R. Joseph Hoffmann
R. Joseph Hoffmann is a historian of religion, and was chair of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion, Associate Editor of the journal Free Inquiry from 2003-2009. He was founding editor of CSER's Review, CAESAR: A Journal of Religion and Human Values. In his work, Hoffmann has promoted a controversial thesis regarding the role and dating of Marcion in the history of the New Testament canon, and has also produced reconstructions of fragmentary works by ancient pagan opponents of Christianity.
Hoffmann received theological degrees (M.T.S. and Th.M.) from Harvard Divinity School and his D.Phil. from the University of Oxford, submitting his thesis on the heretic Marcion in 1982. Following a year as senior scholar at St Cross College, Oxford in 1980, Hoffmann served during the 1980s as an assistant professor at the University of Michigan. From 1989 to 1991 he was a professor of humanities at California State University, Sacramento. He also taught at the American University of Beirut, Westminster College in Oxford, and Africa University in Zimbabwe. Hoffmann later became a visiting professor of religion at Wells College, and Robert and Henrietta Campbell Professor of Religion in 2004.
Hoffmann was chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion from 2003–2009 and was senior vice president of its parent organisation, the Center for Inquiry. Although Hoffmann has been an opponent of the so-called "New Atheism," he took the contra position toward the existence of God in a debate at Florida State University with Richard Swinburne, formerly the Nolloth Professor of Philosophy of the Christian Religion at Oxford.
Hoffmann had welcomed the attention drawn to debates about early Christianity by the documentary film The Lost Tomb of Jesus (2007), but rejected the filmmakers' conclusion that the Talpiot Tomb was the burial place of Jesus and his family. He has also criticised the sensationalism attached to The Da Vinci Code as a confusing blend of history and fiction.
In his non-academic work as a proponent of humanism, Hoffmann has been critical of the so-called "New Humanism", associated especially with Harvard's humanist chaplain, Greg Epstein. Hoffmann attacked Epstein after he had criticised the work of atheist authors Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins as "atheist fundamentalists", claiming in a letter posted online that Epstein was confused and abusing the Harvard name to stake out his own divisive position. While claiming that humanists had as much right as religious persons to speak about a "spiritual dimension,"  Hoffmann has suggested that the new humanism was "insufficiently skeptical" of religious truth claims and coined the phrase "spiritual libertarians" to describe the new movement. In frequent contributions to the philosophy webzine "Butterflies and Wheels," he has advocated a philosophical and political delineation between secularism and religion, but has also supported the non-confessional teaching of religion as a core subject in colleges and universities. Hoffmann criticized the work of atheist writers Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett as being historically naive in a 2006 Free Inquiry article.
Hoffmann's 1982 doctoral thesis, Marcion: On the Restitution of Christianity, was published in 1984. His theory was that Marcion must be dated substantially before the dates assigned on the basis of patristic testimony. According to Hoffmann, Marcion possessed the earliest version of Luke and preserved the primitive version of Paul's letters. He also attempted to discredit much of the early patristic evidence for Marcion's life and thought as being apologetically driven.
Reviews of the Marcion reflected the controversial nature of the work. Writing in Revue Biblique, Jerome Murphy-O'Connor called attention to the radical nature of Hoffmann's theory while asserting that it was "unlikely that a book of equal importance will appear in this generation." J. L. Houlden commended Hoffmann's skill in "reading between the lines" of Marcion's ancient critics and called the book "a model of how doctrinal history should now be written", while George E. Saint-Laurent concluded, "[H]ereafter Marcion's positive contribution to the mainstream tradition of Catholic-Orthodox Christianity so far as the decisive role of Paul is concerned will have to be acknowledged." Other reviewers thought that Hoffmann's examination of the evidence was valuable but that his conclusions could only be regarded as speculative. The book received a very negative assessment from C. P. Bammel, who accused the author of numerous historical errors and misinterpretations of patristic texts. In a book published in 1993, Bart D. Ehrman noted that Hoffmann's Marcion had "not been well received".
Hoffmann responded to critics of the Marcion in a special issue of The Second Century. His thesis has since been revisited by New Testament scholars including David Trobisch, Joseph Tyson and Robert M. Price.
