Search Results for: brodie


2015-12-13

Tom Dykstra on Mythicism: Erhman, Brodie and Scholarly Conduct

by Neil Godfrey
From http://www.cautionary-tales.com/
From http://www.cautionary-tales.com/

Tom Dykstra writes “a cautionary tale” concerning the unpleasant rift between mythicists (those who dispute the historicity of Jesus) and historicists (those who defend the historicity of Jesus). His primary exemplars are “historicist” Bart Ehrman and “mythicist” Thomas Brodie, Ehrman and Brodie on Whether Jesus Existed: A Cautionary Tale about the State of Biblical Scholarship.

His first warning is against the overconfidence of the historicists: mythicists do raise some serious questions that historicists ought to take more seriously;

Dykstra offers an alternative approach to the question in an attempt to break out from the “he-did-exist” versus the “no-he-didn’t” polarity that he suggests is buttressed by a an over abundance of confidence that too often surfaces on both sides.

Finally Dykstra excoriates the hostile tone and outright insults fired from both trenches. Yes and no; here I find myself unable to fully agree with Dykstra’s moral of the story.

Overconfidence 

Dykstra reminds readers of the struggles of past scholars for their critical works questioning the historicity of other biblical characters and events (e.g. Thomas Thompson was to be rejected by the academy for his thesis disputing the authenticity of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob though today his thesis is mainstream).

The message that comes through is that scholars need to be more willing to seriously consider the arguments that challenge the status quo. This is especially so given that scholars who take the historical existence of Jesus for granted at the same time acknowledge that many claims made in the same evidence for Jesus simply cannot be trusted. The most obvious examples are the infancy narratives and portrayal of Pilate as a righteous but weak-willed man.

Dykstra further points to scholars as diverse as Ben Witherington and John Dominic Crossan observing that both the authors of the gospels and scholars of the gospels have been reconstructing the Jesus who personifies their own theological views — hence modern readers are really looking at theology, not history.

Dykstra outlines the key points of Ehrman’s arguments for the historicity of Jesus and points out in each case how Brodie’s challenge to each one leaves the question far from settled.

But at least as important as the arguments themselves, Dykstra points out at some length, are the problematic attitudes of the scholars that set up a barrier against an open discussion.

A prominent feature of Ehrman’s text is repeated expressions of disdain for “mythicists” . . . along with assertions that no reputable New Testament scholar is a mythicist. In a blog post about the book he expresses clearly the confident and dismissive attitude that also pervades the book.

The mythicist Brodie presents a stark comparison:

Like Ehrman, Brodie expresses absolute confidence in the correctness of his conclusion. But he maintains a good-natured sense of humor and a courteous and considerate attitude toward those on the opposing side.

As for the different perspectives, the article takes us through Ehrman’s “pro-historicity” points and pits against them Brodie’s undermining responses one by one.

Thus where Ehrman sees a host of independent witnesses to Jesus Brodie sees a host of variations of a single source. Where Ehrman sees a narrative that no Jew would fabricate (a messiah who is crucified) Brodie finds a narrative that “makes perfect sense as a fresh synthesis of Old Testament texts that ‘deal with the tension between suffering and God’s hope.'”

In these ways Brodie either neutralizes or at least casts doubt on all of Ehrman’s evidence and arguments.

So far so good. It is at the next stage of Dykstra’s article that I find myself taking an ever so slightly different tack — or maybe not. read more »


2013-12-26

The Brodie Files: Beyond the Quest Posts on Vridar

by Neil Godfrey

One reader asked for an easier way to review the various posts on Thomas Brodie’s Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery. So here it is. Posts directly dealing with a chapter by chapter overview of the book, those in the “Making of a Mythicist” series, are in bold font. Other posts in which the same book had a key focus are right-aligned. All are in chronological order of posting.

I have not included here several other posts on Brodie’s ideas that have been posted on this blog. These can be found through the “Index of Topics / Select a Category” button in the right hand margin.

brodiebeyond

“Jesus did not exist as an historical individual”: Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus

Quest for History: Rule One — from Brodie’s Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus

Mythicism and Positive Christianity

Thomas Brodie’s Review of Bart Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist?

Sowing Doubt That An Emotional Paul Authored Galatians

What Did Luke’s Eyewitnesses See?

Questioning Paul’s Letters. Were they really “occasional”? Or rhetorical fictions?

