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Monday, January 04, 2010

Jim West's Blog - An Obituary

The whole episode of the demise of Jim West's blog took me a little by surprise. When the link didn't work I wondered what was going on and I found out he was was bored with blogging, as he has repeated in different contexts. After that I found out about the pretty furious debate between Jim and John Loftus. I was a little surprised by that one because I always assumed Jim's posts on issues of atheism and atheist bloggers were, at least in part, jokey. I still think that is the case, though I admit some of us (e.g. me) have an unfortunate tendency to read irony into everything.

The internet has made the recent history of biblical scholarship a little weird, if not more entertaining. Who would have thought all the controversies, from Golb to Loftus, from the many Jeffrey Gibsons to NT Wrong, were possible fifteen years ago? But the internet and blogging, despite my own reservations, are having some impact on scholarship and Jim West has arguably been the most important figure in this context. And, as his blog was so distinctive, it meant that his postings were (not 'are' because they don't seem to be available) particularly helpful for ideological analysis of blogging, particularly as, intentionally or not, his blog brought out the perspectives of his opponents clearly when they reacted against him.

As any regular reader of his blog and his involvement on e-lists (he runs Biblical Studies and has managed to keep it going while others have faded) will know, Jim (like others) has given the very latest updates on the latest controversies involving biblical studies in the media. However, I think he has had a more important influence. His blog was, famously (in biblical studies terms), the most popular of all the biblioblogs and because of this he was able to promote some of the more interesting and creative scholarship (including, I am reliably informed, book sales of one book rocketing up [in biblical studies terms] after Jim reviewed it), some of which probably would not have gained a wider hearing otherwise. Few other bloggers had that influence. And when some of the issues facing academic departments became particularly problematic, Jim West's blog was the one which was able to muster massive amounts of support and attracted outside interest in the discipline.

That may sound like praise and obviously it is. But even some, if not all, of his enemies would have to admit that he has been an influential figure in biblical studies and in the ways I have suggested, would they not?

But wipe those tears from your eyes because not only does biblical studies have an interest in resurrection (though Jim is standing by his decision), here is the best quotation in all of the controversy: 'Jim West literally pissed me off' (John Loftus)

44 Comments:

Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

not only does biblical studies have an interest in resurrection (though Jim is standing by his decision),

Ye of little faith! Just because Jim's resurrection may take three months instead of days? Come now, James...

January 05, 2010

 
Blogger James Crossley said...

I thought I was siding more with the idea of the resurrection... but just covering all bases!

January 05, 2010

 
Blogger Jim said...

i'm afraid i'll stay quite dead. as dead as the guy in the meaning of life who exploded after eating just one thin mint.

but i can rest in joyful peace knowing that my obit has been so finely written and that i managed to annoy a beastly atheist with my dying gasp. what could be better?

January 05, 2010

 
Blogger Stephen C. Carlson said...

But it's wafer thin, Jim.

January 05, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"i'm afraid i'll stay quite dead."

Good.

January 05, 2010

 
Blogger Steven Carr said...

Colemanballs has some useful advice as to when it is literally incorrect to use 'literally'.

Basically, you always have to think about whether to say 'literally', unless you are actually doing a sports commentary at the time.

January 05, 2010

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

I could have told John Loftus so, years ago.

And watch-out for the Rossons.

But this is all a side-show to get more attention.

January 05, 2010

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Steven Carr from the North East, indeed!

January 05, 2010

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

If you want to read irony into anything, try this. Biblical academics have down the centuries, been chasing the shadows cast by Flavian historians. Thus:

Common sense tells that Masada was the main Roman battle camp for the invasion of Judea.

Common sense tells that the circumvallation wall was built by Herod the Great to keep out Cleopatra's Egyptians.

Common sense tells that the Flavian historians shifted the battle for Masada to the end of War, as an afterthought.

Common sense tells that Vespasian's so-called invasion of Galilee was a complete fabrication.

And common sense tells that the attack on Jerusalem by "Idumeans", was the main invasion by Nero's forces when they killed many of the priests.

It seems that common sense has not been so common.

January 05, 2010

 
Blogger Ian said...

However, I think he has had a more important influence.



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January 05, 2010

 
Blogger John W. Loftus said...

I used the word "literally" in a figurative sense. ;-)

January 05, 2010

 
Blogger John W. Loftus said...

Jim said: "i managed to annoy a beastly atheist with my dying gasp."

Be more creative, okay.

Try this from Khan of Star Trek.