Ancient critics of Christianity
Hoffmann has also produced translations in English of the fragments of several pagan opponents of Christianity: Celsus (1987), Porphyry (1994) and Julian the Apostate (2004). L'Année Philologique lists two academic reviews for the Celsus. These were mixed with one critic suggesting that the translation improved Celsus' arguments. William Weinrich, observing Hoffmann's popular approach to translation, commented that Hoffmann "wisely forgoes any attempt to restore the original order of Celsus' work, opting rather to present Celsus' writing thematically."
The Porphyry contained a new translation of the fragments of an unknown pagan critic of Christianity preserved by the writer Macarius Magnes, previously translated into English by W. Crafer. In a recent translation of the testimonia for Porphyry's books, Robert M. Berchman notes that Hoffmann's translation is "an important contribution to the study of the text." However, the work was not extensively reviewed. The argument that the pagan critic was Porphyry was first advanced by the historian Adolph von Harnack and has been disputed.
The "Jesus Project"
In 2007 at a conference at the University of California at Davis, Hoffmann, together with New Testament scholars Robert Price and Gerd Luedemann, announced the formation of a colloquium to re-examine the traditions for the existence of a historical Jesus. The initial meeting of the so-called "Jesus Project " took place in Amherst, NY, December 5–7, 2008 and included fifteen scholars from a variety of disciplines including James Tabor, Robert Eisenman, and Bruce Chilton. The Project, according to Hoffmann, was designed to determine "what can be reliably recovered about the historical figure of Jesus, his life, his teachings, and his activities, utilizing the highest standards of scientific and scholarly objectivity." The Project was seen as a continuation and modification of the Jesus Seminar, founded by Robert Funk and John Dominic Crossan.
- Marcion: On the Restitution of Christianity, author, (Scholars Press, August 1984), Oxford University Press, 1995), ISBN 0-89130-638-2
- Celsus: On the True Doctrine, translator, editor, (Oxford University Press, February 19, 1987) ISBN 0-19-504151-8
- What the Bible Really Says, editor, with Morton Smith (Harper and Row, May 1993) ISBN 0-06-067443-1
- The Just War and Jihad: Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, editor, (Prometheus Books, January 2, 2006) ISBN 1-59102-371-8
- Jesus the Nazarene: Myth or History?, introduction, (Prometheus Books, April 21, 2006) ISBN 1-59102-370-X
- "Myth and Christianity: A New Introduction," in Karl Jaspers and Rudolf Bultmann, Myth and Christianity: An Inquiry into the Possibility of Religion Without Myth, (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, May 6, 2005), ISBN 1-59102-291-6
- "Beyond the Discontinuity Paradigm: Towards a Pan-African Church History", Journal of Religious History, 21 (2), 136–158. Blackwell Publishing
- Julian's Against the Galileans, editor and translator, (Prometheus Books, November 2004) ISBN 1-59102-198-7
- The Secret Gospels: A Harmony of Apocryphal Jesus Traditions, editor, (Prometheus Books, April 1996) ISBN 1-57392-069-X
- Porphyry's Against the Christians: The Literary Remains, editor and translator, (Prometheus Books, July 1994) ISBN 0-87975-889-9
- Jesus Outside the Gospels, author, (Prometheus Books, February 1987) ISBN 0-87975-387-0
- "R. Joseph Hoffmann - The Scientific Study of Religion". Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- Free Inquiry Editorial Board 
- "Processing the Project". Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- "Vita Brevis". Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- "Marcion : on the restitution of Christianity : an essay on the development of radical Paulinist theology in the second century". OLIS web OPAC. Retrieved 2008-10-05.[dead link]
- St Cross College, Notable Alumni http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Cross_College#Notable_Alumni Retrieved on 31 October 2008
- R. Joseph Hoffmann (April 3, 2006). "Old Borders Bookstore Would Sell Our Magazine, Muhammad Cartoons and All" (LexisNexis reprint ). Religion News Service.
- Anthony DePalma (August 5, 1990). "A Special Report: Hot Potatoes; The Fourth R". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-04.
- "Wells announces appointments". The Post-Standard (LexisNexis reprint ). 29 September 2005.
- David Abel (September 16, 2007). "The Nonbelievers". The Boston Globe (LexisNexis reprint ).