The Inevitable Catches Up With Thomas L. Brodie

Thomas L. Brodie: Two Core Problems with Historical Jesus Arguments

What They Are Saying About The Brodie Affair

1. The Making of a Mythicist, Act 1, Scene 1 (Thomas Brodie’s Odyssey)

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2. Making of a Mythicist, Act 1, Scene 2

McGrath’s Review of Brodie’s Memoir: Incompetent or Dishonest?

Ongoing Disregard for Facts and Denials of Old Criticisms (yes, McGrath again, sorry)

Brodie’s Argument that Jesus Never Existed

What Do We Mean by “Incompetent”?

Joel Watts Acclaims Thomas Brodie a Scholarly “Giant” and His Work “A Masterpiece”

3. Making of a Mythicist, Act 2, Scene 1 (Brodie’s Odyssey)

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4. Making of a Mythicist, Act 2, Scene 2 (The Verdict Falls)

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5. Making of a Mythicist, Act 2, Scene 3 (“That is an important thesis”)

Brodie’s Mythicist Case: The Facts

6. Making of a Mythicist, Act 3, Scene 1 (Too Strange!)

Thomas Brodie Illustrates The New Testament’s Dependence On the Old

Parallels, Drum Majorettes and Brodie

7. Making of a Mythicist, Act 3, Scene 2 (Discovering the Crucial Bridge) — With a note on “Parallelomania”

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8. Making of a Mythicist, Act 3, Scene 3 (“It is original, but not off the wall”)

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9. Making of a Mythicist, Act 3, Scene 4 (The Dominican Biblical Institute, and its Research)

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10. Making of a Mythicist, Act 4, Scene 1 (“We need a gentle funeral”)

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11. Making of a Mythicist, Act 4, Scene 2 (“What Is Rule One?”)

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12. Making of a Mythicist, Act 4, Scene 3 (Deeps Below, Storms Ahead)

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13. Making of a Mythicist, Act 4, Scene 4 (The Crumbling Evidence for Paul)

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14. Making of a Mythicist, Act 4, Scene 5 (How Paul Was Made)

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15. Making of a Mythicist, Act 4, Scene 6 (Two Key Problems with Historical Jesus Studies)

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16. Making of a Mythicist — ch 17 . . . Unreliable Criteria

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17. Making of a Mythicist — ch 17 . . . Did Jesus Model Himself on Elijah?

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18. Making of a Mythicist — ch 17 . . . Was Jesus a Carpenter?

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19. Making of a Mythicist — ch 17 . . . The Evidence of Josephus

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20. Making of a Mythicist — ch 17 . . . Jesus in Greco-Roman Sources & General Conclusions

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21. Making of a Mythicist, Act 5, Scene 1 (Explaining Christian Origins Without Jesus)

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22. Making of a (Christian) Mythicist, Act 5, Scene 2 (Staying Christian With a Symbolic Jesus)

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23. Making of a (Christian) Mythicist, Act 5, Scene 3 (What Christianity Can Mean If Jesus Did Not Exist)

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24. Making of a (Christian) Mythicist, Act 5, Scene 4 (To Believe Or Not To Believe the Parable) — Conclusion

Theology and the Historical Jesus


2013-08-08

Parallels, Drum Majorettes and Brodie

by Neil Godfrey

drummy logoThomas Brodie argues that the Gospel narratives are in large part sourced not from oral traditions but from the Greek versions of the Jewish scriptures. I recently posted a chapter from one of his books in which he presents the minute details of an argument for the literary indebtedness of one scene in the Gospel of Luke to passages about Elijah in 1 Kings 19. Rick Sumner responded with his view that Brodie’s argument was too subjective to be of any real value. Exchanges followed and Rick has since presented a more formal response on his blog, The Drum Majorette, to explain why he believes Brodie’s arguments are inadequate.

Rick argues that arguments like those of Brodie (another example would be those of Dennis MacDonald that argue the Gospel of Mark and the Book of Acts draw in places upon scenes in the Homeric epics) are “unchecked interpretation” comparable to a Freudian seeing sexual allusions everywhere. He implicitly compares Brodie’s argument with a psychologist explaining our attraction for a drum majorette in terms of our latent homosexuality:

But this “prominent psychologist” provided their own interpretation. The drum majorette protrudes from the band the way they erect penis protrudes from the body. Thus, our attraction to her represents our latent homosexuality.

