Vridar

2012/08/24

High-Low context cultures — catching up with the fundamentals

Filed under: The Jesus Process — Neil Godfrey @ 10:05 pm
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It’s about time I tied up one loose end from my earlier remarks on Professor Maurice Casey’s “frightful”™ and “hopelessly unlearned”™ diatribe against “mythicism” generally and Earl Doherty in particular. In his inaugural essay for The Jesus Process© he wrote:

. . . [H]opelssly unlearned . . . Doherty’s ‘original’ work on Paul is . . . frightful. . . . He shows no knowledge of the fundamental work of the anthropologist E.T. Hall, who introduced the terms ‘high context culture’ and ‘low context culture’ into scholarship [Footnote here to Beyond Culture]. Paul’s epistles were written in a high context culture, which was homogeneous enough for people not to have to repeat everything all the time, whereas American, European and many other scholars belong to a low context culture, which gives them quite unrealistic expectations of what the authors of the epistles ought to have written.

This is one basic reason why Paul says so little about the life and teaching of Jesus. To some extent, his Gentile Christians had been taught about Jesus already, so he could take such knowledge for granted. He therefore had no reason to mention places such as Nazareth, or the site of the crucifixion, nor to remind his congregations that Jesus was crucified on earth recently.

According to this critique we can conclude that Paul forgot to mention anything about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus – or even that Jesus Christ was exalted subsequently to a heavenly role as our Saviour — to his Gentile converts since he clearly does not take such knowledge for granted but repeats it scores of times throughout his epistles.

Shamed into an acute embarrassment for having no knowledge of any “fundamental work”, I immediately purchased a second hand copy of E. T. Hall’s book, Beyond Culture. It arrived as a Harvard University Library discard, very good condition though, complete with Harvard University Library stamps including one warning of a 25 cent fine for every hour it failed to be returned to Harvard’s Social Relations Library after 10 A.M. (more…)

2012/06/26

The New Apologists: R. Joseph Hoffmann and friends on a rescue mission for the “Jesus of history”

Filed under: The Jesus Process — Neil Godfrey @ 10:32 am
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Ken Humphreys has posted his response to The Jesus Process (C) trio: The New Apologists: R. Joseph Hoffmann and friends on a rescue mission for the “Jesus of History”. . . .

A trio of Jesus myth denouncers from the world of academe have rushed into the breach opened up by the failure of Bart Ehrman’s final solution to the problem of Jesus’ existence (Listen, he was a small-time deluded doom merchant who thought he was king, so there). Professors Hoffmann and Casey, and a young academic who worked for Casey, Stephanie Louise Fisher, have come to Ehrman’s support with a few dubious arguments in favour of a historical Jesus and a visceral attack on Jesus mythicists as a thoroughly bad crew. . . . .

2012/06/12

Concluding Response of Blogger Neil Godfrey to Blogger Maurice Casey of TJP®©™

Filed under: The Jesus Process — Neil Godfrey @ 9:35 am
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Anyone who has read the works of Earl Doherty, Robert M. Price and others (even my own posts) knows that our blogger Maurice Casey’s attempts to critique them are unbearably lightweight — except for the unbearably depressing personal vitriol. My guess is that for most part he is reading selections fed to him by a certain hotheaded research assistant who has her own personal axe to grind.

We recently commented on his hallucinatory observation that I don’t read books and even make light of earthquake victims. The latter innuendo indicates that if he ever found out that the New Zealand librarians who published the original article and photograph linked in my post were also atheistic mythicists then he would surely accuse them also of cold-hearted inhumanity. The former charge (that I don’t read books) is loaded with the double irony that he included information that he presumably read in my blog profile, yet in that same profile I explain quite clearly what is meant by my not touching books in my job as a librarian.

With that sort of introduction how can anyone take seriously anything this new internet blogger says. I certainly can’t.

But for the sake of completeness I’ll make the effort to finalize my response to his TJP(C) blogpost.

Did not give proper references

I will never forget Dr James McGrath surmising that my use of quotation marks around the title of a book was a suspicious indicator that I had not read the book. Well, our next circus act is Dr Maurice Casey censuring me because I “did not give proper references” in a blogpost. Ouch! (I hyperlinked direct to the full text of the source itself instead of setting out a full scholarly bibliographic citation. Regrettable! Appalling! Frightful!) (more…)

2012/06/11

When Is Paul’s Silence Golden?

