2018-12-03

Earl Doherty’s First Day with Biblical Scholars on Crosstalk Forum

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by Neil Godfrey

I begin by repeating Earl Doherty’s maiden post to Crosstalk. I have colour coded different discussion threads. Links below are to the archive.org site where Earl’s Jesus Puzzle website is as it existed at the time of the Crosstalk exchange. For the current site see http://www.jesuspuzzle.com/jesuspuzzle/index.htm

I have decided to present this early conversation to allow readers to see the evidence and judge for themselves various claims that are made about the character of those early exchanges.

I was floored. Ridicule, outright insult, rude dismissal . . . all delivered with an air of smug superiority 

5011    The Jesus Puzzle

Earl D

Feb 9, 1999

On the weekend, Bill told me that he had brought the Crosstalk list’s
attention to my web site (Earl Doherty, The Jesus Puzzle) and asked for
opinions. He sent me a selection of postings he had gotten in response. On
Monday morning, I resubscribed myself after an absence of a few months, and
read several more responses to Bill’s queries about my views and those of
other “mythicists”.

I was floored. Ridicule, outright insult, rude dismissal of any counter
argument, all delivered with an air of smug superiority that would do any
fundamentalist proud. Is this the discussion of reasonable and educated men
(I haven’t noticed any women yet), moving in the corridors of open-minded
investigation and an honest search for truth and understanding? Many of the
Crosstalkers identify themselves as members of university faculties, where
one assumes the standard is one of reasoned debate and basically courteous
discussion, even where contentious ideas are involved. Instead, the
reaction to Bill’s queries has been mostly that of snarling dogs incensed at
having their fireside chats disturbed by unorthodox inquiry. The ad hominem
attacks in several of those postings would be flattered by the word
“sophomoric”.

I was floored. Ridicule, outright insult, rude dismissal of any counter
argument, all delivered with an air of smug superiority that would do any
fundamentalist proud. Is this the discussion of reasonable and educated men
(I haven’t noticed any women yet), moving in the corridors of open-minded
investigation and an honest search for truth and understanding? Many of the
Crosstalkers identify themselves as members of university faculties, where
one assumes the standard is one of reasoned debate and basically courteous
discussion, even where contentious ideas are involved. Instead, the
reaction to Bill’s queries has been mostly that of snarling dogs incensed at
having their fireside chats disturbed by unorthodox inquiry. The ad hominem
attacks in several of those postings would be flattered by the word
“sophomoric”.

The theory that no Jesus of Nazareth existed at the beginning of the
Christian movement has been around for two centuries, championed by many
researchers in many countries over the years, some of them respected
scholars, long before Wells or myself. Outright “loony” ideas don’t usually
have that kind of shelf life. The myth theory is there, and refuses to go
away, and the fact that it exists in a charged field like religion does not
justify it being denied the respect it might deserve. After all, we would
surely condemn any physicist, any anthropologist, any linguist, any
mathematician, any scholar of any sort who professes to work in a field that
makes even a partial bow to principles of logic and scientific research who
insisted on ignoring, vilifing, condemning without examination a legitimate,
persistent theory in his or her own discipline. There are tremendous
problems in New Testament scholarship, problems that have been grappled with
for generations and show no sign of getting any closer to solution.
Agreement is lacking on countless topics, and yesterday’s theories are being
continually overturned. Scholarly commentaries are shot through with words
like “riddle”, “puzzling”, “insoluble.” Some documents are said to “lead to
despair.”

Sorry, I don’t mean to turn this into a lecture, but if any of you would
take an honest and open-minded look at some of my site you might find
material that would at least give some food for thought. Two members of the
Jesus Seminar, Darrell Doughty and Robert Price, were impressed enough with
it that they invited me to write an original article for their Journal of
Higher Criticism (out of Drew University). Both of them have brought up my
name and observations at Jesus Seminar meetings on a couple of occasions.
That Journal article appeared in the Fall 1997 issue, and is now reprinted
on my site. It would be a good intro to the essentials of the Jesus-as-myth
theory, particularly my own arguments for it, which differ substantially
from those of Wells in important respects. I’ll quote the direct URL for it
at the end of this.

I’ll also quote a couple of other articles on the site which I regard as
especially cogent. While I hardly claim to be an expert in every aspect of
biblical research (is there anyone here who would be that presumptuous?), I
would be willing to let a few of the efforts now on my site (my analysis of
Hebrews, for example, or my consideration of contemporary Platonism and
hellenistic mythological thinking (in Article 8) as it may shed light on
what Paul actually believed) stand beside anything produced in these
areas–always allowing for the fact that I’ve aimed partly for the
understanding of the general, uninitiated reader. Those of you who take the
trouble to look at them are certainly free to challenge me, hopefully with a
modicum of professionalism and common human decency.

One of the things that has struck me in reading responses to Bill is the
general lack of understanding even of the basic principles of the
non-existence of Jesus theory. This, of course, is due to the disdainful
and knee-jerk dismissal of the very idea which is commonly accorded it. It
seems to me that if you seriously want to cope with this stubborn theory
which refuses to go away and which is gaining wider currency even in the
general population (if you hadn’t noticed), you owe it to yourselves and
your discipline (I won’t say your confessional beliefs) to investigate the
matter a little more thorougly, so as to offer a more reasoned and effective
response to it.

What also surprised me was the rejection, or ignoring, by many of
well-established views within standard liberal scholarship, such as the
widespread rejection, or at least questioning, of the authenticity of 1
Thessalonians 2:15-16. Labelling this an interpolation is not exactly some
arbitrary crackpot idea of my own. Pearson is ably seconded by such as
Mack, Koester, Meeks and Brandon. One cannot simply ignore a body of voices
like that when seeking to heap scorn on myself. Another case is failing
even to acknowledge the view held by many (such as Norman Perrin, whom I
highly respect and regret the early death of) that Paul’s so-called “words
of the Lord” in 1 Corinthians are not a drawing on any body of Jesus’
earthly teaching in circulation, but are personal communications he believes
he has received from Christ in heaven, something postulated as a common
feature of the early prophetic movement. The same goes for the common
interpretation of 1 Cor. 2:8’s “rulers of this age” as referring to the
demon spirits (which is one of the cornerstones of my argument). Not even
to take such trends within one’s own discipline into account in one’s
arguments (even if you don’t agree with them) is hardly the mark of honest
and up-to-date investigation and debate.

Some of what was written by a couple of people against Bill was
unconscionable in a milieu that professes to be dedicated to reasoned and
scientific discussion of historical questions, and I am reminded of a
comparison I made to the fundamentalist J P Holding who attacked my views.
I called his attention to a short piece of music by the American composer
Charles Ives, called “The Unanswered Question.” Against a quiet orchestral
backdrop, a serene trumpet asks a musical question which a chorus of flutes
at first calmly and confidently answers, but when the questioner continues
to restate his query several times (evidently because the answer is
inadequate) the flute contingent gradually degenerates into nattering,
scoffing, sneering hyenas choking on their own scorn. (I recommend the
Leonard Bernstein performance.) I guess Ives’ flutes can be found just
about anywhere, and their snarling has often managed to drawn out many a
questioning voice.

Before they drown me out, on this listserver anyway, I’ll make a posting
or two in the next couple of days (nothing too long) to respond to a few
points raised by several of you. Jeff Peterson made the sole considered,
reasonable response, I think, and I’ll address him first, then add a few
things raised by others. I’m not overly determined to get into an extended
debate (especially on a daily basis), but if one develops I won’t engage in
anything which isn’t at least moderately polite. That doesn’t mean one
can’t be provocative and challenging, but some base level of decency and
respect can surely be expected and maintained.

And I hope Bill will continue to make his voice heard and give me some
support. It is sometimes an advantage to be outside a discipline and heavy
study in it, and evaluate something simply on the basis of one’s own
reasoning capacity and innate primal instinct.

Earl Doherty

The Jesus Puzzle: <http://www.magi.com/~oblio/jesus.html>
Article for the Journal of Higher Criticism: …/jesus/jhcjp.htm>
Article No. 3: Who Crucified Jesus? …/jesus/supp03.htm>
Article No. 6: The Source of Paul’s Gospel: …/jesus/supp06.htm>
Article No. 8: Christ as “Man”: Does Paul Speak of Jesus as an Historical Person? …jesus/supp08.htm>

The solution is not necessarily peeling away the onion layers

5012    Re: The Jesus Puzzle

Jack Kilmon

Feb 9, 1999

Earl D wrote:

> The theory that no Jesus of Nazareth existed at the beginning of the
> Christian movement has been around for two centuries, championed by many
> researchers in many countries over the years, some of them respected
> scholars, long before Wells or myself.

Having been pretty busy lately, I have missed this thread and others’responses.
Since I am one of those to whom you refer with:

> It is sometimes an advantage to be outside a discipline and heavy
> study in it, and evaluate something simply on the basis of one’s own
> reasoning capacity and innate primal instinct.
>

Having reviewed the articles on your site, on the surface, there arethings with
which I disagree but will take the time to study the articles
(which I have printed) and respond on each of the 12 “pieces of the puzzle.”

At the very least, I agree..like most, that the historical Jesus is so
profoundly
overlain with mythological strata the germinal layer will never be fully
exposed. The solution to this, however, is not necessarily peeling away
all the layers of the onion, leaving nothing.

Jack

It is utterly UN-reasonable to suggest that Jesus did not exist.
5013    please….

Jim West

Feb 9, 1999

It is utterly UN-reasonable to suggest that Jesus did not exist. Such
silliness has no place on an academic list. Perhaps discussions of the
non-existence of Jesus belong on the same lists as discussions of UFO
abductions, alien autopsies, and the like. Indeed, a new list should be
started by those interested in such things and it can be called
“sci.fic.christianity.alt”

The net is filled with crackpots, loons, and various shades of insane folk
who spout their views and expect people to take them seriously. And when
they dont get taken seriously they get mad.

