Friday, April 04, 2014

Larry Hurtado

“The Law” in the NT: Word Stats February 6, 2018
Tools such as BibleWorks (and I am the grateful recipient of a copy of version 9) allow one to perform some quick analysis of word-usage and comparative frequency.  Here are some raw numbers, with little by way of comment.
Greek forms of the word for “law” (νομος, νομον, νομου, νομῳ) appear some 191 times in the Greek NT.  Of this total, the distribution is interesting:  Romans (74x), Galatians (32x), Acts (16x), John (15x), Hebrews (12x), James (10x), 1 Corinthians (9x, 6 of these in chapter 9 ), Luke (9), Matthew (8x), Philippians (3x), 1 Timothy (2x), Ephesians (1x).  No uses at all in Mark, 2 Corinthians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, Jude, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, or Revelation.
It’s particularly interesting to me to note the figures for the Pauline Corpus:  In the undisputed epistles, the word appears 118x, in four epistles.  The 74x in Romans accounts for 62% of this total, and uses in Romans and Galatians comprise 90% of the total.  Clearly, Paul’s focus on “the law” was not characteristic of most of his letters.  So, was the “law/gospel” theme quite so central for Paul as it became for Luther??
Of the Gospels, GJohn has the largest usage (15x), followed by GLuke (9x) and then GMatthew (8x).  Interesting:  that very “Judaic” looking GMatthew has a comparatively modest number of uses of “law”.  But the combative tone of GJohn (featuring conflicts between Jesus and Jewish authorities and crowds) is reflected in the greater number of uses of “law”.
Larry, how would a Jew by birth know that a man was not justified by observing the law? (Gal.2.15,16)

  • Gal 2:15-16 is one Jewish *Jesus-believer* speaking to another. As such, Paul says, by their faith and baptism they have shown their agreement that the Law does not suffice to justify. REad more carefully Geoff.
    • Why would a Jew say he was a Jew by birth?
    • Geoff: READ THE TEXT of Galatians! It’s written to Gentile believers, and the scene in question (Gal 2) is where Jewish believers “from James” arrive in Antioch and insist that the Gentile believers should not be treated as full partners in faith. Paul portrays a confrontation with Peter about the issue, and his argument proceeds on the basis of a shared premise. “We, Kephas, are Jews by birth (not proselytes, or hangers-on). Yet we (by our faith in Christ) demonstrate that the Torah does not justify us, and that faith in Christ does.” But, as I say, Geoff, read the text of Galatins.
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      Larry, I happen to think that this text was derived from a text far more fundamental. Thus Gal. 2.15,16 began with the words “We who are prophets by birth”. This would be as, for example, 1 Samuel 1.20 when Samuel was born to Hannah when she subsequently gave him to the Lord and he became a prophet residing in the temple. Prophets were thus dedicated to God at birth. For a Jew to say “We who are Jews by birth” is entirely unnecessary. From a prophets point of view, the verses then become: “We who are [Jews] {prophets} by birth [and not Gentile sinners] know that a man is not [justified] {cleansed} by [observing the law] {sacrifice}, but by [faith] {obedience} in [Jesus Christ] {the Spirit}”. Sacrifice had become frowned upon by prophets.
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Larry, the confrontation was not with Peter, but with a priest, probably Eleazar the son of Caiaphas. This was an argument between a prophet and a priest.

Larry on A Master Hoaxer: Constantine Simonides

Larry goes on about a 19th century hoaxer of manuscripts who, among other manuscripts, claimed to have written Codex Sinaiticus.  Hurtado wrote here:

"What makes Simonides’ claim so interesting is that he did in fact produce a number of fake ancient manuscripts that, for a good while, fooled a good many people. In the section, “Simonides the Forger” (pp. 122-72), Elliott itemizes major examples of Simonides’ work. These include a purported first-century papyrus roll containing part of 1 John and 2-3 John, a “History of the Kings of Egypt up to the Reign of Ptolemy Lagus” by a “Uranius of Alexandria” (which received widespread attention in various countries, initially accepted as genuine in Leipzig and then rejected), a purported early manuscript of Hermas, plus Simonides’ claimed discovery of important biblical manuscripts in Mayer’s museum in Liverpool (portions of Matthew and epistles of James and Jude on papyrus purportedly from the lst century), as well as other forgeries. It’s interesting, too, that when challenged Simonides gave a spirited defence of himself, maintaining the authenticity of the items, often replying in newspapers to accusations from scholars."

