Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ameri on His Trampoline



On the review of Ameri’s silly little panic piece, Hunting for the Word of God, someone multi-posted a rather lame response from Ameri  in the comments. I don’t allow multiple posts here, so I deleted all but one, but it was pointed out to me that it came from his own website. That means I’ll delete that one too, once this is posted. I don’t know for sure if the person who posted is Ameri himself, or one of his gullible fans, but I’ll proceed to respond here.


I just came across a “snap review” of my book made by  J.P.  Holding, an internet-amateur apologist, who worked formerly as a prison  librarian.


And Muhammed formerly worked as a shepherd. This proves what?

 I am happy to receive critiques on  Hunting, but I did not expect a serious one from Holding whose  commentaries are haracterized by being childishly insulting and for lacking  credibility.  Many Christian  apologists are not even satisfied with the level of his discussions and  arguments.


Gee that’s funny. I have a whole resume’ filled with Christian apologists who are satisfied with my work. So who does poor little Ameri think he’s talking about here? Oh…er…he appeals to a pseudonymous review by some guy who called himself “Mandude” on Amazon Books, who isn’t even an apologist, and who posted a whiny non-review of one of my books. Or actually, the same whiny non-review on several of my books. But of course. That’s far more authoritative.


Ironically, Holding has accused the author of  having “no qualifications in the field of textual criticism”, though Biblical  studies, including textual criticism, is part and parcel of Islamic studies, and  is one of the fields in which the author has worked for years. 


Um, that doesn't mean Ameri knows squat about Biblical textual criticism. And he doesn't. All he does is rape the works of serious textual critics of the Bible, culling out whatever sound bites he thinks helps his manufactured case. At the same time, this doesn’t answer the point that Ameri has no qualifications in the field. That it is “part and parcel of Islamic studies” doesn’t tell us a thing. It doesn’t tell us to what extent he has studied textual criticism, what level of proficiency he has achieved in textual criticism, how many peer reviewed journal articles he has written on textual criticism, and so on. To that extent, it is clear that Ameri is nothing but what the New Testament called a spermologos – a seed picker who passes off the ideas of others as his own.


It is  mind-boggling that Holding, whose only advanced degree is a Master’s Degree in  Library Science, assumes that he, himself, is qualified to write books and  articles on textual criticism, canon studies, theology, philosophy …. without  any academic qualifications in these fields whatsoever! 


Yes, I am qualified to write such books and articles. That is because I am using sources that are qualified in those fields. That is what an information scientist does, and it is what they do properly. It is also why I recognized Ameri as an academic fraud: Because he does NOT use those sources properly. Rather, he uses them prejudicially, to achieve a desired end which isn’t to inform or to educate, but to sway by emotion and fear. Ameri is typical of the “Johnnie Cochran” method of apologetics, throwing bowls of spaghetti against the wall in the hopes that something will stick and make a pretty picture that will make uninformed and gullible readers go “Gawrsh” like Goofy does.



 Why does Holding not accuse Norman Geisler, of lacking qualifications in  textual criticism because he writes on New Testament textual criticism as well  as Islamic studies, or complain that James White, the Theologian, who still  does not know that Sahidic is not a different language from Coptic and still  makes this ridiculous mistake in his book, has no qualifications because he writes on  Textual Criticism and Islam?

Ummmm.....Ameri (or his plagiarizer?) should have clicked Geisler's name in the panel to the right. I've slapped him down more than a few times for talking outside his expertise. I've also done the same to James White, when he and I had a few rounds a few years ago. I also express my disdain for Geisler and White by not recommending many of their works in by bibliographies. I have certainly never recommended White’s books on Islam, or related to anything he says about textual criticism. I have also only recommended some of Geisler’s introductory work on apologetics, but those were co-authored by people like Frank Turek (who in Geisler’s case are actually the real authors), and I give much higher place to others, like Lee Strobel.


I'll lend Ameri a crowbar so he can get that foot out of his mouth. Meanwhile, this is a perfect example of what I mean about him. He shoots off his mouth with sound bites, without doing serious research.


