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Miscellaneous meanderings and philosophical ramblings. The title from a spiral notebook I used to jot down my thoughts on religion and other matters some years ago. I like to write, think and express my views on various issues. Robust discussion is welcome.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

How to rush to failure

Sometimes we can be in such a hurry to respond in debate that we trip over ourselves in doing so. This discussion began over an individual making the following claim concerning Flavius Josephus:

Channing said:

The Josephus accounts were 5th (or 4th?) century forgeries.

My reply:


You're mistaken concerning Josephus. The consensus of scholars, regardless of religious faith or non-faith is that he mentioned Jesus. The debate is over how much were later Christian interpolations/additions to what Josephus did say


Channing then replied with a number of quotes introduced in this manner:

I disagree that I am mistaken at all. Mentioning "Jesus" is not mentioning the man who claimed to be the son of God, as Jesus was a very popular name. But there is a seemingly unanimous consensus that the entire passage found earlier in the work was a forgery by Bishop Eusebius, who claimed that it was OK to lie in order to "bring people closer to the truth of God". But don't take my word for it.

Below are quotes from modern Christian scholars, who generally concede that the passage is a forgery. Dr. Lardner, one of the ablest defenders of Christianity, adduces the following arguments against its genuineness:


His reply continued with substantial quotes from these modern Christian scholars.

The modern Christian scholars he listed and his descriptions:

Dr. Lardner, one of the ablest defenders of Christianity,

Bishop Warburton

Rev. Dr. Giles, of the Established Church of England

The Rev. S. Baring-Gould

Dr. Chalmers

Canon Farrar, who has written the ablest Christian life of Christ yet penned

The Rev. Dr. Hooykaas (endorsed by eminent Dutch critic, Dr. Kuenen)

Dr. Alexander Campbell, one of America’s ablest Christian apologists

Just one problem right from the start. It appears he has quite a different notion of what the word modern means as can be seen in my full reply as follows:


Dr. Lardner, from what I can find, died in 1768; his Works was published in 1788

William Warburton (December 24, 1698 – June 7, 1779), was an English critic and churchman, Bishop of Gloucester from 1759.

The Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould (28 January 1834 – 2 January 1924)

Thomas Chalmers (March 17, 1780 - May 31, 1847)

Frederic William Farrar (1831-1903) Canon of Westminster in 1876

Rev. Dr. Hooykaas (1837-1894)

Dr. Alexander Campbell (1788-1866)

Judging from your list of outdated sources I have to wonder if you got it from Remsburg (1848-1919), the quality of whose work is noted here:

Most of Remsburg's authorities are not listed by Schaff's History of the Christian Church (Warburton, Baring-Gould, Dr Giles, Chalmers, Campbell) because they either are not scholars or because they're too outdated - Schaff's scholarship (which Remsburg acknowledges elsewhere) goes back to about 1840. On the other hand, Schaff has lists of scholars which go for the full authenticity of the passage (Hauteville, Oberthür, Bretschneider, Böhmert, Whiston, Schoedel, Böttger), some for partial (Paulus, Heinichen, Gieseler, Weizsäcker, Renan, Farrar - Farrar's quote being after a discussion on Herod and is non-analytical) and two for "we think there was a negative mention of Christ here but the interpolator changed it" viewpoint (Paret, Ewald), all of which totally contradicts Remsburg's claim that Christian scholarship rejects Josephus as a historical witness.

What's so laughable about this is, Remsburg has all this information in front of him, because he quotes from the same chapter (Schaff, Vol.1 chapter 2) in The Christ, chapter 7! Clearly then, this work under study is presenting "arguments I like" rather than contemporary, analytical scholarship. So much for Remsburg the journalist!

As for Giles he runs counter to the current consensus and objections he and others may raise are dealt with here. Concerning why the Ante-Nicene Fathers would not mention Josephus here.

On the basis of the data, the argument from absence seems very shaky indeed.

And since he disses Eusebius might as well deal with that notion as well. See a long tracking of the claims, "quotes" and convenient inferences that are less than charitable here.

Regarding the current consensus

Although Josephus' reference to the martyrdom of James is universally accepted by critical scholars, there has been more controversy over the fuller reference to Jesus. The TF contains some obvious Christian glosses that no Jew would have written; such as "he was the Christ" and "he appeared to them alive again the third day."

A strong majority of scholars, however, have concluded that much of the TF is authentic to Josephus. In his book Josephus and Modern Scholarship, Professor Feldman reports that between 1937 to 1980, of 52 scholars reviewing the subject, 39 found portions of the TF to be authentic. Peter Kirby's own review of the literature, in an article discussing the TF in depth, shows that the trend in modern scholarship has moved even more dramatically towards partial authenticity: "In my own reading of thirteen books since 1980 that touch upon the passage, ten out of thirteen argue the Testimonium to be partly genuine, while the other three maintain it to be entirely spurious. Coincidentally, the same three books also argue that Jesus did not exist." (Kirby, Testamonium Flavianum, 2001). Though my own studies have revealed a similar trend (about 15 to 1 for partial authenticity, with the exception being a Jesus Mythologist), I do not believe that it is a coincidence that it is Jesus Mythologists who are carrying the water against the partial authenticity theory. Even the partial validity of this one passage is enough to sink their entire argument.

Notably, the consensus for partial authenticity is held by scholars from diverse perspectives. Liberal commentators such as Robert Funk, J. Dominic Crossan, and A.N. Wilson, accept a substantial part of the TF as originally Josephan. So do Jewish scholars, such as Geza Vermes, Louis H. Feldman, and Paul Winter and secular scholars such as E.P. Sanders and Paula Fredrikson. Even Jeff Lowder, co-founder of the Secular Web, recognizes the merits of the partial authenticity theory. (Lowder, Josh McDowell's Evidence for Jesus: Is it Reliable? 2000). Paula Fredrikson sums up the state of the question among scholars: "Most scholars currently incline to see the passage as basically authentic, with a few later insertions by Christian scribes." (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, page 249).


You can see his entire reply here, if you're interested in outdated "scholarship".

I did miss the eminent Dutch critic, Dr. Kuenen, so let's see who that is. Judging from the information I would say this is the individual Channing meant. With his life spanning September 16, 1828 - December 10, 1891, we again have outdated information, to say the least.

I suppose he thought he could panic me with his attempt at a data dump. But a little research shows that his jump to use what I suspect was a handy copy/paste, was merely outdated information, something he was clearly unaware of, with his claim that these were modern views.

It will be interesting to see if he concedes anything. I may have more later as he had additional comments about contemporary secular mentions of Jesus, or lack thereof for some writers of that time period.

Oh, as I noted later, in a reply to another in that thread:

I did forget something

Channing - "Below are quotes from modern Christian scholars"



Filed under: Religion -- Christianity -- Apologetics

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