Sorry to sound a little irritated- but Bill and his “voice behind the
curtain” have simply repeated old junk which has been dealt with in the
history of scholarship already. Why must we reinvent the wheel every time
someone comes up with “a new idea or a new spin on an old idea”.

(oh yes, I have visited the web page advertised— very pretty- yet filled
with nonsensical non sequiters). Life is too short to rehash garbage.

Best,

Jim

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jim West, ThD
Quartz Hill School of Theology

Hmmm…. Now this is bizarre reasoning

5014    Re: The Jesus Puzzle

Jim West

Feb 9, 1999

At 11:31 AM 2/9/99 -0800, Earl wrote:
>
>> It is sometimes an advantage to be outside a discipline and heavy
>> study in it, and evaluate something simply on the basis of one’s own
>> reasoning capacity and innate primal instinct.

Hmmm…. Now this is bizarre reasoning. Common sense and innate primal
instinct notwithstanding, one cannot properly evaluate truth claims if one
does not have some background in an issue. Try this- next time you are sick
go to your doctor and tell him exactly how he should treat you- what
medicines you need- and what course of action he should take- and see what
his or her response to your home spun diagnosis is…

What you are telling us here is that we should abandon everything we know-
having learned through years of disciplined study and hard work, and adopt
your view because you dont know what your talking about!!!!! Amazing,
really amazing.

best,

Jim
+++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jim West, ThD
Quartz Hill School of Theology

You chose instead to smear crosstalk

5015    Re: The Jesus Puzzle

Jon Peter

Feb 9, 1999

Earl, hats off for coming to Bill’s defense. Just this morning I was
thinking of inviting you myself.

Alas, your 1,370-word screed offered not a shred of rebuttal though you
indicated having received the posts forwarded by Bill.

You chose instead to smear crosstalk with the invective that you yourself
decry. Mmmmm. Giving us what appears to be your best shot, you appeal to the
existence of a hoary tradition of anti-Church gainsayers. But *where* is a
statement of your case? I hope you follow-up with some substance as
promised.

BTW I read your site more than a yr ago. At first it impressed me with that
puzzle-piece-assembly gimmick. Nice packaging! However, a look inside at the
content left a keen disappointment. As I surfed away into the night, I
recall thinking how your site sort of epitomizes Internet charlatanry: Start
off with a glitzy graphic to mask insipid content. Blather, ad hominem
stuff, circularity, demagog-like playing to prejudices, and above all an
obliviousness to the question of epistemology.

Here’s my prediction: when your posts arrive they’ll contain more of the
same.

Earl, you over-invested in a bad theory. Yes, it is remotely imaginable. So
are lots of things. In fact you *might* even be right! But you need to
refute the prima facie case that a man existed. The negation of this lacks
good evidence. (Oh, please surprise me!) So, you over-strain and exaggerate.
You offer up pseudo-arguments, you ignore and smear your best enemies. You
realize that most of your visitors are non-specialists and will be
impressed, so you get away with everything. But when your surrogate makes
the mistake of parroting you, he’s trounced. What’s your comeback? You whine
about his victimization! Jesus Christ, Earl!

Jon Peter

That’s just it, Jim. It has not been dealt with.
5016    Re: please….

Sam Gibson

Feb 9, 1999

Jim West wrote:
It is utterly UN-reasonable to suggest that Jesus did not exist. Such silliness has no place on an academic list. Perhaps discussions of the non-existence of Jesus belong on the same lists as discussions of UFO abductions, alien autopsies, and the like. Indeed, a new list should be
started by those interested in such things and it can be called “sci.fic.christianity.alt”

I REPLY:
THAT’S RIGHT! Cause if Jesus didn’t exist, Jim would be out of two jobs!!! Pastor and scholar! Let’s just label it silliness and not have to deal with it! It is this typical BS that Bill, then Earl and now I am responding to.

You need the HJ or your life is turned upside down. I think that this might qualify you as being biased.

Jim West wrote:
The net is filled with crackpots, loons, and various shades of insane folk who spout their views and expect people to take them seriously. And when they dont get taken seriously they get mad.

I REPLY:
Yes, but we are not talking about Baptist websites. We are not talking about websites who claim that there was a historical Christ.

Jim West wrote:
Sorry to sound a little irritated- but Bill and his “voice behind the curtain” have simply repeated old junk which has been dealt with in the history of scholarship already. Why must we reinvent the wheel every time someone comes up with “a new idea or a new spin on an old idea”.

I REPLY:
That’s just it, Jim. It has not been dealt with. If it has, please list works that have dealt with this theory and done away with it.

Jim West wrote:
(oh yes, I have visited the web page advertised— very pretty- yet filled with nonsensical non sequiters). Life is too short to rehash garbage.

I REPLY:
And income too valuable to be threatened in this way!!!

I love looking behind what a poster is saying to see the devil sitting on one’s shoulder.

————–
Before I get flamed for my flame, please understand this: I do believe in the HJ. I also believe in integrity and honesty being WAY more important than most other things. I also believe in accountability.

What I saw in the referenced post that angered me so is the same apologetic/crusading voice that has resonated from the Church for the last 1700 years – atempting to quickly silence its detractors as opposed to honestly dealing with their claims and refuting them, if possible. It is so much easier to declare someone a crackpot, thus relieving one from the duty of answering the charge, than to examine it openly so that an honest resolution can be found.


Sincerely,

Sam Gibson

cygnus@…
http://www.cygnus-study.com

“The nearer the Church – the further from God.”
-Lancelot Andrewes 1555-1626 (Sermon of the Nativity, 1622)

OH PLEASE!!!! I label it silliness because it IS
5017    Re: please….

Jim West

Feb 9, 1999

At 01:40 PM 2/9/99 -0500, you wrote:

>I REPLY:
>THAT’S RIGHT! Cause if Jesus didn’t exist, Jim would be out of two jobs!!!

Please Sam. You don’t know me well enough for this. Your presumption that
I am somehow heavily invested in the historical Jesus and need him to
maintain my dual citizenship is just another example of how folks who don’t
know the subject try to derail the facts.

>Pastor and scholar! Let’s just label it silliness and not have to deal with

it! It is this typical BS that Bill, then Earl and now I am responding to.
>

OH PLEASE!!!! I label it silliness because it IS- and if YOU can’t
recognize that fact, then I suspect your are rightly in the camp of the
uninformed.

>You need the HJ or your life is turned upside down. I think that this might

qualify you as being biased.

Rubbish.

>
>
>Jim West wrote:
>The net is filled with crackpots, loons, and various shades of insane folk

who spout their views and expect people to take them seriously. And when
they dont get taken seriously they get mad.
>
>I REPLY:
>Yes, but we are not talking about Baptist websites. We are not talking

about websites who claim that there was a historical Christ.
>

In point of fact its not a Baptist website- its a personal home page.
Thanks for visiting. 🙂 By the way- what looniness did you find there?

>I REPLY:
>That’s just it, Jim. It has not been dealt with. If it has, please list

works that have dealt with this theory and done away with it.

Gladly- and perhaps you, bill and earl will actually read them:
Albert Schweitzer- “Leben Jesu Forschung”
D.F. Struass- “Das Leben Jesu”
N.T. Wright- “Jesus”
Rudolf Bultmann- “Jesus”
Dom Crossan- “The Historical Jesus”

These should keep ya busy for a week or so.

>
>I REPLY:
>And income too valuable to be threatened in this way!!!

Sam- I am truly surprised by this. If you suspect that I am some sort of
atheist making my living off the back of believers you are mistaken. My
income isnt threatened by truth.

>
>I love looking behind what a poster is saying to see the devil sitting on

one’s shoulder.

So what did you see? A person who needs to defend Jesus for the sake of
income? Or a person who has spent their life studying the issues at hand?
And what about you? What do you see when you look in the mirror? A
dilettante? What is your training Sam? Read Greek? Hebrew? What
qualifies you to study history?
The New Testament?

>
>————–
>Before I get flamed for my flame, please understand this: I do believe in

the HJ. I also believe in integrity and honesty being WAY more important
than most other things. I also believe in accountability.

As do I. And your suggestion that I do not is hogwash.

>
>What I saw in the referenced post that angered me so is the same

apologetic/crusading voice that has resonated from the Church for the last
1700 years – atempting to quickly silence its detractors as opposed to
honestly dealing with their claims and refuting them, if possible. It is so
much easier to declare someone a crackpot, thus relieving one from the duty
of answering the charge, than to examine it openly so that an honest
resolution can be found.

Oh please- the academy awards have already been announced- and you wont win
one for drama here. The simple facts are these: There was a person named
Yeshua. Those who suggest otherwise merely, simply, and absolutely do not
know what they are talking about. To give them support and cry out for
academic freedom or the like is merely to accept all opinions as equally
valid. If that is your decision Sam, fine. But it has nothing to do with
truth or the search for truth.

Best,

Jim

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jim West, ThD
Quartz Hill School of Theology

It is for this very same reason that I no longer engage “creation scientists”

5018    Re: The Jesus Puzzle

Jack Kilmon

Feb 9, 1999

Jack Kilmon wrote:

> Having reviewed the articles on your site, on the surface, there arethings with
> which I disagree but will take the time to study the articles
> (which I have printed) and respond on each of the 12 “pieces of the puzzle.”
>
> At the very least, I agree..like most, that the historical Jesus is so
> profoundly
> overlain with mythological strata the germinal layer will never be fully
> exposed. The solution to this, however, is not necessarily peeling away
> all the layers of the onion, leaving nothing.

I have reviewed your articles, Earl, and find so many historical
problems in the assertions that lay the foundation for this
“myth” theory that it would take me too much time to refute
each one and give the appropriate references. Sweeping
statements are made that just are not true. I thought this may
be a good discussion thread..having missed the previous…but
when I cannot find grounds for first reinforcing an opponent’s
argument before countering it..I cannot find a “handle” to
hold for a running dialogue. It is for this very same reason
that I no longer engage “creation scientists” and their 6000
year old cosmos. Sorry..I was looking forward to some
interesting discussion.

Jack

our cumulative knowledge of the historical Jesus suggests that the man existed
5019    Re: please….

