Monday, March 23, 2009

Jon Curry Wants Me To Answer Some Questions

Jon Curry writes:

I'm banned at Triablogue, so I can't respond there, which would allow for a continuous thread. So everything is everywhere.

But it's just as well, because these days you never know if they're going to delete everything you've posted. For instance John Loftus has offered many thoughtful posts there. They're all now gone as punishment I suppose. Rebuttals to his arguments remain, but his counters aren't viewable. Perhaps they are attempting to protect viewers from potential faith shaking information. To me though the attempt to shield viewers from certain statements is more faith shaking than anything.

Jon doesn't make much of an effort to be reasonable or consistent. Does Jon know the context in which John Loftus was banned? He tells us what he "supposes". He suggests that John Loftus' posts are "deleted" or "gone", and "aren't viewable", as "punishment". But then he goes on to suggest that we might be "attempting to protect viewers from potential faith shaking information". Actually, some of John Loftus' posts are still unhidden, and the hidden ones can still be viewed. For an explanation of why we take different approaches with different individuals, as well as what Blogger does and doesn't allow us to do, see here. Since all of Jon Curry's posts are still viewable, without having been hidden or deleted, should readers assume that we don't consider his material "potential faith shaking information"?

Does Jon reach conclusions similar to his conclusions above when a site like Debunking Christianity bans posters or deletes posts?

Jon also writes:

Jason is continuing his pattern of lots of verbiage, little substance. He raises a topic and as I rebut he just hops to a new argument and ignores my rebuttal....

It seems I'm raising points, and rather than giving answers you just move on to a new argument....

We'll write over 95 pages again and just go from one thing to the next. You ought to deal with the issues on the table before moving on to new topics. Either answer the questions or concede your errors.

Again, note how unreasonable and inconsistent Jon is. The 95-page thread he's referring to is one that he left without answering my last response. Whatever his reasons for leaving that discussion, he's the one who left it, so why would he bring it up in this context?

Let's briefly review my discussions with Jon over the years. In 2005, I posted a large amount of material in response to Jon at Greg Krehbiel's message board, after Jon announced his rejection of Christianity there. Jon left that forum without interacting with some of my responses to him. He said that he was moving, so he didn't have time to respond. That's reasonable. But he didn't get back to me in the following months either, even after he returned to involvement in other online forums. He then began posting on Triablogue, in 2006. I again responded to him at length, and he frequently left discussions, with me and with other people, to the point of leaving dozens of posts unanswered. In 2007, I told him that I was no longer going to respond to him to the extent I had previously. I've been more selective in my responses since then. And Jon continues to be selective in his responses to me. In such a context, it doesn't make sense for Jon to respond to me as he has above.

Aside from that background, aside from Jon's unreasonableness, and aside from my decision to spend my time in a more effective manner, another problem with answering the questions Jon wants me to answer is that so much of what he's asking has already been addressed or is misleading. For example, he writes:

You keep repeating the charge that some scholars regard Josephus as a liar. Why do you keep repeating this when I've already said I'd be open to that and this doesn't mean the other information he offers shouldn't be trusted?

I've already answered that question. Jon isn't interacting with what I said. Again, I was contrasting Jon's more restrained criticism of Josephus with his less restrained criticism of Christian sources. I've explained that contrast repeatedly. Jon often chooses to paraphrase my arguments rather than quoting me, and he misrepresents what I'm saying in the process.

He writes:

You've responded by saying Eisenmann is weird, read his table of contents at a lecture, has minority opinions on other issues. How is any of that relevant to my point?

Read what I said in response to Jon's use of Robert Eisenman here. Notice what Jon ignores.

His other questions have similar problems. He doesn't make much of an effort to understand what I've said.

