This is a blog to discuss philosophy, chess, politics,
C. S. Lewis, or whatever it is that I'm in the mood to discuss.
I think some of Holding's stuff is good, but he's such a lightning rod for controversy (and for good reason) that I'm not sure if citing him is a good idea.
I thought of that myself. But I thought that arguments could be considered apart from who might have made them.
Regardless of whether the author of Acts was familiar with Josephus or not, I still feel that it is entirely possible that he had access to written sources about Paul's travels without having actually been a companion of Paul's. And Pervo's argument for late dating extends beyond just Josephan parallels.The fact that scholars with advanced degrees line up on both sides of the fence shows that neither side really has a slam dunk argument.
So someone else would have kept a written record of Paul's travels? Who? Appeals to authority here don't mean a whole lot to me.
Actually, if the Christian community had a way of preserving this kind of information over the period when Paul was alive all the way to the second century, then, once again, you undercut the argument that all that time allows for plenty of distorted. It somehow came through undistorted over that long period of time. That is, I think, more troubling for the skeptic than for the believer.
Steve Mason, a Josephan scholar who thinks Luke used Josephus, acknowledges that his view doesn't have much scholarly support. Regarding the idea that either author borrowed from the other, he writes:"Neither position has much of a following today, because of the significant differences between the two works in their accounts of the same events." (Josephus And The New Testament [Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2005], p. 251)Darrell Bock comments that the notion that Luke borrowed from Josephus "has not won wide consent" (Acts [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2007], n. 27 on p. 27).
See, also, Chris Price's material on Acts. The first article listed there includes material on the idea that Luke used Josephus.
So someone else would have kept a written record of Paul's travels? Who? We don't even have biblical manuscript evidence from this era. Who can say what written sources were available to "Luke" that are no longer available to us the 21st century?As far as dating of Acts goes F.F. Bruce put it at late 70s to early 80s. William Ramsay put it at early 80s. Pervo simply pushes it back another 30 years. It does not seem all that incredible a claim to me. The real heart of the argument here is not when Acts was written, but whether if the author was an actual eyewitness to Paul's travels and miracles or was he a later historian with good sources writing a "popular narrative" fashioned with a theological agenda in mind?Since Acts seems to contradict some of Paul's own letters, I'll go with the belief that the author was not a companion of Paul but someone writing later in an attempt to unite Paul's Hellenized Christianity with Peter's more Torah observant Jewish Christianity. Acts is a catholicizing document. Acts is also very "Roman friendly," which can account for why the author does not mention the Roman destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem nor the execution of Paul at the hands of the Romans.
Walter,You wrote:The fact that scholars with advanced degrees line up on both sides of the fence shows that neither side really has a slam dunk argument.I think this is not a reasonable conclusion to draw. It may be reasonable for those who haven't looked into the matter themselves to hold their views rather lightly. But expert disagreement can also arise from serious methodological errors and bias in assessment of source material. You no doubt believe that this phenomenon occurs in the work of large numbers of conservative Christian New Testament scholars. Consider the possibility that it might occur in the work of people who are on the far left fringe as well.
Bob Prokop writing:Or, alternatively, the non-mention of either the destruction of the Temple or of Paul's execution might imply that Acts was written prior to both events...
Or, alternatively, the non-mention of either the destruction of the Temple or of Paul's execution might imply that Acts was written prior to both events...Maybe.The author also makes it clear that the Jews are responsible for Jesus' death and not good-hearted Pilate who did everything he could to get Jesus released. The Romans would have crucified Jesus on the charge of sedition and it is doubtful that they would have crucified Jesus just to pacify some Jews. The author of Acts wants to downplay Roman guilt to show that his particular sect of Christianity was no threat to Rome.
