Category Archives: Uncategorized


2018-01-19

A Scholar’s Gift of Discernment Between Truth and Fiction

by Neil Godfrey

When he was twelve years old . . . . they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. (Luke 2:42, 46f)

How might a historian determine if there was any historicity to Luke’s story of Jesus at twelve years old sitting in the temple impressing the teachers with his understanding?

Moses I. Finley, a historian of ancient times, confessed to not knowing of any way a historian today could establish the happenings we read about in the works of ancient historians unless we have some independent corroborating evidence from the time contemporaneous to the event. Ancient historians, he said, were faced with huge gaps in their knowledge of the past and very often they simply could not resist the urge to fabricate stories to fill in those gaps. Consequently,

For the great bulk of the narrative we are faced with the ‘kernel of truth’ possibility, and I am unaware of any stigmata that automatically distinguish fiction from fact. . . . .

However, there are biblical scholars who do have the gift of discernment that Finley lacked and who are able to apply it ably to the gospels:

If I may quote my former article (see note 3), I still hold the view there expressed (p. 362) : Jesus shows, in the story in Lk. 2, 42-50, ‘just such self-reliance and intelligent interest in the religion of his country as might be expected in a boy of genius and deep natural feeling. . . . The hero of a folktale would have found his way by some mysterious guidance to the Temple. … A wonder-child in a popular story would have confuted the doctors of the Law, or at least made it clear that he knew all they did and more. … To my mind, the tale cries aloud that it is a perfectly authentic happening.

(Page 131 of Rose, H. J. (1938). Herakles and the Gospels. The Harvard Theological Review, 31(2), 113–142. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1508025)

That was in 1938, I admit. Surely scholarship has advanced since then and we would not expect to find such naivety tolerated today, would we?


2018-01-18

So far, but no farther… or maybe the journey has just begun

by Neil Godfrey

I recently read something I liked on a blog run by someone (James Bishop) I would think of as a fundamentalist or certainly very conservative Christian. The article is Why I No Longer Hold to Inerrancy & The Need For A New Model of Inspiration. I was reminded so vividly of my own days of doubt and struggles with faith and attempting to be as honest as I believed I could be with myself.

James was faced with conflicts and at some point had the honesty to acknowledge that they were real:

As a Christian student in New & Old Testament Studies approaching the end of his time at university, I have discovered a number conflicts between conservative, fundamentalist Christian views of biblical inspiration (of which we will refer to as “classical inerrancy” or “inerrancy”) and what I have come to deem, more often than not, sound biblical scholarship.

He acknowledged that

these arguments require serious consideration especially if one wishes to take the Bible seriously and authoritatively.

Honesty. But the commitment remains. Faith is strong.

But here’s the part I particularly liked — with my emphasis:

Prior, however, I used to hold to inerrancy. I also once believed that every single challenge to the Bible was easily answered and refuted, and, for a time, thought that conflicts an inerrant view had with scholarship was a result of some anti-Christian “agenda” or “hate” towards Christianity. That was until I actually examined the alleged errors themselves, and soon realized that the answers provided on conservative apologetic websites were often grounded on little more than revisionist historical theories, fringe scholarly interpretations, fringe science, and contrived explanations attempting to explain away biblical inconsistencies.

What a welcome acknowledgement! The implication is that James Bishop no longer presumes that every challenge to the Bible is motivated by hate or an attempt to destroy Christianity.

It is a welcome acknowledgement because too frequently I read scholars and others accusing those who question the very foundations of the history of Christian origins of surely being driven, as “atheists”, by a hatred for Christianity and with a dedication to attempt to undermine all that is good about it. I refer in particular to those who entertain the possibility that Jesus was not a historical figure, of course.

