The Curious Silence of the Dog and Paul of Tarsus

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Following up my previous post I came across another interesting discussion of the argument from silence. Since I am among those who have compared the argument from silence to the Sherlock Holmes’s famous inference from the dog that did not bark and even spoken of such a nonauditory argument as deafening, after reading Mike Duncan’s discussion I feel as if my presentation of such an argument in the past has lacked finesse. Mike Duncan has made his article publicly available on Academia.edu:

The Curious Silence of the Dog and Paul of Tarsus: Revisiting The Argument from Silence


The following two tabs change content below.

Neil Godfrey

Neil is the author of this post. To read more about Neil, see our About page.

Latest posts by Neil Godfrey (see all)

If you enjoyed this post, please consider donating to Vridar. Thanks!

16 thoughts on “The Curious Silence of the Dog and Paul of Tarsus”

  1. “…Paul did not know of much of the material concerning Jesus’s life in the canonical Christian gospels when writing his letters in the 50’s and early 60’s CE…” from Mike Duncan’s article. I would just like to point out the orthodox assumption that Paul wrote his letters in the 50’s and early 60’s. There is almost zero evidence for this either Biblically or extra-Biblically. Acts does not record Paul writing ANY letters and has him at the end of the narrative living quietly in Rome in his own rented apartment. He is not even in a prison dungeon turning out 2 Timothy or Philippians, with the end in sight. There is no credible mention of Paul by Seneca despite the Christian forgeries, or by Josephus despite Agrippa being a very close friend of the historian. (Acts 25) In fact Jerome clearly states that Paul escaped the Galilean town of Gischala with his parents in the year 67 when it was taken by the Romans (and fled to Tarsus). So the “scholars” need to get the basics right before they proceed with an analysis of Paul’s theology. They are setting it in entirely the wrong time frame. Once this error is acknowledged then Paul’s non-mention of Jesus’ biography makes perfect sense. The coming of the political Messiah as a failed prophecy in AD70 created the belief in the “unnoticed” salvific Messiah whose only Biblical task was to die and be resurrected AND NOTHING MORE. (His non-appearance after that was explained as his ascension to heaven.)

    1. Paul’s letters show a internal consistency of the Jewish cult still operating. No mention of the Jewish War which started in 66 AD. Also no mention of Gospel views of Jesus. So does not that put dating of Paul’s letter, with good probability, before 66AD.

      1. Yes, or probably, in answer to your question.

        Paul was including gentiles in his Christian sect. Would this fit better in pre Jewish war times or post Jewish war times?

        1. Not sure but there were converts to Judaism before Paul’s conversion and after Paul converted it’s unlikely he wouldn’t mention the Jewish War or Temple destruction had it happened.

      2. The humiliation and defeat of the Jews is a past event in Paul’s writings. In Paul’s first letter to the believers in Thessalonica, he writes
        …the Jews . . . killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out; they displease God and oppose everyone by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. Thus they have constantly been filling up the measure of their sins; but God’s wrath has overtaken them at last. (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16)
        The letter to the Romans was written after 70. Paul says, regarding the Jews,
        I ask, then, has God rejected his people? (11:1)
        They were broken off because of their unbelief. (11:20)
        There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek. (2:9) For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. (Ephesians 2:14)
        Four years after the end of the Great War in 1918, Pope Pius XI issued his first encyclical Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio. In this work of about 11,500 words the Great War is mentioned 14 times. Nine years later the same term gets only one mention in his much longer Quadragesimo Anno. Both encyclicals deal with similar themes. Using the writings of the Pope as a guide and noting the indirect references to the War in Paul, we can reasonably speculate that he was writing about 10 years after the event.

        1. The 1Thes. 2 is a interpolation. Most scholars agree. Least of all it doesn’t fit context of the rest of the chapter, and the rest of Paul’s writings about Jews.

          1. It (Thessalonians) appears to be an interpolation if you have the orthodox mindset and wish to dispense with a problem. The best theory is the one that fits the most data. But let’s assume it is an interpolation, there are still the 50 or so pieces of other evidence in the early writings that I have found that fit my theory. Are we to assume they are all interpolations? If so why would the fathers and others say that the religion began after AD70? What would have prompted the interpolators to add this material? And why the deafening silence of every pre AD70 historian who could have attested to the existence of Christians but failed to do so? Without special pleading the case for a pre AD70 religion is weak, to the degree of only being credible to believers. And the orthodox explanation fails not just on the documentary level but also historically, psychologically and sociologically. We now know how religions are invented, and what factors facilitate their invention. All those conditions were present in AD70 and not before.

