The Work of Thomas Brodie

The Work of Thomas Brodie July 16, 2013

In several recent posts at Vridar, the blog has been focusing a lot of attention on Thomas Brodie’s work.

One can find there all the tactics one will expect if one is familiar with mythicism. For instance, they bring up Geza Vermes’ suggestion that the reference to Jesus as a carpenter in the Gospels could reflect a misunderstanding of a rabbinic technical term for a learned individual. They ignore the question of whether that suggestion has been found persuasive (including, in more recent publications by Vermes himself). But more importantly, they seem oblivious to the fact that Vermes’ proposal fits perfectly within his approach to Jesus as a historical figure. To suggest that that somehow justifies Brodie’s very different proposal regarding Paul’s status as tentmaker is not at all persuasive. I can only assume that the hope is that by mentioning reputable scholars, much as creationists do, they hope that no one will notice that they are mining those scholars for quotes in order to make a case that none of those scholars would find credible

Jonathan Burke has posted a long response to Tim Widdowfield’s post about my review of Brodie’s book. In it he focuses in some detail on the appeal to Vermes, as well as rightly indicating that I think that Brodie’s work is absolutely fascinating when it deals with echoes that are clearly in a text. It is insisting that there must always be a prior text from which a New Testament one derives, no matter how slim the evidence for a connection, that is the problem.

At Vridar, one will find an increasingly detailed presentation of Brodie’s claims and arguments, but without any sort of depth of analysis. Does the latching onto occasional related words in two texts really provide a method for determining literary dependence? Are all stories in the later of the two texts explicable in such terms? Are there any stories which are historical which contain similar degrees of correspondence? Such questions are thus far not addressed.

In a nutshell, one can compare Brodie’s work to the proposals we have seen on a couple of occasions that the entire Greek New Testament is translated from Aramaic. In some instances, there is indeed a strong case to be made for an Aramaic original for some words or a sentence. Where things go wrong is when that insight, which makes excellent sense of some pieces of the evidence, is then forced onto the whole, even when it does not fit.

In the same way, Brodie insightfully detects some places where a passage in the New Testament probably was directly inspired by or retelling an earlier story from the Jewish Scriptures. Where it goes wrong is where this is insisted upon as being the case everywhere, even in the very many places where the connections are slim and/or tangential.

And of course, relating Jesus to earlier Scripture is something that we know the early Jesus movement did, just as Paul related his own sense of calling to earlier Scripture. Religious people sometimes do the same thing today. To suggest that any time Scripture is echoed, history must be absent, is simply not persuasive. There is far too much clear evidence to the contrary.

And of course, this is characteristic of mythicism in general. It takes the clear historical evidence that some things in the Gospels were invented, and insists that therefore they all must have been, even when the evidence suggests otherwise.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, Joel Watts tries to explain to the folks at Vridar that you can appreciate a scholar’s work without finding everything they conclude persuasive.

Of related interest, see Paul Regnier on a recent book by Tom Holland, discussing and comparing the historical evidence for Muhammad and Jesus; and Ben Stanhope’s criticisms of Ray Hagins’ mythicist claims.


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