Refreshing honesty of Jim West, part 2

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by Neil Godfrey

So there’s a supposedly new discovery that is about to shatter everything we thought we knew about early Christianity etcetera etcetera blah blah blah. No, no, that’s just the headline or header paragraph to grab readers on the cheap: Are lead tablets discovered in a remote cave in Jordan the secret writings about the last years of Jesus? I read nothing in the article about Jesus. But ho hum, that’s headlines and marketing of news media.

Dr Jim West appears to despise all I stand for in this blog (atheism, serious consideration of the Christ myth theory in any explanation for Christianity) but I sometimes find more honesty among such “reactionary” or “conservative” scholars (I don’t know what descriptor really applies for American readers — and I am using “conservative” here in a more universally orthodox sense than in what it means in an insular U.S. context) than among some scholars who seem to pride themselves on more liberal (again in the non-U.S. sense) values.

He wrote: Without provenance, without context, there is no meaning. This is true of both texts and artifacts.

Now where were we in our discussion of the canonical gospels? Their provenance is . . .  ? Their context is  . . .  ?

Or are some questions valid only when applied to that proverbial “Other”?

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The Refreshing Honesty of Jim West

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Well this is bizarre. I find myself in agreement with a very substantial bulk of a recent article by Jim West at The Bible and Interpretation, “A (Very, Very) Short History of Minimalism: From The Chronicler to the Present.” Jim West argues that biblical studies of the history of early Christianity are largely circular, following the same flawed methodology that lay at the heart of the Albrightian approach to the history of Israel.

Jim West sums up so much of what I have been attempting to argue for some time now:

Most “histories” of Ancient Israel and Earliest Christianity are simply examples of circular reasoning. Many historians use the Bible as a historical source; they reconstruct a history which is often nothing more than a recapitulation of the biblical telling; and the Bible is affirmed as historical because of the history so constructed. Similarly, the life of Jesus, for instance, is gleaned from a reading of the Gospels. Said reconstruction is named a ‘history of Jesus’ life.” That “history of Jesus’ life” is then utilized to prove historically the life of Jesus as described in the Gospels. One need only pick up John Bright’s “History of Israel” or Joseph Ratzinger’s “Jesus” to see circularity in action. True, ancillary materials are added to these histories (on the very rare occasions that they are available)- but these only reinforce the circularly circumscribed reconstruction.

What can I say? Will Crossley, McGrath and others tell Jim this is “bloody weird” stuff and arguing “like a creationist”? It’s what Thomas L. Thompson has said, and Robert M. Price, and I have quoted the same understanding in publications dating back a century to E. Schwartz and Albert Schweitzer. It is where biblical historians differ from nonbiblical historians.

So what’s the catch? Continue reading “The Refreshing Honesty of Jim West”


Aw, gee, thanks guys

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

I have the honour of gaining a mention in two of the biggest biblioblogs in the whole wide internet now. Aw shucks, and they both really do such a thorough job of analyzing my work and studying my personal psychology. I hope I won’t get a bill for their services.

Between “Dr” Jim West and Joel Watts I find I am:

a genuine flinger

a genuine flicker

utterly unacquainted with Crossley’s work

accuse Crossley of playing favorites when it comes to historiographically centered methodological questions (wow, I’m not sure what that means but it sounds like I’ve done something serious or important)

utterly bereft of insight

ramble on about absolutely nothing with such aplomb (irishanglican would no doubt agree with this assessment)

have taken on a stern taskmaster belief system

possibly have a personality defect

appear to be comforting myself in my denial of Jesus’ historicity

absolutely hate my former self

‘need’ Jesus not to be real for my own personal comfort

create conspiracy theories

have refused to acknowledge scholarship that once denied my view of faith
(Baptists? Methodists?

and now deny the same scholars who deny my rejection of faith

forget how history is formed

am angry (part of an angry mob to be precise)

profoundly need there to be no god

leap any logical boundary to this end

but what’s really interesting is my motive in all of this — I know that hell and damnation await me if there is a god!

And all of this on the eve of me birthday too! Well, thanks guys, a good belly laugh is the best way to start a new year! 🙂

Belly Laugh
Image by Tojosan via Flickr