Neil Godfrey’s response 1 to Maurice Casey and Stephanie Fisher

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by Neil Godfrey

Oh the searing intellectual prowess that is being brought to bear against the mythicist case and mythicist bloggers such as myself! How can we withstand this pulverising assault? This shock and awe!

Steph and Maurice have found a post of mine from 2010 in which I explained that though I was a librarian I never saw or touched a book.

One of his statements followed on a shocking earthquake in New Zealand: ‘I’m a librarian, but I never see or touch a book’.[37] Perhaps this is why he seems incapable of gathering information available in books with any semblance of accuracy.  (Maurice Casey, Mythicism: A Story of Bias, Incompetence and Falsehood, accessed 23/5/2012 – I like the rhetorical touch Casey uses to introduce what he is about to say about me — See my P.S. at the end of this post for a response to the innuendo Casey has planted here.)

It is also apparent he does not read whole books, once claiming on his blog ‘I’m a librarian, but I never see or touch a book.’[43]  (Stephanie Fisher, An Exhibitions of Incompetence . . . accessed 23/5/2012)

Both footnotes point to my 2010 post, Oh Dear! What Half a Million Books Thrown on the Floor by an Earthquake Look Like .  .  .

The context surely explains that I was speaking about my job — that though I am a librarian I do not work with books but with digital resources — and not about my personal devotion to study and books. But such a distinction is apparently far too subtle for Steph and Maurice, blinded as they seem to be by a compelling need to find fault at any cost in one whose arguments they have diligently avoided addressing.

Maurice’s and Steph’s “exposure” of my supposedly willful bibliophobia is as meaningful as faulting a bank manager for saying he never sees or touches cash.

Or for chastising a computer programmer (who only works at a terminal all day) for saying he never sees or touches a computer.

If you’re asked while driving if you want to share a beer and you say No, do you expect to be understood as saying that you are a teetotaller?

My whole point, as is surely clear from the context — and note that Steph Fisher herself was the first to comment on that post and expressed no such indignation over what she and Maurice have supposedly discovered subsequently in my words — is that, contrary to popular perceptions, not all librarians do work with books. A number of us work full-time on digital and online resources. A more apt job description for me would be something like “research data manager and digital resources coordinator” — establishing policies and procedures for the management of research datasets, research publications and cultural resources to make them as widely accessible as possible via the web. But no-one knows what any of that means so “librarian” it still is. My comment in the post was alluding to the wider discussion of the future of print-books in a digital age.

This is as profoundly devastating to my reputation as James McGrath’s innuendo that I appeared never to have actually read a particular book I was discussing because I enclosed its title with quotation marks instead of italicizing it!

Steph once informed me that she passed on to Maurice Casey all he needed to know about me and this blog. So I am surprised she did not mention my collection of cash computers beers books at http://www.librarything.com/home/neilgodfrey nor the many scores upon scores of blog posts addressing scholarly books I have read, liked and shared with others on this blog (see the Categories drop-down list on the right hand margin).

But Steph knows that the logic of her criticism is flawed so she tries to fudge her complaint to suggest I really meant I never read “whole” books.

If this is the depth of criticism I am going to have to wade through I can see I won’t need to be rolling up my trousers past my ankles.



I have professional colleagues working at the Canterbury Library. I was relieved to learn all were okay and there had been no mass fatalities as were experienced in the horrific 2011 disaster. The image of the books fallen from the shelves went the rounds of librarians everywhere and all empathized with those who would have the task of picking everything up. At least we could ease some of the shared pain by finding room to make light of it to some extent given that no lives were lost and that there was only a mess to clean, not total destruction.

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30 thoughts on “Neil Godfrey’s response 1 to Maurice Casey and Stephanie Fisher”

  1. Teetottaller??? Some of my best drinking is done at over 100km/h. Its my aversion to that particular mode of transport,

    You are absolutely correct Neil, when people want to argue something, for some bizarre reason, they talk about something else and focus on their own.