I challenged Hurtado: "Just suppose that a Simonides had been up to his tricks way back in the first century, originating NT manuscripts. What then?"  He referred to this as a "pointless exchange" and ended the discussion.  He knew what I was getting at.  

Much of the writings attributed to one Josephus are fabricated, as is much of the New Testament, and Philo.  There were people around in the first century and just afterwards, doing the same as Simonides in the 19th century - fooling the populace.  Of course one could extrapolate and say that this applies to the source manuscripts of all religions.

Larry on Paul's Eschatology: Further Comments on Wright’s New Opus

Larry wrote:"Also, Wright links (again correctly) the Spirit with eschatology, and so the presence and experience of the Spirit in early Christian circles was for Paul evidence of the new age underway, the Spirit raising new possibilities, new energies for obedience to God, even among former pagans."

This sounds like an advert for soap powder. Eschatology was not involved, except by fabrication. Wright, Hurtado and others should remember that there is nothing new under the sun. The idea of the Spirit had been around for a long time in Jewish circles, particularly among the prophets, who in the form of James took it to Rome, the Roman Jews, and the Roman establishment.  Acts 2 was originally written by James as an eye witness account of the Spirit of God in Rome.  If anything was new, it was the prophets expanding their horizons to include gentiles.  Salvation was to be had by obeying the Spirit, not by obeying the law of sacrifice for sins.  From the time of Judas Maccabeus, all ideas that sacrifice had been undertaken are scholarly myths.  There was a very strong current of prophetic belief, flowing from time immemorial, that the gentiles would be included in God's kingdom, and that sacrifice was unnecessary. 

Unfortunately, the later establishment, in the form of Vespasian, had other greedy ideas.  He bid his time, destroyed the temple for its gold, carted off the prophets that he hadn't killed for his so-called triumph, a triumph completely misclaimed, for which he knew what to do because he had arranged one previously for Claudius.  Then he created his own gentile religion.  Not only that, but the Christian religion, conjured-up after the time of Vespasian, was a religion based on sacrifice which the Romans approved of.

Wright, Larry and others live in a small enclosed world.

Larry's Whinge

Read the full whinge here:

"But from a few (I’d say over the 3.5 years of operating this site, about three/four) fall clearly into the puzzling type I’ve mentioned above. This sort typically has developed some pet idea, not something small, mind you, but a “big idea” that fundamentally skews their view of the whole subject.

Among them, on this site, e.g., that Paul was a totally fictional character (yes, you heard that right).

The noisy folk who likewise are convinced (I guess they really mean it and aren’t putting us all on) that Jesus of Nazareth is a fictional character are another such category.

And on this site we’ve got a frequent commenter who, among his pet notions, has the curious idea that, e.g., references to “circumcision” in the NT are actually references to sacrifice."

I say yes to all three.

Larry Hurtado and the Bible Hunters Programme (Part 2) 



"Another feature of the Bible Hunters programme (part 2) that caught my attention was the reference to ancient gnostic Christians as 'intellectuals'. That was very funny, really."

Larry, do you think that most NT scholars suffer from cognitive bias or confirmation bias? Their views are based on past experiences or what they know already. I think so. It’s easier to say they have been brainwashed.

Geoff: Leave off your nasty jibes. Just because you’re not a scholar yourself, that’s no reason to rubbish those who give their lives to scholarship. Nobody’s brainwashed, Geoff. Get over yourself. And if you can’t offer something useful, take yourself elsewhere. I tire of nonsense readily.

You are right, I am not a biblical scholar. But you folk want to influence people, so don't be surprised when someone reacts.

Larry, so we have gnostic Christians living side by side with traditional Christians, in Egypt, a place where the Jewish religion had been known for centuries.

Look like, yes.

