2019-01-10

Scholarship and “Mythicism”: When the Guilty Verdict is more important than the Evidence or Argument

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by Neil Godfrey

I recently wrote in a blog post:

Roger Pearse, for instance, goes even further and without any suggestion that he is aware of Doherty’s arguments says they are “all nonsense, of course.”

A theme I come back to from time to time is the gulf between many biblical scholars and scholars of early Christianity. We saw what happened when Earl Doherty made his first “public appearance” online on the Crosstalk forum, a meeting place for scholarly discussion. A good number of the professional scholar in that forum reacted with outright disdain and insult. They did not “need” to hear or engage with Doherty’s arguments to “know” they were “rubbish”. The mere suggestion that their entire working hypothesis for Christian origins — a Jesus figure emerging and winning some small following at a time of messianic hopes, followed by the confused and evolving responses of some of his followers to his crucifixion as a political rebel — the mere suggestion that the foundations of their studies rested on questionable assumptions and that it should be an outsider who cries out that the emperor might be naked was too much for some.

Jim West’s response was typical of much of the tone:

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. . . . 

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.

. . . . 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”.

Did Jim West look at the arguments behind the claims? Yes, he could confidently declare that indeed he had:

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

And that settled it. Such “nonsense” had been more than adequately dealt with long ago — if pressed he may have mentioned the names of Maurice Goguel and Shirley Jackson Case — but if indeed the arguments had been dealt with Jim does not explain his hostile tone. Why not, like a sophisticated scholar, a tutor, or even a reference librarian, simply direct people such as Doherty and those who read his books to the sources that they have presumably missed? Who is it who is “getting mad” because they don’t think they are being taken seriously?

There is a contradiction there. It’s kettle logic. On the one hand we are informed that the Doherty’s and their arguments have been seriously addressed; but then on the other we are told that the Doherty’s get made because their arguments are not taken any more seriously than claims of UFO abductions and alien autopsies.

No, no-one expects a scholar to reinvent the wheel “every time someone comes up with “a new idea or a new spin on an old idea”.” So why the hostility? Why not simply refer Bill to the works that clearly establish the foundations of the scholarly enterprise and leave no room for a resurgence of what had long been dealt with professionally.

Jim covers himself to the extent that he says he did “visit” Doherty’s arguments and could most assuredly say that they were filled with “nonsensical” non sequiturs. No specifics, but no references to the earlier works that had settled all the questions, either.

I can go to any sizeable general bookshop and find books written by scientists and science reporters addressing the flaws in young-earth creationist literature. It is not hard to find. Some scientists clearly find time to address the fallacies and falsehoods of creationists to the extent that any serious enquirer can be assured they have all the essential data and all the basic arguments before them. I do not expect to find in such books sweeping assertions that creationist literature is filled with falsehoods and non sequiturs. I expect to find, and do find, examples of the flaws and clear discussions about them.

However, happily there are a few biblical scholars who are serious enough to make the time and effort to offer serious, scholarly rebuttals of some of this new material. Or are there?

In recent months we have witnessed the process by which two professional scholars engage with “nonsense” in a scholarly journal, and we have seen how other scholars point to those efforts in the confident declaration that the “nonsense” has all been rebutted. Nothing to see here. Carry on everyone.

Daniel Gullotta

What I have tried to do on this blog is to demonstrate that both of those attempts are seriously flawed both in terms of fact and argument. As for Richard Carrier’s book I find quite a few areas where I think it can be successfully challenged, and I don’t think Carrier would be upset by that possibility either given his statements about hoping at least to open up a better informed discussion. Yet Daniel Gullotta’s review, impressive in its length, seriously misrepresented core areas of Carrier’s work. Comparing Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus and Daniel Gullotta’s review side by side leaves any reasonably objective reader wondering how a reviewer could get so many core arguments, even the entire methodology and thesis itself, so wrong. But the review was by a PhD candidate in a scholarly journal and it was lengthy with lots of footnotes so it has been a simple matter for peers to point and say, There, Carrier has been dealt with. Finis.

We saw a repeat of the same kind of misdirection and erroneous statements about a key detail of Earl Doherty’s case by Simon Gathercole (link is to posts #1 to #5). I am not “against” Gathercole, I should make clear. I have one of his books and two others he co-edited in addition to articles by him that I find very useful. But again, it does certainly appear that we have a scholarly engagement with, in this case, Doherty, but on closer inspection turn out to be missing the mark, seriously missing the mark to the extent of imputing to Doherty arguments he did not make at all but even contradicted.

Simon Gathercole

Now I cannot believe that either Daniel Gullotta or Simon Gathercole deliberately misread or chose to misrepresent Richard Carrier or Earl Doherty. I must accept that they are as sincere as any of us and firmly committed to serious scholarship.

But something is clearly amiss here. How is it that two very professional scholars can get a review so completely wrong? There can be no doubt that they did get miss their targets unless readers doubt that the quotations I pasted into my blogposts are false.

At this point I will mention another instance of the same sort of misdirection, one that concerns both Tim Widowfield and me. The scholar involved, Maurice Casey, is now deceased but before he died he wrote a book that claimed to expose the low-down on both of us both and on our posts.  Jim West still pushes that book as a worthy contribution to settling “nonsense” on the web. When I first read the book I found myself very amused, even laughing in places, rather than offended or shocked. But Tim and I weren’t the only ones who came under fire and I don’t think I’m the only one who has suggested that the book looked very much like a scurrilous parting kick at all the people he disliked or who offended any of his friends and partner. So perhaps we can set that one aside as a genuine exception

The post by Roger Pearse with which I was interacting was Memories of the polemical and literary activity of Earl Doherty. The reference to literary activity I recognize. I do not know what posts or publications Roger had in mind for Doherty’s “polemical activity”.

So now we come to another scholar, one I understand is more focused on Patristics than Biblical Studies. And this brings us back to the quotation with which I opened this post. Roger Pearse responded with a refrain that has become somewhat familiar now:

You may wish to know that I do possess a copy of the Jesus Puzzle, and waded through it when it appeared, nearly two decades ago. But you are quite right to suppose that I never engaged in detail with its arguments. I always sanity-check claims, before spending very much time on them, or getting lost in a mass of tangled arguments; and Doherty’s claim did not pass this.

There are some things to unpack in that response. The first one is the quick reassurance that Roger is indeed aware of, has read, the arguments of Doherty. He uses the term “waded through” it. The next point is that this was all done very long ago, nearly twenty years ago.

So we are informed that Roger did not dismiss arguments without first learning what they had to say, and that his response was clear and decisive so that there was no need to bother with them for decades after that.

However, there is a little giveaway in there, too. He never engaged with those arguments in detail. Why? Because he always sanity-checked the claims first. Having “sanity checked the claims” he found there was no need to spend more time on those claims or bothering to read the “mass of tangled arguments” underpinning them.

Do you see what is being admitted here? Let me offer a paraphrase and you decide if it accurately reflects Roger’s comment.

Roger Pearse is saying in effect that when he paused to realize what the whole point of Doherty’s argument was, what it was leading to, then he knew for a fact on that basis alone that the arguments were nonsense. They could not possibly be valid. Why? Because obviously there can be no doubt at all among any right thinking people that Jesus existed as a historical figure. (Compare the very similar sentiments of Jonathan Bernier which I addressed in The Poverty of Jesus Historicism (sorry, Popper).)

One commenter did ask Roger how he sanity checked Doherty to which Roger replied:

How would you sanity check any historical claim? Say that Cleopatra was black? Or Jesus was an astronaut?

So we see what is happening here. By declaring Jesus to be as much a part of history as Julius Caesar or the Pharaohs or Alexander or Stalin or . . . .  that is all that is needed. End of argument. Doubters can be relegated to the same nonsense room as moon landing or holocaust or climate change deniers. All idiotic and unreasonable “denialists”.

Except.

Except for one thing.

For some bizarre reason, just as we have seen over the past two hundred years almost, we have serious public intellectuals who would never let themselves be caught dead with holocaust or climate change deniers expressing some openness to the possibility of Jesus not having had a historical existence. There is indeed something different about this claim.

Top to bottom: Ranke, Collingwood, Carr, Elton, White

The difference lies in the fact that historical inquiry does not require an advanced degree in quantum physics or mathematics. Historical claims can truly be tested democratically. That’s why a judge was able to decide the rights and wrongs of holocaust deniers, for example. Historical evidence is open to public scrutiny, at least by internet proxy.

Many times on this blog I have returned to one of my life-long favourite topics: history. That includes historical methods and questions relating to the philosophy of history. We have surveyed what history meant to ancient authors, how they “did it”, and how different their requirements were from ours. We have examined discussions about the nature and methods of history as it is practised today from Leopold von Ranke to R. G. Collingwood to E. H. Carr to G. R. Elton to Hayden White and numerous others who are intellectual leaders in their respective historical fields, both ancient and modern. There is nothing magical or mysterious about how a “historical fact” or “historical datum” is determined — despite many arguments that can be raised over the significance or meaning or impact of such “facts” or “data”.

If I see an argument trying to convince me that Jesus was an astronaut I am reasonably confident that I could identify very specific flaws in the argument, whether those flaws be of fallacious logic or of groundless assumptions or of false statement of “fact”. I am confident that most of us could do that. Scientists (and many of us lay folk) could respond similarly to creationist arguments.

By simply declaring as if by fiat that Doherty’s arguments fall in the same bracket as those of flat-earthers we are not following the evidence. We are following our wishes, our dreams, our beliefs, our prejudices. We give our game away when we avoid facing the details, and if we face some details we avoid other details that belie our criticisms.

Roger Pearse followed up with

All of them employ the same methods of selection, omission, argument from manufactured silence, misrepresentation. All of them disagree profoundly with each other; sure sign that the methods used are rubbish. Doherty uses those methods.

I can only advise reading more widely.

Do they? Do “all of them” really “employ the same methods…” I think we have seen reason enough to suspect that Roger has dismissed the arguments on the grounds that they come to “the wrong conclusion”. If they “come to the wrong conclusion” then it follows, I suppose, that they must have “employed the same methods of selection, omission, argument from manufactured silence, misrepresentation”. Read more widely? No-one can ever read widely enough, in one sense, but anyone who has read Doherty’s books (either of his two tackling the case for a historical Jesus) knows or should know the wide range of scholarship with which he engages.

Roger continued,

The comments made here by others indicate very clearly that nobody has ever tried to find out about something in history in which they had no religious or political investment. If you do this, you learn a great deal from the process. I recently did this for the claim that Pope Julius I decided the date of Christmas.

Unfortunately Roger did not cite any particular comment to enable anyone to verify his assertion. Here I have to say the accusation is simply false and I do ask Roger to identify the comments or posts he has in mind and to link the appropriate “religious or political investment” attached to it. Sometimes I think we type comments while in overdrive and fail to notice when we have gone too far.

But Roger offers some excellent advice,

How do you do it? You gather all the sources first. You don’t find reasons to ignore any of them. You find, quickly, that there isn’t nearly enough of them. And then, having them as a body, you see what they say. You let them speak. You don’t impose a view on them. You know that 99% of sources are lost. You don’t force the sources. If you’re lucky the facts are in the sources. If you’re not, you have to infer from what survives, cautiously, conservatively, and mark your opinion as opinion. It’s how you do this.

Agreed. And I have to wonder where and how he apparently thinks Doherty failed in this area.

Then he paints the picture of the bad guys:

The rubbish-writers do the opposite. You start with a theory. Then you find some sources that can be made to support you, ideally by reading into them stuff that nobody else sees in there. It’s hard for others to refute an opinion! You find excuses to ignore evidence to the contrary. You rubbish all of the data, you rubbish historians as biased, you talk largely about how prejudiced everyone else is; you sneer about “professionals” who won’t engage with your madcap idea, you jeer at the Vatican, you do… whatever will distract your reader from the fact that you have no evidence for your claim and just made it up. It won’t work with the professionals, but with luck they won’t read your book. It won’t bother your followers if they do, because you have already cautioned the mugs about the evil biased so-called professionals, and how they never read your work.

Now, I really do have to ask. Where has Doherty ever

  • read mere opinions into sources?
  • found excuses to ignore evidence to the contrary?
  • “rubbished all the data”?
  • “rubbished” historians or scholars as biased?
  • spoken at length about how prejudiced everyone else is?
  • “sneered” about professionals who engage or don’t engage with his ideas?
  • “jeered at the Vatican”?

Yes, Roger did post an apology to anyone of us who feared he might be talking about any of us personally. And I was thankful and appreciative of that. Too often scholars seem to hide themselves high in ivory towers away from the stench of the unwashed masses.

What I was discussing here was the process whereby all the people who write bad books about ancient topics, from von Daniken downwards, compose their epics. I thought “How would you or I compose such a book? Well, you do it like this:…”

But we cannot be too hard on Roger because I also think many of us are sufficiently fair minded to see that Roger was not talking about “us Vridarians” personally, but he was speaking generically of authors “like Doherty”, let’s say.

I read von Daniken years ago, too. The flaws in his arguments stood out like sore thumbs. If I had a copy with me I have no doubt I could point to some very quickly. But I also read Doherty some time later, and . . .

. . . (I was an atheist well before I ever imagined Jesus might not have existed and his existence or non-existence in history means nothing to me personally at all; in fact I was very worried I might be proven wrong again — see profile for details — if I ever thought he did not exist) . . .

. . . My criticism stands. I do ask Roger Pearse to be fair and demonstrate where Doherty is guilty of any of the points for which he sweepingly dismisses him. If he has “waded through” his book it should not be too difficult to do so.

The problem as I see it is that Doherty has come to the wrong conclusions (Roger Pearse would presumably say he began with the wrong theory and found what he was wanting to find) and it therefore follows, in his world, that the core arguments of Doherty (and his attitude, of course) are wrong.

Roger concluded that remark with

I’m probably wasting my breath in saying all this. But I offer it for what it is worth. Fools will nit-pick. But you’re wasting your time, if you do; because, simply, you don’t do history the way that Doherty does. The reason that you don’t do it is that it doesn’t work. It’s great polemic, rhetoric; but the answer that comes out is the one you started with.

I have no doubts about Roger’s sincerity and conviction. But I do know how to “do history” (ancient and modern were my majors at university), I regularly correspond with professional historians, and I continue to keep up to date with theories, philosophies and methods of “history” as a reasonable number of my posts here can attest. I would love Roger to explain exactly how, with evidence, quotations, citations to pages, how Doherty “does history” “the wrong way.” What polemic? What “rhetoric” exactly?

For what its worth, if you want to know the method of historical inquiry I embrace (one that I have adopted from some of the “leading historians” in the field, I have set it out at HISTORICAL METHOD and the Question of Christian Origins.

The details are not clear. One senses they are being swept from view. We want the detail. Not everything. Just a sample of core details on which the argument hangs.

Gullotta and Gathercole were able to pull out quotations they believed justified their claims. I was able to pull out quotations that demonstrated their misleading cherry-picking.

I said at the beginning that Jim West might have mentioned Goguel and Case as scholars who in the past have “dealt with” the claims of people like Doherty “long ago”. Unfortunately we find on reading their works that they, too, just like their modern counterparts in Gullotta and Gathercole, only cherry picked certain elements of the Christ myth theorists of their day and conveyed a somewhat unfocused picture of the arguments they opposed.

The unfortunate fact remains that the entire field of humanities has always been burdened with competing ideological interests and this is surely most obvious in a field like biblical studies or Christian origins. It’s surely no accident that ancient historians and classicists prefer to leave that area to the “theologians”. And as long as that situation continues I have to accept that people like West, Gullotta, Gathercole, Pearse (I could name many more) will insist that any argument that comes to the decidedly wrong conclusion about Jesus is, by definition, fraudulent to a von Daniken or flat earth degree.

Meanwhile, I keep hearing the echoes of one of Philip R. Davies’ last publications online:

Philip Davies

[S]urely the rather fragile historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth should be tested to see what weight it can bear, or even to work out what kind of historical research might be appropriate. Such a normal exercise should hardly generate controversy in most fields of ancient history, but of course New Testament studies is not a normal case and the highly emotive and dismissive language of, say, Bart Ehrman’s response to Thompson’s The Mythic Past (recte: The Messiah Myth) shows (if it needed to be shown), not that the matter is beyond dispute, but that the whole idea of raising this question needs to be attacked, ad hominem, as something outrageous. This is precisely the tactic anti-minimalists tried twenty years ago: their targets were ‘amateurs’, ‘incompetent’, and could be ignored. — Philip Davies, Did Jesus Exist, 2012

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Neil Godfrey

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188 Comments

  • Arkenaten
    2019-01-10 11:31:39 GMT+0000 - 11:31 | Permalink

    I find myself shaking my head at the certainty of those who claim there was an historical Jesus when the only non-biblical historical references to him are either spurious or highly doubtful.

  • db
    2019-01-10 12:32:37 GMT+0000 - 12:32 | Permalink

    Well at least Pearse is not guilty of faulty generalization—where sometimes mythicists are criticized as if they are a homogeneous group.

    • Hoffmann, R. Joseph (7 January 2013). “A Barely Historical Jesus”. The New Oxonian.

    As a group, the mythicists have proven themselves happier in the echo chamber of their own beliefs than in a world where a real interchange of ideas can happen.

    • Ehrman, Bart D (2012). Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. HarperOne. ISBN 9780062206442.

    [M]ythicists are avidly antireligious. To debunk religion, then, one needs to undermine specifically the Christian form of religion. […] the mythicists who are so intent on showing that the historical Jesus never existed are not being driven by a historical concern. Their agenda is religious, and they are complicit in a religious ideology. They are not doing history; they are doing theology. —(pp. 337f)

    NB: Ehrman latter clarified that he only meant some mythicists, not all. (“Did Jesus Exist? Bart Ehrman Q&A”. Premier Christian Radio. 2012)

    Cf. Godfrey, Neil (24 October 2018). “There are two types of Jesus mythicism. Here’s how to tell them apart”. Vridar.

  • proudfootz
    2019-01-10 12:59:46 GMT+0000 - 12:59 | Permalink

    The frequent attempts by defenders of the ‘historical Jesus’ hypothesis to link scholars and critics to ‘Holocaust denial’ trivializes the Holocaust, as if the quantity and quality of evidence for Nazi genocide were as thin and weak as the evidence that the christian cults were born from the career of a man named Jesus.

