Lester L. Grabbe Responds to Richard Carrier

Some of you may have read Richard Carrier’s review of the forthcoming collection of essays edited by Thomas L. Thompson and I.  The one paper in the volume he didn’t like he reviewed negatively; that paper belongs to Lester Grabbe.  He has asked me to reblog a comment he left on Carrier’s review.  I will post it here in length.  Here you go Lester:  

Since Dr Carrier has given a completely misleading impression of my article, I thought I might make a few brief points:

1.  Thank you for the reference to Van Voorst.  It was, unfortunately, unavailable when I did my research for the article.  However, my practice is to go to primary sources as the basis of any research.  It is also important to take account of secondary sources, but if you work from the primary sources, it is not usually a disaster if you overlook a secondary source.

2.  “Uncritical” is the typical sophomoric response of one who cannot refute the arguments of another.  Of course, there are many uncritical studies in the scholarly literature–as I have often pointed out–but my article is not one of them.  On the contrary, I critically analyzed every source and came to a considered judgment about its historical value for the question.  You might disagree with my conclusions, but it is not because I was uncritical.

3.  Your attempt to show I made an ignorant mistake about Pilate is cheap and disingenuous, as a full quotation of the passage quickly shows:

Thus, it seems likely that Tacitus’ source is Roman.  Tacitus is the only Roman writer >to mention Pilate (though we have confirmation of his existence from an inscription).  >If Pilate had reported to the Senate on the matter, this would likely have been available >in the senatorial archives.    [Is This Not the Carpenter?, p. 59]

My argument was about Tacitus, not Pilate.  As for the alleged lack of knowledge about the facts, I examined and discussed all or almost all the primary references to Pilate and also listed the main recent secondary sources already 20 years ago in my Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian (1992), pp. 395-97, 422-25.

4.  No, I didn’t take account of your article, “Origen, Eusebius, and the Accidental Interpolation in Josepehus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200″, since it has not yet been published.  I’m afraid I’m not prescient.

5.  I think it highly unlikely that Josephus used Luke, and I think that few scholars of either Luke or Josephus would accept that proposition.  (I also doubt that Luke used Josephus, though that is a possibility.)

6.  Even though you assure everyone that I am mistaken, on not less than two occasions, you also urge your audience not to read my article.  Yet you devote about 25 percent of your entire review of the book just to my contribution.  I am left with the distinct impression that you are afraid for people to read it.

In conclusion, critical scholars will disagree with one another, which is fine–that’s part of scholarship.  But they should present evidence and careful argument for their positions:  chest-thumping and penis-waving will not substitute.

Lester Grabbe

I have asked Richard Carrier to comment here as well.  See comments below.

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4 Responses

  1. Reblogged this on Zwinglius Redivivus and commented:
    The final sentence by Lester is worth the price of admission!

  2. Oh, you have to create a “penis-waving” tag! I can’t wait for Dick’s reply. Hopefully lots of thrashing about.

  3. GRABBE
    Tacitus is the only Roman writer to mention Pilate (though we have confirmation of his existence from an inscription).

    CARR
    Is Tacitus the only Roman writer to mention Pliate?

    I ask, because I have been telling people that Josephus was a Roman citizen, and now find out that I have been wrong and ignorant (again!) As I am wrong way too often, it would be nice to be sure of my facts.

  4. I have replied here.

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