English: Engraving requestin silence from visi...

English: Engraving requesting silence from visitors, Notre-Dame de Senlis (Photo credit: Rama at Wikipedia)

The Casey-Holding Theory of Pauline High-Context Culture

We were treated recently to another dose of apologia run amok in Maurice Casey’s “frightful” diatribe against Earl Doherty. Following in the footsteps of fellow apologist, J.P. Holding, Casey explains away Paul’s silence regarding the earthly Jesus by a misapplication of Edward T. Hall’s cultural context paradigm (ref. Beyond Culture).

According to the Casey-Holding Theory, Paul was silent about Jesus in his epistles because (quoting Casey):

Paul’s epistles were written in a high context culture, which was homogeneous enough for people not to have to repeat everything all the time, whereas American, European and many other scholars belong to a low context culture, which gives them quite unrealistic expectations of what the authors of the epistles ought to have written.

By the time Paul was writing his letters “in a ‘high-context’ realm,” Holding states:

There was no need for Paul to make reference to the life-details of Jesus or recount his teachings, for that had been done long ago.

However, in “Interpreting Evidence: An Exchange with Christian Apologist JP Holding,” Kris D. Komarnitsky neatly brushes aside the argument by using Holding’s own words against him, writing:

(more…)

2012/06/10

Blogger Godfrey’s Blog Reply (2) to Blogger Casey’s Blog Post on the Internet

Filed under: The Jesus Process — Neil Godfrey @ 8:46 am
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Blogger Casey (of The Jesus Process ®©™ blog series now published on the internet) expresses regret and shock at the “frightful” work of Earl Doherty, notably because

with a regrettable lack of information about conventional scholarship, he shows no knowledge of the fundamental work of the anthropologist E. T. Hall, who introduced the terms ‘high context culture’ and ‘low context culture’ into scholarship — with his 1976 publication, Beyond Culture.

Truly regrettable. Simply frightful.

Paul and High Context Culture

Cover of "Beyond Culture"

Cover of Beyond Culture

But there is one New Testament scholar who has done his homework and that’s Professor Bruce J. Malina. In 1996 (twenty years after Hall’s book appeared) he discussed Beyond Culture as if his scholarly peers needed to have Hall’s argument explained to them for the first time (The Social World of Jesus and the Gospels). To my knowledge he has never blogged a post or essay on the internet, though.

Maybe Malina’s absence from the web explains why Blogger Casey has shown absolutely no knowledge of this anthropologist’s 1976 work in any of his books, From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God (1991, 2001), Is John’s Gospel True (1996), Aramaic Sources of Mark’s Gospel (1998), An Aramaic Approach to Q (2002), Solution to the ‘Son of Man’ Problem (2007, 2009), Jesus of Nazareth (2010), even when he was discussing various ancient and modern cultures. Or perhaps someone can jog my memory if it is failing me here.

Now this is a serious deficiency for Blogger Casey since he clearly struggles with self-contradictory arguments when he attempts to weave Hall’s concepts into his criticism of mythicism. Casey argues that the reason no epistle writer in the New Testament, in particular Paul, mentioned any details of the life of an earthly Jesus was simply because the story was so well known and in a “high context culture” such as Paul’s anything so well-known would simply never be mentioned.

But if Casey’s understanding and application of Hall’s thesis is valid, then we must also imagine all the members of the churches to whom Paul wrote never mentioning the life of Jesus among themselves, either. Not even in their weekly sermons. Christianity would be a strange religion indeed where no-one ever needed to speak about the life of their founder.

No gospel would ever need to be written for such a church! (more…)

2012/06/09

Blogger Godfrey’s Reply (1) to Emeritus Professor Maurice Casey of The Jesus Process ®©™

English: A view of the cloister garden and sta...

English: A view of the cloister garden and statue of Jesus from one of the walkways at Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Georgia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maurice makes sure I know my place when he twice identifies himself as Emeritus Professor Maurice Casey and nine times identifies me as Blogger (Neil) Godfrey. The “Internet”, for Emeritus Professor Maurice Casey, is a hotbed of “hopelessly unlearned people”, “Christian apologists and determinedly anti-Christian atheists” who are “impervious to evidence and argument”, in “closed-minded” “rebellion against traditional Christianity” and critical scholarship, “uncontrolled and apparently uncontrollable”. So naturally Casey does not write as Blogger Casey but as Emeritus Professor, and does not write a blogpost for a blog but “an essay” for “The Jesus Process ®©™”.

