Bart Ehrman says ‘If you want to make up a story about the Messiah, will you make up the story that he got squashed by the enemy and got crucified, the lowest form of execution in the empire? No! If you’re going to make up a story about the Messiah, you’d make up that he actually overthrew the Romans and he’s the King in Jerusalem now…Why didn’t [early Christians] make up that story? Because everybody knew Jesus was crucified…this is why Christians had the hardest time convincing people that Jesus was the Messiah.’
It must be true because nobody would make it up….. (Cited from a recent Carr comment)
What pathetic drivel is capable of coming from the pens of some biblical scholars! This is a rhetorical question that is advanced as a substitute for an argument. There is no argument. The evidence actually belies the very assumptions upon which the rhetorical question is grounded. (more…)
A week ago (22nd June) I posted a draft list of points one might expect a historical Jesus hypothesis would explain or predict. I have still to make the time to work on that list along with some suggestions that were posted to it. But here is a similar list for what might be seen as the strengths of the mythical Jesus view:
A mythical Jesus theory
1. Would expect to find either no account of the eye-witness or authoritative transmission of words and deeds of Jesus in the early record, or vague/contradictory/politically-theologically-tendentious (only) accounts of such a transmission to fill the gap between Jesus and the earliest written accounts; (more…)
Roger Parvus has published a fascinating study of the letters of Ignatius and proposes that they originated from one who belonged to the breakaway group from Marcionism that was led by Apelles. Towards the end of his book (A New Look at the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch and Other Apellian Writings) he addresses the similarities other scholars have observed between the Johannine and Ignatian communities, and suggests that some of those “little contradictions and oddities” in the Gospel of John may also reflect an Apellean origin. (Hopefully I am not stealing too much of his thunder with this post, since I am hoping Roger will be able to argue his case for himself. But a touch of eagerness to write up at least little bit of one facet of his book has got the better of me here.)
I won’t write up much of the detail in the book in this post — just enough to share with others some of the details one can easily read over in John’s Gospel yet fail to notice the contradictions, and the implications of the contradictions, in some of the most familiar passages. Familiarity has a lot to answer for.
This is not an attempt to argue for a particular reading or redaction history of John. That would require much more serious depth. The point of this post is simply to show the possibilities of questions, of alternative understandings, relating to the origin of the Gospel of John from a not widely encountered perspective. (more…)
I'm at the blue dot -- Darwin
I have recently moved (again) to take up a better position, still in the field of making research publications, cultural and other resources available online to the widest target audiences possible or appropriate into the long-term future, his time at the top end of Australia. So recently blogging has been much more of an ad hoc distraction than usual. My job is one of those new fangled types that can never be really explained to those not in the know, and I have been very lucky to have been in the right place at the right time, and to have met the right people, to have a forefront seat in the way everything is moving with digitized research and cultural collections globally. And some exciting directions are being initiated up north here in Australia. But my professional life has nothing to do with my Vridar hobby-horse so I maintain quite distinct online accounts.
Once I’m settled (again) I hope to resume more systematic blogging following through coherent themes. If others kindly contribute with a post or two to this blog, then of course they do so without implying they concur with any other topics I blog about here, in particular those with a political or social commentary.
A Darwin local told me that this region is one of the most egalitarian in Australia. If so, I wonder if the geography has something to do with encouraging that. Where there are no hills, where the landscape is flat and the same dry in all directions, and where one cannot help but sense a vulnerable isolation from the major cities amidst green hills and rivers, where all 119 ethnic and cultural groups here feel the same heat and humidity, and prepare annually for the same cyclone season, how much room can there be for class conscious uppitiness. This is one city where rich and poor can be found alongside each other in the same neighbourhoods, even the same streets.
Now it’s all gone –
It’s not making headlines here but it should.
