Reply to Hoffmann’s “On Not Explaining ‘Born of a Woman'”

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by Neil Godfrey

What a response R. Joseph Hoffmann writes to my critique of his thesis (Hoffmann’s Mamzer-Jesus solution) about Paul’s “born of a woman” phrase in Galatians 4:4!

  • He makes the most fundamental errors over the meaning of the Greek word involved — errors that anyone can correct by consulting any Greek concordance or dictionary —
  • and even makes flat wrong claims about what words are found in all the manuscripts.
  • He ignores my arguments as if I wrote nothing about the complete irrelevance of his point to mythicism
  • or the historical problems his “solution” raises,
  • and attributes to me arguments I have never made.

One does begin to wonder about the legitimacy of Carrier’s belief that something tragic has happened to Hoffmann that enables him to respond with such incompetence and falsehoods.

Hoffmann published an essay under the aegis of The Jesus Project (C) arguing that Paul was mindful of a rumour in his day that Jesus’ birth was illegitimate when he wrote “In the fulness of time God sent forth his son, born of a woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4). I decided to address what I considered were some critical flaws in his argument. I also had wondered if this might be a test case to see if and how The Jesus Project would engage with critical arguments from an amateur. Hoffmann’s reply is not from The Jesus Project. So far, then, it appears that TJP is not going to engage in dialogue with this quarter at least.

Hoffmann is clear. He has no need or interest in engaging with any mythicist arguments, period. Mythicist arguments have all been adequately addressed in 1912 by Shirley Jackson Case, he informs his readers. His loathing for mythicists is transparent by his regular use of his derogatory epithet, “mythtics.” “Ticks” fits comfortably into his denigration of mythicists as “disease-carrying mosquitoes” and “buggers”.

Conversion of St Paul

Hoffmann, who once sat comfortably with mythicism, has had his Damascus Road conversion and now seeks to destroy that which he once entertained. (See, for example, the way R. Joseph Hoffmann has turned from hot to cold in his dealings with D. M. Murdock.)

So all Hoffmann does by way of rejoinder to my post is imply that I merely “use arguments cobbled together from” mythicists. That (false) claim settles the matter in his view, it seems, and means he has no need to address anything I argued. He cannot even bring himself to use my name, so he calls me “Vridar” (– and on his own blog he regularly misspells my name, apparently deliberately, for some curious reason).

In other words, he is not interested in dialogue or engaging with mythicist arguments.

In actual fact I used arguments and quotations from earlier books by hostile anti-mythicist Ehrman, and even Hoffmann’s himself, as a supporting springboard from which to make my own points. At one point I quoted from mythicist Zindler’s unique tackling of the legitimacy of the claims that the Talmudic literature has relevance for genuine traditions about the historical Jesus. If Zindler’s arguments are correct then Hoffmann’s case is seriously undermined. Hoffmann, of course, completely ignored those arguments. I also mentioned in passing a minor point or two by Doherty but I did not present any of Doherty’s own in-depth (chapter-length) addressing various questions surrounding Galatians 4:4.

So Hoffmann ignores or pejoratively labels the arguments in my post and does little more than use his “reply” to repeat his own case and toss more invective at mythicists.

That’s hardly dialogue. And it’s certainly not dialogue with TJP. If we had any earlier misgivings about the tone, intent and tactics of TJP we can begin to have confidence we were not misled.

Hoffmann begins:

Rather than being an exegesis or explanation of the passage, it is predictably–in the style of mythtic assessments–an attempt to show how the interpretation is wrong, using arguments cobbled together from other mythicists, namely Earl Doherty and Frank Zindler and a gratuitous salute to a not very cogent passage from Bart Ehrman’s The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture.

That’s partly true, but he forgot to point out that one of my arguments was also drawing for support on an earlier book he (Hoffmann himself) wrote and that most of the post consisted of my own arguments. He does not point out where or in what sense the Ehrman passage I quote is “not very cogent”. We know he doesn’t like Ehrman’s efforts very much, either, so presumably he doesn’t need to justify this dismissal.

And yes, my post was not an exegesis of the passage. Guilty as charged, your honour, but I have more questions about the passage than answers and am open to considering all arguments about it, even Hoffmann’s.  (Below we will note that Hoffmann himself shuns exegesis in favour of idiosyncratic eisegesis.)

He then says my post misses its mark by several hundred yards but it’s a bit hard for him to explain how my arguments miss the mark when he refuses to address or even acknowledge them.

Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow.

If those are my sins then Hoffmann’s great sin of omission is his bizarre failure to address my point that his entire discussion of Galatians 4:4 has absolutely no relevance to the question of the historicity of Jesus. So what if Paul said Jesus was born from a woman and within a lawful sexual liaison? Hoffmann himself once wrote a foreword to a mythicist book that had no problem whatever accepting Paul’s claim that Jesus was “born of a woman” — whether through marriage, adultery or miracle. I pointed out in my post several rebuttals to Hoffmann’s mythical assertion that mythicists somehow hate this verse or find it troubling in any way.

But Hoffmann “knows” mythicists don’t have arguments and that they hate verses that he believes contradict their views so he carries on in his own hermetically sealed world of hatred for mythicism without any relevance to anyone except those who might share his contempt for “disease-carrying mosquitoes.”

I address here his four-point response:

1. No serious reason to doubt the authenticity of Galatians 4:4

I have no way of knowing if the key passage(s) within Galatians 4:4 (I don’t think anyone is arguing the whole verse is inauthentic) is authentic or not. I don’t know why Hoffmann in several places suggests that I was arguing the passage was interpolated. I was not. I was critiquing Hoffmann’s absolute certainty given the extant arguments for uncertainty of which Hoffmann appeared to be unaware. Hoffmann did not read what I wrote.

He bizarrely claimed that mythicists always pull out the interpolation card whenever they find a verse they feel “antipathy” toward. He doesn’t cite any support, of course, because the only interpolation arguments that are important for mythicism are those that are found and widely accepted in the mainstream literature of New Testament scholarship itself.

This is simply a silly accusation, not true, false, unsupportable. And I don’t believe Hoffmann could possibly have believed this about mythicism in his own days of flirting with the idea.

What I am interested in doing is understanding the passage as much as any other passage Paul wrote. I find the exploration interesting. If there is a case for interpolation — I do think there is, just that I won’t bet my house on it — then I am open to considering that, too. But I am not interested in rationalizing any case for interpolation and don’t want to risk missing something Paul really did write.  Somehow Hoffmann interprets my guardedness against dogmatism as a dogmatic argument for interpolation!

Part of Hoffmann’s case against interpolation rests on his own view of what Marcion taught about the nature of Jesus as he originally discussed in his thesis arguing for an early date for Marcion. Once again Hoffmann is taking a maverick stand, one he first raised in his 1982 doctoral thesis on Marcion that has since been largely discredited within the scholarly community since. But Hoffmann self-servingly repeats his solitary opinion as if it is the only one readers need to know.

English: Tertullian, christian church father. ...
English: Tertullian, christian church father. Español: Tertuliano, padre de la Iglesia Latina: Tertulianus patris eclesiae (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hoffmann argues that Tertullian’s failure to use Galatians 4:4 against Marcion is evidence that both Marcion and Tertullian knew the verse and there was no debate about it. (Argument from silence; “no evidence” of knowing X is interpreted as evidence of knowing “X” — typical methodology among many NT scholars.)

Hoffmann ignores the several scholarly reconstructions (von Harnack, van Manen, Hermann Detering) of Marcion’s version of Galatians for good reason. Every single one of them deletes this passage from Marcion’s copy and commentaries cite Tertullian’s otherwise inexplicable omission of the passage as their primary reason for this.

Hoffmann manages to bypass all of this scholarship by proposing his own unsupportable and idiosyncratic view that Marcion believed Jesus was composed of normal human flesh somehow, not completely, but enough to calm down Tertullian. (He also refers to the evidence of Irenaeus as if I knew nothing about it despite my own inclusion of it in my original post.)

And when Hoffmann declares that the key phrase in 4:4 fits harmoniously into the rest of Galatians “linguistically and conceptually” he is only making another self-serving declaration by fiat. Many would disagree and Hoffmann ignores the contrary arguments which even he once alluded to in his own earlier writings. The idea that Jesus must be introduced explicitly as having been “born of a woman” has nothing of a conceptual fit with a wider discussion of bondage and liberation from bondage through the action of God. Yet we have clear evidence that the concept does have an infamous fit with Christological disputes that followed Paul’s own time.

Hoffmann hasn’t missed the point of my own post by hundreds of yards. He never even took a shot at it.

2. Born of a Woman

Hoffmann writes:

A few commentators on the earlier post have suggested, somewhat curiously and to no effect, that it means “made” not “born.”

