Tag Archives: R. Joseph Hoffmann

The Propaganda War Against Mythicism

As their weapon of choice against the Christ Myth hypothesis (“mythicism”), theologians, religion and Biblical scholars appear from where I stand to regularly deploy the instruments of propaganda. The motivations appear to me to be to maintain

  • their status and reputation in a society infested with critical and anti-establishment influences, and
  • their control over the terms of religious debates, dictating what are legitimate topics for review and what are not.

I use the term “propaganda” because it’s yet another valid way of explaining what is happening. Simpler expressions are “labeling” and “framing the debate”. Adding the concept of “propaganda” to the list might help us understand more clearly what is actually happening in these “discussions”.

Lasswell

Harold Lasswell

To me the word “propaganda” stands for the opposite of true education, democratic or honest intellectual engagement and dialogue. Here’s a description of “what propaganda is” from some passages from the classic article “The Theory of Political Propaganda” by Harold Lasswell and first published (as far as I am aware in 1927) in the American Political Science Review:

Propaganda is the management of collective attitudes by the manipulation of significant symbols . . . Collective attitudes are amenable to many modes of alteration . . . But their arrangement and rearrangement occurs principally under the impetus of significant symbols; and the techniques of using significant symbols for this purpose is propaganda. . . . [As opposed to education] propaganda to the creation of valuational dispositions or attitudes. [What I would call honest dialogue] implies the search for the solution of a besetting problem with no desire to prejudice a particular solution in advance. The propagandist is very much concerned about how a specific solution is to be evoked and “put over.” And though the most subtle propaganda closely resembles disinterested deliberation, there is no difficulty in distinguishing the extremes. (my bolding)

Propaganda, I suggest, is the primary weapon used by the academy of biblical scholars and theologians against the Christ Myth theory. I have encountered very few genuine efforts of academics to “educate” the public (that is, “educate” as opposed to sway them by “propaganda”, given that “propaganda” is a process akin to “indoctrination”) or even to “educate” their peers of the deficiencies in any one of the “mythicist” cases.

One of the key characteristics of propaganda is that it manipulates symbols with the intent of bringing about social control. The symbols must have major significance for the audience, significant enough for them to hold real power over tan audience’s emotional reactions — “ideally, symbols of the Sacred and the Satanic.” (Alex Carey, Taking the Risk Out of Democracy, p. 12)

Understand the power of symbols.

Symbols are related to the psychological phenomenon of the stereotype. A stereotype is a seeming value judgment, acquired by belonging to a group, without any intellectual labor. . . The stereotype arises from the feelings one has for one’s group, or against the “out-group.” . . .  In propaganda, existing stereotypes are awakened by symbols. (Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, p. 163)

Probably the most used symbol in the propaganda war against mythicism is “The Scholar”. This symbol has siblings: “peer review”, “published in a reputable/academic journal”, “PhD”, “scholarly training”, “skilled in relevant languages”, to identify some.

Now I know some people will jump on that above sentence and accuse me of suggesting that “scholarly training” and being “skilled in biblical languages” are nothing more than worthless empty symbols. And such an effort will itself be demonstrating how propaganda works. By ignoring nuance they will be reinforcing the power of the symbol itself and the mechanics of propaganda. They will be reaffirming that “The Scholar” is sensible, wise, naturally right, while the critic who is associated with the enemy, “mythicism”, is vacuous, unavoidably silly, dumb and risible.

Recall the Sacred and the Satanic. read more »

The Charge of Denialism and Cognitive Dissonance

An argument to end all arguments

David Hillman recently commented:

Hangin' From Albert Einstein's Proof

[Dice] Hangin’ From Albert Einstein’s Proof (Photo credit: voteprime)

In real intellectual arguments the accusation of denialism does not help at all. In the argument for example over the philosophical foundations of quantum mechanics, was Einstein a dice denier, Bohr a reality denier. Such accusations would not have advanced the argument.

I do actually suspect that McGrath’s use of the term is an immoral smear to avoid addressing the arguments, and if I could ever work out what Hoffmann is attempting to communicate I might suspect the same of him.

