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An Atheist Historian Examines the Evidence for Jesus (Part 1 of 2)

Jesus

Scholars who specialize in the origins of Christianity agree on very little, but they do generally agree that it is most likely that a historical preacher, on whom the Christian figure "Jesus Christ" is based, did exist.  The numbers of professional scholars, out of the many thousands in this and related fields, who don't accept this consensus, can be counted on the fingers of one hand.  Many may be more cautious about using the term "historical fact" about this idea, since as with many things in ancient history it is not quite as certain as that.  But it is generally regarded as the best and most parsimonious explanation of the evidence and therefore the most likely conclusion that can be drawn.

The opposite idea—that there was no historical Jesus at all and that "Jesus Christ" developed out of some purely mythic ideas about a non-historical, non-existent figure—has had a checkered history over the last 200 years, but has usually been a marginal idea at best.  Its heyday was in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when it seemed to fit with some early anthropological ideas about religions evolving along parallel patterns and being based on shared archetypes, as characterized by Sir James Frazer's influential comparative religion study The Golden Bough (1890). But it fell out of favor as the twentieth century progressed and was barely held by any scholars at all by the 1960s.

More recently the "Jesus Myth" hypothesis has experienced something of a revival, largely via the internet, blogging, and "print on demand" self-publishing services.  But its proponents are almost never scholars, many of them have a very poor grasp of the evidence, and almost all have clear ideological objectives.  Broadly speaking, they fall into two main categories: (1) New Agers claiming Christianity is actually paganism rebadged and (2) anti-Christian atheist activists seeking to use their "exposure" of historical Jesus scholarship to undermine Christianity.  Both claim that the consensus on the existence of a historical Jesus is purely due to some kind of iron-grip that Christianity still has on the subject, which has suppressed and/or ignored the idea that there was no historical Jesus at all.

In fact, there are some very good reasons there is a broad scholarly consensus on the matter and that it is held by scholars across a wide range of beliefs and backgrounds, including those who are atheists and agnostics (e.g. Bart Ehrman, Maurice Casey, Paula Fredriksen) and Jews (e.g. Geza Vermes, Hyam Maccoby).

Unconvincing Arguments for a Mythic Origin for Jesus

 
Many of the arguments for a Mythic Jesus that some laypeople think sound highly convincing are exactly the same ones that scholars consider laughably weak, even though they sound plausible to those without a sound background in the study of the First Century.  For example:

1. "There are no contemporary accounts or mentions of Jesus.  There should be, so clearly no Jesus existed."

This seems a good argument to many, since modern people tend to leave behind them a lot of evidence they existed (birth certificates, financial documents, school records, etc.) and prominent modern people have their lives documented by the media almost daily.  So it sounds suspicious to people that there are no contemporary records at all detailing or even mentioning Jesus.

But our sources for anyone in the ancient world are scarce and rarely are they contemporaneous—they are usually written decades or even centuries after the fact.  Worse still, the more obscure and humble in origin the person is, the less likely that there will be any documentation about them or even a fleeting reference to them at all.

For example, few people in the ancient world were as prominent, influential, significant and famous as the Carthaginian general Hannibal.  He came close to crushing the Roman Republic, was one of the greatest generals of all time and was famed throughout the ancient world for centuries after his death down to today.  Yet how many contemporary mentions of Hannibal do we have?  Zero.  We have none.  So if someone as famous and significant as Hannibal has no surviving contemporary references to him in our sources, does it really make sense to base an argument about the existence or non-existence of a Galilean peasant preacher on the lack of contemporary references to him?  Clearly it does not.

So while this seems like a good argument, a better knowledge of the ancient world and the nature of our evidence and sources shows that it's actually extremely weak.

2.  "The ancient writer X should have mentioned this Jesus, yet he doesn't do so.  This silence shows that no Jesus existed."

An "argument from silence" is a tricky thing to use effectively.  To do so, it's not enough to show that a writer, account or source is silent on a given point—you also have to show that it shouldn't be before this silence can be given any significance.  So if someone claims their grandfather met Winston Churchill, yet a thorough search of the grandfather's letters and diaries of the time show no mention of this meeting, an argument from silence could be presented to say that the meeting never happened.  This is because we could expect such a meeting to be mentioned in those documents.

Some "Jesus Mythicists" have tried to argue that certain ancient writers should have mentioned Jesus and did not, and so tried to make an argument from silence on this basis.  In 1909 the American "freethinker" John Remsberg came up with a list of 42 ancient writers that he claimed "should" have mentioned Jesus and concluded their silence showed that Jesus ever existed.  But the list has been widely criticised for being contrived and fanciful.  Why exactly, for example, Lucanus—a writer whose works consist of a single poem and a history of the civil war between Caesar and Pompey (in the century before Jesus' time) "should" have mentioned Jesus is hard to see.  And the same can be said for most of the other writers on Remsberg's list.

Some others, however, are more reasonable at first glance.  Philo Judaeus was a Jew in Alexandria who wrote philosophy and theology and who was a contemporary of Jesus, and who also mentions events in Judea and makes reference to other figures we know from the gospel accounts, such as Pontius Pilate.  So it makes far more sense that he should mention Jesus than some poets in far off Rome.  But it is hard to see why even Philo would be interested in mentioning someone like Jesus, given that he also makes no mentions of any of the other Jewish preachers, prophets, faith healers, and Messianic claimants of the time, of which there were many.  If Philo had mentioned Anthronges and Theudas, or Hillel and Honi or John the Baptist, but didn't mention Jesus, then a solid argument from silence could be made.  But given that Philo seems to have had no interest at all in any of the various people like Jesus, the fact that he doesn't mention Jesus either carries little or no weight.

In fact, there is only one writer of the time who had any interest in such figures, who also had little interest for Roman and Greek writers.  He was the Jewish historian Josephus, who is our sole source for virtually all of the Jewish preachers, prophets, faith healers, and Messianic claimants of this time.  If there is any writer who should mention Jesus, it's Josephus.  The problem for the "Jesus Mythicists" is ... he does.  Twice, in fact.  He does do so in Antiquities XVIII.3.4 and again in Antiquities XX.9.1.  Mythicists take comfort in the fact that the first of these references has been added to by later Christian scribes, so they dismiss it as a wholesale interpolation.  But the majority of modern scholars disagree, arguing there is solid evidence to believe that Josephus did make a mention of Jesus here and that it was added to by Christians to help bolster their arguments against Jewish opponents.  That debate aside, the Antiquities XX.9.1 mention of Jesus is universally considered genuine and that alone sinks the Mythicist case (see below for details.)

3.  "The earliest Christian traditions make no mention of a historical Jesus and clearly worshipped a purely heavenly, mythic-style being.  There are no references to an earthly Jesus in any of the earliest New Testament texts, the letters of Paul."

Since many people who read Mythicist arguments have never actually read the letters of Paul, this one sounds convincing as well.  Except it simply isn't true.  While Paul was writing letters about matters of doctrine and disputes and so wasn't giving a basic lesson in who Jesus was in any of this letters, he does make references to Jesus' earthly life in many places.  He says Jesus was born as a human, of a human mother, and born a Jew (Galatians 4:4).  He repeats that he had a "human nature" and that he was a human descendant of King David (Romans 1:3).  He refers to teachings Jesus made during his earthly ministry on divorce (1 Cor. 7:10), on preachers (1 Cor. 9:14) and on the coming apocalypse (1 Thess. 4:15).  He mentions how he was executed by earthly rulers (1 Cor. 2:8) and that he died and was buried (1 Cor 15:3-4).  And he says he had an earthly, physical brother called James who Paul himself had met (Galatians 1:19).

So Mythicist theorists then have to tie themselves in knots to explain how, in fact, a clear reference to Jesus being "born of a woman" actually means he wasn't born of a woman and how when Paul says Jesus was "according to the flesh, a descendant of King David" this doesn't mean he was a human and the human descendant of a human king.  These contrived arguments are so weak they tend to only convince the already convinced.  It's this kind of contrivance that consigns this thesis to the fringe.

The Problems with a "Mythic" Origin to the Jesus Story

 
The weaknesses of the Mythicist hypothesis multiply when its proponents turn to coming up with their own explanation as to how the Jesus stories did arise if there was no historical Jesus.  Of course, many of them don't really bother much with presenting an alternative explanation and leave their ideas about exactly how this happened conveniently vague.  But some realize that we have late first century stories that all claim there was an early first century person who lived within living memory and then make a series of claims about him.  If there was no such person, the Mythicist does need to explain how the stories about his existence arose and took the form they do. And they need to do so in a way that accounts for the evidence better than the parsimonious idea that this was believed because there was such a person.  This is where Mythicism really falls down.  The Mythicist theories fall into four main categories:

1. "Jesus was an amalgam of earlier pagan myths, brought together into a mythic figure of a god-man and savior of a kind found in many cults of the time."

This is the explanation offered by the New Age writer who calls herself "Acharya S" in a series of self-published books beginning with The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold(1999).  Working from late nineteenth and early twentieth century theosophist claims, which exaggerate parallels between the Jesus stories and pagan myths, she makes the typical New Age logical leap from "similarity" to "parallel" and finally to "connection" and "causation".  Leaving aside the fact that many of these "parallels" are highly strained, with any miraculous conception or birth story becoming a "virgin birth" or anything to do with a death or a tree becoming a "crucifixion" (even if virginity or a cross is not involved in either), it is very hard to make the final leap from "parallel" to "causation".

This is particularly hard because of the masses of evidence that the first followers of the Jesus sect were devout Jews—a group for whom the idea of adopting anything "pagan" would have been utterly horrific.  These were people who cut their hair short because long hair was associated with pagan, Hellenistic culture or who shunned gymnasia and theaters because of their association with pagan culture.  All the evidence actually shows that the earliest Jesus sect went through a tumultuous period in its first years trying to accommodate non-Jews into their devoutly Jewish group.  To claim that these people would merrily adopt myths of Horus and Attis and Dionysius and then amalgamate them into a story about a pagan/Jewish hybrid Messiah (who didn't exist) and then turn around and forget he didn't exist and claim he did and that he did so just a few decades earlier is clearly a nonsense hypothesis.

2.  "Jesus was a celestial being who existed in a realm just below the lunar sphere and was not considered an earthly being at all until later."

This is the theory presented by another self-published Mythicist author, Earl Doherty, first in The Jesus Puzzle (2005) and then in Jesus: Neither God nor Man (2009).  Doherty's theory has several main flaws.  Firstly, he claims that this mythic/celestial Jesus was based on a Middle Platonic view of the cosmos that held that there was a "fleshly sub-lunar realm" in the heavens where gods and celestial beings lived and acted out mythic events.  This is the realm, Doherty claims, in which it was believed that Mithras slew the cosmic bull, where Attis lived and died and where Jesus was crucified and rose again.  The problem here is Doherty does very little to back up this claim and, while non-specialist readers may not realise this from the way he presents this idea, it is not something accepted by historians of ancient thought but actually a hypothesis developed entirely by Doherty himself.  He makes it seem like this idea is common knowledge amongst specialists in Middle Platonic philosophy, while never quite spelling out that it's something he's made up. The atheist Biblical scholar Jeffrey Gibson has concluded:
 

"... the plausibility of D[oherty]'s hypothesis depends on not having good knowledge of ancient philosophy, specifically Middle Platonism. Indeed, it becomes less and less plausible the more one knows of ancient philosophy and, especially, Middle Platonism."

 
Secondly, Doherty's thesis requires the earliest Christian writings about Jesus, the letters of Paul, to be about this "celestial/mythic Jesus" and not a historical, earthly one.  Except, as has been pointed out above, Paul's letters do contain a great many references to an earthly Jesus that don't fit with Doherty's hypothesis at all.  Doherty has devoted a vast number of words in both his books explaining ways that these references can be read so that his thesis does not collapse, but these are contrived and in places quite fanciful.

Finally, Doherty's explanations as to how this "celestial/mythic Jesus" sect gave rise to a "historical/earthly Jesus" sect and then promptly disappeared without trace strain credulity.  Despite being the original form of Christianity and despite surviving, according to Doherty, well into the second century, this celestial Jesus sect vanished without leaving any evidence of its existence behind and was undreamt of until Doherty came along and deduced that it had once existed.  This is very difficult to believe.  Early Christianity was a diverse, divided, and quarrelsome faith, with a wide variety of sub-sects, offshoots, and "heresies", all arguing with each other and battling for supremacy.  What eventually emerged from this riot of Christianities was a form of "orthodoxy" that had all the elements of Christianity today: the Trinity, Jesus as the divine incarnate, a physical resurrection etc.  But we know of many of the other rivals to this orthodoxy largely thanks to orthodox writings attacking them and refuting their claims and doctrines.  Doherty expects us to believe that despite all this apologetic literature condemning and refuting a wide range of "heresies" there is not one that bothers to even mention this original Christianity that taught Jesus was never on earth at all.

Doherty's thesis is much more popular amongst atheists than the New Age imaginings of "Acharya S" but has had no impact on the academic sphere partly because self-published hobbyist efforts don't get much attention, but mainly because of the flaws noted above.  Doherty and his followers maintain, of course, that it's because of a kind of academic conspiracy, much as Young Earth Creationists do.

3.  "Jesus began as an allegorical, symbolic figure of the Messiah who got 'historicized' into an actual person despite the fact he never really existed"

This idea has been presented in most detail by another amateur theorist in yet another self-published book: R.G. Price's Jesus: A Very Jewish Myth (2007).  Unlike "Acharya S" and, to a lesser extent Doherty, Price at least takes account of the fact that the Jesus stories and the first members of the Jesus sect are completely and fundamentally Jewish, so fantasies about Egyptian myths or Greek Middle Platonic philosophy are not going to work as points of origin for them.  According to this version of Jesus Mythicism, Jesus was an idealisation of what the Messiah was to be like who got turned into a historical figure largely by mistake and misunderstanding.

Several of the same objections to Doherty's thesis can be made about this one—if this was the case, why are there no remnants of debates with or condemnations of those who believed the earlier version and maintained there was no historical Jesus at all?  And why don't any of Christianity's enemies use the fact that the original Jesus sect didn't believe in a historical Jesus as an argument against the new version of the sect?  Did everyone just forget?

More tellingly, if the Jesus stories arose out of ideas about and expectations of the Messiah, it is very odd that Jesus doesn't fit those expectations better.  Despite Christian claims to the contrary, the first Christians had to work very hard to convince fellow Jews that Jesus was the Messiah precisely because he didn't conform to these expectations. Most importantly, there was absolutely no tradition or Messianic expectation that told of the Messiah being executed and then rising from the dead—this first appears with Christianity and has no Jewish precedent at all.  Far from evolving from established Messianic prophecies and known elements in the scripture, the first Christians had to scramble to find anything at all which looked vaguely like a "prophecy" of this unexpected and highly un-Messianic event.

