Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Last Temptation Of The Mythicist

Or at least the latest temptation for this mythicist, to stop being a mythicist and say, "Okay, there was an historical Jesus, they're just debating his background and characteristics and what he actually did or didn't say and do."

"They" in this case would be a lot of academics, almost every single one of whom expresses no doubt about Jesus' existence. R Joseph Hoffmann, author of this fine blog as well as several fine books, has not yet, to my knowledge, become a strict historicist and said that it is certain that Jesus existed, but he expresses much less doubt about it than he did decades ago. And he's unusual among academics in expressing any doubt at all. Price expresses doubt, but unfortunately Price is a dingbat who seems a century or so behind current research. And Carrier, yeah, well, applying Bayes' Theorem to Jesus' existence is ridiculous, period. Besides these two, the academics make their cases on the basis of primary texts. They're familiar with the relevant manuscripts. They keep up with the relevant journals. Of course they do: their papers fill the relevant journals.

"They" include Barbara and Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M Martini and Bruce Metzger, the editors of a critical edition of the Greek New Testament, known as the Nestle-Aland (Eberhard Nestle published the 1st edition of this version of the New Testament in 1898; they're up to the 28th revised version now.) for which they examined thousands of Greek and Latin manuscripts, plus some Greek and Latin (printed) editions, plus Syriac and Coptic editions to a great degree, and Armenian, Georgian, Gothic, Ethiopic and Old Church Slavonic editions to a lesser degree, and if you're new to this sort of thing, all that fine print at the bottom of every page of the Greek text gives the sources for every word of the text, as well as the major variations -- the most significant differences in some manuscripts and editions from what is in their text. Those abbreviations are the ones they give in the introduction to the most important of those manuscripts and to all of those editions. Usually, in an edition of an ancient text, there's plenty of room at the front of the book to list all of the sources from which the edition was made. Since there are so many sources in this case, only a couple of hundred of the most important of the manuscripts are listed in the introduction. There's a complete list at the back of the book, which mentions where each manuscript was used. There's also a list of the minor variations between editions at the back. Two lists, actually: one list of minor variations in manuscripts and one of minor variations in editions.

Iss a Ding.

You got all that? No? Well, what I'm saying is that critical editions like this are the shiznit: if you're serious about knowing what the experts currently know about what is in the New Testament and how it got there, you learn Greek and you get the latest Nestle-Aland, and in those latest scholarly journals you will find things like praise or criticism of the Nestle-Aland, plus research which will influence things like future editions of the Greek New Testament and the Vulgate and the Hebrew Old Testament and the Septuagint and the Georgian and Armenian translations of the Bible, and so on and on and on and on. If you want to keep up with the big kids in this field your Greek and Hebrew better be very, very good, and you should be good in Latin and Syriac, too, and it certainly wouldn't hurt to be very good at Coptic, and to be at least -- at least -- a little bit familiar with Ethiopic and Georgian and Gothic and Old Church Slavonic, and...

Not to mention those modern journals, which contain papers in English and German and French and Italian and Spanish and other modern languages.

These are the leading the historicists. The leading mythicists, on the other hand, base their work on...

*sigh*

...well, usually on somewhat less than that.

And that's why I'm sometimes tempted to say, "Okay, I'm convinced that Jesus existed."

Except that the experts haven't convinced me that they're really allowed the question into their minds. That's just one except, but it's a huge one. As huge as except's get.

Wrong Monkey Broken Record Time: The experts need to investigate whether or not Jesus existed.

The experts who are fluent in 4 or more of those ancient languages, and somewhat familiar with between 4 and WOW more. Plus a bunch of modern languages. Who are all keeping up with and criticizing each other's work. I'm not an expert. But I'm close enough to expertise to tell who the experts are. It's those genius hardworking dedicated polyglots who unfortunately keep telling the rest of us to move along, nothing to see here. Who aren't doing one entirely crucial part of their jobs.

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