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6/02/2007                                                                                       View Comments

CHRIST'S VENTRILOQUIST: How St. Paul Engineered the Hoax that Shaped Our World

I'm currently reading a manuscript by an aspiring author, Eric Zuesse, entitled "CHRIST'S VENTRILOQUIST: How St. Paul Engineered the Hoax that Shaped Our World."

He is hoping to get the book published, and has asked for a little help from the frequenters of ExChristian.net.

But first, what is his book all about?

He describes his book as the first-ever legal/forensic analysis of the evidence regarding how Christianity started.

"Legal/forensic," simply put, is the methodology which is employed in courts of law in a democracy. A court presents to the jury not the largest quantity of evidence regarding a particular matter (as scholars are accustomed to doing via huge bibliographies and numerous footnotes), but instead the highest quality of evidence regarding any specific question. For example, DNA evidence trumps witness testimony, and that's why many people have been released from death rows after the advent of DNA testing. Similarly, the exclusionary rule is employed so as to winnow out evidentiary gold from evidentiary chaff so as to avoid contaminating jurors' judgment by less reliable "evidence" which prejudices rather than informs.

The difference between legal/forensic methods and other methods is the difference between history and myth. When innocent convicts are released from prisons after DNA analysis, the accounts of the crimes for which they had been convicted are publicly revealed to have been myth and not history. In cases where DNA evidence identified the true perpetrator of the crime, the myth became replaced by a new account of the crime — an account which offered, for the first time, a history and not a myth about that crime.

A legal/forensic exegesis of Paul's letter to the Galatians, and an associated legal/forensic analysis of the four canonical Gospels, finds that Christianity started in or around the year 49 CE in Antioch (present-day Antakya, Turkey) as a direct consequence of a personal conflict which had arisen, over the course of 17 years, between Paul and the leader of the Jewish sect which Jesus had begun. The sect's leader was not Peter, as the modern-day Christian myth asserts, but was instead Jesus' brother James. Peter was and remained a follower of James, and he died (as did the rest of the sect) as a member of the Jewish sect, not as a Christian — not as a member of the group which Paul started. Jesus' sect itself soon expired. What is today known as Christianity started with Paul, and was then developed by his followers, who wrote the canonical Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. The religion of the New Testament has nothing to do with the person of the historical Jesus: The NT was written and assembled to fulfill Paul's Roman agenda, not Jesus' Jewish one.

Paul turned Jesus' corpse into his dummy, and thus became the voice of "Christ."


Anyway, to me the topic is intriguing. And Zuesse's presentation of the subject, although repetitious at times, is effective, shows considerable research, and avoids wild speculation. I would like to help him make his book available to the general public, and the way we can help is by voting yes through the following link.

The votes go to Media Predict, a website that tallies votes for possible publication by various publishers including Simon & Schuster. Each IP address can only vote once, so he needs many different people voting. It does nothing to click the link over and over. If you choose to vote, just vote once.

CLICK HERE NOW TO VOTE. Click the "up" arrow/triangle for yes.



To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting!

My vote is YES!

Anonymous said...

Notice that in none of Paul's supposed wrirtings do the "miricles" of Jesus appear. That is because they had not been invented yet.

Jamie G. said...

Would you post when and where the book is published so I can pick up a copy?

RubySera Martin said...

I am not convinced about the accuracy of his facts. The last thing we need out there is a factually inaccurate book against Christianity.

SpaceMonk said...

Yes.
We can always do with new perspectives, especially those that can back themselves up.
I'd love to see what he has to support his case.

jfraysse said...

Hmmm… I assume that the quoted text is from a summary preamble of this candidate work and is backed up by some convincing evidence, as there are many bold claims in this last paragraph alone. There is little doubt that Paul started Christianity and it is certainly possible that Paul was deluded or just plain nutz, but exactly what was his ”Roman Agenda” and why would he suffer and die for it?

As we have no original copies of any of the NT (only copies of copies) and don’t know who wrote the “gospels”, it is hard to imagine what hard “legal or forensic” evidence could be gleaned from what is already “known”. Was there a new discovery somewhere?

This sounds a bit like another one of those “conspiracy theory” books to me, you know, a “De Vinci Code” wanabe. If so, no thanks. The Da Vinci Code was an amusing story with some facts mixed in but it was not a scholarly work, nor was it intended as such. It did, however, make Dan Brown rich. I hope this work is different.

I admit, these story lines are interesting but I’d like to see more “forensic evidence” myself.

Jim Arvo said...

I completely agree with jfraysse. Without some indication of how the available evidence compellingly supports the specific claims made (which is hard to imagine), I remain extremely skeptical. Similar claims have been floated for centuries, and many of the arguments that have been put forth are quite poor, amounting to little more than "just so" stories. Is there any way for us to determine the quality of this author's arguments based on what was posted here? No. Bold claims do not equal sound arguments.

For that reason, I must vote NO. (Why is there no link to vote "No"?)

SpaceMonk said...

What's with all the pre-emptive book burning?

Why wouldn't you want to hear him out?
Because you 'can't imagine' he has a case?
I can't stand that kind of attitude. To me it seems like wilful ignorance, which I wouldn't have expected from the exchristians at this site.

If the case is groundless then it can always be dismissed later.

Anony #309 said...

Like most things, the book needs to be marketed in the proper context before asking for a vote to be made.

If the author is writing a story in order to counter the irrational claims of an apologetic, by posing counter possibilities to apologetic claims, without direct evidence, then, I would expect to find such a book, where I'd expect to find all apologetics; in the fiction section, or at a minimum, the reference section where most religious books are catalogued.

If a book is being promoted as a scholarly work, with evidence, using terms like forensic analysis, etc., then it's a fictional work. Evidence doesn't require popular vote, it speaks for itself and sells itself.

If a book is marketed as a scholarly work, with evidence, using terms like “forensic analysis”, etc., yet it is clearly a non-fictional work, because it lacks evidence, then it’s conflicted and is akin to promoting irrationalism.

I'm not keen on trying to promote irrationalism; it just feeds the fire of emotion, while pushing society further into an ever growing & confused epistemological labyrinth.

If it were a rational non-fictional book, citing an apologetic source to counter, etc, I’d vote yes for the attempt. If it were a rational fictional book, citing empirical evidence, I’d vote yes. If it was anything else, I’d vote no.

The author needs to put their work into proper context, before attempting to ask for genuine voting to occur. A “no” vote, would be to abstain and hold the author until further information can be obtained. A “yes” vote would be making a decision without enough contexts, which is irrational.

And, I don’t see the agnostic button, where one just says, they really can’t “know” the author’s intent and thus, defer judgment until such a time as the author comes forth to expound on their vision and claims. I have to judge the author and their merit based on the words alone in their thread, not on what “could be” or “may be” later on, the vote is “now”, to defer because I can’t “know” the truth of the author’s message, prevents me from making current judgment… Yet, I’m asked to make a judgment, thus, a “no” vote.

Might things change, sure, if the author presents a new case, and asks for another “vote”, but the burden is on them to make a more compelling case.

Eric Zuesse said...

I'm the author of CHRIST'S VENTRILOQUIST, and I'd be delighted if the people who are posting here to criticize this work had an opportunity to read and evaluate the work itself, but they do not; and for these people to say that they would vote "no" because they think that this unpublished work which they have not seen isn't sound and solidly documented history makes my heart sink, because no one who goes to that website can read ANY of the books which are being described there, because these votes are only about whether or not the given work should be made available to the public to read, that is published, and not at all about whether the given book is good or bad, or fictitious or true. Obviously, no one can evaluate any of these books unless and until the given work is first accepted by a publisher and finally published so that readers can see and evaluate it. Isn't that absolutely clear? So, how can these people vote that such a work should not be published, unless they simply don't want a new and different account to be presented to the public regarding how the Christian faith actually started? And, if someone doesn't want a new and different work published about this question, then shouldn't that person say WHY he or she doesn't? Isn't that the question such individuals should be addressing here, since none of these works has been published and so made available to read and evaluate?

Jim Arvo said...

Anony #309 put it very well: "The author needs to put their work into proper context, before attempting to ask for genuine voting to occur. A “no” vote, would be to abstain and hold the author until further information can be obtained. A “yes” vote would be making a decision without enough contexts, which is irrational."

