Thursday, July 8, 2010

My Summary of the Ongoing Debate Over Samuelsson's Work on the Crucifixion

I was asked to clarify my comments on the discussion thread at Evangelical Textual Criticism about this 'controversy' over at the site.  It made me chuckle when I read it over again so I decided to re-post it here for the amusement of my regular readers:

Look at the comments at the Caragounis post. Caragounis has a history of being a numbskull and then they mention a reader named 'Z' who posts a comment:

Still haven't read the work of Gunnar Samuelsson, but the review confirms my suspicion: He must have forgotten about lots of ancient texts which describe crucifixion.

Brilliant. So then Tommy Wassermann, who is really quite informed (I think he can at least see how stupid much of this debate is) writes:

The thing is that almost all those texts that Caragounis cites are included in Samuelsson's treatment, which implies that Caragounis has not read Samuelsson's interpretation of those texts. It seems Caragounis has browsed the work, made his own searches and then responded.

But even Tommy has to appeal to the moron element in his readership by saying that there is probably something to Caragounis's attack even though again he acknowledges that Caragounis hasn't actually read Samuelsson's argument(!) Moreover he says "Apparently Caragounis reads this blog, at least occasionally, and that is something I take pride in." Why? Why would you take pride that some jackass that attacks people without reading their work reads your blog AND THEN ATTACKS YOU for questioning their methodology.

It's so fake this world of 'evangelical textual criticism.' Wassermann is a really smart guy but having to pander to the idiot element is utterly embarrassing. It's like watching conservatives praise the 'genius' of Sarah Palin.

Anyway Wassermann does finally get to Samuelsson's chief point which inevitably gets lost in this Special Olympic debate which is:

I think Samuelsson's point is that the Greek terms relating to crucifixion have been affected much by what happened to Jesus (it is a major historical event).

I am serious, what's the matter with these people? Why does it degrade the Christian religion if the particular circumstances or the particular interpretation of Jesus's crucifixion influenced the Greek term AFTER the publication of the gospel? It's unbelievable really. I have always said having technical skills in ancient languages DOES NOT PROVE that one can think critically. It's like trusting the design of a 100 story building to the best plumber in the world. 

Anyway Wassermann is the bright spot in the discussion. Then in the comments section there are some smart people but then you get this over and over again from people like Peter Malik, a reporter from Slovakia:

I haven't read Samuelsson's book, though heard him at that radio show you (i.e. Tommy) posted on the blog recently. I don't think his case changes anything vital about our Christian faith, though I am not convinced by it yet either 

Great. That's like, I am not a doctor but I play one on TV. How do these people feel fit to evaluate something they haven't read? God and the Holy Spirit I guess. 

Carlson appears smart and informed:

Accordingly, the review keeps me in the same position I had before: I still have to reserve judgment on Samuelsson's case and I am still wondering what the "big deal" is.

I always like and respect Carlson even when we disagree. Then there's the bald guy with the beard who immediately drags us back to Stupidville:

Regardless of Caragounis' manner of statement, he does make a valid point: the burden of proof must remain on Samuelsson, given that his claim exists in opposition to a tradition which is virtually unified from the earliest times (cf. in particular the very early Alexamenos graffito of a donkey Christ crucified in the traditional manner).

Yeah that's right. The Alexamenos graffito is decisive here. And a tradition that 'has been unified from the earliest times'? Really? If it was so unified how come we have like so little real information from the earliest period of Christianity? Why is Marcion the earliest authority on Paul? What planet is he coming from

It's just so embarrassing. Can you imagine a discussion between physicists or physicians proceeding this way?

Doctor 1: I disagree with your diagnosis Doctor 2
Doctor 2: Oh really have you read my report.
Doctor 1: Well no I haven't, but I can't believe in this new virus you claim to have discovered. Galen says that the proper treatment for dropsy is burying the patient in dung. 

It's so stupid. I think these pious believers NEED the crackpot theorists element to actually make them seem 'balanced' and informed. They look rational by comparison with those who say that the Church Fathers were invented in a laboratory or Jesus was a watermelon. But when you hear them talking among themselves you'd think you'd settled upon a special forum for people with significantly below-average cognitive abilities.

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