. . . [A] layperson who self-publishes a book on something isn’t an ‘expert’. They may be considered an enthusiast, an amateur, a hobbyist, a thrill-seeker. These are polite titles. More often than not, however, people who only self-publish do so because they do not want to have their ideas vetted by pesky things like editors, peers, or actual experts. . . .
. . . The purpose of peer review, of academic vetting, is to determine how well an argument or hypothesis can withstand criticism. If the author of this book does not bother to go through this process, even unofficially, by having his book examined by experts prior to publication, then s/he does not have any grounds to claim that it is anything spectacular. That isn’t to say that an uncredentialed person cannot produce a solid book on a subject. It may actually be ground-breaking, it may be earth-shattering, but if it hasn’t been vetted by other people with credentials then there is no means by which one can claim that it is.
I’m currently in Chicago attending the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature (along with satellite meetings by scholarly organizations like the American Schools of Oriental Research). These meetings are also attended by dozens of major academic publishers. Consequently, there are hundreds of books available here at “once a year only” discounts that help those of us who care about data and coherent thinking battle paleobabble. I came across what apparently looks to be an important one today, “Jesus: Evidence and Argument, or Mythicist Myths” by Maurice Casey (T & T Clark, 2013).
Yes, that’s 2013.
You won’t find the title in Amazon in any form. However, Professor Casey has published other items on Jesus as a historical figure. I’m guessing this work will be something of an update or perhaps fuller presentation. The book will be important because Casey is not what anyone in the academy would call an evangelical or “Bible believer” in the pop religion sense. He’s a high profile scholar of New Testament and Christian origins.
Readers may recall a few months ago when I announced I’d be interviewed for this documentary. That happened in August. Well, I’m happy to announce that the documentary is finished and online. It’s just over three hours, and free to the public. I haven’t had time to watch it yet, but having read all the scripts, I can tell you it will be well worth viewing. There’s a lot of good research that went into this. Jason Colavito’s work, to which I often direct readers, figures prominently in several places. The producer tells my I’m in the last section. Lastly, make sure you visit the actual website, since other video that didn’t make it into the final product will be kept there for viewing, along with source documentation.
I’ve also created a Page on this blog with a link to the documentary so you can easily find it later and direct friends to it.
Before you say, “well that’s obvious,” you should be aware that there is serious science behind the idea that the C-14 dating for the shroud is suspect due to contamination (see The DNA of God?: Newly Discovered Secrets of the Shroud of Turin; the author is a scientist who pioneered new techniques for detecting an organic bacterial coating that forms over time on ancient textiles — which would contaminate C-14 tests).
Here’s the new evidence. An art historian (Luciano Buso) claims to have found tell-tale signature clues that point to the Italian master Giotto as the creator of the image on the shroud. Giotto’s lifetime occurs well within the period in which the current C-14 dating places the shroud.
The subject matter may not extend too far back into antiquity in some cases, but historians and scholars of Islam are starting to weigh in on President Obama’s speech in Cairo last week. If you heard it you know that Muslims were credited with a range of accomplishments in an attempt to show that the world owes more to Islam than the desire to subjugate the world. For sure, Islamic culture has indeed made significant contributions, but as Post 2 (below) especially shows, the claims in his speech were exaggerated and erroneous (i.e., he picked bad examples and went overboard in his attempt to kiss up to Islamic wahabists, something previous administrations [notably the Bushes] ought to have avoided as well).