Why David Marshall is not a Biblical Scholar

An Apologist should not be confused with a "Scholar"
The recent post about David Marshall’s lack of expertise, when compared to Matthew Ferguson, points to a broader issue of who counts as a “scholar.”  
Since some of my posts were referenced in that discussion, let me just add my own comments on why David Marshall would not qualify as a scholar of the Gospels, while Matthew Ferguson would.
In general, a scholar is one who, at minimum, has the equipment needed to verify independently the claims made in the relevant field.  Usually, it is standard to have undergone some certification process as reflected in graduate degrees and peer reviewed published work. Self-proclamation as a “scholar” is not standard academic procedure.
In the case of biblical studies, one needs, at minimum, the ability to evaluate the primary biblical sources independently. That, in turn, means that one must have the ability to read biblical texts in the original languages.

Some biblical scholars may specialize in Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), and others in New Testament. Usually, scholars of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible study Hebrew, biblical Aramaic, and biblical or classical Greek. Other ancient Near Eastern languages such as Akkadian (Assyrian/Babylonian), Ugaritic, Hittite, Egyptian, and a few others may be part of the equipment.
Those in New Testament definitely would need Greek (classical and/or Koine Greek) and often they know Hebrew, biblical Aramaic, and other supplementary languages (e.g., Latin, Syriac, and Coptic, especially if working on some non-canonical gospels).
Of course, there are plenty of scholars who can work in both “testaments” and extra-canonical literature. It is a given that any biblical scholar should show familiarity with the technical and scholarly literature in the field rather than just depend on general secondary sources.
David Marshall does not know any of the biblical languages needed to evaluate the primary sources independently. On that basis alone, David Marshall cannot be regarded as a scholar of the Gospels or of any part of the Bible.
In addition, Marshall uses theological arguments that are not verifiable to those who don’t accept his theological suppositions.  He shows very little or no familiarity with the technical and scholarly literature of biblical studies.
In fact, John Loftus, who does have graduate degrees in theological studies, is far better read in general than Marshall.  Loftus’ work over the years in both his blogs and in his anthologies provide a much better look at what is going on in atheist scholarship than Marshall’s books provide for his evangelical side.
Marshall’s general manner of reasoning is also poor and circular when he attempts to defend his lack of scholarly equipment. For example, in his reply to Matthew Ferguson, Marshall states: “But to determine genre or historicity, a good translation will usually do.”
However, how would Marshall even recognize “a good translation” if he cannot read the original languages? Obviously, he cannot know what a good translation would be without knowing the original languages.
Therefore, Marshall is unable to independently verify any of the main claims that he is discussing. Ferguson would be able to independently evaluate the accuracy of any translations in the Gospels.

Checking primary cuneiform sources in the British Museum
I have said before that Marshall’s main feature seems to be indolence.That is to say, he is not willing to undertake the extensive and intensive work it requires to determine the truth of anything he is discussing about the Bible. He seems content to stop once he thinks he found evidence for his position, and then does not check to see if the claims made by the sources on which he depends are sound or not.
There are many examples given in the links provided by Loftus. I recommend reading the post on how Marshall used Émile Durkheim and the essay about how Marshall evaluates historical claims about Alexander the Great to exemplify his modus operandi.
Marshall is particularly fond of using Rodney Stark as an authority. But many specialists realize that Stark is himself out of his expertise when he speaks on many issues. See, for example, Richard Carrier’s comments hereMarshall’s indolence in this matter is illustrated by the fact that he apparently has not bothered to check whether challenges to Stark are accurate or not.
In a blog post dated June 24, 2012, Marshall lists Stark’s For the Glory of God as one of the “essential” books one must read. He claims that “Finally, Stark shows how Christians put an end to slavery, beginning in the ‘Dark Ages.’”
However, I responded in detail to Stark’s arguments and analyze his sources in Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship (2011). I show that Stark often cannot read the original languages either, and other times he did not bother to read the primary sources he is referencing. Stark is often just relying on secondary sources.
One need not take my word that my critique of Stark is effective. Robert Seesengood of Albright College wrote a review of my book, Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship (2011) for The Bible and Critical Theory (2013). Although Seesengood does not agree with me on everything, please note his independent judgment of my arguments against Rodney Stark:

“Among Avalos’ principal antagonists are several evangelical scholars and Rodney Stark. Stark’s For the Glory of God: How Monontheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts and the end of Slavery argues that (Roman Catholic) Christianity and the Bible initiated most intellectual and ethical progress in Western culture. One specific example, for Stark, is the role of the Bible in abolition. Avalos’ critique of Stark is complete and devastating. To be fair, however, as a target for scholarly fire, Stark, tends to be a rather low-flying dirigible, lacking any substantive training in the relevant languages, literature, and scholarly history for biblical and theological debate, and reveling deeply in tendentious argument” (my underlined emphasis).

I sent Marshall a copy of my book on July 10, 2012. To this date, he still has not apparently addressed my criticisms of Stark or why they are wrong. Yet, he keeps referencing Stark as an authority.
In the comments section of the post about being out of his expertise, Marshall lists what he thinks are refutations to the posts listed by Loftus.
Note that none of the links Marshall provides address the problems with Stark that I pointed out in Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship. This, despite the fact that he has had the text of that book since at least 2012.  
Admittedly, the search I conducted may have missed such a response, but the fact that he himself still presents these pre-2012 posts as refutations also corroborates my claim that he has not updated any response on Stark.
Therefore, in the last three years, Marshall has not been willing or able to read the refutation of Stark. That is what I call indolence in seeking the truth.
The alternative is that Marshall simply does not care to read something that will refute his authorities. That is not the sign of intellectual honesty or curiosity either.

