So far only two contemporary books have been written in defense of the historicity of Jesus (nothing properly comparable has been published in almost a hundred years). They both suck. Which is annoying, because it should not be hard to write a good book in defense of historicity. And to be “good” I don’t require that it be successful, or convincing (though I would welcome that!), just worth reading, honest, accurate, informative, well-organized, well-sourced, giving mythicism the best shot possible, and being as self-critical as anyone would want mythicists to be. But alas, what we have are two travesties.
I already exposed all the egregious errors of fact and logic in Bart Ehrman’s sad armchair failure at this. Which evidently provoked him to repeatedly lie about what happened, which I then also documented. I consider him disgraced as a scholar. If you have to tell lies to save face, rather than admit a mistake and do better, you are done in this business. Or certainly ought to be. Anyway, I’ve already summarized that sorry story, with links and summaries (Ehrman on Historicity Recap).
Now we have Maurice Casey’s book defending the historicity of Jesus, Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths? (T&T Clark, 2014…if you want to spend less or have a searchable text, it’s also available on kindle). It’s hard to compare the two books. Ehrman is at least a talented writer and mostly coherent thinker. In Jesus, Casey is neither.
The best way to describe this book is to imagine a rambling weirdo running into a grove of orange trees with a hammer and in a random frenzy smacking half the low hanging fruit, and then beating his chest and declaring proudly how the trees are now barren. Indeed. This book consists of a wandering, disorganized stream-of-consciousness of half-intelligible pontificating that very much reminded me of Eric Jonrosh. Except Jonrosh was eloquent. Indeed, the first two chapters almost read like a junior high schooler’s meandering rant on a sleepover, a total he-said-then-she-said gossip fest, where for long bouts all he does is clutch a fluffy pillow and trash talk people and obsess over Stephanie Fisher, while waiting for his friend’s mother to bring the smores. You might think that surely I am being unfair. No. Seriously. Read it.
(And BTW, when I say obsessed with Stephanie Fisher, I mean obsessed. He references or quotes this wholly unpublished graduate student seventeen times. He also copiously fawns on her in his Preface, which by itself would have been sweet.)
Here I’ll first summarize my more in-depth take on the book in a few more paragraphs, then catalog some common themes that render the book simultaneously amusing, insufferable, and useless, then analyze its contents in greater detail. Those who don’t want to labor on through the more detailed analyses may be satisfied with only the following summary…
Casey’s Jesus has no structure or organization capable of being analyzed. It is basically just a random jump from digression to digression, very loosely grouped into eight topical chapters, as he randomly picks some item or other from mythicist literature in that general topic (why that one and not others, no idea), rants about it for a bit, then suddenly starts ranting about another random topic, with only the barest thread of connected thought process between them. It is an extraordinarily frustrating book to read for that reason. He also repeats himself frequently, digresses at odd times on topics not significantly related to the book’s thesis, and never actually gets around to explaining what his argument for the historicity of Jesus actually is. You can sort of reconstruct it on your own, if you have patience and endurance, but it’s weird that you have to do this.
There is also an extraordinary amount of dishonesty and misrepresentation (although I suspect in many cases this is actually a cognitive defect: Casey literally doesn’t understand what his opponents are saying quite a lot of the time–I will have more to say on this point below), as well as a fairly consistent reliance on straw man argumentation (he often ignores–in fact, completely fails even to mention–all the strong points made by an opponent on some subject and only mentions and critiques the weak ones, or only chooses to address an argument as made by a lousy mythicist, ignoring the much better versions of the same argument made by more reliable mythicists).
This book is also characterized by an awe-inspiringly near-total reliance on a single argument for historicity that is monumentally illogical (the Criterion of Aramaicism). I say near-total, because he has one other argument to stand on, borrowed from Christian apologetics, which is his mildly contradictory insistence that in his letters Paul is talking about the historical Jesus all the time, and simultaneously didn’t talk about the historical Jesus because he never had to. (Yes, those are his only two arguments in defense of historicity. He wisely dodges relying on any extrabiblical evidence, although he briefly flirts with the James passage in Josephus, and he mentions the other passage in Josephus and the one in Tacitus, but doesn’t make any clear argument from them.)
I say those are his only two arguments for historicity because all his other arguments are rebuttals to certain arguments for mythicism, and it would be the fallacy fallacy to claim that because the case for mythicism is fallacious, therefore mythicism is false. And I will be charitable and assume Casey would not claim to be making that argument. (Since, again, he never actually explicitly ever says what his arguments for historicity are, so I am here having to reconstruct them.) His rebuttals to arguments for mythicism are sometimes correct (I myself have criticized many of them), sometimes fallacious (usually straw men or red herrings), and ultimately incomplete (there are several important arguments he doesn’t even mention at all).
Most frustrating is the fact that even when he tackles a genuinely faulty mythicist argument he still often resorts to misrepresentations, red herrings, and straw men. And most of the book’s argument is just his exegetical pontification for pages and pages and pages. The endnotes are nowhere near as full of scholarly citations or primary evidence as they should be, and ironically, while he complains about mythicists not being up on the literature, Casey is often not up on the literature. Rarely in this book did I find any instance in which Casey actually took the trouble to extensively research the evidence and scholarship pertaining to a claim and construct an analysis from it (the most frequent exception would be his constant reliance on his own past work in Aramaic).
The flaws in the book render it pretty much useless. You won’t ever know if Casey is honestly representing his opponents or even correctly describing what they’ve said (without just reading his opponents directly, which you can do more ably without his book). You often won’t know if something he is claiming is actually the mainstream consensus or a fringe view or still widely debated. You won’t find any refutations of the best mythicist arguments for any point. And you’ll get a headache trying to endure its tedious, rambling, child-like writing style, splattered with repetitious bouts of emotionally bitter pomposity. Moreover, nowhere in this book does he address the latest, peer reviewed mythicist scholarship: he never responds to my book Proving History (2012) or Thomas Brodie’s Beyond the Quest (2012). So his book was obsolete the moment it went to press.
But I will say there are two reasons to get and read the book: (1) I very much want you to read his book, after reading my book On the Historicity of Jesus–because historicity will be well done and dead once you see the difference between how I make a case for mythicism (and what an organized, careful, thorough work of scholarship looks like), and this bizarre quasi-fundamentalist travesty of a defense for historicity; and (2) the first few chapters are awesome, and I mean awesome, drunken party reads. Get a party load of atheists and historians or just any humanities folk, pass around the fine whiskey, ale or wine, and have different people just read randomly selected sections dramatically (with flourish). With a good buzz on, it’s genuinely funny stuff. Because it’s not supposed to be funny at all. (It will be most funny to literary geeks. The simplistic sentence structure is amusement itself. The pomposity, non sequiturs, and obsession with gossip and irrelevancies and Stephanie Fisher, bonus.)
Now for the Detail
For the following, be aware, I only read the kindle edition, which I only mention because despite being produced by a supposedly significant publisher, this doesn’t have a print edition pagination. Now, I produce my own kindle books from my own print editions from practically my own garage, and they have print edition pagination (or, rather, the ones do that I produced when kindle finally let you do that, which has been a couple years now). All my work with Prometheus Books also has print edition pagination. There is no excuse for any serious publisher, especially a scholarly publisher (where print pagination is crucial to citation procedure), not to do this. But that’s T&T Clark still banging rocks together in a cave I suppose. In consequence, I can only give kindle location numbers for my quotes and cites (I’ll also include chapter number, like this: 1-148 means chapter 1, location 148; or if I cite a note, 1-148 n. 8 means the same, but more specifically endnote 8).
Another caveat: Casey’s book is full of claims about what people have said that I don’t always trust to be true, but checking all his facts (blogs, comment threads, hunting down books and articles), checking the actual context and actual reality of what was said, is just a waste of time. I’ve caught enough examples of this to confirm his book is simply untrustworthy. I document them below.
- General Categories of Awful
- The Josephus Travesty
- How Historians Actually Date Things
- Dating the Ascension of Isaiah
- The Argument from Hypothesized Aramaic Sources
- The Greek Goof
- High Culture Nonsense
- Mimicking a Stock Christian Apologetic Treatment of Paul
- Inanna Wasn’t Crucified, She Was Just Nailed Up Dead
- Deficit of Hypothetical-Categorical Reasoning
- Not Always Wrong
- But, Too Often, Wrong
General Categories of Awful
Conspicuous Selection Bias: Casey blows a bunch of pages defending himself against fundamentalist (?) scholar Paul Owen, who is not a mythicist, nor does anything in this section have anything to do with mythicism or even, really, the historicity of Jesus, except in the one sense that Owen has challenged Casey’s logic in using the Criterion of Aramaicism (1-230ff.). But in that respect, conspicuously absent is any mention of or engagement with Casey’s non-fundamentalist critics in academia, or indeed any other critics in academia. He doesn’t even mention they exist. Low hanging fruit. Tops of the trees untouched.
False Generalization Fallacies: Casey repeatedly makes sweeping false statements about “all” mythicists, and in some cases explicitly implies certain mythicists have said or done things that in fact they never have, thereby tarring all mythicists with the same brush. He has no trouble implying that, for example, Acharya S / Dorothy Murdock’s unfortunate penchant for relying on wildly unreliable and outdated 19th century scholarship is shared by all mythicists. It is not. But no one reading Casey will ever be informed of that. Which is not just a failure of scholarly professionalism and responsibility, but of basic honesty.
Similarly, Casey essentially says all mythicists claim Jesus was based on a “Pagan Godman…born in a cave…on the twenty-fifth of December” (1-492), when in fact several of us (e.g., Doherty, Thompson and myself) make no such claims. A reader of this book is never told that. Casey also not only conflates all mythicists, but also all media: throughout, podcast interviews and blog comments are treated by the same standards as carefully researched or even peer reviewed books and articles. Likewise, his claim that we all date the Gospels very late, or that we all date them by the earliest recovered manuscripts. We do not. Readers will never learn that. And so on and so on. Basically, every time he says what “mythicists” say or do, he is in effect lying: we do not all say or do those things, and he makes no responsible effort to tell the difference, or educate his readers on it.
Contempt for a Willingness to Change One’s Mind: of “Blogger Godfrey” Casey actually says (no kidding), “he has had two conversion experiences (sic), and this means that his contempt for evidence and argument as means of reaching (sic) decisions about important matters is central to his life” (1-749). No, there is no context explaining that judgment. He just blurts it out, as so. So he literally just said that someone who is willing to significantly change their mind multiple times, is by definition someone who has contempt for evidence and argument. This is George W. Bush logic. Most of us see a rigid inability to ever change one’s mind or admit they’re wrong as contempt for evidence and argument. Not the other way around. This hyper-conservative fear of change in Casey is disturbing. It means he’s dogmatically opposed to ever changing his mind or admitting he’s wrong. For he would regard that as contempt for evidence and argument. Take note.
Really Bad at Math: Casey exhibits humorous innumeracy at several points. In fact, it’s such an interesting variety of innumeracy it counts as a wholly new example to those I wrote about before. Once (1-410 to 424), he chides me for saying “most Jesus historians have never read” the Ascension of Isaiah (a fact I have confirmed personally in conversations with Jesus historians…most I’ve spoken to, in fact, had never heard of it, which is not unusual, because there is an enormous amount of apocrypha and few historians familiarize themselves with it all, nor should be expected to), declaring that that is false because some “decent critical scholars” have worked on it (and claiming I am not familiar with them…how he would know that I have no idea; I actually am familiar with them). I will allow the sixth graders in the audience to work out why “some x are y” does not make “most x are not y” false.
He does this again when he says later Christian churches wouldn’t know anything about Judaism because their congregations had become “more and more Gentile” (3-2283), evidently mistaking “more and more x” as the converse of “no x.” And again when he says Matthew can’t have written when “most of the people present during the historic ministry [of Jesus] were dead” (3-2403) because Matthew says “some of the people present” then would still be alive when Jesus returned. Here, he innumerately imagines “most are dead” entails “some are alive” is false. In another instance, after quoting me saying Innana’s passion narrative dates “over a thousand years before Christ” (7-5994), he complains that the story is “older than Carrier claims.” I’ll let you do the math on that.
Quasi-Freudian Conspiracy Theories: Casey tries so hard to push a false narrative that all mythicists are just delusionally angry ex-fundamentalist Christians, that he ignores my autobiography (Sense and Goodness without God I.2, pp. 9-19) and pretends to magically know I used to be a fundamentalist, and then proceeds to falsely imply it. In actual fact I was never a part of any fundamentalist or even conservative Christian tradition, and only started discovering what those people were like after I became an atheist. In fact, I grew up in an extremely liberal version of Christianity and was never asked to profess any faith in it, and never did, and moreover, my Sunday School taught me nothing in the Bible was to be taken literally. This thoroughly falsifies Casey’s entire psychological thesis (because even just one black swan refutes the thesis that all swans are white), yet he leans on that thesis prodigiously throughout the book. Oops.
