Thursday, February 24, 2011

Debating the Idiots, Part 4

Up next in order, we had spin’s commentary on Josephus. Since I had Christopher Price do the chapter on this for STCM, I referred readers there. As can be seen, spin didn’t care to engage that case, so there’s nothing to comment on.
JonC, who was a cut above some of the others, left a comment that I’d like to engage now that I have some more background to use:

Is it possible that Josephus' audience is just so familiar with Jesus that they have no need for explanatory details? I suppose. I don't find that to be plausible. If you do, I guess that's where our difference would lie.

It is plausible, actually, since under a high context scenario, in which authors presume a broadly shared base of knowledge in their readership, “no need for explanatory details” is precisely what we would have. I do happen to think knowledge of Jesus (and his career in general) was common knowledge, so that would indeed fit the scenario.

With regards to the odd nature of the orthodox Jews being upset about the death, note that Josephus says that Ananus brought charges against James as a breaker of the law. If he was a Christian and he's teaching the gospel then Ananus would probably be right to say he was a breaker of the law. Josephus says that the elders regarded this as unjust. Isn't that odd if James is a Christian?
What Josephus says is that the action was not justified – meaning, James was not enough of a threat to warrant enacting a kangaroo court, especially against Roman law. Nothing odd there.

You say the issue is they think Ananus didn't have the authority to act as he did, and this was the problem. I thought the Jews were kind of annoyed that they had to go through Rome to govern themselves, so I would think they would be slow to appeal to Rome if they thought the punishment was just. Again, this makes it odd.

The Jews may have been annoyed by this, but that was the way it was – and here, the appeal to Rome would be a wise butt-covering operation by those who didn’t want to be called down for what the high priest did. Again, nothing odd here.

This doesn't mean it's definitely interpolated. But it's not definitely original either. And again, with Christians running around modifying texts all over the place to suit there [sic]own agenda we're stuck being unsure, and hence we are unable to use this as a foundation stone for proof of the historical Jesus. Too bad, but what can you do?

What can you do? Deal in actual evidence and arguments, which is what Josephan scholars have done with the Testimonium. A vague, broad appeal to “Christians running around modifying texts all over the place” isn’t an argument.

I've read the Pearse article and I really don't think he deals with the issue, but if you need evidence that Christians had no qualms about modifying or inventing texts to further their own agenda, see the TF, the various spurious gospels, letters, and even the manuscripts of the canonical texts as Bart Ehrman has exhaustively shown. That's my main point here. I assume you don't dispute it.

As a matter of fact, I do dispute the application. But that’s another issue. I’ll only say that the case for “spurious” texts needs to exclude those done by heretics – and also not beg the question of spuriousness (eg, 2 Peter) or of intent to deceive (eg, the correspondence between Paul and Seneca).

To close for today, we return to spin’s final comments on the Josephus “out of context” charge – which merely amount to spin being unable to deal with the fact that his argument in this regard is not supported by those experts who have read, studied, and analyzed Josephus for a lifetime. He regards this as “argument from authority” – thereby misapplying that fallacy as many do. (See link.)

The Forge will have a guest post tomorrow – we’ll return Monday with more from OV.


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