Dr. Hector Avalos Responds to JP Holding/Robert Turkel

The following was written by Dr. Avalos in response to JP Holding:
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Over at Theologyweb, James Patrick Holding (aka Robert Turkel) has begun what he calls an “in depth” review of my book, The End of Biblical Studies (Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2007).

However, it does not take long to realize that Holding offers neither depth nor competence in biblical studies. Indeed, it is not a good sign of research competence when that review begins with a patently false statement about my background. As he phrased it:

My first knowledge of Hector Avalos was as (supposedly) a partner of Robert Greg Cavin promoting the "evil twin Jesus" theory. There was supposed to be some sort of book in the works from those two, but as far as I know, nothing came of it.

However, I had never interacted with, or recall even reading anything by, this Robert Greg Cavin before seeing Holding’s claims about my supposed collaboration with him.

Since, Holding calls this “his first knowledge” of me, then it is clear that what he calls “knowledge” turns out to be either a false statement or a lie. He has since agreed to correct this false claim, but that does not change what it reflects about his research skills or honesty. So much for “depth”!!!

Of course, anyone can make an honest mistake, but this false statement is only the start of a Holding pattern seen throughout his review: A series of self-assured statements that turn out to be false, sloppy, misleading, or outright lies.

In general, Holding’s review relies heavily on the following types of arguments:

1. Ad hominem argumentation

2. Ad vericundiam argumentation, an “appeal to authority” that is inadmissible in logic, especially without further explanation of why such an authority is correct.

3. Juvenile rhetorical devices usually repeated ad nauseam ( “whine” “rant” etc.) that could apply equally to his complaints about my book. These devices serve to deflect attention from the lack of substance in Holding’s posts.

Intelligent readers should see these juvenile and unprofessional strategies quite readily, and so I need not spend time on the obvious. But, that amateurish rhetorical clutter does include attempts to address the substance of some of my arguments. Yet, even then, the amateurish nature of Holding’s knowledge of biblical studies is apparent to any professional academic scholar.

To be fair to him, I asked Holding (e-mail 1-9-08) if he would identify the 2-5 of the best arguments against my book, and he declared that “They're all equally strong.” Holding’s flatulent claim means that:

1. If I refute even one of those claims, then such a refutation will expose his lack of credibility in his other claims. For example, if his argument X is not as strong as his argument Y, then I will have shown that he is at least mistaken in how he perceives the strength of his own arguments.

2. He cannot complain that I did not address his strongest arguments, as they are all equally strong to him, and he failed to provide me a specific one when asked.

With that prolegomena behind us, let us now turn our attention to the following claims he makes. Each numbered “REFUTATION” consists of a quote from Holding’s review that I analyze in more depth. The page numbers at the beginning of a quote from Holding refer to the pages of my book that Holding is attacking.

REFUTATION 1: “Avalos is not a textual scholar.”

In trying to refute my claims about our inability to reconstruct the originals of biblical texts, Holding draws on the “credentials card” to refute my arguments. However, this is a bad argument on at least two counts:

1) He is wrong about me not being a textual scholar.

2) If I am unable to render judgments on textual criticism because I am not a “textual scholar,” then his own ability to render text critical judgments would be vulnerable to the same objection since he is also not a textual scholar.

This is so because he has given me the following criteria for being a “textual scholar” (e-mail 1-9-08):
A textual scholar is someone whose specialization is textual criticism, who is recognized as such by his peers and who publishes material on this subject. By this account, Dan Wallace, Bart Ehrman, Bruce Metzger, the Alands, are all textual scholars.

If we analyze this further, Holding provides 2 specific criteria:

1. Specialization in textual criticism

2. Recognized by peers who publish material on the subject

I may not be the most prominent textual scholar in biblical studies, but that does not mean that I have not been certified by my peers in textual criticism. In fact, some of my earliest specialization in my publishing career was in textual criticism. My credentials are as follows:

1. Formal training in textual criticism at Harvard under F. M. Cross and John Strugnell regarded as perhaps two of the foremost textual critics of the Hebrew Bible and Dead Sea Scrolls in the last century.

2. Peer reviewed contributions in textual criticism involving Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Ladino, Spanish, and Latin texts. These contributions are as follows:

"The Biblical Sources of Columbus's Libro de las profecías," Traditio 49 (1994) 331-335.

A Ladino Version of the Targum of Ruth," Estudios Bíblicos 54 (2, 1996)165-182.

Deuro/deute and the Imperatives of HLK New Criteria for the kaige Recension of Reigns," Estudios Bíblicos 47 (1989) 165-176.

The last article reported my discovery of new criteria for the recension of the Greek Bible known as Kaige. I found that the Old Greek recension of the LXX used forms of the Greek word poreuomai to translate the unlengthened imperatives of the Hebrew word transcribed here as HLK (means “to go”), while the so-called Kaige recensions uses the Greek words deuro and deute.

These new criteria have been confirmed and modified by other textual critics, such as in the following article: E. Eynikel and J. Lust, “The Use of [Deuro] and [Deute] in the LXX,” Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses 67:1 (April, 1991): 57-68. For the abstract of this article, see here.

My work on Columbus tried to identify, through the use of textual criticism, the exact edition of the Latin Bible used by Columbus. My work on the Ladino version of the Targum of Ruth critiqued the idea that all printed editions of the Targum of Ruth descended from the so-called Nurnberg manuscript.

In short, I have met the criteria provided by Holding. Further evidence of being regarded by other scholars as competent in textual criticism was the assignment to review the following book by a major archaeological journal:

Bruce M. Metzger, Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Greek Palaeography (Oxford, 1981) in Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 260 (1985) 85-87.

In contrast, Mr. Holding offers us no peer reviewed publications in textual criticism in recognized journals (his own convoluted musings on his websites don’t count). Nor does any recognized textual scholar I know cite any of his contributions in textual criticism.

When I asked him (e-mail 1-9-08) “what peer reviewed publications have you written in textual criticism?”--- he did not answer that question at all. When I asked him what peer reviewed publications he had written in biblical studies, his response was: “Why? Do you not know where to find them? Is that why your work is so poor?”

But my search in the standard data bases and scholarly resources shows that, unless he is using the name “Bruce Metzger,” there is no peer reviewed work by Holding (or a Robert Turkel) in any respectable journal (unless he counts the “articles” on his blog as peer reviewed research, which it is not). Why he evaded my question is clear enough: He has no qualifications in this area.

More importantly, his claim that I am unable to evaluate textual decisions would apply to him even more so. If not being a textual scholar makes you unable to judge work in textual criticism, then he is unable to judge any of my claims in textual criticism. Mr. Holding, therefore, shows himself to be either a hypocrite or self-deluded.

As an aside, Holding’s use of the credentials card is done on a pick-and-choose basis. For example, he has no problem using “Dr.” Jim West as an authority despite the fact that West’s own association with a school (Quartz Hill School of Theology) of questionable accreditation has been the subject of much discussion. See here.

Yet, he may ignore the comments of a Dr. Zeba Crook, a bone fide biblical scholar. While he does not agree with me on many issues, Dr. Crook does say the following concerning by book, The End of Biblical Studies: “His chapter on Translation (ch 1) is unassailable.” Source.

In short, his claim that I am not a textual scholar proves as false as his claim about my supposed collaboration with Robert Greg Cavin---It is part of a Holding pattern, not a singular honest mistake.

REFUTATION 2: “[pp.]47-49... The inclusion of this next section in a chapter on translation is an oddity. Avalos rants upon the difference in the age of Jehoachin in 2 Kings vs. 2 Chronicles.”

Actually, here Holding agrees with me, but he seems too obtuse to realize it. I have argued that some translations (New World Translation, New American Bible, New Jerusalem Bible) of 2 Chronicles 36:9 do not translate the Hebrew text actually present (at least in the Masoretic Text). Some translations change the number 8 in Hebrew to the number 18 in English to harmonize it with the age of king Jehoiachin reported in 2 Kings 24:8.