This is the among the stupidest things I’ve ever heard.

Yet, stupid or not, it was treated seriously, and accorded serious consideration. And ever since I first read Cleckley’s volume some 15 years or so ago it has served as a constant reminder to me of the dangers of unchecked interpretation.

I believe such an analogy fails to appreciate what it is that Brodie and MacDonald are doing with their analyses of the literature.

The comment of mine that prompted Rick to write his post was this:

. . . when one gets down to the structural and detailed verbal analysis of literature, I think that’s where we are doing more than cloud-shape-spotting. I think, in fact, that we can all at least “see” the parallels that Brodie, for example, points out. The question is not seeing them, but explaining them.

Rick has two problems with my comment, one lesser and one greater.

The lesser one: read more »


2013-08-01

Thomas Brodie Illustrates The New Testament’s Dependence On the Old

by Neil Godfrey
brodie2
Thomas L. Brodie

Chapter 7 of Thomas Brodie’s Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery is now available online. (Thanks to Sheffield Phoenix Press.) This is the chapter in which he addresses in  depth his argument for the Gospel authors borrowing from the Old Testament to craft their narratives about Jesus.

I have been posting a chapter by chapter series on Thomas L. Brodie’s book, Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus. Chapter 7, however, is where Brodie draws the reader in to the nitty gritty of a case-study that demonstrates the way an author of a Gospel drew upon Old Testament literature in order to create his narrative.

I did address in very broad outline the main points of this chapter in Brodie’s Mythicist Case: The Facts, but at the same time I knew that anyone seriously interested in engaging with Brodie’s argument would need to read the detail. Phoenix, the publisher of Brodie’s book, has very kindly given me permission to post the chapter (see permissions) in which Brodie spells out all of this detail.

I have now posted this on my vridar.info page: see Thomas L. Brodie: The New Testament’s Dependence On the Old — Illustrated.

Since then, however, I have learned how to embed the same (6MB pdf) document here: read more »


2013-07-16

Brodie’s Mythicist Case: The Facts

by Neil Godfrey

memoirUpdated with additional conclusion 17th July

Thomas Brodie argues that the Gospel accounts of Jesus, both his deeds and teachings, are like other literature of the era insofar as they are creative re-writings of earlier literary sources. The best-known example of such creative imitation in the classical world is Virgil’s use of Homer’s epics to create the Aeneid. What is less well known is how pervasive this sort of literary imitation (and creative emulation) was in the Hellenistic and Roman worlds. Many scholars have pinpointed isolated passage in the Gospels that appear to be derived from other literature (e.g. Jesus raising the daughter of Jairus is very like similar miracles by Elijah and Elisha) but Brodie goes well beyond these arguments and into a quite different dimension of literary analysis, as I will explain below. He also argues that the hypothesis that the Gospels are derived from oral traditions is flawed for many reasons.

No-one who has read Thomas Brodie’s Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery can ever legitimately accuse Brodie of resorting to “extreme parallelomania” in order to argue his case. Indeed, scholars as reputable as Charles H. Talbert and Wilfrid Cantrell Smith found Brodie’s thesis to be worthy of wider serious consideration. Anyone who dismisses his arguments as even at times stooping to superficial dot-point comparisons of prepositions was never paying attention to what they claim they read. (I have suppressed the name of the prime culprit in order to protect the guilty.)

In Chapter 7 of Beyond the Quest Brodie gives a 26-page detailed explanation of what is involved in identifying the source of Luke 9:57-62 in 1 Kings 19. Six of those 26 pages set out in small font the relevant Greek texts and translations side by side. This is the sort of detail that Brodie explains he did not have space to include in his 2004 tome (680+ pages) identifying the sources of New Testament writings, The Birthing of the New Testament. But of those 680+ pages Brodie only gave a 6-page explanation of how those six verses are derived from 1 Kings 19. In Beyond the Quest we are treated to the full course banquet.

