Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Snap: G. A. Wells' "Cutting Jesus Down to Size"

From the September 2009 E-Block.


It would not be in the least unfair to describe G. A. Wells' Cutting Jesus Down to Size (CJS) as: A motley collection of some of the most unreasonable, imaginative arguments against the reliability ever offered by "higher critics," presented with little to no critical evaluation. As I have noted in other contexts, Wells is very much what ancient Greeks would have called a spermologos -- a "seed picker," one who draws ideas from others with little to no originality or evaluation. There is some small change here inasmuch as Wells makes a slightly more earnest effort than usual to rebut criticisms. But the change is very small indeed. 

There is little need to discuss particulars from CJS; the arguments presented therein are ones we have already refuted in past articles. It is sufficient to say that Wells remains without knowledge of the most advanced solutions, or else prefers to ignore them. One such example that is particularly telling is that of the high context nature of Biblical society to explain what he still thinks are problematic silences in the epistles. [14] By now Wells is certainly aware of this answer, for he offers an extremely brief commentary on Eddy and Boyd's book The Jesus Legend, and Eddy and Boyd refer to this very solution under a different name ("traditional referentiality"). But if you were to read only Wells, you would never know that this had been offered as a solution. One is left to guess whether Wells is being dishonest or simply did not understand the solution. The former is favored by the fact that he is also surely familiar with what Eddy and Boyd say of Tacitus -- including my own answer, referenced by them -- but he still hearkens back to R. T. France's unqualified assessment of Wells' arguments about Tacitus as "entirely convincing" [334]. 

CJS in sum is little but a rapid-fire presentation of summary claims; a classic "hurling of the elephant". Yet there is that small change to report, in which Wells "confronts" critics. I put that in quotes because it seems that Wells puts more vehemence into correcting critics for not knowing when he changed over from the Christ-myth position (as if, indeed, anyone is that interested in what Wells believes at any given moment) than in answering their arguments. Enormous works by Bauckham, N. T. Wright, and Boyd and Eddy are disposed of in a scant 5-7 pages each, much of it description of their positions. This is not surprising, for as I noted in Shattering the Christ Myth, Wells is not the sort who is able to respond to those who have their own elephants to hurl in reply.

We may well find some use for CJS at such time as we revamp our New Testament apologetics commentary series, as it serves well as an index of poor arguments against NT reliability. But for the present, it remains a testimony to Wells' methodology.

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