And by the way, when Neil Godfrey points out that Casey leans on this argument all the time, Casey has the hominid headbone to say “I have never maintained any such thing” (1-858). Yes. That’s pretty much the most shockingly brazen lie in the book. So the conversation basically has gone like this (paraphrasing):
CASEY: “Your conversion to atheism from fundamentalism discredits you because it’s just trading one extremism for another.”
GODFREY: “Casey dares to claim a conversion to atheism from fundamentalism discredits us because it’s just trading one extremism for another.”
CASEY: “I never said any such thing!”
Right. Never. Except for repeatedly in your book. (Indeed, marvelously, at 1-382 Casey quotes favorably almost the exact same line Godfrey is echoing back at him at 1-857 and which Casey there denies. Not even kidding. Check it out.)
Crazy Uncles: A “crazy uncle” is when someone suddenly goes on some unrelated, illogical, maybe even mildly offensive anecdotal tangent that makes everyone stop and go “Wait, what?” Casey crazy uncles a few times throughout the book. For example, when he quotes Tim Widowfield (who left the Church of the Nazarene) discussing the fear he felt as a believer that he would accidentally blaspheme the Holy Spirit and thus be unforgivably damned (Mark 3:29), a report I have heard from many other believers (so Widowfield is not alone), Casey completely dismisses this as a lie, using this incredibly scientific method:
This bears no reasonable relationship to the life of Sarah, the only member of the Church of the Nazarene with whom I have knowingly worked. She seemed very happy, and when we went out from a seminar on the use of the Old Testament in the New, she came to the pub with me. As far as I remember, I bought orange juice for her while I got cider for myself, but I can’t see anything wrong with that, she certainly was not living a life of fear, and she was well able to take part in academic debates. (1-842)
Seriously. No, in case you were wondering, he never introduced this Sarah anywhere before this. Just suddenly comes up. Out of the blue. Yes, this is how he writes. Weirdly simplistic stuttering sentences. Yes, he just said he knows what Sarah thinks about what Godfrey was talking about without ever having asked her. Yes, he just generalized to every fundamentalist on earth from a brief experience with a sample size of exactly just one person. Yes, bothering to mention what he bought them to drink is weird. Yes, using an anecdote like this to dismiss the devastating experiences of millions of people (read Winell, Tarico, Heimlich) is at least mildly offensive, and is most definitely a crazy uncle. (Orange juice!)
Another (but much duller) crazy uncle is the entirety of chapter 2. Entitled “Historical Method,” it never once ever explains what historical method is. He cites some random works on the subject, but never explains what they argue, and spends almost no time on that, but instead blathers on about how he is awesome and everyone else is an idiot. It’s pretty much just one long crazy uncle. For a proper discussion of (and bibliography on) historical method (and the requisite philosophy of history) see Proving History (esp. chapters two, four, and five, and n. 3, p. 306). Compare.
Sometimes his crazy uncles are so brief you might miss them, like his inexplicable need to point out that a particular writer is both gay and a socialist (7-6090, both facts irrelevant to any point he then makes). Combine that with his lack of humor and disgust with even mild sex jokes (see below), and dismissing someone because they are a “biased Jew” (7-5918), and he almost looks like Rupert Murdock. The ultimate crazy uncle.
Not Noticing His Opponents Aren’t Mythicists: Two of the writers he most extensively tackles with furor are Neil Godfrey and Tim Widfowfield, who both write at Vridar. They happen to be some of the most astute and well-read amateurs you can read on the internet on the subject of biblical historicity. I call them amateurs only for the reason that they don’t have, so far as I know, advanced degrees in the subject. But I have often been impressed with their grasp of logic and analysis of scholarship. I don’t always agree with them, but I respect their work. Casey loathes them. And attacks them as mythicists throughout the book, of course lumping them in with all other mythicists.
But, um, here’s the thing…
Neither Tim Widowfield nor myself are mythicists. Tim is an agnostic on the question. I am not interested in arguing a case for mythicism–I have always argued pretty much along the same lines as Thomas L. Thompson—that is, the question is irrelevant for understanding the origins of the gospels and the Jesus of the gospels. That question is primarily literary and theological and any role a historical figure may have played is probably irrelevant given the state of the evidence. I am more interested in exploring the origins and nature of the gospels and Bible–the [historicity of Jesus] question is irrelevant as far as I can see from the evidence we have available to work with.
I have never argued for a mythicist position. My critiques of the methods of theologians has led some to falsely assume I’m a mythicist. I’m not. I do sympathize with certain mythicist arguments of others as offering the most economical explanation for our canonical NT literature and Christian origins and some of these authors do post on my blog. At the same time I have disagreements with aspects of their arguments. I am only interested in the theoretical explanatory power of their views for Christian origins, not with “proving Jesus was a myth.”
That direct from Neil Godfrey (personal communication). Incidentally, Thompson is also only a historicity agnostic, a fact Casey conspicuously neither mentions nor seems to realize (“even though a historical Jesus might be essential to the origins of Christianity, such a need is not obviously shared by the gospels,” Thompson, Messiah Myth, p. 8).
And in Other Ways Not Paying Attention: A common mistake (both Casey and Ehrman commit it) is to engage in black and white thinking and assume that when a mythicist refers to Jesus as a divine being, s/he means “identical to God,” because apparently the only options are “just a man” or “entirely identical to God.” That bespeaks not paying attention. No mythicist worth reading has ever said that. Jesus is a divine being in the same sense that the Archangel Michael is a divine being. So trying to school us on the fact that Jesus being equated with God was a later development just makes you look like a Freshman college student who didn’t pay attention in class. We are well aware that Jesus being equated with God was a later development. Jesus was still regarded as a divine being as early as Paul. If you don’t understand how those two facts are compatible, you are not qualified to engage in this debate. Casey never gets this (e.g., 6-4400ff.), and thus his book fails to address any actual mythicism worth addressing. There are many more examples throughout the book where Casey literally doesn’t understand the position he is arguing against, and thus he wastes pages arguing against a phantom, and never the actual point a mythicist made.
Another example of not paying attention is when Casey accuses Thompson of being incompetent because Thompson says Mark 7 is about “hygiene” when in fact it’s about purity laws (7-5869). Except that it’s obvious to anyone who actually reads the passage in question that Thompson meant spiritual hygiene, in other words, purity laws. As one can infer from the fact that in the cited section that is exactly what Thompson goes on to talk about (and never once brings up biological hygiene). Indeed, Casey even boneheadedly says “anyone familiar with the book of Leviticus should have known at least that much,” yet in the very passage Casey is talking about, Thompson cites and discusses Leviticus in exactly that respect. This is either insane or dishonest. It’s hard to tell which. But if we are to suppose Casey is not a shameless liar (and among the dumbest rocks in the box for thinking no one would check and catch out his lie), we must conclude he can’t even read a basic paragraph in English, and consequently cannot be trusted to ever correctly represent what anyone says. Which dooms his book to the dustbin for its hopeless unreliability.
Incompatible Opinions on Things: He complains a great deal about how American academia is plagued with over-influence from fundamentalists; then complains that we Americans are obsessed with criticizing fundamentalism. He evidently can’t put those two facts together and realize he’s misplaced his concern. Indeed, fundamentalism isn’t just a problem for our academics. It not only seriously threatens our domestic welfare and liberties as well, but also fundamentally drives our destructive American foreign policy, so our “obsession with fundamentalism” is something a foreigner should be extremely glad of. Don’t you think? In fact, we’d appreciate it if you even gave us a hand with that.
Casey also alleges there is something telling about the fact that my dissertation hasn’t been published yet (1-427)–in fact it has been in peer review at UC Press for years for want of qualified reviewers–but Casey himself opens the book by apologizing for how long some of his books took to get to press because “peer review behind the scenes…lead to massive delay in publication” (1-185). In fact he implies ten to twenty years delay, far longer than I’ve endured, although I couldn’t tell for certain from his timeline. But which is it? The egregiously long wait time peer review sometimes causes proves your work sucks (wait for that one to bite you, Dr. Casey), or it’s totally normal for that to happen even for top quality work? (Incidentally, getting past a Dissertation Committee entails passing vastly more peer review than an academic publisher ever provides, of better quality and more numerous reviewers, which is one thing seriously defective about modern academic presses: they haven’t figured out how to be efficient.)
No Sense of Humor: Casey amusingly is very disturbed by a humor piece I wrote once, and somehow actually confuses it with my serious scholarship. In the process, he reveals how incapable he is of even understanding or processing humor, but also how utterly humorless he is. He must be insufferable company. He mentions my M.Phil. thesis on Herod the Great, and instead of commenting on that (you know, my actual scholarship) he says I “subsequently wrote about it online, in a way that reveals [my] obsession with the Bible not being inerrant” [notably not at all a feature of the thesis in question, which that article linked to, and evidently Casey didn’t read] and quotes a sarcastic line from it making fun of fundamentalists–and somehow doesn’t realize it’s sarcasm, or even a joke (1-402). He thinks I was being serious (!) and tries to mount a rebuttal. Which is hilarious.
I put in scare quotes a joke Christian argument about us “mean atheist harpies” challenging their weird apologetical arguments (relying on bad history, incidentally, the very thing Casey is also writing a whole book attacking–so, no sense of irony, either), and Casey replies “All critical scholars, the majority of whom have been Christians, not ‘mean atheist harpies’, have known for years that the birth stories in” the Gospels are rubbish, yadda yadda yadda (he goes on like that for a bit). Notice how he thinks I actually said critical scholars are all atheists, when in fact the joke was (as this was in a mock fundamentalist voice, in scare quotes even) that fundamentalists think everyone who argues these points is an atheist. That’s the joke. That’s called humor. FYI. (I suppose I should also add that it is rich to see him try to school me on what critical scholars think when I wrote a whole peer reviewed book about it called Proving History, which he even lists, but clearly never read. He never once addresses it in this book. Ever. At all.)
As if to really prove to us his complete lack of humor, he concludes by quoting this same humor piece where I make a joke about a hooker (based, in fact, on an actual story in an actual ancient source–evidently, Casey doesn’t like it when history is fun, and, as if he were a fundamentalist, has weird prudish hangups about sex…I can’t help that, when he says he likes another blogger’s “sometimes somewhat naughty comments,” I imagine the headline, Woman Shows Ankle to Chimney Sweep Shock!). Anyway, hooker joke. His reaction? “I cannot see any point in unscholarly writing like this” (1-414). I could be charitable and assume he means he just doesn’t like humor pieces. But it certainly appears that what he means is that there is no point in reading my actual scholarly thesis on Herod the Great, simply because elsewhere, in a completely different venue, I write a humorous editorial that has too much sex in it for him and whose jokes he doesn’t understand. I think this is more worrying than you might realize. Because I find people who have no sense of humor and literally don’t understand jokes, are often incapable of self-critical reasoning. Which brings me to…
Hypocrisy: Casey complains about bloggers declaring “negative views about scholarship” (1-148), then repeatedly praises Stephanie Fisher, who has won the ire of nearly the entire profession for slagging off tons of respected experts in the field as ignorant pseudo-scholars. Indeed, she commits, flagrantly and worse than anyone, nearly every single fault Casey attacks bloggers for. See A Childish Book Review: Stephanie Louise Fisher and the Travesty of Not Getting It. Notably, I not only caught her at this, but at making significant errors, and outright lying. Take note, because in this book, for some weird reason, he relies on Sephanie Fisher’s internet arguments a lot…even though she has a reputation for dishonesty and error.
Casey himself acts like an elitist child, for example calling people he wishes to critique Blogger Godfrey and Blogger Carr, etc., repeatedly and consistently, as if Blogger were a proper noun and their first name. In some cases, he almost never even mentions they have first names (Blogger Widowfield happens to be named Tim. You will learn this only if you happen to read all the way through endnote 82 of chapter 1, where I’m almost certain it appears by accident, and that’s after Casey’s having spoken of this man as only Blogger Widowfield eight times, one of which an actual biographical section specifically about him titled simply Blogger Widowfield). He complains about “malice and spite” (1-879), and then fills his book with malice and spite. Seriously.
