Maurice CASEY, Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths? London: Bloomsbury, 2014 Pp.272 ISBN: PB: 978-0-56744-762-3.
Reviewed by James ZEITZ, Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio, Texas 48207
Maurice Casey’s recent work, Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths, isa sequel to his 2010 work, Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian's Account of his Life and Teaching.
Casey’s work is, on the one hand, a response to deniers of the historical Jesus, as he states in the preface. Casey’s de-bunking of the mythicists is detailed and includes websites of prominent “bloggers” and their lack of credentials. Because bloggers misunderstand the historical method and attack Casey’s use of it, Chapter 2 is a defense of the historical method as used by biblical scholars. The next chapters then apply it: chapter 3 the “Date and Reliability of the Canonical Gospels,” then three chapters that correct bloggers and unqualified ‘historians’: “What is not in the Gospels or Q…in the Epistles”, and What is in the Epistles, especially those of Paul. The final amusing chapter 7, “It All Happened Before,” exposes the errors of historical Jesus deniers who claim false parallels: Jesus’ name was really a common Jewish name at the time; a Jesus in Egyptian lore “was Iusa and means ‘the coming divine Son who heals or saves”; the name Jesus comes from IES, an anagram of Dionysus” (p.205) Other bloggers’ “parallelomania” falsehoods see “Christ” in other places: e.g. the same as the Indian Krishna (spelled “Christna” in English).
Casey’s controversial dating of the gospel of Matthew to 50-60 CE is based on his analysis of the Aramaic sayings of Jesus. He accepts Papias’ testimony that Matthew composed his gospel in “Hebrew”. Thus the Jewish disciple Matthew, rather than Mark—in Rome—is more plausibly the earliest witness (see the “proto-Matthew” hypothesis) But he also says Mark is the earliest gospel. What is important to Casey is exposing the mythicists’ ignorance of historical method. They assume that “all four canonical Gospels” emerge at the same time and near Irenaeus’ naming of the gospels around 180 CE.
An important work for two reasons: first, its detailed analyses of the Aramaic background of Jesus’ sayings and second: the light Casey throws on the non-scholarly world of modern bloggers and pseudo-historians (like Ehrman, whom Casey ironically includes in his list of “historians” – because, although he “has been an outstanding scholar,” he has “remained in a narrow environment in the USA” which had a regrettable effect).
However, what many academics (like myself) will find surprising is Casey’s virulent attacks on bloggers repeating facts that students of the Bible and scholars would have no trouble accepting, such as Casey’s long arguments against those who “cast doubt on the existence of Jesus as a historical figure because of what the Gospels…do not say.” Maybe such a presentation is necessary to discredit Earl Doherty’s Jesus: Neither God Nor Man, but it should not be necessary to say this to today’s informed reader or college student in an introductory course. After all, Casey’s work is not an “Introduction to the Historical Jesus” but an attack on those who deny he existed.