Later in the post James explains why he parts ways with Bart Ehrman:

Long story short, as result of his discoveries that were in conflict with a conservative, inerrant view of biblical scripture, he [Bart Ehrman] is now one of Christianity’s biggest critics. He has sowed doubt in the lives of many Christians who have too come to realize the falsity of inerrancy. Inerrancy is spiritually dangerous in this way (see my argument in point 4e in this article). I have witnessed instances of Christians falling away from faith as a result of buying into the false dichotomy that one either embraces full blown inerrancy or rejects the Bible (a strawman caricature often embraced by both critics of the Bible/Christianity and inerrantists). Christian scholar Michael Bird captures this well explaining that this “means that if some young Christian comes across a passage of Scripture that is historically or ethically challenging, then they are faced with the choice between belief and unbelief,” and there lies the problem.

The point I want to make is that unlike Ehrman I wish to build up fellow believers in the faith. Unlike Ehrman, I also haven’t thrown in the towel, so to speak. I haven’t rejected Christianity or the inspiration and authority of the Bible.

I was not aware that Ehrman is one of Christianity’s biggest critics. In his recent Christmas posts he came across as still in love with the “fullness of meaning” of the Christmas story as found in the Bible. See Finding “unbelievable fullness of meaning” in the Christmas stories?

The problem, in James Bishop’s view, is that Christians who begin to see flaws in the Bible might toss it out completely. A fair reading of Ehrman’s views shows that even an agnostic or atheist can still express appreciation for the “unbelievable fullness of meaning” found in the Bible. Same for various Christ Myth theorists who have also expressed strong admiration for Christianity (e.g. Couchoud) and who even remain Christians (e.g. Brodie).

Reading James Bishop’s post is a déjà vu experience for me. It stirs old memories of my own past conflicts and strivings for both honesty and faith.

Many people struggle with the same conflicts. I think some of us find a solution to one particular conflict and rest satisfied with their resolution of it. Thus finding a new definition or understanding of what divine inspiration means is one way to reconcile certain facts about the Bible with one’s faith.

Others of us continue to question and don’t just stop when one conflict is resolved. They do not deny other conflicts as they arise. They confront them, and perhaps find new ways of reconciling opposites. Hence a few Christ mythicists, for example, find a way to maintain their belief in God and remain deeply devoted to the Christian message.

Some even go so far as to question why they believe in God at all. Is it true that morality cannot be justified or explained without God?

Some question the Bible and stop there when they find an answer. Some go further and question their faith and some might find a new set of definitions they are comfortable with there, too. Others go further still.

But at no point do any of us need to presume that those who go further with their questioning are necessarily driven by “some anti-Christian “agenda” or “hate” towards Christianity.” Or does that charge arise as a defence among those who cannot, for whatever reason, take their questioning any further? I can imagine believers having a very real fear of atheism and of atheism being a logical consequence of ongoing questioning. All I can say to those believers is, There is no need to fear. I can understand why someone only takes their questioning so far and no farther. We each stop where we feel most comfortable and it’s not for me to tell others they are wrong in choosing to find some solace in a level of religious belief in the short time they are on this planet.

I’d just like to reassure believers that being an atheist, and even having strong views about Christianity itself, does not mean we atheists all condemn individual believers for their choices or that our beliefs are driven by a “some anti-Christian agenda”.

 


2018-01-10

Theologians Myth-Busting the Jesus Story

by Neil Godfrey

A Jesuit priest has used the “infant Jesus went down to Egypt” myth to argue a moral criticism of a policy relating to immigrants or children of immigrants into the U.S.

Baby Jesus was a Dreamer in Egypt

I have no problem with that. That’s what myths are for and how they have always functioned in societies. In the late 60s when students were demonstrating over the Vietnam war a friend of mine was inspired by the myth of Jesus the pacifist and spoke proudly of his non-violent response to being roughly dragged off by police to a paddy wagon.

“Social memory” is the buzz word today and these examples are forms of our social or cultural “memories”. They are framed and deployed to meet current needs and values.

So yes, technically and academically Dr Jim West has the right to say that historically Jesus was never in Egypt. He’s applying sound historical (and myth-busting) method when he does so.