Getting Inside What Is Happening

Studies of how ancient writers adapted or transformed older texts, especially of how the New Testament used the Old Testament, are now becoming commonplace, but it is useful to look at an example closely because the transforming process can seem strange. (Beyond, p. 51)

read more »


2013-07-12

Making of a Mythicist, Act 2, Scene 1 (Brodie’s Odyssey)

by Neil Godfrey

memoirThe earlier posts, “Act 1” covered Brodie’s Part One of Beyond the Quest. That covered the period of Brodie’s intellectual discoveries from his late teen years till June 1972 (when he was about 30 years of age). Much of the setting was Trinidad. Brodie titled that Part of his book, his first four chapters, “The First Revolution: Historical Investigations” and explained its theme:

Becoming aware that biblical narratives are not necessarily reliable accounts of history.

The posts covering this section:

We now come to Part Two.

Part II

The Second Revolution: Literary Sources

Becoming aware of where biblical writers found much of their material

Chapter 5

The setting is Europe, Normandy. 1972. Brodie is studying for exams in Rome.

While in Trinidad he had taught the Gospel so Matthew knew it well. Now he was studying Deuteronomy when the abductive moment flashed:

Now I was focused on Deuteronomy when I suddenly said ‘That is like Matthew, that is so like Matthew’ — something about the sense of community, the discourses, the blessings and curses, the mountain setting. (p. 31)

Other similarities suggested themselves in the following days:

  • aspects of the Elijah-Elisha narrative “showed startling similarities to Luke-Acts”
  • the book of Wisdom’s confrontation between Wisdom and the kings of the earth was in some ways suggestive of the meeting between Jesus and Pilate in the Gospel of John

While in Jerusalem, at the École Biblique, a center of biblical historical and archaeological studies, Brodie continued his study of the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) with Matthew in mind. Only flimsy and tenuous connections with Matthew could be noticed, however, until he reached Deuteronomy 15.

Since beginning this series I have discovered James McGrath’s distortion of Brodie’s book so where appropriate I should make clear what Brodie really says. McGrath speaks of Brodie’s “extreme parellelomania”. It is one thing to question and debate specific claims that certain passages were borrowed from others, but quite another to dismiss any such argument out of hand because we don’t like its implications. I emphasize the passages that clearly escaped McGrath’s notice.

Connections with Matthew seemed few and flimsy. Then suddenly, in Deuteronomy 15, the search came to life. The repeated emphasis on remission resonated with Matthew’s emphasis on forgiveness (Mt. 18). Both use similar Greek terminology. Obviously such similarity proved nothing. But further comparison revealed more links. And the Deuteronomic word for debt, daneion, is unknown elsewhere in the Bible — except in Matthew 18. Gradually the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place. Matthew 18 had used first-century materials, including Mark, but it had also absorbed Deuteronomy 15. (p. 32)

Here is a copy of Brodie’s table on this particular comparison from another work of his, The Birthing of the New Testament: read more »


2013-07-11

Joel Watts Acclaims Thomas Brodie a Scholarly “Giant” and His Work “A Masterpiece”

by Neil Godfrey
wattsongiants
Watts explains that to write his book, Mimetic Criticism, he had to stand upon three giants: MacDonald, Brodie and Winn.

Rabid anti-mythicist Joel Watts has hailed the major work of mythicist Thomas L. Brodie, The Birthing of the New Testament, as “a masterpiece” in his own newly published book, Mimetic Criticism and the Gospel of Mark:

[Brodie’s] 2004 work, The Birthing of the New Testament, exploring the answers to the creation of the New Testament, stands as a masterpiece. His thesis is rather remarkable and easily within the realm of Roman literary tradition. . . . Brodie . . . has provided us with a better methodology . . . (Mimetic, p. 19)

In The Birthing of the New Testament Brodie, who has since “come out” confessing that his work led him to conclude Jesus did not exist (see various posts in the Brodie Memoir Archive), expounds in depth his methods and arguments for the literary sources of the Gospels, and effectively demolishes any need for a hypothetical “oral tradition” to explain any of their narrative input. The deeds, teachings and even the characters in the gospels are for most part re-writings of the Jewish Scriptures.

But Joel Watts, who has nothing but verbal slime to flick at the intellectual competence and personal character of anyone who leans towards a mythicist view, did not know that when he wrote that Brodie’s arguments were “a masterpiece”!

My my, what one will acknowledge if one does not hear the M word in what one is reading!

This brings to mind Brodie’s own observation that other scholars and teachers did not have a problem with his methods, only his conclusions:

He listened to me patiently, and looked carefully through some of the manuscript. I brought the conclusions to his attention.

