Official Blog of the Bishop of Durham

Old Testament Minimalism, Jesus Legends, Calvin & Hobbes – Thomas Verenna

Posted by NT Wrong on October 20, 2008

Historian Thomas Verenna (Friend of the Guild of Biblical Minimalists) commenced a blog on historiography and biblical literature in October 2008: The Musings of Thomas Verenna.

Thomas provides a review of Gary Rendsburg’s introduction to The Hebrew Bible: New Insights and Scholarship (ed. Frederick Greenspahn, 2007), describing Rendsburg’s attack on ‘minimalists’ as “no less than dishonest hyperbole and blanket ad hominem”.

He also defends a mythicist’s approach to the character ‘Jesus’ in the Gospels.

And he also provides this rather fine Calvin & Hobbes cartoon:

24 Responses to “Old Testament Minimalism, Jesus Legends, Calvin & Hobbes – Thomas Verenna”

  1. levi said

    I love how those words come from a little kid who talks to his stuffed animal.


  2. Tom Verenna said

    Thank you for this!

  3. steph said

    “[The gospel authors] went out of their way to show us a Jesus that was out of their own minds, their own interests”.

    That’s interesting.

  4. Tom Verenna said

    Thank you. I some times do have original gems of thoughts. Not often…but they are there. 😉

  5. steph said

    It’s an interesting generalisation and assumption but I think their is evidence to suggest otherwise.

  6. Tom Verenna said

    Not to ad hoc you, but are you suggesting that the Gospel authors did not write their Gospels using their own separate theological ideas, different models, and apply their own interests into the story? I would be interested to know why you would doubt that statement.

  7. steph said

    No of course not. But I do not think they ignored history or weren’t interested in Jesus as you suggest. I think it can be demonstrated that they were faithful to the traditions they had.

  8. Tom Verenna said

    Forgive my ignorance, but how can you demonstrate they were faithful to these traditions when you don’t have any evidence of these traditions?

  9. steph said

    Well we could always just assume Jesus is legendary and the traditions are myth. Shall I do that?

  10. Tom Verenna said

    There is no need to get hostile. I was not attacking you. I was asking for evidence. I do not like accepting things based on no evidence, so I apologize if I have upset you. I follow a maxim: The burden of proof lies on he/she who alleges. I am not alleging anything. I just do not accept the positive claim that Jesus existed based on the “faithful traditions” you claim the Gospel authors followed without any evidence. The additional reasons why I accept the conclusion that Jesus is a fictional character are based on literary evidence and the manner by which literature was composed in antiquity. I don’t pretend the Gospels came about ex nihilo from disciples; fishermen probably would not have such education in antiquity. Scholars would. Elite men and women would. Not Jewish peasants in the hill region of Palestine.

    Now if you want to provide me some evidence for your baseless assertion, I would welcome it.

  11. steph said

    Sorry not interested.

  12. steph said

    You know, the way you worded your question doesn’t really inspired me to respond. It’s kind of rhetorical isn’t it? If my assertion is baseless, there is no evidence. I’m really not interested. You sound like a fundamentalist to me 🙂

  13. Tom Verenna said

    It’s baseless because you have not yet provided evidence. When you provide it, I will retract my statement. I’m not a fundamentalist (There are no fundamentals in nonbelief!), I just expect too much from people apparently.

  14. steph said

    I mean I’m as good as talking to fundamentalists as I am to mythicists – I find both depressing. However I think there are many militant atheists who are like fundamentalists. I have no “evidence” and you have no evidence. I only have arguments and suggestions of plausibility.

  15. You’re right that there are militant atheists out there. But I would not just assume me to be one just because you find me “depressing.” I think of my interpretations of the evidence as uplifting and purposeful. You may disagree, but that is no reason to have hostility towards me. Throughout our conversation I have tried to be respectful to you and you have done nothing but attack. I would very much like to be pleasant with you, and would prefer it if you were to me. If you feel you cannot be pleasant, well then maybe we need to just avoid each other. I leave the choice up to you.