That the center and climax of the story of Jesus would be based on his shameful execution and death makes no sense if it evolved out of Jewish expectations about the Messiah, since they contained nothing about any such idea.  This climax to the story only makes sense if it actually happened, and then his followers had to find totally new and largely strained and contrived "scriptures" which they then claimed "predicted" this outcome, against all previous expectation.  Price's thesis fails because Jesus' story doesn't conform to Jewish myths enough.

4. "Jesus was not a Jewish preacher at all but was someone else or an amalgam of people combined into one figure in the Christian tradition"

This is the least popular of the Jesus Myth hypotheses, but versions of it are argued by Italian amateur theorist Francesco Carotta (Jesus was Caesar: On the Julian Origin of Christianity: An Investigative Report, 2005)), computer programmer Joseph Atwill (Caesar's Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus, 2005) and accountant Daniel Unterbrink (Judas the Galilean: The Flesh and Blood Jesus, 2004).  Carotta claims Jesus was actually Julius Caesar and imposed on Jewish tradition as part of the cult of the Divius Julius.  Atwill claims Jesus was invented by the Emperor Titus and imposed on Judaism in the same way.  Neither do a very good job of substantiating these claims or of explaining why the Romans then turned around, as early as 64 AD (fifteen years before Titus became emperor) and began persecuting the cult they supposedly created.  No scholar takes these theories or that of Unterbrink seriously.

No scholar also argues that Jesus was an amalgam of various Jewish preachers or other figures of the time.  That is because there is nothing in the evidence to indicate this.  These ideas have never been argued in any detailed form by anyone at all, scholar or Jesus myth amateur theorist, but it is something some who don't want to subscribe to the idea that "Jesus Christ" was based on a real person resorts to so that they can put some skeptical distance between the Christian claims and anything or anyone historical.  It seems to be a purely rhetorically-based idea, with no substance and no argument behind it.
 
 
NOTE: Stay tuned for Part 2 on Friday, where we'll examine the actual evidence for the existence of historical Jesus.
 
 
Originally posted at Armarium Magnum. Used with permission.

Tim O'Neill

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Tim O'Neill is an atheist blogger who specializes in reviews of books on ancient and medieval history as well as atheism and historiography. He holds a Master of Arts in Medieval Literature from the University of Tasmania and is a subscribing member of the Australian Atheist Foundation and the Australian Skeptics. He is also the author of the History versus The Da Vinci Code website and is currently working on a book with the working title History for Atheists: How Not to Use History in Debates About Religion. He finds the fact that he irritates many theists and atheists in equal measure a sign that he's probably doing some good. Follow his blog at Armarium Magnum.

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  • Kevin Aldrich

    Thanks for this. Look forward to Wednesday's post.

  • It is quite interesting. Even those who admit there was an historical Jesus have to deal with the question of how the Jesus story was created if it was not actually true. Many of the same comments seem to apply. First of all, many ignore the question entirely. They just take the skeptical approach. Obviously miracles and resurrections could not happen. Obviously a brilliant teacher could not actually believe He was God. How did so many a few generations come to believe it? No idea.

    The ones that do advance a theory end up with many of the problems these theories have. Why did these previous versions of Christianity not leave a record? Why did the Jews and Greeks suddenly become so willing to embrace a new religion that had so little going for it? If they were changing the story then why make it so hard? Why the cross? Why not accept some of the promiscuity of pagan Rome? Why not make Christianity less offensive?

    • David Nickol

      Why did the Jews and Greeks suddenly become so willing to embrace a new religion that had so little going for it?

      Christianity certainly spread rapidly, but not among "the Jews." As the King James Version puts it (John 1:11), "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." There are many explanations for the rapid spread of Christianity. From the believing Christian point of view, one would think a very difficult task would be to explain why God's millennia-long plan to send his Chosen People a Messiah failed so catastrophically.

      Also, why was a Messiah sent who was not, in fact, a Messiah? The old explanation is that most Jews expected the "wrong kind of Messiah," but since the definition of messiah is not in the Old Testament, the only kind of Messiah that it was reasonable to expect was the popular notion of messiah, which in no way described Jesus.

      Quite obviously, Christianity was not a "new religion that had so little going for it." It had a great deal going for it, but not necessarily the literal truth of the stories we now know from the Gospels.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        One reason I have read that Christianity spread rapidly in the Roman world was the people referred to as "righteous Gentiles" or "proselytes at the gate."

        These were people who were exposed to Judaism through the diaspora (the on-going one, not the destruction of the Holy Land by the Romans in 70 A.D.), were impressed by it, but who were not ready to go all the way.

        It was relatively easier for them to accept this new form of Judaism (if we can call it that) since they didn't have to become Jews (i.e., follow the 330 precepts of the Torah) to become Christians.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          The primary reason Christianity spread was that it became the state religion in the period if the Constantines.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No. That does not account for the first almost 300 years.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It didn't exactly spread like wildfire in those 300 years, now did it?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Christians made up maybe 10% of the total population of the empire and a majority in some urban centers. (This was before there was any worldly advantage to converting.)

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mapspreadofxity.jpg

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            10% in only 300 years. Not particularly impressive. Islam spread far faster, I believe.

          • Susan

            10% in only 300 years.

            Yes. Nothing otherworldly about it. A cult that took root via an empire.

            Also, "Christianity" in the first three hundred years does not describe one belief system. There were many cults who believed things completely at odds with the religion that took hold of Rome. They were eventually classified heretical. . There was no single "Christianity".

            See "Lost Christianities".

            http://www.amazon.ca/Lost-Christianities-Battles-Scripture-Faiths/dp/0195182499#reader_0195182499

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What does that mean, "A cult that took root via an empire"? If you mean the Pax Romana helped Christianity spread, that is true: a common language, good roads, open borders.

            That there were all kinds of (claimed to be false) ideas out there about Christ and his Church is not news. It is evident in the New Testament and in the literature of the first three centuries.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I suspect she means that making a small cult the official religion does wonders for spreading it.

          • David Nickol

            small cult

            I don't think it is accurate to say Christianity was a "small cult" at the dawn of the 4th century.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You are probably correct. Does anyone have good figures on the percentage of the various pre-Constantine faiths?

          • Max Driffill
          • Kevin Aldrich

            Christianity always has to be wrong or bad or less than impressive.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Not at all. But the speed it spread at isn't one of its impressive features.

          • Phil Steinacker

            Well, yes, but it does hasten your progress when using the sword as a persuader. For a religion which spread through persuasion by faith experiences, it ain't too shabby.

          • fredx2

            Considering that Christianity is at 33% of the world population after 2000 years, it seems that 10 percent of a Roman Empire that persecuted it is not half bad.
            Islam, of course, conquered by the sword to a large degree and then relegated non Muslims to second class status, so if you were going to get ahead in a Muslim area, you had to become a Muslim.

          • Techy

            You tend to forget, that Islam spread by force. You either converted or you were murdered if you were a pagan or if you were a Christian or Jew you became a second class citizen.

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin the growth rate of the Early Christian Church was about 40% per decade. That isn't bad. But is pretty much exactly the same as the growth rate of the Mormon Church today, about 43%. For a fuller discussion of the numbers and the narrative behind the numbers go here.

            http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=95

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are illustrating what I am noticing more and more. Anything positive that can be said about Christianity, even that people converted to it before became the state religion of the Roman Empire, has to be dismissed.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Are you denying the numbers?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Can you relate this back to your original argument? "The primary reason Christianity spread was that it became the state religion in the period if the Constantines." If the numbers are correct, Christianity was continuously growing about 40% per decade for about 30 decades before the Edict of Milan, when Christianity became universally tolerated and the persecutions ended.

          • Max Driffill

            And the reasons for this are not supernatural, nor do they say anything about the truth of the beliefs, or the nature of the beliefs in question. To say, Early Christianity spread quite rapidly is to create a homogeny where none existed. If you say that a class of ideas that might be loosely packaged under the phrase Early Christianity you must not lose sight of the diversity and contentiousness contained in that phrase. It wasn't one Christianity but several, spreading out hither and yon.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Again, who is making the claim that the growth was supernatural? I'm not.

            But by saying this, I am not denying that the growth was also due to supernatural grace, just as conversions today are (Catholics believe) due to a person responding to God's call.

          • Max Driffill

            So was the growth rate owing to primarily supernatural causes, or to the wonderful positive message?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            A secular sociologist or historian could not attribute it to the former. A Christian would attribute it to both.

          • Max Driffill

            They would do so without evidence of supernatural. They would, on that count be making a faith claim. Which is fine if that is your thing.

          • fredx2

            However, the fast growth rates, and the fact that those rates were sustained for 300 years, says that something attracted people to Christianity - something very basic to the human being. Something that attracted them, and was still attracting them 300 years later. And is still attracting them today.
            The fact that there were variations on a theme in Christianity is completely irrelevant. They were still all Christians. The fact that Hip hop music grew very quickly in th 1990's is a fact, despite the fact that there are many styles of Hip Hop. that doesn't mean they are not hip hop, or that it grew quickly.

          • Max Driffill

            As it happens, it appears to be attracting them less and less.

            Also, I've already said that the growth rate was impressive. I think there are a host of factors for this that you and Kevin seem to want to ignore.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I'm considering the entire church history. Being the faith of the empire meant the christianization of Europe, and in consequence, the Americas.

          • Max Driffill

            It was mostly prosecutions, not persecutions. The persecutions seem to have been over stated to a large degree.

            At the time of Constantine's conversion in 312, Christians constituted only about 5% (perhaps a little more, perhaps a little less) of the general population. Again, it is impressive, but we will not know what would have happened had Constantine not converted, and not made Christianity a licit religion. It is possible it would have petered out, or continued to grow steadily. But Christians, upon Constantine's conversion, suddenly had a lot more political clout. And that might have helped them in their missionary mission.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Now you appear to be understating both the number of Christians and the severity of persecution (anyone who has studied Church history knows the persecution depended on who was emperor and who was the local governor).

            Of course the state tolerating and then favoring orthodox Christianity helped it grow, but that is a two-edged sword.

          • Max Driffill

            I'm not understating the number of Christians at 312. According to most scholars they made up only about 5% of the Roman population give or take a percentage point or two in either direction. People who study the early Christian movement give a range of credible estimates ranging from 3-8 million around 300.

            For an over view of the case against widespread Christian persecution in the first 300 hundred years of the Early Church, see Candida Moss' The Myth of Persecution..
            None of this is to say, that Christians haven't been harassed, and killed and murdered in Rome, or elsewhere. But in Rome, it seems most of the issues were prosecutorial (where Christians came into trials for refusing to follow customs, sort of acting the Sovereign Citizens of Rome). Roman courts killed a whole lot of people, not just Christians. So from my reading, Christians suffered persecution for short while in the first three centuries, prosecutorial meanness (and make no mistake, sentencing could be very mean indeed) for a time after that, until they were more or less accepted, culminating in Constantine's conversion in 312, and the granting of licit status after.

            I'm not saying that Christians haven't suffered at the hands of Roman power. I'm saying that the myth of horrendous persecution for 300 years is likely quite overstated.

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin,
            I'm not dismissing it. I said it wasn't bad. Their early growth was impressive. I'm just setting it in context. It wasn't miraculous, if you think it was, then you must grant the Mormon growth rate (which is slightly higher than for earlier Christianity) as equally miraculous. And the growth and dissemination of an idea says nothing about its veracity.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The OP you cite claims some Christians make the claim that the growth was miraculous, but I have never heard a Catholic make it. A more plausible reason I have recently heard for the growth of Christianity in the first three centuries was the charity, chastity, and cheerfulness of these followers of Christ.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Why do you think that is a more probable reason?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This was written in the second century and I think a lot of people would find people like this very attractive:

            For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I would find the "Epistle to Diognetus" more convincing had it been written by an objective observer. But the consensus is that it's a piece of apologetics defending christians.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Of course it is an apology.

            One can be an apologist and tell the truth. Just as I will tell you that the same is true today except that we are not nearly as good as these early Christians, maybe because we are not liable to have our property and lives taken away at any time.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Or because those early Christians were about as good as we are now, and the Epistle, like many apologetics, represents an idealized vision of Christian life.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Do you see what I mean yet? Anything positive that can be said about Christianity has to be dismissed.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I am interested in truth; I am as happy to try to reach objectivity on claims by atheists and non-Christian theists as I am in dealing with Christian claims.
            The "Good Old Days" syndrome is a recognized phenomenon in psychological circles, it's important, if we wish to discuss these things rationally, to make sure that we're judging things in the correct proportion.
            I see much good in Christianity; I also see a lot of evil. On balance, I think the world would be better off without it, but YMMV.

          • Max Driffill

            I'm sorry, who is dismissing?

            "... Just as I will tell you that the same is true today except that we are not nearly as good as these early Christians,"

            Uh, what makes you think that? Everything that I have read of the history of the Early Christianities indicates that these linked movements were as prone to human foible as humans in any era. And again, Early Christianity was not a monolith of unified vision. There were some very potent sects that spread quite far and wide and were later stamped out when one sect found itself with political power.

            Also are the Mormons better than the early Christians? They have a growth rate slightly higher than the Christianities of the early years.

            "maybe because we are not liable to have our property and lives taken away at any time."

            Not to dash a cherished narrative to pieces, but Early Christians were probably not persecuted as much is claimed. That isn't to say that some Christians weren't persecuted, surely they were. But Christians of the early centuries were not beset on all sides by lions, and other angry persecutors as often, or for as long as modern writers like to imagine.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I've studied the early Church, Max. I'm not naive. There is nothing surprising in what you are saying.

          • Max Driffill

            That's as may be, but however well steeped you are in history of the early Church, you seem positively loathe to tackle any of the points that have been made by Susan, M. Solange or myself other than to complain about how dismissive everyone is being.

            Nor can I be sure you aren't naive if you think the the main reason reason for the spread of the early Christianities was primarily to do with "charity, chastity, and cheerfulness." This three C hypothesis fails at the outset to account for the appeal, growth and spread of other religious concerns. Again Mormons are growing faster than the early Churches. You continue to ignore that.

            Again there was not one Christianity, and the different sects pushed the idea of Jesus in different ways to different people in those early centuries. They were not all universally Cheerful, chaste or charitable. Or no more so than other groups.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm not avoiding engagement. I'm just tired out. Ask me one thing and I'll be happy to try to respond.

          • fredx2

            And again, your comparison with the Mormons does not matter. They have not maintained that rate of growth for 300 years, as Christians did. When another religion has done that, then we can talk. Otherwise I think we are at the place where the facts indicate that Early Christianity did have some remarkable growth, and that growth was sustained for 300 years.

          • Max Driffill

            Sorry Fredx2,

            My mormon comparison with the early Christian Church is useful in several ways. It demonstrates that growth rates of nascent movements can be quite fast even when persecuted and dismissed.