Michael T. MacDonell

Feb 9, 1999

At 01:40 PM 2/9/99 -0500, Sam wrote:
>What I saw in the referenced post that angered me so is the same
apologetic/crusading voice that has resonated from the Church for the last
1700 years – atempting to quickly silence its detractors as opposed to
honestly dealing with their claims and refuting them, if possible. It is so
much easier to declare someone a crackpot, thus relieving one from the duty
of answering the charge, than to examine it openly so that an honest
resolution can be found.>
>Dear Sam:No flame, but a comment. Knowledge tends to be cumulative. Increasing our
knowledge of a subject requires that we build on prior findings. It is
unreasonable to return to first principles with every problem that comes
up. I think it is what Jim is attempting to communicate. Why not
question, on a daily basis, whether the world is flat? Simple, because we
have gotten past that. Our cumulative knowledge of the world disallows the
proposition that it may be flat. Likewise, our cumulative knowledge of the
historical Jesus suggests that the man existed. We go on from there.Discussions of whether Jesus was a fiction that evolved as part of some
conspiracy is great stuff for the Art Bell show (late night radio
anti-intellectual banter), but falls somewhat short of the level of
scholarship associated with Crosstalk.That’s all Jim was attempting to communicate. Your comments about his
vested interested deriving primarily from a paycheck, though undoubtedly
meant to be taken in humor, bordered on distasteful.

Best Regards,

Mike
____________________________________
Michael T. MacDonell, Ph.D.
Doctoral Student in Biblical Studies
Trinity College and Seminary
____________________________________

you scoffed at him without even acknowledging his concerns
5020    Re: please….

Sam Gibson

Feb 9, 1999

First, I want to apologize for the vehemence in my post. It comes from consistently running into a wall when dealing with scholars and Christians about certain issues that are “decided”. My post came across as a personal attack of Jim, and that is not how it was intended. For that I apologize.

Let me address a few items before allowing this to die (as not to run out a long string of posts as many other threads do here).

>I REPLY:
>THAT’S RIGHT! Cause if Jesus didn’t exist, Jim would be out of two jobs!!!

JW:
Please Sam. You don’t know me well enough for this. Your presumption that I am somehow heavily invested in the historical Jesus and need him to maintain my dual citizenship is just another example of how folks who don’t
know the subject try to derail the facts.

I REPLY:
Jim, I post very little but I read a considerable amount. Here, at Synoptic-l and at tclist I have read your posts and feel that many times they are apologetic in nature and dismiss another contributor’s points without much substance. This is what I got in your message to Earl.

==============
ME:
>Pastor and scholar! Let’s just label it silliness and not have to deal with it! It is this typical BS that Bill, then Earl and now I am responding to.

JW:
OH PLEASE!!!! I label it silliness because it IS- and if YOU can’t recognize that fact, then I suspect your are rightly in the camp of the uninformed.

I REPLY:
Jim, what Earl was pointing out, and what I tried to, was that calling an argument silly does not render it so. Beyond that it is an ad hominem attack. IF it is silly, you are making a positive assertion and are bound to back it up when called to.

===============
ME:
>You need the HJ or your life is turned upside down. I think that this might qualify you as being biased.

JW:
Rubbish.

I REPLY:
Really, Jim? If we get proof that the HJ was invented, your life remains the same? I couldn’t make that claim and I am neither a scholar nor a pastor.

==========
>Jim West wrote:
>The net is filled with crackpots, loons, and various shades of insane folk who spout their views and expect people to take them seriously. And when they dont get taken seriously they get mad.

>I REPLY:
>Yes, but we are not talking about Baptist websites. We are not talking about websites who claim that there was a historical Christ.

JW:
In point of fact its not a Baptist website- its a personal home page. Thanks for visiting. 🙂 By the way- what looniness did you find there?

I REPLY:
Actually, it wasn’t your site I was referring to, but the hundreds of Christian sites on the net claiming to hold the entire truth.

If I remember correctly, there is very little religious content at your site. I seem to remember some pictures of you coming out of a 1st century tomb and other photos from Israel. I had meant to ask you when you first posted the URL if you had gotten a chance to go to the ruins of Gezer while you were there. I spent several years playing around in those parts.

===================
>I REPLY:
>That’s just it, Jim. It has not been dealt with. If it has, please list works that have dealt with this theory and done away with it.

JW:
Gladly- and perhaps you, bill and earl will actually read them:
Albert Schweitzer- “Leben Jesu Forschung”
D.F. Struass- “Das Leben Jesu”
N.T. Wright- “Jesus”
Rudolf Bultmann- “Jesus”
Dom Crossan- “The Historical Jesus”

These should keep ya busy for a week or so.

I REPLY:calling an argument silly does not render it so=======
Thanks – I’ve read a couple of these. Pretty good considering that I am new to the field of study and don’t speak German.

Let me be clearer in wat I was looking for: Do you know of any works that recognize the Jesus as myth theory and counter it?

===================
>I REPLY:
>And income too valuable to be threatened in this way!!!

JW:
Sam- I am truly surprised by this. If you suspect that I am some sort of atheist making my living off the back of believers you are mistaken. My income isnt threatened by truth.

I REPLY:
Not what I meant, and I am not sure how you got there. I was half-joking and should have kept the other half to myself. I’m sorry.

====================
ME:
>I love looking behind what a poster is saying to see the devil sitting on one’s shoulder.

JW:
So what did you see? A person who needs to defend Jesus for the sake of income? Or a person who has spent their life studying the issues at hand? And what about you? What do you see when you look in the mirror? A dilettante? What is your training Sam? Read Greek? Hebrew? What
qualifies you to study history? The New Testament?

I REPLY:
Credentials? Well… Tom Simms makes me out as a professional religionist because I carry a ULC certificate of being a reverend, but I think that he wasn’t serious. ;-).

Actually, I speak and read Hebrew, though modern and not 100% fluent. I am learning Greek. I am reading everything I can get my hands on in the field – and make absolutely no qualms about being a tyro. Dilettante? Sure. I guess it started that way.

But my bone of contention was not in the content, but in the style. It was dismissive out of hand in the exact style that Earl had just complained about. Bill came to the list with some concerns and felt the answers were insufficient. Earl was trashed without being here to respond, and when he showed up, you trashed him without even acknowledging that he was here. This is what I responded to – emotionally.

===================
ME:
>Before I get flamed for my flame, please understand this: I do believe in the HJ. I also believe in integrity and honesty being WAY more important than most other things. I also believe in accountability.

JW:
As do I. And your suggestion that I do not is hogwash.

I REPLY:
I wasn’t suggesting that you do not. I was suggesting that many hold their faith over intellectual accountability.
====================
ME:
>What I saw in the referenced post that angered me so is the same apologetic/crusading voice that has resonated from the Church for the last 1700 years – atempting to quickly silence its detractors as opposed to honestly dealing with their claims and refuting them, if possible. It is so much easier to declare someone a crackpot, thus relieving one from the duty of answering the charge, than to examine it openly so that an honest resolution can be found.

JW:
Oh please- the academy awards have already been announced- and you wont win one for drama here. The simple facts are these: There was a person named Yeshua. Those who suggest otherwise merely, simply, and absolutely do not know what they are talking about. To give them support and cry out for academic freedom or the like is merely to accept all opinions as equally valid. If that is your decision Sam, fine. But it has nothing to do with truth or the search for truth.

I REPLY:
Michael MacDonald pointed out in his post that knowledge is accumulative and builds on the work of previous scholars. I agree with this whole-heartedly, though I feel it is VERY important to make sure that one’s foundation is sturdy before building. Going back over the basics is essential to wise building.

Earl believes that he has found reason to suspect that the foundation is unstable and you scoffed at him without even acknowledging his concerns. THIS is what I responded about.

You can not deny that the institution of Christianity (if it can be viewed as one) has not responded kindly to or with willingness to discuss the contentions of those who saw it a little differently than orthodox or mainstream Christians. They used to be murdered, then they were ex-communicated, then they were labeled as heretics. Now they are accused of having agendas and weird ways of voting (with colored beads for God’s sake!).

I got the feeling that you were doing the same thing to Earl. If you weren’t, I apologize.

Sincerely,

Sam Gibson

cygnus@…
http://www.cygnus-study.com

“If Jesus Christ were to come today, people wouldn’t even crucify him. They would ask him to dinner, and hear what he had to say, and make fun of it.”
-Thomas Carlyle (Remark, quoted in D.A. Wilson, _Carlyle at his Zenith_)

There has sure been an unprecedented level of vituperation launched off at ol‘ Earl.

5021    Re: The Jesus Puzzle – Pro

Stevan Davies

Feb 9, 1999

There has sure been an unprecedented level of vituperation
launched off at ol’ Earl. Since he does actually argue a case
and use evidence and address counter-arguments it’s odd that
he’d been dissed so thoroughly. Not one of those railing
against him (except Jeff) have done much more
than assert what they assume.

Maybe nobody reads what he writes:
http://www.magi.com/~oblio/jesus/jhcjp.htm

I was reminded of something Antonio quoted from Allison
regarding my arguments that the view that
Jesus was principally a Teacher is unfounded. Showing
no understanding of my argument, or even any interest in it,
it was casually dismissed. So I know how Earl feels.

Earl is actually taking various positions seriously, which
are positions lots of people on crosstalk themselves maintain.

Are the baptism stories ‘history?’ No. (Arnal)
Are the crucifixion stories “history?” No.
Are the miracle stories “history?” No.
Are the specific stories of healing “history?” No. (JSem)
Virgin birth stories? No.
Are the narrative settings for sayings material history? No.
The parts are fictional… and therefore the whole is… what?
Reliable?

He would have it that Mark is the first gospel, Mt and Lk
dependent on Mark for its Life-of-Jesus (so far the general
consensus of scholarship) and John dependent also
on Mark for its Life-of-Jesus outline (maybe so… Arnal
thinks so, I believe. Antonio thinks so for sure. I waver)

If so what do we have but a single life-story. And we have
Burton Mack and not a few others believing that Mark made
it up. And most others thinking Mark made most of it up.

