Monday, January 21, 2013

Are we seeing the end of a Fourth Great Awakening?

Per discussion with friends on Facebook, over the book "The Rocks Don't Lie," I'd say the answer is yes. (Partial review of the book below.)

The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood
The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood by David R. Montgomery

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A genial refutation of young-earth creationism

Montgomery generally keeps this story about how the earth's geology refutes any version of a literal Noahic flood light on detailed scientific language. And, it is written as a story.

He takes the reader to various geological formations in the world thatr have been key to the development of geology as a science, while narrating how key figures from geology's history have studied and analyzed such formations. At the same time, he narrates the history of Christian theological thought on literal vs non-literal biblical interpretation in general, and specifically on the Noahic flood. He intertwines the two in discussing how different strands of Christian thought reacted to these scientific findings.

Basically, by the end of the 19th century, a literal or semi-literal young-earth creationism (if not 10,000 years or less, certainly no more than 100,000 years) had fallen out of favor with the great majority of theologians in most of the Western world.

With the exception of the United States.

Montgomery puts YEC developments in the historic context of:
1. Anti-evolutionism and the Scopes trial of the 1920s and
2. Anti-communism and the Cold War, etc., of the late 1940s and beyond.

As talk of "culture wars" continues, and as Montgomery stretches YEC roots back to the Second Great Awakening, this is good to remember.

View all my reviews

That said, unlike the First Great Awakening. the Second Great Awakening, or the Third Great Awakening, this "Fourth Great Awakening" has a much more political component.

The First one may have had some connection to the American Revolution; Wiki's entry claims that, but I think it overstates the case. The Second spawned the short-lived Anti-Masonic Party, but was not directly connected to abolitionism. The Third  (I partially accept there was one, but definite more narrowly in time than Wiki) had a bit of a political angle, more in the "Social Gospel" of mainline Protestantism, though, than in the rising Holiness Movement. was a bit more political, but not extremely so.

I also accept the idea of a Fourth Great Awakening, but while I disagree with Wiki that its timeframe for the Third is too long, I think it's too short for the Fourth.

Evidence for one starting includes that the National Council of Churches "peaked" in the late 50s/early 60s, mainline Protestantism had clergy/laity separating more at that time, and fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism grew rapidly.

That said, previous "Great Awakenings" shot their Roman candle in 35-45 years, really. (Which is part of why I think Wiki is too long on the Third and too short on the Fourth.)  So ... W's two elections aside, is the Third Awakening pretty much dying? And, does that in part explain some of the vitriol? Angry death spasms?

We're at about the right time frame. Each previous Great Awakening died differently.

The First petered out, as much as anything. The fervor of the Second got a nurture in sects such as Mormonism, Adventism, etc. that got new life in the Third, which also faced American industrialization.

The Fourth had a start, if you will, and was almost stillborn, in the Scopes trial. Not all conservative Christians were young-earth creationists, and so, while they may not have been fully reconciled to Darwinian ideas aobut evolution, many probably could have halfway accepted a "tamer" version of evolution if combined with old-earth creationism.

But, the Second Red Scare ( the first being after World War I) changed everything. But not by itself. The Civil Rights Movement added a "second stage" to this rocket. (Although black megachurches have grown recently, the Fourth Great Awakening is much more a white Christian phenomenon.)

Because the Fourth Great Awakening tied with this, not just the Second Red Square, it naturally became more political. Non-Catholic parochial schools, battles over school prayer, tax exemptions and more, as well as political appeals, both open and coded, by both Democrats and Republicans, became part of this.

But, now, has it shot its bolt?

It may have. One sign? Per a new Wall Street Journal poll, almost 70 percent of Americans want to keep Roe v. Wade.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Dennett can't admit he's wrong, I guess — even with good thoughts

Dan Dennett/Edge magazine photo
Philosopher Dan Dennett has a very interesting interview in Edge.

Key takeaway? He junks a fair amount of what he's said in the past about the details of how the mind/brain is like a computer, 


Still holds fast to the analogy that it's ... like a computer!

