It’s great to have Tim as a co-blogger — as well as recent posts from Earl and Roger — so my occasional absences should scarcely be noticed.
Since my last blogpost more books have come my way, and contrary to aspersions from Jesus Process ©™® intellects I really do read books, even whole ones, before bringing them here for discussion. One of them (Why Did They Write This Way?) discusses the literature of the Hebrew Bible and expresses some curious ideas such as the fundamental necessity for independent testimony to serve as controls to enable us to decide if our biblical accounts are historically reliable or not. I guess many historical Jesus scholars will be able to dismiss this logic and methodology because it is only relevant to the historical analysis of documents that have nothing to do with Christian origins.
Another newly published work (Christ Among the Messiahs) argues that Paul’s concept of “Messiah” or “Christ” needs to be understood as part of the broad mosaic of Jewish understandings of the term and not as something oddly mutated into an idiosyncratic cultic idea. I’m wondering what implications such an argument might have for our understanding of the emergence of Christianity. A third (The Quest for the Origin of John’s Gospel) explores the relationship of the Gospel of John with the Synoptic Gospels. And I want to catch up, also with the latest by Steven Pinker and David Brooks. And there are still scores of older ones I want to blog more about. But if I start with any of these I will miss the tedium of bothering with the three processed cheeses fun of huffing and casing and fishing with the flavour of last month.
So I thought to resume blogging by tackling Professor Joseph Hoffmann’s anchor blogpost essay that appears to be meant to address current popular manifestations of the Christ myth theory. Unfortunately, as some readers know, Hoffmann’s style is rarely lucid on such matters. The closer one reads with intent to engage with his argument, the more convoluted and meaningless many of his sentences turn out to be. I can well sympathize with those commenters on his blog New Oxonian who have expressed some sense of being overwhelmed by all he has written and who have accordingly affirmed a desire to return to them another day to try to fully absorb what on earth he was talking about the full depths of his erudition. I think I have finally figured out he is not addressing the Christ Myth theory at all — the gospels and Paul are all the evidence we need for the historicity of Jesus (we only have to read them to know Jesus existed, even if they tell us nothing truly historical about him anyway) — but, rather, he is tracing the valiant fight of early ecclesiastical lights to preserve the historical traditions of Jesus against the threat of various salvation myths (including second century mythicism!) that were constantly threatening to extinguish those historical traditions! If I have misunderstood I am sure I will be corrected soon enough.
If Bart Ehrman thinks he has nailed the basics for the historicity of Jesus, Joe Hoffmann profoundly disagrees. Hoffmann reminds us that Ehrman was merely writing for “popular consumption” and there is apparently very little in Ehrman’s book that Hoffmann sees eye to eye with. So when Ehrman says that he is the first scholar ever (as far as he knows) to systematically set out to prove the existence of Jesus Hoffmann comes along and says nearly everything Ehrman argues is wrong, I can imagine Ehrman fiercely nudging Hoffmann and muttering through his teeth for him to keep quiet for god’s sake! Is not the aim of the game to convince the popular audiences that Jesus was a historical figure! Scholarly disputes over what constitutes proof are not going to help!
Anyway, it is late in the day, too late, that is, to bother with Hoffmann’s convolutions. I will tackle them later. Let’s do another easy one first just for warm ups. How about Maurice Casey’s respectful disagreement with an older post of mine in which I believe I exposed the hollowness of one of his arguments for an Aramaic source for Mark’s Gospel? Or maybe address the entire Casey blogpost essay – - -
Since writing that I have just heard some sad news (real suffering at the hands of the unconscionable) concerning a relative of a friend of mine. Suddenly the thought of confronting the small minds of the likes of Hoffmann, Casey and Fisher seems such a meaningless exercise. There are real issues affecting people in the world that leave the offended egos of a few fatuous eggheads at the bottom of any priority list. Maybe tomorrow.