‘You cannot teach that’, he said quietly.

I explained that I didn’t want to teach the conclusions, just the method, as applied to limited areas of the New Testament. If the method was unable to stand the pressure of academic challenge, from students and other teachers, then I could quietly wave it good-bye and let the groundless conclusions evaporate in silence.

It was a Saturday afternoon. He needed time to think it over. He would see me in a few days. (Brodie, Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery, p. 36)

Brodie learned to keep silent about the implications of his arguments in his earlier published works. He explains why in his Memoir. He was advised by publishers and scholars that his conclusions (not his methods) were unacceptable.

Other scholars who have advanced similar arguments have evidently been aware of the conclusions to which they intuitively lead. They have therefore made a point of explicitly reminding readers they are not questioning the historicity of Jesus or the fundamentals of the Gospel accounts. That they need to protest so consistently tells me they well understand the logical conclusions to be drawn from those arguments — but faith (or security of academic tenure according to Joseph Hoffmann) must, as always, override reason. More on this at the end of this post.

Even James McGrath endorsed it, (until . . . . ?) read more »


2013-07-09

Reviews of Brodie’s Works: Elijah-Elisha Influence on Gospel Narratives

by Neil Godfrey

the-crucial-bridgeHow was Brodie’s method of arguing that the Gospel narrative of Jesus is indebted to the OT narrative of Elijah and Elisha received by his scholarly peers before he published his conviction that there never was an historical Jesus? Was it laughed out of the academy as an unfortunate attack of “parallelomania” (as McGrath would seem to think it should be now that he classifies Brodie as an intellectual leper for denying the historical existence of Jesus)?

Thomas Brodie argues that the Old Testament double narrative of Elijah and Elisha lies behind the narratives of Jesus in the synoptic gospels. My previous post included references to this in extracts from reviews of The Birthing the New Testament. Brodie had earlier published a smaller volume outlining this particular case, The Crucial Bridge, and this post shares some details of scholarly reviews of that volume.

Anyone who has used the online Historical Commentary on the Gospel of Mark knows that its author, Michael Turton, has made numerous references to The Crucial Bridge. Jacob Aliet in his review of this commentary notes:

Backed by the works of scholar like Tomas L. Brodie, Turton advances the argument that the author of Mark modeled the events surrounding Jesus on the Elija-Elisha cycle and other Old Testament characters and prophecies. Though he performs a literary analysis on the gospel, Turton’s main objective is using the analysis to help in arriving at a judgement on the historicity of the events and characters in the Markan narrative.

Turton recognized the implications of Brodie’s analysis and did not shy away expressing it.

What needs to be understood is that The Crucial Bridge is only secondarily, even incidentally, an argument that the Gospels of Luke and Mark in particular were influenced by the Elijah-Elisha narrative. It is confined to the concluding 20-page chapter. The main argument (80 pages) examines the literary structure of the Elijah-Elisha section and its relationships with the Primary History (Genesis to 2 Kings).

Moreover, Brodie’s final chapter arguing for a link between the Gospels and the Elijah-Elisha section is actually introduced as an attempt

to corroborate [Raymond] Brown’s proposal …that the Gospels were partly modeled on the prophetic biographies, particularly the account of Elisha and his miracles … in particular to make it more precise: the foundational model for the development of the Gospels was not just the account of Elisha’s miracles. It was the entire Elijah-Elisha narrative. (p. 80)

This proposal by Raymond Brown was published in Perspectives 12 (1971) 98-99 as “Jesus and Elisha”. Brodie notes that other scholars have since agreed with this basic idea:

  • Charles Talbert, What Is a Gospel?
  • Martin Hengel, Acts and the History of Earliest Christianity (1980), 30-32
  • David Barr and Judith Wentling, “The Conventions of Classical Biography and the Genre of Luke-Acts: A Preliminary Study,” paper presented at SBL/CBA regional meeting, 1980
  • Yarbro Collins, The Beginning of the Gospel, 27-36

The point I am making here is that Brodie’s thesis is not unique. It mixes with a respectable scholarly agenda. To dismiss his argument as inept methodologically after he has “come out” to confess his mythicist leanings suggests a base motive at large. read more »


2013-07-08

Brodie’s Argument that Jesus Never Existed

by Neil Godfrey

I was sitting with Everard Johnston, Lecturer in scriptures and dogma, at his house in Picton Street, Port of Spain, discussing the manuscript. By then his young wife, June, had gone to bed, and amid the sounds of the tropical night we sipped rum and coke as I tried to explain the basic idea of rewriting.