Of course, advancing the argument is not the aim, is it? They charge mythicsts with denialism in order to terminate the argument. “There is nothing to argue about,” they mean to say. “Talk to the hand.”

Being lumped in with conspiracy theorists, climate-change hoaxers, birthers, and Holocaust-deniers isn’t some unfortunate afterthought or an unintended consequence; it’s the main reason they do it.

As far as what Hoffmann is attempting to communicate — well, it’s essentially this: He doesn’t like “Mythtics.” His tirade from 8 February makes it clear. His dislike seems to have gone well beyond any rational explanation. It has certainly dissolved all norms of polite social behavior. I, for one, would forgive his departure from normal, sane human discourse — if any of what he was saying were true.

A Godfrey of his own creation

Hoffmann has created his own mythical Godfrey who lives in the enchanted land of Vridar. Hoffy doesn’t like this Pseudo-Godrey.

green-eggs-and-ham

I do not like that pseudo-Godfrey

He does not like his posts on Paul.

He does not like them, not at all.

Hoffy tells us all day long,

Pseudo-Godfrey is quite wrong.

He does not like his exegesis.

He does like his take on Jesus.

Even quoting Shelby Spong,

Pseudo-Godfrey’s very wrong.

He hates his manner, so uncouth.

He hates how he distorts the truth.

Hoffy ever sings this song,

Pseudo-Godfrey’s always wrong.

(He would forgive them all, you know,

If only they’d agree with Joe.)

However, you can’t blame Pseudo-Godfrey; he’s just like every other mythicist. They are all:

read more »

Dear Joseph Hoffmann, . . . . P.S. . . .

I love this remark by classicist Michael Grant:

[A]s J. B. Bury remarked, it is essentially absurd for a historian to wish that any alleged fact should turn out to be true or false. Careful scrutiny does not presuppose either credulity or hostility. (Jesus, p. 200, my emphasis)

This sounds to me like a simple truism. Occasionally someone (even a scholar) may express some question about the historicity of Socrates or Hillel, more recently even of David. There’s no question in those instances of being labelled a “mythicist” or “historicist”. The reason, I suggest, is that those questions are far less invested with cultural ideology and vested institutional interests (at least outside Israel in the case of David).

I don’t know too many “Christ Myth theorists” who stand to lose anything should they eventually be found to be wrong. And I don’t know of any of them who seriously engage with the scholarship who have made a good $$ from mythicism. But no-one can deny that many careers and institutions have been founded upon the belief in the historicity of Jesus.

I don’t even think of “Did Jesus Exist?” as an historical question. Historical questions, in my mind, are directed at explaining the evidence. So we have evidence for the emergence of Christianity. Okay, so the historical question is, “What caused the emergence and growth of Christianity?” (That question, incidentally, is the underlying motif of most of my blog posts. Not mythicism per se.)

The only Jesus that matters is the Jesus in the evidence that we have at our fingertips, and that’s obviously a literary and theological figure. I can understand how genre and criss-crossing strands of evidence can help us flesh out historical characters behind the archaeological and literary evidence of people like Julius Caesar, and of others whom we conclude must have been part of their lives. But let’s be serious. We really do know that the stories of Jesus are not in that range of genre and external corroboration.

Oh, and by the way. I mentioned in my last post that I think belief in Christianity (let’s say the Bible or the Qu’ran/Koran — let’s cover all three “people of the book” religions while we’re at it) has been responsible for much harm. It has. I know. Millions of people know, surely. I’m not talking about just the big issues like war, racism, sexism and slavery. There’s also the “silent” damage it has done to millions of individuals who suffer daily in cities, suburbs and beyond.

But what I want to add here in this P.S. is that I can also look back on my life and see that even in the worst times there is something I can salvage of value and ongoing worth for me and others. Check my posts on “fundamentalism” — see this blog’s Index of Topics — and you will also see that I have made the most of good things that also came out of my religious past and have encouraged others who have likewise suffered to do the same.

The Message: read more »

Dear Joseph Hoffmann, I am writing in response to your recent . . . .

Joseph Hoffmann has introduced his latest post with a misguided reference to me and this blog.