  • 2019-01-10 15:13:14 GMT+0000 - 15:13 | Permalink

    Yeah, the response to Doherty’s work is really unforgivable. I’ll admit that I haven’t even read all of the 2005 version of the Jesus Puzzle nor all of JNGNM, it’s a lot of material after all. But I’ve read probably 50% of those books. Of what I’ve I read I find it to be the most sincere inquiry into and understanding of the origins of Christianity and Jewish thought of that period. I don’t agree with all of Doherty’s views. For example I think his treatment of Q and the development of the Gospels is not quite right, and I make more room for Jesus having possibly been conceived as making an appearance on earth (though never born on earth), but I think any fair minded person can see that his work is not trash or nonsense or whatever. It certainly deserves a better treatment and serious rebuttal, as opposed to just being ignored.

  • 2019-01-10 17:17:22 GMT+0000 - 17:17 | Permalink

    The truth is that all of this “amateur mythicism” is really an indictment of how poor the scholarship of the “academics” really is.

    And while we’re lumping people together, evangelicals, charlatans, and lunatics claiming all kinds of nonsense are among the Jesus historicists.

    And just as was the case among “naturalists” regarding how to classify species and explain their diversity and similarities when Darwin publish his evolutionary theory, there actually is no real consensus among biblical scholars, much less mere “Jesus historicists”.

    The only “agreement” is on the simple point that Jesus was a person. The evidence for his existence, the nature of who he really was, what he said, what he did, how reliable the Gospels are, when they were written, how they were written, how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together – that’s all nothing but disagreement.

    In other words, the academics say, “We don’t know how the puzzle fits together, but we do know that however it goes together, it’s a picture of a real live person.”

    Meanwhile, Doherty, et al, are saying, “but what look, if you put the pieces together like this they all fit fine and you get the picture of a heavenly deity instead,” and they just refuse to even look at it!

  • Robert Jase
    2019-01-10 18:06:22 GMT+0000 - 18:06 | Permalink

    By their own arguments believers should convert to the latest developed newest documented religion. That they don’t shows them to be liars & frauds.

  • MrHorse
    2019-01-10 20:21:25 GMT+0000 - 20:21 | Permalink

    Increased defensiveness by ‘Defenders of the Faith’ has increased their polarity.

    I’d say street evangelists are increasingly being met with “Did Jesus exist?” type questions or even more blatant “There’s little/no evidence Jesus existed” or “Jesus didn’t exist” statements.

    I think there will be a proportion of historians who’re looking on with bemusement, but not wanting to put their head/s above the parapet.

  • 2019-01-10 21:09:39 GMT+0000 - 21:09 | Permalink

    My comment has just been trashed by this site, sadly. Once more, briefly. Replying is difficult for me as I am on the road.

    Thank you for your kind article. On one point there is misunderstanding. By “sanity check” I do NOT mean “see if I agree with the man” or “see if the elite endorse it”. Doing so would be an infallible way to avoid learning anything I do not already know.

    Some writers have a power with words. Their assumptions are implicit, and the reader gets drawn in. This is the power of rhetoric, and Doherty possessed it. Instead I meant “write down the claim in your own words” (thereby avoiding any rhetoric or loaded words), then test whether the sources actually say that.

    My own concern with Doherty was his claim that Minucius Felix predated Tertullian. Did he ever abandon this?

    • A Buddhist
      2019-01-10 21:30:38 GMT+0000 - 21:30 | Permalink

      Roger Pearse: If you had mentioned your concerns about the dating of Minucius Felix and Tertullian, that would have been a valid point that readers of your criticism of Doherty could have investigated and come to conclusions about. But by simply describing Doherty’s ideas as so incorrect that they should not be rationally criticized or refuted, you make it seem as if you cannot be bothered to express any criticism of Doherty that can be investigated – meaning that Doherty’s supporters and sympathizers will be themselves left without criticism of Doherty.

      I, in describing your views about Doherty as “describing Doherty’s ideas as so incorrect that they should not be rationally criticized or refuted”, am following your advice to rewrite the claim in my own words in order to avoid the power of words and implicit assumptions that you invoked against Doherty by dismissiong his ideas as insane.

      • Klaus Schilling
        2019-01-12 10:23:00 GMT+0000 - 10:23 | Permalink

        Eusebius et al.may have used MF to interpolate Tertullian.

        • Roger Pearse
          2019-01-12 20:12:55 GMT+0000 - 20:12 | Permalink

          Curious to hear what evidence you have for this claim.

    • 2019-01-10 21:45:52 GMT+0000 - 21:45 | Permalink

      That type of dismissal is over reactive. I get this all the time myself. Someone finds one thing, maybe legitimate, and they throw their hands up and just dismiss everything and don’t even address the 100 other potentially valid points.

      This is a weakness of the approach that Doherty and myself have used, and to a lesser extent Carrier (though he I think does publish more individual papers).

      When you put a huge overarching thesis into a book and you address 500 points, it’s not hard for someone to find a few soft targets. So if you make 500 points and 10 of those points miss the mark, critics will zero in on those, trash those points and pass over the rest.

      I mean Doherty’s work could really be broken down into about 1,000 separate papers, or maybe realistically more like 200 or so. But even if he did that, would he have been able to submit them for peer review? And I mean, that’s a grueling process that would have taken a lifetime and likely still not yielded anything.

      • A Buddhist
        2019-01-10 22:27:28 GMT+0000 - 22:27 | Permalink

        I am not saying that Doherty’s error about the dating of Minucius Felix and Tertullian would be sufficient to undermine any other conclusions by him, but it is a valid criticism that allows for more investigation as opposed to merely dismissing all of Doherty’s ideas as nonsense.

      • JBeers
        2019-01-10 23:12:56 GMT+0000 - 23:12 | Permalink

        I keep thinking of some history of science according to Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend (if my ancient memories of their works is correct–no guarantees).

        According to Kuhn, if I recall correctly, even at the time when Dalton’s (correct) theory of the chemical theory of matter was being accepted only about half of the experimental evidence was in keeping with it.

        According to Feyerabend, the Ptolomaic system was far more in keeping with the scientific data than Aristarchus’s heliocentric theory, and, if I recall correctly, Ptolomaic astronomy with some ad hoc revisions similarly may still have had its superiorities compared to Copernicus’s at predicting observed planetary positions (maybe so until Kepler). Similarly, as I recall, according to Feyerabend, there were multiple flaws in Galileo’s observations, including that some of his conclusions or interpretations of observations were not justifiable given the status of optical physics of his time.

        In other words, details may not always count. In particular there have been cases where plenty of bad details in the thinking and the presentations of what ended up being a much more preferable systems of looking at things. Older grossly false systems may have lots of things beautifully worked out with lots of ad hoc smudges covering up the problems that have been noticed or half-noticed and then forgotten, and the smudges themselves may be beautiful. The innovators in contrast may make mistakes, even crude ones.

        Not that, of course, every traditional or standard way of looking at things is always wrong and that one shouldn’t be concerned when a clever and even erudite author is found to make mistake after mistake.

        • Steven Watson
          2019-02-07 10:15:04 GMT+0000 - 10:15 | Permalink

          As I recall re. Galileo, that was the Church’s position also – that his science didn’t quite make the cut as much as it also might contradict scripture, which the Church, with its other reliance on its own “Tradition”, could be and is quite flexible with.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2019-01-14 06:08:50 GMT+0000 - 06:08 | Permalink

        Roger comments that he “might be deceived” when it comes to any argument outside his area of specialization, but at the same time he declares all of the arguments that are not part of his specialist area as “nonsense” because a “reality check” tells him they come to the wrong conclusion. Meanwhile, he can confirm that Doherty’s arguments are “nonsense” because in an appendix to his arguments he advances a minority view of some relative dates in the field of Patristics.

        Roger, if I have mischaracterized or somehow misrepresented your reasoning in the above paragraph please tell me how.

        • A Buddhist
          2019-01-14 13:04:41 GMT+0000 - 13:04 | Permalink

          An appendix that Roger Pearse has not read and does not desire to read.

    • Matt Cavanaugh
      2019-01-10 22:48:33 GMT+0000 - 22:48 | Permalink

      A summary of your criticism of Doherty in your Memories of the polemical and literary activity of Earl Doherty:
      – He’s very old;
      – He’s unknown;
      – He’s not skilled at web design;
      – He drove Richard Carrier insane;
      – Guilt by association with Archarya S;

      … and one that could only make sense in an insular, incestuous community like biblical scholarship:

      He’s willing to revise his arguments in response to critique.

      You also consider it “doubtless” that Doherty ”found” his thesis “in long-forgotten intellectually disreputable atheist literature.” The following are but a selection of authors from the lengthy bibliography of JNGNM. Hardly any are atheists, but which of these do you consider either ‘long-forgotten’, or ‘intellectually disreputable’?

      Walter Bauer, Bultmann, Joseph Campbell, Couchoud, Crossan, Drews, Ehrman, Eisenman, Ellegard, Frazer, Fredricksen, Goodacre, Haenchen, Koester, Steve Mason, Walter Otto, Pagels, Pines, E.P. Sanders, Schoeps, Schweitzer, Spong, Vermes

    • db
      2019-01-10 23:33:22 GMT+0000 - 23:33 | Permalink

      Doherty, Earl (2009). “The Date of Minucius Felix” Jesus: Neither God Nor Man – The Case for a Mythical Jesus. Age of Reason Publications. ISBN 9780968925928.

      The arguments for the dating of Minucius Felix center on three aspects. The first is a comparison with Tertullian’s Apology, written about 198 CE. There is a literary relationship between the two documents, one clearly using the other. It is difficult to make a case for Felix using Tertullian, since the latter is longer and looks like an expansion of the former. There is no perceivable reason why Felix would have cut out those parts of Tertullian’s work which include every single reference to the names of Jesus and Christ, to the crucifixion and resurrection, to the historical figure himself. If Felix wrote in the 3rd century, he alone of all the Christian writers during that period would show this void, whereas this is in keeping with almost all the apologists of the 2nd century. And it would mean that Felix has abandoned Tertullian’s policy of urging the pagan to learn as much as possible about Christianity—including its founder. —(p. 685)
      […]
      The current state of the question is that a later date is favoured, with the philological argument being solidly in that direction. The priority of Minucius Felix rests upon the coherence and style of his narrative while Tertullian’s priority depends upon the assumption that his is the more vigorous and therefore more creative work. Both sides employ a priori considerations regarding what characterizes creativity. Therefore, the results are predetermined. [Michael E. Hardwick: “Did Tertullian use Minucius Felix’s Octavius?” (1997) at: http://www.tertullian.org/minucius/mf.htm%5D —(p. 686)

      • A Buddhist
        2019-01-10 23:40:35 GMT+0000 - 23:40 | Permalink

        db: Ah, but Roger Pearse has said that he has not read “Jesus: Neither God Nor Man – The Case for a Mythical Jesus” and sees no reason to do so. Sad. If he had, he would not be needing to ask about Earl Dohery’s opinion about that topic.

        • Roger Pearse
          2019-01-11 07:28:51 GMT+0000 - 07:28 | Permalink

          I had a real classical scholar write an enraged comment on my blog recently, how I should have read a book that I’ve never seen.

          • A Buddhist
            2019-01-11 13:28:39 GMT+0000 - 13:28 | Permalink

            Roger Pearse: I have never claimed to be a classical scholar, and would object to anyone’s claiming me as such. I, furthermore, was not, in my comment about your asking about Doherty’s claims about “The Date of Minucius Felix”, enraged. Rather, I was genuinely sad. There are people in the world who cannot read, write, or form effective arguments, and they must therefore ask other people what books say when they are interested in knowledge from a book. You are interested in Doherty’s ideas as presented in “Jesus: Neither God Nor Man – The Case for a Mythical Jesus” even if only to see whether Doherty continues to advance an idea that you disagree with. Yet you cannot be bothered to read his own words in the book about the issue.

            • Roger Pearse
              2019-01-12 16:53:53 GMT+0000 - 16:53 | Permalink

              ‘You are interested in Doherty’s ideas as presented in “Jesus: Neither God Nor Man”‘

              I think you omitted a “not” from that.

              • A Buddhist
                2019-01-12 17:03:09 GMT+0000 - 17:03 | Permalink

                Roger Pearse: I could have phrased the sentence better, so I do so now.
                You are interested in Doherty’s ideas about Minucius Felix’s dating relative to Tertullian as presented in “Jesus: Neither God Nor Man – The Case for a Mythical Jesus”, even if only to see whether Doherty continues to advance an idea that you disagree with.

              • Roger Pearse
                2019-01-12 17:04:45 GMT+0000 - 17:04 | Permalink

                Sorry… misunderstood.

                Only mildly, as a matter of my own past.

              • A Buddhist
                2019-01-12 17:25:35 GMT+0000 - 17:25 | Permalink

                Roger Pearse: Well, minor interest is greater than no interest at all. Still, I thank you for being willing to recognize when your correction was a hyper-correction.
                As a matter of your own past, do you still stand by what your own website says about Minucius Felix’s dating relative to Tertullian? Viz., “There is some kind of relationship with the text of Tertullian (194), but which has priority has never been agreed. Jerome believes he followed Tertullian, but of course he may have had no certain knowledge (De vir. ill. 53, 58; Ep. 70, 5). …At present it would seem that the philologists (e.g. Tibletti, Waszink) are united in supporting a late date; so much so that Gilles Quispel, the supporter of an early date is driven to say ‘Philology is a dead alley’ (§82.35). …However it appears that there is no academic consensus, other than among the philologists.”

      • db
        2019-01-11 01:52:28 GMT+0000 - 01:52 | Permalink

        • Doherty cites: Hardwick, Michael E. (1989). “Did Tertullian use Minucius Felix’s Octavius?” Josephus as an Historical Source in Patristic Literature Through Eusebius. Brown Judaic Studies 128. Scholars Press. ISBN 9781555401801. [online: “Tertullian: Did Tertullian use Minucius Felix’ Octavius?”. tertullian.org. – The Tertullian Project is edited by Roger Pearse]

        NB: “Josephus (AD 37/38 – c. 100)”. earlychurch.org.uk.

        [Per the works of Josephus] Minucius Felix cites him in support of his argument that the Jews forsook God before He forsook them. [Minucius Felix, Octavius, 33 (ANF, Vol. 4, 193-194).]

      • Roger Pearse
        2019-01-11 07:25:52 GMT+0000 - 07:25 | Permalink

        Thank you so much for this. I wondered whether Doherty had sufficient self-awareness to abandon this untenable position. But it seems that he did not.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2019-01-11 09:36:01 GMT+0000 - 09:36 | Permalink

          Do you normally judge people’s self-awareness on the basis of what you read third hand on the web, Roger? Self-awareness ….. there’s an irony there somewhere.

          (And you even know that there is a thousand word discussion of the date of MF setting out arguments pro and con. You would have us accept your opinion as the only valid one without any engagement with the literature? Your view may well be correct, but, well, let’s approach the subject with some self-awareness…. yes?

          • 2019-01-12 08:50:23 GMT+0000 - 08:50 | Permalink

            LOL!! I’m going to do unto you what you just did unto me!

            How do I know there is a thousand word discussion somewhere on this? Because I read it on the web somewhere???

            You’ve just asked me to ignore your comment. Consider yourself crushingly refuted! 🙂

            No, Doherty got his date for Minucius Felix from some old handbook. Back in the day the question of the date of MF was open. What he had not done – what many amateurs fail to do – was check the updated literature. So he boobed, basically.

            The date of MF is settled these days. Doherty knew this, because I told him so. Indeed I excerpted some material from French from the people who know. But his ego wouldn’t let him accept his mistake, back in the day.

            It’s human to be reluctant to let something go. But it was a mistake.

            I learn now from you lot (if you’ll let me!) that he solemnly proceeded to argue the point much later. That tells us only that he was a damn fool.

            You see, I never paid much attention to his rabbiting about the bible. Even the scholars of the bible are often twits. My interest is patristic, where there is little controversy. But when someone marches into my area of interest and knowledge then I evaluate him by how he handles it. Doherty did it so badly that I never felt any interest in the rest of what he did. He should never have left the first century.

            Doherty’s case, as I understand it, does not rely on his opinion about Minucius Felix. It isn’t a make or break for him. It was always an appendix. So … why the heck does he try to sustain a claim that is risible? Just out of ego?

            But of course if what he says about MF is just ego, rather than reasoned argument, then readers may well ask whether his whole theory is just the product of his ego rather than reason.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2019-01-12 09:05:53 GMT+0000 - 09:05 | Permalink

              Er, sorry Roger, but I read the near 1000 word discussion of the evidence in Doherty’s book. I read it. I put it through a word counter… 977 to be exact.

              How about a discussion of the evidence, Roger? I am very willing to learn, as you have surely seen (I have no doubt you read my responses before you responded.)

              (Do you see all academic debates as contests over ego??? I certainly have met scholars for whom ego is very important, but I am sure you are not one of those.)

              • Roger Pearse
                2019-01-12 20:17:54 GMT+0000 - 20:17 | Permalink

                Does he mention Tertullian’s work “Ad Nationes” at all in that, btw?

                How is your German?

              • Neil Godfrey
                2019-01-14 05:30:57 GMT+0000 - 05:30 | Permalink

                Yes. He does address Ad Nationes. What is your point?

            • Neil Godfrey
              2019-01-12 09:11:42 GMT+0000 - 09:11 | Permalink

              Doherty knew this, because I told him so.

              Oh the irony, the irony, the lack of self-awareness… Oh my…..

              • Roger Pearse
                2019-01-12 21:10:21 GMT+0000 - 21:10 | Permalink

                I live in constant fear! 🙂

      • Steven Watson
        2019-02-07 10:52:12 GMT+0000 - 10:52 | Permalink

        I might be a bear of very little brain, but it seems there is some kind of a relationship between what you quote of Doherty here and what A Buddhist quotes from Pearse’s website on the same. Each seems a parphrase/restatement in their own words of the other. There is a distinction without a difference flavour to the two, as I’d expect when, aside from the conclusion he comes to by doing so, Earl is pretty much for the most part only drawing together a scattered scholarship that is from the mainstream and otherwise entirely conventional. Between the two of you, yourself and A Buddhist appear to have hoisted Pearse on his own petard in citing him against himself. I’m amused, but i’ll admit it takes very little! 🙂 Well done the pair of youse.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-01-11 06:08:33 GMT+0000 - 06:08 | Permalink

      In what way have I “trashed” your comment, Roger? Have I misrepresented you? I trust you don’t equate disagreement or attempts at thoughtful criticism with “trashing”.