    PS, py finest drinking moment was with an inspector at over 150km/h. Commission lends itself to recognition of intelligence! Damn fine passenger he was.

  2. I was staggered by the bad faith of this lady Fisher, and also by her torrent (19th century writers wouldn’t hesitate in calling it “ejaculation”) of derogatory words, and the emptiness of many of her ratiocinations.
    I had to comment on her article as follows:

    “Absolutely disappointed by the space devoted to acrimonious vituperations and empty admonitions. A lot of empty language (which she may feel loaded with “meaning”), as in:

    ‘To ensure the healthy future of critical historical enquiry and continue to inspire the process of constructive debate and analysis, the continued development of new argument and evidence, and encourage the evolution of improved methodological approaches and application through precision and fine tuning, we need to start taking responsibility for maintaining high standards in scholarship.’

    Superficial demolition job on Richard Carrier. Her message: If you don’t know Aramaic, don’t pretend to understand anything about the Gospels. Leave it to the only few experts who do.
    Maurice Casey’s article had much more meat and less fluff. Even if his background research on those infamous mythicists was carried by this lady. Like Ehrman’s own background research must probably have been provided by his cohort of graduate students.

    This lady knows nothing of the misery of PhDs in America: “Why So Many Ph.D.s Are On Food Stamps”. Most PhDs will never get a real teaching career.


    In addition, she could have found out that Carrier’s PhD was in History of [Ancient] Philosophy, making his prospects for an academic career doubly problematic. So he may have made a smart survival choice by trying to carve himself a place in the fuzzy, but public, field of Christianity origins.

    1. That most PhD’s will never have a teaching career is not a problem to Ms. (Dr?) Fisher, as I understand her argument. What she’s endeavoring to do is to restrict membership in the body of Real, True Serious Scholars (RTSS) until none of them are tainted with mythicism. Then she can say “Therefore, no Real, True, Serious Scholar gives mythicism the time of day.”

      Previously, Ehrman said that people without the right degrees from an accredited institution, peer reviewed publications, and an academic teaching post were not qualified as Real, True, Serious Scholars. But then there’s Price. So now Steph has added some new qualifications to the list. Now your degrees and teaching post have to be from a “top-tier” university, and you can’t be a former fundamentalist.

      One thing I find curious about this is how Steph herself is allowed to play in the treehouse. Maurice Casey describes her qualifications as follows:

      The third and last essay in this series has been written by Stephanie Louise Fisher. Steph came here as an outstanding mature student from the University of Victoria, New Zealand, where she obtained exceptionally brilliant first class degrees including study in history, anthropology, sociology, classics as well as music and other things reflecting her eclectic interests and lateral mind. She worked as a research fellow to Jim Veitch in the history of the Lloyd Geering heresy trial. While in my opinion there was never any question of her not obtaining one, she won the fiercely competitive overseas research scholarship and was offered the Commonwealth Scholarship twice. While she could have chosen to go to any first class independent university on earth, she chose to come to England because of her specialist focus on the Double Tradition. Thus James Crossley, Steph, and I have worked well together, and we have had many debates, while becoming genuine friends over the past few years.

      While Steph has been here, she has effectively worked as my research assistant too, without being in any sense subordinate to me. She has been wonderful working both on my last book, Jesus of Nazareth, and on material about mythicists. She is, as the above comments indicate, a scholar with very broad interests, and she works on many projects simultaneously. We do have reputable publishers already interested in her work on the Double Tradition, so we look forward to this task being completed, because New Testament scholarship needs it so much, and she is the only person known to me who can complete it.

      Two things he does not list here are a list of peer-reviewed publications (though he does say reputable publishers are interested in her work), and a teaching post at a “top-tier” university. She is “an outstanding mature student” but not a distinguished professor, yet for some reason she is allowed to speak instead of being expected to back silently out of the hallowed halls with a series of kowtows. Apparently being a historicist is a key qualification in itself for being treated as a Real, True, Serious Scholar, more important than the teaching post at a top-tier university or peer-reviewed academic publications. Presumably she could also get a mulligan on the “you can’t have ever been a fundamentalist” qualification, if she had been one once.