This is nonsense. Hoffmannn even spins off irrelevantly into the history of translations via Nicene Christology and Erasmus and the King James Bible. I introduced the concept of the Greek word with two phrases, coming into existence” and “being made”. I quoted a passage from Ehrman in which he repeats the meaning of Tertullian’s Latin equivalent of the Greek word as meaning “made”. Ehrman also made clear the ideological context in which Irenaeus used this Galatians passage — it was to convey the idea that Jesus took on human attributes from Mary, that he was “made of flesh/humanity”, and not simply “born”. The concept of ‘born’ allowed for a spiritually cocooned infant to slip through the mother untainted by the flesh. The concept of being “made” comes from a reading of how Irenaeus made use of the passage.

Hoffmann ignored all of that and irrelevantly and falsely claimed that I was naively relying on the KJV translation. The King James translation has nothing to do with it except in Hoffmann’s fetid imagination that a mythicist could not possibly seriously engage with the evidence of the manuscripts and Greek language.

Hoffmann insists the word in this verse cannot mean “made” in this verse but does mean “born”.

The Greek verb γενόμενον (genomenon) means “becoming” . . . and is an ordinary koine term for to be born. . . . The standard usage does not permit “make” or “made” . . .

The Greek word does mean “becoming” but it is not true to say that “standard usage does not permit “make” or “made”. “Become” and “made” can very often be used interchangeably and “made” is very often a valid translation, as I point out below. How can a New Testament scholar write such rubbish?

Bauer’s Lexicon, Second Edition: ginomai has a very wide semantic range

I. as a verb w. its own mng. come to be, become, originate. Its relation to εἰμί is seen in Epigr. Gr. 595, 5 οὐκ ἥμην καὶ ἐγενόμην == I was not and then I came to be.
1. be born or begotten
a. literal, absolute. (Also of plants)
b. of things, arise, come about, etc.
β. of other occurrences — persecution, oppression, discussion, weeping, [the list goes on and on]
γ. of various divisions of the day
2. be made, created
a. general
b. w. mention of the special nature of an undertaking
3. happen, take place
a. general
. . . .
f. periphrastic “and it came to pass”
4. of pers. and things which change their nature, to indicate their entering a new condition: become something
. . . [i.e. clearly synonymous with “made” into something.]

The word ginomai can mean born but that depends on the context. See other uses of the word at http://concordances.org/greek/genomenon_1096.htm and http://concordances.org/greek/1096.htm Paul and other writers in the NT use the same word to say

  • Adam “became” a living soul (1 Cor 15:45);
  • Christ was “made” wisdom for us (1 Cor 1:30);
  • Christ “becomes / is made” so much greater than angels (Heb. 1:4);
  • One “became” a minister of the gospel (Eph. 3:7) *

Word Studies in the New Testament says that in Galatians 4:4 the word carries every sense of Jesus “becoming” a man in the sense that he was “made” into a man.

Galatians 4:4 Made of a woman (genomen). Or born. Repeated, and expressing the fact that Christ became a man, as distinguished from his prehistoric form of being.

There are, on the other hand, words that do have the specific and narrow meaning of “born” and Paul uses them when he wants to clearly express the idea of being, well, born. One of these is γεννάω / gennao:

Bauer’s Lexicon: gennaó has a rather specific range of meaning:

1. beget
a. literally, become the father of
b. figuratively, of the influence exerted by one person on another, [e.g.,] of a teacher on pupils
2. of women, bear
3. figuratively, bring forth, produce, cause

Paul uses this word, too, when he wants to:

  • children not yet born (Rom 9:11);
  • the son/one born (Gal 4:23 and 4:29) *

It is surely of some relevance that Paul uses a word that can carry a much wider range of meaning than being “born” in Galatians 4:4 (and elsewhere — e.g. Rom 1:3 — when he speaks of Christ) when there is another word that he uses specifically for “born” — even in the same chapter, Galatians 4. Galatians 4:4 uses the word that was so happily such a convenient tool to settle subsequent Christological disputes over whether Christ was really made or really became a man.

Hoffmann reads the opposite of what I wrote

The author of the Vridar post suggests that Earl Doherty has done extensive linguistic analysis of the term and on that basis believes it is an interpolation.

I wrote that Doherty had compiled a statistical analysis, not an “extensive linguistic one” and I also said that Doherty was not using this to argue for interpolation. Or did Hoffmann mean to suggest that I “believe” the passage is an interpolation on the basis of Doherty’s analysis? Either way Hoffmann is “misleading”. Here is what I wrote:

Earl Doherty has written up a statistical survey of Paul’s uses of the various words translated as “born” and demonstrated that uniqueness of the expression and context of Galatians 4:4. Although this was not part of an argument for interpolation I would think that the uniqueness of the Greek expression in Paul’s letters does tilt the question of authenticity another notch towards interpolation.

As for Doherty’s view of the relevance of the statistical study, I actually wrote the opposite of what Hoffmann claims. I said that Doherty’s statistical survey was NOT his argument for interpolation. The interpolation idea was entirely my own extrapolation and that was only by way of adding another gram in favour of the interpolation argument. And I certainly do not “believe” the passage is an interpolation!

It seems Hoffmann has put his “mythicists-argue-for-interpolation-whenever-they-find-verses-they-hate” glasses. So this is what he sees even when what he is reading has signs on it saying “this is NOT an interpolation” argument.

Given all that we know about manuscript transmission in the early Church and ancient world generally, and with the history of Paul’s writings in particular, it strikes me as sheer dogmatism to bluntly demand that interpolation is not open for consideration. So when Hoffmann flatly declares that Christological debates are irrelevant to the history of manuscript transmission he is setting up his unargued opinion in defiance against all the evidence we have for manuscript transmission generally and that Bart Ehrman does so thoroughly demonstrate in his Orthodox Corruption of Scripture.

One suspects that Hoffmann is just as willing to dismiss without argument anything from Ehrman as he is from mythicists. He scoffs at arguments he does not like instead of engaging with them by argument. But surely every scholar knows Bruce M. Metzger and others have demonstrated the same point.

No-one can safely build an argument upon such an uncertain foundation.

Hoffmann misreads the manuscript evidence

Hoffmann concludes this second point by triumphantly announcing:

The clincher for original meaning is that Paul uses the identical verb to summarize his argument in Galatians 4:29, which is virtually hidden from mythicist discussion of the earlier verse.


For a start, Galatians 4:29 is not hidden from Doherty’s discussion of the meaning of 4:4; indeed, 4:23 and 4:29 have a critical input into his arguments. (But we knew when Hoffmann published some time ago that Doherty is a follower of Wells that he had never read Doherty’s work and we see here that he still hasn’t done so.)

But worse, Hoffmann has confused the form of verb used in 4:29 and mistakenly claimed it is a form of the same word used in 4:4. It is not. The word in 4:29 is γεννηθεὶς (gennetheis) which is a form of γεννάω (gennao) = “born”, while the verb in 4:4 is “made! became, arose out of” (ginomai). Compare the verses and concordance meanings at http://bible.cc/ (4:29 – http://interlinearbible.org/galatians/4-29.htm, and 4:4 – http://interlinearbible.org/galatians/4-4.htm)

The fact that Paul uses the unambiguous word for “born” in 4:29 and 4:23 indicates that he chose to use the word for “became/made” in Galatians 4:4 because it carried a different connotation.

Word Studies in the New Testament on Galatians 4:29:

Notwithstanding this higher grade of sonship, the children of promise, the spiritual children of Abraham, are persecuted by the Jews, the mere bodily children of Abraham . . .

Reuben Swanson’s New Testament Greek Manuscripts — cites 14 or 15 manuscript versions for 4:4 and 4:29 and they all agree: ginomai (made/became) in 4:4 and gennao (born) in 4:29.

The Greek New Testament by Aland et al. — again, all manuscripts agree: ginomai (made/became) in 4:4 and gennao (born) in 4:29.

One mistake may be an oversight. But two basic errors and one begins to suspect something amiss. Hoffmann recently confused the Greek word for “time” with the Greek word for the god “Kronos” with amusing results:

Insofar as Paul cares anything about real time, it is God’s time in relation to a historical event he cares about, the pleroma tou kronou (Gal 4.4-7).

As Tim Widowfield noted at the time, “Of course, he meant to write: τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ χρόνου . . . or “to plērōma to khronou (or chronou)”. What he actually wrote was “the fullness of Saturn” or, according to the Google translator, “τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ κρόνου” == “the crew of Saturn” or “Saturn’s crew”.