Larry, do the gnostic texts take us a step nearer to the original christianity? For the gnostics, Jesus was a spirit being. Then there is Judas. Some would argue that the gnostics took a positive view of Judas, and that he was anti-priest and anti-sacrifice. And which Judas were they referring to? In my view there can only be one. See

The so-called “gnostic” texts tend to have come from sometime in the 2nd century and thereafter, and so are most commonly taken as indicative of emergent forms of Christians/Christianity in that period. That means that these texts are not evidence of an “original” form of Christianity, but of subsequent forms (among which there were many). And, yes, some of these texts have different views of Jesus/Christ. In some cases, they distinguish between “Jesus” (the man) and the divine Word/Son/Spirit. In some cases “Jesus” is presented as only appearing to be a man. All of this contrasts, of course, with the earlier texts (preserved in the NT) where there is a firm insistence that the human figure Jesus of Nazareth is also of heavenly significance.


Larry, I don’t see that you have proved that the gnostic texts come later than the traditional texts.

For me the question to ask is why did the gnostic texts emerge? The gnostics had a spiritual Jesus, which in my book cannot go unnoticed. And it had a Judas who worshipped in the sanctuary, and who rejected priests and sacrifice. Was this a dim remembrance of what Judas the Maccabean was really about? Did Judas the Maccabean, reject priests and animal sacrifice? This would make sense of what Antiochus was about also. Antiochus was for animal sacrifice. Was it also a dim remembrance of why a Jewish temple was built later in Egypt? Did this temple also reject priests and animal sacrifice? The link back to older times of the gnostic texts shows us that their version of ‘christianity’ was more original.

Geoff: The so-called “gnostic” texts are judged later (2nd century & thereafter) on a number of grounds, which are accepted by pretty much all the scholars who’ve worked on them.
What you call a “spiritual” Jesus is actually often a figure portrayed as one of the numerous emanations of the ultimate divine essence (referred to variously, e.g., “the All”), and the basic scheme seems to be heavily influenced by late versions of “middle-Platonism” that went on to generate both Christian and non-Christian types of elaborate speculations. So, these “gnostic” texts seem to show that some early Christians were influenced by, and interested in, this kind of Platonic-influenced speculation and mysticism. That’s why they were written.

You’ve confused the “Judas” of the Gospels and the gnostic texts with Judas Maccabee. And you’ve completely fabricated what the latter stood for. There is no evidence that he stood against sacrifice. For heaven’s sake, Geoff, he was from a priestly family, and what do you think Jewish priests did back then?

Instead, the Maccabean revolt was over Antiochus’ attempt to assimilate Jews religiously, perhaps urging the identification of YHWH with Olympian Zeuw, etc. (Where do you get these weird ideas? Don’t you read the scholarship and primary texts??)

Larry, but some of the priests converted to prophets, who you know were the ones who wrote the books of the prophets, and who the writers of the scrolls attacked as “seekers of smooth things”, and whose scriptures the priests polluted mockingly, with their re-interpretations or peshers. The two ‘christian’ beliefs of Egypt were a reflection, or a development, from the division of Judaism into priests and prophets, who became the deadliest of enemies. And don’t tell me that the “seekers of smooth things” were pharisees because it is obvious to a blind man that they were interpolated into the writings attributed to Josephus.


Hey Larry, your post was a bit of a rant, wasn't it? You reckoned that the gnostics were not really intellectuals. More than likely they could see the threat that was coming from their immediate neighbours, the 'real Christians'. The gnostics would ever likely want to keep their religion close to their chest, because they could see the storm clouds gathering. They were shortly to be wiped from the face of the earth by the western power in the shape of Constantine, who was supposedly the first Christian emperor. They would have to hide their scriptures, as the TV programme showed.

The gnostics were intellectual enough to realise that their fundamental belief was in direct opposition to that of traditional Christians. For the gnostics, Jesus was a spirit. The gnostic hatred of the priests, as in the Gospel of Judas, showed that they were against sacrifice, and that sacrifice was useless in the sight of God. More to the point, Judas, who also appears as a spirit, speaks with Jesus while both are in the sanctuary where the altar of incense was. They were not at the altar for burnt offerings where the priests would have been. If this does not involve an intellectual idea, then I don't know what does.

So we have two christian religions in Egypt. One, an export from Rome. The other, essentially, indigenous.

The first believed in sacrifice, the sacrifice of Jesus. The second rejected sacrifice. The first paralleled the Jewish priests, and the second the prophets who eventually also rejected sacrifice. Egypt had a long history with the enmity between Jewish priests and prophets.