“Now it’s all gone”: Women cope with siege in Jordan Valley
The Electronic Intifada
24 June 2011
Israeli military forces have demolished 27 houses in the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank over the last two weeks. More than 140 Palestinians have been rendered homeless by the demolitions, while Israeli settlement expansion continues to threaten more land and restrict water access — affecting the vitality of dozens of Palestinian villages in the area. (more…)
In my previous post I quoted John Taylor where he referenced chapter 5 of Dionysus: Myth and Cult by Walter Friedrich Otto. That chapter is titled “The God Who Comes”. It is about this distinctive characteristic of the god Dionysus — that, unlike other gods, he comes to mankind visibly, that is, “in the flesh”. That post pointed to a strong theological or religious meaning that such a “historic presence” promised for ongoing and future intimate relations (even entering into the persons of devotees now) in the cults of both Dionysus and Jesus.
For those who are too impatient to read that chapter online (it is available in its entirety on Google books) here are a few excerpts.
One could almost substitute “Jesus” and “Gospel of Mark’ or such for Dionysus and his narrative in the following discussion and one would continue to nod in assent with all that is said. Jesus is far from the violent figure towards humans that Dionysus is, but one reads commentaries on Mark speaking of the “violence” with which Jesus enters “history”, with his overpowering of demons and in other ways suddenly turning the world upside down. The same commentators speak of the urgency with Jesus acts and demands responses from those he encounters. (more…)
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Theologians draw out spiritual lessons from the tale of God sending his Son in the flesh, performing miracles and teaching truths incomprehensible to most, and then dying and returning once again to heaven so he can be with many more followers here and now who do understand and appreciate his fleshly advent. The same theologians even explain history in terms of this theological drama. Followers of Jesus were so shocked by the unexpected demise of their hero on the cross that they feverishly set about fabricating this spiritually meaningful tale to compensate for their disillusionment by restoring among themselves a new faith and hope for a future life.
The possibility that that spiritually meaningful story might have been the original source of the tale of the historical advent of Jesus seems not to occur to them. (No, I am not saying the story was fabricated overnight ex nihilo. All stories and genres have their antecedents, and such antecedents to the Gospel story and genre are a lot more in evidence in the record than we are conditioned to quickly acknowledge.)
But let’s do a little comparative religious study to see if another ancient cult can shed any light on the question of Jesus’ historicity. (more…)
As anyone who has read a good book on the theory of evolution will appreciate, the strength of the theory lies in its
- explanatory power, and
- predictive ability
Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish is one such book. Shubin explains simply and elegantly how evolution explains both the fossil record and genetic patterns across all species, and even how the same theory enables paleontologists to know where to look for certain kinds of fossils.
Let’s outline what a rough draft of these two tests might look like when applied to (a) the theory that Jesus was historical, and (2) the theory that he was a myth. Only have time to begin work on the first one this post.
I’m sure there is much more that could be said than I outline here, but a rough draft has to start somewhere.
Historical Jesus theory: (more…)
“You aren’t allowed to make up your own facts.”
That’s a brilliant piece of wisdom that is lost on many of us from time to time because a certain familiarity with habitual ways of thinking prevents us from seeing that we sometimes really do just make up our own facts — or at least just accept “facts” that others have simply made up for us.
The words come from The Uncensored Bibe by Kaltner, McKenzie and Kilpatrick after they have presented an original argument that explains that bizarre episode in Exodus where God is said to meet Moses on his return to Egypt and tries to kill him, following which his wife Zipporah circumcises her infant son, tosses the foreskin at Moses and accuses him of being a bloody husband — after which God leaves him alone. This, at least, is one way the passage is translated for us. But as the authors explain, the original is riddled with so many unlinked pronouns no one can be really sure how to translate the passage, let along make any sense of the story.
