Vridar No Longer Available

I was in the process of writing a response to Neil Godfrey’s latest accusation against me, when Joel Watts drew my attention to the fact that his blog Vridar has apparently been shut down by WordPress:

I hope this is not the result of someone who finds the content on the blog objectionable making a frivolous complaint. While I’ve often said myself that mythicism is to history what young-earth creationism is to biology, and objected to the slanderous way scholars in my field (including myself) are sometimes spoken about, filing objections against the websites and blogs that reflect such views is not going to be a successful solution. It will likely only reinforce the sense the individual or group has of being a persecuted minority that cannot get a fair hearing for its views.

To help counter that possible claim, I’d like to offer the comments area on this post to anyone who normally posts or comments and Vridar and now cannot do so. If you post about mythicism, you may expect that I or regular readers might disagree with you – but that will be nothing new, either for Vridar or here.

If you are someone who normally comments on Vridar and who was banned for troll-like behavior, e-mail me and I will gladly give you another chance. I’m even willing to ignore such things as long as they are kept in this one thread.

I suspect that Vridar will be back, since I subscribe to its feed and did not notice anything that would constitute spam or hate speech (although I admit I do not read everything posted there in detail). In the mean time, I invite any “Vridarites” who may wish to do so to be my guest and discuss, post, and comment here.

  • Tom Verenna

    Good on you James.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Of course Tom Verenna loves James now — I wonder what Tom would say if I posted here all his sycophantic emails to me when I started posting nice reviews of his book “Is This Not the Carpenter”?

      Yes, I quoted Joel Watt’s blog post in full in order to expose him as an incompetent fool. He resorted to censorship — no argument can be sustained in his head.

      Neil

      • http://unsettledchristianity.com/ Joel

        And thus the copyright infringement. I guess laws are just a other conspiracy

        • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

          First, Joel-has Neil ever claimed the invention of Jesus to be a “conspiracy” of any kind?
          Second, Godfrey’s use of your post is an excellent example of “fair use” for the purposes of criticism.

          • http://unsettledchristianity.com/ Joel

            Clearly not which is why he was sent a request by WordPress to remove the copied content.

        • Coel

          When a piece is short (about 100 words plus links) then copying all of it can easily be “fair use”, especially when the work is not “creative” (i.e. not a poem or song), when the copying is done for valid reasons (criticism), when the copy has added value (the critical commentary), and when neither the original nor the copy of it has commercial value.

          It seems to me that Vridar’s use of it clearly comes under “fair use” and is thus not a copyright violation. “Replying” to critics by censoring them is childish and unworthy of anyone who considers themselves to be engaged in intelligent debate.

          • http://unsettledchristianity.com/ Joel

            Perhaps he should have responded with such instead of ignoring the first request. The ball, or post, was completely in his corner. That he dropped it is not my problem.

            • Roger Lambert

              No, it is the problem of everybody besides yourself on Planet Earth who would like to read a blog that happens to be critical of you. You. You. You.

              • http://unsettledchristianity.com/ Joel

                well, you are entitled to be wrong, I guess, and no amount of facts or demonstration of facts will prove otherwise

          • Just Sayin’

            Godfrey’s commentary is of no added value.

        • Paul D.

          Dude, he quoted like a list of links you posted. Is that really worth a copyright takedown?

          Secondly, your website says the material is Creative Commons licensed. You have already given Godfrey permission to use it as long as he gives proper attribution (which he did). So what you’ve done appears to be, not only extremely dickish and petty, but illegal as well.

          Is this kind of childish, deceitful behaviour really what we are to expect from Christians these days? Pathetic. Joel Watts, you have disgraced yourself as a blogger, as a scholar, as a Christian, and as a human being.

          There’s still time to be humble, do the right thing, and apologize. But I ain’t holding my breath.

  • http://unsettledchristianity.com/ Joel

    It is difficult at best to get WordPress to shut down sites on complaints of subject matter— Lord knows I’ve tried with Jim’s blog enough.

    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

      You dog, Joel. For a mere attempt to rescue a personal reputation, you have attempted to silence one of the most prominent Jesus ahistoricists on the Internet. To compare you with a slug is to insult an innocent slug. To compare you with a flea is to insult a bloodsucker of far higher moral standing than you. To compare you with a viper would be somewhat appropriate. In the name of all that is good and true, may those who have praised you despise you, may those who have honored you take back their honors, and may those who employ you fire you.

      • http://unsettledchristianity.com/ Joel

        Well, that’s lovely and all but seems you don’t understand the meaning of prominent. Or honor.

        • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

          Sure I do.

        • Paul D.

          You are truly the paragon of honor, Joel. Why don’t you explain to us less honourable folk how the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution license works? Perhaps you could tell us what a false DMCA takedown notice is as well. Are they illegal? Or just unethical?

          (And it’s cute that you’ve just now added a “please don’t copy my posts” note below the CC notice on your site.)

    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

      Monsieur Watts, does the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License linked to at the bottom of your blog mean anything at all? You’re even more a butthole than I thought you were at second (though less of a butthole than I thought you to be at first). I’m removing my strikethroughs.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Interesting, Joel. You appear to have been shy about telling anyone up front that you were the one responsible for the deactivation of my blog until I chose to publish here the DMCA notice (forwarded to me at my request AFTER the blog was shut down)

      – Only THEN did you come out and admit you were the one responsible and then you tried defend yourself by laying all the blame on me. This despite the DMCA instructions that you profess to be upholding direct you to post a comment on my blog with your complaint.

      Soon enough you even produce an image of an email appearing to suggest you sent it to me prior to the take-down of Vridar. Now maybe you did send it but I cannot explain why I still have not been able to find it in my Gmail account. Lots of questions here. No conspiracies. Just lots of questions.

  • http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/ Neil Rickert

    I would guess that the blog used some copyright material without permission (perhaps an image), and the owner of the material complained. Or, at least, that seems to be one way of having WordPress shut down a blog.

    • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

      Didn’t read vridar that often, but Godfrey’ s images usually seemed properly credited and from wiki type sources.

  • An Old Friend of Joel’s

    My guess is that it was Joel Fatts who issued the complaint. I know it was him who did something to me a few years back – something very, very similar to this. He’s very vindictive and very petty (undoubtedly from feeling totally emasculated having his wife supporting the family while he pursues his ‘higher calling’). Notice that this just happened as Neil started criticizing Joel’s kindergarten writing level. Something that stupid would cause Mr. Fatts to retaliate. One may suppose that Joel would see that as ‘going below the belt’ (but how are you going to go ‘above the belt’ with Joel).

    Notice also that it was Joel who discovered the disruption of service first and also the fact that he now tries to make a joke about his efforts to shut down other sites. Yet he’s a Christian so no matter what evil he does he’s always going to have a conscience, a sense that someone’s looking over his shoulder. I quote

    “IT IS DIFFICULT (my emphasis) at best to get WordPress to shut down sites ON COMPLAINTS OF SUBJECT MATTER — Lord knows I’ve tried with Jim’s blog enough..”

    Yes it’s all a big joke. That’s how our culture has learned to respond to tragedy. Now both the good guys and the bad guys absolve themselves of causing massive destruction with similar one-liners. Whether you agree with him or not, think of all the effort that Neil made self-publishing his ideas – now up in smoke. All a big joke now – likely owing to Mr. Fatts’s overblown vindictiveness.

    He can’t be so stupid as to imagine that it was WHAT NEIL SAID that got him shut down. This is so disingenuously naive. The obvious answer – the one that would pop into anyone’s head within a few seconds – was that it was done because of copyright infringement. You don’t need to hire Sherlock Holmes to figure that one out. Joel knows better than this. He can’t pretend now to be a lost little lamb in the woods. He’s a blogger and he’s one of the most prolific. He or whoever did this must have noticed that Neil’s citations consistently went beyond the ‘fair use’ limit and then with one email – sayonara Vridar! (or ‘Vretard’ as like-minded detractors used to refer to the site).

    Indeed when you look at his comments one can interpret them as almost taking pride in the situation. In a bizarre way, he could be interpreted to be saying that he didn’t expect to succeed, that he feels guilty about the consequences of his actions (knowing that Neil probably didn’t have his stuff backed up) OR (as human motivation is rarely attributable to a single drive) that both are true but that he wants to overcompensate by turning his evil into a superhuman accomplishment – i.e. it is so incredibly difficult to have gotten WordPress to have accomplish this sneaky, underhanded deed, whoever did this must be in possession superhuman abilities.

    Again I don’t have any proof that it was Mr. Fatts that did this. Only God knows the truth. It was someone with an ax to grind. But for Joel this wouldn’t be the first time he did something like this. I know from personal experience.

    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

      1. Who are you?
      2. Which blog(s) did Joel supposedly try to shut down before?

    • Tom Verenna

      Someone who clearly doesn’t know Joel posting under an anonymous name is about as credible as Honey TeeTee.

      • An Old Friend of Joel’s

        From Neil’s blog:

        “My Vridar blog was deactivated by WordPress because I exposed Joel Watts, a published New Testament “scholar”, as a fraud and liar — He complained to WordPress that I had quoted his own (fraudulent) blogpost in full as part of my analysis of it. I am therefore deemed to be in some sort of violation of copyright law.”

        Obviously Joel has ignores ‘turn the other cheek’ because it requires the use of a wheelbarrow.

        • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

          Link?

        • Dan McClellan

          Stephan, volunteering to drag this discourse down into the arena of fat jokes doesn’t really help your case for inhabiting the moral or intellectual high ground. It also opens the door for ridicule of your atrocious grammar.

          • An Old Friend of Joel’s

            Dragging down into the arena of fat jokes? Okay let’s raise this discussion to the realm of moral ambiguity and hypocrisy. Yes or no. Does this call into question Joel’s reputation as a ‘nice guy’ and a jolly old soul? You obviously think he’s done nothing wrong.

            • Dan McClellan

              I don’t believe it does call those things into question. Copyright rules were violated. Whether or not you think they’re important or legitimate rules is beside the question. He has every right to call the violator on that, and I don’t believe he compromises his reputation by doing so. I also believe that you’re misrepresenting the events, although I’m not sure if it’s intentional or not.

              • Paul D.

                No copyright rules were violated.

        • Dan Ortiz

          How can a personal blog be fraudulent? that is ilogical

    • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

      What a deeply unpleasant comment.

      • Steven Carr

        Hey, Mr. Watts managed to get a mythicist blog silenced. Champagne all round! You know you’re winning when your opponents have been reduced to silence.

        • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

          Actually, he managed to get a blog that infringed his copyright silenced. It’s healthy that people are debating the rights and wrongs of this, but surely even you would agree that “Joel Fatts” is playground stuff.

          • Steven Carr

            Watts posted a lot of links, in between a few words of insult.

            When Neil Godfrey looked at each of the links, and reported what they really contained, rather than what Watts said they contained, Watts declared these links ‘copyright’ (copyrighting a URL!) and then put into actions steps which closed down the blog.

            Anything except defend his post. I wonder why Watts didn’t defend , rather than copyright, his links.

            I would give a link to Watt’s original article, but, you know, links to articles are copyright….

            Perhaps Watts has been studying Scientology, which likes to copyright material to ward off people quoting it.

            ‘There are a number of disputes relating to the Church of Scientology’s efforts to suppress material critical of Scientology on the Internet through the use of lawsuits and legal threats.

            In late 1994, the Church of Scientology began using various legal tactics to stop distribution of unpublished documents written by L. Ron Hubbard. The Church of Scientology is often accused of barratry through the filing of SLAPP suits.

            The official church response is that its litigious nature is solely to protect its copyrighted works and the unpublished status of certain documents.’

            Hey, that’s just given Watts a great idea!

            Too late, he had already thought of it…

            • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

              Still not clear how any of this justifies the original commenter’s personal remarks about Joel’s weight?

    • Dan McClellan

      Are you the Stephan Huller who is currently calling Watts “Joel Fatts” on the Freethought and Rationalism board?

    • Dan Ortiz

      You are a coward for using a pseudonym. MAN UP! If you can’t shoulder your words then they are NOT worth the seconds spent reading them. You are a sad and pathetic little man….. sorry…. half-a -man.

      • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

        I do not think there is any cowardice in pseudonymity. However, there is cowardice in sockpuppetry. Also, “An Old Friend of Joel’s” has proven to be correct regarding Joel being the cause of the silencing of Neil.

        • Dan Ortiz

          Is not a silencing, it is just a blog, He can create a new one can he….. and Joel explained that it was not his request but Neil’s stubbornness. Sorry to disagree but in this case pseudonymity is cowardness. He isn’t fighting for his life or anything, he is just a coward.

          • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

            “Just a blog” on which he has posted for over seven years. Yeah, WP’s actions do constitute silencing. And Neil says he didn’t get any takedown notice from anyone before his blog was shut down. So Neil wasn’t being stubborn.

            • Dan Ortiz

              Unless that blog is intimately linked to his self-identity then it is not “silencing”, as you yourself say that you have “heard” from him, meaning he is still speaking. I suppose it is a he said-he said situation then.

      • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

        Also, your argument at http://zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/stupid-angry-atheists-get-a-life/
        was profoundly illogical. If http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBy3MbP4WDo didn’t exist, you might have a point. It does, so you don’t. Besides, atheists don’t hate God, we hate religion.

    • Just Sayin’

      Are you an idiot or just doing a brilliant impersonation?

    • RtRDH

      This is either Honey Tee Tee or a pseudoscholar of Clement of Alexandria we all know and love…ahem ahem….

  • tanya

    Thanks James, your kindness is much appreciated.

    This is true nit picking, although, I suspect that in the end, it is just this kind of silly quibble that led to sectarian formations in the first place.

    You wrote:
    “In the mean time, I invite any “Vridarites” who may wish to do so to be my guest and discuss, post, and comment here.”

    I am very confident, that you meant no disrespect, whether consciously, or inadvertently. However, the proper term, in harmony with Greek, is “Vridarists”, a mouthful, and not nearly as tongue friendly, as “ites”, but the last century saw a remarkable assassination of Trotsky, by Stalin, who employed that terminology (trotskyites versus stalinists) to discredit those whose sympathies lay with someone other than the great helmsman.

    I see constant reference to “Marcionites”, for example. NOPE, not in the ancient Greek texts. They universally agree, Marcionists. Thanks again for your generosity in offering bandwidth to those of us who argue that there is no more evidence linking Jesus of Nazareth to a genuine human being, than the evidence supporting the legend that Captain John Yossarian flew a bomber over Italy in World War II (Catch-22)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Sorry, it was an attempt at humor. No connection between readers of the blog Vridar and any religious or ethnic group past or present was intended.

  • An Old Friend of Joel’s

    The latest from Neil:

    I am told by WordPress I defied a take-down notice. I never received any
    take-down notice (yes, I’ve also checked my spam) — and told the only
    way I can appeal is to fill out a form in which I say I am an American citizen
    (but I’m not) and that I want to contest a take-down notice I’ve never
    seen!!!

    and again:

    It appears that Joel Watts (of Unsettled Christianity blog fame) has
    lodged a complaint with WordPress over my copying his recent fraudulent
    blogpost and in which I exposed him as an incompetent fool.

    http://vridar.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/the-laziness-and-incompetence-of-yet-another-biblical-scholar/

    WordPress has accordingly deactivated my Vridar blog. I received no warning, no take-down notice, no complaint whatever. Only a sudden deactivation of my blog.

    I have been told by WordPress that I must contest this complaint by
    legal means if I wish to have my blog reactivated. But I have received
    no complaint or warning at all. So I have no idea how I can contest
    anything.

    Neil Godfrey

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    Vridar has been deactivated by WordPress because Joel Watts submitted a formal legal complaint that I had quoted a blog-post of his in full to expose him as an incompetent fool:

    “Email Address: jwatts@suddenlink.net

    Location of copyrighted work (where your original material is located): http://unsettledchristianity.com/2013/06/on-the-science-of-history/

    First Name: Joel

    Last Name: Watts

    Company Name: UnsettledChristianity.com

    Address Line 1: 262 Oakwood Road

    Address Line 2:

    City: Charleston

    State/Region/Province: WV

    Zip/Postal Code: 25314

    Country: United States

    Telephone Number: 8123046062

    Copyright holder you represent (if other than yourself):

    Please describe the copyrighted work so that it may be easily
    identified: It is my entire post, set into his. The entire post, sans
    the updates done today.

    Location (URL) of the unauthorized material on a WordPress.com site (NOT simply the primary URL of the site – example.wordpress.com; you must provide the full and exact permalink of the post, page, or image where the content appears, one per line) : http://vridar.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/the-laziness-and-incompetence-of-yet-another-biblical-scholar/

    If the infringement described above is represented by a third-party link to a downloadable file (e.g. http://rapidshare.com/files/…), please provide the URL of the file (one per line):

    I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials
    described above as allegedly infringing is not authorized by the
    copyright owner, its agent, or the law.: Yes

    I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the
    notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner or am
    authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is
    allegedly infringed.: Yes

    Signed on this date of (today’s date, MM/DD/YYYY): 06/26/2013

    Signature (your digital signature is legally binding): Joel L. Watts

    • Dan McClellan

      Are you publishing Joel Watt’s personal address and phone number on the internet?

      • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

        Why not? After all, it is Watts who attempted to silence Neil, not visa versa.

        • Dan McClellan

          Joel reported a copyright violation. Why does this merit his personal information broadcast on the internet?

          • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

            Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 17 U.S.C. § 106 and 17 U.S.C. § 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

            -Neil did not commit a copyright violation; Joel did attempt to silence Neil.

            • Dan McClellan

              Did Neil copy the published work in full without authorization?

              • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                Irrelevant. See above comment.

                • Dan McClellan

                  It’s quite relevant. Fair use does not give one unilateral rights to an entire published work.

                  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                    A published work of exactly 123 words. I’d say that’s the minimum needed to provide context to twenty-five links.

              • Paul D.

                Joel Watts had already given permission via the Creative Commons license posted on his website for the work to be published in full with attribution.

          • Geoff Barrett

            Dan, you should use the term “alleged” copyright violation. I think it is highly questionable whether or not there was an infringement given the nature of the blog post (non-fiction-supposedly, non-commercial), the type of license involved (CC), the use (a critique).

            Also, when filing a DMCA complaint, Automattic makes clear that personal information can be made public, so Joel agreed to allow his personal information to be made publicly available when he filed his DMCA complaint.

    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

      Thank you for confirmation of Joel Watts’s attempts to silence you. My sympathies rest with you, Neil.

      • Just Sayin’

        Then you’re as much of a lying idiot as he is.

        • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

          When have I lied? How is either Godfrey or me an idiot? Godfrey is certainly wrong on numerous occasions, but he’s not an idiot-he’s just sometimes misguided.

        • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

          Also, my sympathies rest with people who have far wronger ideas than Godfrey that have been silenced.

    • Dan McClellan

      By the way, Neil, is this all really just about whether or not history can be called “science”?

      • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

        It has nothing to do with whether history is a science. Nothing at all. What are you talking about? Joel took the action against me, not me against him.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      While I am incredibly disappointed with Joel’s actions, and if I were you I would be incredibly angry about this, I would nonetheless kindly ask that his home address be blocked out in the comment above. I have no intention if removing the comment, in which Neil understandably provided evidence regarding what had happened to his blog. But I think that blocking out or deleting the home address details would be appropriate. Thank you.

      • Paul D.

        Don’t phone books publish that information anyway?

        Anyway, I’m happy that you have expressed disappointment with Joel, Dr. McGrath, and that you do not condone such actions even after finding out who the culprit was.

      • Geoff Barrett

        While your concern for privacy is understandable, Joel was informed of consequences here:

        Automattic DMCA Policy:

        http://automattic.com/dmca/

        Your Infringement Notice may be forwarded to the party that made the content available or to third parties such as ChillingEffects.org.

        Please be advised that you will be liable for damages (including costs and attorneys’ fees) if you materially misrepresent that a product or activity is infringing your copyrights. Thus, if you are not sure content located on or linked-to by the Website infringes your copyright, you should consider first contacting an attorney.

      • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

        As far as I’m aware you have the control over what comments appear on your blog and you can remove that image. Yes I posted it impulsively when I had just learned what happened and saw Joel pretending to know nothing.

        Until I received that response from WordPress I had really believed it was merely a momentary stuffup by WordPress — I had no idea there was any take-down notice behind it. — but I have no intention of doing Joel any favours or spending any effort whatever trying to protect him or going to any trouble to find out how or if I can edit that comment now. Unless, maybe, he offers a sincere public apology and withdraws his legal action.

        I’m busy enough trying to repair damage to my own affairs that he has set in train — work that is going to take at least a year, probably more, before all repairs are complete. You remove or crop it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          There is an edit button under comments if they are one’s own. Another person cannot edit your comments, which is for obvious and good reasons. And as I said, since this was you presenting evidence regarding what happened, I do not have any desire to see the comment removed in its entirety, which a blog owner or moderator can do.

          • Guest

            Okay I didn’t realize till now it was a simple text edit on the disqus comments. (I’m not on your blog page directly)

          • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

            But you are the blog owner and you are surely responsible for what comments and data appear here. You as the administrator really cannot edit comments?

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              Are you suggesting that you have your blog set up in such a way that you could take someone’s comment and make it look like they wrote something they did not? We do not have that here, and I would be quite surprised to find that anywhere, given its potential for misuse and abuse.

              • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

                I’m pretty sure Larry Hurtado edits comments to his blogs so perhaps it’s a WordPress thing? You can’t do it on blogger, as far as I know.

                • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

                  You can do it on WordPress yes. I do it frequently when a commenter forgot a close tag on some formatting and it screws up the appearance of their comment. And I’ve done it once or twice when specifically asked, because (certainly on my Vanilla WP.com setup) the commenter can’t edit their own comment.

                  The prospect for abuse is great, certainly. But I’d hope that if I misused it, the commenter in question would scream bloody murder.

                  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                    Ah, but couldn’t you just edit their screams? ;-)

          • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

            Okay I didn’t realize till now it was a simple text edit on the disqus comments. I had thought I originally sent an image. (I’m not on your blog page directly)

        • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

          My recollection when I wrote this was that I had posted an image of the document — I have removed the address and phone number when I saw it was a simple text edit in a disqus comment I did not have to go searching for.

    • Just Sayin’

      Sorry, I wouldn’t believe your oath.

  • http://unsettledchristianity.com/ Joel

    Actually, while I contend it is indeed a copyright violation, the only thing attempted to be remove was the copyrighted material. When Neil defied the request by reporting, then WordPress suspended his entire account.

    The victim card is lovely, but you can’t response with some manner of truth it is useless.

    • Steven Carr

      So Mr. Watts attempted to remove his own words from the Internet. Apparently, he has copyrighted the links to the sources he claims supported him.