I handed him page 128 on connections between 1 Corinthians and the Old Testament.

He took his time perusing it, then he put it down, muttering, ‘In the same order . . . the same order apart from minor modifications’.

We turned to the gospels, discussing the extent to which they too are a product of the rewriting. Suddenly he said, ‘So we’re back to Bultmann. We know nothing about Jesus.’

I paused a moment.

‘It’s worse than that’.

There was a silence.

Then he said, ‘He never existed’.

I nodded.

There was another silence, a long one, and then he nodded gently, ‘It makes sense’. 

(pp. 35-36 of Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus, T. L. Brodie)

Brodie does not make an explicit connection in any of his earlier publications on the relationship between the literary origins of the New Testament writings and the question of the historicity of Jesus. Most of his earlier books explored the literary structures of the Gospels and some of the epistles. Brodie was especially struck by the way the Gospel authors not only seemed to borrow so heavily from the Old Testament but also appeared to be re-writing of so much of those Jewish scriptures. In 1980 an exchange with Joseph Fitzmyer led Brodie to broaden his scope by investigating the wider literary practices of the early Christian era and to see if such borrowing and re-writing was a known feature of the literary customs of the day. (Didn’t someone recently write a review claiming that Brodie never listened to advice?) read more »


2013-06-30

How Did McGrath Get Himself Inside Thomas Brodie?

by Neil Godfrey

psychological-projection-liberal-hatemongers-politics-1344032910James McGrath has posted a revealing reply to my critique of a single point in his review of Thomas Brodie’s Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery. Ironically he appears to be unaware that his every point is illustrating the very problem I was trying to address and that is close to the core of the historical Jesus vs Christ myth controversy. (One can hardly call it a two-sided intellectual debate or exchange at this stage.)

I concluded with the message that McGrath “brings a hostile intent to every page” he reads by a mythicist.

In my critique of a single point in McGrath’s review of Brodie’s memoir I pointed out that McGrath unfortunately failed to establish his claim with any factual reference to what Brodie had written. Indeed, when one reads the pages that McGrath cited as support for his view, one finds that Brodie’s words belie McGrath’s claims. How is this possible?

McGrath explains

McGrath explains. He draws on his own personal experience and personal weaknesses and reasons that these should guide his and our reading of Brodie’s book. It’s called projection.

McGrath’s explicit reliance upon his own experience while at the same time dismissing and/or ignoring anything Brodie says to the contrary is a classic case of this all too common bit of the human condition. McGrath fails to see that his own experience is irrelevant unless he can directly relate it to the evidence Brodie states — not to “impressions” McGrath gets from putting unspecified inferences he brings together from various pages.

The point I was making in that section of my review was about the fact that Brodie drew a conclusion about whether Jesus was a historical figure even before learning how to do scholarship in the appropriate manner. I can tell you that I myself had all sorts of ideas that I thought were brilliant, publication-worthy insights as an undergraduate. Few withstood the testing to which I subjected them in my ongoing studies.

No, Brodie did not come to the conclusion that Jesus was not historical before “learning how to do scholarship”. McGrath originally said that that was his impression and now he is saying that this was “a fact” he was trying to point out. I have been discussing Brodie’s book in detail and it is clear that McGrath has nothing but his own “impression” — no data — to support what he now says is a “fact” about Brodie.

But it does not stop there. In his original review McGrath invites his readers to share in this projection. He does this by pointing to general motherhood statements that most others can relate to from their student days and invites readers to think of Brodie’s argument through this perspective. read more »


2013-06-27

McGrath’s Review of Brodie’s Memoir: Incompetent or Dishonest?

by Neil Godfrey

While preparing the next step of my posts on Thomas Brodie’s Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery, a Google search brought to my attention a review of this same work by James McGrath back in February this year. It also recently came to my attention that McGrath is to present a paper [Link //drjimsthinkingshop.com/2013/06/academic-freedom-and-biblical-scholarship/ and blog is no longer active… Neil, 23rd Sept, 2015] on academic freedom and that he has chosen to use Brodie’s experiences as he describes them in this Memoir as a case study.

