The Testimonia Flaviana at the Midwest SBL

The Testimonia Flaviana at the Midwest SBL July 19, 2017

I made it to just a tiny bit of the Midwest Society of Biblical Literature conference this year in February. I was scheduled to participate in a panel review of Urban von Wahlde’s book, Gnosticism, Docetism, and the Judaisms of the First Century, my contribution to which I shared here on the day I also shared it at the conference. However, since I wasn’t going to be there for the entire conference, I didn’t look closely at the schedule. And so I almost missed an opportunity to hear Richard Carrier speak. What he had to say wasn’t at all engaging – you can read his views on his blog, and they amount to him saying that you can’t cite work done before 2014, because things have been written which he selectively agrees with that challenge some of those earlier conclusions. You can read his thoughts on his blog.

However, in the same session, there was a really excellent paper by Mike Zeddies, exploring the possibility that the Slavonic version of Josephus, with its extended Testimonium Flavianum and other related material, might incorporate a lost early Christian pseudo-Josephan or Hegesippan work.

The placement of the two side by side illustrated well a number of points. One is that there is most certainly room for amateur and independent scholars at conferences and in other aspects of academic discussion and endeavors. Another is to highlight that the mythicist approach is negative and obscurantist. Carrier largely insisted on not doing certain things, while Zeddies offered a positive hypothesis the potential promise of which was easily recognizable, even exciting.

And so I mention this because I do want to encourage independent scholars – even including mythicists – to participate in scholarly conversations. Just recognize when you are failing to make a case for anything positive, but merely insisting that others are wrong while not offering something better that can be put in the place of what they currently think.

Here are a few other things of interest from other blogs which are related to this post:

The Ancient Jewish Historian Josephus on John the Baptizer, Jesus, and James

Words, Words, Words: A response to Richard Carrier on Feldman and Eusebius

See also Ken Schenck’s post with what he shared there about his views on Hebrews.

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  • Matt Cavanaugh

    Richard Carrier is to a biblical literature conference as the Washington Generals are to the Harlem Globetrotters.

    • John MacDonald

      Carrier is also an unparalleled Master of Greek. Regarding current translations of the Bible, Carrier says:

      “No translation of the Bible is generally superior than the others. They all suck. They all deceive. And they’ll all mislead you. They differ only as to where and on what points. Sadly, that means the only way to really access what the Bible says, is to read it in the original language (and sometimes not even that; as the texts are corrupted).” see

      Along this line, Carrier commented in an earlier post about learning New Testament Greek in a course he was giving that:

      “You’ll even learn how to understand a lot about the New Testament in the original Greek, without having to learn Greek! Ever want to know how to test the merits of an English translation? Well this is the course for you!” see

      Imagine, becoming an expert in Biblical Greek without ever having to learn Greek! lol

      • Matt Cavanaugh

        He wants his Kate and Edith, too.