Casey also attacks mythicists for relying on fundamentalists (they don’t really), then relies on a fundamentalist himself: since he wants to defend biblical inerrancy when it suits him (while on other occasions insisting he rejects it), he needs 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 to be authentic, even though it has been widely challenged by mainstream experts in his field, so he cites in defense of it R.H. Bell, a Lutheran traditionalist, in fact citing a treatise by Bell that is explicitly theo-political, defending the thesis that Christians should evangelize Jews (6-5339 n. 82). Casey otherwise rejects scholarly work he doesn’t like when written by a “biased Jew” (7-5918), but evidently an egregiously biased Lutheran traditionalist is okay.
To be fair, Casey also cites the more secular Carol Schlueter’s treatise in defense of his position (today, those are about the only experts he could cite who still make this argument in print), but here we are entertained by the fact that throughout his book Casey slags off all scholars who are ignorant of or careless with the original languages, declaring them unreliable and unworthy of attention, and yet Schlueter was caught making exactly the kind of egregious error in defense of her (and thus Casey’s) conclusion that Casey says should disqualify her.
In A. Katherine Grieb’s review of Schlueter’s book in the Journal of Biblical Literature (115.4 Winter 1996, pp. 766-768), we learn that…
Unfortunately, she works primarily from translation, notably the RSV; this inhibits her argument at several points. A glaring example is found in her discussion of Rom 11:28 (e.g., at p. 179) where she uncritically takes over the expression “enemies of God” from the RSV, when the words “of God” do not appear in the Greek text. She leans heavily on this mistranslation to argue that in Romans 9-11 the Jews are not opponents so that the polemic against them is less intense.
That is a serious error (considering her dependence on it), and (though Grieb is more sympathetic) seriously weakens her thesis. If I were an ass like Casey, I would mock him for relying on faulty scholarship that makes the kind of horrid mistakes that annoy him, only in fact I think, though Schlueter is wrong (she made a mistake, and fails to adequately address all arguments against her case, and her required premise, that Paul was “just exaggerating” in the suspect Thessalonians passage, is profoundly implausible in every way), she is a good scholar and her book contains a lot of interesting facts and analysis. So while by Casey’s logic, her terrible error would condemn her as a pseudo-scholar (except when he needs her not to be, because she agrees with him–hence: hypocrisy), for me, her terrible error just shows all the more how her premise is implausible (Paul would never “just exaggerate” in the horribly condemnatory and absolute way he is depicted doing in 1 Thess. 2, indeed he could not, neither historically nor theologically).
Casey also composes a really wild fundamentalist-style biography of Paul that represents dozens of conjectures as if known facts (5-3994ff.), which I don’t really care about since it’s irrelevant to everything (I mean, seriously, everything) even if it were wholly correct, but as a Roman studies specialist I just had to point out that, contrary to Casey’s pompous boast (5-4006ff.), (a) the Pauli are not a gens (the gens for Sergius Paulus are the Sergii) and (b) the only source he cites for this boner mistake in Latin naming conventions does not say any such thing, despite him saying it does, so I have no idea what Christian fundamentalist he got that from. Although, ahem, I happen to know Ben Witherington says it in several of his works–the very same fundamentalist Casey condemns (1-181ff.). So Casey, who condemns people for relying on fundamentalists, repeats a fundamentalist argument, from a fundamentalist he specifically condemned, that proves Casey doesn’t know much about Latin, and then Casey builds a completely confident conclusion about Paul on top of that error. Isn’t that kind of like the very thing he accuses mythicists of doing?
Casey also complains constantly about how (certain–although he generally implies all) mythicists don’t pay attention to the latest peer reviewed scholarship…and then proceeds (frequently) to not pay attention to the latest peer reviewed scholarship. For example, in the one instance where he actually mentions the evidence in Josephus (even though he never in his rambling gets around to using this evidence in any way, so it can’t even be said whether he considers it evidence for historicity or not), he doesn’t even cite any peer reviewed scholarship in defense of his opinion. Yet he does this specifically when attacking mythicists for not doing it! And most embarrassingly, the latest peer reviewed scholarship on the subject supports the mythicists. I document this travesty below, because it is a very good example of what Casey does many other times in this book: pompously declare himself right, because the mythicists can only lean on bloggers and antiquated scholarship, when in fact, had he checked (oops!), he would have known that in fact what the mythicists are saying is said in contemporary, mainstream scholarship. So, he attacks mythicists for being wrong because they didn’t check the facts, then doesn’t check the facts and ends up being wrong. Yep. That.
The Josephus Travesty
Casey sneers at Doherty’s argument that the James passage in Josephus never originally mentioned Christ, and mocks the fact that he cites an unqualified blogger in his support (Stephen Carr), and in reaction to this declares “mythicists, however, do not wish to believe” that Josephus really mentioned Jesus and that is “why Doherty calls upon a blog post by Carr to argue that Josephus could not have written this passage as it stands.” Which Casey informs us “is a standard ploy by mythicists. They cannot cope with the evidence as it stands, and constantly seek to alter it by positing interpolations” and “for this purpose they frequently repeat, often without references, very old scholarship written before the study of ancient texts had settled down in modern scholarship” (1-314).
Casey has only one valid complaint here: that mythicists do a poor job of citing contemporary scholarship (even Doherty is guilty of this from time to time). But the fallacy fallacy looms: just because they don’t cite it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Which is why a real expert (as Casey claims to be) is supposed to check. That is, in fact, Casey’s very point. And yet, alas. He didn’t check. And declares (evidently by mutant clairvoyance or Tarot card reading) that their arguments for this passage having undergone interpolation only exist in “very old scholarship written before the study of ancient texts had settled down in modern scholarship.” In actual fact, all recent expert literature on this passage argues that it either is or could be an interpolated passage. Moreover, even authors who are unconvinced it is, repeat arguments for interpolation, from other peer reviewed mainstream (non-mythicist) scholars, without mocking them or declaring them ridiculous, but in fact as worthy of consideration. Incidentally exhibiting how an actual professional, respectful, thoughtful scholar behaves–conspicuously exactly the opposite of Casey.
The most recent peer reviewed scholarship on this passage is mine: Richard Carrier, “Origen, Eusebius, and the Accidental Interpolation in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200” in the Journal of Early Christian Studies (vol. 20, no. 4, Winter 2012), pp. 489-514. Which you can now get (probably more easily and cheaply) in my 2014 anthology Hitler Homer Bible Christ (which also has other peer reviewed papers of mine on the subject of the Bible and historicity, and even more). That paper appeared two years before Casey’s book went to press. And it also cites the most recent scholarship before that (e.g., Crossan, Paget, Van Voorst), which Casey should certainly have found, and it, too, discusses arguments for interpolation in this passage, sympathetically. Casey is evidently unaware of any of it. So unaware, in fact, that he just “assumed” it didn’t exist, and laughed at the mythicists on the basis of that assumption. And now he is choking on his foot.
This is embarrassing enough, and damning enough. Casey acting like an ass, failing to follow his own advice while mocking people for not following it, being completely ignorant of the state of his own field on a topic crucial to his book’s topic (the historicity of Jesus), and in the end fully mis-educating the public, and thus utterly failing at his moral duty as a scholar. And yet that’s not even the worst of it. You may be chuckling by now. But something got overlooked in all this. Casey never once (not even at all) even mentions much less rebuts what the arguments even are that Doherty credited to Carr. Think about that for a moment. Merely because Carr is (in Casey’s eyes) just some random dude, he doesn’t even think it worthwhile to mention what argument he made, that Doherty credited to him, or address it. What an elitist ass.
I say that knowing full well that (a) the actual quoted point Carr made that Doherty mentions is not only a valid point (thus where it came from is irrelevant; Casey should be able to evaluate the argument as an expert independently), but (b) it’s exactly the point made by peer reviewed experts on this subject, in all the scholarship I mentioned above. For Casey to dismiss it as ignorant tripe makes him look extremely foolish. But more to the point, how is a reader to know any of this? Non-experts (even most experts) won’t know there is a ream of recent scholarship supporting Doherty or at least lending his point credibility (they will mistakenly believe Casey checked and thus his claim that there is none is true; when in fact it’s false) and they won’t know that Carr actually made a valid point echoed in recent, bone fide, expert literature, or what that point was, or what Casey’s response to it is.
I will remind you that this is just one example, right from the first chapter. There are many other occasions where Casey does pretty much the same thing. And that renders the book essentially useless to non-experts, who won’t ever know when he is ignorantly mis-informing them of the current state of his own field, or when he is completely failing to even mention (much less rebut) the actual arguments of mythicists and using his lazy, elitist mockery to dismiss them with a stock genetic fallacy instead. Ponder that.
Incidentally, to redress Casey’s crime, have known that Doherty’s case against the authenticity of a reference to Christ in this section of Josephus occupies pp. 570-86 of Jesus: Neither God Nor Man. I don’t necessarily agree with all of it, but neither is it ridiculous. Supplemented (perhaps even if sometimes corrected) by my article and the scholarship cited in it, and Casey’s certainty of the passage’s authenticity makes him look a lot like a Christian fundamentalist.
How Historians Actually Date Things
Casey makes a big deal over his complaint that some (he implies all) mythicists date the Gospels way too late or by suspect methods (burning tons of pages on this), yet throughout the entire book Casey never properly dates anything. The irony is that he says this belies a mythicist failure to understand historical method, when in fact he reveals that he apparently had no relevant training in how historians date ancient documents, and he does it wrong, with the consequence of destroying the logical soundness of his case for historicity. More importantly, he never educates the reader on how historians actually date documents. This is because, evidently, he doesn’t know. But surely it is his professional responsibility to find out, before pompously claiming to be an expert on the subject.
Here is what Casey never tells you, because (and this seems clear from how he then behaves) he doesn’t understand this:
…when historians don’t know the exact year a book was written, they determine a terminus post quem (“point after which,” also written terminus a quo) and a terminus ante quem (“point before which,” also written terminus ad quem) and then conclude the book was written sometime between those two years. And they admit they can’t know any more than that, which is something New Testament scholars tend to gloss over, often wanting to fix the year more exactly than the evidence actually allows, and then browbeat anyone who disagrees with them. [This is exactly what Casey does–ed.] In other areas of history we don’t try that. If the terminal dates for On Playing with Small Balls (an actual book written by Galen, no kidding) are “between A.D. 150 and 210” then we accept that On Playing with Small Balls may have been written at any time within that sixty-year span. We don’t scoff at someone who suggests it could have been written near the end of the author’s life, nor claim as if it were a decided fact that it was written at the start of his career instead. Either is possible.
(Richard Carrier, Ignatian Vexation, 2008)
Sometimes (contrary to what Casey claims: c. 2-1326) a terminus ante quem is indeed fixed by a manuscript date: when we have no other evidence, then it is entirely possible the text was written as late as that. We just don’t know. Now, in the case of the Gospels, we sort of have evidence other than that (it’s terribly problematic, but then Casey never engages a professional examination of the evidence and its difficulties, he only complains about certain mythicists not doing that, even though he is being just as lazy as they are). But Casey’s over-simplified rant about how historians never set termini using manuscript dates is simply mis-educating the public.
This is particularly the case when Casey says (as by way of example) that we don’t date Thucydides by surviving manuscripts, without informing the reader (who will statistically most likely not be an expert and not know this–indeed I honestly wonder if even Casey does) that unlike any New Testament text we have Thucydides essentially tells us when he wrote his book (to within a decade–he says he began writing during the war he relates, and the book concludes before the war ended, about a decade before the last date Thucydides could have been alive, given that events subsequently would have altered his narrative), and Xenophon continued it, whose own dates verify that (we have other evidence as well). This is important, because this kind of evidence is precisely what we don’t have for the Gospels (or even most of the Epistles). Which makes dating them a much more uncertain business. Casey simply can’t have uncertainty. He suffers from ambiguity intolerance. The Gospels simply have to be early or late. It can’t be that we don’t really know, and therefore it could be either.
More importantly, Casey goes against nearly the entire mainstream consensus in the field by insisting the Gospels are bizarrely early, Mark being written in the 40s and Matthew in the 50s. He does not mention that this puts him wildly against most experts in his field (he mentions the mainstream dating; but he does not note that this makes his position as fringe as the mythicists who want bizarrely late dates…incidentally, I do not, I favor the later end of mainstream ranges for these documents and concede the earlier end is possible). But more importantly, unlike a competent historian, Casey mistakenly thinks that because he can think of some reasons why Mark and Matthew might have been written so early, that therefore he can be confident they were and base his entire case for historicity on that premise. That is not how professional historians behave. They recognize the strongest termini, and then don’t over-speculate where within that range the document was actually written. They might explore what’s possible. But (unless they have strong evidence establishing an early terminus) they don’t act like On Playing with Small Balls was surely written early in Galen’s career, therefore we can be certain Galen was into gymnastic medicine at that time.