So I read McGrath’s review of Brodie’s book, expecting to find a much more professional treatment of a scholarly peer than he had ever bestowed upon the amateur Earl Doherty. In “reviewing” Doherty McGrath explicitly defended his refusal to explain Doherty’s arguments because he did not want to lend any respectability to mythicism. When I asked McGrath why he sometimes claimed Doherty wrote the very opposite of what he did write, or accused him of not addressing themes and arguments that he clearly did address and at length, I received in return either no reply or an insult.

I did not expect to find the same treatment of Thomas Brodie. But that’s exactly what I found. One difference is that McGrath couches much of his language in tones of condescension whereas he was belligerently abusive towards Doherty.

I will write a complete response to McGrath’s entire review in a future post. However, for now I am incensed enough at his outright incompetence (or is it plain old intellectual dishonesty?) and failure to write a straight and truthful account of Brodie’s Memoir that I will address just one of his remarks.

McGrath writes in his second paragraph:

Brodie indicates that . . . his inability to find a publisher very early on was a result of things like poor grammar, lack of footnotes, refusal to accept criticisms of and feedback on his claims and interpretations, and attempting to find a Christian publisher for what he wrote on the subject (pp.32,35,40,42).

I am singling out this section because it directly relates to a section I was preparing to write up in my next blog post so registers most strongly in me at this moment. What McGrath has written here is not at all what I recalled from my reading of Brodie so I checked the page references. (Like Joel Watts, it seems McGrath assumes that it does not matter if he leaves bogus citations; that if he doesn’t follow up such things then no-one else will bother, either.)

Page 32 makes no reference whatever to a publisher or any attempt by Brodie to have anything published with the exception to say that a work of his was published in 1992. Rather, this page refers to Brodie’s studies for a Diploma. read more »


2013-06-26

The Making of a Mythicist, Act 1, Scene 1 (Thomas Brodie’s Odyssey)

by Neil Godfrey

memoirDominican priest Thomas Brodie has written an autobiographical narrative of how he came to the realization that the New Testament writings about Jesus, in particular the Gospels, do not derive from reports about the life and teachings of an historical person at all but are entirely sourced and re-created from other theological writings. The Jesus of the Gospel narratives was created as a kind of parable or theological symbol.

Eventually Brodie’s literary studies of the New Testament led him to go even further than realizing the Jesus narratives were entirely theological-literary creations. The same even had to be concluded of the persona behind the bulk of the New Testament epistles.

His book, Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery, is a recounting of how his ideas developed and also of the lessons he learned along the way as he attempted to share and subject his research to independent scholarly criticism.

More, it is also a survey of the history of scholarly interpretations of the Bible, sweeping the reader through a panoramic view of how we got to where we are today with how we critically read the Bible.

Anyone not aware of Brodie’s background can learn a little more from my earlier posts in relation to Beyond the Quest. (Check the Index of Topics drop-down list in the right margin to see posts on other works by Brodie.)

Beyond the Quest is divided into five parts. Below are the intellectual themes of each part. These are narrated within the context of Brodie’s own life-experiences, exchanges with other (sometimes highly prominent) scholars, personal aspirations and challenges. He also reveals the background to each of his major publications.

  • Part 1
    • Learning the fundamentals of historical criticism. . . .
  • Part 2
    • Discovering literary sources of the Gospels
  • Part 3
    • Discovering the practices of the wider literary world and how they illuminated the New Testament writings in unexpected ways
  • Part 4
    • Grasping the first rule in historical inquiry (see my earlier post for an outline of Brodie’s chapter here), understanding the flaws in the oral tradition arguments (posts one, two, three, four detail his arguments from his earlier book), and the fate of Paul.

The book concludes with an epilogue reviewing Bart Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist?

In this post, Act 1, Scene 1, I’ll highlight the principle intellectual discoveries in Brodie’s early career as a student. These in themselves are well-known today among most readers with a critical interest in the Bible. They do not themselves directly lead to Brodie’s mythicist views. But we need to start at the beginning. There is much of Brodie’s own personal experiences that form the background to his education, and I encourage anyone interested to read his book to appreciate a little the personal odyssey this proved to be for Brodie. There is much of human interest as he relates his intellectual journey to his personal and wider social experiences.

