Continuing from PZ Myers interviews a historian about Jesus mythicism and How do historians decide who was historical, who fictional?
PZ Myers asks: How do we approach this kind of topic?
Eddie Marcus, introduced as a professional historian, responds:
Eddie Marcus informs listeners that his expertise is in Australian culture and history, not first century Palestine. He has a business webpage, History Now, and a blog, Dodgy Perth. His LinkedIn page informs us that he has a BA in history from Cambridge and a Post Graduate Diploma in Cultural Heritage from Curtin University of Technology.
there is a lot of commonality between how science approaches evidence and how history approaches it, and that way we could get there slowly.
Comment: Eddie unfortunately does not explore this “slow” option of determining the historicity or otherwise of Jesus (or any historical figure). This is a significant oversight, in my view, because it is that “scientific approach” that is the one used by the major authors of the Christ Myth theory, in particular Earl Doherty, Richard Carrier and Robert M. Price. (I am not suggesting that their arguments are infallible; like many scientific approaches they find themselves in need of testing and revision.) It is also the method used by some historical Jesus scholars (e.g. John Dominic Crossan) to reconstruct their interpretation of what Jesus was like. As with any scientific exploration, results will likely vary according to the assumptions underlying one’s starting questions. Carrier’s book on Proving History is one excellent discussion of how a “scientific approach” to history is ideally undertaken. (For anyone who thinks that Bayesian reasoning is not used by historians I recommend a work by the philosopher of history, Aviezer Tucker. Bayesian reasoning does not have to involve numbers, by the way. More simply and immediately, one can see how a more valid approach to evidence has been advanced by an Old Testament scholar, Philip R. Davies. Davies, by the way, urged biblical scholars to take up seriously the question of Jesus’ historicity in order to become a more academically respectable guild.
Eddie refers to the scientific method sets it aside in order to launch instead into the discussion at “the deep end”. How, he asks, does a historian approach “the resurrection”.
But to start at the deep end, consider the resurrection. We have “loads of evidence” about the resurrection. It’s what we do with the evidence that becomes history.
The best evidence Eddie cites (he calls it “amazing” evidence) is our collection of four gospels. They are written, he says, “comparatively close to the events they say they are describing.”
Most ancient historians would kill for that kind of evidence. I wish I had it for most of the stuff I study.
Comment: Right from the start Eddie jumps in the deep end of biblical scholars’ interpretations and models, bypassing the evidence and methods themselves. It is not a “fact” that the gospels were written “comparatively close” to the events they narrate. Such a claim is an interpretation and one that is grounded in the theological desire to date the gospels as close as possible to Jesus in order to buttress their credibility as historical sources. (Christian theology is for many though not all theologians grounded in belief in historical events: see Nineham.) To see how documents are dated “scientifically” I recommend Niels Peter Lemche’s discussion that I have summarized at Scientific and Unscientific Dating of the Gospels. Lemche was referring to Old Testament texts but the same principles apply. Cassandra Farrin set out a comparable set of points to consider in relation to New Testament texts.
It is possible that the four gospels as we know them in their canonical form did not exist until at least the mid second century. I think there are very good reasons for dating our earliest canonical gospel, Mark, soon after the year 70 CE, but there are also very good reasons advanced by some scholars for dating the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles to the mid to latter half of the second century.
But even if the gospels were all written according to biblical scholars’ conventional dates in the last decades of the first century, by the standards of historians of ancient times that does not make them “amazing” or “close” enough to the events narrated to be worth “killing for” (as Eddie says). The highly renowned ancient historian, M.I. Finley, discussed the problems we have with ancient sources that I think many New Testament scholars would profit from reading: An Ancient Historian on Historical Jesus Studies, — and on Ancient Sources Generally. Ancient historical works are of value to the extent that their sources and provenance can give the modern scholar some degree of confidence in their reliability. In the case of the gospels we have no information about their provenance (only speculations) or their sources (only the hypothesized oral tradition). See, for example, Comparing the evidence for Jesus with other ancient historical persons.