            Mormonism has been doing quite well for just about 200 years. And it lacked some of the many advantages that the Early Church had over it.

            You are trying to dismiss the Mormon growth, without really bothering to do any analytical work.

            Again, they have maintained a strong growth rate for nearly two hundred years (showing membership growth every decade since its founding). They are doing better than most other Christian sects including Catholicism right now.

            Anyway the Mormon comparison is useful for both its similarities and its differences. You might look at the link I provided earlier, for a interesting discussion. Or here, let me just post it again.

            http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=95

          • Max Driffill

            The problem is that no one will discuss the foibles of their group. Nazi thinkers were saying great things about themselves, and praising the benefits of National Socialism to character. I'm not comparing the Early Churches to Nazis, by the way, I am pointing out that it does appear to be hard to get an objective view of a group from its own luminaries and members.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Catholics are not willing to discuss the foibles of their group? Have you ever read Chaucer? Or Donna Tartt? Or one of the Gospels? Or Dean Koontz? Or Thomas More?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Donna Tartt doesn't seem to fit. And where in the Gospels do you find discussion of the foibles of Christians?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Judas sold Christ out. Peter denied and cursed Christ. James and John wanted Christ to destroy a town and Christ nicknamed them Sons of Thunder. That is just off the top of my head.

            Re: Donna Tartt

            In an essay Tartt wrote about her own faith, she affirmed: “As a novelist who happens to be a Roman Catholic, faith is vital in the process of making my work and in the reasons I am driven to make it.”

            But she acknowledged a “constant tension” between her religious beliefs and secular vocation, and explained why she is so careful about combining the two. Nothing is more damaging to fiction, she wrote, than writers who try to impose their beliefs on their novels in a forced or unnatural way. Therefore, writers should “shy from asserting those
            convictions directly in their work.” http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2013/12/donna-tartts-goldfinch

          • fredx2

            How could you find it in the Gospels? There really were no Christians until Jesus died,and that was pretty much the end of the Gospels.
            However, the epistles are full of the record of foibles of Christians.

          • Doug Shaver

            Of course it is an apology.

            One can be an apologist and tell the truth.

            Of course they can. But if you're telling me I should believe what the apologist says, I need a better reason than the apologist's say-so.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So then read the Church Fathers and the scholarly apparatus and decide for yourself.

          • Doug Shaver

            So then read the Church Fathers and the scholarly apparatus

            You seem to assume I haven't already done that.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So far you have not said that you have.

          • Max Driffill

            I've heard that it was miraculous, and heard it from Catholics on more than one occasion. It is interesting, the growth of Early Chrsitianities, but it says nothing about how true or accurate the beliefs of the early Christians were.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I agree that growth does not equate to the truth or accuracy of beliefs, although the beliefs nevertheless do have consequences. If one belief is to not have children, the growth will end.

          • Max Driffill

            Yes beliefs have consequences.

          • fredx2

            But sustaining that growth over a period of 300 years does say something remarkable about Christianity. For some reason, it deeply appealed to people in a way that other religions apparently did not. The fact that it was so remarkably attractive does say something about the beliefs as being remarkably suited for the human condition.

          • Max Driffill

            I have said it was impressive growth already. It is interesting, but lots of ideas appeal to "the human condition."

            As to how remarkably it appealed to people in the first 3 centuries? I don't know, by the time Constantine converted it had moved only 5% of the population to call themselves Christians. After Constantine converted and declared Christianity a licit religion, were the conversions sincere or did they represent political sensibility? I'm sure it was a blend of both.

          • Max Driffill

            Maybe, but again, that says nothing about how true, or accurate the things early Christians believed were.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I agree with you. Mere growth in the number of people who believe something something is not evidence of the truth of those beliefs.

            However, if certain beliefs are objectively evil and destructive, they will have an evil and destructive effect in time and will seriously affect the group that believes those things and others who are affected by that group.

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin,
            "However, if certain beliefs are objectively evil and destructive, they will have an evil and destructive effect in time and will seriously affect the group that believes those things and others who are affected by that group."

            This is simply not something we can take seriously. Were the Greeks who got along fine for centuries with their polytheism practicing something "objectively evil?" Or was Marcionism objectively evil? He was excommunicated in 144 and his ideas spread Christianity west for thee hundred years afterward? Were the lives and the people markedly different from other Christians?

            On top of all this, bad ideas certainly can spread for a very long time indeed. Consider the Christian approach to apostasy, witchcraft and other heresies. Is Christianity an objectively evil and destructive system then? I imagine a great many people who were tortured into confession and burnt alive or who otherwise suffered a nasty exit would have an opinion if only they could share it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I meant something quite different--along these lines (I pulled this from something I wrote for something else):

            In the late 1950s, the sociologist Edward C. Banfield published a remarkable book, The Moral Basis of a Backward Society. Banfield compared two similar-sized rural communities: St. George, Utah and a place he called Montegrano, located in the province of Potenza in Southern
            Italy.[1]

            Here is what Banfield wrote about St. George.

            Americans are used to a buzz of activity having as its purpose at least in part, the advancement of community welfare. For example, a single issue of the weekly newspaper published in St. George, Utah (population 4,562), reports a variety of public-spirited undertakings. The Red Cross is conducting a membership drive. The Business and Professional Women’s Club is raising funds to build an additional dormitory for the local junior college by putting on a circus in which the members will be both clowns and “animals.” The Future Farmers of America (whose purpose is “to develop agricultural leadership, cooperation, and citizenship through individual and group leadership”) are holding a father-son banquet. A local business firm has given an encyclopedia to the school district. The Chamber of Commerce is discussing the feasibility of building an all-weather road between two nearby towns. “Skywatch” volunteers are being signed up. A local church has collected $1,393.11 in pennies for a children’s hospital 350 miles away. The County Farm Bureau is flying one of its members to Washington, 2,000 miles away, to participate in discussions of farm policy. Meetings of the Parent Teachers Associations are being held in the schools. “As a responsible citizen of our community,” the notice says, “You belong in the PTA.”

            Most of us would say, what’s the big deal? Everyplace is like this, right? Wrong. Montegrano was not and entire countries today are not either.

            What did Banfield learn about Montegrano after spending nine months doing research?

            § No newspaper is published in Montegrano, a town of about 3,400 souls. Of the papers published in Rome, Naples, and Potenza that occasionally reach Montegrano, few read them.

            § The only private association in the entire town is a men’s club with twenty-five members. These men play cards and chat. “None has ever suggested that the club concern itself with community affairs or that it undertake a ‘project.’”

            § Even though the local merchants understand the importance of good roads to their businesses, “they would not . . . expect to be listened to by the authorities who decide which roads are to be improved.” If one wrote a letter to such officials, the result would likely be resentment toward “interference in their affairs.”

            § “There are no organized voluntary charities.” Although an “order of nuns struggles to maintain an orphanage for little girls in the remains of an ancient monastery, . . . this is not a local undertaking. The people of Montegrano contribute nothing to the support of it, although the children come from local families. The monastery is crumbling, but none of the many half-employed stone masons has ever given a day’s work to its repair. There is not enough food for the children, but no peasant or landed proprietor has ever given a young pig to the orphanage.”

            § The two churches “do not carry on charitable or welfare activities, and they play no part at all in the secular life of the community. . . . When the collection plate is passed, many people give nothing and few give more than a half a cent.” Even though the two “village priests are both known to be kindly and respectable men,” the villagers consider priests in general to be “money-grubbers, hypocrites, and worse.”

            § “Most people . . . say that no one in Montegrano is particularly public spirited, and some find the idea of public-spiritedness unintelligible.” According to one teacher, “Even if sometimes there is someone apparently animated by this desire, in reality he is interested in his own welfare and he does his own business.”

            § In Montegrano, everyone looks out for his own immediate family, meaning the husband, the wife, and the young children living at home. Children turn their backs on their parents as soon as they move out.

            § It is considered normal to cheat others as long as you can get away with it. However, it is only prudent to cheat outsiders, not neighbors. Neighbors will take revenge when they get the chance.

            The result of these two ways of behaving was a much higher level of prosperity and happiness in St. George and spiritual and material poverty in Montegrano. One of our greatest strengths as Americans is our civic-minded cooperation in the common good, a quality sorely lacking in many parts of the world. The common good, in which people cooperate to improve people’s lives, is not all that common.

            [1] (New York: The Free Press, 1958). The book can
            be downloaded on the web.

          • fredx2

            The Christian approach to apostasy, witchcraft, and other heresies was this: it was much better than the corresponding secular government institutions process for handling the same things.
            Interesting that the atheist always has to go back 500 years to cast stones at the church. Because 500 years ago, everybody routinely drew and quartered people. put their heads on pikes,burned at the stake, beheaded, etc. Look at the records of the English Kings and what they did to people they did not like. Scholars agree that the church, as wrong as it might have been, was ahead of its time in giving due process to the person accused.
            Atheists always want to make the question "Did the church of 500 or 1000 years ago do things according to our standards today?" rather than using the proper standard, which is "Did the church do things better and make things better than they were at the time"

          • Max Driffill

            Fredx,
            It is useful to note, that the Church, which allegedly has a bit of handle on the ways of God has behaved no better than other institutions throughout history, and often, too often much worse. The claim made by clerics is that they, thanks to their books know best, and have some direct line to moral living. If such claims were anything like true, we wouldn't need to critique the Church's behavior in the past or now. Also one way in which English Kings derived their power was via getting clerics to endorse them. They often had, and sought, and received divine warrant for their deeds.

            I need not go back 500 years to cast stones at the church. I don't have to go back at all. Below, off the top of my head, you will find several reasons why I marvel that anyone who thinks of themselves as moral, good, and caring could call themselves Catholic at all. The following list isn't exhaustive.

            796 babies and young children murdered by nuns via neglect and contempt after being kidnaped by from women who were imprisoned for the "crime" of having gotten preggers. Pro-life indeed. Children who were stuck in these Mother/Baby homes experienced a mortality rates much higher than children elsewhere. Here the Church's disrespect for women and their bodies created a situation of misery for countless women across Ireland.

            I say that if there are any nuns of the Bon Secours Sisters congregation, who ran that home in Galway between 1925-1961, they should be brought up on charges of manslaughter. They ran their home, according to 1940s records, with such grim disregard that kids in their "care" died at a rate 4 times higher than the rest of Ireland. Did I mention that? Well, it bears repeating.
            Related links on the Galway Disregard

            http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-05/almost-800-irish-children-dumped-in-septic-tank-mass-grave/5501482

            http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/ireland-investigates-alleged-discovery-800-babies-sewer-tank-n123236

            http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/04/children-galway-mass-graves-ireland-catholic-church

            Sex Scandals

            http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/r/roman_catholic_church_sex_abuse_cases/index.html

            Here you can find a trove of sad stories about sex abuse perpetrated by priests and abetted by a culture that cared more about the Church mission than about the people it claimed to serve. Cover-ups, and other mendacity.

            The RCC and Fascism: Reichskonkordat, The Lateran Treaty, and Franco's Nationalists

            Well the Church must be protected.
            I'll leave it to you to find links. They aren't secret.

            Edgardo Mortara The Catholic Church kidnapped him from his parents after a house keeper had baptized him without his parents knowledge. Nifty eh? How much more pro-family can you get than kidnapping a child?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgardo_Mortara#Removal_from_parents

            Catholic Doctrine can endanger your health.

            http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/10/catholic-hospitals-bishops-contraception-abortion-health-care

          • fredx2

            Kevin never said that it did.You brought it up.

          • fredx2

            Again, sustaining a growth rate for 30 years as Mormonism has done is relatively easy - for 300 years is much harder

          • Doug Shaver

            Anything positive that can be said about Christianity, even that people converted to it before became the state religion of the Roman Empire, has to be dismissed.

            A few years ago, I ran across a few people in another forum claiming that Christianity didn't even exist until Constantine invented it with some help from Eusebius. Aside from those people, I have never heard a single skeptic dismiss the claim that people converted to Christianity before it became a state religion.

          • fredx2

            The very major difference between Christianity and Mormonism is that Christianity sustained that fast growth rate over a period of 300 years. That is quite a feat.
            The Mormons, of course are a small population and percentage increases in a small starting population quite often are impressive, then the rate declines as the population becomes larger and larger. That does not appear to have happened with Christianity - it sustained the impressive growth rates over a period of 300 years.
            If you look at the growth rate of the Mormon church, they did do quite well for a while but for the last 20 years or so their rate of increase is declining, and is now, on a decadal basis, down to about 20 some percent and weakening.

          • Max Driffill

            The Early Church grew at an impressive average rate of 40% per decade, and in 312 when Constantine converted, about 5% of the population were Christian. Some researchers place this number slightly higher, anyway say 3, to 5 million people. After Constantine the sustained growth of Christianity seems a bit of a cheat, given that a powerful leader adopted it, granted its leaders favor and gifts etc. It became a good political, and economic idea to become a Christian. As Christianity grew in power after 312 it didn't hesitate to use that newfound political power to try its own hand at persecution, heresy hunting and other forms of political bullying. You will note now that Christianity does not wield very strong political power any more in Western industrialized democracies its numbers are declining.

            Also,
            The Mormon Church has been around for quite a while. If you count from the founding of the ideas, since the 1820s. Nearly two hundred years, of high growth. That is also impressive. And unless you can provide some source that indicates their growth rate is dropping, I think I will go with the recent research that indicates that the growth rate still sits at around 43 % per decade since their founding. That is nearly 200 years of strong growth.

            http://ehrmanblog.org/growth-rate-of-early-christianity-for-members/

            http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=95

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No, but it does account for the next 1500 or so.

          • Paul Cat

            Constantine made Christianity legal in Rome. Theodosius made Christianity the state religion. Please correct me if I am wrong, was Theodosius part of Constantine's family?

      • The leadership of Judaism did not become Christian. Many individual Jews did. I think there was a meeting of Jewish leaders at Jamnia around 90 AD that dealt with this problem of Jews converting to Christianity.

        Did God's plan fail? What if almost all Jews became Christian? I think the evangelism of the gentiles would have been harder. Christians would have been less motivated and gentiles would have been less attracted to a strongly Jewish religion.

        Why was a Messiah sent who was not, in fact, a Messiah? Maybe God knew atheists would be asserting Jesus was made up. So He sent a Messiah that was so surprising that He could not have been made up.

        "Quite obviously, Christianity was not a "new religion that had so little going for it." It had a great deal going for it,"

        I am not sure what you mean. If the church had no miracles and no resurrection and no claim to the divinity of Christ then what does it have. A dead guy that gave some nice sermons? Certainly something to discuss but nothing for the Jews or the Romans to get upset over and nothing to energize St Paul to preach like he did and nothing that anyone would die for.

        • Susan

          What if almost all Jews became Christian?

          Then, you would use that to justify your beliefs.

          Why was a Messiah sent who was not, in fact, a Messiah?