J.P. Holding and the rest of the Christian  apologist team are still using the same weak opening in their  counter arguments:   “I never saw a serious Muslim author and I do not expect to find a serious one!  All the Muslim apologists have a very limited knowledge and spent no serious  time to study the material!” It is an oft-repeated   cliché, that no longer holds water because Muslim scholars are  gaining more and more ground in the inter-faith dialogue in the West year after  year.


Oh wow. So they're going from .050 hitters to .075 hitters. Whoop dee doo. No matter. It’s still the same. I still have yet to see a serious Muslim apologist. Almost all they have ever done is borrow material from atheists or others, and when they do strike out on their own, it’s like watching Cirque de Soliel. The one Muslim I engaged in depth some years ago, Nadir  Ahmed, made an absolute fool of himself arguing with me over Britney Spears, and thinking one of my cartoon characters was a real person. I’m not kidding.

Holding cannot say that the author of the  Hunting does not know his subject, so he accuses him of reiterating “any  statement by any textual critic suggesting the least amount of doubt on any  issue related to the textual criticism of the New Testament, and collecting them  all into one big mishmash, and then smugly posing as though Christians ought to  panic because he's managed to assemble this Frankenstein.” 


Yes, I can say he doesn’t know his subject. All he knows is how to parrot what he reads. That is like reciting the Quran in Arabic when you don’t even speak Arabic. Ameri makes up his own rules for what can be accepted in a text, and the result is a tragic mishmash with almost no coherence.  That’s because his goal is not to inform or to educate, but to achieve the questionable result of dismissing the New Testament record to whatever extent he personally finds it convenient.

First: Being aware of the old cliché  of stiff neck apologists, I made it clear in the introduction to my book  that: “To prevent any accusations that the author is subjective and  relying on weak theories, many authorities in the discipline of textual criticism will be quoted. Most of these authorities are respected scholars, even  by conservative theological seminary standards.” (p.5). Unfortunately, these  angry apologists cannot abandon their old tactics! 


Ameri said that, and he can say it all he wants. It's just an obfuscation. I didn't say he was subjective or relying on weak theories. I said he was cherry-picking. Unfortunately, these angry Muslim apologists cannot abandon their obfuscations!

Second: The history of the transcribing of  the text of the New Testament is really catastrophic, so I cannot  possibly be blamed because the earliest Christian generations were careless  about their holy scriptures. Thus, I was not hunting down “any textual critic  suggesting the least amount of doubt”, I was merely taking due note of the  scholarly job done by the most accredited scholars in the field, to which I added my own insight, which is deeply  rooted in the Islamic perception of the whole issue. The Hunting did not  take all that had been written on the subject for granted. Only documented  assertions found a place in our search for the virgin text. Therefore, it most  definitely does not constitute a mishmash, but is a solid and coherent thesis,  the conclusions of which are defended by many renowned scholars in the  world.


Yes, it does constitute a mishmash, and that is exactly what it is, Ameri’s attempt to describe a manure pile as a rose garden notwithstanding. He merely seed-picked quotes from the most accredited scholars in the field, added his own poor insight and arbitrary rules for textual criticism, and made up a state of panic based on a false idea of what Christians require for their text.

Third: Muslims are usually accused of not  backing up their statements with scholarly academic research.  But when we prove how accurate our information is by quoting the highest  profile scholars of the present day, in textual criticism, early   Christianities, patristic studies, and apocryphal studies, then we are accused  of collecting negative assertions with no consistent  methodology.


I’m sure the reader notices by now that Ameri has this way of saying precisely nothing over and over again. Like I said, all he did was seed pick sound bites. Collecting negative assertions with no consistent methodology isn’t quite what I said, though. What he did was collect negative assertions with the methodology of doing a lot of hand-waving and screaming as he hopped up and down on a trampoline.

Fourth:  The writing of “Hunting for the Word of  God” set out to prove that, while the Qur’an was well preserved, we have,  unfortunately, lost the original text of the New Testament.


Yeah well…know what? No one ever thought we had it. And no one is in a panic over it except a few wackos like Westboro Baptist and some snake handlers. No one cares. No one thinks it is a problem. No one thinks we can’t reach back with the evidence we have and still get the substance of the New Testament and what it originally said. So again, what’s Ameri’s point, other than that he knows how to bash a panic button repeatedly with his forehead to the point that he now has a foot-wide indentation on his skull? All he did was quote mine the best available studies made by the top  scholars of today: Eldon J. Epp, William Petersen, David Parker and Helmut  Koester. Add water, make mishmash.