So does Holding dispute this? NO. What he does is try to explain WHY translators harmonize their translations. He pretends that he provides an answer that I did not, as follows: “The issue here is therefore not one of "translation" but of a textual-critical decision...”

Yet, my own discussion (EOBS p. 48) already alludes to this when I state: “translators have made the judgment that the number ‘eighteen’is correct, and should be inserted even if the text of 2 Chronicles 36:9 does not actually say that. A typical reader would not know of the contradiction without consulting the original language.”

Note that Holding does not deny that there is a contradiction in the Masoretic Hebrew text, which is my point. Holding switches the issue to WHY there might have been a contradiction in the copies.

At this point, Holding appeals to Gleason Archer’s explanations for why the numerical mistake might have been made by a copyist. Here is Holding’s quote and interpretation of Archer:
A numerical system generally in use during the fifth century BC (when Chronicles was probably composed -- very likely under Ezra's supervision) features a horizontal stroke ending in a hook at its right end as the sign for "ten"; two of them would make the number "20". The digits under ten would be indicated by rows of little vertical strokes, generally in groups of three. Thus, what was originally written over one or more of these groups of short vertical strokes (in this case, eight strokes) would appear as a mere `eight' instead of `eighteen.'" See our foundational essay on copyist errors for general background.

First, Holding botches even the explanation given by Archer with this statement: “Thus, what was originally written over one or more of these groups of short vertical strokes (in this case, eight strokes) would appear as a mere `eight' instead of `eighteen.'" NO, what Archer is suggesting is that, if the horizontal hooks are overlooked or removed, then what remains visible UNDERNEATH those original horizontal hooks would appear as a mere eight (see Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, p. 207, where not all notations for “tens” are written above, either).

And those of us who have actually studied the Aramaic papyri from Elephantine, Egypt know how misleading Holding’s interpretation of Archer’s explanation is. Papyri from Elephantine from the fifth century BCE form the main data base for Archer’s claims (Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, p. 207). Some manuscripts may have the numerical system Holding parrots from Archer but that is clearly not the case in many or most papyri. Indeed, Archer never gives a specific papyrus from Elephantine to support his claim.

Consider, for example, Papyrus 5 of the Brooklyn Papyri (which are from Elephantine and published in Emil G.Kraeling, The Brooklyn Museum Papyri: New Documents of the Fifth Century from the Jewish Colony at Elephantine [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953). The number 38, appears on the first line. It does not have the horizontal hooks indicating “tens” over digits less than 10, as Holding represents this system. Instead, the hooked signs indicating tens, are on the SAME LINE and BEFORE the signs for digits less than ten.

One can see that Holding has probably not even checked a single Aramaic papyrus edition before making such inexpert remarks.

But Archer’s explanation is irrelevant, as his main goal is to show that a copyist, and not the original author, made the mistake. Nothing he says proves that to be the case. There is no verifiable evidence that Archer can adduce to show that it was the copyist, rather than the original author, who made the numerical mistake in the first place.

Thus, to say that it is A COPYIST’S mistake is already to make a prejudiced and unsupported statement, without seeing the originals.

Holding also switches the issue here because I was pointing out how readers are not aware that the translation is not following what is in the standard Hebrew text. Again, Holding only tries to justify why translators don’t follow what is actually in the Hebrew text.

One of his weaker justifications is that 18 is attested in some “Syriac mss,” among others. That is great, except that these translations don’t represent themselves as translating the Syriac manuscripts. They represent themselves as translations of the Hebrew (Masoretic) text. If you are translating the Syriac version of 2 Chronicles 36:9, then using “18” may be fine. But don’t pretend it is the same as the Masoretic version.

And let’s see how consistent Holding is in holding to the inerrancy of the original given the incompetence of the copies and translations. Suppose that Holding believes in the inerrancy of anything original that I write. However, the only witnesses to my writing are flawed copies that use “Robert Turkel” when translating his blog posts into Spanish, even though the English text says “J. P. Holding.”

Those Spanish translations do so because there are other English “witnesses” that attest to “Turkel.” Sometimes, there may even be an English textual witness that misspells “Turkel” as “Turkey” and my Spanish translation will yield the most unfortunate name of Roberto Guajolote.

But given that Holding believes in the inerrancy of the original, then I am sure those Spanish translations will be defended with gusto by Holding. He will hold no grudges, and he will pronounce those translations as pretty close to the original, even if not 100% so.

In the end, Holding can only manage a feeble “everybody does it” riposte when explaining why translators erase contradictions (try that with bank robbery, and see if you don’t end up in a correctional facility Turkel may know too well).

To illustrate his “everybody-does-it” strategy, Holding tries to impress us with his flawed knowledge of Piers the Plowman, a Medieval English poem (written in West Midland dialect), and Beowulf, an Anglo-Saxon poem.

Being formally trained in Anglo-Saxon literature and having discussed Piers the Plowman in one of my previous peer reviewed articles, I see that he can only fool those who don’t have this training. Consider this pearl offered by Holding:
Langland's Vision of Piers Plowman. In the editio princeps, which for a long time was the only text available, the very first line read, "In a somer seson whan set was the sonne" ("In a summer season, when >>set<< was the sun"), The correct reading, as now known from many manuscripts, is "softe," "soft." Thus the proposed emendation, although perfectly sensible and meeting all the desired criteria, in fact gives a meaning exactly opposite the true reading.




My first reaction on reading this was “what”? It is well known that Piers the Plowman existed in AT LEAST THREE manuscripts called the A, B, and C manuscripts, which seem to represent different stages of the poem.

An edito princeps is a standard edition of a text, and Piers the Plowman has been printed a number of times. George Kane has edited a standard version of the A manuscript in his Piers the Plowman, The A Version (University of London Press, 1961). So maybe this is the editio princeps to which Holding refers. Other well-known editions are those called the Kane-Donaldson and Russell-Kane editions.

But speaking about THE editio princeps, without specifying the manuscript version or edition, as being “for a long time the only text available” is just another of those sloppy amateurish descriptions Holding repeats ad nauseam.

Moreover, Holding seems to ignore that calling “softe” the “correct reading” or the “true reading” (what does that mean?) is already prejudiced and is based on a naïve circular reasoning that is increasingly being questioned in the textual criticism of Piers the Plowman, and many other works. Clearly, Holding is over his head here as he is elsewhere.

For more discussion of these issues, see Lee Patterson, “The Logic of Textual Criticism and the Way of Genius: The Kane-Donaldson Piers Plowman in Historical Perspective.” Pages 55-91 in Textual Criticism and Literary Interpretation, edited by Jerome J. McGann (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985).

REFUTATION 3: “[pp.] 56-8...‘Jews’ in the NT actually means ‘Judaeans’ -- as opposed to something like Samaritans or Galileeans or Romans, people whose origins were in the political entity known as Judaea.

I had argued that “Jews” in Acts, among other places, functioned as a “collective” designation and that some NT authors believe in collective punishment for the group identified as “the Jews.”

Holding attempts to whitewash this anti-Judaic tendency in some NT authors by arguing that “Jews” is ONLY a description of territorial/political origins (Judea) and not any sort of religious designation.

First, Holding confuses etymological origins of the word “Jew” with how it was used and redefined in later times. In fact, the first use of the word is may not be territorial, but tribal. It describes the descendants of Judah, regardless of where they are born.

One can be born in the territory called Judea and still not be a Jew. Many gentiles were born in Judea, and were not designated as Jews. And “Jews” can definitely include a religious feature, as is clear in Revelation 3:8-9:
[8] "`I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door,which no one is able to shut; I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name[9] Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie -- behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and learn that I have loved you.

Here, “Jews” has to do with a religious or symbolic affiliation, and not a territorial-political affiliation, as the letter is addressed to those in a church in what is now Turkey. Similarly, in Galatians 2:14, religious practices do have a role in making someone Jewish or Gentile:
But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?"

