Thursday, February 5, 2009

My decision about The Jesus Project

After reflecting for two years since I was initially contacted about participating in The Jesus Project, and recently determining the actual goal of TJP which had always been vague to me, I have decided to step aside.

First, the goal to prove Jesus' existence or not is methodologically a black hole from my perspective.

Second, another quest for what we can know about Jesus will turn up nothing new, because each thing that will be identified will be easily deconstructed by the members of the group. When this happens, I can imagine that the minimal-to-nothing "evidence" could be framed as "proof" for Jesus' non-existence. The media will have a heyday - "now scholars prove that Jesus didn't exist" or "scholars say that we can know nothing about Jesus".

This line of reasoning became very evident to me when Tom Verenna quoted a statement of mine published on my blog (in which I stated that the historical Jesus we reconstruct only exists in our imaginations) as somehow aligning with his myther position, as giving validity to it. This is simply false. Because I recognize that my colleagues in the Jesus Seminar have constructed the historical Jesus from their imaginative interpretation of the evidence available, has no bearing on whether or not Jesus actually existed.

In fact, I think that Jesus did historically exist, although I cannot prove this anymore than the mythers can prove he didn't. I have reasons to think that he did exist, including the fact that Paul knew Jesus' brother James and that Hegesippus reports that he knew that the grandsons of Jesus' brother Jude had been interrogated under Domitian. And yes I know how mythers get around this evidence (how it is deconstructed), just as I know how Christians have traditionally gotten around it using some of the same arguments (since human brothers don't coincide with theologies like Mary's perpetual virginity, just as they don't coincide with the position that Jesus was not a historical person).

Unless there is a new orientation to the project, I will not be participating in it, and wish those who remain part of TJP my best.


Mark Goodacre said...

April, I have made the same decision with respect to the Jesus Project, and for similar reasons. I appreciate your articulating clearly where you stand on this.

Steven Carr said...

I wonder why a semi-official history like Luke/Acts never hints that any James had ever seen a Jesus.

Perhaps the author was trying to cover up the relationship.

Similarly, the author of Jude says he is a brother of James, and tries to cover up the relationship of Jude and James to Jesus.

Perhaps Jesus was regarded as the black sheep of the family and people asked for it not to be made public that he had been their brother.

I wonder who the other 'brothers of the Lord' were that Paul talks about as getting expenses from Christians.

Perhaps Jesus came from a big family, who all decided they could make a living from this new religion.

Her Artichoke Heart said...

Good points -- I can understand your decision.

Intergalactic Expanding Panda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt said...

Tom/Rook is an utter moron who has no respect from other Atheists outside the RRS.

Intergalactic Expanding Panda said...

"This line of reasoning became very evident to me when Tom Verenna quoted a statement of mine published on my blog (in which I stated that the historical Jesus we reconstruct only exists in our imaginations) as somehow aligning with his myther position, as giving validity to it."

I'm sorry to see that Tom Verenna was the final straw. I was thinking of uploading his presentation so you could objectively see that he's just a narcissist pretending to be an academic. The truth is he's an activist with something to prove, and will misrepresent him self and history to validate his beliefs.
some commentary on this presentation is here
which includes corrections to his Greek after someone tried to claim he translated the "whole bible" from Greek.

He's been told by the likes of Thomas L. Thompson that his unwritten book isn't going in the Copenhagen seminar. Robert Price and Eric Schumacher made it very clear that Rook/Tom is giving off the wrong impression when tries to claim that books they "might" read when finished is peer review.

I held off on posting this information mainly because I think Tom's name change might lead to some good things. He might go back to school and actually develop the tools necessary to actually make a legit contribution. At present, he can only be described as a Mythicist groupy that has yet to make a real contribution.

Ultimately the choice is yours. An objective mind like yours is clearly needed on TJP, where it might be possible there was an historic Jesus, or not.

Thank you for your time, and do have an inspirational day.

Ige Pandousky

Frank McCoy said...