I see no book burning here. I, and others, simply do not wish to endorse a book without having some indication that the reasoning is coherent, the scholarship sound, and the evidence credible. Given how many similar arguments have been made that lack these attributes, I feel I'm being responsible by saying, in effect, you have a high hurdle to clear before your assertions can be taken seriously, and before such a book would be a positive contribution. Given the information that was posted above, I simply don't see any evidence of careful reasoning. What I see are unequivocal assertions (e.g. "The sect's leader was not Peter, ...but was instead Jesus' brother James.") about a very murky subject. Given the excellent scholarship by the likes of Robert Price that reveals how inherently complex the topic is, it would be nothing short of astonishing if any fact at all could be pinned down with anything approaching certainty.

Zuesse said "So, how can these people vote that such a work should not be published, unless they simply don't want a new and different account to be presented to the public regarding how the Christian faith actually started?"

I hope this response is not indicative of the reasoning in the book. You honestly can't see any reason for someone choosing not to vote "yes" other than not being receptive to other points of view? Let me state this clearly: I am strongly in favor of works that present new perspectives, provided they exhibit some solid scholarship and/or careful reasoning. If your book has these qualities, them I'm all for it. But I have no way of knowing that it does at present, and I have some reason for being skeptical that it does (i.e. the inability of centuries of scholarship to identify any clearly historical layer of the Jesus legend).

So, based on what little I have seen so far, my best guess is that the book would not be a positive contribution, as it appears to make claims that are too strong. That's my honest assessment based on admittedly very little information. If I'm wrong, then I'm quite happy to admit it and endorse the book with a "yes" vote. But I need to see much more before I can do that.

Does my position seem unreasonable to anybody here?

Anony #309 said...

Eric, I love seeing new writers on the scene, but help us out a little.

Are you asking us to vote, on your right to "free speech", and the opportunity to publish a work, without any context given to potential readers/voters?

-Or-

Are you asking us to vote, to establish a "demand" within a niche/non-niche market? If so, "I" need to know the context of your writing - fiction or non-fiction, and what it attempts to establish, in order to know if "I" would purchase such a work, thereby suggesting a demand.

I am not inclined to purchase a fictional rebuttal to a fictional apologetic. Therefore, I would have no "demand" for such a work.

However, if you are suggesting you have a non-fictional rebuttal to a fictional apologetic, I am inclined to vote "yes", thereby, creating such a demand.

We only have your word Eric and the small excerpt from your writing on this thread.

So, sell the product, I don't need a draft, I need your vision statement on what you intend to accomplish and "how". I'll decide from there, whether or not I would purchase a book based on your vision statement. It would also be nice to know of any methodologies you will use to back up your goal/intent.

If I have to wait until the book is published, I'll still vote on the book, at the purchase counter. You are the author, sell the product.

Anony #309 said...

Anony #309; "If a book is being promoted as a scholarly work, with evidence, using terms like forensic analysis, etc., then it's a fictional work. Evidence doesn't require popular vote, it speaks for itself and sells itself."

Replace "fictional work", with "non-fictional work". See Eric, just a few characters can mean so much, doh.

Eric Zuesse said...

CHRIST'S VENTRILOQUIST is a work of painstaking history, which adheres to courtroom standards of evidence, and these standards are more stringent than what scholars apply. The courtroom standard is best evidence regarding each point, and the exclusionary rule is applied to prevent less reliable evidence from even being considered by jurors. At the mediapredict website I give a brief description of the vast difference this makes: convicts have been freed from death rows on the basis of DNA evidence overriding the inferior evidence (which was usually witness testimony) that had convicted those people and had created the mythological explanation of how the crime had occurred. My book goes painstakingly through the evaluation of evidence, and, for example, explains why Galatians is higher quality evidence than Matthew or any of the Gospel accounts, and how that fact affects what use, if any, can be made of Matthew etcetera.

I don't expect that everyone will favor publication of a work which applies legal/forensic methodology to reconstructing how the Christian faith started, but I do expect that anyone who doesn't will at least recognize and acknowledge that he is in no position to evaluate my book without reading it.

When someone at that website votes to publish a work, they're NOT pre-judging the work; they're saying ONLY that they want to have the opportunity to look at and consider buying such a work -- a work which fits the description that's given there. That's all.

No one can evaluate a work he can't even see. This book is not in bookstores and hasn't even been published, and might never be published. But a vote for it at that website will increase the likelihood that it will eventually be published; and, if it's published, then you'll have the opportunity to look at the work and consider it at a bookstore, and to evaluate whether or not you want to buy a copy. Most works never get that far, and so I hope that I've made clear here what's involved -- it's not at all about evaluating the work.

The only way that you'll have an opportunity to evaluate the work is if it's published. But lots of works you know you won't be interested in looking at. If you would like to be able to evaluate this work, then the best way is to vote for it to be published; and if not, then not. It's just an expression of interest, not an evaluation of the work.

Jim Arvo said...

Eric,

I have no desire to be adversarial; I think you probably have something interesting to say. So, let me try to be as helpful as I can. You say that your book "...explains why Galatians is higher quality evidence than Matthew or any of the Gospel accounts, and how that fact affects what use, if any, can be made of Matthew..." That sounds very interesting to me, and yes, I would like to hear more.

If I came across your book in a bookstore, I would likely take it from the shelf and leaf through it. I'd check out the table of contents, your citations, and read portions of several chapters. I would buy the book if it appeared that you were careful in your reasoning, did not assert things without abundant supporting evidence, and if you brought a fresh (but not "naive") perspective to the problem of what, if any, historical layer may exist beneath the Jesus legend. I would also want to see that you had a good command of the extensive scholarship that already exists regarding Jesus.

I like the idea of applying legal standards of evidence to the problem, and many apologists as well as skeptics have done exactly this, as I'm sure you are aware. (I trust you are familiar with Simon Greenleaf's work, and the tradition of "judicial apologetics" that followed him.) However, I am wary of any author who claims that the historicity of Jesus could be effectively settled (one way of the other) based on legal reasoning, as the objectives of legal arguments are somewhat different from those of historians and other scholars. In other words, I would hope and expect you would recognize that your approach also has limitations, and is not necessarily the final word on the subject. To the extent that you could expose both the strengths and weaknesses of legal standards of evidence, illuminate how the conclusions would differ under the light of those standards, and why these standards are better suited for some of the questions at hand, then I think it would be a positive contribution to the field. On the other hand, if you were to fall into a dogmatic approach of asserting that you have been able to finally discern what really happened, without qualification, when generations of scholars before you failed in this task, then I think it would be a mistake--it would be too easy a target for dogmatists on the other side. In a sense, dogma begets dogma. Now, I have no idea how well you pulled this off. None whatsoever. So I cannot say whether I think your book would be helpful, or whether I would buy a copy. But the topic is interesting, and I hope that you have been able to build a solid case for it.

Anony #309 said...

I agree with Jim's analysis. Eric, if you are positing a non-fictional analysis to rebut a fictional character, work, book, etc., in order to establish variant levels of veracity within a canonized work, then I'd be interested, and I voted yes on that alone.

However, as Jim pointed out, not one method can absolutely ferret out the truth of a particular historical matter, likely, the more cross sections one makes of any topic at hand, across the central issue, using differing scholarly techniques, the better it becomes illuminated.

Jurisprudence, is a scholarly endeavor, and has been researched within the realm of analytical philosophy for cogency. However, it is no "more" nor "less" academically sound than any other field - it attempts to derive propositional results based on its particular rules of order and in its particular context.

As well, juridical review of apologetics and biblical texts has been an ongoing industry for hundreds of years.

"JURIDICAL APOLOGISTS 1600-2000 AD:
A BIO-BIBLIOGRAPHICAL ESSAY

Since the seventeenth century, over one hundred and twenty Christian apologists have composed juridically (i.e. legal) styled apologetic texts. Juridical or jural apologetics may be defined as a style that employs either general legal principles or technical legal criteria in presenting a reasoned case for Christian belief. Apologists in this school are those who have been educated in the law and held positions as solicitors, barristers, judges, and law school lecturers. A few non-lawyers belong in this school because they follow jural methods, but space limitations preclude listing most of them. Thus only ninety two apologists appear in this bibliography."
http://www.trinitysem.edu/journal/philjohnsonpap.html#[2]

I suppose, as long as there are those out there that want to posit fictional writings as fact, to lure the naive, there has to be propositional responses to challenge such statements.

Even at the lowest levels of rigor, one can trigger the abecedarian mind to doubt and seek to solve the elusive if not unsolvable subject at hand; perhaps your book will inspire thought.

Piquing interest, and providing solid answers to questions, are of two different endeavors, though, where you may pique interest, you may not be able to provide answers with enough rigor to settle any one's mind on the matter at hand with certainty. Good luck.

Eric Zuesse said...