Clearly, living “like a Jew” has nothing to do with living like someone in Judea, but rather with observing certain religious practices (e.g., circumcision) REGARDLESS OF WHERE YOU WERE BORN or living. That is why sometimes it is necessary to specify that Jews were living in Jerusalem where, by Holding’s territorial origin definition, no further specification should be necessary, as in Acts 2:5: “Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.”

More importantly, Holding also seems to ignore that collective retribution was a recognized part of biblical thinking. This is clear in Exodus 20:5:
"...for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me."

Holding’s only defense contends that spatial limitations preclude notions of collective thinking on the part of biblical authors. So he offers this humorous mathematical rejoinder:
Is Avalos truly so thick as to imagine that Luke is envisioning hundreds of thousands of Judaeans (however he defines them) leaving their home nation and crowding into the synagogue meeting at Antioch for the purpose of inciting a handful of people in that city against Paul?

No, Holding is the one too neurally ossified to realize that the author of Acts implies that, when speaking of a particular locality, actions by “Jews” may refer only to the Jews living in that locality. Sometimes this is specified as in Acts 9:22-23:
[22] But Saul increased all the more in strength,and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ. [23] When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him,

Thus, we are to understand that “Jews” in v.23 means “the Jews living in Damascus” mentioned in v. 22. Similarly, in Acts 13:50, “Jews” reasonably refers to the Jews in Antioch, the locality mentioned already in vv. 43 and 45.

But that still does not address the problem of collective punishment and guilt, which can be extended to a whole group even if not all of its members were present, or even if they did not all perform any specific action described. Holding ignores that one need not be present or even alive not be reckoned with being guilty of a crime committed by one or a few people belong to a particular group.

Yes, the Bible repeatedly punishes whole groups of people for the actions of a few, as follows:

1. The killing of all men, women, children of the earth in Noah’s Flood (not to mention all animals not aboard Noah’s Ark). The biblical author had no problem with biocide here, even if animals and infants did not participate in any “sins” for which God destroyed humankind (except Noah and his family) in Genesis 6-7.

2. Children to the fourth and fifth generations for those who hate Yahweh (Exodus 20:5).

3. The killing of Amalekite children for the actions of their ancestors (1 Samuel 15:2-3).

4. All of humanity for the sins of Adam (Romans 5:12ff), especially if you follow some orthodox Christian interpretation of imputation

Given such notions of collective punishment, what would prevent NT authors from holding similar views about Jews, especially if they are redefined as those opposed to the true Jews (= Christians) as suggested in Revelation 3:9? Thus, the collective guilt imputed to “the Jews” by some NT authors (e.g., Matthew 27:25) is very much consistent with this view of collective guilt and punishment we find repeatedly in the Bible.

Furthermore, Holding’s complaint that I have succumbed to political correctness and paranoia because I point out the anti-Gentilism in the NT overlooks that rather conservative academic scholars have also commented on anti-gentilism in the NT. One example is Luke T. Johnson, who says: “The NT’s harshest polemic by far is reserved for Gentiles, in which it appropriates the themes of contemporary Jewish polemic” (Luke T. Johnson, ,“The New Testament Anti-Jewish Slander and the
Conventions of Ancient Polemic, Journal of Biblical Literature 108, no. 3 [Fall, 1989]:441, n. 66).

In sum, what Holding seems to hate is his own Bible’s support of collective punishment. He cannot stand the fact that this is a morally reprehensible practice, and so he tries to pretend it does not exist among his cherished NT authors.

REFUTATION 4: “[p.] 70...Avalos' rather appalling ignorance of the textual-critical process is shown in the example he manufactures in which we are allagedly not able to tell whether a manuscript read "lamb of God" or "seal of God.”

Holding here blatantly misrepresents my argument completely. My argument has to do with whether we can ever reconstruct “the original” out of an existing set of copies. I used an example where one set of copies had the word “lamb of God” and another set of copies used “seal of God.” I never denied that it was possible to choose one of those readings as better for THE ANTIGRAPH OF THESE TWO VARIANT SETS OF COPIES.

Holding confuses determining the best reading for an ANTIGRAPH with proof that this is also the best reading for THE AUTOGRAPH. In more technical terms, he equates the antigraph with the autograph. A common rookie mistake here.

In fact, I argued that even if we could reconstruct perfectly the manuscript (antigraph) behind the existing copies, that still would not mean we have “the original” (autograph). That is because that so-called “original” manuscript could itself be a copy of an earlier manuscript. There is no way to be sure that we have arrived at “the original” for that reason.

Holding does not deny that fact but simply regurgitates this gem: “Conjectural emendation has always been a standard practice in textual criticism, regardless of the availability of original manuscripts.”

This is analogous to arguing that because one bad practice has always been followed, then it is acceptable to follow it. It does not refute my point that determining what an original reading is impossible for the NT or the entire Bible without access to the entire transmission process. The fact that it is “standard practice” does not lessen my objection.

In the case of the NT, for example, the earliest copy we have is P52, a small fragment of John, usually dated to the second century. There is no way to tell whether P52 represents any “original” because about 100 years have passed between any original utterances given by Jesus and the text that purports to represent those utterances (P52 hardly has anything that can be called an utterance of Jesus preserved, anyway).

Holding is helpless in providing us with any specific criteria for how you tell whether any manuscript represents an original when such an original is no longer extant. So, if I am wrong, let Holding answer this question:

How do you know that the reading reconstructed in any antigraph of a biblical set of texts is THE ORIGINAL reading?

REFUTATION 5: “[p.] 83... Avalos, however, purposely distorts the issue by expanding the category. The NT is compared with a specific class of texts such as the works of Tacitus and Livy which are 1) texts inscribed on paper or a comparably perishable substance, and 2) were intended for distribution.

Here, Holding attempts to refute my argument that biblical apologists often engage in unfair comparisons that make the NT text appear to preserve something closer to “the original” content intended by an original author better than any non-Christian text in antiquity. I point out that such claims often rely on:

1. Comparisons that can differ by time (e.g. The Quran had probably more copies closer to its date of production than the Hebrew Bible).

2. Comparing the best preserved Christian texts against the worst preserved non-Christian texts instead of comparing the best preserved Christian texts against the best preserved non-Christian texts.

I cited the Res Gestae, a text attributed to Augustus Caesar, the Roman emperor (27 BCE-14 CE), as an example of a text that has more of a claim to preserving “the original” words of its author. The Res Gestae offers a contrast to the earliest NT manuscripts, which, at best, preserve, a translation of the words of Jesus some 100-300 years AFTER Jesus lived.

To avoid the obvious superiority of the Res Gestae in this regard, Holding blames the messenger, and accuses me of lying as follows:
What Avalos intentionally fails to report is that the Res Gestae is published in the form of bronze tablets affixed to the sides of Augustus' tomb. It is also preserved in inscriptions carved on temples. It is not a text preserved on perishable materials that were intended to be distributed on that material. To put it bluntly, Avalos has lied by obscuring part of the truth which makes a comparison to the NT irrelevant.

Of course, my statements are not a lie because I did not make any false claims about the medium in which the Res Gestae was written. There is no need to mention the bronze medium because I just don’t think that the medium is relevant to my point about the relationship of the content to its author.

Indeed, the sleight-of-hand belongs to Holding, who switches the issue by saying that the proper category for comparison between Christian and non-Christian texts should be 1) texts inscribed on paper; 2) texts intended for distribution. Since the Res Gestae was inscribed on bronze and was not “intended for distribution,” then it does not count, for Holding.

Ironically, in terms of preservation, bronze would support my point, as the biblical God could have chosen bronze just as well. Thus, if we apply Holding’s logic, the biblical god simply does not seem to have the foresight of Augustus in attempts to preserve his words. Holding must think the biblical god is so stupid that he cannot figure out that bronze is better than papyrus for preserving a good record, especially when the salvation of humankind is at stake.