          There is no good reason to believe that a Messiah was sent. We have stories and a percentage of the population who believe those stories. Not nearly as high a percentage as your church asserts

          Maybe God knew atheists would be asserting Jesus was made up.

          You've been at SN for a long time now. You should have noted by now that most of the atheists have not asserted that Jesus was made up. A messianic cult among many is not so surprising. The issue is the claim that Yahweh exists and that Jesus was his son and that anything that follows from those assertions should be taken seriously.

          Certainly something to discuss but nothing for the Jews or the Romans to get upset over

          The Romans and the Jews were pretty superstitious themselves. Anything that might offend the gods they believed in was something they'd certainly get upset about. That's how humans work, especially in the ancient world.

          nothing to energize St Paul to preach like he did and nothing that anyone would die for.

          People get energized about things all the time that aren't real and die for the same sort of things.

          Nothing special. Humans being humans.

          • Then, you would use that to justify your beliefs.

            Of course, but the argument was being made that the non-belief of the Jews proves Christianity false. It is not a new argument. Mohammad made it. I am simply suggesting that Jewish skepticism did work in Christianity's favor. Just like becoming Catholic was a lot easier for me than becoming Russian Orthodox because I am not Russian. A strong association with an ethnicity you don't have is a negative.

            You've been at SN for a long time now. You should have noted by now that most of the atheists have not asserted that Jesus was made up. A messianic cult among many is not so surprising. The issue is the claim that Yahweh exists and that Jesus was his son and that anything that follows from those assertions should be taken seriously.

            You are missing the point. We are noticing that there is no plausible, non-supernatural story that explains the origins of Christianity. Yes, even if you accept that then there is still going to be a difficulty in swallowing the idea that Jesus is God. This is especially true if your prior beliefs are far away from that notion. Still the idea that something happened and it does not fit into normal categories of human events. That is interesting.

            The Romans and the Jews were pretty superstitious themselves. Anything that might offend the gods they believed in was something they'd certainly get upset about. That's how humans work, especially in the ancient world.

            The Romans were actually pretty open to all sorts of gods. Certainly someone who just challenged people to love one another would be welcome in that world. What offended them was that Jesus claimed there was only one God and He was that God made flesh. If you say that claim was not made then the offense is gone. Same with the Jews. If Jesus' claims to be God were not actually made then what was it that offended them?

            People get energized about things all the time that aren't real and die for the same sort of things.

            Nothing special. Humans being humans.

            Absurd. Often tragic. But not special.

            Do you study history at all? People get excited about things and maybe die for those things but we know what those things are. We generally accept they are what they say they are. Paul claimed he was excited about the resurrection of Jesus. Was he really? If so, how did he come to believe it so strongly? Did he really have an experience on the road to Damascus? If the Christian story of St Paul is not true then what is the truth? What explains the data?

          • Max Driffill

            "You are missing the point. We are noticing that there is no plausible, non-supernatural story that explains the origins of Christianity."
            No we are not. Nothing in the article above suggests this, and I am fairly certain that nothing in part two will support this.

          • Doug Shaver

            Paul claimed he was excited about the resurrection of Jesus. Was he really?

            When people tell me what excites them, I usually take their word for it.

            If so, how did he come to believe it so strongly? Did he really have an experience on the road to Damascus?

            He claimed to have had a vision of the risen Christ, if I remember correctly. But he doesn't say where or how it happened. We get the Damascus Road story from the author of Acts.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        David, you wrote: "From the believing Christian point of view, one would think a very
        difficult task would be to explain why God's millennia-long plan to send
        his Chosen People a Messiah failed so catastrophically." Do you mean back in those days? If so, did any "believing Christian" have a problem with the fact that the Jews in general rejected Christianity?

        One thing that is puzzling to me are the two catastrophes the Jews in the Holy Land faced from the Romans who practically eradicated them from that region within about a hundred years of the founding of Christianity.

      • Aquinas Rules

        Christianity certainly spread rapidly, but not among "the Jews."

        I think you are partially correct on this point. Certainly it was a small minority of Jews in Palestine that converted to Christianity. However, historians have shown through a comparison of censuses taken at various times over the first three centuries that a majority of Jews that were a part of the Diaspora converted to Christianity. That was part of the reason for the rapid early rise of Christianity in the Roman empire.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          Citation?

          • Aquinas Rules

            Rodney Stark's "Cities of God" is a good source. I've excerpted some text from his book below.

            "Population data lend further support to the assumption of a very large number of Jewish converts. As noted, the Diasporan Jews constituted at least 10 percent of the total population of the empire, and perhaps as much as 15 percent. Medieval historians estimate that Jews made up only 1 percent of the population of Latin Europe in about the tenth century. Granted, some of that percentage decline was caused by the Islamic conquest of areas having substantial Jewish populations. Nevertheless, the figures also suggest a considerable decline in the Diasporan population during that millennium, which is consistent with there having been a substantial rate of conversion. Nor was the survival of strong synagogues inconsistent with that supposition. Indeed, by peeling away all of the tepid, Hellenized Jews, conversion to Christianity would have left an increasingly orthodox, highly committed Jewish community, a community ideally constituted to sustain obdurate resistance to Christianization".

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Thanks. Good stuff.

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        From the believing Christian point of view, one would think a very difficult task would be to explain why God's millennia-long plan to send his Chosen People a Messiah failed so catastrophically.

        To turn that on its head, I would think that from a non-Christian point of view it would be at least somewhat difficult to explain why pre-existing beliefs about the messiah and the resurrection were so radically reinterpreted in such a short timeframe.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          Actually, I don't think so. The position that Jesus was an itinerant rabbi with a radical message who was crucified by the authorities his enough material to work with.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Could be, but I think that merits more discussion. I would be interested to hear Tim O'Neill's opinion on this. Based on what we know historically, is the radical nature of Jesus's teachings enough to account for the very imaginative leap that early Christians seem to have had in their understanding of messiahship and resurrection?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            The rest of his essay addresses this point.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Yeah, sort of. I guess I would like to hear more. Why did the early Christians even bother to make all of these awkward attempts to fit Jesus to pre-conceived notions about the messiah? The crucifixion had shown him to be a total disappointment, by any objective standard. Why try to salvage him at all? As I understand it, many other charismatic prophets were crucified or otherwise totally defeated by Roman authorities, and their followers, quite reasonably, just gave up and walked away.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            (continued)

            Moreover, not only would they have been totally disappointed by the crucifixion, they MUST have already harbored doubts about whether the guy was even sane. "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day." ?? If it had been me, the crucifixion would have been the "aha" moment when I said, "Now it makes sense: he was just a nut-job". I don't think I would have gone to the mat to salvage such a person for posterity.

          • See my reply above. And you're assuming (i) he actually said that and (ii) they didn't interpret it as symbolic language (which it clearly is, whether he actually said it or not).

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I can accept the symbolic language bit. Out of curiosity, is it your opinion as a historian that he actually said something like this? Symbolic or not, it seems like a strange way for the early Christian writers to "sell" Jesus as a messiah, based on the intended audience. Or no?

          • Impossible to say. If he did say something like it, it's also hard to say exactly what he meant, since the gospels are clearly taking it and interpreting it post hoc in the light of his execution and their theology of sacrifice. So did he say it? We can't tell. If he did, what was he talking about? Again, we can't know.

            We can perhaps guess that he knew by that stage he was unlikely to leave Jerusalem alive and was making a reference to his coming death. But that's simply a guess. It's just as likely that the whole thing was a later theological invention and he said nothing of the sort.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I guess what I'm trying to get at is -- and maybe you have already answered this, but I just want to clarify -- do you see this as satisfying any sort of criteria of embarrassment? Would it have been embarrassing for his followers to tell other Jews that he had said something like this (even allowing for the fact that they may have understood it as symbolic language)?

          • In a culture steeped in symbolic language, literate in language like that in their scriptures and one that believed many things we might consider weird or even insane, I can't see anything embarrassing about it.

          • "The crucifixion had shown him to be a total disappointment, by any objective standard. Why try to salvage him at all?"

            Because sociological studies of chiliastic groups whose hopes are dramatically shattered shows that this is precisely what they do. This goes beyond the justifications and re-interpretations we see when prophecies prove wrong, as we saw recently with the "Mayan 2012 Prophecy". Groups expecting some apocalyptic event usually don't simply shrug and say "Well, that was a total disappointment", disband and go back to their normal lives. The core of them almost always finds a way to adjust the new reality to the previous expectations as much as they can.

            The classic study of this is Festinger et al When Prophecy Fails, which studied the failure of a UFO cult's expectations and the members' responses. They found that the more peripheral, less committed members did indeed drift away as we'd expect. But they also found that the more members had given up to be part of the group (many had sold their homes and moved states) the more likely they were to accept a (highly dubious) re-interpretation of the original ideas that took the lack of apocalyptic climax into account.

            We see this pattern with many other millennial cults. The Jehovah's Witnesses have reinterpreted at least two failed predictions of the coming end times in this way and there are hundreds of other examples.

            The Jesus sect seems to fit this pattern. And they don't seem to be alone. Both the gospels and Josephus describe the execution of John the Baptist and yet Acts tells us there were not only disciples of John still baptising in his name but that they were as far afield as Greece long after his death. So here we have another charismatic Jewish apocalyptic preacher whose followers didn't "give up and walk away". The gospels also depict, in several places, people interpreting Jesus as John the Baptist risen from the dead. So, again, the idea that an executed prophet could rise from the dead was obviously in the air.

            It doesn't take much work to see how the disappointed core of the Jesus sect followed this pattern and used their scripture and ideas that were current at the time about Messianic expectations and resurrection to find a way to reconcile Jesus' death with their previous expectations about him.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Good answer, thanks Tim.

          • fredx2

            Yes, but in all those cases of 2012 followers and UFO nuts, the small, goofy groups may find a way to rationalize things but they almost never become fast growing groups that take get lots and lots of new converts after the obvious failures.

          • Garbage. Ever heard of the Jehovah's Witnesses? They have had several such failures and they have around 8 million adherents. This "argument from success" nonsense you keep trying to get off the ground simply won't fly.

        • David Nickol

          It doesn't seem all that difficult to me. I don't think at the time of Jesus that messianic expectations were at the core of Judaism. They had arisen after the Old Testament period and were not integral to Jewish thought or worship. Forgive me for putting it this way, but I think the four Evangelists and other New Testament authors played "fast and loose" with the Old Testament to try to make Jesus appear like a major Jewish figure, but they failed to convince many Jews. Exactly why Gentiles should have been impressed (if they were) by the idea that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah is a question that I can't answer. I know that what you are suggesting is that the reason Christianity was so successful (and I agree that it was) is that the early Christians all knew from personal experience (or something close to it) that the story of the Jesus of the Gospels, who worked miracles and came back from the dead, was factual. But it seems to me that the way Christianity actually spread basically guaranteed that most of the converts were far removed from the historical Jesus and had no knowledge of Christianity aside from what Christian emissaries told them.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It does raise the interesting question of how and why ANY new religion gains converts. It would be intriguing to find the growth rate numbers for Islam and Buddhism - the only other major faiths that proselytize to much extent. Is 40%/decade a NORMAL rate?

          • fredx2

            Growth rates are similar for all organizations. They follow a fairly familiar pattern - growth rates of a very small group are usually quite large, because going from 2 members to 4 is a 100 percent increase, but of course you only added two people. In the same way, if you look at the Mormon growth rates,they started out small, they grew quite fast, percentage wise, and now since about 1990 their rate has slowed to about 20 something percent or so per decade *see Wikipedia, LDS membership growth rates)as the group has gotten into the millions of followers. Same with small business growth - a small company can have very large growth rates, but those growth rates decline as it gets bigger and bigger.
            All of which makes Christianity very impressive, because they sustained that very large 40 percent growth rate over a period of 300 years, which is phenomenal.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Forgive me for putting it this way, but I think the four Evangelists and other New Testament authors played "fast and loose" with the Old Testament to try to make Jesus appear like a major Jewish figure, but they failed to convince many Jews.

            OK, fine. But still, the evangelists themselves were Jews, and Paul was a Jew. In their minds and in the minds of their fellow Jewish cult members, however few they were, there had been an extremely imaginative re-thinking of what messiah-ship was all about. Call it playing fast and loose with the Old Testament if you want. I call it a remarkably creative reimagining of their traditions. I think I have to accept what Tim O'Neill is suggesting, that creative reinterpretation is standard fare for messianic cults with shattered dreams. Still, these guys seem to have been the all-time geniuses of reinterpretation in the face of despair. It's reasonable to ask whether they were just extremely talented (and maybe a bit lucky), or whether something real happened post-crucifixion to re-orient them and inspire their creativity. I probably haven't given enough thought to the former scenario, and I think I will start to do that.

            One question I have as I start to think about this: if these guys were just geniuses of reinterpretation, what accounts for the relative consistency of approach across Synoptic, Johannine, and Pauline literature? In spite of their substantial differences, they all seem to have re-imagined messiah-ship and resurrection in fairly consistent ways.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            They don't appear to be particularly "geniuses" in the way you're thinking. They took various prophecies from the Tanakh and did their best to fit Jesus into them. The fact that they tried to do this, rather than start from scratch, indicates that they were basically straightforward men, trying to retrofit their experiences into a framework they new. Not particularly creative. And frankly, the fact that they did such a poor job also speaks to their difficulties. Paul seems to be the only one whose vision was sufficiently unusal that one could build a faith on it.

          • Max Driffill

            Its also important to remember that there was a great deal of respect for history and lineage in the context of Roman culture, "Look our roots go back eons! We have history too!"
            Trying to attach your brand to an older tradition would have been a way to lend weight to the doctrines one wanted to espouse.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Maybe we just plain disagree in our assessment of creativity, but let me clarify what I mean.

            I would agree that many details of the gospels are, in a sense, awkward contrivances. To take just the first example that comes to mind, we could focus on Matthew's birth narrative, with Mary and Joseph starting in Bethlehem and fleeing to Egypt to fit OT themes, only to come back to Nazareth, the hick town that the OT couldn't have cared less about. I don't find that to be at all clumsy from a literary / symbolic propaganda perspective, but it is indeed awkward if presented as something that "actually happened".

            I am not talking about those details. I am talking about the fundamental identification of the great "I AM" with a guy whose life was all about humble, self-sacrificial love and self-gift. That fundamental insight, that it is in giving of ourselves that we partake in the great "I AM", that is something that I perceive to be true. If I stop being a Christian tomorrow, I will still take that as the guiding, central principle of my life. I can see that millions of years of evolution shaped that truth within us, and I can see in my own life that I am most fully alive when I rise above my selfish desires and make a sacrament of myself.

