Saturday, January 10, 2009

Amherst Conference

In my previous blog about The Jesus Project I promised a two-parter, the first on the Project in general, the next on December's conference specifically (it's been more than a week, I know, but a lot's being going on of late). This time my remarks will be rather long, as quite a lot went on, spanning the whole weekend. But all this was newsworthy, IMO.

In general the conference revealed some cutting edge stuff in the works. Later this year or the next, Prometheus Books will publish the conference papers (or rather, improved and lengthened versions of them, e.g. my chapter in that book will be rather different from my actual talk, which was largely off-the-cuff, but most of the content will be the same). That should appear as Sources of the Jesus Tradition: An Inquiry, the same title as the conference. I'll blog that when it's released. There was also a video made of the proceedings, but their sound capture was so inconsistent I suspect little of that will be produced for the public.

A note of warning and apology before I begin. My remarks below are largely based on subjective personal impressions. They are my own opinions, the way things seemed to me. So when I get critical, for example, I'm just telling it as I saw it. I believe in the role of historians as the rewarders and punishers of the good and the bad with their condemnations and praise, since nothing will get better if failings are never openly criticized, and it's with praise that we inspire more of the best. So if I piss anyone off, sorry.


Preliminaries

The opening day (Friday, December 5th) we were shown a video from a previous conference by CSER in which John Dominic Crossan received an award and gave an acceptance speech in which he asked that a future conference be organized to answer the question of how you would prove any person in history actually existed. And he connected this specifically to Jesus studies, asking us to establish what method would determine a historical person really existed, like Jesus. The skepticism inherent in his remarks, and his attention to the need of actually answering this question in a formal and resolute way, came as a surprise to me (and I think to many others present). T
hough he didn't attend, this conference was a preliminary attempt to answer Crosson's request.

Then came an introductory panel talk in which Paul Kurtz delivered a rambling, over
long, and frequently inaccurate keynote speech. This was something of a disaster, but a rare one of the weekend. I know it's impolitic to speak ill of the Grand Lord of Humanism (legend has it his wrath is reminiscent of Ruper Murdoch on a bad day), but I'm a suicidally honest man, and I honestly have to say there was no reason for this speech other than to please the Kurtz fans in the audience. Since that's where the money comes from, I suppose this was a practical tactic, though that's generally not how scholarly conferences are oriented.

Kurtz's speech was so full of historically naive or inaccurate statements that it seems to have embarrassed some of the scholars. I got the impression some were growing concerned over what they'd gotten into. We were all sitting roughly near each other, and I at the back of our group, and I could discern a lot from monitoring my colleague's reactions and overhearing some of their exchanges. I also discussed it with some of them later on. Unfortunately I didn't take notes, so I can't recall specifics. If I ever review the video again I'm sure I can make a list. But I distinctly recall numerous whispers in the audience of such actual words as "embarrassing" and "long-winded," and some of the experts were literally shaking their heads and muttering "no" to various claims he was making about their subject field. Not good.

Kurtz is not a historian of antiquity or biblical literature, so he really shouldn't have delivered the keynote anyway. True, I'll grant you, Kurtz's speech was called "Opening Remarks" rather than "Keynote Address," but a rose by any other name... Keynotes are traditionally delivered by a prestigious scholar who is thus honored by being assigned that role for the respect he or she has among the conference peers (not the audience, the speakers). So one of the most prestigious of the scholars invited would have been a better candidate, or the organizer R.J. Hoffman himself, who was far more qualified for this role (and whose own speech at this point I think rescued the day and restored the faith of the scholars attending).

In fact, as best I can tell, most if not all the scholars there were impressed by Hoffmann, as both a scholar and a moderator, and were very happy to see him in charge of the project. His opening was on "Jesus 'Projects' and the Historical Jesus: Receding Conclusions," which made the entirely sound point that Jesus is getting more vague, ambiguous, and uncertain the more scholars study him, rather than the other way around. Something is fishy about that. We are multiplying contradictory images, rather than narrowing them down and increasing clarity (or solidifying our state of uncertainty or ignorance). As Hoffmann said, all these versions of Jesus seem entirely plausible, and yet most of them must be false (logically, after all--only one of them can actually be accurate, and that at best). Which means even such an indicator as compelling plausibility cannot be regarded as a marker of truth. (I would add that this is as much true for mythicism as historicism.)

Altogether the opening included Hoffmann, Robert Price, and Gerd Lüdemann, each giving some preliminary remarks. Everyone respects
Lüdemann, and I could tell many were glad he was there. And though most of the scholars I found were unhappy with Price, finding him a bit of a kook, I found him funny and erudite and generally right. None of his more controversial claims were on display here, even if his delivery was perceived as flippant or snide. But then again, there's no pleasing everyone (as I found in reaction to our very different styles in the Carrier/Barker-Rajabali/Corey debate).


Session 1: Evidence & Methods

After some additional preliminaries, Saturday (the 6th) began with Ronald Lindsay's "Assessing the Evidence: Philosophical and Legal Perspectives." Lindsay is a lawyer and legal scholar, and fully conceded he wasn't going to tell us historians our business, but only pose us some questions. And he did. He provided a valid logical analysis of the problem of historicity, correctly framing the sorts of questions we need to be answering, such as what counts as evidence, what evidence can we trust (illustrating the problem here with parallels from the Federal Rules of Evidence), or what it even means to say that Jesus existed (Jesus who? What sort of Jesus? How much detail is necessary to count as the Jesus? Which details? Etc. He used the apt analogies of Agamemnon and Moses here).

His talk really sold me on the idea of including philosophers and other academics in the Project, not to act as historians, but to help raise and frame issues in a way historians need but often overlook. For example, Lindsay pointed out that sometimes stories are fabricated not to advocate a dogma but simply because people like to hear them. Of course, that's a related motive, since there must be a reason they like it, and that would be the point of fabricating the story, but his point was that there is a tendency to assume that if a story didn't support any particular religious dogma that therefore it's likely true, but that doesn't logically follow. He likewise expressed dismay at the fact that there was still no consensus yet on what the Gospels were even meant to communicate. He also used Plato's dialogues as an example of the rapid fabrication of sayings and conversations of a historical person (it is generally acknowledged that these are not a verbatim record, and often not even true at all, of what Socrates said), proving two points in one: that rapid fabrication of unchallenged legends is not improbable but in fact routine, and that such fabrication does not entail the non-historicity of the speaker.

So we were off to a good start. Frank Zindler was next, with his "Prologomena to a Science of Christian Origins." Zindler is somewhat infamous for excessive skepticism (such as doubting even the historical existence of Capernaum) while ironically advancing astrological theories of a mythical Jesus that strain plausibility, and that despite having no relevant degrees (that I know of), but he's a member of the Jesus Seminar, and a bona fide master of biblical languages, and (literally) a scientist, which was the real impetus for his topic today (just as legal logic was for Lindsay). Some of his remarks were a bit too provocative and may have worried some of the presenters, but most of what he had to say was entirely sound and valid.

His topic was methodological. He decried the sorry state of NTS or New Testament Studies (along lines surprisingly similar to my recent blog on the same subject, although using different and more generic examples), and then made actual recommendations on how to fix it. Mainly, this involved a call for producing more rigorous and user-friendly databases of the evidence and scholarship, so it would be easier to examine the evidence and discover what's actually been done (this is notably a deplorable problem in the field, as far more has been published than anyone even knows, and by "far more" I'm talking about a scale truly beyond belief). Though all his recommendations were sound, IMO they were beyond any available means to accomplish (as the cost to implement them would be prohibitive, even for the wealthiest institutions even willing to spend money on NTS in the first place). He rightly noted that comparable projects are routinely accomplished in the sciences (using Chemical Abstracts as an example), but the scale of funding available for the sciences is Olympian by comparison. Nevertheless, his point was well made. The absence of such a resource does expose some major root sources of problems in the field, which we must address somehow, even if we can't solve them in the way he proposes.

Last in this session was me, Richard Carrier. My talk was on "Bayes' Theorem for Beginners: Formal Logic and Its Relevance to Historical Method." My remarks on this subject were based on and drew from (and were expanded in) an online adjunct document that is available online (as a multi-section PDF, Adjunct Materials and Tutorial, which includes the handout I gave to the audience and an improved version of the tutorial I gave during lunch--which a lot of people surprisingly attended). The chapter that will appear in the upcoming Prometheus book on the conference will be a superior combination of that and what I said in the conference.

The gist of my paper came in two parts, which were both well received: (1) that the method currently employed (of building and using historicity criteria) is fatally flawed (both in logic and in practice) to the point of bankruptcy, and has to be replaced (a conclusion that is not my own, but is already the rising view in the community, particularly demonstrated of late in the works of Porter, Theissen, and Winter); and (2) that the only available solution to this problem lies in Bayes' Theorem (which I argued represents all sound historical reasoning even when we don't know it, then I described the structure and logic of the theorem in a manner pertinent to historians, and addressed a few common objections to it). Though I think much of the material on Bayes' Theorem went over the heads of most, and of course I couldn't convince anyone in such a short talk that this is the way to go, it was a necessary first step, and something I can build on (as indicated by the interest and response I received).


Session 2: Paul, Mythologies, and the 'Evidence' of Earliest Christianity

After lunch Saturday we started again with Gerd Lüdemann's rather brilliant paper on "Paul as a Witness to the Historical Jesus." I say brilliant because it was surprisingly brief and succint, yet thorough, persuasive, and spot on. (For those who don't know, Dr. Lüdemann is a widely respected professor of New Testament Studies at Georg-August-University, Göttingen, with a considerable body of books and papers, and who was famously fired from an earlier professorship for no longer believing in Jesus, cf.
resources at the Secular Web). Lüdemann was actually startled by the conclusion of his research on this subject, which is that Paul's epistles show no knowledge of a historical Jesus beyond a few generic and stylized declarations of dogma.

To be precise, he concludes there is no reliable evidence regarding the historical Jesus in Paul's letters.
Lüdemann stops well short of concluding they don't support his existence. He devoted some time to arguing that some evidence in the epistles shows Paul knew of such a person, he just didn't know anything about him that we would consider useful. Instead, Lüdemann finds, Paul's Jesus was clearly not based on the earthly Jesus at all (even if there was one) but the celestial Jesus that Paul in fact talks about constantly.

Though Lüdemann is still defending historicity, his findings were self-confessedly cold comfort to historicists, which is a trend I'm seeing of late. Dennis MacDonald, for instance, once acknowledged (or so I'm told) that most if not all the names of persons intimately connected to Jesus in the Gospels may be mytho-symbolic creations, and (as he more or less said at the conference) that the Gospels as a whole are essentially literary inventions rather than histories, yet he stops short of concluding from this that Jesus didn't exist, and even defends historicity by various arguments. But you can see what direction this trend is heading. Despite the efforts of Christian apologists like Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd to reverse this trend (e.g. in the anti-mythical The Jesus Legend), their arguments are heaped with special pleading and question begging, while mainstream scholars seem to be moving the other way.

Philippa Carter of MacMaster University in Canada was due to present "In Good Faith: What Have They Done with Paul?" but she couldn't make the conference. Hector Avalos, the famously pugnacious professor of religious studies at Iowa State University, was also due to present "Jesus and the 'End' of Biblical Studies" the following day, but a sudden family emergency kept him home as well. I was especially keen to meet him, as I had just looked over his recent and provocative The End of Biblical Studies, and discovered it's a hyperbolic but often correct rant on what a total cockup New (and Old) Testament Studies has become (coincidentally corroborating, in broader scope, what I had earlier reported in my research on Ignatius), and because he's done work in ancient science, my principal field. However, I don't know whether their papers will be included in the book, and I don't know what they were going to argue.

But in lieu of what we lost came Justin Meggitt's outstanding "Popular Mythology in the Early Empire and the Multiplicity of Jesus Traditions." Meggitt is a director of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Cambridge and clearly well versed in classical history and literature (he is also one the growing crowd of experts who are recently coming to doubt and reject the Q hypothesis). His published paper is going to be an absolute goldmine of resources and data on the comparative evidence of the ubiquity and rapidity of mythmaking in ancient Greco-Roman culture generally. Which makes for simple math: having showed that this was routine in the culture that produced the New Testament, we can no longer treat the New Testament as if it were somehow special or immune to the general trends and behaviors of the time. He concludes "we should expect mythmaking at [even] the earliest stage of the tradition."


