Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths? (Biblical Studies) Paperback – 16 Jan 2014
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Maurice Casey strategically lays out his research on the existence of Jesus as a historical person against arguments made by mythicists, or those who do not believe Jesus ever lived. Casey brings to his study a unique depth of knowledge about the Bible, the time in which it was written, and the Aramaic language the book provides a wealth of powerful arguments and background information, all of value to the interested reader readers will be rewarded with an abundance of thought-provoking information by which to better understand the biblical context and reasons to believe Jesus is a person, not a myth. -Melody Diehl Detar, "Catholic Library World"
Casey has accomplished [his] purpose with a thorough and rigorous examination of the arguments of his opponents, and with enough wit and flair to make the process far less tedious than such thorough examinations usually are a masterful and masterfully executed piece of critical scholarship -Nathan LaMontagne, Catholic University of America, " Catholic Biblical Quarterly""
About the Author
Maurice Casey is Professor of New Testament Languages and Literature at the University of Nottingham, UK. He has published extensively on the Son of Man problem, and more generally on reconstructing Aramaic traditions about Jesus from the Greek Gospels.
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Top Customer Reviews
We now have this counterblast to the mythicists by Professor Maurice Casey.Read more ›
I have never stated that Jesus of Nazareth did not exist – not once in my entire life.
Maurice Casey invented myths about me going to Tyndale House while I was at Cambridge.
I have never been to Tyndale House in my entire life.
Casey also claimed I have ‘contempt’ for James Crossley , when I have never written a bad word about him in my life.
Casey’s ability to reconstruct the life of people , based soley on his own fantasies, is as unreal as his claimed ability to read Aramaic wax tablets nobody has ever seen better than a native Aramaic-speaker who has them in front of them.
As I pointed this out, I am now on Casey’s hate-list.
Maurice Casey also gave out my date of birth , place of residence, profession, one of my degrees ( I have two), all without ever asking my permission.
This is really not the behaviour expected of a scholar.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The same cannot be said for books that address the most well-known authors who argue that there was no historical Jesus, a viewpoint known as mythicism. Only one other book that I am aware of (Bart Ehrman's Did Jesus Exist?) is so devoted to addressing the errors, flaws, and other problems that are found strewn across the internet and in several books written almost without exception by amateurs. Unlike Ehrman, whose title suggests a focus not found in the book, Casey delivers what he promises: a critique of mythicist arguments. Yet he still manages to provide the reader with both a concise yet valuable introduction to historiography as well as a survey of historical Jesus scholarship. His incorporation of such a treatment into his criticism of mythicism is a masterful contrast.
The book is an easier read than is the best of those by mythicists, yet Casey does not attempt to sensationalize or over-simplify. He writes with clarity, precision, and somehow still manages not to provide the reader with a comprehensive treatment in a comparably short work and without overly-technical prose. Though not without problems, Casey's book fills a much needed gap between the popular mythicist sources and the perspective(s) of specialists.
Casey's is a quite long book (272 pp) but I read it on bus and train trips over two days - so for me it proved very readable and full of interest. Sometimes crustily (and one understands why) he convincingly answers the arguments not only of some (often ex-conservative evangelical, now atheist) writers who purport to be scholars, but also some enthusiastic bloggers whom, he argues, really do not deserve to be called scholars nor, I suggest, deserving so much attention!
An index of Biblical passages referred to in the text would have helped (and perhaps explains why there is some repetition with regard to relevant Biblical evidence) but for an author with ill-health, the production of this book is a great achievement and of course there is a good and detailed index. Again, there is no bibliography but throughout there are numerous and detailed foot-notes.
The style at times is rather informal, with one or two odd words, though the meaning of "preggers", presumably slang in England, was explained to me by its context !
What would be of practical help would be a short work setting out a summary of the arguments of Dr Casey and others against the "Mythicists" - although one could derive such a summary from this work itself (and from Bart Ehrman's).
Throughout, the book is based on Dr Casey's thorough knowledge of Aramaic, a language unfamiliar to most of those with whom he debates, indeed unfamiliar to many New Testament scholars. On the basis of that knowledge and for other well-argued reasons, he dates St Mark's Gospel at about AD 40, with St Matthew c.AD 50-60, St Luke c.AD 80-90, datings, especially with regard to St Mark and St Matthew, which other scholars need to note - with their various implications, and which need to be considered alongside the scholarly arguments for later dates.
The case for Casey's datings is made earlier also in his magisterial and of course far more important study, "Jesus of Nazareth" which I should recommend but which is generally yet to receive adequate attention from New Testament scholars. I have also profited from his "Is John's Gospel True?" (though I should ascribe a little more value to the Fourth Gospel than Dr Casey does but I accept his general thesis and regard this work far better, for example, than Bishop Spong's recent ruminations about that Gospel). I have also found much of value in his earlier, again still inadequately heeded, clearly written study, "From Jewish Rabbi to Gentile God". (Casey is author also of various important but more technical works on Aramaic and the Gospels.) I should think that those three works, together with, for example, the many works about the historic Jesus (and most recently about the development of Christology) by the late Dr Geza Vermes, should be essential reading for any New Testament scholar yet they remain unmentioned by too many writing in this field, especially in the United States- and one finds instead in too many bookstores fanciful concoctions and the,to me,unconvincing and unscholarly early conclusions of the "Jesus Seminar".