Re. Jim Arvo's "I trust you are familiar with Simon Greenleaf's work, and the tradition of "judicial apologetics" that followed him.) However, I am wary of any author who claims that the historicity of Jesus could be effectively settled (one way of the other) based on legal reasoning":

I reply: Greenleaf's work, written hundreds of years ago, has nothing to do with mine. Similarly, in recent times, Lee Strobel has asserted that courts would validate the New Testament, and his work has no relationship to mine.

Legal/forensic interpretation of documentary evidence is what's core to my work, and these methods didn't even exist until after WWII, because the roots of this methodology derive from the handling of white-collar-crime cases, which are based largely upon interpreting documentary evidence, and the world's FIRST white-collar-crime cases were tried after WWII; there weren't any such court cases until that recently. Nor have scholars been cognizant of, much less applied, these methodological developments.

Furthermore, my book documents that your assumption that the start of Christianity concerns Jesus is false. Yes, he virtually certainly existed, and scholars such as G.W. Wells who question his existence have no sound basis for seriously doubting it; but Jesus had nothing to do with Christianity, which didn't even start until the year 49 or 50. Please don't ask me to support this, because that's what the book is all about.

Anonymous said...

Intriguing. However, given the meaning of forensics, I'd wonder how exactly the author compiled the research. What methodology was used, etc...

For this to be credible in it's claims, especially asking the lay public to vote as to whether or not they should be allowed to spend their money and buy this, after voting it into publication , I'd think the specifics on how forensics was accomplished, would be part of the introduction to what is claimed to be the culmination of that method.

Eric Zuesse said...

Re. anonymous: "Intriguing. However, given the meaning of forensics, I'd wonder how exactly the author compiled the research. What methodology was used, etc..."


I reply: This is the first work to apply to the interpretation of classical documents the methodology which courts of law in a democracy apply when reconstructing a series of events on the basis of documentary evidence referring to them. Among the principles employed here, which have not heretofore been employed by scholars, are: (1) For any alleged factual reconstruction, cite only the best (the most reliable) evidence (and exclude the rest under the exclusionary rule); (2) Things that a document necessarily (logically) implies, rather than explicitly asserts, have higher evidentiary value (credibility) than any explicit assertions; and, (3) Each explicit assertion must be questioned not only as regards its accuracy, but also as regards its honesty-of-intent.

These three principles, routinely applied in modern courts in democratic countries in white-collar-crime cases, have never been applied to the documents concerning earliest Christianity. Applying them produces a radically new understanding of how Christianity began.

Jim Arvo said...

Eric, as misguided as I think Greenleaf's arguments are, they don't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Strobel. My only point was the your methodology, whatever it consists in, should be contrasted with that taken by previous legal scholars. Moreover, like them, you will need to argue why legal standards have greater bearing on questions of antiquity than do historical methods. Just because a field is "new" it does not make it superior, especially when it is being applied to a question for which it was not designed. While you may think it quite appropriate to disregard all but the best evidence, the obvious question is "Why?" Simply appealing to the best practices of legal forensics is not sufficient reason. (I hope you will agree with that.) But, of course, even if this can be well justified, the bigger question is which evidence is in fact the "best"? Do you claim to know that as well?

Eric said "...my book documents that your assumption that the start of Christianity concerns Jesus is false."

I honestly cannot parse that sentence. Are you asserting something about an assumption of mine? Of somebody else? Please clarify.

Eric: "Yes, he [Jesus] virtually certainly existed, and scholars such as G.W. Wells who question his existence have no sound basis for seriously doubting it;..."

No sound basis? Okay, now you're starting to tip your cards a little. I suppose you believe that neither Earl Doherty nor Robert Price have a basis for doubting the historicity of Jesus either. Is that correct? If so, wouldn't it be more correct for you to state that you disagree with their analysis rather than asserting that it has no basis? If you cannot bring yourself to express it in that way, then I have my doubts that you understand their arguments.

Eric: "...but Jesus had nothing to do with Christianity, which didn't even start until the year 49 or 50."

And you know this (including the dates) with virtual certainty, based on legal forensics, is that correct? Pardon my astonishment that you managed to crack this puzzle wide open, after all these centuries, using tools developed in a discipline that (I presume) doesn't even deal with ancient documents or the dynamics of religious movements. Can you at least appreciate why someone might be skeptical of your claims? You're not the first to claim to have solved this puzzle you know; you share that distinction with a lot of crackpots.

Eric: "Please don't ask me to support this, because that's what the book is all about."

Well then what's the sense of bringing it up?

I'm having a lot of trouble with the stuff you're claiming here because I can't imagine why any reasonable person would go about this the way you are. If I felt that I was sitting on the key to an ancient and hotly disputed puzzle, I would first try to establish the soundness and appropriateness of my methodology and I would make very guarded claims, lest they be immediately lumped in with all the half-baked conspiracy theories. In particular, I would be much more concerned about publishing in reputable journals than for the lay public. (Have you done this? I suspect not, or you would not be so reticent about what's in your unpublished book.) I hear your bold unqualified assertions and I can't help thinking, "This guy sounds like a nut." Is that how you want to come across?

SpaceMonk said...

Jim Arvo: "Well then what's the sense of bringing it up?
I'm having a lot of trouble with the stuff you're claiming here because I can't imagine why any reasonable person would go about this the way you are..."

It's just a modern marketing method.
It's the publisher/'media predict' that has chosen that method to help screen out books that are not going to sell well (as I'm sure you understand).

A simple teaser to get you interested.

If you are interested in how the modern leghal system would handle the available evidence (as you've said you are, that you would check it out in a bookstore) then vote yes.

Giving away more of the book would make publishing it a waste of time, so the actual content, and argument, has to be kept under wraps - for marketing purposes.

It's just the nature of the internet, and modern marketing methods, that you can't thave the book in your hands to thumb through before you buy.
It's a bit of a shame, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.

I think too big of a deal has been made over this, with some very intellectual people acting very paranoid.
If the book comes out and is bad, then so what?
Ignore it.

Marion said...

The theory that Paul was a man in service of Rome, even a Roman spy, is not new. The Dutch historian Thijs Voskuilen published 'Alias Paulus' a couple of years ago.
The Ebionites (an early christian sect) said that Paul wasn't a jew at all but a Greek who went to Jerusalem to marry a Jewish girl and thus became circumcised. The jewish scholar Hyam Maccoby claims the Ebionites could've been right.
Then there is the historian Eisenman and his book 'James, the Brother of Jesus' who has studied the Dead Sea scrolls and came to the conclusion that Paul used the Romans to propogate his own beliefs and smite those who opposed him; that Paul was, in fact, suspiciously pro-Roman.
Then there are Sheldon ('Jesus as security risk) and Wilson.
The author would not be the first to have this idea, but he probably would be the first to publish a book (in the US) which would boldly state this claim.
Good for him, I say!

Eric Zuesse said...

Re. Marion's remarks:

I reply: There are significant differences between the narrative which results from a legal/forensic analysis, and the narratives of Maccoby, Eisenman, etc. (and all of those narratives also have significant differences from each other). But what's far more important than any such differences or similarities in the resulting narratives, is the profound differences separating the methodological foundations here from theirs: the methodological differences are what distinguishes courtroom practice from, say, a mob, or even from a plain debate-competition where legal/forensic standards of evidence are not applied. Only on account of the application of legal/forensic rules of evidence can there be any reason for a scientist (a person who has a scientific frame of mind, irrespective of what the person's profession might happen to be) to have any confidence that "justice was done" in the courtroom, and that the narrative reconstruction of the "history" of what happened, who did what and when in order to result in the crime, is indeed historical and not mythological in nature.

Even if the narrative here were identical to any that you've mentioned (and it isn't), the difference between this work and each of those others would still be profound.

Eric Zuesse said...

Re. Jim Arvo's "Can you at least appreciate why someone might be skeptical of your claims?":

Yes. And you ask good questions, Jim, and they're all addressed and answered in the book, and no short answer to them here will do them justice so I won't even try to do the impossible.

Re. Jim Arvo's "I would be much more concerned about publishing in reputable journals than for the lay public. (Have you done this? I suspect not, or you would not be so reticent about what's in your unpublished book.)"

I just received back from the Journal of Biblical Literature the referee's comments on an article which is from this work, and the referee advised against publication, so they rejected it. Not a single factual assertion in the article was challenged there; the only reasons the article was rejected were two: that the referee found this article, an exegesis of Galatians up through 2:10, to be "unsympathetic" to Paul, and that it did not cite as "evidence" that scholar's opinions (and other scholars' opinions) as to what Paul meant. If I had had an opportunity to reply, I would have said that being "sympathetic" or "unsympathetic" to Paul has nothing to do with anything that a scientist is interested in; and, secondly, that there is far better evidence about what Paul meant than any scholar's opinion as to what he meant, namely what Paul said in the seven Pauline epistles which scholars consider to be genuinely from him -- and that's the only evidence I cite for interpreting Paul's meaning, because a court of law makes a clear distinction between facts and opinions, and tries to maximize the former and minimize the latter, so that the jurors can derive their own opinions, as much as is possible, ONLY from the actual evidence.