This Is Why Journalists Should Leave Biblical Interpretation Alone…

Yes, it is good sound method to first understand the nature of the source we are using. In this case, our theologian has understood that the story of Jesus being taken into Egypt was created to make use of a particular passage in Hosea. He does his position as a public intellectual no favours when he insults those he sees as less well informed outsiders. Nor does he impress with his own ability to do basic research when he faults the author of the article for writing as a “journalist” when in fact the author is a Jesuit priest with a Master of Divinity from a School of Theology. So one might expect that the author, Thomas Reese, is not so ignorant after all and knows exactly what he is doing in his use of the myth to make a political argument.

Or maybe he does believe Jesus was historically in Egypt. It really doesn’t matter. The question of historicity of events behind myths is quite irrelevant to the place and purpose of myths in society. Their “historicity” is only of interest to historians and anyone who is personally interested in historical research and myth-busting.

Or perhaps Dr West wants to undermine the myth because he disapproves of the moral argument it is being used to buttress.

So no doubt our academic critic will be consistent and cast all details in the epistles of Paul and the gospels that are constructed in order to make use of “Old Testament” passages and tropes to the outer darkness of ahistoricity, including ….. the John the Baptist Elijah / voice in the wilderness role, the baptism and wilderness experience of Jesus, the healings and other miracles of Jesus, the confrontations of Jesus with the authorities of his day, the Passion and resurrection of Jesus, early persecutions and the apostles going out from Judea to the world to preach …… 🙂

 


2018-01-08

Fire, Fury, Fake News and Sound Historical Methods

by Neil Godfrey
. . . the New York Times, the Washington Post, Yahoo! News, the New Yorker, and CNN. All declined to use this unverified information, with its unclear provenance. . .

I have posted several times now some good old basic common sense about how to do valid historical research — according to reputable historians themselves. My point has usually been to try to point out that what we too often read by biblical scholars addressing early Christianity — criteria of authenticity, “triangulation” of social memories, etc — would not be recognized as responsible or reliable methods of discovering what can be known about the past.

Here is the same point being made, not by historians, but by sensible journalists and news media editors. I have bolded and underlined the key section.

Fusion GPS, an opposition research company (founded by former journalists, it provided information to private clients), had been retained by Democratic Party interests. Fusion had hired Christopher Steele, a former British spy, in June 2016, to help investigate Trump’s repeated brags about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and the nature of Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin. With reports from Russian sources, many connected to Russian intelligence, Steele assembled a damaging report— now dubbed the “dossier”— suggesting that Donald Trump was being blackmailed by the Putin government. In September, Steele briefed reporters from the New York Times, the Washington Post, Yahoo! News, the New Yorker, and CNN. All declined to use this unverified information, with its unclear provenance, especially given that it was about an unlikely election winner.

Wolff, Michael. Fire and Fury (Kindle Locations 715-722). Little, Brown Book Group. Kindle Edition.

Note. I am not interested in discussing Trump, nor any of the business about Russian connections with Trump or anyone associated with him. Nor even Wolff’s Fire and Fury or Wolff’s own reliability as a “historian”. The sole point of this post is to draw attention to what is evidently considered fundamental when authenticating any information.

If a claim cannot be verified, then we need to have very good reasons for treating it as a “fact”. To suggest no-one would make it up or the author was surely passing on what he knew with good reason to be true are not good enough reasons for using the data as a fact upon which to build a historical reconstruction.

If we cannot verify the origin or source of the assertion we have every reason to hold the information at arms length until we can have some assurance about who it comes from, whether that person was in a position to know, the nature of the work they were producing, etc.

Yep, that means we cannot verify popular accounts of, say, very early Roman history.

Nope, that does not mean we cannot verify very rich accounts of Roman history and persons in the last centuries of the Republic and early Empire.

But I won’t repeat all of those caveats and consequences etc etc here again. Just drawing attention here to what most of us basically know anyway, even if we sometimes forget it when swept away by the speculative imaginations of some biblical scholars confusing themselves with “historians”.