January 05, 2010

 
Anonymous Bjartur the Baptist said...

Is biblicalstudiesresources also gone for good? Please tell me this is not so. (on hands and knees, groveling, saying please, please, pretty please)

January 05, 2010

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

John. Is that your first post to this blog?

January 06, 2010

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

More irony for the historians:

Common sense tells there never was any siege of Masada. It was probably taken in a couple of days, and it became the Roman headquarters for the invasion of Judea. The water supplies of Masada were then available to the large invasion army which in reality probably numbered 20000.

Just suppose there were 10000 Roman soldiers at the 'siege' of Masada. How much water per day would have been required per soldier, bearing in mind that the Dead Sea Area can be one of the hottest places on earth, and a soldier’s life isn’t exactly sedentary? Would you say 5 litres per day would be a reasonable estimate? Five litres of water weigh 5 kg. 10000 litres of water weigh 10 tonnes metric or about 10 tons imperial. 50000 litres of water weigh 50 tonnes or about 50 tons, or in volume approximately 50cubic metres. On a rough estimate the army of 10000 encamped around Masada would have required about 50tons of water per day to survive as an active force in desert conditions. For a siege lasting 10 weeks say, this would have required approximately 3500 tons or about the same number of cubic metres of water. And this doesn’t allow for the water required for washing or for cavalry horses. Somehow I can’t imagine this quantity of water arriving in skins by any means, whether by mule or across the Dead Sea by small boats.

How many mules would be required to transport 50 tons per day of water over rough mountainous terrain? At least 500? The mules would have drunk much of the water before they arrived. Its all impossible.

Common sense, isn't it?

January 06, 2010

 
Blogger John W. Loftus said...

Geoff, I don't know why you've posted something off-topic or why you think I might be inclined to accept what you say but I'll comment one time on this.

I can't guess how many soldiers were there that stormed Masada. But I can tell you I visited Masada and I saw the mound hill that had to be built to reach the top of it. It could not have been built easily in those days nor in any short time period at all, especially when the Jews would surely have frustrated their efforts. And then the story is plausible that the Romans made other Jews build it. If you saw that mound hill you would see your conspiracy theory for what it is, bunk.

And it was not that far to the Jordon River which feeds the Dead Sea for a water source.

Perhaps you need to actually visit Israel.

Cheers.

January 06, 2010

 
Blogger John W. Loftus said...

One other thing Geoff, there were the Springs of En Gedi located nearby as well, close to Masada. I saw them myself. It was told, so I remember, that King David drank from them and stayed there while hiding from Saul.

Become informed.

January 06, 2010

 
Blogger John W. Loftus said...

Wait Geoff, it just dawned on me that there is another sort of famous John Loftus out there who is a conspiracy theorist. That's not me. That's why I insist on people using my middle initial to distinguish myself from him.

January 06, 2010

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

A sub topic is irony as seen in biblical academics. It is ironic, is it not, that they have swallowed literally the writings attributed to Josephus for 2000 years. You must hate any such thoughts.

So you've been to Masada and no doubt read the accompanying tourist literature. The literature won't tell you that the ramp approaching the top was/is a natural spur of rock. It was used for the construction and repair of Masada.

Jodi Magness estimates about 8000 troops in eight camps around Masada, and that is assuming a seige. But she says there are no signs of any seige weapons being used. And in any case, I say that number of troops would have been
unnecessary for a siege. The number can at least be doubled if there was no seige and the top was occupied. Masada was obviously the main Roman battle camp for the invading army. There is nothing else like it anywhere in Judea. The Romans took it as their main base because of its good water supplies (built by Herod the Great for a large army). The springs of Ein Gedi and the River Jordan would have presented very difficult logistics problems in desert conditions. No John, it is the writings attributed to Josephus that are bunk - the distortions and obfuscations of their Flavian editors.

It would have been natural for the Roman army to have taken all the fortresses (including incidentally Qumran) before they entered Jerusalem. These were the preliminary battles. Vespasian never went to Galilee (he was well experienced at inventing victories). And if you'll believe the story of the capture of Josephus at Jotapata, you'll believe anything. Josephus was Nero's historian.

January 06, 2010

 
Blogger John W. Loftus said...

I was responding to your arguments about water. I see you have other concerns. All I can say is that the hill does not look like a rock but rather a mound of gravel solidified over two centuries.

Yes, one must question Josephus and I think the scholars do

Cheers.