Let's look at some comments:
We're beginning to come to grips with the idea that your brain is not this well-organized hierarchical control system where everything is in order, a very dramatic vision of bureaucracy. In fact, it's much more like anarchy with some elements of democracy.  ...

The vision of the brain as a computer, which I still champion, is changing so fast. The brain's a computer, but it's so different from any computer that you're used to. It's not like your desktop or your laptop at all, and it's not like your iPhone except in some ways. ...

Control is the real key, and you begin to realize that control in brains is very different from control in computers. Control in your commercial computer is very much a carefully designed top-down thing.  I mean, with all that, there's no need to hang on to his analogy.  
I guess he simply can't admit it's a crappy analogy that just doesn't work, and walk away from it.

Because it was a crappy analogy a decade ago,. and it's in tatters now. (Ditto for his claim that evolution is algorithmic.) 

That said, it's not all hubris in the interview. Dennett admits his new ideas (and it's nice to hear him have some) are speculative enough he'd "be thrilled if they're 20 percent right." And, his comments about brain plasticity, findings that maternal and paternal  inheritance genes in our cells may "war" much more than previously thought, are refreshing. 

At the same time, there IS hubris in other ways. His admissions of plasticity in the brain, combined with the "20 percent correct," should lead him to say that cognitive science, and related things such as artificial intelligence, may have advanced from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age in the last decade, but that's where they are and no further.'

Also unfortunately, his new ideas don't appear to extend to free will.

At the same time, though, the last section, about hypocrites in the pulpit, is great.

He's not talking about moral hypcrites, but unbelieving hypocrites in conservative Christian denominations. This is a follow-up to surveys and other work he and others have recently done.

Here's a sample:
How do they thread the needle so that they don't offend the sophisticates in their congregation by insisting on the literal truth of the book of Genesis, let's say, while still not scaring, betraying, pulling the rug out from under the more naïve and literal-minded of their parishioners? There's no good solution to that problem as far as we can see, since they have this unspoken rule that they should not upset, undo, subvert the faith of anybody in the church.
This means that there's a sort of enforced hypocrisy where the pastors speak from the pulpit quite literally, and if you weren't listening very carefully, you’d think: oh my gosh, this person really believes all this stuff. But they're putting in just enough hints for the sophisticates in the congregation so that the sophisticates are supposed to understand: Oh, no. This is all just symbolic. This is all just metaphorical. And that's the way they want it, but of course, they could never admit it. You couldn't put a little neon sign up over the pulpit that says, "Just metaphor, folks, just metaphor." It would destroy the whole thing. 
From personal experience with my own "coming out," I know how true this is.

Good stuff to end on. Go read it. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Jesus and Hell — another liberal Christian fail

The Economist has a very interesting, and generally quite good article, about Hell, its literal vs. metaphorical existence and more.

That said, there's a "fail" here. Not in the Economist, but in the opinions of some people:
Worst of all, Hell was apparently prepared, and waiting, even before poor venal man was created.

Modern biblical scholars have done their best to adjust the picture. They point out that Jesus himself, and even tetchy old St Paul, made no mention of “Hell” or “damnation” in the New Testament. The Greek words used there meant only “judgment” and “condemnation”; and only for “a long time”, aionios, not for ever. Jesus, having evoked that ruthless farmer’s bonfire, also said that a man should forgive his sinning brother not seven times, but “70 times seven”. Paul said God would have mercy on everyone. To all this the Infernalists retort that Jesus really did mean everlasting fire; that God’s ways of caring for his creatures are not man’s; and that alongside God’s infinite love burns God’s infinite justice, which is just as unconditional.
Of course, these scholars are the same ones who try to claim Paul enver condeumned homosexuality, and with about as much actual scholarship behind their claims.

The Greek word? Tosh. It's the normal word for "forever." If you want to claim Hellenistic Greek in general had no word for "forever," or even no concept of the idea, fire away.

That said, later in the essay, its author claims that ideas of infinity didn't arise until medieval Chrstian Europe.

