Historians usually have reasons for what they say; that is, when they make a historical claim, it is almost always based on a close reading of the surviving sources. When it’s not, they’re just blowin’ smoke. But if they’re blowin’ smoke – that is, taking a guess –they’ll usually tell you. I suppose that’s one difference between an expert (in any field) and an amateur: the expert actually has a deep and nuanced reading of the sources that informs his/her views.
I have to say, as you probably have noticed in your own areas of expertise, it is pretty easy if you are an expert to know who else is an expert and who is not. I say that as someone who is an expert in one or two areas, but an amateur in thousands. When I have an interpretation of Hamlet or Lear that I bounce off my wife – who is a hard-core, internationally recognized expert on Shakespeare – I realize that, for the most part, I’m just taking a stab at something that she can take apart in a flash. As I have experience on many an occasion.
People on the blog regularly ask me what basis I have for saying something, and I completely encourage that kind of thing! That’s what the blog is all about. Because my posts are only a thousand words on average, I often have to say things without giving the basis. And even when I give the basis, it is often in just a post or two, when it deserves an entire chapter (or long thread). Still, I’m always happy to indicate when I have evidence and argument, when I’m simply making an educated guess, and when I’m actually just flippin’ a coin.
Yesterday I indicated that most Jews rejected the claims of Jesus’ followers that he was the messiah because Jesus was just the opposite of what the messiah was expected to be. As I put it: “Rather than a powerful figure who destroyed God’s enemies, Jesus was a lower class peasant who got on the wrong side of the law and was *squashed* by God’s enemies.” Some readers have wondered if I’m blowin’ smoke on this one: and that indeed is worth asking.
So let me tell you my reasons for thinking this is why the claims about Jesus were rejected by most Jews. The short answer is …
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