Friday, January 21, 2011

Critical Review: David Fitzgerald's "Nailed," Parts 5-8

Nailed gets pretty dreary past this point. Of Chapters 5-8, only 8 really offers direct arguments for the Christ myth; the rest are again laundry lists of NT problems, and as we have noted, historical and other problems in a text do nothing to prove that the person who is the subject of that text did not exist.

For that reason, all we’ll have today is a few examples from Chs. 5-7 of the sort of poor arguments Fitzgerald is offering, adding in anything we recognize as new to us (which is not much). Ch. 8 we will not bother with past this paragraph at all – it’s little more than a summary presentation of Earl Doherty’s “silence” argument, and needless to say, Fitzgerald shows no signs of having interacted with any criticisms of this thesis, much less any familiarity with the critical concepts of high and low context.

Chapter 5, “The gospels offer a consistent picture of Jesus” – main focus is to claim that Gospel portraits of Jesus are too different to all be true. In the main this is argued by either misinterpreting differences, or by refusing to recognize options as not mutually exclusive. Examples of misinterpretation include the “messianic secret” motif (which is badly misunderstood) and Matthew 27:46, and there are also a selection of the usual canards of contradiction, such as concerning the death of Judas.

Chapter 6, “History confirms the gospels,” is substantially a collection of canards about the trial of Jesus and from the bibliography, it is clear that few sources were used and that Haim Cohn (one of the sources we refute) was given inordinate credence. The one new objection I found is derived from Price, and claims Paul is in error to call the Pharisees the “strictest” sect of Judaism (Acts 26:5), for the Essenes were more strict. That’s a matter of opinion either way – whether Price’s or Paul’s – so it’s absurd to claim this is an erroneous statement; beyond that, the Pharisees would regard the Essenes as a deviant group, especially for their failure to support the Temple cultus. For this alone, Paul’s opinion holds a great deal more weight than Price’s, speaking over 2000 years later.

Chapter 7, “Archaeology confirms the gospels,” despite the title hardly mentions archaeology and is again mostly about problems in the text, though this time pride of place is given to McDonald’s Homeric epics thesis, which has rightly died an ignominious death from being ignored. Plus there are a host of refuted canards such as Joseph of Arimathea being a myth and hailing to Bart Ehrman on textual corruptions (while quietly ignoring his points of caution). Fitzgerald’s grasp of textual criticism is remarkably dim, and he falls for the typical trap of failing to judge the NT in comparative terms.

So it is: We’ll close with our assessment next week.

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