A suicidal Moses
The occasion of the opening passage — “You aren’t allowed to make up your own facts” — is the explanation of Pamela Tamarkin Reis. She suggests the confusing phrases are not intended to be understood literally but are idiomatic expressions. They indicated, Reis says, that Moses was contemplating suicide. He had presented himself until this moment as an Egyptian fugitive of high standing, but on his return to Egypt after being called by a voice out of a burning bush, he had to face up to his being a Hebrew and one with a slave people. His wife, Zipporah, mocked him by performing a circumcision on their son in contempt. (more…)
In the process of moving recently I discovered one of my long-boxed copies of a history book researching the lives of renegade leaders of small bands generally considered to be Robin Hood type bandits. What is interesting about this particular field of history, and that is worthy of note among those interested “how history works” in fields other than among theologians and other biblical scholars studying the historical Jesus, is the way the historian treats literary evidence of legendary tales of famous outlaws.
The earliest figure in the literature referenced is Robin Hood himself. But the historian does not discuss Robin Hood as a historical figure at all.
For the purposes of this book Robin Hood is pure myth. As it happens, though ballads about him go back to the fourteenth century, he was not commonly regarded as a hero until the sixteenth century. The question whether a real Robin Hood existed, or what medieval English bands were like in the greenwoods, must be left to experts in the history of the Middle Ages. (p. 46, Bandits, 2000)
This historian is interested in investigating the careers of real people who can be established as having existed and acted in real history quite apart from the legends told about them. (more…)
Some scholars (e.g. S.G.F. Brandon) have opined that Jesus was something of a revolutionary or rebel leader; others (e.g. Thomas L. Thompson) that he was “a messiah myth” (the link is to an earlier post of mine listing the mythical traits of gods and kings of the Middle East).
Other scholars (e.g. Robert M. Price) have compared the Gospel narrative elements of Jesus against the various functional components of folk tales as extracted by Vladimir Propp.
One nonbiblical historian who, to my knowledge, has never written a word about Jesus, has written about a certain type of rebel leader, however, and compared the realities with the myth or legend that has universally attached itself to these sorts of people. Eric Hobsbawm has researched the phenomenon of social banditry (from China through Europe to Peru), or the Robin Hood types of figures. His list of characteristics of the “noble image” that attaches itself to these figures is interesting.
It bears a striking resemblance to the qualities of the kings and gods of Thompson’s messiah myth traits as much as to the heroic human outlaw. If the same qualities attach themselves to both the human outcast and a mighty god or king of another, much earlier, era, then one is entitled to suspect we are looking at some deeper psychological need/attraction at work here.
Here’s Hobsbawm’s list of characteristics (p. 47f of Bandits, 2000). (more…)
I could retitle this “Religion’s history myths” and write about Judaism and the Moslem religions, too, and probably a few others. But it’s safest to stick to what we know best.
I was reminded while writing about the last chapter of Jesus Christ Harry Potter what miserable times inflicted so many in the Roman world that saw the growth and eventual dominance of Christianity. I get the impression that for many people the best means of escape was to escape life completely: celibacy, asceticism and martyrdom were for many the highest ideals one could aspire to in “life”. And one reads the with some pain the intolerance and hatred that sears through so many of the writings of the Church Fathers, and reflects on the brutality that must have accompanied the archaeological evidence of wanton destruction and humiliation of the religious and artistic works of the former era.
As I wrote in my previous post, I can’t help but be reminded of the reasons so many willing martyrs (e.g. suicide-bombers) have been found among certain groups today. When life is thought to be no longer worth living under certain conditions, when personal despair, humiliation, hopelessness, mean that an individual’s “real life” has effectively ended, when all this is so unbearable, some people prefer to swap their physical existence for a symbolic existence. (Compare my review of Ghassan Hage’s Against Paranoid Nationalism).
Martyrs are supposed to be shining beacons through the ages. But how can anyone respect the mentality that produced the letters of Ignatius. Do these express anything more inspiring than pornographic lusts for self-immolation?
The winners write their history, and Christianity’s birth and early growth have been upheld as times of glorious purity and heroism.
There are many sincere and good Christians today as there were then, no doubt. But try as they will to cover or explain away or even rebuke the sins of their brethren, does not their primary allegiance continue to offer a silver lining of respectability for the irrational and the darkness that has been at the core of this religion since the creation of that myth of innocence in the Gospel of Mark.