  16. steph said

    I did not assume you were a militant atheist, I assume you are a mythicist as you have said so. You have said I have made baseless assertions. I agree I have no evidence. I only have arguments. I have not attacked you, and I feel you have been hostile to me. But ultimately I find for my own work, arguments over the historicity of Jesus to be depressing and fruitless. They don’t interest me but it’s interesting that they interest other people. So while you say ““[The gospel authors] went out of their way to show us a Jesus that was out of their own minds, their own interests”, while not original, it’s interesting because I think the idea assumes the authors were not interested in preserving any history at all.

  17. steph said

    and that means I really prefer to avoid arguments like this. Let me escape 🙂

  18. Danny said

    “I think it can be demonstrated that they were faithful to the traditions they had.”

    I’d like to see the demonstration, please.

  19. Antonio Jerez said

    Given that Steph and me have been at odds with each other from time to time by surprise I find that I lean more toward the side of Steph on this topic. Yes, I also feel that the extreme mythicist positions of people like Doherty and Varenna get tiresome. I happened to read through some of Tom Varenna´s essays this evening and found them interesting but ultimately unsatisfactory. I think Tom reads things into the gospels that are not there and makes the gospel writers a bit more sophisticated than they really were.
    But I am not as sure as Steph is that Mark, Matthew and the others were always faithful to the traditions they inherited. Luke sure must have known what gospel the real Paul preached but had no hestistation to twist Paul almost beyond recognition for apologetic reasons in Acts. So much for faithfulness…

  20. Tom Verenna said

    Steph, while I may disagree with you I thank you for your honesty. I do not wish to be hostile or sound hostile and if that has been how I have come off, I apologize.

    Antonio (the name is Verenna, not Varenna, btw), what is tiresome about my position? I am thankful you took the time to read some of my articles. If you have questions or comments, I welcome them on my blog as NT welcomes comments on here. I am not above criticism.

    Best wishes to you both,


  21. Tom Verenna said

    Just curious, Antonio, did you read my Mythicism, Minimalism and its Detractors article? I ask because you cite me with Doherty, but I specifically said:

    “Earl Doherty has recently been cited as some sort of cohort of mine, as if he and I are starting a “religion” together. This is ironic, as I hardly ever speak to Earl. In fact our correspondence can be summed up in two e-mails, both of which were invitations to appear on my radio show, and his response which consisted of him saying he would appear after the completion of a second edition of The Jesus Puzzle. I am actually a bit ashamed to admit I have not read his entire book even though I have a copy of it. All I know of it is what Richard Carrier has told me and from Earl Doherty’s website. I am well aware that Earl has suggested a case for removing Galatians 4:4, which I do not agree with (as I feel it is perfectly fine in the context). He has also made some suggestions about the redating of some of the Gospels to a later period (which I also find unnecessary and unhelpful, aside from Luke-Acts which I do agree came late, probably early-mid second century CE). So any attempt to link my ideas with Earl, despite my respect for him, is ignorant.”

    I do not agree with everything Earl presents; I often find many of his perspectives unnecessary to make a case against historicity and feel that many of his arguments are a rehashing of earlier mythicists which I do not feel hold any water anymore.

    You can see the whole article here: http://tomverenna.wordpress.com/2008/10/16/mythicism-minimalism-and-it's-detractors/

  22. steph said

    Antonio: I do not say they were always faithful to the traditions. I think Casey and Crossley have both demonstrated that their is evidence that they were faithful to a degree, given their own ‘corrections’ and ‘alterations’. It is their work which is foundational to mine.

  23. Antonio Jerez said

    Steph: Agreed. Then we don´t have anything to argue about.

  24. Antonio Jerez said

    Tom: sorry for misspelling your name.
    Yes, I have read your article. I was not arguing that you and Doherty were putting forth exactly the same arguments, just that both of you seem to agree that there never was a historical Jesus and that the figure we find in the NT is totally made up. I think this is a nonsensical proposition and it´s not because I am a Christian with a faith to defend (I´m not, I´m an sceptic and a heathen) but because I believe that to conclude a thing like that you really have to do bad history. I could also add that neither Robert Price nor Thomas L Thomson are favorites of mine when it comes to biblical matters.

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