 

 

 


2018-01-01

Happy New Year, Dear Readers

by Neil Godfrey

By now 2018 has surely arrived for all of you. Thanks for your interest, both critical and positive. I’m looking forward to exploring new ideas and old ideas more deeply this coming year. No doubt Tim is, too.

Warning. I know many readers don’t like everything we write but I will but I do hope to be writing more posts again like the one I have begun recently on Olivier Roy’s Jihad and Death. Feel free to engage critically with the posts you don’t like. The name Vridar was taken from the main character in Vardis Fisher’s quasi-autobiographical novel, Orphans of Gethsemane. Vridar emerged out of a Mormon upbringing to find a new identity and exploratory understandings not only of religion but of humanity itself. At one point he opined

The human animal was a terrible thing, not only in its lack of capacity to change-itself, but in its contentedness with what it was.

The irony was that Vridar did demonstrate a capacity to change and to refuse to be contented with what he was, and that he made contact with many other Vridars along his journey. Here’s to whatever challenges and opportunities 2018 brings and hoping all goes well with you, too.

 

And for those of us on the wagon….

 

 


2017-12-29

Could a common name like Jesus really be “a name above all names”?

by Neil Godfrey

Here is a modified form of an exploratory essay I posted at another forum. It was in response to the question raised by the “Philippian Hymn”: was the name of Jesus itself “the name above all names” that was bestowed on God’s Son after his exaltation after crucifixion?

6 [Christ Jesus], being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.  (NIV)

That looks like Jesus is the name that is “above every name”. But that seems so strange. We know the gospels tell us that Jesus had the name from birth. Besides, the name was the sixth most common male name at the time according to Tal Ilan’s Lexicon of Jewish Names (part 1, Palestine, 330 BCE – 200 CE, p. 56)

Table 7: … MOST POPULAR MALE NAMES
  NAME NUMBER
1 Simon 257
2 Joseph 231
3 Judah 179
4 Eleazar 177
5 Yohanan 128
6 Joshua = Jesus
103
7 Hananiah 85
8 Johnathan 75
9 Mattathias 63
10 Menahem 46

According to Wikipedia’s lists of most common given names in the last 100 years in the UK, Australia and USA, the equivalent would be Harry, Thomas and Benjamin.

We certainly don’t expect a “name above all names” to be a very common personal name, but then we don’t expect a very common personal name — the name itself — to have magical power when associated with a particular deity, either. Yet we do find the name of Jesus itself being chanted as having a magical power. From The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation:

Place olive branches before him, I and stand behind him and say:

“Hail, God of Abraham; hail, God of Isaac; hail, God of Jacob; Jesus Chrestos,
the Holy Spirit, the Son of the Father, who is above the Seven, / who is within
the Seven. Bring Iao Sabaoth; may your power issue forth from him, NN, until
you drive away this unclean daimon Satan, who is in him. I conjure you, daimon, —- p. 62

After placing [the patient] opposite [to you], conjure. This is the conjuration:

“I conjure you by the god of the Hebrews, / Jesus, IABA IAE ABRAOTHA ….. etc. p. 96

A phylactery for fever:

“SARICH “Of Jesus Christ, son of IAO (?),
AORKACH quickly, quickly,
/ ROUGACH heal!…”

……………. p. 323

Ditto in Acts 3:16 — healing was performed by or in the name of Jesus

It is his name—that is, by faith in his name—that has healed this man whom you see and know. (ISV)

But in Acts 19:13 some mere nobodies or charlatans tried to use the name of Jesus to perform a miracle but they were punished and made to look complete idiots. The magical power of the name only worked if deployed by people with the right credentials.

Then some Jews who went around trying to drive out demons attempted to use the name of the Lord Jesus on those who had evil spirits, saying, “I command you by that Jesus whom Paul preaches!”  Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit told them, “Jesus I know, and I am getting acquainted with Paul, but who are you?” Then the man with the evil spirit jumped on them, got the better of them, and so violently overpowered all of them that they fled out of the house naked and bruised.