And more than that, the reader will likewise begin to share Brodie’s learning and understanding of the sweep of critical biblical studies since the eighteenth century and even earlier.

Part 1

The First Revolution: Historical Investigations

Chapter 1

At one moment in his high school years Brodie was struck by the “extraordinary experience of depth and calm and truth” in Jesus’ farewell speech in the Gospel of John. He went on to learn by heart that entire Gospel.

One day an older Dominican remarked casually that the words of Jesus in the Gospels were not necessarily the exact words Jesus spoke. Brodie describes the slightly disheartening feeling that probably many other young believers have felt on first learning this.

But that is the sort of stuff most of us go through in our teen years. We learn to understand more the ways of the world, accept reality, and move on with faith unshaken or even cemented.

Ecole Biblique
Ecole Biblique

Then in the 1960s Brodie was taught in the tradition of Jerusalem’s Dominican-run biblical school, Ecole Biblique, a school that emphasized history and archaeology. Here is where Brodie was introduced to the historical-critical method.

“Historical” means trying to establish the facts.

The process is like that of a wise court-room where the facts of a case are in doubt, or of a calm history department in a university. The various biblical accounts of an event or life are examined individually, compared with one another, and compared also with other accounts or with other pertinent evidence. (p. 4)

Example. The Book of Jonah. read more »


2013-01-24

What They Are Saying About The Brodie Affair

by Neil Godfrey

Another Irish newspaper, Irish Central, says it has attempted to contact Thomas Brodie since the Irish Sun [link to the sun no longer active: Neil, 23rd July, 2019] article on Brodie’s removal from teaching positions but without success.

Father Levi, introduces himself as a priest of the Church of Ireland on his blog, The Way Out There. Father Levi writes

The truly odd part of this story, for me, is that apparently Fr Brodie has held these views since the ’70s but has only now chosen to make those views public.

and from there raises a number of issues. He concludes:

Those who already do not love the Church will decry any action taken against him as bullying, suppressing scholarship, denying him his right to speak freely, etc.

However, it will send message to the world that un-orthodox views are not to be tolerated within the Church, which is surely a good thing. People are already confused enough about what the Church teaches without others muddying the waters with this kind of material.

Returning to the Irish Central, this is more interesting for the comments posted than the original article:

One “peadarm” writes:

This [that Jesus did not exist] shouldn’t be a remarkable proposition – as Brodie says, much of the words and deeds of the gospels are drawn from the OT. Often word for word from the Greek of the Septuagint. And from the earlier epistles of the NT. They’re very much literary rather than oral constructs. Nor should it be particularly controversial – though realistically Brodie was brave to ‘come out’, I understand that he continues to believe in a mystical Jesus as a manifestation of God, without any need for a literal historical person matching the description in the gospels.

Then there is angelqueen, a blog “for purity and tradition”: [This blog is no longer active — link has been removed: 3rd August 2015] read more »

2013-01-23

Thomas L. Brodie: Two Core Problems with Historical Jesus Arguments

by Neil Godfrey

brodieBeyondNow seems an appropriate time to say something significant about Brodie’s arguments. I quote here sections from his now infamous book that The Irish Times reported as “caused quite a stir and some considerable upset”, Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus. (I don’t know. From what I hear from the likes of lots of mythicist critics, Brodie should have attempted to publish his views in a scholarly peer-reviewed journal if he thought he could mount a serious argument. He would have been guaranteed a fair hearing then, wouldn’t he?)

I was expelled by my church for going public with critical questioning and giving others materials to help them do the same, so I think I understand a little of what Brodie is experiencing. It is a nice coincidence that we appear to have come to a conjunction of views on Gospel origins despite our divergent scholarly statuses.

In chapter 17 Brodie addresses the four-volume work by another Catholic priest, John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew. I select here two core criticisms by Brodie that resonate with me because

  • (1) they address what is fundamentally wrong with most books on the historical Jesus;
  • and (2) they have also been basic to many of my own discussions of the Gospels as historical sources.

Brodie writes, beginning page 156 (my formatting and bolding):

Marginal Jew has two key problems. First, like many other studies, it uses an unreal compass — oral tradition.

By relying unduly on form critics . . . it assumes that the Gospels are something that they are not, namely, that they reflect oral traditions that go back to Jesus, back to about the year 30 C.E. (Marginal Jew, I. 41). read more »