      So nobody can now check up on these alleged supportive sources Watts gave, as Watts will strike you down for ‘copyright violation’ if you post them.

      Watts must be on really bad ground if his reaction to having his ‘sources’ examined is to close down the website.

      • http://unsettledchristianity.com/ Joel

        Well, another few lies. I didn’t request the close of the site. I requested he remove only the content directly copied I full. It was the entire blogpost, top to bottom. Neil shut down his own site.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Please, no swearing or vulgarity, even if it is a typo.

          • http://unsettledchristianity.com/ Joel

            Entirely sorry about that. It was a typo.

            • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

              You can edit it.

              • http://unsettledchristianity.com/ Joel

                I did when I realized it. For that I am truly sorry.

        • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

          Those weren’t lies. Your actions did result in the closing of Neil’s blog and you did attempt to remove your words from a part of the Internet. Also, do you understand the concept of sarcasm?

          • http://unsettledchristianity.com/ Joel

            So when asked to remove the content and he not only doesn’t listen but then purposely deactivated the post that is somehow my fault? Ummmm good logic there

        • Steven Carr

          Joel silenced the mythicist!

          Drinks all round!

          Three cheers for Mr. Watts!

          Hip, hip, hoorah!
          Hip, hip, hoorah!
          Hip, hip, hoorah!

          There is a medal in the post on its way to you.

          Next, Joel explains why academic freedom is so important,and why he does never want the links he provides as ‘sources’ to be examined by anybody who might point out just how bogus his words are.

      • Just Sayin’

        That Godfrey has the Carr troll supporting him speaks volumes.

    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

      Alright, lessee the post
      http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:Vt8fEVvwwK8J:vridar.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/the-laziness-and-incompetence-of-yet-another-biblical-scholar/

      123 poorly thought-out words to form an insult and twenty-five links. If Neil’s copy-and-pasting that for the purposes of constructive criticism is a copyright violation, I wonder what else is. Did you try to contact Neil regarding this before trying to contact WordPress? In any case, my insults still stand.

      • http://unsettledchristianity.com/ Joel

        I did which is why the request to WordPress was not immediate

        • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

          Hm. I might have to reconsider (or moderate) my insults. I’m still leaving them up for at least the next few minutes, though.

        • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

          You lie! Or, if you don’t, you “tried”, but didn’t actually.

    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

      I frankly do not care whether Joel contends that it is indeed a copyright violation. I care whether Joel contends that he actually suffered any harm other than embarrassment.

      As a sentient adult, I am aware that laws are very rarely written with the precision we might like. Most laws will miss some behavior which causes the type of harm that the law was intended to prevent and they will cover other behavior which doesn’t. In the United States where so many laws are written by lobbyists, it is often the case that laws are written broadly to favor the interests of those the lobbyists represent.

      Therefore, I believe that before accusing another person of illegal actions, a moral and ethical person is obligated to consider whether that person’s actions are in fact causing any harm deserving legal sanction. It is not enough merely that a colorable claim can be advanced that the conduct falls within the letter of the law.

      The legal process should be kept separate from petty hissy fits.

  • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

    Is it not somewhat ironic that Joel’s post in question quoted Bahumuth’s tweet in full?

    I too can’t see how it isn’t fair use, though.

    • Steven Carr

      Well, Joel thinks a list of URL’s is his copyright. Was Bahumuth’s tweet basically made up of a ,lot of URL’s?

      Somebody had better tell Google that Joel Watts has copyrighted a lot of URL’s,

      • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

        You’re free to froth yourself into a lather of derision, but you should know that it comes across as pathetic and unstable to me.

        Presumably, at some core of your concern, you despise people making up stuff and passing it off as reality. So how about holding yourself to the same standard, and discussing things like the adult (I presume) you are? From coming across you in various places I note that you are highly modal: on some blogs you respond in a relatively coherent manner, on other blogs you’ve simply decided to go into pure derision and troll mode. Presumably because you’ve decided the host of the blog is only worthy of such. You tried to show up on my blog once in full-on derision mode, for no reason or justification I could discern. Well, your prerogative, of course, but I’m not James, and I’m not impressed by that kind of acting out.

        There is plenty of substance to discuss here. Plenty of grounds for actual concern. Implications for everyone who engages with blogs related to scholarship.

        I get you want to wave your handbag around, but all you’re doing, as far as I can see, is hitting yourself in the head with it and it doesn’t impress me at all.

        • Steven Carr

          What a very bizarre comment.

          I can understand why you feel better for writing it.

          But there was no need to.

          Watts managed to close down a mythicist site by the simple tactic of posting some links, and then complaining about copyright when somebody looked at the links.

          You won.

          What more do you want?

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            I won? Seriously, I’ve no idea what alternate reality you inhabit.

            I’m pretty sure we all lost here. Badly. This is seriously unpleasant. I’m pretty convinced here that this was an entirely inappropriate use of DMCA, which in turn is a piece of very poor legislation that legally enshrines paranoia and censorship.

            I would like to see Neil’s site back up as soon as is humanly possible.

            So really, perhaps engage your brain a bit more and let’s have a discussion about reality, not paranoid fantasy. The reality of the situation is nasty enough, without assigning motives or claims for the purpose of derision.

            • Steven Carr

              My apologies.

              Everybody is indeed a loser here.

              • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

                Thanks. And I’m sorry for the excessive nature of my response too – which was at least as much motivated by having a chip on my shoulder about you as by what you actually said!

  • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

    Here’s why I’m rather appalled at this.

    Copyright is intended to give creators the rights to benefit from their work. This is *why* fair use doctrine exists, why satire, criticism and citation are valid exceptions.

    So, I can’t figure out how Joel could be genuinely motivated by a desire to protect his ability to benefit from his work. Neil’s post cites him, provides links to the original work, quotes it as a small part of his derived work, is sufficiently transformative, and so on.

    Put another way, were Neil to have summarised rather than quoted Joel, what material difference would that have made to Joel’s ability to benefit from his work?

    So I can’t conclude anything except that Joel didn’t like Neil’s post, and wanted to make it difficult for him, and decided to fix on the full-quotation thing as a means of making his offence more legally grounded.

    That he was able to do that (regardless of the whole blog situation, the initial sanction was to take the page down) should be grounds for everyone to be angry (and to write to your representatives in opposition to DMCA, imho!)

    Joel, if you are reading this thread, take a deep breath. Think about whether this is really a copyright issue for you. I suspect you’ve actually dealt with real copyright issues, as an author. I have: copies of my books posted as pdfs on filesharing sites, etc. This is not the same thing, and I hope you can calmly admit that to yourself. And then, I’d suggest, rescind your objection.

    [IANAL, etc]

    • Coel

      I entirely agree with you. Before this episode I had no idea who Joel Watts was, so I can’t say that he’s plummeted in my estimation, but this sort of complaint is totally out of order.

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    I can assure everyone that I received absolutely no warning or take-down notice from either Joel Watts or WordPress prior to WordPress deactivating Vridar. None at all. I have asked WordPress to tell me when they sent me a warning notice and they do not reply. I have checked my spam email and there is nothing from either Joel or WordPress. Nothing.

    I did ask WordPress for a copy of the take-down notice I was supposed to have received and they did send me that — and I showed that in my alerts to other sites — but there was no header to indicate when it was supposedly sent or to what email address. They have not replied to my requests to tell me when they supposedly sent me that notice.

    I received no notice whatever. If Joel says he sent me email notices I ask him to show copies of the emails with send address and times.

    Neil Godfrey

    • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

      He has done this here: http://unsettledchristianity.com/2013/06/run-dmca/

      Interested to know if he has got the correct contact email ?

      • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

        Unless I missed something in that post Joel has not shown anyone when he sent me any take-down notice or warning or to what address he sent it. He has claimed he sent me a warning but I have seen no copy of an email with the datestamp to verify this.

        • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

          Okay, I can see in his email image the address and date of his notice, but I can assure you I never received it — I have again checked by email and spam and it is simply not there.

          • Just Sayin’

            Now, why do I not believe you? Bitter much?

            • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

              Yes, sir, you are bitter and do have an irrational dislike of Jesus ahistoricists.

      • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

        The email address in his image is correct. But in a legal contest we will subpoena a search of all email databases to see exactly who sent what and when and who received what and when. That’s where the evidence will lie. Not in web images.

        • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

          Subpoena? Can’t say I like what Joel did (at least as far as my understanding of it is correct), but is this really something that needs to get lawyers called in over – could you and Joel not sort things out offline between yourselves?

    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

      Neil-when will us common folk be able to comment on your blog?

      • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

        Tim has restored comments now — he’s been fantastic to get this up so quickly!

        • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

          Hurrah! I noticed that WP users can’t comment as WP users at Vridar.org, though.

  • Gary

    I suggest letting the two individuals work out the grevience between themselves. And delete this post, and all comments associated with it. Rather embarrassing to think this entire discussion might be archived forever in cyberspace.

    • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

      *Crucial* that it be archived forever, imho.

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    I believe I can piece together a partial explanation for Vridar’s deactivation.

    A few days ago there was one blog post of mine that was made “Private” and I thought that my co-author had accidentally put it in this status, so I made it Public again. It now appears — given what Joel Watts is now saying online — that WordPress had made that post “Private” at Joel Watt’s request.

    When I changed the status of that post back to “Public” it appears that WordPress and Joel interpreted that as a blatant violation of their requests.

    But I did not receive any warning notice at all. Joel has produced an image of an email apparently establishing that he did send me warning, but I can assure you that a thorough and repeated search of my gmail account, including trash and
    spam bins, produces no evidence at all of this email.

    Nor did I ever receive any take-down notice by WordPress. The first I saw that notice was after I requested it after the blog was deactivated.

    Had I received such an email notice I would have modified my post to be sure I avoid any breach of copyright. At the time I copied his post for purposes of legitimate criticism and I acknowledged and linked to his original all in good faith.

  • Theresa McCarty

    Who is like unto Vridar?

  • Dan

    Drat, I sorta liked Joel Watts. Now that he resorted to bogus copyright takedowns, I’ll have to unsub from his blog. Bye Joel.

  • Nikos Apostolakis

    IMNAL, but there was no copyright violation. The content of Joel Watt’s blog is licensed under a cc license, share-alike, with attribution and no commercial use.

    As far as I can tell, Neil did not profit by copying the content and he gave ample attribution. So where is the violation?

    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

      Good point, Nikos. Joel is even more a butthole than I though him to be at second.

  • http://unsettledchristianity.com/ Joel

    Gents and Ladies, It would seem according to Vridar’s latest post, they understand more than you. I have updated my post, linked to before I think, to include pictures and timeline. This might be disconcerting to come given that this allows for some preciseness and thus little room to argue, not that this situation — preciseness — would stop people from arguing.

    In Vridar’s latest post, they acknowledge the role WP has played in this. My intention, as I have consistently stated — PAY ATTENTION TO THIS PART — was to only have my content removed. He could have linked to or summarized, or posted in part. No, the URLS are not copyrighted, but then again, the entire post was copied, as Neil as said himself. Unfortunately, when WP followed the exactly rules they were told to by Law, the blog was suspended. I know, right, the Law. Who knew.

    On a personal note, I regret that Neil has suffered the loss of his blog. A human’s work, regardless of whether it is scholarly or conspiratorial, is a valuable identification of the person. Color me Marxist here, I guess. The blog was Neil’s work and should be destroyed simply because either I or anyone else would wish to be. And no, I didn’t. I simply wanted my content removed.

    I am glad to see Neil’s blog back up, even if I find no value in the blog itself. It is still Neil’s work. I regret it was removed for these many hours.

    Y’all have a great weekend, even those who just love me so much!

    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

      Oh, you m***** f*c*e*. Did you not forget the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License linked to at the bottom of your blog? Neil’s blog is still not up.

    • Paul D.

      > On a personal note, I regret that Neil has suffered the loss of his blog.

      Are those crocodile tears, or have you asked WP to reinstate his blog?

      > I am glad to see Neil’s blog back up

      It isn’t. Edit: So his WordPress URL is still down, but he has restored the website at another address.

      • http://unsettledchristianity.com/ Joel

        http://vridar.org/ Yup, tis is, tis is. See the first post.

        • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

          Well, the WP blog isn’t up, so I have to change all my goddam links.

        • Tim Widowfield

          Man, you’ve got nerve. You really don’t realize what you’ve done, do you?

    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

      The blog was Neil’s work and should be destroyed simply because either I or anyone else would wish to be.

      -Nice Freudian slip there.

    • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

      My intention, as I have consistently stated — PAY ATTENTION TO THIS PART — was to only have my content removed.

      It was creative commons licensed. You had no right to have it removed. You had explicitly given license to use the content, as a whole.

      • Steven Carr

        Wow! Mr. Watts really has overdosed on the sleaze juice.

        It was creative commons licensed so Mr. Watts could bask in the glory of championing academic freedom , like the other good guys who mark their material as creative commons licensed.

        But it was all a show on his part.

        Perhaps an expensive show?

        I understand (perhaps wrongly) that the following is WordPress’s policy statement ‘Please be advised that you will be liable for damages (including costs and attorneys’ fees) if you materially misrepresent that a product or activity is infringing your copyrights. Thus, if you are not sure content located on or linked-to by the Website infringes your copyright, you should consider first contacting an attorney.’

      • Pseudonym

        I’m not part of this debacle in either way (indeed, this thread reminds me in why I don’t read either blog), however I do know a thing or two about Creative Commons.

        If the copyright notice is not intact, and the link to the Creative Commons licence is not intact, then the work was not correctly licensed. The only other defence that I can think of is fair dealing, which may apply here; note that Australia does not have an open-ended fair use provision in copyright law. Even then, I believe that the copyright notice must still be given.

        IANAL, and as such, I have no opinion on whether or not the work was correctly licensed or if no licence was needed under Australian copyright law. Neil, being a research librarian, probably knows better than anyone else here if it was or not.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    If I call the cops because the neighbor kids are shooting off bottle rockets, I may be acting within the letter of the law, but I’m still being a dick.

    • Tim Widowfield

      Especially if you assented to an agreement that explicitly gave the kids the right to shoot off bottle rockets.

  • Kristofer Key

    On one hand I find it to be hilarious that Neil lost his pet blog but I don’t like censorship even if I think the subject being “censored” is abject nonsense. The loathsome Godfrey versus the petulant Watts, who is more like dislikeable?

    I think the expression a plague upon both their houses sums it up perfectly.

  • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

    Oh no, really? This is simply appalling.

    When Neil quoted the blog post, Joel’s blog clearly and prominently had a notice indicating that content was licensed under creative commons, attribution, non-commercial share-alike.

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:unsettledchristianity.com/2013/06/the-science-of-mythicism/

    Which of course makes the whole ‘fair use’, DMCA stuff totally moot.

    In the last few hours, Joel has edited his site to remove this notice and replace it on all pages – including all previous posts with a notice of restricted rights to copy and quote.

    http://unsettledchristianity.com/2013/06/the-science-of-mythicism/

    You simply cannot do this. This is morally repugnant. Issuing a DMCA on someone using your Creative Commons content, then changing the license on that same content to make it look like you’d always reserved the rights. I’d say that is verging on malpractice. It is certainly serious intellectual dishonesty.

    Someone who knows Joel offline and that he trusts needs to have a gentle word here and tell him to face his responsibilities and undo this mess.

    • Joseph

      James needs to find a word stronger than “disappointed”.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

        I used that word before most of the details had come to light. I am more than disappointed at this stage.

    • Tim Widowfield

      “morally repugnant” . . . I had stronger words for him last night, but I’ve cooled off a bit.

      On the bright side, everybody has now seen Joel’s true colors.

  • http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/ Neil Rickert

    Ian has posted some further information at Joel Watts, Neil Godfrey, Censorship and Dishonesty. If what Ian posts is correct, that throws new light on this episode.

  • Bahumuth

    Over 120 comments on here, but neither Joe nor any of his defenders have sought to give any sort of explanation regarding the Creative Commons license? Of course what kind of defense could be given? That Joel has the right to call copyright infringement on a tiny 100-word article even after giving unilateral permission to use his work as long as he takes that permission off his site after the fact?

    I find it somewhat ironic that one of Joel’s contributions to the Q debate is that the evangelists would never had any problem with the reuse of the gospel material they wrote because the concept of copyright infringement was anachronistic at the time. I responded to this saying that of course there were no laws stopping it, but how could anyone believe that Mark or whoever before him would be okay with Matthew taking their story about James and John asking Jesus to be given authority and changing it to their mother asking on their behalf, or that the one who wrote “Blessed are the poor” and “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst” would be like Matthew adding “…in spirit” and “…for justice” to the end of those respective beatitudes (or as Joe would have it, that Matthew would condone Luke being lucky enough to change the meaning of Matthew’s beatitudes to exactly what Luke wanted by cutting off the last two words in both cases).

    THAT, legal or not, is what copyright infringement used to mean: taking someone else’s work, altering it, and then getting credit for the whole as your own without any citation to the original work. It doesn’t mean they all would make a legal complaint if they could have, but it’s very hard to imagine that they would have liked it.

    But Joe would have us believe, if I understand him correctly, that his complaint had nothing to do with the criticisms leveled against him (“It is difficult at best to get WordPress to shut down sites on complaints of subject matter…”) but are really about some kind of financial or psychological damage done to him by using his transcript in full as opposed to in part, ignoring the whole Creative Commons license issue. Are we to believe that by printing his small article in full, readers did not have to click on the link to the HuffPo article he wrote and thus rob him of essential page hits necessary to allot him the Google ranking he fully deserves? I doubt he would care to cede that there are enough Vridar readers for that to matter. The content of the post is what caused the complaint; the legal reason provided is just a pretext. Had the full transcript not been posted, I would not be too surprised if there would have been complaints about being taken out of context.

    Can we all just drop all the posturing over what is legal and what is not and just admit that had this article quoted him in full but not been critical of him, then Joe would never had lodged the complaint?

    Also, as a full disclosure, I am not a random unbiased commenter. I did try to become friends with Joe a while back, exchanged several tweets and emails on source debates, and even proofread some of his work, but he became very belligerent and condescending as soon as I told him I thought just lived in the first century B.C. and that mythicist connections to dying-and-rising gods were valid. I still wanted to continue our correspondence and asked why he didn’t “turn the other cheek” for a friend, but he replied that he didn’t want to “throw his pearls to swine.” So the accusations from “an old friend” that Joe is vindictive and petty do ring true to my ears.

    As to the comment about mythicism being to history what new earth creationism is to biology, which both Joe and James have used without the need to lodge a complaint over whoever thought of it first, this is just an attempt to equate a mythical reading of the “important” part of the Bible with a literal reading of an “unimportant” part of the Bible. The Eden story, the flood myth, and the death/resurrection of the Good Son/shepherd/fisherman on Christmas/Easter are all related to the same gods in Sumerian myth, Enki and his son Dumuzi, the latter of whom was worshiped by Judah’s women at the gate of Jerusalem’s Temple (Ez. 8:14). Had the dominant religion been based on Adam instead of Jesus, no doubt we’d have something like four gospels of Adam, and Joe and James would be comparing those who disbelieve in a historical Adam to those silly science deniers who believe in the literal resurrection of the body. Somehow scholars are able to disagree on what millennium Zoroaster lived or whether King Arthur was a myth without it devolving into these kinds of personal attacks and legal complaints, which proves to me the contention is not based on scholarly credibility but cultural bias.

    I would like to thank James for his honesty and for providing this forum for the two sides to correspond to one another.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      There is conversation going on here about the Creative Commons license: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2013/06/vridar-returns-and-a-review-of-a-review-of-a-review.html

      On your last point, this has nothing to do with this being about an “important part of the Bible.” Historical criticism has shown that much that the early Christians claimed about Jesus was myth, some was legend, and much we cannot tell one way or the other. This is about the fact that there is historical evidence that the myths and legends grew up around a historical figure. That is all my disagreement with mythicists is about: internet denialists setting themselves up as authorities on history when professional historians consistently draw a conclusion different than theirs.

      • Bahumuth

        The comparison with New Earth creationism is meant to be a demeaning correlation with science denial, which is very different than the denial of popular history. Historians disagree with each other over what is history all the time. There is no disagreement between scientists over what is science. And unlike science, you don’t need technical training to understand and respond to historical arguments. Biblical scholars disagree with each other over whether Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet, an ionic sage, or a political revolutionary, so your attempt to paint them as gurus of impenetrable authority dismissing in solidarity the opinions of a bunch of internet conspiracy theorists is not very convincing. There is nothing unique that sets Jesus apart from Adam, Noah, Zoroaster, or King Arthur. Myths predating the Bible refer to Adam. Historians wrote about Arthur. All the “evidence” is filtered through interpretation: Josephus said this part of the sentence but not that part, Mara Bar Serapion said the Jewish “kingdom” fell after “the wise king” died but he must have meant the Jerusalem Temple, etc.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          You’re clearly not familiar with the field of philosophy of science!

          The natural sciences and history are different, as I have often emphasized. But simply saying “This is easy, you don’t need expertise to do it” is not fundamentally different, regardless whether it is done by history-denialists or science-denialists. And your lumping of Jesus with Adam and Noah suggests that either you are unaware of how the evidence for Jesus of Nazareth is different, or you are being dishonest about it. But either way, your comment illustrates that, in the absence of expertise and knowledge of the methods and evidences of a field, one can draw all sorts of dubious conclusions.

          • Bahumuth

            The problem is not that I am unaware of the historical evidence behind Jesus. I have something like 100 books on the subject. The problem is people like you who center their lives on studying Jesus have no concept of the relationship between the Bible and Middle Eastern mythology or the history of other mythical and semi-mythical characters. You think Adam can be dismissed as completely ahistorical because he is just a symbol of man in the Bible, but you have no concept of his persona as a priest of Eridu in Kassite mythology, or the tradition that Noah was a king of Shurrupuk in Sumerian mythology. I’m not saying that proves they existed. I’m saying if the popular religion of our time was based on one of them, then these extra legends providing historical contexts not present in the Bible would be present and you would be using them to prove their historicity in the same manner.

            You claim that “professional historians consistently draw different conclusions.” Really? Name 10 of them. Not Biblical scholars. Not theologians. Full articles or books on the subject of mythicism written by professional historians. I sincerely doubt you can.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              If you are asking for direct responses to internet bunk that has never been published in an appropriate scholarly venue, then of course historians do not spend their time addressing such things. But if you mean the evidence for the historical Jesus, then you are mistaken. Do historians like Michael Grant from Classics and John Romer from Egyptology (since you seem to want people outside of the immediate field), as well as scholars like Morton Smith, Shirley Jackson Case, Maurice Casey, Shaye Cohen, Geza Vermes, Amy-Jill Levine, Robert Funk, L. Michael White, and Eric Meyers really seem to you to deserve to be dismissed, just because there are others whose theological concerns could be suspected as having biased them?