            For all the intimations of this truth in world literature, I am not aware of any myth or fable that presents this truth in such explicit, central terms. There is no where that I am aware of where power and authority and "being" are so fundamentally re-conceived. The fact that the evangelists, and Paul, were able to craft a fable with such a powerful and true and life re-orienting insight, in the wake of crucified Jesus, that strikes me as very creative. To my mind, they crafted the best metaphor ever for pure being. If you can find me a better metaphor, especially a metaphor that seems to at least loosely map to real events, then maybe I'll agree that there was no great creativity in evidence.

          • Max Driffill

            The pressing of the OT into the service of Christian theology doesn't actually impress me as genius. Most times it seems a bit desperate and hamfisted. A few Jews were convinced, but not many, and they always pointed out the problems with idea that Jesus was the Messiah, his life story was at odds with OT prophetic tradition. Thus began the reinterpretation and the search for other, potential prophetic texts that would support them. This reinterpretation didn't happen over night.

            "One question I have as I start to think about this: if these guys were just geniuses of reinterpretation, what accounts for the relative consistency of approach across Synoptic, Johannine, and Pauline literature? In spite of their substantial differences, they all seem to have re-imagined messiah-ship and resurrection in fairly consistent ways."

            The synoptics are similar owing to the use of similar sources. Luke and Matthew (both from around 80-90 CE) used Mark (66-70 CE)as a source, and possibly shared a source referred to as Q. John (90-100 CE) as different as it is similar to the Synoptics. And remember these are just four stories about Jesus from among many that were floating around during the first, second and third century and these varied quite a bit. The continuity that you see, also owes a great deal to later editorial decisions.

            Given the diversity of opinion among the early Christians, and the diversity of writing, it isn't at all clear to me that, "they all seem to have re-imagined messiah-ship and resurrection in fairly consistent ways."

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It was a collection of small communities trying to cope with an apocalypse; the documents that eventually made it into the Canon were CHOSEN for their consistency (see Nicean Council).

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I don't think that is correct. I will lean on the experts to duke it out, but what I understand is that all of the first century sources that scholars (including non-Christian scholars) think can be reliably traced to the early movement are in the cannon, and none of the later sources of questionable provenance made it into the cannon. If they were trying to homogenize, they could have done a much better job.

          • fredx2

            I don't think it is fair to say they were chosen for their consistency. They were chosen by their reliability, as the Council fsthers of that time saw it. Of course, every atheist says that they are inconsistent, so if they were chosen for consistency, they did not do a very good job.
            If you look at some of the stuff they threw out, it was obviously stuff that some person hundreds of years later just made up.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Hi Max - see my response to MSOB on this, which covers mostly the same ground.

          • Doug Shaver

            But still, the evangelists themselves were Jews

            I don't think we know that. I certainly don't know it. All I know is that the church has always said that the authors of the gospels were Jews.

          • Still, these guys seem to have been the all-time geniuses of reinterpretation in the face of despair.

            They were? How? They look pretty run of the mill to me.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Hi Tim. I am trying to quit SN (and related online engagements) for a while, but this particular thread is very engaging to me, so I can't resist.

            Do you see Paul as a run-of-the-mill post-Messianic cult member? Maybe I just need to read more about other cults, but Paul seems like an exceptionally bright guy by the standards of any age, let alone by the standards of post-Messianic cults.

            Anyway, whether it was a matter of human ability or something else (as we know, Paul strongly disavows the former, but I'll leave it as an open question), somehow you eventually get to this idea that by participating in human self-gift, we are united with the eternal Creator. When we participate in self-gift, we are held in the bosom of the eternal, and death therefore has no power over us. Even if that beautiful (and, to me, manifestly true) theological insight were not correlated to the life of Jesus and the promises of God in the Old Testament, I would find it impressive.

            But for the evangelists to see, in the crucifixion, the completeness of human self-gift, and to correlate that with things that Jesus did and taught (e.g. when he supposedly, at the last supper, identified the nourishment of his self-gift with the natural cycle of death and eating in which all of life participates) and to correlate it further with God's original act of creation in Genesis, and with his promises in the OT, that strikes me as very clever and/or inspired. The fact that the Christian meme has survived so well over the centuries seems to me to bear witness to this cleverness/inspiration at least to some degree.

            Of course, I don't have the same knowledge of historical context that you do, so I am interested in learning more about how these things that impress me may not actually be all that impressive.

          • Do you see Paul as a run-of-the-mill post-Messianic cult member?

            We don't know enough about these sects (I'm unclear on what you mean by "cult member" - Paul was a Jew, not the member of some "cult") to make that judgement.

            Paul seems like an exceptionally bright guy by the standards of any age

            Bright enough I suppose. Sometimes his train of thought is less than clear or consistent, but I know plenty of bright people who have that problem.

            you eventually get to this idea that by participating in human self-gift, we are united with the eternal Creator ...

            Yes he does. And we find lots of other, sometimes very similar insights and ideas to the ones we find in Paul in other Jewish writings of the time - Philo springs to mind immediately. We have too little of this material to get a clear idea of how exceptional or even how unusual Paul's ideas about Jesus were (or even how many of them were even Paul's ideas).

            The fact that the Christian meme has survived so well over the centuries
            seems to me to bear witness to this cleverness/inspiration at least to
            some degree.

            Lots of ideas that are neither clever nor unique have been popular and long-lasting. So no, that tells us very little actually.

        • Doug Shaver

          To turn that on its head, I would think that from a non-Christian point of view it would be at least somewhat difficult to explain why pre-existing beliefs about the messiah and the resurrection were so radically reinterpreted in such a short timeframe.

          I don't know whether any explanation is necessary, because I don't know what those pre-existing beliefs were. I know what Christian apologists routinely say they were, but I have never seen any apologist support what they say by citing contemporary Jewish writings.

          • I don't know what those pre-existing beliefs were.

            Have you considered eductating yourself? There's a large scholarly literature on Second Temple Judaism's apocalyptic and Messianic ideas and its dominated by Jewish scholars, as opposed to Christians (let alone these Christian apologists who you seem to think are the only people who disagree with you).

            I know what Christian apologists routinely say they were, but I have never seen any apologist support what they say by citing contemporary Jewish writings.

            See above - it's not "Christian apologists" you have to deal with, it's scholars of the Judasim in this time. None of those contemporary Jewish writings posit a Messiah who dies, let alone one who rises again. So, actually, you do need to explain how these ideas would have arisen without a supposed Messiah who met an untimely death and whose followers coped with this by saying he somehow "rose". Simply waving your hands around and saying "Well, I chose to suppose that just happened" doesn't stand up to Occam's Razor. A historical preacher who did get crucified does.

            Over and over again, Mythicsm ends up on the wrong side of Occam's Razor.

          • Doug Shaver

            Have you considered eductating yourself?

            I've been trying.

            There's a large scholarly literature on Second Temple Judaism's apocalyptic and Messianic ideas and its dominated by Jewish scholars, as opposed to Christians (let alone these Christian apologists who you seem to think are the only people who disagree with you).

            Disagree with me about what? I have expressed no beliefs of my own about first-century Jewish messianism. You have made a claim about a particular kind of messianism that could not have evolved from it. I'm telling you that I've heard the same claim from certain other people, who to my knowledge have failed to substantiate it. Now you're telling me that you know of some scholars who can substantiate it. If I can ever find out who they are, then perhaps I'll have a look at what they have to say on the subject.

            Simply waving your hands around and saying "Well, I chose to suppose that just happened" doesn't stand up to Occam's Razor.

            Your apparent assumption that I have no other reason to believe it happened is unwarranted.

          • I've been trying

            Judging from your comments here, you don't seem to have been trying very hard. You seem to have settled on a conclusion for largely emotional reasons and show little interest in questioning it.

            Disagree with me about what?

            About this Mythicist claim that the idea of a crucified Messiah could arise out of Jewish Messianic expectations when there were no expectations of a dying Messiah, let alone a crucified one. The Historicist position presents a highly parsimonious explanation as to how this happened - a historical Messianic claimant got crucified. You need to come up with an alternative that dispenses with the historical guy and is somehow more parsimonious than that. Can you?

            Now you're telling me that you know of some scholars who can
            substantiate it. If I can ever find out who they are, then perhaps I'll
            have a look at what they have to say on the subject.

            They substantiate the fact that there was no expectation of a dying/crucified Messiah. If there was such an expectation, you could point to it as the origin of the idea of this crucified Jesus, without a historical guy who got crucified. But there wasn't, so you can't do that.

            So you need to explain how this idea arose, despite this lack of expectation. And it needs to be more parsimonious than the idea of an actual crucified historical Jesus.

            Over to you. Make it good.

            PS Fitzmyer's The One Who Is to Come (2007) and Mowinckel's He That Cometh: The Messiah Concept in the Old Testament and Later Judaism (2005) are two of the better studies of Messianic expectation in this period. They make it clear that Christian ideas about the Messiah were a clear break from earlier expectations in that their Messiah died in humiliation.

          • Doug Shaver

            Have you considered eductating yourself?

            I've been trying.

            Judging from your comments here, you don't seem to have been trying very hard. You seem to have settled on a conclusion for largely emotional reasons and show little interest in questioning it.

            Yes, of course. If anyone disagrees with you, the only possible explanation is intellectual incompetence.

            Or, perhaps you can produce a quotation of something I've said that reveals the emotions motivating my arguments?

            There's a large scholarly literature on Second Temple Judaism's apocalyptic and Messianic ideas and its dominated by Jewish scholars, as opposed to Christians (let alone these Christian apologists who you seem to think are the only people who disagree with you).

            Disagree with me about what? I have expressed no beliefs of my own about first-century Jewish messianism.

            About this Mythicist claim that the idea of a crucified Messiah could arise out of Jewish Messianic expectations when there were no expectations of a dying Messiah, let alone a crucified one. The Historicist position presents a highly parsimonious explanation as to how this happened - a historical Messianic claimant got crucified. You need to come up with an alternative that dispenses with the historical guy and is somehow more parsimonious than that.

            I think the historicist position is only piecewise parsimonious. It assumes one thing in explaining one datum, something else when explaining another datum, and so on until all the data are accounted for. By the end of the process it's accumulated a pretty large pile of assumptions, all of which are needed to explain all the data.

            The question is whether any form of first-century Jewish messianism could have accommodated a crucified messiah. I don't think it is disputed that there were several ideas floating around Palestine as to what the messiah was going to do and who could have been qualified to do it. (For one example of the diversity of views, Price has argued, cogently in my judgment, that quite a few Jews of that period flatly denied that he would be a descendant of David.) I make no pretense of being sufficiently familiar with the primary evidence to justify any opinion of my own as to whether any early-first-century Jews could have imagined their messiah being crucified. But Carrier says some of them could have imagined it, and he claims to have read the relevant documents, and he has produced the quotations from those documents that seem to support his position. If your Jewish scholars have some good counterarguments, you may post them here and maybe we can continue debating this issue. Until you do that, I don't see how we can get past the point we're at right now.

          • I think the historicist position is only piecewise parsimonious. It assumes one thing in explaining one datum, something else when explaining another datum, and so on until all the data are accounted for.

            It does? Examples?

            I don't think it is disputed that there were several ideas floating around Palestine as to what the messiah was going to do and who could have been qualified to do it.

            There's no doubt about that. Your problem is that there is no evidence that it included any ideas about a dying/crucified Messiah. So - yet again - you're trying to ignore an explanation based on things we do have evidence for (the execution of this Jesus guy) and posit a purely conjectural alternative for which we have no evidence at all. Occam's Razor cuts your argument down once more.

            But Carrier says some of them could have imagined it, and he claims to have read the relevant documents, and he has produced the quotations from those documents that seem to support his position.

            Carrier is playing well outside of his area of expertise on this one. And it shows. His claims are taken apart with forensic detail in a series of long articles by Thom Stark, here, <a href="http://religionatthemargins.com/2012/06/it-is-finished-for-richard-carriers-dying-messiah-part-1/&quot;here and here. Carrier doesn't have a clue.

          • Doug Shaver

            Carrier is playing well outside of his area of expertise on this one. And it shows. His claims are taken apart with forensic detail in a series of long articles by Thom Stark here, here and here. Carrier doesn't have a clue.

            Stark isn't the winner just on your declaration.

            So, which Carrier are we to believe? . . . . I’ll leave that to the reader to ponder over.

            Carrier's consistency over the course of the debate is not the issue. The issue is: Do the documents that Carrier quotes, considered in their entirety (not just one at a time) provide evidence that some first-century Jews expected the messiah to suffer and die ignominiously? If they do, then his academic credentials ["expertise"] are irrelevant.

            I notice you were either unaware or thought it not worth mentioning that Carrier has responded to Stark's criticisms: http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/1440 He includes the following comments in that response:

            Stark still, however, confuses explanation with evidence. I advanced two different theses in my original article: first, that it is possible; second, that we have evidence of it. Stark is right that I need to present specific evidence for a pre-Christian notion of a dying messiah among the Jews to maintain that. But I do not need that to propose it as an explanation of Christianity. “Christianity arose from a sect of Jews that came to expect a dying messiah” remains a plausible hypothesis even if we can’t prove such a sect existed, because (a) we know there were many diverse sects of Jews with many diverse notions against the leading orthodoxy and we know nothing about most of them, therefore (b) an argument from silence to the conclusion “no such sect existed” is invalid, and (c) the scriptural inspiration and logic for such an idea is easily discerned (and if it’s easy for us, it would have been easy for at least someone to have noticed it during centuries of thousands of Jews scrambling to look for God’s secret messages in scripture . . . .

            I think he has made his case.

          • Doug Shaver

            I think the historicist position is only piecewise parsimonious. It assumes one thing in explaining one datum, something else when explaining another datum, and so on until all the data are accounted for.

            It does? Examples?

            That's the impression I've gotten after many years of reading historicist polemics. I wasn't usually taking notes, though, so I don't have a list handy. If time permits, I'll see if I can put one together, but it's liable to take a while. In the meantime, if you want to declare victory on this point, go ahead. None of this is about you and me.

      • Fred Pickles

        I'm not sure how much you have read of the old testament but here are some of the prophesies regarding the coming Messiah that fit perfectly. http://christianity.about.com/od/biblefactsandlists/a/Prophecies-Jesus.htm.

        You seem to find it odd that the Jews rejected Him if he was their true messiah.

        Here is a list of prophesies from the Old Testament showing He would be rejected by His own people.

        http://www.messiahrevealed.org/rejected.html#isaiah 6:9-10a

        Thank you.

    • Max Driffill

      "Even those who admit there was an historical Jesus have to deal with the question of how the Jesus story was created if it was not actually true."
      No they don't. Mythologizing a real person happens all the time, and fairly quickly. We can see it happen in the modern era, when record keeping, photography and film allow us a much greater understanding of history. Imagine how much more easy story spinning must have been in the age were people couldn't just access a real time broadcast of events.
      But here let me rephrase your quote above in a way that might expose its flaw.
      "Even those who admit there was a historical Mohammed have to deal with the question of how the Mohammed story was created if it wasn't actually true."

