Friday, July 08, 2011

Maurice Casey and arguments from silence

Do professional Bible scholars like Professor Maurice Casey have logical arguments?

On page 209 of 'Is John's Gospel True?' , Professor Maurice Casey concludes that Lazarus was not an important figure. 'His fate is not recorded because he was not an important figure.He does not turn up in Acts and he neither wrote nor figures in any epistle for the same reason’.

It is interesting how easily and naturally arguments from silence flow from the pens of mainstream /independent Biblical scholars. They use arguments from silence as naturally as breathing.

Casey’s whole sentence is predicated on the rather natural assumption that you expect important figures to appear in Epistles.

On page 38, of 'Jesus of Nazareth', Professor Maurice Casey writes about GA Wells as follows :-

'His (Paul's) epistles mention neither John the Baptist,... nor Judas, nor Peter's denial of his master. They give no indication of the time or place of Jesus's earthly existence. They never refer to his trial before a Roman official, nor to Jerusalem as his place of execution.'

How does Maurice Casey explain the way these things never figure in the Epistles?

'All this means is that Paul wrote epistles about the problems which he found in his (largely gentile) churches in the Graeco-Roman world, no an account of the life of Jesus, which the epistles take for granted. Consequently, they mention only a few main points, mostly when there was some point of controversy.'

So do mainstream Biblical scholars have a methodology which is not ad hoc?

It seems not, as Maurice Casey can use arguments from silence in one book as though they were so obviously correct, that it would be a sheer waste of time to try to gainsay them.

And in another book, he can heap venom on people who point out vast silences in the Epistles.

Later in 'Jesus of Nazareth', on page 513, Maurice Casey trashes the account of the resurrection of Lazarus, pointing out 'Lazarus is never mentioned in the synoptic Gospels, and he does not appear in John before the story of his resurrection.'

Another argument from silence! And another place where Casey regards arguments from silence as so powerful that he sees no need to waste ink on any possible objections.

But in case anybody has any doubts, Casey then wheels out his big gun - an argument from silence. 'Nor does he appear in the early chapters of Acts, as he surely would have done if this story had been true.'

So when Wells points out that the Epistles never mention important figures, and surely Lazarus would have been an important figure, then Casey produces a take-down move on Wells.

And when Casey wants to knock down the resurrection of Lazarus, he can think of no greater knock down blow than wheeling out arguments from silence - one of the most powerful arguments he can wield in his analysis of John's story about Lazarus.

There is no methodology, which is why Biblical scholars have crashed and burned when trying to find an historical Jesus.


Blogger Paul Baird said...

Excellent blog entry.

2:15 AM  
Blogger Neil said...

I have tended to find Maurice Casey unreadable because of his utter disregard for consistent logical methodology. But you have encouraged me to go back and have a second look at this fraud. I would not bother except for the fact that it seems we have an up and coming student of his who is likely to make a few waves in the mythicist debate (we have to ignore her till she gets her doctorate since she seems so vulnerable emotionally to any criticism of her arguments) and that he is part of the reasonably known set of Sheffield scholars who boast of their "independent" status. Even McGrath says biblical scholars have something (an appreciation for Aramaic sources) to learn from Casey. I wonder how much Aramaic Mcrath has learned since he made that remark.

4:00 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Steven: "There is no methodology."

Tim: Unless ad hoc is now considered a methodology. The desired outcome of the argument has become the determiner for its suitability. That's why when Casey uses the argument from silence he's a wise, sharp-eyed, independent scholar. However, when Doherty uses the same argument for the "wrong" purposes he's a hack.

Notice how scholars evaluate the agreement and disagreement of texts. If two presumed independent texts agree, it proves the event really happened.

On the other hand, if those same texts disagree, then it's because the writer of the later text was embarrassed by the earlier tradition and changed it. Of course the only possible reason for the change is that the earlier account of the event is true.

Agreement == Fidelity to Oral Tradition == True

Disagreement == Embarrassed by Tradition == True

It's easy to make points on every kick if you're allowed to move the goal afterward.

5:17 PM  
Blogger Beachbum said...

Obviously, to some, it is only proper to use the argument from silence to peel away the myth to expose the hidden rationality, some core, that historical relic of the story minus the mythical flourishes.

But, if Casey is then correct, what part of the theologically symbolic Gospels are left? I would say only those parts which are taken from historians, none of which are central to the New Testament's thrust but merely historical filler. If Casey is using a methodology, its continued use is what Doherty, and others have done and they found there was never a Jesus nor any central teachings at the beginning. There is nothing beneath the mythology but more mythology.

12:27 AM  

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