Monday, January 17, 2011

The true Church history

I don't know what factional Protestant school Jim West went to, but here is the true story of Christian denominational history:
Alternatively (to repeat my older diagram):

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Blog Accreditation Success

My application has been pending and a judgement has been made:

All we need to do now is get this seal on Australia. Although I thought that was the whole point of paying Oprah to come over...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus

Michael Bird has shared his essay contribution to the massive Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus. It is a well done essay on the parting of the ways between Christianity and Judaism, and Bird carefully places the origins of this parting as a consequence of the the life of the historical Jesus. It is well worth the read.

I just looked up the contents pages (available on the side column here as pdfs) of this 4 volume set and it looks amazing and exhaustive.

Edit: Ekaterini G. Tsalampouni made a very similar post just before me. Everyone knows I don't know modern Greek well enough to copy her that quickly, although it has improved with the episodes I have been watching of the Greek version of Come Dine With Me (Κάτι ψήνεται) recently.

Book Giveaway at The Biblical World + more

John Byron, Associate Professor of New Testament at Ashland Theological Seminary,  over at The Biblical World is offering the chance to win a copy of Mark Goodacre's The synoptic Problem a way through the Maze (T & T Clark).

I would enter but it is never in anyone's charitable interest to send a book all the way to Australia. You do not understand how badly we get ripped off on academic books by retailers  (e.g. a paperback of Wright's Resurrection of the Son of God for $100USD/AUD.) For that reason one of my best friends is a place called The Book Depository. I am not sure how it compares to Amazon for those inside the USA, Canada and UK but it is great for Australian buyers.

And related to a recent post, Jim West's review of The Content and the Setting of the Gospel Tradition is now up here. West notes that "Mercifully, the editors and essayists didn't trouble themselves with the relatively absurd question as to whether Jesus existed or not." But on that point, Dr Chris Forbes who contributed the introduction to historical Jesus studies in  Chapter 10: "Who was Jesus?" debated Dan Barker on the very question. What is better than that? The audio of the debate is exclusively found here with a semi-serious summary here.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Goodacre and Mythicism

I apologise for another post on Jesus mythicism, but for those of you that don't follow Dr Mark Goodacre's NT Podcasts he has a new podcast on the subject: NT Pod 47 discusses the question "Did Jesus exist?"

He also references his November NT Pod 44, "What did Paul know about Jesus?"

John Barclay on Josephus (Video)

With a recent post on Josephus it may be appropriate to share these video interview with Professor John Barclay on Josephus. So here is to some easy Sunday watching:

Josephus: the man and the myths. Part I from CPX on Vimeo.

Josephus: the man and the myths. Part II from CPX on Vimeo.

The second video focuses on Josephus on Jesus, and even the claim that Jesus did not exist. Don't you hate it when a talk about Josephus on his own terms gets hijacked by silly claims.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Early Christian Papyri Resources

Professor Larry Hurtado has shared an updated version of Christian Literary Texts in Manuscripts of Second andThird Centuries, originally a very useful appendix in The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins. Hurtado's book and Colin H. Roberts' Manuscript, Society, and Belief in Early Christian Egypt  are two texts that got me very interested in papyrology and the rise of early Christianity in Egypt.

And this brings me to my next point. Hurtado undertook some his research for this book while Visiting Fellow here at Macquarie University, in collaboration with the Ancient History Documentary Research Centre.The Papyri from the Rise of Christianity in Egypt project has a few useful resources for those interested in a wide range of questions that make use of papyri.Chief of these is the Conspectus of Texts which lists, dates and summarises a whole stack of pre-Constane (or abouts) literary and documentary papyri relating to Christians and Christianity. In addition to these, there is the publication of the various New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity volumes which are useful for those interested in the rise and perception of early Christianity in the greater Graeco-Roman world.