Session 3: The Sayings of Jesus

Everything was so awesome up to this point. But then up went Robert Eisenman (formerly of CSU Long Beach, now working at Oxford). He's the author of quite a few controversial books, advancing a theory of the origins of Christianity that I consider as far-fetched and bizarre as most historicists consider any mythicism to be. His talk this day was weirdly titled "Every Plant Which My Heavenly Father Has Not Planted Shall Be Uprooted: An Inquiry into the Sources of Certain Sayings of Jesus," which as far as titles go was presciently long, as his talk was equally annoying, and he rambled on far beyond his allotted time, to the point that fellow scholars in the audience started standing up and openly shouting for him to shut up already (no, I kid you not).

I have to admit, if I had the balls I would have been one of them. At one point in his talk, for no clear reason, he read (verbatim) the entire (and rather elaborate and uninformative) table of contents of his new book The New Testament Code: The Cup of the Lord, the Damascus Covenant, and the Blood of Christ, which advances the thesis (as far as I can tell--I found the book so rambling and disorganized it was practically impossible for me to follow or understand) that the entire New Testament is a deliberate parody of an equivalent collection of documents at Qumran (plus various consequent theories even stranger still). He even read the entire Dead Sea Damascus Document without pause or commentary (hence also to no useful purpose). Making things worse, in subsequent roundtables his interruptive and paranoid manner pretty much pissed off everyone in attendance, until he eventually snuck out of town in the middle of the night before the conference even concluded.

Okay, I'm gossipping. But honestly, this is behavior well deserving of a literary bitch slap. So there it is. His talk was essentially a summary of his argument in The New Testament Code, with emphasis on his claims to have found secrets to the history of the church in the writings of Josephus, whom he claims actually speaks frequently of the Chrisian Paul under the name Saul (a prominent Jewish ambassador whom Josephus often talks about), and other such claims that IMO are no less fringe than anything you might hear from Earl Doherty or Joseph Atwill. I got the distinct impression (reminiscent of Acts 26:24) that he's become passionately seduced by an elaborate retrofitting fallacy as a consequence of reading the Dead Sea Scrolls one (hundred thousand) too many times. But that's just me. Moving on.

Next up was Dennis MacDonald, a professor at Claremont School of Theology, whose work on the emulation of Homer in the Gospels I've long admired (see my old review of his first book on this subject). His theory of Homeric emulation is certainly correct as a whole, although I think he over-interprets many cases, where there probably was no intended connection. I find emulation of the Septuagint in the Gospels is far more extensive and fundamental, extending even to their overall structure, and the Homeric link only a secondary addition padded on. Now I learn MacDonald is heading in that direction, too. In fact, his conference paper was an enormous surprise to me, and brilliant, heralding a book he is currently writing (and shared excerpts of before the conference began, and summarized in his talk), which solves the Synoptic problem in a way that is not only entirely novel, but IMO most probably correct. 


[Update: After further inquiry, having now read MacDonald's book on it (Two Shipwrecked Gospels) and further on the Q thesis, I am no longer persuaded, but I will agree his is the second best theory of the contents of the Synoptics. The best is simply that Luke is redacting Matthew. Which I think we should just accept already.]

After reading recent work criticizing the traditional Q theory (e.g. Goodacre's The Case Against Q and Goodacre & Perrin's Questioning Q) I was starting to despair that we'd ever have a coherent and defensible theory of the relationship of Mark, Matthew, and Luke and their lost sources (and once again starting to realize that New Testament scholars love to parrot a consensus built on sand as if it were settled on rock). Then along comes MacDonald and his new thesis, completely departing from his focus on Homer, and tackling the Synoptic problem, and yet nailing it in a way I didn't expect anyone could. I'm not sure everyone was convinced, but I'm also not sure they read through all the materials he had circulated.

In a nutshell, he argues that Luke used as his sources the Gospels of Mark and Matthew (as Q-deniers have long maintained), as well as the Dominical Logia referred to by Papias, and that in fact this Dominical Logia was used as a source by all three Synoptic Gospels, Mark included, and in effect represents the original (and now lost) Gospel of Jesus (as I would put it). The clincher for me is the fact that a surprising effect arises from the reconstruction that follows from his theory: the Dominical Logia appears to be a mythical emulation and transvaluation of the Septuagint book of Deuteronomy. As this fit is highly improbable unless MacDonald's reconstruction is correct, I think MacDonald is going to win this argument in the long run.

Another thing MacDonald argues (in fact, IMO, even more convincingly) is that Luke-Acts was written after Papias and is in fact a deliberate response to Papias and the Gospel situation he described and lamented. His demonstration of this fact is fairly persuasive (e.g. Luke's preface is so obviously an emulation and transvaluation of Papias' remarks that it's a Eureka moment when you see it). MacDonald dates Papias early, however, c. 100 A.D., but this still puts Luke-Acts 105-115 A.D. (which actually agrees with the recent trend in Luke-Acts studies, e.g. the latest work of Richard Pervo and David Trobisch, below). I'm skeptical of his date for Papias, however, since it's based solely on the tense of a single verb implying he knew living Disciples of Jesus (but that interpretation is not so secure, IMO, nor is Papias reliable enough to trust on such a point) and contradicts the report in Irenaeus that Polycarp and Papias were good friends (since Polycarp is mid-to-late second century).

Nevertheless, his take on these things will be argued (with thorough scholarship and clear reasoning) in his next book, so keep your eye out for it. That will also contain a reconstruction of the lost Dominical Logia, which I expect will eventually replace what we now mean by Q. Throughout the conference MacDonald emphasized that his work and others' essentially entail the Gospels should be entirely taken off the table when attempting to get at the historical Jesus, as they are not at all useful for any historical data (almost the same conclusion reached by Burton Mack, Randel Helms, and many other mainstream scholars of recent times). In MacDonald's view, we can only extract from the Gospels what their contents meant to their authors (their underlying meaning, and purpose for being written), and he recommends this is all we can do, and thus all we should do. I partly disagree, as there is still work to be done first (as I'll explain below), but I think in the end he's right.

Last in this session was Bruce Chilton, professor of Religion at Bard College, and an expert in Judaism (author of Rabbi Jesus, for example, presenting the historical Jesus as an ordinary Jewish activist and not the radical counter-cultural Jew Christians want him to have been). His talk, on "Aramaic Jesus Traditions: Evidence and Reconstruction," consisted of announcing and describing the new online Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon and his recent work on the Jewish Targumic literature which reveal Jewish precedents (in sayings and prophecies) for many of the sayings and acts of Jesus, which are too often overlooked because scholars focus on the modern critical editions instead of the many rewrites of the bible that actually circulated in antiquity (and thus would have been used by actual Christians). His find of a Targumic source for the cleansing of the Temple was an interesting example. He also combined the two subjects by discussing how both can be used to reconstruct the original Aramaic of Jesus' teachings (but admittedly only speculatively).


Session 4: The Formation of Jesus Traditions

The last session of the day started with James Tabor's "Leaving the Bones Behind: A Resurrected Jesus Tradition with an Intact Tomb" (emphasis his). Tabor is chair of the department of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and perhaps most infamous for his support of the conclusion that the Talpiot Tomb is genuinely that of Jesus (in truth he only maintains that it could be, but he seems convinced, probably because it dovetails so neatly with his own bold theory about Jesus' family in The Jesus Dynasty), among other things (and he and I have tustled over that in the past). But he's well-qualified, and his paper at the conference was revealing and well-argued.

As the title suggests, he claims to have found evidence of a resurrection-appearance tradition for Jesus that never included the discovery of an empty tomb (and in such a way that suggests the original version of the appearance stories preceded the addition of the empty tomb element). Though the best evidence he would need to confirm this is lost, so his theory is not conclusive, the evidence he has is tantalizing enough to consider his conclusion an undismissable possibility. Basically, the second appearance narrative in the Gospel of Peter (GPet 14) contains elements clearly supporting the conclusion that it derives from a tradition that had no knowledge of an empty tomb, and the second ending of John (GJn 21) appears to derive from that same tradition, i.e. both indicate differing redactions of the same earlier story. The most telltale element (clearest in GPet) is that in both versions the Disciples have gone back to their workaday lives in Galilee as if defeated, with no apparent idea that Jesus has risen from the dead or that anything miraculous had happened yet at all (which entails there had been no report to them of an empty tomb--and I would add: the original ending of Mark, GMk 16:8, does in fact imply that was the case).

To my surprise, Tabor also spent some time defending my two-body theory of the resurrection, as being the view of Paul and the earliest Christians, without in fact knowing I had defended that very theory (and quite comprehensively, in The Empty Tomb, and more briefly in a recently-concluded debate with Jake O'Connell). This inspired me to ask around and I found none of the scholars present seemed to find this theory untenable. Bruce Chilton even noted that he himself defends it in
Rabbi Paul (pp. 57-58). So I have more names to add to the list of scholars who agree with me on this.

By an accident of fate I ended up spending a lot of time with Tabor (and his friend Art Droge, below) over the whole weekend, and I have to say I really like Tabor. He's sharp, funny, self-deprecating, easy-going, reasonable,
well-informed, and passionate about his views. His friend Art was good company, too, engaging and ballsy (in an entirely admirable way), and he has some fascinating projects in the mix that I'm looking forward to.

Then up was David Trobisch (who studied under Theissen and was most recently professor of the New Testament at Bangor Theological Seminary). I was very keen to hear his talk, after reading his provocative "Who Published the Christian Bible?" in
CSER Review 2.1 (2007: pp. 29-32) and finding it very convincing in light of other research I've done. His talk summarized some of the elements of this, and his book The First Edition of the New Testament (2000) well beyond his CSER article, which altogether made his case even more convincing.

What is his argument? That the present New Testament canon is based on an actual four-volume codex edition published around 150 A.D. (+/- 20 years), partly in response to Marcion (Trobisch has also argued that Polycarp is the most likely redactor and publisher--although he admits we can't prove this, several clues make
Polycarp a strong candidate). Trobisch's case fits the evidence so well, and explains so much so well, it's hard to doubt he's right (at least in most respects). Trobisch also makes a good case that the named authors of the Gospels were fictional additions invented at this time, when the whole NT also underwent considerable redactional activity that essentially solidified what we now call the Textus Receptus (and therefore, IMO, this is actually as far back as we can reconstruct the text--what the documents looked like before this publication is almost entirely inaccessible to us now).

I must say I'm convinced. He brilliantly employs physical evidence, paleography, literary and textual analysis, and other well-established tools and facts (some of it often overlooked), which all converges on the same conclusions. Trobisch's argument also entails, BTW, a late date for our Luke-Acts (which was heavily redacted from earlier drafts now lost, as has long been argued already, e.g. Strange's The Problem of the Text of Acts 1992), and corroborates MacDonald's conclusion that even the original Luke-Acts is late. Indeed, the world's leading expert on Acts, Richard Pervo, now argues (on similar and additional evidence) that Luke-Acts dates to the first half of the 2nd century, in
Dating Acts: Between the Evangelists and the Apologists (2006). So this seems to be the trend today in biblical scholarship on Luke-Acts. (FYI, though Pervo was recently convicted of collecting child pornography--ironically, considering his name--that may impugn his character, but not his scholarship, which is still top notch and well respected).

After this came A.J. Droge (Tabor's friend Art), professor of literature at the University of Toronto at Scarborough (and co-author of several books on ancient Christianity), who read his paper "Jesus and Ned Lud[d]: What's in a Name?" which I found unexpectedly fascinating. Droge confessed he was an agnostic about the
historicity of Jesus and might even be leaning to the conclusion that Jesus was apocryphal. And the gist of his paper was pretty much that: that just as Ned Ludd (the apocryphal father of the Luddite movement) is likely ahistorical, and even if not, unrecoverable (and therefore, either way, only the mythical Ned Ludd can be studied now, so that's all we should study, much the same conclusion MacDonald maintained at the conference), so, too, for Jesus. He argued the analogy holds, but he and others conceded that more comparative studies like this are needed before we can be certain.

To this end, Droge summarized the latest research on Ned Ludd and drew some parallels with the extant Jesus tradition. Like Jesus, Ludd had many contradictory traditions arise about him well within a century--in fact many quite rapidly, within 40 years of his alleged techno-sabotage in 1779, an event that historians have failed to find any evidence of, or of the man at all, yet by 1810 he was a revered hero and imagined founder of a movement (or several originally unrelated movements) of antitechnocrats. Soon all manner of stories were circulating about him, even fake letters by him were written as early as 1812, and novels about his life within decades of that.

Droge argued that since it's silly to try and find the "historical" Ned Ludd (whether he existed or not), it's just as silly to try and find the "historical" Jesus (ditto). At some point in the conference I made the counter-point to Droge that a common explanation for any given Christian tradition about Jesus is that Jesus actually said or did something (or people reacted to something Jesus said or did) that inspired that tradition. So we cannot presume Droge is correct that we cannot recover any history about Jesus. Droge (or anyone else who shares his view) has to demonstrate that all such arguments (i.e. every attempt to explain specific traditions by appealing to some underlying historicity) are invalid or unsound. That would be a valuable achievement in its own right. But it must actually be done before moving on to Droge's desired project of only studying the traditions as traditions, rather than as vehicles for preserving kernels of historical fact. Achieving one or the other (i.e. proving Droge either right or wrong about this) is exactly what the Jesus Project should be about. So I found his paper a good wake-up call to the real problem we need to solve.