In "The Jesus Project" (Free Inquiry (Vol. 27, No.3) R. Joseph Hoffmann states (p.52), "The Jesus Project, as CSER has named the new effort, is the first methodologically agnostic approach to the question of Jesus' historical existence. But we are not neutral, let alone willfully ambiguous, about the objectives of the project itself. We believe in assessing the quality of the available evidence for looking at this question *before* seeing what the evidence has to tell us."
However, before embarking on a quest to answer the question of whether there had ever been a historical Jesus, I think we need to, first, go on a quest to answer the question of whether there had ever been a historical James, the brother of Jesus. In particular, we need to focus attention on Gal 1:18-19 and Antiquities of the Jews, Book XX, Chapter IX, Section 1 because, on the face of it, they are *very* high quality evidence that there had been a historical James the brother of Jesus. So, unless it can be demonstrated that Gal 1:18-19 either was not written by Paul or else has been altered by a later hand and that the Antiquities passage either was not written by Josephus or else has been altered by a later hand, then, IMO, it cannot plausibly be maintained that there had never been a historical James, the brother of Jesus--which, in its turn means that it cannot be plausibly maintained that there had never been a historical Jesus.
So, IMO, only if it can be demonstrated that both passages are either late forgeries or else altered by a later hand should the focus turn to an attempt to answer the question of whether or not there had ever been a historical Jesus--and, to the best of my knowledge, neither TJR nor any other group or individual has demonstrated this to be the case.
So, Dr. DeConick, I think you made the right choice here.

Steven Carr said...

Still no attempt by historicists to explain why Luke/Acts conceals any relationship between James and Jesus.

As do the Epistles of James and Jude.

Nor any attempt to explain who the other 'brothers of the Lord' were.

As for this interrogation in front of Domitian, even the report in Eusebius makes no mention of an earthly Jesus. The only talk is about a heavenly Jesus, which is why Domitian dismissed the cult as beneath notice and not even worthy of being persecuted.

Would he have done that if relatives of a crucified Messiah-candidate had been alive, and were leading the movement, especially after the revolt by Jews?

According to Eusebius, 'For Hegesippus records that Clopas was a brother of Joseph.'

Does anybody believe that?

Richard James said...

Thanks April for this nice series. For the most part I agree with your criticism.

However, I find it unfortunate that you (like many other scholars) ignore this issue. That is, the fact that we cannot agree on Jesus' existence, that there is no good evidence for or against, is an important message to get across.

The lay person typicaly just assumes his existence (as do many scholars still). We do not know whether he existed - this is not a failure in scholarship, but an important corrective of the traditional presupposition (lay and scholarly).

I get the strong impression that the reason many of us ignore the lack of evidence (either way) is that we are Christians ourselves (many of us). We prefer to presuppose his existence and it is of course what we have been brought up to believe.

Perhaps it is also the case that we do not want to upset fellow Christians by saying that we do not know whether Jesus really existed.

Ralph Hitchens said...

That Luke/Acts leaves unmentioned the familial relationship between Jesus and James is perhaps further evidence for a post-1st century date of composition (albeit incorporating some contemporary fragments). Josephus and Paul seem to have roughly the same view of James, that he was a devout Jew who happened to believe that his late brother was the Messiah. A "Jewish Christian" in whom the latter did not eclipse the former. In other words, someone best ignored and forgotten in the emerging gentile-centric Christianity of the second century.

Ishmael said...

Steven Carr said...

Josephus thought someone was a devout Jew who happened to believe that a crucified criminal had been the Messiah?

And Luke/Acts hides any relationship between James and Jesus because it was written after 100 AD?

Is this the best historicists can do?

This is one reason why mythicists think it perfectly plausible that there was no Jesus of Nazareth.

They just read historicist explanations of the texts.

Intergalactic Expanding Panda said...

"This is one reason why mythicists think it perfectly plausible that there was no Jesus of Nazareth."

Plausible, sure.

Keep in mind this Tom Verenna (Rook Hawkins) was presented as an expert who translated the bible from Greek, and has an uncanny ability to just name drop people who gave him the time of day to get "some" credibility, and uses contact with anyone as justification to call them a colleague.

