Zionist colonists.” He wrote that Zionist “pioneers” believed that

“the only language that the Arabs understand is that of force…. [They] behave towards the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, trespass unjustly upon their boundaries, beat them shamefully without reason and even brag about it, and nobody stands to check this contemptible and dangerous tendency.”

He suggested that this aggressive attitude of the colonists stemmed from their anger

“towards those who reminded them that there is still another people in the land of Israel that have been living there and does not intend to leave.”

Another early settler (he arrived from Russia in 1886) who spoke out against such attitudes, Yitzhaq Epstein, warned that the methods of Zionist land purchases and dispossession of Arabs in the Galilee were stirring up resentment such that a future political confrontation was inevitable.

Early Transfer Proposals of the Founding Fathers

Theodor Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement, recorded in his diary in 1895: Continue reading “Zionist Founding Fathers’ Plans for Transfer of the Palestinian Arabs”


How Literal Was the Mythical World?

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

The gods of Olympus, after whom the Solar Syst...
Image via Wikipedia

Is Doherty’s view that earliest Christian belief that Christ was crucified in some heavenly realm even conceivable? Could any ancient mind plausibly think of a divinity taking on a bodily form and suffering and being exalted again — all quite apart from a literal location on earth? This post does not address such specifics. The topic is too vast for that. But it does have a more modest goal of illustrating the sorts of things that we know ancient minds certainly did think about the sorts of things that might go on “up there”.

Earlier this year I posted Ancient beliefs about heavenly realms, demons and the end of the world. A couple of responses were interesting. One or two commenters immediately took exception to plain statements that some ancients believed that the entire space between the earth and the moon is inhabited by spirits or demons of some sort. It did not seem to matter what certain ancient authors actually said. The real fear seemed to be that quoting such passages might lend some credence to Earl Doherty’s arguments that earliest Christian thinking held that Christ was a heavenly entity who was crucified in a heavenly realm.

Well, this time I’m just going to list the highlights from a small section of Doherty’s Jesus, Neither God Nor Man, one headed with the same title as this post, pp. 149-152.

His intent in this section is to “look at some examples of pictures that were presented of goings-on in the spiritual realm.” None of the following can be said to be allegory. They are written to encourage beliefs about certain realities of “what is up there”.

Ascension of Isaiah

Doherty does not repeat his detailed discussion of the Ascension of Isaiah here. But it is essential reading for anyone looking to understand ancient thought about the various stages and inhabitants between heaven and earth. R. Joseph Hoffmann also discusses the Ascension in relation to Paul’s understanding of Christ, and I quoted some of his discussion in Weaknesses of traditional anti-mythicist arguments.

1 Enoch

In the pre-Christian 1 Enoch chapter 21 we learn of a belief that certain angels are confined to fearful realms outside heaven and certainly not on earth: Continue reading “How Literal Was the Mythical World?”


Videos capturing gods entering humans and communicating through their blood

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

I am fascinated by other “foreign” ceremonies. They invite comparisons with the ones with which we are familiar, and help grasp a bigger picture of what “it” is all about.

My days in Singapore are numbered as I look forward to a new position back in Australia, so I was very glad when some Chinese locals went out of their way to encourage me to attend the opening ceremony celebrating the birthday of one of their gods. This one happened to be at the Aljuneid locale (suburb? district?) of Singapore. (Aljuneid also happens to be an Arab name — Arabs, especially from Yemen, have a long history of ties with Singapore, and I happen to work with one of the Aljuneid descendants here.) I asked the local Chinese who encouraged me to attend the ceremony for the name of the god, but was met with uncertainty as to how to convey something apparently uniquely Chinese in a meaningful way to me in English. So I can’t say what god(s) the following videos depict.

It seems to me that somewhere in Singapore there are temporary marquees being set up every week for the purpose of celebrating a local society’s or community’s particular god’s birthday. One night is for the opening ceremony, another for a community meal, and yet another for entertainment. (The decorative detail — its colour and intricacy — of all the paraphernalia is astonishing. Maybe I can post some photos later.)

I have the impression that the community meal is also routinely accompanied by entertainment in the form of Chinese opera. But the Chinese audiences for this, from my few experiences, are far fewer than those for the modern pop entertainment on the final night. Some of my younger Chinese work colleagues have expressed some astonishment that anyone could sit through and enjoy a Chinese opera. I do have to admit the audiences to these that I have observed are a small number from the older generation, plus me. But the community meals also come with auctions and/or raffles that seem to keep the many scores of diners happily entertained.

