Where does the AD/BC dating convention come from?
45 minutes ago
|Richard Carrier - An Artist's Impression|
(That is) until of course he took it too far and Carrier actually caught him in a lie, which seems to have put an end to his antics on that blog.
So from the start Fitzgerald sets up an artificial dichotomy, with conservative apologists defending a traditional orthodox Jesus on one hand and brave "critics who (dispute) Christian claims" who don't believe in any Jesus at all on the other. And nothing in between. This is nonsense, because it ignores a vast middle ground of scholars - liberal Christian, Jewish, atheist and agnostic - who definitely "dispute Christian claims" but who also conclude that there was a human, Jewish, historical First Century preacher as the point of origin for the later stories of "Jesus Christ"
There were plenty of writers, both Roman and Jewish, who had great interest in and much to say about (Jesus') region and its happenings .... We still have many of their writings today: volumes and volumes from scores of writers detailing humdrum events and lesser exploits of much more mundane figures in Roman Palestine, including several failed Messiahs. (Fitzgerald, p. 22, my emphasis)The problem with this claim is not that there were not other figures in Roman Palestine who were like Jesus or even that there were not other failed Messiahs. There were. The problem lies in his claim that there were "plenty of writers" or even "scores of writers" talking about them. As I noted in my review, if we really did have "scores of writers" who were busily "detailing" the "lesser exploits of much more mundane figures (and) several failed Messiahs" in this period but who did not mention Jesus, then the argument from silence above really would be a killer argument.
Incidentally, perhaps this is a good time to mention the real reason I didn’t list them all out: Nailed was distilled down from a manuscript that was originally not 250 pages, but nearly a whopping 700 pages. So in fact, there’s a lot of information that I don’t mention, and many hard choices I had to make about what to include and what to leave out in a book that’s intended to be a reader-friendly intro to the subject.
Annnnyway, here’s where O’Neill makes my point for me. He proceeds to name a few would-be messiahs from the first century .... None of these failed messiahs, prophets and rabble-rousers succeeded anywhere near as well as our Jesus of Nazareth. But every one of these loser messiahs did beat Jesus on one crucial matter: all of them managed to leave a trace in the contemporary historical record - so why couldn’t Jesus?
If Jesus really lived and died and returned from the dead in the early first century, it didn't seem to make an impact until the end of the first century. (p. 49)
... but what he fails to add (if he even realizes) is that the “Partially Authentic,” or Reconstuctionist camp is the largest camp simply because scholarly opinion is so divided over the extent of tampering; it is a very large tent with lots of room for disagreement - and there is ferocious disagreement.
The Christian passages, those that cannot be ascribed to the Jew Josephus, are easily distinguishable .... Once the Christian supplements are removed, the original notice is reduced to the description of Jesus as "wise man" and "performer of paradoxical deeds", the epithet "Christ" attached to the name of Jesus; the crediting of the death sentence to Pilate; and the mention of the existence of the followers of Jesus at the time of the writing of the Testimonium in the 90s CE."(Geza Vermes, "Jesus in the Eyes of Josephus", Standpoint, Jan/Feb 2010)
To have created the testimonium out of whole cloth would be an act of unparalleled scribal audacity.
(Steve Mason, Josephus and the New Testament, p. 171)
Perhaps the major giveaway is that this passage does not appear until the 4th century. For the first 300 years of its existence, there is no mention of the Testimonium anywhere. This couldn’t have been simply because no one happened to read it; Josephus’ histories were immensely popular and pored over by scholars.
But, of course, if these variants indicate Josephus’ reference to Jesus was merely “edited by Christian hands” the Mythicist case is critically weakened. They need the whole passage to be "the free creation of Christian scribes”. This is why Fitzgerald crows that “several years ago historian Alice Whealey conclusively proved both these claims wrong”.(T)he existence of alternative versions of the testimonium has encouraged many scholars to think that Josephus must have written something close to what we find in them, which was later edited by Christian hands. If the laudatory version in Eusebius and our text of Josephus were the free creation of Christian scribes, who then created the more restrained versions found in Jerome, Agapius and Michael? The version of Agapius is especially noteworthy because it eliminates, though perhaps too neatly, all of the major difficulties in standard text of Josephus …. Agapius’ version of the testimonium sounds like something a Jewish observer of the late first century could have written about Jesus and his followers. (Mason, p. 172)
Alice Whealey made her rather conclusive case (see Alice Whealey, “The Testimonium Flavianum in Syriac and Arabic,” New Testament Studies 54.4 (2008) pp. 573-90) that even the once-much-touted Arabic version of the Testimonium actually also derives from... you guessed it - Eusebius, by way of an intermediary Syriac version, and so long story short, neither of these medieval Arabic or Syriac texts came from Josephus. Which is why I didn’t include any of this wild goose chase in Nailed. Which, if O’Neill really kept up with Josephan studies as much as he’d like us all to think, he should have known all along...
