Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Another strike out

Dagood tries to shore up a sagging argument from a previous post:


“The first thing to note is that Paul himself never refers to receiving any letter or authority from the high priest, in his description of his own testimony. (Gal. 1:17; 2 Cor. 11:32)”

Given the difference in genre between a letter and a historical narrative, we wouldn’t expect the same detail in a letter.

“In fact, if one studies what Paul said in his letters compared to what the Gospel writers wrote, or what Acts records, it is amazing the different contrast. According to Acts, after Damascus Paul went to Jerusalem within a short period of time. (Acts 9:27) According to Paul, Barnabas did not introduce him until 17 years later!”

No, that’s not what Paul says. In Galatians he records two separate trips to Jerusalem (1:16-2:1).

Dagood is such a fuzz-brain.

“What was Paul, a Pharisee, doing in cohorts with the high priest, a Sadducee?”

The question answers itself. He was in cohorts with a Sadducee because the Sadducee was the high priest.

The high priesthood was a divine institution, whoever the incumbent.

Also, the Pharisees and Sadducees needed each other: the Pharisees needed their opponent’s power while the Sadducees needed their opponent’s popularity. You work with the people in power.

“Would a Pharisee align themselves with a Sadducee? Not likely. Possible? Yes. Probable? Not hardly.”

They were using each other. Quite likely.

“Strike one.”

Yes, strike one against Dagood.

“Now look at the political climate. Damascus was not part of the Roman Empire.”

How does Dagood know that?

He summarizes a story from Josephus. But Josephus never says Damascus was exempt from Roman control.

But suppose, for the sake of argument, that Luke and Josephus disagree. All that would prove is a conflict between two 1C historians. It wouldn’t prove who was right and who was wrong.

The notion that Damascus was no longer under Roman rule is sometimes inferred from the absence of Roman coins from Damascus between AD 34-62.

But as one scholar observes, “Roman coins are extremely rare even under Augustus, Tiberius, and Nero,” M. J. Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Eerdmans 2005), 822.

So this is an argument from silence, and an especially weak version of the argument from silence.

According to Josephus, Syria had been a Roman province since 64 BC. Because Damascus included a Nabatean colony, they had an ethnarch or leader of the ethnic community to represent their parochial interests, but that alone would by no means remove it from Roman control.

Cf. Harris, ibid. 822; Longenecker, EBC 9:369-70.

Actually, the fact that Acts 9:24-25 and 2 Cor 11:32-33 both have Paul escaping arrest by the same ingenious means is exactly the sort of independent coincidence that you would expect of two historical records.

“Strike Two.”

Against Dagood.

Dagood then elaborates on his original argument, with heavy helpings of colorful hyperbole.

But rhetoric is no substitute for evidence, and I’ve already dealt with this objection, both above and in my earlier post.


“Strike Three.”

Against Dagood.

“Who, exactly, was it that wanted Paul killed after his conversion? The answers seem to be all over the board.”

“An obvious reading of Acts 9:23 is that the “Jews” conspired to kill him. But Paul says in 2 Cor. 11:32 that it was the governor of Damascus that wanted to arrest him. Nothing about any Jews.”

This is such a simple-minded objection. Any extradition will require at least two parties to execute the transaction. There’s the party seeking the extradition of the fugitive, as well as the local authority which must cooperate in granting or facilitating his apprehension.

Dagood is so clueless.

“A further oddity is that the author of Acts records Ananias (the healer of Paul’s blindness) as being a Disciple. (Acts 9:10) Yet the author records Paul saying that Ananias was a devout observer of the Law and respected by all the Jews. (Acts 22:12) Which was he? Could one be a Christian AND respected by the Jews? Then would the Jews have persecuted Christians? Or Paul?”

This fails to distinguish between the Jewish establishment in Jerusalem and the Diaspora Jews in Damascus.

“Strike Four.”

Agreed. Dagood struck out—as usual.


In order to maintain historicity in Acts one would have to maintain that a Pharisee aligned with a Sadducee (unlikely) to write a letter (dangerous, fatal and unnecessary) to perform an act that was either not occurring at all, or occurring regularly anyway.

In conclusion—Acts is not history. It does not conform to what Paul wrote. It does not conform to what we see in history. If a person is going to accept any explanation, no matter how contrived and contorted, to make it fit, I can do nothing about it. And what I see is a bias toward a proposition, and an insistence on maintaining it regardless of the probabilities.

That’s O.K, but I do not see a neutral jury buying it.


Having rebutted his specific allegations, once again, what about his court room analogy?

The defense team calls an expert witness on 1C Greco-Roman history (Luke). Their witness is a 1C Greco-Roman historian who lived in very the time and place he is reporting on. He also has a wide circle of informants.

The prosecution team also calls an “expert” witness on 1C Greco-Roman history (Dagood). Their witness is a 21C lawyer living in the U.S.

Whose testimony would a neutral jury give greater weight to?

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