But last night was the first time I had the experience of witnessing the opening night ceremonies of a local god’s birthday. It was a lengthy process, two and a half hours no less, but I enclose here only two of the videos/photos I captured.

The first video depicts the moment that the god enters his human medium. If interested, you might want to fast-forward the first 50 or 60 seconds. Continue reading “Videos capturing gods entering humans and communicating through their blood”

What might a Davidic Messiah have meant to early Christians?

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

king David from Chludov Psalter
Image via Wikipedia

The metaphor of the messiah . . . is used neither as a direct reference to any contemporary, historical king nor to any known historical expectations before Bar Kochba (c. 135 CE). (Messiah Myth, Thompson, p.291; SJOT, 15.1 2001, p.58.)

Those scholars who repeat that there was popular Jewish anticipation of a Messiah to emerge as a contemporary, historical leader in their own time — any time before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE — do not cite evidence that actually supports this assertion. Thompson likes to remind readers of W. S. Green’s observation that biblical scholars have tended to form their understanding of the concept of the Messiah — and their (unsupported) belief that the term refers to contemporary Israelite kings — by studying texts where the word does not appear.

But at the same time there is no doubt that David was depicted as a once-upon-a-time messianic figure as well as an author of psalms.

So what do we read about the career of David as an anointed (messianic) one? In the Psalms attributed to him he cries out to God as one forsaken and persecuted. (Pss 18, 142). In Psalm 22 he cries out in pious agony, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

David’s career is one of fleeing from persecution. He is the chosen and pious, righteous sufferer. His persecution is a badge of his honour, not shame, in the eyes of all who look to him as a model of piety.

He is betrayed by his closest followers, and ascends the Mount of Olives to pray in his darkest hour.

He prepares for the building of the future temple after his death.

If early Christians ever thought to apply the Davidic motifs to Jesus, they surely did so with remarkable precision. David may have ruled a temporal kingdom, but Jesus demonstrated his power over the invisible rulers of the entire world. Even though ruler over the princes of this world, he was still betrayed, deserted and denied by his closest followers. He ascended the Mount of Olives in prayer at his darkest hour.

And he suffered the injustice that the righteous have always proverbially suffered, even crying out with David, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

But as in the Psalms God delivered David from the depths and pits of hell to exalt him in vindication before his enemies, so did God deliver and exalt Jesus. What was the suffering of humiliation in the eyes of his enemies, has always been the badge of honour in the eyes of God and devotees.

And none of this should be surprising. Even in Daniel we read of a prophecy of the Messiah to be killed, “but not for himself”, with the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple to follow. Daniel 9:26 Continue reading “What might a Davidic Messiah have meant to early Christians?”


The Popularity of Resurrection

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Golden plaques representing the resurrection o...
Image via Wikipedia

I’d love to have the time to cite links and sources for each of the following. Maybe I can catch up with doing that in the future. But for now I like at least the idea of a bare list the examples of resurrection belief and hope in the ancient world as discussed by Richard Carrier in Not the Impossible Faith.

This post should be seen as part of a set of other posts I have done in the past:

Popular novels and the gospels

Another empty tomb tale

Resurrection reversal

Dog resurrection

Two Greek historians of the 4th century BC, Theopompus and Eudemus of Rhodes, described the Persian Zoroastrian religious belief that “men will be resurrected and become immortal”. This religion — with its belief in resurrection to physical immortality — was still the dominant religion of the Persian empire throughout the Roman period.

Herodotus records the Thracians believed in a physical resurrection of Zalmoxis. The link is to the Wikipedia article where you can read about the religious cult that grew around this resurrected Zalmoxis, a cult that promised eternal paradise for believers (Carrier cites here the attestation of this in Plato’s Charmides, 156d).

Herodotus also reports the belief in the resurrection of Aristeas of Proconnesus. Again the link is to a Wikipedia quotation from Herodotus.