The recent uptick of interest in the historical Jesus is fueled partly by a new interest in a movement that was laid to rest about seventy years ago, but has received a new lease of life from a clutch of historical Jesus-deniers. The rallying point for the group is a site maintained by a blogger by the name of Neil Godfrey, an Australian university librarian who, like many others who have assumed the position, comes from a conservative Christian background.

Let’s take this point by point. And let’s see if we can find any indicator to tell us why this scholar cares enough about me and this blog to bother taking any notice at all.

The Christ Myth idea was “laid to rest about seventy years ago”? That’s not what classicist Michael Grant seems to have understood when he thought “mythicist” G. A. Wells’ books in the 1970s were worth notice and response in Jesus: An Historian’s View of the Gospels. Hoffmann himself appears to have forgotten the preface he wrote for one of Wells’ books, a preface that expressed more understanding of the Christ Myth theory than he has displayed recently.

“A new lease of life from historical Jesus deniers?” Deniers? Being in denial is a psychological problem. It means one is irrationally defensive and stubbornly refusing to face up to an idea or situation that one fears is a threat. Was G. A. Wells a “Jesus denier” when he wrote his books arguing Jesus was not historical? Was his eventual change of mind a psychological cure or an intellectual pursuit? Are Thomas L. Thompson and Robert M. Price “Jesus deniers”? Is it impossible to entertain the possibility that Jesus was not historical without being thought of as psychologically damaged? It seems so, in Hoffmann’s world. So if that is indeed the case, one wonders why he is bothering at all trying to construct intellectual arguments to argue for the historicity of Jesus. Surely what is needed is some other form of therapy if Hoffmann is working from a valid model.

The rallying point for the group is a site maintained by a blogger by the name of Neil Godfrey . . . read more »

Initial response to Hoffmann’s latest

Hoffmann is continuing his “engagement” with mythicism. My initial thoughts on his latest post follow.

Whatever else Paul was, he was the greatest revolutionary in history when it comes to the God-concept. His ideas were completely unhistorical and at odds with Jewish teaching: he finessed his disagreements into a cult that turned the vindictive God of his own tradition into a being capable of forgiveness. Needless to say, the way he arrives at this is angstful and tortured, but he gets there in the end–not through tradition and law, but through a strategem: ”Christ the Lord.” His turnabout from Judaism was so complete that his only intelligent interpreter, Marcion, believed he must have been speaking of a completely different God. . . .

Hoffmann has argued that the most fundamental reason we should believe Jesus was a historical figure (at least the figure Hoffmann sees after he strips away most of what the Gospels say about him) is because he was so typical of his time. Paul, on the other hand, must be seen as so atypical of his time.

But leaving that discussion for another time, what I find odd in Hoffmann’s claims here is his view of Judaism in the time of Paul. He equates Judaism of Paul’s time with a vindictive God tradition incapable of forgiveness. I am astonished that Hoffmann would write such unsupportable caricature as if it were fact. His view is surely out of touch with most scholarship that has addressed this question.

Sad, it seems to me, that so much of the mythicist argument is based on what Paul does or doesn’t say about Jesus, considering there is a world of thought there that, cast to one side, makes it virtually impossible to know what Paul was talking about. Mythicism, among it many other dubious achievements, has achieved a new level of illiteracy in relation to Paul’s ideological and religious world. . . .

And this comes from someone who has recently argued that we can know that Paul was addressing the illegitimacy of Jesus when he wrote that Jesus was “born of a woman, born under the law” in Galatians 4:4! I have often addressed current scholarship on the writings of Paul. I know of mythicist arguments that draw reasoned conclusions on the basis of the scholarship specializing in Paul. I would like to see Hoffmann himself engage with Pauline scholarship itself, and arguments based upon it, rather than appear to completely bypass it and fault mythicists who take the trouble to take it seriously.

the fourth blot of the Rorschach inkblot test

Photo credit: Wikipedia)

His “biographers” tell the story of a man who preached a kind of mock civil disobedience, but was as critical of Jewish legalism and ritualism as it was of Roman boots in Jerusalem. They tell us he gathered an unpromising following of women and yokels (Celsus’s words, not mine), failed to achieve whatever it is he wanted to achieve, and died among thieves as an enemy of the nation.