Now I have no problem at all with any person having earned an honourable title, and I do respect the title of Emeritus Professor. But I am quick to lose respect for anyone who indicates they believe they are above public accountability when they (1) willfully denigrate another person in a conversational or intellectual exchange of views, and (2) expect their title to be enough to tilt an argument or assertion in their favour.

And there lies Maurice Casey’s (and his fellow Jesus Processors) problem with the internet. The internet has forced scholars, many of whom once cloistered in their “quite different world” from the rest of humanity, to make a choice: they can seek to remain cloistered and irrelevant to all but their peers or embrace the full implications of the communications revolution. He blanket denigration (echoed by his colleague R. Joseph Hoffmann) can scarcely disguise an elitist contempt for “the masses”, the “public”, for the necessary uncontrolled untidiness of a democratic society. Public intellectuals do have a public responsibility and with the internet the public can make its views known more widely. That appears to be a notion too frightening for some scholars (by no means all) to take seriously. (more…)

2012/05/23

Earl Doherty’s Response to Maurice Casey

Filed under: Earl Doherty — Earl Doherty @ 10:30 am
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Maurice Casey has posted his foray against mythicism on R. Joseph Hoffmann’s blog. This post is Earl Doherty’s initial response. It has also been sent to Hoffmann’s blog but at the time of this posting on Vridar it is awaiting Hoffmann’s approval to be posted there.

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I see Casey’s basic ‘arguments’ against mythicism, and me in particular, as:

A — More unworkable reasoning to justify why Paul and all the other epistle writers have nothing to say about an historical Jesus. Casey thinks we should not expect to find “later Christian tradition” in the writings of Paul, ‘later tradition’ like the fact that Jesus was crucified on earth, by Pilate, that he taught anything about loving one another or any of the ethical teachings of the Gospel (not even inauthentic ones), that he performed miracles, prophesied the End-time, and so on.

Boy, what an HJ that leaves to champion! Imagine devoting one’s professional life to protecting the existence of such an undetectable mundane figure, no matter what the cost in surrendering one’s scholarly principles!

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B — Of course, in a “high context culture” no one, not a single writer of the non-Gospel/Acts New Testament and several non-canonical ones, felt the slightest urge to mention anything that was said or done by Jesus on earth, even in support of key arguments and debates they were engaged in, even when describing the genesis and ongoing forces within their movement. They so lacked such an urge that they routinely speak of that genesis and ongoing force in ways which exclude such a figure. All their readership and audience were so “high context” that they never expected, let alone demanded, any reference to the words and deeds of the historical figure they believed in and regarded as Deity incarnate.

I guess mythicists, in their misguided expectations, are all of us “low culture” idiots.

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C — Absolutely everything in the Gospels (even the titulus on the cross!) was so thoroughly known to all of Paul’s and other epistle writers’ readers, in every corner from Galatia to Rome, that it would have been a sin and an insult to even mention a single one of them. (more…)

2011/07/04

Demystifying R. Joseph Hoffmann, and the war over Bayes’ theorem

Some academic jargon is nothing more than the modern equivalent of a sorcerer’s mumbo jumbo — designed to awe while hiding the fact that there is really nothing meaningful on offer at all

Updated 5th July to add link to Richard Carrier's post taking Hoffmann to task.

R. Joseph Hoffmann has let a crotchety side to his nature show as he publicly attempts to humiliate a younger scholar who, in exchanges with the aging don, has exposed a dint of mediocrity in his intellect.

The casus belli is, at least on the surface, the place of Bayes’ theorem in historical Jesus studies.

Now Hoffmann’s writing is surely more renowned for its thick overlays of esoteric intellectual jargon and rhetoric than for its content. The reason is pure mathematics. More people can read his posts than can understand them. (Stanislav Andreski wrote that this sort of intellectual jargon as the modern equivalent of earlier efforts to bamboozle the uninitiated and impress the elite: various uses of medieval Latin, witch-doctor mumbo-jumbo, etc.)

But on the positive side, one does get a sense that he is thoroughly enjoying himself as he shows off his verbal wit, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone has a right to enjoy themselves (or “oneself”, as I am sure the don would prefer me say).

But what the hell is he trying to say when he burgeons like a Baroque artist doing abstract?

