Tag Archives: The Jesus Process

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.

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 »

Passing thoughts on historical Jesus studies as sorcery

Stanislav Andreski
Stanislav Andreski
Updated — a new final two sentences were added 7th Feb. 6:30 pm Central Australian time.

If you happen to be a student, you can apply the same test to your teachers who claim that what they are teaching you rests upon incontrovertible scientific foundations [/historical methods]. See what they know about the natural sciences and mathematics [/historical methods] and their philosophical foundations. Naturally, you cannot expect them to have a specialist knowledge of these fields; but if they are completely ignorant of these things, do not take seriously grandiloquent claims of the ultra-scientific [/historical] character of their teachings.

Furthermore, do not be impressed unduly by titles or positions. Top universities can usually get the best people in the fields where there are firm criteria of achievement; but at the present stage of development of the social sciences [/biblical studies?] the process of selection resembles, as often as not, a singing competition before a deaf jury who can judge the competitors only by how wide they open their mouths. (Social Sciences as Sorcery, p. 86, my formatting)

That is from Stanislav Andreski, Social Sciences as Sorcery, 1972. I have added to Andreski’s words the alternative text in square brackets.

This quotation reminds me of the times I have challenged New Testament scholars (in particular McGrath, but also a few others) on their knowledge of historical methods after they insist that historical Jesus scholars are doing history in the same way other historians work. Yet the McGraths have proven completely ignorant of the landmark names and key methodological and philosophical developments, even the fundamentals of document and source analysis, in the field of history, whether oral or written, as it is practiced outside biblical studies. Names like von Ranke, Carr, Elton, White, (even Hobsbawm!), leave them staring like the proverbial rabbits in the spotlight. Quote from any of the many standard works on how postgraduate history students need to analyse documents or oral reports and they can only turn to sarcasm and insult to defend themselves. In my next post on the historical Jesus and demise of history I will be exploring one case study that illustrates well the very real gulf between historical Jesus studies and what history really means for nonbiblical scholars.

There is another quote from a much older source in the same book that reminded me of some of Hoffmann‘s posts read more »

Historical Reconstruction or a “Mad House”?

“He is unlike any man you have ever seen . . .”

If you’ve ever watched the original Planet of the Apes, you no doubt remember the scene in which the Tribunal of the National Academy questions Charlton Heston (Taylor, aka “Bright Eyes”). None of Taylor’s explanations make any sense to the tribunal, of course. If fact, the disturbing testimony causes them to assume the position.

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil

Later we discover that the Minister of Science and Chief Defender of the Faith, Dr. Zaius, knows a great deal more than he at first let on. From the 1967 shooting script:

                                TAYLOR
            I told the truth at that 'hearing' of yours.

                ZAIUS
            You lied. Where is your tribe?

                TAYLOR
            My tribe, as you call it, lives on another
            planet in a distant solar system.

                ZAIUS
            Then how is it we speak the same language?
                (suddenly intense)
            Even in your lies, some truth slips
            through! That mythical community you're
            supposed to come from -- 'Fort Wayne'?

                TAYLOR
            What about it?

                ZAIUS
            A fort! Unconsciously, you chose a name
            that was belligerent.

“Even in your lies, some truth slips through!”

I often think of those two scenes — Taylor’s hearing and its aftermath — when I’m reading up on the historical Jesus. Very few modern critical scholars believe that Mark is telling the truth about the splitting of the firmament and the booming voice from heaven at the baptism. Yet, “even in [Mark’s] lies, some truth slips through.”

Consider R Joseph Hoffmann’s assertion in his latest post.

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 »

Did Jesus exist for minimalist and Jesus Process member Philip Davies?

Philip Davies

Emeritus Professor Philip Davies has not been able to “resist making a contribution to the recent spate of exchanges between scholars about the existence of Jesus” in an opinion piece titled Did Jesus Exist? on The Bible and Interpretation website. It is a question that he says “has always been lurking within New Testament scholarship generally”, though the occasion of his essay appears to be the recent set of exchanges over the views of Bart Ehrman, Maurice Casey and Thomas L. Thompson on that website along with some thoughts on the recently released ‘Is This Not the Carpenter?’.