I have discussed these matters, and my work, with many of the world's leading scholars on Paul and on the historical Jesus, such as John Dominic Crossan, Hyam Maccoby, etc., and some of them have been kind enough to read early drafts of my work, and some even to endorse it; for example Bruce Chilton called it "a winner"; Oswald Schrag wrote that it "presents a side of Paul that the general reader of the Bible, or even the scholars, miss." But most who read it were simply silent; this work contradicts their life's work. I wanted especially to know what my likeliest opponents would say, or would be likely to write, about this work; and, thus far, that seems to be as little as possible. I think that they're just hoping it won't be published.

I have participated in so many exchanges with so many scholars of Paul and of Jesus about this work, so that I feel fairly confident that no errors will be found in it. However, I am even more confident that it will have many enemies, including many who are scholars. Even a flawless work can have many opponents, and they can even be quite passionate in their opposition, even if they haven't got a single factual leg to stand on.

Everything in this book has been vetted dozens of times, from multiple perspectives. This work will not go out into the world (if it goes out into the world at all) facing a "sympathetic" reception, or an audience of people who already believed and who have been rewarded for believing what it says. I've had to be a lot more careful than traditional scholars are. I'm like an attorney who argues in court for a highly unpopular position, and I know this and have done everything I know to do to prepare for it.

RubySera Martin said...

I agree with Jim Arvo and others who insist that the book must meet certain rigorous standards. Otherwise, it will do more harm than good. NonChristians are already in the minority and severely criticized. We cannot afford to have factually inaccurate books on the market written by one of our own; it would only confirm what Christians have always "known": that we don't know--and are afraid of--the truth. Add to that the fierce competition of the market.

Eric, any author thinks his baby is the cutest that has ever graced the planet. Any author puts countless hours of sweat and toil into a book. That does not in and of itself make a good-quality book. The question about the historical Jesus is interesting to a certain extent but it's a tired old topic and the quote posted here includes no new ideas or information for me. Also, your language is not up to par.

Your language or writing style passes for everyday memos and maybe even newspaper stories, but I would probably not buy the book based on that, and on the fact that you use old arguments and disregard your predecessors in the field of legal/forensic analysis of the New Testament. If you think you truly have a new methodology, you must prove it by reviewing all that has ever been written that comes even close to your methodology.

You claim your method did not exist until the middle of the 20th century. You need to prove this by tracing the roots of your methodology back to antiquity—or at the very least, back as far as any remotely similar methods can be discerned. You have to prove that going back any further would not be relevant. This will comprise several sections of a chapter, or perhaps several whole chapters, depending on how much is out there.

Also, you cannot used use a term with a slash in the middle. You need to define both words as you are using them, and you need to lay out exactly which term you will use, how you will use it, and why. If you will use the words interchangeably, you have to explain this, and you also have to explain why you are doing it and how this contributes to the over-all quality of your message.

If you are going to stick with a term with a slash in the middle, you are going to have to produce a mighty strong argument for doing so; even so, your editor might request you take it out. If you self-publish in order to keep your exact preferences, you need to contend with the market to an even greater extent; if you use a publisher, the publisher takes on that risk.

You seem to be asking for a critical analysis of what has been quoted, so I will do that.

From the Quote:

"A legal/forensic exegesis of Paul's letter to the Galatians, and an associated legal/forensic analysis of the four canonical Gospels, finds that Christianity started in or around the year 49 CE in Antioch (present-day Antakya, Turkey) as a direct consequence of a personal conflict which had arisen, over the course of 17 years, between Paul and the leader of the Jewish sect which Jesus had begun."

There is nothing new in this paragraph. All of this, except the date, is in the New Testament.

From the Quote:

"The sect's leader was not Peter, as the modern-day Christian myth asserts, but was instead Jesus' brother James."

So far as I know, the only denomination that says Peter is the sect's leader is the Roman Catholic Church. Given the large volume of Paul's writing in the New Testament, Paul is cited as the authority on very many items of faith and practice and theology by very many denominations. Therefore, if your target audience is anyone outside the RC Church, you are basically beating a dead horse. If your target audience is Roman Catholics, perhaps you should present your manuscript to former Catholics for critique.

From the Quote:

"Jesus' sect itself soon expired."

You need to substantiate that claim. Why do you say it? On what evidence is it based? In my understanding, Jesus did not start a sect; it was not even his intention. He rebelled against organized religion; just read the "woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees" passages. Providing you think he did start a sect, and providing you can prove it from historical fact as well as from NT data, how do you decide who belonged to Paul's group and who belonged to Jesus' sect? On what basis do you claim that Jesus even started a sect? All these things need to be clearly laid out for the reader.

From the Quote:

"What is today known as Christianity started with Paul, and was then developed by his followers, who wrote the canonical Gospels and the rest of the New Testament."

You are making four claims in this statement: 1) Present-day Christianity started with Paul. 2) It was developed by Paul’s followers. 3) Paul’s followers wrote the canonical Gospels. 4) Paul’s followers also wrote the rest of the NT.

What is your basis for these claims? They must be clearly spelled out. Even a summary or introduction of the book must contain references to these.

From the Quote:

"The religion of the New Testament has nothing to do with the person of the historical Jesus: The NT was written and assembled to fulfill Paul's Roman agenda, not Jesus' Jewish one."

Again, you need to substantiate your claims. A simple preface to a sentence such as "Despite popular opinion....." would indicate to the reader that you are aware of popular opinion but that you are going to introduce a new idea. You must then be sure that the idea you introduce is actually new. And in order for you to be sure that it is new, you need to read *everything* that has ever been written on the topic. If you want to/have to skimp anywhere (as you may have to, given the vast amounts that have been written over the centuries), the skimping needs to be done in off-topic and irrelevant background stuff, not in anything whatsoever that in any way impacts the main thesis or argument of your book.

From the Quote:

"Paul turned Jesus' corpse into his dummy, and thus became the voice of "Christ.""

I like this idea, also the idea of "Christ's Ventriloquist." It has a nice ring to it. But as stated, if the part quoted is representative of your style throughout the book, then it needs major amounts of fine-tuning and backing up. Perhaps another couple years research, study, and writing would bring about the desired result and you might end up with a good seller. You might need to find other means of income while you are working on the book.

PS. I would also expect to see a detailed argument as to why you look only at Galatians. In addition, this argument needs to contain evidence for assuming that Paul wrote Galatians. Good luck on this project!

Eric Zuesse said...

Re. Rubysera Martin's "There is nothing new in this paragraph. All of this, except the date, is in the New Testament.":

To the contrary, the entire thrust of the New Testament is that Christianity started with Jesus in Jerusalem, either during Jesus's life or shortly after his death. Jesus, not Paul, supposedly started it; and this supposedly happened before 33 CE in Jerusalem, and not in 49 or 50 in Antioch. As you have noted, I said that "Christianity started in or around the year 49 CE in Antioch (present-day Antakya, Turkey) as a direct consequence of a personal conflict which had arisen, over the course of 17 years, between Paul and the leader of the Jewish sect which Jesus had begun." You are saying of this assertion, "There is nothing new in this paragraph. All of this, except the date, is in the New Testament." However, the reality is that none of it is in the New Testament, and that the NT goes to pains to assert quite the contrary. I did not say here, what Acts 11:26 did, that Christians first called themselves "Christians" in Antioch. I said instead that Christianity started in Antioch, in the year 49 or 50, under quite specific circumstances, which the book describes.

As for the rest of your comments, the subject of this book is not its methodology, though you evidently want and demand it to be. This is not a work about legal/forensic methodology, which would be quite a lengthy thing to write on its own. And your other judgments of my statements and of the work itself are likewise not germane, or at least are not germane to the question here, which is only whether or not this work, as it has been described in the small number of words that were allotted by MediaPredict, should be made available for public inspection -- i.e., should be published. For whatever reason (which you haven't made clear to me), you don't think it should. Fine -- peace be with you.

RubySera Martin said...

Eric, it is a surprise to hear back from you so fast. I was opening this page again to add that I don't care whether or not it gets published. I haven't voted and probably won't. The case is too ambiguous. Given your attitude toward scholarship, I will hardly recommend you as a reliable author when people ask for good books to study the Bible from a secular perspective.

