James Crossley's blog Contact: jgcrossley10 - AT - yahoo - DOT - co - DOT - uk

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Deliberate Deception?

I've resisted responding to this but I keep getting pestered so relented. Here is a link to a very conservative (I try to avoid 'fundamentalist' but I think that some people would use that phrase here) Christian website where someone called Paul claims that in my review of Blomberg's Contagious Holiness I was a bit bad. The reason I didn't want to respond is because I don't make virtually all the arguments attributed to me and there is just empty polemic aimed at me. Anyone can show the problems with an invented opponent!

Paul quotes me once and here it is with commentary:
"But when the result is a historical Jesus who is greater than anyone else and who can do spectacular supernatural things, one must wonder just how the words "historical" and "authentic" are being used."
One wonders where even to begin when trying to understand such a statement and the motivations for it.

Then he does try to unravel my logic with reference to 'implicitly banned categories':
In Crossley's thinking, Jesus could not [bold mine] have been both "greater than anyone else" and authentic. Nor could he "do spectacular supernatural things" and be historical. This is a logical fallacy, one presumably caused by the assumptions of naturalism (that the supernatural does not exist) and humanism (specifically, that no one can lay any claim to inherent greatness over another). One must ask, is God banned from history? Is he unable to act as he wills within his creation? For any scholar really concerned with finding out the truth, assuming such things should be anathema.

I didn't say any of that and naturally he provides no quotations from me. Anyone who has read this blog knows that I have said quite explicitly that such views have as much right to a place in discussion as any. I also argued against Blomberg's specific arguments for such things which I didn't think worked. Incidentally in favour of Jesus being superior Paul provides a defence based almost entirely on John's gospel which does not seem to me to be the greatest evidence. No mention of fourth gospel bias either (naturally). It is as if history speaks for itself and that historically Jesus must have been better. How? From a faith perspective fine. But how do you measure it historically? I'm not saying anyhthing either way but it is something that needs to be considered in a discipline which relentlessly uses the rhetoric of history.

Also, use all the language of logic you want but it will only work if you apply it fairly.

And this:

In the view of scholars such as Crossley, any such claims or supernatural acts by Jesus (a significant number of the activities ascribed to him in the Gospels) are just the result of stories growing greater with each telling, to the point that they became the Gospels we have today. Such adjustments to the facts might have been the result of wishful thinking, selective memory, or even deliberate deception on the part of the authors (or communities of authors) who produced them.

That's just a guess which is partially correct. But I've written in favour of a great deal of the synoptic history (not John, true). Not sure I would use the phrase 'deliberate deception', if it is implied that I said that. No, correction, never. That would be misleading and a misunderstanding of ancient concepts of truth. Incidentally, deliberate deception is certainly an interesting phrase...

And this:
I feel the question that is at the crux of the difference between such scholars as Crossley and those who accept the historicity of the Scriptures (such as Blomberg) is: what were the people who wrote the Bible trying to achieve? Were they simply ancient versions of "Oprah", trying to make people feel good without actually giving them anything good? Were they just a bunch of simple-minded people, wanting to preserve their traditions in the face of a changing culture? Were they charlatans, for whom deceiving the public was a means of making a living?

That has nothing to do with any opinion I've put forward and has nothing much to do with my motivations. To repeat yet again, I am quite open to a conservative model of the synoptic tradition. Once again he has decided what I think before going on to demolishing. Incidentally is it fair to imply simple-mindedness in this instance?

And there's more:
I've heard it said that biographies are only ever written by those who loved the subject, or those who hated ner. It seems to be the same with the study of biblical literature. Those who study the Scriptures are divided into two groups: those who believe it and want to live it, and those who despise it with a passion. The latter seem to want to set themselves up as the judges of Scripture, whereas the former realise they are inadequate judges, and instead allow themselves to be judged by the Word.

It isn't said that this is referring to me but the implication is pretty strong. But let's just assume I'm implied. I have no hatred for Jesus, the gospels, or the Bible. Yes, there are bits which are unsavoury but that's not untypical for the ancient world so the generalisation just doesn't work for me at least. So if I am implied there has been more inventing of my position. If not, who is he aiming at?

My favourite bit is this:
...cynic in me says that he also looks a rather tormented individual, but that may just be fatigue due to his social schedule...