In the present book, there is some autobiographical information about this Biblical scholar who tells us he left Christianity in 1962. Here I personally found his reference to his time at the University of Durham of special interest, having myself studied, though some little time before, under C.K.Barrett and H.E.W.Turner and others to whom he rightfully pays tribute.
Though Casey is not a Christian, his works, whether or not one agrees with all his arguments, provide much support for a positive and intelligent (if not "orthodox") Christianity. He realises that his views would be rejected by many - and perhaps increasingly so in our more conservative, uneducated, and fundamentalist Christian world. At the end of "From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God" he suggests that "if churches as organizations must insist on false belief we can always leave them, and follow from outside their orbit those aspects of the teaching of Jesus which we judge relevant to our lives 2,000 years later". I myself should want to follow those same aspects, although, as a licensed priest of the Church of England (in the Diocese of Sydney!) I myself think that this can still be done within the orbit of a Church that at its best can be broad, intelligent and thoughtful !
if he wasn't so arrogant and contemptuous i would have liked this book more. it also would have been a better read if maurice had presented his assumptions for what they are: merely assumptions. instead of misleading readers by presenting those assumptions as evidence.
this is exactly where maurice is in error. he has lots of assumptions but doesn't know how to provide the arguments for it. this becomes painfully clear on page 238 where he dismissed rené salm's opinion on nazareth:
"Salm's conviction that Nazareth did not exist at the time of Jesus is obviously contrary to the evidence of Mark 1.9: 'Jesus came from Nazaret of Galilee'" (p238)
the bible claims jesus came from nazareth, to prove the bible is correct on this, maurice cites the bible as evidence to back up the bible. i should have stopped reading right there.
in the first 2 chapters maurice rants non-stop against mythicists without any sane argument for his opinions. he treats mythicists with contempt and scorn. especially those who disregard scholarship or don't show scholarship (this pretty much includes anybody with an oposing opinion). in his disorganized spiteful tirade against mythicists maurice hardly makes a distinction between mythicsts. for him they are basically a bunch of dishonest incompetent fundamentalists who have no idea what scholarship is. for example on page 49 and 61 he states:
-- "mythicists try to date the Gospels as late as possible" (p49)
to make his point he then cites the mythicist murdock who holds the view all the canonical gospels emerged around 180 ad. this example of murdock is enough for maurice, as if murdock speaks for all mythicists:
-- "We have seen that one of the most extraordinary features of the mythicist position is the attempt to date all four canonical Gospels much too late. [...] We have seen that mythicists try to date the Gospels as late as possible, and one of the reasons they use is the date of surviving manuscripts." (p61)
he only cited murdock though. yet he blames mythicists in general for dating the gospels as late as possible. it gets even weirder when he cites godfrey on page 64:
-- "The Gospels that we have are not primary but secundary evidence. Their physical existence can be traced no further back than the second and the third and the fourth centuries." (p64)
in this citation godfrey doesn't date the gospels as late as possible. he merely wrote and implied that the physical existence of these manuscripts are not primary evidence as they come from a later date than the first half of the first century. the irony is that on the previous page 63 maurice wrote in regard of the papyrus 45 manuscript (which has fragments of texts of mark luke matthew and john):
-- "Metzger and Ehrman correctly report the editors dating it in the first half of the third century, a date which should be accepted. Papyrus 52 (small fragment of the 4th gospel) must be dated in the first half of the second century. [...] Papyrus 66 (with parts of the fourth gospel) should not be dated later than c. 200 ce." (p63)
maurice is saying that these old extant manuscripts are not older than the second and third centuries. just like godfrey wrote that the physical existence of the gospels can be traced no further back than the SECOND and the THIRD and the fourth centuries.
so both maurice and godfrey date the oldest extant manuscripts in the second and third centuries. maurice is so disorganised in his ranting against myhticists, he doesn't realises he'd just affirmed what godfrey wrote and yet maurice blames godfrey and other mythicists for messing with the dates of the gospels.
on page 80 and 81 maurice brings it up again:
-- "I have already pointed out that the dates proposed for the Gospels by mythicists are seriously awry. Unfortunately, conventional dates for the synoptic Gospels are not altogether satisfactory either. Like the dates proposed by mythicists for all the canonical Gospels, the conventional dates for the Gospels of Mark and Matthew are too late. [...] There are two different conventional dates for the Gospel of Mark in more or less mainstream scholarschip, apart from the hopelessly late dates proposed by mythicists." (p80/81)
this time he didnt even take the trouble to give an example or a source to back up the assumption of the 'hopelessly' late dates that are supposedly proposed by mythicists. so far he only gave 1 example of 1 mythicist on page 49. yet he implied mythicists in general date the gospels much too late.
what is interesting of maurices' citation is that according to him the late dates of the gospels is actual a mainstream view. it seems maurice is the one who hold an aberrant position in dating the gospels too early. yet he is eager to blame mythicists for having aberrant opinions.