I went to some effort to explain why I think the book is potentially harmful and I also outlined what improvements I would need to see before I would consider the book worth the paper it's printed on. What you do with the information is your choice.

Jim Arvo said...

Eric said "I just received back from the Journal of Biblical Literature the referee's comments on an article which is from this work, and the referee advised against publication, so they rejected it..."

You just raised my estimation of you and your work substantially, for two reasons: 1) You are apparently serious about publishing in respectable venues, and 2) you've been honest about a (presumably temporary) setback. That, coupled with your comments about vetting your work through other scholars, including Hyam Maccoby (whose work I respect and appreciate), whether or not they are receptive to your conclusions, makes me think that you are not a crackpot after all. (I can imagine what a huge relief that must be to you!)

I'm still puzzled by your categorical statements, mind you, but at least now I suspect that you are attempting to achieve a high level of scholarship. My biggest remaining concern about your approach is essentially one of "epistemology"; i.e. why is it that the methodology of legal forensics is likely to produce interpretations that are closer to the truth in this context (i.e. historical reconstruction as opposed to modern-day jurisprudence) than other methods? If this question is adequately (even if imperfectly) addressed in your work, then I would be quite happy to see it published. And I'd be even happier if your claims were consistently tempered by acknowledging the inevitable uncertainties that will still remain in your argument, such as the authenticity of various documents, their authorship, their provenance, etc.

In thinking this over some, I'm starting to realize that my objections have more to do with the process of "voting" on whether a manuscript warrants publication or not. On the one hand, I'm all for injecting fresh ideas into any field and vigorously challenging the currently held ideas. On the other hand, I like to see the level of scholarship headed in a positive direction. These objectives can be at odds with one another, and it leaves me ambivalent on the matter of voting based on such scant information. (Actually, I have some professional investment in questions of this nature, so I truly am interested in this issue--I'm not just being contrary for sport.)

Here's a hypothetical situation: Suppose an author states that she has applied the new science of genomics to the problem of human origins and proven that humans have descended from extra-terrestrial creatures some time in the past 100,000 years. Should such a book be published? Does it even make sense to answer that question based on so little information? Clearly, if the work is solidly substantiated by science (an enormous "if" to be sure), then it's an amazing discovery that deserves to be broadly disseminated. But what if it's pure pseudo-science, thick with logical errors and misapplication of scientific principles? Are we better off without such a book? One could certainly argue that we are (and that's basically my position), unless it's shelved under "fiction". If you agree that this is a dilemma, then I hope you will agree that one cannot cast a meaningful vote without knowing some of the substance of the work.

I see one fairly clear way out of this, and that's through prior publication in scholarly peer-reviewed venues. That is, if the ideas can be vetted first by those who are in a position to weed out obvious nonsense, then the chance of damaging the overall level of scholarship is diminished. This needn't detract from the impact of a subsequent publication targeted to a lay audience, as the latter is orders of magnitude larger than the scholarly community. Of course, there are some obvious disadvantages to this as well; most importantly, this process may weed out too much--i.e. legitimate scholarly work that rocks too many boats may be thwarted for irrational reasons. (Of course, this is a perennial problem within academia as well.)

So, I don't claim to know what the right answer is. Lots of hand-wringing over a simple yes/no vote, eh?

Eric Zuesse said...

Re. Jim Arvo's last comment:

In my view, you have utterly too much respect for scholars and for scholarship, and tend to confuse them with science and scientists.

Before Galileo, the practitioners of scholarship on his subject (then called "natural philosophy," and science had not yet been born in that field; no field was as yet scientific; physics did not exist) held to a geocentric universe, because all mythology (religion) rejected a heliocentric one. After Galileo in 1613 endorsed the Copernican speculation that the Earth circles the Sun, Galileo was despised by his professional colleagues, because they weren't scientists; they were scholars who happened to specialize in natural philosophy. It wasn't only the Church but also its extension, the universities, which brought Galileo down and nearly murdered him. When Harvard was founded in 1636, it proclaimed as established fact the Earth-centered universe. Science was born despite, not because, of the scholars.

That's how the science of physics started, against the resistance of scholars. Next was biology. Erasmus Darwin refused to go public with his speculation that humans evolved from other species; Darwin knew the hell he'd get from scholars by so violating the prevailing mythology. His grandson Charles did the research, started the science of biology, and at first experienced the hell from scholars which he had feared, but soon thereafter (because of the acclaim his countryman Newton had achieved in the one science which then did exist, which was physics) he succeeded in establishing the tradition that replaced scholarship by science in his field, biology, just as Galileo had done in his, physics.

Yet still, authoritarians continued to dominate in the universities, and so when the self-taught biologist Gregor Mendel started the discovery of the genetic foundation of the mechanism that explains how evolution functions, the scholars who still dominated in biology refused even to consider it, and Mendel's pathbreaking paper wasn't published until 16 years after he died and more than a third of a century after Mendel had written it. But yet still, the influence of the mythologists in that field remains sufficiently strong to this day so that many non-specialists or members of the general public continue to believe that "intelligent design" is a "scientific theory" right along with "evolutionary theory," and universities don't proclaim publicly that they simply will not hire anyone who contends that. So, what is this purported academic PROFESSIONALISM all about, really?

Now we come to the social sciences, which still aren't at all scientific, and we come especially to the basic social science, the one which provides the data for the theorizing that takes place in all the others -- and this basic social science is history. It, too, will go through the same transformation which, first, physics, and then biology, experienced, and the scholars are already aligned and have always been aligned to prevent it from happening and to stop it if it starts.

So, first, the geocentric universe was overthrown by scientists despite the scholars and the churches. And then the divine creation of Man was overthrown by scientists despite the scholars and the churches. And now we come to the myth itself -- the "history" which the dominant religion, Christianity, presents of its own origins; and, yet again, the scholars are aligned with the preachers. They're even trained together in the same universities and seminaries.

And you are now insisting that I adopt their ways. Galileo parted ways from them. Darwin and Mendel parted ways from them. And so do I; and I will.

This doesn't mean that I reject everything from scholars. My book explains the methodology (even though it's not ABOUT the methodology), and the methodology makes distinctions which are too much to get into in a forum such as this. However, the reason why scholars haven't been able to come up with anything substantive to take exception to in this work is that my methodology is more strict than theirs. Science is as strict as methodology can get, and this is as true in courtrooms as it is in any other area or field where the methodology which is recognized as science can be practiced.

The difference between the history that a courtroom is supposed to come up with and the "history" that scholars are accustomed to coming up with, is that life-and-death verdicts can often hinge upon the former, but the stakes in the latter are only to the practitioner's career or perhaps to the sales-numbers of his or her book, etc.

To a scientist, truth itself is worthy of life-or-death stakes, even if the place where it's practiced doesn't happen to be in a courtroom.

Jim Arvo said...

Eric: "In my view, you have utterly too much respect for scholars and for scholarship, and tend to confuse them with science and scientists."

What a ridiculous statement! You have no basis for such statement whatsoever. Your little history lesson has nothing to do with anything. What I'm talking about is the present. How to best promote solid scholarship in the present. I don't know how you manage it, Eric, but you make me swing from thinking you're a jerk, to thinking you're alright, and then back again.

Eric said "The difference between the history that a courtroom is supposed to come up with and the 'history' that scholars are accustomed to coming up with, is that life-and-death verdicts can often hinge upon the former, but the stakes in the latter are only to the practitioner's career or perhaps to the sales-numbers of his or her book, etc."

That's not only a terribly cynical view, I think it's naive. You think "life-and-death" verdicts lead to more defensible epistemology? You must be joking! The entire legal system (at least in the West) is colored by notions of fairness and justice, with doubt being resolved in favor of the defendant. There are also the pragmatic concerns that require a verdict to be returned in a timely manner, not whenever the facts happen to coalesce and a supportable conclusion can be drawn. As for scholarship being driven by sales numbers, that will come as quite a shock to most of my colleagues--it looks like they've been going about it the wrong way for their entire careers.

This whole discussion has gotten out of hand, Eric. Whatever respect I gained for you through your previous post I hereby retract. It sounds to me that you simply want lots of attention. Good luck with that. (Sheesh. I need to trust my first instincts more.)

Eric Zuesse said...

