Posts Tagged ‘Maurice Casey’
Over at Bible and Interpretation Tom writes
In his critique of my response to Bart Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist? Maurice Casey alleges as the foremost mark of what he sees as my incompetence that I, at odds with all critical scholarship, presuppose a Matthean priority, rooted in a ‘Traditional Catholic doctrine’ or ‘a Catholic dogma,’ in which I was supposedly ‘brought up!’ His assertion surprises me by both its arbitrariness and its prejudice. There is no such Catholic doctrine or dogma; nor have I claimed it in any way.
And then more. Do give it a look.
Following you’ll find a list of people whose opinions matter to me and whose viewpoints I value (though not in such a way that I’m willing to slavishly follow them). I offer said listing in response to a question I was sent on Facebook (itself responding to a posting from earlier today) . To be precise the question was
If you don’t care about McGrath’s opinion, whose do you care about?
An excellent question. I answer- the opinions of these:
God, my wife and daughter, my father-in-law and mother in-law, Bob Cargill, Chris Tilling, Israel Finkelstein, Antonio Lombatti, Giovanni Garbini, Niels Peter Lemche, Thomas Thompson, James Crossley, Maurice Casey, Steph Fisher, Philip Davies, and Keith Whitelam. And that’s pretty much it.
The persons whose viewpoints I value (aside from the above who are all alive whilst these are dead) :
Rudolf Bultmann, Gerhard von Rad, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Johannes Oecolampadius, and Huldrych Zwingli.
To be sure, I value the opinions and viewpoints of others, but when it comes right down to it and everything is boiled to the essentials, these are the core group. If you didn’t make the list don’t feel too bad. First, you probably don’t care about my opinion anyway (so you can’t really be too hurt). And second, you’re in the majority if your opinion isn’t all that important to me. So there’s that.
Opinions and viewpoints. If we’re all honest (a virtue virtually abandoned these days) we would all admit that some people mean more to us than others.
In a recent article in this journal, Thomas Thompson wrote what he described as ‘A Response to Bart Ehrman,’though the connection is not always obvious. The purpose of this response is not generally to defend Ehrman, but to point out that Thompson is completely wrong from beginning to end. Ehrman got one main point right, and it should be at the centre of the discussion. He commented, ‘Thompson is trained in biblical studies, but he does not have degrees in New Testament or early Christianity. He is, instead, a Hebrew Bible scholar….’ Thompson’s lack of expertise regarding New Testament Studies and Early Christianity is palpable throughout his essay.
And then he’s off to the races (as we say here in the South).
Given the fact that I am friends with both Thomas and Maurice I think I shall simply point out that this discussion should stir up even more discussion! (To say the least). I also confess that I am a big fan of lively discussion. Maurice doesn’t (ever) disappoint.
- The Thompson Strikes Back (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
Bart Ehrman posted this bit in which he describes his experiences writing his latest book.
Stephanie Fisher posted, or rather attempted to post a comment, which was bizarrely rejected by Bart because, in his words (in an email to Fisher), “Your comments are mean-spirited and not appropriate for the blog. If you want to try again in a more temperate tone, I would consider including them. As you might imagine, I do have a response to your points.”.
If you can find anything mean-spirited or inappropriate in Steph’s remarks you’ve got a vivid imagination. Here’s what she wrote:
“You say that New Testament scholars have never taken mythicists seriously, they have never seen a need to argue against their views. This is false. Case and Goguel for example explicitly demonstrated with argument and evidence the mythicist arguments to be flawed in 1912 and 1925. Maurice Casey’s Jesus of Nazareth introduces Price, Doherty and Zindler for example and explicitly provides evidence for their mistakes. His forthcoming volume later this year is also a refutation of the main mythicist arguments. Also you claim NT scholars have never tried to prove the existence of Jesus and have simply assumed it. This is untrue of Case, Goguel and the entire life work of Maurice Casey who has never assumed the existence of Jesus at all and has dedicated his life’s academic research to providing argument and evidence. I know what the book is about – I helped edit it. Just read the ded and preface. You made some unusual assumptions about Aramaic in your latest book and didn’t engage with the most recent critical scholarship which is a shame because so few New Testament scholars are competent Aramaists.