Fifth: The central assertion in the  Hunting is that we can NOT reach the original text of the New Testament  because our three witnesses are still far from the starting date of the text. I  proved thoroughly how limited these witnesses are and I discussed the actual  methods used in attempts to reconstruct the earliest text, and proved their  deficiency.



And like I said: This is not causing anyone to panic. It isn’t causing anyone to panic because the first manuscript witness for Tacitus is almost 1000 years after he lived, either. So why should we listen to some unqualified hack like Ameri just because he jumps up and down on his panic trampoline? Is he smarter than all those textual critics in all those fields? No, he is not. He’s just a hack with an agenda.

In  another of his assertions, Holding states that:-  “What continually escapes Ameri, however, is that Christians as a  whole don't need a Bible that is handed down as though still dictated word for  word.”


 This makes me really wonder if Holding  actually read the Hunting! The book set out to prove, and proved, that we  cannot trust any of the passages of the New Testament because we have no idea  how the text looked when it was first written. Every verse in the New Testament  is under doubt. That does not infer that it was 100% different than the text we  have on hand today,  it means,  rather, that we do not know, of a  certainty.


What the point is here is hard to say. This doesn’t address what I said at all, and in fact changes the subject, merely repeating Ameri’s same theme of unwarranted and paranoid panic. The sort of mindset Ameri has here is that of a 2 year old who can’t be certain that Mommy is there unless he actually sees her right there, and when she steps in another room, he bawls and wails and cries because, even though he saw her go in the other rooms, can hear her walking and talking, and can even smell her perfume, he can’t have “certainty” that she is there because he can’t actually SEE her. This is the sort of infantile spirituality and epistemology Ameri wants us to possess, and surrender to?


Holding  goes on to claim that:-“  I  didn't find anything in this book that I don't handle in Trusting the New  Testament”.


 To be frank, Holding’s Trusting the New  Testament is mere amateurish writing with a complete lack of  awareness as to what competent scholars have discovered thus far.  Therefore, I do not expect any reader to take his book seriously. 


Ameri blah blah blahs on about this for a few weeks, but it all boils down to, “Nah, I’m too chicken and ignorant to refute it.” Next.


 Holding acknowledges that the New Testament  was not perfectly preserved but that the witnesses we have today assure us that  we have not lost the substance of the  text.This defense is grossly inadequate because  it does not define properly the “substance of the text”, which leads us away
from the issue about which we are  disputing.


Does Ameri perhaps need help finding a dictionary? Given his infantile screaming, I rather thought he sat on one at the dinner table. Let’s see…how about this one?


Substance: That which is solid and practical in character, quality, or importance…


It’s rather shocking that an alleged scholar like Ameri needs this much help defining simple words, but I suppose that’s the way it is when your “scholarship” is really nothing but sound bites.

I do not dispute the substance of the  text, rather I am arguing against the substance of the doctrine of  the church and its prooftexts.


And doing a very poor job of it. Next?

 I do not deny the originality of the  substance of the text because it is hard to imagine a good reason to invent  these textual claims in the obscure zone.


That’s nice. So in other words, Ameri admits that his book was all about a pedantic and useless complaining about not having the text word for word exact. Which was precisely what I said of it.


I argue that Jesus’ divinity, the trinity,  the universality of Jesus’ mission, and many other central tenets in the  Christian theology are based on a miniscule number of passages that have already  been deemed as being later additions to the text through manuscriptural or  philological studies.


Yeah, sure, Ameri. Like your knowledge of things like the Trinity comes off of anything but a cereal box? Nope. The critical passages have not “been deemed as being later additions to the text through manuscriptural or  philological studies,” unless you are ignorant enough to think that, e.g., 1 John 5:7 is all there is to the Trinity. But we can hardly expect a seed-picker to have any depth knowledge of things like hypostatic expressions of the Ancient Near East, now, can we?

WE DO NOT NEED TO CREATE A COMPLEX  CONSPIRACY STORY TO PROVE THAT THESE FEW VERSES WERE ADDED IN THE EARLY DECADES  OF THE TRANSMISSION OF THE TEXT.