And for those interested in how ancient historians approach Jesus and Gospel studies, academics and former students of the Ancient History department have put together a new volume: The Content and the Setting of the Gospel Tradition to soon be reviewed by Jim West

Robert M. Price, one of America's leading authorities on the Bible,

Yes, I had a little chuckle as well. But according to Prices' own homepage regarding his newish book The Case Against The Case For Christ (American Atheist Press, 2010):
New Testament scholar Robert M. Price, one of America's leading authorities on the Bible, has taken umbrage at the cavalier manner in which Strobel has misrepresented his field of study and won't take it any longer. 
And on the other hand:
...[Strobel] consults alleged experts... He does not appear to have done any competent investigation on his own or consulted any genuine authorities on the relevant subjects... 

I am not going to go down to the level of that blurb -  but Dr Price is most definitely not one of America's leading authorities on the Bible.On the other hand, to claim that scholars such as the late Bruce Metzger, described by Bart Ehrman in his popular Misquoting Jesus  as "the world's leading expert in the field [of textual criticism.]", were not genuine authorities in their field is  not just deluded but offensive.

And if contributing to Christian apologetics somehow nullifies all scholarly credentials I would assume it also carries over  to Prices' focus on polemics.

One of Australia's leading authorities on everything...although posting something with a slightly apologetic tone may nullify any expertise I do have.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Three Schools of Jewish Philosophy

In Wars 2.119 Josephus writes that:
For there are three philosophical sects among the Jews. The followers of the first of whom are the Pharisees; of the second the Sadducces; and the third sect, who pretends to a severer discipline, and called Essenes.

In Antiquities 13.171 Josephus expands on the classification of these schools:
At this time there were three sects among the Jews, who had different opinions concerning human actions; the one was called the sect of the Pharisees, another the sect of the Sadducees, and the other the sect of the Essenes. (172) Now for the Pharisees, they say that some actions, but not all, are the work of fate, and some of them are in our own power, and that they are liable to fate, but are not caused by fate. But the sect of the Essenes affirm, that fate governs all things, and that nothing befalls men but what is according to its determination. (173) And for the Sadducees, they take away fate, and say there is no such thing, and that the events of human affairs are not at its disposal; but they suppose that all our actions are in our own power, so that we are ourselves the cause of what is good, and receive what is evil from our own folly. (Cf. Ant. 18.11-22.)
But how useful is Josephus' three fold distinction of Jewish philosophical schools? We may note his mention of the  " fourth sect of Jewish philosophy" of Judas the Galilean.  On the other hand, we may view the fourth school as a subschool of the first: "These men agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty; and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord." (Ant 18.23) 

But as Dr McGrath asked,  what of the "tribe of Christians", followers of the Jewish wise man Jesus? (Ant. 18.63-4) Why would they not constitute a "fifth philosophy" from among the Jews? What about the other Jewish sects we know of that failed to get a mention? As James H. Charlesworth writes,
"We also generally agree that there were more than three main schools of thought among the Jews in ancient Palestine. Today, we all admit this schematization is anachronistic and systematically excludes such major groups as the Samaritans, Zealots, Sicarii, Baptist groups, Enoch groups, the Jewish magical groups, the Boethusians, scribal groups, Galilean miracle-workers, Roman quislings, and many others who claimed to be faithful Torah-abiding Jews. It also excludes the group from the first century that eventually became most powerful: the Palestinian Jesus Movement." (James H. Charlesworth, "The Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Discovery and Challenge to Biblical Studies," in The Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls: Vol 1: Scripture and the Scrolls ed. J.H. Charlesworth, p.7.)

Noting the inadequate nature of Josephus' three school distinction, how should we approach it?