There is absolutely nothing improbable about this story. . . .

Unfortunately for Hoffmann’s case, this is the very story that the “biographers” do not tell about Jesus. This story is entirely what Hoffmann sees when he looks at the Gospels as if they are a Rorschach test. read more »

Hoffmann’s historical Jesus argument for dummies — with a graphic to clarify it all

Let’s try to make it clearer with a picture. Mark Erickson has attempted to have Joseph Hoffmann and Stephanie Fisher clarify their central argument for the historical Jesus:

“The political and religious conditions of the time of Jesus plausibly give us characters like Jesus. This is a tautology that must be confronted.”

Hoffmann attempts to clarify with this (unedited):

The poltical (sic) conditions of the time of late republican Rome give us characters like Antony and Caesar. Not characters like Sargom(sic), Elijah or Darth Vadar (sic). if (sic) then I have literary artifacts that conform to those condtions (sic) and contexts, how should they not be facors (sic) in establoishing (sic) the historicity of it. It’s basic historical process–the 1000 pound premise mythtics (sic) routiney (sic) dance past in their quest for improbable substitutes and “parallels” that explain the sources.

I think what Hoffmann means is that he gets cranky with anyone who suggests the source of the Jesus we find in the Gospels was, ultimately, not a historical Jesus and but some other mythical deity like Attis or Hercules.

I don’t think the evangelists were thinking of Attis or Hercules when they wrote about Jesus, and I don’t know many mythicists who do think like that, so as far as I’m concerned I’m not the least interested in his having a go at something that looks like a straw-man.

But let’s look at his “one airtight argument” Hoffmann has for the historical Jesus. As Stephanie expressed it:

The one airtight argument in [Hoffmann’s] piece [is] that the conditions for the existence of Jesus necessarily produce people of like description, so to choose an analogous over a known figure is non-parsimonious and tautologies are eo ipso true statements.

Question for Steph: Steph, are you saying that Hoffmann’s argument is true because he has expressed it as a tautology?
Tautology (rhetoric), using different words to say the same thing, or a series of self-reinforcing statements that cannot be disproved because they depend on the assumption that they are already correct

Let’s start with a graphic to try to get this clear in our heads. (See the previous post where the 3 C’s are explained: Conditions, Context and Coordinates):

hoffargument

 Hang on! Isn’t this the same text-book fallacy we (should) know so well?

Mrs Smith’s farm produces green apples.  (The 3Cs produce this type of person)

This is a green apple. (Jesus is this type of person)

Therefore this apple comes from Mrs Smith’s farm. (Therefore the 3Cs produced — historically, not just literarily — Jesus)

And that’s before we even get to finding out how Hoffmann managed to find (something like his own reflection in the Gospels and call it) Jesus with the 3C traits. (I look forward to reading how Hoffmann does that without begging the question.)

If I am wrong and am misrepresenting Hoffmann I am sure Steph or someone will let me know. . . . . read more »

Hoffmann’s arguments for an historical Jesus: exercises in circularity and other fallacies

One never thinks to engage seriously with ticks so when Hoffmann calls his mythicist opponents “mythtics” it is clear he has no interest in taking them seriously. When he does speak of the arguments of those he has described as “ghetto-dwelling disease carrying mosquitoes/buggers” he necessarily keeps them anonymous and never cites or quotes them, but belabors the same tired old straw man points he seems to want, maybe even needs, them to be arguing. I return to this point at the end of the post.

So without a dialogue partner I post here my own thoughts and questions about his method that leads him to conclude that Jesus of Nazareth did exist as an historical person.

He writes in his post, The Historically Inconvenient Jesus (with my formatting):

Given that there is

  • (a) no reason to trust the gospels;
  • (b) no external testimony to the existence of Jesus (I’ve never thought that the so-called “pagan” reports were worth considering in detail; at most they can be considered evidence of the cult, not a founder);
  • (c) no independent Christian source that is not tainted by the missionary objectives of the cult
  • and (d) no Jewish account that has not been invented or tainted by Christian interpolators,

what is the purpose of holding out for an historical Jesus?