I don't have any problem with people presenting evidence that supports a position that

1) Jesus was real as described in the bible
2) Jesus was real, but was greatly embellished upon
3) Jesus never existed

Tom V. (Rook Hawkins) regurgitates secondary sources as fact not only (3) but it's more likely that the Jesus was a character from Jewish fiction novels.

[retake 1hr]

When asked why (3) is more likely than (2) he can't actually support his position other than there is no reason to believe (2) over (3).

Call me silly but that's hardly convincing. Add to this how me misrepresents himself as a public/critical historian, how he will fib about knowing the biblical languages, and will cite other people's weak influences to support that segments of the bible are not just fiction, but were designed to be read as fiction.

While Tom (Rook) is just small part time blogger in the big scheme of things, he does reflect some of the attitudes present in the Jesus Mythicist camp.

I have no clue if Jesus, an outspoken Jew who could turn a good parable with a modest following, actually existed. But given that prophets were a dime a dozen, and the likelihood that story telling and begging was a better career than fishing or carpentry, I'm going to lean toward (2).

pearl said...

Richard James, I concur.

Personally, I don’t worry about upsetting Christians or atheists or agnostics or anyone else when it comes to discussion of this issue. After all, those fellow Christians of whom you speak don’t function solely in a theoretical vacuum without sociopolitical ramifications.

There are people who will cling to their faith in the existence or nonexistence of Jesus, no matter what; however, those who are open to critical reevaluation of belief systems might welcome dependable, researched information offered in a fair, logical manner sans presupposition regarding a man’s existence in addition to outright flagrant Christian or other apologetics.

I do think it is important for the scholarly community to address this subject by making a serious attempt to distinguish between fact and assumption and come together as a unified community in presenting this consolidated information, regardless of individual leanings or inability to prove or disprove Jesus’ existence.


Ishmael said...

The fact that the new Jesus Project considers the likes of Rook Hawkins (Tom Verenna) to be a "fellow" *alone*, makes it a huge joke.

If it because as popular and controversial as the first, real scholars will point this out.

Jacob Aliet said...

We consider it a methodologically a black hole so we give up and go on writing scholarly papers that present opinions as facts instead of participating in an effort that can help us shed light on what we can say we know and what we cannot?

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

Absolutely brilliant, April! My regret in missing this series of posts as they appeared is tempered by the happy occasion of being able to read them all at once.

The thing that always has struck me awry about this whole "historical Jesus" industry is precisely the application of those tools you mentioned, specifically how their application is apparently no more objective than the appliers permit, whether intentionally or not.

Readers of his work will recall that the exact same series of tools were used by John Meier in his magnum opus A Marginal Jew, to yield entirely contradistinctive results to those of the Jesus Seminar, et alia (whom he at times gleefully skewers, of course). This in itself is indicative that these tools are a great deal less objective than my shaking of leftover chicken bones to determine the historicity of this or that anciently recorded datum.

But of course, if The Historical Jesus©®™ industry loses momentum, we'll no longer be entertained by the insight into what all these various scholars find in the data, surely a much more interesting phenomenon than the results themselves. What a prophetic Jesus, what a socialist Jesus, what an agnostic Jesus, what a comedian Jesus, etc, that each has found tells us more about the scholars and their perceptions of value and their own ideals than about the data.

Thanks again!

Thomas Verenna said...

Tom Verenna is a known plagiarist. He loves to quote people out of context. Here's a link.

Dave Huntsman said...

....another quest for what we can know about Jesus will turn up nothing new, because each thing that will be identified will be easily deconstructed by the members of the group........

In fact, I think that Jesus did historically exist,....

If there is no data that can't be easily deconstructed, then can I ask, why do you think that a historical Jesus existed? Bart Ehrman made a similar statement last week when he was at Otterbein college; which was a stronger statement than he has made in the past. I didn't get a chance to pigeonhole him about it afterwards.

Tim O'Neill said...

If there is no data that can't be easily deconstructed, then can I ask, why do you think that a historical Jesus existed?

Zealots with an axe to grind can find a way to "deconstruct" the data for even the most reasonable ideas if they try hard enough. Their deconstructions are contrived and forced and usually only convincing to fellow zealots, but they can do it with ease. See Holocaust Deniers and Creationists for examples of this.