3. The key elements of the verse fit tonally and argumentatively within the total context of the chapter

The key elements of the verse fit tonally and argumentatively within the total context of the chapter. They do not constitute an interruption of the sort that sometimes alerts us to additions and revisions to a text. The elements are Paul’s legal theory of “justice” (צדק); his belief in the mysterious fatherhood of God relative to Jesus; his conviction that Jesus was necessarily human (“born of a woman,” אשה not a בתולה, “virgin”) and that, equally necessarily, was born “according to the Law”–תורה–in two senses: as a Jew, and as a legitimate heir, through whom rights or sonship ( אימוץ) could be inherited. Any suggestion of illegitimacy had to be set aside . . . .

What is the point of all that Hebrew in there? Paul used the Septuagint anyway.

There is not a hint in the verses surrounding Galatians 4:4 of “the mysterious fatherhood of God relative to Jesus” or of the “necessity” for Jesus to have been born human. Hoffmann is just making all this up. Such concepts are simply not there.

Jesus is sent to liberate God’s people from the bondage or tutelage of the law so they can have the status of adopted sons instead. Jesus’ role is to suffer the penal claims of the law to effect this deliverance. So when we read the emphasis on his being made from a woman we find the wider theme is definitely interrupted. Moreover, when we are also told he was “made under the law” we are left wondering what difference that makes? The fact that he died is what liberated those wished to save. The dialectic is all about exaltation from servanthood to sonship, from bondage to liberty. There is not a trace of any question or doubts of the legitimacy of Jesus as son of God. Hoffmann draws out attention to no tell-tale phrases to support his idiosyncratic interpretation. (Yet he criticized me for not providing exegesis — so it is strange that he provides none himself, but only eisegesis.)

The Open Edition of the New American Standard ...Let’s be accommodating to Joseph Hoffmann and shun God’s King James and use a no-nonsense patriotic American translation instead: The New American Standard Bible

3:23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.

24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.

25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

4:1 Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything,

2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father.

3 So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.

4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,

5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “ Abba! Father!”

7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

8 However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.

9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?

God sends his son (to be “under the law”?) in order to liberate those “under the law”. That is the logic of the argument. Paul does not say anything about Jesus’ birth being in accordance with the law in the sense of it being the natural product of two legally married Jews. Nor is the concept of “purity” of “sacrificial victim” anywhere on the horizon.

If Paul ever meant to say that Jesus was born “according to the law” in the sense of being born to lawfully wedded parents, why did he not write “according to (kata) the law”?

Hoffmann has simply ignored all of this and other criticism in my original post.

But Hoffmann is not even arguing according to his own hypothesis. He originally wrote that Paul did not know any other account to rebut the rumour that Jesus was illegitimate. This rumour was all he had ever heard. So it was hardly a whisper against the prevailing wisdom. Can anyone (apart from Hoffmann) really believe Paul would respond by making such a low-key and ever-so-subtle rejoinder — and just this once only — to such a rumour if it undermined his entire theology?

Nonsense. And my previous post raised many other major problems with Hoffmann’s suggestion, too, that Hoffmann has chosen (again) to completely ignore.

4. Forensically there are also questions of the status of the victim

. . . . and the right of adoption or ירושה (inheritance). The same notion is worked out narratively in the Joseph-story in the Gospel of Matthew (not known by, or else overlooked or irrelevant in Luke). As with all scholarly contentions, I could be wrong but I will not be proved wrong by ignoring the most plausible explanations in favour of tendentious ones

I could be wrong, too. It’s good to meet humility in argument. But I will not be proved wrong by Hoffmann failing even to acknowledge arguments critical of his position, fabricating arguments that don’t exist, and committing undergraduate errors with his Greek and incompetence in his reading of manuscripts.

My arguments were primarily aimed at raising what has been said and known about the issues in the scholarly field, and asking a number of questions that Hoffmann’s thesis raises. My point was to try to show that Hoffmann’s dogmatism — and in particular his dogmatism over idiosyncratic views — is not wise, and to point out reasonably and in light of the evidence that much of his argument is almost certainly wrong.

My point was also to show that it is possible not to dismiss an argument simply because it is so easy to call it “bunk” or “unpersuasive”. That approach is only going to reach the choir. I wanted to show that while others (even scholars) might dismiss Hoffmann’s argument on emotive grounds, it was a better and more productive exercise to address it point by point and see where the valid logic and evidence leads. Hoffmann has chosen to ignore my own arguments.

Hoffmann demands dogmatism where it is unwarranted and fails to address anything mythicists actually argue. I argue for a consideration of wider issues, caution against dogmatism and the need for close attention to the details of the evidence itself. (There was much more I could have said. Hoffmann refers to a sacrificial “victim” in Paul’s conceptual world. I don’t know how valid that is, either.)


For mythicism to be taken seriously, it needs to recognize that scholarship depends on evidence and on what is actually said. The evidence is that Paul actually says in one his actual letters that Jesus was born in a natural way as a legitimate Jew, according to the Law.

/lalala (Photo credit: striatic)

This is an appropriately ironical conclusion. In the same breath as calling for attention to what “Paul actually says” Hoffmann ignores what Galatians actually says, that Jesus was born “under (hupo) the law”, and incomprehensibly claims he said something else, namely, “according to (kata) the law”.  This was pointed out in my original post but Hoffmann, covering his ears, cannot hear me.

My post pointed to the evidence and what is actually said in the manuscripts. Hoffmann has paid no attention to the evidence or to what Paul “actually says in one [of] his actual letters” nor to my own arguments or those of Zindler that I cited. If he wants to be taken seriously he will have to demonstrate responsible scholarship.

Mythicists, in Hoffmann’s conceptual world, don’t have arguments. They have “ignorance”, “dogma”, “an argumentative approach to the New Testament”, “antipathy to verses that contradict their dogma”, “diseases”. They are not even worthy of being called by a neutral descriptor. They must be called “mythtics”.

When Hoffmann or anyone else is willing to argue and discuss the issues in a civil and legitimate and honest manner I will be more than welcoming. I might even put in a bit of an effort to argue — and learn as I go — the nuances of Greek semantics and syntax.

The really crazy thing about Hoffmann’s post is that it has no relevance to the question of Jesus’ historicity as far as I can see. (Unless, as I pointed out in my original post, one wants to argue that bad puns are a valid criterion for historicity.) My interest in the question is exploring Paul’s thought and early Christianity. Hoffmann’s thesis raises more problems than it answers and overlooks key elements of the evidence and counter-arguments.

Hoffmann seems to think it has relevance to the Christ myth question simply because he has come to believe that mythicists hate Galatians 4:4. Why he thinks this I don’t know. He certainly does not offer any references to actual mythicist arguments to support his assertion.

If Hoffmann or The Jesus Project is going to “deal with” mythicism (as opposed to slinging mud at mythicists) they are going to have to stop pretending on the one hand that mythicism has no arguments or that mythicists have never seriously attempted to engage with the evidence and the scholarship, while on the other hand fabricating any old nonsense they have come to assume is found in mythicism literature.


* (These passages were copied from Doherty’s book. Presumably that will give Hoffmann an excuse to completely ignore them as evidence.)

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83 thoughts on “Reply to Hoffmann’s “On Not Explaining ‘Born of a Woman'””

  1. Is it just me or is it that it is very difficult to see what Hoffmann is trying to say in his anti atheist humanist invectives? I have never had this problem in reading anyone elses writing as I am pretty good at understanding explicit and implicit meanings and any underlying ideological agenda, but with Hoffmann I’m left with a puzzle as to what he is trying to say and why. It’s all the more frustrating since I’m left with the suspicion that I might even agree with some of his points if I could understand them.
    Is the Atheist handbook he claims to have found real? Or is that blogpost supposed to be a satire? Is it just an attempt to smear Atheists?

    Is he opposed to all atheists, or is he an atheist himself and just opposed to evangelical atheists? He just does not make any of this clear.

    For myself, I have always been an atheist and can never remember believing in God, but that does not mean I think religious people are stupid. In fact I feel politically, personally, and spiritually nearer to some people of religion than to some atheists.Especially some American atheists allow their hatred of Islam to be used to help justify Imperialist interventions and reactionary Zionism.

    Just a few weeks ago I spoke the tribute at the funeral of a beloved friend. Present were many atheists, new age spiritualists, Muslims including an Iman, Buddhists, and American (politically right wing) Christians. I found I could speak for all of them, glorying in the fact that we had different beliefs and used different words to express our shared emotions.
    I have no more wish to join the Brights than one of the many only ways to God.

    What makes me sympathetic to the idea that Jesus Christ began as a myth, a movement with social political and literary roots rather than occasioned by the deeds and words of a special man, is the arguments – especially on this site and Doherty’s. But I’ve no vested interest in the idea.

    Why do Hoffmann’s invectives seem irrevelant? Is it just that he is eaten up with snobbery?

    These, for me, are not just rhetorical questions.