Actually I think his point (a) is badly expressed. I actually do believe we can and should “trust the gospels” — but only after we first analyze them to understand what, exactly, they are. I believe we can trust the Gospel of Mark as an expression of theological beliefs about Jesus because that’s exactly what it is. I can see no more reason to use it as an historical source for its narrative contents than there would be to use the Gospel of Mary for the same purpose. That means the Gospel of Mark, like the Gospel of Mary, is an excellent, trustworthy source for certain theological beliefs and the ways they were expressed among those who first knew these gospels. I know of no a priori reason to think anyone should bother to read them for kernels of historical events and persons behind their narratives. I can see lots of reasons in the Gospels to think their narratives have nothing to do with historical events.

But that’s just me (and, I think, William Wrede) so I’ll move on and for the sake of argument play the game the way Hoffmann plays it here.

As for starting with a complete absence of reliable external testimonies, Hoffmann is parting company with probably most of his peers. Looks like this position is a legacy from his own time as a “mythtick”.

So Hoffmann is beginning his “quest” for evidence of historicity without gospels, without external testimonies, and without any independent Christian source. Ex nihilo?

Hoffmann explains that the historical Jesus will emerge from “the three C’s”: conditions, context and coordinates.

Simply put, it is the three “C”s: conditions, context, and coordinates. read more »

The Gospels Assure Us (Relatively) That the Hoffmann Jesus Is True

R. (Rabbi?) Joseph Hoffmann’s “semi-sincere New Year’s resolution for 2013 is to be nicer to the mythicists”. I’m touched. He explains the reason for his semi-sincere change of heart. It is not the ghetto-dwelling buggers‘ fault for carrying diseased ideas. The fault lies with his fellow scholars who have fed them “stammering indecision, deconstruction, conspiracy-theories, and half-baked analogies of a hundred years of uncongealed scholarship.” I think that’s Hoffmann’s way of complimenting the mythicists for making the effort to engage with New Testament scholarship.

But like Bart Ehrman, Hoffmann thinks it is time to come out and say that though just about everything you read in the gospels is a myth, if you look carefully you will see that it can all be rationalized so that at least its foundation is not myth. Scholars have indeed been wise enough to see that the emperor’s or king of kings’ clothes are nothing but the finest embroidery.

English: The Charge of the Light Brigade by Ca...

English: The Charge of the Light Brigade by Caton Woodville (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So with incompetent peers to the right of him and disease carrying mosquitoes to the left of him, Hoffmann (who, like Jesus, probably thinks he is the deliverer) rides down into the valley to sort it all out. But in a nicer way than before (semi-sincerely). I hope I will be able to handle all the love-bombing.

Everyone’s reconstruction about Jesus has been wrong — except Hoffmann’s. It’s the claim of probably every HJ scholar.

If only those stupid mythicists (whose stupidity is not their fault, let’s be a bit nice about this) had heard “the right” reconstruction of the HJ they wouldn’t be buggerizing around down there in their intellectual ghetto. This echoes a well-known refrain of the Christian devout: if only we had heard the true gospel preached or known the true Christians we would not be such regenerate apostates today.

Bypassing Claude Lévi-Strauss who reminds us that any retelling of a myth (including a rationalization of it) is itself a variant of the myth and nothing but a new version of the myth, Hoffmann lays out what he thinks “the gospels tell us” we can be “relatively sure” is not-myth – that is, “true”. He writes:

Think of this as a preview; I’ll save persuasion, argument and evidence for later.

So let’s list the points that the gospels assure us, relatively, is “true”. We can tick them off as the evidence comes in for each one — which we are told will be soon. The following is taken verbatim (with only minor edits and reformatting) from Hoffmann’s own post: read more »

Sayings Manufactured For Jesus

Jesus Outside the Gospels is a small volume compiled by R. Joseph Hoffmann and published 1984. He argued that various sayings of Jesus found across a variety of sources (not only canonical ones) “put it beyond doubt that the church was capable of generating sayings to suit new situations, and did not hesitate to invent new “words” of the Lord”.