This is precisely what we find with the Jesus Mythers. Yes, the James mentioned by Josephus could be some other James who, like the one mentioned in the Christian tradition, just happened to also have a brother called Jesus who was also called "Annointed" and he could also have been executed by the Jewish priesthood just like the James who Paul claims he met. This remarkable sequence of coincidences are all possible. But the application of Occam's Razor to this idea shows anyone other than a blinkered Myther zealot that this idea strains credulity. It makes far more sense that what we have here is a confluence of evidence indicating that Jesus did exist and did have a brother called James.

This is why you can count the number of professional scholars who think Jesus didn't exist on the fingers of one hand and the Myther position is dominated by amateur polemicists like Doherty and Carrier and New Age loons like Dorothy "Acharya S" Murdock.

Steven Carr said...

Yes, and Josephus just *could* have copied a bit of Matthew 1:16 into his Antiquities 20.

And Josephus could have referred back to Ant. 18 in Ant.20 by including the reference 'Christ', although most scholars claim the reference to 'He was the Christ' is an interpolation into Ant. 18.

And the authorities just *could* have deposed the High Priest because he upset the population so much by having one of the blaspheming Christians killed, who were claiming that a man was God.

This was the ultimate blasphemy to Jews, who apparently allowed such a sect to be in Jerusalem for decades before killing its leader James.

This killing of a blasphemer *could* have upset the Jews so much that the High Priest could have been deposed.

And then the Jews *could* have made Jesus, son of Damnaeus , High Priest as compensation for the fact that the James who was killed just happened to have a brother called Jesus.

A different Jesus, of course, but if a brother of one Jesus is killed, then justice would demand that the brother of a different Jesus is put into his place.

And then the authors of Luke/Acts,James, Jude would all try to whitewash from church records all mention of this James ever having seen Jesus, let alone having been a brother of Jesus.

Yes, that must be what must have happened.

After all, if Josephus includes a bit of Matthew 1:16 in his text, this is no more suspicious than if Muslims spent centuries copying pagan texts and we found a bit of the Koran in them.

Only a 'loon' would even think of wondering if an interpolation had happened.

It would 'strain credulity' to suggest an interpolation had happened if Muslims copied a pagan texts for 1000 years and a bit of the Koran appeared in one of them.

Rather than an interpolation, it is far more likely that Paul went into synagogues, told Jews that a recently killed man had been God, and was able to walk out of the synagogue without being stoned to death.

No 'professional scholar' entertains any doubt whatever about the ability of Paul to go into a synagogue, claim the Jewish God was a man the Jews should all worship and then be invited back to discuss the idea further.

Tim O'Neill said...
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Tim O'Neill said...
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Tim O'Neill said...

Thanks for that superb demonstration of just how strained and contrived Jesus Myther arguments are, Steve. No parody or satire that I could have posted would have illustrated my point as ably as that towering and tottering house of cards. Bravo! Author!

Steven Carr said...

It appears once more that historicists have nothing worthwhile to say, as soon as somebody shows just how weak their best arguments are.

Steven Carr said...
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Tim O'Neill said...

Okay Steve, so if "Jesus, who was called 'Annointed'" and "Jesus, son of Damneus" are the same person, why does Josephus call them different things? Can you give me an example of where he does this with someone else? Because all the examples I can see in Josephus of him using different appellations for people with the same (very common) first name is where he's doing precisely the opposite - ie where he's using different appellations to differentiate between different people.

That is the clearest and most obvious reading here. Which is why it's the one all the actual scholars adopt. What evidence do you have that he's referring to the same person? Because your hopeful wish that this is what he's doing so that you can avoid having to abandon your ideologically-based position simply doesn't cut it. And without evidence, your wishful thinking makes as much sense as someone arguing that John Kennedy and John McCain are the same person on the basis of their (very common) first name.

So provide some evidence please Steve. Because that would make a nice change from your contorted, Denialist suppositions with their heavy baggage of blinkered anti-Christian motivation.

Steven Carr said...

Does Tim know what an interpolation is?