Tosh. As shown here, Archmedies knew about infinity as an idea 250 years before when the alleged Jesus allegedly lived.

Jesus' 70x7 of course applied only to relations between two human beings. It doesn't mean one damned thing, pun intended, about god.

As for modern Biblical scholars claiming Jesus wasn't that harsh. Err, the parable of sheep and goats? The parable of Lazarus and Dives? The book of Revelation?

It's not the first time I've said it, but again, it's another reason why, at times, I prefer the most straightforward fundamentalists to liberal scholars like this. At least they don't have dishonest waffling (by and large).

Friday, January 11, 2013

Overrated and underrated philosophers?

Massimo Pigliucci has a great post at Rationally Speaking, based on a Twitter survey by Oxford University Press, where he first talks about his favorite philosophers of all time, then, to narrow down response on an iPhone app, the most overrated philosophers of the 20th century.

I expanded my thoughts a bit in a comment there, to list underrated as well as overrated, and all-time as well as 20th-century.

Here it is.

Hume is a definite No. 1 on my favorites list. (He was for Massimo, too). He is eminently readable, a bonus among philosophers. Also, with his thoughts on the self, etc., arguably the father of modern psychology, and a more distant ancestor of modern cognitive science. Indeed, we could put Hume in a Tardis or whatever, bring him forward 250 years, and he'd have insights galore to offer in those fields and more.

Diogenes. Life would be more authentic if we, and the world in general, thought more like him. Let alone if we acted more like him. Arguably, he's a forerunner and progenitor to some modern absurdists like ...

Albert Camus, the leading expositor of absurdism (do not call him an existentialist) would be No. 3, I think.

Marcus Aurelius might be fourth; I'm not sure. He contributed nothing new to Stoicism, and kind of undercut his own intellectual high ground by naming his son Commodus as heir rather than adopting somebody else, but the "Meditations" are still a pleasure to read.

Ludwig Wittgenstein would be fifth, I think. Here, I strongly part company with Massimo, who puts him on his overrated list. I think the early Wittgenstein of the Tractatus may be overrated ... an affectation for some. The later Wittgenstein? Also an affectation of alleged intellect for many, but that doesn't detract from the fact that his ordinary language philosophy has been influential. And, on the popularity side, anybody willing to brain Karl Popper with a fireplace poker can't be all bad, right?

Update five years later. I would now very much agree with Massimo. Yes, Witty's later philosophy has been influential, but the whole idea of meaning — or at least meaning as we discuss it – being tied up with the bounds of language, arguably goes back to Plato and the original Brahmins in early Aryan India, both of whom were concerned about the written word being a straitjacket.

Meanwhile, to the degree the Wittgenstein of the Reflections refuted the one of the Tractatus, and not just expanded it, he never would admit that. 

Add in Witty's lifelong Platonism, and I can indeed buy that he's in the top five of overrated philosophers of the 20th century. (And yes, both inside and outside of philosophy, he was very much a Platonist.) That said, I'm surprised that Massimo hasn't beat Dan Kaufman over the head more on this issue.

So, to recap the recasting: Wittgenstein is properly rated, but not more than that, as a promotor of the big concepts of linguistic philosophy as it developed in the middle third of the 20th century (and take that narrowly) and overrated on everything else.

Indeed, he might be on my top 10 for all-time overrated philosophers.

If I add one more, it's going to be a mythical character, but that's that. Lao Tzu, the alleged founder of Daoism.

Now, a couple of underrated philosophers (all time, not just 20th C):

1. Pyrrho. Pyrrhonic Skepticism influenced Hume, among others.

2. Camus, per a comment above. More insightful than Sartre, yet barely even gets considered as a philosopher by many. And he should be. Because he was.

3. Gilbert Ryle. Influential on a number of late 20th-century philosophers, including, but far from limited to, Dan Dennett. His "ghost in the machine" is a good modern philosophical restatement of rejecting ontological dualism.