              • Bahumuth

                You’re the one who used the term “professional historians” instead of “Biblical scholars,” but I guess from your reaction you consider the two to be virtually one and the same. The problem is if you open up “historian” to “scholar who studies history as part of their profession,” then that means you’ll just have to extend the same courtesy to the other side.

                It’s funny how you start off with the assumption that mythicist arguments are so out of left field that they do not even merit being addressed even in a short article and then try to turn the scenario completely around and suggest that it is your list of Biblical scholars advocating the almost universally-accepted notion of the historicity of Jesus who are being “dismissed” because they don’t fit into your own stated standard of authority. Most of my books are from non-mythicist Biblical scholars so I don’t think you can say I dismiss them. In my own opinion, some non-mythicists like J.D. Crossan make equally good arguments for the ahistoricity of Jesus than mythicists, such as the literary problems with “James brother of Jesus” in Josephus (Jesus: A Revolutionary) or the inadequacy of memory and the “Dark age” of the first century (The Birth of Christianity).

                No one is going to deny the assumption of a historical Jesus without a valid alternative model. Why would anyone think Jesus was originally a dying-and-rising god unless they looked at the mythological connections? Why would anyone think Jesus lived in the first century B.C. unless they read about the historical connections to that time period? So yes, I am afraid I must insist that your hypothetical historians actually address the arguments that you insist they have authoritatively rejected. They don’t have to address “internet bunk”, though. Any refutations of Bruno Bauer, G.R.S. Mead, Joseph Campbell, Alvar Ellegard, G.A. Wells, Timothy Freke, Peter Gandy, Frank Zindler, Earl Doherty, Richard Carrier, Robert Price, etc. would do.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  If you think that Crossan makes arguments for mythicism then you have misunderstood him. And if your definition of historians includes Freke and Gandy, I find it had to believe that you are not simply teasing me.

                  Perhaps you should read about why Wells changed his mind, to being with?

                  • Bahumuth

                    Your inability to read simple English makes me wonder if you are are the one teasing me. I said “non-mythicists like J.D. Crossan”. How much more clear do you need it?? And I asked for a refutation from a historian on Freke or Gandy– or any of the other names I listed. I did not say they were historians. Dan Brown had plenty of refutations despite the fact he wrote a book of fiction. And as for Wells, perhaps you should read that he has not changed his mind that the Jesus of the epistles and apocrypha came from the first century B.C., as I too believe. He has simply added the belief that the Q sayings do originate from a first century A.D. itinerant Galilean Cynic. I would point out that even if you were right, that would hardly stop you from finding a refutation of his past position, but it’s clear all of this is to distract from the fact you really have no concept of what “professional historians” think about mythicist ideas. You’re just transposing the beliefs of Biblical scholars onto them.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      What you wrote is that Crossan is not a mythicist but that his arguments support the ahistoricity of Jesus. Which can only mean that you have quote-mined him, much like those who say “Here is what someone who is an evolutionist says, and it actually refutes evolution.”

                      Can you kindly explain to me why you find the likes of Freke amd Gandy, or Zindler, or Price, more persuasive than the consensus of mainstream secular historians and New Testament scholars? Why pick and choose from proposals at the fringe or outside the relevant field?

                    • Bahumuth

                      The fact that you think I quote-mined Crossan makes me wonder how familiar you are with his work. How much have you read of him?

                      As to your snubbing of Freke or Gandy, their book “The Jesus Mysteries” provides far more insight than many scholarly books. When I first read it, it did not convince me that a first century A.D. Galilean peasant named Jesus didn’t exist. But how anyone can say Freke and Gandy’s connections between Christian theology and the Shepherd/ Fisherman god who provides a Eucharist, is hung on a tree on Christmas, rises on Easter, and whose name means “True Son”, are nothing but “parallelomania”, are beyond me. In my opinion, Crossan and the Jesus Seminar, who I think are all very good scholars, do far more damage to the originality of a historical Jesus by identifying the true sayings of Jesus with the Cynic philosophy of the Greeks than Freke and Gandy do in revealing a historically important proto-Christian death/resurrection tradition since that could always have been appended on later. And it’s not like the dying-and-rising god parallels are any less convincing than the Cynic philosophy parallels.

                      The evidence that convinced me of a first century B.C. Jesus was Mead’s and Zindler’s arguments that the Toledot Yeshu contains an early proto-Gospel source that puts Jesus in a first century B.C. context, verified by early sources such as the tradition of five disciples from the Toledot in Mark 8:19-21, the Toledot’s gardener character in John’s gospel, Mara Bar Serapion’s dating the “wise king” to just before the fall of the “kingdom”, i.e. the Hasmoneans, the dating of Jesus in the Talmud, Tertullian’s reference to the Toledot story of stomping of lettuces, another tradition sourced by Epiphanius placing Jesus in the time of Alexander Jannaeus, Delbert Burkett’s Sanhedrin Trial Source and 1 Thess. 2:14 having Jesus tried by Jews rather than Romans, and the legends of Honi the Circle Drawer and the Dead Sea Scrolls matching key phrases in Hebrews. The 12th century Spanish philosopher and historian Abraham ben Daud confirms that the Talmud/Toledot tradition of a first century B.C. Jesus was not just a tradition of the Jews, but *the* tradition of the Jews up to the 1100s. Ellegard, who positively identified the author Junius through statistical analysis, managed to deduce a first century B.C. Jesus even without the knowledge of any of those connections, based mostly on the absence of knowledge of the peasant Jesus of the gospels in the epistles and early apocrypha.

                      http://bahumuth.bitfreedom.com/the-jesus-of-a-previous-century

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      If one prefers parallelomaniacs to the painstaking and detailed work of historians, and allows late sources to trump early ones without good reason, then of course one can “conclude” all sorts of things. But those committed to doing justice to the evidence and using standard historical methods will not find those “conclusions” persuasive, for reasons that should be obvious.

                    • Bahumuth

                      There you go again speaking in the name of historians instead of Biblical scholars without even bothering to comment on my challenge to put your money where your mouth is.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I mentioned some historians who have addressed the topic, including a Classicist and an Egyptologist coming in from the outside, as well as historians of Jewish history in the relevant period. You seem to think that one can be a historian of early Christianity without being a scholar who specializes in the New Testament literature, which includes our earliest relevant sources. Or have I misunderstood you? Or did you miss that comment of mine?

                    • Bahumuth

                      Bruno Bauer was a philosopher, theologian, and historian. Joseph Campbell is probably the most celebrated mythologist ever. James George Frazer is considered one of the founders of modern anthropology and had a huge influence on Freud and Jung. Mead had a degree in Classics. Robert M. Price is a theologian and a member of the Jesus Seminar. Even Bart Ehrman admitted at one point that the Professor Emiritus G.A. Wells is a good scholar and proficient in New Testament studies. Doherty was schooled in Classics. Richard Carrier has a Ph.D. in Ancient History. Ellegard is an expert in text analyzation and has made the notable discovery of an anonymous 18th century author using language statistics. Peter Gandy has an M.A. in Classical Civilization. Samuel Noah Kramer was one of the world’s leading Assyriologists and an expert in Sumerian history and language. Mythicists may be in the minority, but the credentials in my list seem a little more impressive than the ones in yours.

                      I do think you should be proficient in the earliest relevant sources to be a good writer on Jesus and early Christianity, but I don’t think you have to be a Biblical scholar. You appear to have missed some of my questions as well. Why should I consider you an expert on Biblical characters such as Adam or Noah if you are not even familiar with the earliest relevant sources from Sumerian and Kassite mythology? How can you say there is no connection between Christianity and the dying-and-rising gods or that all the material in the Toledot is late and historically worthless if you have not read the relevant texts? Is my description of the people who study the “philosophy of science” very far off? How much of Crossan’s work have you read?

                      The Adoptionist interpretation of Mark can be understood as an allegorical fiction based on the idea of the earlier Jesus descending on the peasant Jesus in the form of the Holy Spirit. That interpretation is what the authors of 2 Peter and 1 & 2 John were fighting against when they warned against Gnostics or Marcionites who claimed the gospels were just “cleverly invented stories” and that Jesus “didn’t come in the flesh.” Mark 8:19-21 shows familiarity with the Talmudic tradition of 5 disciples in the symbolism of the five loaves becoming twelve then seven, representing the five disciples, the twelve apostles, and the seven evangelists of Acts 6:5. It is only with the genealogy that was added to Matthew (but not present in its earlier Ebionite form) and the “epic history” of Luke that Jesus is first portrayed as a real historical figure, and the earliest reference to Luke comes from around 180. In my opinion, the Theophilus in Luke is Theophilus of Antioch from 170, who lived only a few decades before the Torah and Tertullian’s reference to the Toledot. Honi the Circle Drawer has many connections with Jesus including weather control and being unjustly executed on Passover by both sides of the Jewish political divide, which is then symbolically avenged by a subsequent Roman invasion (Josephus, Mara, etc.) It certainly makes more sense to me that Jesus’ more Hellenized followers would reinvent him as a more modern figure to symbolize the present church than for the Jewish traditions of the Talmud, Mara, Epiphanius, etc. to place him a century earlier.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      If you think that the credentials you listed exceed those on the side of historicity, then you must literally know nothing about the mainstream historians who conclude that Jesus probably existed.

                      But some of what you wrote does not seem to be mythicist, since you suggest in places that there may have been an actual historical figure behind the myths and legends, however deeply buried.

                    • Bahumuth

                      Bertrand Russell is another famous philosopher and historian who doubted a historical Jesus existed.

                      I’m glad you were able to catch that I do believe Jesus is based an earlier historical figure after the 3rd or 4th time I said it. That is also what Mead, Wells, Ellegard, etc. argue. Wells does not subscribe to the “mythicist” designation, but the basic idea of a disconnect between the early epistles and a fictional gospel makes him an important influence.

                      I will take your silence as an affirmation that you are too embarrassed to answer any of my questions.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Actually, you did not state at all clearly that you are not a mythicist until now.

                      I am not sure what questions I supposedly did not answer, but we need to deal with more preliminary matters. What is your argument for embracing later sources which historians consistently evaluate as more legendary and less historically useful than thee earlier ones we have available?

                    • Bahumuth

                      I spent a long time copying and pasting the six references I made to Jesus coming from the first century B.C., starting with my first post and ending with a full paragraph in the eighth post that you somehow ignored, then rewriting all my literary explanations, plus some new ones, but then my computer conked out.

                      Seeing how you aren’t really reading or comprehending what I posted, rewriting it seems like a huge waste of time, so I’ll just ask you to go back and read what I already wrote.

                      Here are the questions I asked:

                      I do think you should be proficient in the earliest relevant sources to be a good writer on Jesus and early Christianity, but I don’t think you have to be a Biblical scholar. You appear to have missed some of my questions as well. Why should I consider you an expert on Biblical characters such as Adam or Noah if you are not even familiar with the earliest relevant sources from Sumerian and Kassite mythology? How can you say there is no connection between Christianity and the dying-and-rising gods or that all the material in the Toledot is late and historically worthless if you have not read the relevant texts? Is my description of the people who study the “philosophy of science” very far off? How much of Crossan’s work have you read?

                      http://www.lost-history.com/list.php

                      http://bahumuth.bitfreedom.com/the-jesus-of-a-previous-century

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Simply referring to, or even copying and pasting, fringe ideas, outdated scholarship, and contemporary scholars’ proposals which have not been found persuasive when examined by others, does not amount to a case. Neither is it a conversation.

                      The earliest Christians were not claiming that Jesus was a god, much less a dying and rising one. They were claiming that he was the first person to have entered the life of the age to come, which those who viewed the afterlife in that way expected everyone to experience at the end of history.

                      Amateurs often note superficial similarities and make a case for borrowing based on them. That isn’t just a problem in history – bogus linguistic claims based on occasional coincidental similarities are very similar. If you find the very earliest Christian thinking about Jesus to be profoundly related to alleged “dying and rising gods” then I suspect that you are not sufficiently acquainted with the former, and only superficially acquainted with older scholarship or fringe claims about the latter.

                    • Bahumuth

                      Spare me the generic anecdotes you cut and pasted from your other comments. Basically, you want to pretend that no one has the right to write about Jesus except professional historians, and by “professional historians”, you really mean Biblical scholars, and only Biblical scholars who agree with the party line. Ironically, you also want to be an authority on science even though you don’t have a science degree, so you prance out your philosophy degree in its stead and say you’re an expert in “the philosophy of science”.

                      Well, you got it completely backwards. All you really need to be authority on history is to be well read in the sources. You are not well read in Middle Eastern mythology or the Toledot, so you have no right to pretend you know what you’re talking about. But for science, you actually do have to be formally trained or take it on authority. I can’t defend every single technical detail about evolution or climate change personally, but I know the process enough to know it can’t be faked by bias. For history, you do have to know every detail because it can be faked by bias, and there is no authority because every individual and social group have their own history but not their own science. That doesn’t mean everything is relative, just that it’s very hard to “prove” history, even with archaeology, which only goes so far.

                      So your arguments based on authority are meaningless to me. You actually have to tell me in detail why I’m wrong about rather than just say “You’re wrong because professionals say so.” Well, mythicism is based on professional scholarship from the people I listed before.

                      You keep saying the gospels are an earlier source than the Jewish tradition, but Mara is earlier than the gospels, and the earliest ones like Mark and proto-Matthew are fiction. The first non-fiction gospel is Luke, and that was written only shortly before the Talmud and Tertullian’s reference to the Toledot. There is nothing in the Talmud or the earliest form of the Toledot derived from the gospels but the gospels make references to traditions from them, proving the Talmud and Toledot traditions are earlier and more original.

                      You keep saying mythicism has been considered and found unpersuasive but you can’t name any books or articles to review the evidence (other than maybe Ehrman’s highly erroneous work). You just expect it to be accepted on authority. This evidence just isn’t used by Biblical scholars because the historicity of Jesus isn’t even a question for most of them. You refuse to answer any questions and you can’t even bother to follow my comments page enough to comprehend something I said six times AND explained at length, and when you get called out on it, you just accuse me of forgetting what I wrote! Your reading and comprehension skills are atrocious and you appear to have a problem following any line of discussion.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      No, you have it exactly backwards. You need to read the extensive research done by scholars, not just ask for a blog comment summary in the hope that you can pick apart my casual summary in a way you could not do convincingly with the actual scholarly research. That is a common tactic of mythicists, creationists, and the like. Just because you have a web site which offers a viewpoint that is insufficiently critical of select ancient sources does not justify your arrogant tone.

                      If you want to read older critiques of older mythicist proposals, several are on line. But the main things you need to come to grips with are the extensive sifting through early Christian sources looking for information that can withstand the most skeptical historical-critical scrutiny, and the way the Dead Sea Scrolls have rendered obsolete the paradigm assumed by the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule, which was the closest mainstream scholarly perspective to those earlier mythicists and the foundation of assumptions they built upon.

                    • arcseconds

                      Russell was many things, but he was no historian.

                    • arcseconds

                      I can assure you that people who actually have an academic background in philosophy of science are not generally Karl Popper enthusiasts.

                      It’s true that Popper is probably still the most popular philosopher of science by people outside the discipline (if it isn’t Thomas Kuhn), and I’m sure there are more people like you describe than people who have had academic training in the discipline.

                      But you seem to generally think a dilettante is equivalent to an expert, so perhaps this isn’t important to you.

      • spin

        Although the following statement by you, James, is overstated, I agree with the content:

        “Historical criticism has shown that much that the early Christians claimed about Jesus was myth, some was legend, and much we cannot tell one way or the other.”

        Rather than “historical criticism has shown…” I think it is more “historical criticism strongly suggests…”. Otherwise, the concluding statement, “much we cannot tell one way or another”, sums up the basic problem in historical Jesus research.

        However, this is followed by an apparent non-sequitur:

        “This is about the fact that there is historical evidence that the myths and legends grew up around a historical figure.”

        This non-sequitur seems to be a kind of euhemerism rather than based on evidence. You accept that he is trying to delve into tradition, while knowing that he doesn’t have the tools to separate any possible historical from ahistorical information.

        Tradition has a characteristic which needs to be noted: there is no way to tell if earlier elements are any more historical than later elements, when there is no external yardstick to measure the content by.

        This is where the historicist brings up “James the brother of the lord” from Gal 1:19 as an attempt to supply some externality, dragooning AJ 20.200 on “James the brother of Jesus called christ” as support. It shows just how lacking the claim of historicity of Jesus is.

        You seem to have the tendency to hedge and shift the burden away from his own problems. Instead you attack the lack of scholarship of those who advocate mythicism and appeal to authority of all those who support historicity:

        “internet denialists setting themselves up as authorities on history when professional historians consistently draw a conclusion different than theirs.”

        You later list Michael Grant and John Romer as examples of “professional historians”. Some list, isn’t it? Michael Grant, one of the few historians biblical apologists ever mention (not implying anything about you here, James, just your lack of exemplars), and John Romer who is not in fact a historian by training but a popularizer of Egyptology. One might throw in Robin Lane Fox for good measure in this little list of “professional historians” that one can appeal to.

        But you shouldn’t care about such things. This shift of burden should be sufficient to signal that you aren’t doing your own job. The stuff about mythicism is ultimately a red herring that facilitates the shift. I think what you should be interested in expounding is what evidence you have for divining history from the tradition you are delving in.

        Open traditions have a way of developing (though once closed in some notion of canon it tends to become fixed). Though the reality of the content of an open tradition is accepted by the tradent, it is no reflection on any reality behind it. Once you are running with the ball, you have accepted the game and are a willing participant. The tradent passes on the tradition and, in so doing, interacts with it, recreating it anew. The process yields fascinating results.

        I went to a church in Istanbul recently that features a cycle of mosaics on the life of Mary. When we turn to the earliest material we find a cryptic reference in Mark to “Mary’s son” and from that through the other gospels, the fathers and onwards we eventually reach a full cycle of Mary tradition, all of which may derive from the unplumbed reference to Mk 6:3. We have no way to reach any historical content behind the Mary tradition. Mary may have lived, just as Jesus may have lived, but the tradition we have doesn’t help us because it is overtly tradition. It contains no hooks into the real world, no verification other than what we can expect from a christian scribal context for the maintenance of ancient records (such as the Testimonium Flavianum).

        If we return to the statement I cited at the beginning,

        “Historical criticism has shown that much that the early Christians claimed about Jesus was myth, some was legend, and much we cannot tell one way or the other.”

        how does historical tradition get beyond this? Are there actually things that we can tell one way or another regarding what early christians claimed about Jesus that allow us to go beyond the mere assertion of Jesus’s historicity?

        I personally think there is no way to extract any historical content regarding the Jesus of christian tradition, for tradition needs no real basis for what is passed on and we lack any external keys. Perhaps you, James, have a methodology that allows you to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. Whatever the case, as you are the one asserting Jesus historicity, you do have the burden to provide substantive evidence for the assertion. Perhaps you might care to dedicate a blog entry to what you “can tell” and how you know. A little epistemology would be a welcome relief.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          There is no attempt on my part to shift the burden of proof. as Richard Carrier has written, there is a clear scholarly consensus, and that is itself not at all insignificant, and the burden of proof is on the one challenging that consensus. If you can show that all the scholars who have worked through the sources and found that some evidence for a historical Jesus withstands skeptical scrutiny are incorrect, that will be a publication-worthy conclusion and I would like you to let me know what journal it appears in when you publish it.

          • Bahumuth

            Never ask an authoritarian for proof.

            The old consensus about the Testimonium Flavian is that it is a Christian forgery. The modern consensus is that there was shorter description that was added onto. I think both are right: that it is a double forgery from two different Christian interpolations. The reason I disagree with the modern consensus that the earlier stratum belongs to Josephus is that you wouldhave to believe that Josephus considered his death to be a “sad calamity” that “put the Jews into disorder”. Remove the entire Testimonium and that description would instead apply to a massacre, which makes more sense. Assuming the historical Jesus actually turned over the tables and stopped people from purchasing sacrificial animals, it would be hard to believe Josephus would have such a positive view of him.

            Although Crossan agrees with the modern consensus on the Testimonium, he does point out that in the James passage, James is described as a Pharisee, someone “strict in the law”, which is the opposite of how the gospels describe Jesus. What Crossan does not say is that if you take out “Christ”, then the presumption would be that James’ brother was Jesus son of Damneus, which makes more sense because James is the replacement as high priest for that Jesus, as demanded by the Jerusalem crowd (the same one that condemned Jesus to death?).

            People who go to school to learn the Bible tend to be interested in that subject for a reason. That’s why I think most Biblical scholars tend to start off as Biblical literalists who eventually get pulled to the left as they learn more about the real world. Watts admits he was originally a right-wing literalist, so I suspect his comparison of mythicism to creationism is a projection of his former self onto them. The same may be true for James.

            As for Bertrand Russell, he’s a historian according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, although he doesn’t seem to have had a degree in it. He wrote History of Western Philosophy and Understanding History which were very influential. Certainly history, philosophy, and Classicsal Studies are all subjects that tend to blend in with one another. James can keep making jokes about blogs, but there are actual books by actual scholars out there positing the same evidence mythicists are using, some of whom I named have a much higher standing in their respective studies than James’ list (with the exceptions of Vermes and Funk, who are both pretty big). The question is, should the scholars on my list not have made arguments for what they believe the evidence provides or should non-scholars not read or believe their arguments because they do not match the current consensus even without an explanation of why?

            • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

              People who go to school to learn the Bible tend to be interested in that subject for a reason… So it’s no surprise that mythicism would be a bridge too far for most of them.

              Possibly. But would you also agree that people who advocate mythicism tend to be atheists of a certain (tedious) type, who are happy to swap real critical thinking for the chance to promote a dubious theory that by a complete fluke just happens to mesh perfectly with their core beliefs?

              Also, when you wrote this:

              You claim that “professional historians consistently draw different conclusions.” Really? Name 10 of them. Not Biblical scholars. Not theologians. Full articles or books on the subject of mythicism written by professional historians. I sincerely doubt you can.

              I have to ask – why, logically, would a historian who is not a specialist in the NT be remotely interested in writing an article debunking what is little more than a fringe view within NT studies? Could you name ten Bible scholars who’ve written books debunking fringe theories about the Apollo moon landings?

              Incidentally, as far as I can tell, Russell’s History of Western Philosophy treats Jesus as a historical figure.

              • Bahumuth

                I would not say they swap critical thinking but I agree they tend to be on the far left just as Literalists tend to be on the far right. Far from being anti-religious, Vridar typically criticizes the Islamophobia of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. As for my list, Bauer, Zindler and maybe Doherty could be described as anti-religious, but Mead, Freke, Gandy and Campbell had nothing but good things to say about Gnostic Christianity. All the others keep pretty neutral.