(Since Davies was also announced as a member of The Jesus Process (c) (TJP), it is encouraging to see someone from that august body addressing the tactic of the gutter rhetoric that we have endured recently from other TJP members Joseph Hoffmann, Maurice Casey and Stephanie Fisher. It would be nice to hope that Davies’ article can mark a turn for the better from that quarter at least.)

Philip Davies is (in)famous for his 1992 publication In Search of ‘Ancient Israel’ (partly outlined on vridar.info) that is reputed to have brought “minimalist” arguments on the Old Testament to a wider scholarly (and public) awareness. In Did Jesus Exist? Davies says he has “often thought how a ‘minimalist’ approach might transfer to the New Testament, and in particular the ‘historical Jesus’”, and infers that the collection of articles in ‘Is This Not the Carpenter?’ is an appropriate way to open the question.

(I don’t think it is all that difficult to apply a “minimalist” approach to the New Testament: it’s a simple matter of approaching the data with the same logical validity and consistency — the avoidance of circularity [and circularity of method is confessed by several historical Jesus/NT scholars] in particular. The hard part is in acknowledging the circularity given our cultural conditioning.)

.

NT studies “not a normal case”, ad hominem rhetoric, and hope

He points out that what is uncontroversial in any other field of ancient history runs into trouble when suggested in the field of New Testament studies (my emphasis): read more »

High-Low context cultures — catching up with the fundamentals

It’s about time I tied up one loose end from my earlier remarks on Professor Maurice Casey’s “frightful”™ and “hopelessly unlearned”™ diatribe against “mythicism” generally and Earl Doherty in particular. In his inaugural essay for The Jesus Process© he wrote:

. . . [H]opelssly unlearned . . . Doherty’s ‘original’ work on Paul is . . . frightful. . . . He shows no knowledge of the fundamental work of the anthropologist E.T. Hall, who introduced the terms ‘high context culture’ and ‘low context culture’ into scholarship [Footnote here to Beyond Culture]. Paul’s epistles were written in a high context culture, which was homogeneous enough for people not to have to repeat everything all the time, whereas American, European and many other scholars belong to a low context culture, which gives them quite unrealistic expectations of what the authors of the epistles ought to have written.

This is one basic reason why Paul says so little about the life and teaching of Jesus. To some extent, his Gentile Christians had been taught about Jesus already, so he could take such knowledge for granted. He therefore had no reason to mention places such as Nazareth, or the site of the crucifixion, nor to remind his congregations that Jesus was crucified on earth recently.

According to this critique we can conclude that Paul forgot to mention anything about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus – or even that Jesus Christ was exalted subsequently to a heavenly role as our Saviour — to his Gentile converts since he clearly does not take such knowledge for granted but repeats it scores of times throughout his epistles.

Shamed into an acute embarrassment for having no knowledge of any “fundamental work”, I immediately purchased a second hand copy of E. T. Hall’s book, Beyond Culture. It arrived as a Harvard University Library discard, very good condition though, complete with Harvard University Library stamps including one warning of a 25 cent fine for every hour it failed to be returned to Harvard’s Social Relations Library after 10 A.M. 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 »

Some Crazy Stuff I Believe In ‘Cause I’m an Ex-Fundie

That sensational title was supposed to grab your attention. However, my remark was “not intended to be a factual statement.” Frankly, most of the things I believe in (or, rather, theories I subscribe to) are fairly ordinary. I thought it was P.J. O’Rourke who once said that thinking outside the box was overrated — “There’s plenty of good stuff still inside the box” — but I can’t seem to find a reference.  Maybe I imagined it.

Defending the status quo

You may recall a few months back when I defended the venerable Documentary Hypothesis against a scholar who did not understand it at all. I own books by OT minimalists, and I have great respect for Thompson, Lemche, et al. However, I still find myself more persuaded that the creation, transmission, and redaction of the Hebrew Bible followed a process similar in most respects to the one described by Wellhausen and Friedman.