4. Diogenes. Even educated people know little about him other than his comment to Alexander the Great, and they know even less about capital-C Cynicism as a philosophy. It's a shame. I won't load the page up with links, but go to Wikipedia or the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and look up both the man and the philosophy. He's underrated precisely because he was a willing contrarian and outcast, and he made that the basis of his philosophy. And, winners write history.

Next, here's my all time, not just 20th century, overrated philosophers.

1. Socrates (my moniker for this blog and more riffs on the myth, not the reality, of the man, and ..
2. Plato.

These two go together. Plato totally set up straw men for Socrates to argue against, in the Sophists and others. The reality is that the Sophists were wanting to make the roots of a classical, Hellenic "gentleman's" education available to those who didn't have the time and money of the upper crust for private study. And, one need not be Izzy Stone to see that both were antidemocratic elitists, to boot, given that Socrates failed to condemn either the first or second revolt Alciabiades led/instigated against the Athenian democracy.

3. Aristotle. Were he Jewish and 200 years older, we'd probably finger him as the author of the "P" strand of the Torah. Highly influential in terms of basic logic, yes, but, if we want to in a sense call him the first philosopher of science, he was a disaster. And, there were early scientists and technologists around. His contemporary Eratosthenes used trigonometry plus geography to produce a highly accurate measure of the earth's circumference. A century later, Archimedes was a technological and inventive wunderkind. Therefore, Aristotle had no need to make the massive amount of evidence-free statements about human and animal life, classifications of life, etc. that he did. Nor, per thinking on metaphysics and other fields of philosophy at the time, did he have to postulate the four causes that he did. And, on ethics? Massimo is a virtue ethicist and so he loves Aristotle. I don't, as an educated layperson, consider myself to be aligned with any one school of ethics. I do claim, and did in comments to Massimo's 2012 blog posts about schools of ethics, that virtue ethics has about as many problems as Kantianism or utilitarianism.

4. Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky and other Christian existentialists. Basically, they failed in their attempts to give Christianity, especially theodicy, an intellectual veneer in the late 19th century and beyond. That's especially true when they're mashed up with process theology (see below).

5. Dan Dennett. No, this is not a Poe or a total joke. He's not written anything original in nearly 20 years, and has actually made some whoppers, from where I sit, beginning with the evidence-free flat statement that evolution is algorithmic. He also gets merit here because of his philosophical influence on modern Gnu Atheism in general.

Contra Massimo, I don't think Wittgenstein was overrated. He is a mixed bag, but I'd put him as ... about correctly rated, overall.

Update, five years later. He might not be in the top 5, and tongue in cheek, Dennett probably shouldn't be in the top five, because he's not that influential, but I'll officially put Wittgenstein in the 10 most overrated philosophers ever. See above italicized section.

OK, underrated 20th century philosophers. This list is much shorter because, as noted above, I'm not a professional philosopher and therefore don't have the level of insight, or personal attachment, that Massimo does.
1. Camus
2. Ryle

Overrated, 20th C:
1. Heidegger/Derrida/Foucault and any progeny of any of their schools of thought. Let me add Stanley Fish by name. Basically, deconstructionism is self-refuting, petard hoisting, etc. Derrida doesn't have a leg to stand on. Structuralism has enough similarities that my critique extends to Foucault. Heidegger? His existentialist contributions to what became process theology are more than enough reason to put him here (adding Alfred North Whitehead, Teilhard de Chardin, Paul Tillich, and any other expositors of the Ground of Being), setting aside his Nazi friendliness.

2. Dennett as a special case. He certainly influenced me, nearly 20 years ago, but, I've moved on. Beyond his "recycling" and his refusal to accept that rejecting a "Cartesian meaner" logically also means rejecting a "Cartesian free willer," his invention of the word "Brights" for secularists was bad enough, but his following claim that there was no connotation, no implication, about religious people ... I see that as a transparent lie.

3. Sam Harris and any other Gnu Atheist claiming to have disproven the existence of god. Harris, especially, knows what any open-minded person who has taken a basic class on logic, formal or informal, should know -- attempting to prove the nonexistence of anything is the logical equivalent of dividing by zero. Vic Stenger is another Gnu who does this. Harris deserves additional mention for claiming Buddhism is just a psychology.