“However I did enjoy reading Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. I bought it when it was release in the nineties and I had graduated. It inspired my direction to a degree and I still find it useful at times.
“You say “The book you’re referring to here is a fairly full exposition of what he thinks is historical information about Jesus, a nice contribution to the field.” – Hardly a fair description of an academic career devoted to Aramaic research culminating in a book designed for a wider audience and providing argument and evidence to demonstrate the existence of a historical figure, simultaneously engaging with mythicist arguments which argue the contrary, is it?
“I feel compelled to add that your derogatory insinuations about New Testament scholars are false and offensive.
Responsible New Testament scholars around the world do take mythicists seriously. They do read the published work and even the blogs. They do not just dismiss them. That would be irresponsible. Jesus scholars do NOT assume the existence of the historical Jesus. I gave you three scholars spanning a century. I could give you three hundred more – or even more. And actually we read the German edition of Schweitzer (including his other work). You then say “many scholars in the field, I would venture to say, until my book had not even heard much about [mythicists]” which is an extraordinary outburst of self-confidence, effectively your own assumptions without evidence. It is utterly false – ‘until my book’?!”
Now to be fair to Stephanie, there’s not a shred of either mean spirited-ness nor inappropriateness in a single line. Her points are well made and accurate. Which is why I think they deserve a response. Maurice Casey does as well. He writes
“Ehrman’s blog comments are extraordinarily self-centred, and make one wonder which New Testament scholars he has ever talked to about the existence of Jesus. For example, he comments, ‘before writing the book, like most New Testament scholars, I knew almost nothing abut the mythicist movement’. Most of us knew perfectly well that there was a massive attack on the existence of the historical Jesus in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Until recently, however, we thought that the work of Case and Goguel, supported by lots of detailed comments in other scholarly works, made it unnecessary for us to keep publishing about it when we were trying to make a contribution to knowledge, not just to repeat what had been written before. Among much modern scholarship with which he seems unfamiliar is recent work on the term ‘Son of Man’: his comments (Did Jesus Exist?, pp. 305-7) imply a complete lack of familiarity with Aramaic sources from the Sefire Inscriptions through the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Yerushalmi and the literature of the Syriac-speaking church, as well as recent secondary literature.
“The notion that none of us has read the work of recent mythicists again makes one wonder again which New Testament scholars he has ever talked to about the existence of Jesus. He comments again, ‘no scholar of the New Testament has ever thought to put together a sustained argument that Jesus must have lived.’ Most of us have spent a regrettable amount of time becoming regrettably familiar with their regrettable outpourings, some of us have discussed it with each other, with varying opinions about what needs to be done, and I have a book in an advanced state of preparation for publication by T & T Clark/Continuum, hopefully before the end of 2012. We don’t expect or want Ehrman at meetings of British New Testament scholars, but does he not attend SNTS either?”
In sum, it seems that Casey and Fisher take issue with Ehrman’s cavalier dismissal of substantial work done in response to ‘mythicists’. Certainly Bart is free to include or reject whatever comments he wishes, on his blog. Similarly, the rest of us are free to raise questions about publications and in fact we are obliged to- especially when they don’t tell ‘the whole story’.
Maurice Casey makes some interesting observations on the story of the Gadarene Demoniac- which I quote in full-
The first aspect of the story that is untypical of Jesus, but widespread in stories of exorcism, is that, even after making an effort to order the unclean spirit out of the man (Mk 5.8), Jesus has to ask it its name (Mk 5.9). This is narratively convenient so that the storyteller can tell us its name is ‘Legion, for we are many’, the first indication that the storyteller was disenchanted with Roman legions.