                As for my challenge to name 10 historians, James was the one who claimed that “professional historians” (meaning Biblical scholars) had dismissed mythicism. I was actually trying to make that exact point as well as the point you made below about Biblical scholars not being the same thing as historians.

                My whole point from the beginning is exactly what you said about Arthur scholars “not pressing the point.” Whether Jesus existed or not is entirely a speculative exercise to serve the past time of those interested in the subject and are no where near as practical or subject to the kind of proofs of scientific theory as Joel and James have repeatedly claimed. My opinion that Jesus was a first century B.C. priest named Honi is entirely an opinion is not “setting myself up as an authority” as James suggested, just by arguing for what I believe is true. As far as I know, I’m the only person who believes it, so obviously I have total respect and enjoy reading the opinions of other authors, whether they believe Jesus is historical or not, and whether they are Biblical scholars, historians, or even amateurs who just happen to be well read.

            • arcseconds

              presumably your mention of Russell is in reply to me?

              It would be helpful if you would actually reply to me, as that way I get an email about it.

              Where does the Stanford Encyclopaedia state that Russell is a historian?

              The opening sentence of his entry reads:

              Bertrand Arthur William Russell (b.1872 – d.1970) was a British philosopher, logician, essayist and social critic best known for his work in mathematical logic and analytic philosophy.

              There’s a mention of a ‘contribution’ to history in the second paragraph, and I assume they mean his History of Western Philosophy.

              This is a popular book, not an academic one. And not one that is generally regarded as any good by any actual historians of philosophy.

              Anyway, history of philosophy is a specialist discipline. There’s no reason to suppose even an expert in this history is “proficient in the earliest relevant sources to be a good writer on Jesus and early Christianity”.

              Do you have any evidence that Russell was well versed in texts and history of the period? If not, he doesn’t even meet your low bar for having anything worthwhile to say on the matter.

              • Bahumuth

                You’re right. I went too far in referring to him as a historian. But I would also argue that making a contribution to history is not something most historians get to do.

                History of Western Philosophy did imply Jesus was historical. It was his later work, Why I Am Not A Christian, that said Jesus probably never existed.

                Obviously, my point is not Russell was smart so you shouldn’t believe in a historical Jesus. My point is to dismiss the notion that the arguments of mythicists have never been scholarly or influential. Nietzsche also sided with Bruno Bauer against David Strauss. The ideas were not that uncommon.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  Can you please provide a quotation indicating what in Russell’s famous piece leads you to understand it in that way? I think either you have not read Russell, or have completely forgotten the piece, since he seems to me to very clearly say the opposite to what you claim.

                  • Bahumuth

                    “Historically it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if He did we do not know anything about him, so that I am not concerned with the historical question, which is a very difficult one.”

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Wow, I must have blotted that out of my mind so as not to think poorly of him. He is clearly quite mistaken, and simply showing the risk involved in drawing on something other than a scholarly consensus in a field not one’s own.

                • arcseconds

                  What is your point regarding Russell, then?

                  Is there any evidence that he was proficient in the earliest relevant sources on Jesus and Christianity?

                  If not, isn’t he, on this matter, just someone with an opinion?

                  • Bahumuth

                    My only point, as I’ve said multiple times now, is that Russell was a scholar and influential. If you want a Middle East scholar, then there’s Samuel Noah Kramer. If you want a Bible scholar, then there’s Robert Price. The New Vridar site has also pointed out that Thomas Brodie, the former director of the Dominican Biblical Institute, was called a scholarly “giant” whose work was a “masterpiece” by Joel without knowing that he too is a mythicist.

                    As for your remark, James, spare me. You didn’t say a thing about Russell when I first brought him up but only demanded a quote after arcseconds mentioned that History of Western Philosophy treated him as a historical person. I just find it hilarious that you’re so obsessed over scholarly authority, you never bother to explain exactly what secret knowledge you have that would change Russell’s mind if only he had taken the same classes you did. Some arcane knowledge that Biblical scholars share only amongst themselves? Some linguistic study proving Josephus’ reference to Jesus being a “wise man” is not a positive reference? I would say that the primary goal of a scientist is not to teach their craft but to apply it for a practical purpose, while the main charge of the scholar of the humanities is simply to impress their knowledge on other people, but you seem to think your degree is a some kind of military rank that’s supposed to make everyone bow down to your every word without any need of an explanation.

                    http://vridar.org/2013/07/11/joel-watts-acclaims-thomas-brodie-a-scholarly-giant-and-his-work-a-masterpiece/

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      It is not a question of arcane knowledge. It is the same evidence that historians always discuss when it comes to this question. It is easy for those outside of a field of study to draw conclusions – or make assumptions – in abstraction from the relevant data. For figures who were not rulers or other such rich and influential people, and thus who would not normally leave behind coins or inscriptions, we have textual data, and historians evaluate the data as best we can and draw conclusions. There is always uncertainty, as with everything in history, but it is not as though historians cannot make a reasonable estimation of the likelihood that someone like Jesus, or his brother James, or Hillel, or Socrates, was or was not historical.

                      Trying to make it seem as though expertise is merely unjustified authoritarianism is a common tactic of cranks and crackpots who do not want their ideas to be straightjacketed by constraints such as evidence and methods. As I gather that you have no desire to be placed in such a category, then accepting the need to familiarize yourself with relevant evidence, and rely on those who specialize in areas that you do not, is simply something that you will have to do. Even among professionals, no one scholar can do all the archaeological digs, study all the potentially relevant texts in the fullest possible detail, and in other ways cover every angle on their own. We rely on one another, and for someone who is outside the field to also suggest that he has no need of scholars in investigating a subject is amusing, but unpersuasive for obvious reasons.

                    • spin

                      Thank you, James, for, beside the usual stream of insult and dismissal, you’ve provided a little substance. Here you admit that there is no material culture on which biblical studies rests, making it a qualitatively different discipline from the classics or Assyriology and the like. You seem here to accept that the process of divining the historicity of Jesus is a species of text manipulation. However, you are not forthcoming as to the epistemological problem of how one can know just what is and what is not historical data in the early christian literary tradition. While Assyriology et al. have means of connecting textual information to a real past, perhaps you can supply some tangibility as to how biblical scholars can connect the Jesus of their textual tradition to a real past without the material culture to support it and with anonymous, undated and unprovenanced texts for sources.

                    • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

                      What an odd comparison. Assyriology covers a whole civilization over an extended period of time. Within Assyriology there are scholars who study particular texts, and particular figures based on those texts. Material culture helps shed light on culture and context, which is no different to material culture of second temple Judaism, and wider hellenism which informs the history of Christian origins. Certainly plenty of books I read on Christian origins refer to archaeological finds.

                      You seem to be comparing oranges to apple seeds. Perhaps that’s your point, but it seems to me you’re missing it, because why would one expect scholarship of the Tukulti-Ninurta Epic to back up every conclusion with an artefact? Or, for that matter, why would the discovery of Tukulti-Ninurta’s name on a loosely dated weapon be a trump card in its historical validity, where the detailed Akkaidian scholarship is basically worthless?

                      Biblical studies is huge, but only because of the huge public interest and the vast numbers of students funding its departments. It might outsize Assyriology in terms of staffing, but I can’t see why you’d expect it to have the same scope in order to be a valid scholarly pursuit.

                      A better question, I think, might be to compare how Biblical scholars approach historical scholarship with, say, how Mandaean scholars approach their studies.

                    • spin

                      You’ve missed the wider context of the discussion in which James tried to align biblical studies with the classics.

                    • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

                      I don’t think so. At least I had that in mind when I posted. I was just pointing out that you’re comparing things at different scales. Better would be to compare biblical studies to the work on a specific text within classics, rather than the whole discipline.

                      The question the two of you are trying to address, as I see it, is methodological. Does biblical scholarship fit in the methodological locus of ancient history? Or is it universally treated in a tendentious way by scholars. For that you wouldn’t compare it to all the scholarship of a whole civilization, but to other work on specific texts. And you would account for the fact that there’s more of it, because there are orders of magnitude more scholars working in the field. And, presumably, you also look at the same scholar’s work on texts not from their tradition (such as the work on gnostic texts which is also primarily carried out by biblical scholars).

                    • spin

                      My response is to your statement “What an odd comparison”, which was basically James’s comparison, which I found dysfunctional.

                    • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

                      Terse responses, okay, but I’m still not understanding what you are saying then.

                      James claims NT scholarship is consistent with the methodology and concerns of wider classicism.

                      You introduce a concrete example, and say that can’t be true because Assyriology relies extensively on archeology, in a way that is peripheral to NT scholarship.

                      I say that’s a comparison at the wrong scale, one should compare the methodology of Assyriologists doing textual history, who only use material culture in the same kind of contextual way as NT scholars do.

                      If I’m right, your objection fails, and James’s point is not refuted. You seem to think, if I’m right, then that further demonstrates James is wrong.

                      Perhaps I’m an idiot, but I really can’t see the point you think you’ve scored. It seems James claim remains untouched by your faulty objection. What am I missing?

                    • spin

                      Here, this was James’s claim:

                      “Classicists, Biblical scholars, and those in other fields which make use of a range of disciplinary perspectives in studying a particular literary corpus, time period, or culture, are typically trained in historical, literary, and other relevant critical methods.”

                      Classicists and those other fields, which I expanded to be Assyriology, Egyptology, Hittitology and various other complex studies of segments of the ancient world. All of these have a strong material culture component to rely on for the provision of pegs to hang historical claims on. New testament studies has no material culture. It is based on a set of texts that are anonymous, undated and unprovenanced. These are not sources for supplying historical data, because there is no way to control your attempts. When you do Assyriology, you are working with clearly datable archives, such as that of Babu-ahu-iddina found in situ in the man’s personal archive. Texts from Ebla were found in plainly datable archaeological contexts, as were texts from Ugarit. They all fit into a material culture that allows you to do history. This is not the case with christian biblical literature. When working with traditions such as the christian one, you must overcome the lack of connection between the texts and the real world.

                    • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

                      Yes, that was what I read you suggesting, and your argument seems weak for the reasons I outlined.

                    • spin

                      Your reasons don’t seem to relate to the nature of the source materials of biblical studies. Perhaps you could find a comparable corpus of texts embodying such a tradition without clear links in time, place or authorship, from which you can make similar historical statements about the content as James is prepared to make.

                    • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

                      The problem of arguing to analogy is, always, that there is a threshold of specificity beyond which there is no comparison. Regardless of where you start. It is an easy arguing tactic to ask for more and more specific analogs. It is a winning strategy because there will always be a limit. I’ve had the same thing said about evolutionary biology for example: can I give a ‘legitimate’ science that is comparable. I do, but that’s not quite analogous, and so on until we hit the limit (NB: For avoidance of doubt, I’m not comparing you to a creationist, just saying there’s a general fallacy at work that we have to be careful of). Instead, the question to ask is: what are the salient features of the comparison? Can we see those at work in other places.

                      The question is, here, are there other texts that historians (that you consider to be legitimate) approach with a similar methodology to biblical scholars?

                      That, as I understand it, is the core of James’s claim.

                      I am not a scholar, but I read a lot. Not, unfortunately, about Assyria, the example I gave previously seemed to be roughly relevant based on a couple of google book results and a skim read.

                      But it seems to me, for example, that the approach used by mainstream NT scholars is recognizable from the approach of scholars I do read in hellenistic judaism and gnosticism. In neither of which are scholars theologically invested, as a general rule.

                    • spin

                      I don’t know why you mentioned analogy. You asked, “are there other texts that historians (that you consider to be legitimate) approach with a similar methodology to biblical scholars?” That is the same question I asked you: “you could find a comparable corpus of texts embodying such a tradition without clear links in time, place or authorship, from which you can make similar historical statements about the content as James is prepared to make.”

                      Hellenistic Judaism is little like the context of the christian literature. Gnosticism gives no hooks for historical research to hang on and its literary contents don’t provide any narrative to try to link to history.

                    • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

                      Now you seem to be the one missing my point. Or rather – I can’t figure out how your response responds to mine. Seems like you’re just doubling down on a framing I explained why I rejected, and flat out told me I’m wrong. Fair enough, but not sure that takes us forwards.

                      If you don’t know why I mentioned analogy, perhaps that’s where to start unpacking why we seem to be talking past each other.

                    • spin

                      Perhaps, you need to explain yourself more clearly, rather than writing your thoughts as they come.

                      I don’t think you’re dealing with what I have been talking with James about. That is the problem of extracting history from unattached traditions such as the early christian literature. I’ve been trying to get James to explain how he overcomes this epistemological problem, ie how he knows what (he thinks) he knows.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I’ve often heard this sort of claim from mythicists that early Christian literature represent “unattached traditions” as though we have no historical context or other such information relevant to their interpretation, and thus also the extraction of historically useful data from them.

                    • spin

                      James, I have made it clear that I am not a mythicist. Your persistent use of the term while talking with me is not welcome. Your use of the term is generally polemical in nature, making its usage here a muddying of the waters.

                      Texts that are anonymous, undated and unprovenanced, such as the gospels, show that the tradition is unattached. So, what is the historical context that you imply when you don’t know when the texts were written or by whom? I’ve been trying to solicit something substantive from you for several days and you have been thoroughly unforthcoming.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Perhaps you have not made where you are coming from or what your point is as clear as you imagine.

                      Many texts have no date included on them, but that does not mean that they are undatable. And if you are suggesting that Paul’s authentic letters could have been written for theatrical entertainment, rather than as an expression of a first century Jew’s convictions, then I can only respond by saying that I do not find that proposal persuasive, but would welcome hearing your actual case for it, rather than the jibes which you have been offering thus far, addressing me as though you are on a first-name basis with me while hiding behind a pseudonym. Or are you someone whose name I know and I’ve forgotten that this is your pseudonym?

                    • spin

                      I’m sorry, if you don’t want me to refer to you as “James”, how should I refer to you?

                      I haven’t suggested anything about the Pauline letters, though if that is your source for a historical Jesus, I’d doubt that you were doing Paul justice. I’ve been referring to the texts that embody the Jesus tradition, especially as found in the gospels. These are anonymous, undated and unprovenanced and therefore a historical wasteland.

                      This is an interesting tango at the moment. I’ve been trying to solicit some substance from you (such as how you can get historical data from a tradition, when there is no necessity of there being any) and now you are soliciting the same from me. Well, I have actually said a fair amount, though you have tended not to heed it.

                    • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

                      Thanks for continuing to engage.

                      I wasn’t trying to deal with the whole point of your discussion, just your specific response to James which seemed to rely on a transparently incorrect analogy. But sure, on the broader point, I get the context of the discussion. I’ll be happy to see how it goes.

                      Framing the question as you have above (except the ‘unattached’ which is question-begging) seems more productive to me.

                      I think there are general issues in the epistemology of history. And historians (of all stripes) tend to sound over-confidence in their historic conclusions. As, in fact, do scholars of many fields. Including bioinformatics, the field I did my PhD in (though, again to pre-empt a facile response, I’m not suggesting all fields, or all conclusions within a field warrant the same confidence).

                      Unfortunately, in many areas where there is vocal ideological opposition to the conclusions of scholars, (as there was in mine), epistemological criticism of the field is often confused for refutation of the field and, qed, as support for its opponents. As if, showing over-confidence in the scholarly conclusion means the alternatives are more likely, when in fact, they also fall foul of the same criticism. I’d say 99% of people who wanted to argue the epistemology of science with me did so because they thought that, if they could cast it in skeptical terms, it made their even-less-grounded conclusion more likely.

                      As long as that trap is assiduously avoided, most scholars, in my experience, are pretty happy to suggest that their conclusions are rather provisional and uncertain. But it is very rare to find people who understand the trap, in my experience.

                      So good luck in the epistemological discussion.

                      [edit: James's response overlapped in time with this - feel free to engage him rather than me - I think I made my point].

                    • spin

                      You introduced the notion of analogy into the discussion in a post starting “The problem of arguing to analogy is…”. You did not justify doing so and did not explain upon request. You have made no case for any “transparently incorrect analogy”.

                      As to ‘unattached’ being “question-begging”, I have repeated that the texts containing the Jesus tradition were anonymous, undated and unprovenanced. That makes them unattached in my book.

                      My reference to epistemology was plain and simple: how can one discern what is a historical datum within a tradition? Let me clarify: the tradition we are dealing with overtly contains a large amount of non-historical material. There is no necessity that the tradition contains historical data, though, if it does, one needs to have a way to know that any particular datum is historical. If there is no tangible “how you know” then what you know has no value. The epistemology is essential here.

                      Finally, you wrote:

                      “most scholars, in my experience, are pretty happy to suggest that their conclusions are rather provisional and uncertain.”

                      Have you met any Jesus historicists or mythicists who are “happy to suggest that their conclusions are rather provisional and uncertain”? I haven’t. Both positions seem intractable to me, both certain that Jesus existed/did not exist.

                    • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

                      I used analogical reasoning to mean reasoning from the properties of a similar thing. So James and you were engaging in analogical reasoning, and Assyriology was your analogy. I may have used the word first, but I wasn’t using it in some tricksy way. And it is a reasonable and necessary approach: it wasn’t meant pejoratively.

                      That it makes them ‘unattached in your book’ is rather the point. Framing makes a big difference.

                      In answer to your last question, definitely yes. How many historical Jesus scholars have you shared a coffee with? I can’t give you a link, but I’m pretty sure James has said as much, on this blog. Though he’s also (and likely more often) radicalised his own position in opposition to others.

                      The caveat I gave is important, and explains why things often look more polarised than they are.

                      One of the things that frustrates me with internet angst over historicism / mythicism is, it makes an ideological barrier out of something which is actually a historical question: what is the best explanation for how the NT texts came to be written?

                      In my experience, HJ scholars tend *not* to be particularly adverse to the *idea* that Jesus was mythical, and will discuss the kinds of reasonable evidence they would hope to see of a scholar who wants to make that case.

                      Some HJ scholars are so highly minimalist that they basically have no recognisable Jesus left in what they think they can say about him (e.g. “a Galilean follower of John the Baptist was crucified, and his followers formed the core of the early Christian movement”). But they do tend to find it very objectionable the (what they see as absurd) grounds on which mythicism is often argued: from analogical figures, from dubious textual criticism, from tendentious dating, from throwing around the burden of proof like a trump card.

                      What frustrates me, however, is that there are undeniably more people in religious studies coming to far more tendentious conclusions of the ‘truth’ of gospel accounts, and they don’t tend to get called out as strongly. So, from my studies, the consensus on the historical Jesus seems sane, and considerably more likely than the myth->man account. But the fact that there isn’t a clear, painted, dog-patrolled line between historical scholarship and theology, is a big credibility problem. It gives fuel to the internet atheist camp for whom mythicism (by and large, imho) is some kind of proxy for anti-Christianity. And I say that as an internet atheist.

                    • spin

                      As I indicated, there was no analogy. James tried to place religious studies in the same category of study as the classics and other such fields, which I took to include specific fields such as Assyriology. I merely showed why his attempt was not functional: those fields had a material culture to underpin them. When it comes to the Jesus tradition there is no such material culture. We are left with James trying to scrounge one up.

                      I don’t share beers with people. My experience with Jesus historicists is through books where historicity is conclusive and blogs where people spend their time looking past the lack of evidence to poo-poo mythicists rather than clean up their own house. Mythicism is ultimately a red herring in the field of historical Jesus research. It is one possible avenue as to why a tradition may not be veracious. Tradition however is a specific problem, for, as I’ve pointed out, a tradition needs no historical veracity. It is sufficient that the tradent who passes it on accepts its veracity, but the passing on of the tradition transforms it more into the image held by the tradent, until the tradition ossifies. So, working strictly from the tradition doesn’t allow any history to be extracted, as there is no necessary history contained in the tradition. The only way to know involves external evidence, but there is no material culture to underpin the Jesus tradition. Scholars then turn to the meagre literary sources, yet, in the case of christianity, those literary sources were maintained by christian scribes, whose interference in texts is extremely well-known. We need consider only the three recensions of Ignatius’s letters, the Testimonium Flavianum, letters between Paul and Seneca, the woman taken in adultery, the ending of Mark, the leeching of lord’s prayer versions and the trinitarian insertion in 1 Jn.

                      “Many HJ scholars are so highly minimalist that they basically have no recognisable Jesus left in what they think they can say about him.”

                      This just means that they are unwilling to put Jesus in the historically unclear category with Arthur and Robin Hood.

                      “they do tend to find it very objectionable the (what they see as absurd) grounds on which mythicism is often argued: from analogical figures, from dubious textual criticism, from tendentious dating, from throwing around the burden of proof like a trump card.”

                      Barring the analogical figures issue, the rest is seen on both sides of the divide. I think sitting on the fence is the most objective position here.

                    • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

                      “I used analogy to mean…” “Like I said, there was no analogy” !

                      Okay, fine. Feel free to search-and-replace all occurrences of ‘analogy’ with ‘comparison’ or a similar term that doesn’t trigger you. The word was meant to communicate, not essentialize.

                      “I don’t share beers with people.” !

                      Perhaps thats the issue? Its certainly one good reason, in any field, to study with scholars: so you understand the texture of the process.

                      “I think sitting on the fence is the most objective position here.”

                      Sitting on the fence is always the *safest* position, and if objective means something like, least like to be wrong, or least swayed by one’s own ideology, then yup. There is literally no disagreement where your chances of being wrong are increased by sitting on the fence.

                      I’m not sure we’re getting anywhere, with arguments about definitions, and continual restatement of your position. Feel free to have the last word, but I’m sensing I’m being increasingly unhelpful.

                    • spin

                      Many conversations fall apart due to lack of shared usage of terms in play, so arguments over definitions are useful. Their resolution supplies a foundation for discussion.

                      “Most objective” indicates “least tendentious”.

                      The viability of sitting on the fence depends on the width of the fence. The less justification for the opposing positions, the wider the fence. However, there is a taboo in society against saying “I don’t know”, especially for those paid to know.

                      “Perhaps thats the issue?”

                      The state of scholarship is indicated by what gets published. What people say in the sanctity of inebriation may be illuminating, but it is not even subtext to the print version, which is what remains when the froth has dissipated.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Jesus was a first century Jew, and so unless you are trying to drive some sort of antisemitic wedge into things, then we have relevant information from material culture. Material culture is data about society, and provides the context for individuals. But because Jesus became rather famous in the decades following his death, we do actually have some relevant archaeological data which, combined with textual data, provides us with some significant information. Are you familiar with historical scholarship related to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, for instance? I would normally assume that you must be, given your claim to have looked into the historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth, but given your comments here I am not confident that you have in fact done so.