            1. It’s not special pleading to date some of Paul’s letters before 70 AD by citing no mention of Temple destruction or continuation of the Temple cult. And no mention of Gospel Jesus teachings and life. And many others. It sticks out like a sore thumb.

              1. I note your post contains no mention of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination – should I assume you wrote it before that happened or should I assume it just didn’t matter to you at the moment?

              2. Rabbinical Judaism (and I submit Christianity) succeeded the Temple cult. The Temple cult ceased in AD70 because after AD70 there was no more Temple. Even the priests were destroyed by specific order of Titus. “On the fifth day afterward, the priests that were pined with the famine came down, and when they were brought to Titus by the guards, they begged for their lives; but he replied, that the time of pardon was over as to them, and that this very holy house, on whose account only they could justly hope to be preserved, was destroyed; and that it was agreeable to their office that priests should perish with the house itself to which they belonged. So he ordered them to be put to death.” Wars of the Jews Book 6.6.1. Paul says, “For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4) Christ is the culmination of the law τέλος νόμου (telos nomou) “the close of the Law,” i.e. “He who brings it to an end.” The Law ended dramatically in 70CE. Paul says those under the Law lack freedom ─ as the Jews did in the siege of Jerusalem. (Romans 7:25) Those under the Law are under a curse. (Galatians 3:10) The Law brings the wrath of God.(Romans 4:15) The Law brings death. (2 Corinthians 3:7) The Law provokes sin. (Romans 5:20) The Law locks people up. (Galatians 3:23-25) “Therefore the law was our disciplinarian UNTIL CHRIST CAME, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” The Law ended in AD70, to be replaced by faith in the coming of the Messiah, the Christ. A theology based on (visible) works was replaced with a theology based on (invisible) FAITH. Salvation no longer depended on the works of the Law because the buildings, the altars and instruments of the Law had been physically destroyed. The new way to achieve salvation was by faith in Christ alone apart from the works of the Law. There was no other way. One could not choose between two competing modes of salvation. Paul’s statements about the Law appear to fit very well the period AFTER the Law had been dissolved not just allegorically but physically.

      3. All of the (falsely so-called) epistles are no earlier than mid second century, deeply stratified, and assigned to a fictional authority from the past; therefore, they represent nothing but late comnmunity opinions and do so quite inconsistently. The knowledge of details of second temple Judaism could have easily been copied from Flavius Josephus and similar scribes.

  2. There are so many opportunities in Paul’s letter to reinforce his arguments with examples from the life and teachings of Jesus, that it is hard not to conclude that he didn’t know of them. It’s not like Jesus was an incidental character in his story. Jesus was the story and his whole reason for writing. To say he didn’t mention these things because his correspondents already knew them, is hardly credible since his whole purpose was to convince his readers to follow Jesus. Has any other teacher, missionary, or theologian ever tried to make the case for Jesus with so little reference to his actual teachings and example?

  3. “Since the New Testament is filled with countless examples of fictional events, fictional characters, forged letters, unverifiable actions, supernatural beliefs, and so forth, we would need a good reason to believe that the Pauline epistles were somehow the exception to the rule before we could begin to evaluate their content. As it stands, I will assume that they represent more fantasy fiction written by theologians, and are neither authentic nor even logical.” — Sherlock Holmes in “The Hound of Tarsusville”

  4. Apparently there is zero contemporary evidence for any of the Christianity related characters mentioned in the bible and none of the evidenced historical personages (Herod, Pilate) left any trace of knowledge or interaction with those Christianity related characters.

    It looks more & more like comic book references to real people & places for verisimilitude.

  5. I think the simplest explanation for Paul’s silence is that he wanted his listeners to focus on the core of Paul’s gospel, and so not be led astray or be confused by secondary issues. Hence, Paul writes: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).” What was the core of Paul’s gospel? Paul writes “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,… (1 Corinthians 15:3).”

  6. Mike Duncan (p. 96):

    As such, interpretation of the strength or weakness of an AFS should proceed case-by-case, taking the acceptability issue of the relationship between the rhetor’s apparent expertise and the audience’s receptiveness into special account. Without such dialectical controls, it is eas-ier to reject an AFS out of hand for using negative evidence, when closer consideration would have been more profitable for all parties.

    Isn’t it just how Earl Doherty applied the AFS on the epistles, i.e. proceeding case-by-case to make his case?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Vridar

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading