Jason will want to know how I know that what Josephus offers looks like an eyewitness report. I accept it because the scholars say it. I'm not claiming expertise myself. That's a rational position when the question is not in dispute. I don't know what their specific arguments are, but this is what they claim....
If a forger gets too detailed he can tip his hand and expose the fraud. I assume Eisenmann isn't seeing that based on the statements he makes.
And again, it's OK to accept the assertions of scholars even if you don't have first hand knowledge....It's perfectly reasonable to accept that Josephus' claims can be cross checked if experts in the field claim they can be. You would expect if that was false there would be some dispute about it....
Again, it is permissible to take the word of a scholar if what the scholar says is not disputed and you don't personally have expertise in the area....
Here is my standard. If I don't have expertise in an area I accept the claims from scholars when what the scholar says is not seriously disputed....
On the case of cross checking Jason doesn't dispute that the reason is valid. He simply demands that I go out and produce the evidence first hand that the scholar is referring to. I have no burden to do that. Jason is the one that says people like Eisenmann are inconsistent....
You'll notice that I put a lot of emphasis on points related to scholars. I argue that it is acceptable to take the scholarly position as a default position when the point is not seriously disputed. I argue that facts asserted by scholars are evidence of a point. I argue that controversial opinions by scholars friendly to one side are not very compelling.
Jon hasn't demonstrated that his view of Josephus is undisputed among scholars. He hasn't even demonstrated that we should assume that his view is undisputed until we come across evidence to the contrary. Nothing in his citation of Robert Eisenman suggests that we should assume that Eisenman's view isn't disputed among scholars.
And I've given some examples of scholars disagreeing with what Jon cited from Eisenman. We're told by Eisenman:
"Josephus is, therefore, inaccurate when it comes to matters having a direct bearing on his own survival...He tells us everything he can remember within the parameters of his own necessary well-being and personal survival. For this reason, we have an encyclopaedic presentation of events and persons in Palestine in this period without equal in almost any time or place up to the era of modern record-keeping and reportage." (source)
The scholars I cited don't limit Josephus' unreliability in the manner Eisenman does. And they don't affirm his reliability in the manner Eisenman does. To accuse Josephus of embellishment and other errors in contexts other than what Eisenman refers to is to present a significantly different view of Josephus' reliability. As I documented, Steve Mason refers to Josephus' reliability as a controversial matter. In Josephus, Judea, And Christian Origins (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009), Mason lays out his own view, which is significantly less positive than Eisenman's, and refers to other scholars he disagrees with (pp. 7-43). If Jon is going to cite agreement among scholars as justification for his view of Josephus, then he needs to document that alleged agreement.
Remember, Jon thinks that the vast majority of scholars are wrong about Jesus' existence, New Testament authorship, and other issues. He's written:
"When I was a Christian I kind of just took Pauline authorship for granted, because of course mainstream critical scholarship admits that. But I also knew I didn't really know why they did, and I couldn't really defend Pauline authorship on the merits....Well of course it's not just one scholar, but even if it was I am of the opinion that the merits of the argument need to be considered first....I do have a 'commitment to skepticism' if by that you mean I do not just accept the received wisdom, especially in matters of history." (source)
To be consistent, shouldn't Jon make more of an effort to look into the merits of Josephus rather than relying so much on wisdom received from Robert Eisenman?
Here's what Richard Carrier, one of Jon's most frequently cited sources, recently wrote about Robert Eisenman, including his use of Josephus. This is from an account of a conference Carrier attended with Eisenman:
Everything was so awesome up to this point. But then up went Robert Eisenman (formerly of CSU Long Beach, now working at Oxford). He's the author of quite a few controversial books, advancing a theory of the origins of Christianity that I consider as far-fetched and bizarre as most historicists consider any mythicism to be. His talk this day was weirdly titled "Every Plant Which My Heavenly Father Has Not Planted Shall Be Uprooted: An Inquiry into the Sources of Certain Sayings of Jesus," which as far as titles go was presciently long, as his talk was equally annoying, and he rambled on far beyond his allotted time, to the point that fellow scholars in the audience started standing up and openly shouting for him to shut up already (no, I kid you not).
I have to admit, if I had the balls I would have been one of them. At one point in his talk, for no clear reason, he read (verbatim) the entire (and rather elaborate and uninformative) table of contents of his new book The New Testament Code: The Cup of the Lord, the Damascus Covenant, and the Blood of Christ, which advances the thesis (as far as I can tell--I found the book so rambling and disorganized it was practically impossible for me to follow or understand) that the entire New Testament is a deliberate parody of an equivalent collection of documents at Qumran (plus various consequent theories even stranger still). He even read the entire Dead Sea Damascus Document without pause or commentary (hence also to no useful purpose). Making things worse, in subsequent roundtables his interruptive and paranoid manner pretty much pissed off everyone in attendance, until he eventually snuck out of town in the middle of the night before the conference even concluded.
Okay, I'm gossipping. But honestly, this is behavior well deserving of a literary bitch slap. So there it is. His talk was essentially a summary of his argument in The New Testament Code, with emphasis on his claims to have found secrets to the history of the church in the writings of Josephus, whom he claims actually speaks frequently of the Chrisian Paul under the name Saul (a prominent Jewish ambassador whom Josephus often talks about), and other such claims that IMO are no less fringe than anything you might hear from Earl Doherty or Joseph Atwill. I got the distinct impression (reminiscent of Acts 26:24) that he's become passionately seduced by an elaborate retrofitting fallacy as a consequence of reading the Dead Sea Scrolls one (hundred thousand) too many times. But that's just me.
How much should we trust Eisenman to reflect what's undisputed in scholarship regarding Josephus? Jon recently wrote the following about the biases of scholars. He was trying to explain why even liberal scholars disagree with him:
Personally, I think these liberals may want to believe the Bible is true more than you know. For many Jesus is this feminist liberal crusader. Do you think maybe these liberals want him to be that? They don't want Jesus to be a mythical character, because then they can't invoke his example as if it is something we should emulate.
If Eisenman has a theory involving "finding secrets to the history of the church in the writings of Josephus", might he have an interest in making Josephus seem more reliable and more significant in antiquity than he actually was?