    1. 1. But worse, Hoffmann has confused the form of verb used in 4:29 and mistakenly claimed it is a form of the same word used in 4:4. It is not. The word in 4:29 is γεννηθεὶς (gennetheis) which is a form of γεννάω (gennao) = “born”, while the verb in 4:4 is “made! became, arose out of” (ginomai). Compare the verses and concordance meanings at http://bible.cc/ (4:29 – http://interlinearbible.org/galatians/4-29.htm, and 4:4 – http://interlinearbible.org/galatians/4-4.htm): The root is the same; the morphology differs, but I suspect that if you are only working with interlinear translations and dictionaries you don’t know much about morphology, do you? that is the point. And that is why translators who actually know Greek do what they do with it.

      2. As you like prepositions: please explain the difference it would make to your argument to say “kata.” Paul prefers “under” because it emphasizes the burden of the law. Do you agree?

      3. Do you have any substantial point to make here in defense of your misunderstanding of Galatians 4.4?

      1. Hoffmann: “Paul prefers ‘under’ because it emphasizes the burden of the law. Do you agree?”

        Widowfield: No. But I can see if you were blindly, mechanically translating the text, word for word, you might come to that conclusion.

        Consider Romans 6:14 —

        . . .οὐ γὰρ ἐστε ὑπὸ νόμον ἀλλὰ ὑπὸ χάριν.

        . . .for you are not under law but under grace.

        Is Paul suggesting that we have traded one burden, the law, for another burden, grace? God forbid. Rather, he uses the preposition ὑπὸ to mean “under the authority of.”

        I can see where you might not like prepositions if they give you this much trouble.

          1. Would you also say that Paul’s antithesis of “slave of the law” or “sin” and “slave of Christ” –1. Cor 7.22 etc–is irrelevant to interpreting his use of being “under” the law? I am trying to understand why a “blind mechanical translation” would be needed to understand this irony? (i.e., Christ represents freedom, which flips the meaning of slave). Anyway, just a thought as you plod on,

            1. Hoffman, are you hopped up on something? You seem hyper. Under the law obviously means obliged to keep the law. “(4) But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made obliged to keep the Law, (5) so that He might redeem those who were obliged to keep the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” And just in case you don’t understand the word “obliged” its just southern for obligated.

              1. Hmmm. I thought in southern idiom obliged often mean pleased or grateful as an expression of courtesy. I am utterly confused how you can get all those words out of 4.4 when the Greek simply means born a Jew to ransom Jews. That makes him legitimate in terms of his job description, yes? An heir. Not a bastard. Get it? You have got the argument totally backward while Widowfield or whatever is applauding your error. Priceless.

              2. HOFFMAN
                I am utterly confused how you can get all those words out of 4.4 when the Greek simply means born a Jew to ransom Jews.

                Genos in turn is derived from the verbal ginomai which is a prolongation of the middle voice that means cause to be or to assemble (or make) or generate

                Of course, ‘born’ is pretty much ‘identical’ to assemble or generate.

                Hoffman still isn’t explaining how ginomai which he has claimed means ’cause to be ‘ , ‘assemble or make or generate’ is identical to a word which means born.

              3. Actually Steven, I have explained the genesis (heh) of the words; I am sorry if you don’t accept the explanation, or understand it. In fact, I think even the original respondents have modified their opposition quietly, and you might want to consider that defining born as causing to be and generating and making (as in making a baby) even in English wouldn’t be unusual options, though the English expressions (which is all you pay attention to) are quite different. This is not the case in Greek. The point is that all of these ideas can be collapsed into a Greek root from which a noun and verbs meaning to bring forth (to be born) are generated (heh.) I hope this helps. The larger point is that most translations of Gal 4.4 use “born” because they appreciate the semantic nuances and know that other translation alternatives would make less sense. There is more of this in the reply to the Vridar post on new Oxonian, but you prefer to hang here, and who can blame you? T

              4. Well, Hoffman is really desperate now and is flinging anything out.

                ‘The larger point is that most translations of Gal 4.4 use “born”….’

                Indeed they do, but you claim the word means ‘assemble’ ‘create’ or ‘make’.

                …defining born as causing to be and generating and making (as in making a baby) even in English wouldn’t be unusual options…

                I guess it also means ‘bake’, because you can make a cake, which is the same as baking it….. To make a cake instead of bake a cake would not be unusual options in English.

                Joe, why not just give up while you are behind? There must be other articles of yours that you want to defend instead…

              5. “Prefer to hang out here?” But Joseph — you have this habit of deleting comments you don’t like or simply not letting comments through unless you have an acerbic retort for them. You are not interested in dialogue but only in abusive labeling and denigration. (You’ve simply dismissed the challenges I raised against your thesis with the fabrication that they are “cobbled from old mythicist” arguments.) You even wipe out pingback links that address your posts in less then fulsome praise. And you don’t even keep your own rules for civility. (Normally I delete trolls like you but I happen to think you are one person who deserves to be given room to advertize exactly what sort of a person you are. So this is the level to which historicists feel a need to stoop to defend their intellectual heritage!)

              6. HOFFMAN
                …and you might want to consider that defining born as causing to be and generating and making (as in making a baby) even in English wouldn’t be unusual options,….

                A quick Google search (not one I will repeat in a hurry) shows me that making a baby is quite a different process to giving birth to a baby, although there is a definite connection between the two events.

                As Hoffman struggles with English , is he to be taken as a great expert on Greek?

              7. Here you’re confusing “obliged” with “much obliged” followed by a tip of a hat or a nod. But pray tell, what is the distinction you are trying to draw between “born a Jew” and “born obliged to keep the Law”?

            2. “I am trying to understand why a ‘blind mechanical translation’ would be needed to understand this irony?” –Not just blind and mechanical, but also word by word. What he meant was clearly that you are trying to translate verse 4 without paying any attention to verse 5. Despite the versification, verses 4 and 5 are really one sentence: Jesus was born ‘under the law’ so that he could save those who also were ‘under the law.’ Under the law must mean the same thing in both.

              If ‘under the law’ means ‘not a bastard’ then we would have: Jesus was born ‘not a bastard’ so that he could save those who also were ‘not bastards.’ Based on your translation, then, Jesus doesn’t save bastards. Is that what Paul means?

      2. This is weird, it’s seems to me as though Hoff is using the exact same point to argue the exact opposite of, well, himself.

        On July 7, 2012, Hoffman wrote:
        “(1) There is no serious reason to doubt that Galatians 4.4 is “authentic.” The fact that Tertullian does not cite it against Marcion suggests that it existed in the texts known to both men, since its “excision” by Marcion would almost certainly have provoked a rebuttal from Tertullian.”

        Yet, earlier, on that same blog, on May 15th, 2009, Hoffman wrote:
        “(a) The earliest Christian literature, that written by Paul, knows the names of none of Jesus’ family members. It is sometimes pointed out that Paul makes reference (Galatians 4.4) to Jesus having “been born of a woman, under the law,” but it is widely believed that these words are an insertion into the text of Galatians: Marcion, our earliest witness, does not know them, and as Hilgenfeld once noted, if his opponent, Tertullian, could have quoted them against Marcion, a docetist thinker, to prove the essential humanity of Jesus, he would have. We are left with the bare fact that Paul knows nothing of the human family of Jesus.”

        Is it just me, or does anyone else see that?

        1. I have no problem at all with anyone changing one’s mind. What is unacceptable, of course, is when someone chooses to insult or ridicule others for thinking the same way he once did and ignoring the fact that the original view had more substance than they care to remember.

          (I’ve added the links to his posts. Wonder if we can expect to see the 2009 one quietly removed from his blog, now.)

          1. Just in case, here are some quotes from Hoffman’s article :-

            In Antiquities 20.9.4, a Jesus bar Gamaliel succeeds Jesus the son of Damneus in the high priesthood. Josephus does not mention – at all – the James known from New Testament sources. The James sentenced to stoning is a completely different man.

            The basis for the suggestion that James is the brother of Jesus depends on early references in Paul, especially Galatians 1.19. There is no doubt that James was regarded by Paul as a significant player in the Jerusalem community, together with Peter and John (Galatians 2.9, repeated in the legendary primacy-catalogue of Mark 9.2ff.). But his use of the word adelphos, as many scholars recognize, refers to James as a member of the brotherhood, as in Galatians 2.4; 3.15; 4.12, or as when he speaks of “false brothers” in Gal 2.4,5. James, according to Luke, uses the same language in calling Paul “brother,” (Acts 21.20) and the community the “brotherhood” (20.17).

            Notice the ‘many scholars’ in the Hoffman quotes.

            Doesn’t James McGrath know that ‘many scholars’ agree that ‘brother of the Lord’ does not mean sibling?