I’m sure he won’t like any attempt at simplification, but then why would any biblical scholar be bothered with a blog like mine when the guild does not even consider it to be an honest discussion of the Bible and Christian origins anyway.

All Hoffmann means to say is that he thinks: (more…)

2011/04/24

A serious take on Maurice Casey’s “Jesus of Nazareth”

Filed under: Casey: Jesus of Nazareth — Neil Godfrey @ 10:31 am
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Someone has posted a favourable review of Dr Maurice Casey’s Jesus of Nazareth. Anyone disappointed with my own difficulties in finding much of value in the book (my various references and discussions relating to it are archived here) may be pleasantly surprised to find that this “independent” scholar’s treatment has found a most favourable reception with a series of reviews on the Remnant of Giants blog: Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? Maurice Casey’s doctoral student, Stephanie Fisher, is effusive in her praises of these reviews, complementing them for their

careful attention to detail, clear argumentation, and refusal to reply on accepted authority for its own sake. No embarrassing amateurish agenda driven groupie opinions. Compared to other reviews generally by other reviewers, your reviews of this book are exceptional. I had no doubt of your independent mind or sophisticated, broadly learned, honest scholarship before, but you are inspiring. There’s hope for this discipline and a point to honest historical inquiry after all. (more…)

2011/03/30

Taking the Gospels seriously, part 2 (What John Baptist supposedly meant to Jesus)

I often find myself wishing some knowledgable scholars who write about “the historical Jesus” would take their Gospel sources more seriously.

To take just one illustration, I don’t know if I have read any scholarly work addressing the baptism of Jesus that fails to make some reference to the “influence of John the Baptist on Jesus”, or to the “calling of Jesus”, or such. The presumption is always that Jesus was some sort of spiritual “seeker” who was profoundly moved in some way by John the Baptist and as a direct consequence was catapulted on his own solo career.

Here is one example of this:

What we do know past doubting is that John had a crucially important impact on Jesus. According to the synoptic tradition, Jesus in some sense received his calling during or just after his baptism. (p. 191 of Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, by Paula Fredriksen)

And another that is within easy reach on my desk:

We can now see what attracted Jesus to John. John exercised a large-scale and highly successful prophetic ministry of repentance to Israel. . . . He offered salvation and predicted judgement in terms which recreated the Judaism of the prophetic tradition. This explains why Jesus underwent John’s baptism. . . . Jesus thereby joined this vigorous movement of prophetic Judaism. . . . On the occasion of his baptism, Jesus had a visionary experience. . . . (p. 176 of Jesus of Nazareth by Maurice Casey.) (more…)

2010/12/31

Theologians who mistakenly think they are historians

Morton Smith
Image via Wikipedia

Some theologians (I won’t mention any names) continue to call themselves historians despite never having majored in any historical studies. One renowned (or infamous to some) biblical scholar understood this as a serious problem in historical Jesus studies. He wrote of the anomaly of Jesus-studies supposedly having so much “primary documentation” yet being so fraught with unknowns, uncertainties and unresolvable disputes:

Yet Jesus should be one of the better known figures of antiquity. We have at least half a dozen letters from Paul, who perhaps knew Jesus during his lifetime (II Cor. 5:16), and joined his followers within, at most, a decade after his death. We have four accounts of Jesus’ public career – the canonical gospels – written anywhere from forty to seventy years after his death; these are generally thought to rest, in part, on earlier written material. Few public figures from the Greco-Roman world are so well documented, but none is so widely disputed. This suggests that there is something strange about the documents, or about the scholars who have studied them, or both.

Probably both. Most of the scholars have not been historians, but theologians determined to make the documents justify their own theological positions. This has been true of liberals, no less than conservatives; both have used “critical scholarship” to get rid of theologically unacceptable evidence. But not everything can be blamed on the scholars. They could not have performed such vanishing acts had there not been something peculiar in the evidence itself.

(pp. 3-4 of Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God? by Morton Smith, my bolding) (more…)

2010/12/15

Open invitation to Dr Maurice Casey

Filed under: Casey: Jesus of Nazareth — Neil Godfrey @ 9:39 pm
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I invite Dr Maurice Casey to an online discussion or debate — an open exchange between himself and me in any blog or wiki or “live” public internet forum — about anything I have said in relation to his recent book, Jesus of Nazareth.