      I did not say — as you seem to be inferring — that by “sanity check” you meant that you or scholarly peers agree with him. I thought I made it very plain from your own response/answer to the question about “sanity check” what you meant. Have I misrepresented you?

      I don’t see the relevance of your Minucius Felix question. There are points I disagree on with Doherty, too, but that does not mean his work is in the same class as Von Daniken’s — as you clearly implied.

      I find it interesting that you say Doherty has a “power with words”. Yet you have seen here people don’t simply swallow everything Doherty says, and I think that’s partly because Doherty himself invites questioning of what he is writing. Do you know of anyone who has been so mesmerized by Doherty’s words that they agree with it all etc? Yet I can point to many sympathizers and others open to Doherty’s book still maintaining a critical stance towards it. I see many comments among “mythicists” who say they find Doherty’s writing style to be very tedious and they can’t finish his books for that reason.

      So I think we need a more objective basis if we are going to be critical of Doherty. How about checking some of those arguments you “waded through”?

      I really cannot remember what Doherty said about Minucius and I bet very few others can, too. I will look it up for you, but if the only objective fault you have with his book is his dating of Minucius then I think we have a long way to go before validly assigning him to the von Daniken bin.

      • Roger Pearse
        2019-01-11 07:26:41 GMT+0000 - 07:26 | Permalink

        The site software did it 🙂

        • Neil Godfrey
          2019-01-11 09:40:15 GMT+0000 - 09:40 | Permalink

          Sorry, I thought you were more prepared to engage in a serious discussion of the issues raised.

          • Roger Pearse
            2019-01-11 10:06:48 GMT+0000 - 10:06 | Permalink

            Ok I’m out of here. Bye

            • Matt Cavanaugh
              2019-01-11 17:57:13 GMT+0000 - 17:57 | Permalink

              I asked you a question about sources.

              • Roger Pearse
                2019-01-12 14:53:44 GMT+0000 - 14:53 | Permalink

                No, you just tried to run me around. Gambit declined. 🙂 None of those people endorse Doherty’s claim, and we both know it.

              • A Buddhist
                2019-01-12 15:38:01 GMT+0000 - 15:38 | Permalink

                Roger Pearse: It is true that none of those listed scholars agreed with Doherty’s conclusion, but the fact that they were non-atheist scholars shows, contra your implication, that Doherty was doing more than regurgitating atheist pseudo-scholarship. Rather, he dealt with arguments advanced by theists, including Christians. Whether he dealt with their arguments properly or correctly may certainly be debated (but more easily by a person who has read his book “Jesus: Neither God Nor Man – The Case for a Mythical Jesus”), but he did not limit himself to atheists.

            • Matt Cavanaugh
              2019-01-12 20:51:05 GMT+0000 - 20:51 | Permalink

              “No, you just tried to run me around. Gambit declined. 🙂 None of those people endorse Doherty’s claim, and we both know it.”

              Each of them, to varying degrees, argue against the historicity of the NT and/or outside sources. Doherty carefully builds a case incorporating those arguments. If you’d read the goddamn book before trashing it, you might be able to refute Doherty’s specific points, rather than resorting to sneering ad hominem.

              You accused Doherty of finding his thesis “in long-forgotten intellectually disreputable atheist literature.” Name that literature or retract the accusation.

          • db
            2019-01-11 12:36:00 GMT+0000 - 12:36 | Permalink

            Roger Pearse wrote: “My comment has just been trashed by this site”.

            • Perhaps the comment went to the spam folder or his name/email was entered incorrectly on the input form. Or perhaps the submit failed per internet connection failure, etc.

            • Roger Pearse
              2019-01-11 12:39:03 GMT+0000 - 12:39 | Permalink

              Thank you – the submit failed and erased my words. Sorry – I couldn’t think of the word.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-01-11 06:39:57 GMT+0000 - 06:39 | Permalink

      Roger, I see others have addressed Doherty’s stance on the date of Minucius Felix. In Doherty’s second book (his expansion on Jesus Puzzle) he includes a near 1000 word appendix addressing the date of Minicius Felix. He cites four academic studies in his discussion, including one from your own website. At least Doherty gives sufficient information for lay readers to have at least some introduction to the arguments involved.

      Let me comment on something I have come to learn with dialogue with scholars in this field: many scholars are very willing to present their own conclusions as if they are fact and the only conclusions that are valid. From listening to them one would never know that there are scholarly debates involved at all. I found Doherty to be a real education many years ago as a direct result of his wide engagement with the scholarly literature. Doherty always explained his reasons for statements and allowed readers to know there were alternative views. Yes, he explained why he disagreed with them, but he always allowed room for discussion — and one learned from him about debates in the literature that some specialist scholars seemed to think beneath them to discuss with outsiders.

      I was having a discussion with a linguist at my last place of work and asked about a particular theory of language. He did not tell me his opinion as if it was the only one to know: he began, “It all depends who you read/listen to…….”

      Would that there be a little more humility among biblical scholars who I have found tried to steer me in one direction by alerting me only to one source, and who never saw fit to inform me of other points of view.

      If Doherty is wrong on the date of Minucius Felix, then he is wrong but at least we will be able to see why he is wrong because he set out all of his reasons, and citations, clearly for all to see and examine. (I really don’t care enough about the topic of Minucius to take time to read and follow up Doherty’s appendix but if it means so much to you then you know it is there. My point here is not to discuss Q or Minucius or the location of the crucifixion or any other area where honest people can disagree or simply make mistakes.)

    • MrHorse
      2019-01-13 06:22:18 GMT+0000 - 06:22 | Permalink

      Whether the Octavius of Minucius Felix pre-dates or post-dates Tertullian may not be the primary issue. The primary issue could be that Minucius Felix does not refer to primary Christian tenets: there are no reference to the names Jesus and Christ, or to the biblical figure himself, nor to the crucifixion and resurrection.

      Furthermore, as Hardwick noted, citing Beaujeu, Minucius Felix makes only allusions or perhaps ‘isolated possible references’ to New testament materials which “reflect subject matter rather than any clear literary dependence. Therefore, one might just as well suppose that Minucius Felix is drawing from the common parlance of the Church rather than directly from the Bible” to the point of ‘neglect of biblical material’.

      • A Buddhist
        2019-01-13 14:44:40 GMT+0000 - 14:44 | Permalink

        Are you sure that the Octavius makes no mention of the word Christ? I thought that it merely did not use the name Jesus.

        • MrHorse
          2019-01-13 17:12:08 GMT+0000 - 17:12 | Permalink

          I cannot find Christ per se in the Roberts-Donaldson translation http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/octavius.html, only references to Christians (even then many if not most are in chapter headings).

          • Roger Pearse
            2019-01-13 17:13:43 GMT+0000 - 17:13 | Permalink

            I doubt the chapter headings are those in the manuscript, if any.

            • MrHorse
              2019-01-13 19:42:06 GMT+0000 - 19:42 | Permalink

              Cheers Roger, that was my point. As you have since shown, there are 13 uses of ‘Christian’ in the actual text.

              • Roger Pearse
                2019-01-13 19:44:26 GMT+0000 - 19:44 | Permalink

                Glad to help. We all need the right data.

                Chapter headings in ancient texts are an interest of mine. I must blog about the lack of them in MF.

          • Roger Pearse
            2019-01-13 17:27:56 GMT+0000 - 17:27 | Permalink

            The manuscript is online. There are no chapter titles, so those in the ANF are modern.

            https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b105020892/f333.image.r=1661

          • A Buddhist
            2019-01-13 17:32:54 GMT+0000 - 17:32 | Permalink

            Mr.Horse: Wow! No reference to Christ in the translation. Either the trasslators were very bad or you are right.

            • Roger Pearse
              2019-01-13 18:59:28 GMT+0000 - 18:59 | Permalink

              Searchable Latin text here: http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/minucius.html

              Just do ctrl-F on Christ. 13 results, all forms of Christiani (Christians).

            • db
              2019-01-13 19:32:26 GMT+0000 - 19:32 | Permalink

              Roberts, Alexander; Donaldson, Sir James (1869). The Writings of Cyprian, Etc. Vol. ii. Ante-Nicene Christian Library: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325: 13. T & T Clark.

              [Per the Octavius dialogue] the text as we have it is very uncertain, and often certainly corrupt; so that many passages seem to us confused, and some hopelessly obscure. Only one manuscript of the work has come down to us, which is now in the Imperial Library in Paris. —(p. 450)

              • Roger Pearse
                2019-01-13 19:36:46 GMT+0000 - 19:36 | Permalink

                Ms. Paris Latinus 1661, which is online at Gallica.fr. A 9th c. manuscript. Minucius Felix is at the end, appearing as “book 8”. Evidently a roll containing it was in a box of rolls containing Arnobius “Against the pagans” in 7 books; and the scribe who copied it into modern book form was confused to find an extra anonymous roll and presumed it was book 8.

              • db
                2019-01-13 21:57:02 GMT+0000 - 21:57 | Permalink

                Minucius Felix (825–850) [150–250]. “Octavius“. In Arnobius de Sicca. Adversus nationes (in Latin). pp.162–190. “Appearing as book 8 — LIBER VIII FELICITER”

              • Roger Pearse
                2019-01-13 22:00:45 GMT+0000 - 22:00 | Permalink

                That’s the manuscript heading. “Feliciter” is short for “lege feliciter”, “read happily”. Common in manuscripts.

  • 2019-01-11 12:47:31 GMT+0000 - 12:47 | Permalink

    Another issue that really gets me is how critics focus on what they view as incorrect, while not acknowledging ANY new findings or ANY valid arguments. I mean seriously, in all of Doherty’s work, there aren’t ANY findings or positions that ANY mainstream scholar finds credible that brings to light to the field?

    The same goes with my work. I’ve had many people be supportive, and other who are only critical, but I’ve had no one say, “I don’t agree with your overall position, but your case for the literary basis of some of the scenes, such as the temple cleansing scene is compelling and needs to be broadly considered,” etc.

    It’s either, “Great job I agree,” or “This is all nonsense!”

    • db
      2019-01-11 18:13:18 GMT+0000 - 18:13 | Permalink

      The following image shows two scholars dealing with the Jesus ahistoricity theory. They do not care how it explains anything, they just want to defuse it.

    • db
      2019-01-11 18:18:32 GMT+0000 - 18:18 | Permalink

      • Comment above failed per html tag: img src=””

      https://vridar.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/danger_uxb-212×300.jpg

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-01-12 00:00:22 GMT+0000 - 00:00 | Permalink

      I did try to say something like having “reservations” about some of the arguments, yes? Or maybe that was too oblique?

      • 2019-01-12 00:32:34 GMT+0000 - 00:32 | Permalink

        That’s not what I meant. I meant people who don’t agree with the ultimate mythicist conclusion. Even if one is a historicist and remains convinced of historicism, surely there is something in the works of mythicist that warrants approval. No, nothing in Doherty’s 1,000 pages of analysis? Nothing in Carrier’s 500 pages of analysis? Not one single thing by any mythicist presents a reasonable challenge to any mainstream position? Even if not rising to the full position of acceptable of the ultimate conclusion, surely someone could muster the courage to agree at least a few points of analysis no?

        That’s the absurd part.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2019-01-12 01:03:30 GMT+0000 - 01:03 | Permalink

          I recall James McGrath backing out of a cordial yet methodical discussion about arriving at historical evidence… Step by step we worked through it — until he identified the point in the argument that was going to take him down the nonhistorical conclusion. Suddenly the logic and soundness of argument meant nothing. All that mattered was that he could see a conclusion that flew against everything he wanted to believe. And we have seen Roger Pearce effectively admit to the same: yes, he will read through Doherty’s arguments, but then will suddenly pull back and do a “sanity check” — if the logic leads to an undesirable end then the whole argument is by definition “utter nonsense”.

          It appears the same with Gathercole and Gullotta. They “know” the arguments are wrong so they have no need to grasp them seriously step by step, page by page. Just dive in at the first point where a fault can be found or imputed without bothering to check context or surrounding qualifications. Publish that little bit of nonsense and no-one will bother to read the original works to know how they misrepresented the author. Yet I am sure they will not believe that have misrepresented the author at all. Criticisms such as mine would be seen as “nit-picking” or “hand-waving” or plain and simple rejection of “sound scholarship”.

          And they probably believe it really is all nonsense. After all, it comes to the wrong conclusion.

          • db
            2019-01-12 01:37:02 GMT+0000 - 01:37 | Permalink

            • They should take a cue from Ehrman, and use hypothetical sources to support a weak claim—to ensure the “right” conclusion.

            Carrier (22 March 2015). “Bart Ehrman on How Jesus Became God”. Richard Carrier Blogs.

            [Ehrman] admitting the first Christians regarded Jesus to be a preexistent divine archangel lends unexpected support to mythicism. As many mythicists have been arguing this very point for decades now. And Ehrman can’t have that. So he wants to have it both ways, and throughout the book he tries to argue both that high Christology started right out of the gate, and also that it developed over time. . . . that Christianity “must” have started with a low exaltation Christology (because historicity is in serious trouble if it didn’t)…

            Lataster, Raphael (2016). “Review Essay: Bart Ehrman and the Elusive Historical Jesus”. Literature & Aesthetics. 26 (1): 181–192.

            Ehrman is of the belief that Paul’s ‘Philippians poem’ is pre-Pauline, which would make it earlier than our earliest extant sources, and yet he does not – unlike the mythicists – entertain the notion that the high Christology found therein is the earliest one. Thanks to Ehrman’s penchant for hypothetical sources, it simply does not matter which extant source is older; any scholars can invent sources to bolster her theory. —(p. 186)

  • Charles
    2019-01-11 20:02:38 GMT+0000 - 20:02 | Permalink

    Wikipedia states under Tertullian’s Apologeticus at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apologeticus

    “There arises also the question of similarity to Minucius Felix’s dialogue Octavius. Some paragraphs are shared by both texts; it is not known which predated the other.”

    I never saw Pearse say anything concerning Doherty/Felix explaining what, where, when and how at his website. I searched for information of him rebutting Doherty. Nothing. Wonder what he chose Minucius Felix as a pet peeve of his. Doherty’s main subject was Jesus being ahistorical. Not a word of rebuttal about it, just called it nonsense. And saying how insignificant, forgotten and broken Doherty is. Methinks he doth protest too much.

    • db
      2019-01-11 20:30:41 GMT+0000 - 20:30 | Permalink

      Pearse, Roger (1999). “The Incarnation: Christian Writers of the Second Century”. tertullian.org.

      Note: This page was written after I stumbled across some remarks about Minucius Felix in usenet. This in turn led me to a page by a Mr. E. Doherty, at his site at http://www.jesuspuzzle.com entitled The Jesus Puzzle: Was there no historical Jesus? : The Second Century Apologists. I gather Mr. Doherty has also published a book of this title. The statements made appear to be an attempt to reintroduce the ideas of F.C.Baur and the 19th century Tübingen school of theology, discredited since 1936.

      After reading some of the responses on the ‘net to Mr. Doherty’s article, I felt that the debate would benefit from some concrete data. The volume of material to be handled has made it a lengthy and difficult task to reduce to the essential facts.

      The politicised nature of everything to do with Christian origins has made it necessary to at least mention theories that otherwise seem rather manufactured. Likewise many uneducated people start by adopting a stance which suits their opinions, and stray ‘quotes’ are then used to ‘support’ it. This page is written rather to assemble the data, and to treat the question as open, until all the evidence is reviewed. I hope that you will do the same, and will find this useful, whatever your opinions.

      Cf. “The Octavius of Minucius Felix”. earlychristianwritings.com.

      • A Buddhist
        2019-01-11 21:11:26 GMT+0000 - 21:11 | Permalink

        Having read what Pearse write upon his own website about the dating of Tertullian v. Minucius Felix, I cannot find his contempt for those who would claim that Tertullian came after Minucius Felix to be justified.
        As Pearse has written: “There is very little evidence about the date of this writer. The earliest Christian Latin that is dateable is the Acts of the Scilltan Martyrs, dated to 180. But the Octavius of Minucius Felix must be earlier than Pseudo-Cyprian (258), which uses him. There is some kind of relationship with the text of Tertullian (194), but which has priority has never been agreed. Jerome believes he followed Tertullian, but of course he may have had no certain knowledge (De vir. ill. 53, 58; Ep. 70, 5). See also Q. II. 159 for an extensive bibliography to 1955. The Chronica Tertullianea et Cyprianea, published annually in Revue d’Études Augustiniennes from 1974 on, reviews work on the Early Latin Fathers, including Minucius Felix. At present it would seem that the philologists (e.g. Tibletti, Waszink) are united in supporting a late date; so much so that Gilles Quispel, the supporter of an early date is driven to say ‘Philology is a dead alley’ (§82.35). George L. Carver (SM §4, p526 of collected edn) in TAPA 108 (1978), 21-34 studies parallels with Cyprian and concludes that Minucius Felix used Cyprian. A Q. Caecilius Natalis is a magistrate in Cirta in 210AD. The date of 160 appears to derive from W. Baehrens (in 1915). It is not possible to review the evidence in the limited space available here. However it appears that there is no academic consensus, other than among the philologists.”

        • Neil Godfrey
          2019-01-11 23:15:27 GMT+0000 - 23:15 | Permalink

          I think it has become clear that Roger judges books and even people on the conclusions they espouse, not on the actual arguments themselves.

          (None of Roger’s comments were directed to Spam or Trash.)

          • Roger Pearse
            2019-01-12 15:03:13 GMT+0000 - 15:03 | Permalink

            Actually I get the lizard men to tell me what to think…

            • A Buddhist
              2019-01-12 15:19:08 GMT+0000 - 15:19 | Permalink

              On a more serious note, maybe what you think is shaped by your Christianity. As soon as you come upon an argument against a supreme creator god or against the supreme creator god’s being YHVH/Jesus, maybe you dismiss such an argument as nonsense/failing the sanity check, fearing and believing that if you let yourself take seriously an argument against a supreme creator god or against the supreme creator god’s being YHVH/Jesus, you will be condemned as a non-Christian to an eternity in Hell.