    2. Its funny to me for some reason that Hoffman posted his response to Neil’s arguments under your post asking about the meaning and intention behind Hoffman’s invectives. I’m also confused, because I thought Hoffman was as atheist but he’s constantly belittling atheists, etc. I don’t get it either.

      1. Perhaps he’s having an existential crisis? I’ve been trying to figure this all out as well. Maybe it has something to do with a past feud with Richard Carrier who criticized his work on Sources. Timing-wise it seems to explain his abrupt shift from agnosticism regarding the existence of the earthly Jesus toward, what seems to be, a rabid defense of the theory that Jesus existed. I have seen him, just in the last few months shift from agnosticism to “leaning toward” to what seems to be certainty on this topic. Interestingly, he has no patience for those who could well be on that same path.

    1. I have been waiting to see if anyone could answer you Peadar but evidently they can’t find it in their interlinear translations: for some reason they can’t get that γεννάω is simply extracted from the nominal form of γίγνομαι and want to think they are “completely different” words. ” At least he [me] has now silenced himself, which helps him to avoid saying that different verbs are identical….” Explain to a non-English speaker that was or is or am is derived from be.. This is much, much simpler. But to satisfy Mr Carr’s confusion, I’ll go away now.

      1. Hoffman explains that ‘was’ is an identical verb to ‘am’….

        And Hoffman still doesn’t address his point that ginomai , was (or should that be ‘is’, after all the verbs are identical) , I quote Hoffman ‘… ginomai which is a prolongation of the middle voice that means cause to be or to assemble (or make) or generate.’

        So , assuming Hoffman is correct ,’assemble’, means ‘born’ After all, the verbs are practically identical!

    2. PeadarMacCionnaith: “Is γεννάω (γεννηθεὶς) not the transitive form of γίγνομαι (γενόμενον)?”

      In a sense, yes. However, it is more than that. The verb γεννάω (gennaō) is the causal form of γίγνομαι/γίνομαι (ginomai), formed by way of the noun, γεννά. (Ultimately, the root word is γενός.) Most linguists consider γεννάω a denominative verb, since it was formed from a noun. A few rare birds (e.g. Jacob Wackernagle) think it’s the other way around, that γεννά is a postverbal of γεννάω. But it really doesn’t matter for the discussion at hand.

      What do we mean by causal verbs?

      Let’s take a simple English example. We have the noun, fall, and the verb, to fall. You can tell the verb is very old, since it’s “strong,” forming the past tense with a morphological change to the stem vowel (the ablaut):

      fall — fell — fallen

      As we all know, it’s an intransitive verb. Its causative cousin, “to fell,” has its origins in “fall.” It means “to cause to fall,” and can be used to describe chopping down trees or killing animals where they stand. It came along later in the history of the language; you can tell because it follows “weak” verb rules:

      Bob has felled six trees today.

      However, the verb “to fell” is still very old. It comes from a time when English still had a system of inflection for the creation of causatives. That is, it changed the stem vowel of fall to create a causative form of the verb.

      Similarly, the verb “to sit” is an old, strong verb, while “to set” is its younger, weak causative counterpart:

      I sat at the bar and set down my glass of Glenmorangie.

      Instead of an inflection system, some Indo-European languages have a derivational system to do the same thing. By “derivation,” I’m referring to a process by which we change parts of speech by means of prefixes or suffixes. For example, nouns can sometimes become verbs in English simply by adding “-ize” or “-ify” to a noun. That’s similar to what has happened to γεννά: the causative verb was constructed by adding an omega verbal suffix (i.e., at least in the first person).

      But let’s not lose sight of the fact that just as “to fall” and “to fell” are related, but not identical, so too are the Greek verbs γίνομαι and γεννάω. Despite what grumpy Joe says, these are two different words with a common genesis (γενός).

      And it won’t do to compare “is” or “am” to the infinitive “to be.” Yes, “fallen” is a form of the verb “to fall.” But “felled” is not.

      Paul knew the difference between “having been born” or “having come into being” in Gal 4:4 and “having been begotten” in Gal 4:29.

        1. Oh my goodness! So is this all you can come up with, Joseph? Watch out next time you or any TJP member dares to say Paul wrote X in such a such a book and verse!! Why are you so bent on making such a fool of yourself? Why not just admit you made a mistake and move on?

          1. Tim, they teach you how to argue both sides, using straws if need by, and spotting straws and ridiculing them.
            No worry, you need no remedial learning in this matter.

      1. Morphologically the two verbs do actually seem to be distinct: one (γίγνομαι) has a root ending in a consonant (nu), while – as you suggest, in the context of its denominal nature – the root of the other (γεννάω) ends in a vowel (alpha).

        There is no obvious vocalic reason for the geminate nu in γεννάω if it were a form (causal or otherwise) of γίγνομαι (or the elision of a nu if the derivation is reversed?). Both verbs change their stem vowel in different forms, but it does seem to me that they are actually different verbs.

  2. That was oblique, sorry: Let me be specific so you won’t have to go traipsing back to Bauer (when in fact you need Liddell and Scott anyway) and a morphological lexicon that you couldn’t use even if you had it: gennao is derived from the nominal genos and almost always means procreate or bring forth depending on the gender of the doer; Genos in turn is derived from the verbal ginomai which is a prolongation of the middle voice that means cause to be or to assemble (or make) or generate. Its uses and derivations are legion. Think of words like generation, or even Genesis. You say: “The word in 4:29 is γεννηθεὶς (gennetheis) which is a form of γεννάω (gennao) = “born”, while the verb in 4:4 is “made! became, arose out of” (ginomai).” I know the vocalic shifts are mysterious to people who don’t know how Greek works, especially verbs, but this is a pretty explicit error. On the other hand, your fumbling or wishful handling of these elements is good evidence why we need people who know how to use the language calling the shots.

    1. My, my, such an attitude. The more wrong Hoffy is, the more huffy Hoffy gets.

      First of all, he wrote:

      The clincher for [the] original meaning is that Paul uses the identical verb to summarize his argument in Galatians 4:29, which is virtually hidden from mythicist discussion of the earlier verse.

      (To help the reader unaccustomed to Hoffamannerisms he wrote “mythicist” where a lesser intellect would have written “Neil’s.”)

      Now, if Joe had originally written something about γεννάω and γίγνομαι (γίνομαι) having the same morphological roots (which we can in fact trace back to Proto Indo-European with cognates in Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit), or if he had written that γεννάω is (according to Liddell and Scott) the causative form of γίγνομαι, then I could understand his awesome display of knowledge.

      But he didn’t argue that Paul used verbs that are close cousins, did he? No, he said “identical.” I know that the meanings of words can be mysterious for people who don’t know how English works, especially adjectives, but this is a pretty explicit error.

      These are not identical verbs. While γεννάω may have been generated from γίγνομαι it is not the same word. They have different meanings with different semantic ranges. They fall under different major headings in all Greek dictionaries and lexicons.

      And while it’s fun to argue over such details, I’m afraid that focusing on Hoffmann’s flapdoodle will distract us from the hilariously wrongheaded conclusion that he was alluding to. The identical verbs (which aren’t identical) were supposed to be a “clincher” for what argument? Oh, that would be the “fact” that Paul was trying to stop the rumor that Jesus was a bastard. Hoffy imagines Paul saying:

      Brethren, you have heard that Jesus was a bastard? Well, I never met the man, but trust me: he wasn’t. You’re safe. He was just like you and me and any mother’s son. She was a good Jewish girl. Only –- and write this down –- the father was God. Why was the father God? I’m glad you asked. Because God gave the law and you need to be freed from it–No God, no law, no freedom, no adoption. Simple as that.

      It’s when I read crap like this that I marvel that Vridar has been relegated to the “Fringe-Dwellers and Conspiracy Theorists” category of Biblioblogs.

      For anyone who’s interested, you can read the Liddell and Scott references here on line:



      1. You must know that L&S is not a morphology, just a dictionary. But that isn’t the point, and you don’t deal with the morphology –either because you can’t or you just want to defend your friend against the blatant ineptitude of his efforts to deal with a verse he can’t explain. I specifically asked for a credible explanation of how the legitimacy theme introduced at 4.4 was not compatible with 4.29: Your diversions are not helping to understand that, and your linguistic limitations are making it hard for me to find your “sense” of the verse. Please do explain it to me. I can’t quite believe that you don’t know what role “legitimacy” plays in Paul’s argument, or how this fatally affects the mythtic notion that Paul is totally silent on the issue. Anyway: If you have anything to offer besides pretend-information “(which we can in fact trace back to Proto Indo-European with cognates in Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit)–what relevance is that to the Greek verb used here?–ring me.,

        1. Well, that was also a big load of nothing.

          As Hoffman has nothing to say, he is forced to use many , many words not saying anything.