January 06, 2010

 
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January 07, 2010

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Why is John Loftus always pictured wearing a broad brimmed hat and glasses, even apparently while speaking to an audience, and in the presence of others who are hatless.

January 07, 2010

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

And how does John Loftus know I haven't been to Masada? I never said so here. Neither have I said anything to make John Loftus inclined to accept what I said. And why is he so anti conspiracy theory? Is he a part of a conspiracy?

I cant believe that that one who claims the equivalent of an academic status meant this when he wrote to Jim West: "Try this from Khan of Star Trek", unless he was already Jim West's friend and it was a joke, which makes the whole thing a joke. Jim West needed a break from blogging, and probably wanted to clear his weblog of anything that could incriminate him. So he got his friend "John Loftus" to stage manage a public dispute between them, as though they were enemies.

January 07, 2010

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Its that time of year again – the mad season. Take off the hat and remove the glasses and who have you got? Why, its our old friend N T Wrong. Jim West giving up blogging for now, may have taken you a little by surprise, but only a little. What wasn’t a surprise to you, was who John Loftus is. Why do biblical scholars have to get up to such deception! Why are you mixed up with this lot, James?

As for Jim West, how could he bring the perspectives of his opponents to bear, when he deleted their posts, as does his partner, Mark Goodacre.

January 07, 2010

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Of course one can buy John Loftus's books. Remember Earl Doherty and The Jesus Puzzle. Its good business promoting atheism, but why under psuedonymns. But then he (Jeffrey Gibson) doesn't promote the non-existence of Jesus, and he doesn't like "conspiracy" theories. It seems he wants to keep the money-maker, Jesus. But can things be as simple as that.

You may well remember the name Russell Gmirkin the supposed author of Berosus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus. As a Tarzan fanatic, Jeffrey Gibson created the name Russell Gmirkin from the name of the illustrator Russell George Manning. http://www.erbzine.com/mag8/0830.html.

Gibson was no doubt inspired by the imagination of Tarzan’s creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, ‘a master of fantasy adventure’ http://www.erbzine.com/.

January 07, 2010

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

'John' wrote: "Yes, one must question Josephus and I think the scholars do". Do you mean like Martin Goodman, who in his book Rome and Jerusalem, takes the battle for Masada literally, despite his reservations. So here is the irony typical of historians. According to Goodman, the sicarii had occupied the site in 66 CE, and the Romans didn’t choose to take it until 74. Goodman ignores the fact that it would not have been a good idea to have a fortress at their backs occupied by the enemy, before entering Jerusalem.

Secondly, Goodman also ignores his own evidence that Pliny the elder, writing between 70 and 79 mentions Masada as ‘a fortress on a rock, itself not far from the Dead Sea’, but makes no mention of a military campaign (probably, in my view, because it had been captured some years before by Nero in a short skirmish).

Thirdly, Goodman says, “Josephus failed to note what is, in some ways, the most peculiar aspect of Roman operations at Masada, and the most obvious explanation of the reticence about them in Roman sources: why the Romans bothered at all to spend such time, resources and effort in the capture of a rock in the wilderness of the Judaean desert”. Instead of seeing it as blatant propaganda, he stays with the literal option – a total Roman victory. Yet Goodman regards it as 'the most peculiar aspect of Roman operations', about which the Roman sources were reluctant to say anything.

January 08, 2010

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

The Essenes were Booming

Martin Goodman says that Pliny wrote about Masada in the period 70to 79 CE. Given that Pliny also wrote the about the Essenes, this was not a time of war, but a period of peace, that is after Nero had destroyed the power of the priests. This was before Vepasian put an end to the prophets (essenes) and destroyed the temple sanctuary. The five years of the so-called war was a time of peace.

This remarkable piece of independent information, puts a date of about 70 CE for Pliny being in the Dead Sea area, observing Essenes. In the time of peace, the prophets (essenes) flourished. Some did not marry. The prophets (essenes) were the first 'Christians'.

"To the west (of the Dead Sea) the Essenes have put the necessary distance between themselves and the insalubrious shore. They are a people unique of its kind and admirable beyond all others in the whole world; without women and renouncing love entirely, without money and having for company only palm trees. Owing to the throng of newcomers, this people is daily reborn in equal number; indeed, those whom, wearied by the fluctuations of fortune, life leads to adopt their customs, stream in in great numbers. Thus, unbeleivable though this may seem, for thousands of centuries a people has existed which is eternal yet into which no one is born: so fruitful for them is the repentance which others feel for their past lives!"

