Matthew Ferguson, who has produced some of the best blog material I have read, has posted an explanation for why he is taking a break. I would love him to return when he feels the time is right.
He makes an interesting comparison about the tone of disagreements in biblical studies (so much bitter acrimony on both sides) and the atmosphere in Classics (a more enjoyable place to function). Amen. Over the years of this blog I have had the good fortune of “meeting” a number of classicists and scholars from other fields online and they actually sound cordial, friendly, positive, even the ones who say they believe their was a historical Jesus. Of course there are biblical scholars who are also quite pleasantly human, too, but if one wants to witness a serious blood sport of serious knifings and poisonings and bludgeonings one cannot go wrong by entering the arena of biblical scholarship. Or even the amateur arena where lay folk argue over the same topics that bring out the worst among scholars.
I was not very well prepared for it when I began blogging and it has taken me some time to figure out the best ways of handling it.
The good side of Matthew’s news is that I hope to be able to catch up with many of his past posts that I have only been able to skim so far — before he writes too much more. No doubt I am only one of many who will like to keep an eye on his future progress in studies and publications, and hope he will return to sharing his learning on the blog once again.
When reading scholars’ arguments about determining the dates of books in the New Testament, I often come away feeling as if I know less than when I started. Their works frequently leave me with a dull headache.
Many current scholars have placed all their eggs in the internal evidence basket, admitting that all the external evidence we have is, at best, inconclusive. They focus on what the writers said and didn’t say, compared to what they assume a writer would say — or would not say — at any given period or with any given theological bent.
You might expect that the loss of all external corroboration would bring with it a concomitant drop in reliability. Or, to put it another way, the confidence interval (i.e., the range of dates between which a book was probably written) would now necessarily be quite large. However, you must recall that we’re dealing with NT scholars. Their lack of evidence is more than offset by their brimming self-confidence.
Because mainstream scholarship has generally concluded that the authors of Matthew and Luke used the gospel of Mark, we have a chain of dependency. We can say, for example, that if Luke depended on the availability of Mark’s gospel then Luke must have written his gospel and the Acts of the Apostles (assuming the same author wrote both) later than Mark.
Beyond that, if we could peg the dates for Luke and Acts at a certain point, then we would in the same stroke have defined the terminus ad quem for the writing of Mark. Using this logic, conservatives and apologists point to the fact that we never learn about Paul’s death in Acts. He arrives in Rome. He’s under house arrest. Then, silence. What does it mean? Continue reading “Is Luke’s Silence Evidence of Ignorance?”