- Jared Kelly (November 6, 2006). "Existence of God debated at Florida State U." (LexisNexis reprint ). University Wire.
- Jay Tolson (February 27, 2007). "Revision for the Greatest Story Ever Told?". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 2008-10-04.
- Examining The Da Vinci Code 
- "Death by Davincititis" [dead link] Retrieved on 2008-10-17
- "The New Humanism,"http://www.thenewhumanism.org/ Retrieved on 31-08-2008
- "Letter to Brian Flemming". Retrieved 6 February 2014.
- Lisa Miller (June 18, 2007). "BeliefWatch: Smackdown". Newsweek (LexisNexis reprint ).
- "The Soul of Spirituality," http://www.somareview.com/soulofspirituality.cfm Retrieved on 31-08-2008
- "Spiritual Libertarians," (2006) Free Inquiry, 26(6)http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page=hoffman_26_6 Retrieved on 31 October 2008
- "Butterflies and Wheels: Articles"[dead link]
- "God and Man at Harvard," http://www.somareview.com/godandmanatharvard.cfm. Retrieved on 31 October 2008
- "Why 'Hard Science' Won't Cure 'Easy' Religion" Free Inquiry(2006) 26(3), 47-9
- Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome. April 1986. Review of R. Joseph Hoffmann, Marcion: On the Restitution of Christianity. Revue Biblique, 46, 311-312
- J. L. Houlden (August 1984). "Marcion revisited". Expository Times 95 (11): 345. doi:10.1177/001452468409501119.
- George E. Saint-Laurent (Spring 1986). "Review of Marcion". Journal of the American Academy of Religion 54 (1): 176–177. "no"
- Robert B. Eno (March 1985). "Review of Marcion". Theological Studies 46 (1): 173–174. "no"
- LeMoine G. Lewis (June 1985). "Review of Marcion". Church History 54 (2): 230. "no"
- C. P. Bammel (April 1988). "Review of Marcion". Journal of Theological Studies 39 (1): 227–232. "no"
- Bart D. Ehrman (1996) . The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 245 n. 22. ISBN 0-19-510279-7.
- R. Joseph Hoffmann (1987/88). "How Then Know This Troublous Teacher? Further Reflections on Marcion and his Church". Second Century 6 (3): 173–191.
- David Trobisch (2000). The First Edition of the New Testament. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-511240-7.
- Joseph B. Tyson (2006). Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 1-57003-650-0.
- Robert M. Price, Review of Gerd Luedemann, Heretics: The Other Side of Christianity (1996)  Tetrieved on 2008-10-17
- L'Année Philologique
- Joseph W. Trigg (1988). "Review of Celsus". Church History 57: 353–354. Retrieved 2008-10-05. "no"
- Weinrich, William C. 1987. Review of R. Joseph Hoffmann, Celsus On the True Doctrine. Concordia Theological Quarterly,51, 296-297.
- Berchman, Robert M. Porphyry Against the Christians(2005). E.J. Brill, Leiden, p. x. ISBN 90-04-14811-6
- Porphyry's Against the Christians : the literary remains / ed. and transl. with an introd. and epilogue by R. Joseph Hoffmann. Amherst (N. Y.) : Prometheus Books, 1994. 181 p. || JNStud 1997-1998 6 (2) : 115-126 Douglas P. Lackey.
- T.D. Barnes (1973). "Porphyry Against the Christians: Date and the Attribution of Fragments". Journal of Theological Studies 24(2), 424-442.
- Jennifer Green,"Where Angels Fear to Tread". Ottawa Citizen(April 2007) Retrieved on 2008-17-10
- "The Jesus Project: CSER's Historical Inquiry," (2007), Free Inquiryhttp://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page=hoffmann_27_3
- "R. Joseph Hoffmann - The Jesus Project". Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- Csillag, Ron (2008-12-27). "For scholars, a combustible question: Was Christ real?". The Star (Toronto). Retrieved 2010-05-22.
- Project-ing Jesus | Gleanings | ChristianityToday.com
- Center for Inquiry
- Point of Inquiry - RJH - "Examining the Da Vinci Code"
- Unfavorable examination of selected passages from the Celsus
- Review of the Porphyry translation
- Response to review of Celsus translation[dead link]
- Letter by Hoffmann attacking Greg Epstein