We find quite learned people basing their views of Jesus
the historical teacher on such things as atypical-in-form
otherwise unattested Lukan parables, or the unique to Q
“Love your enemies” (a notion lacking in Mark and
contradicted by the vituperations against Pharisees).

As for the Jesus behind the mostly? made-up story, for
him we have a hodgepodge of sayings some of which are
hardly unique to him personally (proverbs) others which
even his followers thought basically incomprehensible
(Mk 4, Thomas incipit) and a very substantial number
thought to have been made-up. The fact that John is almost
universally thought to have made up virtually every single
“saying of Jesus” in the whole gospel is not insignificant.
Fact that Thomas is almost universally thought to have made-up
at least half of the sayings in its text is not insignificant.
Earl’s point that Romans 11-12 is not said to be “Jesus sayings”
is significant. One can think that “everybody knew they were
Jesus’ and so Paul didn’t have to mention it” but on the other
hand one can think “at this stage these were just agreed upon
principles and later they came to be said to be Jesus’ teachings.”
The second possibility is not at all unlikely.

As one finds a re-judaization trajectory in the texts despite
the scholarly consensus that de-judaization is a known
fact, so one finds in the texts from Paul and deutero-Paul,
to Mark (where the suffering/dying/rising Son of Man is
the bottom line point) to Matthew where Jesus the Judaic
teacher takes center stage, an increasing focus on a
“historical” and human Jesus. … Luke is famed for
his own “low Christology.” Jesus the fully human Jew
becoming Jesus the exalted gentilistic Christ is the pattern
we are all to learn from Scholarship… the evidence goes in
exactly the opposite direction. The evidence, one is to
think, is wrong.

I might even bring in the fact that the universal conclusion
that Jesus and his Disciples were “Galilean Ioudaioi” might
not simply be a wierd and very difficult to explain fact but,
rather, it might be a significant error in the historicizing program,
a virtual impossibility that casts doubt on the whole….
Mark then, like NT scholars today, just didn’t know that Galilee
wasn’t seamlessly part of Judea.

Still… I am wondering about e.g. Paul’s “born of a woman,
born under the law” and where the crucified messiah idea
came from. Since Earl promised to address Jeff’s objections
perhaps I will soon find out.

Steve

the writings of dumb professors like Ellegard
5022    Re: Noise-to-signal ratio dangerously low…

Antonio Jerez

Feb 9, 1999

Jan Sammer wrote:> Antonio:
> Yes I think some good has come out of this “Bill Paulson
> affair”. At least we have sharpened our arguments.
>
> Jan replied:
> The noise-to-signal ratio was woefully low and that didn’t need to be.
>As much as I enjoy Antonio’s return from lurker status, I would hate to
>speculate about what he eats for breakfast that’s made him so testy of late.
>Lots of hot chilli peppers maybe? Or even university professors?
> (“But right now I am fed up with all the Wells’es, Alvar Ellegards
> and Giovanni Hitchissini’s ….”).
>
> Lighten up, Antonio!
>
> Regards,
>
> Jan

You are not far away from the mark, Jan. Yes, I have been a bit
testy of late (just ask my wife!). This is probably due to a combination
of too much chili (I’ve had a habit the last months of eating a lot of
tacos with spicy chili sauce and pepperoni on Saturdays), too much
work, too little sunshine in a grey Sweden and far too much exposure
lately to the writings of dumb professors like Ellegard. My testy
temperament has certainly not improved by daily having to stomach
another of Ellegard’s fosterbrothers on the list. Though Ellegard can be
faulted for letting his phantasy run away unhindered, his fosterbrother
Giovanni Hutchissini is more to be faulted for being so afraid of putting
a wrong foot that he seldom goes beyond the simple reading of a text.
And the few times he does try to come up with a thought of his own
his thesis is so peabrained that it isn’t even worth laughing at – his
reading of the Lord’s brother being a prime example.

But I do feel a bit more upbeat tonight. Just came home after
seeing a good performance of Stravinsky’s ballets Petrouschka,
the Firebird and the Rite of Spring at the Goteborg opera. It sure
is better than wasting time with the Ellegard’s and Hutchissini’s.

Best wishes

Antonio Jerez

I have sympathy with your exasperation, Jim.
5023    Re: please….

Antonio Jerez

Feb 9, 1999

Jim West wrote:>It is utterly UN-reasonable to suggest that Jesus did not exist. Such
>silliness has no place on an academic list. Perhaps discussions of the
>non-existence of Jesus belong on the same lists as discussions of UFO
>abductions, alien autopsies, and the like. Indeed, a new list should be
>started by those interested in such things and it can be called
>”sci.fic.christianity.alt”
>
>The net is filled with crackpots, loons, and various shades of insane folk
>who spout their views and expect people to take them seriously. And when
>they dont get taken seriously they get mad.>Sorry to sound a little irritated- but Bill and his “voice behind the
>curtain” have simply repeated old junk which has been dealt with in the
>history of scholarship already. Why must we reinvent the wheel every time
>someone comes up with “a new idea or a new spin on an old idea”.I have sympathy with your exasperation, Jim. This is after all a
list dedicated to the HISTORICAL JESUS. One of the premisses
of this list is actually that there once in a time walked a person
on this earth by that name. This list is not dedicated to wholly
mythological, heavenly creatures – so folks like Bill, Sam, Ian
and likeminded should follow your advise and turn to another
list.Best wishes

Äntonio

only that the issue be dealt with instead of pretending that this has already been done
5024    Re: please….

Sam Gibson

Feb 9, 1999

Antonio wrote:
I have sympathy with your exasperation, Jim. This is after all a list dedicated to the HISTORICAL JESUS. One of the premisses of this list is actually that there once in a time walked a person on this earth by that name. This list is not dedicated to wholly mythological, heavenly creatures – so folks like Bill, Sam, Ian and likeminded should follow your advise and turn to another list.I REPLY:
I am wondering why the non/birth of the subject falls outside of the topic of the list.I have read your posts on the subject, Antonio, as well as the works cited. If you were trying to convince me from scratch you would have failed.Also, you’ll note that I did not argue for the inexistence of Jesus, only that the issue be dealt with instead of pretending that this has already been done.

Sincerely,Sam Gibson

cygnus@…
http://www.cygnus-study.com

“You might have lived a good life as an exemplary Christian,
only to be met by Muhammed at the gates of Heaven.
That’s called fate.”
-Neil Peart, drummer and lyricist for Rush

It sure does tell something about the quality of the Journal of Higher Criticism

5025    Re: The Jesus Puzzle

Antonio Jerez

Feb 9, 1999

Earl D wrote.

> Sorry, I don’t mean to turn this into a lecture, but if any of you would
>take an honest and open-minded look at some of my site you might find
>material that would at least give some food for thought. Two members of the
>Jesus Seminar, Darrell Doughty and Robert Price, were impressed enough with
>it that they invited me to write an original article for their Journal of
>Higher Criticism (out of Drew University). Both of them have brought up my
>name and observations at Jesus Seminar meetings on a couple of occasions.
>That Journal article appeared in the Fall 1997 issue, and is now reprinted
>on my site. It would be a good intro to the essentials of the Jesus-as-myth
>theory, particularly my own arguments for it, which differ substantially
>from those of Wells in important respects. I’ll quote the direct URL for it
>at the end of this.

It sure does tell something about the quality of the Journal of
Higher Criticism that they have managed to include Barabara
Thiering among the contributors. And now Earl D.

Best wishes

Antonio

The issue about Jesus existence is actually settled among historians of Antiquity.
5026    Re: please….

Antonio Jerez

Feb 9, 1999

Sam Gibson wrote:>Antonio wrote:
>I have sympathy with your exasperation, Jim. This is after all a list dedicated to the HISTORICAL JESUS. One of the premisses of this list is actually that there once in a time walked a person on this earth by that name. This list is not dedicated to wholly mythological, heavenly creatures – so folks like Bill, Sam, Ian and likeminded should follow your advise and turn to another list.
>
>I REPLY:
>I am wondering why the non/birth of the subject falls outside of the topic of the list.Simply because we don’t want to reinvent the wheel everytime a new
Bill Paulson enters the list. We expect newcomers to be reasonably
well versed in the litterature of second Temple Judaism.>I have read your posts on the subject, Antonio, as well as the works cited. If you were trying to convince me from scratch you would have failed.I have no interest whatsoever in convincing you about anything.
And my posts were not meant to be a rehash of all the
arguments from scratch.

>Also, you’ll note that I did not argue for the inexistence of Jesus, only that the issue be dealt with instead of pretending that this has already been done.

I don’t think we are pretending anything. The issue about Jesus
existence is actually settled among historians of Antiquity. The
only question worth discussing is the DEGREE of myth sorrounding
the historical core.

Best wishes

Antonio

the same kind of pseudo-arguments, exaggerations and silences

5027    Re: The Jesus Puzzle (Peter)

Antonio Jerez

Feb 9, 1999

Jon Peter wrote:

>Earl, you over-invested in a bad theory. Yes, it is remotely imaginable. So
>are lots of things. In fact you *might* even be right! But you need to
>refute the prima facie case that a man existed. The negation of this lacks
>good evidence. (Oh, please surprise me!) So, you over-strain and exaggerate.
>You offer up pseudo-arguments, you ignore and smear your best enemies. You
>realize that most of your visitors are non-specialists and will be
>impressed, so you get away with everything. But when your surrogate makes
>the mistake of parroting you, he’s trounced. What’s your comeback? You whine
>about his victimization! Jesus Christ, Earl!

Jon,
Earl D. and this Ellegard chap here in Sweden could almost be
bluecopies of each other. They both work with the same kind of
pseudo-arguments. exaggerations and silences that you mention.
Their arguments also have a tendency to take a hold among the
non-specialists in Antique history or Second Temple Judaism.

Best wishes

Antonio

A shame!