      Do this with any suitably miracle laden set of stories in antiquity and I bet you, Randy Gritter will not be overly troubled.

      • With Mohammad it is really easy to explain everything without supposing there was a miracle. Maybe he lied. Maybe he was mentally ill. I have no trouble seeing the early history of Islam unfolding with those assumptions.

        The post makes the argument that a non-existent Jesus would not explain a lot of the data. I am simply saying that an existent Jesus who was very unlike the Jesus in the Christian story would have the same issue. Rather than being 100% myth he would be 90% myth but some plausible account of who made up the myth and why would still be needed to make it believable.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          And with Christ it's real easy to explain everything without recourse to a miracle. Same with the Buddha. Same with Joseph Smith.

        • Max Driffill

          Randy, Randy, Randy

          "With Mohammad it is really easy to explain everything without supposing there was a miracle. Maybe he lied. Maybe he was mentally ill. I have no trouble seeing the early history of Islam unfolding with those assumptions."

          Many people think Paul was mentally ill. There is no reason to suppose that the gospels are terribly credible reportage. They were not penned by anyone who was present at the time and written much later than the events they purport to describe. They do not agree, sometimes on trivial matters and some times on important matters. The authors of Luke and Matthew (who were not Luke and Matthew) used Mark as a source for their own writings. And John doesn't really agree with synoptics. I digress.

          Mendacity and mental illness, and simple error can be equally supposed of the growth of Christianity. There are no reasons to accept any of the miracle claims offered by Christian apologists.

          "The post makes the argument that a non-existent Jesus would not explain a lot of the data. I am simply saying that an existent Jesus who was very unlike the Jesus in the Christian story would have the same issue. Rather than being 100% myth he would be 90% myth but some plausible account of who made up the myth and why would still be needed to make it believable."

          I agree with the author on this point. It seems that the idea that Jesus was complete mythology and does not represent a historical figure who started a religion, seems a bit of a stretch. Those who think Jesus was a complete myth have crafted a good hypothesis, but one that I don't think holds up under close scrutiny.

          All that said, there is no reason to suspect that Jesus was anything more than an itinerant apocalyptic preacher, who was probably charismatic. He probably thought the end was coming within his generation. At some point he found himself in the crosshairs of Pilate for claims about kingship, and met a sticky end. The End. That is all history seems to allow us to say about him and even in that, I think the evidence upon which that case is based, like the case itself is somewhat slim.

          • "Many people think Paul was mentally ill"

            You can say that. The trouble is you have to convince your self a mentally ill person could do what he did. He was one of the most influential people in the history of the world. Could a crazy man have written what he wrote. Could he have gained the confidence of the apostles in the authenticity of his visions? I guess then you have to ask who the apostles were. Could he have planted the churches he did? Could he have persevered through the hardships and remained respectable?

            It seems like a rare form of insanity and the perfect form of insanity to spread the gospel. An very intelligent man becoming insanely devoted to a man he never met and decides to spread the exact same lie his disciples were spreading. Is that plausible? I guess it could be if you don't read him. If you read St Paul you don't get that sense at all.

            "There is no reason to suppose that the gospels are terribly credible reportage"

            This is just false but kind of another topic.

            "Mendacity and mental illness, and simple error can be equally supposed of the growth of Christianity."

            I don't think so. If you try and understand who these people were and what was the culture they were in then simply asserting that some guy lied and some guy was crazy does not ring true. It creates more problems than it solves. Mohammad used physical intimidation. He gained political power. That is how liars and unstable people gain power. Christians did not do that. The other side always had all the weapons. They won by gaining the respect and admiration of many people. They also made miracle claims. Were they false claims? Anyway, if you start actually thinking about these things it very quickly starts to make very little sense.

            "All that said, there is no reason to suspect that Jesus was anything more than an itinerant apocalyptic preacher, who was probably charismatic. He probably thought the end was coming within his generation."

            If there was no church that came out of Israel then that would make a lot of sense. the trouble is there was such a church. Why did they start worshiping this guy?

          • Max Driffill

            "You can say that. The trouble is you have to convince your self a mentally ill person could do what he did. He was one of the most influential people in the history of the world. Could a crazy man have written what he wrote. Could he have gained the confidence of the apostles in the authenticity of his visions? I guess then you have to ask who the apostles were. Could he have planted the churches he did? Could he have persevered through the hardships and remained respectable?

            Some people who are mentally ill have managed to do amazing things. He was very influential, but as I have noted elsewhere, the growth rate of Early Christianity was no better and slightly worse than for that of the mormons. Joseph Smith was at turns a charlatan, a believer and perhaps a bit of a nut. He made some spectacular claims. We don't really have a lot of extra biblical sources for Paul's life, just the biblical reportage, so we can't really corroborate his accounts. It doesn't help that some of his letters appear to be forgeries. As much as 31% and possibly, 46 % of his Epistles were written by someone who was not Paul. The letters, the majority of scholars think are forgeries are Timothy I & II, Titus and Ephesians. Scholars are evenly divided on whether or not Colossians and Thessolonians II were pseudopedigraphic.

            My characterization of the Gospels as not terribly accurate or credible reportage is not "just false" or "another subject." They form the majority of the claims made about the life and times of Jesus. And the article at hand will likely use them, more than the writings of Paul, to argue the case for a historical, though not supernatural Jesus.

            "I don't think so. If you try and understand who these people were and what was the culture they were in then simply asserting that some guy lied and some guy was crazy does not ring true.

            My view is actually a bit more nuanced than this characterization. I was simply trying to point out, your assertions that other faiths were guilty of these intellectual crimes and misdemeanors can be, and have been, easily turned back on you, and with the exact same credibility.

            My own view is that the proselytizers of Christianity, were a mix of people, sincere, but wrong believers, crazy, but sincere, believers, and cons and charlatans. They had other advantages in their growth that gave their sect an edge over other faiths. Namely that they were a missionary faith and the competitors in the region were not missionary. And when they converted someone to Christianity, another faith lost a member, and probably several of the converts family members. In pagan circles it would be okay to worship other gods, but not so with Christianity.

            It creates more problems than it solves.

            Not really. As I have said elsewhere, Early Christianity's growth rate is slightly lower than that for Mormons. Are you prepared to grant any credence to the preposterous story of Joseph Smith based on the astounding success his sect has? I doubt it.

            Mohammad used physical intimidation. He gained political power. That is how liars and unstable people gain power. Christians did not do that.

            This is clearly not true. Christians were, as their numbers grew were always, slowly gaining political power. And one could say that they were often using threats and intimidation to make their message more consumable. I don't know what you think that eternal torture, and damnation sound like, but to me those sure do seem like threats and intimidation. There was also the dangled carrot (though Christian heaven has never seemed anything but boring to me).

            The other side always had all the weapons. They won by gaining the respect and admiration of many people. They also made miracle claims. Were they false claims? Anyway, if you start actually thinking about these things it very quickly starts to make very little sense.

            They sold a package of ideas, some sweet, some terrible. They promised a fiery end of the world (though through the ages they had to soften those messages as the end refused to come soon, or ever).

            "If there was no church that came out of Israel then that would make a lot of sense. the trouble is there was such a church. Why did they start worshiping this guy?

            The Jehovah's Witnesses have had 2 failed apocalypse predictions. And yet the church continues to do well. Harold Camping still has followers. People, especially people who put a lot of stock in such concerns double down on their propositions even when they fail. People scramble to rationalize the failure. The Gospels themselves seem to reflect this grappling with the failures of the end of the world predictions that jesus probably made. And the immediacy of the end was toned down.

            But your argument could just as well be made of the Mormons, why do they exist even when the details of both the origin of their founder is so pathetically easy to find and since he failed in so many other ways? Why do mormons believe any thing about the Americas stated in their holy book when absolutely the whole of anthropology, archeology and biology demonstrate the falsehood of their position? Why did people start following Joseph Smith? Does it just not make sense unless he did work miracles, and engage in his supernatural craziness? I already know that you are going to, without self-reflection, dismiss him and Mormonism (which has grown through hardship and suffering, and lacked state power to enforce the spread of their religion).

          • The growth of Christianity is not direct evidence of its truth. It does make some theories about Christianity harder to believe. I have no trouble seeing how a religion could grow when you have zealous adherents actively proselytizing. Just that the zeal needs to come from somewhere. It can come from a central lie. When you suggest that then you need to ask the questions we normally ask about lies. Why were they told? Who had to know it was a lie? What was the character of the people involved?

            For Mormonism these questions are not difficult. Joseph Smith was not a trustworthy man. His own mother described him as a teller of tall tales. Nobody else really had to know it was untrue. For Christianity it is different. Jesus does not seem like a liar. Even if he was the apostles would have to know about many of his lies. Even if they all agreed they had to know that some of the miracle claims were pretty falsifiable. Names and places were given. Large numbers of witnesses were asserted.

            The other thing that happened is that Mormons stayed together and traveled together. A lot of their growth came through having large families. Living together allows for changes in theology. Everyone gets their teaching from a few leaders so they have the power to change the story without leaving a lot of evidence.

            Christians were different. They grew fast not because of many births but despite many martyrs. They grew in many different cities and had little communication between them. Yet they all shared the same faith. This points to a faithfulness to a pre-existing source of information. They didn't make it up as they went along but they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42).

          • Doug Shaver

            The trouble is you have to convince your self a mentally ill person could do what he did.

            I can see what he wrote, but I'm not claiming to know anything about what he did. You assume he did everything the New Testament (and church tradition) says he did. I don't assume that.

            In case it matters, though, I do not believe he was mentally ill. I just think he was mistaken.

        • "I am simply saying that an existent Jesus who was very unlike the Jesus in the Christian story would have the same issue."

          I can't see anything in what you've said that supports this claim.

          • What is the difference between someone named Jesus not existing and someone named Jesus existing and being nothing like the guy Christians claimed he was? One asserts that everything about him is fabricated. The other asserts that everything that matters about him is fabricated. The leap from simple preacher to divine, resurrected, miracle-worker is huge. If that leap was made then whether or not that simple preacher existed minor.

            You say

            "To claim that these people would merrily adopt myths of Horus and Attis and Dionysius and then amalgamate them into a story about a pagan/Jewish hybrid Messiah (who didn't exist) and then turn around and forget he didn't exist and claim he did and that he did so just a few decades earlier is clearly a nonsense hypothesis."

            Is that so different from

            "To claim that these people would merrily adopt myths ... then amalgamate them into a story about a pagan/Jewish hybrid Messiah (who was dead) and then turn around and forget he was dead and claim he was alive and that he rose from the dead so just a few decades earlier is clearly a nonsense hypothesis."

            You argue that there is a limit to what kind of story the 1st century Christians converts could be expected to have accepted. That is and important principle. For many atheists any dream will do. There is no test of plausibility.

          • "What is the difference between someone named Jesus not existing and
            someone named Jesus existing and being nothing like the guy Christians
            claimed he was?"

            We have sufficient historical evidence to say a historical preacher did exist, whereas the evidence does not point to a mythic Jesus in any way, quite the opposite. That's a significant difference.

            "One asserts that everything about him is fabricated. The other asserts that everything that matters about him is fabricated.

            "That matters"? To whom? The question under discussion here is did the historical preacher exist or not, nothing more. You're now asking a totally different question and one that you are going to have great trouble answering in the affirmative using purely historical analysis.

            "The leap from simple preacher to divine, resurrected, miracle-worker is huge."

            Your problem there lies in your baseless assumption that it was a "leap" rather than a series of small hops. The evidence points to the latter.

            "Is that so different from ... "

            Yes it is. Because we have evidence of that series of hops and of the Jesus sect drifting from its Jewish roots as it increasing transformed into a gentile cult. We have nothing like that for the Myther idea.

            "For many atheists any dream will do. There is no test of plausibility."

            Wrong. The difference, as I said, lies in what is supported by evidence and what is pure supposition. The Myther thesis is propped up by supposition. The evolution from apocalyptic Jewish sect to Messianic sect to gentile saviour cult is right there in the evidence.

          • The question under discussion here is did the historical preacher exist or not, nothing more. You're now asking a totally different question and one that you are going to have great trouble answering in the affirmative using purely historical analysis.

            That is true. Some claim that the resurrection can be proven historically. That seems a bit strong. I do think the alternatives are difficult but not impossible positions to hold. They all give you some serious problems that get more serious as you get to know the data better. Yet they are not so untenable that they force you to accept Jesus as Lord.

            Your problem there lies in your baseless assumption that it was a "leap" rather than a series of small hops. The evidence points to the latter.

            The hops are hard to see. Either Jesus is alive or dead. Either he is God or He is not. Either miracles happened or they did not. There are some very large chasms to be leaped. A series of small hops does not get you there.

            Secondly you need a community that is unconcerned with accuracy. The early church was quite the opposite. They fought hard against Gnosticism and other heresies. They are supposed to be unconcerned with a doctrine like the resurrection or the divinity of Jesus just appearing our of nowhere.

            Thirdly, the time frame is short. You can find references to these doctrines quite early. Hops take time. I can see how many protestant faiths became what they are by a series of short hops. Yet it took them centuries and they did not move as far as the early church was alleged to have moved in a few decades.

            The evolution from apocalyptic Jewish sect to Messianic sect to gentile saviour cult is right there in the evidence.

            Really? Then why can't the experts can't seem to agree on a theory? Bart Ehrman writes a new book and has radically changed his theory about how this all worked. He new theory has as many problems as his old one. Still f the evidence was there you would not expect this. In truth, the only theory that fits the evidence is that Christianity is true. Everything else has huge problems that are only accepted because of a prior commitment to atheism.

          • David Nickol

            In truth, the only theory that fits the evidence is that Christianity is true. Everything else has huge problems that are only accepted because of a prior commitment to atheism.

            The vast majority of the people in the world who do not believe Christianity is true are not atheists. For example, the 1.6 billion Muslims who do not believe Jesus died and the cross and rose three days later. The 1 billion Hundus and 376 million Buddhists do not believe the Gospel accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus. While it is true that Christianity has more followers than any other single religion, there are still more believers in non-Christian religions than their are atheists in the world.

          • fredx2

            However, Muslims still believe in and revere Jesus, as well as his mother Mary. Now, if, as some say, Islam is merely a heretical form of Christianity, then the "Christian" or "Christian - like" percentage rises to about 2/3.
            Hillaire Belloc:

            "He [Mohammed] gave to Our Lord the highest reverence,
            and to Our Lady also, for that matter. On the day of judgment (another Catholic idea which he taught) it was Our Lord, according to Mohammed, who would be the judge of mankind, not he, Mohammed. The Mother of Christ, Our Lady, "the Lady Miriam" was ever for him the first of womankind. His followers even got from the early fathers some vague hint of her Immaculate Conception.[1]

            But the central point where this new heresy struck home with a mortal blow against Catholic tradition was a full denial of the Incarnation. Mohammed did not merely take the first steps toward that denial, as the Arians and their followers had done; he advanced a clear affirmation, full and complete, against the whole doctrine of an incarnate
            God. He taught that Our Lord was the greatest of all the prophets, but still only a prophet: a man like other men. He eliminated the Trinity altogether."