Can't argue with that.

Seriously, Paul, you don't have to but at least try to tell the truth and not invent my position. Perhaps some quotation from me is worth using. Or find someone who genuinely argues the case you wish to demolish.


Blogger Jim said...

Consider the source James. Some unlearned git who has read one or two books about one or two things and imagines himself some sort of expert. The moon isn't troubled by the howlings of the dogs.

I kind of wish he would add me to his list of loathing. I would bear it like a badge of honor.

And, you do look a bit tired.... Take a vacation!


Your devoted long lost brother,


(and wasn't it odd of our mother to name us the same!).

By the way- are you reading a paper in DC?

April 01, 2006

Blogger steph said...

There's only one tormented individual and that's the faceless cowardly git who wrote that bunch of bollocks. It's hilarious.

April 02, 2006

Blogger J. B. Hood said...


Maybe you should send him a copy of your book? He might learn something from it and (hopefully) from the gesture. Course you might have to underline the right parts for him...

I echo Jim's question about SBL. Course if you're tired maybe you shouldn't bother...just tell the head of the program unit you don't look presentable...;-)

April 02, 2006

Blogger Rafael Rodriguez said...

I'm dying to ask: is it Paul Nikkel? It sounds like Paul Nikkel. At least, these are similar to the things he used to say to me over a couple of glasses of Leffe.

April 04, 2006

Blogger James Crossley said...

That picture! It needs changing or more abuse on its way I expect.

I will be giving a paper in Washington. More on this soon.

Rafael! Long time no hear. How are things? And would Paul Nikkel like to read what you said about him??

April 05, 2006

Blogger paul said...


I just wanted to drop in and say "Hi", among other things, and hopefully in doing so satisfy myself that i am not a "faceless cowardly git". (Thanks, Steph.)

Firstly, i am not Paul Nikkel. I know as little about him as i did about you when i wrote my post. And i don't drink whatever it is that makes him say stuff like that. I wrote my post while completely sober. (Maybe that's worse?!?)

Secondly, you can read my apologies about some of my comments at the edited version of my original post. I took out the part about you appearing tormented - it was unkind. If it gets the university to change the picture of you then i guess i can count it has having brought about some good. ;-)

Thirdly (i'm going to stop counting here), i never realised my post would get the reads that it did. (You must check your web site referrals far more than i do!) Thank you for responding in such a good-natured way to my comments. After i read the comments by Jim and Steph on my site, i realised that they were right about the way i had read into your views, and i've made a conscious effort to remove the pejoratives. (I hope i've done a satisfactory job.)

I'm really trying hard not to be an "unlearned git" (thanks Jim) - i'm presently studying my M. Div. part time at Malyon College.

If you want to waste postage on such a person, i'd be happy to accept a copy of your book (although if i were you, i'd make me buy it like the rest of the unwashed masses). A useful substitute might be a link to something you've written that explains the position from which you write. (Preferably sans underlining. :-)

Speaking of your position, how would you explain this comment to someone who doesn't know you (i.e. me)?

"But when the result is a historical Jesus who is greater than anyone else and who can do spectacular supernatural things, one must wonder just how the words "historical" and "authentic" are being used."

I don't understand how i could have read it any way other than that to be historical and authentic one must exclude a superior, miracle-working Jesus.

I would have a similar response to your comment above:

"It is as if history speaks for itself and that historically Jesus must have been better. How? From a faith perspective fine. But how do you measure it historically?"

It seems to me that you are coming from the position that there is a mandatory dichotomy between faith and history. I approach the Scriptures from the perspective that if they are not first history, then they are not useful to my faith. If there is a God, surely he must be allowed the freedom to act as he wills within his creation? (I think your "very conservative" would be an accurate characterisation of this view.)

Anyway, fire away - hopefully i can learn something. But please, no howling - it troubles me. :-)

May 01, 2006

Blogger paul said...

P.S. Was it coincidence that your post was first written on April Fools' Day? '-)

May 01, 2006

Anonymous Paul said...

Hi Paul. Just a note that the post above by Raph is a bit of joke. More or less because I most definitely would not be writing the things you wrote!

Just setting the record straight for Google ;)

September 13, 2006

Anonymous Paul Nikkel said...

I should have put Paul Nikkel for that comment directly above to avoid confusion...

September 13, 2006


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