                    • spin

                      Conjuring up antisemitism when we are dealing with the historical Jesus is rather off-the-wall thinking, James. That is followed by an extremely strange notion of physical culture after you’ve already admitted that figures of the new testament “would not normally leave behind coins or inscriptions”–these things are the signs of a material culture, one that is lacking. And talking about the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is certainly long after the horse has bolted. Remember, we are dealing with a set of texts embodying the early christian tradition and that is what required the material culture to ground the content somehow. I’m pretty sure that your earlier comment about coins and inscriptions was indeed an admission of a lack of material culture behind that tradition. That leaves you still with the arbitrary task of deciding what is historical data in an unattached tradition, one that is contained in texts that are anonymous, undated and unprovenanced, texts in which there are clear signs of multiple redactional intervention. That requires arcane skill.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Again, I am trying to figure out why you find straightforward communication so difficult. Is it that you are assuming that, even before they were referred to as “Christians” (note that such a term is absent from the letters of Paul and several other NT texts), had a distinctive material culture which we could look for, which would distinguish them from other Jews? If so, what is your reason for thinking this?

                    • spin

                      When you are busy assuming your conclusions, it’s not strange that you have such difficulty understanding someone who doesn’t make those assumptions. I’ve said to you a number of times that we are dealing with traditions and that a tradition poses an epistemological problem of figuring out what if anything in that tradition is based on reality. Here you are assuming the veracity of the content in order to project Jewish material culture onto those texts. You don’t know who wrote the texts. You don’t know where. And you don’t know when. You do know that the gospels are composite works with signs of complex redactional histories. Your assumptions will get nowhere. You are pretending to know something that you are only guessing about.

                      There is some Semitic connection due to the subject matter and traces of linguistic artefacts, but these must be considered first in the context of the existence of a wide Jewish diaspora and then in the context of the first gospel with its Greek containing a strong stratum of Latinisms, which suggests a writing of the gospel in Rome. The linguistic Semitisms tend to be trivial of the abracadabra kind. Consider talitha koum, given erroneously in Mark, “little girl, I say to you, get up” (5:41), erroneous because there is nothing in the Aramaic for “I say to you”, suggesting that the writer didn’t know Aramaic. But the “o estin” used to give the explanation is a Latinism of the type “id est” and “o estin” is used elsewhere to give explanations interestingly some are clearly for a Latin speaking Greek audience (eg 15:16).

                      The Semiticisms are easily explainable from the contextualization and are the sort of thing one might expect from a good storyteller. The Latinisms however are much harder to account for. Assuming you know the context of the tradition to be a Palestinian one won’t help you get closer to any possible historical content of the tradition. You may be right, but you may also be talking through your hat.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      No one is assuming anything. And your claims here simply do not correspond to the judgment of linguistic experts I’ve read. ὁ ἐστιν is perfectly acceptable Greek. But the likelihood of someone getting the pronunciation of Galilean Aramaic right without some connection with that part of the world, or a written source which recorded the phrase accurately even if they did not fully understand it, is very slim indeed. Your discussion of the Aramaic indicates that you don’t actually know the language, but you could at least rely on the work of someone who does, such as Maurice Casey. Relying on one scholar with particular linguistic expertise is still perilous, but preferable to making assertions about a language you do not know.

                    • spin

                      You seem blithely unaware of the scholarship behind the Latinisms and, when you say that ὁ ἐστιν is “perfectly acceptable Greek” when it indicates an explanatory “that is” (“hoc est” in Latin), several do not agree with you. But I guess you’re prepared to say Gundry, Adam Winn, Brian Incigneri, and several others got it wrong. You might try to explain why those better writers of Greek who gave us Matthew and Luke eliminated the explanatory usage of ὁ ἐστιν from their Marcan source, if it were perfectly acceptable Greek. The short answer is that the explanatory usage of ὁ ἐστιν was not perfectly acceptable at all. And Casey doesn’t handle the Latinisms at all well–mainly ignoring them.

                      My earlier comment about the Jewish diaspora as a source for Semitisms deals sufficiently with your claims regarding “the pronunciation of Galilean Aramaic”. The diaspora communities were not isolated.

                      You still have no material culture behind the tradition contained in the new testament. And you still have not shown a way to resolve the epistemological problem of how one knows there is historical data regarding Jesus in the tradition.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Yes, I ought to have expressed myself better. I meant a phrase one might find in Koine Greek, not that it was a particularly polished expression to which another one might not seem preferable to a more fluent or educated Greek speaker.

                      You still have not explained why you think that Jesus and the Jews connected with him would have had a distinct material culture. As for the epistemological issue, are you looking for something other than the standard sorts of questions historians ask when confronted with information in a source? The line of reasoning and argumentation that has led them to conclude that figures like Hillel, John the Baptist, and Jesus likely existed? In most instances it is something as basic as that the movement around the figure in question is most straightforwardly explained in terms of their historical impact, while positing the invention by them of a non-existent founder who allegedly lived recently simply seems less plausible or involves an unlikely conspiracy.

                    • spin

                      1. Do you have *any* Koine examples of the Marcan-style explanatory ὁ ἐστιν rather than where the ὁ in conjunction with ἐστιν functions as a pronoun or relative pronoun?

                      2. It seems to me that you are still assuming conclusions. I said nothing about “Jesus and the Jews connected with him [having] a distinct material culture”, yet you have constructed this erroneous notion for me to hold. In fact, because of the precarious nature of the texts, I don’t assume any identifiable material culture behind them. That’s why I rejected your attempt to relate biblical studies with the classics: the material culture in the latter is plain and evident. You assume the existence of Jesus and proceed to inject a material culture behind it. I have already said the texts containing the Jesus tradition are anonymous, undated and unprovenanced, and by “undated” I do mean there is no meaningful dating for them beside being prior to the earliest manuscript exemplars.

                      3. Don’t we have a founder of christianity in the figure of Paul, who received a revelation from god about Jesus, not from human beings (Gal 1:11-12, 15-16)? I don’t know, but it is simpler than your theory. Paul never met this Jesus in real life yet preached him across Anatolia and Greece. This Paul had hassled messianists, congregations in Judea in christ, then fell for messianism, his own brand. Those messianists he met in Jerusalem he didn’t have much respect for. They didn’t show any knowledge of the teaching of Jesus as indicated by the fact that they were still torah observers. Interestingly, throughout Gal., Paul contrasts his Jesus-centered religion with torah observation and the Jerusalemites were clearly torah-observant. There is no sign in Gal. that those Jerusalem messianists knew anything about Paul’s Jesus. As torah observation is what unites all Jews, one wonders what they thought of this torah non-observer when they shook hands with him.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      1. It is a fixed phrase in Greek. You can find it elsewhere in the New Testament – e.g. in Ephesians and Colossians – in Eusebius (see e.g. Hist. Eccl. 2.23.7) and in the Homilies of Makarios of Egypt. Those are just a few instances I found through a quick search.

                      2. Until you make your point clear, and/or interact with the things I wrote, I am not sure what there is to say about this.

                      3. This is where interacting with mythicists gets the most frustrating. They are so eager to dismiss mainstream scholarship, and yet clearly are making assumptions about the meaning of Paul’s letters which reflect later Christian interpretations rather than historical scholarship, and have not thought through the implications of what they propose. It seems as though, for you, it is plausible to envisage Paul persecuting a movement about which he knows nothing of its founder, being converted to that movement, him introducing a founder they had never heard of, and yet still being able to say to groups which were in contact not only with him but also with the Jerusalem leaders that he and they preach the same Gospel. I find that far less plausible than that his claim to not depend on any human being for his knowledge is a rhetorical flourish which a historian must view with skepticism since it posits the supernatural.

                    • spin

                      1. If you mean Eph.6:17 and Col.1:24, which are simple relative clauses that elaborate ideas, I don’t think you dealing with what the Marcan examples are doing. The exemplars in Mk explain the meanings of words so that the reader can understand them. If ὁ ἐστιν were a set phrase as you claim how would the reader distinguish it from the relative pronoun + verb combination it is so frequently used for??

                      2. Let’s see, material culture… walls, ceramics, monuments, coins, statues, inscriptions. These are things archaeologists unearth. You have said, “figures who were not rulers or other such rich and influential people, and thus who would not normally leave behind coins or inscriptions”, already indicating that the Jesus tradition had no material culture behind it to provide pegs for historical analysis. This leaves you just with texts, as you have already admitted. But to do history with texts you need external sources to corroborate any hoped for historical data in the texts. You have not said anything useful so far here regarding any external sources. You haven’t shown any way divine historical data regarding Jesus.

                      3. You’re now back to railing against mythicists and defensive advocacy of your peers. But let’s leave that and go on to what you say regarding Paul. Messianism had been around for a century before the time of Paul, as the Psalms of Solomon indicate, so it’s hard to think that Paul knew nothing about messianism. But we know almost nothing of the messianic movement that Paul hassled, as he tells us nothing about it. One can’t make many assumptions about the movement. We do know that Paul claims a revelation in which god shows him Jesus. Paul is extremely specific that the gospel he preached came to him from no man. You want to manipulate what he said to fit your ideas (it is only “a rhetorical flourish”), but I would like to be as literal as possible with his claims. So he thought he had a revelation. Lots of people have had analogous experiences and they weren’t just rhetorical flourishes. He says he didn’t get his gospel from people. You are intimating that that isn’t true. Or he didn’t mean what he said. He did take his gospel to Jerusalem to set it before the pillars (2:2) suggesting he was seeking approval for it as something new and for himself, but the reaction wasn’t what he expected for his revelation. He shows little respect for the leaders in his comments to the Galatians: those men added nothing to him (2:6). He went away from them no wiser.

                      You however seem to think you can know something about the messianism of the Jerusalemites, despite the fact that Paul tells you practially nothing about it. All he indicates is that they are mainly devout observers of the law. Is this consistent with a Jesus religion that frees people from the law? Hopefully, you’d admit that it wasn’t the case. The Jerusalemite torah observers don’t seem to have known that Jesus absolved his followers from being bound to the law. As the agents of James brought Cephas into line with torah observation and those agents who went to Galatia to bring them into line, it would seem that Paul’s reaction against torah observance and his contrasting faith in Jesus with torah observance in Gal. is specifically against those he’d hoped to find support from. The suggestion is that they didn’t know about Jesus before Paul set his gospel before them and the letter to the Galatians delivers an attack against their position.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      The idea that Paul first presented Jesus to the Jerusalem Christians is something that you are simply making up. It is not found in the text, nor is it obviously compatible with it. You seem to be ignoring Paul’s own testimony that he persecuted this religious movement prior to becoming an adherent to it. It is possible to have a distorted view of a religion and to persecute it, but it is simply not feasible for Paul to have gotten ALL his information as a result of whatever experience led to him becoming an adherent rather than opponent.

                      We have coins from this period, but it is not clear to me why the Messianic Jewish group we might anachronistically call the earliest Christians ought to have been involved in minting them.

                      Mark does use a vague explicatory phrase rather than one specific to explaining a word by translating it. So?

                    • spin

                      The idea that Paul first presented Jesus to the Jerusalem messianists (your notion of “Jerusalem christians” is certainly not in the text) is to be found in the fact that the gospel Paul received involved the revelation of Jesus to him, ie Jesus is part of the gospel revealed. That the Jerusalemites didn’t know of Jesus is entailed in the fact that Paul contrast his gospel Jesus with the Jerusalemite messianists’ torah observance, an observance negated by belief in Jesus.

                      “You seem to be ignoring Paul’s own testimony that he persecuted this religious movement prior to becoming an adherent to it.”

                      You have no reason for thinking that. Paul, who was previously not a messianist became a messianist, as he understood it, so he who persecuted messianists became a messianist. So? It is only when he went to Jerusalem to present his gospel that people found out exactly what that meant.

                      “We have coins from this period, but it is not clear to me why the Messianic Jewish group we might anachronistically call the earliest Christians ought to have been involved in minting them.”

                      You’re getting inventive in your conjecturing. Yes, we have coins from the period. What have they to do with the gospels? Nothing. What material culture can you clearly individuate attached to the gospels. None. This line of thought came from your inappropriate likening of biblical studies to the classics and the like. They have a material culture attached to the literary materials they study, which aids historical research. Biblical studies doesn’t have that support, separating it qualitatively from the classics et al. What history can one do exactly in biblical studies relating to the person of Jesus when there is no material culture to depend on? What recognizable historical methodology do you use to individuate historical data in the gospel tradition?

                      “Mark does use a vague explicatory phrase rather than one specific to explaining a word by translating it. So?”

                      Actually, the writer of Mark uses what many scholars (some already mentioned) consider to be a Latinism (one of many). Let me repeat something you basically ignored:

                      ‘There is some Semitic connection due to the subject matter and traces of linguistic artefacts, but these must be considered first in the context of the existence of a wide Jewish diaspora and then in the context of the first gospel with its Greek containing a strong stratum of Latinisms, which suggests a writing of the gospel in Rome. The linguistic Semitisms tend to be trivial of the abracadabra kind. Consider talitha koum, given erroneously in Mark, “little girl, I say to you, get up” (5:41), erroneous because there is nothing in the Aramaic for “I say to you”, suggesting that the writer didn’t know Aramaic (contra Witherington). But the “o estin” used to give the explanation is a Latinism of the type “id est” and “o estin” is used elsewhere to give explanations interestingly some clearly for a Latin speaking Greek audience (eg 15:16).

                      ‘The Semiticisms are easily explainable from the contextualization and are the sort of thing one might expect from a good storyteller. The Latinisms however are much harder to account for. Assuming you know the context of the tradition to be a Palestinian one won’t help you get closer to any possible historical content of the tradition. You may be right, but you may also be talking through your hat.’

                      To use an analogy, the Semitisms are like lectio facilior in their ease of explanation, while Latinisms are like lectio difficilior. One has to deal with the Latinisms. The most prominent suggestion based on them is that Mark was written in Rome for a Roman Greek speaking audience. Such a suggestion militates against simplistic contextualizations for the gospel content.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      You seem to be trying to split hairs in order to inject greater doubt than necessary. We have no material culture specific to Socrates, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot evaluate the likelihood that he was a historical figure. The same for Hillel, and John the Baptist.

                      Ho estin is clearly not a Latinism, but the Gospel of Mark has some. Some have treated that as evidence that the Gospel was written in Rome. So what? Does Josephus not writing something in Palestine mean that what he wrote cannot tell us about things that happened there?

                    • spin

                      This strikes me as a sorry excuse for a response. You totally ignore the discussion of Paul. You make facile parallels with Socrates and John: reference to Socrates (and to John) is not contained within a single literary tradition. (Just consider the contemporary parody by Aristophanes and a conflicting view of John in AJ, for which one cannot claim tendentious scribal activity.) If you are interested in dialogue, you need to engage reasonably.

                      So you want to deny the philology of the Marcan use of ὁ ἐστιν. But you do begrudgingly accept that there are some Latinisms. Here are some examples: many exemplars of Latinesque verb final sentences and non-purpose indicating hina, reflecting Latin ut (both from Turner, JTS 29, 352-358). Latin grammatical structure shaping the Greek points to the fact that the writer being more proficient in Latin. There are also several Latin loanwords, a few of which are used with ὁ ἐστιν to explain Greek words (12:42, 15:16). There are even a number of loan-translations, such as ikanon poihsai for satis facere (15:15) and odon poiein>/i> for iter facere (2:23). It’s not just “some”, but quite a lot of Latinisms in Mark.

                      This evidence is quite different from what is obtained from Josephus, an apparently Aramaic speaking Jew who had people to help him translate his material into a relatively good Greek for his Roman audience. Where are the Latinisms in Josephus? It’s a poor comparison on your part. The Latinisms in Mark once had F.C. Burkitt contemplate Couchard’s notion that Mark was translated from Latin. Burkitt didn’t buy it, but the weight of Latinisms should make you question your glib attempt to place the Jesus tradition in a Palestinian Jewish context, despite Casey’s attempt at being the Great White Hope.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      This seems to me to be a sorry excuse for a response. You keep pointing out possible Latinisms in a work traditionally attributed to someone with a Latin name, as though this is saying something important. If your attempt is to shift the origins of the phenomenon that would later be known as Christianity to a non-Jewish context, you must be more than half a century behind when it comes to historical-critical study of the material. The more we have learned about first-century Judaism, the more older facile dichotomies such as Jewish vs. Hellenistic and Palestinian vs. Diaspora have been shown to be problematic, and the more the origin of the Jesus movement has been seen to fit best within a Jewish setting.

                      If a mythicist wants to deny a historical Socrates, the fact that the name appears in a play would be considered a point against historicity, not in favor. This is one major problem with mythicism. Its arguments and tactics can be applied to just about anyone and used to cast unreasonable doubt on their historicity. Which is fine, if one wants to apply such degrees of skepticism consistently. But few mythicists do, and thus it becomes just another form of ideologically-driven selective denialism.

                    • spin

                      This may come as a surprise to you, but your constant references to mythicism when talking to me are inappropriate and misguided, given 1) the fact that I have criticized both mythicism and historicism in the same breath, 2) I’ve commented before on this faux pas of yours, and 3) your claim that “a principled agnosticism, even if I personally disagree with that stance, is one I can respect”. That doesn’t seem the case, now does it? If you want to have a constructive conversation, you need to drop this unnecessarily provocative mythicism stuff. Besides, as you are not a mythicist, you don’t make much sense saying “the fact that the name [ie Socrates] appears in a play would be considered a point against historicity, not in favor.” You don’t think that way and obviously neither do I, so it is an exercise in futility on your part.

                      As you are not up with scholarship on Latinisms in Mark, I’d recommend that you find out what biblical scholarship has said on the subject. I’ve already mentioned Gundry (Apology for the Cross, 1043f), Adam Winn (The Purpose of Mark’s Gospel, 2008, 81f), Brian Incigneri (The Gospel to the Romans: The Setting and Rhetoric of Mark’s Gospel, 2003, 100-103) and C.H. Turner (JTS 29, 352-358). More upon request.

                      And to top it off you give this Pavlovian response: “The more we have learned about first-century Judaism,… the more the origin of the Jesus movement has been seen to fit best within a Jewish setting”. I have acknowledged at least twice that there is a Semitic connection with Mark (and the rest of the gospel literature). It’s not up for dispute, but you are not playing this game with a full deck. Your choice to simply ignore the well-documented Latinisms in Mark is unfathomable in scholarly discourse.

                      If you don’t want to continue the conversation, you might just say so. Otherwise, a bit of constructive thought would be helpful.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      If you are not here to make a case for mythicism, then why did you start this discussion on a post about a mythicism-promoting blog, rather than on any number of others simply about the historical Jesus?

                      You have yet to show how the Latinisms are relevant to whatever this dscussion is supposed to be about, which you have not yet made clear.

                      Unless you have read my scholarly publications, and know what else I have read for the purpose of class preparation or simply out of interest, then your claim that I am “not playing with a full deck” cannot be anything other than a baseless insult.

                      So why exactly are you here, and what are you trying to accomplish, other than to annoy, denigrate, and insult, while avoiding even making clear what your point is?

                    • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

                      Out of interest, has spin ever commented here before? He/she seems quite familiar with you but I don’t remember seeing the username previously.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Not to my recollection, but she or he may have done so under a different name.

                    • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

                      He/she seems quite like Godfrey in his/her terminology, tone and tactics. Perhaps just a case of drinking a little too much from the Vridarian well?

                    • spin

                      I understand that you do not appreciate Godfrey, but don’t take it out on me. Your ad hominem is baseless. If you cannot say anything constructive, it’s better to remain silent.

                    • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

                      And equally don’t take it out on me if you happen to share Godfrey’s inability to answer a perfectly polite and straightforward question or to outline your own thesis and how it makes better sense of the evidence that McGrath’s. Or indeed, his frequent appeals to logical fallacies he doesn’t understand. Again, if you don’t state what your point is (after being asked numerous times), how can I reject it at all, let alone reject it on an ad hominem basis?

                      NB: For the avoidance of doubt, I *don’t* think you’re Neil Godfrey.

                    • spin

                      When you ask questions that suggest you haven’t read what I’ve been saying, it’s not strange that you don’t get the sort of answer you were fishing for. Asking the same thing again is just not a good reflection on your comprehension. Melius est silere.

                    • spin

                      If you are not here to make a case for mythicism, then why did you start this discussion on a post about a mythicism-promoting blog, rather than on any number of others simply about the historical Jesus?

                      Had you spent the time to read the very first post I made here, you wouldn’t need to have asked this question four days later.

                      You have yet to show how the Latinisms are relevant to whatever this dscussion is supposed to be about, which you have not yet made clear.

                      Your ignoring of those Latinisms here is what shows that you are not playing with a full deck when you try to contextualize the Jesus tradition.

                      Unless you have read my scholarly publications, and know what else I have read for the purpose of class preparation or simply out of interest, then your claim that I am “not playing with a full deck” cannot be anything other than a baseless insult.

                      Do you just forget what you have written when you make comments? Your espoused view here showing your lack of interest in, and knowledge of, the Latinisms in the earliest gospel either reflects what you have already written or it doesn’t. Only you can say, but here, that you are not playing with a full deck on the subject is sadly a matter of fact.

                      So why exactly are you here, and what are you trying to accomplish, other than to annoy, denigrate, and insult, while avoiding even making clear what your point is?

                      If we brush aside your hypocrisy (“other than to annoy, denigrate, and insult”), I was asking for substantive information about views you’ve stated here, while contextualizing my approach to your comments. In short, I was trying to find out how you know what you claim to know about the historicity of Jesus.

                      You in turn have responded as I see it with cursoriness, weaseling and accusations. I’m sorry this is the way the discussion has developed, but that is the path you’ve chosen. I’ve tried to supply substantive responses, but I’d like a little quid pro quo.

                      (And no, I have not posted here before. As I said, I do maintain an internet presence and I use the nick spin when I post.)

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Either you think the Latinisms are relevant to mythicism, or you are an internet troll who has an interest in the subject and inserts it even where it isn’t relevant. Feel free to indicate which.

                      Latin words in the Gospel of Mark are old news. Conservative Christians have been pointing to them as evidence for the tradition that Mark wrote his Gospel in Rome for a very long time.

                      Anyone can take a look at my CV online and see that the Gospel of Mark in general, much less Latinisms in particular, have never been a primary research focus for me. But no one scholar focuses on everything, and no one who has undertaken doctoral level scholarship and who is in their right mind would ever dismiss a scholar as not “playing with a full deck” simply because they specialize in something else, since the same would obviously be true of them in equal measure in relation to a range of other topics.

                      So, after all this misdirection and beating around the bush, presentation of old news as if it were something exciting, lack of clarity about what your point is, and insult aimed at scholars, do you have anything at all positive, sensible, clear, and relevant to say?

