Thursday, January 20, 2011

Critical Review: David Fitzgerald's "Nailed," Parts 2B-4

By now I have read ahead in Nailed and made an unsurprising discovery – this book is little more than a roster of many standard canards that have been refuted before. So our treatment will speed up after this point, and since this is indeed all there is to Nailed, from here on we’ll provide a list of refuting links at the end of postings, only addressing arguments that might be regarded as unique and not repeating links from prior posts, and providing notes of arguments exemplary of the failures of the volume.

The rest of chapter 2 is devoted to a resuscitation of parts of Remsberg’s List, and while we are glad to see that Fitzgerald doesn’t use all of it (he leaves out such obvious non-starters as Columella), that he uses it at all is bad enough.

In some cases Fitzgerald goes off topic to ask why writers do not mention Christianity, which has nothing to do with why they do not mention Jesus. Here Fitzgerald fails to consider that Christianity was still considered a sect of Judaism by many writers, so that expecting Christianity to be mentioned separately is a case of misplaced expectations.

In other cases, as with Gallio and Seneca, or the Slaughter of the Innocents, the problem is the same as we noted in prior postings: Fitzgerald overstates Jesus’ fame as reported in the Gospels (or the impact of an event), and presumes that writers like Seneca would grant instant acceptance to reports about Jesus.

Fitzgerald wrongly designates Philo as a “huge influence…on Christian theology.” [37] This is incorrect; rather, both Philo and Christian theology were influenced by the same pre-Christian Jewish theology. It might be added that since Philo was mainly a philosophical writer, expecting him to report a wider range of historical events in misguided.

Fitzgerald’s use of Drews to explain why certain portions of Tacitus are missing has been negated by Van Voorst here. His other suggestions of texts missing because Christians were “embarrassed” by lacks of mention of Jesus is simply vain paranoia, especially after Fitzgerald has gone to so much trouble to argue that there are obvious gaps in other works that should have mentioned Jesus. If scribes were so intent on scrubbing these embarrassing portions that lack reference to Jesus, why was Remsberg able to compile his list in the first place?

On Remsberg’s list. Fitzgerald frequently resorts to the sort of vague reasoning used by “Iasion” to argue that Jesus ought to have been mentioned by this or that writer. Yet this is not effective as an argument unless a writers’ treatment of such subjects as “gods” or “sacred teachings” is purported to be exhaustive. Fitzgerald does not go into anything like enough detail to justify claims that someone like Athenaeus ought to have mentioned Jesus or the Christians.

See the June 2009 issue of the E-Block regarding the Paul-Seneca correspondence.

We can close this post by taking care of Chapters 3 and 4 rather quickly, since it’s almost all “old news”.

For Chapter 3 on Josephus, please see Christopher Price’s chapter in Shattering the Christ Myth. I feel rather free to simply give such references to STCM, because it is missing from Fitzgerald’s bibliography – as are many other critical works such as Van Voorst’s.

Chapter 4 is merely a collection of summary claims regarding the inauthenticity of NT books of the sort I have responded to in Trusting the New Testament. Fitzgerald also refers to Marcan priority (though he seems to decline on the existence of Q), and the idea that Luke used Josephus.

One of the more amazing errors in this chapter has Fitzgerald thinking that Peter would not know what a “church” is (Matt. 16:18). The word used, ekklesia, referred to an assembly of persons of a given group and would have been immediately understood to mean those who were followers of Jesus; the equivalent Old Testament concept would have been the assembly of the Lord.

Other claims by Fitzgerald of anachronism or error in the Gospels are equally misinformed; he is even so insensate as to use the absurd Mark 7:31 “geography” error. It is difficult to take Fitzgerald seriously when he displays such amateurism and does not even bother to consult any reputable sources on the subject.

I’ll note in close from Ch. 4 that Fitzgerald picks up on an obscure argument that John’s reference to a catch of 153 fish is some sort of allusion to Pythagoreanism. I looked into this subject some time ago and found that there was no evidence that Pythagoreans had an interest in the number 153 prior to the Christian era. I can’t find my analysis right now, but here’s an analysis by the CADRE.

We’ll see if we can’t finish up on Nailed in the next one or two posts.

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