              • Roger Pearse
                2019-01-12 21:08:35 GMT+0000 - 21:08 | Permalink

                I live in constant fear! 🙂

          • Roger Pearse
            2019-01-12 21:07:46 GMT+0000 - 21:07 | Permalink

            I’m particularly good at kicking the player rather than the ball. Although usually I get my faithful hedgehog to ask him loads of sneery “questions” instead.

        • Roger Pearse
          2019-01-12 15:01:55 GMT+0000 - 15:01 | Permalink

          Not my words there, surely?

      • Charles
        2019-01-12 17:33:24 GMT+0000 - 17:33 | Permalink

        db, thanks for the links. Pearse, indeed, has a lot to say about Minucius Felix and Tertullian. I don’t really see the relevance to Doherty’s question concerning Jesus’ historicity, though, as it concerns who wrote what first between Minucius Felix and Tertullian. I guess by specifically pointing out what Pearse conceives as a mistake by Doherty he will be able to discredit him. That seems trivial to me. I wish he’d zeroed in on more of Jesus’ historicity and Doherty’s mistakes there.

        • Charles
          2019-01-12 17:36:10 GMT+0000 - 17:36 | Permalink

          “I wish he’d zeroed in on more of Jesus’ historicity and Doherty’s mistakes there.”

          I should have Doherty’s mistakes from Pearse’s point of view.

        • A Buddhist
          2019-01-12 17:38:01 GMT+0000 - 17:38 | Permalink

          I would love to read a rebuttal of the whole Jesus mythicism idea that is not tainted by insults or misrepresentation of claims. If Jesus could be shown to be a mere person upon the Earth, the Christian religion could be more effectively demolished. Saviours from the heavens are much more logical and effective. Namu Amitabha Buddha!

          • Charles
            2019-01-12 18:57:45 GMT+0000 - 18:57 | Permalink

            That would be nice. When Ehrman got so much flak over his Jesus historicity book he would often say ‘You’re a fool to not believe in the historicity of Jesus’ (paraphrasing) it irritated me to no end. It would be nice to hear someone address some of the arguments of the ahistoricity of Jesus. Never happens it seems. People cherry pick what they want to comment on.

            • Roger Pearse
              2019-01-12 20:59:55 GMT+0000 - 20:59 | Permalink

              It’s generally a mistake to go round saying “prove stuff to me”.

        • Roger Pearse
          2019-01-12 21:02:25 GMT+0000 - 21:02 | Permalink

          Not really. If a man makes a mistake in my area of knowledge, why would I trust him in areas I know less well and might be deceived in?

          • A Buddhist
            2019-01-12 22:01:29 GMT+0000 - 22:01 | Permalink

            Well, the way I see it is because area X (in which a mistake has been made) may be so divergent from area Y (in terms of what one may need to know, etc.) that a gap in knowledge in area X, although severe, may not undermine the validity of conclusions in area Y.
            Take the dating of Minucius Felix as an example. If Doherty had erred as seriously as you suggest that he had in claiming that Minucius Felix predated Tertullian (which I and many others within this blog-post have argued against by pointing out numerous respectable scholarly sources that either agree with him or say that the matter is unresolved), then the rest of Doherty’s thesis might be dismissed if it were fundamentally an analysis of patristic sources. After all, an author who cannot keep straight the dates of the patristic authors may easily have other ignorances about them. But Doherty’s book was not fundamentally about patristic sources – rather, it was an analysis of the Bible, in which patristic sources were discussed to contribute towards the central argument about the Bible.
            Lest it be thought that I have biases that lead me to hyper-compartmentalize fields of knowledge, I will draw your attention to 2 cases in which I caught authors making howlingly obvious errors and how I reacted to them.
            1. Dr. Richard Carrier’s claim that the founder of Buddhism was named Buddha and that Mozi was a Confucian philosopher. The truth is that Buddha is a title, and that the Buddha who founded Buddhism was named Gautama or Gotama (depending upon language) and may also be called Shakyamuni Buddha (meaning “Awakened Sage from the Shakyas” – because he was born among the Shakyas). Mozi, for his part, was the founder of a philosophy, Mohism, that was opposed to Confucius and Confucianism. But although I recognize these to be serious errors on Dr. Carrier’s part, they do not shake severely my confidence (or lack there of) in his conclusions about Jesus and Christian origins, because the study of Christianity can be (and often is) done in the absence of knowledge about Chinese philosophical systems or Buddhism. If Carrier had been trying to claim that Christianity had arisen from Buddhism or Mozi’s teachings, then this error would severely undercut his credibility.
            2. A Christian Author’s claim that all religions have believed in souls. The reality is that most Buddhist sects (including my own!) deny the existence of mortal or immortal souls. Since this erroneous claim came from the beginning of a book that tried to prove that souls, as conceived by Christians, exist, I felt that the book was not worth reading further, since an author who has not fully researched the range of opinions that major religious/philosophical traditions offer about souls seems unlikely to be able to refute the Buddhist arguments against souls that I am familiar with. Of course, you are welcome to believe that I support Carrier despite his error because Carrier is an atheist, but then you would be accusing me of lying or being deluded about my thought processes.
            Finally, if the dating of Minucius Felix relative to Tertullian was so important to your rejection of Earl Doherty’s claims, why did you not mention it in your December 2018 blog-post condemning his ideas?

          • Charles
            2019-01-12 22:33:25 GMT+0000 - 22:33 | Permalink

            Getting so many replies on this thread I don’t know who’s responding to who.

            Pearse says: “If a man makes a mistake in my area of knowledge, why would I trust him in areas I know less well and might be deceived in?”

            Personally, I check things out.

  • db
    2019-01-11 20:15:08 GMT+0000 - 20:15 | Permalink

    • Some credit has been given. but to who specifically?

    Davies, Stevan L. (2014). Spirit Possession and the Origins of Christianity. BARDIC Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-906834-19-7.

    Mythicists have discovered problems in the supposed common-sense of historical Jesus theories that deserve to be taken seriously.

    Gullotta, Daniel N. (2 February 2015). Why You Should Read Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus. danielngullotta.com.

    Like Stevan L. Davies, I believe that “the Mythicists have discovered problems in the supposed common-sense of historical Jesus theories that deserve to be taken seriously.”

    • 2019-01-12 01:00:14 GMT+0000 - 01:00 | Permalink

      Noted, then I stand corrected, a little bit 🙂 Thanks for those.

  • Neil Godfrey
    2019-01-12 09:37:20 GMT+0000 - 09:37 | Permalink

    Roger, you are a scholar. You have been privileged to have the time and resources to learn so many things that ordinary mortals do not have access to. We down here at the ground level of your tower would love it if you could find the time and inclination to inform us of the state of the question in a manner that can assure us you are not simply pontificating your opinion as the only datum worth hearing. As by now you are surely aware (no doubt you have read our comments on the MF here and Doherty’s statements in relation to them, so I do not have to repeat them) we would really appreciate it if you could present us with the decisive arguments.

    Hey, as you know from what you have read here, you may well be right about the date of MF, and D’s #9 appendix might very well be totally wrong …. but please, just please, give us something more than “I told him so” as a reason to believe.

    If you do, I promise I will leave you alone, satisfied that Doherty is quite wrong on this point. I might even email him to tell him so. Agreed?

    Because you know what, Roger? Your initial take-down of Doherty had nothing to do with Patristics. It was entirely on the basis of his biblical arguments about the non-historicity of Jesus. So let’s get real here and not try to duck the issue.

    • db
      2019-01-12 14:32:53 GMT+0000 - 14:32 | Permalink

      Probably the only way to refute Doherty, is to cite Ehrman 🙂

      • Ehrman, Bart D. (2019). “Time Line”. The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World. Simon and Schuster. p. xiv. ISBN 9781501136719. “330 [230] CE—Minucius Felix writes Octavius

      • “Marcus Minucius Felix (Christian apologist)”. Encyclopedia Britannica. 2008.

      The Octavius was written before Bishop St. Cyprian of Carthage’s Quod idola dii non sunt (c. 250; “That Idols Are Not Gods”), which borrows from it, but whether Minucius influenced or was influenced by Tertullian’s Apologeticum and Ad nationes (197; “To the Nations”) remains uncertain.

      • “1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Minucius, Felix Marcus”, Wikisource

      The Octavius is admittedly earlier than Cyprian’s Quod idola dii non sunt, which borrows from it; how much earlier can be determined only by settling the relation in which it stands to Tertullian’s Apologeticum. Since A. Ebert’s exhaustive argument in 1868, repeated in 1889, the priority of Minucius has been generally admitted…

      • Roger Pearse
        2019-01-12 14:55:47 GMT+0000 - 14:55 | Permalink

        I suspect Doherty read the 1911 EB and believed it.

        • A Buddhist
          2019-01-12 15:24:18 GMT+0000 - 15:24 | Permalink

          You suspect, yes, but unless you read Doherty’s own views about the matter, which he spended 977 words dealing with, you cannot confirm it. Besides, the 2008 Encyclopedia Britannica, although abandoning the certainty from the 1911 edition, treats the matter as unsettled – hardly equivalent to your claim that the matter has been settled in the opposite way.

        • Kapyong
          2019-01-12 15:36:38 GMT+0000 - 15:36 | Permalink

          I suspect your faithful beliefs lead you to reject Doherty with an angry knee-jerk after skimming his work for a few minutes to find something to disagree with.

          Your credibility here is zero, Roger the Dodger.

          • Roger Pearse
            2019-01-12 15:49:04 GMT+0000 - 15:49 | Permalink

            I’d noticed… and my failings seem to be so numerous that there is no agreement on which is worst!

            • A Buddhist
              2019-01-12 16:37:00 GMT+0000 - 16:37 | Permalink

              Roger Pearse: I hold you to be credible in some ways. For example, your ability to list so many arguments for or against the dating of Minucius Felix and Tertulliian is impressive. The issue for me is how you, being aware of such diversity in arguments over the centuries, are able to say simply and bluntly upon this blog that Minucius Felix definitely postdated Tertullian.

              As for your worst flaw, I would have to say that it is unwillingness to acknowledge your own religious biases even as you pontificate about other people’s religious biases. It would be one thing if you were to ignore the religious biases of both yourself and those whom you address when you discuss your ideas, or if you were to accompany every condemnation of, for example, Doherty’s reliance upon atheist ideas with a reference to how you, as a Christian, are predisposed to interpreting the bible in a given way, but since you only condemn the atheist biases while not discussing your Christian biases in the same breath (or paragraph) the result seems rather one-sided in its discussion of arguments that, if true, would necessitate a shift (not necessarily an abandonment) of Christianity.

              I use the screen name “A Buddhist” precisely in order to avoid being accused of down-playing any biases that I have in this whole debate about Jesus. People will never accuse me of being an atheist driven by anti-religious bias (unless they want to accuse me of lying) because I am a Buddhist. Nor can they accuse me of being a Christian, Jew, Muslim, or Mandaean, driven by confessional bias (unless they want to accuse me of lying) because I am a Buddhist. For what it is worth, as a Buddhist, I am confessionally driven to oppose all veneration of alleged uncreated creator gods, as well as to regard as impossible the existence of uncreated creator gods and the existence of beings that are fully human and fully divine at the same time, but those issues should be irrelevant to the unbiased study of the Jesus of history.

        • db
          2019-01-12 18:56:43 GMT+0000 - 18:56 | Permalink

          Doherty, Earl. “The Jesus Puzzle: The Second Century: What the Christian apologists of the second century present us with”. Humanist in Canada. 120. Spring 1997.

          There has been a long and seesaw debate as to when Minucius Felix was written. A clear literary relationship exists with Tertullian’s much longer Apology, written around the year 200. But who borrowed from whom? A good general rule says that the later writer tends to expand on what the earlier writer wrote, not chop drastically, especially since in this case it would mean that Minucius Felix had cut out many important Christian dogmas and every single reference to the Gospel Jesus—and this, well into the third century, when no one else had any qualms about speaking of such things. This and other arguments considered, the earlier dating between 150 and 160 is much preferable. (See H. J. Baylis, Minucius Felix [1928], p.273.)

          Hardwick ap. Pearse ap. Doherty, Earl (2009) [now formatted]. “The Date of Minucius Felix” Jesus: Neither God Nor Man – The Case for a Mythical Jesus. Age of Reason Publications. p. 686. ISBN 9780968925928.

          The current state of the question is that a later date is favoured, with the philological argument being solidly in that direction. [However the question is really open.]
          […]

          The priority of Minucius Felix rests upon the coherence and style of his narrative while Tertullian’s priority depends upon the assumption that his is the more vigorous and therefore more creative work. Both sides employ a priori considerations regarding what characterizes creativity. Therefore, the results are predetermined. [Given the state of the debate it is not wise to go beyond dating the Octavius between c. 160 and c. 250 C.E. —(Hardwick, p. 22)]

          [Pearse, tertullian.org]

          Cf. Baylis, Harry J. (1928). Minucius Felix and His Place Among the Early Fathers of the Latin Church. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. p. 273.

          Cf. Hardwick, Michael E. (1989). “Did Tertullian use Minucius Felix’s Octavius?” Josephus as an Historical Source in Patristic Literature Through Eusebius. Brown Judaic Studies 128. Scholars Press. ISBN 9781555401801.

          Cf. Pearse, Roger. “Tertullian: Did Tertullian use Minucius Felix’ Octavius ?”. tertullian.org.

          • db
            2019-01-13 00:39:25 GMT+0000 - 00:39 | Permalink

            Abad, John. “The Octavius of Minucius Felix: Apologetics and Dialogue”. Academia.edu. pp. 1–2, n.7

            [D]id Tertullian depend on the Octavius or Vice versa? Discussion of chronological precedence between the two works is difficult. . . .This problem has generated much debate among modern scholars. [^7]

            [note: 7] […] more recently see Manlio Simonetti and Emanuela Prinzivalli, Storia della Letteratura Cristiana Antica (Roma: Piemme, 1999) 572. An interesting argument is advanced by Marta Sordi who says that both the Octavius of Minucius Felix and the Apologeticum of Tertullian depended on a third work by a Roman martyr Apollonius. See Marta Sordi, “L’apologia del martire romano Apollonio come fonte dell’ Apologeticum di Tertulliano e i rapporti fra Tertulliano e Minucio Felice,” Rivista di Storia della chiesa in Italia 18 (1964) 169.

          • db
            2019-01-14 03:02:37 GMT+0000 - 03:02 | Permalink

            Sordi, Marta (1964). “L’apologia del martire Apollonio”. Rivista di Storia della Chiesa in Italia (in Italian). 18 Istituto grafico tiberino. pp. 169–188.

            Simonetti, Manlio; Prinzivalli, Emanuela (1999). “Minucio Felice”. Storia della letteratura cristiana antica (in Italian). Piemme. p. 572. ISBN 9788838441745.

            Minucius Felix (c. 2nd and 3rd cn. C.E.)” by C. Francis Higgins, The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ISSN 2161-0002, iep.utm.edu, retrieved 14 January 2019.

            • A Buddhist
              2019-01-14 03:39:18 GMT+0000 - 03:39 | Permalink

              “The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) (ISSN 2161-0002) was founded in 1995 to provide open access to detailed, scholarly, peer-reviewed information on key topics and philosophers in all areas of philosophy.”
              About MF, its article by C. Francis Higgins from at least 205, is not as firmly supportive of the idea that MF predated Tertullian as Roger Pearse may hope. Admittedly, it recognizes that a case can be made that Tertullian wrote first, but it includes many qualifying statements indicating uncertainty.

              “For centuries, scholars have attempted to assign a firm date of composition to the dialogue. The central question has always been, is the Octavius anterior to the Apologeticus of Tertullian? Stylistically, Minucius’ Latin is closer to the classical Latin of Tacitus (54-117) than the excursive Latin of Tertullian, with its “complexity and strangeness” and “unnatural combinations of word and syntax” (Glover 12). Tertullian’s Apologeticus displays a proliferation of compound-complex sentences, intervening phrases and clauses, and awkward constructions. Take for example XXXVIII.4: Aeque spectaculus vestris in tantum renuntiamus in quantum originibus eorum, quas scimus de superstitione conceptas, cum et ipsis rebus, de quibus transiguntur, praetersumus. (Your public games, we renounce too, as heartily as we do their origins; we know these origins lie in superstition; we leave on one side matters with which they are concerned). Minucius’ style is generally more declarative and straightforward, and it is similar to other African writers of the period, such as Frontonius, Flaurus, and Apuleius (DeLabriolle 110)….The Octavius is stylistically closer to the works of previous generations; it is markedly different than the texts written by Christian apologists in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Nevertheless, the question of style is still debated among historians of Latin and scholars of early apologetics….Some histories of rhetoric maintain that Minucius used the Apologeticus as a template, but the differences between the texts counterbalance the similarities.”

  • Roger Pearse
    2019-01-12 21:21:16 GMT+0000 - 21:21 | Permalink

    My comments on Minucius Felix are 20 years in my past, and I was trying to recall some details. I eventually recalled Carl Becker, “Der Octavius des Minucius Felix”, 1967 and went looking for reviews.

    https://www.jstor.org/stable/709302

    W.H.C. Frend in the Classical Review : “Dr. Becker’s careful analysis of each section of the pagan-Christian argument occupies most of his study and must surely be accepted as a definitive piece of work. He is able to demonstrate, too, that Tertullian’s Apologeticum, with which the Octavius has several interesting parallels, must be the earlier work, and his dating of the Octavius to Rome between 212 and 245/6 (the date of Cyprian’s ad Donatum, which in all probability draws on the Octavius) is not likely to be disputed again. He does not, however, investigate the point made by Beaujeu (p. xxvii of his edition) that originally there may have been a real discussion, perhaps c. A.D. 170, between Caecilius and Octavius, both possibly members of prominent Romano-African families, which years later Minucius Felix wrote up and elaborated-rather as Justin wrote up his Dialogue with Trypho a quarter of a century after the event. The question will always remain why such prominence is given to Fronto’s views so long after his death, while the charges against the Christians of being practisers of black magic and cannibalism belong to the late second rather than the third century A.D. Chapters 8 and 9 of the Octavius still challenge the editor.”

    • Roger Pearse
      2019-01-12 21:29:41 GMT+0000 - 21:29 | Permalink

      Two other reviews (in German) saying that Becker is the man. Can’t copy and paste on my phone tho.