                    • spin

                      Starting with a false dichotomy isn’t a good recommendation for the rest of your post. Trivializing the Latinisms for nothing more substantive to say, ditto. Trying to misunderstand my comment about you “not playing with a full deck” concerning the Latinisms issue seems to be par for the course. And claiming “misdirection” on account of your not bothering to read what is said to you completes an extremely unhelpful post.

                      You were quick to point out the significance of a person “getting the pronunciation of Galilean Aramaic right”, yet silent on the fact that εφφαθα is a Hebrew word or that ραββι is a probable anachronism, so, rather than establishing anything substantive about the linguistic background of Mark, you breeze over the topic relying on a few sound bites. The linguistic background is more complex than you are willing to acknowledge. Trying to discount the Latinisms, saying they are old news, doesn’t impact on their putative relevance.

                      Every time I tried to corner you for a response on your epistemology, you responded like Muhammid Ali trying to float like a butterfly. Trying to provoke a response I said, “as the source of study [for biblical studies] is a collection of texts embodying a tradition, there is no material culture on which to found any historical research upon. One is left with no way to connect the content of the tradition with reality.” This got no response.

                      Getting a substantive response from you has been harder than pulling teeth with a pair of tweezers.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Getting substantive responses from me is easy. Try politeness, accuracy, humility, and other things that ought to characterize interaction with other human beings, even when anonymous and online.

                      I’m curious where you got your assertions about ephphatha being Hebrew (Hebrew as pronounced by a Galilean Aramaic speaker?) and rabbi (it does not seem to have been an official title in Jesus’ time, and so perhaps you misunderstood a statement to that effect as claiming that the phrase itself did not yet exist?)

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      On the itpe’el form and its use, see Sokoloff, DJPA, p.455. The pronunciation is distinctively Galilean, as I am sure you can tell.

                    • spin

                      Try politeness, accuracy, humility, and other things that ought to characterize interaction with other human beings, even when anonymous and online.

                      I tried that at the beginning.You responded to disagreeable views with lack of content, sniping and trivializing. You’ve shown no lack of accuracy in my comments. You’ve asserted your views over them and I understand that you think that you’re right. I’d be happy if you lifted your game.

                      I’m curious where you got your assertions about ephphatha being Hebrew

                      It becomes clear when you work back through the transliteration artifacts. You return to YPT(X) yippat(e)ach (cf. Ezek 46:1) from Hebrew PTX, “to open”. (Pointed out by I.Rabinowitz. See J.A.Emerton, JTS XVIII.2, p.428 and various other sources.) If you want to run with the itpe’el explanation, how do you account for the lack of evidence for the TAW before the PE and the double phi? Hebrew is obviously better.

                      On “rabbi” I did say “probable”. (I’m following Zeitlin on the issue.)

                      And while we are on the subject of the linguistic soup in Mark, why is elwi, elwi, lama sabaxQani a pastiche of Hebrew and Aramaic? (lama/lema/lima is up for grabs, but elwi straight Hebrew (see Jdg 5:5) and sabaxQani is Aramaic.)

                      The Semitic content is not consistent and doesn’t seem to represent any one idiolect.

                    • spin

                      And to save you the effort of suggesting an assimilation of the TAW to the PE, according to Rabinowitz, surveying the data, there was no assimilation with the itpe’el in Western Aramaic dialects (as presented in Emerton, 429). Casey (Aramaic.. Mark, 55) shows no awareness of Rabinowitz’s analysis.

                    • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

                      Forgive me for intruding on your stimulating discussion with Dr McGrath, but It might help if you clarify your own view on the origins of Mark’s Gospel, which would then allow the rest of us to evaluate your argument, and consider how far the works you quote or cite support you.

                      For example, Incigneri, an author you direct Dr McGrath to, argues for a Roman origin for Mark’s gospel. However he also notes that “Mark’s Gospel is very Jewish, and contains no references to Greek philosophy or quotations from Greek literature. Hengel has also observed that he does not know of any other work of Greek that uses so many Aramaic words and formulae ‘in such a narrow space’ ” (p. 39).

                      Elsewhere he suggests that Mark came from Jerusalem at some point, and cites Vorster’s view of Mark as “a bilingual author whose native language was probably Aramaic and his second language Greek” (p.69). Do you agree with such a position, or do you have some other position that you feel is supported by the scholarship?

                      At the moment, your discussion with Dr McGrath seems to be generating more heat than light. As Confucius (or was it Heraclitus?) once said “Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.”

                    • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

                      Forgive me for intruding on your stimulating discussion with Dr McGrath, but It might help if you clarify your own view on the origins of Mark’s Gospel, which would then allow the rest of us to evaluate your argument, and consider how far the works you quote or cite support you.

                      For example, Incigneri, a work you direct Dr McGrath to, argues for a Roman origin for Mark’s gospel. However he also notes that “Mark’s Gospel is very Jewish, and contains no references to Greek philosophy or quotations from Greek literature. Hengel has also observed that he does not know of any other work of Greek that uses so many Aramaic words and formulae ‘in such a narrow space’ ” (p. 39). Elsewhere he suggests that Mark came from Jerusalem at some point, and cites Vorster’s view of Mark as “a bilingual author whose native language was probably Aramaic and his second language Greek” (p.69). Do you agree with such a position, or do you have some other position that you feel is supported by the scholarship?

                      At the moment, your discussion with Dr McGrath seems to be generating more heat than light. As Confucius (or was it Heraclitus?) once said “Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.”

                      [NB - Apologies if this appears twice, but original attempt to comment seems to have vanished into the ether.]

                    • spin

                      I didn’t cite Incigneri for the thesis of his book, but for the philological evidence he presents.

                    • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

                      You have plainly not addressed my actual point, which was to ask if you could clarify your own views on the nature and origin of Mark’s gospel, so that interested readers like me could evaluate your own argument and consider how far the sources you cite support your view.

                      If you don’t agree with Incigneri’s view of Mark arising out of a Roman/Palestinian/Jewish melting pot, perhaps you could explain what your own views actually are, and (briefly) how and why you differ from Incigneri?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Judges 5:5 is the Hebrew construct. That doesn’t seem more likely to be in view than the Aramaic which actually means what the Greek renders it as, does it? But your suggestion that Hebrew PTX is more probable suggests that perhaps the problem is that you do not know Aramaic. Can you tell me what the Aramaic word for “to open” is and why, in view of that, you claimed that Hebrew is a better fit, especially when Galilean Aramaic seems to fit the evidence most straightforwardly?

                      Most scholars are of the view that the author of the Gospel of Mark did not himself know Aramaic, or at least not the Galilean idiom. And so we might expect some garbling or misrendering in the process. The same happens to geographical details when a work is composed based on sources from a particular place or reflecting accurate knowledge of them, by someone who does not share the source’s knowledge. This is why a historian has to look carefully at both inaccuracies and knowledge which is unlikely to have been possible without the use of sources that knew things the author in question otherwise did not.

                    • spin

                      The LXX of Jdg 5:5 shows a direct parallel to Mk 15:34′s ελωι, but what is the expected Aramaic for “my god”, how would it be vocalized and how would it be transliterated into Greek? When you answer those questions, the Hebrew will be seen to be the clearer, and so more likely, source.

                      Can you tell me what the Aramaic word for “to open” is and why, in view of that, you claimed that Hebrew is a better fit, especially when Galilean Aramaic seems to fit the evidence most straightforwardly?

                      The verb has the same root and I’ve already provided you with answers to the rest. The extra post on assimilation should have helped. All you need do to respond meaningfully is to provide an evidence-based trajectory into Greek for the Aramaic itpe’el-themed verb that is more transparent than the Hebrew niphal singular imperative.

                      That the relevant writer of Mark didn’t know Aramaic seems likely, given the translation provided for ταλιθα κουμ, “Little girl, I say to you, get up”. The writer seems to have been a assimilator of disparate fragments, disparate because the result includes data in both Aramaic and Hebrew, supposedly from the mouth of Jesus.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      It isn’t clear to me how you think that positing it being a niphal imperative in Hebrew helps your case. The duplication of the פ makes sense as an assimilation of the ת while otherwise it is simply an unexplained duplication. And you still have the fact that the final guttural is not pronounced, as was characteristic of Galilean speech (see the famous evidence in b. ‘Erub. 53b).

                      ταλιθα κουμ reflects the spoken pronunciation of Aramaic, and so if the author of the Gospel was clueless about Aramaic, then he clearly had a source that was not, which is historically significant.

                      The Syriac of Mark 15:34 provides an easy answer to your first question: ܐܠܗܝ

                    • spin

                      I’ve already stated that “according to Rabinowitz, surveying the data, there was no assimilation [of the TAW] with the itpe’el in Western Aramaic dialects”. The lack of final chet is nothing unusual:see for example Zerach in LXX Gen 38:30, Nephtoach in Josh 15:9.

                      It’s worse than “the author of the Gospel was clueless about Aramaic”. Knowing Hebrew should make the Aramaic seem familiar, as both words, ταλιθα κουμ, have close cognates (טלה and קום). The evidence suggests that the Greek translation was also provided by the source and not made by our recorder. Now that is historically significant.

                      The Estrangelo doesn’t come out for me (ܐܠܗܝ). I assume though that you are giving the provided translation (אלהי) rather than the word reported from Jesus (איל). That’s vocalized elahi, suggesting ελαι in transliteration.

                    • spin

                      Looking at the repertoire of terms asserted to have entered Mark from Aramaic, we have seen that

                      1. ephphatha is better explained as derived from Hebrew. (Barr, ‘Which Language Did Jesus Speak? — Some Remarks of a Semitist’, BJRL 53, 17 fn.2, is unable to dismiss Isaac Rabinowitz’s analysis.)

                      2. talitha koum is likely to have been of Aramaic origin, but the redactor shows no sign of having understood the phrase and the supplied translation was probably received from the source, because of the insertion of συ λεγω (“I say to you”) which is not in the Semitic original as a speaker of either Aramaic or Hebrew would know.

                      3. elwi elwi lama sabaxQani evinces both Hebrew and Aramaic. elwi is found in LXX Jdg 5:5 and does not reflect an Aramaic source, which should be in Greek elai from elahi (“my god”).

                      We can add to these

                      4. the fact that as abba is found in Mishnaic Hebrew (a spoken Hebrew says Barr based on Segal and on Kutscher) and need not be directly derived from Aramaic, if at all. In fact, as the Aramaic is considered an emphatic state, it is seen to mean “the father” which is inappropriate for the vocative as it is used in Mk 14:36–an Aramaic source doesn’t explain its use.

                      5. boanhrges (3:17) is poorly explained, especially by Casey, who asserts that the “-rges” is derived simultaneously from a reading error of a samek for a final mem and a regional pronunciation of an ayin as a gimel, his source being the Hebrew רעם.(ASMG, 198.) Stranger still is the phonology of βοανη derived from בני. Casey is correct when he says that the diphthong “οα” is “ludicrous”, yet he still claims that it is the effort of the person who read the original. It cannot be directly derived from a Semitic original and to blame the incompetence of the transliteration on an original reader is also to my mind “ridiculous”. One doesn’t randomly decide that a schwa should be rendered with a diphthong. We’ve established in #2 that our collector is not adept in either Aramaic or Hebrew, so one cannot blame βοανηργες on him, nor on anyone deriving it from a written source. There has been a chain of transmission from an original form to that received and recorded in Mark.

                      Our Marcan collector is a tradent, who passes on materials from various sources which included language from both Hebrew and Aramaic. This visible Semitic influence seen in a small number of words and phrases is significant in that it is put in the mouth of Jesus, but the variety of language does not suggest a single idiolect, a single speaker. The weight of Latinisms in the text suggests a location of writing detached from any direct Palestinian context (Rome being the most likely conjecture), though perhaps one that might have been in contact with Palestine. No competence in a Semitic language is demonstrated and the claims made regarding those Semitic sources are no more than conjecture.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Just continuing to assert that something is more likely to be Hebrew, when that case has not been established, or because a word in the construct state in one context resembles one which cannot be the construct state in a different linguistic context, is clearly inadequate. The analysis offered with regard to abba is clearly based on someone without a full appreciation of the Aramaic language as used in the relevant time and place.

                      But all that is perhaps beside the point, when it comes to the historical Jesus. Whether Mark knew relevant languages or not, or had sources in those languages or not, it is clear that the Gospels just like Paul’s letters agree that Jesus was a Jewish man whom some believed was the Messiah and who spoke a Semitic language. And so I am not sure what your point is. If it is to suggest that the Jesus tradition was eventually passed in by people who were linguistically, culturally, and reigiously removed from that of Jesus himself, surely no one seriously disputes that, do they?

                    • spin

                      It’s difficult to respond to unfocused criticism as in the case of the linguistic claims in your first paragraph. If you could try to be clear and specific, it would help the discussion.

                      That the relevant writer(s) of Mark didn’t have access to Semitic languages is only 1) a means to dismiss assertions about an Aramaic context as unfounded and 2) a small indication of the construction of the gospel, ie piecemeal.

                      I know it’s some mythicist thing that Jesus wasn’t portrayed as a man, but tell me how can one be a suitable substitute for those humans who had fallen short of the law and were thus liable to it? Christ crucified is what Paul espoused as the source of salvation. That suggests that the substitute must be eligible to sin against the law, ie he should be a Jewish man. Whether Jesus existed or not, Paul’s messiah had to be a Jewish man, so the information isn’t particularly significant.

                      The claim that Jesus spoke a Semitic language is entailed in most imaginings of a fellow trotting around Palestine talking to local residents. Again, not particularly relevant. One imagines that Herakles spoke Greek to his companions on the Argo, while Worf spoke Klingon in his family home and Aurelio Zen spoke Italian to his compatriots.

                      But all this confuses narrative content with reality.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      If we had a letter from someone who had met Alcaeus’ brother, we might still conclude, as historians do with so much of the content of the Gospels, dispute the historicity of the later Heracles stories. But historians would legitimately balk at the insistence that, since so much of the later stories is legend, therefore there must never have been a historical figure upon whom the legends were based. Of course, we do not have at for Heracles, to my knowledge. But we do have that in Paul’s letters.

                    • spin

                      You seem to be alluding to Gal 1:19 with its reference to “James the brother of the lord”, which you apparently take to mean “James the brother of Jesus”, going on your reference to “Alcaeus’ [= Herakles's] brother”. If so, the text doesn’t support you. Had Paul meant “James the brother of Jesus”, wouldn’t he have said so? Paul generally uses “brother” to indicate a “fellow believer” and one must conjecture that Paul means “Jesus” when he uses “lord” in this non-titular manner. You tend to couch your responses obscurely, so one has to guess what you are committing yourself to. That’s safe, but not communicative. It would be nice if you could be clear, so that one doesn’t need to try to pin you down. Have I understood you correctly that you allude to the reference in Gal 1:19 and that you interpret it to refer to James being the physical brother of Jesus? If so, can you justify that based on Paul’s indications, without retrojecting later ideas into the fray?

                      Tendentious readings are not the basis for historical research.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      You seem once again to be content to repeat things that you have been told, without looking into the matter. Paul certainly does refer to all believers as brothers, and brothers in the Lord. As in English, so also in Greek, the meaning of “brother of” is distinct and dinstinguishable from “brother in.” But if you wish to make a case that the Lord is someone other than who it normally is for Paul, and that Paul meant “brother” in the generic sense and yet is distinguishing James from Peter, then by all means make your case. But do not pretend that that viewpoint which you have yet to make a case for is self-evidence while the one which is in fact straightforward and obvious is “tendentious.”

                    • spin

                      You seem once again to be content to repeat things that you have been told, without looking into the matter.

                      I didn’t know you were also a clairvoyant. You should resist making things up.

                      Paul certainly does refer to all believers as brothers, and brothers in the Lord. As in English, so also in Greek, the meaning of “brother of” is distinct and dinstinguishable from “brother in.”

                      Uh-huh. How does “brother of the cross”, “sister of mercy”, “son of perdition ” or “father of lies” fit into your theory?

                      But if you wish to make a case that the Lord is someone other than who it normally is for Paul,

                      Problem is you haven’t paid attention. You’ll note that I specifically talked of the use of “lord” in this non-titular manner. There is no problem with the titular use, eg “the lord Jesus” and “our lord”, but when it functions as an absolute reference, Paul certainly uses it regarding god. What makes you think he isn’t doing so here? Do you honestly think “son of god” is literal? You know, god had sexual physical relations with a woman?

                      The text doesn’t say what you want it to say. You are applying a few levels of manipulation to the text that you don’t justify.

                      and that Paul meant “brother” in the generic sense and yet is distinguishing James from Peter, then by all means make your case.

                      Your intent again is unclear. Paul calls James “the brother of the lord“, not “the brother”, so what you seem to assume isn’t based on the text. James has a significant position with the Jerusalem group, which may be what is indicated with the phrase “brother of the lord”, a title not used for Cephas.

                      But do not pretend that that viewpoint which you have yet to make a case for is self-evidence while the one which is in fact straightforward and obvious is “tendentious.”

                      Have you said anything to make your efforts seem any less tendentious? That which seems straightforward and obvious to you seems post hoc eisegesis to me.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      You are free to claim what you wish and to believe what you wish. But anyone who cares to fact check your claim about Paul’s use of “the Lord” can easily determine that Paul does not reserve the unqualified term only for God.

                      That is what mythicism is, and that is why it is impossible to take seriously in the forms in which it is currently defended. It begins with a viewpoint and ignores, dismisses, or explains away evidence to the contrary in a manner worthy of the best fundamentalist Christian apologist.

                    • spin

                      Out of your comfort zone and you start babbling about mythicism.

                      anyone who cares to fact check your claim about Paul’s use of “the Lord” can easily determine that Paul does not reserve the unqualified term only for God.

                      That is not the issue, though you’d have to look hard to justify your claim. The issue is that Paul clearly uses the non-titular κυριος for god, so when he talks of “the brother of the lord”, how do you know he is not referring to god? You don’t. Well, you just know, just like your average fundamentalist Christian apologist. He doesn’t have to worry about epistemology.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      If you want to make a case for Paul having viewed James as God’s brother, please do so.

                    • spin

                      You had better respond to what you ignored:

                      Do you honestly think “son of god” is literal? You know, god had sexual physical relations with a woman?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      No, of course not. And since Paul thought that Jesus was of the seed of David, that isn’t what it meant for Paul.

                      Now let’s hear your case for Paul, despite his emphatic statement that God is one, having thought that he had a human brother.

                    • spin

                      Now that it’s clear that no literal familial relationship is implied in a phrase such as “son of god”, forcing a literal understanding of “brother of god” should seem just as unnecessary. No literal notion need be intended with “brother of the lord”.

                      When you transformed the phrase “the brother of the lord” into “God’s brother” earlier, you employed an English grammatical structure that contains notions neither found in the original Greek nor implied in the English literal translation of the Greek. Just think of the problem of “the cross’s brother” which doesn’t exist with “the brother of the cross”.

                      Earlier I said, James has a significant position with the Jerusalem group, which may be what is indicated with the phrase “brother of the lord”, a title not used for Cephas. James is not just a brother, but a brother with an elevated status, as might be indicated with “the brother of the lord”.

                      It should be clear from 1 Cor 9:5 that “brothers of the lord” are a significant group of believers of a nature analogous with “apostles” (while Cephas is singled out as separate from both).

                      I don’t want “to make a case for Paul having viewed James as God’s brother” in any literal sense. I want to make a case that the argument that transforms “the brother of the lord” into “the [physical] brother of Jesus” is not derived from the text: it doesn’t reflect Paul’s usage of “brother” nor is there justification to read κυριος in the phrase as Jesus. That leaves us with the reasonable possibility that Paul uses the phrase in quite a different way, such as to individuate James as a believer of status.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Son of God had a wide and established usage in first-century Judaism. The notion of God having a brother is attested at best in an ancient Israelite name from an era well before the advent of anything that could be called monotheism. It is not enough to merely note that something is not impossible, with ad hoc solutions akin to those offered by Christian apologists. Few things are strictly speaking impossible. Historians need to ask what is most likely given the available evidence. You have not even attempted to do that for your position, much less actually accomplished it.

                    • spin

                      The notion of God having a brother…

                      …is irrelevant to the discussion. You have already accepted that “son of god” is not literal, as I’m sure you would “son of perdition” and father of lies”. Nobody is arguing for god having a brother, just as nobody would argue for the cross having a brother.

                      It is not enough to merely note that something is not impossible, with ad hoc solutions akin to those offered by Christian apologists.

                      You are the one trying to force an interpretation against Paul’s usual usage of αδελφος while asserting that κυριος must refer to Jesus, when you haven’t done the footwork to justify either. How frequently does Paul use κυριος substituted for the name Jesus Christ? Why on earth would you think Paul meant Jesus by it here?

                      Historians need to ask what is most likely given the available evidence.

                      The available evidence is mainly Paul’s usage and you are in denial over that.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      No, you cannot simply suggest a possible meaning, and then declare it irrelevant to the discussion. At least, not if you want to at least maintain the facade of having an interest in this subject as a matter of history rather than apologetics. So do you have a case to offer for your proposed interpretation or not?

                    • spin

                      You are attempting to force on me a literal meaning, when you’ve already helped establish that a literal meaning isn’t necessitated by the phrase under consideration. The facts which you don’t like are as I have pointed out: 1) Paul’s general use of αδελφος doesn’t mean what you want and 2) the context doesn’t allow you to assume that κυριος implies Jesus. There is no philological necessity for your interpretation of the phrase “James the brother of the lord”.

                      Considering Paul’s language, I have suggested from the context what it could mean, ie an honorific, indicating from 1 Cor 9:5 that “brothers of the lord” are a significant group of believers of a nature analogous with “apostles”, no physical fraternity implied in the context. There is reasonable sense to be derived from considering Pauline usage and that is not the notion of God having a brother, but of god having a believer. You are insisting on me defending a meaning I have never advocated. You should have known this when you accepted that “son of god” is not literal. Instead you made a plea that “son of god” was well-established usage, as though new metaphors are not developed, when Paul has shown quite a few. Christ is the head of every man. First fruits of those who have fallen asleep. We are all members in one body. Perhaps you want to insist on literal meanings in those cases as well. Are Paul and his proselytes literally members in the one body?

                      If you want to at least maintain the facade of having an interest in this subject as a matter of history rather than apologetics, you need to show some philological analysis, as denial and misrepresentation are not meaningful responses.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      “Son of God” denotes someone who relates to God with obedience as a son is expect to towards their father. “Brothers in the Lord” denotes people who consider one another brothers through their union with/in Christ. What does “brother(s) of the Lord” denote, is it the same as or different from “brother(s) in the Lord,” and what is the evidence that the phrase had that meaning? I am asking you to make your case for your viewpoint. Don’t just make things up and leave others to guess what you mean and why you think it, and then complain when they guess incorrectly.

