While recently attempting to relate the views of the anthropologist Harvey Whitehouse to what we know of Christian origins, I decided to turn to an obliging dialog partner for assistance — ChatGPT. For background you might want to skim through what I wrote about Whitehouse’s models at https://vridar.org/2020/06/20/modes-of-religiosity/
Me: Given Harvey Whitehouse’s description of the doctrinal and imagistic modes of religiosity, what is the most likely origin of Christianity?
Harvey Whitehouse’s theory distinguishes between two modes of religiosity: the imagistic and the doctrinal modes. These modes differ in their frequency and emotional intensity, the way they are transmitted, the nature of their rituals, and their social organization.
- Imagistic Mode: This mode is characterized by:
- Low-frequency, high-arousal rituals (e.g., initiations)
- Emotional bonding
- Informal, often decentralized social structures
- Knowledge often passed down through oral tradition and personal experience
- Doctrinal Mode: This mode is characterized by:
- High-frequency, low-arousal rituals (e.g., regular worship services)
- Emphasis on doctrine and orthodoxy
- Centralized authority and more formal organizational structures
- Knowledge passed down through codified texts, doctrines, and teachings
Given this distinction, the origins of Christianity can be seen in both modes but with a clear progression from the imagistic to the doctrinal:
- The Imagistic Beginnings:
- Jesus and his disciples: The early ministry of Jesus involved a close-knit group of followers experiencing transformative moments together, reminiscent of the imagistic mode. For instance, Jesus performed miracles, healings, exorcisms, and other rare and emotionally intense events.
- Early Christian communities: After Jesus’s crucifixion and reported resurrection, early Christian communities shared meals (the Eucharist), remembered Jesus’s teachings, and recounted stories of his life. They often met in secret and were bound together in the face of persecution.
- Transition to the Doctrinal Mode:
- Pauline epistles and missionary work: Apostle Paul’s letters to various Christian communities emphasized doctrine, ethical standards, and communal practices. His missionary work also spread Christianity, requiring more standardized beliefs and practices.
- Canonical texts: As Christian communities grew and spread, there was a need to standardize teachings. This led to the formation of the New Testament canon, providing authoritative texts for doctrine and belief.
- Institutionalization: By the 4th century, with the Edict of Milan in 313 AD and the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, Christianity became a legal religion and later the state religion of the Roman Empire. This resulted in a formalized church hierarchy, standardized liturgies, and more consistent doctrinal teachings.
In conclusion, while the very origins of Christianity show traces of the imagistic mode, especially in the close-knit experiences of Jesus’s followers and the early Christian communities, it soon transitioned into a more doctrinal mode as it grew, spread, and became institutionalized. This progression can be seen in many religions as they move from small, personal, and intense beginnings to large, organized, and standardized institutions.
Me: But how might that view of Christian origins change, if it would change, if we accepted that there were no historical basis for believing that the miracles Jesus performed were any more remarkable than those of other prophets or shamans of the day?
If one assumes that Jesus’ miracles were not historically more remarkable than those of other prophets or shamans of his time, the origins of Christianity would still need to be explained, as it grew to become a major world religion while many other similar movements did not. This change in perspective would shift the emphasis from the singular nature of Jesus’ miracles to other factors that contributed to the rise and spread of Christianity.
- Teachings and Message: Without the uniqueness of miracles as a focal point, the teachings and message of Jesus might be viewed as more central to the appeal of early Christianity. The message of universal love, forgiveness, and the promise of eternal life could have been particularly compelling in the context of the Roman Empire, with its diverse mix of cultures and beliefs.
- Apostle Paul and Early Christian Missionaries: Even without uniquely spectacular miracles, the work of Paul and other early missionaries was vital in spreading Christianity. Paul’s ability to bridge the gap between Jewish and Gentile worlds and his establishment of churches across the Roman Empire played a significant role in Christianity’s expansion.
- Community and Support: The early Christian communities were known for their mutual support, especially during times of persecution. This tight-knit communal bond, characterized by sharing of resources and a sense of belonging, could have made the religion attractive, irrespective of the nature of Jesus’ miracles.
- Narrative and Resurrection: The narrative of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection would still remain pivotal. Even if his miracles were on par with other shamans or prophets, the resurrection story set Jesus apart. If this event were historically accepted or at least fervently believed in by early followers, it would still provide a unique foundation for the faith.