      I ought to blog about this. Anybody fancy reading Becker?

      • A Buddhist
        2019-01-12 22:30:59 GMT+0000 - 22:30 | Permalink

        By all means, I would love for you to write a blog-post firmly setting out your opinions about why dating Minucius Felix as pre-dating Tertullian is always wrong – as well as whether it would be such severe error in a book by a Christian about Jesus that you would dismiss the Christian’s book as nonsense failing your sanity check.

        I would also fancy if you were to formally retract the statement “Online atheists were always noxious” as an unnecessarily inflammatory stereotyping, as bad as a Christian hypothetically saying that “Online Jews were always liars and satan-worshippers”.

    • A Buddhist
      2019-01-12 22:23:05 GMT+0000 - 22:23 | Permalink

      Roger Pearse: You said, “My comments on Minucius Felix are 20 years in my past…”. But in this way you are mistaken. The website containing your words about Minucius Felix has the following disclaimer: “Written 28th December-5th January, 2000. Updated 19th January, 2000. Updated 28th July 2001 with quotes from Irenaeus’ “Proof…”. Minor editing to make it easier for newcomers to find their way around the document. Updated 15th January 2003 with footnote on Diognetus and Hermias.”. In other words, as recently as 16 years ago, you saw nothing wrong with your words about how the dating of Minucius Felix was unsettled unless one heeded solely the philologists.
      Furthermore, even as you urge us to trust scholarship more recent than 1915, you have not addressed the fact that the 2008 Encyclopedia Britannica, although abandoning the certainty from the 1911 edition, treats the matter as unsettled – hardly equivalent to your claim that the matter has been settled in the opposite way since 1968. Certainly, an encyclopedia is not as important to scholarship as an actual analysis. But the fact that an encyclopedia as reputable as the 2008 Encyclopedia Britannica, even while acknowledging much scholarship about the dating issue, treated it as unsettled circa 40 years after you claim it had been firmly settled in your favour is telling against your certainty that you are right.
      I am not in any way caring whether Minucius Felix predated Tertullian or post-dated Buddhaghosa – not that I am claiming that Buddhaghosa was in the Roman Empire. But I and others in this blog object to your claiming that anyone who disagrees with you about this issue is wrong – as well as to your assertion that anyone wrong about the dating of Minucius Felix cannot be trusted about any conclusions made about Jesus.

    • db
      2019-01-12 23:37:35 GMT+0000 - 23:37 | Permalink

      Sage, Michael M. (1975). Cyprian. Philadelphia Patristic Foundation. p. 53. ISBN 9780915646005.

      [A] decisive argument has been brought forward to establish the priority of the Apologeticum. [Becker (1967).] A careful analysis of the use made in the Octavius of Cicero and Seneca has revealed that the author adopted and changed them for his own purposes. The dialogue is more than a mere patchwork of classical commonplaces. A comparison reveals that the works of Tertullian are utilized in the same manner by Minucius Felix as the others. Thus the question of priority has been resolved in favour of Tertullian. [Becker (1967).]

      Colish, Marcia l (1985). The Stoic Tradition from Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages. BRILL. p. 30, n. 69. ISBN 9789004072688.

      There has been some debate on the question of whether Minucius’ Octavius antedates Tertullian’s Apology and whether Minucius used Tertullian as a source. For a review of the literature see Beaujeu, intro. to his ed. and trans. of Octavius, pp. xxxviii, xliv-lxvii; Becker, “Der ‘Octavius’ des Minucius Felix,” pp. 74-97; Clarke, intro. to his trans. of Octavius, pp. 9-10.

      • Minucius Fellx, Octavius, texte établi et traduit par J. Beaujeu, Paris, Les Belles Lettres (C.U.F.), 1964.

      • Becker, Carl (1967). Der Octavius des Minucius Felix: Heidnische Philosophie und frühchristliche Apologetik (in German). Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften; Beck im Kommission.

      • Clarke, G. W., trans. (1974) The Octavius of Marcus Minucius Felix. Newman Press.

      • Roger Pearse
        2019-01-12 23:42:53 GMT+0000 - 23:42 | Permalink

        “Sage, Michael M. (1975). Cyprian. Philadelphia Patristic Foundation. p. 53. ISBN 9780915646005”

        Useful – thank you.

        • A Buddhist
          2019-01-12 23:49:02 GMT+0000 - 23:49 | Permalink

          Roger Parvus: Yet Michael Sage’s recitation in 1975 of the conclusion made by Becker in 1975 was not enough to change Colish’s opinion in 1985 that the relationship between the texts was complicated.

          • db
            2019-01-12 23:53:00 GMT+0000 - 23:53 | Permalink

            Nor the “Marcus Minucius Felix (Christian apologist)”. Encyclopedia Britannica. 2008. article.

            • Roger Pearse
              2019-01-13 00:06:56 GMT+0000 - 00:06 | Permalink

              A general encyclopedia is not really of value on a specialist subject tho.

              • A Buddhist
                2019-01-13 00:52:01 GMT+0000 - 00:52 | Permalink

                If the precise relationship between Minucius Felix and Tertullian is so specialized that even a reputable generalist encyclopedia with an entire article about Minucius Felix cannot be bothered to regard a given conclusion about it as true, then surely a book not specializing in the issue (or even in the broader field of patristics) can be cut some slack. After all, Doherty, in writing about Minucius Felix in Jesus neither God nor Man (a book that was primarily about the bible rather than patristics), was not contrary to the Encyclopedia Britannica, which holds the dating to be unsettled.

          • Roger Pearse
            2019-01-13 00:08:31 GMT+0000 - 00:08 | Permalink

            No access to it. Did Colish examine the issues in MF in her study of “The Stoic Tradition”?

            • db
              2019-01-13 00:55:31 GMT+0000 - 00:55 | Permalink

              Colish is not examining the MF issue.

              Colish is just informing the reader that MF dating is disputed, whereas Ehrman gives 230CE for MF—without informing the reader that MF dating is disputed.

              • db
                2019-01-13 07:49:51 GMT+0000 - 07:49 | Permalink

                • However, that MF dating is disputed, is confirmed by:

                Hardwick, Michael E. (1989). “Did Tertullian use Minucius Felix’s Octavius?” Josephus as an Historical Source in Patristic Literature Through Eusebius. Scholars Press. pp.19–23. ISBN 9781555401801.

                Given the state of the debate it is not wise to go beyond dating the Octavius between c. 160 and c. 250 C.E. —(p. 22)

              • Roger Pearse
                2019-01-13 09:14:30 GMT+0000 - 09:14 | Permalink

                Anybody got any reliable sources post-1967 who think MF came first?

              • A Buddhist
                2019-01-13 14:39:10 GMT+0000 - 14:39 | Permalink

                Roger Pearse: Your question “Anybody got any reliable sources post-1967 who think MF came first?” seems to be moving the goalposts, as it were. When you started commenting upon the MF issue beneath this blog-post, you treated the dating of MF as so uncontroversial that your word could resolve it. When people asked you to prove this in response to Doherty’s arguments to the contrary (which you have not read and apparently still have no desire to read), you began citing the Becker article as decisively establishing the issue in your favor. Then, when people cited for you multiple post-Becker sources that do not treat Becker or his conclusion as settling the issue, you seek scholarly sources that agree with Doherty. Still, I think that you are being brought around to something more flexible. You now seem to recognize that there is genuine scholarly uncertainty that Becker did not resolve.

              • db
                2019-01-13 15:51:26 GMT+0000 - 15:51 | Permalink

                Price, Simon (1999). “Latin Christian Apologetics”. In Edwards, Mark J.; Goodman, Martin; Price, Simon; Rowland, Chris. Apologetics in the Roman Empire: Pagans, Jews, and Christians. Clarendon Press. p. 112, n. 17, 18. ISBN 9780191544378.

                There are numerous parallels both of language and of material between Tertullian and Minucius Felix, which has encouraged scholars to attempt to determine who wrote first. [^17] The problem with attempts to date the works on purely internal grounds is that the two treatises have such different arguments that ‘parallels’ cannot establish the priority of either author. External evidence offers better grounds for dating Minucius Felix. A second-century date for him seems likely if the passage of Fronto to which Minucius Felix refers was an incidental reference to Christians, rather than a speech specifically against the Christians: [^18] Felix’ reference is much more likely if the text of Fronto was recent and topical. In addition, Minucius Felix seems to be responding to another second-century text, by Aulus Gellius (18. I), a dialogue on happiness between Stoic and Peripatetic philosophers which is actually set at Ostia. Incidentally, Minucius Felix’ lack of interest in persecution is no argument in favour of a third- rather than a second-century date: even in the second century persecution was quite haphazard in its impact, and Christian writers could quite rationally discuss matters other than persecution.

                [note:17]
                Parallels listed in Krause, Die Stellung der frühchristlichen Autoren.

                Minucius earlier: G. Quispel, ‘Anima naturaliter Christiana’; Daniélou, Origins of Latin Christianity, 189.

                Minucius later: J. Beaujeu, edn. of Minucius Felix (1964), pp. xliv ff.; Becker, ‘Der “Octavius” des Minucius Felix’; T. D. Barnes, Tertullian. 271–2.

                Further bibliography in Clavis Patrum Latinorum.

                [note: 18] E. Champlin, Fronto and Antonine Rome. 64–6, argued that the reference came in a speech against one Pelops, delivered perhaps in the late 170s. However, Bammel, ‘Die erste lateinische Rede’, restates the view that the speech focused on the Christians.

              • Roger Pearse
                2019-01-13 16:00:04 GMT+0000 - 16:00 | Permalink

                Very useful – thank you. Online preview here. The use of Fronto is one of the arguments for a 2nd c. date. Quispel is one of the few still arguing for this, I’d guess.

              • Roger Pearse
                2019-01-13 16:12:07 GMT+0000 - 16:12 | Permalink

                I’ve managed to find Quispell’s article here, p.529, arguing in favour of the priority of Minucius Felix. Would transcribe but can’t do that from my phone.

              • Roger Pearse
                2019-01-13 16:27:24 GMT+0000 - 16:27 | Permalink

                Quispel is 1949 tho… before Becker.

              • db
                2019-01-13 16:45:37 GMT+0000 - 16:45 | Permalink

                Quispel, G. (1951). “Anima naturaliter christiana”. Latomus, 10(2), 163-169.

                Quispel, Gilles (1973). “African Christianity Before Tertullian”. In Boer, W. Den. Romanitas et Christianitas; studia Iano Henrico Waszink. North-Holland Publisher. pp. 275–279. ISBN 9780720460360.

                I am more and more convinced that Minucius Felix wrote before Tertullian. —(p. 279)

                Daniélou, Jean (1977). “Minucius Felix and his Sources”. The Origins of Latin Christianity. Presbyterian Pub Corp. p. 189.

              • Roger Pearse
                2019-01-13 16:51:47 GMT+0000 - 16:51 | Permalink

                Interesting point to stop the quotation of Quispel tho? Preview here, p. 669: “I am more and more convinced that Minucius Felix wrote before Tertullian. But I do seem now to be the only one who thinks so.”

                V useful quote on the consensus of scholarship on the subject.

        • Roger Pearse
          2019-01-12 23:52:25 GMT+0000 - 23:52 | Permalink

          Minucius Felix, Octavius, texte établi et traduit, par Jean Beaujeu (collection des Universités de France), 1964 [compte-rendu]
          sem-linkCourcelle Pierre
          Revue des Études Anciennes Année 1965 67-1-2 pp. 265-267.

          “Seuls leurs propos sont comme une marqueterie, empruntés à une quinzaine d’auteurs, au premier chef Cicerón et Sénèque pour le fond, mais aussi quantité d’autres comme pourvoyeurs d’exempla. M. Beaujeu insiste surtout sur Fronton, Virgile, Platon comme sources, ainsi que sur une source commune à Minucius et Clément d’Alexandrie, et sur les allusions voilées à des passages des Écritures. Il n’hésite pas à prendre parti dans un débat séculaire pour soutenir fermement l’antériorité de Tertullien ; il approuve et confirme sur ce point la démonstration magistrale de B. Axelson.”

          Only their words are like a marquetry, borrowed from about fifteen authors, primarily Cicero and Seneca for the bottom, but also many others as providers of exempla. M. Beaujeu especially insists upon Fronto, Virgil, Plato as sources, as well as on a common source to Minucius and Clement of Alexandria, and on the veiled allusions to passages of the Scriptures. He does not hesitate to take sides in a secular debate to firmly support the precedence of Tertullian; he approves and confirms on this point the brilliant demonstration of B. Axelson.

          https://www.persee.fr/doc/rea_0035-2004_1965_num_67_1_3745_t1_0265_0000_2

          • A Buddhist
            2019-01-13 00:41:11 GMT+0000 - 00:41 | Permalink

            If Becker’s argument from 1867 be so decisive, there is no need to quote another authority, especially an earlier one.

            • A Buddhist
              2019-01-13 01:08:21 GMT+0000 - 01:08 | Permalink

              Sorry. I meant to write 1967.

  • db
    2019-01-12 21:42:53 GMT+0000 - 21:42 | Permalink

    Pearse, Roger (1 December 2018). “Memories of the polemical and literary activity of Earl Doherty”. Roger Pearse (blog).

    [Per Doherty] I believe he last published in 2009. I have not seen him online since before that.

    He did some real harm. Online atheists were always noxious, but few believed that Jesus never existed until he came along. He helped to add nonsense and misinformation to the internet.

    His influence on history online, insofar as lay with him, was entirely baleful. . . . Even atheists such as Richard Carrier, who held an ancient history degree, might have remained sane longer were this theory not around to lead them into nonsense.

    Doherty, Earl (2012). The End of an Illusion: How Bart Ehrman’s “Did Jesus Exist?” Has Laid the Case for an Historical Jesus to Rest (1st ed.). Age of Reason Publications. ASIN B00A2XN7EQ, Online, Kindle. “New edition with minor revisions of a series hosted on the Vridar blog”. March–August 2012. Originally titled: “Earl Doherty’s Response to Bart Ehrman’s Case Against Mythicism”.

    Cf. Godfrey, Neil (2012). “Earl Doherty’s response to Bart Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist?”. Vridar.

  • James Barlow
    2019-01-13 09:25:19 GMT+0000 - 09:25 | Permalink

    It would seem that the hyperdismissive disposition of antimythicist, prohistoricist Jesusologists has to do with the (let us say) outrageously exacerbating possibility that early Christians reinvented a savior in the flesh out of whole cloth—-even though the practice of ‘pias fraus’ is admittedly all over the ‘Kristgeschicte’ like a bad rash!

  • Kapyong
    2019-01-13 16:08:21 GMT+0000 - 16:08 | Permalink

    Roger –

    You’re very well informed on all this, you’ve done some great work, your web-site is well-regarded.

    You’re a name in the online world of early Christianity research – I cite you myself on the C. of Nicea e.g.

    You were superbly positioned to provide an informed expert critique of Doherty (& Dr Carrier).

    But you dropped the ball 🙁
    Seems you let your faith override your objectivity.
    OK, it happens.

    Yet it’s never too late to turn back.
    Please Roger – can you reset ?
    Can you start afresh and cast your objective eye towards Doherty (& Dr Carrier) ?

    Whose respect is more important to you ?
    The world of faith, or the world of scholarship ?

    Kapyong

  • db
    2019-01-13 17:31:44 GMT+0000 - 17:31 | Permalink

    Roger Pearse, what is your interpretation of Funk′s viewpoint on the the historical Jesus—noted in the following:

    Godfrey, Neil (22 October 2018). “Postscript to my Constructive Exchange post”. Vridar.

    [A] perspective on the historical Jesus expressed by Jesus Seminar pioneer Robert Funk…

  • Roger Pearse
    2019-01-13 20:06:11 GMT+0000 - 20:06 | Permalink

    Monotheists All? (pp. 142-162)
    Apologetics in the Roman Empire: Pagans, Jews, and Christians by M. Edwards, M. Goodman, S. Price, C. Rowland; Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity by P. Athanassiadi, M. Frede
    Review by: T. D. Barnes
    DOI: 10.2307/1089029
    https://www.jstor.org/stable/1089029

    “Price reverts to the untenable view that Minucius Felix wrote his Octavius in the late second century before Tertullian (111-112). He makes it transparently clear that he has either not read Carl Becker’s proof that Minucius Felix copies Tertullian or not understood the force of Becker’s arguments when he asserts “‘parallels’ cannot establish the priority of either author” (112). That observation applies only to cases where priority is inferred from a comparison of two texts or authors without any external control. But Becker did not merely compare the two Christian writers with each other. He first analysed how Minucius Felix adapts Plato, Cicero’s De natura deorum and Seneca (1967: 10-74); only then did he turn to the relationship between Minucius Felix and Tertullian in order to show that the former adapts the latter in exactly the same way as he adapts Plato, Cicero, and Seneca and, furthermore, that in some passages he has combined his Christian model with his pagan sources (1967: 74-97). It was the introduction of Plato, Cicero, and Seneca into the argument that provided undeniable proof of the priority of Tertullian – as Becker himself explicitly observed (1967: 79-80, 90, 94). “

    • A Buddhist
      2019-01-13 21:24:34 GMT+0000 - 21:24 | Permalink

      Regardless of the soundness or lack of soundness of T. D. Barnes’s insistence that Becker’s understanding of MF’s dating was the only correct understanding of the matter, T. D. Barnes’s insistence in 2001 was not sufficient to resolve issues about MF’s dating for 2008’s Encyclopedia Britannica article about “Marcus Minucius Felix (Christian apologist)”, nor was it sufficient to dispel the claim of John Abad’s circa 2006 “The Octavius of Minucius Felix: Apologetics and Dialogue” that the precise dating of MF is still unsettled, both absolutely and relative to Tertullian. Maybe Becker’s words are the definitive explanation of how MF should be dated, both absolutely and relative to Tertullian. But the fact remains that multiple scholars (including you, Roger Pearse, as late as 2003) were content long after Becker’s 1967 publication to say that it remains an open question when MF should be dated, both absolutely and relative to Tertullian. In this context, Doherty’s claim about MF’s dating (which he spended almost 1000 words justifying in his book Jesus Neither God Nor Man) should not be dismissed out of hand but understood as another effort to try to understand and solve a long-going debate within patristics. Maybe you, Roger Pearse, should read what Doherty said about dating MF if you want to truly understand his views about this matter. If you will not be bothered to read what he wrote, you should at least recognize that his error in dating MF (if error indeed) is one that others who have written about MF would at least recognize as possible.

