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Old 08-08-2001, 01:56 PM   #31
rodahi
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The early Christianity chronology web page that Michael cited seems rather tendentiously anti-Christian.

As opposed to tendentiously pro-Christian? This site seems to be much more neutral than the vast majority of NT sites one finds on the internet. Are you aware of ANY site that is completely neutral and makes no mistakes? If not, your commentary exemplifies over-reaction.

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Old 08-08-2001, 02:04 PM   #32
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Quote:
Originally posted by Apikorus:
<STRONG>The early Christianity chronology web page that Michael cited seems rather tendentiously anti-Christian. For example, it claims that there are no extrabiblical references to Jesus in the first century CE, but this must be wrong because Jesus is mentioned by Josephus.
...
</STRONG>
Is there something wrong with being anti-Christian?

Did you follow the link to the comprehensive discussion of Josephus by Earl Doherty, author of the Jesus Puzzle?

There is nothing mistaken or dishonest here - the author's opinion may not coincide with the average scholarly opinion, but it has a lot of reasoned argument behind it.

Historically, Christians have a long record of forgery and interpolations (all done with the best of intentions, I'm sure.) I think that the acceptance of the authenticity of Josephus by most scholars is a case of Christians bending over backwards to find some scrap of proof of the existence of Jesus.
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Old 08-08-2001, 02:09 PM   #33
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Not to be dismissive, rodahi, but my reading is mostly from books and peer-reviewed literature than from the web. I'd guess there are some fine web pages devoted to Christian origins which are not so blatantly tendentious (say, from university researchers). At the very least, Michael's web page is erratic and unscholarly. That's not to say it is utterly worthless, but simply that it is of dubious quality.

I must confess I have read very little of Earl Doherty. I understand he is highly regarded by many people here, but the truth of the matter is that as a scholar of early Christianity, Doherty is rather inconsequential. Not to be snooty, but I prefer to read scholars who are well-trained in the relevant ancient languages, in the voluminous early Christian writings and related classical literature, in historical, sociological, and anthropological methods, etc. - people who are professors at major universities and who write articles in peer-reviewed journals. About the wildest I get is Hyam Maccoby (who is delightfully cynical and potently eloquent to boot). Raymond Brown is about as conservative as I get when it comes to the New Testament. I prefer solid middle-of-the-road scholars like E. P. Sanders and Geza Vermes.

I think most atheists here have a rather warped perspective of the scholarly landscape, and a concomitant weak appreciation of the major issues in the field. They go off half-cocked regurgitating some wild thesis of a marginal scholar without ever having so much as read a solid book like Brown's "Introduction to the New Testament" or even Bart Ehrman's fine undergraduate level text. I'd guess most haven't even read the New Testament itself. As an atheist myself, I find this rather embarrassing. (Please note I'm not accusing anyone specifically of this behavior. I'm simply identifying what I see as a disturbing trend.)

[ August 08, 2001: Message edited by: Apikorus ]
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Old 08-08-2001, 03:38 PM   #34
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I think most atheists here have a rather warped perspective of the scholarly landscape, and a concomitant weak appreciation of the major issues in the field. They go off half-cocked regurgitating some wild thesis of a marginal scholar without ever having so much as read a solid book like Brown's "Introduction to the New Testament" or even Bart Ehrman's fine undergraduate level text. I'd guess most haven't even read the New Testament itself. As an atheist myself, I find this rather embarrassing. (Please note I'm not accusing anyone specifically of this behavior. I'm simply identifying what I see as a disturbing trend.)

Thanks! I'll be sure to clear a space for Ehrman's Intro on my shelf when I can scrape up the $45 to buy it (even a used copy is expensive for a used book), right next to Brown's Intro, Crossan, Sanders, Ellegard, Fox, Mack, Pagels, and the other books I have. Actually, Sanders and Brown are "out" too (and unlikely to be returned -- I could kick myself).

The usual culprits at this forum are Rodahi, myself, and Toto. In fact, one of our biggest problems is the lack of atheists with any background at all. However, we've all read at least some of these books. And plenty of others. And even the NT.

"I must confess I haven't read much Doherty..." Hmmm....even us wild-eyed ethusiasts of the weird try to actually read books before we criticize them. I guess when one has attained the lofty status of scholar in the field, this is no longer necessary. I'll let my dissertation advisor know. It'll save me a lot of work.

Personally, I'd like to see some of these "half-cocked regurgitations" of minor scholars you're referring to on this forum. I can't think of any offhand. Perhaps you have some posts in mind?

I'm sorry we're not up to your standards. I'll let you suggest books and links from now on.

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Old 08-08-2001, 03:52 PM   #35
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Apikorus: Not to be dismissive, rodahi, but my reading is mostly from books and peer-reviewed literature than from the web. I'd guess there are some fine web pages devoted to Christian origins which are not so blatantly tendentious (say, from university researchers). At the very least, Michael's web page is erratic and unscholarly. That's not to say it is utterly worthless, but simply that it is of dubious quality.

I also read books and journals (when I can get the chance), and I still say you have over-reacted to the website Michael provided. No one has said or implied the site was written by a scholar, so your criticism seems misplaced.