Session 5: Summary and Positions

Throughout the weekend there were several roundtables and Q&A's, blurring into casual meetings and exchanges and conversations, in which I learned a great deal. There was also some reorganizing of the schedule due to the scholars who couldn't make it. Sunday was officially occupied by Session 5, the final round of papers for the weekend, but one change was made: Price's paper was supposed to be delivered in Session 2, but was instead moved to Sunday, and was the last paper read.

But first scheduled was R. Joseph Hoffmann who gave a well-tempered talk on "Heretics and the Role of the Canon in Delimiting the Historical Jesus," on the simple point that much (if not all) that was ever claimed about Jesus was driven by ideological battles rather than what we would consider an objective inquiry into the historical facts, and we have to take this seriously in any effort to reconstruct a historical Jesus. Robert Price followed him with "The Rapid Attribution of Fictive Sayings and Stories to a Mythic Jesus," bringing up the examples of fabricated sayings (and biography) for Jesus in the Infancy Gospels, and then elaborating on the comparative analogy of the legendary development of the Islamic Hadith, the oral traditions about the deeds and sayings of Mohammed and his circle.

Just as it's impossible to honestly reconstruct which if any of the Hadith sayings really came from Mohammed (not least because the evidence shows sayings and stories were freely invented, even consciously invented, to serve ideological interests), so, too, the sayings of Jesus. Or so Price argued. But whether the analogy carries over completely or not, he's right that this presents us with a methodological parallel at the very least. Even the Mishnah, BTW, was the same thing: alleged traditions of legal matters handed on by Moses by spoken word rather than in the written Torah, and then (supposedly) "preserved" orally for a thousand years. The Talmuds were the same again, this time for oral traditions of Rabbis interpreting the Mishnah. But the issue, I think, comes down to how quickly this can happen, and that's where the battle will be fought.

That concludes what went on at the conference. All of it was fascinating, useful, and indicative of new cutting edge work in the field. Well worth my time. The next conference is being scheduled for mid-2009, probably Chicago, provided it's funded. I haven't heard yet whether I'll be invited again, but the odds are good--provided Kurtz doesn't get pissed at my candor and blacklist me. In any case, I'll say more when I know.

48 comments:

Edward T. Babinski said...

Hi Rich,

You mentioned "The Dominical Logia" which "appears to be a mythical emulation and transvaluation of the Septuagint book of Deuteronomy."

Also, that the Dominical Logia can be found primarily in Mark and Matthew. (You mentioned Luke as well having access to such logia.)

However, where do the apocalyptic "coming of the son of man" sayings fit into the Dominical Logia?

Such sayings seem to fit an historical first century Palestinian environment.

Zachary Moore said...

Fascinating, Richard. I'm very glad to have you being a part of this process. Looking forward to continued progress on the Jesus Project!

Keith said...

Richard,
I'm interested to learn more about Dennis MacDonald's solution to the Synoptic problem, as the Q document was always a big topic back when I was a Religious Studies major. But I've never heard of the Dominical Logia. Could you go into more detail on what that is?

jfior said...

Richard, fascinating stuff as always. I did not recognize all of the scholars at the conference, which is good in a way so that I can expand my reading. That said, there was a name missing that I am curious about. Bart Ehrman of UNC Chappel Hill. Query whether he declined an invite or simply wasn't invited.

The McDonald summary sounds really interesting...will have to buy his book. Thanks

Jacob Aliet said...

Thanks for this "detailed" summary Richard. Its very well written in an engaging and informal fashion that makes it an easy read. We are glad you attended and gave us a "peek" on the goings on at that conference. We are all waiting to see what developments follow these "conferences".
Regards,
Jacob

Yewtree said...

A fascinating summary of the conference, thanks for posting.

Meanwhile, I saw this and thought of you: Don't worry, a Lolcat has found Jesus.

David Fitzgerald said...

Thanks for an excelllent post - nearly as good (and maybe better) than being there ourselves! I have to say, MacDonald's stock continues to rise in my book! Here I had been hoping the Farrar Hypothesis would finally start to take precedence over the 2SH and then he goes and surpasses both! Did he give a name to his "Farrar + Dominical Logia" Hypothesis?
-DF

David Fitzgerald said...

P.S. Just throwing out an idea here that I haven't looked into yet - Has MacDonald or anyone else proposed that Papias' Dominal Logia could be a form of the Gospel of Thomas?
-D

Tom Verenna said...

Thanks for this Richard.

Dan Sawyer said...

Richard -

Thanks for the summary. I'd have loved to be a fly on the wall at that conference -- or to be there with a podcasting rig to record brief interviews with all the participants.

You just filled my biblical studies booklist for the year.
-Dan Sawyer
Author of the Antithesis Series and Sculpting God
Both available at http://www.jdsawyer.net

Richard Carrier said...

Edward T. Babinski said... Where do the apocalyptic "coming of the son of man" sayings fit into the Dominical Logia?

I'm not sure. The sections of his book that I have don't address this (what I have is organized by pericopes rather than specific phrases, and of course SoM isn't in Dt. so wouldn't be a marker of emulation). His published book probably will discuss that, at least in passing, especially since SoM appears in all three Synoptics and thus I suspect it would be a good indicator of a source underlying all three like the DL, unless they all derive from Mark (in which case they won't have been part of the DL), but I haven't studied that specifically.

I do know scholars are hotly divided and much confused about the SoM content. But though it may "seem to fit an historical first century Palestinian environment" it could also fit a Syro-Asian environment of any century (under the influence of the book of Daniel, for example--we already know some of the related stuff at Qumran derives from a Damascus environment). I've been waiting for Müller's The Expression 'Son of Man' and the Development of Christology: A History of Interpretation to be acquired by a library I can get to (it came out in 2008). I've tried ILL so far without success, but I'm trying again.

Keith said... I've never heard of the Dominical Logia. Could you go into more detail on what that is?

That's Romanized shorthand for what's often translated as "The Sayings of the Lord" although the Greek word logoi can mean more than just sayings, and MacDonald argues it does in this case, meaning in effect stories or narratives. It appears in the well-known passage of Papias where he says Matthew recorded the logoi of the lord in Hebrew and others translated it (MacDonald argues that's a naive conjecture by Papias, that in fact there was no Hebrew original, and that our Matthew would be one of the Gospels Papias thought was a "translation" of that non-existent Matthew), and appears in the title of certain lost Christian commentaries (which Papias also refers to).

MacDonald's thesis is that this is an actual title of a lost book, which he reconstructs, and which would replace what we now mean by Q. It in effect follows the structure of Deuteronomy by posing Jesus as a new Moses in the context of a string of stories and encounters in which Jesus interprets or updates the Deuteronomic Law. Or all that more or less. I might be getting certain nuances wrong in my attempt to explain it, so do wait for MacDonald's book to come out so he can speak for himself.

Jfior said... Bart Ehrman of UNC Chappel Hill. Query whether he declined an invite or simply wasn't invited.

I don't know. It didn't even occur to me until people recently started asking about it. There are many scholars I could have thought to invite, and there wasn't time or space for them all, so I don't think one should read too much into who wasn't there. In any event you'd have to ask Ehrman.

David Fitzgerald: Did he give a name to his "Farrar + Dominical Logia" Hypothesis?

I would expect MacDonald's hypothesis will just be called the MacDonald hypothesis.

Has MacDonald or anyone else proposed that Papias' Dominal Logia could be a form of the Gospel of Thomas?

Not possible. GThom is mostly a list of sayings sans narrative context, and lacks the John the Baptist material. The DL starts with the John the Baptist scene (complete with things John said and did and Jesus' interaction with him) and includes such narrative contexts in sequence as the Temptation, etc. And presumably it ends with the death of Jesus (as Dt. ends with the death of Moses), although the chapter in which MacDonald explains his theory of how the DL ended is not in my hands, and he didn't discuss it at the conference, so I'm not sure what that will say (his book will also include a complete synopsis of the Gospels and the DL). So on the MacDonald hypothesis, GThom is not Q but would have to be a source derivative of the DL (or of the Gospels collectively), deliberately stripping away the narrative elements. I suspect he'll say more about that in his book.

Tom Verenna said...

In regards to the question concerning Son of Man, I would recommend (albeit it can be a tad bit more conservative than some folks here may like) Mogens Muller's The Expression "Son of Man" and the Development of Christology due out sometime this year (Check with Equinox Publishing). I had the chance to read it prior to being published for my work on the subject of mythicism; if you can get past some of the assumptions, the work overall is quite good and lends new light onto the subject "Son of Man" (and may even need to be brought to the table for the discussion of emulation).

Tom

Steven Carr said...

The expression 'Son of Man' does not appear in Paul.

Hardly news, of course.

Quixie said...

Thank you for giving those of us who are not able to attend such a good and detailed synopsis of the conference. A close follower of these subjects, I'm very optimistic that some very cool stuff will come from this.

peace

Ó

Hambydammit said...

Wow! Thanks for this post. As someone on the outside looking in, I was particularly interested in your recounting of Ronald Lindsay's talk. It sounds as if he and I are on the same page when looking at the question of historicity.

Personally, I'm a stickler for knowing what question I'm answering before I go off half-cocked into the field, and it's puzzled me that I've never read anything that seemed sufficiently clear on what exactly a "Historical Jesus" might turn out to be.

In my own blog, I've made the point that from a certain point of view, Wonder Woman is a historical figure because she was inspired by (and had many of the same qualities as) the wife of her creator, William Marston. It may seem like a trivial point, but if we haven't agreed on exactly what "Historical" means, we can't really rule out Wonder Woman's "historicity."

I say all of this to say that I'm glad you are paying so much attention to definitions and methodology, and I hope that whatever the outcome of this project, there will be a much heightened level of professional and scientific respectability to the question of Jesus.

Gilgamesh said...

One bit I'm confused about. You mentioned Crossan being skeptical. Was he questioning the existence of Jesus or the project itself? That wasn't quite clear to me. If the former, then that is quite the figure to have on the side of at least agnosticism.

Steven Carr said...

Luke 10:8 'When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.'

I wonder why there was such an almighty fuss in the early church about whether or not Christians should eat some pagan foodstuffs, when Jesus said Christian missionaries should eat whatever food the people they visit set before them

Steven Carr said...

Why did Paul not have to deal with people pointing out that Jesus had told Christian missionaries to eat any food that is set before them?

NT Wright says 'Easy: it’s probably not about clean and unclean at all. Just like not going from house to house. They weren’t supposed to be picky and choosey and move around giving offence to one host because they like the roast lamb next door better.'

NO wonder early Christians like Paul would never have used such sayings by Jesus as relevant to controversies over table-fellowship.

Wright claims that Jesus told the 72 to only go to Jewish houses and avoid Gentiles (as in parallels with Matthew 10, where the 12 disciples are told to avoid Gentiles)

As Luke 10 omits all mention of only going to Jewish houses and includes this food command (Missing in Matthew 10, where it would have been irrelevant if only clean food would have been served), then it seems clear that the Gospellers had no qualms about making Jesus pronounce on issues facing the early church.]

So why doesn't Paul quote Jesus saying that Christian missionaries should eat whatever is set in front of them, in his disputes over table-fellowship?

Leon said...

There is a terrible irony in the fact that scholars have this cavalier attitude that they are capable of analyzing and even judging the Gospels while they exclude themselves from any challenges to their own agenda. Scholars have a terrible habit of imposing their own theology or worldview on the Gospels and then claiming it is in the Gospels.

The result is, as I pointed out in my comment on your Decemeber blog, that no one is capable of describing the pure data in the texts, especially on the issue of Jesus' death. Instead, everyone gives us data with spin and then claims this is the pure data. They do this by eliminating positive data regarding Jews and by transforming ambiguous data into negative data. And no one has any apologies for this.

On Gerd Lüdemann's website or home page, he has an article on Luke, both his Gospel and Acts. He describes Luke as having a uniformly anti-Jewish agenda. There is some evidence in Luke that could be called anti-Jewish. But Lüdemann leaves out at least 7 pieces of highly pro-Jewish evidence. How is this an honest examination of Luke's Gospel and Acts?

No one is even remotely capable of describing the evidence in an objective manner. It has become forbidden to even raise this and the same scholars who effectively suppress all debate on this also have the presumption of judging the ancient authors. The first task of all good scholarship is to examine yourself and not shut down all attempts to do so.