          At least he has now silenced himself, which helps him to avoid saying that different verbs are identical….

    2. Hoffmann writes: “I specifically asked for a credible explanation of how the legitimacy theme introduced at 4.4 was not compatible with 4.29”

      Of course, I was arguing that the premise of his question is flawed. There is no theme of legitimacy introduced in Galatians 4:4 except in Hoffmann’s fanciful and idiosyncratic (interesting morphological history in that word that has something to say about a professor who prefers insult to honest argument) eisegesis. Hoffmann can point to nothing in Galatians 4 that demonstrates the illegitimacy theme that does not rely ultimately upon a linkage to documents that appear 100 to 400 years later.

      But Joseph, what you say is all very interesting — and I am a part-time student of koine Greek (so not quite as dim as you wish) — and I am always keen to learn more. But I am not quite clear about some things. Sorry if I’m not following you and for asking you to explain further.

      Are you saying (implicitly, of course) that you made an error in your original post and that we don’t find the identical word after all in the two verses? We only find distantly related words that have their different meanings and nuances. Is that correct?

      Are you therefore saying (impicitly) that your original claim to have “the clincher” was mistaken?

      I have read scholarly works on the art of translation that have led me to think that word origins and roots etc are not necessarily a reliable guide to understanding what a word actually means in any particular time and place. (Actually what I have read about the art of translating Bible languages is not very different from what I learned years ago about translating modern languages.) Am I being naive in thinking this is so?

      And finally, what is the literature supporting your interpretation of Galatians 4:4? What arguments, if any, have been raised against it in the literature?

      1. “distantly related words”–this phrase is abioslutely ludicrous, not least because you have the whole history of translation post 1611 against your gloss. As you insist on not seeing legitimacy as the core of Paul’s narrative in ch 4: can you please explain to me why he tells the story of Hagar and Sarah, or are you just not prone to allegory? Finally, instead of more cobbling of congenial opinions, venture a guess, if you think the verse is intrinsic to the chapter, tell me what you think it means? And what is “the literaure”- some sort of scholarly magisterium you have access to as a neophyte?

        1. Joseph (you can call me Neil, by the way) I asked you to clarify and support your interpretation of Galatians 4. I would be very interested in the argument if it could be supported and if you could respond to the points I raised that question it.

          That’s not “insisting on not seeing” it as you retort. That’s inviting dialogue and genuine discussion. But since you resort to insult in reply I gather you cannot support it any further nor can you defend it against the points I raised, and that what you have said thus far is the full sum of the matter. (But you will be heartened to hear that I have ordered Schaberg’s book.)

          But Joseph, (or should I address you as Professor?) I asked you if I was correct with respect to my question concerning “distantly related words”. I am terribly sorry, but as one who is a layman (though I am more than a neophyte, by the way — you should get to know me sometime) I was thinking of distance “in time” — thinking that the words split apart some time before they settled into their respective uses. Yes, anyone can see by looking at a dictionary or lexicon that the words are “closely related” morphologically. And I suspect that is where your confusion arose. Perhaps you checked your sources late at night and misread the words in 4:4 and 4:29 and had a senior moment and made a gaffe in your post.

          That’s all right. Happens to me, too.

          But there’s no honour in simply ignoring the challenges to your thesis and avoiding those questions and challenges by a series of tu quoque fallacies.

          (The reason for the Sarah/Hagar allegory? It’s pretty self-explanatory, I thought. No need to call in the Babylonian Talmud to buttress a fanciful eisegisis.)

        2. As a neophyte, let me make a rookie attempt to address your direct question:

          “Finally, instead of more cobbling of congenial opinions, venture a guess, if you think the verse is intrinsic to the chapter, tell me what you think it means?”

          I would hazard a guess that Paul is reticent to suggest that Jesus Christ was born in the normal biological procreative way. The genesis of Jesus was different than that of normal human beings. Thus he uses the term ginomai to suggest that the human Jesus was ‘created,’ much as the first Adam was ‘created,’ but at the same time came from a human mother. I do believe that Paul had in mind an earthly Jesus, but there is no evidence here to suggest that Paul’s Jesus spent his time on Earth in the recent past, or that his mother was a virgin named Mary. We have no evidence that Paul held those beliefs (or had that knowledge). It appears that the mother of Jesus to Paul was an anonymous vessel, a conduit for the creation of the earthly Jesus. Later, in 4:23, Paul makes this explicit:

          But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise.

          The slave woman was born according to the flesh, while the free as a result of a divine promise. Again, Paul makes a distinction between a normal biological birth, “according to the flesh,” and a divine birth. (I think that the word “born” is not found in the second phrase of 4:23 and this should be read “but his son by the free woman by a divine promise.” It would have been interesting to see which verb (form of verb) Paul would have used here.

          The distinction here, it seems to me against RJH, is between “the flesh” and “the divine” birth and between being “under the law” and being “free” from the law. The allegory goes on:

          “He who was born according to the flesh persecutes him who was born of the Spirit.” Paul’s message here seems to be freedom from the law. The “born” in 4:4, ginomai, signifies that Paul is not talking about an ordinary birth, but a divine birth, “born (created) of the Spirit,” the son born “through the promise.” It seems to me, as one making baby steps to understand this, pretty consistent throughout.

    3. You need to stop with the smug tone of superiority, Mr. Hoffman…it’s making otherwise civil conversation partners want to track you down and break your nose. You have no more expertise in Greek than anyone who has degrees in theological studies (myself and others on this thread). You can do nothing more with Bauer or L&S than the rest of us can. You know full well, as do we all, that determining the semantic range of koine words is forever a speculative science, never exact. AND THE FACT REMAINS, despite having a common ancestor before morphological variance, the two verbs are NOT IDENTICAL. Paul could have used a form of gennao in 4.4 but didn’t, and yet you claimed he did! Instead of just admitting your (small) error, you try to pull the “Greek Expertise” card to try to elevate yourself to a higher intellectual plane. Doesn’t work! The more you say, you the more you come across as a pompous fool, and the more you reveal your technique as a scholar to be a mockery of what theological studies could be.

  3. “Genos in turn is derived from the verbal ginomai which is a prolongation of the middle voice that means cause to be or to assemble (or make) or generate. ”

    Isn’t this the very same point that the author of the vridar post made above? True, you’ve
    obscured it with a lot of distracting window dressing, but there it is. Thanks for the clarification.

      1. The question is far simpler than your obfuscatory posts make it out to be:

        Does ginomai (Gal 4:4) have a different connotation than gennao (4:29)?

        This is a separate question from your morphology point. If the answer is yes, then the point that has been made, in this case by the author of the Vridar post, that Paul shades the meaning in Gal 4:4. You seem to support this point when you say:

        ““Genos in turn is derived from the verbal ginomai which is a prolongation of the middle voice that means cause to be or to assemble (or make) or generate. ”

        That was the point made in regard to Paul’s use of ginomai in 4:4. I looked this up on biblos.com’s lexicon, surely not sufficient for you, but good enough for government work:

        gennao ghen-nah’-o: to procreate (properly, of the father, but by extension of the mother); figuratively, to regenerate)
        ginomai ghin’-om-ahee: to cause to be (gen-erate), i.e. (reflexively) to become (come into being), used with great latitude (literal, figurative, intensive, etc.)

        This lexicon certainly does not treat these verbs as “identical.” True, everyone but RJH could be wrong. But I don’t think so.

        Here, easy questions for you:

        1) Are gennao and ginomai identical (have the same meaning)?
        2) Does ginomai mean “cause to be” “assemble” or “generate?”

    again, all manuscripts agree: ginomai (made/became) in 4:4

    Genos in turn is derived from the verbal ginomai which is a prolongation of the middle voice that means cause to be or to assemble (or make) or generate

    So, if I understand Hoffman correctly, he is claiming that Galatians 4:4 says ‘born under the law’, because ‘ginomai’ means ’cause to be ‘, assemble, make or generate – in other words (If I have grasped this correctly ) it means – ‘born’.

    I can be quite slow on the uptake sometimes, so if somebody can clarify that for me please.

    1. Present understanding of our top scholars of the Guild of NT Studies now recognize that none of the writings of the NT are reliable sources for knowledge of the man Jesus. They now know not only how and why this creates the “Jesus Puzzle”, but further they have identified the alternative Scriptural apostolic source from which the real significance of Jesus is found. The writings of Paul are thus not relevant sources for information about Jesus.
      The first task for the mythicists, to have legitimate status as objective NT historians, is to take account of this development. All said aware of the necessary psychological fact that the atheists stance of is a proclamation of denial of legitimacy of the Guild.

      1. Ed: “Present understanding of our top scholars of the Guild of NT Studies now recognize that none of the writings of the NT are reliable sources for knowledge of the man Jesus.”