This post covers the final chapter of Derek Murphy’s Jesus Potter Harry Christ. All chapter by chapter reviews are collated here and on the Jesus Mysteries discussion group. I will do one more overview review of the entire book, but that may not be on this blog, but on amazon or such. A special thanks to Derek Murphy for sending me a review copy. His book has opened up for me a broader perspective on the question of Christian origins than I had till now been used to. (Recent posts on the place of “astronomics” in the ancient world may have been prompted by questions Derek Murphy has raised in my mind.)
Having argued in the preceding chapters that Christianity began as another type of mystery religion, or really a spread of “interactive and heterogeneous communities”, and not with a historical Jesus, Derek Murphy in this final chapter explains why such “mystery” type religious communities were displaced by something quite different based on a belief in the historical truth of the Jesus narrative. Murphy shows that the rise and spread of what became the orthodox Christianity that we know had very practical political and psycho-social causes, and can hardly be said to be the result of any miraculous forces. One of the main sources Murphy draws upon for this chapter is the reputable The Rise of Christianity by W.H.C. Frend.
The message of the literalness of the Jesus story was simple to grasp. Its message was uncomplicated: have faith in this historical event. Justin Martyr, for example, as Murphy points out, describes his conversion to Christianity explaining that its attraction lay in it being a much simpler set of understandings than other complex philosophies of his day. (more…)
Here is another snippet here from classicist scholar John Taylor’s book, Classics and the Bible: Hospitality and Recognition. This time it is from a decontextualized comparison between Jesus and Socrates. I have only extracted those elements that relate most directly to Jesus as found in the Gospels themselves, and left behind those that relate to a more generic image of Jesus that embraces the descriptions of various Church Fathers and the apostle Paul.
I have not included discussion of any of these points of comparison. I have simply listed them as dot-points, so do with them what you will. I had once hoped to discuss them more meaningfully, but can see that I will not have an opportunity (given my balance of interests) to do that for at least twenty years.
I have given more online references to Socrates than to Jesus because I assume that most interested in such a topic would already know more about Jesus, and sources for references to Jesus, than Socrates.
The comparison falls in two parts, though these may seem contrived to many. The first is comparing Jesus and Socrates per se; the second list compares the sources of each, or as each is found particularized in specific sources, and scholarly reactions to each.
The comparisons of the deaths of each in the second bracket (#5, accounts of the last days or each) probably should really go in the first set of comparisons, but I have kept Taylor’s sequence to save time, even though Taylor makes this a part of a larger discussion about scholarly reactions to same.
Socrates and Jesus in history: (more…)
This post begins a collection of quotations from ancient Jewish literature illustrating the a form of Jewish thought not so familiar with those of us whose knowledge has rarely extended beyond the canonical literature. Divine figures bearing the name of God appeared in human form on chariot thrones, and holy men of old like Adam, Abel, Abraham and Jacob were said to be divine and even archangels themselves. The notes are taken from Alan F. Segal’s Paul the Convert, but many of the quotations themselves are copied from online or other sources.
The human form of God was an important idea in Jewish merkabah mysticism. An “angel of the Lord” in the form of a man yet who represented or bore the “name of God” was said to have led Israel through the wilderness (Exodus 23:21); and a human figure appeared seated on the divine throne in Ezekiel 1, Daniel 7 and Exodus 24. All of these figures appear to be mediator figures who embody the sacred name of God (YHWH) himself.
This figure, elaborated on by Jewish tradition, would become a central metaphor for Christ in Christianity. (p. 41) (more…)
I thought I had nailed the reason for Luke’s choice of Emmaus (Luke 24:23-35) as the destination of the two disciples after the crucifixion when I posted on The Origin and Meaning of the Emmaus Road Narrative in Luke. That explanation hinged on Codex Bezae containing the original word, Oulammaus, and that led to the link with the place where God appeared to Jacob when he was traveling away from his home.