      This, to me, provides a pretty good indicator that Richard Carrier was right about the academic ostracism he called out Bart Ehrman for encouraging in his response to Ehrman’s HuffPost essay. Being a mythicist automatically disqualifies someone from being a Real, True, Serious Scholar, or at the very least makes the bar of respectability much higher than it would be if you are a historicist.

      1. So, does she have multiple degrees in different fields of study? That seems the implication to me – from that list I’d gather at least 4-5 bachelors degrees if nothing else. It is a bit surprising that Hoffman would allow someone without the proper credentials to speak for their betters, but if she was/is one of his sycophants, then her lack of credentials can be forgiven.

        1. Or c’mon.

          This is the second time within a few weeks when I have seen someone write “common” instead of “c’mon.” Perhaps it’s a new idiom.

  3. Dr Erhman commented about students whose understanding of English history comes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Steph’s compelling grasp of logic and honesty reminds me of the villagers in this scene.

    Scene 5

    CROWD: A witch! A witch! A witch! We’ve got a witch! A witch!
    VILLAGER #1: We have found a witch, might we burn her?
    CROWD: Burn her! Burn!
    BEDEMIR: How do you know she is a witch?
    VILLAGER #2: She looks like one.
    BEDEMIR: Bring her forward.
    WITCH: I’m not a witch. I’m not a witch.
    BEDEMIR: But you are dressed as one.
    WITCH: They dressed me up like this.
    CROWD: No, we didn’t… no.
    WITCH: And this isn’t my nose, it’s a false one.
    BEDEMIR: Well?
    VILLAGER #1: Well, we did do the nose.
    BEDEMIR: The nose?
    VILLAGER #1: And the hat — but she is a witch!
    CROWD: Burn her! Witch! Witch! Burn her!
    BEDEMIR: Did you dress her up like this?
    CROWD: No, no… no … yes. Yes, yes, a bit, a bit.
    VILLAGER #1: She has got a wart.
    BEDEMIR: What makes you think she is a witch?
    VILLAGER #3: Well, she turned me into a newt.
    BEDEMIR: A newt?
    VILLAGER #3: I got better.
    VILLAGER #2: Burn her anyway!
    CROWD: Burn! Burn her!
    BEDEMIR: Quiet, quiet. Quiet! There are ways of telling whether
    she is a witch.
    CROWD: Are there? What are they?
    BEDEMIR: Tell me, what do you do with witches?
    VILLAGER #2: Burn!
    CROWD: Burn, burn them up!
    BEDEMIR: And what do you burn apart from witches?
    VILLAGER #1: More witches!
    VILLAGER #2: Wood!
    BEDEMIR: So, why do witches burn?
    VILLAGER #3: B–… ’cause they’re made of wood…?
    BEDEMIR: Good!
    CROWD: Oh yeah, yeah…
    BEDEMIR: So, how do we tell whether she is made of wood?
    VILLAGER #1: Build a bridge out of her.
    BEDEMIR: Aah, but can you not also build bridges out of stone?
    VILLAGER #2: Oh, yeah.
    BEDEMIR: Does wood sink in water?
    VILLAGER #1: No, no.
    VILLAGER #2: It floats! It floats!
    VILLAGER #1: Throw her into the pond!
    CROWD: The pond!
    BEDEMIR: What also floats in water?
    VILLAGER #1: Bread!
    VILLAGER #2: Apples!
    VILLAGER #3: Very small rocks!
    VILLAGER #1: Cider!
    VILLAGER #2: Great gravy!
    VILLAGER #1: Cherries!
    VILLAGER #2: Mud!
    VILLAGER #3: Churches — churches!
    VILLAGER #2: Lead — lead!
    ARTHUR: A duck.
    CROWD: Oooh.
    BEDEMIR: Exactly! So, logically…,
    VILLAGER #1: If… she.. weighs the same as a duck, she’s made of wood.
    BEDEMIR: And therefore–?
    VILLAGER #1: A witch!
    CROWD: A witch!
    BEDEMIR: We shall use my larger scales!
    BEDEMIR: Right, remove the supports!
    CROWD: A witch! A witch!
    WITCH: It’s a fair cop.
    CROWD: Burn her! Burn! [yelling]
    BEDEMIR: Who are you who are so wise in the ways of science?
    ARTHUR: I am Arthur, King of the Britons.
    BEDEMIR: My liege!
    ARTHUR: Good Sir knight, will you come with me to Camelot,
    and join us at the Round Table?
    BEDEMIR: My liege! I would be honored.
    ARTHUR: What is your name?
    BEDEMIR: Bedemir, my leige.
    ARTHUR: Then I dub you Sir Bedemir, Knight of the Round Table.

