Casey versus Bultmann; and why Jesus was not as hungry as his disciples

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by Neil Godfrey

Maurice Casey in his new book, Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian’s Account of His Life and Teaching, is sharply critical of Form Criticism and Rudolph Bultmann. Casey repeatedly expresses disapproval of scholars’ attempting to understand the “historical Jesus” by burying their noses in exegetical studies of the texts (which form criticism requires) of the canonical Gospels instead of looking primarily at what he believes are the sources of those texts. So he faults Bultmann on these grounds and also for being “anti-Judaism”:

Bultmann concludes that ‘Jesus . . . opposes the view that the fulfilment of the law is the fulfilling of the will of God.’ That conclusion is clean contrary to the teaching of Jesus. It was however just what German Christians needed from the Christ of their faith, for it bluntly contradicts the centre of Judaism. It was moreover produced by means of detailed exegesis of selected texts. It also illustrates the centrality of anti-Judaism in the work of a distinguished member of the Confessing Church, the opposite wing of the German churches from the Deutsche Christen movement. Bultmann’s general cultural environment led him to write Judaism out of the teaching of Jesus, using spurious intellectual arguments which wrote most of Jesus of Nazareth out of history altogether. (p. 12)

One passage Casey uses to challenge and reject Bultmann’s exegesis is Mark 2:23-28 Continue reading “Casey versus Bultmann; and why Jesus was not as hungry as his disciples”


Maurice Casey on the Christ Myth–Historical Jesus Divide

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by Neil Godfrey

The stated purpose of Maurice Casey’s book Jesus of Nazareth is “to engage with the historical Jesus from the perspective of an independent historian.” Casey explains what he means by his independence:  “I do not belong to any religious group or anti-religious group. I try to . . . establish historically valid conclusions. I depend on the best work done by many other scholars, regardless of their ideological affiliation.” (p. 2)

For Casey, the only correct interpretation of Jesus is one which explains Jesus within a thoroughly Jewish matrix. This means he in fact begins with the assumption that there is an historical Jesus to place within that matrix. He would disagree with that and argue that his book proves the existence of such a figure. On page 43 he writes of “people who deny Jesus’ existence” that

the whole of this book is required to refute them.

This brings to mind the frequent claims of one of another independent scholar who once quite regularly left a similar comment on this blog, saying that a whole book would be required to refute mythicism. Unfortunately, when a scholar says that his book is a refutation of mythicism, one is likely to find that the arguments of mythicists are avoided rather than refuted. I will return to this point.

Casey’s assertion that only a thoroughly Jewish Jesus is a correct Jesus means that for him many publications about the historical Jesus have missed the mark:

The vast majority of scholars have belonged to the Christian faith, and their portrayals of Jesus have consequently not been Jewish enough. Most other writers on Jesus have been concerned to rebel against the Christian faith, rather than to recover the Jewish figure who was central to Christianity in its earliest period. (p. 3, my emphasis) Continue reading “Maurice Casey on the Christ Myth–Historical Jesus Divide”


“Make a Path”: Maurice Casey’s evidence of an Aramaic source for Mark’s Gospel, or Creative Fiction?

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by Neil Godfrey

Edited 13th November
The path . . .

Maurice Casey argues that the author of the Gospel of Mark translated written Aramaic sources about Jesus as early as within ten years of the crucifixion.

He expresses impatience with scholars such as those like John Dominic Crossan who “spend their whole lives in detailed examination of these primary texts” (p. 21) instead of studying what he believes were the Aramaic sources of those texts.

One example highlights both Casey’s rationale for believing the Gospel of Mark was in several places a direct translation of an Aramaic text about life and sayings of Jesus, and what I believe is a much simpler explanation for the question raised.

Make a Path

Mark 2:23 And it came to pass — he is going along on the sabbaths through the corn-fields — and his disciples began to make a way, plucking the ears . . . (Young’s Literal Translation)
“To make a way” is generally translated more like “as they went”. The Greek phrase consists of two words: odon {=WAY} poiein {=TO MAKE,}. Casey translates this, “to make a path

Continue reading ““Make a Path”: Maurice Casey’s evidence of an Aramaic source for Mark’s Gospel, or Creative Fiction?”