In the summer of 2012, Marshall invited me to debate him publicly. I asked him to provide his academic credentials, which is a standard procedure at my university to publicize any future potential events. I later also planned another essay on a different issue, and I wanted to ensure that I was representing his credentials correctly. As it is, I was looking for more well-known figures to debate at that time, and I had medical issues to manage, as well.  
In any case, Marshall initially was reluctant to provide these items:
-The type of doctorate (e.g., Ph.D., Ed.D., Th.D., etc.) he earned.

-The department and institution where he earned them.

-The title or subject of his doctoral dissertation
He eventually stated that his “PhD was from the University of Wales (also, conveniently, UW or UoW), and proposed a new Christian model of religions, in the Chinese context.
But, in those personal communications, he did not provide the year of that degree or where I could obtain a copy of that dissertation. He did provide other information about his topic and his advisors.  In any case, he may have a legitimate PhD in his area, but it is not biblical studies.
Any good scholar should know how difficult it is to acquire expertise. If Marshall undertook actual research in Chinese studies, then why would he think he can gain such expertise in biblical studies without knowing the languages of the primary sources?
I don’t have time to catalogue all of the errors Marshall makes in his responses, but here are a few items to note.
As one of his refutations about my posts on slavery, he again offers posts here and hereBoth were published in 2010, and BEFORE I sent him a copy of Slavery, Abolitionism and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship.
Therefore, Marshall is citing his own outdated posts in many crucial points, and he does not address many of the issues with Stark I pointed out by 2011. So, why does Marshall offer us posts from 2010?
Again, indolence is one explanation. Otherwise, I am sure he would have happily pointed out the problems with my critique of Stark by now. 
In his response about the Crusades,  Marshall unwittingly makes my own case that the creation of holy space by religious belief was a major factor in the First Crusade.  His whole “formulation” of the real reason for the First Crusade begins with the “[f]act that Islam had conquered half of Christendom, including much of Europe, by this time.”
Marshall leaves unexplained why Islam wanted to conquer Christendom, and the reason certainly is religious. For example, one reason given why Islam must conquer (in this case speaking to the Jews) is that “the earth belongs to Allah and His messenger.” See: Al-Bukhari, Book of Al Jizya, 6 in Shahih Al-Bukhari (Translated by Muhammad Muhsin Khan; 9 volumes; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Darussalam Publishers and Distributors) 4:248.
A similar statement is found in the Quran, Sura 7:158: :“Say, [O Muhammad], ‘O mankind, indeed I am the Messenger of Allah to you all, [from Him] to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth.’”
This idea, of course, clashes with the idea that Christianity must evangelize the entire earth (Matthew 28:19). The Muslim goal clashes with the fact that Jerusalem is sacred space for Jews and later for Christians. Both Muslims and Christians saw their conflict as “defensive.”
Not only do early Jihadists state that their mission is religious, but we have evidence that many Muslim atrocities were directly copying how they saw Christians conquer before them.
Many early Muslim jihadists particularly idolized the Christian emperor Heraclius (610-641), who was said to behead non-Christians he randomly encountered on the road. The rest of Marshall’s post is replete with unsubstantiated claims and interpretations of the First Crusade.
Indeed, Marshall shows no evidence of wide reading in the history of jihad. Instead of Stark, he might have profited more from reading this bookViolence and Belief in Late Antiquity: Militant Devotion in Christianity and Islam (2009) by Thomas Sizgorich.
Insofar as his riposte to my charge that he misused the work of Émile Durkheim, the famous sociologist of religion, I urge readers to simply compare my post about Durkheim with his response. Was Marshall able to evade my charge that he used Durkheim’s supposed belief in some universal monotheism (or what he calls his theistic argument for cultural transcendence) without checking Durkheim’s sources any further?

David Marshall is not a biblical scholar. He does not have sufficient knowledge of the original languages to evaluate the primary sources independently. That alone disqualifies him. None of his work shows any breadth or depth in the scholarship of classical or biblical literature.
It is not that Marshall can never achieve this sort of competence. Rather, I am affirming that he does not possess it now, and he should devote his time and effort to acquiring that competence rather than to writings that will only expose that incompetence when relevant experts such as Matthew Ferguson and academic biblical scholars and classicists read it.
My charge of indolence is not just a trivial scoring point. Indolence and lack of scholarly due diligence are fundamental to the entire way in which Marshall operates. Like many others I can name, he wants the authority to speak on a subject before he has done the real work to earn that authority.
One may ask why real experts devote any time to Marshall’s writings or comments. The answer is that Christian apologetics is primarily an authority-based system. Therefore, to undermine Christian apologetics it is necessary to expose the lack of credentials and expertise by apologists.
Second, Marshall does represent the way many believers think and reason. Therefore, refuting Marshall’s arguments is, in effect, refuting the arguments of thousands or millions of others who use similar ones. 
I usually challenge such pseudo-scholarship on a case-by-case basis. There are just too many Marshalls in the world for one person to refute them all.