  4. It appears that Casey is none too proficient in electronic forms of data collection and might be forgiven for not knowing exactly what a “digital resource manager” is. I imagine he thinks you count the number of fingers and toes available at any given time.

  5. On re-reading Stephanie’s post I see she writes this about me:

    As a member of the Worldwide Church of God he could not cope with the Jewishness of Jesus, and when he converted to atheism this did not change.

    This is quite bizarre. Another reader of this blog was also once a member of the same church and can confirm for Stephanie — and no doubt also for Maurice Casey who likewise seizes upon opportunities to impute anti-semitism to those he criticizes — that the Worldwide Church of God stressed above probably most other churches and cults the Jewishness of Jesus — and taught that all members must likewise embrace a range of Jewish customs or laws, such as holy day observance and foods. It was the Jewishness of Jesus and all things Jewish that we loved and honoured. The Church and its members supported Israel and Jews as much as many Christian Zionists do today.

    1. For some reason reckless charges of ‘antisemitism’ seems to have become a meme among certain partisans of the ‘historic Jesus’ – witness the way Ehrman uses the Holocaust to flog his Jesus book.

    2. I think it’s an allusion to the Jews Are Borg Argument. If you were able to “cope with the Jewishness of Jesus” (and James, Paul, etc.) then you’d understand that Jews would never, ever, evereverever want to touch a syncretized Greco-Judaic Mystery Religion with a thousand-foot pole. Rather, they would adhere to conservative, ultra-orthodox Jewish theology like “My brother created the Universe.” And then you’d be a historicist.

    3. Reading further I see that Stephanie is the one who stereotypes Jews. If a Jewish scholar defends the Jews of Jesus’ day against the Gospel account then it cannot because there is any valid argument involved — no, the simple fact that he is a Jew is enough to inform Stephanie of his ideological fantasies fed by a history of Christian anti-semitism. It is, Stephanie assure us, “culturally ludicrous to expect anyone like [a Jewish scholar Cohn] to give a fair account of a New Testament narrative . . . “ (Now THAT is bordering on anti-semitism in my opinion!):

      As support for not believing the story of the betrayal and arrest at all, Carrier calls on part of the work of the Jewish scholar Haim Cohn.[13] Cohn was a German Jew who emigrated to Israel, where he became Attorney General of Israel, and Minister of Justice, as well as a member of the Supreme Court of Israel and the International Court of Justice in the Hague. He was a member of the “T’hila” Movement for Israeli Jewish secularism. It is culturally ludicrous to expect anyone like Cohn to give a fair account of a New Testament narrative, especially one which has played such an appalling role in the history of Christian anti-Semitism.

      Cohn’s total ineptitude in historical research runs through his whole book. For example, at the beginning of his chapter on Jesus, he declares

      ‘Our purpose is to show that neither Pharisees nor Sadducees, neither priests nor elders, neither scribes nor any Jews, had any reasonable cause to seek the death of Jesus or his removal. Without such, it will be submitted, the reports that they sought to destroy him (Matt. 12:14; Luke 19:47) or that they counseled together “for to put him to death” (John 11:53; Luke 22:2; Mark 14:1) are stripped of all plausibility’.[14]

      This illustrates the way that Cohn ignores all historical evidence in favour of his own ideologically orientated fantasies, much as Carrier and other mythicists do.

