Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Select Review: Maurice Casey's "Jesus of Nazareth," Part 2

Today we conclude our select look at Casey’s Jesus of Nazareth. The Ticker will be off after this until next Wednesday as I travel (and then recover from traveling!).

129f – Readers may find Casey’s critique of Salm’s “Nazareth myth” of interest, though of unique interest is Casey’s address to Salm’s attempt to locate Nazareth in Judaea, a subject I have not seen addressed elsewhere.

145-6 – Casey’s shallow treatment of the birth narratives and issues surrounding them stands as good example (along several) of how, despite his claim to be pursuing critical history, he is all too willing to simply accept a status quo where he agrees with it and not investigate matters in more depth. However, readers may find his critique of Tabor (153f) and his “Panthera” thesis of interest.

159 – Casey simply misrepresents the findings of scholars in Beard’s Literacy in the Roman World, who did not, as he says, dispute or disprove Harris’ estimate of a 10% literacy rate in the Roman world, though they did dispute certain applications he made. (See link below, where I corrected a similar misreport of Beard’s work.)

189 – here is a typical example of Casey’s procedure when he is at a loss for argument (as happens on occasion): Matthew 16:19 (the keys to the kingdom) is dismissed as inauthentic because Jesus “had no reason to add” it while Casey thinks the early church did. But this simply reflects Casey’s inability to conceive of a reason why Jesus should have added it – and there is a good one. As a confession of Jesus; messiahship (which Casey also disputes – we will address that later) Peter has become the first member of Jesus’ collective ingroup, and thus for the first time is able to broker authority to persons within that group.

286 – this last is one example of where Casey’s own lack of specialty knowledge in a different field (the social sciences) undermines his case. This page offers another, as he commits the standard error of interpretation of Mark 10:18 (link below).

392-9 – per 189 above, Casey has declared Jesus’ acceptance of Peter’s declaration, “you are the Christ,’ as inauthentic. Initially he once again could stand to be informed by the social science aspects of the question (link below), as this provides a far better explanation for why Jesus did not use the term of himself than the reason Casey contrives as follows.

He denies it on the basis of the single word “Messiah” being too vague and unqualified to be sure what kind of identification Peter is making in Mark 8:29. This is misplaced reasoning . First, we must also add in the contexts of Jesus’ other self-claims (some of which Casey rejects for poor reasons, such as the Son of Man title) and activities. Second, Casey has no consideration for the high context nature of this social setting; his assessment that “messiah” “was not specific enough” is spoken from the perspective of a low-context reader assuming that the text offers all we need to know. There can be little doubt that Peter and Jesus, and all his other disciples, had a very good idea what the specifics were.

448f – Another shocking omission: Casey’s discussion of Jesus’ burial is completely devoid of reference to Byron McCane’s critical study (which, though Casey in some part ends of with the same conclusions as McCane, answers some of his objections as well).

455f – Casey’s treatment of the Resurrection offers little new in terms of dissenting arguments; he follows Allison’s “bereavement visions” thesis. I found no arguments not addressed in either my own work or Licona’s on the subject. (Including – again – a spot where Casey needs the help of the social sciences to explain why women are not listed in witnesses in 1 Cor. 15 [496], and the ridiculous argument that Paul does not mention the empty tomb there.)

Our treatment of Casey has been summary but exemplary. We have a scattering of helpful observations mixed in with a plethora of standard canards and arguments that have been refuted in the past multiple times, as well as some startling omissions of critical concepts and scholarly works. Jesus of Nazareth is not entirely without merit, and the reader would do well to borrow it from a library and sift it for what might be useful. However, in the end it stands out as the work of one too impressed by his own expertise in a select area (Aramaic) to conceive of his lack in other areas.

Beard and literacy

Mark 10:18

Use of "Messiah"


  1. This is off topic here, but do you know anything about atheist blogger Bruce Gerencser? I came across his work over the weekend.

  2. I have never heard of him, no.

  3. Just what we need. Another atheist with an inflated sense of self.