5030    Re: The Jesus Puzzle – Pro

Antonio Jerez

Feb 9, 1999

Stevan Davies wrote:

>There has sure been an unprecedented level of vituperation
>launched off at ol‘ Earl. Since he does actually argue a case
>and use evidence and address counter-arguments it’s odd that
>he’d been dissed so thoroughly. Not one of those railing
>against him (except Jeff) have done much more
>than assert what they assume.
>
>Maybe nobody reads what he writes:
>http://www.magi.com/~oblio/jesus/jhcjp.htm

Stevan,
good to see that you are prepared to put yourself in the role
as the Devils Advocate. But it isn’t quite true that “nobody
reads what Earl D. writes”. I did read Earl’s homepage casually
many, many months ago. Since this discussion started I have
reloaded all the articles again and cannot find more than the
old, weak, tendentious reading of the evidence.
My memory didn’t fail me since I couldn’t find any discussion
by Doherty about the Messanic ideas AMONG JEWS – just a
lot of talk about the dying-resurrected Gods among pagans. But
Messianic ideas among Jews obviously don’t interest Doherty
the least since he in some strange way presupposes that Christianity
started off as some kind of Jewish-Gentile movement.
And isn’t it interesting that Earl D. has nothing subtantial to say about WHY
the Christians would invent a CRUCIFIED heavenly revealer? Hopefully
he can give us some intelligent explanation in person here on the list.

An example from Earl D’s articles just to give you a flavour of
the “quality” of his argumentation:

>The dating of the Gospels is partly to be determined by their attestion in the wider >Christian writings. Here we run into an astonishing state of affairs, for there is no clear >sign of them before the middle of the second century. No surviving writer before Justin >makes use of narrative documents containing words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth, >and more often than not Justin’s quotations do not fit our canonical texts, indicating >that such works were still in the process of development, not to be finalized until some >time later.

What Earl D. fails to mention or doesn’t even know about is the fact
that the quotations in Justin (ca. 150 AD) actually SUPPORT arguments
that the canonical gospels as we know them were already in existence
at that time. Studies by Koester and Sanders, among others, show that
Justin appears to have used a kind of early “Diatesseron” that was an
amalgation of GMark, GMatthew and GLuke. That gospel harmonies
like these were already in vogue at this early date clearly indicate that
the synoptics had existed and were well known decades before Justin.

And why is it that this bloody Q Red Herring has taken a life
of its own in such a way that it can be used to argue for
just about everything by folks such as Earl D. and Burton Mack.
I’m increasingly certain that Q is the worst thing that has ever
happened to NT exegetics – it is a false sideway that is elastic
enough to be used in whatever way you want by both amateurs
like Earl D. and more renowned scholars like Crossan and Mack.
A shame!

Best wishes

Antonio

a lot of pretentious mumbo jumbo

5031    Re: The Jesus Puzzle (Peter)

Antonio Jerez

Feb 9, 1999

Jon Peter wrote:

>A short while ago I revisited Doherty’s site briefly and found the
>weirdness-level even more abysmal than I’d remembered.
>
>Let’s hope he doesn’t chicken-out of the debate. Those who take his side
>will be dragged down with him. I hope no others follow Stevan that way.
>
>regards,
>
>Jon

No, no don’t discourage Stevan. He does after all like from
time to time take on impossible tasks.
And I do agree that you don’t need many minutes on Earl’s
site to realize that behind the sophisticated fasade there
only hides a lot of pretentious mumbo jumbo.

Best wishes

Antonio

Wow, this one really touches a nerve with some people.
5032    Burden of Proof (was: Man or Myth)

Steven Appelget

Feb 9, 1999

I express no opinion on the man/myth argument. Just one observation and
one discussion question.

OBSERVATION

Wow, this one really touches a nerve with some people. I don’t understand
the vehemence of the responses to the suggestion that there may be no
historical Jesus. Even the most ardent apologists admit the evidence is
much less than we would like. Even the most ardent apologists admit that
the Gospels contain lots of fiction — and even are primarily fiction.

Yet the suggestion, and I think it is a moderate one, that they are ALL
fiction draws out the most vehement responses I have seen, save for the tax
protesters on misc.legal. People with letters after their names (the most
gracious Fr. Murphy, SJ, excepted) refuse to make arguments, refuse to
critique, and refuse to even discuss issues. Instead, artfully written ad
hominems are proposed in place of arguments, and interested laymen are
abjured not to post on a PUBLIC FORUM, because it irritates the scholars.

QUESTION

This actually links up with the title of my post. Where should the burden
of proof lie in discussions of the existence of the historical Jesus?
Should it be assumed that historical Jesus exists until it is proven
otherwise, or should it be assumed that he did not exist until it is proven
that he did exist?

This seems to me to be the core of the dispute. The “myth” hypothesists
seem to assume the burden of proof is on those who argue that historical
Jesus existed, and point to the scanty evidence and say, “It’s not enough.”
On the other hand, those supporting historical Jesus seem to assume that
such a person existed and those who would deny it must prove their case.

please, a little civility would be appreciated
5033    Where’s the FAQ?

Steven Appelget

Feb 9, 1999

OK, some folks seem to have appointed themselves the masters of who may
post and what they may post. Where’s the FAQ that defines this?

Is this listserv only for academics? Perhaps HarperCollins could be
convinced to limit those who could post, and a listmaster could screen all
the posts for appropriate content.

If not, please, a little civility would be appreciated. While it is
entertaining for a short while to read people sniping at each other, the
cumulative effect is to bore rather than to entertain or educate.

Please, think before you post. Hundreds of people are reading your posts
and they are forming opinions of you based solely on what they read. Think
about the impression you are making. Would you like to meet the person
exemplified by your posts?

outside the scope of a forum that addresses the historical aspects of Jesus
5034    Re: Burden of Proof (was: Man or Myth)

Michael T. MacDonell

Feb 9, 1999

At 07:59 PM 2/9/99 -0600, Steven Appleget wrote:
>
>This actually links up with the title of my post. Where should the burden
>of proof lie in discussions of the existence of the historical Jesus?
>Should it be assumed that historical Jesus exists until it is proven
>otherwise, or should it be assumed that he did not exist until it is proven
>that he did exist?Dear Steven:Since the list addresses the historical Jesus, it would seem reasonable to
assume that the it (the list) resides at least one node beyond the question
of the existence of Jesus. To state it another way, since the list
addresses the historical Jesus, it includes an a priori assumption that
Jesus existed.

The question of whether or not Jesus existed may constitute an entirely
valid point to argue, but it would seem to lie outside the scope of a forum
that addresses the historical aspects of Jesus. Evangelical claims, based
on faith and revelation by the Holy Spirit, also constitute valid point for
discussion, but also lie outside the scope of this list. Am I missing
something??

Best Regards,
Mike

____________________________________
Michael T. MacDonell, Ph.D.
Doctoral Student in Biblical Studies
Trinity College and Seminary
____________________________________

the prima facie case for Jesus’ existence has been made
5035    Re: Burden of Proof (was: Man or Myth)

Stephen C. Carlson

Feb 9, 1999

At 07:59 PM 2/9/99 -0600, Steven Appelget wrote:
>QUESTION
>
>This actually links up with the title of my post. Where should the burden
>of proof lie in discussions of the existence of the historical Jesus?
>Should it be assumed that historical Jesus exists until it is proven
>otherwise, or should it be assumed that he did not exist until it is proven
>that he did exist?
>
>This seems to me to be the core of the dispute. The “myth” hypothesists
>seem to assume the burden of proof is on those who argue that historical
>Jesus existed, and point to the scanty evidence and say, “It’s not enough.”
>On the other hand, those supporting historical Jesus seem to assume that
>such a person existed and those who would deny it must prove their case.As a trained lawyer, I’m familiar with the way burdens of proof work
when there is real money at stake. Basically, the burden of proof
always initially lies with the proponent.However, once the proponent has put forth enough evidence to make a
“prima facie” case, then the burden of proof shift to the opponent
of the thesis to come up with contrary evidence. A prima facie case
is a case that should be accepted unless rebutted. In law, there
are sophicated rules for determining when a prima facie case is met.

In the case of Earl Doherty and the question of the existence of
the human Jesus, I would say that the prima facie case for the
existence of Jesus has been ably met by Jeff Peterson and others.
Therefore the burden shifts to Doherty et al. to deny the thesis.
Unfortunately for the mythicist’s case, they haven’t presented
any compelling evidence that their scenario is even plausible (see,
e.g., Antonio’s posts, despite his dyspepsia) and are relegated
to poking holes in the prima facie case for Jesus’ existence.
To me, Paulson’s lame attempts to dispute Peterson’s case requires
betting and winning on a series of long shot. I’d rather put my
money on Clinton’s conviction in the Senate or on a multi-
million dollar Powerball payoff.

In conclusion, the prima facie case for Jesus’ existence has
been made. Faced with the shifted burden of proof in rebutting
the prima face case and the original burden of proof in their
particular mythologizing thesis, Doherty and Paulson have come
up short.

Stephen Carlson

Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@…
Synoptic Problem Home Page http://www.mindspring.com/~scarlson/synopt/
“Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs chant the words.” Shujing 2.35

male-dominated
5036    Netiquette, was Re: A man or a myth? (Only for Tony)

Stephen C. Carlson

Feb 9, 1999

At 04:43 AM 2/9/99 +0100, [REDACTED] wrote:
>Tony, Get real, or get a hysterectomy.

This list is already male-dominated as it is without people
making gratituous, sexist put-downs.

Stephen Carlson

Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@…
Synoptic Problem Home Page http://www.mindspring.com/~scarlson/synopt/
“Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs chant the words.” Shujing 2.35

We take historical claims at face value unless we have good reasons for doing otherwise.
5037    RE: Burden of Proof (was: Man or Myth)

John A. De Goes

Feb 9, 1999

> This actually links up with the title of my post. Where should the burden
> of proof lie in discussions of the existence of the historical Jesus?
> Should it be assumed that historical Jesus exists until it is proven
> otherwise, or should it be assumed that he did not exist until it
> is proven that he did exist?We take historical claims at face value unless we have good reasons for
doing otherwise. When we do have good reasons to doubt a claim, then we
doubt it — but we doubt just that claim and all those hinged thereon. That
Augustus was claimed by many to be a god does not give us reason to question
his historical existence, for example; it can rationally cause us only to
doubt his divinity.A few examples come to mind where historians have taken this approach even
in somewhat extreme cases, where nearly all of the claims made about a
person are almost certainly false:

* Gilgamesh of Uruk, the famous hero of epic poetry.