- Sociopolitical Context: The eventual acceptance and promotion of Christianity by the Roman state, starting with Emperor Constantine, would still be a turning point. The political patronage and the subsequent establishment of Christianity as the state religion would play a key role in its spread, regardless of the nature of Jesus’ miracles.
- Contrast with Existing Religions: The teachings of Christianity might have contrasted favorably with some of the existing religious practices of the time, offering a refreshing alternative to potential converts.
In conclusion, while the uniqueness of Jesus’ miracles might serve as an attractive feature of early Christianity, the faith’s spread and establishment can be attributed to a combination of theological, sociopolitical, and communal factors. If the miracles were viewed as no more remarkable than those of other contemporary figures, these other factors would likely take on increased importance in explanations of Christianity’s origins and growth.
Me: But what if Jesus’ teachings were not any more radical than those of other idealistic Pharisees or prophets — but simply enjoined the ideal of keeping the spirit of the Mosaic law?
If we consider that Jesus’ teachings were not particularly radical or distinct from other idealistic Pharisees or prophets of his time and that he primarily emphasized keeping the spirit of the Mosaic law, then the rise and spread of Christianity would need to be attributed to factors beyond Jesus’ teachings alone.
- Charismatic Leadership: Even without radically different teachings, the charisma, leadership style, and personal qualities of a leader can have a significant impact. Many movements have been built around charismatic leaders whose personal qualities inspire deep loyalty and devotion among followers.
- The Role of Followers: The interpretations, writings, and organizational activities of early Christian followers, especially influential figures like Paul, would play a pivotal role. Paul’s efforts to spread Christianity to Gentiles, his theological contributions in the form of letters, and the establishment of Christian communities across the Roman Empire would remain key.
- Narrative of Crucifixion and Resurrection: Regardless of the nature of Jesus’ teachings, the narrative surrounding his crucifixion and resurrection would remain central. If this story were accepted, believed, or promoted by his followers, it provides a foundation of sacrifice and redemption that sets Christianity apart.
- Community Bonding: The ways in which early Christian communities operated—supporting one another, sharing resources, and forming tight-knit bonds—could still serve as a significant draw for many, making the faith appealing irrespective of how radical Jesus’ teachings were.
- Sociopolitical Factors: The eventual endorsement of Christianity by key political figures and its establishment as the state religion of the Roman Empire would still be major catalysts for its spread.
- Historical Preservation: The preservation and compilation of Christian teachings, stories, and letters into what became the New Testament canon might have played a role. Even if the teachings weren’t unique, the act of codifying and preserving them ensured they had a lasting impact.
- Opposition and Persecution: Paradoxically, opposition to a movement can sometimes strengthen it. Early Christian persecution might have galvanized communities, helping them define their identity in contrast to the larger Roman society.
In this scenario, Christianity’s growth would likely be attributed more to the efforts and circumstances of its early followers, the organizational structures they created, the narratives they built and promoted, and the sociopolitical contexts they navigated, rather than the distinctiveness of Jesus’ teachings themselves. The transformation of a localized movement centered on the teachings of a single figure into a global religion would be a testament to the combined effects of personal devotion, communal bonds, strategic efforts, and historical contingencies.
Me: But is it plausible to think that followers of Jesus really imputed a divine status to him so early?
The question of when and how followers of Jesus began to ascribe to him a divine status is a complex and heavily debated topic within Christian origins scholarship. Here are some points to consider:
- Pauline Epistles: One of the earliest sources we have regarding beliefs about Jesus’ divine status are the letters of Paul. Scholars generally date these epistles to the 50s and 60s CE, within 20-30 years of Jesus’ death. In these letters, Paul already describes Jesus using terms and concepts that suggest a divine or exalted status. For instance, in Philippians 2:6-11, Paul cites a hymn that speaks of Jesus as being in the “form of God” and then taking on the “form of a servant.” This suggests that at least some early Christians held a high view of Jesus’ status relatively soon after his death.
- Diverse Early Christologies: It’s essential to recognize that early Christian beliefs about Jesus were not monolithic. There was a range of beliefs about his nature, role, and status. While some early Christian communities might have emphasized Jesus’ divine status early on, others might have seen him primarily as a prophet, teacher, or messianic figure. Over time, as Christianity developed, certain beliefs became more standardized, especially after the First Council of Nicaea in 325 CE.