        While I would agree with you that none are reliable, I disagree with you that it is a consensus opinion among scholars — top, middle, or bottom. We can find a wide diversity of opinion, with some scholars doubtful of finding any authentic deeds or words, others embracing nearly all of it, with lots of variation in between.

        Ed: “They now know not only how and why this creates the ‘Jesus Puzzle’, but further they have identified the alternative Scriptural apostolic source from which the real significance of Jesus is found.”

        I assume you’re talking about the Sermon on the Mount again. What is it that convinces you, Ed, that the ancient wisdom teachings in the earliest Q stratum is more authentic than Mark’s sources or Paul’s writings? I know you like the writings of Betz, but what specifically makes you think the SM is more Jesus-like than, say, the apocalyptic sayings in Mark?

        Ed: “The writings of Paul are thus not relevant sources for information about Jesus.”

        I don’t disagree with you, but why do you think this is the case?

        Ed: “The first task for the mythicists, to have legitimate status as objective NT historians, is to take account of this development.”

        A complete mythicist theory should attempt to explain the emergence of early Christianity. Hence, I don’t think we can ignore the epistles, even if they don’t provide much useful material about the historical Jesus. We need to know what people in the first and second centuries CE thought in order to understand how Christianity arose. With that in mind, ignoring Paul is not an option.

        Ed: “All said aware of the necessary psychological fact that the atheists stance of is a proclamation of denial of legitimacy of the Guild.”

        I’m sorry, but I don’t understand that sentence.

        1. The atheist stance is necessarily a declaration that the Guild of NT Studies is not a legitimate discipline. To the extent that this is a controlling factor in critical thinking, one is not a credible NT historian. From this perspective I attempt set forth the following historical facts about the Guild should someone here in mythicists blogosphere be interested.
          1. NT Studies has consistently operated from two givens: the reality of God and Scripture as OT prophetic and NT apostolic witness to the man Jesus our primary source of God understanding. Mythicism has never an issue.
          2. Until the Enlightenment there was little to question the received Scriptural witness. With the historicism of the 19th Century, the question of the real Jesus was posed, specifically with Reimarus’ challenge (1750): the Christ of faith is not the historical Jesus. “Search the Scriptures and see if Christianity was not based on an historical mistake.” To create the “Jesus Puzzle”.
          3. Neo-orthodoxy was the attempt to extract the real Jesus from the writings of the NT, all written in the context of the Christ of faith, for over 200 yrs. of apologetics. Finally it became apparent that “from these texts the original teachings of Jesus cannot be reconstructed nor extracted in its entirety”. (Betz).
          4. “Over the last two centuries there gradually emerged a new access to Jesus made available through objective historical research.” (James M. Robinson) Only since the 1980’s has there developed a viable solution to the Jesus Puzzle, the discovery of our closest New Testament apostolic witness to the real Jesus.
          The first task for the secular critic, to qualify as a credible NT historian, is to take account of present understanding of the top scholars of the Guild of NT Studies, at least to identify the appropriate critical target – this claim of having located the alternative New Testament source of apostolic witness to the real Jesus.

          1. Hi Ed,

            I would like you to understand that I, despite being an atheist, DO believe that a specialist study in NT literature is a MOST legitimate discipline in our universities. The New Testament literature has had a decisive impact upon Western culture and for that reason should most definitely be studied seriously.

            But I think some of your details are incorrect if I rely upon my own experience:

            1.I completely agree with you here. NT Studies has always operated from two givens — the very same ones you mention. I agree with you. You are correct. But what I do disagree with is that these are valid starting points for any NT study. Why should NT studies consistently operate from a given that Jesus existed in history? Just assuming that he did is not good enough. What is the basis of the argument?

            2. I agree fully.

            3. I agree with you completely.

            4. I don’t know if I completely understand your 4th point. I certainly do attempt to keep up with the scholarship as much as is feasible for a layman. But are you saying here that the Sermon on the Mount is the “appropriate critical target” as the primary source of the words of Jesus? Do answer me. Thanks.

            1. Yes Neil, it is the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3 – 7:27). We have discussed this from the beginning. My understanding is that you have yet not read Betz’s Essays. Its evidence is iinternal to the text.
              My statement should read: “All of the above is said aware of the necessary psychological fact that the atheists stance is a proclamation that the Guild is not a legitimate discipline”. (Age (93.5) limitations).
              You seem to say NT Studies is a legitimate discipline as an artifact, studied because of its “decisive impact on culture”. Many events and influences have had decesive influences on culture, some negative some postive. My understanding is that you would weigh in on the negative side.
              I must say that to pre-judge the SM only confirms my comments. Thanks for your considered reply as we agree to disagree.

              1. Hi Ed, no, you again misread me. I do not believe that biblical studies should be studied only for the negatives they can show about the Bible. Far from it. I believe the Bible ought to be studied as honestly, fully and neutrally as any other major text in our heritage, and that includes its wide-ranging impacts, good, bad and indifferent, in our culture.

                I am not “anti-Bible” or against the Bible and do not “hate the Bible”. I do love and enjoy studying and understanding it and its origins.

                As for the Sermon on the Mount I have pointed out to you that there is no clear evidence linking this to the real Jesus. That scholars do so on the basis that it is seen to contain very early layers of sayings does not itself prove those sayings came from Jesus. But you have not responded to that rejoinder, if I recall.

              2. Neil, Apologies for cresting a problem. The pure volume of essays and comments has been overwhelming, Ilose track of comments and replies, in frustration i have repeated some.I have offered several posts giving evidence for the SM. With our great difference in world view,and the fact that you do not have Betz’s Essays i find it something of a task deciding just what you might best take as evidence. I know of no more than perhaps six scholars who have been able to acknowledge that the writings of the NT are n ot reliable sources of kn owledge of

              3. Hi Ed, I am confident that far more than only six scholars acknowledge that the writings of the NT are not reliable historical accounts of Jesus. I think all critical scholars would agree the NT is not reliable history. As far as I am aware the only scholars who would treat the NT as a sure guide to real history or biography of Jesus are fundamentalists or conservatives(?) or apologists — and I don’t consider those to be genuinely critical scholars.

                As for what evidence I would find convincing — that’s easy. I am convinced of the existence of many persons in ancient history on the basis of written records that have survived. But the records we have of Jesus are of a quite different sort. The stories of Jesus look very much like mere re-writes or copies of Old Testament and other tales.

              4. Neil, Apologies for creating a problem. Partly it results for the pure volume of essays and comments, in frustration I lose postings, plus experiencing computer glitches. I will try to better stay in line. As to futher SM evidence I am a bit at task to jedge just what you might best recognize as authentic given our great diffent world views. The NT Studies Guild has largely been unable to overcome the long standing consensus that it is composed by Matthew, thus loging its significance. I experience bos size limits. Will contunue later.

            2. To your last question: “But are you saying here that the SM is the “appropriate target – – “. Yes, it goes without saying, if there is apostolic Scriptual witness to Jesus, mythicism is mute. If the Guild is a legitimate discipline the claim of its top scholars that we have aapostolic witness must be resolved yea or nay before one consides mythicism.

              1. The claim that we have apostolic witness to the real Jesus is obvious evidence that Jesus existed. The first task of the secular critic is thus to question the claim for apostolic witness.

              2. Hi Ed, you write: “The claim that we have apostolic witness to the real Jesus is obvious evidence that Jesus existed. The first task of the secular critic is thus to question the claim for apostolic witness.”

                I am not sure I fully understand what you mean by the “apostolic witness” that we have today. Do you mean the writings of Paul, Peter, John and Matthew? Or do you mean the stories we have in Acts about the apostles?

  5. “Hoffmann, who once sat comfortably with mythicism, has had his Damascus Road conversion and now seeks to destroy that which he once entertained. (See, for example, the way R. Joseph Hoffmann has turned from hot to cold in his dealings with D. M. Murdock.)”

    Wow, after reading through that link, that was extremely nasty of Hoffmann. He owes her an official apology. Shame on you Hoffmann!!!

  6. What a strange business this is, roaming blogs and requesting “apologies” for Dorothy Murdock, an innocent saint besmirched by impudent critics. How many do confess their iniquities and beg for indulgence and forgiveness? What is this business of collecting “apologies”?

    Who are those modern knight errants mounting their steeds and pointing their lances and shouting through their helmets :”Shame on you, oh! shame on you, the justice of the Lord befall you! Repent and confess your ignominy. Who has received her word and not believed her message, and on whom is the arm of the Lord about to strike?”

    Of the sacred saint no wicked shall ever be allowed to revel in transgressions, to utter a perverse word of outrageous rejection or malicious incomprehension. Shame on us to harbor impious thoughts of chicanery and shameful suspicions of magic tricks.
    Let us not be fools or triflers any more, let us open our eyes when we have eyes to see the Light, and ears to hear Wisdom, and revere the sacred tomes where Truth is finally Known.