If the only evidence Eddie had for an historical figure said to have existed forty years earlier, and the story was riddled with tales of the fabulous, and their was no way to identify its author, then I do not believe Eddie would consider such evidence as having any worth as testimony for the historicity of that person at all. This would be especially so if he found on closer inspection that that story (or “biography”) could be seen to have adapted many phrases and motifs from Alice in Wonderland.
Eddie describes the gospels as biographies.
He further says that we know exactly why Luke wrote his gospel because he tells us so in his preface: it is to assure Christians of the origin stories that justify their rituals, like the eucharist and recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.
Comment: The gospels are only very superficially like ancient biographies. They lack many of the features of ancient biographies as would readily become apparent to anyone who read them. See Genre of the Gospels for details and critical reviews of Burridge, the author of the work most often relied upon by the mainstream, and especially the series of posts by Tim on how the consensus on gospel genre changed.
As for taking Luke’s preface uncritically at face value, without any reference to comparable prologues in other works of the era, is standard practice for many biblical scholars but I think it would horrify a good number of classicists and ancient historians. Luke’s prologue is unlike other prologues of historical works in that it gives no serious idea of the author or details of his sources. Besides, the commonly accepted interpretation is based most often on questionable English translations. To see many of the discussions on the wide range of scholarship that has been devoted to the Luke’s introduction see the Luke-Acts Prologue archive.
Eddie: This is evidence — lot of atheists don’t realize is that Bible is good evidence for what faith community believed.
PZ: Yes we have evidence for what people believed but the question is, Was he real?
Eddie: I will probably alienate half your listeners by giving you the formal academic answer to your question, What it means to be a historical personage. Compare science: if you ask if a theory is true. They’ll say it is not “true in any meaningful sense” but “it is our best explanation for the evidence” but deep down every scientist knows those things are true. Historians work same way: the historical figure is “the best explanation in a narrative for the evidence we have about that figure”.
PZ: (paraphrase) What it means when I say I believe in evolution is that my acceptance is always open to revision and till then there is always a body of evidence I can pull out to support my belief. . . . The question with Jesus, though, is Do you have the equivalent kinds of nuggets of facts to draw upon?
Eddie: Not comparable to science or evidence for evolution. History is not science. What we can do is construct a narrative that might be overturned by new evidence. We might uncover new evidence or construct a better narrative.
Comment: I doubt that all ancient historians really do “deep down believe” that there reconstructions are “true” in any absolute sense. I think a good number of them do have the same approach as PZ above.
But let’s look at Eddie’s “definition” of a historical figure as “the best explanation in a narrative for the evidence we have about that figure”.
Eddie is talking about narrative history. That is, history that tells a story, as much history writing does. But most narrative history (outside biblical studies) is based on verifiable evidence. Information is verifiable by independent evidence, whether textual or nontextual.
A good many reconstructions of what historical Jesus scholars think Jesus was like is presented in a narrative form. We have Jesus the revolutionary, Jesus the rabbi, Jesus the apocalyptic prophet, etc.
You should notice the fallacy here. Eddie is begging the question of the historicity of Jesus. He begins by assuming that the a historical figure is the best explanation for the narratives of the gospels and then seeks, as a historian, to present his own narrative of that Jesus that he thinks explains the evidence better for modern readers.
But the explorations of many Jesus Myth proponents are not narrative histories. They are starting the “slower” journey by taking up the scientific method and carefully sifting the evidence at a deeper level. They are doing forensic investigation and literary analysis.
For example, they look at the scholarship addressing gospel intertextuality with other Jewish and Greco-Roman writings and ask the implications of that. They set up predictions to test their hypotheses. What would we expect to find if hypothesis X were true, what would we find that would to falsify it, etc.
Eddie: So once we’ve constructed our historical figure deep down we tend to believe in it. With Jesus there is no new evidence so people re-read the evidence in new ways. e.g. we have 4 accounts of the resurrection and many other accounts not in Bible. William Lane Craig believes the best explanation is that the resurrection really happened. But his view has problems — it cannot explain why later different faith groups sprang up with different ideas about what this Jesus was like, what his resurrection meant. They all agreed he died and was resurrected or would not be Christians.