Did Josephus really copy out a bit of Matthew 1:16 when describing the brother of Jesus , as a prelude to describing why Jesus, son of Damnaeus , was made High Priest after the brother of Jesus was killed?

Tim O'Neill said...

"Did Josephus really copy out a bit of Matthew 1:16 when describing the brother of Jesus"

No, Steve, he didn't. The more likely explanation is that he used a similar phrase to Matthew because Jesus was referred to as the "Anointed". But all Mythers have to fall back on their old standby - interpolation - to help them out of a pickle eventually.

"as a prelude to describing why Jesus, son of Damnaeus , was made High Priest after the brother of Jesus was killed?"

And the only connection in the text is that someone had to replace Ananus when he was deposed. The deposition was due to the execution of James, but the replacement is not connected to James at all otherwise. That connection is entirely in your imagination based on your equally imaginary idea that the two different Jesuses are the somehow the same guy.

Or have you come up with some evidence to support that wishful, Tinkerbell thinking Steve? How are you going with that? Wait, let me guess ...

Ed Jones said...

Edward Jones said ..
Out of a cocern that TJP have due input from the thought of our most authoratative critical historical N.T. scholars, I wrote a letter to R. Joseph Hoffmann, March 24,o9. My Comment is this letter in the hope that it might point to a new orientation for the Project:

James M. Robinson, named senior consultant for TJP, wrote in an article in a recent issue of CSER Review: "The Jesus Project is not to launch into new, but ultimaely unconvincing arguments that Jesus never lived, but to better understand that oldest layer of tradition and how it can be made a more influential force in our society." Given the level of his participation in TJP, one must conclude that this implies responsible recognition of his special status as a fellow critical historical scholar and to thus accept his conviction as a value in non-parochial religious scholarship.

The conviction that Jesus in fact lived forces a historical paraphrase of a sentence from the last paragrah of your first article "Introducing The Jesus Project". The sentence reads "--the project is aiming at a probable reconstruction of the events that explain the beginning of Christianity - - a man named Jesus from the province of Galilee whose life served as the basis for the beginning of a sequence of events that led to the Jesus story being propagated throughout the Mediterranean".
The paraphrse: "the project is aiming at a historical reconstructin of the events that explain the beginnig of two movementss both purporting to explain the significance of a man named Jesus. Chronologically the first movement: a man named Jesus from the province of Galilee whose life, defined by his words, served as the basis for the beginning of the Jesus Movement; the other movement which soon followed: a sequence of events that led to the man Jesus becoming transformed into "a god become man" the Christ Movement story being propagated throughout the Mediterranean".

The meaningful period of origins for these two movements is 30 CE-65 CE, before the Gospels and before Christianity. The term "Christian" was first applied to the Pauline Christ Movement just before 70 CE, when it became the "Winners" in the struggle for dominance. As "winners" it could label the Jesus Movment heresy to effectively remove it from the pages of history. Robinson wrote: Fortunately, the Jesus Movement sayings Gospel Q did not fade from history along with the community whose Gospel it was. Rather, it survived in the gospel church's Gospel of Matthew and Luke'. The term "christian" was never applied to the Jesus Movement. Thus "Christian" Origins is a misnomer, properly origins is about the Origins of the Significance of the man Jesus. The Jesus Movement remained a sect of Judaism, while the domain of the Christ Movement was Gentile. The Christ Movement became Orthodox Christianity. Both Movements are documented in Scriptural sources, the source of the Jesus Movement is located in "the oldest layer of tradition", the source of the Christ Movemen is the writings of the N.t.. Of the two only the Jesus Movement has claim to apostolic witness to the HJ.

