Gullotta, Homer, and the Training of a Correct Scholar

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by Neil Godfrey

Nicholas Covington of Hume’s Apprentice has posted an excellent analysis of a section of Daniel Gullotta’s review of Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus: Homer, the Gospels, Gullotta and Mythicism. It deserves to be read alongside Tim Widowfield’s recent reviews of Gullotta’s piece, What’s the Matter with Biblical Scholarship? Part 3 and Who Depoliticized Early Christianity? Nicholas, like Tim, demonstrates that Gullotta is being trained well at Yale to become a well-respected scholar of the Bible and early Christianity. He appears to be learning to know what arguments to read and repeat, and what works to give very little, if any, attentive reading. Nicholas shows us that Gullotta has learned to repeat the conventional criticisms of Dennis MacDonald’s book, The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark, that themselves appear to have been generated by scholars who did not themselves actually read MacDonald’s book. One has to assume that Gullotta himself has not picked up The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark for quite some time and has allowed these ill-informed criticisms to obliterate from his memory MacDonald’s anticipation and rebuttal of them.

Nicholas further demonstrates that Gullotta is unfamiliar with other recent relevant publications by prominent scholars such as John Dominic Crossan. Presumably scholars-in-training are now steered around names that are associated with the almost-daringly-seriously-critical Jesus Seminar.


(I’ve delayed my own next post on Gullotta’s article because the work required to demonstrate the overwhelming number of instances that indicate an ignorance of what the sources cited actually say is too daunting at the moment. As Tim has shown repeatedly, and now as Nicholas reaffirms, it really does seem to be the norm that biblical scholars should repeat the ideologically correct mantras that address other works while never attentively reading those works for themselves.)


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11 thoughts on “Gullotta, Homer, and the Training of a Correct Scholar”

  1. I have a number of Dr. Dennis MacDonald’s books and find them fascinating:

    1. The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark (2000)
    2. Mythologizing Jesus (2015)
    3. The Gospels and Homer (2015)
    4. Luke and Vergil (2015)
    5. The Dionysian Gospel: The Fourth Gospel and Euripides (2017)

    I am especially interested in 4 and 5 because they outline the mimesis between the New Testament and Euripides “Bacchae” (as does Robert M. Price’s article “New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash”)

    I have always been intrigued by the line in the “Bacchae” in which Cadmus says:

    “Even though he (Dionysus) be no God, as you say, still, say that he is. Be guilty of a splendid fraud, declaring him to be the son of Semele. For this will make it seem she is the mother of a God, and will confer honor on our race.”

    It’s also interesting when Richard Carrier explores the idea that Christianity may have been based on a lie. For instance, Carrier writes:

    “[A] case can be made for the apostles dying even for a hoax: all they needed was to believe that the teachings attached to their fabricated claim would make the world a better place, and that making the world a better place was worth dying for. Even godless Marxists voluntarily died by the millions for such a motive. So the notion that no one would, is simply false.” see https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/12263

    This would agree with the promotion of the Noble Lie in Plato. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy characterizes Plato’s Noble Lie as:

    “For Plato we should live according to what reason is able to deduce from what we regard as reliable evidence. This is what real philosophers, like Socrates, do. But the non-philosophers are reluctant to ground their lives on logic and arguments. They have to be persuaded. One means of persuasion is myth. Myth inculcates beliefs. It is efficient in making the less philosophically inclined, as well as children (cf. Republic 377a ff.), believe noble things… In the Republic the Noble Lie is supposed to make the citizens of Callipolis care more for their city. Schofield (2009) argues that the guards, having to do philosophy from their youth, may eventually find philosophizing ‘more attractive than doing their patriotic duty’ (115). Philosophy, claims Schofield, provides the guards with knowledge, not with love and devotion for their city. The Noble Lie is supposed to engender in them devotion for their city and instill in them the belief that they should ‘invest their best energies into promoting what they judge to be the city’s best interests’ (113). The preambles to a number of laws in the Laws that are meant to be taken as exhortations to the laws in question and that contain elements of traditional mythology (see 790c3, 812a2, 841c6) may also be taken as ‘noble lies’.”

    Justified lying is also present in the Judeo Christian tradition (even God lies). For instance:

    1. God rewarded the Egyptian midwives for lying to the Pharaoh. (Exodus 1:18-20)
    2. Rahab was “justified” when she lied about Joshua’s spies. (Joshua 2:4-6); (James 2:25)
    3. David lied to Ahimelech when he said he was on the king’s business. (He was King Saul’s enemy at the time.) We know that God approved of this lie, since 1 Kings 15:5 says that God approved of everything David did, with the single exception of the matter of Uriah. (1 Samuel 21:2)
    4. Elisha told King Benhadad that he would recover, even though God told Elisha that the king would die. ( 2 Kings 8:8-10)
    5. In the Deuterocanonical book of Tobit, the angel Raphael lied to Tobias, saying “I am Azarias.” (Tobit 5:16-18)
    6. Jesus lied when he told his family that he wasn’t going to the feast, but later went “in secret.” (John 7:8-10)
    7. Even God lies by putting lying spirits in the mouths of his prophets. (1 Kings 22:21-22)

    It’s fascinating stuff! I’ve written a blog post about it if anyone is interested: http://palpatinesway.blogspot.com/

  2. I’m detecting something of a pattern from defenders of historocity. They see someone claiming to refute an argument mythicists use and incritically accept it without checking to see if it does address the argument rather than some straw man version, or if someone has successfully refuted the refutation.
    As someone with no vested interest, who can’t read the Greek or Hebrew for themselves, this is frustrating. For all I know, there may be good arguments against mythicism, but it does t seem like anyone cares enough to make them.

    1. That has been my conclusion on the issue so far. The way the so-called “mainstream experts” handle the issue they cannot be trusted, then again a fringe minority does not inspire overwhelming confidence, and I don’t necessarily trust my own judgment (at least on most issues) when it comes to a complex subject like ancient history. My confidence level in mythicism is such that I might bet a hundred bucks it was true if a time machine got invented and we could all place bets on the issue before going back in time to see for sure, but of course I would never put up my life’s savings on it.

      1. I sometimes have the same time-machine thought. But then I realize it wouldn’t change anything. The historicists would simply say the time-machine got the date wrong or didn’t work properly. :-/

      2. One would need to go to various time-frames / dates and to various regions (around the Mediterranean). There’d be a few life-times worth of time required.

  3. If you’re waiting for intellectual integrity to come out of Yale, good luck. Their English department introduced the obit dictum called postmodernism to the continent while failing to mention the fad is a fraud.

    1. I don’t know what you are referring to (or how a course on “postmodernism” in an English department indicates a wider lack of intellectual integrity).

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