* Socrates, the Greek philosopher famous for writings not his own.

* Moses, the Biblical hero of the Israelites.

If historians were to take any other approach — that is, if they were to
assume that these and other larger-than-life figures did not exist on the
basis of a certain percentage of fictitious claims made concerning them —
then it is safe to say that ancient history as we know it would not exist.
Though modern times are filled with many examples of myth making (from oral
tradition, as is the case with Newton and his apple, to movies, such as
Braveheart), the propensity for embellishing the lives of respected people
and events was far greater in the past. By recognizing this, and by
noticing that adding fictional material to a non-fictional event or person
does not suddently change the truth of that non-fictional material,
historians have been able to look deep and wide to create a tapestry (albeit
incomplete and fragmentary) of the human race.

John

5038    Re: Noise-to-signal ratio dangerously low…

joe baxter

Feb 9, 1999

Hide message history
>Date: Tue, 09 Feb 1999 20:43:01
>To: “Antonio Jerez” <antonio.jerez@…>
>From: joe baxter <joseph@…>
>Subject: Re: Noise-to-signal ratio dangerously low…
>
>
>At 11:15 PM 2/9/99 +0100, you wrote:
>Giovanni Hutchissini is more to be faulted for being so afraid of putting
>>a wrong foot that he seldom goes beyond the simple reading of a text.
>
>You got that one right.
>
>
>Joe
>
>

I did not return your insults

5039    Re: The Jesus Puzzle (Jon)

Bill2200@aol.com

Feb 9, 1999

To Jon Peter:

Being still new to the list, I haven’t yet gotten to know many people well.
Last night, I spent a lot of time and effort in a posting to you. I did not
return your insults, thinking you were a beginner (you sure sounded like one)
and hoping that your previous post was largely due to a misunderstanding.

I didn’t know you well and was looking forward to your next reply, where you
would have an opportunity to show what kind of man you are.

You have done that. No apologies, no reasoned argument of any kind, just more
of the same scorn and ridicule.

Your writing skills, on the other hand, are fairly impressive! I hope you will
one day put them to constructive use.

> Alas, your 1,370-word screed offered not a shred of rebuttal though you
> indicated having received the posts forwarded by Bill.

> Giving us what appears to be your best shot, you appeal to the
> existence of a hoary tradition of anti-Church gainsayers. But *where* is a
> statement of your case?

> What’s your comeback?

Jon, what is the purpose of the above remarks when Doherty made it clear in
his post (and you acknowledged this elsewhere) that he would give his answer
later?

> You chose instead to smear crosstalk with the invective that you yourself
> decry.

Responding in kind to another’s unprovoked invective isn’t even close to the
same thing as initiating the conflict in the first place. Just call me old-
fashioned.

> But when your surrogate makes
> the mistake of parroting you, he’s trounced.

That is an absolutely incredible assessment of the situation. Trounced? By
whom? When? In the name-calling game perhaps, but not by reasoned arguments,
certainly not by you. (I’m leaving Jeff Peterson for Doherty to handle now.)

> But you need to refute the prima facie case that a man existed.

Here, you make a good point, but I’m not satisfied that a prima facie case
exists. What is the case exactly? The four famous fairy tales (canonical
gospels)? Straining to find clear human references in the epistles which just
aren’t there? Chrestus, Josephus and Tacitus put together add up to virtually
nothing. Please sum up your case so it can be evaluated.

I’m sure you’d agree as I said last time that we need to weigh all the
evidence together. I’ve given you some indication of my opinion of several of
the pieces of evidence. I encourage you to show your ideas and/or why I’ve
appropriated too much or too little weight to any of the pieces.

Bill

could you … summarize … anything … that deals a crippling blow to Doherty’s thesis?
5040    Re: A man or a myth? (Jim)

Bill2200@aol.com

Feb 9, 1999

From Jim:

> But Bill, it ISN’T your case! Thats just the point buddy. You are merely
> pointing to someones work and saying- “prove ’em wrong”. Scholarship JUST
> DOESN’T work that way. It doesnt.

And later:

> I want ya to present YOUR views!

I’ll try again. My views are that Doherty’s work, while it may have some minor
technical flaws, is nevertheless the most plausible story of early
Christianity. I’ve given some summaries in my posts over the days. Otherwise,
Doherty’s articles communicate the idea better than I can. I’m sure you’d
agree that it would be silly for me to copy them to the list or to simply
rephrase them when he has some concise summaries at his site.

Later, from your “Please…” posting:

> Gladly- and perhaps you, bill and earl will actually read them:
> Albert Schweitzer- “Leben Jesu Forschung”
> D.F. Struass- “Das Leben Jesu”
> N.T. Wright- “Jesus”
> Rudolf Bultmann- “Jesus”
> Dom Crossan- “The Historical Jesus”

I rather doubt that any of these deal with Doherty’s thesis. But since they
are books and probably considerably longer than his articles and not in my
possession, could you take the time to summarize in a few paragraphs anything
you know of that deals a crippling blow to Doherty’s thesis? Thanks.

Bill

yet in the occasions when they set out to prove it, they don’t even come close

5041    Re: The Jesus Puzzle

Bill2200@aol.com

Feb 9, 1999

From Jack Kilmon:

> I have reviewed your articles, Earl, and find so many historical
> problems in the assertions that lay the foundation for this
> “myth” theory that it would take me too much time to refute
> each one and give the appropriate references. Sweeping
> statements are made that just are not true. I thought this may
> be a good discussion thread..having missed the previous…but
> when I cannot find grounds for first reinforcing an opponent’s
> argument before countering it..I cannot find a “handle” to
> hold for a running dialogue. It is for this very same reason
> that I no longer engage “creation scientists” and their 6000
> year old cosmos. Sorry..I was looking forward to some
> interesting discussion.

Jack,

I, for one, heartily encourage you to reconsider, to at least provide a
summary (a partial list of what you’ve found) of facts that deal a serious
blow to Doherty’s work. Too often people claim the thesis is seriously flawed,
yet in the occasions when they set out to prove it, they don’t even come
close. If you succeed where no one else has, I will make a lot of people happy
by leaving the list!

Bill

wouldn’t the burden be on those proposing that the evidence indicates a certain person existed?
5042    Re: Burden of Proof (was: Man or Myth)

Steven Appelget

Feb 9, 1999

>At 07:59 PM 2/9/99 -0600, Steven Appelget wrote:
>>QUESTION
>>
>>This actually links up with the title of my post. Where should the burden
>>of proof lie in discussions of the existence of the historical Jesus?
>>Should it be assumed that historical Jesus exists until it is proven
>>otherwise, or should it be assumed that he did not exist until it is proven
>>that he did exist?
>>
>>This seems to me to be the core of the dispute. The “myth” hypothesists
>>seem to assume the burden of proof is on those who argue that historical
>>Jesus existed, and point to the scanty evidence and say, “It’s not enough.”
>>On the other hand, those supporting historical Jesus seem to assume that
>>such a person existed and those who would deny it must prove their case.
>
>As a trained lawyer, I’m familiar with the way burdens of proof work
>when there is real money at stake. Basically, the burden of proof
>always initially lies with the proponent.
>Me, too. That’s probably why I phrased the question as I did.Here’s the problem: I’m not sure who the proponent of the new position is.
If we are going to use the genera scholarly consensus as the status quo,
then the mythicists have the burden of proof. However, if the problem is
approached ab inition, wouldn’t the burden be on those proposingthat the
evidence indicates a certain person existed?

Are you assuming all factual claims in ancient (or even just old) works are historical claims?
5043    RE: Burden of Proof (was: Man or Myth)

Steven Appelget

Feb 9, 1999

>> This actually links up with the title of my post. Where should the burden
>> of proof lie in discussions of the existence of the historical Jesus?
>> Should it be assumed that historical Jesus exists until it is proven
>> otherwise, or should it be assumed that he did not exist until it
>> is proven that he did exist?
>
>We take historical claims at face value unless we have good reasons for
>doing otherwise. When we do have good reasons to doubt a claim, then we
>doubt it — but we doubt just that claim and all those hinged thereon. That
>Augustus was claimed by many to be a god does not give us reason to question
>his historical existence, for example; it can rationally cause us only to
>doubt his divinity.
>
>A few examples come to mind where historians have taken this approach even
>in somewhat extreme cases, where nearly all of the claims made about a
>person are almost certainly false:
>
>* Gilgamesh of Uruk, the famous hero of epic poetry.
>
>* Socrates, the Greek philosopher famous for writings not his own.
>
>* Moses, the Biblical hero of the Israelites.
>
>If historians were to take any other approach — that is, if they were to
>assume that these and other larger-than-life figures did not exist on the
>basis of a certain percentage of fictitious claims made concerning them —
>then it is safe to say that ancient history as we know it would not exist.
>Though modern times are filled with many examples of myth making (from oral
>tradition, as is the case with Newton and his apple, to movies, such as
>Braveheart), the propensity for embellishing the lives of respected people
>and events was far greater in the past. By recognizing this, and by
>noticing that adding fictional material to a non-fictional event or person
>does not suddently change the truth of that non-fictional material,
>historians have been able to look deep and wide to create a tapestry (albeit
>incomplete and fragmentary) of the human race.
>
>JohnThank you very much for your thoughful post.I don’t want to be intentionally obtuse here, but what is a “historical
claim?” I suppose the probem here is that I read in various works that the
gospels are not history and should not be read as history. If they are not
histories, then they make non-historical claims. It appears that the
methodology you outline is to accept all claims and then sift out the
obviously untrue ones. But first you have to distinguish the historical
claims from the non-historical claims.