It seems ad hoc to claim a real resurrection when we can use ordinary historical tools to explain how the different faith groups developed after the resurrection.
Comment: I think Eddie is contradicting himself here or at least giving us a non sequitur. But he was speaking off the cuff, so to speak, so we can cut him some slack. He might like to return and add clarification.
On the one hand he says that a belief in the reality of the resurrection cannot explain the diverse Christian groups that appeared on the scene “after the resurrection”. (Well, presumably on Eddie’s argument there were no Christian groups at all before the resurrection.)
At the same time he says that they all believed in the resurrection.
So if they all believed in the same thing, then surely Eddie’s point that such a belief cannot explain the diversity of Christian groups is mute. Or self-evident.
To explore why they all believed different things about what Jesus was like and what his resurrection meant we need to look for something other than the common belief in the resurrection itself.
If a historian finds a different explanation for the belief in the resurrection that is helpful for us, but it cannot change the fact that all the different groups had a common belief in the resurrection. And if they had a common belief in the resurrection then we would expect other factors apart from that belief to be responsible for their differences.
PZ: We have no experience of anyone rising from dead. That’s science approach. Consilience with the natural world. You throw out the stuff that doesn’t fit with how the world works.
Eddie: yes, but as historian we try not to work in that realm — but a better explanation is one without miracles. Resurrection is an ad hoc throwing in. When the rest can be explained naturally why would you suddenly have a different explanation for the resurrection?
I would not call resurrection a silly view — it is not one I share — but millions believe it.
Comment: I prefer PZ’s approach. Of course one throws out the possibility of a literal resurrection as an explanation for the gospel narrative. That’s the scientific approach.
I don’t see anything ad hoc about a real resurrection as an explanation for the resurrection stories, as Eddie puts it. William Lane Craig and others who do argue for a literal resurrection — the ones Eddie is addressing according to his previous statement — do not explain everything else in the story in naturalistic terms and then throw in the resurrection as an anomalous appeal to a miracle. They believe in much of the miraculous throughout.
So at this point I am wondering where Eddie is heading.
Eddie: On the other hand, mythicists go to the other extreme. What is an easy way to explain the resurrection? They say there never was a Jesus, so it’s easy to resurrect him: just write it on a paper — this is an extreme mythicist position. This is equally ad hoc.
In fact we have all these sects and communities developing stories about a real Jesus. How are we going to account for these? The mythicist explanation doesn’t account for these — it’s ad hoc like the real miracle explanation.
Somebody makes it up then we need a conspiracy theory that has most of the people being bullied into believing in this fictional character and then writing about him as if he was real. It just doesn’t add up.
We need a linear view of how this faith community started, and it started with one person, Jesus.
Comment: Eddie does not identify any mythicist author or argument he has read and here he seems to be unaware of what has been argued by any of the mythicists.
Most if not all mythicist arguments I have read begin with the many different faith communities and examine carefully their respective beliefs. That’s the opposite situation to what Eddie seems to think. And it is here that several of Eddie’s statements are found to be limited to popular “trade book” views of Christian origins and uninformed of the debates among critical scholars.
It is not a fact that all early Christian communities did have a eucharist ritual, and of those who did, there appear to have been very different rationales, origin stories, to explain it. The early community represented by the Didache did not consider the bread and wine to be symbolic of Christ’s body at all. They were emblems of God’s bounty for which Christians gave thanks.
Some Christian communities did not appear to attach any importance to the crucifixion or death of Jesus, either.
All of these very early communities are part of the collection of data that Christ myth theorists work with. They don’t ignore it or fail to explain it.
Most serious mythicist arguments I am aware of pick up on the scholarship that explores literary analysis of the gospels and identifies the gospel narrative sources in Jewish and other writings. No-one says, not even an “extreme mythicist” whoever that is, says someone just decided to write the story on a piece of paper and then go out and bully others into believing it.