January 08, 2010

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

In additon to Pliny's comments about Essenes, here is another pointer to a short war in Judea: On page 19 of Rome and Jerusalem, Martin Goodman refers to a period from 67 to 69 as one when land sales were being conducted. If there was any hint that war was imminent, no-one would have been able to sell any land because there would have been no buyers. The buying and selling of land were related to a period of peace.

The comments quoted by Goodman from the land sale documents are a celebration of a freedom already obtained.

1.’the fourteenth of Elul, year two to the redemption of Israel in Jerusalem’

2.’on the twenty-first of Tishri, year four to the redemption of Israel in Jerusalem’

3.’on the …day of Marheshavan, year three to the freedom of Jerusalem’

Significant is the expression 'redemption of Israel'. The whole of Judaism was now freed from oppression by priests who had been destroyed by Nero's forces.

January 09, 2010

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

On page 19 of his book, Goodman writes: “It is clear that the authorities in Jerusalem believed themselves to be living in an independent and distinctive Jewish state”. (Goodman doesn’t state who he thinks “the authorities” are). In relation to the coins of the so-called First Revolt, Goodman has: “The coins contain no image in any way of Rome, even in emulation or antagonistic opposition.” One might have thought these feisty rebels would have minted coins with at least some indication of defiant rebellion against Rome. But no, there is none. They were pro Roman. And then Goodman goes on to talk about land sales in expectation of a settled future, and that while Vespasian and the Roman army were supposed to be breathing down everyone’s neck. Now this does not add up.

The Year 1-5 coins of the revolt were coins that celebrated a liberation with joyful images associated with the sanctuary and the Feast of Tabernacles. The so-called coins of the ‘revolt’ were coins of peace. Images on the coins were of sanctuary artifacts and sanctuary worship. The sanctuary worship was being maintained. But the coins show no indication that the same was true for the temple cult of animal sacrifices for sins.

Significantly, one of the coin inscriptions, was: ‘Shekel of Israel’. The liberation included all Jews, not just Jews of Judea. Israel been freed from oppression by priests? There had been a short war under Nero, and Nero granted those whom he liberated freedom to govern themselves, a freedom that was taken away by Vespasian when he came to power. Given his various statements about Pliny, land sale documents, and coins, related to the five years normally referred to as the period of the First Revolt, I am astonished that Goodman doesn’t recognise that those years were really a period of peace, and a period in which people did not anticipate any future war with the Romans, but the opposite.

January 10, 2010

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Hence, in 67 CE, in celebration of his victory in Judea, an inscription of a speech Nero gave at the Isthmian Games in Corinth was produced. It contained the words: "Other leaders have liberated cities, only Nero a province". It seems that the rest of the speech was lost, but was written for us by the Roman historian Plutarch.

Martin Goodman cites this inscription on page 140 of Rome and Jerusalem. Nero was travelling back to Rome through Greece (from Judea) when he made the speech at the Isthmian games in Corinth. Goodman slavishly follows Plutarch's line who claimed that Nero had 'liberated' Greece which would henceforth be free from Roman administration and taxation. So we have more Roman propaganda. It was Judea that was liberated and granted freedom from Roman administration and taxation, and that in late 66 CE to early 67.

January 10, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Er, what have your off-the-wall comments got to do with this topic, Geoff?

January 10, 2010

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Anonymous person. First, the comments are not off the wall. Second, there is irony in what biblical scholars, such as Jim West, teach, and have taught down the centuries. I can't believe for example, that Martin Goodman didn't think something different, but for some reason dare not say it.

January 10, 2010

 
Blogger beowulf2k8 said...

Jim's blog was boring anyway. More boring than mine, which also is closed down now.

January 11, 2010

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

If anyone takes the time to study the texts and the geography carefully, they will see that the description of “Japha” in War 3.7.31 has an uncanny resemblance to Masada. But “Japha” is described as being close to “Jotapata” which in War 3.7.7 has an uncanny description that fits the geography of the fortress at Qumran. “Japha” (similar to Masada) was taken before “Jotapata” (similar to Qumran). Both places were captured early in War. But even more uncanny is the similarity between the geographical descriptions of “Gamala” in War 4.1.1 and the fortress of Machaerus on the shore of the Dead Sea. Going with these similarities one might well conclude that the Roman’s battle plan was to take the fortresses around the Dead Sea first, starting with Masada. This would have been in 66 CE.

January 11, 2010

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Historian Brian W Jones wrote: “The Flavian historians on whom Suetonius relied strained the truth to and beyond its limits" (Page 35, Seutonius, Vespasian). Lying was endemic among Flavian historians.