Leon Zitzer

Bernard said...

To Richard:
Again, good job on your expose, but I cannot see how this odd bunch of scholars can resolve anything. And, as I expected, most of them are busy into developing new theories, which are getting more far-fetched and less evidenced and farther away from the centre, year after year, on their way to total absurdity. Anyway, that’s my opinion. It looks like an industry that has to renew itself in order to keep going, and going, and going ...

The Dominical Logia: that looks very much like a reincarnation of Q (except for its alleged association with Deuteronomy), that the JS scholars, not too long ago, dated to have been written, in a large part, before the gospels (but I think most of Q was written after gMark became known). I am surprised you are so quick into endorsing it, from just an oral presentation, even before McDonald had time to publish anything about it.

So now “Luke” would have the Logia, gMark and gMatthew, when Q and gMark would be sufficient to explain the stuff in gLuke from gMark and gMatthew. Interesting but certainly not so simple ... As for me, I’ll keep with the later, more so when the great omission in Luke’s gospel calls for “Luke” working from an incomplete copy of gMark. See http://www.geocities.com/b_d_muller/appf.html and http://www.geocities.com/b_d_muller/q.html

I noticed long ago that a scholar can stipulate an attractive methodology in front, and then behind the scene, applies another one which in fact supplant the one he/she stated openly (by then used as a smoke screen). One of this hidden one would be, this scholar is my friend, so I am going to approve and adopt theories of his/her. Or, this hypothesis helps my cause, so I’ll accept it, regardless if this hypothesis is soundly based or not.

Best regards, Bernard

Leon said...

The evidence in the Gospels is not a mess. The mess comes from scholars who keep imposing their own ideas on the texts. They invent a theology and then transfer it to the texts. Most of what scholars say are not supported by the evidence. So people "conclude" that is because the evidence is a mess. It never occurs to anyone that if we paid attention to the evidence, there would be a very coherent pattern there. Put the evidence first.

It is not an accident that so many people adopt the idea that the Gospels are messy. The result is that everyone is pretty confident that the historical Jesus cannot be recovered. That is just what everyone wants. Because the historical Jesus is going to be very Jewish and scholars have this fear that they are not going to like him. The fear that Jesus may turn out to be too Jewish still dominates this field and determines what scholars "see", which is not very much after all.

Conferences on the NT are pretty much a waste of time because no one wants to see all the evidence that is there. What is needed is a conference on scholars and their fears and prejudices. But scholars are too arrogant to do that. They have elevated themselves above the Gospels and claim to be able to analyze them, while they exempt themselves from all analysis. Have an honest debate about prejudice in this field and we could begin to recover real history.

Leon Zitzer

Richard Carrier said...

Tom Verenna said... I would recommend...Mogens Muller's The Expression "Son of Man" and the Development of Christology due out sometime this year...

It's already out. I referred to it above. I just can't find a copy in any library near me (none even in California yet), and it's too expensive for such a narrow topic for me to justify the cost.

But as you've gotten a look, please do give me the gist of his thesis. I'm keen to know.

Steven Carr said... The expression 'Son of Man' does not appear in Paul.

I don't think too much can be made of that. I'm certain a great deal of "mystery material" was known to Paul (even invented by him) and just not mentioned in his letters because it was too esoteric to be allowed there. That doesn't mean SoM was among that material, just that there can be other explanations of Paul's silence on such matters.

Hambydammit said... In my own blog, I've made the point that from a certain point of view, Wonder Woman is a historical figure because she was inspired by (and had many of the same qualities as) the wife of her creator, William Marston.

That's very clever--and interesting. Can you send me the URL?

Leon said... You've misunderstood Gerd Lüdemann's position on this matter. He doesn't argue that Luke was completely anti-Jewish. You should read more widely in his work than just a web page.

Richard Carrier said...

Gilgamesh said... One bit I'm confused about. You mentioned Crossan being skeptical. Was he questioning the existence of Jesus or the project itself?

The project didn't even exist at the time of his remarks, so obviously not the latter. I don't think he's a skeptic of historicity, but like several scholars (as I remarked on MacDonald, etc.) he recognizes that there is a methodological problem that needs to be solved here. What does it mean to say Jesus existed, and how would you methodologically establish that? In other words, he doesn't dismiss ahistoricity as inherently absurd (rather than merely false, which is what I think he does believe) but worth at least more rigorous analysis, and as I've seen in his remarks elsewhere, he also believes he is obligated to give reasons for believing Jesus is historical (but he does, of course, do so, so he's not a historicity skeptic). But with things like this several scholars are unintentionally trending toward what mythicists have long argued, IMO.

And the remaining pillars of the historicist case are weakening alongside this, so it's easy to see that many historicists like Crosson are not really so far from becoming mythicists as they think. A reader posted in comments to a previous post excerpts from a year 2000 Q&A that include this:

That [Jesus] existed is an historical conclusion for me, and neither a dogmatic postulate nor a theological presupposition. My very general arguments are: (1) that existence is given in Christian, pagan, and Jewish sources; (2) it is never negated by even the most hostile critics of early Christianity (Jesus is a bastard and a fool but never a myth or a fiction!); (3) there are no historical parallels that I know of from that time and period that help me understand such a total creation. There is, however, a fourth point that I touched on in BofC 403-406. It is crucially important for me that Jesus sent out companions and told them to do exactly what he was doing (not in his name, but as part of the Kingdom of God). The most basic continuity that I see between Jesus and those companions was, as I put it, not in mnemonics, but in mimetics. In other words, they were imitating his lifestyle and not just remembering his words.

All four points have sound answers, so he is IMO naive here to assume this amounts to an adequate case, but that's typical among historicists, who haven't actually studied or interacted with mythicist literature (understandably for early stuff, which IMO is tedious and more wrong than right, but the work is getting better of late). In short, there is a common fallacy here of assuming rules of inference that are not in fact valid generalizations:

(1) e.g. Romulus, Aeneas, Osiris, and Enoch are also asserted as historical in all sources, yet surely didn't exist, so clearly this is not an adequate rule of inference. Although it is an argument for historicity (i.e. if all sources denied Jesus' historicity then obviously the case for historicity would be substantially weaker, therefore the converse entails it is substantially stronger on present evidence than it would be otherwise), that does not make it a sufficient argument (any more than it is for Romulus or Aeneas).

(2) Actually, there are remarks on the record questioning Jesus' historicity (so Crosson's second pillar is not entirely secure), but even if there weren't, we have no records from critics until a century after the fact, when they can't have known the truth, therefore there is no valid argument from silence here (which requires us to have actual documents from authors who (a) would certainly have known the truth and (b) would certainly have mentioned what they knew). Jesus was also interpreted cosmically and symbolically in heretical literature, but almost none of that was allowed to survive, and in fact none of the critical literature actually survives either (we only have the Christian responses), and there is no telling in what other ways the record has been washed or biased. Though again having some clear and informed deniers of historicity on record would weaken the case for historicity, therefore having few strengthens it, so the question is whether it strengthens it enough, and that would require a strong argument from silence, not a weak one, and this is a very weak one. This can be formally represented in Bayesian terms to demonstrate why it is weak, which is one thing I'll do.

(3) I don't understand what he means by the absence of parallels. They are legion (Romulus, Osiris, Theseus, Hercules, et al.), and he surely knows that. He must have in mind something more specific (like the rapidity of development, or the specific sequence of development in this case). I'll show there are plenty of on-point parallels that help us understand how Jesus would come to be "created" over time in the unique way it did (it didn't happen all at once). Judas affords a parallel in his own right (esp. when you look at the post-biblical myths and legends about him), as many mainstream scholars doubt his historicity, yet the fabrication of a Jesus would hardly be more difficult than the fabrication of a Judas.

(4) Paul attests that an invisible man from outer space was sending him out and telling him what to do, so obviously that does not require a historical person. And the Jews were emulating fictional heroes all the time (the OT is full of them, the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha even more so). In fact, that was largely the point of creating mythical heroes. So his fourth pillar is invalid as a rule by itself--that the sender and emulotype actually existed must still be demonstrated independently.

Richard Carrier said...

Bernard said... The Dominical Logia: that looks very much like a reincarnation of Q (except for its alleged association with Deuteronomy), that the JS scholars, not too long ago, dated to have been written, in a large part, before the gospels (but I think most of Q was written after gMark became known).

Not at all. You must not be well-read in the Q-literature. The standard view (and that of the JS) is the theory that Luke and Matthew each used two sources, Mark and a sayings list (Q), the latter being the source also for GThom. MacDonald completely repudiates that theory (and IMO refutes it) and thus is in agreement with the anti-Q scholars of recent vintage, arguing that Luke used both Matthew and Mark, adding only that both also used a third source, the DL, and that in fact Mark also used that source, which is denied by the standard Q theory (in fact, denied a priori, a serious logical flaw in the Q theory that its critics continually remind us of).

I am surprised you are so quick into endorsing it, from just an oral presentation, even before McDonald had time to publish anything about it.

You don't read very carefully. As I've said, I have actually read substantial portions of the unpublished book that his conference summarized. I can assure you, his case is strong. Whether it will withstand full scrutiny remains to be seen. Peer review is coming. But I'm impressed, and I'm not easy to convince of these things.

[BTW the "great omission" has other explanations, as a deliberate excision. You should read more in the literature on this.]

Richard Carrier said...

Leon said... The evidence in the Gospels is not a mess. The mess comes from scholars who keep imposing their own ideas on the texts. They invent a theology and then transfer it to the texts.

That depends on what you mean by a "mess." The issues are indeed very complicated and not at all straightforward or easily resolved (so in that sense the Gospels are "a mess" in and of themselves), but it is indeed the attempts to resolve them that are the mess I'm talking about. And you are right about what scholars have been doing, with the exception that many of them are not imposing "theology" on the texts, but a theory of historicity, which may or may not be based on any theology (whether of their own invention or borrowed from a sectarian party line).

Leon said... Most of what scholars say are not supported by the evidence. So people "conclude" that is because the evidence is a mess. It never occurs to anyone that if we paid attention to the evidence, there would be a very coherent pattern there.

I can assure you that is very definitely not true. You are quite right that "most of what scholars say is not [sufficiently] supported by the evidence," and we should put the evidence first (as I reported Ellens himself said), but when we stick to what the evidence can actually support with any confidence, we end up with very little that is clear or coherent--e.g. there are adamant contradictions in the evidence, which entails that the only way to gain any knowledge from the evidence is to develop a theory to explain how that evidence came to be contradictory, which is what scholars have been trying to do. The question for me is whether they've stopped to actually work out what method they should use to do this first, and IMO the answer I find is "No" (or at least, "Not adequately").

Because the historical Jesus is going to be very Jewish and scholars have this fear that they are not going to like him.

You really need to read more widely in the field. You are issuing a false generalization here. Even our Project includes, for example, Chilton, who wrote Rabbi Jesus which very clearly constructs a very Jewish historical Jesus. And this is not fringe. It's actually the rising trend of late.

Leon said...

Richard,

I have to disagree with some of your points in the response above. It is not true that there is very little that is clear and coherent in the Gospels. There is actually quite a lot that is very coherent — particularly on the issues surrounding Judas and the meeting Jewish leaders had with Jesus. The only reason there appears to be some confusion and contradictions is because scholars keep approaching it with the wrong theology or worldview in mind. Everyone assumes that Jesus was surrounded and done in by Jewish enemies. That is merely assumption and the assumption creates a good deal of confusion in the evidence. In any other field of study (any field of genuine scholarship), if a hypothesis is not resolving problems in the evidence, it is permitted and even encouraged to try another approach. But not in NT scholarship. They just keep trying different spins of "Jesus surrouned by Jewish enemies" and thus keep misreading the evidence.

Thus, no one notices, e.g., that almost all the evidence concerning Judas (especially in Mark) is perfectly neutral or ambiguous. In Mark, there is not one unequivocally negative piece of information about Judas. And there is not one element of a story of betrayal (no motive, no conflict with Jesus, no use of the Greek word that definitely means betray, and not even any denunciations from other disciples after the "deed" is done). The rational question to ask about Mark's version is why does he tell such a perfectly ambiguous story. But scholars prevent anyone from asking and answering this question by continuing to read a story of betrayal into a text that lacks the evidence to support such a story. There is a very clear coherent pattern of evidence in Mark once you drop the assumption that scholars make.

As for a Jewish Jesus, the scholarly world is still notably behind. I have read Chilton's "Rabbi Jesus" and discuss it thoroughly in my work. There is almost nothing Jewish or rabbinic about his Jesus. In his introduction, he claims he is going to be taking a Jewish approach, but he does nothing of the kind. He actually presents the traditional version of Jesus who is persecuted by fellow Jews. Chilton gives Rome a back seat and makes the Pharisees and Sadducees the chief culprits in his death. This is all wrong.