    Apologies no more! Incense and songs of the harp to numb the transgressors.
    Let us all be righteous and see the light, and hear the words! Let us revere the high reverend Priestess of the Age of Aquarius. Hosanna to the bearer of the words of Wisdom!

    1. What an amazing coincidence. That was the same year, 1912, when the historicist arguments were all addressed and definitively dismissed as circular by Arthur Drews in his Christ Myth II, translated by Joseph McCabe as “Witnesses to the Historicity of Jesus.” Same year too when William B. Smith published his “Ecce Deus”. It would have been fun if some bookshops had displayed all those books side by side on a shelf.
      This circularity has not stopped academic theologians from carrying on with their hairsplitting of the same old texts generation after generation, and from making a good living with it. They were discussing “born of a woman” back in the 1900s and they are still at it now. Drews could only ridicule their presumption in ennobling themselves with the pretentious name of theology “historians”.

  7. How did reyjacobs “get the argument backwards” as Joseph says @ http://vridar.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/reply-to-hoffmanns-on-not-explaining-born-of-a-woman/#comment-32400 ?

    Now Hoffmann appears to be changing his meaning of “under the law” once again so instead of meaning “according to the law” it means “according to the legal requirements of one’s job description”. It seems to acquire a distinctive new meaning according to the need of the interpreter.

    But we know that the only legal requirement in order to be a legitimate Jew was circumcision. So with Hoffmann’s new revised meaning Paul is simply saying that Christ was circumcised to save all the others who, according to their job desciption, were also circumcised.

    But what law required the Messiah to be legitimate? We know God sometimes favoured the bastard (e.g. Jephthah) to the extent of making him a legitimate ruler over Israel. God regularly overturns the natural order that is ‘according to the law’ — repeatedly the legal requirement that the firstborn be the main inheritor is overturned by God so the lesser or younger or even an outsider is given that privileged status instead.

    What matters to God is whatever is his will, his fiat, his grace – that brings to nothing the human and natural order of things.

    God’s Son was “legitimate” simply by virtue of being God’s Son. It would not have mattered if he slipped into the world through the opening made by Panthera or whoever. That’s how God and the Scriptures work. Israel was the least of the nations but chosen to be the first and God’s sons.

    But let’s go along with Hoffmann’s new and revised meaning of “under the law”. If it now means “according to the legal requirements of one’s job description” — and if this applies equally to Christ and those for whom he died — then Hoffmann would seem to cornering himself back into a fairly mundane interpretation of Galatians 4:4 that has been around the NT guild for a long time now.

    1. Hoffmann wants it both ways. When Paul uses “under the law” to refer to Jews, it’s just a circumlocution. But when Paul uses “under the law” to describe Jesus, it’s to prove he isn’t a bastard; it has everything to do with his legitimacy and making him a worthy sacrifice. Right.

      If anything, it seems that the emphasis on being “born of a woman” has to do with what Paul regarded as a necessary process of sonship. Could it be that at such an early date there were already discussions about whether the Christ was a created being or a begotten being?

      Hoffmann does raise a serious question to mythicism, although he has obscured it with caustic remarks, bumbling translations, and rambling eisegeses. Can we infer from Galatians 4 that the author of the epistle believed Jesus walked the Earth just a few short years ago?

      To answer this question correctly, we need to know if Paul is assembling evidence he has learned or deriving evidence logically from a divine revelation. In other words, did Paul receive teaching about Jesus on Earth, which he has called upon to build his arguments, or is he starting from a premise and working backward? How would that work?

      Paul receives what he believes to be a divine revelation that all members of his churches — everyone “in the body of Christ” — is a son of God. How? Well, they all belong to Christ now, since baptism, which makes them all children of Abraham. Why? Because Jesus was of the seed of Abraham. Really? Yes, he was born from Jewish stock; his mother had to have been a Jew. And so on.

      The question, then, is this: “Did Paul infer the details of Jesus’ birth by logical argument, or did he learn them from another source?”

      It seems to me the total lack of color — born to whom and where? — is at least an indicator that we’re dealing with Paul’s logical reconstruction. The thing Paul cares about is that Jesus was born. He could not care less about when, where, or to whom, except insofar as it was to a woman under the law.

      1. “The thing Paul cares about is that Jesus was born. He could not care less about when, where, or to whom, except insofar as it was to a woman under the law.”

        Not sure if this is really your point of view, Tim, but this sums up the way that I see it. I also agree that ignoring Paul is “not an option.”

        Additionally, I agree with Eisenman’s idea that Paul is the Spouter of Lies in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and thus his letters play a critical part in understanding the role of the DSS in Christian origins.

        On the question of whether or not the NT gospels are reliable sources of information about Jesus, Jewish Christians from the second century on are reported to have said no.

        But I think they do have some value, in that they seem to be, like Paul, an unfriendly reaction to Jewish Christianity.

        1. I confess I do still need to go back and finish Eiesenman’s book on James. I swear that thing adds pages to itself the longer it sits on the shelf. Perhaps it has something to do with Pratchett’s theory of L-space.

          1. In the Amazon review I wrote some time ago about “Jesus Never Existed” by Kenneth Humphreys, I was bitching about his irresistible addiction to using puzzling ironic comments instead of clear headings or titles, which I found confusing, infuriating and self-defeating.
            I mentioned this amusing anecdote:

            “This reminds me of the story about Robert Eisenman’s impossibly convoluted style and a commenter explaining: “I know the man. I told him face to face his writing style was too dense and impenetrable. His comment: ‘I like my style.’ You will not change him. He is my father’s generation”.
            Indeed, it is not easy to teach a new trick to an aging writer who’s never been subjected to the critical review of a professional editor.

            1. I happened to like Eisenman’s style from the get go. But I can see that if doesn’t agree with someone then it would be tough to read. He has his way, and I suppose one either likes it or doesn’t. But however that may be, I think his ideas are bold, original and sound.

              But I did have trouble reading his most recent book, The New Testament Code. Too long, too dense, needs better editing, etc., so I had left it on the shelf like Tim’s JBJ. I recently picked it up again, and found that once I got “into” (or past) the writing style (which seems to have gotten ‘worse’), I was very impressed with his knowledge and insights.

              The thing is, he is the only one doing what he is doing. To paraphrase Price, he is like a Renaissance scientist who has to craft all the parts of his unique machine himself. I think his idea of the importance (even centrality) of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Christian origins is correct. For me, there is no question about it. The only question for me is where do we go from here, because it is a new territory (one that, btw, has room for Doherty’s ideas).

              I was happy to see the recent post here about his appearance on a discussion group.

      2. I still think Hoffmann might actually be a sort of closet ally of much of Mythicism. Possibly we on internete blogs are being too argumentative, and hypersensitive to differences with others … to recognize and re-assimilate some potential allies.

        Consider for example, my construction of what Hoffmann is saying on the “mother of Jesus.” Briefly, Hoffmann to be sure is arguing that 1) Paul existed, and that 2) the narration regarding Jesus being “born of a woman” in Gal. 4.4 is genuinely by Paul. BUT? Then Hoffmann I suggest, hints that however, Paul is a”jealous” and unreliable person, (with as I add, a history of issues with Jews, who pursued and tried to kill him).

        So that finally, Hoffmann’s work hints that Paul … might have simply MADE UP the whole “born of a woman,” born-of-a-good-Jewish-mother episode. To simply fool the Jews into accepting Paul’s new, rather Hellenistic Messiah; by assuring them that Jesus (if Jesus even existed at all) had at least a good Jewish mother.

        Here therefore? Hoffmann’s remarks are at least partially useful for mythicists.

        [Regarding Jesus’ legitimacy? To be sure, 1) SOME of Jewish lit allows non-biological Jews to enter into Judaism, by circumcision; but 2) there was often a preference for biological heirs, as legitimate successors. Which we can see PARTIALLY in 3) the insistence that the new messiah be an heir of David or some such. While 4) still more anxiety about biological heirship would seem even more typical of the later Christian religion – and redactor/editors. 5) This tradition survives almost to this very day; where most Jews allow that someone is automatically considered Jewish, only if he or she is born of a Jewish mother. ]


  8. Once again top schollars of the Guild do not take Paul as a source for knowledge of Jesus. In point of fact it is Paul’s Christ of faith kerygma which became the primary source for the writings of the NT, all written in the context of imaging the Christ of faith no theman Jesus. Paul never met the HJ, he was never a member of the Jesus Movement with its sayings trasitions, he new few of the sayings of Jesus, he did not have a religiousity based Jesus sayings, he was the arch opponest of the real Jesus tradition.

  9. Pingback: Remembering |

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