“Lucian records that the pagan Antigonus had told him: “I know a man who came to life more than twenty days after his burial, having attended the fellow both before his death and after he came to life.” (Carrier, p.86)

Celsus listed names of those whom many pagans believed to have been resurrected: Continue reading “The Popularity of Resurrection”


3 wrong ways (and 1 right way) to translate Biblical Hebrew

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

I nice little book, And God Said: How Translations Conceal the Bible’s Orginal Meaning, by Dr Joel M. Hoffman, gives us some valuable and interesting insights into the complexities involved with translating from Hebrew to English. He entertainingly discusses some culturally entrenched mistranslations that we have inherited in most of our Bibles, too.

I am sure I am not the only one with an interest in Bible study who has been known to struggle to find original meanings of Hebrew words by piecing together data from a number of lexicons and dictionaries. Hoffman has a discussion highlighting three common methods of understanding Hebrew that don’t work very well. I can understand his advice being fit for amateurs but he seems to be saying that even professional translators have also at times fallen into these traps:

Unfortunately, three common methods of understanding Hebrew are rampant among translators, and none of them works very well. The three methods are internal word structure, etymology, and cognate languages. (p.21)

The news is not all bad, though. Hoffman does discuss a fourth method that really does work. But first he addresses the three bad wolves.

Wrong: Internal word structure

Hoffman illustrates the problem here with English language analogies.

The word “patent” by definition means a “non-obvious art”, with “art” being use in its technical sense to embrace science as well what we think of as art. But the key part of the definition is “nonobvious”.

In fact, Section 103 of Title 35 of the U.S. Code, the part of U.S. law that deals with patents, specifically notes that “non-obvious subject matter” is a “condition for patentability.”

He incidentally refers to one wag who managed to patent the simple stick though describing it in a way to hide its obviousness, and I have seen a patent go through for “a circular transportation facilitation device” (the wheel!) — again clever scientific jargon can be used to make something obvious seem quite novel.

Now since the suffix “-ly” usually turns a word into an adverb, one might expect that patently would mean doing something in a non-obvious way. But of course we know the word means the exact opposite!

Again, the word “host” means someone who welcome guests at parties. But “hostile”, once again, has an opposite meaning. If we tried to use the word “host” to understand “hostile”, or vice versa, we would get a completely wrong answer.

Knowing the meaning of “intern” does  not help us in any way to establish the meaning of “internal”. Continue reading “3 wrong ways (and 1 right way) to translate Biblical Hebrew”

The Dishonesty of a “Scholarly” Review of Robert Price

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Associate Professor of Religion at Butler University, and professing Christian, James McGrath, has written in his review of Price’s chapter, “Jesus at the Vanishing Point”, in The Historical Jesus: Five Views, the following:

Crossan rightly highlights that Price’s statement that he will simply skip the matter of the Testimonium Flavianum is “not an acceptable scholarly argument as far as I am concerned”.

It is outright dishonesty to suggest Price “simply skips the matter of the TF”. Price in fact discusses his scholarly views of the TF, and cites a number of scholarly references supporting his view and where readers can explore his arguments in more depth. Price also explains why the evidence for the TF is less conclusive than other evidence he proceeds to discuss.

(I expand on these and other points in my two-part review — Part 1Part 2 — of McGrath’s so-called review of Price’s chapter. The point of this post is simply to highlight as brief notes the extent to which at least one scholar will go when faced with mythicist arguments. See the fuller reviews for the details.)

McGrath also writes:

For instance, is it possible that early Christians went through the Jewish Scriptures, choosing a story here, a turn of phrase there, and weaved them together to create a fictional Messiah? Certainly – as are all other scenarios. What is never explained is why someone would have done this . . .

This is a double lie. Price nowhere argues that early Christians weaved scriptures to “create” a fictional Messiah. Continue reading “The Dishonesty of a “Scholarly” Review of Robert Price”


How Facts Backfire (Why facts don’t change people’s opinions)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

FACTS ubt 2
Image via Wikipedia

How Facts Backfire is an article by Joe Keohane in the Boston Globe discussing a major threat to democracy. I select only those portions of this article that have more general relevance, and that can just as well apply to scholarly debates, and the mythicist-historicist arguments in particular.

Here’s the first startling passage (with my emphasis etc):

Mankind may be crooked timber, as Kant put it, uniquely susceptible to ignorance and misinformation, but it’s an article of faith that knowledge is the best remedy. If people are furnished with the facts, they will be clearer thinkers and better citizens. If they are ignorant, facts will enlighten them. If they are mistaken, facts will set them straight.

In the end, truth will out. Won’t it?

Maybe not. Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.