Most scholars still avoid using rabbinic literature to illuminate every saying and parable in the Gospels. No one, e.g., realizes how much Jesus talks a lot about chutzpah (an Aramaic word) as a valuable quality to have when approaching God. The Talmud is very helpful in clarifying what Jesus means. The idea of locating Jesus firmly in the world of Pharisiac oral Torah is still anathema for most scholars. They would rather see him as a rebel from Pharisaic Judaism. But the evidence tells us he was an exponent of it.

Jesus' Jewishness has never been fully explored. Not even close. There is just lip service to this idea. And seeing Jesus in harmony with his fellow Jews, including Jewish leaders, is still a forbidden thing to do in NT scholarship. But that harmonious point of view will reveal a clarity and coherence in the evidence. The Gospels are not the problem. Scholars are the problem.

Leon Zitzer

Leon said...

One other thing: Your comment about Gerd Lüdemann is incorrect. In his article, he does present Luke (in his Gospel and Acts) as uniformly anti-Jewish. He never mentions, not even hints at, a lot of the pro-Jewish evidence: Pharisees inviting Jesus to dinner, Pharisees warning him about Herod, Pharisees coming to the aid of Peter and then Paul, Paul stating there was no Jewish death penalty against Jesus, and more. Lüdemann omits all of this, every bit of it, in that article. Most scholars do (though a few mention a couple of these pieces of evidence). Scholars make a regular habit of eliminating evidence that would put Jewish leaders (and Judas) in a better light and interpreting ambiguous evidence in a negative way without ever mentioning that the same evidence could very easily bear a positive interpretation. It is easy to demonstrate that most scholars are doing this. It is not just Lüdemann. A full discussion of what scholars say in their work proves the truth of my remarks.

Leon Zitzer

Bernard said...

Richard Carrier said...
Bernard said... The Dominical Logia: that looks very much like a reincarnation of Q (except for its alleged association with Deuteronomy), that the JS scholars, not too long ago, dated to have been written, in a large part, before the gospels (but I think most of Q was written after gMark became known).

RC: Not at all. You must not be well-read in the Q-literature.

BM: Thank you for your subsequent explanations, but I knew all of that already. And I am also certain that many JS scholars argued that parts of Q (more so relative to the overlaps) were known by “Mark”. Therefore the similarity of this Q and the Logia: both would have been known by "Mark", "Matthew" and "Luke".

BM: I am surprised you are so quick into endorsing it, from just an oral presentation, even before McDonald had time to publish anything about it.

RC: You don't read very carefully. As I've said, I have actually read substantial portions of the unpublished book that his conference summarized.

BM: I reread your expose on McDonald’s presentation and new theory, and admit I failed to understand that "excerpts" meant "substantial portions of a book".

RC: [BTW the "great omission" has other explanations, as a deliberate excision. You should read more in the literature on this.]

BM: I examined on one of my page the case of a deliberate excision by the gospeller, and easily concluded it cannot be the case, for many reasons. Not a chance! I knew it has been argued and even read explanations about it. Just to know some theories have been formulated for that kind of excision does not mean they have to be kept around forever. When are scholars going to examine these competing theories and sort them out, rather that pile them up? Anyway, my conclusion about the “great omission” (and other considerations) does eliminate “Luke” knowing about gMatthew.

Best regards, Bernard

macroman said...

Somewhere I read that "the sayings of the Lord in Hebrew" (said to be collected by Mathew) might have meant "sayings about, concerning, with respect to the Lord in Hebrew", i.e. somebody who went thru the Hebrew scriptures to find all the "predictions" about the Lord. Is there any possibility of that? It's a question of Greek language on which I have no idea.

Richard Carrier said...

Leon said... It is not true that there is very little that is clear and coherent in the Gospels.

Since I didn't say that, you are boxing with shadows here.

Everyone assumes that Jesus was surrounded and done in by Jewish enemies.

They don't "assume" this. They adduce it as a theory then deduce and look for evidence to support or undermine that theory. Whether they are right, or doing this correctly, is another matter. But please don't confuse assumptions with theories. The latter are advanced as subject to test against the evidence.

Though some scholars take as assumptions theories they think have been proven, and that in itself is a problem, even this should not be mistaken for an assumption of the field--for at least in such cases there is a body of literature adduced as supposedly confirming the assumption, which moves the problem back one level of analysis (to those purported proofs, which are theories defended, not assumptions made).

However, this doesn't mean the field isn't resting on a few de jure unproven assumptions (i.e. assumptions for which even attempts at being proved cannot be found). But I don't think this is one of them, although this could be a de facto unproven assumption (i.e. an assumption for which proofs can be found that nevertheless don't actually prove what they purport to), although that depends on how far you take it, and you take it too far, IMO (below).

In any other field of study (any field of genuine scholarship), if a hypothesis is not resolving problems in the evidence, it is permitted and even encouraged to try another approach. But not in NT scholarship. They just keep trying different spins of "Jesus surrouned by Jewish enemies" and thus keep misreading the evidence.

Well, (a) you're wrong about other fields (Kuhn is right that all fields try tinkering with failing theories far longer than they actually get down to looking for new ones, and this is normal practice that actually makes sense, since we should be epistemically conservative and must accept that no body of evidence will ever fit any theory perfectly, due to unavoidable human errors in gathering data and the ubiquitous presence of unknowable variables) and (b) this isn't necessarily what's going on here. You are assuming that what produces the unresolved problems you refer to is (c) obvious and (d) this. But (c) is not true and (d) requires argument sufficient to meet accepted standards in the field (which of course first requires working out what those standards are and should be, which NT studies hasn't been all that good at).

Thus, no one notices, e.g., that almost all the evidence concerning Judas (especially in Mark) is perfectly neutral or ambiguous.

I can assure you that's not true. This has been noticed, by quite a few scholars.

In Mark, there is not one unequivocally negative piece of information about Judas. And there is not one element of a story of betrayal (no motive, no conflict with Jesus, no use of the Greek word that definitely means betray, and not even any denunciations from other disciples after the "deed" is done).

Now you go too far. There can be no other understanding of the plot in Mk. 14:18-21 (esp. in conjunction with 14:10-11, 14:41-49). Judas very definitely is "betraying" Jesus and Jesus is made to say he knew it and that it was bad (the betrayal is also, deliberately IMO, associated with the use of force and violence, cf. 14:41-49, which Jesus denounces, and the temptations of money, which Jesus elsewhere condemns, cf. Mark 6:8, 10:25, 11:5, which are general themes further supported in Q or the equivalent). The Judas story is another version of the same parable reflected in the Barabbas story: the sins that will doom the Jews are violence, rebellion, and greed, which they must cast off to receive God's salvation. This kind of reflective self-criticism typifies many Jewish sects and writings of the time. That doesn't mean such texts are anti-Jewish, any more than Isaiah saying the exact same thing was anti-Jewish.

The rational question to ask about Mark's version is why does he tell such a perfectly ambiguous story.

It's not ambiguous when you understand it. And it's simple, as most of Mark's pericopes are. That's simply Markan style.

As for a Jewish Jesus, the scholarly world is still notably behind. I have read Chilton's "Rabbi Jesus" and discuss it thoroughly in my work. There is almost nothing Jewish or rabbinic about his Jesus. In his introduction, he claims he is going to be taking a Jewish approach, but he does nothing of the kind. He actually presents the traditional version of Jesus who is persecuted by fellow Jews. Chilton gives Rome a back seat and makes the Pharisees and Sadducees the chief culprits in his death. This is all wrong.

Maybe, but that's your opinion. Everyone has one. I think Chilton is wrong for completely different reasons than you do. But my point is that many scholars, like him, are indeed attending to the Jewishness of Jesus. His isn't the only work that does this, nor is his the only way it's been done.

Most scholars still avoid using rabbinic literature to illuminate every saying and parable in the Gospels.

Actually, I find this is over-done by some (like Crosson), and Neusner agrees, and he's an expert on this subject (you need to read his book on this--you seem to be a victim of the very naivete he ably critiques). But it's often well done in the journal literature, especially in studies of Q and recent work on the genre of the Gospels. Chilton has done it and continues to (e.g. his work in the Targumic literature aims at exactly that: finding rabbinic parallels to elements of the Gospels). Brad Young and Samuel Lachs did it. And it's done with all due caution by Klyne Snodgrass in Stories with Intent. And on and on. I see no neglect of the notion, even if I see abuse of it here and there.

The idea of locating Jesus firmly in the world of Pharisiac oral Torah is still anathema for most scholars. They would rather see him as a rebel from Pharisaic Judaism. But the evidence tells us he was an exponent of it.

Depending on what you mean by "it." There was no monolithic Pharisaic party line (even the Talmuds show that, with divergent conclusions and debates reached among factions of the Pharisaic Rabbis on many issues). But the Christians rejected the oral Torah (Jesus is all but made to say so on more than one occasion, and never once says his sayings are the loyally transmitted statements of Moses, which was the foundation of oral Torah--to the contrary, he is made to advocate a revelatory procedure in which sectarians receive their information directly from God, a dangerously radical view from the POV of those in power, as even the Christians learned when they started fearing and attacking the Montanists for the very same reason), and thus rejected the most distinctive premise of Pharisaism. The Christians were also anti-temple, whereas the Pharisees very definitely were not. That what they nevertheless then taught was actually much in line with Pharisaic thinking is true (and the Pharisees are caricatured in the Gospels to downplay that fact), but then they were also much in line with Essene and Samaritan teachings as well. The fact of the matter is, the earliest Christians were just another of many Jewish sects that adapted what they liked from other sects into an amalgam all their own, and that fact in itself put them at odds with the Pharisees, who were struggling for cultural purity, banking that entire project on their persistent defense of the oral Torah (and ultimately winning: after the Jewish war, theirs is the only view widely promoted as normative).

In terms of general scholarship, it is now the rising view that Christianity adopted a lot from Pharisaism and wasn't a merely anti-Pharisaic sect. But there is also a difference between the Christians before Paul and those after. The movement became increasingly hostile to certain assumptions that were fundamental to the Pharisees (which is not the same thing as being hostile to everything the Pharisees taught), and your trusting Mark is telling here, as he is defending Pauline doctrine, against the more originally Jewish views championed in Matthew (and the more radicalized teaching championed in John, or the attempt at reconciling the Jewish and Pauline sects championed in Luke).

Jesus' Jewishness has never been fully explored. Not even close. There is just lip service to this idea.

I think you need to spend some more time in a good theological library before saying that. There are many books on the subject and more articles on it in journals than I can count. I'd be cautious before declaring it all lip service.

Your comment about Gerd Lüdemann is incorrect. In his article, he does present Luke (in his Gospel and Acts) as uniformly anti-Jewish. He never mentions, not even hints at, a lot of the pro-Jewish evidence: Pharisees inviting Jesus to dinner, Pharisees warning him about Herod, Pharisees coming to the aid of Peter and then Paul, Paul stating there was no Jewish death penalty against Jesus, and more. Lüdemann omits all of this, every bit of it, in that article.

Hence I told you you need to read more widely in his work, not an isolated article on an isolated thesis. Heed my words.

In fact, you don't even seem to understand the thesis of the one article you claim to be criticizing. So I'd suggest you read it more carefully first. It doesn't say what you seem to think it does.

However, I don't know what you mean by "Paul stating there was no Jewish death penalty against Jesus," as Paul says Jesus became a curse under the law (a direct allusion to Deuteronomic execution, in Gal. 3:13), and mentions no other kind of death.

Richard Carrier said...

Macroman said... Somewhere I read that "the sayings of the Lord in Hebrew" (said to be collected by Mathew) might have meant "sayings about, concerning, with respect to the Lord in Hebrew", i.e. somebody who went thru the Hebrew scriptures to find all the "predictions" about the Lord. Is there any possibility of that? It's a question of Greek language on which I have no idea.

It's a legitimate theory. The Greek is ambiguous enough, although that wouldn't be the most natural way to read the text, the grammar doesn't rule it out. Hence almost every expert on the subject I know acknowledges it as a possibility (even those who rule it out on other grounds).

Richard Carrier said...

Bernard said...

...my conclusion about the “great omission” (and other considerations) does eliminate “Luke” knowing about gMatthew...

Get your theory published in a peer reviewed journal and we'll talk.

Leon said...

Richard,

I will just respond to one of the points you made above because it illustrates what is so wrong with historical Jesus studies. You state that there is no other interpretation of Mark 14:18-21 but that Judas is betraying Jesus. That is so wrong. This is what NT scholars continually do. They slant the evidence according to their assumptions and rule out anything that contradicts their worldview.