- Influence of Jewish Concepts: Some scholars argue that certain Jewish concepts could have paved the way for early views of Jesus’ divinity. For example, the Jewish notion of “Wisdom” (as seen in Proverbs and the Wisdom of Solomon) was sometimes personified and described in terms that bordered on the divine. Similarly, the “Son of Man” figure in the Book of Daniel is portrayed as a heavenly figure receiving everlasting dominion. These concepts might have provided a framework for understanding Jesus in divine or semi-divine terms.
- Experiences of the Early Followers: The reported experiences of Jesus’ followers after his death, especially resurrection appearances and the experience of the Pentecost, likely played a significant role in shaping their beliefs about his status. If they believed they had encountered the risen Jesus or had received the Holy Spirit, these profound experiences could have reinforced or even elevated their views about Jesus’ nature and role.
- Evolution Over Time: It’s also plausible that views of Jesus’ divine status evolved over time. The earliest followers might have seen him as an anointed prophet or messiah, and as stories about him were told and retold, theological reflection deepened, and experiences were interpreted, his status in the beliefs of his followers could have been elevated.
- Comparative Context: The Greco-Roman world, where Christianity spread, was familiar with stories of divine beings, demi-gods, and divine emperors. Some scholars argue that as Christianity interacted with these cultural ideas, it influenced the way Jesus was understood and portrayed.
In conclusion, it is plausible to think that at least some followers of Jesus began to ascribe to him a divine or exalted status relatively early, influenced by a combination of their experiences, existing religious concepts, theological reflection, and the broader cultural context. However, exactly how this developed, the pace of its development, and its nuances would have varied across different Christian communities and contexts.
Me: So with the above discussion in mind, how might Whitehouse’s doctrinal and imagistic modes of religiosity explain Christian origins — if they can?
Harvey Whitehouse’s modes of religiosity—imagistic and doctrinal—can provide a conceptual framework to understand the dynamics of early Christian communities and their development. If we apply these modes to the origins of Christianity, the picture might look something like this:
- Imagistic Mode:
- The Early Ministry of Jesus: As mentioned earlier, Jesus’ ministry was characterized by transformative moments with his close-knit group of followers. Whether it was the Sermon on the Mount, the Last Supper, or other significant events, these can be seen as low-frequency, high-arousal events typical of the imagistic mode.
- Post-Crucifixion Experiences: The reported post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to his disciples and the Pentecost experience, where followers felt the Holy Spirit’s descent, can be understood as intense, emotional events that deeply bonded the early Christian community.
- Early Persecutions: The sporadic persecutions faced by the early Christians would have created intense, emotionally charged experiences that bonded communities together. Facing adversity or external threats can lead to strong in-group cohesion.
- Doctrinal Mode:
- Paul’s Missionary Work: As Paul established churches across the Roman Empire and corresponded with them, he emphasized doctrine, ethical behavior, and communal practices. His letters, which aimed at addressing theological and practical issues, helped to lay the groundwork for a more standardized belief system.
- Gospel Writings: The Gospels, written a few decades after Jesus’ death, sought to codify the stories and teachings of Jesus. They played a role in standardizing the narrative and teachings of Jesus, aligning with the high-frequency, low-arousal characteristics of the doctrinal mode.
- Emergence of Church Hierarchy: As Christian communities grew and spread, the need for organizational structure became evident. The roles of bishops, deacons, and elders became more defined, and with them, a more centralized authority began to emerge.
- Ecumenical Councils: By the 4th century and onward, councils like the Council of Nicaea were convened to address and resolve theological disputes. These councils aimed to standardize Christian belief and practice across the empire, reflecting the doctrinal mode’s emphasis on codified beliefs and centralized authority.
In light of this:
- Christianity’s origins might be viewed as starting primarily in the imagistic mode, with intense, foundational experiences deeply bonding early followers of Jesus. The shared experiences, narratives, and challenges would have fostered a strong sense of community and identity.
- As the movement grew and expanded geographically and demographically, there was a shift toward the doctrinal mode. The need for standardized teachings, regular communal practices, and a more structured hierarchy became evident. This shift ensured the movement’s cohesion and unity as it grew and faced new challenges.