Otherwise it was nothing more than a powerless common name. read more »


2017-12-28

The Most Important Story in the World

by Neil Godfrey

Now you will know that I really do, as I have tried to point out a number of times, read sources from the full range of the political spectrum. The desperate headline of a story from The American Conservative reads:

Yemen’s Humanitarian Catastrophe: The Most Important Story in the World

The American Conservative has possibly published more stories on the ongoing and deteriorating crisis in Yemen than any other media organization I know. I think they have done so daily. So I can understand the addition of “The Most Important Story in the World” to get attention.

From the latest by Daniel Larison,

The country’s humanitarian crisis was already one of the world’s worst by the end of 2015, and by this time last year it had eclipsed every other catastrophe on the planet. Today the multiple, overlapping disasters of mass starvation and a record-setting cholera epidemic easily make the suffering of Yemen’s civilian population the largest crisis and most important story in the world. More than eight million people are on the verge of famine, and at least another nine million don’t have enough to eat. Over one million have contracted cholera, and that number will keep rising if things remain as they are. All of this has come about in large part because of the deliberate choices of the Saudi-led coalition and their Western patrons, including the U.S. . . . .

The United States of America is around about the bottom of my priority list of countries I would like to visit, sorry. The reasons are many. But when I read the above then for a moment I find myself wishing I really were in the United States right now.

If I were in the USA today then I would be pulling out all stops to find and establish contacts with other persons concerned about what the Yemenis are suffering right now, and then work with those like-concerned persons to begin to raise local awareness of what is happening and why; and then to establish links with like-minded groups across the nation; and then to co-ordinate and brainstorm ideas for raising public (and media) awareness; and to organize, step by step, ways to bring crowds out into the streets, to get media attention, with a view to making the entire movement seriously national — and trying to damn well put serious media pressure on f..king Trump to use the power and influence he claims to have with the Saudis to actually DO something positive … for those Trump and co probably don’t really even know are real people because they are so low on his scale of what is indicative of relevance and importance …. for the Yemenis.

 

 

 


2017-12-26

Once more (final time) on Gospel Nativity Harmonization. Meanwhile, back in Bethlehem today . . . .

by Neil Godfrey

What a slew of Christmas themed posts have bedecked Vridar this year. I feel a bit bad and wonder if I should apologize. It’s not my usual form. But no, there’s one more, another follow up to the two posts we’ve had here on the question of harmonizing Matthew’s birth narrative with its magi and flight into Egypt with Luke’s shepherds and babe in a manger scenario.

This one is another collation of web discussions or debates on the question: Can the Christmas Stories be Reconciled?

Meanwhile, I seem to have read very little about the current activities among the present day inhabitants of Bethlehem and its refugee camp. Christmas seems to be that wonderful time when we turn our backs on everyday reality and lose ourselves in hopes for happy memories of another time. Meanwhile, back in Bethlehem . . . .

A Palestinian dressed as Santa Claus stands in front of Israeli troops during a protest in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, December 23, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RC17AECC9740

 

 


2017-12-24

Another reason not to harmonize the gospel nativity narratives

by Neil Godfrey

In nice timing with my earlier post on one problem that arises when we try to harmonize Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts of Jesus’ arrival on planet Earth, Deane Galbraith has posted a clear explanation of why the two accounts don’t harmonize anyway:

The Two Stories of Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem

And since Christmas is a time for reminiscing, here are some older posts addressing the differences from yet another perspective:

 


Bible scholars: the degeneration continues

by Neil Godfrey

If I were a biblical scholar I hope I would be ashamed to be associated with peers who descend to the level we see in the latest blogpost by Michael Bird. I hope I would publicly dissociate myself from their puerile level of discourse and make efforts to speak out for a professional standard at all times both in public and scholarly engagements. After calling anyone who denies the historical existence of Jesus a “crank” or “bad historian” and in effect hitting on them to pay around $40 to read an article in a subscription-only journal, Bird concludes with

Finally, let me add, for all those former Jesus Mythicists out there who suddenly feel their bowels becoming loose because this Jesus thing just got “real,” don’t worry, even if Jesus existed, you can still be an atheist, just not a dogmatic dumbass one.