I take Schubert M. Ogden to be the real prophet of the Qust for the HJ. He writes: "We now know that none of the O.T. writings is prophetic witness to Jesus in the sense in which the early church claimedd them to be, but also that none of the writings of the N.T. is apostolic witness to Jesus as the early church itself understood apostolicity. The suficien evidece of this point in the case of the N.T. writings is that all of them have been shown to deend on sources, written or oral, earlier than themselves, and hence not to be the original and oiginatig witness that the ealy church mistook them to be in judging them to be apostolic - - all appropriate'Christian' faith and witness are and must be apostolic, one believes and bears witness with the apostles, solely on the basis of their prior faith and witness - the witness of the apostles is still rightly taken to be the real 'Christian' norm, even if e today have to locate this norm not in the writings of the N.T. but in the earliest stratumof the 'Christian' witness (the oldest layer of tradition) accessible to us, - - the first step one must take in using (Scripture) as a authority is historical, rather than hermeneutical. Specifically, that is the step of reconstructing the bhistory of tradition, of which the first three Gosels are the documentation, so as thereby to identify the earlest stratum in this tradition which is the real 'Christian' canon. The procedurees required to execute i are identical with those long since worked out in the quest of the HJ - - with the single, if cricial, difference that in this case there is no need to make any dubious inferences about Jeus himself, once the earliesst stratum of Christin witness has been reconstructed. Consequently,one may quite confident of finding what we today can rightly take to be the apostolic witness --."


Ed Jones said...

April 2, 2009 10:13 Comment Continue.

Hans Deiter Betz, the expert on this "oldest layer of tradition", identifies it to be the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3-7:27, the SM). Robinson writes: "the first and most important collection of Jesus'
sayings in Q grew to become the Sermon on the Mount". Betz writes on the required level of involvment before a scholar may come to recognize the special significance of the SM. - - a task to which specialized knowledgee in the ares of philology, form and redaction criticism, litrary criticism, history of religions and New Testament theology necessarily apples". These are areas of knowledge necessarily restricted to the discipline of the critical historical theologian, as well as areas essentialfor establishing the SM as "a value in parochial religion scholarship". I make note of a sentence from your first "Memorandum to Myself" which reads in part: "-- what was happening at Clarement - - seemed robust and real -", doing the years of
your PhD, 1976-1960. It is my impression that for this time Robinson and Bez were "what was going on at Claremont" which must say that as a fellow scholar you are knowledgable of Betz's essays and commentary on the SM and his important hypothesis that the SM was a pre-Matthean source composed by a redactor, freeing the SM from the lmiations and distortions of its Matthean contxt. Betz writes: "This source presents us with an early form (deriving from the Jesus Movement) of the 'Christian' faith as a whole, which had direct links to the teaching of the historical Jesus and thus constituted an alternative to Gentile Christianity as known above all from the letters of Paul and the Gospels. as well as later writings of the New Testament -- if the SM represens a response to the teaching of Jesus critical of that of Gentile Christianity, then it serves unmistakably to underline the well known fact, frequently forgotten today, of how little we know of Jesus and his teaching. The reasons for our lack of knwledge are of a hermeneutical sort, abd connot be overcome by an excess of good will (apologetics). The Gentile-Christian authors of the Gospels transmitted to us only that part of the teaching of Jesus that they themselves understood, they handed on only that which thy were able to translate into the thought cateories of Gentie Christianity, and which they judged worthy of transmission. By contrast, the SM stands nearer to the Jewish thought of Jesus and manifests its characteristic affiity and distance over against later Chrstianity".