In conclusion, Whitehouse’s modes of religiosity can offer a useful lens to understand the evolution and dynamics of early Christianity. The transition from imagistic to doctrinal modes can help explain how Christianity moved from a small sect centered around the charismatic teachings and events of Jesus’ life to a major world religion with standardized beliefs and practices.
Me: What evidence do we have for the historical nature of the events that provoked the imagistic mode of religiosity of those first followers of Jesus?
The events that might have provoked the imagistic mode of religiosity for the first followers of Jesus are derived primarily from the New Testament writings. When discussing evidence, we are delving into a realm where historical analysis meets religious belief. Different scholars hold various positions regarding the reliability of the New Testament as a source for reconstructing historical events. Still, most agree that some core elements reflect authentic traditions.
Here’s a look at the potential evidence:
- The Ministry of Jesus:
- Source Multiplicity: Multiple sources (the Synoptic Gospels, John, Paul’s letters, and non-canonical writings) contain accounts of Jesus’ teachings, healings, exorcisms, and encounters. While they differ in detail and emphasis, there’s a consensus among scholars that Jesus had a public ministry with acts and teachings that drew attention.
- Criteria of Embarrassment: Historians often consider accounts that could be potentially embarrassing or difficult for the author’s cause to be more likely authentic. Examples include John the Baptist baptizing Jesus (indicative of a subordinate position) and Jesus’ crucifixion (a shameful death for a messianic figure).
- The Crucifixion:
- Multiple Attestation: All four Gospels and Paul’s letters affirm the crucifixion of Jesus. Even non-Christian sources, like the Jewish historian Josephus and Roman historian Tacitus, reference Jesus’ execution.
- Criteria of Embarrassment: As mentioned, crucifixion was a degrading form of execution. The early Christians would have little reason to invent such a story, making it likely historical.
- Resurrection Appearances:
- Paul’s Testimony: In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Paul lists several individuals and groups who reportedly saw Jesus after his death, including Peter, the apostles, a group of over 500, James, and himself. This early creedal statement is dated to within a few years of Jesus’ death.
- Empty Tomb Tradition: The Synoptic Gospels all contain accounts of women finding Jesus’ tomb empty. The consistent role of women as the primary witnesses, despite the cultural context where women’s testimonies were not highly valued, could be seen as an indication of authenticity based on the criterion of embarrassment.
- Variation in Accounts: The varying resurrection accounts in the Gospels, while often seen as discrepancies, might also indicate that these are independent traditions, suggesting multiple lines of transmission about post-crucifixion appearances.
- Pentecost & The Holy Spirit:
- Acts of the Apostles: The book of Acts describes the experience of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles. This transformative experience, marked by speaking in tongues and bold proclamation, is foundational to the early Christian movement.
- Paul’s Letters & Acts: Both sources reference the persecutions faced by early Christians. Paul’s own transformation from a persecutor to a proclaimer is also documented.
- Non-Christian Sources:
- Writers like Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, and the Jewish Talmud, albeit written a few decades after the events, provide external references to Jesus and early Christianity.
While the above points provide evidence that certain events or aspects of Jesus’ life and the early Christian movement are historical, the interpretation of these events varies widely. Many elements, especially supernatural claims, are matters of faith. Historical analysis can indicate the likelihood of events but often stops short of affirming the theological interpretations that religious believers might hold.
Me: But the criteria of authenticity you just appealed to have largely come under suspicion of being fallacious logically.
You’re right. Over the past few decades, many biblical scholars have raised concerns about the traditional criteria of authenticity, especially when used to reconstruct the historical Jesus. Some of the criticisms include:
- Criteria of Embarrassment: Critics argue that just because something might be embarrassing for early Christians doesn’t necessarily mean it’s historical. Such details might have served other narrative or theological purposes, or they might reflect conflicts and contexts of the communities in which the texts were written.
- Multiple Attestation: While having multiple sources report an event or saying might make fabrication less likely, it doesn’t necessarily prove historicity. Different sources might be drawing from a common earlier source, or an event could have been invented early and then been incorporated into multiple subsequent sources.
- Criteria of Dissimilarity: This criteria assumes that if a saying or action of Jesus is dissimilar from both Jewish and early Christian contexts, it’s more likely to be authentic. Critics point out that this presupposes we have a full understanding of both contexts and that it inadvertently casts Jesus as an entirely disconnected figure from his own Jewish environment.