Re. Jim Arvo's statement, "That's not only a terribly cynical view, I think it's naive. You think 'life-and-death' verdicts lead to more defensible epistemology? You must be joking!":

Here is why the extremely high stakes in courtroom processes do lead to the greatest amount of care being applied (but I'm surprised that there's someone who fails to recognize this and that I therefore have to state this):

The higher the stakes are, the greater the effort and resources people will put into a matter. As I previously mentioned, the source of the methods employed here is specifically white-collar-crime cases. Often the defendants are quite wealthy and have top-flight legal representation. The prosecutor has to at least match that, and sometimes the state spends millions prosecuting such a case. In addition, there are civil cases which are brought against the defendant, and those face lesser burdens of proof, but frequently the damages to be paid can run into many millions. What you are saying, Jim, is that scholars, when they write about Paul and Jesus etc., are equally highly motivated to identify and prove any falsehoods in their opponents' presentations as are the lawyers in these cases. You are saying that the rules of evidence, what is admissible and what is not, are as highly worked-out and painstakingly careful in their application, in scholarly debates. However, the reality is quite to the contrary, and often in scholarly matters collegiality among the disputants blocks and prevents the all-out adversarial process -- including the discovery process and many other things which are part of that all-out battle of ideas -- so that, in our own time, just as in the times of Galileo and Mendel, scholars block instead of promote the making-public of truth. This especially occurs whenever the particular truth is dangerous to the prevailing cultural mythology and to the clergy who sell that, as occurred with Galileo, etc.

Jim, your comments to me have been disrespectful and ad-hominem, rather than rational and ad-rem. You have raised the question of whether I am a "jerk," and you have said that my comments are "ridiculous" and "cynical," but yet you have offered no evidence that any of them is untrue. I never responded likewise, with insults. And I will not. This is the last thing that I will ever say to you.

J. C. Samuelson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. C. Samuelson said...

Eric,

The problem isn't necessarily your work, since it isn't available for review (?). It's the presentation. For my part, any book that makes "first ever" claims instantly raises a red flag. Those sorts of books generally don't find their way to my bookshelf without a way to find out more than what the book jacket offers. Some of your claims here are quite bold, and it shouldn't surprise you that people are challenging your premise. Have you considered offering the first chapter or selected exerpts? Some of the more popular authors challenging religion today do just that, including Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. It might help sell your book.

I won't go back and nitpick your comments, but this most recent one troubles me:

...often in scholarly matters collegiality among the disputants blocks and prevents the all-out adversarial process -- including the discovery process and many other things which are part of that all-out battle of ideas -- so that, in our own time, just as in the times of Galileo and Mendel, scholars block instead of promote the making-public of truth. This especially occurs whenever the particular truth is dangerous to the prevailing cultural mythology and to the clergy who sell that, as occurred with Galileo, etc.

First of all, the absence of an adversarial process like that found in the legal system is no cause to be critical of the scholarship. Practicing law and studying history are not the same at all, and having been raised by a trial lawyer and was a police officer myself for several years (albeit in the military), I've come to understand that courtroom standards aren't all they're cracked up to be. You seem to ignore that the kind of evidence you claim to offer just doesn't exist with respect to the Bible. The evidence - all of it - is from 1000 - 2000 years old, and isn't exactly amenable to the kind of study you appear to be claiming. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that what you're really doing is exegesis. This is fine, but painting it as the "first ever" forensic legal analysis of Paul's methods and motivations (and more?) seems, at the very least, a bit over the top. It sounds intriguing (call it morbid curiosity), but frankly I'm doubtful you can pull it off. And, I'm not inclined to buy the book without knowing more.

Second, if I understood you correctly here, you're implying that because scholars don't use an "all-out adversarial process" that something has been intentionally withheld from the public during "discovery." In other words, you have a conspiracy theory. If I've misunderstood you, please correct me. If this is, in fact, what you're saying then I'll simply say that I won't be buying your book. There are plenty of substantial materials (books, articles, etc.) that indict the Christian religion (and religious faith in general) and show it to be invented bunk using solid scholarship. More are being produced now. The Center for Inquiry even has an arm for studying religion from a scientific standpoint - the Center for the Scientific Examination of Religion - with results being published at regular intervals. So, spurious claims can (and do) contribute nothing. I truly hope your book doesn't fall into this category.

Eric Zuesse said...

Re. j.c. samuelson's remark: "I could be wrong, but it seems to me that what you're really doing is exegesis. This is fine, but painting it as the 'first ever' forensic legal analysis of Paul's methods and motivations (and more?) seems, at the very least, a bit over the top. It sounds intriguing (call it morbid curiosity), but frankly I'm doubtful you can pull it off. And, I'm not inclined to buy the book without knowing more."

"Buying the book" isn't even involved here; a book can't be bought which isn't published.

You are assuming that this is just another exegesis. Are you unaware that even highly regarded scholars disagree with each other about basic matters in their exegeses? This work does include an exegesis of Galatians, but the methodology is radically different from what scholars have used, and is far more careful. This isn't like anything that you have in mind, and I cannot inform you what it is unless I publish it, which is what I am trying to get done. But self-publication is to kill a book and to reduce instead of increase its chances of real publication, so I won't do it.

You have already evaluated the book, even though your description of it is quite inaccurate. This work, in your response to it, is "over the top," "morbid," and "doubtful," though "intriguing." But a book which isn't even published doesn't really exist at all, and your bottom line seems to be that you don't want it to exist; you don't want to exist the book that was described at MediaPredict. Instead, you simply assume a lot of things about it, including much that just isn't so.

Eric Zuesse said...

Re. j.c. samuelson's : "First of all, the absence of an adversarial process like that found in the legal system is no cause to be critical of the scholarship."

The adversarial process is essential to science and antithetical to scholarship; and truth can emerge only from its use, never from its suppression. I disagree with you profoundly on that.

SpaceMonk said...

If I could just have one last word before I shut up on this topic.
To any future voters please don't get distracted by the extended debate in this thread.

The original vote was merely asking for simple 'expressions of interest' in the topic presented, not your blind endorsement of the work or the author, as if your name is going to go on the back cover as approval.

paul said...

Eric,

Any chance that you can make an excerpt from your book available online(perhaps a chapter), or maybe the article you wrote for the Journal of Biblical Literature?

paul said...

Eric,

Are you the same Eric Zuesse who writes for "American Chronicle?" Did you author the book "Why The Holocaust Happened: It's Religious Cause and Scholarly Cover-up?"

paul said...

Eric,

If you are the writer of "Why The Holocaust Happened...," Is this article on: "The Painful Truth" "brought to you by:"
herbertwarmstrong.com written by you?

http://members.tripod.com/~ejm/why_the_holacaust.htm

sorry for the three successive questions, doing some research of my own.
thanks
paul

J. C. Samuelson said...

Eric,

"Buying the book" isn't even involved here; a book can't be bought which isn't published.

No, but that is the ultimate goal, is it not? For people to buy the book? I'm not trying to argue with you. It just seems as if you're looking for endorsements - votes that might be used to persuade a publisher that there is a demand. That was just my way of saying I can't endorse the publishing of this book, not without knowing more. In other words, J.C. Samuelson has no demand for this book.

There's nothing inherently wrong with this approach to marketing, of course. I guess I'm used to having an opportunity to see some of the content of the books I plan on buying, and am not used to being asked for advance endorsements, whatever their purpose, even if they are ultimately meaningless. The author of the original post (Dave, it looks like) states that he is reading the manuscript, so obviously the book is more or less complete, right? Any chance excerpts might be made available in advance of publication?

You are assuming that this is just another exegesis.

And, without knowing more, I can't judge that it is anything more than that. Again, I'm not arguing with you. All I'm saying is that it seems fishy to me that your book could rightly be called a "first ever" anything. Why would I vote for something I have no confidence in?

To me, this is kind of like a possible presidential candidate giving a very rough sketch of what he/she stands for, then asking for a vote in favor of his/her future candidacy. Not that a book is quite the same, but the analogy fits.

Are you unaware that even highly regarded scholars disagree with each other about basic matters in their exegeses?

Of course I'm aware of that! I've cheerfully pointed out (to Christians) the disagreement among exegetes as to their product, helping to highlight the very problem of the notion of alleged divine authorship. My point was about your choice of terms used to market the book. If it's an exegetical book, that's fine. Calling it more than that just strikes me as, well, disingenuous. It may not be, and you may indeed have a highly original work that will shake the foundations of Christendom, but I am doubtful that it is. I guess I'm somewhat cynical that there is something new under the sun with respect to biblical scholarship.

...the methodology is radically different from what scholars have used, and is far more careful.