Casey’s over-confidence in his re-dating of the Gospels should be tempered by his realization that so few of his peers are convinced by it. That doesn’t mean he’s wrong, but it does mean he should admit he might be wrong, and that perhaps his conclusions on this point do not as strongly follow from his premises as he thinks. It’s a precarious way to base your certitude that Jesus existed: on a speculative subjective feeling about when you are “sure” Mark wrote. That’s how Christian apologists behave. Not objective, trained historians.
Let me remind you, that unlike Casey (whose advanced degrees are in literature and theology), I was trained in the ancient history department at Columbia University for many years. So I know what I’m talking about when I discuss how historians talk about and determine the dates of texts. I only mention this because one of Casey’s favorite hobby horses in this book is the No True Scotsman fallacy, arguing we do not have the exact hyper-specific degrees we are supposed to have to be qualified to talk about these things. I reject the fallacy. But if I accepted it, as Casey does, I would have to say, by Casey’s own reasoning, that he is not qualified to talk about these things. I think Casey would do better to just stop using the fallacy. And then start doing history properly.
As it happens, in chapter ten of OHJ I discuss the abundant evidence in Mark (far beyond Mark 13, which Casey ironically treats exactly like a biblical literalist) that Mark was responding to the Jewish War and the end of Jewish temple cult, and that the Sermon on the Mount likewise presumes the temple cult had ceased, and therefore Matthew definitely wrote after that as well. You won’t find any response to this in Casey, because he doesn’t seem to have actually studied any other arguments for the dating of these documents (besides the one single argument from Mark 13, the only one he mentions).
I find Casey’s treatment of the dating of the documents not only contrary to the actual practice of historians, but at one key point outright dishonest. He says, “Building on their ludicrously late date of the synoptic Gospels, mythicists proceed to argue that the Pauline epistles are our earliest sources for the Life and Teaching of Jesus” (5-7963). Here he is basically telling his readers that the notion that “the Pauline epistles are our earliest sources for the Life and Teaching of Jesus” is a contrivance of the mythicists, and entirely the result of mythicists assigning “ludicrously” late dates to the Gospels, and not the result of assigning merely later dates like nearly all other experts in biblical studies do. In other words, that “the Pauline epistles are our earliest sources for the Life and Teaching of Jesus” is the widest mainstream view among all of Casey’s peers. But he does not tell his readers that, but lies to the public in order to make mythicists look crazy (they are not; this position of theirs is mainstream and does not require any “ludicrously” late dating of the Gospels) while concealing his status as a fringe scholar (by making it seem as though his radical view that the Gospels precede the Epistles is the mainstream view the mythicists are rebelling against). I do not know how anyone who considers themselves a professional can be so dishonest and sleazy, and so irresponsibly mis-educate the public.
Dating the Ascension of Isaiah
Although I don’t see any need of the Ascension of Isaiah to have been written any earlier than the early second century as all experts on this text now say, Casey acts unprofessionally when he claims “there is no excuse for dating it so early” as the late first century (6-5051). For in fact his own sources say it could date to that period, and in fact their statements even entail it does. And this Casey would notice if he actually read his sources rather than just skimming them looking for sentences that agree with him.
Casey claims Knibb “gives correct reasons for disputing attempts to date it” that early, but that isn’t true. Casey seems to be confusing different parts of the text. As most experts agree (including Knibb), the current Ascension text is the combination of at least three different texts: the Martyrdom, which many scholars believe is pre-Christian (and it is this belief Knibb gives reasons to doubt, although not a refutation), which consists of the unredacted portion of Asc. Is. 1-5; the Vision, which scholars date to between the late first and early second century A.D., which consists of the unredacted portion of Asc. Is. 6-11 (the only portion any mythicists employ); and the redaction layer of a later editor, who united the two into one text and interpolated a large passage into each (which experts agree could date anywhere from the second to the fourth century, but the most recent believe it’s the earlier).
Here is what Casey did not pay attention to in his lazy skimming of Knibb (in Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 2):
- Asc. Is. 3:13-4:22 is a later interpolation into the Martyrdom (p. 147)
- “3:13-4:22 presupposes the joining of chapters 1-5 (the Martyrdom) with chapters 6-11 (the Vision)” (p. 147)
- “there are a number of indications which point to the view that 3:13-4:22 was composed at about the end of the first century A.D.” (p. 149)
- “it thus seems likely that the Vision comes from the second century A.D.” (p. 150)
Now let’s see if you can do some math with me. If, as Knibb here says, Asc. Is. 3:13-4:22 was written by someone who knew the Vision (Asc. Is. 6-11), and Asc. Is. 3:13-4:22 was written “at about the end of the first century,” does it follow that “it thus seems likely that the Vision comes from the second century A.D.”? This is fourth grade arithmetic, so I’m sure you won’t take long to answer. Knibb clearly made a mistake. He didn’t check his math. It’s the other way around. Neither Knibb nor Casey noticed that one group of scholars dates the text to the late first century, and another to the early second century, and the latter group is not paying attention to the former group (e.g., they are evidently unaware of the evidence that Asc. Is. 3:13-4:22 was written with knowledge of the Vision, and thus do not realize that it’s early date entails an early date for the Vision).
So much for Casey’s claim that there is “no excuse” to date the Vision so early. The same mistake is repeated by Casey’s other source, Geza Vermes (in The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, which is the famous antiquated treatise of Emil Schürer updated by Geza Vermes and Fergus Millar between 1973 and 1987, here citing vol. 3.1). Vermes seems simply to be repeating Knibb’s mistake, saying the insertion of 3:13-5:1 has “the terminus ante quem of A.D. 100” while the Vision “belongs probably to the second century A.D.” (p. 338, n. 8). Notice how Vermes, unlike Casey, uses the technical terminology for dating texts. Anyway, Vermes also says “the Vision is quite unconnected with the Martyrdom…Indeed, it is attached very clumsily to it…” (p. 337) and “3:13-5:1…is manifestly a later interpolation” (p. 337). Thus, concurring with Knibb.
So again, think this through. Vermes says 3:13-5:1 dates no later than 100 A.D. So if 3:13-5:1 references the Vision (and it does), it necessarily follows that the Vision cannot “belong probably to the second century A.D.”
The latest expert on this treatise, Jonathan Knight (writing in the mid-1990s Ascension of Isaiah and Disciples of the Beloved One), dates the whole thing (insertions and all) to 112-138 A.D. Although I don’t agree with his reasoning, and I think his arguments for the text being a unity are terrible and his conclusions on that point wrong, it is notable that even the most recent expert, who has published the most extensively on this text, concludes it dates to the early second century, just a couple decades later than other experts would have it. So an honest historian would say this text most likely dates anywhere between the 70s AD and the 130s AD.
These termini make sense: there is no reason the text couldn’t have been written as early as or even earlier than our book of Revelation (which it in some respect resembles), and we have no evidence otherwise, while the fact that, in its completed form (i.e. with the interpolations of the later redactor), it is manifestly unaware of Hadrian’s dissolution of Jerusalem by 138 means it must have been written before then. So we have a terminus ante quem of 138 AD and a terminus post quem of 70 AD (as the interpolated text knows about the Jewish War). And that’s for the interpolated text. The Vision predates that. It therefore could even be earlier than 70. We don’t know. It’s even remotely possible that it’s pre-Christian and that Paul cites it as scripture. I deem that improbable, but it’s not impossible.
Ironically, after complaining about my having said hardly anyone in the field reads this document (1-420-425), Casey reveals that he didn’t read this document. Talk about an own goal. Casey says that Doherty’s view of 1 Cor. 2:6-8 entails “that the Devil himself did not know quite what he was up to, and it is reasonable to doubt whether this is what Paul really believed” (6-4951), as if Casey didn’t know that the Devil not knowing was a fundamental point behind the whole gospel, a fact not only clearly explained in The Ascension of Isaiah, but also repeated by Ignatius. Doherty’s point is that this line by Paul exactly echoes both. That God tricked the Devil by concealing what he was doing was precisely the point Paul intends to make here. Casey can’t refute that by just arbitrarily gainsaying it. Especially since what Paul says here is that had they known, they would have stopped the crucifixion, a statement that makes exactly zero sense of anyone but the Devil, the only entity in the universe with a motive to prevent the defeat of death and the salvation of mankind. It is absurd to think Paul meant that Pilate and the Jewish elite were so diabolically evil that had they known the crucifixion would save the world, they would have rushed to stop it.
Casey incidentally conceals from his readers the fact that his own sources point out that many scholars conclude the “gospel” section of Asc. Is. 11 is a later interpolation (6-5112). And I find the evidence for that conclusive. So I mention it here to correct the record. It’s kind of a crucial point. Casey not only assumes this interpolated text was written by the same author who originally composed the Vision, and leans on that assumption for his own conclusion (6-5112), he never communicates to the reader that many experts doubt this. And as if to really confound us, he goes on to admit the text has been multiply redacted (6-5125, although giving no details). So when that fact is convenient for him, he asserts it, but when he needs the text to have a unified author, he suddenly forgets that it’s been multiply redacted. This is just how Christian fundamentalists argue. Casey should be ashamed.
The Argument from Hypothesized Aramaic Sources
Casey is famously a fringe scholar in one respect: his obsession with claiming Mark and Matthew (and even Luke) employed Palestinian Aramaic sources dating from the time of Jesus. This is not a mainstream view. His case for it is multiply fallacious. He thinks my saying that is to impugn his knowledge of Aramaic, but in fact I am not judging that at all. I am certain every statement he has ever made about Aramaic is 100% correct and I completely trust him as an authority on that. And still his case for Aramaic sources fails. Because it fails on its own internal logic. And logic is something I have studied evidently far more than Casey. Other experts in the field agree with this assessment, and have done for a long time.
Tim Widowfield has already produced an astutely devastating take-down of Casey’s arguing from Aramaic (Casey’s Hammer: How Monomania Distorts Scholarship). His summary is spot on: “Maurice [Casey] is a first-rate Aramaic linguist, but as we’re finding out, a rather mediocre [New Testament] scholar and sub-par historian.” I highly recommend you read that, as Widowfield shows not only the logical failures, but also how Casey ignores or distorts leading scholarship counting against him, and how that renders him argumentatively untrustworthy: if he so badly distorts the facts in the case Widowfield exposes, how can we trust Casey isn’t distorting the facts as badly in every other case?
Widowfield has even more extensively documented Casey’s shadiness and dishonesty in trying to rescue his Aramaic theory from competing explanations, making the quite apt point that Casey has consistently behaved very unprofessionally in pursuit of this. Widowfield’s critique in this case is of Casey’s Appendix to Jesus on Latinisms in Mark: as Widowfield concludes, it “is a model for how not to write, how not to argue, how not to deal with the public, and how not to do scholarship.” He then backs up every charge. And that after summarizing a general point that experts in the community need to stop letting their peers behave this way without comment. Because it is discrediting the entire field. (Incidentally, this last by Widowfield also has a few more interesting examples of Casey not being able to tell when someone is joking, and instead trying to rebut a joke as if it was serious.)
My own critique has been at the more fundamental level of logic. In Proving History I wrote (pp. 185-86), and I here quote it all because Stephanie Fisher lied about what I said here, so we don’t want to let her try that immoral tactic again:
[The Criterion of Aramaic Context holds that] if there is evidence of an “Aramaic-language based unity between the participants, the events depicted, and concepts discussed” underlying the extant Greek text, then this suggests the account goes back to the original Jesus, who most likely conversed in Aramaic.
The first difficulty with this criterion is that it isn’t easy to discern an “underlying Aramaic origin” from an author or source who simply wrote or spoke in a Semitized Greek. The output of both often look identical. And yet we know the earliest Christians routinely wrote and spoke in a Semitized Greek, and regularly employed (and were heavily influenced by) the Septuagint, which was written in a Semitized Greek. This is most notably the case for the author of Luke-Acts, and is evident even in Paul.
Many early Christians were also bilingual (as Paul outright says he was), and thus often spoke and thought in Aramaic, and thus could easily have composed tales in Aramaic (orally or in lost written form) that were just as fabricated as anything else, which could then have been translated into Greek, either by the Gospel authors themselves or their sources. Indeed, some material may have preceded Jesus in Aramaic form (such as sayings and teachings, as we find collected at Qumran) that was later attributed to him with suitable adaptation. So even if we can distinguish what is merely a Semitic Greek dialect from a Greek translation of an Aramaic source (and we rarely can), that still does not establish that the Aramaic source reported a historical fact.