Second, he does not explain why the medium makes a difference to evaluating whether a text has a claim to being more original or not. Again, the issue is: Does the Res Gestae have a better claim in preserving Caesar’s words or does the NT have a better claim in preserving Jesus’ words?

Holding switches the issue by giving the illusion that THE MEDIUM changes our ability to judge the reliability of THE CONTENT of Caesar’s words. It does not.

Indeed, the CONTENT of Caesar’s words is preserved in a text in his OWN LANGUAGE, FROM HIS OWN CLAIMED AUTHORSHIP, AND from HIS OWN LIFETIME. In contrast, the words of Jesus are preserved in manuscripts NOT IN HIS OWN LANGUAGE, NOT BY HIS OWN AUTHORSHIP, AND NOT IN HIS OWN LIFETIME. It is those features that support the claim for a better preservation of Caesar’s words over the preservation of Jesus’ words.

Those features would not change if the Res Gestae were written on papyrus rather than on bronze. Besides, there is nothing to prevent scribes from transfering the message on those bronze tablets to perishable materials. So, contra Holding, THE MEDIUM DOES NOT CHANGE THE MESSAGE here.

Of course, Holding also conveniently ignores my discussion of the Quran completely, which was written on perishable materials and was meant for distribution no less than any biblical text.

If we examine further biblical attitudes toward the transmission of texts, then we can see that at least some of the biblical texts also would not fit Holding’s own criteria.

Consider Holding’s criteria that we cannot use texts for comparison that are written on non-perishable materials. This would also exclude some biblical texts that are said to have been written originally in stone. For example, The Ten Commandments in Exodus 34:1:

"The LORD said to Moses, "Cut two tables of stone like the first; and I will write upon the tables the words that were on the first tables, which you broke."

The book of the Law was not necessarily intended for wide distribution because most people could not read anyway. Rather, the keepers of the law READ IT ALOUD to the mostly illiterate people. Usually, copies were made for a very small set of people like the King (see Deut. 17:18). Otherwise, it was stored in the Ark of the Covenant (Deut. 31:24-28).

The fact that the book of the Law was not distributed during the period of many kings is supported by the story of how Josiah did not know of any other copy of the book of the Law until one was “found” by his priests (see 2 Kings 22:8, 13, 16).

So, by Holding’s logic, we should exclude the law of Moses (or the book of the Law, if it is the same) from any textual comparisons with even better preserved non-biblical texts (e.g. the Quran) because that Law was not written on perishable materials, and its “distribution” was more restricted than even the Res Gestae, which was meant for public view and was not stored in an Ark.

Holding also seems ignorant of how unreliable ANY sort of written text was regarded by at least some early Christians. Consider Eusebius’ report about the attitude of Papias, a bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia (second century), in determining the teachings of Jesus: “For I did not suppose that information from books would help me so much as the word of a living and surviving voice.” Source: Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, trans. J. E. L. Oulton (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980), 3.39.4.

Indeed, this harks back to a Platonic tradition (See Plato, Phaedrus, 275) that any written text was inferior to memory and oral transmission.

REFUTATION 6: “Metzger, as an eminent textual critic, was in a position to know why readings of certain types were to be preferred, certainly far better than Avalos, who is a relative novice in the specific field of NT textual criticism. "How do we know" is not an answer to what Metzger offers. An answer would be to show why Metzger's hypothesis does not account for the data better than a rival hypothesis.”

Apparently, I have advanced here from not being a “textual scholar” to now being a “relative novice” in NT textual criticism. The basic problems of reconstructing “the original” remain the same regardless of whether one is doing textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible or the NT.

But, Holding is still holding on to his basic flawed argument from authority. In this case, I was arguing against Bruce M. Metzger’s rationale for omitting “you are God” from the presumed original text of Acts 4:24. Metzger says it was added later by a scribe in order to portray the original author as having a higher sense of reverence.

Holding complains: “Bruce Metzger, who conveniently for Avalos is now deceased and unable to defend himself.” But the viability of arguments does not depend on the metabolic status of a proponent.

Moreover, it is Metzger who needs to be defended from Holding, who puts an argument on Metzger’s lips that Metzger himself did not make. Note, for example, that Holding’s only defense for Metzger’s decision in Acts 4:24 is that Metzger “was in a position to know why readings of certain types were to be preferred.”

But Metzger did not say that he omitted “you are God” in Acts 4:24 because he was in a better position to know what the best reading was. Indeed, that is not the sort of rationale that anyone should accept. There must be reasons that can be verified and examined by other scholars even after the scholar dies.

Metzger said that he preferred omission of this phrase because that phrase was “doubtless made in the interest of heightening the apostle’s reverence in prayer” (Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (New York: United Bible Societies, 1975),p. 321.

My complaint was that Metzger presumes to psychoanalyze the scribe, and Metzger has no credentials in psychoanalysis. But Holding does not mind the lack of credentials in psychoanalysis because he repeatedly engages in it.

So, in a fit of brilliance, Holding tells us that: “An answer would be to show why Metzger's hypothesis does not account for the data better than a rival hypothesis.” Well, let’s see if that would help:

Metzger hypothesis: “You are God” was added by a scribe to heighten the original author’s sense of reverence.

Avalos hypothesis: “You are God” reflects the original sense of reverence by the original author (i.e., the scribe simply preserves the original author’s sense of reverence).

Now, Mr. Holding, why don’t you tell us again:

1. What data show that Metzger’s hypothesis reflects the scribe’s mind better than that of the original author’s mind?

2. How was Metzger able to tell what was on the scribe’s mind from what was on the original author’s mind?

CONCLUSION

By now it should be apparent that Holding is an amateur of the worst type: Too uninformed to know that he is uniformed. His so called “depth” review has now been exposed for being equally superficial from his first false claim about my supposed collaboration with Cavin to his sloppy musings on Piers the Plowman.

Holding’s bravado hides a flood of informational gaffes and logical gaps that can only fool the uninitiated in biblical studies. For those who wish to evaluate Holding’s techniques in more depth, please observe:

1. How often Holding relies on on-line materials. I use on-line materials myself, but the problem for Holding is that true depth requires consultation of a mass of materials that still have not been digitized (and Holding often does not bother to consult or cannot find those materials that have been digitized).

2. How Holding often consults the basic apologetic handbooks, and then does not subject them to a deeper and critical reading. His statements about Gleason Archer’s promulgations about the Aramaic numbering system being one example.

3. The repeated complaints about a lack of supposed credentials in his opponents, while exempting himself from this requirement, as he has no real credentials of his own in biblical studies.

4. The ad nauseam use of supposedly clever and verbally abusive rhetorical ploys that not only violate the protocols of professionalism but also are not necessary if his arguments alone could dismantle an opponent’s arguments.

In sum, secularists have nothing to fear from a J. P. Holding, and believers will do better to consult a more professional and informed apologist.

APPENDIX: FINAL QUESTIONS FOR HOLDING

In case Holding attempts to evade the questions I posed to him in the main text above, I have summarized them here (and added/rephrased a few more for the sake of clarity).

1. “What peer reviewed publications have you written in textual criticism?” Please provide full bibliographic references.

2. Do you deny that there is a contradiction in the Masoretic Text between 2 Kings 24:8 and 2 Chronicles 36:9 as to the age of Jehoiachin when he began to reign?

3. How does the fact that conjectural emendation is a standard procedure in textual criticism change the fact that conjectural emendation cannot determine an original reading without direct access to the autograph?

4. If the reading of an autograph cannot be determined through textual criticism, then how did you determine that autograph to be free of error?

5. How did you determine that it was a copyist, rather than the original author, who had the number 8 in 2 Chronicles 36:9?

6. How did you determine that “softe” is the correct or “original” reading for line 1 of Piers the Plowman?

7. Which Aramaic Papyrus did you consult (at the time you first wrote your response to me, not after I exposed your ignorance of Aramaic papyri) when checking on Gleason’s claims about the Aramaic numbering system? If you did consult one, why didn’t you cite it specifically?