(I)n arguing that Michael's Testimonium, which is generally close to the textus receptus Testimonium and which has clearly been taken from a recension of the Syriac Historia Ecclesiastica, is more authentic than Agapius’ Testimonium, this study implies that the textus receptus Testimonium is much closer to the passage that Josephus originally wrote about Jesus than is often assumed. Indeed, the evidence of Michael the Syrian’s Testimonium, used in conjunction with the evidence of Jerome’s Testimonium, indicates that the only major alteration that has been made to Josephus’ original passage about Jesus is the alteration of the phrase ‘he was thought to be the Messiah’ to the textus receptus phrase ‘he was the Messiah’. (Whealey, p. 588)
Since it is scarcely credible that the writers could have independently modified the Testimonium in this same way their readings must reflect an original Greek Testimonium reading something like 'he was believed to be the Christ'. Jerome's translation reading 'credebatur esse Christus' is highly significant because the earliest manuscripts of his De viris illustribus, the work in which his translation of the Testimonium appears, date to the sixth or seventh century; thus they are several centuries older than the earliest Greek manuscripts of Book 18 of Josephus’ Antiquities or of Eusebius’ Historia Ecclesiastica. (Whealey, p. 581)
Origen even quotes from Antiquities of the Jews in order to prove the historical existence of John the Baptist, then adds that Josephus didn't believe in Jesus, and criticises him for failing to mention Jesus in that book! (p. 53)
Now this writer [Josephus], although not believing in Jesus as the Messiah, in seeking after the cause of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, whereas he ought to have said that the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these calamities befalling the people, since they put to death Christ, who was a prophet, says nevertheless-being, although against his will, not far from the truth-that these disasters happened to the Jews as a punishment for the death of James the Just, who was "the brother of that Jesus who was called Messiah",--the Jews having put him to death, although he was a man most distinguished for his justice. (Contra Celsum I.47)
As we have noted, by citing and using Josephus to his own purpose, Origen interprets his historical account from his theological viewpoint and adapts it to his interpretation of the Bible. (Mizugaki, p. 333)In the same way, the sequence of events following the execution of James could easily be read by an exegete to lead directly from the death of James to the fall of Jerusalem, even though Josephus in no way makes that link. Josephus details how Ananus' fall from his former position encouraged him to wield influence through bribery and currying favour with gifts thanks to wealth he gained from extortionate religious taxes (XX.9.2). This led to the sicarii rebels (the villains of Josephus' account of the Jewish War) targeting him via the kidnapping of his son, Eleazar, forcing Ananus to lean on Albinus to release captured sicarii in exchange for his son (XX.9.3).This was followed by Albinus trying to gain favour with the increasingly fractious priests by releasing even more sicarii rebels so that "the prisons were indeed emptied, but the country was filled with rebel bandits" (XX.9.5). He presents this sequence of events as the precursors of the procuratorship of Gessius Florus and as the background to the environment of political dispute, rebel banditry and Roman violence and oppression which triggered the rebellion that he had already detailed in his earlier work, the Jewish War.
In almost 30 years of reading scholarly articles from a range of fields I have never come across one that included such a fatuous, unprofessional, arrogant and patently immature pronouncement. When this ludicrous proclaimation was brought to Bart Ehrman's attention he commented wryly "No timidity there!". This pompous nonsense speaks volumes about Carrier's ludicrous narcissism. But that seems to be what performing for a peanut gallery of fawning acolytes like Fitzgerald will do for someone who once had a chance at a genuine academic career.
The significance of this finding is manifold, but principally it removes this passage from the body of reliable evidence for the fate of Jesus’ family, the treatment of Christians in the first century, or Josephus’s attitude toward or knowledge of Christians. Likewise, future commentaries on the relevant texts of Origen and Josephus must take this finding into account, as must any treatments of the evidence for the historical Jesus. Most pressingly, all reference works that treat “James the brother of Jesus” must be emended to reflect this finding, particularly as this passage is the only evidence by which a date for this James’ death has been derived. (Carrier, p. 514)