“Sayings” of Jesus—which might better be termed traditions about the sayings of Jesus—are not confined to the Gospels canonized in the New Testament- There exist scores of sayings (logia) for which there are no parallels, or only distant ones, in the Gospels. Collectively, these go by the misleading name agrapha—unrecorded words. As this title prejudices their analysis (the Gospels do not present a verbatim record of Jesus’ words), it is best to designate them “extracanonical” sayings or sayings-traditions. The significance of these sayings, it should be emphasized, is not that they present a more reliable picture of Jesus than the one given in the Synoptic Gospels. Rather, they put it beyond doubt that the church was capable of generating sayings to suit new situations, and did not hesitate to invent new “words” of the Lord in furthering their missionary work. The questions of proselytes and the accusations of enemies of the sect were the most prominent but by no means the only situations addressed by these sayings. (JOTG, p. 69)

Hoffmann was not saying that no sayings went back to Jesus himself, but that it was clear that any such sayings were adapted (revised, mutated) according to the needs of the church. This has long been a widely held view among scholars. It is also clear, though, that many sayings were invented and attributed to Jesus himself to give them added weight of authority. Earl Doherty argues that even the Q sayings evolved in a way that they were attributed to Jesus relatively late in their life-cycle.

I think some readers would be interested in seeing a list of some of these extra sayings attributed to Jesus by the early church writers, and the samples following are taken from Hoffmann’s book. I am including here only those sayings found among the “proto-orthodox” Church Fathers and omit those found in Gnostic and other literature.

He begins with sayings of Jesus that appear in Paul’s letters. read more »

Hoffmann: James was NOT the biological brother of Jesus

Steven Carr has drawn our attention to Dr R. Joseph Hoffmann’s argument that Paul’s reference in Galatians 1:19 to “James, the brother of the Lord”, was clearly not meant to be understood by Paul as an indicator that James was the biological brother of Jesus. He wrote in The Jesus Tomb Debacle: RIP:

The James who is head of the church in Jerusalem is not a biological brother of Jesus. Later but inconsistent gospel references to James are muddled reminiscences based on the more prominent James of the Pauline tradition.

The Jesus Process (c) member and scholar Stephanie Fisher has just come out and publicly affirmed the solid scholarly foundation on which Dr Hoffmann’s conclusion that James was NOT the biological brother of Jesus are based:

Joe’s conclusions are based on evidence and argument

I would have been inclined to have suspected Hoffmann has since come to regret his earlier post but we are assured by his fellow member of  The Jesus Process (c)  that there is nothing about Hoffmann’s case that is not based on “evidence and argument” — presumably meaning “valid” argument.

Dr Hoffmann also informs us that his conclusions have the support of other New Testament scholars. He does not name these other scholars, presumably because they are so numerous and well-known among his intended scholarly readership that singling any names would have been superfluous. He writes: read more »

Reply to Hoffmann’s “On Not Explaining ‘Born of a Woman'”

What a response R. Joseph Hoffmann writes to my critique of his thesis (Hoffmann’s Mamzer-Jesus solution) about Paul’s “born of a woman” phrase in Galatians 4:4!

  • He makes the most fundamental errors over the meaning of the Greek word involved — errors that anyone can correct by consulting any Greek concordance or dictionary —
  • and even makes flat wrong claims about what words are found in all the manuscripts.
  • He ignores my arguments as if I wrote nothing about the complete irrelevance of his point to mythicism
  • or the historical problems his “solution” raises,
  • and attributes to me arguments I have never made.

One does begin to wonder about the legitimacy of Carrier’s belief that something tragic has happened to Hoffmann that enables him to respond with such incompetence and falsehoods.

Hoffmann published an essay under the aegis of The Jesus Project (C) arguing that Paul was mindful of a rumour in his day that Jesus’ birth was illegitimate when he wrote “In the fulness of time God sent forth his son, born of a woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4). I decided to address what I considered were some critical flaws in his argument. I also had wondered if this might be a test case to see if and how The Jesus Project would engage with critical arguments from an amateur. Hoffmann’s reply is not from The Jesus Project. So far, then, it appears that TJP is not going to engage in dialogue with this quarter at least.