And then there is this:

[People] aren’t blank slates. They already have beliefs, and a set of facts lodged in their minds. The problem is that sometimes the things they think they know are objectively, provably false. And in the presence of the correct information, such people react very, very differently than the merely uninformed. Instead of changing their minds to reflect the correct information, they can entrench themselves even deeper.

“The general idea is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong,” says political scientist Brendan Nyhan, the lead researcher on the Michigan study. The phenomenon — known as “backfire” — is “a natural defense mechanism to avoid that cognitive dissonance.”

And this:

Most of us like to believe that our opinions have been formed over time by careful, rational consideration of facts and ideas, and that the decisions based on those opinions, therefore, have the ring of soundness and intelligence. In reality, we often base our opinions on our beliefs, which can have an uneasy relationship with facts. And rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions. Worst of all, they can lead us to uncritically accept bad information just because it reinforces our beliefs. This reinforcement makes us more confident we’re right, and even less likely to listen to any new information.

And this

A striking recent example was a study done in the year 2000, led by James Kuklinski of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. . . . . . . the ones who were the most confident they were right were by and large the ones who knew the least about the topic. . . . . Kuklinski calls this sort of response the “I know I’m right” syndrome, and considers it a “potentially formidable problem” in a democratic system. “It implies not only that most people will resist correcting their factual beliefs,” he wrote, “but also that the very people who most need to correct them will be least likely to do so.

Is Self-Esteem a factor?

Nyhan worked on one study in which he showed that people who were given a self-affirmation exercise were more likely to consider new information than people who had not. In other words, if you feel good about yourself, you’ll listen — and if you feel insecure or threatened, you won’t. This would also explain why demagogues benefit from keeping people agitated. The more threatened people feel, the less likely they are to listen to dissenting opinions, and the more easily controlled they are.

What of the most highly educated?

A 2006 study by Charles Taber and Milton Lodge at Stony Brook University showed that politically sophisticated thinkers were even less open to new information than less sophisticated types. These people may be factually right about 90 percent of things, but their confidence makes it nearly impossible to correct the 10 percent on which they’re totally wrong.



Three Pillars of the Traditional Christ Myth Theory

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

A few posts back I listed 3 reasons scholars have embraced the Christ Myth theory, 6 “sound premises” of the early Christ Myth arguments, and the weaknesses of 6 traditional arguments against the Christ Myth idea (all archived here), as published by Hoffmann in his introduction to Goguel’s book.

So why not complement those posts with Price’s 3 pillars of the traditional Christ Myth theory? These are from his Jesus at the Vanishing Point chapter in The Historical Jesus: Five Views.

Pillar #1 Why no mention of a miracle-working Jesus in secular sources?

Pillar #2 The Epistles, earlier than the Gospels, do not evidence a recent historical Jesus.

Pillar #3 The Jesus as attested in the Epistles shows strong parallels to Middle Eastern religions based on the myths of dying-and-rising gods.

On the latter, it is worth drawing attention to the word “epistles”, and to the fact (as per pillar 2) that these preceded the Gospels. Some critics of the Christ Myth appear to fail to notice these details and launch off into non sequiturs by way of rebuttal.

Price summarizes in broad strokes here the relationship between these myths and Christianity. Population relocations and a kind of urban cosmopolitanism from Hellenistic times and throughout the Roman Empire coincided with a revised function of ancient myths.

The myths now came to symbolize the rebirth of the individual initiate as a personal rite of passage, namely new birth. (p.75)

Price outlines the evidence that these myths definitely did predate Christianity, as affirmed by both archaeology and the testimony of the Churh Father apologists themselves. Price once again addresses the pedantry of the attempts of J.Z. Smith to claim minor differences invalidate any attempt to compare any ancient myths with any of the Christian ones.

One book I have not yet read, but that Price tempts to me to read, is Gilbert Murray’s Five Stages of Greek Religion. The link is to the full text on Project Gutenberg. It is probably also on Googlebooks. Rich — has this one been added to Webulite, yet?

Price invites me to read it with these comments:

I must admit that when I first read of these mythic parallels in Gilbert Murray’s Five Stages of Greek Religion, it hit me like a ton of bricks. No assurances I received from any Christian scholar I read ever sounded like anything other than specious special pleading to me, and believe me I was disappointed. This was before I had ever read of the principle of analogy, but when I did learn about that axiom, I was able to give a name to what was so powerful in Murray’s presentation.