(Yes, one can in certain versions of modern formal logic, disprove the existence of God. One can also stand Anselm on his head and prove a perfectly existing Satan beyond which nothing more perfectly evil can exist.)

4. Jean-Paul Sartre, with apologies to my Facebook friend Brett Welch. I think Sartre's stubborn refusal to accept the truth about Stalin and Stalinism, contra Camus, speaks a lot for and about him as a thinker. And, speaking of that, I think Camus had the edge on him as a writer, overall, at least a philosophical writer (No Exit is psychology first, philosophy second, as are several other works by Sartre) and think Sartre was jealous.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

'Blessed rest until the resurrection' — the problem with Xn dualism, theodicy

An old college prof, from my small Christian college, died yesterday.

And, among the comments at a Facebook page for alumni was one asking that "God grant him blessed rest until the resurrection."

And, that exemplifies the problem with ontological dualism.

If, per the parable in Luke, long-ago known as "Lazarus and Dives," the faithful person has an immortal soul that already goes to heaven, he doesn't need wishes for blessed rest. And, to go hyper-Platonic, he doesn't need a physical body in the first place. An omniscient, omnipotent god could have made him a soul-only creature, whose primal ancestor wouldn't be tempted by forbidden fruit because he didn't have a body to be fed anyway.

OK, fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals, shot down.

But, what about "liberal Christians"? What do you believe is happening when a person  like this dies?

If he or she has a soul enjoying bliss right now, then the same as above applies to you.

Even if that soul is in limbo, if it's alive in some way outside a physical body, it applies to you. So, both liberal and conservative Catholics don't get off with the purgatory answer.

If said soul exists but goes into "soul sleep," for fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals, then why did Jesus tell such a non-literalistic parable? For liberal Christians, if Jesus really was divine in a western monotheistic tradition, why didn't he spread Buddha-type enlightenment about the reality of what happens at the moment of death?

Otherwise, to riff on Susan Jacoby's great op-ed column, it's arguable that atheists can offer MORE comfort at a graveside than liberal Christians, in some ways. Or at least more sympathy, possibly more empathy.  Or, at a minimum, less muddle and pretense.

That said, liberal Christians continue to have available rejecting one fork of the dilemma of theodicy — either god is not all good, or he's not all powerful. But, despite embracing things like a "ground of being" or saying that Jesus' "divinity" may not mean what it was  understood to mean 2,000 years ago, even the intellligentsia of liberal Christianity don't seem lined up to make this choice.

Paul was wrong in 1 Corinthians — a belief n a divinity for this life only can still have power. That's even if it's the power of positive psychology, wishful thinking or self-deception. But, it requires keeping up appearances, or masks, as to what comfort is offered beyond this life, if any. It's just that literalists and non-literalists wear different masks for different situations.

For liberal Christians, for the dailiness of life in this world, does it offer that much comfort for a religious leader to say, I really don't know why those bad things are happening in your life? Does it offer that much comfort when you try to tell yourself that?

At the same time, if you reject traditional ideas of god, whether because you recognize problems with the "problem of evil," i.e., that a god can't be both all-good and all-powerful unless you want to put your own mind inside a permanently black box, does it really offer that much comfort for a life beyond this one? Are you able to offset that relative lack with the degree of comfort a god of less-than-all offers this life?

Or are you able to detach from such questions? And, if so, how do you square that with Christian belief in the resurrection of the dead in general, even if you reject a bodily physical resurrection?

You see, this is all part of what I went through on my journey from conservative Christian divinity student to secularist. In many ways, it was a psychological and emotional decision, after wrestling in those areas; it was by no means just an intellectual one.

But, just as I realized liberal Christianity had to use what Dan Dennett calls "skyhooks" to defend what in the bible it thought worthy of belief and worthy of semi-literal understanding, it had to do the same with questions of the justice of god, of theodicy. (Ditto, if you will, for liberal Judaism.)