A: I must confess I have read very little of Earl Doherty. I understand he is highly regarded by many people here, but the truth of the matter is that as a scholar of early Christianity, Doherty is rather inconsequential.

I don't agree with some of Doherty's conclusions, but I have read him and think many of his concerns have been left undeservedly unaddressed by the mostly Christian scholarly community. But, more to the point, Doherty didn't author the website.

A: Not to be snooty, but I prefer to read scholars who are well-trained in the relevant ancient languages, in the voluminous early Christian writings and related classical literature, in historical, sociological, and anthropological methods, etc. - people who are professors at major universities and who write articles in peer-reviewed journals. About the wildest I get is Hyam Maccoby (who is delightfully cynical and potently eloquent to boot). Raymond Brown is about as conservative as I get when it comes to the New Testament. I prefer solid middle-of-the-road scholars like E. P. Sanders and Geza Vermes.

Your presumption that you somehow have better taste in what and who should be read smacks of elitism and arrogance. I prefer Bart D. Ehrman, F. C. Conybeare, and Charles Guignebert, but I would never tell anyone that they are BETTER than Robert M. Price, Michael Grant, R. Joseph Hoffman, or Morton Smith.

A: I think most atheists here have a rather warped perspective of the scholarly landscape, and a concomitant weak appreciation of the major issues in the field.

There are informed atheists and uninformed atheists here.

A: They go off half-cocked regurgitating some wild thesis of a marginal scholar without ever having so much as read a solid book like Brown's "Introduction to the New Testament" or even Bart Ehrman's fine undergraduate level text.

And some go off half-cocked disparaging the very authors they have not read.

A: I'd guess most haven't even read the New Testament itself. As an atheist myself, I find this rather embarrassing. (Please note I'm not accusing anyone specifically of this behavior. I'm simply identifying what I see as a disturbing trend.)

Why do you think it "disturbing" that some atheists haven't read the NT. I think the vast majority of Christians haven't read it, but that doesn't keep them from discussing what they THINK is in the NT. You seem to be disturbed by the fact that not everyone is like you.

I think you are being, for some unknown reason, overly harsh in your judgment of atheists who post on this board.

Lastly, with respect to the Testimonium Flavianum and the other reference to Jesus found in extant Josephus, read what Charles Guignebert and Emil Schurer had to say. Things are not as clear-cut as you seem to think.

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Old 08-08-2001, 04:04 PM   #36
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Quote:
Originally posted by Apikorus:
<STRONG>I think most atheists here have a rather warped perspective of the scholarly landscape, and a concomitant weak appreciation of the major issues in the field. They go off half-cocked regurgitating some wild thesis of a marginal scholar without ever having so much as read a solid book like Brown's "Introduction to the New Testament" or even Bart Ehrman's fine undergraduate level text. I'd guess most haven't even read the New Testament itself. As an atheist myself, I find this rather embarrassing. (Please note I'm not accusing anyone specifically of this behavior. I'm simply identifying what I see as a disturbing trend.)</STRONG>
I hear some of what you're saying Apikorus. I would also say that as bad as things seem to you the situation is far better on the net now than it was five years ago. Back then nearly every atheist I knew was a mythicist who advocated very late datings for canonical texts and was convinced that all Christian scholars were hopeless dupes with a conservative agenda.

Here's my challenge to those atheists who have never picked up the NT. Go home tonight and read the Gospel of Mark straight through. It's very short will take you no longer than 30 or 40 minutes. You'll come away with a better appreciation for what Mark was trying to do and avoid the errors that come from cherry-picking passages with no sense for the larger context. Then tackle the rest of the text over time.

Having said that let's not fool ourselves: probably nine out of ten Christians who pop in here have yet to read the NT either. Most get their information second-hand from agenda-driven preachers or in those creepy booklets you find at bus stops. The rest see the text through a thick blanket of interpretation culled from Sunday schools, Bible camps, church leaders, or through movies on television.

As far as books go here is my list of what every BC&A atheist *must* minimally have on his or her bookshelf:

Helmut Koester, Introduction to the NT or the one by Brown here

E.P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism

Miller and Funk, The Complete Gospels

A harmony of the gospels such as the one here

Once you have these reference books handy it's time to dig in a little deeper with a commentary on one or more of the individual texts. For example, I love L.T. Johnson's commentary on Luke as well as his commentary on Acts in the Sacra Pagina series. Johnson is a Jesuit scholar but (like Sanders) he is reasonable and even-handed. You need to surround yourself with commentaries by moderate and even conservative scholars in order to broaden your perspective. If you read only fringe or liberal scholars' ideas then you're only getting half of the story. Read the whole spectrum in order to balance these views against each other; and then after reading the expert opinions come to some conclusions on your own. Read N.T. Wright and F.F. Bruce for responsible conservative commentary and read folks like Kloppenborg, Koester, Funk, and the Jesus Seminar for liberal views.