      • Roger Pearse
        2019-01-13 21:55:17 GMT+0000 - 21:55 | Permalink

        Abad does not appear to be aware of the relevant scholarship at all. A tertiary source like EB is nothing, I’m afraid.

        • A Buddhist
          2019-01-13 22:41:14 GMT+0000 - 22:41 | Permalink

          Yet if Becker’s words about dating MF had been as decisive as you claim, then the 2008 EB, as a reputable tertiary source, would have agreed with Becker or explicitly cited him in its article about MF. That it did not even when it discussed issues in dating MF (instead acknowledging that it is controversial) suggests that MF’s dating has not been as well settled as you claim (or if it has, the settlement is so obscure that only a resource dedicated to the patristics – which Doherty’s book does not claim to be – would recognize the matter as settled). Have you read Manlio Simonetti and Emanuela Prinzivalli, Storia della Letteratura Cristiana Antica (Roma: Piemme, 1999)? Maybe they will agree with you, maybe not, but Abad cited this work as another perspective on MF’s dating.

      • Roger Pearse
        2019-01-13 21:58:03 GMT+0000 - 21:58 | Permalink

        Um… who is John Abad, tho? Not sure this is a published paper? Rather than a student essay?

        • db
          2019-01-13 22:33:27 GMT+0000 - 22:33 | Permalink

          • John Abad: University of Toronto, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Graduate Student

          Apparently they are still teaching that MF dating is disputed, but more pertinent is his citation of:

          Simonetti, Manlio; Prinzivalli, Emanuela (1999). “Minucio Felice”. Storia della letteratura cristiana antica (in Italian). Piemme. p. 572. ISBN 9788838441745.

          • Roger Pearse
            2019-01-14 20:07:56 GMT+0000 - 20:07 | Permalink

            Do you have access to that? But surely this is yet another general handbook of Ancient Christian Literature, with a section on Minucius Felix?

            • db
              2019-01-14 20:27:48 GMT+0000 - 20:27 | Permalink

              Preface

              This work was born with the intent of responding to the need expressed on several occasions by colleagues who they teach in the Universities and in the upper secondary school to have an instrument available agile and dense to introduce to the study of ancient Christian literature. To encourage us in the drafting the good reception received from our anthology in three volumes published by recent from this same publishing house. It is a sign, among others, of current, widespread interest far beyond any scholastic field, for the Christian writings of the first centuries, of which today we gather better the extraordinary richness of expression and the ability to reprocess creatively a plurality of cultural influences and literary models. Analyzing the reasons for this new public sensitivity would lead too far. We like it to think that at least in part it is due to the passion and intellectual independence with which the scholars engaged in the deepening of this cultural heritage, now numerous also in Italy, they have known, over the years, to elaborate and communicate the results of their research. In the summary presented here, we hope to have succeeded in combining the clarity of exposition with an updated, though rapid, information on the status of Italian and foreign studies. In the same we have never given up on proposing a personal evaluation of the individual authors and phenomena treated. Atrent’anni da The ancient Greek and Latin Christian literature of Manlio Simonetti, which came out for the Sansoni-Accademia types, today’s work is a critical rethinking of the author, participated by the students, in light of the acquisitions of the last decades. We therefore address both readers who wish to be guided to the understanding of the ancient Christian literary production is to the specialists with whom we seek a comparison.

            • Roger Pearse
              2019-01-14 20:51:07 GMT+0000 - 20:51 | Permalink

              Subito dopo cadiamo nell’incertezza, in quanto non è stato risolto il problema della priorità tra l’Octavius di Minucio Felice e l’Apologeticum di Tertulliano. I punti in comune tra i due scritti, non solo quanto al contenuto ma anche e soprattutto quanto a specifici riscontri verbali, sono tali da imporre un rapporto diretto, ma finora non si è riusciti a proporre un argomento veramente probante a favore della priorità di uno dei due autori, data l’impossibilità di fissare una data sicura per la composizione dell’Octavius, e dopo lunghi dibattiti protrattisi fino agli inizi degli anni ’60 l’interesse per la questione appare oggi in nettissimo ribasso. Neppure noi intendiamo dilungarci in proposito e ci limitiamo soltanto a esternare una certa preferenza per l’ipotesi della priorità minuciana, tenuto conto dell’ abitudine di Tertulliano di spingere a volte, nei propri scritti, l’utilizzazione delle fonti fino alla ripetizione letterale, com’è dimostrabile per l’adversus Valentinianos, ricalcato per ampia parte sull’ adversus haereses di Ireneo. Conseguentemente, pur senza piena convinzione, datiamo lo scritto di Minucio qualche tempo prima del 197, data di composizione dell’Apologeticum di Tertulliano.

              Immediately afterwards we fall into uncertainty, as the problem of the priority between the Octavius ​​of Minucius Felix and the Apologeticum of Tertullian has not been solved. The points in common between the two writings, not only as regards the content but also and especially as regards specific verbal findings, are such as to impose a direct relationship, but so far we have not been able to propose a really probative argument in favor of the priority of one of the two authors, given the impossibility of setting a certain date for the composition of the Octavius, and after long debates that lasted until the beginning of the 1960s, the interest in the question appears today in a very sharp decline. Neither do we intend to dwell on it and we limit ourselves only to externalize a certain preference for the Minucian priority hypothesis, taking into account Tertullian’s habit of sometimes pushing, in his own writings, the use of sources up to the literal repetition, ‘is provable for the adversus Valentinianos, traced largely on the adversus haereses of Irenaeus. Consequently, even without full conviction, we date Minucio’s writing some time before 197, the date of composition of the Apologeticum of Tertullian.

              No footnotes.

              • A Buddhist
                2019-01-14 20:58:27 GMT+0000 - 20:58 | Permalink

                Roger Pearse: And here you have two scholars, writing a general handbook of Ancient Christian Literature with a section on Minucius Felix, favoring Doherty’s conclusion and not treating Becker as the definitive answer that you have claimed it to be. Tellingly, they also acknowledge that dating MF is an issue with much uncertainty.

              • Roger Pearse
                2019-01-14 22:21:12 GMT+0000 - 22:21 | Permalink

                The work seems to be a popularisation, not a scholarly work, as the lack of footnotes shows. The kind of thing one sees for sale in Italian railway stations. I remember going into the bookstall in Termini in Rome and finding two shelves full of facing-page Greek-Italian and Latin-Italian editions of the classics and the fathers. No doubt all those priests who know Latin are a factor. But what a testimony to the taste of the Italian public. I felt rather ashamed of our own vulgar establishments.

              • db
                2019-01-14 22:44:45 GMT+0000 - 22:44 | Permalink

                I once read an essay opining that the best way to understand a previous generation was to find out the must popular books they selected to give as gifts to the young. The essayist fondly noted the American generation that selected Captains Courageous (1897) by Kipling, as the most often gifted book to the young.

            • A Buddhist
              2019-01-14 20:51:58 GMT+0000 - 20:51 | Permalink

              Roger Pearse: If even a general handbook of Ancient Christian Literature from 1999, with a section on Minucius Felix, does not regard the dating of MF and Tertullian as settled, then this strengthens the claim that we have been making that Doherty, whatever other errors he may have made, was not in error to treat as unsettled the claim that MF postdated Tertullian.

  • Neil Godfrey
    2019-01-14 05:45:33 GMT+0000 - 05:45 | Permalink

    Forgive me if I have missed it but can someone point me to where I can find easy access to a copy of Becker’s 1967 paper “Der Octavius des Minucius Felix”?

    • db
      2019-01-14 06:22:21 GMT+0000 - 06:22 | Permalink

      Becker, Carl (1967). Der Octavius des Minucius Felix: Heidnische Philosophie und frühchristliche Apologetik (in German). Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften; Beck im Kommission. @ https://www.zobodat.at/pdf/Sitz-Ber-Akad-Muenchen-phil-hist-Kl_1967_0002-0110.pdf

      • Neil Godfrey
        2019-01-14 07:16:43 GMT+0000 - 07:16 | Permalink

        Matt reminded us of Roger’s specific criticisms of Doherty, including this one:

        You also consider it “doubtless” that Doherty ”found” his thesis “in long-forgotten intellectually disreputable atheist literature.”

        Roger, I suspect that the “atheist literature” you had in mind was published back in the days when the “history of religions” school was having a significant impact on biblical studies and that the literature questioning the historicity of Jesus was based heavily on the arguments that were part of that school.

        If you read Doherty’s book as you say then you will be aware that Doherty engages entirely with the biblical scholarship that was dominant at the time he published and had very little connection with the literature of the “long-forgotten” era you seem to have in mind. The only “atheist” author of yesteryear who came to the same conclusion about the origins of the NT Jesus was Paul-Louis Couchoud, but if you read Couchoud beside Doherty you will have a very hard time trying to imagine that Doherty’s arguments derived from Couchoud’s work.

        And given that the works of yesteryear to which you seem to be referring very often appeared in peer-reviewed scholarly journals (and archives still make it available today) I don’t know what basis you might have for dismissing it all as “intellectually disreputable”.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2019-01-14 07:23:15 GMT+0000 - 07:23 | Permalink

        Thank you, db. So far it looks to me like the relative dates is hardly a fact set in concrete but a matter of inference and argument with which it is not impossible to disagree. So I might well accept the opinion that Roger assures us is the current prevailing one, but I will do so with some humility and a willingness to accept future arguments that suggest something else — which is how I aspire to embrace most stuff anyway. That’s how I even accept Doherty’s arguments — provisionally. Not all of them, though — some I consider very questionable. And I haven’t a clue at the moment about Doherty’s appendix #9 and am quite prepared to say that is totally wrong. But that’s how it is with most works I read. I generally find something worthwhile in most books, and other things I think are wrong.

      • Roger Pearse
        2019-01-14 08:37:02 GMT+0000 - 08:37 | Permalink

        Oh how marvellous! I’ve never seen Becker so been unable to evaluate his claims. Thank you!

        • Neil Godfrey
          2019-01-14 08:53:49 GMT+0000 - 08:53 | Permalink

          Roger, are you a professional scholar? You claim Patristics is your special area even though there is a critical work in German you have not read. Are you seriously telling us that you pointed to Becker’s arguments as authoritative yet you had seen nothing but reviews of his arguments? You had never read his arguments? And you imply this is the case in a thread beneath a post demonstrating that other professional scholars even write reviews about works they have not seriously or fully read? And in the course of the discussion you have effectively demonstrated your own ignorance of Doherty’s book that you claim to have have read.

          • A Buddhist
            2019-01-14 13:02:16 GMT+0000 - 13:02 | Permalink

            Neil Godfrey: In fairness, Roger Pearse never claimed to have read “Jesus neither God nor Man”, which sets out Doherty’s arguments for dating MF. Roger Pearse has also said that he has no desire to read “Jesus neither God nor Man”. So he would not be evaluating Doherty’s arguments for dating MF unless we were to tell him what they are.

            • Roger Pearse
              2019-01-14 13:20:07 GMT+0000 - 13:20 | Permalink

              Appreciate that – thank you.

            • db
              2019-01-14 16:36:29 GMT+0000 - 16:36 | Permalink

              Should Roger Pearse deign to read the Doherty (2009) appendix 9: “The Date of Minucius Felix”, he will find it very familiar. Certainly a case of the internet meme: “I Drink Your Milkshake!” per Pearse, Roger. “Tertullian: Did Tertullian use Minucius Felix’ Octavius ?”. tertullian.org.

              • Roger Pearse
                2019-01-22 15:03:58 GMT+0000 - 15:03 | Permalink

                I don’t actually have a copy of Doherty’s later book.

                But I recall that there was a further reason why I was loathe to engage with Doherty.

                Doherty had an unusual process of composition, in which he made his critics into pre-publication proof-readers. Nobody knew he intended to print a book. What he had was a bunch of essays on his website, and then he fought with critics of them in online fora. I remember that the great J. P. Holding thrashed him pretty thoroughly on a good many points in his original versions, things that could be looked up and fact-checked.

                Doherty’s response was to remove the testable points, while keeping the line of argument intact, just eliding over the original “evidence” that it had come from. The end result was a book that was infinitely harder to criticise – the obvious “handles” that a critic could lay hold of had all been excised – yet still told the same story. Effectively Holding had more than wasted his time, and had merely made Doherty’s work more effective as a piece of propaganda for the cause for which Doherty wrote. Very cunning; and I’ve never seen it done elsewhere.

                Naturally I had no desire to do the same, to donate the fruits of my learning and wisdom, such as it was, to assist Doherty, once I understood this tactic.

                I gather that he did make use of my stuff on MF in his revised version, but at least I never did a line-by-line rebuttal for him to take advantage of.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2019-01-23 00:33:09 GMT+0000 - 00:33 | Permalink

                I would never have thought of what you say Doherty was doing as something “cunning”. To me what he was doing was quite natural and legitimate. Surely it’s what scholars do, too, isn’t it, when they submit articles for publication, watch the feedback and criticisms of their essays, and then tidy them up or strengthen or qualify them when they make them part of a new book they are writing.

                It seems to me that you think Doherty’s process was somehow illegitimate because you saw his arguments as “nonsense” and perhaps “deceptive”. I cannot imagine anything that Holding said came anywhere near overturning anything Doherty argued, but you obviously disagree.

                Surely it’s only natural and good practice that we try to present our arguments in as strong a form as possible when we submit them for testing or challenges. We all learn how to improve our performances and presentations from experiencing failures or difficulties in the past. I don’t understand why you see this is something devious — if I have understood you correctly.

                What I understand even less is that you seem to be saying Doherty somehow used feedback to make his argument “infinitely harder to criticise”. If an argument or presentation is hard to criticise doesn’t that suggest that it might be “correct” or “right”? I have never heard of any conspiracy theory or flat earth type argument being “hard to criticise” from the perspective of sound logic and evidence.

                But devious? Surely not. Authors revise or even re-write books all the time on the basis of feedback they get from earlier editions.

              • A Buddhist
                2019-01-22 17:34:11 GMT+0000 - 17:34 | Permalink

                Roger Pearse: If I were to offer you a copy of JNGNM, would you accept it and read it?

                If Doherty had been writing a pro-Christian book, would you have the same lack of “desire to do the same, to donate the fruits of my learning and wisdom, such as it was, to assist Doherty”?

                Furthermore, what I think is interesting is that you are criticizing Doherty for modifying his work in order to remove errors that others had pointed out. Again I ask you: If Doherty had been writing a pro-Christian book, would you have criticized him for that? It is alarming to me that you would refer to any effort to edit an argument in response to valid criticisms of it as taking advantage of the critics.

                Finally: if you were to read JNGNM, you might find two things interesting. First, you might find interesting his responses to your arguments about MF (which you have in this comment thread admitted were based upon your wimping out and favouring the scholarly consensus rather than your researching the issue thoroughly yourself). Secondly, if you were to read JNGNM, which is over thrice the length, you might find that he has used some portion of that length to restate in better form evidence that others had criticized.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2019-01-16 05:46:13 GMT+0000 - 05:46 | Permalink

              The book of Doherty that I was referring to was Doherty’s first book, The Jesus Puzzle, that Roger tells us he “waded through”. Roger has failed to respond with direct answers to questions asking him to justify his assertions about that book. I suspect he has forgotten or never grasped the arguments since he explains that he did keep stopping to do a “sanity check” and “knew” what he was reading because they came to a “wrong conclusion”.

              I am well aware Roger has not read JNGNM and his discussion in relation to comments about that book do not enhance Roger’s status as a competent professional scholar. In my experience the scholars who are most worth listening to are those who present their case, support their assertions, and answer questions directly and unambiguously — all with an attitude of respect for others less knowledgeable than themselves and with humility.

              • Roger Pearse
                2019-01-23 18:59:28 GMT+0000 - 18:59 | Permalink

                I would never have thought of what you say Doherty was doing as something “cunning”. To me what he was doing was quite natural and legitimate. Surely it’s what scholars do, too, isn’t it, when they submit articles for publication, watch the feedback and criticisms of their essays, and then tidy them up or strengthen or qualify them when they make them part of a new book they are writing.

                We’re at cross-purposes here.

                Man comes up with theory with evidence. Some evidence shown to be wrong; revises theory to fit new evidence base. — LEGITIMATE
                Man comes up with theory with evidence. Some evidence shown to be wrong; keeps theory and rewords simply to make criticism less easy. — NOT LEGITIMATE.

                You’re thinking of #1; I was thinking of #2.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2019-01-24 01:12:56 GMT+0000 - 01:12 | Permalink

                Oh Roger, can’t you see your own bias and contradictions here? Do you really think Holding demonstrated some “evidence was wrong”? Please give the example. Just saying that Holding proved Doherty’s evidence was wrong does not make it so. You have talked in generalities from the get-go without any attempt to justify your claims with evidence.

                Now, you did say that the revised work of Doherty was very hard to argue against, such was his deceit in using exchanges to reword his arguments. But now you say he holds on to evidence that is flat wrong and somehow in the process that makes criticism of his case “less easy”?? That’s bizarre. If anyone does that it would be damn easier to criticize his argument.

                Enough of the sweeping put-downs, the personal accusations, — we “eccentrics” have been asking you to justify your assertions and you simply refuse to do so.

              • A Buddhist
                2019-01-23 20:13:21 GMT+0000 - 20:13 | Permalink

                Roger Pearse: How do you distinguish between a person revising a theory to fit a new evidence base and a person keeping a theory and rewording it to make it less easy to criticize?

                Surely one of the purposes of revising a theory to fit a new evidence base is to make it less easy to criticize the theory.

                Surely one of the ways to keep a theory while rewording it to make it less easy to criticize is to revise the theory.

