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Don’t Trust What You Read!

In response to my post yesterday about whether the author of Mark was a Jew, in which I said no Jew would make the claim that Mark does, in chapter 7, that “all Jews” washed their hands before eating — a claim that is simply not true — a couple of astute blog members have pointed out  that there is another text, certainly written by a Jew, the Letter of Aristeas (about the how the Septuagint — that is, the Greek translation of the Old Testament — came into being), from the first century BCE or earlier, says something very similar about “all Jews” washing their hands.  Hmm….   I’ve only read the Letter of Aristeas about 75 times.  You’d think I would have noticed that.  But alas.

So, for the first time in recorded history, I’m going to cover and atone for my abject shame by removing the post.  Ugh.  Many apologies for the false information, the fake news, and the alternative facts.

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  1. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  February 1, 2019

    Well, what you didn’t do was to try to correct your error by “spin” or by presenting “alternative facts.” I am still naïve enough to think that facts matter and maybe some people can even change their minds with convincing evidence.

  2. Avatar
    John  January 29, 2020

    Apologies for resurrecting this.

    I assume the default position before your post and after the retraction, was ‘we don’t know if he was a Jew or not’.

    Assuming you were correct in your assessment i.e. no retraction was required, are you suggesting that the evidence available meant the Mark was ‘almost certainly’ a Jew. If that were the case, the sounds like it would be a historical fact if true. I was under the impression that historical facts required far,far more evidence than that.

    Any thoughts?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 31, 2020

      No, I don’t know of any good evidence to suggest Mark was definitely a Jew. I’d say the probabilities strongly slant the other way, since by the time he was writing, most followers of Jesus were gentile.

      • Avatar
        John  February 1, 2020

        Sorry Bart, I am not being very clear here. I was NOT asking about the religious status of Mark.

        I was referring to Deane’s Blog where he quotes your original post (before you retracted it) as saying – ‘But today Bart has made a more dubious claim: that the author of the Gospel of Mark “almost certainly was not” a Jew.’

        Were you suggesting in your first post, that the preponderance of evidence available meant the Mark was ‘almost certainly’ not a Jew? If that were the case, the sounds like it would be a historical fact if true. I was under the impression that historical facts required far, far more evidence than that, such that it wouldn’t have been overturned so easily.

        In other words, I was asking about how you got to a historical fact with the evidence you thought you had.

        Is that clearer now?

        • Bart
          Bart  February 2, 2020

          I’d say that the term “almost certainly” is an indication that the claims is not being put forth as a “fact” but as a “probability”

          • Avatar
            John  February 2, 2020

            ‘Almost certainly’ sounds pretty close to being a fact to me or at least has a pretty high probability. As I said earlier, surely a conclusion of that magnitude would require a good deal of evidential support perhaps from a number of sources, would it not? Rather than be rebutted so easily?

          • Bart
            Bart  February 2, 2020

            Yes, high probability requires good evidence.

          • Avatar
            John  February 3, 2020

            Really sorry to be a pain here but I am simply trying to understand how the historical process works.

            So when you said in the previous blog post (before you retracted it) that Mark was almost certainly not a Jew, are you saying that there was good evidence to support that claim at the time?

          • Bart
            Bart  February 4, 2020

            Yeah, you’re kinda beatin’ a dead horse here. 🙂 Yes, a claim that there is high probability means there is good evidence. (I’m not sure what the alternative would be)

          • Avatar
            John  February 4, 2020

            The point is, if there was such good evidence that Mark was not a Jew, how could it be retracted so easily?

            If the evidence was solid and from many sources, one piece of contrary evidence would simply cause a dent rather than reverting back to an indeterminate position surely?

          • Bart
            Bart  February 5, 2020

            OK, I think we can stop this one now!

          • Avatar
            John  February 5, 2020

            Fair enough, if that’s what you wish. It’s your blog after all.

            However, you haven’t explained what the good evidence was that lead you to the conclusion the Mark was not a Jew bearing in mind how easily it was overturned.

          • Bart
            Bart  February 6, 2020

            You didn’t ask what the evidence is. I explained the evidence in one post and what made me rethink it in another.

          • Avatar
            John  February 10, 2020

            “You didn’t ask what the evidence is. I explained the evidence in one post and what made me rethink it in another.”

            To be honest, my question isn’t really asking about what the evidence is. It is about the reasoning used to conclude something that was a high probability. As I mentioned, I am interested in how you used the historical process here.

            I am asking, if you came to a conclusion that Mark was ‘Almost certainly’ not Jewish, I presume that since that will be a high probability i.e. not far away from being a historical fact, there will be multiple lines of evidence supporting it. In other words, it would need a very good case to overturn the conclusion.

            You appeared to retract the post as soon as there was a suggestion concerning the meaning of the phrase ‘all the Jews’. That doesn’t seem to be a lot to counter something that was a high probability.

            Clearly I am having trouble making my point here although I thought it was reasonably straightforward.

          • Bart
            Bart  February 11, 2020

            Yes you are! But as I said, I think you need to put this to rest. The reason I said mark was almost certainly Jewish is that he gives information about jews that is patently incorrect, and he would have known that. Another person commented that another Jewish author could be interpreted as saying somthing similar. So I decided not to pursue it and grant that others could see it differently. But really, that’s enough on this topic!

          • Avatar
            John  February 13, 2020

            Yes, I do appear to be flogging a dead horse now so I will put it to rest. Even up to my last post, you still seem to be missing the point of the question I asked, which is about the quality of the evidence necessary to conclude some is ‘almost certain’ but then revoking that decision so easily when it was challenged.

            I was under the impression that historical facts and being certain about events in history, especially ancient history, was a rare event and required copious evidential support such that it could not be turned over so easily. I assumed a professional historian would understand and be able to address that with ease. No matter.

            Many thanks for your patience with this.

          • Bart
            Bart  February 14, 2020

            OK, thanks. I did try to explain, and this will be my final attempt. If I made an off the cuff comment to you (as opposed to a statement that was clearly meant to shock or exaggerate for effect) that “all Jews in North America keep kosher” it would probably make you think that I don’t know what I’m talking about, and that that would almost certainly be because I’m not a part of Jewish culture in America.

        • Avatar
          Pattycake1974  February 6, 2020

          I remember this post. The evidence in the first post was correct. A couple of blog members thought the Letter of Aristeas proved that Mark could have been Jewish. However, the blog members misread the Letter in addition to not knowing the scholarship for it.

          • Avatar
            John  February 10, 2020

            Are you saying that Bart was wrong to make the retraction?

        • Avatar
          Pattycake1974  February 10, 2020

          No, I think he simply forgot what he already knew about the scholarship for the Letter of Aristeas because I’m almost positive he wrote about it prior to these posts. It would have been a significant piece of evidence in favor of Mark being Jewish if the members on the blog had been correct. I don’t think Bart was suggesting the Letter overturned his opinion, but that he needed to look into it further.

          • Avatar
            John  February 13, 2020

            Sorry, I am not clear what you are saying, in that case. Could you clarify please?

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