In 66 Nero, aged 29, in his prime, left Rome, supposedly on a tour of Greece, starting in September 66 (Seut. Nero 22.3-24). Among a large entourage, Nero had with him Augustiani said to number 5000, members of the praetorian guard and perhaps the German imperial bodyguard. Also present were Vespasian together with other commanders, senators and equestrians, Ofonius Tigellinus (praetorian prefect).

Cynically, Dio (63.8.3) described the army as:

“a multitude not only of the Augustiani, but of other persons as well, large enough, if it had been a hostile host, to have subdued both Parthians and all other nations. But they were the kind you would have expected Nero’s soldiers to be, and the arms they carried were lyres and plectra, masks and buskins.”

I don’t think they were that kind of army. The cynicism tells it all. This was a large, well equipped army, about to go on some serious business with some serious weaponry, and that before embarking on any Greek excursion. The business, was war in Judea, starting with Masada. This was going to be a short war, led by Nero himself, seeking his own triumph with an overwhelming force.

January 11, 2010

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

During his “tour of Greece” that supposedly began in 66, Nero, according to Seutonius, “sang publicly” (Nero 22.3-24). And Nero insisted that the “contests” be rearranged to suit his timetable (Nero 23.1). And woe betide anyone who was inattentive or who left during one of Nero’s “performances” (Nero 23.2). “Lyres”, “plectra”, “masks” and “buskins” were the mockings of Flavian historians inherited by Seutonius about the weapons of Nero’s army, and Nero’s “performances” were battles in which Nero was involved, Nero rearranging the timetable of “contests” was Nero dictating battle order, and Nero “singing publicly” was Nero taking part in the battles himself. Soldiers leaving the scene of a battle could be serious and the source of some anger on the part of the commander in chief.

January 12, 2010

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

According to Suetonius, Vespasian is supposed to have either walked out of Nero’s so-called “performances” on several occasions, or fallen asleep during one of them, as though he treated the emperor with contempt. Such was the Flavian desire to boost Vespasian’s image at the expense of Nero’s.

“Performances” were battles, and Vespasian had left one, much to the emperor’s disgust. During the battle for “Jotapata” (the fortress of Qumran), a dart is supposed to have hit Vespasian in the foot. (War 3.7.22). The news is supposed to have caused disorder among the Roman soldiers who feared for their commander. They left off the attack and came to "Vespasian", supposedly led by "Titus", Vespasian’s son. Vespasian is said to have been above his pains and encouraged the soldiers to resume the attack. The Flavian propaganda is evident. It was Nero who was hit with a dart, and it was Vespasian who led the retreat to curry favour with Nero, much to the latter’s annoyance. And it was Nero who gave the order to continue the fight.

Those living at Qumran, were priests, the same sort as those living on Masada. Both sites were attacked and taken by the Romans, "Japha" (Masada) first, and "Jotapata" (qumran) second.

January 13, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geoff, what has any of this got to do with Jim West's blog? Really?

January 13, 2010

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Very little! I just took James's reference to "irony" as a queue.

January 13, 2010

 
Anonymous Tom Verenna said...

I've had my own bouts with Loftus; he has a serious problem with attacking individuals and not the arguments and, often, falls prey to not reading the whole argument anyway and attacks the idea of an argument rather than the argument itself. If you search "John Loftus" on my blog, you'll see what I mean.

I can respect Jim's frustration with Loftus as I have lived it.

February 15, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reverend West might have had the dignity to condemn the chilling criminalization of irony taking place in New York. Instead he exulted in it. How's that for human decency.

One scholar has spoken out:

http://tzvee.blogspot.com/2009/11/is-raphael-golb-guilty.html

April 08, 2010

 
Anonymous Craig said...

I had a short chat with Jim West on e-mail, he simply told me that he was bored with blogging. I respect his decision, perhaps he will come back in his time? I have always maintained myself the limits of blogging. But best to him as he moves into what the Lord puts on his heart and mind.

September 13, 2011

 
Anonymous Buy Nexium online said...

When spring came Nancy returned to her former mistress, and her vacant throne remained unoccupied.

December 29, 2011

 
Anonymous Mae said...

You are definitely right to say that internet has made a huge impact to scholarship and even to anything that we are doing nowadays. Reading blogs of someone who catches our attention and share same idea is amazing. Influential or not, the important thing is that you have shared what you know and believe in.

June 06, 2013

 

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