Similarly, while I may entertain doubts about Q, I’m still a proponent of the Two-Source Hypothesis. I own a copy of The Case Against Q, and I’ve read a couple of the chapters more than once. Goodacre asks a lot of probing questions that do not yet have fully satisfying answers, and his contribution to Synoptic Problem scholarship is undeniable. However, I am still firmly in the 2DH camp.

Why am I an old fuddy-duddy when it comes to Wellhausen and Streeter? Because these standard models in particular have a great deal of explanatory power and compelling coherent logic. So while it’s true that many people “stay inside the box” because of inertia and lack of imagination, oftentimes it’s just as likely that the there’s nothing outside the box that explains things better than the boring old standard model.

But that’s not to say that we should ignore new ideas. The dominant hypotheses in source criticism (the DH in the OT and the 2SH in the NT) aren’t set in stone. I’ll be the first to admit that Markan Priority without Q (aka “The Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre Hypothesis”) might be correct; however, like Agrippa I am almost but not quite persuaded.

Keeping an open mind

We should keep our minds open even to far-out ideas like Scripture Ninjas and the Galatian Bastard Theory. But the proponents of such theories should not be surprised by the ribbing they get here. You know what they say about extraordinary claims.

In short, I’m pretty much a bore. So what does our dear friend Steph mean by this?

read more »

The crazy attacks on Vridar

Updated and slightly revised about 3 hours after original posting.

This is crazy. A couple of blokes, laymen, have a hobby. They love to engage with biblical scholarly literature and to learn and understand all they can about a book that is important to Western culture. They enjoy sharing what they read with others who have similar interests. I always understood scholars were too busy to be bothered with whatever lay people did with any of their ideas. Who cares what every Trish, Dot and Hanna think and say?

So why do a few scholars sometimes go out of their way to publicly attack this blog? Why the insults and even the curses wishing our children dead (which even their students learn to repeat*)?

Why should anyone care if we — or anyone else — think Jesus was probably not historical or if we say we can’t decide one way or the other on the question? How can we explain scholars resorting to insult because we are less certain and more questioning about some details?

I have said repeatedly that my interest is not in mythicism per se but in exploring Christian origins and understanding the nature and origins of the biblical literature. I cannot prove Jesus did not exist and have no interest in bothering to try.

I am as much, and no more, a mythicist as is Professor Thomas L. Thompson. Thompson does not argue for or against the historicity of Jesus but he does argue a case for understanding the biblical literature and the ideas within it in a certain way, and he does from time to time point to the potential implications this understanding has for the question of the historicity of Jesus.

My arguments about methodology are for most part an application of Thompson’s and other minimalist scholars logic to the New Testament.

Accordingly I have questioned the fundamental assumptions of NT scholarship that addresses the historical Jesus and Christian origins. I have also pointed out the logical fallacies riddling many of those scholarly studies.

But I have also shared much of what I have found most interesting in those learned works.

I — and even moreso Tim — have spent a good amount of time learning the fundamentals of the biblical languages, using the standard scholarly references, and attempting to keep up with current ideas as well as digging into those of the past. It’s a hobby. But we are serious about it and love to share what we learn or wonder about.

We stand outside the guild. We have not been trained in the “correct answers” and “the right questions” to ask or the “correct way” to frame the discussions.

One sometimes wonders if it’s because we have done a little homework and have a fair idea of what we are talking about when we apply critical analysis to certain modern scholarly ideas that some scholars find our views threatening. We stand outside the guild. We have not been trained in the “correct thoughts” and “the right questions to ask”. It has not escaped our notice the way some scholars seem incapable of breaking away from stock phrases and concepts in their arguments and appear to be most uncomfortable with criticisms that undermine those taken-for-granted ways of expressing the arguments and framing the debates.

Enter mythicism

If we question the foundational assumptions and standard “logic” of some NT scholarship, what is left? What would replace it? read more »