Are you assuming all factual claims in ancient (or even just old) works
are historical claims? I’m not using a rhetorical question for argument
here; I really want to find out.

This (an assumption of truth) seems to be a strange way to progress.
Here’s why: If we accept historical claims at face value until disproved,
we must necessarily accept those claims where the evidence is
indeterminate. Therefore, we will be affirming claims with indeterminate
support. They only have support because of the assumption we have made at
the beginning to affirm claims unless disproven. They do not have any
other support.

Affirming thetruth of matters without evidence to support it bothers me.

Am I totally off base here? Please let me know. I’m pretty tired, so I
hope this still makes sense to me in the morning. And if you know a good
source for methodology that couldquiet my doubts, could ;you please refer
me to it so I don’t use up lots of bandwidth on these types of questions.

Access problem
5044    Re: Web Accessing Problems

Bill2200@aol.com

Feb 9, 1999

From Tom:

> Bill –
>
> When you post notices of texts and web pages, you’re assuming (as
> _I_ sometimes do too) that the reader has hardware access as good
> as yours. I sometimes give notice of my Web page, but I have to
> go out to look at it for it’s run by a colleague half a continent
> away. I’m set up for text processing and like Amazon, I only
> transfer files by FTP. If I had Web at hand, I’d likely never
> have time to enter groups such as Crosstalk. I alert my Web-
> meister or another colleague somewhat nearer and ask them for a
> search. You can presume too much when on an ASCII list.

Thanks for the tip. If you or anyone else has access problems and wants a
Crosstalk message with a bigger summary of Doherty’s work that what’s been
provided over the last few days, let me know.

Although I have different ideas about Jesus, I also wanted to thank you for
your thoughtful message to me a few days ago where you spoke of your parents.

Bill

 

 

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Neil Godfrey

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22 Comments

  • Clarke Owens
    2018-12-03 14:28:53 UTC - 14:28 | Permalink

    Posts 5020, 5035, and 5040: 5020 and 5040 contain the short reading list offered to the skeptics with the assurance that if they were to read these books they might begin to emerge from their lamentable ignorance regarding the HJ. 5035 is the post that asks who should have the burden of proof. My comment here is in regard to two of the books on the list, Schweitzer’s book on the life of Jesus, and Dominic Crossan’s HJ. I read Schweitzer’s book in English translation. I no longer have the copy. I used a library book and took notes while preparing my little essay/book called Son of Yahweh. The Crossan book I read along with Crossan’s book on the apostolic era, called The Birth of Christianity. The 2 books have melded together in my mind, so my comments here may be coming from either or both of those books. The question raised about the burden of proof is, I think, crucial to the way one perceives the myth question generally, and it must be crucial to how one perceives the information in these books; and I must be approaching the myth question from the view that the burden to prove the historical existence is on the historian putting forth an argument for historical existence. I say this, because the impact of Schweitzer on me was his conclusion, where he essentially argues (correct me if I’m wrong) that what is important to him is the JC of faith, not some ultra-rationalized historical figure. That is, it seemed to me that he was essentially giving up his ostensible enterprise in writing the book, and accepting the fact that he is (as he is universally considered to be) a man of faith. It’s perfectly acceptable to prefer faith over reason, but that is not an argument for historical existence–unless of course the burden is on those who would disprove the historical existence, and the rest of us simply accept the premise.

    As for the Crossan books, I do think it is highly useful to read these books, because Crossan takes great pains to educate his reader on his methodology. And there we read the extensive “criteriology” that is so often referred to with curiosity and wonder in Neil Godfrey’s blog, where contributors frequently notice that these criteria are exclusive to New Testament scholars and doctors of theology, and are unlike what other post-Enlightenment rational historians would or might use to assess a similar question in any other context. I was jarred by Crossan’s conclusion in the HJ book, which was a vaguely posited hypothesis about the gospels possibly originating in the context of “female lamentation.” This idea had not been discussed at length in the greater body of the book, as I recall, and again, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. The whole exercise, while interesting, seemed to me somewhat solipsistic and not at all convincing. But I guess I must be an idiot who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, because I don’t come to the right conclusion, the obvious, the well-accepted conclusion that every knowledgeable, right-thinking doctor of theology student comes to.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-12-03 21:30:31 UTC - 21:30 | Permalink

      I have quoted the words of Schweitzer to which you are referring many times here and elsewhere, and most fully in their context at https://vridar.org/2017/01/14/schweitzer-in-context/.

      One biblical scholar I have seen follow Schweitzer’s advice completely is Thomas Brodie who has remained a Christian without a need for a historical Jesus.

    • db
      2018-12-03 22:57:45 UTC - 22:57 | Permalink

      I read Schweitzer’s book in English translation.

      • Did you use the newest John Bowden translation?

      NB: The Quest of the Historical Jesus 2nd edition (1913), as translated by John Bowden et al. (2001)

      • Clarke Owens
        2018-12-04 14:18:33 UTC - 14:18 | Permalink

        I don’t know where my notes are now buried (in which file cabinet or folder), but I’m pretty certain it was not the Bowden translation. I would be happy if you would point out the crucial distinction, especially with respect to the long passages cited by Neil in his link above.

  • 2018-12-03 16:51:22 UTC - 16:51 | Permalink

    Thank you for posting this. Very instructive.

  • 2018-12-03 18:59:08 UTC - 18:59 | Permalink

    I guess it is understandable that so many take this discussion “very personally” as they, I assume, were raised as I was to believe “one’s eternal soul is in danger of hell fire” if one doesn’t believe in an HJ. Nevertheless, I find all the ad hominem attacks unnecessary and distracting. Telling the people you interact with that they (or their arguments) as “silly” and “not worthy of discussion” does nothing to enhance the discussion, only detract further from any serious discussion.

    I am currently reading Thomas L. Thompson’s “The Messiah Myth: The Near Eastern Roots of Jesus and David”. This is not an easy read as Thompson forgets his readers are not as acquainted with the Bible as he is, but I am starting to see the NT (and OT) as the “literary works” they are rather than “historical works”.

  • 2018-12-03 22:19:16 UTC - 22:19 | Permalink

    It probably would have helped his reception if Doherty had some credentials. If I, who has no credentials in Math, went onto a website for profession mathematicians and asked them to evaluate my idiosyncratic theory, the surprising thing would be if they did take me seriously.

    • 2018-12-03 22:37:17 UTC - 22:37 | Permalink

      This is true, but what is one to do? If you don’t have a PhD in a field, but you develop a solution to a problem in that field, what? You just keep your moth shut? You spend $40,000 and 2 or 3 years getting a PhD before offering your opinion?

      The reality is that the field of biblical studies is a mess, and that’s why lay-folk like Doherty and myself can make some simple observations that strongly call major positions in the field into question. It really shouldn’t be possible for some Joe Shmo to come in and produce findings that “experts” in the field ave missed, yet that is the case with biblical studies.

      Even if one doesn’t agree with my or Doherty’s conclusions, it is undeniable that we and many other such laypeople have produced findings that the “experts” should have found long ago.

      The whole field of intertextual analysis, which has produced major insights, has been largely ignored by the mainstream and has been advanced mostly by outsiders and fringe scholars, yet the results are irrefutable (and largely destroy mainstream assumptions).

      The fact is that Biblical studies is a field dominated by people of faith who have designed approaches to reinforce their faith. They have fooled themselves into thinking they are objective, when in fact they never have been. This makes it easy for actual logical and objective outsiders to see the flaws in their work.

    • MrHorse
      2018-12-03 23:50:22 UTC - 23:50 | Permalink

      Yeah, Nah. The arguments and the propositions/premises that underlie those arguments are far more relevant.

      Doherty has a degree in the classics – a B.A. with Distinction in Ancient History and Classical Languages, (Greek and Latin), and at one stage had started a post-graduate degree, an M.A., but suspended it due to health reasons and did not return (Jesus, Neither God nor Man, 2009, Preface p. ix).

      Carrier got two Masters degrees and a PhD in history yet, while they have probably given him some credibility, few engage with his arguments other than by way of derision.

      • JBeers
        2018-12-04 00:31:48 UTC - 00:31 | Permalink

        The topic of ‘credentials’ is an interesting one. It is similar to the ‘argument to authority’, an informal fallacy just like the ‘ad hominem’ argument. Both these arguments have of course long been considered in the study of rhetoric to be fallacious. Yet they save us time as shortcuts. If someone has studied a topic in detail and is recognized as an authority by others who have studied the topic in detail, it is a good bet that such a person’s opinion on the topic is more likely true than the opposing opinion from some blatantly vicious and despicable lunatic screaming at us on the street for no obvious reason. In this instance the fallacious argument to authority and the complementary ad hominem argument help us out in guessing which opinion is correct if we do not know on the basis of facts and logic. Yet the fallacious arguments are fallacious. Occasionally the authorities in fact do get it wrong.

        People get it wrong when they think of the argument to authority as more than a quick-and-dirty shortcut, something in the order of a a tentative approximation.

        • JBeers
          2018-12-04 00:36:53 UTC - 00:36 | Permalink

          Please indulge me a story only slightly on the topic of ‘credentials.’ Decades ago a friend, an undergraduate at one of the world’s most prominent universities, recounted an introductory political science lecture he had just heard. The professor discussed at great length how the US’s educational system tended to select for people who were intelligent in the sense of being able to reflect back what they were given in a clever but limited and shallow fashion. They tended to be subservient, not given to independent thinking or proficiency at thinking out diverse and contradictory or original ideas. He made a lot of fun of those who did especially well in US schooling. He concluded: “And here you are, men and women of ___ University, the cream of the educational system.” I think there was an uncomfortable silence, maybe a laugh or two.

          I suspect the elite students are both officially much smarter and more subservient now than then. In any case, students from such a university would tend to be those who get to populate the highest levels of academia and get the best credentials. Sometimes those who are really, really good do make it through though, fortunately!!!