                Many respectable scholars, it seems to me, do both in order to present their arguments in the best way, both in terms of factuality and in terms of credit to them. Let me provide a model that may be familiar to Christians such as you.
                Christian Missionary: Jesus is God in a body.
                Atheist: So you are a Modalist Christian?
                Christian Missionary: No! I follow the Nicene Creed.
                Atheist: Then Jesus is not merely God in a body.
                Christian Missionary: Jesus is a portion of God, the son, in a body.
                Atheist: So you are a partialist Christian?
                Christian Missionary: No!
                Atheist: Whatever. I think that you are keeping the theory (Jesus is God) and rewording it in order to make criticism of you for holding this belief less easy.
                Christian Missionary: To the contrary. I am on fire with zeal to spread YHVH’s word. But my zeal leads me to state Christianity in ways that could be interpreted as violating the Nicene Creed, so i must revise my statements in response to your claims that I am doing so.

                Admittedly, Doherty could be merely rewording his theory in superficial ways, as a sophist might. But would you be able to provide evidence to support my interpretation of your claim about Doherty’s process?

              • Neil Godfrey
                2019-01-24 01:57:29 GMT+0000 - 01:57 | Permalink

                Roger — if it will help at all, here is Doherty’s response to Holding:

                A Response to “James Patrick Holding” on the Tekton Ministries Website

                Can you identify any place in that page where Doherty has responded so illegitimately as you claim. Or is his wording so clever you find it very hard to criticize?

              • A Buddhist
                2019-01-24 02:17:02 GMT+0000 - 02:17 | Permalink

                Roger Pearse: Furthermore, Holding is a Christian apologist who holds/held very marginal views that have been rejected by mainstream biblical scholarship, such as supporting a view from a Conservative Christian scholar dating the Gospels to before the First Jewish War. You have condemned Doherty’s whole argument as being unworthy of reading because, among other things, he tries to bring back into popularity outdated and disproven ideas (about MF’s dating and Jesus) in order to promote an ideology (atheism). Would it not be fair for a reader, regardless of sectarian biases, to apply your reasoning to dismiss Holder’s arguments unread because Holder is also trying to bring back into popularity outdated and disproven ideas (about gospel dating) in order to promote an ideology (Right-wing American Evangelical Christianity).

    • db
      2019-01-14 07:08:00 GMT+0000 - 07:08 | Permalink

      • I found no citations of Becker (1967) in Hardwick (1989) — nb. Hardwick was a source for Doherty (2009).

  • john dauria
    2019-01-14 14:33:41 GMT+0000 - 14:33 | Permalink

    Mr Pearse hits the canvas so often he ought to make a tent of it.

    • Roger Pearse
      2019-01-14 20:23:16 GMT+0000 - 20:23 | Permalink

      Posting within tent now.

  • Roger Pearse
    2019-01-16 17:00:38 GMT+0000 - 17:00 | Permalink

    I think this has run down now. What I’d like to do is go through the comments and digest all the scholars into a single post, and indicate whether they put MF first or otherwise. I’m a bit unwell this week so it may take a day or so. But I think the results will be instructive.

    • A Buddhist
      2019-01-16 17:20:36 GMT+0000 - 17:20 | Permalink

      Maybe you should, as part of this grand digestion (and perhaps assessment?) of arguments about MF, actually read the arguments that Earl Doherty advances in “Jesus neither God nor Man” about when MF should be dated.

      Honestly, I am fully prepared to admit that Doherty’s dating of MF might be wrong. Doherty’s dating of MF might also be a minority position. However, I hope that this discussion has shown you that Becker’s 1967 article about MF did not settle the issue as firmly as you had claimed. Post-1967 sources have been willing to treat MF’s dating as unsettled. In this context, Doherty’s discussion of MF’s dating should not be regarded as revealing an utter lack of self-awareness, but as a contribution by a non-scholar to an issue that even scholars are willing to recognize as unsettled.

    • db
      2019-01-16 18:57:04 GMT+0000 - 18:57 | Permalink

      You should also contact C. Francis Higgins and request her to review your listing of scholarly opinion. She may update her article.

      See “Minucius Felix (c. 2nd and 3rd cn. C.E.)” by C. Francis Higgins, The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ISSN 2161-0002, iep.utm.edu, retrieved 14 January 2019.

      • Have a speedy recovery. Rx daily multivitamin taken with some digestible oil.

  • Roger Pearse
    2019-01-17 16:14:08 GMT+0000 - 16:14 | Permalink

    It’s time to digest what we have seen. This is the first of two comments.

    The question is a very narrow one: What is the consensus of modern professional scholars, who have published on the subject and hold teaching posts, as to whether the date of the “Octavius” of Minucius Felix precedes Tertullian, follows Tertullian or is uncertain either way.

    This limits us to those scholars who are (a) qualified and (b) ought to know. This comment contains these sources. The other will contain all the rest, with a note as to why I think they belong there.

    I’d like to say how much I appreciated db looking out sources – thank you!

    Minucius Felix comes first

    Quispel, Gilles (1951). “Anima naturaliter christiana”. Latomus, 10(2), 163-169.

    Nous croyons qu’une comparaison detaillee des deux passages, comparaison qui doit evidemment etre faite ailleurs, apportera aux chercheurs la conviction que c’est Minucius qui a introduit la doctrine de l’ame chretienne par nature et que Tertullien, qui lui est posterieur, l’a adopte, modifie et utilise pour ses propres buts…

    Quispel, Gilles (1973). “African Christianity Before Tertullian”. In Boer, W. Den. Romanitas et Christianitas; studia Iano Henrico Waszink. North-Holland Publisher. pp. 275–279. ISBN 9780720460360. Preview of reprint here, p. 669.

    I am more and more convinced that Minucius Felix wrote before Tertullian. But I do seem now to be the only one who thinks so.—(p. 279)

    Price, Simon (1999). “Latin Christian Apologetics”. In Edwards, Mark J.; Goodman, Martin; Price, Simon; Rowland, Chris. Apologetics in the Roman Empire: Pagans, Jews, and Christians. Clarendon Press. p. 112, n. 17, 18. ISBN 9780191544378. Online preview here.

    There are numerous parallels both of language and of material between Tertullian and Minucius Felix, which has encouraged scholars to attempt to determine who wrote first. [^17] The problem with attempts to date the works on purely internal grounds is that the two treatises have such different arguments that ‘parallels’ cannot establish the priority of either author.

    External evidence offers better grounds for dating Minucius Felix. A second-century date for him seems likely if the passage of Fronto to which Minucius Felix refers was an incidental reference to Christians, rather than a speech specifically against the Christians: [^18] Felix’ reference is much more likely if the text of Fronto was recent and topical. In addition, Minucius Felix seems to be responding to another second-century text, by Aulus Gellius (18. I), a dialogue on happiness between Stoic and Peripatetic philosophers which is actually set at Ostia. Incidentally, Minucius Felix’ lack of interest in persecution is no argument in favour of a third- rather than a second-century date: even in the second century persecution was quite haphazard in its impact, and Christian writers could quite rationally discuss matters other than persecution.

    [note:17] Parallels listed in Krause, Die Stellung der frühchristlichen Autoren.
    – Minucius earlier: G. Quispel, ‘Anima naturaliter Christiana’; Daniélou, Origins of Latin Christianity, 189.
    – Minucius later: J. Beaujeu, edn. of Minucius Felix (1964), pp. xliv ff.; Becker, ‘Der “Octavius” des Minucius Felix’; T. D. Barnes, Tertullian. 271–2.
    Further bibliography in Clavis Patrum Latinorum.
    [note: 18] E. Champlin, Fronto and Antonine Rome. 64–6, argued that the reference came in a speech against one Pelops, delivered perhaps in the late 170s. However, Bammel, ‘Die erste lateinische Rede’, restates the view that the speech focused on the Christians.

    (See below Barnes’ brutal review of Price)

    Uncertain

    Hardwick, Michael E. (1989). “Did Tertullian use Minucius Felix’s Octavius?” Josephus as an Historical Source in Patristic Literature Through Eusebius. Brown Judaic Studies 128. Scholars Press. ISBN 9781555401801. Pp.21-22. Online here:

    If Tertullian made use of the Octavius then we could establish a terminus ad quem of 200 C.E. If, however, the prevailing opinion of Tertullian’s primacy is correct, the earliest date of the Octavius would be c. 200 C.E. The problem is |p22 the inconclusiveness of proof. The priority of Minucius Felix rests upon the coherence and style of his narrative while Tertullian’s priority depends upon the assumption that his is the more vigorous and therefore more creative work. Both sides employ a priori considerations regarding what characterizes creativity. Therefore, the results are predetermined. Given the state of the debate it is not wise to go beyond dating the Octavius between c. 160 and c. 250 C.E.

    It looks as if Hardwick did not understand Becker either.

    Tertullian comes first

    Becker, Carl (1967). Der Octavius des Minucius Felix: Heidnische Philosophie und frühchristliche Apologetik (in German). Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften; Beck im Kommission. Online: https://www.zobodat.at/pdf/Sitz-Ber-Akad-Muenchen-phil-hist-Kl_1967_0002-0110.pdf
    Frend, W.H.C. (1968), “Minucius Felix again”, Classical Review 18, 316-7. Review of Becker. https://www.jstor.org/stable/709302

    Dr. Becker’s careful analysis of each section of the pagan-Christian argument occupies most of his study and must surely be accepted as a definitive piece of work. He is able to demonstrate, too, that Tertullian’s Apologeticum, with which the Octavius has several interesting parallels, must be the earlier work, and his dating of the Octavius to Rome between 212 and 245/6 (the date of Cyprian’s ad Donatum, which in all probability draws on the Octavius) is not likely to be disputed again.

    He does not, however, investigate the point made by Beaujeu (p. xxvii of his edition) that originally there may have been a real discussion, perhaps c. A.D. 170, between Caecilius and Octavius, both possibly members of prominent Romano-African families, which years later Minucius Felix wrote up and elaborated-rather as Justin wrote up his Dialogue with Trypho a quarter of a century after the event. The question will always remain why such prominence is given to Fronto’s views so long after his death, while the charges against the Christians of being practisers of black magic and cannibalism belong to the late second rather than the third century A.D. Chapters 8 and 9 of the Octavius still challenge the editor.

    Sage, Michael M. (1975). Cyprian. Philadelphia Patristic Foundation. p. 53. ISBN 9780915646005.

    A decisive argument has been brought forward to establish the priority of the Apologeticum. [Becker (1967).] A careful analysis of the use made in the Octavius of Cicero and Seneca has revealed that the author adopted and changed them for his own purposes. The dialogue is more than a mere patchwork of classical commonplaces. A comparison reveals that the works of Tertullian are utilized in the same manner by Minucius Felix as the others. Thus the question of priority has been resolved in favour of Tertullian. [Becker (1967).]

    T.D. Barnes (2001), “Monotheists All?” Phoenix 55, pp. 142-162. Review of: “Apologetics in the Roman Empire: Pagans, Jews, and Christians” by M. Edwards, M. Goodman, S. Price, C. Rowland. Oxford 1999. Online: https://www.jstor.org/stable/1089029

    Price reverts to the untenable view that Minucius Felix wrote his Octavius in the late second century before Tertullian (111-112). He makes it transparently clear that he has either not read Carl Becker’s proof that Minucius Felix copies Tertullian or not understood the force of Becker’s arguments when he asserts “‘parallels’ cannot establish the priority of either author” (112). That observation applies only to cases where priority is inferred from a comparison of two texts or authors without any external control.

    But Becker did not merely compare the two Christian writers with each other. He first analysed how Minucius Felix adapts Plato, Cicero’s De natura deorum and Seneca (1967: 10-74); only then did he turn to the relationship between Minucius Felix and Tertullian in order to show that the former adapts the latter in exactly the same way as he adapts Plato, Cicero, and Seneca and, furthermore, that in some passages he has combined his Christian model with his pagan sources (1967: 74-97).

    It was the introduction of Plato, Cicero, and Seneca into the argument that provided undeniable proof of the priority of Tertullian – as Becker himself explicitly observed (1967: 79-80, 90, 94).”

    There’s not much doubt about that.

    Quispell thinks it’s early but thinks the consensus is for late.
    Price thinks it’s early but doesn’t say what the consensus is, and hasn’t read Becker.
    Hardwick thinks it’s uncertain, but thinks the consensus is for late.
    Everyone else says the consensus is late.

    QED. The consensus of scholarship is that Minucius Felix is early 3rd century, not mid-second century.

    • Robert Jase
      2019-01-17 16:24:58 GMT+0000 - 16:24 | Permalink

      Don’t suppose you noticed all the ‘ifs’ that your sources used?

      Try substituting ‘ if boy’s and read them again.

    • A Buddhist
      2019-01-17 17:06:15 GMT+0000 - 17:06 | Permalink

      Roger Pearse: Two critiques of your summary of scholarly resources.
      1. Abuse of the term Consensus: You summarize by saying “The consensus of scholarship is that Minucius Felix is early 3rd century, not mid-second century.” Yet the term consensus often refers to unanimous agreement. By your own admission, there are scholars who think that MF was second century CE. A more honest summary would be “The majority of appropriately qualified scholars think that Minucius Felix is early 3rd century, not mid-second century.”
      2. Dishonesty in choosing to highlight certain parts of passages: for the passage “If, however, the prevailing opinion of Tertullian’s primacy is correct”, you only highlight the portion “the prevailing opinion of Tertullian’s primacy is correct”, de-emphasizing that the author treats “the prevailing opinion of Tertullian’s primacy” as merely a possibility.

      • Roger Pearse
        2019-01-17 17:11:29 GMT+0000 - 17:11 | Permalink

        There’s some misunderstanding here. Consensus does not mean that there are not scholars who disagree. Likewise “the prevailing opinion” is precisely what we are trying to determine, rather than going into the details of the arguments either way. So that’s what I highlight. Sorry if that was unclear.

        • A Buddhist
          2019-01-17 17:53:31 GMT+0000 - 17:53 | Permalink

          Thank you for your polite response. The term “consensus” is, alas, ambiguous in terms of whether it means “unanimous” or “nearly all”. I am more familiar with its meaning “unanimous”. I appreciate your clarification, though.

          • A Buddhist
            2019-01-17 17:57:17 GMT+0000 - 17:57 | Permalink

            As a side point, I wish that you or someone else would go into the details either way. After all, the dating of MF is not shattering to any Christian faith that I know about, meaning that a well-reasoned argument, regardless of who makes it, may be able to shift people’s minds without much controversy.

            • Roger Pearse
              2019-01-17 19:17:48 GMT+0000 - 19:17 | Permalink

              I don’t think anybody should have a dog in that fight. But I don’t know the details of the argument. The books are all in German, which is not my best language. But Becker is only 100 pages, and thanks to @db I now have a PDF which I have OCRd to Word file. I might see what Google Translate makes of it.

  • Roger Pearse
    2019-01-17 16:31:31 GMT+0000 - 16:31 | Permalink

    Here is the second part of the post, digesting the other sources. These people were offered as sources, people from whom we could reliably find out what is the consensus opinion of scholarship.

    I believe that we can’t use any of them. These are not sources that display knowledge of the subject area, but rather are dependent on other reading, just as we are. Whatever their view, pro or anti, they don’t demonstrate the necessary knowledge of the subject area.

    Sources by people whose scholarly specialism is elsewhere

    People like this may be important scholars, but here they write outside their field of expertise.

    Ehrman, Bart D. (2019). “Time Line”. The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World. Simon and Schuster. p. xiv. ISBN 9781501136719. “330 [230] CE—Minucius Felix writes Octavius”.
    Abad, John. “The Octavius of Minucius Felix: Apologetics and Dialogue”. Academia.edu. pp. 1–2, n.7.

    [D]id Tertullian depend on the Octavius or Vice versa? Discussion of chronological precedence between the two works is difficult. . . .This problem has generated much debate among modern scholars. [^7]

    [note: 7] […] more recently see Manlio Simonetti and Emanuela Prinzivalli, Storia della Letteratura Cristiana Antica (Roma: Piemme, 1999) 572. An interesting argument is advanced by Marta Sordi who says that both the Octavius of Minucius Felix and the Apologeticum of Tertullian depended on a third work by a Roman martyr Apollonius. See Marta Sordi, “L’apologia del martire romano Apollonio come fonte dell’ Apologeticum di Tertulliano e i rapporti fra Tertulliano e Minucio Felice,” Rivista di Storia della chiesa in Italia 18 (1964) 169.

    (Abad is merely a grad student compiling stuff)

    “Minucius Felix (c. 2nd and 3rd cn. C.E.)” by C. Francis Higgins, The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ISSN 2161-0002,. https://www.iep.utm.edu/minucius/

    “For centuries, scholars have attempted to assign a firm date of composition to the dialogue. The central question has always been, is the Octavius anterior to the Apologeticus of Tertullian? Stylistically, Minucius’ Latin is closer to the classical Latin of Tacitus (54-117) than the excursive Latin of Tertullian, with its “complexity and strangeness” and “unnatural combinations of word and syntax” (Glover 12). Tertullian’s Apologeticus displays a proliferation of compound-complex sentences, intervening phrases and clauses, and awkward constructions. Take for example XXXVIII.4: Aeque spectaculus vestris in tantum renuntiamus in quantum originibus eorum, quas scimus de superstitione conceptas, cum et ipsis rebus, de quibus transiguntur, praetersumus. (Your public games, we renounce too, as heartily as we do their origins; we know these origins lie in superstition; we leave on one side matters with which they are concerned). Minucius’ style is generally more declarative and straightforward, and it is similar to other African writers of the period, such as Frontonius, Flaurus, and Apuleius (DeLabriolle 110)….The Octavius is stylistically closer to the works of previous generations; it is markedly different than the texts written by Christian apologists in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Nevertheless, the question of style is still debated among historians of Latin and scholars of early apologetics….Some histories of rhetoric maintain that Minucius used the Apologeticus as a template, but the differences between the texts counterbalance the similarities.”

    Out of field, and references all outdated. So this is just a compilation by someone who does not work in the field.

    Non-scholarly sources

    Books containing articles about the Beatles and chemistry and what not, are not likely to be up to date with details of a subject like this.

    “1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Minucius, Felix Marcus”, Wikisource.

    The Octavius is admittedly earlier than Cyprian’s Quod idola dii non sunt, which borrows from it; how much earlier can be determined only by settling the relation in which it stands to Tertullian’s Apologeticum. Since A. Ebert’s exhaustive argument in 1868, repeated in 1889, the priority of Minucius has been generally admitted…

    Encyclopedia Britannica. 2008. “Marcus Minucius Felix (Christian apologist)”.

