Thursday, December 5, 2013

I Thought Scholars Were Supposed to Stay Away From 'Arguments from Silence' ...

Let me start out by saying that I don't know for a fact that the fragment is authentic.  However I know more than Larry Hurtado does about where we stand with respect to scientific testing of the document.  I can't say how I know this and readers are entitled to dismiss my comments as 'unreliable' because they haven't been peer reviewed in a scholarly journal (a statement reflecting Hurtado's myopic comments about Viklund's initial discovery that Carlson's 'forger's tremor' resulted from low resolution photos - it has since been published in a reputable journal and Hurtado is still mum on the implication of this 'peer reviewed' research on that most idiotic 'Mar Saba conspiracy' thesis he explicitly endorsed).  Nevertheless I stand by my statement that I know more than he does about where we are with respect to the authenticity of the Jesus Wife Fragment.

I know two pieces of information - unknown to most of the academic community aside from a handful of insiders - both of these facts' lead me to conclude that the Jesus Wife Fragment is indeed authentic.  I have been on public record stating that the evidence seems to suggest that the text was a forgery.  I said so in a radio interview and a few other places in print.  That's the way scientific examination goes.  As new evidence comes in you change your position.  Maybe I will hear something tomorrow which will change my mind yet again.  However as it stands, these two pieces of evidence when taken together lead me to conclude that there will be a public pronouncement of authenticity shortly.  My view has been corroborated by a prominent proponent of the forgery position who at least is 'in the know' - i.e. he was the source of one of the two pieces of information I mentioned earlier.

The point of this of course is that Hurtado has got to learn to keep his mouth shut.  He's a great scholar but a lousy detective and these latest comments on his blog will make him look more like a crank than the foreword to the Gospel Hoax already makes him seem to most of us.  I notice he and Goodacre are using the 'silence' regarding any new testing of the document to develop elaborate scenarios that I know for a fact are completely full of shit.  There is a reason for the silence and it has nothing to do with the alleged 'guilt' of any of the parties involved in promoting the document.  That's all I know for certain - that is Hurtado and Goodacre are completely wrong about their suspicions about the 'silence' surrounding the testing.

I am the first to confess that before these ridiculous forays into 'pop culture' - i.e. their assumptions regarding alleged 'homosexual' (Secret Mark) and 'feminist' (Jesus Wife Fragment) conspiracies -  I read their scholarly works with such admiration.  Now their over-reaching assumptions with respect to the 'silence' regarding the state of testing the fragment seems uncannily similar to their embracing Carlson's utterly stupid theory regarding Smith 'leaving clues' in his discovery.  The Gospel Hoax was written during the height of the DaVinci Code sensation and it is obvious that this 'popular work' left an impression on Carlson's argumentation.  The idea that serious scholars can be so prone to flights of fancy and imagination, using gaps in our knowledge about a subject as a launching pad to reinforce their own presuppositions about these controversies by way of gossip and innuendo is very, very troubling.  It's a lot like a police officer or a district attorney being found guilty of misconduct in one or two arrests - it raises questions about their abuse of power (= with respect to the Jesus Wife Fragment 'authority') in other cases.

The bottom line is be suspicious of any scholar who exaggerates the significance of gaps in our knowledge about a given subject matter.  The fact that the way some of the buildings fell near the World Trade Center on 9/11 does not prove that dynamite was used to explode them.  The fact that it is hard to believe that one man could get away with shooting a president from a book depository does not mean we can conclude there was a conspiracy with many shooters.  In the very same way, Goodacre, Carlson and Hurtado used the disappearance of the Mar Saba manuscript, the fact that Morton Smith was never married and most importantly the fact that hyper magnified images of the  handwriting from the original printed edition of the manuscript in Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark 'seemed' to look wobbly can't be used to prove a forgery. 

To the same end, I can now be absolutely certain that both Goodacre's and Hurtado's bluster about what we can conclude about the 'silence' regarding the testing of the Jesus Wife Fragment only demonstrates yet again their tendency to endorse unfounded conspiracy theories.  As I said at the beginning of this post - I don't know for certain that the fragment is authentic.  I don't 'want' the fragment to be authentic because it would prove that I can be swayed by 'authoritative' nincompoops as much as anyone.  Nevertheless at the very least the two pieces of evidence mentioned above (and my conclusion corroborated by a prominent naysayer of the fragment) certainly demonstrate that we should continue to mistrust the modern academic with respect to the 'silence' regarding the testing of the document.

As I mentioned in a recent correspondence with Hurtado (slightly paraphrased) - you maybe a great scholar but your terrible detective.  Stick with your day job. 

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Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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