The word Mark uses is "paradidomi". I think a majority of scholars agree that it does not mean betray. But I will make an assumption against the self-interest of my own argument and assume that betray is one possible meaning. Most scholars who take this view will admit that it is a secondary meaning. The point is that "paradidomi" can also mean to deliver in a perfectly neutral sense with no connotation of betrayal. In other words, it could also be translated as convey (to best capture that neutrality). So Jesus is (or could be) saying one of you will convey me. It is an assumption that this could only be about betrayal. A very innocent conveying is also a possibility.

And what about the woe to the one who conveys him and better that he had not been born? Well, in Hebrew the expresssion or wish not to have been born can also mean (and more probably means) that something terrible had happened to that person, not that he had done something terrible. To be falsely accused of having done something evil can elicit the cry that it would be better not to have been born than to be unjustly maligned like that.

So it is quite untrue that betrayal is the only possible explanation of Mark 14:18-21. We could have here the remnants of the story of a man (Judas) who did something quite innocent in conveying Jesus (at Jesus' request) into the hands of the authorities and then came to be falsely accused of betraying Jesus. Such a story would explain these words just as well.

What NT scholars do is read their own assumptions or theories or worldview into the texts and then claim the texts could only suppport that. This is not scientific scholarship. You are right that assumptions and theories are not the same thing. One of my complaints about scholars is that they never honestly admit what is a theory. No one talks of the theory of Judas' betrayal and the theory of a Jewish trial of Jesus, which would be the proper thing to do. Most scholars present these as facts (e.g., both Elaine Pagels and Bart Ehrman take the betrayal as a stated fact in the Gospels) and, by doing so, prevent anyone from pointing out that we are dealing with theories — which, in fact, are not well-supported by the actual evidence.

Mark does tell a perfectly ambiguous story of Judas. 14:18-21 is a good example of that ambiguity, but the majority of scholars still prevent anyone from seeing this because they cannot give up their worldview or theology that Jesus must be surrounded by Jewish enemies.

Leon Zitzer

Leon said...

I should respond to a couple of other points you made. I never said that Luke being anti-Jewish was the main point of Lüdemann's article. It is rather condescending of you to suggest that I re-read his article and does not suit good scholarship. Presenting Luke as uniformly anti-Jewish (in his Gospel and Acts) is a secondary point Lüdemann makes, but he does make it and makes it in an improper way by omitting any mention of the considerable pro-Jewish evidence in Luke. I gave this as an example of something scholars typically do. It is quite common for scholars to give a biased presentation of the evidence. Hundreds of examples could be given. There are some scholars who do acknowledge some of the evidence that Lüdemann ignores, but there is no one who sees all of it.

You were surprised by my statement that Paul says in Acts that there was no Jewish death penalty against Jesus. Small wonder. It is another example of a piece of evidence that scholars regularly erase from everyone's consciousness. There is a verse in Acts where Paul says that Jewish authorities "could charge him with nothing deserving death." It is part of a longer sentence and there is a previous verse which some might take as a contradiction to this, but it is easy to demonstrate it is not. I know of only a very few scholars who acknowledge that this evidence ("nothing deserving death") exists (e.g., Raymond Brown and David Catchpole).

I am not arguing here that this and other evidence adds up to something. I have done that in my book. My point here is more limited. Good scientific scholarship demands that all of the evidence be considered. NT scholars fail to do this on a regular basis. Biased versions of the evidence are quite common. Regarding anything connected to the death of Jesus, it is extremely common to exaggerate anything that seems to condemn Judas and Jewish leaders, and eliminate anything that could potentially exonerate them. Example after example can be given. This is not proper scholarship.

I have not given the cite for Paul's statement which is what I usually do in blog discussions. I am curious whether you or anyone else is curious enough to look for it. Until scholars admit that prejudice has a strong influence in what evidence is selected, the field of historical Jesus studies will get nowhere. Scholars have messed up the evidence more than the ancient authors did. It is presumptuous to blame the Gospel writers for confusion that scholars have created.

Leon Zitzer

Richard Carrier said...

Leon said... The word Mark uses is "paradidomi". I think a majority of scholars agree that it does not mean betray.

(1) That's false (check a lexicon and see) and (2) That's irrelevant (since my conclusions are not based on that word, but the context in which it is used).

A very innocent conveying is also a possibility.

Not in context. If it was innocent, why would anyone be disturbed by it (14:19) and why would it be "Woe unto that man!" and "better for him if he had not been born" (14:20) and why would Judas have to be paid (14:10-11) and why would he bring an armed force (14:48) and why would he need a secret signal to the captors (14:44) rather than just pointing him out?

...in Hebrew the expresssion or wish not to have been born can also mean (and more probably means) that something terrible had happened to that person, not that he had done something terrible. To be falsely accused of having done something evil can elicit the cry that it would be better not to have been born than to be unjustly maligned like that.

You are contradicting yourself. If the act was innocent, what would there be for Judas to be falsely accused of? He can't be falsely accused of betraying Jesus unless in fact "handing Jesus over" constituted "betraying Jesus."

We could have here the remnants of the story of a man (Judas) who did something quite innocent in conveying Jesus (at Jesus' request) into the hands of the authorities and then came to be falsely accused of betraying Jesus. Such a story would explain these words just as well.

Not just as well. It doesn't explain the full construct of the story (all the elements above). Such an authorial intent would be far more likely to produce different elements (like the obvious: an explicit statement that Judas did no wrong), whereas the usual authorial intent (betrayal) completely explains every element. In Bayesian terms, that means P(e | your theory) < P(e | the usual theory), and since there is no data for a prior probability (nothing said about Judas before Mark), P(the usual theory | e) > P(your theory | e). QED.

What NT scholars do is read their own assumptions or theories or worldview into the texts and then claim the texts could only suppport that. This is not scientific scholarship.

Wrong. What we do is read texts in context and deduce the most probable explanation of the full text in context (i.e. deducing the most likely meaning or intent), then subject our conclusion to the peer review of similarly qualified experts, who all then concur with our findings if we're right. As far as translation goes, it can't get any more scientific than that.

One of my complaints about scholars is that they never honestly admit what is a theory.

I don't think it's dishonesty (at least in bona fide academia, apologetics is another matter). It's sloppy and fuzzy thinking (when it occurs), which is what I aim to fix. But you seem to exaggerate the reality--theories that are widely and firmly established by a consensus of qualified experts on a sound basis of documented facts and valid reasoning need not be called theories anymore. They can be assumed as a given, unless and until they are challenged and the consensus changes. That's how it works.

No one talks of the theory of Judas' betrayal and the theory of a Jewish trial of Jesus, which would be the proper thing to do.

Maybe, but to be fair, you can't talk like that all the time. Excessive demands on exactitude like that can start to look like insisting that historians only ever write in logical notation.

Most scholars present these as facts (e.g., both Elaine Pagels and Bart Ehrman take the betrayal as a stated fact in the Gospels) and, by doing so, prevent anyone from pointing out that we are dealing with theories

Huh? Did they get a legal gag order on you, or come to your house and beat you with socks full of soap or something? How are they "preventing anyone" from anything?

...which, in fact, are not well-supported by the actual evidence.

I beg to differ.

...they cannot give up their worldview or theology that Jesus must be surrounded by Jewish enemies.

Since Mark constantly says Jesus is surrounded by Jewish enemies (3:6, 8:31, 10:33, 12:13, 14:1, 14:48, etc.), I'm starting to suspect you of being delusional.

Presenting Luke as uniformly anti-Jewish (in his Gospel and Acts) is a secondary point Lüdemann makes, but he does make it...

Quote me an example.

...and makes it in an improper way by omitting any mention of the considerable pro-Jewish evidence in Luke.

Identify exactly where in his article he should have cited such evidence.

There is a verse in Acts where Paul says that Jewish authorities "could charge him with nothing deserving death."

Yes. He was innocent. All scholars agree that's the story, in all the Gospels. But all the Gospels, and Paul in Acts, say Jesus was convicted of a death penalty offense by the Sanhedrin court despite his actual innocence. Pointing out that Paul says this does not translate into "Paul said there was no Jewish death penalty against Jesus."

...it is extremely common to exaggerate anything that seems to condemn Judas and Jewish leaders, and eliminate anything that could potentially exonerate them. Example after example can be given.

And since I have seen example after example of exactly the contrary, again I'm starting to think you're delusional.

I have not given the cite for Paul's statement which is what I usually do in blog discussions. I am curious whether you or anyone else is curious enough to look for it.

I didn't have to. I assure you scholars are well aware of Acts 13:28. They just don't draw the bizarrely excessive conclusion from it that you do.

Tom Verenna said...

Leon, you seem to think that there is some huge anti-Semitic conspiracy in academia. If this is the case, I wouldn't say you're delusional, but you're certainly not being rational. As Richard has already pointed out Chilton's work on the historical Jesus, I would also recommend J.P. Sanders and Geza Vermes; more recent studies of Christian origins have leaned primarily towards a Jewish Jesus (i.e. James Crossley's 'Why Christianity Happened: A Sociohistorical Account of Christian Origins (26-50 CE)' which uses, above other things, the oral laws in an attempt to give a strong Jewish context to the Gospels).

Your point on Luke is a bit bizarre. You say that Luke is not anti-Jewish (I'm inclined to agree) because there are "7 pieces of highly pro-Jewish evidence". I'm sure many scholars would agree that Luke was not anti-Jewish--he was in fact anti-Marcionite (Marcion, it is said, was the anti-Jewish one. But I have my doubts on this as well). However, Luke clearly wanted to place the blame of the crucifixion on the Jews rather than the Romans. The fact that Luke has Jesus crucified by the orders of Herod rather than Pilate is a pretty strong anti-Sanhedrin statement (not necessarily anti-Jewish).

I would correct you on your perspective (unless I am wrong in understanding your perspective--clarify if I am misunderstanding something); you seem to be of the opinion that being Jewish in the first century had been different than being a Greek or a Roman. While there is some obvious uniqueness to Judaism in the first century, the lines are not so clear cut as you seem to believe they were. If Jesus had existed historically, his figure (whether he described himself as a Jew or a Gentile) is one raised in a world where to be a Jew meant assimilation into the Greek and Roman cultures, regardless of how much you hated or despised them.

As a good analogy, consider third-generation Americans today. Theoretically, you may be the most socially liberal Marxist in the United States--you may even curse America and capitalism. But whether you hate America or not, you're a product of American commercialism, society, its education system, its health system, its government--you came from this and, even if you distance yourself from it as much as you can, you will always be assimilated into it. Even if it is just an accent, or the manner in which you use slang, or the way you protest--it comes from an American society. The Jews living in Palestine and the Diaspora were no different.

So whether or not Jesus considered himself Jewish, the New Testament is a product of a Christian movement that was decidedly Hellenistic. You may dispute the *level* of assimilation of the first Christians or even Jesus himself (assuming he lived) but that is the extent as to which you can argue concerning his Jewishness. Scholarship as a cumulative whole understands this because the evidence has formed for it this picture of the socio-cultural landscape. This is why many scholars (particularly those who specialize in socio-cultural constructs of the day) accept a Jesus who is somewhere in between complete assimilation and little assimilation; there is no grand conspiracy to Hellenize Jesus--Paul and the Gospels had already accomplished the Hellenizing of Jesus' character long before the first form critic came on the scene. As Bultmann and Kasemann pointed out decades ago, there is no way to separate Jesus from the Kerygma of the early Church. Many of tried, but the methods have just not caught up with the questions--yet. Hopefully the Jesus Project can do what others could not.

Tom Verenna said...

I'm sorry, I need to make a correction; I said Luke had had Herod order Jesus to be put to death--that should have read that Luke had the chief priests condemn Jesus to death. Luke might have had a copy of a Gnostic tradition where Herod had ordered the execution--which is why Herod plays a role in Luke where he doesn't in other traditions (Price and Loisy argue this and I'm inclined to agree). Price says that Luke was trying to harmonize the two versions of the Passion (which is why Pilate and Herod 'become friends'--very ahistorical) but keeps the scene where the Sanhedrin (rather than the 'people in a crowd' like in Mark) openly call for Jesus to be crucified and it is still Herod's troops who mock him rather than the Romans in the presence of Pilate.

Sorry for the confusion.

Tom Verenna said...

The Gospel of Peter contains the passion where Herod orders the death of Jesus. Just FYI.

Leon said...

You are proving my point for me. Hostility towards any evidence that contradicts the traditional story and mockery are two chief means which scholars use to suppress rational debate.