                    • spin

                      Where does “Brothers in the Lord” denote people who consider one another brothers through their union with/in Christ? Don’t just make things up and leave others to guess why you think it.

                    • Bahumuth

                      I didn’t say I don’t need scholars. I’ve read plenty of them. I’m sure I’ve read many you haven’t. What I’m saying is you don’t need to be a Biblical scholar to have a legitimate scholarly argument. And once again, you don’t want to say exactly what evidence and methods you are using for your determination.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I have blogged about this subject at length. I have been blogging about the historical Jesus, and specifically about mythicism, for many years. In all those hundreds of posts (to say nothing of actual scholarly articles and books) there is a great wealth of information. Please do not use the creationist tactic of pretending all previous discussion does not exist, but actually interact with what I and others have already written on the subject.

                    • arcseconds

                      It hardly seems worth mentioning the opinions of someone largely uneducated in a field, no matter what their expertise and influence in other areas.

                    • Bahumuth

                      Actually, I am sorry that I brought Russell up because it only distracted you from the more relevant scholars I brought up. Like I said, if you know anyone who has dismissed Samuel Noah Kramer as a kook or an amateur, I’m all ears. As far as I’m concerned, if only one person on my list makes your or James’ list of scholars who are both relevant and respectable, then I have proved my point that it’s not just some internet conspiracy theory.

                      Not everyone reacts the same way. Notice how James hadn’t responded to me for a while until he thought he could score points by demanding a quote from Russell. Of course James instantly dismissed any idea that Russell mattered after he was proved wrong, but he wouldn’t have proposed the challenge in the first place if he hadn’t thought it important. He would have just said from the start that he wasn’t relevant or ignored the reference like most of everything else I said.

                      For me, I don’t really care that much about the poll of Biblical scholars or historians because I feel that I’ve read enough books that I deserve to have my own opinion on the subject without being mocked. No one decides what they believe. It just happens to be what seems the most realistic out of all the historical possibilities. And it’s human nature to try to convince others that their own beliefs are valid. The validation of ideas comes from direct reasoning on the evidence, not by comparing degrees.

                • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

                  Note: History of Western Philosophy is the later work.

                  • Bahumuth

                    Ah… I was going off of “Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays”.

            • arcseconds

              More generally, your list of ‘Jesus sceptics’ is a list of people who are famous, but not for their expertise in history, and are regarded as at best as historically important and at worst as kooks in the fields in which they are famous.

              Why should we care what someone who influenced Freud and Jung thought? At best, we might think that means he’s important to psychology, not history. As far as I know, the only field that takes Freud and Jung at all seriously is literary criticism.

              • Bahumuth

                Freud and Jung didn’t just study psychology but were well read in mythology and Biblical history. If you don’t think mythologists, Assyriologists, Classicists, philosophers, or Biblical scholars have the expertise to discuss whether there is any relationship between Christianity and the dying-and-rising gods, and you note most historians don’t write about it, then I wonder who you think should be making that determination.

                • arcseconds

                  I don’t think impressing two largely discredited (of historical interest only, if you prefer) psychologists in the early 20th century is evidence of such expertise, anyway.

                  Freud, Jung, Frazer, Nietzsche… this is an odd bunch of ‘experts’, Bahumuth. Not one of them is known for their expertise in the ancient near east, and all of them are regarded now as, at best, rather eccentric figures with their own extravagant theories. Many would say ‘crackpots’.

                  • Bahumuth

                    Really? Freud, Jung and Nietzsche are considered crackpots? I can only say that whatever circles say that must be pretty elitist. Maybe I should ask if you are familiar with their work or consider yourself an expert in the ancient Near East. If so, can you say exactly what Frazer got wrong? If not, then how would you know whether their theories hold merit or not? It seems like all you do is dismiss everyone except the people who you’ve already said do not write about it. Is it even possible to have a scholarly discussion about the historical Jesus?

                    As I’ve already said, I’m not the one arguing theories based entirely on the authority of who said them. The reason I brought the names up in the first place was in reaction to the accusation that the arguments made by mythicists have not been made by real scholars. I have given a very detailed explanation of what I believe in the preceding comments and the only reactions I’ve read so far are in regards to how lousy my sources are without any consideration to the arguments themselves. If you want to contest my arguments, I’d be happy to reply, but I’m really tired of all these elitist pi**ing contests over who has the right to talk about Jesus.

                    • arcseconds

                      Influential scholars think Nietzsche is a crackpot!

                      Bertrand Russell dispatches Nietzsche with statements like “there is a great deal in Nietzsche that must be dimissed as merely megalomaniac”, and suggesting his work was “the mere power-phantasies of an invalid”.

                    • Bahumuth

                      Eh… I think there’s a good possibility most Nietzschians would agree with that statement. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t he basically on every shortlist of philosophy classes being taught?

                    • arcseconds

                      Certainly not every philosophy class, and in the English-speaking world, at least, classes including Nietzsche are, I think, uncommon (with a caveat that I’ll mention below).

                      At the moment there are two traditions in Western philosophy, the analytic (or anglo-american) tradition, and the continental tradition, and it’s been that way for about a century. Russell is generally regarded as one of the founders of analytic philosophy, and while his work is not on the whole (with the exception of his logical work) regarded as a going concern, the analytic tradition generally shares his foci and his biases. Which means that Nietzsche is kind of on the out. That’s not to say he’s not studied, but not nearly to the extent you’re indicating.

                      He has more cachet in continental philosophy circles, although still, I would say, not quite to the extent you’re thinking. Husserl and Heidegger are far more likey to be studied.

                      (The traditions aren’t entirely divided on geographical grounds, and analytic departments sometimes have a token continental philospher in their ranks)

                      The caveat is that in ‘liberal arts’ courses (especially those oriented around ‘great works’), history of philosophy courses, and the occasional undergraduate ethics course, Nietzsche may often make an appearance. But quite often his role is more of a foil than anything else.

                      (Personally, I’m a bit of a fan of Nietzsche. But on historical matters I’d take him with a large grain of salt. He’s got a story to tell, and he’s not going to let any piddling historical details get in the way of that.

                      and it’s still true that many philosophers think he’s a crackpot.)

                  • Bahumuth

                    Also, if you can find anyone claiming Samuel Noah Kramer is an eccentric, a crackpot, or not an expert in the Middle East, I would be very glad if you shared that information with me.

          • spin

            James, you’re certainly right that there is a consensus among biblical scholars as to the historicity of Jesus, but that’s somewhat like a consensus among small businessmen that the Republicans are best for the country. You saw how emptyhanded you were when it came to “professional historians”. You can seek shelter behind your consensus whenever you are challenged or you can say something substantive. Which will it be, James? You said “much that the early Christians claimed about Jesus was myth, some was legend, and much we cannot tell one way or the other”, which you followed with “This is about the fact that there is historical evidence that the myths and legends grew up around a historical figure.” This statement doesn’t make much sense in the context of its antecedent.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              Can you see the problems with what you wrote? I was asked to provide an odd list, of people who do not work in the realm of Biblical studies and yet have investigated the historical figure of Jesus. And for some reason you consider Biblical scholars as a group to be akin to a group of businessmen. Why do you feel the need to denigrate an entire field of scholarship? Is it simply because there are so many people with axes to grind working in it? Surely you are not going to claim that mythicism is a viewpoint not associated with a particular axe to grind and ideological slant, one that, whether it is correct or not, does not always keep those who adhere to it from being in error on other matters.

              • spin

                I understand that you would cry foul when I compared the interested party of biblical scholars with the interested party of small businessmen. When you are an interested party you tend to act based on those interests. For example, instead of doing your job and presenting your reasoning, you make sketchy statements and run to the cover of consensus when the sketchiness is brought to your attention, pointing fingers at mythicists. After two attempts I haven’t got a clear indication from you about the way two statements of yours connect. I’m starting to get the idea you are never going to tell me.

                (I see little difference between those who insist on historical Jesuses and those who insist on mythical Jesuses. Both groups stray beyond the available evidence. You do get people saying that King Arthur was real–or a myth–, but most scholars don’t feel the need to force the matter, as the evidence is insufficient either way. This is where interest comes in.)

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  And claiming that others are biased by their own interest can itself be an expression of interest, as when young-earth creationists say that about scientists. Shakespeare scholars might seem like the best ones to determine whether William Shakespeare authored the plays attributed to him, but doesn’t their passion for Shakespeare bias them?

                  So how should one proceed when one is not an expert in a field? Embrace the consensus, knowing that academics are unlikely to agree on something unless the case for it is strong? Or listen to marginal voices from outside that field (and often outside of academia altogether) who claim that academics agree beause of bias?

                  • spin

                    You seem to me to be a little confused here. What makes biblical scholars experts in a field of historical research? You talk of historical research and a historical Jesus, but who are the historians here? I’m sure you can list a few, but most are not. They are text scholars, dealing principally with an ossified agglomeration of tradition. Remember when historical methodology began to be applied to old testament traditions? The consensus of biblical scholars crumbled virtually overnight. A consensus may appear to be a democratic notion, but history doesn’t work that way. Traditions per se don’t yield history. They pose an epistemological problem that requires external resolution: how do you know what in a tradition is based on a specific past reality? Text scholars cannot answer the question. Historical methodology indicates how one should proceed.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I think it is you who are confused. Classicists, Biblical scholars, and those in other fields which make use of a range of disciplinary perspectives in studying a particular literary corpus, time period, or culture, are typically trained in historical, literary, and other relevant critical methods. And so you will find as many people with qualifications in Classics and who are professors of Classics tackling historical questions as literary ones. This is not simply because one can approach texts in a variety of different ways, but because the answering of historical questions involves correlating data from texts with other sources of information such as archaeological remains.

                      You wrote: “Remember when historical methodology began to be applied to old testament traditions? The consensus of biblical scholars crumbled virtually overnight.” I know how old the oldest living human being is. You do not remember when historical critical methods began to be applied to the Hebrew Bible any more than I do. But this question of yours, and the follow-up statement, suggests that you don’t really know this field well enough to know how things stand, making your dogmatism about it seem all the more inappropriate.

                    • spin

                      I can understand the desire to place the profession of biblical studies into line with the classics and scholarly studies of other cultures, but you are not serious. Biblical studies simply lacks a material culture to underpin it. It is not of the same starting stuff as the classics, Egyptology, Assyriology, Hittitology or any of the ilk. Biblical studies is not in the same league. There is almost nothing in the field a modern historian can use for the pursuit of historical research. The biblicist has a scholarly task to do, but that is fundamentally grounded in a limited range of texts.

                      And when you catch up on what has happened over the last twenty or thirty years in old testament studies then you can talk. Suffice it to say that everything before the kingdom of Israel circa Omri has been placed outside scholarly history. (There may be a real past behind some of the tradition, but it is currently beyond our reach.)

                      As it appears you are not going to clarify the statements I originally commented on, I can only assume now that your task here is deflective and advocatory.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      No, my task is to figure out why you think you know more than someone who teaches these subjects for a living, when your approximations and generalizations do not do justice to the subjects in question, and why, given that, you consider it appropriate to post these anonymous comments which are insulting and rude not simply towards me but towards an entire field of study.

                    • Bahumuth

                      If Biblical scholars are such great historians, why did Ehrman “correct” Freke and Gandy by saying there was no such thing as the Kitos War and that Constantine didn’t make Christianity the state religion?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Sorry, are you saying that Freke and Gandy are scholars?!

                    • Bahumuth

                      No, that’s not what I said at all, but of course it was silly of me to think you would answer a direct question rather than evade it like you always do. What I said was Freke and Gandy know rudimentary historical facts about early Christianity and Ehrman doesn’t, but like you, he decides to compound his ignorance with arrogance by making false accusations without doing the tiniest amount of verifying research. Oh, and like I already said, Gandy does have an M.A. in Classical Civilization.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      So you are saying that you think Constantine made Christianity the state religion? And again, you think that your agreeing with fringe and erroneous views somehow justifies your arrogant tone?

                    • spin

                      As it was not my intention to either be insulting or rude, but to be clear and accurate from my perspective, it seems to me the lady doth protest too much. If you think it’s ok to misrepresent your profession, I’ll accept that. I merely sought clarification on things you wrote and you refused to give it. The rest was just divagating along the road to this refusal.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      There has been no refusal on my part in relation to anything, and I find it hard to believe that the lack of respect is something of which you were unaware. But it may be symptomatic of the fact that you think you know more about Biblical studies than you do. Do you mind if I ask at what institution you studied the subject, that you ended up with this impression of the field?

                    • spin

                      Your over-defensiveness when it comes to your chosen profession I can accept, as you impute insult and rudeness over a conflict of viewpoint, but, when you start trying to talk about respect, you do damage to the irony meter. Don’t you dismiss or ignore most things that are said to you? Don’t you snipe at people for being mythicists or for having fringe views or whatever other put down you can muster? Be good.

                      As to that profession, I have said that biblical scholars are (generally) an interested party, not merely in the sense of having an interest in the subject, just as small businessmen are not just interested in their subject, but having an ulterior interest. I also said that as the source of study is a collection of texts embodying a tradition, there is no material culture on which to found any historical research upon. One is left with no way to connect the content of the tradition with reality. Rather than responding substantively you have merely complained that my “approximations and generalizations do not do justice to the subjects in question”. That’s convincing, isn’t it.

                      I asked you about comments you made in the message I first responded to and again after that, then alluded to the fact. When you don’t respond to requests for information when repeated, that is usually taken as refusal to respond. And when you say there has been no refusal on your part, your actions and your words aren’t in accord.

                      I maintain an online presence that is separate from real life. I therefore have no institutional affiliations.

                      Thanks for the dance. Can I look you up next time I’m in town?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      You have been snide and dismissive towards a field that you have not studied, and continue to demean those who work in this field. If in the midst of all that you made a genuine request for information, and I missed it, I do apologize.

  • Steven Carr

    In Joel Watts post at http://unsettledchristianity.com/2013/06/run-dmca/ there is a screen shot of the email Watts allegedly sent Neil Godfrey.

    In his screen shot, he is not connected to Gmail.

    Remarkably, there is a message in the sent folder from June 27, although the system says , ‘Last Synced’ on June 26.

    His screen shot shows June 26, 12:56 pm as the local time, exactly the same time as the email Watts allegedly sent.

    Remarkably, Watts knew he would have to take a screenshot as proof he had sent the email and did so on June 26, at the time he posted this email, and two days before he knew he would have to do a screenshot.

    The alternative is that on June 28, Watts reset the time on his computer to June 26, and then created an email as of June 26, and produced a screenshot with the system time at June 26….

    But he forgot that the system date and time would also appear on his screenshot. (Oooh, that’s a bad mistake…)

    He should have photoshopped the system time to be June 28, the date he allegedly prepared this screenshot.

    • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

      Nice work Sherlock :-)

      • Steven Carr

        I can’t claim credit for spotting this myself.

        But I really should have spotted that Watts can’t have sent an email to Neil Godfrey – when he was not connected to the Internet.

        And it makes little sense to ask Godfrey to look at what WordPress are saying – 9 hours before you contact WordPress to complain about Godfrey.

        Even by the standards of Internet duplicity, what Watts did was really bad.

        By the way, I misread the ‘Last Date Synced’ on the Watts screenshot – I was confused by the American way of doing dates.

        • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

          Ah well, kudos to whoever did. Have you put this point to Joel on his blog? I’d be interested to know his response.

          • Steven Carr

            He moderates comments.

            • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

              Well I’ve copied your comment over to his blog, let’s see if he posts it or replies.

              Hmmmm…. just realised that I posted the whole of your comment… [Sound of new can of worms being opened]

              • Steven Carr

                Watts in his email of the 26 June urged Neil Godfrey to look at what WordPress are saying – 9 hours before Watts claimed he contacted WordPress.

                • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

                  Joel’s post says he emailed Neil before before contacting WordPress. I assume the what wp are saying thing was just a reference to their general policy on copyright.

        • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

          Also, the email is in his sent items, not draft. Would changing the time on a PC affect the time of a sent email? And could the matching time in the top right be the time of the email rather than a system time?

          • Paul D.

            As any Mac user can tell you, the date and time in the menu bar (top-right corner of the screen) is always the system date and time.

            To the left of it is an icon showing that the wi-fi has been turned off. (This makes it impossible for an email to have been sent at 12:56, the time shown on both the “sent” email and the system clock.)

            The top-left of the screen shows the active application. In Watts’s screenshot, it is the System Preferences application used for changing the system time and date.

            At the bottom of the screen, minimized in the Dock next to the trash bin, is the System Preferences window with the panel for setting the time and date open.

            But according to Joel, it is just a software glitch.

  • Steven Carr

    It is certainly possible to move emails from one folder to another.

    And if you look at Watts other screenshots the system times are all normal.

    If Watts had just created that email, after resetting his system time, the system time would be the time of the email.

    Notice that Watts had turned off Internet connection in the first screenshot. He did not want an email to be sent at the time he was doing the screenshot.

    Watts has not produced any explanation for the system time being shown on his own screenshot as June 26.

    He can’t. There is no explanation other than the obvious one. He reset the date.

    But I hope I am wrong.

    I probably am. After all, all there is at the moment are some suspicious screenshots.

    I would be astonished if it really did turn out to be the case that Joel Watts turned off his wifi and then created an image of an email after changing the system date on his machine.

    I don’t believe that really happened, and look forward to apologising for implying it did, after Joel has explained the full facts to us.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Test to see what Disqus will mark as the time this comment was posted.
    And it’s correct!

  • beau_quilter

    Has Joel Watts ever provided an answer to the pretty obvious time/date tampering he did to create screenshots of an alleged email he sent to Neil Godfrey? I’ve always noticed Joel’s tendency to be defensive, but this behavior seriously draws into question his credibility and personal integrity.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    It seems as though, for you, it is plausible to envisage Paul persecuting a movement about which he knows nothing of its founder, being converted to that movement, him introducing a founder they had never heard of, and yet still being able to say to groups which were in contact not only with him but also with the Jerusalem leaders that he and they preach the same Gospel.

    I apologize for jumping in this conversation here, but I find parts of this very plausible for a number of reasons:

    (1) Perpetrators of religious persecutions frequently (perhaps even usually) have only a very vague understanding of what it is their victims believe or practice, e.g., the early Christians were thought to practice incest and cannibalism and Jews have been thought to practice ritual infanticide. One reason for this is that it is frequently the case that the perpetrators have been incited by the lies of someone powerful for whom the victims make a convenient scapegoat, e.g., Nero. Thus, it seems entirely plausible that Paul could have persecuted the early Christians while being completely misinformed about what it was that they actually believed.

    (2) Persecution is not a reliable method of obtaining true information about people’s practices and beliefs. Persecutors often use torture and victims will say anything that they think their persecutor wants to hear. Persecutors often use informants who will invent stories about others either for profit or in order to shift suspicion away from themselves. It strikes me as less plausible that Paul would have had a particularly accurate understanding of the movement that he was persecuting.

    (3) Paul tells us that he preached for three years after his revelation before going to meet those he viewed as his predecessors in the faith. Isn’t it likely that his message during this time was some amalgamation of dubious information about what his victims had believed as well as his own insights and revelations?

    (4) When Paul finally met his predecessors, he claimed that they added nothing to his message. Might this not indicate that the illiterate peasants who had been followers of the earthly Jesus incorporated the educated Paul’s insights and revelations into their understanding of Jesus’s message rather than Paul conforming his message to theirs? This might explain why Paul shows so little interest in what Jesus said or did during his earthly life and why there seemed to be so much friction between him and the other apostles.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      It absolutely is possible that Paul’s knowledge about and perception of the Jesus movement were seriously skewed when he opposed it. My point is simply that suggesting that Paul got all his knowledge about Christianity from dreams and visions doesn’t seem to fit the evidence. How accurate his knowledge was prior to his becoming a Christian himself, or thereafter, is another matter.

      • spin

        Paul tells you nothing of the beliefs of the Jerusalemite movement, indicating only that they were torah observant, so this talk about the Jesus movement is still pure eisegesis.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          You might want to try actually reading his letters.

          • spin

            I can’t really accuse you of having done so.

      • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

        Dr. McGrath,

        Suppose that a man had a vision of a heavenly being who he understood to have once been a human being who walked the earth for a time and was exalted by God after his death. As with Joseph Smith’s vision of Moroni, neither the man nor anyone he knew had known the heavenly being when he had walked the earth. The man then searched through his scriptures in an effort to figure out the meaning of the vision and he concluded that the heavenly being had been foretold in the scriptures and that his coming was the key link in God’s plan to reconcile the human race to Himself and bring about His kingdom on earth. The man then began telling anyone who would listen about the revelation he had received. In what way might we expect that man’s writings to look any different than Paul’s letters?

        To me, Paul’s letters look consistent with a man trying to interpret his personal visions and revelations through the scriptures. The only information I can see that looks necessarily like it had to have come to him from someone else is the fact that other people also had visions of the heavenly being. He wouldn’t have needed anyone to tell him that the pre-exaltation human being had been “born of a woman” and he could have figured out from the scripture that he must have been from the line of David.

        I don’t think that Paul’s letters are necessarily inconsistent with the heavenly being having been a specific known human being within living memory, but for me, nothing points decisively in that direction.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          We’ve had this conversation before. I understand that Mormonism seems to you to be the best analogy for early Christianity, while for me ancient Jewish Messianism seems more contextually relevant. Is there any point to repeating the points I have made in the past when you have posted similar comments?

          • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

            No. The analogy only has to do with visions of a heavenly being who was thought once to have been a man who walked the earth. Suppose that such a heavenly being appeared to a first century Jew named Fred who subsequently searched the scriptures in order to understand the meaning of his vision. Suppose that Fred didn’t think that he or anyone he knew had known the man when he walked the earth. What do you think that we would find in Fred’s writings that we don’t find in Paul’s and what do you think we find in Paul’s that wouldn’t be in Fred’s?

            I’m pretty sure that I have never posed this question before because I only thought of it today.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              In that circumstance, I would not expect Paul to talk about Christ having come, as opposed to being expected entirely in the future. And I would not expect Paul to say that he and the Jerusalem apostles agreed on the core Gospel, as he claims in 1 Cor. 15, unless I were willing to posit an actual divine revelation having been involved.

              • spin

                I think we need to dig a bit deeper into 1 Cor 15. Can you explain:

                1) who did Paul παραλαμβανω (“receive [information]“, as one might from his master) what he passed on from (15:3)?

                2) which scriptures does the writer have in mind in 15:3-4?

                3) who exactly were “the twelve” that Christ appeared to?

                4) where else is the extraordinary appearance to 500 brothers recorded? Is silence to be expected with such a claim?