Consequently, Semitic features in a Gospel pericope do not make its historicity any more likely, other than in very exceptional cases (where we can actually prove an underlying source that we otherwise did not already suspect), and even then it gains very little (since an underlying source is not automatically reliable). Whereas one might have hoped such features would lower [the probability of this evidence on non-historicity] relative to [the probability of this evidence on historicity], there is no evidence in [our background knowledge] that warrants that conclusion. Even the best cases would lower it but little; and most cases, not at all.
As Christopher Tuckett says: “We should not forget that Jesus was not the only person in first-century Palestine; nor was he the only Aramaic speaker of his day. Hence such features in the tradition are not necessarily guaranteed as authentic: they might have originated in an early (or indeed later) Christian milieu within Palestine or in an Aramaic-speaking environment [outside Palestine].”
Or as I’ve noted, they might have originated in a Semitic-Greek-speaking environment (of which there were many across the whole Roman world), or even a pre-Christian milieu. Even a chronological trend is not dispositive, since Stanley Porter finds evidence the tradition could become “both more and less Semitic” [over time]. Unfortunately there are just too many ways a Semitic flavor could have entered the tradition of any saying or tale, and we have no way to tease out their relative probabilities. So when it comes to Jesus, this criterion effectively has no value for discerning historically authentic material.
Notably, though Casey leans almost entirely on this argument, and cites my book as among those he supposedly read, he never even mentions this critique or responds to it in any way.
I have taken Ehrman to task for this already. Not only do all the above problems seriously if not fatally undermine Casey’s entire argument, even apart from those difficulties, Casey’s argument fails right out of the gate on basic logic (it is a fallacy of affirming the consequent). I further explain why this is a fatal problem for Casey’s approach here. In short, Aramaic can be just as fictional as Greek. Aramaic is not some sort of supernatural language that magically prevents all who use it from making up stories. Casey claims to be aware of this (3-1799), yet as his following examples show, he assumes all fiction that gets the background facts right must be true, and only fiction that gets things wrong is false (this is an example of hyper-concrete reasoning, a cognitive deficit I will later show many more examples of from Casey).
Hence Casey uses this device to prove “historical” stories that almost every expert in the field agrees are obviously false (like the resurrection of Jairus’s daughter, 2-1413; or even the crucifixion narrative, which he calls pretty much “literally true,” 7-6064, never mentioning that every non-fundamentalist scholar alive knows that’s a fiction constructed from Psalm 22 and other scriptures). He simply assumes, everywhere, “(A) Mark used an Aramaic source + (B) Aramaic sources are 100% historically true = (C) therefore Jesus existed.” Not only does he never establish (A), because he never adequately addresses alternative theories of the evidence (a serious and common logical failure among historians of Jesus, as I explain in chapter one of Proving History), but (B) is not in any possible universe true. Therefore there is no path from (A) to (C) via (B), even if (A) were true.
For example, Casey makes a hash of criticisms of his claim that Mark 2:23 makes a mistake that only makes sense if Mark screwed up translating an Aramaic source (3-1970 to 2079). In a personal communication to me, Tim Widowfield listed some alternative hypotheses Casey neither tells his readers about nor seriously (much less properly) considers, much less rules out:
In Aramaic Sources of Mark’s Gospel, Casey mentions Judges 17:8, but insists that is another independent example of the same of mistake Mark made in 2:23 (see p. 140). I think instead it’s probably a sign of a Semitic (or Palestinian or Jewish) variation in Koine [i.e. an everyday Semitic dialect of Greek spoken widely–ed.]. It could also be the result of a specific “sacred scripture dialect.” For example, the reason Joseph Smith wrote “and it came to pass” again and again isn’t that he was translating Hebrew, but because that’s what holy scripture was supposed to sound like. Similarly, when the evangelists used “answered and said” over and over, it’s because it sounded like the Septuagint, and that’s what holy writing is supposed to sound like.
He’s quite right. Many examples could be adduced, as noted even by prominent, well-published professors of biblical studies (e.g. see the literature on Semitisms in Acts). So we have (1) the commonplace Semitic Greek dialect as a known origin for Aramaicisms and (2) a stylistic trend to imitate the Aramaicisms in the Septuagint as another known origin. And I would add (3) there is evidence Mark may have been using targumim, Aramaic paraphrases of the scriptures, as source material for his stories (I discuss examples in On the Historicity of Jesus, but you can explore more in, e.g., Bruce Chilton, “Targum, Jesus, and the Gospels,” in Historical Jesus in Context [ed. Levine, Allison, and Crossan], pp. 238-55; likewise in peer reviewed publications by Aus, de Jonge, etc.). Casey neither mentions nor rules out any of these. Which renders this book essentially useless. If he won’t even address the best, strongest, most mainstream criticisms of his theories, what use is reading anything Casey writes in defense of his theories?
(And BTW, Casey’s thesis is even more bizarre and illogical than I have represented. Notice, for example, that he maintains that even Luke was simultaneously copying the Greek of both Matthew and Mark and translating their Aramaic source documents, for some reason, so that sometimes he renders the Greek of Matthew or Mark verbatim, other times, inexplicably, he stopped paying attention to their Greek for a moment and mistranslated their Aramaic source instead [e.g., 2-1427]. In fact, not only is Luke, whom he admits wrote at the end of the century, for some reason switching at random between eyewitness Aramaic originals and their Greek translations, but he has access to the Aramaic sources in their original “wax tablet,” meaning the actual autograph, as books would be composed on wax before being transferred to papyrus or parchment; books were never published in wax, so Casey is seriously claiming Luke had the autograph first-drafts of a half-century-old Aramaic eyewitness source. This is his thesis. The scenario he imagines is ridiculous in almost every way, and so far outside any mainstream plausibility I cannot understand how he maintains any credibility in the field among anyone but Christian fundamentalists. Even apart from his elaborate theory’s historical implausibility, I have to think he has never heard of Occam’s Razor.)
The Greek Goof
In his blind pursuit of this Aramaic thesis, Casey might not be very careful with his reading or literary understanding of ancient Greek. He translates Mark 1:7 as “The one stronger than me is coming after me, of whom I am not worthy to bend down and undo the latchet of the sandals of him” and then says “Here the meaning is unambiguous and correct, but ‘of whom’ followed by ‘of him’ is no more idiomatic in Greek than it is in English,” and so he insists it must be a goofed translation from an Aramaic text (3-1842). Key to his argument is that there is no other reason for “of whom…of him” to appear in the Greek here. Casey didn’t even bother to question that. He thus didn’t ask if perhaps this is exactly expected in the Greek, that it is even perfectly sound Greek grammar, and that in fact it’s a rather elegant stylistic construction by the standards of ancient literary artistry and the aesthetic preferences of the author, and is an idiom used, in Greek, in other contexts.
The clause in question reads, in interlinear translation, hou [of whom] ouk [not] eimi [am I] hikanos [worthy] kupsas [to stoop and] lusai [loosen] ton [the] himanta [latchet] tôn [of the] hupodêmatôn [sandals] autou [of him]. Notice how this makes the clause begin and end with Jesus (whose…him), which was a known literary device of emphasis (a form of inclusio). Notice also that the clause deliberately echoes the language of the Septuagint, in the same way the Book of Mormon echoes the Bible. And that is well known to be an aesthetic preference of the Gospel authors. Here Mark is using a direct lift from Isaiah 5:27, “the latchet of the shoes of them” (hoi himantes tôn hupodêmatôn autôn), modifying it to the singular as required (thus one latchet of one man rather than many latchets of many men), but otherwise word-for-word identical (that passage also includes the idea of loosening, though of girdles). Mark is not “alluding” to that passage (or I assume not), but borrowing a phrase from it to make his construction sound like the Scriptures.
Since the echo of the Septuagint is clear enough (the coincidence is otherwise very improbable), and the sentence was constructed so that this had to be a relative clause, it follows that both the “whose” (necessitated by the grammar) and “of him” (borrowed from the Septuagint idiom) are actually required, by the conjunction of Greek grammar and the intentions of the author, without any involvement of Aramaic. Although being a Semitic-Greek dialect (possibly bilingual) speaker, the construction may have also sounded particularly resonant to Mark, for precisely the reason Casey elaborates (it sounds like an Aramaic idiom). But that in no way entails or even implies Mark was translating from an Aramaic text.
I am charitably assuming Casey knew that the two pronouns don’t modify the same noun. A better translation is “whose…latchet of his sandals,” rather than “whose…sandals of him.” The auto (“of him / his”) goes with “sandals,” in the plural genitive, because it follows it, and in the predicate position exactly as Greek grammar requires, while the hou (“of whom / whose”) goes with “latchet,” in the singular accusative, because it is the first direct object of the clause to follow the relative pronoun, exactly as Greek grammar requires (the nominative subject is John, and latchet is the direct object of “loosen”). Each thus goes with a different word, so there is no redundancy, as Casey might be taken to imply (I’ll assume he didn’t mean to).
Finally, this way of constructing clauses may have been a known idiom in Semitic Greek. For we find it again in Revelation. Although I suppose Casey would then insist Revelation was translated from an Aramaic source…whose author therefore really did fly to heaven and talk to angels and everything in it must have totally happened and is literally true. Be that as it may, Rev. 13:12 reads literally “whose wound of his death was healed” (hou etherapeuthê hê plêgê tou thanatou autou), the exact same idiom Casey insists can only happen when translating from Aramaic (so real honest-to-god angels must have spoken this). Like before, we have the auto (“his / of him”) at the end of the sentence, modifying a noun, once again in the genitive and immediately preceding it, which once again is directly attached to the (now nominative) noun subject of the clause, which is in turn, once again, what the relative pronoun hou (“whose / of whom”) goes with. Thus, again, we have hou…hê plêgê (“whose the wound”) followed immediately by tou thanatou autou (“of his death”), the exact same construction as in Mark 1:7, where we have hou…ton himanta (“whose the latchet”) followed immediately by tôn hupodêmatôn autou (“of his sandals”).
This is therefore an example of how blinded Casey is by his obsession with Aramaic, that he doesn’t even stop to consider if the evidence can already be perfectly well explained as a normal Semitic-Greek Septuagintalism.
I could go on and on with examples like these, but since he makes a point of the Greek in one other case, I’ll show how he can’t reason objectively in any similar case: Casey runs wild with an argument that Luke (yes, Luke) must have mistranslated the Aramaic for jackal as “fox” in Greek (in Lk. 13:32) because Greek had no word for jackal while the Aramaic word for jackal also meant fox (3-1886). But his reasoning is entirely based on the assumption that “fox” meant “clever” and Herod Antipas (who was thus being insulted) was not clever, so Luke can’t possibly have meant to have Jesus say Herod Antipas was clever. Here Casey’s concrete thinking and lack of a sense of humor causes him to overlook the vastly more likely fact that Luke is depicting Jesus using sarcasm: you don’t insult a clever person by calling them clever…you insult a dullard with that, and the whole point of Jesus’ line is to say “If he’s so smart, why can’t he figure out what’s going on?” As Casey would say, “That makes perfect polemical sense!” (3-1900). But “fox” also had a much wider valence of meanings than just “clever.” Most notably, foxes were regarded as troublesome and predacious thieves who victimize the innocent (akin to our idiom “a fox in the henhouse”), a rather apt description of Herod Antipas…and rather an obvious intended double meaning for Luke, since in the very same speech he has Jesus refer to hens being thus threatened (two verses later).
That Casey can’t think of or notice these obvious alternative explanations, which are actually far simpler and more obvious to any objective observer, is disturbing, but indicative. One can easily find similar faults with every other example of his. But he never sees them. They don’t even occur to him.
Incidentally, Casey’s ineptitude with Greek literary analysis like this is shown again when he actually falls for the same mistake Doherty does and thinks Phil. 1:14 says “brothers in the Lord.” It does not, and not only have numerous modern translations noted this (click the previous link and compare), a sound understanding of the grammar and context makes it clear. The misreading is a product of the assumptions of the King James translators. So Casey has fallen victim to the very Christianized scholarship he says no one should heed. The phrase “brothers in the Lord” appears never in any authentic letter of Paul. To understand why Casey (like the King James translators) is mistranslating Phil. 1:14 because he doesn’t know how (or think) to check for literary devices like chiasm and parallel structure, or to ask what the actual point is the author is making, or to check to find that “confidence in the Lord” is a common Pauline idiom (whereas “brothers in the Lord” is not), see my full analysis of this passage here.