On eating babies and the pagan’s faith in history, too

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by Neil Godfrey

Dr Jim’s Thinking Shop is too quiet lately, but when it speaks it makes up for ages of silence with a good belly laugh with a dash of cerebral acuity.

His photo of the atheist BBQ [Link //drjimsthinkingshop.com/2010/10/11/a-snap-from-this-summers-atheist-bbq/ and blog is no longer active… Neil, 23rd Sept, 2015] is a must-see, and his previous article Cooking the Book . . . how not to do religious studies [Link //drjimsthinkingshop.com/2010/07/03/cooking-the-book-on-the-bible-and-how-not-to-do-religious-studies/ and blog is no longer active… Neil, 23rd Sept, 2015] is a perfect companion to my earlier posts on the historicism of much Historical Jesus scholarship:

I’ve  run completely out of patience with the almost impossible to avoid rubbish that Livingston repeats here (he certainly did not invent this idea!). “Yawheh was revealed to Israel through her historical experience” What frikkin’ theistic religion (other than deism) DOESN’T think that their deities show their power in historical events? And didn’t the Israelites think that big storms, famines, locust swarms, etc. were the will of their God? Didn’t Babylonians interpret their military history as being influenced by their deities?

And as for the “uniqueness” of the Israelite religion:

Certainly, the ancient Israelite and Judean worldviews were NOT identical to that of their neighbours, but then the Babylonians’ were NOT identical to that of the Assyrians, Hittites, Egyptians, Persians and so forth. Too often, scholars construct lump together non-Israelite cultures and religions as one part of a dichotomy with Israel and the Bible on the other. This polarity does not help the cause of understanding any of these ancient people, religions or texts. “All non-biblical religions look the same” and “All god are created equal but Yahweh is more equal than that others” are biases that biblical and world religions scholars must overcome.

Seeking the Sacred. But Why?

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by Neil Godfrey

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Listened to an interesting discussion with Stephanie Dowrick (“psychotherapist, interfaith minister, writer and commentator”) on national radio this morning — http://www.abc.net.au/rn/lifematters/stories/2010/3058168.htm — arguing for the need for us to value all life, others, etc. and that this can be achieved through a new self-awareness or identity that comes via a spiritual mindset or consciousness.

I agreed completely with the values she was expressing, but kept wondering: Why the need for “spirituality” in order to embrace them?

Is it not enough to see us all as vulnerable members of the one species? To see oneself as one with others simply on the basis that we all have the same basic needs and desires, were all born as helpless babies and someone cared for us enough to enable us to survive and be where we are now? Does not such a thought, or awareness, consciousness or whatever, humble us enough to see us all “as one”, so that when we lose our cool with a colleague, it does not take too much to calm us and forgive? And of those who are really bad, who do harm and relish in doing harm to others, we can at least maintain some sense (most times) of understanding the makeup and background of such a person, so that we do not have to lower ourselves to respond in kind.

And proactively, does not such an awareness — an awareness that is based entirely on the genetic facts that we all share — direct us to seek to alleviate, help, improve the lot (where we can) of our fellows? Some join Meals on Wheels, some Amnesty International, some Rotary, some the World Socialist Forum, some teaching and volunteer work, some risk their lives with activist subversion, and some just like to give their small change to beggars.

We do all of these things for different reasons, but I personally find it enough to know that we are all here for a short time, with the same genes, the same feelings, pains, hopes, loves, frustrations, needs.

I don’t see the least need to envision anything “spiritual” to bring all this together at all.

But if some find that image works, then I guess that’s good for them. I can understand that my “this is all there is” view has had a bad press and some may have been conditioned to find the very idea leaves them cold. But to me, the awareness that “this is all there is” makes all this more precious than ever.

Faith in History: a faith for both Christians and Marxists

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by Neil Godfrey

. . . Modern Christianity must always reckon with the possibility of having to abandon the historical figure of Jesus. Hence it must not artificially increase his importance by referring all theological knowledge to him and developing a ‘christocentric’ religion: the Lord may always be a mere element in ‘religion’, but he should never be considered its foundation.