                5) in what sense was Paul “untimely born” (εκτρωμα = abortion), when he was set aside at birth by god (Gal 1:15)? Is it reasonable to think Paul could see something set aside by god as an abortion?

                6) when Paul talks of persecuting “the church of god”, exactly which church is he referring to?

                7) why is Paul still arguing “if Christ has not been raised…” (v.14) and “if there is no resurrection…” (v.29) when he has settled the matter with all those witnesses to the resurrection?

                Do you agree with J.C. O’Neill’s article title “Paul Wrote Some of All, But Not All of Any” (The Pauline Canon, ed. Porter, Brill, 2004)?

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  I almost always find J. C. O’Neill intriguing but not ultimately persuasive in his analyses. For the other points, you will find that my views are basically in line with what you will find in mainstream scholarly commentaries on 1 Corinthians. If you have a different understanding of the text and want me to discuss it, I would appreciate it if you would be up front about it, since elsewhere in the comments section you have been complaining that I did not accurately guess your views, while refusing to defend your own claims to the limited extent that you have made them explicit.

                  • spin

                    I didn’t ask you to guess my views, the sources of them or how much I may or may not have read. That has been your chosen burden. For some reason you just had to pigeonhole me. Under the circumstances getting it wrong was always the probable outcome. I have been trying to get your understandings and reasonings and I have provided some functional ideas, though contrasting to those of the status quo, to stimulate the process.

                    O’Neill’s analysis of the improbable lengths of the epistles is rather reasonable. Romans and the Corinthians seem far too long for letters, judging from the average lengths of letters he notes. His theory as to how those lengths cash out (inserting ) are less impressive, as it seems to me to be unfalsifiable. But the length issue seems significant, suggesting to me that the longer epistles have been sizably enlarged.

                    My questions hopefully indicate that I have a different view of 1 Cor 15:3-11, if, as you say, your views are “basically in line with what you will find in mainstream scholarly commentaries on 1 Corinthians”, I’d guess that there is probably little chance of getting beyond that mainstream adherence. So, thanks for the offer to discuss the passage, but I accept the clarity of your position here.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I have no interest in pigeonholing you. If it was a mistake, based on why people normally comment on my blog, to assume that your aim was to be understood and engage in meaningful conversation about the topic of the original post, then I apologize. But again, you could have simply stated that your aims were not those of typical commenters on this blog, and we could have avoided confusion.

                    • spin

                      Whether you had interest or not in pigeonholing my views, you did so and would not accept correction. And if you have made a mistake in your judgment as you allow here regarding my aim, you could just as easily have made other sorts of mistakes that led to the confusion you experienced. Usually, when someone asks you for clarification, they indicate that they would like,… well, not trying to confuse you further, but I’d think they probably want,… clarification, whether that be on the topic of the original post or on something else relating to the discussion of that topic. You frequently indulge in such shifting discussions, so not talking about the original topic should not be a problem to you. Nevertheless, I think your stated assumption was fundamentally correct about my aim, which makes your responses puzzling. You see, for some reason you didn’t engage in the conversation by providing the asked for clarification. Ah well. Maybe next time.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      The only time I failed to respond to a request for clarification was when it was clearly an attempt on your part to try to move the discussion away from a topic about which you were asked to provide justification for your proposed alternative to what historical scholarship concludes, and I was unwilling to simply allow you to change the subject in an attempt to avoid doing so.

                      For this reason, I sincerely hope there will not be a next time, unless you are willing to offer a detailed positive case for your claims. When necessary, I am happy to offer a full post discussing a topic. But not when it does not seem to me as though the person asking questions is genuinely interested in, and willing to seriously consider, the answers.

                      You have not made a good first impression. If that dismays you as much as it dismays me, I am happy to start over, since it may be that you genuinely did not intend to come across in the way that you did, or did not realize how you came across.

                    • spin

                      For the sake of clarity,

                      The only time I failed to respond to a request for clarification was when it was clearly an attempt on your part to try to move the discussion away from a topic about which you were asked to provide justification for…

                      Your memory fails you. The very first post I made here sought clarification of your espoused ideas. That was followed up with another request over the same issue, due to your not having responded. Eventually, not getting a response I wrote, “As it appears you are not going to clarify the statements I originally commented on, I can only assume now that your task here is deflective and advocatory.” This was followed by “I merely sought clarification on things you wrote and you refused to give it.” Then finally, “When you don’t respond to requests for information when repeated, that is usually taken as refusal to respond. And when you say there has been no refusal on your part, your actions and your words aren’t in accord.” Repeatedly asked for clarification you gave nothing (yet here you are making mistaken claims on the issue).

                      That’s when I thought I’d cut my losses and give up on your lack of responsiveness, but then you made a comment elsewhere that seemed to be a step forward: “For figures who were not rulers or other such rich and influential people, and thus who would not normally leave behind coins or inscriptions, we have textual data…” I came back to comment on this and we have been arguing onward.

                      Now lately when asked for clarification with the following Where does “Brothers in the Lord” denote people who consider one another brothers through their union with/in Christ?, you still haven’t answered.

                      I made my essential views clear early. They concerned the fact that traditions have no necessity of maintaining historically veracious data, so that whether there is or not, the tradition by its nature doesn’t permit distinction between what is and what is not historical. One needs an external yardstick in order to attach tradition contents to what is known of the past. The christian tradition is not supported by a material culture that can give historians a reference point to hang any of the content of the tradition on. One needs some other means to attach the tradition.

                      The comments of yours that attracted me in the first place were silent precisely at this point, how you link the content of the gospel text to reality. You have never given anything tangible but the inevitable reference to Gal 1:19–as predicted in my first post–your interpretation of which lacks philological support.

                      However, you have insisted on making generic comments regarding mythicism to me implying my connection with mythicism, despite my having stated “I see little difference between those who insist on historical Jesuses and those who insist on mythical Jesuses. Both groups stray beyond the available evidence. You do get people saying that King Arthur was real–or a myth–, but most scholars don’t feel the need to force the matter, as the evidence is insufficient either way.” My view, as you may now understand, is obviously neither historicist nor mythicist.

                      I asked you seven questions about the significance of 1 Cor 15:3-11, which entail problematical features of the passage, to which you responded, “If you have a different understanding of the text and want me to discuss it, I would appreciate it if you would be up front about it”. How much more upfront can one get than to pose those questions, attempting to draw out those problems?

                      Elsewhere you felt compelled to go for the cheap thrill of “You might want to try actually reading [Paul's] letters“, so of course my eyes boggled when you said, “You have not made a good first impression.” Yes, it does dismay me, for you’ve given the impression that

                      1. you don’t pay much attention to what you don’t agree with,

                      2. you tend not to answer a lot of what is asked of you,

                      3. you don’t muster much in the way of evidence for your assertions,

                      4. you are rather prepared to project your own unfounded conjectures onto other people (I wouldn’t be surprised if you still thought that I believed that “the brother of the lord” means “the literal brother of god”), and

                      5. you are unaware of the irony of you complaining about others’ behavior or of how you come across in situations of conflicting views.

                      I’m sure none of this was your intent, but that’s consistently how you’ve come across to me and I have reacted it, for which I apologize.

                      Is there a way forward or have you made the line clear that you won’t step beyond?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      It sounds like the problem is that you have approached your interaction with me on this blog with a hostility and animosity that I find inexplicable. I found and continue to find it hard to believe that the question about how one draws historical conclusions from a text to be a genuine one – if it is, then your attempt to give the impression of being familiar with the study of history in general and the investigation of the historical Jesus in particular was deceptive. The short answer (as has been stated countless times on this blog, and I should not have to repeat every time someone visits for the first time) is “through deductive reasoning and logical inference.” If you really need a longer answer, then perhaps you would do well to consult an introduction to historical methods. One that I regularly recommend, simply because I have it on my shelf at home, is Howell and Prevenier’s From Reliable Sources.

                      Due to the focus on countering pseudoscience and pseudoscholarship on this blog, I encounter time and time again individuals who claim things of the sort you have, “I’m not a young-earth creationist, just an interested bystander” but who then treat YEC claims as plausible and repeat their dubious arguments in what they post here. There are ways of indicating that you are here for genuine conversation rather than to denigrate a whole field of scholarship out of ideological interest, and you have evidenced none of them.

                    • spin

                      As you haven’t responded to anything I said to you in my last post which demonstrated your lack of response, I think you’ve established your unresponsiveness. Now your most recent post has been quite a rhetorical effort, so let’s look at it….

                      It sounds like the problem is that you have approached your interaction with me on this blog with a hostility and animosity that I find inexplicable.

                      When you are evasive and don’t respond to requests, people may try to pin you down in order to get a more responsive approach from you. If you take that as hostility and animosity, it may be because you misunderstand. There is neither hostility nor animosity in my approach to your unresponsiveness, only frustration and more strenuous efforts to get beyond the evasiveness, till we are here.

                      I found and continue to find it hard to believe that the question about how one draws historical conclusions from a text to be a genuine one

                      I was rather specific: not “a text”, but a tradition–or a body of text containing a tradition–which has no apparent external historical pegs to attach it to, and more precisely, the Jesus tradition as contained in the gospels. Tradition poses a significant problem to historians.

                      This is what I said in my first post here: I personally think there is no way to extract any historical content regarding the Jesus of christian tradition, for tradition needs no real basis for what is passed on and we lack any external keys. You’ve offered no response on the subject, other than to create a strawman from it.

                      if it is, then your attempt to give the impression of being familiar with the study of history in general and the investigation of the historical Jesus in particular was deceptive.

                      Pardon me, but you haven’t established your credentials as a historian. You haven’t demonstrated any prowess in historical analysis here. Besides claims that there is a historical component in religious studies, lots of people do history components at university, but that doesn’t make them historians. You haven’t shown why one should demur to your utterances on history, which means you need to establish your historical claims or point to where you have. You’re yet to do either.

                      The short answer (as has been stated countless times on this blog, and I should not have to repeat every time someone visits for the first time) is “through deductive reasoning and logical inference.” If you really need a longer answer, then perhaps you would do well to consult an introduction to historical methods.

                      That’s not a short answer, but a statement of desired intention, one that is unfulfilled. Can you point me to anywhere in your blog where you have gone beyond the superficial dismissal of requests for a substantive explanation as to why you are so doggedly defended the historicity of Jesus, the nitty-gritty that for you necessitates the historicity, where you go the whole hog, lay your case bare for all and sundry to see and wonder at? I’d guess not.

                      One that I regularly recommend, simply because I have it on my shelf at home, is Howell and Prevenier’s From Reliable Sources.

                      I’m pleased that you have found this undergraduate introduction to historical methodology and I’m sure that it has been useful to you. Perhaps you have some favorite quotes from dog-eared pages you’d like to share.

                      Due to the focus on countering pseudoscience and pseudoscholarship on this blog, I encounter time and time again individuals who claim things of the sort you have, “I’m not a young-earth creationist, just an interested bystander” but who then treat YEC claims as plausible and repeat their dubious arguments in what they post here.

                      I appreciate your noble aims. Horrid YECs and their defenders…. … Oh, I see. That was an analogy! You’re not really talking about YECs at all. You’re equating YECs with… with other believers in such pseudo-scientific nonsense, perhaps such as those horrid mythicists you tried to equate me with. That was certainly a good example of your struggle against pseudo-scholarship, misrepresenting people, projecting your own conjecture onto them, and refusing to acknowledge what it was they were saying to you.

                      There are ways of indicating that you are here for genuine conversation rather than to denigrate a whole field of scholarship out of ideological interest, and you have evidenced none of them.

                      In our conversation I’ve proffered quite a lot to support my views. That I would contend is evidence for my involvement. You have been, well, minimalist in your participation, yet you try to make claims about genuine conversation. I believe one shouldn’t just talk. And bringing up the issue of the denigration of a whole field study here, when it has been such a small item in our discussion, gives the impression you are clutching at straws in an effort to find something big to finish with.

                      Talking of YECs and mythicists, being unresponsive and hypocritical, strawman misrepresentations, and pretending you don’t need to support your claims, all show your difficulty in engaging in genuine conversation, when it comes to you being out of your comfort zone.

                      You might now like to go back to a content discussion and explain how your interpretation of “the brother of the lord” is not conclusion driven, but rather based on context and Paul’s usage. Distinctions such as “brothers in the lord”, which seem not to reflect anything Paul wrote, are of no use. Or you might like to answer a few of those questions that ask one to go beyond a prosaic reading of 1 Cor 15:3-11 for a moment. These Pauline scraps seem to be relevant to your efforts to support a historical Jesus.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      As soon as you offer even the slightest case for your alternative understanding of James as somehow God’s brother, and we analyze it, I will, if necessary, defend the mainstream historical understanding of the meaning of the phrase, assuming your case has not persuaded me to change my mind in the meantime.

                    • spin

                      Back to giving nothing away. Nothing will come from nothing: speak again.

                    • spin

                      As you’ve apparently decided you are not going to justify your views further than your last misleading response, I’ll comment on that.

                      As soon as you offer even the slightest case for your alternative understanding of James as somehow God’s brother

                      This is devious. First as I pointed out earlier, the phrase “God’s brother” is an English grammatical structure that contains ideas not in “the brother of god”, this latter better reflecting the Greek grammar. Talking of “God’s brother” manipulates rather than clarifies the discussion and should be stopped as inappropriate.

                      Given that there are only two uses of the phrase “brother of the lord”, one in the plural, to work from, you are exaggerating in what you can claim I need to do, due to the lack of exemplars to argue from meaningfully. So what you ask for has little sense. The best that can be done is to show what Paul’s language indicates, which you have refused to deal meaningfully and hide behind the mainstream interpretation, baselessly calling it “historical”. As I have pointed out, first, Paul just doesn’t use “brother” the way you need him to and you are only guessing that he uses “the lord” to mean Jesus. Rather than make a clear statement for your desire, such as “the brother in the flesh of Jesus”, he talks of “the brother of the lord”. The mainstream interpretation is mindreading the dead Paul to say that he must have meant Jesus when he writes that. This is hopelessly unscholarly. You haven’t attempted to deal with this clairvoyance.

                      All you have attempted is to claim–with more of the same clairvoyance–that Paul would have talked about “brothers in the lord” (a phrase nowhere found in Paul) had he meant something other than your desired interpretation. I do love such attempts at mindreading. Perhaps we should consult the witch of Endor to settle the question.

                      This is an abnegation of your responsibility. Hiding behind the skirts of traditional interpretation is something we expect from apologists. Rather than putting any thought into the issue you’ve tried to sidestep it.

                      What we know regarding the phrase “the brother of the lord” is that Paul generally uses “brother” to indicate a “fellow believer”, a fact that seems to slip your mind when you talk about my understanding of the phrase as “somehow God’s brother”. “Brother” in Paul’s usage is not a physical brother at all.

                      Rather than being responsible and accounting for the interpretation you accept, given its difficulties of not reflecting Paul’s usage, you are once again shifting the burden. You take full advantage of the skirts of the status quo to protect you. You can’t always go running home to mother church interpretation in order to avoid doing your job. That would put you at no higher standard than the people you pillory.

                      [Rider: take all rhetoric as stimulated by the context, nothing more. Claims of hostility and animosity are just more rhetoric.]

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      If you do not think that the Lord referred to was either Jesus or God, then by all means propose an alternative. But just saying “It could be metaphorical” without discussing parallels or the details of the construction is mere clutching and straws. Just because “father of” is found in reference to God and used non-literally does not mean that wherever one encounters that phrase one is justified in seeing the meaning as non-literal. A case has to be made. And presumably your unwillingness to make the case for your view reflects your knowledge on some level that your vague and unsubstantiated interpretation has little to be said for it.

                    • spin

                      If you do not think that the Lord referred to was either Jesus or God, then by all means propose an alternative.

                      I’ll put this down as a lapse in concentration. I have already indicated that Paul certainly used κυριος for god, so there are few alternatives available as to its use in “the brother of the lord”, one being god, which I in fact proposed as the candidate you need to deal with, as you cannot just assume κυριος implies “Jesus”.

                      This is where you continue to forget that Paul uses “brother” not to refer to a familial relationship, but as a fellow believer. This points to a second term in the space of four words that you need to establish meaning for (the other two being articles), so you have no apparent basis from which to assert your interpretation.

                      I have tried to help you by suggesting a reasonable reading for the phrase using the most likely Pauline usage, “the brother [=fellow believer] of the lord [=god]“. That reading is, a believer with esteem in the community. (As “son of god” shows, we can ignore attempts to over-literalize.) But I’m not putting this suggestion forward so you can change the topic away from the need for you to support your interpretation, but merely to show that adhering to Paul’s usage allows at least a reasonable possible significance, usage that you continue not to consider.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I have not forgotten Paul’s metaphorical usage of brother, which you must know, since I have made reference to it. What you have forgotten, even though I have addressed it on this blog in the past, is that “brother of” and “brother in” are not straightforward equivalents. To suggest that people are fellow believers in submission to their Lord is one thing. To suggest that someone has a relationship of brother, of equality or near-equality of status, to God is something else entirely.

                      The historian, in studying texts, has to place them within the framework and against the background of the cultural and religious matrix that they are a part of.

                    • spin

                      As I’ve already explained, unless you can show where Paul uses “brothers in [christ|the lord]“, it’s of no relevance. Do you have anything that actually relates to Pauline usage? Incidentally, when Paul calls Titus (1 Cor 2:13) “my brother”, that is actually “the brother of me” (τον αδελφον μου), he isn’t referring to a literal brother, is he? So Paul fucnctionally does use “brother of” contrary to your claim.

                    • Herro

                      That would be *2* Cor 2:13

                    • spin

                      Yes, that’s right, 2 Cor 2:13. Thanks.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      You seem not to be grasping the point. Even metaphors have meaning. To claim that one has a bond akin to being brothers with people who are not literal brothers has a meaning. You seem not to grasp what the connotations would be of claiming the status of brother of God, in the context of Jewish emphasis on there being one God who is without equal, an emphasis which Paul himself affirms.

                    • spin

                      So we forget about the claim about “brother in christ” and go back to attempts at literalizing “brother of god”. How do you literalize “son of perdition”? Is there a bond like that of son and father? What about the other name proposed for Benjamin (Gen 35:18), “son of sorrow” (υιος οδυνης)? I think you are still trying to be prescriptive about language.

                      Let’s go over your problems once again.

                      1) You have no reason to believe that “brother” means anything other than “believer”.

                      2) You have no reason to believe “the lord” must be Jesus.

                      3) You have no explanation as to why Paul didn’t say what you wanted him to, ie “the brother in the flesh of Jesus”.

                      This is supposedly one of your silver bullets for historicity and it rests solely on a tendentious interpretation of a phrase. There is no history here.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      The “son of” idiom is well known in Aramaic and other Semitic languages as a category descriptor. “Son of perdition” as one in the category of perdition, “son of man” as human being, “son of God” as divine being, and so on.

                      Are you suggesting that if an idiom exists of this sort, then one can swap words in and out and the meaning does not change? That would be like saying that just because you can throw a party in English, “fling a party” means the same thing. And fling is closer to throw than brother is to son. You’ll note that “brother of perdition” and “brother of man” and “brother of God” are not found as equivalent idioms to the ones you mentioned. What makes you think that “brother of the Lord” is simply equivalent to these sorts of idioms? Is it something other than a very strong desire to avoid the text meaning what it does more naturally?

                      You seem to think that if a word can be used metaphorically in some instances, then it is safe to assume that it is metaphorical in all instances regardless of idiom, linguistic context, and other relevant considerations, unless the speaker strenuously emphasizes that they are speaking literally. But that is self-evidently not the case, whether in ancient languages or modern ones.

                    • spin

                      What makes you think that “brother of the Lord” is simply equivalent to these sorts of idioms?

                      I didn’t say it was. I said that there is no reason to assume it is literal, as these other examples show.

                      The “son of” idiom

                      Hell, let’s have a “father of” idiom as well. Jn 8:44 strongly suggests “father of lies”, Eph 1:17 talks of “father of glory” and James 1:17 “father of lights”. And what about “king of terrors” (Job 18:14) or “king of glory” (Ps 24:7)? Non-literal phrases were not restricted, though “son”, “father” and “king” were used much more frequently than “brother”, that non-literal phrases could not be spawned from it is ultimately just an argument from silence.

                      “son of God” as divine being

                      You’re trying too hard to be prescriptive. “son of god” does not need to be a divine being. All Jews are sons of god and see also Mt 9:5 (“blessed are the cheesemakers”) & Gal 3:26. Sons of god can be those who have god’s approval, just as James the brother of the lord may have had god’s approval.

                      But the situation is actually worse for you though, for when Paul wants to indicate physical relations he generally adds the phrase “in the flesh”, as in the following:

                      Romans 1:3
                      the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh

                      Romans 4:1
                      What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh?

                      Romans 9:3
                      For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own brothers, my kindred according to the flesh.

                      Paul is related to the Jews according to the flesh and to Abraham according to the flesh. He stresses the physical nature of the relationship here.

                      You seem to think that if a word can be used metaphorically in some instances, then it is safe to assume that it is metaphorical in all instances regardless of idiom, linguistic context, and other relevant considerations, unless the speaker strenuously emphasizes that they are speaking literally.

                      No I don’t assume that at all. I assume that you need to demonstrate why you think your interpretation is necessary. Nothing to shed the implication that “brother” is not a physical relationship. “Brother in” ploy failed. “Brother of” ploy failed. No reason to think “the lord” must be Jesus and no explanation for why Paul didn’t say what you think he must have meant. Your determination here that it must be so is dogged, but underwhelming.

                    • spin

                      I take it that you have forgotten about your attempt to show how your interpretation of “the brother of the lord” somehow reflects Pauline usage. I’m sure, as your claim about it is potentially historically significant, that you can eventually defend your interpretation as being Pauline, rather than manipulating Paul to force later church ideas.

              • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                In my hypothetical, Fred thought that the heavenly being had once been a man who walked the earth, the only difference being that Fred didn’t think that anyone he knew had encountered the heavenly being as a man. I don’t see how this would make Fred less likely to speak of the heavenly being’s coming in the past tense. Moreover, the fact that Fred was in agreement with others (or thought he was in agreement with others) about the meaning of the visions wouldn’t seem to me to depend on whether or not Fred or the others had known the heavenly being when he was a man.

                You said above “that suggesting that Paul got all his knowledge about Christianity from dreams and visions doesn’t seem to fit the evidence.” However, Paul only claims scripture and revelation as the sources of his knowledge, and I see little if anything in his letters that would seem to require any other source. It is perfectly reasonable to suppose that Paul learned things about Christianity from others, but I don’t see anything in his letters about which I would say “I would never expect Paul to have written that unless he had learned it from people who had known Jesus of Nazareth personally prior to his crucifixion and exaltation as the Risen Christ.”


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