We don’t need “these few verses” either. So when Ameri goes on to quote me in TNT about scribal practice, he’s talking to thin air.

 The only problem I have with Holding’s  assertion is that it was made originally by Holding to prove that if we find an error in the holy text, then we only have to blame the scribes not the author.  It is a fantastic way to think outside the  box.


No, it’s a fantastic way to use textual critical principles. And to avoid specifics.
 Moreover, if he is serious,  he needs to refute all the charges against the infallibility of the New  Testament text cited in the Hunting.


No, I don’t. No one defends the infallibility of the current text. That said, I have thousands of articles which include ones on items related to those cherry picked by Ameri, as well as others which deal with similar conceptual issues. So it’s him who has work to do, not me.


To sum up, I declare that:


Paranoid suspicion is not argument, and I have dealt with Ameri’s silly “obscure zone” issue in TNT.


None of the central doctrines of the church are textually proven  unauthentic or dubious. 

 This is where I am. Now Ameri needs to finish grade school and catch up to me.


 Holding insists that The Hunting  author accused “those who practice textual criticism” of inflated arrogance  “just because they won't drop into panic-crisis mode when he thinks they  should.”

This is not an accurate quote! I was not  addressing scholars of 2013, because the majority of them agree with the  Hunting! I cannot understand why it is so difficult for most Christian  apologists to be fair and accurate. 


It wasn’t presented as a quote in the first place, so why Ameri is whining about it not being an “accurate quote” is hard to say. It was a description of his work, and it is accurate. I cannot understand why it is so difficult for most Muslim apologists to be fair and accurate (snort).


The naivety of most of the scholars half a  century ago when they were trying to define the goal of the textual critic  discipline as the reconstruction of the original text is noticeable in the shift  of the discipline’s goal.


Ameri’s alleged point here is that these days, textual critics speak with less certainty than they used to. To which I say: So what? Like I said in TNT, a lot of this has more to do with postmodern thinking than it does with evidence. At the same time, such statements are made concerning the text as a whole, not of individual readings, such that when Ameri presents these quotes as representing a problem for every individual reading, including texts for which there is no dispute or question or deciding variant evidence, he is not being honest. In other words, like I said, he is seed picking to create a mishmash.



Another charge Holding brings is that:  “Ameri doesn't deal with the fact that his paranoid criteria for textual  reliability would render the whole of ancient history a blank slate. He bypasses  that matter quickly and quietly in one paragraph, declaring that "it is  nonsensical to use books for whose texts no one can vouchsafe complete integrity   to prove the faithful transmission of the New  Testament."

 Calling for the originality of the old  texts to defend the New Testament is enough to prove how miserable the case of the transmission of the New Testament is.   Christian apologists need to produce their own witnesses, for their own  text, not to mourn the old texts because the New Testament fails to pass the  test of trustworthiness when examined.


Say what? This isn’t answering my point, but again, dodging it. It is also functionally admitting that I have correctly characterized Ameri as turning all of history into a blank slate, and for failing to deal with this as a problem for his position. Ameri fails to realize that sticking his tongue out and putting his thumbs in his ears and going “neener neener” isn’t an answer to this. He has essentially said that ALL texts of ancient history (Tacitus, Josephus, etc) “fail to pass the test to trustworthiness,” and has failed to defend this extremist position, which he needs to, especially in light of the fact that he is not a classicist or a historian, and he is effectively calling all such scholars academic frauds who are relying on untrustworthy texts for their work. And again, he speaks of “inflated arrogance”?


Ameri will likely not have the gumption to answer this question directly, but I will ask it anyway: Given the condition of the textual tradition of Tacitus’ Annals, should historians scrap it as a historical source? Yes or no?

We do not trust the New Testament  manuscripts and the other witnesses because of their deficiency. Consequently, Christians need to show how we can resolve this annoying problem, and not  generate deluding analogies. 


Righto. The problem is that the analogy shows that Ameri is forced into the uncomfortable and arrogant position of declaring all classical historians who rely on texts like Tacitus as deluded or deceived. But of course, he doesn’t have the nerve to say this outright.  Instead, he evades the issue:


It needs to be made abundantly clear that  it makes no big difference if the reconstructed text of Tacitus' Annals is not identical to the original. Classicists are content to have a text as  close as possible to the original. Conversely, we cannot interact with the  supposed Word of God with such ease. 