But now there is another possible explanation for the choice of the placename that I have come across in Classics and the Bible by John Taylor.
Firstly, he suggests the location in Luke 24:13 is “strongly probably” to be identified with the place of that name in 1 Maccabees 3:40 and Josephus in Jewish War 2.71. This places the town 160 stades distant from Jerusalem rather than the 60 in most manuscripts, though some manuscripts do say 160.
It is however much more likely that Luke intends a symbolic point than that he is preoccupied with the minutiae of geography of that there were two places of the same name.
Firstly look at the Emmaus passage to recollect a few details: (more…)
Ladder of Divine Ascent: Image via Wikipedia
The New Testament epistles inform us that the original Gospel was a revelation from God. That means it did not originate by means of spoken tradition relayed from historical events, by word of mouth, from eyewitness or preacher to others. Rather, one might almost say that the medium itself was the message: the revelation or vision was, in a signifcant sense, the Gospel and conversion experience.
Thus Paul — thought by some scholars to be the real founder of Christianity — says that he was not taught the Gospel by men. “In Galatians 1, Paul claims that he did not receive the gospel from a human source. . . . In Galatians Paul speaks of his conversion as a revelation (apocalypse [1:12])” (Segal, 1990: 35, 36)
I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. . . . But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. (Galatians 1:12, 16) (more…)
First, the background . . .
Earl Doherty had written:
Titus 1:2-3 — “…in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, but (now) at the proper time, he has revealed his word [NEB: openly declared himself] through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior.”
Step One: God promised eternal life long ages ago (lit., before the beginning of time)…
Step Two: God has now revealed that word and fulfilled his age-old promise, through the gospel being preached by Paul. (The writer represents himself as Paul, reflecting the Pauline tradition, as all of the pseudo-Pauline forgeries do.)
God’s promise…then the revelation of that promise in Paul’s gospel.
Where is Jesus in this pattern, Bernard? Where is Step One and a Half? God’s promise wasn’t fulfilled in Jesus? Jesus himself didn’t preach the fulfillment of God’s promise? The “proper time” is identified with Paul’s time and preaching with not the slightest glance at Jesus himself, his life and preaching? The same void exists in other (genuine) Pauline passages, such as 2 Cor. 3:5-6, 3:7-11 and 5:5, Romans 3:21-25, 1 Cor. 10:11. I’m not twisting these passages to eliminate some obvious HJ. He simply isn’t there, and all your sputtering and forced doctoring of them, especially in ignorance of the original Greek texts, won’t put him there. (Some translations do their best to supplement various Greek passages in order to insert him. The NEB is particularly guilty in that regard.)
Mike Wilson replied:
I’m not sure how you conclude there is “no room here for a human Jesus between God and Paul in the course of salvation history”. We can presume Jesus’ actions are part of the promised hope of eternal life without disrupting the meaning of the sentence. I don’t think this line has been a source of any particular trouble for commentators. It reads perfectly well if one supposes the hope of eternal life was accomplished by some action in time on the part of Jesus. That pseudo-Paul did not specify “the promised fulfilled by God gouging out Jesus’ eyes” or whatever they believed, is outside or knowledge. I’m not sure why he doesn’t explain how rebirth and the holy spirit are being poured out though Jesus, but I have to presume the author has an idea of how. While not mentioning the historical deeds or sayings of Jesus, it is not incompatible with such as you believe and little different in its lack of Historical Jesus material as many works by known Historical Jesus authors.
“All that is wrong with historicist scholarship”
Doherty responds (more…)
I showed pictures of adorable or scary animals to counteract the inherent boredom of reading math. Like, for instance, the hippopotamus.