To put it differently: religion must avail itself of a metaphysic, that is, a basic view of the nature and significance of being which is entirely independent of history and of knowledge transmitted from the past . . . (p. 402 of The Quest of the Historical Jesus, 2001, by Albert Schweitzer.)

Dominican priest Roland de Vaux of Dead Sea Scroll fame or infamy, wrote that if the historical faith of Israel is not founded in history, then that faith is in error, and our faith is also (“et la notre aussi.”)

Biblical archaeologist George Ernest Wright wrote:

In biblical faith everything depends upon whether the central events actually occurred. . . . To assume that it makes no difference whether they are facts of not is simply to destroy the whole basis of faith.

Thomas L. Thompson (from whom I have taken these references to de Vaux and Wright) aptly notes (my emphasis throughout):

Indeed, it soon becomes clear, it is not ultimately in the Bible that this “biblical faith” is grounded, but in the events of history, and in the Bible only insofar as the Bible retells historical events.

Is not this a rather wry reminder of Marxism’s faith or belief in history?

Is not the fundamental difference between the two, then, merely the interpretation of history? Continue reading “Faith in History: a faith for both Christians and Marxists”


The Role of Faith in Historical Research

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by Neil Godfrey

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In a 2005 review article of Jens Bruun Kofoed’s Text and History: Historiography and the Study of the Biblical Text Thomas L. Thompson observes (my emphasis):

The conclusions themselves of an historian’s research and their accord with belief, rather than argument or method, are perceived as indicative of legitimacy. Adjectives, on the other hand, judging them as “extreme” or “radical” have been thought sufficient for dismissal . . . . Such faith-supported scholarship typically expresses itself in the form of protests to what is perceived as “excessive” scepticism or unspecified, “ideologically motivated distortion” engaged by any who might be thought to distinguish too sharply between arguments of faith and history.

One reads the same criticisms made by New Testament scholars against those who argue against the historicity of Jesus. To question the reliability of a narrative as a historical source is to find one being viewed as “hyper-skeptical” and even driven by an “anti-Christian vendetta”.

The faith of New Testament scholars in their sources is justified on the grounds that it is “not impossible” that any particular narrative in the Gospels, say, was taken from oral tradition going back to a real event.

The slippery slope justification Continue reading “The Role of Faith in Historical Research”


First impressions of an “independent historian’s” account of Jesus

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by Neil Godfrey

In several comments on this blog doctoral student Stephanie Louise Fisher alerted me and others to future publications by the University of Nottingham’s Emeritus of New Testament Languages and Literature Professor, Maurice Casey.

My copy of “Jesus of Nazareth: an Independent Historian’s Account of His Life and Teaching” by Maurice Casey has now arrived. I will post on specific points made in this book, but one point I can address now as a general introduction is what appears to be the meaning of Casey’s term “independent historian”.

From the first two chapters and footnote-directed readings to later pages, my first impressions are that an “independent” historian is one who does not need to explain his or her own viewpoint, but merely needs to pronounce that he or she is not an apologist for any particular Christian religious agenda, nor a Moslem, nor a Jew, nor an atheist. Casey also has words to say about the “academic independence” of British universities, pointing out to his American peers that they hire without regard to religious or racial affiliation. Further, Casey singles out names who are known to be “atheist”, and regularly repeats the “atheist” epithet when he mentions them, and associates these names as “atheists” with “Christ-myth” views. Continue reading “First impressions of an “independent historian’s” account of Jesus”


“An important piece of non-Christian evidence” for the historicity of Jesus

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by Neil Godfrey

This post raises reasons to challenge “the usual scholarly view” most recently asserted by Maurice Casey in his new book, Jesus of Nazareth, that Josephus wrote a short passage about Jesus. I show that contrary to “the usual scholarly view” in general, and contrary to Casey’s assertions in particular, there is evidence to justify the view that Josephus wrote nothing about Jesus, and that the passage about Jesus in Josephus is a complete Christian forgery.