A scientific approach begins the slow journey of surveying the range of Jewish beliefs and ideas of the time, those preceding and contemporaneous with Christianity’s emergence. They look for antecedents in the philosophical and religious beliefs of the day. They look at the Jewish writings that speak of a heavenly Messiah figure, sometimes a heavenly figure who died and returned, and they look at the role of visions at the time.
All of this evidence is the data that is studied by the slow moving scientific approach. Eddie has bypassed it all by diving in the deep end instead and speaking of the truth being found in persuasive narratives.
PZ raised the comparison with the origins of Mormonism.
Eddie: We can use tools of history and analyze Book of Mormon (literary analysis — cultural comparison) — to explain it.
Comment: Indeed. Unfortunately Eddie did not elaborate on how he might conduct literary analysis of the gospels. One of the most extensive body of published work on literary analysis of the various gospels and other New Testament writings has been undertaken by Thomas Brodie, a mythicist and still believing Roman Catholic. Many scholars have respected much of his work but the mythicist conclusions Thomas Brodie drew from his analysis were not made clear until his retirement from the academy. See The Brodie Files: Beyond the Quest Posts on Vridar.
That brings us up to around the 20 minute mark. Presumably continuing…
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21 thoughts on “How do we approach the question of Jesus being historical or mythical?”
Dear Mr. R.G Price
Hopefully not to be confused with Dr… Dr. Robert M Price ( a European way of honoring a scholar of some repute). I have been curious for sometime about your own background in Biblical Studies, Theology, and History. You may be a layman with a lot of incredible insight and don’t have to have a Ph.D in the field. Even Earl Doherty doesn’t have a Ph.D, but his work is quite instructive and he himself is neither a NT scholar or historian of antiquity, though a very careful classicist. No one needs to have a Ph.D to read the NT. But if you don’t have Greek you are severely handicapped. And it shows in one’s works. But learn it so you can support many of your interesting and I think tentatively correct readings of Mark.
I have just finished translating the Gospel of Mark for a brand new translation of the NT called “SCRIBE” . I have completed the entire 27 books. Perhaps we can connect sometime in the future about this.
I started reading Koine in 1975 and haven’t stopped since and then “graduated” to Classical, etc. and I love the Lxx. One of my OT professors, Dr. Daniel Block…a former collegue across the hall from me told us all in our first class in OT literature.. “If you don’t know the OT you will never, never, understand the New Testament. ”
That is why your work is helpful.
As you can see I heard it loud and clear and it always haunted me … and then I learned Hebrew to understand more clearly the OT so I could understand the NT and it is only now in my later years that I am just beginning to see the truth of this first axiom for reading the NT.
I also think Hellenism was a major factor as well but I don’t turn to Greek lit first , but to the OT and the Jewish traditions (plural) and find some wonderful parallels in other cultural contexts of the times as well. So much fun and fantastic encounters with so many wonderful ideas and inspirations, and illuminations, intuitions.
Look at all of us !!. We love all of this! Yet very few of us here actually believe in the final authority of these ancient and alien texts with their incredible alterity with every turn of a text!
So Mr. R.G Price. Tell us something of your methods and reasons for concluding that Jesus didn’t exist in your new book since you are now a player on the field. You might get kicked balls on the field !!! :):)Every playing field in this field is risky, dangerous, even life-changing…for good or bad. I can’t believe all the shit that has gone down in de-converting,not just regarding Christianity in general, but concerning the historical existence of Jesus.!!
I used to live with a woman who had severe BPD behaviours. I always walked around as if I was on eggshells around her. I loved her deeply but was always afraid some little thing would set her off. And it did. Is the existence of Jesus a big thing or a little thing? Why should we care? Did Paul? He was more interested in the spirit –called Jesus, the Ruling or Christic Spirit. The Lord of or among spirits. Moreover, I am noticing more and more that some debates are being poisoned by this issue.