This all began when I had been wondering what happened to Mike Kok whose review of chapter 3 of Maurice Casey’s book I reviewed. The last time he visited this blog he dropped off a comment but failed to respond to my reply. I understand he has also failed to respond to others like this.) So in an idle moment I went looking and . . . .

I have just learned from a comment by Steph on the Sheffield blog that Dr Maurice Casey is to include in his forthcoming book responses to “the blogger Godfrey’s main arguments and ‘review’ there.” “There” is presumably this Vridar blog. (Ah yes, as Steph so often used to say, she cannot answer my arguments in a blog because it was “only a blog” and it would take a whole book to explain what is wrong with my arguments. So it looks like Casey, her mentor, is to produce the book she has been alluding to.) (more…)

2010/12/06

Roll over Maurice Casey: Latin, not Aramaic, explains Mark’s bad Greek

Filed under: Casey: Aramaic sources- Mark,Gospel of Mark — Neil Godfrey @ 7:34 pm
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A multi-volume Latin dictionary (Egidio Forcel...
Image via Wikipedia

While preparing a new post on a new topic that had nothing any more to do with Casey I stumbled across this list of Latinisms in Mark’s Gospel. The one that hit me hardest was one that Casey uses to justify his argument that Mark was clumsily translating an Aramaic expression into Greek. Well, if this list has any credibility, then Casey’s learned argument, at least with reference to this particular instance, collapses.

The list is found on this New Testament Introduction course webpage: http://www.abu.nb.ca/courses/ntintro/mark.htm (ABU is now Crandall University.) (more…)

2010/12/04

Nazareth fictions, Aramaic blindspots and scholarly bias: Filling some gaps in Sheffield’s review of Casey’s ‘Jesus of Nazareth’

Filed under: Casey: Jesus of Nazareth — Neil Godfrey @ 8:04 pm
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view of Nazareth
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I know I said I would not touch Casey’s book (Jesus of Nazareth) again for a while, but Mike Kok’s review of chapter 3 (Historical Method) on the Sheffield Biblical Studis blog does call out for some response.

No archaeological evidence for Nazareth in early first century

I ignored Casey’s critique of Zindler’s and Salm’s arguments over the evidence for the presence of Nazareth and Capernaum in the supposed time of Jesus largely because I thought anyone reading Casey’s book would clearly see that Casey gives no evidence at all in his rebuttal of their claims, and the claims of “trained scholars” whom they each cite. (I like the word “trained” as a descriptor of biblical scholars as it is used by both Kok and Casey. Training has connotations of Pavlov dog like behaviourist conditioning to say the right things in order to be accepted by the academic guild.) But Kok failed to notice what I took to be obvious, so presumably others will overlook the weakness of Casey’s argument, too:

He also critiques the extreme view that Nazareth did not existed (Zindler, Salm) based on a problematic handling of archaeological and textual evidence (128-32). (more…)

2010/11/30

The Twelve Disciples: New Insights from Emeritus Professor Maurice Casey

Cover of "The Adventures of Huckleberry F...

Cover via Amazon

Let’s make this my last post for a little while on Maurice Casey’s ad hominem stained book on the historical Jesus (Jesus of Nazareth) that will surely long stand alone as a truly independent tribute to the Huckleberry Finn criterion for historical authenticity. (robertb will heave a sigh of relief.)

This post looks at the biblical seven number of topics:

  1. Casey’s unassailable proof for the historicity of the Twelve
  2. A schizophrenic case for the disciples being filthy rich (or dirt poor)
  3. The clear evidence that Matthew wrote much of the Q material
  4. How Peter and Jesus changed the course of history by exchanging a bit of idle and nonsensical banter (in Aramaic, of course)
  5. Why the Twelve disappear from history (almost) as soon as the Gospels finish their story
  6. What Jesus did every time one of his Twelve disciples went and died on him
  7. And the evidence Jesus never tolerated a political rebel among his followers.

(more…)

2010/11/29

The historical truth about Judas Iscariot

Filed under: Casey: Jesus of Nazareth,Gospel of Mark,Judas — Neil Godfrey @ 10:17 pm
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"The Kiss of Judas" is a traditional...

Image via Wikipedia

Maurice Casey has explained the motive of Judas Iscariot, his level of literacy, his religious interest, his worship customs before he met Jesus, and along the way has proved the historical factness of Mark’s account of Judas’s betrayal of Jesus. This is all included in Jesus of Nazareth.