Hoffmann is clear. He has no need or interest in engaging with any mythicist arguments, period. Mythicist arguments have all been adequately addressed in 1912 by Shirley Jackson Case, he informs his readers. His loathing for mythicists is transparent by his regular use of his derogatory epithet, “mythtics.” “Ticks” fits comfortably into his denigration of mythicists as “disease carrying mosquitoes” and “buggers”.

Damascus Road Conversion

Hoffmann, who once sat comfortably with mythicism, has had his Damascus Road conversion and now seeks to destroy that which he once entertained. (See, for example, the way R. Joseph Hoffmann has turned from hot to cold in his dealings with D. M. Murdock.)

So all Hoffmann does by way of rejoinder to my post is imply that I merely “use arguments cobbled together from” mythicists. That (false) claim settles the matter in his view, it seems, and means he has no need to address anything I argued. He cannot even bring himself to use my name, so he calls me “Vridar” (– and on his own blog he regularly misspells my name, apparently deliberately, for some curious reason).

In other words, he is not interested in dialogue or engaging with mythicist arguments.

In actual fact I used arguments and quotations from earlier books by hostile anti-mythicist Ehrman, and even Hoffmann’s himself, as a supporting springboard from which to make my own points. At one point I quoted from mythicist Zindler’s unique tackling of the legitimacy of the claims that the Talmudic literature has relevance for genuine traditions about the historical Jesus. If Zindler’s arguments are correct then Hoffmann’s case is seriously undermined. Hoffmann, of course, completely ignored those arguments. I also mentioned in passing a minor point or two by Doherty but I did not present any of Doherty’s own in-depth (chapter-length) addressing various questions surrounding Galatians 4:4.

So Hoffmann ignores or pejoratively labels the arguments in my post and does little more than use his “reply” to repeat his own case and toss more invective at mythicists.

That’s hardly dialogue. And it’s certainly not dialogue with TJP. If we had any earlier misgivings about the tone, intent and tactics of TJP we can begin to have confidence we were not misled.

Hoffmann begins:

Rather than being an exegesis or explanation of the passage, it is predictably–in the style of mythtic assessments–an attempt to show how the interpretation is wrong, using arguments cobbled together from other mythicists, namely Earl Doherty and Frank Zindler and a gratuitous salute to a not very cogent passage from Bart Ehrman’s The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. read more »

The New Apologists: R. Joseph Hoffmann and friends on a rescue mission for the “Jesus of history”

Ken Humphreys has posted his response to The Jesus Process (C) trio: The New Apologists: R. Joseph Hoffmann and friends on a rescue mission for the “Jesus of History”. . . .

A trio of Jesus myth denouncers from the world of academe have rushed into the breach opened up by the failure of Bart Ehrman’s final solution to the problem of Jesus’ existence (Listen, he was a small-time deluded doom merchant who thought he was king, so there). Professors Hoffmann and Casey, and a young academic who worked for Casey, Stephanie Louise Fisher, have come to Ehrman’s support with a few dubious arguments in favour of a historical Jesus and a visceral attack on Jesus mythicists as a thoroughly bad crew. . . . .

Hoffmann’s Ersatz Response to Mythicism

The opening publication of R. Joseph Hoffmann, the leader of “The Jesus Process: A Consultation on the Historical Jesus”, is a curious puzzle of blended words and concepts that have the power to overwhelm his choir with the sense that they are listening to a view so original, unique and erudite that they are bound to think:

Now here is our prophet! I do not understand what he is saying but it is clearly incomprehensibly deep. I must bookmark this and tackle it again another day when I will not feel so intellectually incompetent if I do not understand his every word. Till then, I will highly praise and recommend it to others . . . .