8. How was Metzger able to tell what was on the scribe’s mind from what was on the original author’s mind in Acts 4:24?

9. Given your complaints about my critique of Metzger, have you ever critiqued the arguments of a scholar who is deceased? If so, why can we not call that hypocrisy?

10. How does the fact that the Res Gestae was written on bronze change the fact that its content has a better claim to preserving the actual words of its presumed author (Augustus Caesar) compared to the NT manuscript claims to preserve the words of Jesus? How would any superiority of the Res Gestae change if the same words of Caesar were written on papyrus preserved from his time?

11. Given our discussion of collective punishment, do you believe that genocide (especially those involving infants) is always wrong? YES or NO?

42 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

If this seems too long to read for some people, I myself want to call attention to Refutation #3, which is excellent and something we've commented on here at DC before.

Can we now dispense with Holding as being nothing short of an arrogant non-credentialed pompous ass who preys on the ignorant?

Heathen Dan said...

Man, that is one heckuva ass-whuppin'. I can't wait to finish most of my current to-read list so that I can justify buying his book. Hehehe.

Layman said...

Don't know much about Avalos, but did he respond to Holding at the forum Holding posted in? Or is this his chosen forum for interacting with the public?

John W. Loftus said...

Layman, he emailed this to me so I could post it. I don't think someone can carry on a civil debate with Holding over at TWEB.

John W. Loftus said...

"Man, that is one heckuva ass-whuppin'."

Yes it is! I guess that should teach Holding not to call him "Dr. Stupid" anymore, eh?

Shygetz said...

Holding calling anyone "Dr. Stupid" is enough to knock anyone's irony meter out of calibration.

I know from personal experience that little is more frustrating than ideologically-driven negative reviews from people who are eminently unqualified to comment. Kudos to Hector.

Vinny said...

Holding has been published in Haanegraaf's Christian Research Journal and he is cited as a resource in Strobel's Case for books. In his mind, this no doubt equals all of Avalos' degrees and peer reviewed papers put together. If he ever gets invited to be a pundit on The O'Reilly Factor, I am sure he will consider his credentials far superior.

Peter said...

Ouch! You killed J.P. Holding

Edward T. Babinski said...

Too bad Holding has to cite a non-inerrantist like Metzger when it comes to defending the inerrancy of the Biblical text:

Bruce Metzger (b. 1914) - the world's foremost Greek scholar, broadly evangelical though not an inerrantist. Professor at Princeton who helped prepare the critical Greek text of the New Testament in use today. He also helped oversee the production of the Revised Standard Version that is the basis for the NRSV and ESV in common use today.

SOURCE: Christian Authors Database: Bible Reference Authors

http://faith.propadeutic.com/authors/bibleref.html

Roger Pearse said...

Refutation 5 appears to be a reiteration of the point that J.P.Holding was criticising. The Res Gestae is an epigraphic text, not a literary one, so to compare it -- for purposes of accuracy of transmission -- with literary texts is to compare chalk with cheese. I am rather surprised that Dr Avalos doesn't see this, surely not very profound, difference.

I get the impression that most people who read what he says here will understand that all texts transmitted to us from ancient times by copying are very unreliable. If so, I fear that he has encouraged obscurantism, since, after all, if we hold this view we may as well throw away Virgil and Cicero.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Hello, Mr. Pearse,
In regard to your comments ("The Res Gestae is an epigraphic text, not a literary one...",) I think it is a false dichotomy to contrast “literary” with “epigraphic” texts.

“Epigraphic” relates to the medium (texts that are inscribed on hard surfaces) and “literary” relates to the genre. “Literary” texts are inscribed on hard surfaces all over the ancient Near East. There is nothing to prevent us from writing any literary genre on a hard surface.

For example, the statue of Idrimi, a king of the 15th century BCE from Alalakh (in what is now southern Turkey), contains a biographical narrative text that is no less “literary” than any of the ones we find in the Bible. See: http://www.geocities.com/farfarer2001
/alalakh/idrimi_inscription.htm

I also am not sure why you don’t see the Res Gestae as “literary” either. What makes something “literary” for you?

Notice that inerrantists claim an EQUAL level of inerrancy for biblical texts regardless of the genre. Thus, legal texts and literary biblical texts are given equal weight in biblical inerrancy and in their reliability relative to the original author.

Yet, legal texts could be written on stone (e.g. the Code of Hammurabi was written on basalt rock; an the Ten Commandments were written on stone).

So, again, the issue is the extent to which we can determine how close a text is to an original author REGARDLESS of the medium.

The medium does not make much of a difference in a determination of how closely a text represents an original author.

Accordingly, the Res Gestae has a much better claim to representing the original words of Augustus than the NT has in representing the words of Jesus. Bronze or papyrus does not
change that.

Roger Pearse said...

Dear Dr Avalos,

Thank you for taking the time to expand on what you have in mind. I'm not sure that I managed to convey my point very well, so will try to rephrase.

I'm sure that some kind of definition of a literary text could be found somewhere. The point about such a text is that it is *published*; it is disseminated by copying. The epigraphic (or indeed documentary) text is an original, or very close copy made at the time. Naturally these two types of production have a very different lifestyle.

If we say that the hazards of transmission do not apply to epigraphic texts, this is true, by their very nature. But it is of small use, surely, to tell us whether a particular literary text is well-preserved or not? Whether Cicero is better preserved than Virgil, Homer than Thucidydes, or whatever? For this we must compare like with like. As it stands, I think most people will suppose you to say that only documents such as the Res Gestae can be used to write history. This would be an unusual position for an educated man to take, but I think that you will be heard saying this.

So would you mind if I press you on this, since it is the point of most interest to me, and ask: Do you believe that, for all practical purposes, the surviving books of (e.g.) the Annals of Tacitus, or the Roman History of Livy have reached us, or not?

If the answer is 'yes', we need spend no time on wondering whether NT texts have reached us (whether what they contain is true or not is another question; the same is true for the Res Gestae, of course). If you do not, then it seems odd to confine this conclusion to biblical studies; classics and ancient history are, then, engaged in studing a mirage.

In other words, if the point made proves something, it proves rather more than I think any of us would be comfortable. Arguments that prove that (e.g.) all human records of our existence are fiction would seem rather blunt tools to dispose of one inconvenient bit of history, surely?

But perhaps I have not grasped your point very well?

All the best,

Roger Pearse

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Hello, Mr. Pearce,
I have commented on the issue of Roman sources in The End of Biblical Studies, especially pp. 115 121, 206-07.

Basically, the issue is that our manuscripts
of Tacitus date from the MIDDLE AGES,
and so we cannot always be sure what
has been added or changed by Christians
who controlled the transmissions of his copies.

So the issue does not revolve around on the
medium on which Tacitus manuscripts
were written, but on (among other issues):

1. How close to their original date of supposed publication those manuscripts are;

2. How much we can corroborate from OTHER
sources from the time the actual events
related in Tacitus (or other Roman authors) are said to have occurred.

The same can be said for some items
written stone because they could have
been preceded by a papyrus copy that
was the draft for what was written on stone.

So, yes, I don't always trust what is in Tacitus (or other Roman sources) either unless there is corroboration that is reliable.

We do have MUCH more material about Augustus Caesar from his own time than we possess for Jesus. And that is the difference between judging the historcity of Jesus and Augustus Caesar.

In any case, EOBS has much more on
these sorts of historical problems.

Roger Pearse said...

Dear Dr Avalos,

Many thanks for your response.

As I'm sure we both know, I as an amateur interested in the transmission of texts, and you as a professional text critic, most Greek or Latin texts are lucky if they exist in a manuscript of the 9th century (indeed I find that most Syriac texts are lucky if they exist in a text of the 19th century!). But are we to infer, as you seem to suggest, that we cannot rely on the texts that have reached us, in order to write history?

