Embarrassment, Muhammad, and Jesus

Embarrassment, Muhammad, and Jesus April 28, 2013

Loren Rosson has an interesting blog post on the use of the criterion of embarrassment in a discussion of the historical existence of Muhammad. For those interested in the application of such a criterion to the historical figure of Jesus (as many readers of this blog are), this post will be of great interest!

Of related interest, F. E. Peters uses some of the classic criteria in his book about Jesus and Muhammad. And there is a book about the earliest non-Muslim sources that mention Muhammad and Islam, which I am trying to remember the name of…

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  • Nick Gotts

    That’s an interesting post you link to. After reading E.P. Sanders on your recommendation, I commented on an earlier post here that I thought Sanders underestimated the likelihood of “retrodiction”, giving as example the presentation of Jesus as thinking he had special authority to speak for God. I didn’t use the example of Jesus’s reported expectation of the imminent arrival of God’s kingdom, but that one did also occur to me. Here’s Rosson:

    For Mark, those who died before seeing the kingdom come in power are the
    disciples who missed the transfiguration (and also, per Stephen
    Carlson, those who fled the crucifixion unlike the women). But the
    gospels show embarrassment only because they were written after the
    death of all first-generation followers. The saying wouldn’t have been
    embarrassing, say, in the mid-50s, during the first-generation church. [So it could have been invented then.]

    On Muhammed’s existence

  • Nick Gotts
  • Nick Gotts

    I’m not sure why I’m now appearing as “ngotts” not “Nick Gotts”. Anyhow, as far as I know, I’m the same person!

  • Steven Carr

    I see.
    So not only do New Testament scholars use the criterion of embarrassment, but so do Christian apologists like David Wood.

    I had no idea this criterion was so widespread in its use.

    • Even mythicists quote scholarship or make selective use of scholarly tools when it suits them, so no surprises there.

      With Muhammad as with Jesus, it would be better to just focus on what historians say, and how they work. But unfortunately it seems that in the examples of both Jesus and Muhammad, there are apologists for and against who are mirror images of one another, and exact parallels to one another across the interest in the two figures.

      • Steven Carr

        ‘Even mythicists quote scholarship or make selective use of scholarly tools when it suits them’

        What McGrath means is that Doherty, Wells, Carrier etc quote scholars who disagree with them and explain why they do not find those arguments persuasive.

        Meanwhile, McGrath says that it is not only New Testament scholars who use the criterion of embarrassment, look, other people do, and quite forgets somehow to inform his readers that his ‘other people who use the criterion of embarrassment’ turned out to be a Christian apologist.

        • This illustrates well why Steven Carr is considered a troll. Only someone who didn’t read Loren’s post would fail to understand what I linked to or to know what Loren asked at the end. And since mythicists are apologists rather than scholars, who take what they wish from scholars and then reject their conclusions, to make this an objection is not only bizarre but hypocritical.

    • Already posted this on Loren’s blog, but I’ve also heard the criterion used by a historian discussing the story of Romulus and Remus (arguing for an early date rather than historicity), and to support the authenticity of the Gododdin, so it’s not unique to Jesus scholars.

      • arcseconds

        How does the argument about Romulus and Remus work?

        • If I recall correctly, a couple of academics were discussing the story of Romulus and Remus and how ancient the myth was, specifically whether it was invented by the Romans or was an older myth that the Romans adopted.

          One of the contributors argued that the Romans were unlikely to have invented a foundation myth that’s about division and fratricide, so (he argues) it’s more likely that the Romans were adopting an older myth. Seemed like a clear use of the criterion to me.

          It’s from this radio show: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01q02t7

          • arcseconds

            Thanks 🙂

  • submitter

    The question that most of us ask now, arose before during the time of Muhammad s.a.w; preaching the words of God onto Arabia. Was Muhammad mentioned? This was the question by inhabitants of Arabia towards Jews that embraced Islam. And if we refer to the claim by past Jewish converts, they had quote verses from Isaiah 42.

    And if we look at the passages in Isaiah. God address His chosen servants with their names, and in the prophesied verse we see God mention clearly the prophet’s name. Some examples of God mentioning His servant by name.

    (My Servant Isaiah, My Servant Eliakim, David My Servant, Jacob My Servant, My Servant Israel, and so in Isaiah 42:1 , God specifically mention My Servant Ahmad)

    In Isaiah 42:1, it is deemed not a coincidence upon seeing the writing of both אתמך (Atmc) אחמד (Ahmd). And the word before אתמך (Atmc), is עבדי (Abedi~My Servant). For indeed, it is indicating Ahmad; Abedallah (Ahmad; Servant of God).

    Not to mention אתמך (Atmc) happen to be a special term foretelling the coming of a righteous man and is used only ONCE throughout the entire Book. [could this be a copying error or an intended error?]

    The prophecy tells about Ahmad; ‘Servant of God’ whom will war to correct the wrongs and bringing judgement based on the law of God. He will liberate act of worshiping molten images and thus Arabia (wilderness desert, villages and cities) will glorify God since then. As can be seen today, inhabitants of Arabia are worshiping,praising God and singing words of God daily. And inhabitants from all around the world gather there and voice out aloud their praise to God.

    And we continue reading Isaiah 42:18 – 25; God remind the ‘blind and deaf’ about the wrath of God towards Children of Israel, who neglect the message brought by past Servant of God.

    And not to repeat; the same mistake upon the coming of the new Servant of God