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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Did Jesus Make Ad Hominem Attacks?

I made a brief, humorous post a few days ago about “conversations” in social media (facetious quotes, because you know these are actually debates or – more likely - arguments) – sharing a series of Logical Fallacies Bingo cards.  I haven’t revisited the subject on my blog since then, but the topic has been in my mind. 

One of the most common failures in social media debate (or real life arguments, for that matter) is the personal – ad hominem – attack.  “You are an idiot,”  “You’re an ass,”  “Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries,” and the like.

Tonight the question struck me: Did Jesus make ad hominem attacks during his interactions? Did he ever attack the person and not the argument?  (For now setting aside the questions of whether or not the authors of the various gospels have accurately recorded historical “conversations”and whether or not they’ve put their own words into Jesus’ mouth…)

Should Jesus calling Herod a “fox” be considered an ad hominem attack? or his repeatedly calling the Pharisees “Hypocrites” or “snakes” and a “brood of vipers”? When he said that his opponents were children of their father, “the devil” – was that an ad hominem attack?  It certainly sounds like one.

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