Reviewing McGrath’s review of Robert Price on mythicism (2)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

“When early Christians gave the Easter shout, “The Lord is risen!” they were only repeating the ancient acclamation, “Yahweh lives!” (Ps 18:46), and they meant the same thing by it.” (Price)

This continues my previous post in which I began discussing McGrath’s “review” of Price’s arguments for mythicism, although as I pointed out there, “review” must remain in quotation marks because McGrath simply writes a lot without actually addressing Price’s arguments!

In my previous post I remarked on the ignorance of the oft-repeated claim that there is as much evidence for Jesus as for any other ancient historical figure. This, as I said, is complete nonsense and only reveals the ignorance of those making such a claim. I did not elaborate in that post, but I have discussed this more fully in other posts such as Comparing the sources and Comparing the evidence.

Failing to understand Price’s argument

My last post finished with McGrath’s complaint that Price is making something of a “creationist” like argument. Reading McGrath’s accusations an uninformed reader would think that Price is arguing that just as God made the world ex nihilo in all its complexity in one sitting, so someone sat down and created a fictional Messiah and Jesus ex nihilo in one sitting.

Yet when Price does clearly demonstrate that he is making no such argument, as when he writes

Some god or savior was henceforth known as “Jesus”, “Savior,” and Christianity was off and running. The savior would eventually be supplied sayings borrowed from Christian sages, Jewish rabbis and Cynics, and clothed in a biography drawn from the Old Testament. It is futile to object that monotheistic Jews would never have held truck with pagan godlings. We know that they did in the Old Testament, though Ezekiel didn’t like it much. And we know that first century Judaism was not the same as Yavneh-era [post 70] Judaim. There was no normative mainstream Judaism before Yavneh. And, as Margaret Barker has argued, there is every reason to believe that ancient Israelite beliefs, including polytheism, continued to survive despite official interdiction . . . . Barker suggests that the first Jesus worshipers understood Jesus to be the Old Testament Yahweh, the Son of God Most High, or El Elyon, head of the Israelite pantheon from time immemorial. . . .(p.82)

McGrath quaintly represents such an argument by Price as follows:

Price . . . . seems to think that the fact that Judaean religion was not yet monotheistic in Ezekiel’s time means that an affirmed monotheist like Paul would have happily borrowed from myths about Tammuz.

McGrath is clearly intent on oversimplifying mythicist arguments. Shadow boxing is always much easier than getting into the ring with a real opponent.

Ignoring the elephant in the room Continue reading “Reviewing McGrath’s review of Robert Price on mythicism (2)”


Observations on McGrath’s “Review” of Robert Price on Mythicism

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

History is Myth
Image by LU5H.bunny via Flickr

I place “review” in quotation marks because Associate Professor of Religion of Butler University James McGrath simply avoids addressing Dr Robert Price’s arguments. I used to think McGrath was not very bright, but I have recently come to understand that he is as subtle and smart as a serpent when it comes to those twisting and avoidance manoeuvres whenever confronted with challenges to his most fundamental — and obviously never at any time in his life seriously questioned — assumptions.

I am referring here to Robert Price’s “Jesus at the Vanishing Point”, the first chapter in Beilby’s and Eddy’s The Historical Jesus: Five Views, and McGrath’s “review” of same. (My own earlier comments on Price’s chapter at 5 commandments and at Johnson’s response. A little of what follows assumes some acquaintance with these earlier posts.)

To keep this post within reasonable limits, I address but a few of McGrath’s responses to Price’s chapter.

Before getting into it, I must admit to being surprised by one omission from McGrath’s review. Even though McGrath complains that Price’s chief fault is merely making a case for something that is possible but not probable, and even though McGrath has elsewhere charged mythicists who fall into this “trap” as thinking “just like Creationists”, McGrath strangely fails to publicly accuse Robert Price of being “just like a creationist”. I would not like to think McGrath is somehow being selective in whom he chooses to public insult, or that he allows a person’s academic status to deflect him from making insults he quite liberally casts out to non-academics who make the very same arguments.

I hope to see in future McGrath have the intellectual consistency to publicly accuse Price and Thompson of being like creationists in their mythicist views.