The passage about Jesus appears in a book by a Jewish historian written around 90 CE. The historian is Josephus, and his book, Antiquities of the Jews, is a history of the Jews from the beginnings of the biblical story right through to the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 CE.

The passage begins:

At this time there lived one Jesus, a wise man . . . .

It concludes:

And the tribe of the Christians . . . has not died out to this day. Continue reading ““An important piece of non-Christian evidence” for the historicity of Jesus”


How shall they hear about Jesus unless from a Christian preacher? (2)

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by Neil Godfrey

We have resumed making comments on this post


but there is a tech problem — WordPress is having a hard time coping with comments nested up to 10 deep and totalling over 100 altogether.

Attempts to post comments there will almost certainly apppear out of order and be lost from context.

Unless someone can suggest a better idea can we resume the discussion at this post site  instead:


Or just start adding new comments at the end of this one instead if that’s easier.



The Argument from Silence

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by Neil Godfrey

The following is from Jesus: Neither God Nor Man. The Case for a Mythical Jesus by Earl Doherty.

What conclusions can be drawn from silence? Is the “argument from silence” valid? It depends on certain factors. We need to ask: how compelling to the writer would the subject have been? Does what he is saying invite a natural, even inevitable reference to the subject, whether in passing or as an integral part of his argument? If, for example, a Christian writer is urging a certain course of action upon his readers, and the founder of the movement was known to have taught that very thing, this should almost guarantee that the writer would quote the founder, or mention that he had so taught, to lend weight and persuasion to his argument. In other words, the more we have reason to expect that something would be mentioned and yet it is not, the more we are entitled to conclude from the silence that the subject is not known to the writer.

If that strange and unexpected silence extends to many different writers and many documents, indeed to all writers and documents available from that period, if it extends to a multitude of elements on the subject, the greater becomes the evidential force of that silence. If the silence covers every single element, the conclusions to be drawn become compelling. Continue reading “The Argument from Silence”


Evolution and God go together like Newtonian physics and Hobgoblins

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by Neil Godfrey

I tried to explain a technical computer fix to someone once over the phone. I ended up saying something like, “Press the X and Y keys, and a little man inside the computer will do ABC for you.”

Isn’t that the sort of fantasy nonsense that is required to reconcile evolution with a belief in a personal God who has a special thing for humans?

How does evolution work?

The combined effects of mutation, natural selection and the random processes of genetic drift cause changes in the composition of a population. Over a sufficiently long period of time, these cumulative effects alter the population’s genetic make-up, and can thus greatly change the species’ characteristics from those of its ancestors.

That’s from Evolution: A Very Short Introduction by Brian and Deborah Charlesworth. The back cover blurb contains a panegyric by Richard Dawkins.

Now that makes humans no more unique, or pre-ordained, than sponges. There is no room for supernatural intervention in the terms “natural selection” or “random processes.”

If we like to think we can believe in evolution BUT God somehow guided it to make sure it produced us for Jesus Christ or Jehovah or Allah, then aren’t we kind of copping out, kidding ourselves, and really no different from the person who believes a computer works because there is a little man inside the thing making it work just right?

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Zionist racism and pro-Zionist gentile folly

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by Neil Godfrey

Even worse than Gilad Atzmon’s nightmare is the very likelihood that many Christian Zionists — gentiles themselves — will agree with Rabbi Yosef’s dream of a master race over the rest . . . .

In case the Goyim cannot find a purpose in their life, Israeli senior Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is there to help them out.  In his Saturday sermon Rabbi Yosef revealed that the sole purpose of Gentiles is to serve Jews.
“Goyim were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world.”  The Rabbi was also kind enough to provide the Goyim with some precise tasks. “Why are gentiles needed? They will work, they will plow, they will reap. We will sit like an effendi and eat.
That is why gentiles were created.”

They may even console themselves that through their God they will refine Rabbi Yosef’s dream to allow a super-elite of believing Jews and other Christians at the top of the pyramid.

See for the full article: http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/gilad-atzmon-from-rabbi-yosef-to-marx.html