Certainly the texts are damaged in minor ways in transmission. But do historians really worry about this, when (e.g.) writing the history of Caesar's campaigns? Surely they spend their time rather on working out what the great man didn't choose to mention, and how he spins the story? It has to be very serious textual damage before it worries the historians.

I am somewhat troubled by what you wrote. You see, it sounds much more like an archaeologist, than a text critic. Can you say why you spent time as a text critic, if you feel (as seems to be the case) that the labour is essentially valueless in the end, giving no certain text, and that archaeology is the only sure guide? I don't mean to be discourteous in this; it is simply puzzling. Isn't archaeology in fact anyway seldom self-explanatory?

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Hello, Mr. Pearse,
RE: “But are we to infer, as you seem to suggest, that we cannot rely on the texts that have reached us, in order to write history?”

This, of course, depends on what you mean by “in order to write history.” We certainly cannot rely on Middle Age manuscripts ALONE to VERIFY historical occurrences that happened in Roman times.

I go through one example in detail regarding what we know of the story of the killing of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE (see EOBS pp. 113-121). It turns out we know very little or nothing about this from contemporary sources.

A lot of “history” of the Roman period simply has reproduced what LATER sources say, but most modern historians cannot tell you how they can verify if those sources are correct. It DEPENDS on how much corroboration we have from other sources FROM the actual time of the event. It depends on which SPECIFIC event you are discussing.

“Damage” to manuscripts is not really so much the only issue. The bigger issue is: How do we know what has been changed between, for example, ca. 14 CE to 1000 CE. Sometimes we can corroborate certain occurrences, and sometimes we can’t.

I wish that were not so, but whether we like something or not, does not change reality.

I have been greatly disppointed myself to find out that some things I thought were certain about Roman history, are not so at all.

I hope my book provides a lot more detail about the possibilities and limits of using textual or material remains in verifying and reconstructing the history of ANY culture in the ancient world.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Over at Theology Web,
Mr. Holding has made an effort to respond to my response. It that is the best he can do, it reiterates my point that secularists have nothing to fear.

First, he basically confirms my suspicion that he has no peer reviewed work of ANY sort (OT or NT) in textual criticism.

And note this gem about my peer reviewed work in textual criticism: “And two of the articles aren’t even about the Bible!”

Last time I checked the book of Ruth was in the Bible, and my work on Columbus has to do with what Bible he used. So to say that these are “not about the Bible” simply redefines what “Bible” means for him.

Of course, he leaves out the bigger issue. Since he is not a textual critic AT ALL, then he is in no position to judge the authorities on which he relies. He is just parroting authorities, just as we all have suspected all along.

So, I am glad he has at least admitted this much. Let’s see how much more we can get him to admit in his future posts.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Holding tells us:
"How this is a 'botch' is not explained. The statement is itself a quote from Archer. How can I botch Archer’s own explanation?"


Mr. Holding is now blaming Archer. Mr. Holding has botched this reading of Archer because he did not compare what Archer said on p. 215 of Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (quoted by Holding) to what Archer said on p. 207. If he had actually read both passages, Holding would have seen the problem I do. It is a botched and poor reading of Archer’s explanation in that sense.

Mr. Holding quoted this passage on p. 215 of Archer's work with a presumed endorsement.
Thus, he interpreted it to be correct despite
the problems posed by p. 207.

We ought not excuse Mr. Holding from at least critically reading the authorities he regurgitates.

Eric D said...

It seems to me that JP Holding is to Christian Apologetics what Bill O'Reilly is to conservative punditry.

Darren said...

Holding has utterly demolished Avalos' attempted defense at the link below:

http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/showthread.php?t=105646&page=3

Enjoy. It's a fun read. Well, it's fun if you're anybody other than Hector Avolas. ;)

Harry McCall said...

I debated Bob Holding 2 years ago over the use of “ravens” in 1 Kings 17: 1-7. The point of the debate was that the legal part of the Hebrew Bible was later than this section of 1 Kings in that unclean animals (such a ravens) would not have been used to carry food to Elijah.

Holding had ONLY one source ,John Gray, and to get around this contradiction, he followed Gray’s interpretation that some how the word “ravens” is a code name for the indigenous people in the area in that these people carried Elijah food.

The debate last for several months until he said he was going to have me fired from my job and arrested (he has a short fuse when pushed). I told him to knock himself out and that this would be an excellent time to see how well his claims of “truth” functioned in the real world. His response: He blocked my emails and has not talked with me since.

I sure do miss the lad!

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

I shall not spend much more time on Mr. Holding’s comments because he has committed as thorough a self-immolation as is possible in the blogosphere.

Suffice it to say that he has admitted much more about his own defective research methods than even I thought was possible. Here is the short summary of his whole series of responses thus far:

1. Arguments from authority do form the bulk of his method. Often he really does not go beyond this rationale: “because authority X just knows best.” Thus, Bruce Metzger just KNOWS what’s best in Acts 4:24, and he has to give no reasons beyond that.

Of course, the problem is that it is Holding who doesn’t know which authority knows best, especially when authorities disagree, as Holding has admitted to having no real peer-reviewed qualifications in textual criticism or anything else in biblical studies.

So how can he even evaluate who is a good authority without the qualifications he demands of people who have actually published peer reviewed work in textual criticism?

And, of course, he preselects his “authorities” so that those that agree with him are judged to be right, and those that don’t’ are judged to be not right (e.g., Ehrman when he disagrees with Holding). Holding himself can never tells us HOW he knows who is right.

2. Circular arguments do not bother him. His main defense is "everyone does it."

For example, he insists he knows “softe” in the first line of Piers the Plowman is “correct,” but he cannot tell you WHY. Thus, he ends up with the circular rationale: “I know X is correct because I know X is correct.”

This, from a person who admitted his only information had come from secondary source, not from first-hand study of any edition of Piers the Plowman. As he phrased it:

“The material comes from Rich Elliott of Simon Greenleaf University, whose site is the one I linked to...I can’t fully defend Elliott here since I don’t know what he’d say for sure...”

Later: “Elliott doesn’t seem to say anything to the contrary. He says that for a long time, only one text was available; presumably these others were discovered also. In fact the reference to “many manuscripts” implies further discovery.”

And while Holding says he appeals to the best textual authorities, Elliott is not really known as a text critic of Piers the Plowman. Yet, Holding KNOWS that “softe” is correct on the basis of this secondary source from a non-specialist.

If one reads George Kane’s edition of the A manuscript, even this foremost text critic of Piers the Plowman does not sound as self-assured about that first line. In fact, the other more important variant is “[as] I southe went” (instead of “softe was the sonne”). Commenting on the variant “I southe went” (and compared to “softe was the sonne”), Kane says:

“This reading, attested in only thee manuscripts of indifferent quality, which undoubtedly stand in some genetic relation, vertical or lateral, is hard to account for. If it is a scribal insertion, how did it seem superior to the copyist who substituted it? If it is original, why was it generally lost? These unanswered questions cast doubt on the originality of BOTH VARIANTS.” [my capitals]

Source: George Kane, Piers the Plowman: The A Version (London: The Athlone Press, 1960), p. 154, see also 433 n. 1.


So, while Kane has chosen “softe was the sonne,” for his printed edition, even he doesn’t say he KNOWS that “softe” was original. In fact, he himself raises the question of whether BOTH variants are “original.”


3. Superficiality in research. When I pointed out his sloppy descriptions of editions of Piers the Plowman, Holding, at first, simply blamed the authority on which he relied. He admitted he had not done any more checking of the facts AT THE TIME HE POSTED his comments.