- Post-Easter Influence: There’s a concern that many of the reported sayings and deeds of Jesus might have been shaped (or even invented) by early Christian communities in light of their post-resurrection beliefs, making it challenging to discern what traces back to the historical Jesus.
- Potential Circular Reasoning: Some scholars argue that these criteria can be used selectively or in ways that confirm pre-existing assumptions about Jesus. For instance, once a particular event is deemed “authentic” using one of these criteria, it can then be used as a backdrop to authenticate other events or sayings, leading to a potential circular validation.
- Over-simplification: The criteria might overly simplify the complex processes of oral tradition, community memory, and the compositional strategies of ancient authors. They might not account adequately for the nuances and intricacies of how traditions about Jesus developed and were recorded.
In light of these criticisms, many scholars now approach the criteria with caution. Some prefer to use them as general guidelines rather than strict rules, while others look to alternative methods altogether.
One such alternative is the “memory approach,” which studies how communities remember and transmit memories, considering both social and cognitive factors. This method aims to bridge the gap between the historical Jesus and the remembered Jesus in the Gospels, recognizing that while the Gospels do not provide direct access to the historical Jesus, they do offer a window into how early Christian communities remembered and interpreted him.
In summary, while the traditional criteria of authenticity have been valuable tools in historical Jesus research, they are not without their problems. Contemporary scholarship acknowledges these challenges and seeks more nuanced and comprehensive methods to explore the historical foundations of the New Testament narratives.
Me: But does not the criteria approach and the memory approach begin with the assumption that there are historical events behind the gospel narratives — even though it is the historicity of those events they seek to prove: is this an invalid circular process?
Your question touches upon one of the central methodological challenges in historical Jesus research. Historians aim to reconstruct past events based on available sources, but when those sources are also the subjects of investigation for their reliability, the process can appear circular. Here’s how the criticism is often framed and some responses to it:
- Presupposition of Historicity: Critics argue that both the criteria and memory approaches, to some extent, presuppose a historical core behind the Gospel narratives. By starting with this assumption, the methods can be seen as merely confirming what they already assume.
- Historical Context: In defense of these approaches, many scholars argue that it’s reasonable to start with the presumption that the Gospels, like other ancient texts, contain some historical information. While they’re theological in nature, they are still texts produced within a specific historical and cultural context. Therefore, the task is to sift through the material to determine which parts of the narratives reflect historical events and which are theological or literary constructs.
- Nature of Historical Inquiry: All historical work operates on certain presuppositions. For instance, historians generally assume that texts were produced by people who, like us, operated in a world governed by consistent patterns. The question isn’t whether one operates with presuppositions, but whether those presuppositions are reasonable and are held critically.
- Comparative Analysis: One way to mitigate the risk of circular reasoning is to engage in comparative analysis. By comparing the Gospel narratives to other contemporaneous writings and considering their place within the broader Greco-Roman and Jewish contexts, scholars can gain insights into patterns of composition, myth-making, and historical recording.
- Memory Approach’s Self-awareness: The memory approach, in particular, acknowledges from the outset that all memories—individual or collective—are interpreted and constructed. Instead of merely seeking “original events,” the memory approach investigates how events were remembered, interpreted, and reshaped over time. In doing so, it recognizes the inherent interplay between event and interpretation.
- Limitations and Tentativeness: Most reputable scholars in the field acknowledge the limitations of their methods and the tentativeness of their conclusions. While some events or sayings of Jesus can be deemed more probable than others, certainty remains elusive. The nature of the sources, the time gap between the events and their recording, and the theological intentions of the authors all mean that reconstructions of the historical Jesus are often offered with a degree of caution.
In summary, while there’s a valid point about potential circularity in historical Jesus research, many scholars believe that by being aware of their presuppositions, employing comparative methods, and acknowledging the limitations of their conclusions, they can still produce meaningful and plausible reconstructions of the past. The challenge, of course, is discerning the line between a historically cautious approach and a circular or overly presumptive one.
Me: It sounds like you’re saying that the cautious scholar is simply aware of the circularity of his endeavour but is unable to avoid it.