      See (again) http://rjosephhoffmann.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/the-jesus-process-stephanie-louise-fisher/

      1. This sounds like appalling prejudice by Steph, who thinks it ludicrous that any Jew might wonder why they would want to kill one of their own apocalyptic prophets, in favour of his ‘fantasies’ that Jews wouldn’t want to kill somebody who preached ‘Love your neighbour’.

        Just to try to make things up, I sent her a birthday card.

        The verse reads :-

        Roses are red.

        Violets are blue.

        You’re another year older.

        Let’s see how you blame that on the Jews.

        1. Thank god for your sense of humor and irony. There’s not enough of it in those conversations.
          When you read Thomas Paine’s “The Age of Reason” (worth re-reading at any time), you can see how his learned disquisitions are dotted with frequent use of ironic comments or humorous rib-poking (his passage on the use of Satan by the Jews and Christians is hilarious for all ages).
          As both Thomas Paine and Richard Dawkins recommend, often it is best not to try to “reason” with opponents, but instead poke ridicule at their inflated beliefs.

  6. Stephanie has since tried to claim that her comment about my not reading books was “slightly tongue in cheek”. But she has forgotten that she expanded on her criticism by taking the pains to point out that much scholarship is not completely available in digital form — so she really was serious about her accusation that I don’t read (“whole”) books:

    This is perhaps the one credible statement in Godfrey’s expanding dabble into the field of biblical studies: if one does not read entire books from beginning to end as a matter of habit before commenting on or attempting to critique them, what chance is there for scholarship to be fairly represented, and what confidence can a reader have in the validity of such critiques? Much scholarship is incompletely available on line which could lead to the sort of hopeless misrepresentations, misinterpretations and muddles, by the likes of these atheist bloggers.

    She has since shifted her complaint against me now to one of my supposed “trivializing of devastated lives” in the 2010 (not the 2011 one) NZ earthquake. Choice. http://rjosephhoffmann.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/the-jesus-process-stephanie-louise-fisher/#comment-5930 I am reminded now why I banned her from commenting on this blog when she became a troll.

    1. I wonder what Dr McGrath would think of Steph’s assertion that one cannot competently comment on a book until one has read it from beginning to end? Recall he posted an amazon review of Doherty’s book after reading one or was it two chapters?

  7. Actually since 2004 when I started using la machine I only touch physical books around half as much and I have a master bedroom converted into a library of real books.

    “I’ve got my own system. Books, young man, books, thousands of them. If time wasn’t so important, I’d show you something: my library. Thousands of books. This is where the law is, not in that homogenized, pasteurized, synthesized — do you want to know the law? The ancient concepts in their own language? Learn the intent of the men who wrote them? From Moses to the tribunal of Alpha Three? Books!”
    –Samuel T. Cogley, in Court Martial

    Star Trek

  8. After reading the three essays against mythicism on THE NEW OXONIAN, I seem to spot a distribution of roles among the three writers:
    – The lady Fisher is the “agent provocateur,” in charge of making trouble, pretending to be a final arbiter of merits, irritating everybody with obnoxious barbs and condemnations,, provoking indignant responses, and creating traffic for the site;
    – Then Maurice Casey, who appears as the learned researcher of arcane sources, the scientific expert who knows Aramaic, and whom nobody can dispute;
    – Finally, R. Joseph Hoffmann, who gave up early the ambition of a career in Hollywood, to play the part of the “Great Manitou,” the dispenser of spiritual WISDOM, and claim the role of the unrivaled expert on “The Scientific Examination of Religion.” This is the biblical scholar “par excellence” who has studied “everything from the Qumran scrolls to the Nag Hammadi papyri in Coptic and a thousand years of patristic literature in about five languages.”
    For some reasons they all seem to hate brash unwashed upstarts like Richard Carrier, or silver-haired seniors like Earl Doherty, who naively claim some kind of expertise and brag of their ability to score some points — both naively ignorant that nobody can ever successfully argue against the WISE MAN on any topic, due to his encyclopedic erudition and immense trove of biblical references.
    The invitation “I’m willing to debate with you” meaning “I’m rejoicing in advance at the opportunity to crush another disputant foolhardy enough to enter the ring with me”.