          • "They all give you some serious problems that get more serious as you get to know the data better."

            I'm very familiar with the "data" and the only "problems" I see are for people who try to reconcile the wildly differing accounts we have for this supposed event with anything coherent. I recently had a discussion on this with an apologist who assured me that the earthquake in gMatt's version wasn't mentioned in the other accounts because it was a very small earthquake and so may have been missed by some witnesses. Perhaps he had got to know the "data" better than I have and so had gained this rich insight.

            "The hops are hard to see. Either Jesus is alive or dead. Either he is God or He is not. Either miracles happened or the
            y did no
            t. There are some very large chasms to be leaped. A series of small hops does not get you there."

            Either the miracles happened or they did not? Things are rarely so neat. Reports of miracles abound even today, though most vanish on investigation or turn out to be commonplace "faith healing" delusion. But that's enough in many cases to give rise to reports of other, more spectacular miracles and for people to believe them. Small hops.

            Either he is God or he is not? Well, no. We can see an evolution up towards this idea, with Jesus as a Messiah exalted by his death and supposed resurrection, Jesus as a pre-existing angelic being incarnated and then exalated by his death etc, Jesus as the divine (in some sense) but not co-equal partner of God and then finally through the centuries of Christological wrangles to the post-Nicean Christ. Small hops.

            He is alive or dead? Well, alive as in the "appearance" to Paul which he puts together with the other "appearances" he reports in 1Cor? "Alive" as in the people that his followers "mistake him for" and then realise was him in the stories preserves in gLuke and gJohn? Or alive as in the doubting Thomas story with finger poking in wounds etc. And what about the "some doubted" guys in gMatt who somehow "doubted" when they had seen this "alive" Jesus themselves? Small hops.

            "Secondly you need a community that is unconcerned with accuracy. The
            early church was quite the opposite. They fought hard against Gnosticism
            and other heresies."

            That was much later. We only get glimpses of what "accuracy" meant in the early decades and there is little consistency in the glimpses we get.

            "Thirdly, the time frame is short. "

            It doesn't take long for some very strange ideas to develop in sects under stress, as multiple examples show. But as late as Acts you still have a conspicious absence of the kind of Jesus that your faith would expect and require. Note Peter's sermon in Acts 2: 14-36. Doesn't it strike you as odd that be forgets the key piece of information "by the way, Jesus was and is God himself"? There's lots in there about Jesus as the Messiah and God raising (note the verb) him from the dead and exalting him. But nothing about the key belief that you think he should have been shouting from the rooftops. Think about it.

          • fredx2

            But in verse 36, he says "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

            But even if you argue that by "Lord" he did not mean God, then again, the kind of statement you make is what bothers me about Biblical Scholarship these days. It is guesswork - you don't find evidence for something in a place where YOU think it should be, therefore you assume the lack of evidence is evidence for your proposition

            But I could say , Gee the fact that slavery was never established as an institution in the United States in the text of the Constitution. means that there must have been no slavery in the United States. Certainly since slavery was such a big issue in the colonies, they must have formally recognized it in the founding documents. Since they didn't, it must mean it never existed.

          • "But even if you argue that by "Lord" he did not mean God, then again,
            the kind of statement you make is what bothers me about Biblical
            Scholarship these days."

            So you claim he's saying "God made this Jesus God"? There's some very strange and unorthodox theology right there. And note the language of agency there - God made Jesus Lord and Messiah. Strange way of putting it if Jesus himself was also God.

            "you don't find evidence for something in a place where YOU think it
            should be, therefore you assume the lack of evidence is evidence for
            your proposition"

            If you think my expectation of a statement that Jesus was God in this sermon is unreasonable, now would be a good time to explain why. I notice you fail to do that.

          • Doug Shaver

            The leap from simple preacher to divine, resurrected, miracle-worker is huge.

            I agree. That is one reason I don't believe Christianity started with a simple preacher who got himself killed just by irritating a few of the wrong people.

    • Doug Shaver

      Why did these previous versions of Christianity not leave a record?

      Who would have preserved the record?

      For the period between the fall of Rome and the invention of printing (roughly a thousand years), who were the people who did preserve the record as it survives to this day?

      • We have records of many of the controversies that arose in the church. There was no systematic attempt to remove dissenting opinions from what was preserved. Romans accused Christians of eating babies. Why preserve that accusation unless you care about an honest history.

        Any theory that needs some conspiracy of evidence manipulation by the big bad Catholic church is quite problematic to me. Catholics, in general, care about truth. They are also really bad at fudging data and keeping it a secret. So unless there is some semblance of who messed with the data and when and why it just seems like a generic way to explain any data that you don't like.

        • Doug Shaver

          There was no systematic attempt to remove dissenting opinions from what was preserved.

          I didn't say there was.

          The copying of any book required a significant investment of financial and human resources. It didn't get done unless someone with such resources was sufficiently motivated to preserve that document. Nobody had to decide "This book should not exist" for it to disappear from the historical paper trail.

          Romans accused Christians of eating babies. Why preserve that accusation unless you care about an honest history.

          It was an absurd accusation. Every group with a tribal ideology is eager to promulgate claims that its adversaries are saying absurd things about it.

          Any theory that needs some conspiracy of evidence manipulation by the big bad Catholic church is quite problematic to me.

          I hate conspiracy theories, too. That's why I don't use them.

          Catholics, in general, care about truth.

          Catholics in general are like everyone else. They care about the truth as they perceive the truth. When it comes to discerning actual truth from falsehood, they are no worse than any other group of people, and no better, either.

          So unless there is some semblance of who messed with the data and when and why it just seems like a generic way to explain any data that you don't like.

          This is not about inconvenient data. You asked a question about some missing data. I suggested a reason for its disappearance.

    • jrock2310

      argument from ignorance. how else, but god? how could Christianity survived when it had little going for it? how else, if not true?

      • It is not complete ignorance. We have a lot of data points in early Christianity. Their geographic diversity actually makes any story about a changing religion harder to believe. The speed and the magnitude of the changes people suggest is just not very plausible. So yes, when rational analysis leads you to very implausible conclusions you need to examine your original assumptions. Maybe the story is not made up.

        • jrock2310

          ehhh... I think it came from a time in history when people were gullible. when spirits, witch craft, and story telling was prevalent. I believe everything to be VERY vague and circumstantial w/ no real reliable source, just leaps to conclusions.

          in modern times, I don't believe evidence for jesus would hold up in court.

          • I don't think people then were any more gullible than they are now. There are all sorts of people finding it hard to believe. Yet they are also finding it hard NOT to believe. The evidence is hard to deny. In fact, becoming Christian could cost you your life so there was no reason to convert unless the evidence was undeniable.

            I am not sure what you think is vague. The stories have names, dates and places along with many other details. Things people could go verify if they so chose.

          • David Nickol

            I don't think people then were any more gullible than they are now.

            People in the first century in the areas to which Christianity spread were generally illiterate, far more credulous (both Jews and Gentiles) about the "supernatural" than are people today, and lacked sources of information they might otherwise have used to verify or corroborate what was told to them. It would be unkind (and anachronistic, I think) to call them gullible, but their worldview made them much more open to a new religion than people would be today.

          • Actually quite the opposite. Pagan Rome was much more favourable to new religions. Israel was a place you could get executed for blasphemy. So people were reluctant to accept claim that could get them into trouble with the religious leaders.

            We they more credulous than modern atheists? Almost everyone is. Modern atheists are almost alone in human history as being irrationally opposed to the supernatural.

          • jrock2310

            I hear ya, I don't know what such things could be verified that I haven't heard of that would open my eyes... not suggesting it doesn't exist; I've just never heard of anything like that to date, and I feel I've heard a decent portion of it.

            I've read some descriptions of annals... and some people dismiss it on accounts of its silly anecdotes like witch craft and witch burnings, animal sacrifices, spirits, omens, etc...

            I believe, AT BEST, on a good day... Annals can be looked at as pseudohistory --- facts and fables.

          • When I say verify I don't mean you and me. I mean that the claim that Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus in the town of Bethany is very specific. You would expect that more than 100 years later people in that town would be talking about it. You could find people whose grandfather was there. That sort of verification.

          • jrock2310

            yeeeeah... not sure if serious.

          • People today are very transient. Especially in North America it is hard to find someone over 40 who has lived in the same town his whole life. That is unusual in human history. The typical pattern is people remain in the same place and farm the same land for generations. They would have a way of preserving local history. If a big event happened like a man being raised from the dead that would be talked about for a long time.

          • jrock2310

            I get the crux of what you're saying... but old fables exist, too. Just because legend exists, doesn't mean its likely that it happened of even probable.

  • EssanBrandt

    A primer on the issue regards the main consensus of biblical scholars and historians as to whether Jesus actually existed as a person. Whatever one may or may not believe about who he actually was, and who his followers think him to be, as misguided as they may be, it may be difficult to actually make a case for his non existence given what scholars such as Bart Ehrman and others have to say on the matter. It really seems like a non issue to me....as this has been thrashed and rethrashed ad infinitum.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnybQxIgfPw

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUQMJR2BP1w

    http://ehrmanblog.org/did-jesus-exist-as-part-one/

    Richard Carrierre and his ilk have a hard row to hoe on this one.....again...and again.

    • "Of course given the fact that he most likely existed does not give his followers any more credibility as to their claim that he is god or that he rose from the dead."

      Surely you would agree that the latter claims appear more credible if Jesus actually existed than if he didn't, right?

      • David Egan

        The likelihood that he rose from the dead is exactly the same if he existed or didn't exist.

        • "The likelihood that he rose from the dead is exactly the same if he existed or didn't exist."

          Forgive me, but this seems illogical. Certainly someone is *more* likely to have risen from the dead if they actually existed. For in that case it would have at least been *possible* they could rise from the dead whereas it is wholly impossible for a non-existence person to rise from the dead.

          • EssanBrandt

            It seems to me that you are going down the road of semantic silliness once again, in using the words probability and possibility(however remote), interchangeably, in your effort to grasp at any straw. Come on now.....you know better than that.

          • Max Driffill

            No one is more likely than any one else to have risen from the dead if they exist or existed. It is extremely unlikely that anyone has ever risen from the dead in the manner, sort of described by the New Testament. So unlikely that we can probably assume that it didn't happen. Indeed, we can safely say that the likelihood that happened would not much be affected by mere existence. Functionally, practically, the odds are so stacked against the hypothesis or resurrection as to be equal.

            And any other explanation is automatically more plausible than miracle from the point of view of history.

          • David Nickol

            It is extremely unlikely that anyone has ever risen from the dead in the manner, sort of described by the New Testament. So unlikely that we can probably assume that it didn't happen. . . . .

            You have hedged again and again. What kept you from saying it is impossible for anyone to have risen from the dead in the way Jesus is said to have risen, and being so, it is "equally" impossible for a person who actually existed to have risen from the dead as it is for a person who never existed to have risen from the dead, because in reality, impossible is impossible and there are no degrees of impossibility?

            Your position is apparently that nothing truly miraculous is possible. I can understand that position, but I can't understand comparing the possibilities of existing and non-existing people. Non-existing people do not exist, and it hardly makes sense to use something nonexistent as a point of comparison to something that actually exists.

            If the point is that Jesus didn't rise from the dead because rising from the dead is impossible, why not just say that?

          • Max Driffill

            People who think like me, acknowledge that we have imperfect knowledge. I'm just lining my views up with the evidence. Do I think anyone has ever been resurrected? No. How sure am I that no one has ever been resurrected? As sure I as I am that evolution is a fact. That the earth orbits the sun and the sun and its planets orbit the center of our galaxy. That is pretty sure. But that is just how I speak, because my positions are amenable to alteration if new evidence should come in. I could be wrong after all. I don't expect any new evidence to come in on this supernatural front that will radically alter my outlook on the likelihood of miraculous haps.
            Rising from the dead appears,utterly impossible.

          • David Nickol

            Rising from the dead appears,utterly impossible.

            Rising from the dead appears utterly impossible for someone who lived and died.

            Rising from the dead is utterly impossible for someone who never existed.

            There is a real difference between the two.

          • Max Driffill

            I'm not saying otherwise. But the probability of resurrection isn't affected by merely existing. Living things exist. It doesn't seem to be important in calculating the probability of resurrection.

            Also, for the sake of argument, being imaginary, fictional etc does seem to provide favorable conditions for resurrection. It happens a lot in many different fictional universes, my most recent favorite of this, was Steve Rogers return from the dead. So if someone were to ask me if a character was real or fictitious a good question to ask would be, "did they return from the grave?" If the answer is yes, I could comfortably suggest that they were fictitious. and not real.

          • "If the point is that Jesus didn't rise from the dead because rising from the dead is impossible, why not just say that?"

            Good comment! I completely agree with David Nickol's comment above. The claim that, "The likelihood that [Jesus] rose from the dead is exactly the same if he existed or didn't exist" is only true *if* one presupposes that someone rising from the dead is logically impossible. But:

            1) I don't think anyone here believes it is logically impossible. Even Max describes it as "So unlikely," which is not the same as impossible.

            2) If someone does think rising from the dead is logically impossible, they first have to defend such a bold assertion. They can't merely assume it without defense.

            Neither David Egan nor Max has done this (but I challenge them to do so.)

          • severalspeciesof

            2) If someone does think rising from the dead is logically impossible,
            they first have to defend such a bold assertion. They can't merely
            assume it without defense.

            I'll bite.
            For myself, death means:
            1) The permanent absence of a particular life from the previous existence of said particular life.
            2) Therefore, to say that some thing came back to life actually means that that thing was never 'dead' in the first place.

            Does this make sense?

            Glen

          • fredx2

            "It is extremely unlikely that anyone has ever risen from the dead in the manner, sort of described by the New Testament"

            This is true, if the world as science understands it today is all that there is, and it has a complete explanation of all phenomena. Of course, we may discover something in a hundred years that makes it all perfectly understandable.

            But of course science is always imperfect and only knows about half of what is going on.

            "In his 1842 book The Positive Philosophy, the French philosopher Auguste Comte wrote of the stars: "We can never learn their internal constitution, nor, in regard to some of them, how heat is absorbed by their atmosphere." In a similar vein, he said of the planets: "We can never know anything of their chemical or mineralogical structure; and, much less, that of organized beings living on their surface."

            As to meteorites, "The French Academy of Sciences famously stated that "rocks don't fall from the sky". Reports of fireballs and stones crashing to the ground were dismissed as hearsay and folklore."

            "On 29 December 1934, Albert Einstein was quoted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as saying, "There is not the slightest indication that [nuclear energy] will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will." This followed the discovery that year by Enrico Fermi that if you bombard uranium with neutrons, the uranium atoms split up into lighter elements, releasing energy."