Very profoundly Bird begins his post with the same shocking information that Larry Hurtado was recently presenting to the public. Did you know that mainstream biblical scholars on the whole do not accept the Jesus myth view? Hard to believe, I know, but that is the message that these scholars seem have thought is so badly needed lately that they have posted claims to just that effect. No doubt many readers will now be better informed and no longer believe the contrary!

If Jesus mythicism were such a crank, fringe notion then one does really have to wonder what prompts such scholars to make such a fuss about it. And why, oh why, would a peer-review journal run by editors who all think the Jesus myth notion to be arrant crankery publish a 37 page review by a scholar critical of its latest publication?

These constant insulting attacks on anyone who thinks or writes the wrong things, and even a 37 page review by a scholar who admitted he did not understand key sections of the argument of the book he was reviewing and who failed to explain to readers the significance the author assigned to the arguments he was criticizing in his review, all of this looks to me like a circling of the wagons, as Earl Doherty used to say. read more »


Finding “unbelievable fullness of meaning” in the Christmas stories?

by Neil Godfrey

Very strange. I don’t understand how an atheist or agnostic (Bart Ehrman in this instance) can “absolutely adore” the Bible’s stories of Jesus’ birth and find them “so deep … and so unbelievably full of meaning”.

Is the Christmas Story a Myth?

……………..

Even so, I have to say that I absolutely adore these stories. They are simultaneously so simple and so deep, so matter-of-fact and so unbelievably full of meaning. As is this season. Even for me as one who personally stands outside the Christian tradition. Or do I? I suppose I’ll always be inside it. It’s in my DNA. I completely resonate with it. I relate to it. In my own secular way I embrace it. I’ll say more about that in my next post.

What deep meaning can there possibly be in those stories unless it is one for those who believe God became incarnate? That message has no meaning, surely, for anyone who is not a Christian, certainly not one for any atheist.

To me the stories have no meaning at all except as part of our cultural heritage, like May Day or having weekends off. Christmas is certainly no part of my DNA. I suppose I am expected to find the answer in the next post Bart Ehrman promises. Since I refuse to play his game of justifying the maintenance of a paywall around access to his knowledge I guess I’ll remain in ignorance. Maybe a kindly disposed reader who does have access will be able to pass on the message of how a secular-minded person can bring absolute adoration to the bible stories and find unbelievable fullness of meaning in them. Very strange.


2017-12-23

by Neil Godfrey

Oh you hapless United States of Americans, is this really what it means to make (your part of) America great again? By David Cay Johnston of DCReport.org:

Deducting a CEO’s Jet, But Not a Cop’s Uniform

What the Republicans’ Tax Bill Really Means for People Like Us

. . . . .

Buried in the hastily drafted tax bill’s more than 500 pages are provisions eliminating “miscellaneous” deductions taken by almost 28 million taxpayers in 2015. Those are costs you bore to support your job or an investment you own or to pay a professional to prepare your income tax return.

This year cops and other first responders can write off the costs of buying uniforms and dry cleaning them. But in 2018, cops who buy their uniforms or are required to buy their own guns and ammunition will no longer be able to deduct those costs as reasonable and necessary expenses to support their earning a paycheck, thanks to Trump and Congressional Republicans.

But that’s not all. Cops and anyone else who belongs to a union will no longer be allowed to deduct their union dues. People who must bear travel costs without reimbursement from their employers will just have to suck it up starting in January.

The new law takes special aim at teachers who seek advanced degrees, which typically qualifies them for more pay. Tuition, books and related costs of getting advanced degrees will not be deductible after the end of this year.

Why are Trump and Congressional Republicans dinging first responders, teachers, nurses, traveling salespeople and even those who pay someone to prepare their income tax returns? So the rich can get bigger tax breaks, of course.

. . . . .

