JRP vs Pervo vs Luke vs Josephus vs Theudas and Judas the Galilean (5 of 7)

Note: Part 4 of this series can be found here. It discusses how Dr. Richard Pervo, in his 2006 edition of Dating Acts, ends up having to imagine a reason for why the author of Acts would intentionally change a rhetorically impressive generalization from Josephus into a sober and realistic number--for a purpose that directly contravenes the author's own enumerations just previously in his own narrative. We'll be getting back to that problem again later...

Part 5 -- Circling The Shell Game Around

Rather than face this clear problem with his explanation, Dr. Pervo hops over to a completely different argument: Acts 5 shows Luke only knew about one census, namely the one at the time of Judas the Galilean, so Luke had to have been either mistaken or just making things up for the GosLuke prologue, so there, nyah!

Or words to that effect; what Dr. Pervo is aiming at, is to strengthen the appearance of his thesis concerning Luke’s source for Acts 5 by appealing to a different argument concerning a Josephan source for Luke’s census in GosLuke.

At best, this is an argument from innuendo again. Notice: if the census-from-Josephus argument was persuasive, Dr. Pervo would have already succeeded at his goal of demonstrating dependence on Josephus by Luke which, supposing shared authorship and sequentiality of GosLuke and Acts (which Dr. P basically affirms), would as a corollary place Acts’ composition subsequent chronologically to Antiq. Ta-daa! But Dr. P went with the other attempt instead (the Theudas/JudGal one), for trying to show a reasonable plausibility (or outright certainty?) of dependence on Josephus for dating purposes, leaving his theory about census dependence as a supportive paragraph. This can only mean Dr. P (at the time of writing Dating Acts) considers the census argument to be less strong than his Theudas argument--which so far isn’t scoring well on close examination! Thus the census argument has to be brought in to make it look better. Specifically, he brings it in at a point when a perceptive reader might otherwise be asking, wait, why wouldn’t Luke have used a common round number more fitting to his own enumerations up to this point?!--especially if that happened to better fit his ostensible reference from Josephus! The reader will discover, on page 158, that Dr. Pervo’s answer to this tacit objection is, ‘But, um, Luke may have used Josephus for his census, too!’ Well then, Q.E.D!

It’s worth noting that later, on page 159, it is the case for Luke’s dependence on Josephus for Theudas and JudGal that is supposed to help strengthen the theory for why Luke wrote what he did regarding the census. Indeed, as Dr. P presented the Theudas/JudGal theory originally in this chapter, he specifically says his reason for doing so is that as the strongest argument in favor of dependence on Josephus it’ll make his subsequent arguments (including on the census) look more plausible. While those arguments and their strengths should fairly be evaluated on their own merits, and not simply dismissed if this initial attempt fails hard (and Dr. P does have a lot more discussion on the census theory after the Theudas/JudGal theory), he himself apparently thought, at the time of writing this book, that those merits would look more meritorious if backed by this argument first.

But when arguments which were intended to be strengthened in plausibility by this argument, are mentioned to help strengthen the plausibility of this argument, then I can’t help but feel like I’m watching someone shuffle a plausibility ball around under circle-swirling argument-caps.

Next time: why insisting on an error is very important -- until...


Jason Pratt said…
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