Later, he tells us that he did about 10 minutes worth of “research” to justify his use of editio princeps for Piers the Plowman. Doing an equally superficial search from another second-rate source, I can come up with just an opposite conclusion. For example, note Wikipedia’s discussion of editio princeps:

“The picture is complicated by the possibilities of partial publication, of publication first in translation (for example from Greek to Latin), and of a usage that simply equates with first edition. For a work, such as Piers Plowman, with several strands of manuscript tradition that have diverged, it is a less meaningful concept.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Editio_princeps

So, while it is true that “editio princeps” is often used for the first printed edition, Holding fails to understand that a work such as Piers the Plowman challenges and undermines the whole notion of a “first printed edition.” The editio princeps of what? The A version? The B version? etc.

4. Uncritical readings of his own sources. Note also how he is sure that I am wrong about Archer but he was begging someone for a copy of Archer so he could check out my claim. So at the time he is pretty sure I was wrong, he has not even checked Archer. He is winging it.

5. Broken promises. In his post #49, Mr. Holding makes this promise: “His final questions just repeat prior stuff, so as far as I am concerned, we're done, and so is he --- as Quizno's says....Mmmmm, toasty....”

But, soon after that he submitted another post without any intervening response from me.

So it looks as if his discipline is somewhat wanting here. It shows that he is obsessively bothered by The End of Biblical Studies, and that is a good thing. If the book did not seriously challenge what mattered to him, he would not have bothered to review it at all.

Indeed, I was quite disappointed that he did not review my chapters on archaeology and aesthetics in any detail, given that he was calling it an “in-depth” review.

But if he is actually “done,” then I do want to thank Mr. Holding for the publicity that will help disseminate my book to others who need to be challenged and informed.

Otherwise, there should be no Holding back.

Hannah King said...

I have just tried to read Holding's 'response' to your post.

To put it bluntly, not only do I find it lacking in anything even remotely resembling intelligence, I also find it be juvenile and inane.

That was not the response of a professional debator, in any sense of the word.

I despair of finding anything of the sort in the rank and files of Religious Apologists - and I do mean despair - I have been looking for debate of this sort that have intelligent participants on both sides, but have yet to find any.

Unfortunately, for the religious, it is easy to find the intelligent athiest respone, but nigh impossible to find the intelligent religious.

I read your post with interest and great respect for the fact that you avoided all of the traps I have seen so many apologists fall into. I shall certainly look your works up in the local library.

H

Damienl said...

"Later, he tells us that he did about 10 minutes worth of “research”"

No, *I* did.

"another second-rate source"

Modern Philology is a peer-reviewed journal published by the University of Chicago Press. I'd say it beats Prometheus Books. If it's second-rate, then your book is umpteenth-rate.

"So, while it is true that “editio princeps” is often used for the first printed edition, Holding fails to understand that a work such as Piers the Plowman challenges and undermines the whole notion of a “first printed edition.” The editio princeps of what? The A version? The B version? etc."

You do realize you are just trying to confuse the issue. I argued that defining editio princeps as "a standard edition of a text" was incorrect and that you were mistaken. But, instead of providing us with a refutation of my claim, you would rather start complaining that, anyway, the concept does not apply here.

In any case, if you are really aware that editio princeps means 'the first printed edition', why didn't you mention Skeat's 1867 edition of the A-text?

I agree that Elliott should have said, if he had wanted to be precise, 'the first printed edition of the B-text' and identified it in more details. But his article is aimed at laymen and, for all practical purposes, what he says is sufficient. Only someone acting in bad faith would fail to understand that he means 'the first printed edition *ever*, regardless of the version', which would be Crowley's 1550 edition. It was indeed the only edition available for a long time and did contain the line Elliott mentions.

"I can come up with just an opposite conclusion"

You 'source' does not contradict the central thesis of my post, which was that your definition of editio princeps was incorrect.

J.L. Hinman said...

Hi Dr. Avalos. I am Joe Hinman. I am not an amazing famous scholar. I have no real credentials. I did go to Perkins and took classes with Bill Farmer but that doesn't make me a great famous scholar. You have absolutely nothing to gain by debating me. But I challenge you to debate anyway. I am certain that in my rendition of David I could get one of my five stones to find it's target. If you care to play Goliath to my David.

I am not shocked or amazed by your arguments about Biblical criticism. That is the kind of thing we get in the first semester at Perkins. You have really said nothing bold or amazing, in fact nothing is more fashionable for liberal scholars than to rag on their discipline. The one thing to do to secure your job teaching in a liberal seminary is to say "take away job, religion is evil and my job is useless." then everyone says "O, he's so brave! he says what we expect to hear, hazaah!"

so how about it?

J.L. Hinman said...

I think the arguments you make, Dr. Avalos, are only valid in relation to a fundamentalist. You want to trash the whole bible and demote it to the status of something like the works of Osian. But I find that reactionary. The problems you point out in terms of textual criticism are generally good, but they don't add up to "trash the bible."

The points you make about the industry of Biblical support are true but its necessary because if we left study of the bible in the hands of secular universities they would have demoted it long ago. Although I support putting it more firmly in the hands of real scholarship such as the great universalities, rather than little bible colleges and fundamentalists seminaries.

It is certainly possible to see value in the Bible and to understand it as a record of divine/human encounters, without all that bogus ahistorical stuff about verbal plenary bs.

here are the assumptions I make about Biblical revelation:

http://www.doxa.ws/Bible
/Models_rev.html

John W. Loftus said...

Joe, where do you get your beliefs from? And why do people, even Christians themselves, disagree with you? What best descibes your beliefs...are you best described as a mystic, pantheist, process, or deist? I know you claim to be a Christian, but there are so many people identifying themselves as Christian it helps us for you to tell us who your closest theological kin is.

J.L. Hinman said...

Joe, where do you get your beliefs from?

I didn't say no bible.I said no verbal plenary. The Christian tradition is where I get my beliefs, and that's more diverse than just the bible. of course from western culture, the world of letters.


And why do people, even Christians themselves, disagree with you?

I didn't know they did.



What best descibes your beliefs...


brilliance? expert genius mastermind? Modestry? ;)



are you best described as a mystic, pantheist, process, or deist? I know you claim to be a Christian, but there are so many people identifying themselves as Christian it helps us for you to tell us who your closest theological kin is.

I guess I prefer the label "Christian existentialist" I do have a sort mystical slant but I find that sounds sort of pretentious and wasky. There's a guy at the Philosophers forum in Dallas who is always saying "I'm a mystic" sounds put on, you know?

Harry McCall said...

j.l.hinman said: “But I challenge you to debate anyway. I am certain that in my rendition of David I could get one of my five stones to find it's target. If you care to play Goliath to my David.”

It seems you have gotten off on the wrong foot already with your use of King David.

In the same critical review of the Bible as Avalos, Professor Steven McKenzie dealt a major blow on the historical David in his scholarly “King David: A Biography”, Oxford University Press 2000.

McKenzie concludes that David never killed Goliath (comparing the account in Kings to the revision in Chronicles), that David was a usurper, adulterer, and murderer who, throughout his scandalous reign, killed anyone who stood in his way not even sparing his own son.

Steven McKenzie, Philip Davies and William Dever have done as much, if not more, than Hector Avalos to discredit the Bible as an objective book of faith and trust.

All that Hector Avalos did was to put all this information between two covers written for the general reader and now everyone (the Bible believers) want to attack him. As I read his book, most of the problems he discusses were already well known in the scholarly world, but have only been discussed in technical journals not easily accessible to the average person. Prof. Avalos has laid it out in layman terms and, now it seems, all the faithful blame him for attacking the Bible.

In short, Prof. Avalos has given a great objective summery of know problems in layman terms and comes the logical conclusion…”The End of Biblical Studies” which promotes and supports faith.

J.L. Hinman said...

j.l.hinman said: “But I challenge you to debate anyway. I am certain that in my rendition of David I could get one of my five stones to find it's target. If you care to play Goliath to my David.”

It seems you have gotten off on the wrong foot already with your use of King David.