Richard Carrier is well known for his advocacy of the use of the Bayes’ theorem in historical Jesus studies. (Find the link to Bayes’ Theorem for Beginners here or go direct to the pdf article here.) Carrier has enumerated its advantages, and I highlight the ones that are my own personal favourites (all quotations are from the pdf article, Bayes’ Theorem for Beginners):
1. Helps to tell if your theory is probably true rather than merely possibly true
2. Inspires closer examination of your background knowledge and assumptions of likelihood
3. Forces examination of the likelihood of the evidence on competing theories
4. Eliminates the Fallacy of Diminishing Probabilities
5. Bayes’ Theorem has been proven to be formally valid
6. Bayesian reasoning with or without math exposes assumptions to criticism & consequent revision and therefore promotes progress
The reason 2, 3 and 6 stand out for me is because they are at the heart of my past criticisms of historical Jesus studies that typically begin with assumptions of historicity, and avoid (or fail to comprehend or even attack) alternative explanations that do not support those assumptions. One does not really need Bayes theorem to expose your assumptions to criticism, but the formality of this method does potentially encourage stronger awareness of where we may be failing to do this adequately. (more…)
Signorelli, Luca – Resurrection of the Flesh: Image via Wikipedia
Continuing here my reviews of Jesus Potter Harry Christ by Derek Murphy. All reviews are archived here, and on the Jesus Mysteries discussion group.
In this chapter Derek Murphy offers an explanation for how and why the original teachings of Christianity, and Paul in particular, were lost and replaced by the narrative we are familiar with today, that Jesus was a literal flesh and blood historical person. Having begun with a spiritual message, Christianity eventually emerged with a teaching of a physical Jesus and even of a physical resurrection.
Paul’s Mystery Initiations
What Murphy describes as a “Jewish mystery cult” (addressed in the previous chapter) was a two-edged sword.
The Jewish mystery cult, a greater spiritual synthesis than even the mighty and popular Serapis, was immediately successful. It was fueled by both the desires and needs of the Jewish people in the Diaspora, and the lust for a greater and more powerful magical name. It also allowed Jews to integrate more fully into their cosmopolitan pagan environment. But there was an inherent and powerful conflict in this new religious practice. Jesus was the anathema of everything the Jews believed in; he was a repugnant, crudely constructed, pagan mystery god dressed up as the Jewish Messiah and appropriating Jewish scripture for his own. (p. 338)
So those who embraced the “mysteries” were faced with practical questions and issues, such as details of law observance, paying taxes, etc. Competing teachers arose. (more…)
Continuing from the previous post, addressing McGrath’s comments on Doherty’s chapter 7.
I have so often heard scholars repeat, as if it were a truism, that in pre-modern cultures that relied more on oral traditions and story-telling than on stick-it notes people had trained themselves to have remarkable memories. But I was obviously mistaken. McGrath informs us that if the news of the assassination of Kennedy (or let’s say Julius Caesar) were spread as “a tradition”, then by the time anyone came to write it down as a story, they would be obliged to invent a host of imaginary characters and variable settings simply to tell it as “a story”. Maybe some would say the assassination happened in Rome, others in Actium or Athens (or Dallas, or San Francisco). Such basic detail is not likely to have been included in the original oral transmission of the news, so McGrath would have us believe.
Or if we think of tales involving resurrections/reappearances after death, imagine the tales of the death and reappearance of Romulus. He was murdered in the environs of Rome and reappeared there after his assassination according to accounts, but presumably other accounts could well have had him reappear in northern Italy or Syracuse instead. We have no record that oral transmission did leave such details as the geographic setting of the event open to imaginative recreation, but then the absence of such details is most likely evidence that they were all well-known and no-one needed to put such things in writing. (This line of reasoning works for explaining the epistles’ silences about Jesus’ earthly life, so it can surely work here, too.)
McGrath actually equates the recovery of a fundamental geographic setting with the problems a story-teller would have in trying to imaginatively reconstruct story dialogue! (more…)
Reviewing James McGrath’s “review” of Doherty’s chapter 7. McGrath begins:
Chapter 7 of Earl Doherty’s book Jesus: Neither God Nor Man turns attention to other characters in the Gospels and events that are not mentioned about them (sic) in the epistles: Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial, for starters.