Um, but like I said, that assumes that Christians are text-obsessed to the point that we need piddling accuracy down to the letter. We don’t. It also assumes that we don’t have it as “close as possible” to satisfy our needs. We do. Nothing of what is in question causes us to “risk our salvation” as Ameri puts it. There is not one doubted text that affects our “eternal fate.” Ameri expects us to curl into a fetal position over such pedantic technicalities as how Matthew spells someone’s name in a genealogy. All that shows in turn is how infantile and fearful his own spirituality is.



Holding knows full well that the examples  cited in the chapter, “But That Does Not Affect the N.T. Reliability and  Message!” ended any hope of taking the New testament as the inerrant word of God  and it exposed the disharmony between the earliest reconstructed text and  so-called orthodox belief. 


I know full well that no one things the copies we now have are inerrant – has Ameri been to Chicago lately? – and that he failed utterly to touch any “orthodox belief” with his Textual Tilt-o-Whirl fantasies. Ameri accuses me of selecting the “least important” example  cited, but no, I didn’t – because they were all equally unimportant. And Ameri strangely fails to discuss any example that is really important. I wonder why.


I am wondering why many weak-minded  apologetics and fiery racist orators believe that demonizing Muslims with  cartoons  is still a good idea to  bind their eyes so they cannot see the light of the truth. 


Well, what can I say, except that if a Muslim really does find his eyes bound by a cartoon, he or she needs to make his or her spirituality a lot more mature. Apparently Ameri is the sort to have a crisis of faith any time he sees Wile E. Coyote blown up.


These loud-mouthed  apologists need to try, for a change, to counter an argument with an argument,  so that people can listen to them and can weigh their evidence. 


I f and when Ameri makes a substantial argument, and takes on one that I have already offered in TNT, we’ll take notice of it. Until then, we’ll get out the Dirt Devil and take care of those seed husks he left on the carpet.

1 comment:

  1. Can't find much on the guy. Vague references to studying Islamic law:

    http://www.islamhouse.com/292202/en/en/author/Sami_Ameri

    Here:

    http://www.amazon.com/Sami-Ameri/e/B00B7B7SA6

    it says:

    "He is the Co-founder of ARICR: Academic Research Initiative of Comparative Religion."

    which takes us:

    http://www.arcri.org/index.php/en/book-reviews/15-heresy-a-history-of-defending-the-truth

    By (his apparent partner) Muslim apostate from Christianity, Paul Williams. Here we read:

    "As the Lutheran biblical scholar Rev Professor Jeffrey J. Butz concludes in his significant work, ‘The Brother of Jesus and the Lost Teachings of Christianity’
    “It is more than than intriguing that the Muslim understanding of Jesus is very much in conformity with the first Christian orthodoxy – the original Jewish Christian understanding of Jesus.” p186 (italics added)."

    Lutheran biblical scholar? Try nut-job:

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Bütz

    "Bütz' most recent book, The Secret Legacy of Jesus (2010), offers the thesis that the Judaistic teachings of Jesus were passed in underground fashion from groups such as the Nazarenes and Ebionites to the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, via the Cathars and Freemasons.[2]"

    "Bütz' work follows in the line of Hugh Schonfield, Hyam Maccoby, Robert Eisenman, and James Tabor. Bütz writes "It is my personal conviction that maligned scholars such as Schonfield, Maccoby, Eisenman, and Tabor will one day be vindicated as prophets.""

    Ameri says:

    "All the Muslim apologists have a very limited knowledge and spent no serious time to study the material!” It is an oft-repeated cliché, that no longer holds water because Muslim scholars are gaining more and more ground in the inter-faith dialogue in the West year after year."

    Yeah. Right. What we see above is the same old tactic. James White may not be perfect, but he's right when he says Muslims depend on the work of heretical/liberal Christian scholars (and nutters), and then expect you to not do the same to the Qur'an. Whatever these guys may try to do to the NT, they'd do 1000 times more to the Qur'an.

    He'd never allow liberal Muslim works to be cited like this...if the liberal Muslims lived long enough to write them, that is.

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