Tim says...I think this is not a reasonable conclusion to draw. It may be reasonable for those who haven't looked into the matter themselves to hold their views rather lightly. But expert disagreement can also arise from serious methodological errors and bias in assessment of source material.And I am sure that you feel that the methodological errors and bias only exists on the skeptical side, right? In my opinion conservative Christian scholars often have a prior faith commitment to an immutable conclusion about what happened 2000 years ago. The evidence then has to be interpreted in such a manner as to make it fit the conclusion already arrived at by faith. That charge can also be reversed onto the skeptic who is biased against the supernatural.It may aggravate you when I mention "dueling scholars," but that is exactly what is going on in New Testament studies. For every PhD that espouses conservative views, there is another PhD that has a very different view. For those of us who are not NT scholars we are at the mercy of the experts. The problem is that there are experts in both "camps."
I own and have read Steve Mason's book in the 2nd (2003) edition. The relevant material is in ch. 6, pp. 251ff. On pp. 252-73, Mason compares the type of writing in Josephus and Luke-Acts and concludes that they belong to the same genre: historical writing. I find his argument here persuasive and his conclusion obvious. People who have been pushing Pervo's work should know that this conclusion flatly contradicts one of Pervo's central theses.Mason turns next to "commonly reported events." Here, his case is much weaker. His discussion of the census in Luke 2 does not engage with any of the scholarly work that has been done on this issue, and his omission of the numerous divergences between Luke’s brief mention of an enrollment and Josephus’s detailed discussion of the political fallout of Quirinius’s taxation leaves me wondering just how much of ancient history could be rewritten if we all allowed ourselves to be this selective. Mason’s claim (p. 277 in my edition) that the differences “might best be explained if Luke knew some highlights of Josephus’s narrative but did not recall, or was not concerned with, the details” leaves this whole mode of argumentation hanging in the air. Points of correspondence are explained by saying that Luke is following Josephus; points of difference, by saying that Luke forgot or fudged the details again and again. Again, Richard Carrier argues that in Josephus, an enrollment under Quirinius serves as a turning point in the story in which wicked Jews ultimately bring down Judea and the Temple, and that this is a parallel to the story in Luke 2. There isn’t really much of a parallel here; in Luke, an enrollment that bears some obscure relation to Quirinius is the cause for the location of the birth of the savior of the Jews, and humble shepherds come to adore him. But this can be seen as a parallel, according to Carrier, because Luke “transvalues” Josephus’s message -- and besides, in the end, the Temple does get destroyed. (Never mind that this destruction is never mentioned by Luke, narrative of events does not extend beyond A.D. 63.) When we are reduced to finding “parallels” in completely different events by “transvaluation,” we are no longer doing history. The texts have been reduced to a set of linguistic Rorschach blots. With this sort of methodology, one can prove almost anything.
Walter,You said:For those of us who are not NT scholars we are at the mercy of the experts.Actually, it's not difficult to evaluate the arguments used by some of these experts. In my previous comment here, I did that with Mason and Carrier. In neither case did I have to appeal to the "anti-supernatural bias" argument; the problem is that they're using lousy forms of argument that can be evaluated on their own merits. What I am saying here is similar to a a point that Vic has tried to make several times, but it's worth repeating: when a piece of historical or philological reasoning turns out to depend crucially on philosophical assumptions, philosophers are competent to speak to those assumptions. Mutatis mutandis, when the force of the reasoning depends on the cogency of a particular form of argument, someone with expertise in the form of arguments is competent to render an evaluation -- in some cases, perhaps, more competent than those whose expertise is solely in the history.
Acts of the ApostlesThe above link to Peter Kirby's site EarlyChristianWritings has a pretty good discussion about the dating of Acts.
Walter said... In my opinion conservative Christian scholars often have a prior faith commitment to an immutable conclusion about what happened 2000 years ago. "Walter that almost seems like extremely good reason to apply the Pervo questionable charactor rule.Not suggesting it is.Just saying it could very well be, non believer sex deviant V believer not interested in truth.One has sexually deviant pictures of children,the other a religiously faithful old man polygamist with a number of very young wives.Its the reason why im always a little wary whenever people try to dig up personal dirt on certain people,in a very personal type way.Also why i feel drawn to agree with the second comment.
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