Presumably the first thing to note it that the latter completely undermines Doherty’s argument. Paul refers to encounters with Peter – a real historical individual – and thus if he can be a real individual without stories from the later Gospels appearing in the epistles, then clearly so can Jesus.
This makes no sense. Even the Gospels themselves refer to undoubtedly real people such as Pilate. They also refer to real cities, like Jerusalem. Ancient fiction is also known to include real people and places. The historical Persian King Artaxerxes and his wife Statira appear in Chariton‘s Chaireas and Callihroe, as does the historical general Hermocrates.
So even if we do accept Peter as a historical person known to Paul, this simply does not inevitably force us to conclude that a later narrative that includes Peter must be historical in all its details or other characters.
McGrath continues: (more…)
James McGrath has ridiculed any reference to an argument for interpolation if there is no manuscript evidence for it. But this simply avoids addressing the actual arguments that are sometimes advanced for an interpolation. By avoiding the arguments he sophistically reasons that if there is a claim for interpolation then he is equally free to say that an editor has removed the evidence that will support his case. One would expect evidence of more learning from an associate professor.
This post looks at arguments by scholars who give us strong reasons to accept the possibility, even likelihood, of interpolations in Paul’s letters despite absence of manuscript evidence.
Richard Carrier has an excellent blog post discussing two clear interpolations in Paul’s letters: 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. His conclusion should be seen in the context of what William O. Walker has described as a “culture of interpolations” in that era.
Firstly, Carrier’s conclusion to his blog post: (more…)
One of the most interesting and easiest-to-read studies of the Gospel of Mark I have ever read is Werner H. Kelber’s Mark’s Story of Jesus. In this book he shows readers that the apparent random crossings back and forth across the “Sea of Galilee” by Jesus are not so random after all, but are really ciphers for a very cogent theological message.
Sea voyages 1 and 2
Jesus begins his ministry in Capernaum in Galilee, and his first crossing of the “Sea of Galilee” is from that Jewish territory (after having taught his many parables to his Jewish audience in Mark 4, and which he said they would not understand anyway) across to the other side where Gentiles lived, “the region of Garasenes/Gadarenes/Gergesenes” — Mark 5:1. (more…)
Image via Wikipedia
There should be nothing controversial in the title of this post. I understand “critical scholars” generally agree that the Gospel narratives of Jesus are largely fictitious, exaggerations, theological metaphors, expressing what Jesus “meant to the authors” rather than what he historically did or said. Many scholars agree that there are a few core events that really do lie behind the Gospel narratives, but except for one or two (the crucifixion and baptism) they do not all agree on what these were.
Classical scholar John Taylor, in Classics and the Bible: Hospitality and Recognition, shows us how the creators of both the Gospel narratives about Jesus and the Roman epic about Aeneas used the same technique for creating their respective characters (p. 85). (more…)
Thanks to Richard Carrier for his review of Sources of the Jesus Tradition, and for his earlier coverage of the conference that preceded this book. Having read most of the book I can concur with many of Carrier’s assessments of its (very mixed) quality. R. Joseph Hoffmann, editor of the book, has written a response, and Carrier has in return replied to this. Ah, the refined art of academic throat slitting and knife twisting!
In the course of his review Carrier discusses conference papers that he deeply regrets were not included and that led me to catch up with his earlier blog post on the conference presentations themselves.
So I copy here excerpts of Carrier’s review highlighting the best of what appears in Sources, and collate additional information from his earlier post on contributions that I personally find the most interesting. The Trobisch and MacDonald reviews at the end of this post are my personal favourites. So the following will be redundant for those already familiar with Carrier’s blog and views.
But there is much I omit. I only include my favourite bits here. Do read the very extensive book review and the details of the conference papers as they were delivered.
Note the overlap between Gerd Lüdemann’s and Earl Doherty’s arguments about Paul’s writings, too. (more…)