It's remarks like these that twiddle the back of my brain - kind of like a "Spidey-sense" that something is amiss. You are a journalist, are you not? Winner of the Mencken award? A published author already? Maybe you are more careful in your analysis than every other scholar who's ever studied biblical manuscripts. Maybe your method is entirely new. But here's why I doubt it: Whenever someone who is untrained in a specific discipline claims to have an insight that has escaped the notice of trained professionals, it's a safe bet that that individual's conclusions are probably incorrect. To put it another way, the chances they've hit on something that hasn't occurred to the professionals are very slim. It happens, but it is the exception, not the rule.

What I'm saying is that as a journalist, not a trained biblical scholar, do you have the credentials to make this kind of claim? Are you educated in classical languages? Archaeology? ANE history? Do you have access to evidence that the professionals haven't (or have ignored)? There are people who have made this sort of thing their life's work, and it seems you're saying that either they have had an agenda that caused them to willfully deceive the public or have lacked basic competency to accomplish the task before them. Is that really what you mean to imply? A conspiracy to obscure the truth, either by intent or incompetence? I note that you did not correct me when I stated that it looks like you're offering a conspiracy theory. Are you? Is this another book of the "DaVinci Code" variety? If so, no thanks.

But self-publication is to kill a book and to reduce instead of increase its chances of real publication, so I won't do it.

Have you approached Prometheus books? They are friendly to the type of work you're proposing. Maybe you have already, but check out their submission guidelines.

I'm not against the idea of your publishing your work, Eric. I just can't support it either, not without something more to pique my interest.

You have already evaluated the book, even though your description of it is quite inaccurate.

Maybe so. What else can I do? Just endorse it and hope it turns out to be a good book that won't waste a publisher's money to produce? I have nothing to go on except what you've presented here, and it doesn't look promising. I'm not trying to be a naysayer, I'm just giving my opinion based on what you've given us here.

This work, in your response to it, is "over the top," "morbid," and "doubtful," though "intriguing."

You've completely twisted my meaning. I said your CLAIMS ABOUT THE BOOK seemed "over the top," that it was "morbid curiosity" that had moved me to think your idea was "intriguing," and yes I am "doubtful" that you can pull it off. I did NOT say that THE BOOK ITSELF is over the top, or that it is morbid, or doubtful. I do not know more about the book than you've told us here. That is, I can only evaluate your claims concerning it. Sheesh!

...your bottom line seems to be that you don't want it to exist;

That's a little dramatic, don't you think? I don't really care if it gets published or not at this point. But since the idea has been presented here, I can weigh in on the author's comments (yours), can't I? If it's important to you, persuade me I might want to see it on bookstore shelves! Let me put it this way: You are doing a lousy job of selling yourself and the idea of your book (at least to me), and it's getting worse. I am not your enemy. Stop treating me as such and grow a thicker skin!

Instead, you simply assume a lot of things about it, including much that just isn't so.

There is nothing I read about your book here or at Media Predict that tells me I should expect anything radically different, and your claims support that judgment, in my opinion. That is, you've helped me assume the worst, if I have done so. I meant no disrespect by my last post. What am I supposed to do? Just give you what you want? When you post to a place that allows comments, what do you expect? Not everyone will be enthusiastic about your project and will say so. Get used to it.

Look, I understand that you've probably put a great deal of work into this book. I can appreciate that. I can also appreciate that it is frustrating to have people challenging an as yet unpublished work, especially one that you've put your heart and soul into. I just can't bring myself to vote "yes" without having more details about you or your method. It seems to me that you've offered unsubstantiated claims with regard to the latter as a viable method. What more can I say about that? It's too easy to be skeptical with the little bit of info I have to go on. In any case, millions of books have been published in the absence of my vote in the past.

Maybe you could create a website/blog in which you discuss your methods and so on. You say that not much time is spent discussing the method in the book, and a site/blog would be a perfect venue to promote and/or discuss what went into its production.

The adversarial process is essential to science and antithetical to scholarship; and truth can emerge only from its use, never from its suppression. I disagree with you profoundly on that.

Eric, I did not say there is no adversarial process at all, I said the legal version was absent. The adversarial process in the practice of law is not the same as is used in science or scholarship. Science uses the peer review system, which is contentious, so that proposed knowledge is properly vetted before it is accepted. In law, attorneys on both sides each try to persuade a judge and/or jury to accept their version of the truth. More often than not, cases are decided one way or another because of how the evidence was presented - how the case was crafted by the winning attorney - not necessarily on the quality of the evidence itself, as is the objective in science. Both operate from high ideals that only the best evidence wins out, but if (and when) the best evidence in court is circumstantial, or even merely anecdotal, it can still win in a courtroom. The same is not true in science. Not in the long run. Whatever similarities they have disappear in the application.

Scholars...oh, nevermind. You seem to have an axe to grind with scholars, and there's no reason to continue. We'll just wind up arguing more, and SpaceMonk is right. This is about an expression of interest, and this "debate" is distracting from that.

I really do wish you the best of luck, Eric. I'm sure that there will be sufficient votes that the fact that I didn't vote won't matter. Dave seems to support your work, and I'm sure that will have a positive impact here. I respect his opinion, but don't share his optimism. Of course, he's reading your manuscript, so perhaps that's what made the difference for him. Apparently, someone else who commented at Media Predict claims to have read an early manuscript as well. Maybe if you put up a chapter or other excerpt, it would help get more people interested, including me. If not, maybe once it has been published I'll leaf through it at Borders and change my mind about whether to buy it or not.

Eric Zuesse said...

j.c. samuelson said: "The adversarial process in the practice of law is not the same as is used in science or scholarship."

I reply:

On the surface, there are many differences, including peer review, etc. But that's only on the surface.

At a deeper level, the adversariality which is shared by both courts and scientific forums is that, in both, the underlying structure or rules of the forum encourage bringing out and highlighting oppositions, not suppressing them, not accommodating them in an attempt to reach a collegial consensus even when facts are in dispute.

The reason the pressures in scholarship are so strong to minimize disagreements is that, since the underlying epistemology or methodology is not scientific, the criteria for agreeing upon what is true and what is not aren't there. Essentially, when the forum forces disagreements out into the open, the areas of disagreement become fewer. That's why there's very little progress made in scholarly fields.

Furthermore, you have here endorsed authoritarian criteria, such as "credentials," to make determinations, and this is understandable in scholarship, because independent criteria to determine truth/falsity are not present as they are in math and science. In math and science, achievement is recognized irrespective of whether the person who makes the contribution has any credentials at all; credentials are less important, essentially of zero importance, because achievement "speaks for itself" in those fields. You're saying that you accept the status-quo in the fields where scholarship reigns; namely in the fields that haven't yet become subject to the discipline of the methodology we know as science. I don't. Instead, I'm determined to introduce into this field the more rigorous standards of science, and this has nothing to do with personal credentials, and everything to do with sound grounding and unimpeachable documentation of all factual allegations, and with reducing to the barest minimum the assumptions, and making explicit each and every assumption, not burying it under a torrent of verbal subterfuge.

This is the reason, for example, why a courageous minister whom I had met in a discussion forum of the Jesus Seminars and who read an early draft of this work said today at the MediaPredict website that this work "represents a needed perspective in contemporary Historical Jesus scholarship. I recommend it." Now, that's courageous. Of course, he read it, and you didn't, and so you cannot possibly recommend the book, and I haven't asked anyone here to recommend the book, because no one here has seen it. Also, Bruce Chilton, head of the institute for advanced theology at Bard College and the author of RABBI JESUS called that early draft "a winner," because the work's radical account is backed up by the firmest evidence at every point. And I could go on. But nothing will persuade you that this work deserves to be seen by the public so that the public, in an open forum, can reach its own conclusions, based upon a book which some publisher has permitted the public to see.

The authoritarianism that you endorse turns my stomach, because I believe that it causes so much damage to human progress, and did so in cases going back to Mendel, Galileo, and indeed innumerable less well known cases throughout history. Progress occurs despite such authoritarian attitudes, and not by applying them. I do possess "credentials," but I don't publicize them, because I despise them and look forward to a day when every field has become a field of science and math, and achievement will be recognized so that "credentials" will no longer be a means of measuring or evaluating achievement, and so that the ultimate credentials will be only achievements and not purchased and corrupt pieces of paper. George W. Bush has an MBA from Harvard, but a bum in the gutter would make a better CEO.

paul said...

For those interested, Eric did answer my questions above in a private email stating that he "knows of no other Eric Zuesse," which I take as an affirmative. So, for those interested in a sample of some of Eric's published works, you can check out the links listed.
paul

J. C. Samuelson said...

Mr. Zuesse,

I honestly don't understand why you insist on making an enemy of me. In case you missed it, I offered some suggestions that might actually help you get your work published or at least mitigate objections! But apparently because I also ask some questions due to concerns I have about your claims, you turn around and make me out like I endorse a position with the loaded label, "authoritarian," which I do not. Then, without a trace of irony you turn around and appeal to the very same thing you accuse me of endorsing!