Unless I have misunderstood Hoffmann’s publication (he speaks of his blog post as an “essay” “now published!” along with much terminological pretentiousness such as “Process”, “Consultation”, copyright insignia) he almost entirely avoids the question of whether or not Christianity began with an historical Jesus. That appears not to be his intention at all. For Hoffmann, the historicity of Jesus is a given. Hoffmann describes his essay

as a preface of sorts to a more ambitious project on the myth theory itself and what we can reliably know – if anything — about the historical Jesus.

The question of what we can know about the historical Jesus has been the starting point of all hitherto quests we have seen for the historical Jesus. Necessarily it begins with the assumption that there is indeed an historical Jesus to know about.

Hoffmann sums up the myth theory itself as

largely incoherent, insufficiently scrupulous of historical detail, and based on improbable bead-string analogies . . . . [guilty of] methodological sloppiness with respect to the sources and their religious contexts . . . . [and] almost entirely based on an argument from silence, especially the “silence” of Paul.

One has to wonder why any such theory is deserving of any scholarly attention at all or how Hoffmann himself can ever justify his own history of support for the mythicist team.

If the fear is that a misguided public are ignorantly being persuaded by arguments so inept, then why not present a simple and direct point by point exposure of the sham? Hoffmann would respond to this question by declaring that such point by point exposures have been published since 1912 —

  • S. J. Case, The Historicity of Jesus (Chicago, 1912)
  • F. C. Conybeare, The Historical Christ (London, 1914)
  • Maurice Goguel, Jesus the Nazarene, Myth or History (London 1928; rpt. Amherst, 2008)
  • R. T. France, The Evidence for Jesus (London, 1986)
  • Morton Smith, “The Historical Jesus,” in Jesus in History and Myth, ed. R.J. Hoffman and G.A Larue (Amherst, 1986)

Yet bizarrely the same R. Joseph Hoffmann who writes in his Jesus Process essay that Goguel’s arguments are a “clear refutation” of mythicism, and who in the Introduction in a reprint of Goguel’s book wrote that

Goguel poses real challenges to the theory that Jesus never existed (p. 35)

also wrote on this blog two years ago that Goguel’s arguments were “weak and dated“, that the reprint of his book had “historical interest” but was otherwise “pretty insignificant“, that to demolish his arguments, as Doherty has done, is nothing worth mentioning, and that the myth theory is kept at arms length from academia for reasons other than its intrinsic merits: read more »

Blogger Godfrey’s Reply (1) to Emeritus Professor Maurice Casey of The Jesus Process ®©™

English: A view of the cloister garden and sta...

English: A view of the cloister garden and statue of Jesus from one of the walkways at Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Georgia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maurice makes sure I know my place when he twice identifies himself as Emeritus Professor Maurice Casey and nine times identifies me as Blogger (Neil) Godfrey. The “Internet”, for Emeritus Professor Maurice Casey, is a hotbed of “hopelessly unlearned people”, “Christian apologists and determinedly anti-Christian atheists” who are “impervious to evidence and argument”, in “closed-minded” “rebellion against traditional Christianity” and critical scholarship, “uncontrolled and apparently uncontrollable”. So naturally Casey does not write as Blogger Casey but as Emeritus Professor, and does not write a blogpost for a blog but “an essay” for “The Jesus Process ®©™”.

Now I have no problem at all with any person having earned an honourable title, and I do respect the title of Emeritus Professor. But I am quick to lose respect for anyone who indicates they believe they are above public accountability when they (1) willfully denigrate another person in a conversational or intellectual exchange of views, and (2) expect their title to be enough to tilt an argument or assertion in their favour.

And there lies Maurice Casey’s (and his fellow Jesus Processors) problem with the internet. The internet has forced scholars, many of whom once cloistered in their “quite different world” from the rest of humanity, to make a choice: they can seek to remain cloistered and irrelevant to all but their peers or embrace the full implications of the communications revolution. He blanket denigration (echoed by his colleague R. Joseph Hoffmann) can scarcely disguise an elitist contempt for “the masses”, the “public”, for the necessary uncontrolled untidiness of a democratic society. Public intellectuals do have a public responsibility and with the internet the public can make its views known more widely. That appears to be a notion too frightening for some scholars (by no means all) to take seriously. read more »