And, so, in the face of a Newtown mass shooting, let alone if something even close to that happened in my life (and enough happened in my life at pre-adult level), I couldn't "stop" at say, the United Church of Christ, or even Unitarianism, as I left conservative Lutheranism.

If you'll click the "atheism" tag, you'll see in this blog a series of posts that go into more detail about that journey.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Why Peter Singer and the Buddha are wrong about universal love

In an installment of "The Stone," one of the ongoing guest column series at the New York Times, Stephen Asma explains why we can't show equal, disinterested love to all humans, let alone all sentient beings.

It's all about human finitude, in two ways.

First, our level of emotional outreach is simply finite, even if we can perform a detached utilitarian calculus to help non-kin just as much as kin.

Second, we're not omniscient. Contra the classic utilitarian calculus, we don't know which of our actions truly will provide the greatest good to the greatest number of people. Asma could have referenced the pseudo-Chinese proverbial story, with its recurring chorus line of "could be good, could be bad," as part of this.

Asma focuses on Singer and other modern ethical philosophers. But, his argument applies to Buddhism as well

And, I can go even better than Asma there. Buddhism's philosophy and theology actually seems to promote universal detachment, or universal indifference, not universal love. I can then reverse-argue that to modern utilitarianism, saying that, once utilitarians realize their calculus simply doesn't work, should accept that universal indifference is the best they can do.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Joe Hoffmann again overstates case for historical Jesus

Once again, R. Joseph Hoffmann feels the compulsion to do battle against the evil "mythicists" who reject the historicity of Jesus.

Well, Hoffmann has Ph.D.-level scholarship in New Testament studies, as well as a level of philosophical education I don't. But I have more than enough academic and personal education in New Testament, and enough in philosophy, to know that his latest argument once again doesn't stack up.

First is the old fallacy of the excluded middle, or, the false dilemma. I, for one, don't outrightly state that Yeshua bar Yusuf never existed, but I do at the same time state the question of his historicity is one that's academically legitimate for study. Hoffmann rejects that, wrongly.

Second is that "mythicist" is arguably a pejorative term; it certainly is for those of us in his excluded middle.

Third, this particular argument of his has its individual weaknesses.

First, the analogy from the semi-empty tomb of John Henry Newman to the allegedly empty one of Jesus is at best weak, and really, from where I stand, a non sequitur.

But, that's nothing compared to this howler:
And even though the dying/rising god cults differed pointedly from each other and from Christianity, it is pretty clear that Christianity after the time of St Paul fit the description of a salvation cult pretty well. It is hard to imagine Christianity surviving and spreading on the basis of Jesus’ teaching alone.
Why is it "hard to imagine"? Buddhism, like Christianity, traces its origin to a single alleged founder (whether historic or not, like Christianity). But, Buddhism is based indeed on just the teaching of the Buddha.

Beyond that, the question of the nature of Jesus' mission is a separate issue from his historicity. A Q/Gospel of Thomas Jesus is just as historical, or ahistorical, as an empty tomb one.

And, beyond THAT, the issue relates to Paul's role in the development of the Jesus tradition, author priority and related issues, which Hoffman partially admits is involved. Noetheless, the "type of Jesus" and historicity is independent of that, too.

That's followed by another misfire:
The political and religious conditions of the time of Jesus plausibly give us characters like Jesus.
So? The "Jesus" of the New Testament could be a composite character! Or, as Hoffmann says purely for rhetorical effect, be Theudas, or my argument, Jesus the Pharisee of a century earlier. The claim that the New Testament statements about historical datum related to Jesus have a higher strength sounds like hand-waving.

The claim that the gospel writers got context right even though they made many mistakes about specifics? I could say that, in Old Testament studies, about the Yahwist and the patriarchs. Depends on how wide you want to draw the lasso of margin of error.


Darwin had his "bulldog" in Huxley. Hoffmann has one, too, in "Steff."

Here's an excerpt from my reply to here, with editing.

She claimed I focused my "fail" too much on logical grounds and that, my rhetorical "opening" aside, I didn't have the scholastic background necessary to have a dog in this hunt.