That’s a fair way to characterize the challenge. The inherent circularity in historical Jesus research arises from the tension between using the Gospels as sources of information about Jesus while simultaneously trying to assess their historical reliability. Here are a few nuances and clarifications:
- Historical Sources are Always Interpreted: Every historical source, not just the Gospels, is a blend of observation, interpretation, bias, and sometimes even fabrication. Historians always engage in the task of discerning how events were perceived, remembered, and recorded. While the circularity in historical Jesus research is more pronounced due to the theological nature of the sources, the process of interpreting and critically assessing sources is a staple of historical methodology.
- Criteria and Methodology: The criteria of authenticity (like embarrassment, dissimilarity, etc.) were developed as tools to try to break out of this circle by providing an “objective” means of assessing the Gospels’ content. However, as you’ve rightly pointed out, these criteria have faced criticism and are seen by some as being part of the circular process. Being aware of these limitations is essential, even if it doesn’t wholly resolve the issue.
- Historical Probability: One way to navigate this challenge is to frame discussions in terms of historical probability rather than certainty. Instead of aiming for concrete conclusions, many scholars try to determine what is more or less likely based on available evidence.
- Comparative Historical Context: Placing the Gospels in the wider context of other ancient writings, archaeological evidence, and the socio-political landscape of the time can provide external reference points against which Gospel accounts can be compared. This comparative approach can, to some extent, help mitigate the risk of circularity.
- Transparent Presuppositions: Being upfront about one’s presuppositions is crucial. While all scholars bring certain biases to their work, acknowledging them and being transparent about one’s methodology allows others to critically assess conclusions and arguments.
- The Value of the Endeavor: Despite the challenges and potential circularity, many scholars believe there’s value in the endeavor. Even if one can’t establish events with certainty, shedding light on the early Christian community’s beliefs, practices, and self-understanding is itself a worthy historical task.
In conclusion, while the potential for circular reasoning is a recognized challenge in historical Jesus research, scholars aim to navigate this by employing a range of methods, being transparent about their presuppositions, and framing their conclusions in terms of probability rather than certainty.
Me: What other historical research has that kind of circularity at its foundation?
The potential for circularity isn’t unique to historical Jesus research. Many areas of historical inquiry grapple with similar challenges, especially when primary sources are limited, are of a particular genre that blends fact with fiction or interpretation, or come from a context that has strong ideological or religious biases. Here are some examples:
- Ancient Mythologies and Foundational Stories: Many ancient cultures have foundational myths or legends, such as the tales of Romulus and Remus in the founding of Rome or the stories about King Arthur in British lore. Determining the historical realities behind such stories, if any exist, is challenging. Scholars can sometimes fall into a circular trap, using the narratives themselves as evidence for the events they describe.
- Biographies of Ancient Figures: Ancient biographies, unlike modern ones, often blended historical facts with moral lessons, allegories, and mythologies. The biographies of figures like Alexander the Great or Augustus Caesar, while based on historical figures, contain elements that are clearly legendary or propagandistic. Disentangling the historical from the legendary can be fraught with potential circularity.
- Religious Texts: Historical research into figures like the Buddha, Muhammad, or Moses faces challenges similar to those in historical Jesus research. Religious texts often blend history, theology, and interpretation, and determining the historical core can be difficult.
- Prehistoric Cultures: For cultures without written records, our primary sources of information are archaeological finds. Interpretations of these finds can sometimes be circular. For example, if a particular type of pottery is believed to be ceremonial based on its location and then another similar item is labeled ceremonial based on its resemblance to the first, a potentially circular argument has been made without external corroborating evidence.
- Oral Histories: Cultures with strong oral traditions, but limited written records, present challenges. The stories and histories passed down orally can evolve over time, and when they are finally recorded, the line between historical event and embellished or altered story can be blurry.
- Historiographies: When later historians rely heavily on earlier ones without a clear line to primary sources, there’s a risk of circularity. Later accounts might be seen as independent corroborations when they are, in fact, merely repetitions of earlier narratives.
These examples underscore that potential circularity is a challenge in many areas of historical research, not just in studies about Jesus. The key is for historians to recognize these pitfalls and be as transparent and methodical as possible in their methodologies, always open to reevaluation and critique.
I found it most refreshing and challenging to engage with such a “thoughtful” dialog partner. Certain New Testament scholars and their lay acolytes could learn a lot about how to engage with questions that challenge their assumptions and how to respond with civility and professionalism.
I continued the discussion by delving into problems of methodology. See the next post.