  9. “It is culturally ludicrous to expect anyone like Cohn to give a fair account of a New Testament narrative…”

    As if we had the trial transcripts! Fisher here sounds awfully close to saying that no Jew is qualified to comment on Jesus, unless of course he converts. Otherwise, his scholarship is prejudiced. OK, so not only must you have a PhD in NT studies before you can even comment on the “historical Jesus,” you must also not be a Jew. Only non-Jews are capable of “fairness” in assessing the NT.

    What a pathetic joke this is.

    1. It would seem the litmus test for everything is whether you agree with her (and Maurice) or not. If you dare to disagree, she knows it isn’t because you have come to a logical conclusion. She can’t even imagine such a thing. No, it has to be because you’re too stupid to understand her, or because you don’t know Aramaic the way Maurice does, or because you’re hopelessly biased, or some other nasty reason.

      So for her, Jeremais is passes the Steph Sniff Test, because he supports her arguments. But Cohn must be unfit, biased, and unclean because he doesn’t come to the correct conclusions.

      1. It’s buried towards the end of the NEW OXONIANO posting devoted to Maurice Casey:

        Here’s the text anyway.
        Very often both Casey and Hoffmann use avoidance and don’t really tackle the questions head on.

        Jacob Aliet
        May 25, 2012 at 5:58 am

        I found the following comments from another poster interesting and M. Casey may be interested in responding to them:
        “…the so-called transliteration that is βοανεργες argues against the gospel writer’s knowledge of the language[Aramaic]. Casey just doesn’t handle the indicator meaningfully, for he has no way of explaining the diphthong in the first syllable.
        …invent[ing] excuses for why βοανεργες was not the work of the writer of the gospel, .. is …ad hoc and untestable. Casey’s case is flimsy at best and his inability to make sense of βοανεργες in his scheme simply undercuts him. He doesn’t pay any attention to the Latinisms in Mark because he is falling all over himself to sell his Aramaic story. Your trick is to farm out the explanations for a Latin Greek audience is to shove them off to a scribe or some other later hand. Convenient, but uninspiring.

        There has to be some Aramaic connection, given that the religion is based on a perversion of the Jewish religion and a strong knowledge of that religion is evinced in the gospel, but there is no evidence that the writer of the gospel knows Aramaic. βοανεργες points against it. His only Aramaic transliterations are so trivial that they appear to be abracadabra words, ie giving a sense of genuineness of obscurity to an ignorant audience, trivialities “little girl, get up” and “be opened” or cultic words like “corban”. The translation of talitha kumi is actually given in the Greek as “little girl, I say to you, get up”, but what that “I say to you” is doing there has nothing to do with the Aramaic and suggests that the writer wasn’t working from Aramaic at all, but like βοανεργες he got it from a chain of transmission that garbled it. His lack of geographical understanding speaks against his being from Judea/Galilee and thus not being directly familiar with its languages.

        In short, no-one is doubting an Aramaic connection with Mark, but Casey is unable explain the evidence meaningfully. In fact the evidence suggests that the writing wasn’t by any native speaker of Aramaic. This is only strengthened by the Latinisms through the text (“but they were by a late hand” is your shot in the dark), not the loanwords so much as the loan translations and grammatical structures. And these Casey is totally silent about. In fact one of Casey’s Aramaic explanations is seen by others as a Latin loan translation (οδον ποιειν in 2:23, iter facere). If you got this far, you can now happily ignore the above as has been your wont.”

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