Also qualify your arguments and conclusions. Watch out for generalizations like "scholars agree that canonical Mark reached its final form by 80 CE." Instead say "some scholars believe that canonical Mark reached its final form by 80 CE but others think that sections like the Longer Ending were added much later." When you see phrases like "all scholars," "obviously we can conclude that," "everyone agrees that" you'd better make damn sure that you're right (because you're probably wrong). Good scholarship requires that you qualify your conclusions according to the evidence available. Just because scholar X posts conclusion Y on his website that doesn't mean that conclusion Y is true or irrefutable.

One last bit of advice, which happens to be a pet peeve of mine. There is something called "academic charity" in which you try to see your opponent's argument in the best light possible. Suppose Polycarp says, "according to Luke the Capernaum centurion approaches Jesus in person (7:1)." I could jump on my high horse and say "aha Polycarp, you fool! In Luke, the centurion sends elders to speak on his behalf! I guess I can't trust anything else you say either..." The dictates of academic charity suggest that I recognize the mental slip and instead say, "By the way, Polycarp I think you meant 'Matthew' rather than 'Luke' in that statement (Matt. 8:5)." Then, assuming that he meant Matthew rather than Luke, I would go on to make my point or to analyze his argument. We're all human, we make mistakes, and this ain't an academic conference with polished thesis papers. A little bit of charity goes a long way. It also keeps the discussion on track.

I'm just as guilty of overstating a case or failing to look something up before writing about it as anyone else so I don't want to sound preachy. I just wanted to throw out some tips for everyone's consideration.
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Old 08-08-2001, 04:09 PM   #37
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Folks, I hope this doesn't turn into an unnecessary flame war. I have a great deal of respect for everything I have read by all four(!) of you, and it pains me somewhat to observe the tenor of the present intercourse.

Apikorus recommended a book to me in another thread: Klaus Baltzer's Deutero-Isaiah. At the risk of offending the defenders of some of the more "popular" criticism, I think it is works likes this that Apikorus is referring to.

It is a hugely prodigious piece of heavyweight scholarship, incredibly impressive and vast, in its scope, ambition, and corollary documentation. There really is a substantive difference between a work like this and some of the more "accessible" criticism.

Anyways, y'all please keep posting.

(Edited to change "three" to "four(!)"

[ August 08, 2001: Message edited by: hezekiahjones ]
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Old 08-08-2001, 04:14 PM   #38
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I'd like to comment on the issues brought up by Apikorus. I am an atheist, and have been coming to the infidels board for about three years now. The level of scholarship on this board is a great deal higher than it was in 1998. In some ways, that has contributed to my reduced participation. It has gotten to the point that if you don't provide three scholarly quotations per post you can't post here anymore (or was that an illusion created by Nomad and Metacrock?.

What I'd like Aprikorus to understand is that these boards aren't just for serious biblical scholars. I'm hardly uneducated -- I hold a B.A., a B.S., and an M.A. -- but New Testament scholarship isn't my field, and while I have read some -- including the NT in its entirety -- I'll cheerfully admit that my knowledge is that of a layman.

In short, drawing from my experience teaching English, please consider the audience Aprikorus. I doubt very much that you could keep up with me in my field; please don't expect the rest of us to top you in yours.
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Old 08-08-2001, 04:48 PM   #39
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I have read a few of Doherty's essays online. (I had read the Josephus essay before and didn't think much of it.) I was not criticizing him at all, rodahi. What I said was that as a NT scholar he is rather inconsequential. I.e. he is hardly cited by any major scholars, has no credible publication record in scholarly journals, etc. Again, that doesn't mean that he necessarily is a crackpot; on the contrary from what I have read I conclude he is quite well read by the standards of most enthusiasts. But in adducing different historical Jesus reconstructions (or deconstructions, as the case may be), I think one should keep in mind the general "lay of the land". Doherty is an extremist because he claims that Jesus may never have existed.

DennisM, my field is theoretical physics. I'm not a bible scholar but merely an enthusiast. But I try to read broadly enough so that I know where the middle ground lies.

Jim, I agree with you fully. We atheists should strive to be honest, reasonable, informed, and, as a consequence, skeptical of religious claims.

[ August 08, 2001: Message edited by: Apikorus ]
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Old 08-08-2001, 05:46 PM   #40
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Quote:
You and Tollhouse are funny. You start out by saying, “Show us the errors”. I show you at least two errors (already acknowledged by all parties) that I found in the first two minutes I spent reading the website yet the two of you cling to your previously held belief that the website is some bastion of scholarly information.

What I find funny is the lying performed by some thiests while they are trying to speak of the Truth (with a capital 't', of course).
Quote:
I couldn't stop laughing at the vast array of gross misrepresentations and outright misinformation.

A lie, you found 1 real error at best and 1 typo.
Quote:
I could list mistakes for days and we still wouldn’t get to all of them.

You're lying. You found one real error and then gave up the ghost.
Quote:
...yet the two of you cling to your previously held belief that the website is some bastion of scholarly information.

Liar! When did I say this? I simply called your bluff. I'm still calling your bluff.

You have to realize that I wouldn't be surprised if some guy's website contains the odd error. And if there is an error, I really want to know, I'm not cemented in my beliefs. If you have anything to share besides sarcasm and lies than I'd like to hear it.

[ August 08, 2001: Message edited by: TollHouse ]
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