The best one to watch is Michael Bird and Bart Ehrman where they are debating about Ehrman’s new book on How Jesus Became God, and in the debate Bird(man) baits Ehrman and they both get swept away by the demon or spirit of the disbelief in the historical existence of Jesus. I was so pissed off because it was not Ehrman that started it but Bird. Anyway.. I am getting weary of the whole mess actually and if the question went underground again for a while I would not be surprised. Anyway…
R. G Price. Tell us a little bit about yourself. It might give us some clues and incentive as to why we should read your work.
And if you don’t have degrees in this field how would you justify many of your very interesting and competent and controversial ways in which you discuss such things? This is a challenge question to get to know you. I wanted to puke over what Michael Bird (he’s the worst of the bunch),Ehrman, Hurtado have said about those who are lay people and even scholars who don’t believe in Jesus’ existence. They are not to be listened to! He won’t even grant Dr. Carrier’ 1/3 probability! Which is quite reasonable too. Dr. Carrier, despite his persona in public has stated orally and in writing that he is not absolutely sure that Jesus didn’t exist. They have so poisoned the wells in this regard that it is inevitable that many will not listen to Carrier at any level.
That one aspect of his research in their minds has polluted all the rest of the work he has done. So sad.
So even if you have a PH.D in NT and are a real scholar …your Ph.D is worth shit in the field and you will never get a job in a reputable institution if you don’t believe in Jesus historical existence. I dont think I have misread this.
This is what I hear when they all talk like that. Why do these men need to defend the existence of Jesus to such an extent that anyone who does not believe in Jesus the way they do ,whether scholar or laymen is “stupid” and “incompetent” and “should not be allowed to teach in any reputable school, if I can help it!!. ???
I have learned much from these men, but they are starting to control and manipulate believers and unbelievers on such issues that is going to backfire on them in the end, at least with the “prophetic” bubbling up I get. :):)
Imagine going to study under anyone of these men and you personally don’t believe that Jesus existed as a historical figure, whatever the Gospels say about him. You will be walking around egg-shells with each one of them and have to make sure you don’t even discuss the issue with them. They have already judged you before the gods they believe or don’t believe in! Your program of study will be filled with fear because of their public judgments against all “non-believers” in Jesus’ historical existence, which is really an open question in the end given our present state of data (not necessarily evidence).
R. G Price. I don’t care whether you have degrees or not. Tell the readers of your blog comments or books as to how and where and why you have come to the conclusions you have. Neil has been concerned to talk about methods.
I have read some of your earlier work and it is interesting and helpful. I still think you overlook some things and more tools would help you to nail down more of your very interesting observations and interpretations of things..
I think this site is an educational and resourceful one, and many well-versed people frequent this site set up by Neil. As a former professor of Biblical studies , apologetics, and theology, etc. I love the work of insightful “laymen” (I hate that Christian term) but I can’t think of a better one at the moment.).
What do you suggest as methods for others to get into these issues and what tools are important?
Go for it. Tell your story.
If you are evasive and act like a rabid unthinking atheist you will be dismissed in my mind and many others, but I believe you may have something to legitimately offer to make other well-known scholars become a bit fearful of their over-confidence.
Are you ready? If you want to make your books count, tell us more. It won’t help to simply tell us –read my book. Give us reasons why we should buy your book and consider your conclusions.
We come to this site to get help…”laymen” and scholars alike.
So Talk! And be specific so we can all learn.
Martin Lewadny made some good points, and his open mind stance is heart warming and I assume heartfelt.
His warnings about how easy it is to disqualify yourself from serious consideration in the field by the establishment of PhD academia and the eggshell walking described ring very true and must be taken to heart.
Essentially nothing new under the sun, you are either in or completely out as is shown in the following enlightening title by Kendra Eshleman, even in NT times:
Dykstra, Tom (2015). “Ehrman and Brodie on Whether Jesus Existed: A Cautionary Tale about the State of Biblical Scholarship“. The Journal of the Orthodox Center for the Advancement of Biblical Studies (JOCABS). 8(1), 29.