A brief reconstuction of the history of tradition of the two movments: The Jesus Movement: After the crucifixion the disciples fled to their native Galilee. Enboldened by Perer's and others aberration experiences the key disciles Peter, James and John soon thereafter, returned to Jerusalem to again take up the message of Jesus. Betz writes: "A truly disturbing problem arises for the community only when they discover there are oher Christians who have drawn very different conclusions from the teaching of Jesus (the Gentile Christ Community). It is not only their task to maintain and defend the teaching of Jesus, but to establish, first of all, what Jesus taught and desired of others and what he did not desire. The strange fact that such conflicting iterpretations of the teaching of Jesus could arise so soon constitutes the profound dilemma of the SM in relation to the historical Jesus". Robinson writes: "Perhaps it was the Roman war in the 60's which devasted Galilee befor reaching Jerusalem that finally forced the remnants of the Q communiy to join the refuges fleeing north to Antioch. Here facing the relentless pressure of the more successful Gentile church, the Jesus Movement gave way to the Gentile church with its Gospel of Mark.-- it is Betz who deserves credit for calling our attention to the unavoidable fact that the SM is something special, not only as the classic statement of Jesus' teaching, but also the way it came to be -- when one turns to Matthew,the contacts with the Sayings Gospel Q are so striking that one has to realize that the Gospel of Matthew was written in a congregation that itself had been part of the Sayings Gospel's movement".
The Christ Movement: talk of Jesus rising from the dead resonated with a group of Jerusalem Hellenist Jews with their tradition of dying and rising gods, together with the Jewish animal sacrificail system, to suggest that Jesus' dath and resurrection was a proper sacrifice for mankind's sins which abrogated the Torah. For Temple authorities this conctituted an act of treason. The Acts story of the stoning of Stephen, a Hellenist Jew, seems to document a put-down by Temple authorities driving the group out of Palestine, they ended up in Damascus. Paul is named a participant, holding the garments of those casting the stones. It was this Hellenist group that Paul was pursuing as persecutor when he had his "vision" experience on the road to Damascus. It was from this group that Paul reeived his gospel. Only later is their evidence that Paulm was aware of or concerned with the Jerusalem Jesus Movement. Paul was never a member of the Jesus Movement nor did he proclaim or know Jesus' message. Only after developments resulting from challenges by ,missionaries from the Jerusalem Jesus Movment which threatened the very exstence of his Gentile mission, does Paul turn to the Jerusalem disciples seeking their acknowlegement of his Christ myth gospel, for only the Jesus Movement had claim to apostoli witness During the apostolic period the Jsus Movement was dominant. By 70 CE the Gentile churches became dominant, now identified as Gentile Christianity which became Orthodox Christianity. Throughout all of its twists and turns Christianity's basic tenet remained Christ's salfic death and resurrection (the passion kerygma).

My concern for TJP might be expressed in Lao-tzu's famous definition of the baffling paradox surrounding the term Ultimate Concern. "Those who don't know don't say, and those who say don't know". It is apparent that a number of the real authortative critical historical scholars who "Know" will not become members of TJP nor will thsy speak out. Perhaps from some position like that expressed by Betz in a note to me expressing his reason for not joining the Jesus Seminar, saying in efect: "My position has been made clear in my works which are public to anyone concerned to know". Might not Jesus, with his idiom the Kingdom of God, have been about Ultimate Concern - the ultimate solution to the human condition, so that our problem with Ultimate Concern (God-man relationship Mysticism) may be the ultimate cause of our difficulty with knowing who Jesus or even if he was.

Ed Jones said...

Ed Jones says

To Comment April 12.
a crucial edit:
"Those who say don't know and those who know don't say"

Ed Jones said...

Ed Jones says:

A crucial edit to Comment April 12"

"Those who say don't know and those who know don't say."

Ed Jones said...

Ed Jones writes:
A Quote from the article: "Beginning From Jerusalem . .",
Re-examining Canon and Consensus, Merrill P, Miller.
(Dated 1995 before Betz's Commentary on the SM 1997)

"In this paper I have argued that modern scholarship has followed the canonical lead on unitary origins but ignored any actual political implications of the canonical account of the execution of Jesus and the canonical account of the origin and identity of the Jerusalem church. Surprisingly, this holds true especially for those who wish to take the political context of Christian origins most seriously into consideration. In the remainder of this paper, I want to raise as matters for an agenda, several other reasons why the scholarly consensus on the unitry origins of Christianity needs to be re-examined