High Culture Nonsense
Casey tries to explain away all the strange oddities and silences in Paul’s letters by claiming Paul was corresponding in a “high context” culture wherein no one ever had to say anything because everyone already knew everything and thus always understood what was meant. There are many problems with this.
Some of those problems are devastatingly laid out by Tim Widowfield in two articles on Casey’s abuse of this Christian apologetical device–and these are a must-read: Taking Context Out of Context and What the Context Group (and Casey) Missed. Widowfield shows he understands the concept of high culture discourse far better than Casey, who doesn’t appear to have actually studied it at all. Just compare how informative Widowfield is, and how clear and structured his analysis, with how wholly uninformative and vague Casey is on the subject (which he redundantly repeats, yet with no greater illumination, first in 2-1443 to 2-1528, and then again in 5-3543 to 5-3600).
One major problem (which Widowfield just touches on) is that it makes no sense that Christianity as a whole would become an increasingly low culture society as it grew older and larger. That should have had the opposite effect: culturally implicit knowledge then becomes more widespread, fixed, and ubiquitous (thus facilitating an increasingly high context culture). Whereas Paul’s churches were new, with a constant influx of new converts, and still not certain how to do things or what the gospel exactly was, and thus constantly writing letters to ask Paul those things; and they mixed Jewish and Gentile members, who thus did not share the same cultural knowledge or assumptions. For both reasons Paul’s churches were least likely to be high context, whereas churches a century later were most likely to be. Yet Christian creeds became increasingly specific and thus more low context: for example, Ignatius explicitly includes the role of Mary and Pilate in his Epistles as fundamental parts of the standard Christian creed that he keeps reminding his Christian readers of. That he is so specific, and feels the need to keep repeating information already commonly known to his audience, is what a low context discourse looks like (I am certain these letters were written in a different time period than traditionally assumed, but that doesn’t matter for the point here). It is very improbable that Christianity started high context and became low context. Given the differences I just noted, that defies all possible logic of social causality.
Therefore the burden is very high on Casey to prove that epistolary discourse in earliest Christianity was as high context as he claims. He can’t just say “it’s possible” and then conclude that therefore it was the case. I should note, and Widowfield also touches on this, that the same social group can be both high and low context in different media and contexts: for example, sci-fi aficionados sharing an exchange of humor in which they assume everyone present gets all their sci-fi culture references is a high context mode of discourse; those same aficionados can then exchange emails exhibiting a low context discussion of the same sci-fi references. Poetry is still, even in modern languages, a high context mode of discourse. Yet we also communicate in low context prose. So one has to show not that a “culture” is high or low context, but that the particular mode of discourse being engaged in is high or low context. Widowfield shows there are many reasons to conclude Paul’s Epistles are most definitely, and by necessity, in a relatively low context discourse mode. For the reasons I also added above, I agree.
Notably Casey does not cite any of the recent expert studies of the silences in Paul’s letters, much less address them (even though there have been several; I provide a comprehensive survey in OHJ). As just one example, I shall quote Gerd Lüdemann, a renowned and well-qualified expert in biblical studies. And note that Lüdemann wrote a whole book on Paul: Paul, The Founder of Christianity, in 2002. Has Casey written a whole book on Paul? Not that he has to have (I don’t play Casey’s childish whose-the-expert game), but Casey’s attempts at using No True Scostman fallacies and claiming he’s the expert on Aramaic and therefore should be listened to on that subject, entails that he cannot claim Lüdemann is not qualified to reach conclusions about Paul, and that he should heed Lüdemann’s expertise on Paul as much as he expects anyone else to heed his own expertise in Aramaic. (BTW, Casey claims only “hopelessly conservative” scholars [5-3555] would say what I am about to quote Lüdemann saying; so do note that to call Lüdemann even conservative is laughable.)
Lüdemann concluded from his own directed study of the letters of Paul:
Not once does Paul refer to Jesus as a teacher, to his words as teaching, or to [any] Christians as disciples. In this regard it is of the greatest significance that when Paul cites ‘sayings of Jesus’, they are never so designated; rather, without a single exception, he attributes such sayings to ‘the Lord’. … Paul thought that a person named Jesus had lived and that he now sat at the right hand of God in heaven. Yet he shows only a passing acquaintance with traditions related to his life and nowhere an independent acquaintance with them. In short, Paul cannot be considered a reliable witness to either the teachings, the life, or the historical existence of Jesus. … [Despite Jesus being so central to Paul’s every argument] it seems strange indeed that the Epistles so seldom make reference to [Jesus’] life and teachings.
The argument that [Paul] could assume his readers’ familiarity with these [facts] because he had already passed them on in his missionary preaching [and therefore never had to mention them] is not convincing. He could and does presume some familiarity with the Greek translation of the Scripture, the Septuagint, which was mediated to his converts either by himself or earlier by the local Jewish community. For this reason he repeatedly and specifically cites it in the course of his ethical teaching. Moreover, when Paul himself summarizes the content of his missionary preaching in Corinth (1 Cor. 2.1–2; 15.3–5), there is no hint that a narration of Jesus’ earthly life or a report of his earthly teachings was an essential part of it. … In the letter to the Romans, which cannot presuppose the apostle’s missionary preaching and in which he attempts to summarize its main points, we find not a single direct citation of Jesus’ teaching. One must record with some surprise the fact that Jesus’ teachings seem to play a less vital role in Paul’s religious and ethical instruction than does the Old Testament.
Gerd Lüdemann, “Paul as a Witness to the Historical Jesus,”
Sources of the Jesus Tradition (Prometheus 2010), pp. 196-212.
Essentially the same conclusions have been reached by numerous experts in the field including Nikolaus Walter, Helmut Koester, Kurt Noll, Jens Schröter, Frans Neirynck, Robert Price, and Margaret Barker (I cite or quote them in my forthcoming book). Casey mentions none of them in this context, nor Lüdemann.
So contrary to Casey’s dishonest narrative, that there is something odd about Paul’s letters in this respect is not just some “ignorant mythicist” point of view. It’s a view shared by many of Casey’s peers. And Casey doesn’t know that, doesn’t tell his readers that, and doesn’t address it. At all. That renders his book useless on this point (just as on every other point).
Ultimately there are three respects in which Casey’s “high context” apologetic does not work:
(1) Casey never actually demonstrates that Paul is writing in a high context literary style. He just assumes it’s the case. Because Casey just magically knows that somehow (of course, it’s really because Casey needs it to be true). In actual fact, Paul’s letters exhibit hallmarks of low context discourse: Paul repeatedly has to explain himself, give explicit instructions, and re-quote and re-explain doctrine and scriptural verses. A genuinely high context document looks like the Book of Revelation–and a high context Epistle looks like the epistles in Revelation. Casey clearly doesn’t know what he is talking about, and doesn’t actually know what high context literature looks like.
(2) Casey does not provide a single example where “high contextuality” would even explain an actual oddity in the text noted by a real expert (like Lüdemann or Price). He instead only addresses the weakest (and thus cherry-picked) statements of amateurs (low hanging fruit; top of tree untouched) and makes up straw men to tear down, and does so in a way so similar to Christian apologetics that Casey should be embarrassed at the dishonesty of his tactic (see following).
(3) Even if Casey could explain why there are no clear references to a historical Jesus in Paul, there still would be no clear references to a historical Jesus in Paul. And you can’t argue for historicity from evidence that doesn’t exist. This is crucial when it comes to issues where the only evidence we have for some detail is the Gospels: we cannot presume those are true, when we lack corroboration from earlier, less fictionalized sources. That is actually how all historians reason. Except fundamentalists…and quasi-fundamentalists like Maurice Casey.
The quasi-fundamentalist tactics Casey employs here are amusing when juxtaposed against an actual Christian apologist attempting an argument Casey would readily mock–although, since it’s exactly the same thing Casey does, Casey would essentially be mocking himself. When Christian apologist Stephen Davis tried to defend the supernatural resurrection of Jesus against scholars arguing there were perfectly natural explanations of the stories and beliefs about that resurrection, he argued that natural explanations were possible but too elaborate to believe. To do that, this is the trick he pulled:
Davis proposes his own example of what he thinks is a plausible but unproven explanation, only to fabricate a false analogy that makes a straw man of the actual evidence and argument presented in [my chapter on the theft hypothesis in The Empty Tomb]. His rhetorically contrived scenario is, with my own emphasis on its absurdly specific details:
On the day after the crucifixion, three Roman soldiers secretly disposed of Jesus’s body by placing it in a hidden cave located ten kilometers from Jerusalem near the road to Jericho, where the body was never discovered; and, on their return to Jerusalem, they were immediately transferred back to Rome, where they eventually died, without telling anyone what they had done.
Now, unlike the theories I present, Davis offers no evidence establishing motive for his scenario, his scenario is unnecessarily elaborate, and he presents no reason why the truth would be concealed in the case he describes (e.g. why the soldiers would be so suddenly transferred and never tell anyone about their bizarre behavior). Thus, his scenario is far less plausible than the scenarios I describe, which makes his analogy a straw man. Moreover, unlike Davis, I never claim, nor does my argument require, such specific details as exactly when the theft occurred or where the body ended up or how many were involved. Obviously we would need evidence to assert such hyper-specific claims, but we do not need anywhere near as much evidence to assert that some person or persons stole the body at some time in the available window and disposed of it somewhere. The prior probability of some theft scenario equals the sum of the prior probabilities of all possible theft scenarios, and therefore the probability of theft in general is far greater than the probability of any hyper-specific scenario like Davis describes. His theory is therefore not pertinent to addressing the argument of [my chapter].
Follow that? Now watch Casey use exactly the same tactic:
Paul had…no need whatever to write anything such as, ‘We preach Christ crucified on earth outside the walls of Jerusalem a few years ago, after being betrayed by Judah of Kerioth, and handed over to the chief priests, scribes and elders, because he cleansed the Temple, and then handed over by them to Pontius Pilatus, the governor of Judaea at the time, to be flogged and crucified.” (2-1480)
Just like the Christian apologist, Casey completely made up this absurd expectation. No mythicist–and I mean none, not even the craziest of the crazy–has ever said we should expect anything even remotely like this. Just like the Christian apologist, Casey’s fabricated scenario is unnecessarily elaborate, and would be a bizarre expectation even on the presumption of a low context Paul. Thus, what he is falsely claiming is the mythicist expectation is far less plausible than anything any mythicist has ever said. Which makes this the reediest straw man imaginable.
No mythicist expects Paul to mention any such specific details as these. Scholars (many not mythicists, like Lüdemann) are instead pointing out that Paul mentions no details of any kind ever anywhere, which can clearly be referencing an earthly, historical man (as opposed to a celestially incarnated one). The prior probability of something getting mentioned equals the sum of the prior probabilities of all possible things Paul could have occasion to mention, or even be compelled to mention, because he had to defend himself against them, or employ them to win authority for a point, teach his congregations a point, or prove that his knowledge of Jesus warranted his claims to authority. And therefore the probability of some mention of anything, in general, is far greater than the probability of any hyper-specific over-elaborate statement like Casey fabricates. What he has said here is therefore not pertinent to addressing the argument of any mythicist. That is not scholarship. That’s simply being dishonest. And using that dishonesty to avoid the argument rather than answer it.
The clincher of an example of how Casey simply has become a Christian apologist (despite not even being a Christian), is when he argues in the most stupid and self-defeating way that “another good reason for Paul not to write unnecessary information in his epistles” is that ink is “disgusting” and writing “was a difficult and time-consuming process” (2-1480). Never mind that Paul wouldn’t even have penned his letters (they were composed by scribes at his dictation; at most, he may have drafted masters with a stylus in wax, not with ink), so this would not have even been a concern for him. No, more embarrassing here is the fact that every expert on the subject has noted that Paul’s Epistles are extraordinarily large for ancient Epistles–literally the longest letters, by far, of any to survive from the whole of antiquity. This makes Casey’s claim that Paul couldn’t add stuff because he didn’t want to write long letters look as ridiculous as any other desperate armchair fundamentalist ploy.
In truth, I am certain Paul’s letters were originally shorter and more numerous; what we have are edited pastiches from his actual dossier. But whether many short letters or a few long ones, Paul was extremely wordy. To suggest he would leave stuff out, and that peculiarly just happening to be everything historical about Jesus, simply because he was tired of writing too much is rather like claiming the ark could hold all the animals because it was really big.
Mimicking a Stock Christian Apologetic Treatment of Paul
Of course Casey does claim there is evidence in Paul, by leaning on the stock ambiguous passages pulled out by Christian apologists (the very fundamentalists Casey despises) to argue that Paul does clearly reference an earthly historical man.