Thank you, good one, but not available to me at that website.
I read it instead over here:
Prof Bermejo Rubio has titled his last work “La invención de Jesús de Nazaret”, Historia, ficción, historiografía. (Madrid, Siglo XXI). But he argues for a seditious historical Jesus.
Hence I wonder about the use of a so “mythicist” title by a historicist scholar.
The terms should be standardized as:
• Jesus historicity theory
• Jesus ahistoricity theory
NB: These terms are predicated on a universal minimum definition of the historical Jesus.
I would characterize Bermejo-Rubio as a Jesus historicity theorist holding a minority (radical?) viewpoint.
Cf. Carrier (12 February 2014). “On Bermejo-Rubio’s Dispassionate Plea for a Historical Jesus“. Richard Carrier Blogs.
A question which pertains to the historical vs fictional Jesus.
Was Davey Crockett real or mythical? Did he ride the whirlwind, kill bears barehanded, and slaughter hundreds if not thousands of savage red skins and mercenary Mexicans all by himself and die a fighting martyr, or was he a poor farm boy, who worked in a store, was a small businessman, ran for and got elected to congress on a populist platform, was not re elected because of his vehement support for the property rights of Native Americans, went to the Mexican Texas, participated in a revolt against the established government, survived the Alamo siege and was executed by a firing squad of patriotic loyal Mexicans for being a traitorous foreign agitator?
Perhaps the question we should be asking about Jesus, is not if the surviving texts about him are purely mythical or if they represent the honest to god unquestionable truth, but if they are hagiography and whitewashing, and if anything historical can be extracted from them.
Hi Jim. That’s an excellent question and one I have written about many times here, often discussing the works of classicists and ancient historians as they themselves inform us how they address that type of question. The second post in this series contains links to some of those posts: https://vridar.org/2018/09/06/how-do-historians-decide-who-was-historical-who-fictional/
But to answer your question directly:
Many ancient historical figures are said by ancient sources to have become gods or were sons of gods, and to have performed miracles, and to have done things that were very like what the myths said gods had once done. How do we know they were real?
Example: emperors became gods at death, some were said to be gods with divine ancestry while on earth, one Roman emperor healed a blind man in a manner that strikingly resembles a healing by Jesus; Hadrian dressed and acted like Hercules, Alexander the Great followed in the footsteps of Dionysus in conquering the east, etc.
But in every single case of those historians deem to be historical we have evidence that exists about those persons independently of the myths and legends surrounding them. Further, we can trace the origins and reasons for those myths by comparing them with what we know independently of the real historical figure.
The ancient authors whom we rely upon know they are writing about historical figures and their works are indeed forms of ancient history or biography. Those authors do know the difference between normal human characteristics and those of the gods and myths, and when they tell us about the mythical tales or comparisons associated with their historical subjects they nearly always either give their sources for the information or express some sympathy with their readers who may be reluctant to believe the tales. In other words, they do not tell the stories as tall tales because they want to inspire credibility in their accounts.
On the other hand we have other stories about ancient persons (some of these tales actually include genuine historical characters as part of the plot) that are told for entertainment or to convey moral or philosophical lessons and historians always call the main characters of these stories fictional. They do so because they are told just like the novellas or short stories of the day: none of the cautions and trappings of reliability of account as for the historical persons are to be found in these narratives. They are told as if the reader is expected to suspend all critical imagination and just accept or even believe their stories of miracles and nymphs and talking with gods, etc.
If we strip away the mythical trappings of Alexander and Plato and Pythagoras and Davy Crockett, we still find a real person there.
If we strip away the mythical trappings of stories of Achilles and Adam and Jesus we are left with no body to examine at all.
You might also like to consider the following posts addressing the methods of ancient historians:
Can we extract history from fiction? and The Bible: History or Story?