First, it leaves out of consideration studies that are important because they do not support and may prove to be incompatable with the predominant paradigm of Christian origins. Recent studies on the genre and literary history of Q, on aprocryphal Gospels, especially the Gospel of Thomas, and the pre-Markan gospel traditions have shown that there were early Jesus traditions that cannot be accomodated within the Easter kerygma and which do not evidence an apocalyptic context or persuasion. However, this is only a minimal statement of the significance of this recent work. An altrnative picture of Christian origins has already been argued on the basis of it, namely, that Christian communities were at first formed in the name of Jesus as the founder-teacher. The teacher-sage was invested with the authority of Wisdom's envoy to enhance the significance of the teaching as various Jesus communities confronted challenges and sought a place in the social landscape of Galilee and southern Syria. Along these lines, a continuing wisdom trajectory can be traced into second century Christian gnosticism. On this view, the resurrection of Jesus is not the common center of all expressions of early Christianity. Moreover, the communities whose foundation myth was the kerygma of Jesus' saving death and resurrection do not represent the dominant basis of association from the beginning and arose in circumstances different from those of the Jesus movement. These are the pre-Pauline and Pauline congregations of the Christ located at first in northern Syria and Asia Minor. As a consequence of this recent work, it is possible to pursue the question of community formation in Jerusalem by followers of Jesus without assuming the model of the kerygma-oriented Christ congregations as the only possible model.

myther said...

Dr. DeConick is obviously extremely sharp and competent on these matters, which is why I wish she would engage and participate in TJP. Personally I think the case for mythicism is fairly strong, which is why I would love to hear Dr. DeConick engage with some of the more academically qualified mythicists like Dr. Price and Dr. Carrier. Such a dialogue would be extremely fruitful, even if no one's mind is changed. I think it would be a polite, scholarly and productive exchange. I do not accuse Dr. DeConick of this, but I often wonder why many scholars have an almost visceral revulsion at the prospect of even discussing the mythicist case among fellow academics. I wonder if the notion is repulsive because of many scholars' own peronal history as believers. Or perhaps they do not want to be branded as a krank or a kook from any association with mythicism, even if they are in opposition to it.

Liz said...

[from Stone; not Liz, my better -- and calmer -- half]

In answer to Myther's question, could it be because there's a distinctly cult-like aura emanating from most mythers? They give off a distinct aura of being more interested in proving their case in advance of research rather than being interested in research to develop further ideas. If Josephus, for instance, goes to some lengths to call one Jesus the one called the Christ and another Jesus the son of Damneus, they will contort themselves in knots to avoid the conclusion they these are clearly two different people. That's an exercise in special pleading, not an example of interest in research and scholarship for its own sake. If that doesn't suggest a sheer cult, I'd like to know what does?

myther said...

In response to Liz. I certainly don't advocate anyone engaging in a scholarly discussion with those of "cultish" biases, which is why I recommended two examples of mythicists who are distinctly non-cultish and unbiased, Dr. Carrier and Dr. Price (neither of whom dogmatically exclude the possibility of a historical Jesus, incidentally). It seems fallacious to charaterize mythicism as a monolithic position that "contorts" the evidence in the manner Liz has described in her Josephus example. In fact I am curious as to what mythicist she is referring to in that example. Anyway, it's a waste of time for me to pull counter example's of non-mythicist scholars who contort their reading of the evidence or engage in special pleading in the manner just deplored. I believe that such counter examples, while not difficult to reproduce, do not characterize the whole of historical Jesus advocates, including Dr. DeConick herself. At that point it merely becomes a battle of egos and not an attempt to advance understanding and widen the pool of possible historical reconstructions. As I am uninterested in polemical diatribes, you may recall that I also never recommended a debate between Dr. DeConick and the scholars I mentioned, but rather polite discussion. I only add this to clarify where I and many other mythicists are coming from. We merely want to see the position discussed, considered and responded to, in depth, by other capable scholars who happen not to share a preference for the mythicist view. Since Dr. DeConick is such a highly regarded and highly capable scholar herself, I just feel that it is an opportunity missed to lose her voice in the discussion. That is all.

Unknown said...

Tom Verenna is a complete fraud.

He reviewed my book, having not even bothered to read it. He then made a series of laughable errors and statements, due to his not reading the explanations or even read the original historical documents. However, having pointed out his many errors in a very friendly reply, he simply deleted all my postings, and hid behind a wall of censorship - while making childish remarks from behind that wall.

The guy lives in a bubble of pseudo-superiority, based upon censorship. Of course he is always 'right', because all his mistakes and errors are ruthlessly deleted, just as Stalin and Pol Pot were always 'right'.

The guy is a complete fraud.

Ralph Ellis