on page 220 he again responds to an assumption of acharya aka murdock to refer this to mythicists in general:
-- "This illustrates beautifuly the nature of the work of mythicists. They are not scholars, and they do not believe in evidence and argument any more now than they did when they had fundamentalist Christian convictions. They just have different convictions to be attached to." (p220)
it ain't illustrate the nature of the work of mythicists. it only counts for acharya as he cited her work. to make it worse, he picked the wrong person. acharya never was a christian fundamentalist. she was raised as a liberal christian who lost interest in christianity in her teens.
on page 213 his opinion of jesus from nazareth being a carpenter is sold as historical fact:
-- "Jesus is correctly called a carpenter in the authentic, but not altogether complimentary account of his visit to his home town of Nazareth" (p213)
nobody knows if jesus really was a carpenter. there is no evidence for it. yet maurice try to sell this fantasy for historical fact without citing a source. his source is obvious the bible and if the bible says jesus was a carpenter then this must be historically accurate.
on page 226 he is critizing the mythicist thomas l thompson and then turns the burden of proof 180 degrees:
-- "No pseudo-scholarship of that kind could possibly show that Jesus was not a historical prophet and teacher, whose teaching had some apocalyptic elements, and who deliberately headed for martyrdom in Jerusalem"
to provide evidence is not up to those who critize the assumption of a historical existed jesus. its maurice who has to deliver the proof for his assumptions.
on page 237 he again turns around the burden of proof when he critizes rene salm who concluded there is too little archaeological evidence for the existence of nazareth in the time of jesus. maurice responded to salm:
-- "Its significance is that some absence of archeaological evidence is not evidence of the absence of Nazareth" (p237)
besides that maurice downplays the absence of archaeological evidence for the existing of nazareth during jesus lifetime, the burden of proof is on those who assert the claim of an existing town called nazareth in galilee in the time of jesus.
before i wrap up, just a few more examples of the errors maurice produced: on page 73 he again concludes something without providing evidence:
-- "About a dozen examples of this [armaic] idiom can be reconstructed from sayings of Jesus found in the Gospels, and all of them should be regarded as genuine." (p73)
why should i hold the premise that all of those dozens idioms in the gospels are genuine? i want evidence. not baseless assumptions. the fact that a story about jesus in an old manuscript with an armaic idiom is plausible in the eyes of a biblical scholar doesnt proof that this story is historical authentic.
and on page 73/74:
-- "Jesus was in no doubt that he was going to suffer a humiliating death and that this was to have a fundamental redemptive function. He therefore had good reason to state the prediction of his death in Scripture" (p73/74)
was maurice a witness and did jesus personally revealed to him his inner feelings? or did maurice used a crystal ball? how could maurice have known that jesus was in no doubt? how could maurice have known that jesus had good reason to state the prediction of his deat? or is maurice like a gullible christian who holds christian convictions about jesus for absolute truth?
what maurice does is interpretating an old text of the gospels in light of a certain armaic idiom. he then concludes:
-- "There should therefore be no doubt that this saying is genuine, and the same goes for all the other examples of this idiom that can be reconstructed from sayings of Jesus in the synoptic Gospels. all of them fit perfectly into the life and teaching of Jesus"
i seriously dont understand what this has to do with so called scholarschip. this childlike way of interpretating texts of the gospels is on the same level as christian apologetics dealing with scripture. the irony is that mythicists are constantly blamed in this book for not being scholars or being dishonest while it is maurice who is dishonest in misleading readers to sell his baseless opinions for scholarly evidence.
if the lack of proof for his wild specualtions is not bad enough he also doesn't shy away from using the good old ad hominem argument:
[about e.h. carr] -- "He became increasingly Marxist. When he worked in Oxford and then Cambridge from the 1950s onwards, he was well known as a supporter of the Soviet Union. When he wrote his major work, History of Soviet Russia, it would be entirely reasonable to describe him as a dogmatic politcian rather than a historian" (p45)
why it is entirely reasonable to describe carr as a dogmatic politician? maurice doesnt give any explanation for it. he doesnt cite anything from carrs book of the history of soviet russia, but if maurice tries to dismiss carr for not being a historian than he should have come with argument and citations to back it up otherwise it is merely ad hominem. again on page 234 in the last chapter maurice refers to the socialist conviction of one of the sources the mythicist acharya used in her work:
-- "Carpenter, a gay anti-Christian socialist" (p234)
homosexuality and a socialist political conviction are irrelevant. maybe maurice thinks that a gay socialist is by definition a worthless source. whatever reason maurice had, this ad hominem argument is weak and smells of homophobia. also blaming one source after another for being anti-christian doesn't make good scholarship. besides, even if a source is antichristian this doens't imply the content of the source is wrong. throughout his book maurice acts as a christian apologist in holding christian convictions for historical facts without providing evidence. he attacks mythicists and scholars for their oposing opinions and denounces it as anti-christian and bad scholarship.
......there is tons more to cite and to comment on but that would be a waste of energy. if you are serious interested in this subject i strongly suggest not to read this book unless you are a christian, then you might appreciate the apologetic tone of this book.