Revelations: Casey doesn’t seem to know anything about the anthropology of revelatory cults. Thus he says he can’t imagine why Paul would get a situationally relevant instruction by revelation from Jesus (6-4643). He can’t imagine it, because he evidently doesn’t do his homework, so as to know that this kind of situationally relevant instruction by revelation from the revered spirit is actually typical of visionary cults, even when challenging or novel (indeed, especially so). Likewise throughout Casey’s treatment of this subject, he shows no signs of having studied how revelatory cults operate, and thus has made no effort to understand a key point in the mythicist position: that earliest Christianity was a revelatory cult (this is not a speculation–the evidence for this in Paul is conclusive) and can only be understood as such. Casey is thus not interested in actually understanding early Christianity. He is only interested in defending his own fantasies about it.
Traditions: Similarly, as Paul uses paralambanô to both mean receiving tradition from humans and receiving tradition from Jesus by revelation, we cannot assume which Paul means. We have to attend to context. Casey doesn’t. He doesn’t notice (or fails to tell his readers) that “I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel I preached…I did not receive it from a man, nor was I taught it, but through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12) is nearly word-for-word identical to “I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel I preached…I delivered to you in the first place what I also received” (1 Corinthians 15:1, 3), yet Casey’s entire argument that Paul meant exactly the opposite is undermined by that fact (6-4821). The more so as 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 only mentions scripture (vv. 3, 4) and revelation (vv. 5-8) as sources of information (and Paul never mentions his receiving Jesus tradition in any other way, ever), and Romans 16:25 concurs in stating there were no other sources of information other than scripture and revelation. And so on. Casey attends to none of this evidence.
Born of a Woman and of Davidic Sperm: Like a Christian apologist (6-4513ff.), Casey misses the entire context of Galatians 4 and that Paul is speaking allegorically. Since he doesn’t address that argument, his book is useless on the point. OHJ covers it in better detail. And he completely misses the relevance of the fact that Paul uses in both cases (“of…David” and “of a woman”) the word that more commonly means “made” and not “born” (and which Paul never uses to mean “born” anywhere else in his letters, where instead he uses another word). Casey simply says it can mean both. But the point is, Paul never uses it that way, but consistently uses another word when he means born (and this disturbed later scribes to the point that they tried changing the verb in both these passages to the word Paul normally uses to mean “born,” thus trying to conceal the fact that he originally said “made”). And since it can mean both, we cannot assume which Paul means. Casey has no reply to this point.
Paul knew Cephas: “Mythicists also have to dispose somehow of Cephas/Peter” (6-4444). No, we don’t. And it is dishonest of him to say this, because he knows several mythicists have no difficulty accepting that Cephas/Peter was the founder of the cult. That in no way entails Jesus was historical. As Paul says, Cephas was simply the first to receive revelations of him (1 Cor. 15:5). That is entirely compatible with mythicism. Casey never addresses this view. He instead makes it seem as though mythicism requires denying Peter’s existence. Incidentally, though it is not relevant to this debate, Casey clearly didn’t check any of the latest literature on the debate whether Cephas and Peter in Galatians are the same person (6-4457). The question is still undecided by experts. Casey neither seems aware of this fact, nor informs his readers of it, but falsely gives the impression it is a settled question. (I cite the most recent literature on this in OHJ, though, again, whichever way one resolves that debate, it has no effect on mythicism.)
Brothers of the Lord: Casey doesn’t address any of the best arguments from mythicists on this point; he only addresses the weakest (6-4444). Low hanging fruit; tops of the trees untouched. Ironically, Casey doesn’t realize that his claim that Paul wouldn’t explain things because he was writing in high context discourse (6-4444) would actually undermine his assumption that Paul would explain that “brother of the Lord” means spiritually, not literally. In actual fact, even writing in low context discourse he wouldn’t need to explain that, because the idea that Jesus had biological brothers didn’t exist yet, so it would never occur to him that he would have to explain what the phrase meant. All Christians knew it meant baptized Christian. As in fact it did. So if it could mean two different things, then Paul would have to explain which he meant; that he doesn’t, therefore entails he didn’t have to; which entails it meant only one thing, and the only one thing Paul tells us it would refer to, and that repeatedly, is baptized Christians.
All Christians Met Jesus in Person: Not really. But Casey borrows a classic fundamentalist exegesis to claim that Paul said that. In one of the most embarrassing and shameful arguments in this book, Casey repeats with a totally straight face (and no citations of anyone, he even forgets to tell us what verse he is quoting) the fundamentalist claim that in 2 Corinthians 5:16, where Paul says “we have known Christ according to the flesh, now we no longer know him that way,” he is “dismiss[ing] people who knew the historical Jesus,” which is fantastically absurd, as anyone will realize who actually checks what Paul is actually saying in context: this is a discussion about our living no longer “according to the flesh” but according to the spirit (just as in Romans 8).
So when Paul says “we” knew Christ in the flesh (which on Casey’s interpretation would entail that Paul met the historical Jesus, as did the whole Corinthian church!), it is not Christ’s fleshly existence Paul is referring to, but our fleshly existence. Thus we all start out knowing Christ when we are in the flesh, but then we evolve beyond that, to live in the spirit. As Paul says in the very next line: “Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17); and as he says even before his remark about Christ: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh,” which obviously is not a dismissal of anyone who ever knew anyone in person (!), but as the NIV interprets it, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view” (2 Corinthians 5:16). I am not pulling this out of my ass. This is what any current non-fundamentalist literary analyst of this passage will tell you (e.g., Murray Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, pp. 427-34). Yet Casey (again!) prefers to rely on fundamentalist interpretations of the text when it suits him. It is therefore quite funny when after delivering this absurd, out-of-context, fundamentalist exegesis, Casey says “I hope this is sufficient to make clear that Doherty has completely misinterpreted Paul” (6-5157). Replace “Doherty” with “Casey” and we have a true statement.
Paul Damned the Jews for All Eternity: Not really. But Casey has to believe he did. Thus Casey cherry picks the scholarship he wants to defend the antisemitic passage in 1 Thessalonians against being an interpolation as many mainstream scholars believe it is (even resorting to citing a theo-political treatise by a Lutheran traditionalist, and another scholar who made a fundamental translation error). I discussed this travesty earlier, so I won’t belabor the point, except to add that Casey’s attempt to propose relatively trivial, wholly common, and entirely transient events as a “final wrath come upon the Judeans” is just quasi-fundamentalist apologetics that makes no objective sense in context. Likewise his attempt to pretend that Paul didn’t use the past tense (6-4713ff.).
Where the Demons Are: Casey really fumbles when he says there is no evidence for Doherty’s proposed demonology and cosmology being a thing in ancient Judaism (1-427), because in OHJ I present copious evidence that in fact it was–Philo being a significant witness, and there being a lot of really good recent expert scholarship on it. That Casey seems not to know either fact is just another example of why he didn’t do his job in writing this book, and why it will be basically useless to almost everyone. Although since some of that is really good scholarship by fundamentalists, and Casey is a slave to the genetic fallacy, maybe that’s why he ignores it. But either way, instead, like an incompetent hack, Casey cites a first temple (or very early second temple) text (Job) as illustrating the beliefs of late second temple Judaism (hundreds of years later), a behavior he would thrash any mythicist for, yet here he is, doing exactly that (6-4862). He then confuses a passage about what will happen to humans in the future as being about the state of demons now (1 Enoch 22), a double error (both as to which beings are being discussed, and what period of time), and likewise misreads “on the earth” as “in the earth” (1 Enoch 14:5 and 15:9), and doesn’t notice that his claim that all Jews thought all demons were bound in chains beneath the earth makes no sense of why demons would be above the earth possessing people for Jesus to exorcize them, or why the author of Ephesians would assume Judaic demons lived “in the air” (Eph. 2:2).
Inanna Wasn’t Crucified, She Was Just Nailed Up Dead
Casey only addresses one thing I have ever written relating to mythicism, ever. Seriously. In this entire book, he never mentions a single argument, claim, or passage in Proving History, or in any other book, article, or blog post I’ve ever written, pertaining to the topic of this book. Except one single small passage in Not the Impossible Faith: my discussion of the Innana death-and-resurrection narrative (NIF, pp. 18-19; Casey, 7-5983ff.). This is most strange, because in NIF there are a lot of refutations of assumptions he relies on in his book (such as that Luke is “an outstanding historian by ancient standards,” so true he had to say it twice, verbatim: 3-2619; 3-2683; see NIF, ch. 7, for a gut-check on that; OHJ, ch. 9, for a groin-check). Yet he never responds to those refutations or even seems to be aware of them. Likewise all my preemptive refutations of his arguments in PH, which I’ve noted already.
And then the one single thing of mine he does address, he gets wrong in almost every way.
First, I never argued in NIF that “Jesus cannot have been crucified” because Inanna was; in fact I there explicitly say I am not saying the crucifixion of Jesus was inspired by that. Yet Casey imputes to me the other argument. That’s worse than a straw man, because it actually misleads his readers, who will now think I made a ridiculous argument, which in fact I didn’t. Indeed, nowhere in NIF do I even argue that Jesus didn’t exist (to the contrary, NIF consistently assumes he did). He even tries to admit this, but characterizes it as “going back” on myself (7-5994), when in fact it was simply my position, not a retreat from some “other” position (which again basically makes him a liar).
In the passage in question I am explicitly responding to the argument that “no one would worship a crucified deity, therefore Jesus must have actually risen from the dead.” Casey surely rejects such fundamentalist balderdash as I do, yet he does not tell his readers that this is the only context in which I brought up the Inanna narrative. Inanna is an example of a humiliated, killed and crucified deity, who was nevertheless widely worshipped. I seriously doubt Casey can honestly have a problem with that. Because it being true has no bearing on whether Jesus existed–unless you argue that “no one would worship a crucified deity, therefore Jesus must have actually been crucified.” Fortunately Casey doesn’t appear to make that argument. (Because my argument in that case would be correct.) So why my treatment of Inanna concerns him in this book is hard to discern. And he never explains any of this to his readers, who are thus mislead into thinking I argue that Inanna’s tale is an argument against the historicity of Jesus. It’s not. I think it can bear on the subject, but not like that. And I didn’t even discuss that possibility in NIF.
Second, Casey suffers from concrete thinking (see next section), so badly that he thinks Inanna can’t be a crucified deity because she was a vegetation goddess (7-5994). That is a non sequitur. That’s like saying she can’t be a crucified deity because she’s a woman. Or not Jewish. The differences are irrelevant. We unmistakably have a god descending from heaven, into another supernatural realm below (the underworld), being tried, executed, humiliated, and crucified (her naked corpse nailed up), and then rising from the dead three days later and ascending back to heaven (it also has this whole thing being her plan from the start). Scholars therefore cannot claim such narratives did not predate Christianity. They most certainly did. Whether they had any influence on Christianity is a separate question. But it should certainly be relevant that this narrative was part of a major cult in the Middle East still practiced in Christian times and known to the Jews of Judea (as I show in NIF, a fact Casey does not mention).
Third, Casey is such a concrete thinker he cannot fathom that killing someone and nailing them up was ideologically comparable to Roman crucifixion. Thus he declares, absurdly, “It should be obvious that this has nothing to do with the Roman penalty of crucifixion” (7-5994). Not that it should have to (no one argues that Inanna was crucified by Romans). But even so, Casey does not cite or even seem to be aware of any of the scholarship establishing that in fact all the words for “crucifixion” were so variable as to definitely include exactly this sequence of events, that the Romans even highly varied their practice of crucifixion enough to include it, and that Jews also crucified their dead in exactly this way (execution, then hanging on a post). I document this from primary sources and cite the peer reviewed scholarship that agrees with me in my chapter on the burial of Jesus in The Empty Tomb. I add even more in OHJ.
And Inanna is not alone. Romulus, Zalmoxis, and Osiris provide similar narratives of deaths and resurrections (Casey never once mentions these, even though I survey them extensively in NIF), and we know there were many more. Casey’s treatment of the dying-and-rising gods mytheme as a whole is muddled and confused and doesn’t really go anywhere (Ehrman tried harder, though fell harder in result). Compare it with what I have already written here and here and here, and you’ll see why it’s wholly inadequate. My treatment in OHJ just makes that all the clearer.
Deficit of Hypothetical-Categorical Reasoning
Casey is often incapable of understanding his own critics. So bizarrely, in fact, that it suggests a genuine cognitive deficit usually characterizing persons with an abnormally low IQ. I caught several examples of Stephanie Fisher exhibiting exactly the same cognitive deficits, where she could not think in abstract, hypothetical terms, but only in concrete, literal terms, resulting in bizarre misunderstandings of rather basic explanations of things (she had an extremely hard time understanding conditional “if, then” statements, or thought experiments, or even the purpose of counterfactual reasoning).
