Comments: Christmas Eve newspaper columns

Christmas Crackers!

Geza Vermes and Bishop Tom Wright crack the Christmas code with a little sleight of hand with Geza citing an acknowledged forgery from Josephus to support his picture of Jesus in The Times and Tom making a virtue of necessity saying there were “two different versions of the (nativity)story by the time the gospels were written”! Yes indeed there were BUT far from being “coherent” they were completely contradictory and utterly incredible what with a special star and a pregnant virgin! At least the medieval Italian writer Bocaccio was a bit more sceptical with his amusing story of the unscrupulous priest who, for a fee, would show his gullible flock a brightly coloured parrot’s feather claiming it had dropped from the wings of the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation!

Bishop Tom shouldn’t worry so much about the ridiculous Da Vinci code or a hoax but rather the evidence of the very first Christian writers themselves because they give us no corroboration of ANY of the Gospel stories of Jesus: No Nativity, no family, disciples, teachings, parables, ethics, not even any miracles! Nor do they know of any places like Bethlehem or Galilee, not even that Jesus was supposedly condemned by Pilate in Jerusalem! The evidence of the very first Christians themselves doesn’t give us any cause to believe that the Gospel Jesus ever existed. That’s not a hoax: It’s mankind’s most monumental misconception!
David H Lewis

Posted by David H Lewis at Tuesday, 28 December 2004 at 11:27pm GMT

A few points:

(1) If the entire Joesphus passage is a forgery, how come Josephus calls James 'the brother of Jesus called the Christ'? Is that entire passage also a forgery? There is not the slightest manuscript evidence for that.

(2) Who are these 'earliest Christian writers'? Paul and...Paul... and.,..er...Paul? One person is not a significant sample.
I asked you this question before, but so far have not had an answer!! :o)

Posted by Christopher Shell at Thursday, 30 December 2004 at 11:23am GMT

Thanks for further queries Chris - answers already given on Dec 11 Apocalypse comments. Regards DHL

Posted by David H Lewis at Saturday, 1 January 2005 at 9:42pm GMT

Hello again Christopher, I forgot to respond to your Josephus query. Vermes didn't cite the shorter Josephan passage you are alluding to but the fact you've bypassed his mention of the longer one that I queried and gone straight to defend the shorter one suggests that you're sufficiently familiar with the objections to the longer one as to accept that it's indefensible. Without the longer passage the shorter one becomes very lonely indeed and the indirect mss evidence to place it under extreme suspicion are the PROVEN Christian interpolations and interferences elsewhere. Furthermore, although J wrote of many messianic figures, the only times the word "Christ" meaning, as you know, "Messiah" appears in all Josephus's writings are in those two disputed passages! As he was writing for pagans who wouldn't have known what a messiah was he would surely have explained the term to them if he'd really used it. The fact it sits there unexplained suggests a Christian (who did understand what it meant) put it there! Note also that Hegesippus and Clement of Alexandria disagree with this passage and say merely that James was killed in a riot. There is also the strong possibility that James "the brother of Jesus him called Christ" was simply an innocent assumption by some copyist who thought that's what it SHOULD say, not necessarily what it DID say!
Hope that's of some help. Best wishes for the New year, David

Posted by David at Sunday, 2 January 2005 at 1:32pm GMT

Hi David

It's a very extreme position to say that the whole of the longer Josephus passage is interpolated. If a Christian were to successfully interpolate, is this what a Christian interpolation would look like? The point about the James passage is that it demonstrates that Jesus is 'the aforementioned Jesus' whom Josephus has already mentioned.

Why do you think it is less likely that Clement and Hegesippus disagreed with (the nonChristian) Josephus than that the supposed Christian interpolator disagreed with the Christian writers Clement and Hegesippus. (Not that there is necessarily disagreement here, just other traditions.) All things being equal, you would expect Christian writers to agree with Christian. But the point is that you cannot show your supposed scenario to be the more likely one. Rather, it is the less likely, because it involves supposed interpolations for which there is no MS evidence, whereas the other scenario has no need for such complicated hypotheses.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 4 January 2005 at 5:33pm GMT
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