In another recent reply to me, he writes:

You gotta be careful arguing with Jason Engwer. If you say something and you don't qualify it up down and sideways he'll jump all over you as if he's found a very important mistake. For instance recently I had said with regards to the arguments of some of the Dutch radical critics "Why doesn't someone actually try and deal with the arguments?" This is pay dirt for Jason. Worthy of a whole new post. After all a few internet apologists have said a few things. There was a webcast where some issues tangential to this were dealt with. Yeah, yeah, ya got me. To say nobody in the history of internet apologism has ever said one thing in response to the Dutch radicals, I guess I'm wrong. Congratulations.

Read what I wrote in response to Jon in the post in question. Did I just cite "a few internet apologists" and "a webcast"? Did the sources I cited only say "a few things"? Jon would have to add a lot of qualifiers to his original comments in order to make them consistent with the evidence I posted in response. Why should we think that Jon had such qualifiers in mind, and how was I supposed to anticipate those qualifiers?

Regarding the significance of the phrase "I, Paul" in Paul's letters, which I addressed in a recent post, Jon writes:

What of "I, Paul" references. Is it true that we find these in pseudonymous works? Absolutely. They're all over the place.

He then goes on to cite documents that are agreed to be pseudonymous, but also some that are disputed, namely Daniel and Revelation.

He continues:

Looks pretty clear that I, (name) is a forgers technique. Rather than deal with the fact that this is all over pseudonymous writings, Jason will focus on how I had said it's a "dead give away" (even though I had also said it is "suspicious" which implies it's not a certainty). Do the facts matter to Jason, or is my potential overstatement the only thing worth talking about?

I did much more than respond to Jon's "overstatement". I also gave multiple examples of contexts in which "I, [author's name]" could be used without the implication of forgery. I cited New Testament scholars commenting on the subject.

Jon continues:

This is about an author identifying himself as a person that is highly regarded and has status. It's pretty obvious why a forger would use such a technique.

Paul's letters identify the author as Paul in their opening. The "I, Paul" references wouldn't be needed to identify the author. And how many readers would need to be reminded of the author later in the document? A forger might use such language, but so might somebody who's not a forger, for reasons I've explained.

Jon writes:

Given that we see it frequently in pseudonymous works, and I have yet to see it in works regarded as genuine, we should obviously look at such texts with suspicion, right?

I've given Jon some examples of the use of "I, [author's name]" in documents widely accepted as genuine (works of Josephus and Porphyry). I explained how the example in Josephus parallels the example Jon cited from The Infancy Gospel Of Thomas. If Jon now wants to add a qualifier to his argument that would exclude one of the examples that he gave us to illustrate his argument, then he's the one who's at fault.

Jon writes:

But now Jason says that some translators claim Josephus uses the phrase.

I documented the claim from two Josephan scholars. And just as Jon can quote a translation of Josephus that renders the passage without using the phrase "I, Josephus", the concept is still there, much as the Updated New American Standard rendering of 1 Corinthians 16:21 doesn't use "I, Paul", but retains the concept.

Jon writes:

In the case of the spurious texts above it's not about letting people know who a person is. It's basically just name dropping. In that context it would appear much as it appears in spurious documents. Which do the Pauline epistles look like? They look just like the spurious texts listed above.

Now Jon is allowing the use of the phrase "I, [author's name]", as long as it isn't "basically just name dropping". But I've explained to Jon (see the threads linked here) how the phrase "I, Paul" would be used for reasons other than "basically just name dropping". When Paul was writing with another author or multiple other authors, the phrase would distinguish Paul from the others. The phrase is commonly used in legal contexts, and Paul uses it similarly in Philemon. Etc. Jon repeatedly left threads in which I explained these things, and he's now adding qualifiers to his argument that he didn't state or imply earlier. And he tells me that I'm ignoring his responses and should answer his questions.


  1. I must be getting old and forgetful. I don't recall Jon announcing his rejection of Christianity on my discussion board.

    Oh well.

  2. Hi Greg,

    Jon did announce it on your message board. He may have announced it elsewhere, too, but I don't know. There are archived posts here and on the Real Clear Theology blog (where I used to post) mentioning it, in 2005 and 2006. It was during the second half of 2005, probably September, that he made the announcement, at least on your board.