Your comment on "paradidomi" is indicative. There are so many scholars now, including highly conservative ones, who say that "paradidomi" either certainly or probably does not mean betray. William Klassen put this point on the map in his 1996 book on Judas. Raymond Brown insisted (his word) that it does not mean betray. (Brown was so conservative that he would not admit any change in translation unless a gun was pointed to his head, and "paradidomi" was one such smoking gun.) John Meier says betray is not the best translation. Bart Ehrman says it is probably wrong. Klassen, in a follow-up article a couple of years after his book, listed quite a few scholars who agree. The 19th century Liddell (sp?)-Scott dictionary of classical Greek gives betray only as a secondary meaning.

The most negative comments about Judas (thief, devil) come only from the later Gospels of Luke and John, and they are comments of the Gospel authors, not of any characters in the Gospels. No one in any of the Gospel stories calls Judas a traitor or a devil or a thief or a bastard. Mark is missing every single detail you'd expect to find in a story of betrayal: no motive, no conflict with Jesus or with any fellow disciples, not the word that definitely means betray, and even the bare minimum you would expect in any such story, his fellow disciples cursing him out after the deed is done, is completely absent (from the other Gospels as well). You can read some of these things (like motive) into Mark's text, but they are not clearly there.

All in all, there is no solid context for this supposed betrayal. When scholars in the past called Judas' act a mystery, they meant that the clues just do not add up to a story of betrayal. The most honest scholars have always admitted it is quite a puzzle.

What later scholars have done is read betrayal into a text that does not plainly say any such thing and has no clear context to support it.

These are all good reasons to look for a better theory than betrayal. But scholars have been very hostile to this. I do not expect every scholar to constantly remind us that betrayal is only a theory. But how about occasionally? I don't think you can produce 5 scholars (other than Klassen and Hans-Josef Klauck) who occasionally remind their readers that we are dealing with a theory, not a fact, and who will encourage anyone to try looking for a better theory. In a proper science, this would be the right thing to do.

Just to point out how ambiguous every piece of evidence concerning Judas is, even that "Woe to that man" is not what it appears to be. The Hebrew "hoy" (woe) was often an expression of love or compassion, not a condemnation. If Judas was an innocent man who came to be falsely accused of being a traitor (and such things do happen from time to time in history), that would be an excellent reason for compassion and for expressing the thought that it would be better if he had never been born — it is exactly this kind of injustice that the Hebrew woe and wish not to be born was meant to capture.

Even the major fact we have about Judas — disappearing from the table and returning with the authorities — is ambiguous. Betrayal is not the only possible explanation for this datum. We read betrayal into it, we assume it, and then claim there is no other way to see it.

Your comment on Acts 13:28 is rather strange. The plain meaning of "could charge him with nothing deserving death" is that there was no Jewish death penalty. Raymond Brown and David Catchpole thought so too. They knew this created a problem and so thought it best to dismiss it. But at least they acknowledged it existed and its plain meaning.

Your references to Jesus' Jewish enemies in Mark's text is an interpretation. Mark does not use, as far as I know, the term "enemy" to characterize these people. That's your theory. Some of them sound very much like later accusations that Jewish leaders conspired to kill Jesus transposed back to Jesus as a prediction. But the point is that they are accusations. We know that at some point Jewish leaders were accused of plotting to kill Jesus and Judas of betraying him. The accusations can never be used to prove the truth of the accusations. It does not matter how many times they are repeated. For any accusation, slander is another possibility. It is impossible to tell from an accusation whether or not it was true. We only know some people believed it. In any court of reason, the accusations are thrown out as evidence for what happened. Slander is another theory that could explain them. The question is whether there is a pattern of evidence outside the accusation that could prove it, and when you start looking for that in the case of both Jewish leaders and Judas, the case starts to fall apart.

Leon Zitzer

Richard Carrier said...

Leon said... You are proving my point for me. Hostility towards any evidence that contradicts the traditional story and mockery are two chief means which scholars use to suppress rational debate.Again I ask: Are you delusional? You have no evidence for me to show hostility for, and I didn't mock you even once. I am beginning to suspect you are delusional. To wit...

Your comment on "paradidomi" is indicative. There are so many scholars now, including highly conservative ones, who say that "paradidomi" either certainly or probably does not mean betray.What on earth does this have to do with anything I said? Did you even read my comment on "paradidomi"?

Raymond Brown insisted (his word) that it does not mean betray. (Brown was so conservative that he would not admit any change in translation unless a gun was pointed to his head, and "paradidomi" was one such smoking gun.)Where? Citation please.

Bart Ehrman says it is probably wrong.Where? Citation please.

The 19th century Liddell (sp?)-Scott dictionary of classical Greek gives betray only as a secondary meaning.Actually, no, it doesn't. The first meaning is its application to things, not people. Its first listed meaning when applied to people (individuals or communities) is betray. This confirms to me you don't know what you are talking about. But it also confirms to me that you must be high. Because my remarks about the word make this argument of yours irrelevant, even were it correct. That you don't understand this is what leads me to suspect you are suffering some kind of bizarre delusion that prevents you from even seeing what I've actually written, or comprehending what I've actually argued.

Mark is missing every single detail you'd expect to find in a story of betrayalFalse. I listed several details we would expect, and they are in Mark. It is irrational to expect elaboration in a brief text, especially a text known for its concise symbolic delivery of social commentary (e.g. the Barabbas narrative, which is a commentary on the poor choice of the Jewish elite that resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem).

When scholars in the past called Judas' act a mystery, they meant that the clues just do not add up to a story of betrayal.That's because they keep trying to interpret it as historical fact. It's not. It's fictional social commentary. Like all symbolic myth, it isn't even trying to be plausible or realistic, any more than walking on water or feeding thousands from a basket is meant to be plausible or realistic.

I don't think you can produce 5 scholars (other than Klassen and Hans-Josef Klauck) who occasionally remind their readers that we are dealing with a theory, not a fact, and who will encourage anyone to try looking for a better theory. In a proper science, this would be the right thing to do.Actually, I'm sorry to tell you, many professors in the field actually don't even consider the story true (I can probably point you to at least a dozen I know personally). It's not a "theory" to them, because it's less than a theory: it's myth. You seem to be confusing a theory about what Mark meant, and a theory about what actually happened. Most scholars don't even accept the theory that any of this Judas business actually happened, much less assume the theory is true. But most scholars do accept the theory that what Mark means to say is that Judas betrayed Jesus, by aiding the enemies of Jesus for coin, as part of God's plan. In fact, this is so widely accepted, and so obvious, that there is no need to keep calling it a theory, any more than we need to keep saying it's a "theory" that Mark meant us to understand that Jesus was a Jew.

The Hebrew "hoy" (woe) was often an expression of love or compassion, not a condemnation.The Gospel is a literary document in Greek, not Hebrew. And it doesn't matter what the word "woe" can mean anyway, for as I said, the context is decisive here. You ignore what I said about this. I suppose part of your delusional behavior again.

Your comment on Acts 13:28 is rather strange. The plain meaning of "could charge him with nothing deserving death" is that there was no Jewish death penalty.Or they couldn't execute it without Roman permission (as John says), as we know may in fact have been the case (see my chapter on "burial" in The Empty Tomb). But since we have Paul himself (not Acts claiming to speak for Paul, but Paul in his own words by his own hand, decades earlier, and actually in contact with eyewitnesses) saying Jesus was executed under Deuteronomy law, even if the author of Acts 13:28 meant he was not convicted, we have reason to doubt that--because we know Paul is a more reliable source than Acts (which often deliberately contradicts Paul in order to rewrite history). And even the author of Acts contradicts himself on this point (Luke 24:20, and Acts 4:10 and 5:30).

But this is all moot. For you are again confusing facts with myth. We are talking about the myths the Gospels weaved, not whether they are true. We are talking about what Mark meant, not whether he was right. Hence it doesn't matter what actually happened. What matters is what the Gospels claim happened, and they all claim Jesus was condemned by a unanimous vote of the Sanhedrin.

Your references to Jesus' Jewish enemies in Mark's text is an interpretation. Mark does not use, as far as I know, the term "enemy" to characterize these people. That's your theory.Are you crazy? Mark 3:6 says they "plotted against him and planned how to kill him"; 8:31 says they will repudiate him; 10:33 says they will sentence him to death; 12:13 says they were trying to trap him; 14:1 says they were "plotting how to seize him by deceit and kill him"; and 14:48 has Jesus scold them for treating him like a robber by coming to seize him by force with weapons. I'm sorry, but you have to be a real lunatic to interpret that as friendly or ambivalent behavior.

Some of them sound very much like later accusations that Jewish leaders conspired to kill Jesus transposed back to Jesus as a prediction."Sound like"? Look who's theorizing now. Again, you seem confused. We're not talking about what actually happened. We're talking about what Mark is claiming happened. If you now concede that Mark is transposing this idea, then you agree with me that Mark means to tell us that the Jewish elite were the enemies of Jesus. And that means that when Judas accepts money from them to help them succeed in their plot, Mark means to tell us that Judas betrayed Jesus. It matters not one whit whether Mark is telling the truth about that. All that matters is that this is what Mark is claiming.

Leon said...

Your repeated use of the word "delusional" is a pretty good sign that you are engaging in mockery more than rational argument. Should I use the same word for some of the things you state? I could easily say that you would have to be out of your mind to believe that Judas' story is fictional, as I will explain below.

Here are the citations you asked for: Raymond Brown, "The Death of the Messiah". In Vol. 1, pp. 211-13, 251, he discusses "paradidomi". On 251, he says the primary meaning is not betray. In Vol. 2, 1399, he refers to his earlier discussion on 211-13, and says, there "I insisted that the verb paradidonai, applied to Judas, means 'to give over', not 'to betray'."

Bart Ehrman in "The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot", 16, says that betray "may be inaccurate". In the next sentence, he uses the word "probably". But Ehrman makes a big omission. He mentions "paradidomi" only in connection with Paul's use of it at 1 Cor 11:23. He never tells his readers that the Gospels use the same word Paul does.

Both Brown and Ehrman argue that this is a story of betrayal, by doing what most scholars do: They assume it rather than prove it. They do, however, admit that paradidomi does not mean betray. At best, it is an ambiguous word. It is not prodidomi, which does mean betray. I don't argue that paradidomi alone proves Judas' innocence. I argue that it is part of a pattern of evidence where the details of a story of betrayal are missing.

The major fact that no one can overcome is that Mark is missing, not just some, but all of the solid details that you would find in a story of betrayal. Nothing is clearly stated. You say you have provided evidence. But you have not. All you have done is present this or that verse which might contain the innuendo of betrayal. That's the best anyone can do. And that is not enough.

Mark presents no motive clearly stated (you have to read it into the text), no conflict Judas has with others, no unambiguous word meaning betray or traitor, and no cursing him out after the deed is done. You have no answer to that. No one does. The scholarly case against Judas (or Mark, however you want to look at it) is to rewrite the ambiguous evidence into clear evidence. You read your own certainties into the text. That is not rational proof.

If I pinned any decent scholar to the wall, they would have to admit, "Okay, so Mark does not exactly tell a clear story of betrayal. But we think it is the best interpretation." The major point is that Mark is not exact or clear. It is totally false to say otherwise. Innuendo is the best you have got, and that means other interpretations are possible.

It is clear that you cannot meet the challenge of 5 scholars honestly talking about this as a theory. In fact, I am sure you cannot produce two. Your attempt to get out of this is pretty funny. Even you might have to admit this. You claim scholars don't need to do this because they believe this is fiction or myth, which, you say, makes the story less than a theory. Kind of hilarious. The claim of fiction or myth is just another theory!!!! I rarely use exclamation points, but that sentence demands about a hundred of them.

There is no evidence for fiction. Mark is missing all such fictional elements. Of all the possible theories for Mark's story, fiction or myth is the worst, the least likely. To use your language, you would have to be completely delusional to believe that someone would invent a story of betrayal and fail to give even one definite detail to portray it this way. Nobody writes fictions like this. Nobody.

The claim of fiction is mere assertion without evidence. It is not the result of critical thinking. It is a complete failure to think critically at all. Those who make this claim are saying, "The traditional way of reading the Gospels is correct, but we now assert it is all fiction." Critical thinking would lead to the conclusion that the traditional reading of the Gospels is not supported by the actual evidence. The evidence does not support betrayal, real or fictional.

To argue, as you do, that betrayal is so widely accepted as the right way to read the story that we don't need to call it a theory is .... I would like to say words fail me. But they don't. This is pure fraud. I am not mocking the scholarly position, but accuratly stating the case. There is so much ambiguity in the texts, that it is outrageous to say that there can only be this one interpretation. It also defies all decent scholarly standards. No matter how well-accepted relativity and evolution are, nobody calls them facts. They will always be associated with the word "theory" because that is the right thing to do. For you or anyone to claim that we don't really need to remind everyone that we are dealing with theories is just a way to stifle debate and forbid other theories from being discussed.

