2014-05-10

Maurice Casey has died

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by Neil Godfrey

Maurice Casey
Maurice Casey

Jim West announced on the biblical-studies yahoo group a few hours ago that Maurice Casey has died. We express special condolences to his dearest friend Stephanie Fisher who has had a special relationship over the years, both critical and sometimes supportive, with this blog.

Maurice Casey’s better known contributions in biblical studies (and among those addressed on this blog) are his publications as listed in his Wikipedia article:

  • From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God : The Origins and Development of New Testament Christology. Cambridge, England. Westminster/J. Knox Press, 1991.
  • Aramaic Sources of Mark’s Gospel, Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  • An Aramaic Approach to Q : Sources for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series. Cambridge, U.K. ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
  • The Solution to The “Son of Man” Problem, Library of New Testament Studies 343. London ; New York: T & T Clark, 2007.

In his later years he took on mythicism and mythicists, contributing to Joseph Hoffmann’s Jesus Process and publishing:

  • Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian’s Account of His Life and Teaching. T&T Clark in London, New York, 2010.
  • Jesus: Evidence and Argument Or Mythicist Myths? 2014

 

 

 

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13 Comments

  • Steven Carr
    2014-05-12 20:43:56 GMT+0000 - 20:43 | Permalink

    Wouldn’t it be a fitting tribute to the great man if some of the more rabid anti-mythicists on the web could find something, even just one thing in Maurice’s anti-mythicist book that they could bring themselves to use?

    It is almost as though there is nothing in the book which was useful for refuting mythicists!

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-05-12 23:09:20 GMT+0000 - 23:09 | Permalink

      Surely by anyone’s measure Casey’s final days taking on what he understood by “mythicism” were not his finest moments.

      • Steven Carr
        2014-05-13 06:49:31 GMT+0000 - 06:49 | Permalink

        Yes, it is sad that this was his last book. Hopefully, history will not judge him by his last work.

        • Philip Jordan
          2014-05-15 08:46:45 GMT+0000 - 08:46 | Permalink

          I wonder how much this actually was “his book”. There are several hints in there that this was more the work of his co-workers than anything else. Of course, this doesn’t change that the book bears his name, but it’s something to consider.

  • Reader
    2014-05-13 03:46:12 GMT+0000 - 03:46 | Permalink

    The death of a human being is *most often times* tragic except in a few instances – Tyrants, correctly convicted criminals etc.. [and just to avoid quote mining by the dishonest I am in no way comparing Casey with convicted criminals, tyrants etc].

    I have to ask myself what does one feel about persons who are intellectually dishonest with regards to a specific topic – the historicity of Jesus – when they should be beacons of intellectual honesty? Maybe ‘dishonest’ is too harsh a word and ‘delusional’ a better one. Even the difference of intellectual positions on an issue should be no grounds to *not* feel some semblance of sadness but in this instance I look at the picture and draw a blank! Is it the personalities of these public intellectuals that have floated off the pages and computer screens that has caused this reaction? How could there towering intellect not let them see what it was that “the acolyte” was offering them for research?

    Casey’s book has one review on amazon and I wonder if that person has really read the book or read other reviews of the book. A solitary “review” on amazon. The fact is that this books was a nasty piece of work – full stop. This is the truth. It is a pity that this was his last work.

    There is a ilk of self scholars and scholar “acolytes” that have acted in manners unbecoming of scholars and theologians :

    Rabbi Hoffman

    Jim (Time-lord) West

    Larry (Ivory Tower)Hurtado

    Theologian McGrath( who I would love to see author a book defending the historicity of Jesus )

    comes to mind when it comes to the issues of the historicity of Jesus.

    Bart D. Ehrman appears to be far more personable until it comes to Jesus of course. But even then, I do not think he has waded in the swamp that the above has.

    Despite of all of the above , Maurice Casey’s family and friends must be sad at this news.

  • Scot Griffin
    2014-05-13 05:06:34 GMT+0000 - 05:06 | Permalink

    I think Neil’s original post struck the right tone.

    Maurice Casey was a man who clearly was loved and respected by others, and in sympathy for those who loved and respected him, I think it best to put aside disagreements with him during his life out of respect for those he left behind. In any event, a man is not his work, so whatever you think of his work should be framed as criticism of the work, not the man. Having recently lost my father (three weeks ago), I can attest to the fact that death is never easy on the loved ones of the deceased, so there’s no reason to make things harder for them.

    Sorry for being preachy.

    –Scot

    • Reader
      2014-05-13 16:37:44 GMT+0000 - 16:37 | Permalink

      Scott,

      Your point is well taken and well articulated.

  • Wentham
    2014-05-13 15:22:27 GMT+0000 - 15:22 | Permalink

    Who was Maurice Casey?

    Fairly early in his career Maurice Casey dedicated himself to primarily one idea that was just gaining currency at the time: that Jesus was an Aramaic-speaking Jew. Casey then noted that there were many Aramaic words in the New Testament. From this Casey seemed to feel that perhaps these words indicated an historically real, Aramaic-speaking Jesus. Because this seemed to presuppose an actual historical Jesus at the roots of the legends, Casey began to in the end of his life support “Historicist” ideas. He seemed to feel he had found the real, actual, historical Jesus.

