Monday, July 11, 2011

Professor Maurice Casey and Arguments from Silence

Stephanie Louise Fisher has kindly posted a big chunk of Maurice Casey's writings so that people can confirm just how greatly mainstream Biblical scholars rely on arguments from silence, which they deploy as though no ink need be wasted justifying an argument from silence.

Who can the doubt the validity of arguments from silence, when renowned scholars deploy them routinely?

'On pages 208-9 of Is John’s Gospel True?, Casey wrote (and obviously this is only part of his argument),
“The Lazarus story is a Johannine composition from beginning to end (n.15. see pp. 55-7). The narrator tells us that many of `the Jews’ believed in Jesus because of this miracle (11.45). The reaction of the chief priests and the Pharisees is remarkable. They convened a sanhedrin and said, `What are we doing? – for this man is doing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy our place and people’ (11.47-8). Widespread faith in Jesus would not have given the Romans cause to do this. This is an extraordinary perception, formed by the Neronian persecution, which showed genuine Roman hostility to Christianity, and by the destruction of Jerusalem after the Roman war of 66-70CE.

Some Jews attributed this to failure to observe the Torah, and Christians did not observe it. From this perspective, everyone having faith in Jesus could indeed lead to the destruction of the place and the people. This perspective has however no place in the Judaism of 30 C.E.. It leads through the prophecy of Caiaphas to the decision to have Jesus put to death. This is also profoundly ironical. Jesus has been presented as the Resurrection and the Life, and the source of life to those who believe in him. His gift of life to Lazarus is now presented as the reason why the chief priests and Pharisees seek to have him put to death.

After the anointing story, things get worse and worse. At 12.9-11, many were leaving `the Jews’ and believing in Jesus, and consequently the chief priests took counsel to kill Lazarus. This begins a set of statements, according to which Lazarus was exceptionally important.

If this were true, we would not be able to explain the omission of Lazarus from the synoptic Gospels.

(Another argument from silence - Carr)

Secondly, the plot is incredible. Killing someone raised from the dead is not a feasible Jewish reaction to such a miracle, and the plot is never mentioned again.

(Yep, another argument from silence - Carr)

It either worked or it did not. It is difficult to see how the plot against Lazarus could fail, when that against Jesus succeeded. Nonetheless, it is not acted upon , yet Lazarus does not reappear in the early chapters of Acts.

(Another argument from silence - Carr)

Nor does he appear again in the fourth Gospel, surviving an unsuccessful plot.

(Another argument from silence - Carr)

Finally, in the Judaism of Jesus’ time, having faith in Jesus did not mean `leaving’ in any reasonable sense. The fourth evangelist has imposed on the Judaism of Jesus’ time the situation of his own, when Jews converted to Jesus did indeed leave the Jewish community.

But the narrator has not yet finished. Verse 12.12 slides into the old tradition of 12.13-15. More trouble begins at verse 16, where the disciples are to `remember’ what they had not previously known. It becomes serious in verses 17-19, where the crowd bear witness that Jesus had raised Lazarus, so the Pharisees declare, `the world has gone after him.’ Lazarus, however, is heard of no more. The Johannine narrative is thus internally incoherent, as well as inconsistent with synoptics. The decisive incoherence is that the story of Lazarus just stops. With so many Jews `leaving’ because of the raising of Lazarus, with the crowd who saw this miracle bearing witness to it, with a crowd meeting because they have heard of this sign, with a plot against Lazarus’ life, Lazarus was such an important figure that his further presence, and his fate, were bound to have been recorded.

(Another argument from silence - Carr)

But they are not recorded.

(Another argument from silence - Carr)

Why not? The only possible explanation emerges from the absence of Lazarus from the synoptic Gospels.

(Another argument from silence - Carr)

His fate is not recorded because he never was an important figure.

(Another argument from silence - Carr)

He does not turn up in Acts, and he neither wrote nor figures in any epistle, for the same reason.

(Another argument from silence - Carr)

This also tells us something about the way in which this Gospel has been written. The profound and real feeling that Jesus brought life and `the Jews’ brought death (cf. 16.2) to the Johannine community is presented in story mode. Hence the stress on the love of Jesus for Lazarus, as even `the Jews’ notice (11.36), and for Martha and Mary (11.5), for Jesus loves his disciples. Hence also the narrative precedents for Jesus’ own resurrection, especially the difference in the graveclothes, for Lazarus came forth bound (11.44), whereas Jesus left the graveclothes behind and vanished, a difference great enough for a disciple whom Jesus loved to come to faith (20.7-8) Such factors have quite overridden the historical inconsistincies which we can see.”

Of course, Casey would not be Casey if he did not trash his own arguments. Casey writes ''The Synoptic Gospels are very short, so there is nothing inherently wrong in suggesting that some authentic traditions have been omitted from them and survived elswhere.'

Casey neatly trashes his claim 'If this were true, we would not be able to explain the omission of Lazarus from the synoptic Gospels.'


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