As for all those verses where Mark says the Jewish leaders plotted to kill Jesus, you are misrepresenting what they prove. We know ancient Jewish leaders were accused of conspiracy to kill Jesus and that many believed this. That is not the issue. The question is what is the evidence beyond the mere accusation.

Think of this a game of Jeopardy. Those verses are the answer to what question? They are the answer to "Is there evidence that Jewish leaders were accused of participating in his death?" We know this. But there are several questions which these verses are not the answer to:

"Did the Gospel writers believe Jewish leaders were guilty of this?" We don't know that. That is one possibility. But they might also have been engaging in slander against Jewish authorities. That is a possibility that has to be considered. Constant repetition of an accusation is one sign of slander.

"Were the Jewish leaders really guilty of this?" Again, we don't know because the accusation proves nothing other than that the accusation was made.

"Is there in Mark or any Gospel an interesting or consistent story of Jewish leaders out to get Jesus?" The accusations are again worthless as evidence. An accusation, even repeated a thousand times, does not an interesting story make. No literary critic would ever say this accusation repeated over and over gives us a story.

Such a story, if it exists at all, would have to be found in other details. The key question is does Mark or any Gospel author provide evidence to support this accusation (real or fictional) or do they give evidence to contradict the accusation? The accusations themselves are worthless for proving much of anything, except that the accusation exists. They amount to giving us a conclusion. In a court of law and even in a literary discussion, they would be thrown out. When you realize that so much of the details outside the accusation is highly ambiguous (as in the case of Judas), you start to wonder what kind of story we have here.

But I get the feeling that none of this matters to you or any scholar. For all scholars, the primary assumption (and it is no more than an assumption) is that Judas and Jewish leaders must be guilty in a real or fictional story. Any evidence to the contrary is simply irrelevant to scholars. Presumed guilt trumps all evidence. Guilt supersedes the evidence. And then scholars obfuscate all this by claiming that they do not need to think in terms of theory because the guilt is so widely accepted and so natural a way to read the evidence. And then you want to say I am delusional because you have no rational response to any of this. No one could ever say NT scholars are not shameless.

Leon Zitzer

Richard Carrier said...

Leon said... Here are the citations you asked for: Raymond Brown, "The Death of the Messiah". In Vol. 1, pp. 211-13, 251, he discusses "paradidomi". On 251, he says the primary meaning is not betray.

Not exactly...

"[According to the Synoptics] Judas had been PLOTTING with the chief priests and others who would eventually play a role in the Sanhedrin trial. John tells us nothing about Judas' involvement in a plot (but see 11:57), and HIS DECISION TO BETRAY seems to have come during the supper (John 13:2, 26-30) ... If we confine ourselves to what is stated in the Synoptics, Judas' function as a BETRAYER is twofold. First, he goes before or with the (armed) arresting party, showing them how to seize Jesus on the Mount of Olives at night, thus where and when [fulfilling] the desire of the Jewish authorities to arrest Jesus by stealth and not cause a riot among the people (Mark 12:12 and par.; Mark 14:1-2; [etc.]). Second, in that setting he identifies Jesus amid his disciples, thus who."

-- Raymond Brown, op. cit. p. 251

Exactly what I have been saying. Only then does he make a technical distinction...

"As I stressed in discussing paradidonai (p. 211 above), the primary meaning is not 'to betray' but 'to give over'. Judas gave Jesus over by making it possible to arrest him; there is no evidence he BETRAYED SECRETS."

Even though Brown just said Judas betrayed the secret of where, when, and who Jesus was. So clearly he is only negating a highly specific concept of betrayal (the betrayal of esoteric secrets, which debate he reserves for his fourth appendix), not ordinary betrayal in the usual use of the English language. Brown even goes on to argue the kiss was necessary because the authorities would not have been able to easily recognize Jesus--and he is right, that is certainly what Mark claims, whether that's realistic or not is besides the point (as I said).

Brown has to burn three whole pages of dense text to argue that paradidonai has a primary meaning of hand over to the courts, which suggests some desperation, but in any case, I will repeat what I said: "my remarks about the word make this argument of yours irrelevant." I have said this time and again here: I do not conclude Mark intends Judas to be the betrayer of Jesus because of the meaning of the word paradidonai, but because of the context of the whole account, and as your own cited text confirms, Brown completely agrees with me!

Hence my remark: you must be high. Because you ignored my actual argument (which was not based on the meaning of the word) and attacked an argument I never made. There is clearly no point in conversing with someone who ignores what you say.

And my other remark, that you also don't know what you are talking about, was more specific: you claimed "The 19th century Liddell (sp?)-Scott dictionary of classical Greek gives betray only as a secondary meaning." That, as I said, is false: it gives it as its primary meaning (when applied to people). That's why Brown has to burn three whole pages trying to establish the opposite conclusion to what is already plainly established by the linguistic evidence of the L&S. That you didn't know that, and tried to claim the contrary, betrays your ignorance.

Brown's argument is fallacious: he argues Mark intends it in the same sense as the technical vocabulary of law courts, when as the L&S shows the word's actual "primary meaning," as in the meaning it most commonly has in application to people and bodies of people, is to deliver them to their enemy--what in English the rest of us call betrayal--whereas the technical legal connotation is a much less common and more limited meaning, not the primary one. The linguistic evidence on this point is decisive.

But as I also said, this is all irrelevant anyway, because I do not base my conclusion on what the primary meaning of the word is, but on the context of the narrative composed by Mark. Judas delivers Jesus to his enemies. That that is, per the L&S, the actual primary meaning of the word, only clinches the case. Either way, context is everything.

The major fact that no one can overcome is that Mark is missing, not just some, but all of the solid details that you would find in a story of betrayal.

I have repeatedly demonstrated this claim to be false. You keep ignoring me, and claiming my evidence is unclear when in fact it is perfectly clear, and then pretending Mark should have included "more" details that are more characteristic of a modern dime store novel, which is silly. Obviously we're done here.

It is clear that you cannot meet the challenge of 5 scholars honestly talking about this as a theory.

I don't have to, and you seem too boneheaded to understand me on this point. Because every claim about history is a theory, it is absurd to expect any scholarly text to put the word "theory" before every sentence and claim about the past or text or interpretation or translation and so on. We already know these are theories, that's why we don't have to say it all the damned time. Until you understand this, you won't understand anything I've been saying here.

You need to stop obsessing over irrational and unrealistic semantic demands and just deal with the actual question at hand: what theory does the evidence most strongly support? Scholars all agree it is that Mark depicts Judas as the betrayer of Jesus. That you reject all the clear evidence of this fact can only be delusional. Which renders all debate with you pointless.

Nobody writes fictions like this. Nobody.

Actually, almost all ancient myth and fiction is written like this. But I've already observed you don't know what you're talking about. So I shouldn't be surprised.

As for Mark being fiction (or as we would say today, historical fiction), that is quite demonstrable: the evidence is vast, clear, and decisive. Just see Randel Helms' Gospel Fictions for a start. Or even Bart Ehrmann's Jesus Interrupted, which does indeed, as it says, represent the most common mainstream views of the matter.

For all scholars, the primary assumption (and it is no more than an assumption) is that Judas and Jewish leaders must be guilty in a real or fictional story. Any evidence to the contrary is simply irrelevant to scholars.

There is no evidence to the contrary. All the Gospels clearly depict the Jewish leaders as the enemies of Jesus and as responsible for his death. But you should not confuse this as an indictment of Jews, but the Jerusalem leadership, whom the Qumran sect also attacked in much the same way. As to whether this story is factually true, I doubt it, but that's a wholly separate matter. As to what story the authors intended to tell, regardless of the truth, mainstream scholars are right, and have all the evidence on their side in the matter. You will deny this, because you are evidently off your rocker. But I can't help you with that.

Leon said...

You will never be able to overcome the major fact about Mark's story that he is missing every single major detail of a story of betrayal — he gives no clearly stated motive, no conflict Judas has with Jesus or other disciples, and not even anyone cursing Judas out after the deed is done. What is left in the text is all ambiguity. Even the one major fact about Judas — he disappeared from the table and reappeared with the authorities — is ambiguous. Betrayal is an assumption. There could easily be other explanations for this piece of evidence. You have to pretend that assumed guilt is the same as proved guilt and that betrayal is the only possible interpretation.

You are bent on rewriting the evidence. You take some innuendo, some hints, and rewrite this as solid evidence. The text never says that Judas was betraying the where and when. That is you and/or Brown reading it into the text.

The reason these clues are innuendo is because they are ambiguous. When you present it as unambiguous, you are simply lying about the evidence. That is what the scholarly case depends on. Your statemnt that the evidence you present is perfectly clear is just an outrageous misrepresentation of the evidence.

That you keep resorting to insult and ad hominem attack is a pretty good sign that you don't have a rational case. Reason never needs to stoop that low. But you do because the clear and convincing evidence is not there. You are reading things into the text that are not stated there. As I said, with evidence like this for Benedict Arnold, no American historian would argue we have a good case that he was a traitor. But in NT scholarship, assumptions of guilt are the main thing. The evidence is irrelevant. You have proven this over and over again.

And it does not matter whether you consider the story true or fictional. In either case, there has to be a strong pattern of evidence to support the claimed interpretation — and neither you nor anyone else has it. Why is so much missing from Judas' story and why such an incredible amount of ambiguous or even neutral clues? Lying about this is not a rational answer to the question. Neither is your style of insult.

Leon Zitzer

Richard Carrier said...

Leon said... You will never be able to overcome the major fact about Mark's story that he is missing every single major detail of a story of betrayal.

No, he is not. I have pointed to several markers. They are there. And they are enough. They are clear and render no other explanation anywhere near as likely. All scholars agree. Now go take your Fluphenazine.

Leon said...

Arguing with you is like arguing with any NT scholar. It's like arguing with a witch trial judge. The evidence is irrelevant and presumed guilt is everything.

You cannot produce any passage in Mark using the word "prodidomi" which does mean betray. Because it does not exist. (And you keep missing that Brown insisted so much that "paradidomi" does not mean betray that he felt compelled to explain why Mark would use a neutral word to tell Judas' story. "Paradidomi" is just one small clue.)

You cannot produce any clear statement of a motive. Because there is none in Mark. The best anyone can do is come up with a verse that is a vague hint of a motive, which means that thia vagueness could be interpreted another way.

You cannot produce any conflict in Mark between Judas and Jesus or other disciples. Because there is none.

You cannot produce any disciples cursing Judas after the deed is done. Because they aren't there.

Innunedo is all you have and that is all anyone will ever have. No one feels any shame about convicting Judas (in a real or fictional story) on the basis of so little, essentially nothing. NT scholarship may be the only academic field that actually gets worse from decade to decade. A hundred years ago, there were scholars who were capable of seeing these problems in Judas' story. Today there is almost no one. So you do what witch trial judges excel at: You resort to expletives (in whatever form and however fancy). That is NT scholarship today. As a Texas prosecutor once said, it takes some talent to convict an innocent man.

Leon Zitzer

Tom Verenna said...

Leon, perhaps you missed it:

Richard Carrier wrote (two or three posts up):

"Brown has to burn three whole pages of dense text to argue that paradidonai has a primary meaning of hand over to the courts, which suggests some desperation, but in any case, I will repeat what I said: "my remarks about the word make this argument of yours irrelevant." I have said this time and again here: I do not conclude Mark intends Judas to be the betrayer of Jesus because of the meaning of the word paradidonai, but because of the context of the whole account, and as your own cited text confirms, Brown completely agrees with me!"

Please read more carefully.

Leon said...

Tom,

You missed it. I originally acknowledged that Brown argues Judas betrayed Jesus, even before Richard said a word about it. My point was that Brown is one of those rare scholars who is capable of admitting that there is evidence which either contradicts his own belief or does not easily support it. "Paradidomi" is one of those pieces of evidence. In the second volume of his work (beginning on 1399), Brown insisted (his own word) that betray is just the wrong translation. Period. Then he goes on to recognize that he has to give an argument why Mark would use the wrong word. And that is not Richard's position. So it is quite false to say that Brown supports Richard's position. He certainly does not. Brown realizes that "paradidomi" presents a problem, though he thinks there is an answer. Richard does not see a problem here at all. And that is very different from Brown. What Richard has done is misrepresent Brown's point.

Leon Zitzer

Richard Carrier said...

No, I haven't. You are the one using fallacious arguments and misrepresentations. I will not argue with such a person. We're done here.