To understand how Casey shows the same cognitive deficiency, you need to first read an unrelated example of what I am talking about, based on a study of such reasoning. Once upon a time some researchers tested subjects in remote and previously largely illiterate villages of Uzbekistan and neighboring areas, as follows:
In a typical exchange the questioner asks: “In the Far North, where there is snow, all bears are white. Novaya Zemlya is in the Far North and there is always snow there. What color are the bears there?” One peasant answers: “I don’t know. I’ve seen a black bear, I’ve never seen any others. … We don’t talk about what we haven’t seen.” Exchanges of this sort could be repeated at length. In essence, the peasants refused, or were unable, to reason hypothetically. Similarly, when asked about similarities between objects, they tended to group them by similar use rather than by similar abstract categories. For them, a saw and a hatchet go together because they are both needed to make firewood, not because they are both tools (and, moreover, a log needs to be included in the group for utilitarian completeness).
The people tested had adequate vocabularies and detailed knowledge about their world. The exchanges with the testers revealed that they were often quick-witted, clear thinkers. They were, however, not comfortable with abstract or hypothetical thinking and found such thinking to be alien. In their world, abstract categories and hypothetical thinking were, frankly, not perceived to be very useful, and even faintly preposterous. Sometimes their answers implicitly said as much. Even if such habits of thought had been potentially useful, no one was disadvantaged because no one else in the community thought in such ways either. Not having such habits of thought, they did not develop expertise in dealing with problems involving abstract categorical and hypothetical (ACH) thinking assessed by the Raven’s and Wechsler Similarities tests.
Historically, neither peasants, nor laborers, nor tradespeople nor, indeed, practically anyone anywhere had much use for such skills prior to the 20th Century, except philosophers, scientists, and perhaps a few others.
James Allan Cheyne, “Atheism Rising: Intelligence, Science, and the Decline of Belief,”
Skeptic 15.2 (2009), pp. 33-37; see also James Flynn, What Is Intelligence? (2007)
You might not think this could possibly be relevant.
A stark example of this is when Casey repeatedly says no one else ever talks about crucifixions in heaven, therefore it’s impossible that anyone would imagine crucifixions occurring in heaven (6-5013, 5126, etc.). This is just like claiming not to know if bears in the north are white because you haven’t seen one. It’s hyper-concrete thinking.
In actual fact, in Jewish cosmology, all sorts of things that exist or occur on earth also do so in heaven: fighting, writing, scrolls, temples, chairs, trees, gardens. The Revelation of Moses has Adam buried in heaven (in the Garden he was made from, the very Garden Paul says was in the “third heaven” in 2 Cor. 12, just as the Rev. Mos. also says, in which Adam’s fall is described literally: a fall from the heavenly Garden to the earth below). So there’s even dirt in heaven, and corpses, and graves (Eve is also buried there, along with others). And indeed as the Ascension of Isaiah and the book of Hebrews both say: in general things on earth have correlates in heaven (Asc. Is. 7.10; Heb. 9.22-24; Philo provides an elaborate explanation; many Jewish cosmological texts elaborate on the objects and occurrences in heaven that have counterparts on earth).
If people can be buried in heaven, and fight battles in heaven, and visit temples in heaven, then they can be crucified in heaven. But to grasp that requires abstract-categorical-hypothetical reasoning: you have to be able to infer from the abstract hypothesis “ancient Jews imagined all kinds of things happening in heaven” to “crucifixion can be one of those things,” just as one has to be able to infer from “it snows in the north and bears in snowy places are white” to “bears in the north are white.” Saying bears in the north can’t be white until you literally see one yourself exhibits a major deficit in ACHR. And here, though we’re even explicitly told that the things and activities on earth have correlates in heaven (and have countless examples of this belief), Casey can’t imagine any unless he can find a specific text specifically saying so. That is a cognitive defect. And it greatly impairs his ability to reason.
Ironically, this means Casey again does exactly what he mistakenly claims Doherty does: “He has made the major unscholarly mistake of imagining that Paul could not have believed what Doherty does not believe.” Replace “Doherty” with “Casey” and we have a true statement.
This explains why Casey cannot understand why Inanna’s passion story is a crucifixion narrative: it is not literally, concretely identical, therefore it has “nothing whatever” in common with a crucifixion narrative. Because seeing why they are the same requires reasoning on an abstract level: you have to filter out the irrelevant differences (which are concrete particulars) and focus on the relevant similarities (which are abstract categories). Try, kill, humiliate, nail up are all abstractions. A specific court scene, a specific way of killing, a specific way of humiliating, a specific way of nailing up, are all concrete particulars. Casey literally can only see the concrete particulars. The abstract categories they fall into are invisible to him, and like the Uzbek peasant, he cannot cognitively comprehend them, and thus can’t use them in a process of reasoning. He can’t reason out that polar bears are white. If he doesn’t literally see it himself, it’s not true.
Another example is when he goes on a tirade against Murdock’s assessment that the Gospel narrative comprises just fifty hours of events. This is one of the strangest things in the book. It’s patently obvious she does not literally mean the actual events occurred and took place over fifty hours. Indeed, how could that be, when her whole point is that the events didn’t happen? (What I just did there: that’s hypothetical reasoning.) Yet somehow Casey can’t reason this out, reads her statement concretely rather than abstractly, and thus attacks her for not knowing that walking from Galilee to Jerusalem would take up way too many hours for her assessment to be correct (7-6076). Stop and do a double take there. That’s right. Casey actually argues that Murdock’s point is “complete nonsense” (sic) because a fictional character couldn’t possibly walk from Galilee to Jerusalem in less than fifty hours. That is such fantastically concrete thinking it makes the Uzbek peasant look like Einstein.
This explains quite a lot. For example, Casey’s bizarre, almost cabalistic (and Atwill-like) obsession with finding Aramaic everywhere (and then concretely assuming that that can only entail an account is true, as I noted previously). We could thus have predicted his evident inability to comprehend the abstract fact that many such things will exist by accident, and likewise his inability to reason out the hypothetical possibility of a coincidence, and thus ask how many such coincidences might be expected in a text written in a Semitic Greek dialect, consciously emulating the Septuagint, and possibly drawing on targums as well, and thus ask how he is supposed to tell the difference–questions he never asks, because he only thinks concretely.
This is also why I suspect Casey doesn’t understand Murdock’s point about mythmakers often being able to construct historically credible myths (2-1438). Casey leans on the Criteria of Historical or Contextual Plausibility (e.g., 3-1771) without responding to my critique of them (PH, pp. 176-77), or addressing any of the concerns raised there, so his use of those criteria is fatally naive. But more important to the present point, examples of his failing at that also show a failure of ACHR (abstract-categorical-hypothetical reasoning).
For example, Casey concludes that, because Mark knows that under Jewish law burdens (like lifting sick people) can’t be carried on the Sabbath and thus the sick would be carried to Jesus at evening (when the Sabbath had ended):
It follows that this report cannot be the work of the early church, who were not interested in such matters: it must go back to a real report transmitted during the historic ministry, when this observance of the written law mattered, and everyone took this so much for granted that the careful note of time was sufficient to bring it to mind. (3-1785)
Casey somehow doesn’t know (?) that Jewish Christianity remained a thing well past Mark’s time (Matthew is even advocating it, and Matthew wrote after Mark, while Mark is writing in full knowledge of it), the churches were even mixed in the first century (Paul’s churches mingled Jewish with Gentile members, and things cannot have so radically changed in just twenty years that this would no longer be the case when Mark wrote), Christians continually won converts from Judaism (and thus well-schooled Jewish informants would be in the audience of any author), and even predominately Gentile Christian churches were constantly dealing and interacting with Jewish neighbors and critics (this is evidenced all the way into the time of Justin, who is still arguing with Jewish opponents of Christianity in the 160s A.D.), while later Christian scholars had no trouble being versed in Jewish laws (e.g., Origen, 3rd century A.D.; Jerome, 4th century A.D.).
To suggest that somehow Mark, writing in the 70s, would know absolutely nothing about Sabbath prohibitions on transporting the sick is preposterous. Jews all around him in his communities would be conspicuously exhibiting their obedience to that rule, Jewish Christians or converts in his church would be telling him all about it, and it was easy for anyone educated enough to write literary Greek to be well versed in Jewish law and lore. The devastating irony is that Casey keeps insisting the Gospel of John was written late and in total ignorance of early first century reality–yet even John knew the Jews couldn’t carry burdens on the Sabbath, and wrote a whole story about it (John 5). Yet by Casey’s own logic, it follows that John must have been using an eyewitness Aramaic source! Because surely there is no possible way he could know all of that otherwise!
Casey sounds so much like Ken Ham I really find it astonishing. This is not the argument of a capable or objective scholar. And this is certainly not the way to defend historicity. But notable is the fact that I doubt Casey is ignorant of the above facts, as if he were some completely unschooled amateur (in fact, he essentially affirms them elsewhere, when it suits him: 3-2580). So what has happened here is that he was incapable of reasoning hypothetically from those facts to the conclusion Murdock (and everyone else with a normal IQ) correctly reaches, that someone in a later period in the midst of those audiences, neighbors, conflicts, and interactions could construct plausible Jewish fiction. Instead, Casey can only comprehend the concrete fact that it fits the Jewish context, therefore only someone who was actually there (someone who actually is looking at a white bear) could have said it. The idea of hypothetical reasoning is completely lost on him. He can’t even imagine ancient Christians engaging in it. And since you have to have the basic cognitive abilities of the people you imagine, in order to imagine them using them…well, you get the picture.
Not Always Wrong
For all that, there are occasions, scattered randomly throughout Casey’s book, where he says correct things, rightly shoots down bad arguments some mythicists make, or gainsays arguments that are indeed bad (even if his take-down isn’t all that good). His debunking of the “no synagogues” argument is actually almost good (unlike much of the book, he surveys a lot of evidence and scholarship in a short space succinctly making his point: 3-2636; this is what the rest of the book should have looked like). He’s quite right that it’s silly to say the phrase “Disciples of the Pharisees” is anachronistic (3-2676). His tear down of Freke & Gandy’s claims about mystery religions is well-deserved (although I do not fully trust Casey’s treatment, I know myself they get tons wrong). His treatment of Salm is dishonest (he cherry picks Salm’s weak arguments and ignores his strong ones; and doesn’t tell his readers that some of Salm’s suggestions, such as that Mark intended Capernaum to be Jesus’ hometown, are made in mainstream peer reviewed academic journals), but his conclusion is still correct: you can’t argue Jesus didn’t exist by arguing Nazareth didn’t exist. (Note: It has been unclear how much Salm himself actually argues that, but many do use his argument that way.)
And so on.
Hence when Dan Barker says “the early years of the Roman Republic is one of the most historically documented times in history,” Casey is quite right in his rebuttal (1-378; although Casey misses the additional error that the “early years of the Roman Republic” would mean centuries before Jesus; Barker means Roman Empire, a rookie mistake). Likewise, all the instances where Casey takes mythicists to task for relying on woefully outdated scholarship (a point I’ve been making for years), or making ridiculous armchair etymological arguments, and so on, although he always implies all mythicists make these mistakes, which is not true. And notably, historicity defenders can be caught at all these errors, too (as Casey himself knows, given all his rants against “fundamentalists,” but sometimes even mainstream scholars screw the pooch, e.g. Schlueter…and, as we’ve seen extensively documented, Casey.) So, some humility might be in order.
But Too Often, Wrong
I’m content to allow my books Proving History and On the Historicity of Jesus to stand as sufficient rebuttal to Casey. I just had to document here a lot of the awful in this book anyway–for the benefit of lay readers, if nothing else. But besides all I’ve surveyed, which is just a sample (seriously!), there is much in this book that either (a) doesn’t even rebut what’s in PH or OHJ (so his book is useless as a rebuttal to them) or (b) is soundly rebutted in PH or OHJ already (as if somehow I magically knew what stupid things he’d say in this book). Overall, Caseys’ Jesus is useless to the point of embarrassing, and it required not even a single revision to On the Historicity of Jesus before going to press: it already thoroughly refutes Casey’s book before I had even read it. Likewise Proving History, which he doesn’t even answer at all.
To quote Casey himself: “this is the most incompetent book by a professional scholar that I have ever read” (7-5898). I recommend Casey’s book for comparative or entertainment purposes only.