Why is theology with its arcane scripts from ages long dead still even tolerated in twenty-first-century institutions of higher learning alongside geochemistry and biotechnology and disciplines that use synchrotrons and things? In Australia at least public universities rely on funding that is awarded in response to the research output that can be demonstrated to provide some socio-economic benefit to the community.
Unless academics can demonstrate such a benefit for their research proposals they get no public funding. What socio-economic benefit can theology offer? Why is theology even considered a respectable discipline in a scientific age when many westerners look aghast across at the dominance of mullahs in less industrialized societies? We think we should keep faith-based science out of schools, so why do we even tolerate a faith-based history discipline in a modern public institution of higher-learning?
While preparing a new post on a new topic that had nothing any more to do with Casey I stumbled across this list of Latinisms in Mark’s Gospel. The one that hit me hardest was one that Casey uses to justify his argument that Mark was clumsily translating an Aramaic expression into Greek. Well, if this list has any credibility, then Casey’s learned argument, at least with reference to this particular instance, collapses.
The following post is an adaption of what I recently wrote to someone who had emailed me for an opinion on a study he had written on the origins of Christianity. His thesis rested entirely on acceptance of the conventional scholarly view of the authenticity of certain letters of Paul. I was reluctant to burst his balloon and only wrote the following after being pushed for a detailed explanation of my reservations.
Being on time
If we rely on external controls for verification, on the understanding that self-witness of a narrative or document alone is insufficient to establish authenticity, then we have no certainty that the Pauline letters were composed earlier than the second century.
We do not see evidence that anyone knew of them until the second century. They are first testified as belonging to Marcionite and other “unorthodox” Christianities.
In my previous post I carelessly used that pernicious passive voice and in retrospect I see that I conveyed a meaning I did not intend. I have since marked a correction to it in that post and fully intend to have a quiet but sharp word with my proof reader.
But has anyone ever heard of a religious group ever naming itself after the hometown of its founder? What would be the point? Is the religion acting as a tourist promoter to the home of its founder?
No, religious groups generally prefer to name themselves in a way that identifies something of their beliefs or practices.
We have indications that some early Christians called themselves something like “Nazoreans”, and the name has been linked etymologically to something meaning “keeper” or “observer”.
Those who try to say that the name originated as a reference to the town of Jesus’ boyhood are presenting an argument that ignores the etymological argument and makes no sense as the sort of thing people do.
Outsiders name other religions anything under the sun. But that’s quite a different matter.
No archaeological evidence for Nazareth in early first century
I ignored Casey’s critique of Zindler’s and Salm’s arguments over the evidence for the presence of Nazareth and Capernaum in the supposed time of Jesus largely because I thought anyone reading Casey’s book would clearly see that Casey gives no evidence at all in his rebuttal of their claims, and the claims of “trained scholars” whom they each cite. (I like the word “trained” as a descriptor of biblical scholars as it is used by both Kok and Casey. Training has connotations of Pavlov’s dog-like behaviourist conditioning to say the right things in order to be accepted by the academic guild.) But Kok failed to notice what I took to be obvious, so presumably others will overlook the weakness of Casey’s argument, too:
What a quaint idea that has only rarely been heard since the days of Thomas Jefferson: “Information is the currency of democracy” — Thank John Pilger for this reminder of something fundamental, yet that has been so lost in recent years that when people see it in action today they run scared and cry treason! Just like when our eyes are so used to the dark that the light hurts.
The Jewish philosopher Philo lived in Alexandria, Egypt, around the time of Jesus and Paul were said to have lived, and wrote many works arguing that the Bible stories were allegories of higher truths that had counterparts in Greek philosophy. One of the more striking features of Philo’s work is his concept of the Logos (or “Word”) of God. His discussions of the Logos find parallels in Gospel of John that begins with the Logos or Word of God existing with God, but also as God, and it was this Logos that created everything on God’s behalf. Philo’s discussion of the Logos or Word of God shares the same understanding as we find in John’s Gospel. Philo even calls the Logos “a Second God”.
Philo’s views are often considered esoteric and probably alien to the normal beliefs of the common Jews in Palestine and elsewhere (e.g. Casey). Some scholars (e.g. McGrath) go to great lengths to argue that when Philo spoke of a “second God” he was not really deviating from Jewish monotheism, and that modern readers simply need to adjust their definition of “monotheism” as it existed in early Judaism in order not to compromise the conventional wisdom about Judaism.
Deane Galbraith has listed on the Religion Bulletin blog a the early Sheffield Biblical Studies blog posts discussing Casey’s Jesus of Nazareth, and he adds a note about mine, too. But the presentation goes to the heart of why mainstream biblical studies on the historical Jesus are very often not comparable with genuine historical studies. Here is how Deane refers to my posts:
Now that’s putting me in my place! Three sentences including full titles for links to describe two posts on the Sheffield Biblical Studies blog, and a single sentence with a parenthetical notice of “here” “here” “here” . . . to point to my series of posts. ;..(
The nature of scepticism (and the impossibility of having different “levels” of it)
I have long believed that scepticism is a healthy thing, the beginning of verifiable knowledge and the assurance of learning more verifiable things over time. It enables one to consider all knowledge tentative pending the discovery of new information. It keeps one alert to the need to test information before going too far with it.