That said, I didn’t say that it failed only on logical grounds (if that’s not enough). Your arguments in favor of his claims fairly well parallel those I’ve see hurled against the “minimalists” on the Old Testament side of biblical scholarship. They’ve generally been well refuted there, too.

That said, there is another philosophical angle, and that’s the question of in whose court the matter of proof lies when evidence is tenuous. And it doesn’t all lie in the court of those who question the historicity of Jesus.

Anyway, I’ve been down this road before. I’m far from the only person, and indeed not the only non “mythicist” to question Hoffmann’s reasoning. (Other people do on this blog, though, not in as much detail and as specific to Hoffmann, so far, on this post, as me.)

I’ve also said more than once before, as do the ahistoricists, that it’s quite arguable Paul knew zero of a historical Jesus. Paul's “born of a woman” comment can easily be read as nothing more than an “anti-docetist” claim and nothing else. And, it probably should be read as nothing more than that, and I think Hoffmann knows that himself. From there, its easy to see how Paul’s particular accretion of a pagan custom, the Eucharist, tweaked for Judaism, could have accreted. It’s also easy to see how a misreading of the middle voice of apodidomi (hey, Steff, there’s scholarship!) could have been misread as a passive, and then, the growth of “tradition” required an agent for that passive voice, and hence the invention of a mythic Judas, and we go on from there.

Indeed, I have blogged in more depth about that, here.
In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul gives us the first extant written account of the Lord’s Supper. He starts with the well-known phrase, “On the night our Lord Jesus was betrayed…”

But, “betrayed” may well not be the right translation.

Many Greek verbs have three voices — the active and passive ones we know in English, and a “middle” voice, a sort of reflexive voice.

Now, the Greek verb αποδιδωμι looks the same in middle and passive voice. But, it has different meanings.

In the passive, it does mean “betray.” But, in the middle, it normally means “hand over,” as in hand over someone to authorities. A similar meaning is “hand up.”

Critical New Testament scholarship believe this is what Paul means. He never, in the epistles he clearly wrote, talks about a Passion Plot, a Roman arrest, or the melodramatic literary angle of a turncoat named Judas.
And, from there,I do believe it's easy to see how myth could develop further. Or, legend, technically, since we're talking about the existence of a human being, conservative Christianity aside.

And, I’ve mentioned this particular bit on other posts of Hoffmann’s and he’s never adequately refuted it.

So, "sorry," Joe, and even more, Steff, there’s a good scholarly keystone for how “Pauline priority” could fit will with the development of myths about a historic Jesus.

Whether it did or not is still an open question. But it IS an open question of legitimate academic discussion, not, contra Hoffmann, something to be rudely dismissed in narrowmindedness, or in personal pique because many mythicists also happen to be Gnu Atheists.

And yes, at least vis-a-vis Richard Carrier, Hoffmann has indeed fused the historicity debate with that of Gnu Atheism, and also with past personal and professional "issues" with Carrier. I blogged extensively about that, here.


Postscript and sidebar: I feel kind of sorry for Steff. I think she's living vicariously through Hoffmann a bit, perhaps combined with frustration at not having yet achieved a career standing that may reflect on her academic study to date. I don't know how else to explain the depth and tenor of her attacks on me, in defending Hoffmann, to claim I don't know anything about either textual criticism or historical criticism, or about Greek. (Without bragging, my undergrad degree is in classical languages, and I also read Hebrew already at that level. At divinity school, I had classes specifically on both textual and higher criticism.)

That said, I see a bit of myself ... I didn't know what to do after I had gotten my M.Div. degree only to realize that I wasn't a conservative Lutheran, and not only that, wasn't even anything to the "right" of Unitarianism, at the least. I wasn't ready to launch into a Ph.D., yet, and especially not if I would be expected to do a full M.A. first.

But, per what I have heard, the nature of her attacks is such that they're not just against me, and not just with that exact angle.

Anyway, along with a friend of a friend leaving Facebook for now, and a friend sharing a link about "online simplification," and some things happening in my "meatspace" life, this issue has made me kind of sad. Pensive, even.