Firstly, the key to understanding Judas’s motive lies in understanding his place of origin. Casey begins by explaining that his point is only a “may have been”, but by the time he finishes his explanation all such qualifiers have disappeared.

The last man in Mark’s list is Judas Iscariot. . . . This means that his name was Judah. His epithet [of Kerioth]. . . locates him as a man from a village in the very south of Judaea rather than Galilee. It is accordingly probable that he could speak and read Hebrew as well as Aramaic. His origins may have been fundamental to his decision to hand Jesus over to the chief priests, for he may have been more committed to the conventional running of the Temple than the Galilaean members of the Twelve. (pp. 191-2) (more…)

2010/11/28

Nothing the Early Church Would Want to Make Up?

Imagination poster image 2007
Image via Wikipedia

In his newly published Jesus of Nazareth, one of Emeritus Professor Maurice Casey’s criteria for deciding if a Gospel detail is truly historical is that the passage “contains nothing that the early church would want to make up”.

Though I have read very many works of history, I never heard of this as a rationale for establishing anything as a historical fact till I picked up books by biblical scholars writing about Jesus.

Casey does not exclusively rely on this criterion to declare something in the gospels as historically factual. Another test must also be passed. The event must also have a “perfect setting in the life of Jesus.” I leave aside the obvious circularity of this latter point in this post, and discuss a just one particular critical shortcoming in his use of the first criterion — what is essentially a “can’t see why not” argument from credulity.

Avoiding the literary fact 1: Luke 13:31-33

At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”

He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

Casey writes of this passage that it contains two or three reasons we should accept it as a genuinely historical exchange between Herod and Jesus.

Once again, a Gospel passage has clear signs of translation from an Aramaic source [he is referring here to the use of the words for “jackal” and “reach my goal” (which is sometimes more literally translated as “be perfected”)] just at the point where the traditions in it must be authentic because they have a perfect setting in the life of Jesus, and contain nothing that the early church would want to make up. (p. 324, my emphasis)

But this latter rationale is invalid for a number of reasons. (more…)

2010/11/21

Casey’s historical method (2): Aramaic and the fallacy of ‘historical plausibility’

Bilingual inscription (Greek and Aramaic) by k...
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Maurice Casey considers historical plausibility to be “of central importance” (p. 106).

Our early and primary sources are unanimous and unambiguous in placing Jesus within a context of first-century Judaism. It follows that our picture of Jesus should be comprehensible within that cultural framework, and further, when a piece of information about Jesus or those present during the historic ministry fits only there, that is a strong argument in favour of its historicity.

Surely this is begging the question. Casey has declared what is historical before he begins the inquiry, and then writes the rule to justify it. The Gospels place Jesus within a context of synagogues and Pharisees but external evidence indicates that these are anachronisms, not becoming features of the Galilean landscape till after the year 70. Casey has simply declared them by fiat to be historical of early first century Galilee.

Hellenism and regional contrasts (Galilee and Judea are only two) were a reality of first century Palestine. See, for example, Hellenism in the Land of Israel. Scholars like Crossan and Mack, whom Casey dismisses, grapple with the evidence for these realities. (more…)

2010/11/20

Maurice Casey’s Historical Methods for Historical Jesus Studies

Maurice Casey (Emeritus Professor of New Testament Languages and Literature at the University of Nottingham, UK) in his 2010 book Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian’s Account of His Life and Teaching devotes his third chapter to a discussion of his historical method, and becomes the latest New Testament scholar to demonstrate (once more) how studies of the “historical Jesus” follow their own idiosyncratic rules and are unlike any other studies of ancient historical figures.

Unfortunately, Casey also demonstrates in this chapter the all too familiar tendency of biblical scholars to carelessly misrepresent arguments and authors they do not like. In this case, Casey’s representation of Crossan’s methodology and arguments is, at best, a little unfair, as I will demonstrate by setting Casey’s and Crossan’s words side by side.