    The Octavius was written before Bishop St. Cyprian of Carthage’s Quod idola dii non sunt (c. 250; “That Idols Are Not Gods”), which borrows from it, but whether Minucius influenced or was influenced by Tertullian’s Apologeticum and Ad nationes (197; “To the Nations”) remains uncertain.

    Simonetti, Manlio; Prinzivalli, Emanuela (1999). “Minucio Felice”. Storia della letteratura cristiana antica (in Italian). Piemme. p. 572. ISBN 9788838441745.

    Subito dopo cadiamo nell’incertezza, in quanto non è stato risolto il problema della priorità tra l’Octavius di Minucio Felice e l’Apologeticum di Tertulliano. I punti in comune tra i due scritti, non solo quanto al contenuto ma anche e soprattutto quanto a specifici riscontri verbali, sono tali da imporre un rapporto diretto, ma finora non si è riusciti a proporre un argomento veramente probante a favore della priorità di uno dei due autori, data l’impossibilità di fissare una data sicura per la composizione dell’Octavius, e dopo lunghi dibattiti protrattisi fino agli inizi degli anni ’60 l’interesse per la questione appare oggi in nettissimo ribasso. Neppure noi intendiamo dilungarci in proposito e ci limitiamo soltanto a esternare una certa preferenza per l’ipotesi della priorità minuciana, tenuto conto dell’ abitudine di Tertulliano di spingere a volte, nei propri scritti, l’utilizzazione delle fonti fino alla ripetizione letterale, com’è dimostrabile per l’adversus Valentinianos, ricalcato per ampia parte sull’ adversus haereses di Ireneo. Conseguentemente, pur senza piena convinzione, datiamo lo scritto di Minucio qualche tempo prima del 197, data di composizione dell’Apologeticum di Tertulliano.

    Immediately afterwards we fall into uncertainty, as the problem of the priority between the Octavius of Minucius Felix and the Apologeticum of Tertullian has not been solved. The points in common between the two writings, not only as regards the content but also and especially as regards specific verbal findings, are such as to impose a direct relationship, but so far we have not been able to propose a really probative argument in favor of the priority of one of the two authors, given the impossibility of setting a certain date for the composition of the Octavius, and after long debates that lasted until the beginning of the 1960s, the interest in the question appears today in a very sharp decline. Neither do we intend to dwell on it and we limit ourselves only to externalize a certain preference for the Minucian priority hypothesis, taking into account Tertullian’s habit of sometimes pushing, in his own writings, the use of sources up to the literal repetition, ‘is provable for the adversus Valentinianos, traced largely on the adversus haereses of Irenaeus. Consequently, even without full conviction, we date Minucio’s writing some time before 197, the date of composition of the Apologeticum of Tertullian.

    No footnotes – seems to be a popularisation, not a scholarly source, so again just reflecting whatever the authors happened to read.

    Colish, Marcia l (1985). The Stoic Tradition from Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages. BRILL. p. 30, n. 69. ISBN 9789004072688.

    There has been some debate on the question of whether Minucius’ Octavius antedates Tertullian’s Apology and whether Minucius used Tertullian as a source. For a review of the literature see Beaujeu, intro. to his ed. and trans. of Octavius, pp. xxxviii, xliv-lxvii; Becker, “Der ‘Octavius’ des Minucius Felix,” pp. 74-97; Clarke, intro. to his trans. of Octavius, pp. 9-10.

    Just referencing others, and expresses no opinion.

    Daniélou, Jean (1977). “Minucius Felix and his Sources”. The Origins of Latin Christianity. Presbyterian Pub Corp. p. 189.

    It is indisputable that the Octavius has many points of contact with Tertullian’s Apologeticum, but, as Quispel has argued, it is almost certain that the Octavius was the earlier work, dating from the end of the second century. (quoting quispel, anima…)

    (=Histoire des doctrines chrétiennes avant Nicée 3, Les origines du christianisme latin)

    Relies 100% on outdated pre-Becker article by Quispel discussed above, so duplicate and derivative.

    Outdated

    Jean Beaujeu (1964) « Minucius Felix, Octavius », texte établi et traduit, CUF. Review by Pierre Courcelle. In : « Revue des Études Anciennes », 1965, pp. 265-267. Online here : https://www.persee.fr/doc/rea_0035-2004_1965_num_67_1_3745_t1_0265_0000_2

    “Seuls leurs propos sont comme une marqueterie, empruntés à une quinzaine d’auteurs, au premier chef Cicerón et Sénèque pour le fond, mais aussi quantité d’autres comme pourvoyeurs d’exempla. M. Beaujeu insiste surtout sur Fronton, Virgile, Platon comme sources, ainsi que sur une source commune à Minucius et Clément d’Alexandrie, et sur les allusions voilées à des passages des Écritures. Il n’hésite pas à prendre parti dans un débat séculaire pour soutenir fermement l’antériorité de Tertullien ; il approuve et confirme sur ce point la démonstration magistrale de B. Axelson.”

    Only their words are like a marquetry, borrowed from about fifteen authors, primarily Cicero and Seneca for the bottom, but also many others as providers of exempla. M. Beaujeu especially insists upon Fronto, Virgil, Plato as sources, as well as on a common source to Minucius and Clement of Alexandria, and on the veiled allusions to passages of the Scriptures. He does not hesitate to take sides in a secular debate to firmly support the precedence of Tertullian; he approves and confirms on this point the brilliant demonstration of B. Axelson.

    Note: Axelson’s book did NOT convince most scholars.

    No access

    Sordi, Marta (1964). “L’apologia del martire Apollonio”. Rivista di Storia della Chiesa in Italia (in Italian). 18 Istituto grafico tiberino. pp. 169–188.
    Clarke, G. W., trans. (1974) The Octavius of Marcus Minucius Felix. Newman Press.

    Based on google I believe Clarke may in fact reflect the view that Minucius Felix is late.

    None of these sources seemed to me likely to be well-informed on the specialist question before us.

    • db
      2019-01-17 18:20:15 GMT+0000 - 18:20 | Permalink

      Bulley, Colin J. (2007) [now bolded]. The Priesthood of Some Believers: Developments from the General to the Special Priesthood in the Christian Literature of the First Three Centuries. Wipf and Stock Publishers. pp. 111, n. 308. ISBN 9781597527552.

      DeSimone, R.J. (ed.), Novation: The Trinity, The Spectacles, Jewish Foods, In Praise of Purity, Letters (Washington, 1973), 13, says he wrote in Rome, Clarke, G.W. (ed.), The Octavius of Marcus Minucius Felix (New York, 1974), 7-11, argues for his African background and dates him between Tertullan and Cyprian, Quispel, G., ‘African Christianity before Minucius Felix and Tertullian’ in den Boeff, J., and Kessels, A.H.M. (eds.), Actus: Studies in Honour of H.L.W. Nelson (Utrecht, 1982), 309-321, however, argues for Minucius’ priority to Tertullian. McHugh in Ferguson (ed.), Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, 600, is uncertain.

      • Roger Pearse
        2019-01-17 19:19:25 GMT+0000 - 19:19 | Permalink

        Useful to know about Clarke – thanks.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-01-21 03:07:33 GMT+0000 - 03:07 | Permalink

      Just a general comment on ascertaining the nature of a consensus on an academic question re the relative dating of old texts:

      If I want to know when “most scholars” date a text I imagine I could soon enough find out by making inquiries and reading fairly generally on the topic.

      When I mention the information in a discussion or paper I would then be in a position to say that it appears the consensus is such and such or the most widely published view is this or that.

      But if I wanted to explore the question myself, to know what the pertinent evidence is, etc, then I will go out of my way to read both widely and in depth. I will want to know and get on top of all the arguments, both majority and minority positions.

      In undertaking that exercise it just might be the case that I come to think a minority view is more valid than one held by a majority. If so, I would want to study the question even more deeply and engage in discussions with those with whom I disagreed in order to try to see where I might be wrong. I would want to know what I have missed, and what others in the minority position might have missed or misunderstood or been led astray with some unrecognized bias.

      Whatever view I finally come to accept I will do so knowing the reasons, the weaknesses and strengths, etc of the various options. And I will, hopefully, always maintain a measure of uncertainty or provisional status of my thinking. Everything in history is open to new insights, revision, etc.

      I will probably also come to see political or ideological factors at play in certain positions.

      But I would not, I hope, flatly condemn someone for thinking differently — especially if I knew that they had also looked into the question sincerely. Maybe the could learn more and we could encourage them to do that and see if we still think the same way. Maybe I would come to understand that differences in viewpoint ultimately come down to subjective factors over aesthetics, over preferences for certain types of arguments or evidence.

      I hope I would never condemn anyone for simply disagreeing with the consensus. If the subject were climate change and human factors contributing to global warming, I would hope I could lead someeone of a minority view to change their mind by pointing to resources they may not have seen or read yet. If the subject were evolution, and I was talking to a creationist, I would try to encourage them to read certain works that addressed head on some of their difficulties in accepting evolution.

      I may not succeed, but I would hope I could always attempt to argue for a position on the strengths and nature of the arguments alone. To appeal to consensus may be “technically correct” but it is not necessarily a valid way to change people’s minds.

      Unfortunately, what one too often sees from those who do rely on “appealing to the consensus” or majority view, is an associated attitude of ridicule and insult, mocking someone for not belonging with the “smarts”.

      I think the real value in Roger’s two detailed comments here is that they point to doorways where anyone particularly interested in the question can go to learn the ins and outs of the respective arguments.

      I have no opinion one way or the other on the relative date of MF because the question does not interest me at this time. If I were to be involved in a discussion of MF I could not say such and such a relative date was the fact of the matter; I could say that most (a consensus maybe) of scholars say such and such. Because I simply don’t know the arguments themselves I cannot say which ones are valid: I can say, however, that most scholars say such and such.

      If I ever did want to know for myself where MF fits, I would go into all arguments and try to make my case, whether it was a majority or minority viewpoint would or should make no difference if the arguments are logically valid and built on a justifiable methodology.

      • Roger Pearse
        2019-01-21 13:44:15 GMT+0000 - 13:44 | Permalink

        I agree with much of this. Certainly I would collect and evaluate the sources.

        In this case the arguments are mainly in monographs in German, and I have not felt any enthusiasm to translate a few hundred pages of it. So it was simpler and easier to rely on the consensus of scholarship. Wimping out, of course, but what can one do.

        • A Buddhist
          2019-01-21 14:04:47 GMT+0000 - 14:04 | Permalink

          One could read the argument (almost 1000 English words in length) written by Earl Doherty about when MF should be dated, as well as see what resources he cites in making his argument.

          But you, Roger Pearse, wimped out by simply accusing Doherty of merely regurgitating the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica article about MF.

          Because you,Roger Pearse, were not and are not interested in seriously considering what Earl Doherty has to say. Rather, you are interested in defending your Christian religion and your alleged soul, which is allegedly immortal, against those people who would argue that Christianity is incoherent. So by dismissing Earl Doherty’s arguments as insane and utterly lacking in self-awareness without reading their latest form or engaging with them, you follow the model (and some of the rhetoric) of Ignatius of Antioch, who condemned Christian docetists as mad dogs and beasts in human form.

          • Roger Pearse
            2019-01-21 15:30:33 GMT+0000 - 15:30 | Permalink

            Woof!

            • A Buddhist
              2019-01-21 15:44:20 GMT+0000 - 15:44 | Permalink

              What does this mean? Are you admitting that you are a Christian Docetist or condemning me as a Christian Docetist? I am a Buddhist.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2019-01-21 22:38:06 GMT+0000 - 22:38 | Permalink

          Yeh, there was once a time when learning a second language was part of the core curriculum at universities. I am thankful for having learned at least to French but do wish I had also learned German.

          But what I do when something of importance is in German I spend some time each day copying and pasting pages of the text (okay, I have the tools to convert hard copy to digital) into a file in Google Drive and then running the Google translator over it. That does produce a lot of gobbledegook with the easier stuff, but at least it gives me some sense of what is being argued. The especially difficult gobbledegook can be checked with dictionaries to make sense. And I also keep an online search result for the most common words in German so that I can at least start to recognize certain words that regularly appear so there is less need for the machine translation.

          But of course we don’t all have the time for sticking at that sort of process.

          If I were more financial I’d pay someone to translate for me, but translators I have come across do charge heaps.

          • Roger Pearse
            2019-01-21 23:40:02 GMT+0000 - 23:40 | Permalink

            I do likewise. At least you get the gist. If I’m preparing a translation I have a tool to interleave the German and English sentences on alternate lines. When google translate goes doolally you can sometimes see it via the original.

            But of course even this takes time. Sigh.

            I did once hire a professional translator from German but he was useless for theological stuff. It was also very expensive, as you observed.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2019-01-22 00:07:51 GMT+0000 - 00:07 | Permalink

              I did once ask a German friend if she could translate something for me but her eyes glazed over and she said it was beyond her — I got the impression there is something odd or particularly unorthodox about terms used in a “technical” or special interest paper.

              What is the tool you use for “interleaving” the G and E sentences on alternate lines?

              • Roger Pearse
                2019-01-22 14:51:20 GMT+0000 - 14:51 | Permalink

                I think this is right. Technical texts are a special case. Most ancient technical literature goes untranslated because it requires, not only the language skill, not only the cultural awareness of antiquity, but also knowledge of e.g. alchemy or medicine, and specialised glossaries for either. I have found it impossible to obtain suitably qualified people to do those texts.

                Theology is also a technical text, in a way. Knowledge of the meaning of “presbuteros” in a NT context – “elder” – did not help a very competent chap translating a 5th century text for me, and I had to gently tell him that it there meant definitely “priest”.

                The tool I wrote myself in Visual Basic long ago. These days one would do it in Javascript, I imagine. It has three boxes on the screen, 1. top left being text, 2. bottom left being translation, and 3. the whole height of the right hand side being the interleaved.

                I paste the text into box 1. Then I press a button to go through box 1 and insert a newline whenever I found a fullstop, semi-colon or colon, question mark or exclamation mark.

                Then I manually copy the split up text out of box 1, and paste it into Google translate. Then I manually paste the translated text back into box 2. Google respects newlines, you see.

                Then I press a button to read both boxes 1 and 2 and output a line from each alternately into box 3, with a blank line after every line. It also warns me if there are different numbers of lines in 1 and 2.

                Then I manually paste the interleaved stuff out of box 3 into my blog, and start working on it!

                It doesn’t work all the time, but I am used to it. I don’t know if I can turn it into an installable now … Microsoft don’t even support VB properly any more … or I’d offer you a copy. But you can see how simple it is.

                Obviously it only works for small quantities of text. Google won’t translate more than 5,000 words, or something like that.

                I really ought to finish it up. But maybe a webpage with a bit of javascript would be better.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2019-01-22 23:56:27 GMT+0000 - 23:56 | Permalink

                Thanks for the clarification. You’re way ahead of me with being able to write your own program. My work usually placed me in a position to ask tech teams to do things like that for me. I assume it’s not so easy to apply for funding from your work institution to pay a translator.

                One sort of program I would love to be able to construct is a topic map. Are you aware of anyone having built one of those in a “biblical” related area?

              • Roger Pearse
                2019-01-23 18:55:18 GMT+0000 - 18:55 | Permalink

                I’ve looked into this, and I think I can do a .msi for it, if you like? But it is really very basic. It just saves me moving my eyes so much.

                I pay my translators myself. I did try to get some grant money once, but I quickly discovered that the grant system is closed to mere mortals like you and I.

                Topic maps are something that I had never heard of at all!

  • Neil Godfrey
    2019-01-24 01:31:27 GMT+0000 - 01:31 | Permalink

    I’ve also been taking part in some discussions on the date of Minucius Felix in the comments for a blog, of a kind that hardly exists any more. This has been very pleasant to do, even if many of the other commenters are somewhat eccentric. It has been interesting to discover that a German monograph in 1967 has completely settled the date as post-dating Tertullian. I ought to write all this up some time. — Roger Pearse, Jan 23 2019

    • A Buddhist
      2019-01-24 01:51:57 GMT+0000 - 01:51 | Permalink

      I will admit to being eccentric. That having been said, Roger Pearse’s summary is deceptive in three ways.
      1. By Roger Pearse’s own admission, there are other scholars since 1967 who believe that MF’s dating is unsettled.
      2. Pearse fails to mention that the discussion involved his claiming from the beginning that MF post-dated Tertullian but only when confronted by others with the need to justify this view did he settle upon a 1967 article as the basis for supporting his claim.
      3. Pearse neglects to mention that he has not read the article that he is citing as completely settling the dating of MF.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-01-24 08:57:25 GMT+0000 - 08:57 | Permalink

      Roger, you have come here making comments that gratuitously assume we are here to trash Christianity and scholars and have failed to respond when I have attempted to point out that this blog is not the least interested in doing either of those things. You will find many posts here that will give any open-minded person the very opposite impression of what we are about here.

      But you do mystify me, certainly, with your other replies as well. I am used to talking with highly educated people who are focused on the arguments, their logic and supporting evidence; more than once you have seemed to come across as if expecting others to accept your opinion merely on the authority of your educational status. And when we ask you to support some of your assertions that we would see as ad hominem and baseless, you simply fail to respond.

      We expect more from people who have had the good fortune of a superior education and for them to share their wisdom, their reasoning, not their “authority”.

      • Steven Watson
        2019-02-07 13:07:15 GMT+0000 - 13:07 | Permalink

        From his blog-

        https://www.roger-pearse.com/weblog/about/

        Roger Pearse says:
        May 9, 2018 at 7:17 am

        I’m a layman. I have no relevant qualifications whatsoever so my opinion is worth nothing (probably). There is no need to engage with me. But then I tend not to write opinion. This is why I focus on making primary sources accessible. Whatever I have to say is usually verifiable.

        My academic publishing is not self-publishing, tho, but rather normal publishing of the professional academics who wrote the volumes. Both are translations; both have been peer-reviewed. I just put up the money etc.

        Another scholar-manqué then.

        This loony had me going for a bit; however the resulting commentary from yourself and everyone else involved was very instructive. It was rather like how I imagine it would have been watching some Hellenstic monarch blundering his phalanx into the Republican legions that had just owned Hannibal and having his head handed to him by what he mistook for a bunch of bloody farmers. The general didn’t matter overly much with the centurions knowing the field manual inside out, he just had to set them in motion and the enemy, a king with no real subordinates to hand off to, would be toast.

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