What Congress left intact are the rules that let Trump write off his Boeing 757 jet . . . . Similarly, untouched are the bar tabs of corporate sales agents or the costs of executive retreats at resorts like Trump golf courses.

It’s a good thing you’ve all got your guns. Looks like time for a coup against the plutocracy and time to establish a real democracy.

 

 


2017-12-22

Is there anything good to be said about Richard Carrier?

by Neil Godfrey

What is the probability (think Bayesian if you like) that any scholar, any author, any person, has nothing to say that is worth an honest response or engagement? How likely is it, really, that a person who holds a view that you strongly disagree with is also a person of such a bad character that you can never imagine in them a single redeeming quality?

Can you really know that a person who is arguing something you find detestable is also insincere, a hypocrite, driven by some pernicious secret motivation?

When you see a person you don’t like react or act in an uncivil or unprofessional or even dishonest manner, does it follow that everything that person is on record as doing and writing is also dishonest?

There’s another side to this question, too, of course. Someone once said to me that “mythicists must stick together”. I disagree. We all must be honest with each other and with those who we disagree with or engage with in any way at all.

A little while ago I posted that the debate between Hurtado and Carrier had become unpleasant. The unpleasantness went well beyond Hurtado and Carrier themselves. Several other scholars posted very nasty accusations, outright dirty insults, against both Carrier and anyone who went along with his ideas.

I said there are two sides to this question, but right now the fault is primarily on the side of those opposing Carrier. I find it very difficult to read a critical comment on Carrier’s book that does not at some point declare that they believe Carrier to be a liar or a hypocrite when he says something that might be construed as a positive point in favour of his motivations and interest in the debate. No evidence is required for the motivation imputed except the fact that what he said is not what we believe or want to believe to be true.

If Carrier makes an argument for a point that we believe is going too far or is ill-informed then it seems to give us licence to ignore all the rest of his arguments or to bracket them all as equally fallacious.

No-one has to like Carrier as a person. But I am sure we don’t seriously believe that everyone we dislike is simply bad in all their ways and in every fibre of their being, a total arsehole in every imaginable way and situated beyond the ability of any decent society to accept them. Yet that is the impression that one begins to gain when one reads of criticisms of Carrier’s work. It’s all bad, all of it, nothing good in it at all, every argument is either absurd and/or fundamentally motivated by deception.

I think when we get to that point about anyone’s work we ought to be honest with ourselves and admit we are being unreasonably hostile, unreasonably biased, or simply unfair.

 

 


2017-12-20

The Politics of Archaeology

by Neil Godfrey

We laugh now at the idea that the Soviets and Nazis used scientific research to buttress their ideologies but archaeology is still being used to support nationalist ideologies and justify illegal occupations today. From Ynetnews:

Culture Minister Miri Regev has ordered the Israel Antiquities Authority to put plans in motion to undertake far-reaching archeological restoration of many historical Jerusalem sites, in a bid to strengthen Jewish bonds to the ancient city. . . .

“The immense importance of the archeological digs taking place in Jerusalem cannot be questioned. The digs are uncovering the deep roots we have in our land,” Israel Antiquities Authority Chairman Israel Hasson in a letter to Regev.

“The digs’ results provided the appropriate response to anyone wishing to dispute our right to Jerusalem, alongside the fact the sites are a tourist attraction of the highest order and research being conducted there is foremost in the world,” Hasson added.

Regev herself told Yedioth Ahronoth that the desire to strengthen Jewish bonds to the city was at the heart of the initiative. “Even if (Palestinian Authority President) Mahmoud Abbas made an effort to dig hundreds of meters into the ground he will not find a Palestinian coin from 2,000 or 3,000 years ago,” she explained.

H/T PaleoJudaica.com

I thought the Palestinians were in large part the descendants of the people of the Palestine of 2,000 to 3,000 years ago. See Keith Whitelam’s Rhythms of Time.

 

The God El (statue here is from Megiddo) was worshiped by Palestinians prior to the rise of the kingdom of Judah and was subsequently adopted by the priests of that Palestinian kingdom.