See also How a Historian Establishes “What Happened” when “we only have the words of the text”
I immediately distrust any historian who starts off by larding on the superlative adjectives (ie amazing, startling, unimpeachable, yadda yadda yadda) when discussing the so called irrefutable eyewitness biblical evidence for the so called resurrection. What about the amazing, startling and unimpeachable evidence from Greek (Origen quoting Celsus) and Rabbinical sources that date to the same time period as the so called gospels (2nd c. CE) that state Jesus’ corpse was stolen and hidden by his followers who then claimed he had returned from dead.
In fact the earliest secular commentary we have on the christian’s resurrection claim is the Ephesian Matron episode from the Satyricon, in which a criminal’s corpse was stolen and “resurrected” after a grieving woman (who previously while copiously weeping had wiped her husband’s body with her hair) dallied with the Roman soldier guarding the corpse, which gave the crucified man’s friends the opportunity to steal the crucified body and bury it.
This text dates from the mid 1st c. and is probably contemporaneous with Saulous’ (See Greek text of NT) authenticated letters.
The “resurrection” is so embedded in culture, and was so long protected by the establishment’s ability to torture, burn, ostracize, disenfranchise anyone who questioned the veracity of the story that only a few brave men dared use a more critical terminology to describe the story: a bald faced lie, a literary fiction, a fraud, a made up happy ending, a work of imagination, a fairey tale for unsophisticated grown ups, an expression of wishful thinking, a narrative for the uncritical, the preposterous ending of a shaggy dog story, the final episode of a hagiographic narrative designed to recruit followers from the urban mob, the 1st century equivalent of an modern alien abduction story, an untruth.
Serious real diseases are not cured with magic words and spit, the rotting dead do not live again. This is the reality we live in. Stories that include the above are called fictions if intended for entertainment, and lies and frauds if their authors insist on their veracity and use the stories to alter peoples behaviors.
Thanks for the brief review/recommendation of R. G. Price’s new book. I’ve ordered it.
I have questions and quibbles about some details in the book but so what, I have questions and quibbles about details in every book I have read, probably.
I think we’re all waiting for you to publish a book!
I’m still gathering information and exploring questions. Once I have collected it all and have no more questions…. 🙂
…You will be dead. 🙂
Seriously though, you have the content of several massive tomes on your website and it would probably take half a dozen years just for the first. While it would be great to have it all in several handy volumes, you do presumably have a life outside blogging. I think we can be patient if you did intend a dead tree version eventually! Meanwhile there is so much on here that I haven’t read that I am constantly being surprised at stuff I have overlooked. I’ll wander off and look at other peoples’ sites but this is the only one of the genre I’ll look at daily and the only one with dozens of pages open at any one time. Thanks for many years of enjoyment and education.
“there are also very good reasons advanced by some scholars for dating the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles to the mid to latter half of the second century.”
There are very good reasons to question such a conclusion. There is nothing in either of Luke’s works that would suggest that he is writing after the 66 and 132 rebellions.
I am not saying that Luke-Acts definitely were written in the later second century but that there is room for scholarly disagreement on the question, disagreements ranging from mid first century to late second century. So the point is it is clear that it is not a “fact” that Luke was written at any particular time and we cannot rest a dogmatic case on a point that treats such a date as a fact.
You say there are good reasons to question the late date; there are also good reasons to question the early date. You can favour one over the other, that will always be an argument and not a fact.
Apart from him clearly cribbing (badly) from Josephos. More telling for me is G. of Mark’s use of ‘The Abomination of Desolation’ from the Book of Daniel: the Markan ‘prophecy’ fits the circumstances of The Bar Kokhva War far better than those of 66-73AD; and all such ‘prophecy’ is retrospective.
This is not to say proto-Christianities and associated text didn’ts exist exist before c.130AD; they clearly did but we only have secure reference to the basic outline of the canonical Gospel version from about 150AD.
Why does a particular decade matter? Religions evolve; Christianity didn’t spring fully armed from the head of Paul and we only know what the Churches cared to keep or was preserved and survived accidentally. We can only say Christianity evolved between c.70BC and c.150AD; we can argue variously within that timescale but unless and until actual substantial documentation should be found with a secure provenance, we can never say more than that.