Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Josephus' "Countless Changes And Contradictions"

Jon Curry writes:

Nobody is suggesting that any inconsistency is proof of forgery. This is just Jason's effort to blur things. As if I believe a text has to be inerrant to be genuine. Some inconsistencies would suggest we're dealing with different authors. Others might suggest sloppiness. Or an honest mistake. Or even a correction. They have to be looked at on a case by case basis.

Jon hasn't explained why he keeps rejecting such explanations of the alleged inconsistencies in the New Testament while accepting such explanations for Josephus. Here are some of Jon's comments about alleged inconsistencies in the New Testament:

As I'm sure you are aware, pretty much all critical scholars admit that Paul could not have written 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. The vocabulary issues and things like the implied church structure (again like Ignatius representing a later, catholicizing of Paul) rule out Paul....

Ephesians is also doubted by most critical scholars for reasons I've already explained. In addition to Goodspeed's table, you also have these long sentences, again completely outside the style of Paul, where these Pauline phrases from the other texts are linked together with clauses, again suggesting that this book is nothing more than an attempt to patch together Pauline phrases gleaned from other texts. The first chapter in Ephesians is only two sentences in Greek. The Pauline pastiche theory fits this data perfectly, whereas the view that Paul just sat down and wrote it and it mapped to this style so well just seems impossible....

With Galatians and I Corinthians you have independent factions with rival conceptions of how Paul operates. In Galatians he's an independent maverick that got the gospel from none other than the risen Christ himself. As opposed to I Cor which says that he got the very heart of the gospel directly from the Jerusalem apostles. There are indications that these texts are patchwork quilts. For instance, what of sectarian strife? At the beginning of I Cor Paul knows all of the issues, what's going on who's involved. Later (11:18) he talks about how he hears there are divisions and he's tempted to believe it, as if he knows nothing of it. In one section women can prophesy in public (11), a few chapters later (14) suddenly they can't.

Jon doesn't even attempt to interact with mainstream scholarship on such issues when he makes claims such as the ones above. He assumes inconsistencies where even the vast majority of liberal scholars don't see any. And when we disputed some of his claims in that thread, he largely ignored what we said.

In contrast, below are some of the apparent inconsistencies in Josephus that I brought to Jon's attention. He dismissed all of them as insufficient to justify the sort of conclusions that he reaches about every New Testament document. And he didn't explain why these alleged Josephan inconsistencies don't suggest forgery, whereas the alleged New Testament inconsistencies all do. He just asserts that the Josephan difficulties are all in a different category.

"Josephus received aid from Greek assistants (synergoi). Two of these -- the principal assistants -- are most visible in the later books, where the author seems to have handed over composition to them. Books 15-16 are the work of an assistant who also worked on the Jewish War, a cultured writer with a love of the Greek poets and Sophocles in particular. Books 17-19 show the marked mannerisms of a hack, a slavish imitator of Thucydides. In these books the two assistants have practically taken over the entire task. In the earlier books they have lent occasional assistance." (source)

Steve Mason also notes other types of apparent internal inconsistency (in Lee McDonald and James Sanders, edd., The Canon Debate [Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002], pp. 119-121). Elsewhere, Mason refers to "countless changes and contradictions" (Josephus, Judea, And Christian Origins [Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009], p. 42).

J.J. Scott comments that "Parallel sections of different works have unreconcilable variants." (in Joel Green, et al., edd., Dictionary Of Jesus And The Gospels [Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1992], p. 393)

Paul Maier writes:

"At times he is inconsistent in statements made in The Jewish War when compared with those in Antiquities, even if many of these may be understood as corrections in the latter writing on the basis of better knowledge. The discrepancies between The Jewish War and his Vita, however, are more serious. They include irreconcilable versions of a brutal incident involving Josephus's activities at Taricheae (Magdala) in Galilee, when enemies tried to attack him in his lodging. The accounts of his escape not only strain credibility but show a streak in his character that is more cruel than crafty." (The New Complete Works Of Josephus [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1999], p. 14)

Much more could be cited. See the first chapter of the second book by Mason cited above, for example. We can reconcile such problems with Josephan authorship, but we likewise can reconcile the New Testament problems Jon cites with Pauline authorship. As I said above, in some cases even the large majority of liberal scholars don't see these characteristics that Jon cites as inconsistent with Pauline authorship. Why doesn't Jon explain why those liberal scholars supposedly are wrong? Does he even know what they would argue?

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