But now on to what McGrath does say in his review:

McGrath argues that the evidence for Jesus is comparable to the evidence for anyone else in ancient times Continue reading “Observations on McGrath’s “Review” of Robert Price on Mythicism”


Gospels and Genesis as historical documents

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

I believe that few “serious scholars” (as they say) see any reason to attribute the first couple of chapters of the Book of Genesis to historical reality. Few actually see any reason to attribute its claims that God fashioned the world in 6 days and created Adam from dust and Eve from his baculum.

But I do observe that many “serious biblical scholars” do attribute historical reality to a New Testament book that claims the heavens split apart and that both God and Satan spoke to a man who was baptized by John in the Jordan River.

Both books reference geographical and human facts on the ground. There really is a sky above, land below and a sea teeming with fish. Human males really do exist, lack a baculum, and generally enjoy the companionship of womenfolk, especially when they serve as dutiful helpmates. There really is a Jordan River, an ancient Jerusalem and Judea, and if we can believe that the received text of Josephus is an honest indicator of what he originally wrote, a John the Baptist.

So why do biblical historians reject the historicity of one yet embrace the historicity of the other?

We don’t want to open ourselves as sceptical inquirers who reject miracles on principle.

(I am amazed at the lengths to which quite a few scholars seem to go to prove they are not somehow biased against the supernatural or the miraculous. They do have very logical arguments — analogy etc — but hell, let’s just cut the crap and say “No way! Miracles are an absurd notion and are not allowed into the discussion!” Anti-supernatural bias? Sure! Why not? I’m also biased against the notion that pixies live under toadstools or that teacups orbit Saturn.)

Okay, so maybe we don’t care about opening ourselves to accusations of such bias. But let’s play the game anyway. Continue reading “Gospels and Genesis as historical documents”

Having interacted with historians who do not agree with me, as advised . . .

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Associate Professor of Religion, James McGrath, helpfully offered me the following advice:

Perhaps your time would be better spent interacting with those historians and philosophers of history who don’t agree with your presuppositions, and seeking to understand why and address those issues, rather than insulting those who have understandably not written a full-fledged monograph in response to your blog-only self-published proclamations on history.

Well I have spent quite a bit of time reading historians who do not agree with me, and I have responded to quite a few of them. James McGrath himself is one of them. I have responded to aspects of his own little volume in which he sets out for the lay reader exactly how biblical historians work. I have demonstrated that his analogies with prosecuting attorneys or detectives are false, and actually make a mockery of how those professions really work.

McGrath also challenged me to read the discussions of historical method by historians such as E.P. Sanders. So I did. And I wrote some detailed responses demonstrating that the methodology was nothing other than another example of “biblical exceptionalism”. I was a little disappointed that James failed to respond to my efforts that I had undertaken at his request, but he did eventually say he simply disagreed with me when I finally pushed him for a comment. Continue reading “Having interacted with historians who do not agree with me, as advised . . .”


Does McGrath think Hoffmann, Davies, Schweitzer, Thompson, Schwartz, et al are Creationist-like crackpots?

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

In my two latest posts attempting to epitomize a couple of aspects of R. Joseph Hoffmann’s thoughts as expressed in his introduction to Goguel’s Jesus the Nazarene, I could not help but be struck by Hoffmann’s remark that a reason for the scholarly debate over Jesus mythicism was largely a desperate response designed to salvage the basics of Christianity itself from the direction in which liberal theology was veering. It was one thing for scholars to jettison a miracle working Jesus, but they could not do without the ethical teacher. At least that latter had to be defended at all costs, and so the mythicist debate was left behind in the dust.

Hoffmann recently corrected me (rightly) when I ignorantly misrepresented the reason for his republication of Goguel’s book (I had not read his book at the time), but in doing so he opined that the reason the Jesus mythicist debate is less prominent than it perhaps deserves to be in academia has more “to do with academic appointments (as in security thereof) rather than common sense.”

On both counts, here, — the ideological reason for jettisoning serious continuation of the mythicist debate, and career threatening political correctness — one begins to understand why Jesus historicists who repeatedly shout that the mythicist question was “finally settled and fully rebutted” long ago never seem to accompany their war cries with evidence, citations, publications. Just shouting loud and long (with crude insults and misrepresentations as repeated refrains) that the debate was settled long ago and only looneys persist to ask questions about it seems to be sufficient assurance for some historicists. Continue reading “Does McGrath think Hoffmann, Davies, Schweitzer, Thompson, Schwartz, et al are Creationist-like crackpots?”