In the same critical review of the Bible as Avalos, Professor Steven McKenzie dealt a major blow on the historical David in his scholarly “King David: A Biography”, Oxford University Press 2000.

McKenzie concludes that David never killed Goliath (comparing the account in Kings to the revision in Chronicles), that David was a usurper, adulterer, and murderer who, throughout his scandalous reign, killed anyone who stood in his way not even sparing his own son.


Hey you are stepping all over my metaphor dude.

Steven McKenzie, Philip Davies and William Dever have done as much, if not more, than Hector Avalos to discredit the Bible as an objective book of faith and trust.


You didn't read my follow up post did you?

All that Hector Avalos did was to put all this information between two covers written for the general reader and now everyone (the Bible believers) want to attack him.



and so terribly original too! Juast as though Von Haranck and Bultmann never existed isn't it?

As I read his book, most of the problems he discusses were already well known in the scholarly world, but have only been discussed in technical journals not easily accessible to the average person. Prof. Avalos has laid it out in layman terms and, now it seems, all the faithful blame him for attacking the Bible.


what I suspect he's done is distort it in layman's terms. as you say these things are old hat to schoalrs. as I said myself I did this stuff at Perkins. no big shock. But those scholars don't argue for trashing the bible.

therefore, I see this as a reactionary move, if not an exploitive one. It seems to me that many atheists trade in the ignorance of the masses.


In short, Prof. Avalos has given a great objective summery of know problems in layman terms and comes the logical conclusion…”The End of Biblical Studies” which promotes and supports faith.


why is that logical when no scholar agrees? he's given the problems scholars agree to, but he isn't giving the solutions they use.

6:39 PM, January 16, 2008

J.L. Hinman said...

so where is Avalos? I want to debate!

(sigh) no one will debate with me.

Sam291 said...

Metacrock, you would be destroyed.

J.L. Hinman said...

Metacrock, you would be destroyed.

well hush my puppies! you want to debate me?

Harry McCall said...

j.i.hinman Stated: “and so terribly original too! Juast as though Von Haranck and Bultmann never existed isn't it?”

Well only if we are talking about the New Testament (Bultmann) and the history of dogma (Harnack). All three person I cited deal with current issues on the Hebrew Bible.

Interesting too is that William Farmer’s thesis on the Matthew’s priority as a solution to the Synoptic Problem (the Griesbach hypothesis) has fallen into the minority status in such major works on Matthew as W.D. Davies and Dale Allison in the ICC’s 3 volume commentary on this Gospel, plus the major work by J.M. Robinson, Paul Hoffman and John Kloppenborg in the Hermeneia commentary series “The Critical Edition of Q”.

My question to you: Have you even read Avalos book? It seems you are getting most of your information second hand.

Finally, you seem (to me) to be only interested in a debate itself and not being productive in a discussion. It’s easy to be negative. JT Holding is great at this.

If you want a debate, just log on to Holding’s Tekton website http://www.tektonics.org and take his “Chicken Challenge” and I guarantee you, you will NOT win!

J.L. Hinman said...

J.L. Hinman said...

Interesting too is that William Farmer’s thesis on the Matthew’s priority as a solution to the Synoptic Problem (the Griesbach hypothesis) has fallen into the minority status in such major works on Matthew as W.D. Davies and Dale Allison in the ICC’s 3 volume commentary on this Gospel, plus the major work by J.M. Robinson, Paul Hoffman and John Kloppenborg in the Hermeneia commentary series “The Critical Edition of Q”.


Yes but that tiny minority valiantly defends it with the tenacity of Tolkineque defenders. Besides that, I didn't say I agreed with Farmer. I accept Q as a matter of course. Mark Goodacre has some good arguments against Q but I am willing to accept Q and I don't see it as any kind of problem for Christian faith. I don't think many scholars do.

My question to you: Have you even read Avalos book? It seems you are getting most of your information second hand.

No but his article should stand independently. I disagree with this tact of "my answer is in my book so you can't criticize my article until you read my book. Now I am going to read it. But, notice I didn't' try to attack anything not in the article. He had plenty of space to lay out his basic philosophy and we should be able to assume the article can stand independently.







Finally, you seem (to me) to be only interested in a debate itself and not being productive in a discussion. It’s easy to be negative. JT Holding is great at this.

I was a debater. I love debate. ti's a skill one learns in school then never gets to use again. But comment sections on blogs just don't afford enough space to really stretch out and get into anything.

Message boards suck. They have a good format but they have been left to idiots. I spend hours researching and writing some post and some guy named "purple purp 3" or something comes along and says "yew don't know nothin'n about no learn'n.m yew ant never had no egeamacation."

I want a formal debate, with civility and good will, where the major focus is learning. I want room to spread out documentation and fully develop arguments. I want people to say things like "My worthy opponent" and so on. that's a debate.

as opposed to "doctor stupid!" What an embarrassment!

J.L. Hinman said...

btw I'm going to read John's book someday.

Then I'll debate people and I'll say "I Knew John Loftus. John Loftus was a freind of mine. You sir, are no John Lofuts."

John W. Loftus said...

Yes Joe, but maybe when you critique what I write you should read through the whole book and not just a few chapters. ;-)

‘Cause if you don't then you should say this:

"I knew a characterization of John Loftus. That characterization was a friend of mine. You sir, are not that characterization."

;-)

By the way, have you read a summary of the case in my book? It can be found here.

Keep in mind my target is evangelicalism, which you reject. Still I think some of it applies to what you believe.

Cheers.

J.L. Hinman said...

es Joe, but maybe when you critique what I write you should read through the whole book and not just a few chapters. ;-)

‘Cause if you don't then you should say this:

"I knew a characterization of John Loftus. That characterization was a friend of mine. You sir, are not that characterization."

;-)

By the way, have you read a summary of the case in my book? It can be found here.

Keep in mind my target is evangelicalism, which you reject. Still I think some of it applies to what you believe.

Cheers.

aahahahaha, ok fair enough.

Landon said...

Joe, there's no need to quote the entirety of the previous comment just to say "Ah, okay."

Earl McArtensen said...

It must really suck to realize at the end of your career that your life's work is irrelevant and that no one cares and that people will debate this forever to no end.

Jay Rogers said...

At least Avalos actually deals with JP in a lengthy discussion.

Many apologists for atheism of lesser credentials would simply harp on his lack of credentials without actually responding to the points. Avalos at least does both.

I know J.P. personally. He is not stupid. He does have an M.A. in research (library science) and is working toward a Ph.D.

But Avolos' thesis is simply that one cannot be both an apologist for the Christian faith at the same time.

If the same criteria were applied for our side of he argument we would say that no one who does not believe in the Holy Spirit can comment on the inerrancy of biblical texts.

Neither is a convincing argument to anyone on either side of the debate but the already converted.

Therefore, I do agree with J.P. in that Avalos is "stupid." I believe that he is educated beyond his intelligence. And in fact, it is possible that Avalos may have had some past emotional disturbances that have blind him to reasonable thought. For instance, Dr. Avalos is the only credentialed scholar I have ever heard in a lecture claim that there is no evidence that Jesus existed.

Of course, having a "religion" doctorate from Harvard is tantamount to having a degree in free market economics from the University of Havana.

Even so, no credentialed historian I know of currently holds the "Jesus-as-myth" view. So I find it ironic that Avalos would proclaim: The End of Biblical Studies, when his point of view ended in the 1930s. He must either believe that he alone is right or be simply oblivious to the reality that he is alone.

I applaud J.P. for attacking Avalos with the "stupidity" charge. He is an easy target in that his arrogance has made him stupid. That is ironically a boon for us "intellectual inferior" Christian apologist.

Vinny said...

Jay,

Given how fast and loose I have seen you play with evidence, I think you should be wary about applauding the "stupidity" charge as applied to anyone.

davidtbeason said...

Holdings has critiqued the arguments of the Deceased although not scholars,they are popular for there critics of religion,Robert Green Ingersoll and Thomas Paine