I would suggest that it is as a literary device, part of a consistent push by Josephus to relate the Jewish world to Greek thought and engage his Hellenistic Roman audience. At times he meets the Greek conception while at others he makes use of strong analogy.  The three groups of Jewish thought are intended to draw analogy to the philosophical tradition. To point out the obvious, the terms "schools" and "philosophy" are appealing to a Roman understanding and not a contemporary Jewish classification. Furthermore, the classification/distinction of the schools with regard to human actions and fate has a lot more to do with philosophical thought than Jewish sectarianism. In a broad sense it may be suggested that Josephus is presenting groups of Judaism as analogy to the schools of Greek philosophy - Pharisees are presented like the Stoics(Life 1.12: sect of the Pharisees, which is of kin to the sect of the Stoics, as the Greeks call them), the Sadducees as the Epicureans and the Essenes are like the Pythagoreans.

As an afterthought, the three philosophies are those that Josephus claims to have personally tried out:
and when I was about sixteen years old, I had a mind to make trial of the several sects that were among us. These sects are three:—The first is that of the Pharisees, the second that of the Sadducees, and the third that of the Essenes, as we have frequently told you; for I thought that by this means I might, choose the best, if I were once acquainted with them all; (Life 1:10)
Note (subject to the Greek I do not have on hand) the implication of there being more than the three sects that were among the Jews at the time.

Historical Fallacy of Negative Proof

Paul Newall writes:
The fallacy of negative proof occurs when the lack of evidence for something is taken to justify the conclusion that it did not exist. The logical error involved becomes obvious when shown as a syllogism:

P1: No evidence has so far been found for A;
C: Therefore A did not exist/happen.

This is a formal fallacy: what is needed is an additional premise, to the effect that no evidence for A will ever be found subsequently.

A good example of this fallacy is found in studies of historical figures or events, especially religious ones, such as the debate over the historicity of Jesus or the existence of Atlantis. Where a person is referred to in stories or sagas, say, but no other evidence of their actual existence is found, should we conclude that the person is fictional? Notice that there is a considerable difference between claiming that the lack of evidence proves that the person did not exist (i.e., the negative proof fallacy) and asserting that the likelihood of their historicity is small; however, an elaboration of how such probabilities are assigned is still required.

Paul Newall, "The Logical Fallacies of the Historian" in A Companion to the Philosophy of History and Historiography (Blackwell Companions to Philosophy), pp.270-1.

R. Joseph Hoffman (ed.), Sources of the Jesus Tradition Contents

Below is the contents of the new volume Sources of the Jesus Tradition: Separating History from Myth (Ed. R. Joseph Hoffman). The volume is comprised by members of the Jesus Project and as you will notice many of the essays follow closely to the 2008 conference, although a few papers are not included.

Preface: Of Rocks, Hard Places, and Jesus Figures
R. Joseph Hoffman

An Alternative Q and the Quest of the Earthly Jesus
Daniel R. MacDonald

Jesus and the Brothers: The Theology of the Imperfect Union
R. Joseph Hoffman

Popular Mythology in the Early Empire and the Multiplicity of Jesus Traditions
Justin Meggitt

Bayes’s Theorem for Beginners: Formal Logic and Its Relevance to Historical Method
Richard C. Carrier

The Abhorrent Void: The Rapid Attribution of Fictive Sayings and Stories to a Mythical Jesus
Robert M. Price

Jesus’ Dispute in the Temple and the Origin of the Eucharist
Bruce Chilton

The Authorised Version of His Birth and Death
David Trobisch

Prolegomenon to a Science of Christian Origins
Frank R. Zindler

“Every Plant Which My Heavenly Father Has Not Planted Shall Be Uprooted”
Robert Eisenman with Noelle Magana

On Not Finding the Historical Jesus
R. Joseph Hoffman

Assessing the Evidence: Philosophical and Legal Perspectives
Ronald A. Lindsay

Paul as a Witness to the Historical Jesus
Gerd Ludemann

Jesus’ Apocalyptic Vision and the Psychodynamics of Delusion
J. Harold Ellens

Epilogue: The Canonical-Historical Jesus
R. Joseph Hoffman.

So far I am not too impressed by the book.
And apologies for any transcription errors.