    Casey seemed to feel that his scholarly work on Aramaic elements in Jesus depended on having the foundation of a real Jesus, who spoke Aramaic. So around 2012 Casey and his grad assistant Stephanie Fisher decided to wade in on the Historicist/Mythicist debate. The notion was that scholars could take all the Aramaic elements of the New Testament, and add them up. To get a portrait of Jesus himself. However, the thesis around which Casey’s life’s work had been organized was never more than an unproven hypothesis after all. An hypothesis contradicted my many facts.

    The fact is that there had always been some Aramaic (similar to Persian courtly Aramaic) in much of the Bible and apocrypha. The very word for God, “El,” was linked to Aramaic all along. There had long been Aramaic influences, especially in intertestamental or apocryphal material (like Maccabees). This means in turn that later New Testament usages did not firmly indicate that some new and wholly Aramaic person – e.g., a fully Aramaic Jesus – had wandered into the Jewish corpus. Since those ethnic influences had always been there. Well before 7 BC-33 AD.

    Casey was attempting to abstract longstanding and widespread influences out, and then add them up. With the assumption that they would finally add up to the portrait of a rather fleshed-out human person. But finally Casey did little more than over-personify a linguistic stratum affecting millions of Jews. One that did not indicate any single human being.

    The notion that Jesus spoke Aramaic has been widely accepted by many in our time. Casey was one of the great prophets of that notion. However the picture of the “wholly Aramaic Jesus” – and particularly an historical one – has never been more than a fashionable but questionable hypothetical construct.

    It is unfortunate that Casey in the the end of his life, egged on by acolytes, decided that he had to fully reify this hypothetical construct. And to begin to believe in the reality of the Jesus that he had simply created.

  • Scot Griffin
    2014-05-24 16:13:11 GMT+0000 - 16:13 | Permalink

    A memorial to Maurice Casey by Jim West. http://bibleinterp.com/opeds/2014/05/wes388023.shtml

    “In the last years of his life Maurice suffered a series of ailments which left him weakened and stymied and yet he persevered manfully through his “valley of the shadow”. As he worked on his final publication (and certainly not knowing that it would be his final publication) he grew progressively weaker, progressively worse. And yet he was so troubled by the rise of the ‘mythicist’ movement that he was determined to see the project through to the end. I’m grateful that he was able to.

    His attitude towards ‘Mythicism’, you see, serves as an example of his deep concern for the discipline he loved. Sensing that the mythicist ‘challenge’ would raise problems he determined that, however distasteful the task, their views had to be addressed. Indeed, we discussed (as he did with Crossley), the regrettable position of needing to respond to the mythicists and also understanding that dignifying their claims with a response could itself be problematic. It was a project-dilemma with which Casey wasn’t comfortable but one which I (and surely others) urged him to undertake. Silence, we agreed at the end of the day, would be taken by the general public to be agreement and scholars, Casey insisted, owed it to the public to speak out.

    That final point was a regular feature of our email exchanges. The public deserves scholarly responses to even the most distasteful and absurd claims. Consequently, his book on the mythicists and their portrait of Jesus would be his only word, his last word, on the topic. It would, he believed, suffice to show the intellectual paucity and vacuity of the mythicist argument.”

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-05-24 20:05:02 GMT+0000 - 20:05 | Permalink

      West is a blatant liar. I used to think he was joking when he wrote his polemics, that he was parodying anti-intellectual buffoons with some of the stuff he wrote. It took me some time to come to terms with the fact that he is serious. He comes across as not giving a damn if he tells lies or slanders the persons of people who express views he fears are violating his Christian faith. He is a good fit with the likes of “the independent scholars” with whom I have had direct exchanges.

      West’s declaration that Casey was writing his polemical demonizations and outright falsehoods as a public service sits well with the fact that public intellectuals have often and continue to betray the public to whom they are ultimately accountable (Julien Benda was addressing the way they whipped up public fervour for war; public manipulation in the field of religion is equally the goal of many theologians).

      Wealth and power tend to accrue to those who are ruthless, cunning, avaricious, self-seeking, lacking in sympathy and compassion, subservient to authority and willing to abandon principle for material gain, and so on. — Noam Chomsky

      The intellectuals do have social power and West is not afraid to abandon principle and slander persons to attack a dissident view among certain public outsiders.

    • Tim Widowfield
      2014-05-25 16:49:59 GMT+0000 - 16:49 | Permalink

      “The public deserves scholarly responses to even the most distasteful and absurd claims.”

      Hey, Jim! We’ve traced the call . . . and it’s coming from inside the house!

    • Steven Carr
      2014-05-25 20:23:58 GMT+0000 - 20:23 | Permalink

      West praises Casey’s book on mythicism,but does not quote from it.

      McGrath also praised the book, but somehow was unable to find an argument in it he could use.

      It must be a pretty awful book if even the most virulent anti-mythicists can’t bring themselves to make public the ‘killer’ arguments and ‘evidence’ it allegedly contains.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2014-05-25 22:09:39 GMT+0000 - 22:09 | Permalink

        No one has to read them. Their contents are beside the point. What is important is that they are there.

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