        • MrHorse
          2018-12-04 03:00:35 UTC - 03:00 | Permalink

          Yes, it is “similar to the ‘argument to authority’, an informal fallacy just like the ‘ad hominem’ argument”, but such fallacies are part of current-day rhetoric.

          And you then revert to fallacy when you say

          If someone has studied a topic in detail and is recognized as an authority by others who have studied the topic in detail, it is a good bet that such a person’s opinion on the topic is more likely true than the opposing opinion from some blatantly vicious and despicable lunatic screaming at us on the street for no obvious reason.

          If someone has studied a topic in detail … it is a good bet that such a person’s opinion on the topic is more likely to be cogent, valid, or even sound. Whether they are considered ‘an authority’ or might be irrelevant and fallacious, depending on what they are opining about. And it would be better if they were putting forward cogent, valid, or sound arguments.

          “some blatantly vicious and despicable lunatic screaming at us on the street” is a red herring and false equivalence.

          I can’t fathom your US education post. I view the US education system as geared towards an elite largely based on socio-economic grounds. Which is why the US has Trump as president, is largely undemocratic, and essentially is a second-world country heading for third world categorisation.

    • Der Gottesverachter
      2018-12-04 12:43:54 UTC - 12:43 | Permalink

      I came to thinking that lack of credentials is a better recommendation than having credentials in theology or biblical studies. Comparing the above to math almost sounds like an insult to math.

    • Steven C Watson
      2018-12-10 06:56:30 UTC - 06:56 | Permalink

      A PhD in Astrology would have more credibility to me. I can find some slight support for Astrology and none at all for the hooey that passes for mainstream Biblical “scholarship”. Ironically, their texts have their guy talk of houses built on sand.

  • JBeers
    2018-12-04 09:44:25 UTC - 09:44 | Permalink

    I perhaps wrote unclearly and now read unclearly. I would not be surprised that if as a result I have provoked a little exchange where there is an apparent disagreement where little exists.

    I meant that fallacious arguments often are handy short-cuts, but that we must recognize that they are fallacious and unreliable. I don’t know quantum physics well, so I have to presume that those who have studied it are probably correct in their pronouncements about it especially when they all agree. I am using their expertise as a shortcut. However I think I need to recognize that I should maintain at least a little skepticism since I am using fallacious argument-to-authority reasoning when I do rely on their reasoning as a shortcut.

    I never understood the phrase ‘false equivalence’, but you may be right. I was playfully but presumably ineptly presenting an extreme case of where I think we probably tend to get things right by going with the fallacies even if we no nothing about the subject. (I by the way tended to identify with the screaming lunatic in my example, not with the expert other than that I try not to be vicious.) My point was that Experts (whom I by personal inclination tend to hold in contempt) actually do tend to be right while the dissenters, even the crazy and obnoxious ones (whom I tend to have a soft spot for) often make mistakes if for no other reason than that they often don’t have much supporting them (little funding or institutional support to do their research is a problem if nothing else).

    You did not understand the anecdote about the US school system. I presented it partly because I thought it was amusing. However the point was that the professor felt that the system selected for clever but shallow conformists. I implied but did not clearly express the follow-up point that such people who graduate from ___ University and the like who go into academics would probably get the top positions and tend to reinforce shallow conformity and be clever about it. These people will be good at working together to keep out novel ideas, especially from outsiders.

    I have thought from the 1970s on that the US was heading towards being a 3d world country, as it pretty much is in many respects already. I do not think there is so much of the 2nd world though–I believe that term usually referred to the old Eastern bloc of the cold war. Certainly there is not so much real democracy as opposed to show democracy or declaration (advertisement) of democracy. A good effect of Mr Trump is that his election and the reaction to it have gone a long way to discredit or at least demystify pretty much everything, including those who attack him and even the squabbles of Trump vs his apparent enemies or ‘Democrats’ vs Republicans as opposed to deeper problems, and may be provoking a general rethinking about modern society and what constitutes ‘democracy.’ Not that we would see much of honest discussion of the dialog of such rethinking in the big media.

    There are many reasons why the US is not democratic. There are many reasons why Mr Trump is president. The educational system is but one reason or mechanism.

    But I write unclearly, as usual, I think.

  • Neil Godfrey
    2018-12-04 10:28:18 UTC - 10:28 | Permalink

    I find Jim West’s comment, #5014, to be quite illuminating.

    Try this- next time you are sick
    go to your doctor and tell him exactly how he should treat you- what
    medicines you need- and what course of action he should take- and see what
    his or her response to your home spun diagnosis is…

    What you are telling us here is that we should abandon everything we know-
    having learned through years of disciplined study and hard work, and adopt
    your view because you dont know what your talking about!!!!! Amazing,
    really amazing.

    Point 1. History is not as complex as medical science. A doctor can bamboozle me with lots of Greek names for microbes and bodily functions and leave me no alternative but to nod in agreement. But a historian, or anyone making a claim about an historical event, does not need to insist I must study ancient languages and do a seminary course before I will be in a position to understand the evidence. Demonstrating why historians believe such and such happened or so and so lived is in principle very easy. I do it here all the time and have no trouble understanding any book of history or the evidence it cites for this or that.

    Point 2. Ah yes, now there is the real reason for West’s splenetic response. The very idea that anyone should suggest that the emperor’s clothes he has taught himself to see all his life simply don’t exist…. it can be way too much for some people to handle.

    Hence we return to Point 1 and see how the “denialist” walls himself with “false equivalence” between doing history and studying medicine.

    • Der Gottesverachter
      2018-12-04 12:54:27 UTC - 12:54 | Permalink

      Taking into account how many physicians still prescribe homeopathy…
      Trusting “authorities” blindly is not such a good idea.

      • Steven C Watson
        2018-12-10 07:07:00 UTC - 07:07 | Permalink

        A good proportion of those will be cranks but others will just have a better knowledge of the Placebo Effect and the psychology of their patient.

    • 2018-12-04 16:19:35 UTC - 16:19 | Permalink

      I always come back to Harry Houdini vs the Spiritualists. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Houdini#Debunking_spiritualists

      At the time the worlds leading scientific authorities were convinced of the “truth” of Spiritualism, of the ability of mediums to be able to communicate with the dead. It was Houdini, the uneducated street performer, who set all of the university educated professors of science right.

      The fact is that the fundamental model used by mainstream biblical scholars over the past 100 years is wrong. The whole approach is wrong. I’m reading The Five Gospels by the Jesus Seminar now and they go into a whole explanation of their methodology and you can easily see that its just crap.

      What’s my background? My background is software engineering and data analysis, which is basically the application of logic and the identification of patterns in text and data. I’d argue that my background brings many things to the table that their doesn’t. And the idea that training in theology is any kind of valid support for analyzing the historical truth of texts is upside-down logic. I’d argue that a theological background is almost a disqualifier for being able to analyze the historical truth of the Bible.

  • Clarke Owens
    2018-12-04 14:52:56 UTC - 14:52 | Permalink

    I have had to deal with the issue of credentials and authority, and I was very careful when I wrote my book to stick pretty closely to the questions which directly affected my area of expertise, the study of literature. I did not, and I do not, question or attack New Testament scholars on issues involving their research into arcane matters of ancient text translation, contemporary accounts, or really anything. I got into examining the gospels and the myth issue only or primarily because the NT scholars and others who wrote on the topic were making careless assumptions about the meaning and effect of literary study, as it informed their assumptions and conclusions. It is very unwise for anyone writing a book–and especially a book which even “seems” to concern an area of inquiry not within an area of his/her own formal study–to “shoot from the hip” on any subject whatsoever. Even if it is not the main one, making such comments can damage your credibility, and credibility is something you really need to have when you seem to wade into someone else’s territory.

    What you will encounter, endlessly on this topic, is the attack from authority that denies you a right even to an opinion, unless it is the “right” one. It’s not an attack that says, “Ah, here and here is where your lack of a Doctor of Divinity degree has led you astray.” No, it is simply a bald claim that “You are not qualified to speak on this subject.” A conclusory attack, not an argued one.

    The irony of such an attack is that it invalidates the “scholarship” which is offered to the public by the “qualified” scholars themselves. That is, let’s take a book like Dominic Crossan’s. It is not written exclusively for other scholars, but also for the lay public. Crossan wants the non-scholar to read the book, and to understand it. That’s why he explains his methodology in detail. The other people in the Jesus project already know this stuff. So, as “lay” people, are we allowed to say we understand it, or not?

    Somebody I wasn’t even trying to have an argument with once told me, when I simply tried to point out that the mythicism argument existed, and that Doherty and Carrier seemed to me to have made reasonable cases for it, that I “wasn’t qualified” to have an opinion. I did not bother to point out to him what my advanced degrees were, or that I have taught argumentation for years, that I have made arguments to this or that court, have examined evidence professionally, that I am well-read, etc. etc. What’s the point? If you say, only someone with a PhD in religious studies has a right to an opinion, and you have to believe their conclusions without understanding them, you are dealing with an unreasonable person. And that has nothing to do with credentials.

  • Neil Godfrey
    2018-12-04 20:50:24 UTC - 20:50 | Permalink

    As implied in some of the comments here, what is questionable is not so much the asking for credentials of itself, but who is asking for them, and the way in which the question is asked.

    When a highly credentialed person in a field fails to give a clear and unambiguous answer to a question but replies by asking for the credentials lying behind the question, it’s a pretty good indicator that the credentialed person has a problem.

    When a highly credentialed person rhetorically demands to know the credentials of a person asking a question or posing a problem instead of giving a clear and unambiguous answer to a question, it’s almost proof that the credentialed person has a serious problem.

    Looking back on those Crosstalk discussions I am reminded how new I was to the question of Jesus mythicism. I was too new and green to enter the discussions myself at that stage, but I was watching and learning the whole time. Among the many things I learned was that those with the credentials so very often had precious little by way of serious reply to the arguments Doherty presented.

    I think it was the tone of the responses of the credentialed in that forum (and their failure to address the actual problems Doherty raised) that moved me closer to thinking Doherty might be right.

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