(more…)

2010/11/13

Casey versus Bultmann; and why Jesus was not as hungry as his disciples

Maurice Casey in his new book, Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian’s Account of His Life and Teaching, is sharply critical of Form Criticism and Rudolph Bultmann. Casey repeatedly expresses disapproval of scholars’ attempting to understand the “historical Jesus” by burying their noses in exegetical studies of the texts (which form criticism requires) of the canonical Gospels instead of looking primarily at what he believes are the sources of those texts. So he faults Bultmann on these grounds and also for being “anti-Judaism”:

Bultmann concludes that ‘Jesus . . . opposes the view that the fulfilment of the law is the fulfilling of the will of God.’ That conclusion is clean contrary to the teaching of Jesus. It was however just what German Christians needed from the Christ of their faith, for it bluntly contradicts the centre of Judaism. It was moreover produced by means of detailed exegesis of selected texts. It also illustrates the centrality of anti-Judaism in the work of a distinguished member of the Confessing Church, the opposite wing of the German churches from the Deutsche Christen movement. Bultmann’s general cultural environment led him to write Judaism out of the teaching of Jesus, using spurious intellectual arguments which wrote most of Jesus of Nazareth out of history altogether. (p. 12)

One passage Casey uses to challenge and reject Bultmann’s exegesis is Mark 2:23-28 (more…)

2010/11/11

Maurice Casey on the Christ Myth–Historical Jesus divide

The stated purpose of Maurice Casey’s book Jesus of Nazareth is “to engage with the historical Jesus from the perspective of an independent historian.” Casey explains what he means by his independence:  “I do not belong to any religious group or anti-religious group. I try to . . . establish historically valid conclusions. I depend on the best work done by many other scholars, regardless of their ideological affiliation.” (p. 2)

For Casey, the only correct interpretation of Jesus is one which explains Jesus within a thoroughly Jewish matrix. This means he in fact begins with the assumption that there is an historical Jesus to place within that matrix. He would disagree with that and argue that his book proves the existence of such a figure. On page 43 he writes of “people who deny Jesus’ existence” that

the whole of this book is required to refute them.

This brings to mind the frequent claims of one of another independent scholar who once quite regularly left a similar comment on this blog, saying that a whole book would be required to refute mythicism. Unfortunately, when a scholar says that his book is a refutation of mythicism, one is likely to find that the arguments of mythicists are avoided rather than refuted. I will return to this point.

Casey’s assertion that only a thoroughly Jewish Jesus is a correct Jesus means that for him many publications about the historical Jesus have missed the mark:

The vast majority of scholars have belonged to the Christian faith, and their portrayals of Jesus have consequently not been Jewish enough. Most other writers on Jesus have been concerned to rebel against the Christian faith, rather than to recover the Jewish figure who was central to Christianity in its earliest period. (p. 3, my emphasis) (more…)

2010/11/10

“Make a Path”: Maurice Casey’s evidence of an Aramaic source for Mark’s Gospel, or Creative Fiction?

The path...
Image by Mátééé via Flickr
Edited 13th November

Maurice Casey argues that the author of the Gospel of Mark translated written Aramaic sources about Jesus as early as within ten years of the crucifixion.

He expresses impatience with scholars such as those like John Dominic Crossan who “spend their whole lives in detailed examination of these primary texts” (p. 21) instead of studying what he believes were the Aramaic sources of those texts.

One example highlights both Casey’s rationale for believing the Gospel of Mark was in several places a direct translation of an Aramaic text about life and sayings of Jesus, and what I believe is a much simpler explanation for the question raised.

Make a Path

Mark 2:23 And it came to pass — he is going along on the sabbaths through the corn-fields — and his disciples began to make a way, plucking the ears . . . (Young’s Literal Translation)

“To make a way” is generally translated more like “as they went”. The Greek phrase consists of two words: odon {=WAY} poiein {=TO MAKE,}. Casey translates this, “to make a path

(more…)

2010/10/16

Art and Aramaic in the Gospel of Mark

Lid with an Aramaic magical script. Earthenwar...
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Why does the Gospel of Mark occasionally portray Jesus saying something in a language other than the Greek in which it is written? I suggest here that there may be a very good literary-theological explanation. While I disagree with Dr Maurice Casey’s explanation, I am indebted to his discussion for drawing the question to my attention.

The passages in the Gospel of Mark, understood by probably most scholars to be the earliest of the canonical gospels, are usually  transliterated in the English Bibles along with the author’s translation:

And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. (Mark 5:41)

Then, looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” (Mark 7:34)

And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me . . . (Mark 14:36)

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Mark 15:34)

According to Dr Maurice Casey, author of Aramaic Sources of Mark’s Gospel, the Gospel of Mark attributes the first and last of the above Aramaic sayings to Jesus because these were the literal words he historically used. (more…)

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