You say I endorse "authoritarianism," right? Let me ask you, if you (or someone you love) were to need open heart surgery, whom would you trust to perform it: a) a backhoe operator, or b) a doctor trained in that procedure? If you'd trust the doctor more, then I submit that you subscribe to the same sort of "authoritarianism" I do. Does that turn your stomach also? The credentials themselves aren't important, and I don't subscribe to plaques or certificates on walls either. What is important is that the person has the appropriate training and expertise to accomplish a specialized task. The "credentials" (e.g., MA, MS, MD, PhD, ThD) are simply indicators that a person is trained in the field of **fill in your chosen specialty here**. One of my former pastors once remarked that a doctorate simply means you know where to find things, and I happen to agree with that assessment. You could simply have said, "Yes, I was trained in classical languages at blankety-blank university, etc." and similar answers for the others and that would be that. The titles aren't what are finally important.

The irony of your accusation is apparently lost on you when you turn around and cite a "courageous" minister (who, by implication is someone who presumably knows the Bible, has the "authority" to judge the value of your work) and "Bruce Chilton, head of the institute for advanced theology at Bard College" as supporting your work - both citations are direct appeals to authority.

Mr. Zuesse, clearly you're only interested in hearing from those that agree with you and conducting a character assassination of those who might not. You have been politely asked multiple times for an excerpt which, if chosen with care, could have answered many of the questions people have asked here, including mine. Heck, you might've turned my objections into a raving endorsement! But you're not really interested in what other people think, are you? Unless, of course, they immediately agree with you. How on earth will you deal with actual critics once your work is published?

Oh, and with respect to this particular section:

In math and science, achievement is recognized irrespective of whether the person who makes the contribution has any credentials at all; credentials are less important, essentially of zero importance, because achievement "speaks for itself" in those fields.

If an insight or achievement is relevant and stands up to the scrutiny of knowledgeable peers, yes. However, 99.999% of the time the individual making a new offering has some training in the relevant field. How many times have you heard of a veterinarian revolutionizing the science of astrophysics? In principle, it could happen, but in practice such a thing would be extremely unlikely.

You're saying that you accept the status-quo in the fields where scholarship reigns;

I said nothing of the sort. I simply question your claims that there is something fundamentally different about your method and results that makes them superior. There's nothing wrong with upsetting the apple cart, but those with the expertise necessary have a better chance of doing so. Moreover, if what you're offering can be characterized as conspiracy theory, then I'm sorry but I refuse to consider it a serious challenge to the methods already available. A conspiracy theory is in the same category as any pseudoscience, and isn't worth paying much attention to except as entertainment.

I don't know that your book falls into this category, but you have refused to answer directly whether it does or not, and have made claims that seem to suggest it does. What am I left to conclude? Like Jim, I'd like to see modern scholarship move in a positive direction, and books of the "DaVinci Code" variety don't actually contribute regardless of how entertaining they may be.

Anyway, best of luck to you Mr. Zuesse. I'm sorry that I've offended you.

Just Another Anony said...

Eric, your methodology is parochial. And yes, there is parochialism in scholarly circles as well. However, we aren't being asked to show interest in "other" parochial works, just yours.

The inverse to parochialism is conciliation of diverse fields of shchoarly knowledge, and it is that; which you suggest you have no interest.

You may be asking for topical interest, however, you are asking as well, to sign up to your "cause", a cause many have fought against, religion is extremely parochial, and refuses to conciliate its professed truth(s), with scholarly work that seeks conciliation of methodology and knowledge.

If one votes for interest, they inherently vote for a parochial cause, those two are not separated. Suggesting, one can dualistically separate a work, between interest and cause, is fallacious.

Eric, there are consequences for actions... please, don't suggest that helping/assisting you get your book into bookstores, by just showing interest, has no impact on society. If your book was written to have no impact on society, then what was the point?

Jim Arvo said...

Well, after a several day hiatus, I finally have a bit of time to respond to Eric's post.

Eric said "What you are saying, Jim, is that scholars, when they write about Paul and Jesus etc., are equally highly motivated to identify and prove any falsehoods in their opponents' presentations as are the lawyers in these cases."

No, I would never make such a claim. Why would I assert something so insupportable? I'd be quite shocked if one group were uniformly more "motivated" than another, or that there was an objective means of deciding who has the most enthusiasm. People who are serious about their work tend to be focused, driven, and receptive to ways to improve. Of course I would expect to see this both from lawyers and from, say, historians. If you mean to suggest that having large sums of money on the line somehow makes people think more clearly, I cannot agree.

When I read the works of Price and Doherty, for example, I see meticulously argued points--I see them both as extraordinarily motivated to understand their area of study, and to discern what can be discerned, regardless of whence the information comes, or when it surfaces. I see them both as willing to entertain multiple perspectives if the evidence warrants it, which is generally not the case with litigants.

Eric "You are saying that the rules of evidence, what is admissible and what is not, are as highly worked-out and painstakingly careful in their application, in scholarly debates."

I've said nothing of the kind. If you want to compare how "highly worked-out" the approaches are, I'd definitely agree that legal procedures are far more meticulous. But that's hardly relevant. The issue is whether those procedures are more effective in affording an unbiased view of the "truth". As legal procedures and ancient history (for example) have different aims, I reject the assertion that one must simply adopt the best legal practices in order to do better history. I actually *DO* believe that there is much to be gained by examining the rules and procedures of law, which are generally more cognizant of human foibles and biases, but a wholesale adoption is, I think, unfounded and naive.

Eric: "...often in scholarly matters collegiality among the disputants blocks and prevents the all-out adversarial process -- including the discovery process..."

And in some legal matters the search to the "truth" is short circuited by secondary issues, such as plea bargains and settlements. Once the legal impetus is removed, the search ceases. Hence, an argument could be made that if "truth" happens to surface during a legal dispute, it is simply a happy side effect, not the primary objective of the endeavor (which is either to "win" for your client, or to secure a prosecution). I do not actually take this stark view, but it makes more sense than suggesting that scholars are primarily concerned with patting each other on the back.

Eric: "...so that, in our own time, just as in the times of Galileo and Mendel, scholars block instead of promote the making-public of truth. This especially occurs whenever the particular truth is dangerous to the prevailing cultural mythology and to the clergy who sell that, as occurred with Galileo, etc."

That's quite a sweeping assertion. Is it possible for scholars to obfuscate rather than elucidate? Of course it is. Who would dispute that? But it seems you are making some kind of blanket assertion here, and that's what I object to. If you are suggesting that scholarship is always antithetical to novelty (and I'm not sure that you are), then it seems to me that you are ignoring the fact that most scholars desire nothing more than to be credited with radically new ideas, particularly when they resolve long-standing questions. Characterizing scholarship as promoting the status quo while the unwashed masses seek the truth would be terribly naive (and cynical). While legitimate insights can come from any interested party, they are most frequently a product of the prepared mind (to paraphrase Pasteur), just as J. C. Samuelson pointed out. Thus, one aspect of "scholarship" is the assimilation and painstaking analysis of what is currently known. (Of course, some take this more seriously than others. I am making no blanket assertion here. Neither was Pasteur.)

Eric: "Jim, your comments to me have been disrespectful and ad-hominem,..."

As have some of yours, both to me and to others here. You have suggested multiple times that people here (including me) kowtow to the false idols of "scholarship" and "authority", which is quite silly and unfounded.

Eric: "You have raised the question of whether I am a 'jerk,' and you have said that my comments are 'ridiculous' and 'cynical,' but yet you have offered no evidence that any of them is untrue."

Yes, I have wondered aloud about your character, and I've noted that some of your comments are indeed ridiculous. Moreover, if it is not cynical to suggest that the motive behind scholarly works is money, then I honestly don't know what would deserve that label. As for evidence of your assertion being false, I suppose I could ask numerous colleagues of mine to explain why they invested years of their lives into writing books with miniscule audiences. But that hardly seems necessary; if you think that such people do not exist, then I suspect you've simply had very little exposure to academia. It's not worth arguing that point with you.

Eric: "This is the last thing that I will ever say to you."

As you wish. In truth, I have little desire to continue this conversation either. I find you to be consistently dogmatic and much too quick to insert fatuous argument onto the mouths of others. I find those attributes antithetical to scholarship and simply do not wish to encourage the further injection of such into a literature that is already replete with it.