The second feature untypical of Jesus, but widespread in stories of exorcism, is that Jesus sends the demons out in such a way that they visibly enter something else, so they can be seen to have gone out. What they are sent into is a ‘large herd of pigs’; indeed somewhat belatedly the storyteller entertains us with the information that there were about 2,000 of them! (Mk 5.11-13). Pigs were notoriously unclean animals, because Gentiles kept them and ate pork, as Jews did not. From a Jewish perspective, therefore, pigs were especially suitable animals for unclean spirits to be sent into. The existence of a herd of 2,000 pigs, though not strictly miraculous, is not something that would ever happen in real life; it is part of a story told to entertain people, and enable them to marvel at Jesus’ ability to defeat the powers of evil with the power of God.
At this point, we can be more precise about the ‘Legion’. The author had in mind the tenth legion, Legio Decem Fretensis, which had a boar as one of its symbols. It was stationed in the province of Syria, firstly at Cyrrhus, so it was the northernmost of the Syrian legions, and then from 18 CE onwards in the client kingdom of Commagene, which was annexed to Syria. The otherwise powerless storyteller has made great fun of a legion. The effect of Jesus sending the demons into 2,000 pigs is equally entertaining: ‘the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea . . . and drowned in the sea’ (Mk 5.13). This effectively gets the demons back into the underworld where they belong, for the story assumes they go down to the Abyss. It also dumps a legion where many Jews would have loved to see the Roman legions go.
But the storyteller, a Jewish Christian entertaining Christians miles away, where he knew about Decem Fretensis, was regrettably unconcerned about the geography of the Decapolis. Whether this took place in the country of the Gerasenes (the original text of Mark) or the Gadarenes (some manuscripts which were influenced by Matthew) is the difference between whether the pigs had to run 33 miles, or just 6 miles, to get to the lake of Galilee! The storyteller was not concerned either to think about pigs which can swim.
Fun, huh. Nothing quite like the Romans being made fun of and oppressed persons wishing them driven into the sea where they belong.
Maurice Casey is, in my estimation, the best historical Jesus scholar presently working. And today is his birthday. His most recent volume, Jesus of Nazareth, is filled with insights and boiling over with authentic scholarship.
To be sure, not everyone appreciates Casey’s work, but that’s primarily because they don’t take the time to wrestle with it. Certainly, there are points on which I see things differently. But if you collected all the people working on the historical Jesus for the past decade, put them in a pot, shook it up, and waited for the best to rise to the top, Casey would be there at the summit.
He’s got, as I understand it, a volume in the works are present on the subject of Jesus scholarship that will doubtless prove to be a lot of fun!
So, to Maurice- Happy Birthday! Have many more in good health!!
They’ve had a panel discussion of Maurice Casey’s massive ‘Jesus’ at BNTC and, according to the tweeter from T&T Clark (though I’ve edited the tweets into complete sentences and corrected the grammar)-
[There has been a] panel review of Maurice Casey’s Jesus of Nazarethhere at #BNTC. Some took issue with [the] degree of Casey’s reconstruction of Aramaic backgrounds [and the] early date [he asserts] for Mark [as well as his] over reliance on Mark as [a] historical source. But all acknowledged [the] book as [a] huge achievement. [It] ‘easily takes its place alongside the most important historical Jesus books of [the] last 30 years’, [said] Eddie Adams.
Another tv ‘special’ by some guy who lacks any real knowledge of the subject, as Deane shows plainly, is set to air in NZ on Sunday. I especially appreciate Deane’s observation-
… the list of biblical scholars demonstrates Bruce’s lack of knowledge of the field, his reliance on other people’s scholarship, and lack of first-hand knowledge of scholarship. Where are the current and most recent experts on the issue: Maurice Casey? Dale Allison? Roger Aus? They are nowhere to be seen, although they are obvious choices for anybody reasonably informed on current scholarship.
I’m kind of glad I’m not in NZ so I don’t have to watch.
Our colloquium with Professor Casey came to a conclusion today. You can still access the 10 excerpts from the book here and if you haven’t entered yet you can until midnight tonight and then the winner of the volume will be announced in a day or two after James and I have a chance to consult.
But today is also noteworthy because it’s the birth anniversary of Prof. Casey. So I want to wish him a very happy day with many joyful returns in good health and vitality.