          • Doug Shaver

            It is extremely unlikely that anyone has ever risen from the dead in the manner, sort of described by the New Testament.

            That does not entail a probability of zero. For a nonexistent person, though, the probability of a resurrection is exactly zero.

            Indeed, we can safely say that the likelihood that happened would not much be affected by mere existence.

            So what? You are effectively arguing that zero equals something not much greater than zero.

            And any other explanation is automatically more plausible than miracle from the point of view of history.

            That is irrelevant to the question of whether existence has any effect on probability.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Not really. Do you have some probability number you're assigning to the resurrection? I e. there is a 1% chance to be raised from the dead? That number does not change based on Jesus' actual existence. You may he confused about how the math works. But what number do you assign to the probability of the resurrection?

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        No. They are unconnected events, from a probability point of view.

        • "No. They are unconnected events, from a probability point of view."

          This is untrue. They are connected because a person's action depends on his existence. If one doesn't exist, the probability of him performing any action is zero. But if he does exist, the probability has the potential to rise above zero.

          Therefore the probability of Jesus rising from the dead, given no other background information, is more likely given that he was a real historical person than if he never existed.

          • Max Driffill

            Brandon,
            Having the potential to rise above zero does not mean, of course, that existence confirms a probability greater than zero. In fact we have every reason to doubt that it would given what we know about humans returning from the dead, I think it is probably safe to say that existing does not improve the probability of resurrecting over not existing.

            Not existing though, now that I think about it, might be the better approach to resurrection. Non-existent characters return from the dead all the time. Captain America, Batman, Dracula, those brothers from the show Supernatural. I'm not sure how non-existence affects the probabilities, but my guess is that sales numbers have big effects on the probability that a character will return from the dead. ;)

          • fredx2

            However, nowadays, people that we formerly thought were completely dead and could never come back are coming back to life.
            It is only natural to assume that this medical progress will continue, and people we now consider permanently dead, will be able to be resuscitated in the future.
            So I think you might want to alter your statement to get at what you really object to -that someone can come back to life as a result of supernatural goings on.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Again I ask: what probability do you assign to Jesus rising from the dead, and how much does that probability change if he exists?

          • Max Driffill

            I suspect Brandon thinks that existence increases probability that Jesus could have risen from the dead.
            But as others have pointed out they are unconnected.
            If Jesus did not exist the probability that he could rise from the dead is zero.
            If Jesus does exist the probability that he will rose from the grave is what? It is not necessarily greater than zero. My dog exists, and its probability of resurrection is just as good as if it did not exist.'It doesn't follow that just by existing the probability of resurrection inches imperceptibly toward 1. The probability that Jesus would be resurrected would be contingent on a host of factors the current frequency of resurrection say, elements of human biology etc. When examined this way, it is clear that the probability of resurrection is probably the same for non-existent Jesus, as it is for an existent Jesus.

          • fredx2

            If he did not exist, the probability of him rising from the dead is zero.
            If he did exist, the probability of him rising from the dead is something above zero. Your hedging language is proof enough of that

          • Ah Got Somethin Ta Say!

            This argument is ridiculous.

            Essentially you are arguing the probability of a living person making 2+2=5 as opposed to the probability of a dead person making 2+2=5.

            It's zero either way, obviously.

      • GCBill

        I think Jesus' existence is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for the credibility of those claims.

      • Loreen Lee

        I understand a bit better why Kant is called a Transcendental Idealist. Thank you Brandon Vogt. Even without an historical Jesus, I believe that the synthesis of the ideas (inherent in the mystery religions, in Platonism, in Judaic traditions, etc). that became Christianity is valuable even only as 'ideas/ideals', and that the empirical 'evidence' of the life of Jesus, merely makes the ideas 'more real'. It is also possible for an anthropologist for instance to appreciate the ideas/ideals, and perhaps in so doing would have a more objective/scientific perspective on the religious locutions. I am beginning to think that a naturalist based religion/faith is not necessarily a 'bad' thing.!!.

        • Loreen Lee

          Isn't it really all about 'incarnatus est'? Would the idea that the ideal becomes manifest not be a colloquial understanding of The Word Made Flesh. The Logos becoming empirically demonstrable - however you want to express it. Of course it's easier to have good ideas sometimes than to walk the talk. But that's the claim here with respect to Jesus. He walked the talk of divine existence/subsistence. And we have discussed the 'idea' of existence of God as subsistence. So perhaps the 'talk/logos/ideal of divinity' within Jesus was 'real'. So much for the 'birth'. I see another problem with respect to the death and resurrection, of course, especially when I have always found a recurrent confusion between the metaphorical and literal uses of the term life and death within scripture!!!!

          But if my choice was limited as to whether I could take the ideal of such 'perfection' exemplified by Jesus as being achieved in the empirical world, just as an idea - or - having some idea of a man called God without even the understanding of the ideas involved that I constantly must work upon to develop, I would take having the ideas before the merely 'believing' the empirical reality/fact. I would rather be able to walk the talk than talk the walk, so to speak. I hope I am making myself understandable:

          There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus was a man of 'substance/subsistence?'!! (Even if future scholarship finds that he never did say that he 'was' God!!) The transcendent was made immanent. The 'ideal' was/is 'real'-alized! Or it wouldn't be faith/religion on the level that it is. For the atheist/agnostic perhaps it's hard enough getting around this 'idea' in one's head, without the problematic of whether the idea/ideal was/is 'exist-ent'!!!!! Let alone 'live UP to it'!!!! After all by me saying this, does not mean that you will grant the possibility that what I say if of any consequence, let alone intelligibility!!!!!! And as Nietzsche said: There was only one Christian, and he died on the cross. The Word/Logos made flesh is a pretty high ideal to live up to. Even within the context of the routines of life.

      • Max Driffill

        They don't appear more credible. The biggest thing to note about what historians can say about about Jesus, is exactly how little there is to say. Looking strictly at the historical evidence, you find there just isn't very much of it. Jesus was not important enough at the time to take note of him.

        If you believe things like, there was an empty tomb (or that there even was a tomb), or that Jesus cast demons into pigs, or appeared to people after he was crucified you are doing so out on the limb of faith, and not solid historical evidence. Instead of trying to use the slim, tenuous slivers of history about Jesus to justify the unsupported claims made by Christianity, it would be better to just say that your position is one of faith and not influenced by a wealth of historical evidence.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          I think the reason Christians have trouble with the "faith" card is that it is no longer a credible card to play. For five hundred years science and technology have been winning; for five hundred years humanity has faced with two different systems for acquiring knowledge, and the 100% winner has been science. In order for a position to be credible in this society at large, it must be backed by science.

          Hence the crazies if scientific creationism and intelligent design. Faith is no longer enough for the culturally literate. They must have science.

          • Martin Sellers

            So faith and science are the only two ways of acquiring knowledge- and the two are always opposing?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Not precisely. I would contend that there is only one method of reliably acquiring knowledge. What I was discussing is why "god says so" is no longer good enough as a justification.

          • Martin Sellers

            Just a little more clarification- you mean "God says so" is not a good enough justification for believers anymore? or do you mean for everyone in general?

          • Doug Shaver

            you mean "God says so" is not a good enough justification for believers anymore? or do you mean for everyone in general?

            Some man saying "God says so" is not a good enough reason for anyone to believe anything.

        • fredx2

          I think in broad terms, given the fact that we now agree that Jesus existed, the accounts of him, and the subsequent acts of his followers, all make it reasonable to believe that the accounts in the bible are reliable enough. We have enough corroboration by early accounts of the followers to at least see that they believed it was true. In broad terms, it is probably a 50-50 proposition. Since they are ancient accounts nobody expects perfect accuracy from them, but we get the message.

          • Max Driffill

            Except of course they are not very reliable. It is probably not a 50/50 proposition.

      • Doug Shaver

        Surely you would agree that the latter claims appear more credible if Jesus actually existed than if he didn't, right?

        Sure, insofar as any claim that is possibly true is more credible than any claim that is not even possibly true. But when I'm defending my disbelief in the resurrection, I have zero need for any argument that Jesus never existed.

  • Arthur Jeffries

    Why no exploration of Fr.Thomas L. Brodie's Jesus Myth hypotheses? Considering that he is the most distinguished Biblical scholar thus far - and as far as I know the only Roman Catholic priest - to have publicly confessed to being a mythicist, he is deserving of special attention.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      Why? He had published a single work that his order repudiated and put him under lockdown. He hasn't drawn many adherents, and there are serious questions about his logic.

      • Arthur Jeffries

        It would be truly incredible if the Dominicans had instead endorsed his work and decided to put him on a speaking tour. That was never a likely outcome.

        How do you know that Fr. Brodie hasn't drawn many adherents? Mind you, I don't find his argument particularly convincing, but I have no way of knowing if most people who've read his book feel the same way.

        Mr. O'Neil has serious question about the logic of every mythicist he explores in his article, so I don't see how your last point somehow makes Fr. Brodie unworthy of mention and analysis.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          Who cites his book? What scholars endorse his conclusions? How large an impact has he made in the academic publications?

          Crickets.

          • Arthur Jeffries

            Who cites the works of Francesco Carotta, Joseph Atwill, or Daniel Unterbrink? What scholars have endorsed their conclusions? How large an impact has their work made in academic publications? Yet Mr. O'Neil mentions all three, without any complaints from you. Do you really view each of these men, as well as Doherty and Price, as more worthy of mention than Fr. Brodie?

            Anyway, Mr. O'Neil has already explained the chronological impossibility of including Fr. Brodie's work in his article, so I'm not really sure what more there is to discuss.

    • "Why no exploration of Fr.Thomas L. Brodie's Jesus Myth hypotheses?"

      Because this article is a reproduction of one I wrote on Quora in December 2011. Brodie's book was not published until September 2012. So I didn't cover his arguments in particular because (i) I didn't know he existed and (ii) I didn't have access to a time machine to travel into the future and read his book.

      But if you feel he makes some argument that I haven't countered here already, feel free to present it. I can't see that he's done anything other than use the same tired and flawed arguments Mythers always use.

      • This would also explain the lack of a reaction to Richard Carrier.

        • No, I don't mention Carrier because at the time of writing this article all he had done was parrot Doherty. There are other self-published bloggers that I could have mentioned as well, but I was focusing on the arguments, not necessarily the hobbyists who peddle them.

      • Arthur Jeffries

        Thank you for your response. I no longer own Fr. Brodie's book and have only read it once, when it was initially released. In light of those facts, I'm unable to present his argument with any adequacy, though I recall that I found it unpersuasive.

        I don't know that your prejudicial dismissal of Fr. Brodie's theory of mythicism is entirely reasonable. Unlike Justin Atwell for example, Fr. Brodie is an accomplished Biblical scholar, 4/5ths of whose bibliography was published by academic presses. Therefore, I respectfully submit to you that Fr. Brodie's arguments warrant more serious attention than those of your fellow non-experts.

        • How is my "dismissal" of Brodie's arguments "prejudicial"? Care to back that up with some evidence? What "prejudice" are you imagining here? Or are you just not clear on what "prejudicial" means?

          "I respectfully submit to you that Fr. Brodie's arguments warrant more serious attention than those of your fellow non-experts."

          I agree. Though I still agree with all the other eminently qualified people who think that Brodie is dead wrong.

          • Arthur Jeffries

            You don't appear to have read his book, but you assume that Fr. Brodie merely repeats "the same tired and flawed arguments Mythers always use."

            I apologize and admit to misunderstanding your comment if you have in fact read Fr. Brodie's book and your conclusion about "tired and flawed arguments" is based on that.

          • "I apologize and admit to misunderstanding your comment if you have in fact read Fr. Brodie's book"

            I accept your apology. Where you got the idea I was commenting on a book I haven't read, I had no idea. I did say that I hadn't read the book when I wrote this article in 2011, but given that it hadn't been published then, that's pretty understandable.

          • Arthur Jeffries

            Since you asked me to summarize Fr. Brodie's argument for you, I assumed that you were not familiar with his argument yourself. My mistake.

          • More misreading. I asked you which of Brodie's arguments you felt I hadn't already covered above. That actually clearly implies that I am familiar with his arguments and simply needed you to note which of them you thought I hadn't addressed.

  • David Nickol

    It would be interesting to know how many of those who deny the existence of Jesus believe in God. How many are adherents of one of the world's major religions other than Christianity? Is it that Christianity represents, for some, theism itself (perhaps the most "threatening" form of theism), and so it must be thoroughly undermined?

    I am just raising the question, not making any accusations. But it seems to me that "mythicists" may possibly be atheist "extremists" and may be the toughest of nuts to crack for a site like Strange Notions. We are all human, and to some extent, at least, we have a tendency to believe things to be true because something in us wants them to be true. It is easy enough to understand why Christians would want the existence of Jesus to be a fact. It is a bit more difficult to fathom why mythicists wouldn't want the existence of Jesus to be a fact—if, indeed, that is the case.

    • Great comment, David! I wonder the same things and wish such data was available.

    • Loreen Lee

      I was surprised to find that The Golden Bough is possibly considered more of a mythicist creation than a scientific work in anthropology. Oh well!

      And quote: We are all human, and to some extent, at least, we have a tendency to believe things to be true because something in us wants them to be true.

      We have today many 'golden boughs'. How will we fare in anthropology studies to be made in the centuries ahead? We have Star Wars and Godzilla for instance. . As Kant said to rephrase the quote above, there is a propensity to create a metaphysic and this is true within many contexts; from cosmology to teleology; and even with Godzilla as an attempt to deal with ecological disaster. So I'm not particularly 'disturbed in any way', that the mythicist wouldn't want the existence of Jesus to be a fact. I would not want Godzilla to be 'a fact'. But that does not mean that Godzilla, for instance does not meet a need to find structure and/or some kind of awareness or understanding (and in the case of Jesus perhaps acceptance) with respect to a difficult problematic.

    • Loreen Lee

      Quote: Is it that Christianity represents, for some, theism itself (perhaps the most 'threatening' form of theism) and so it must be thoroughly undermined.

      My understanding of theism is that it emphasizes the 'transcendental' nature of God. It is also my understanding that it is this characteristic that dominates the Old Testament. On this presumption, is not the coming of Jesus as the 'incarnation' an expansion of the idea of a transcendental God into a God who is immanent. (However, it must be stressed that it is the logos, intellect, law) that is made 'immanent) and yet -eternal). I have responded to this comment several times, (even in relation to another comment) because I am finding it difficult to understand why it would be considered the 'most threatening' form of theism, especially in the context of the distinction between transcendence and immanence. Mythicists wouldn't want the existence of Jesus to be a fact, - because He is the Fulfillment of the Law??????? - because it is difficult to make the word flesh, to walk the talk within our individual lives????????

    • Kevin Aldrich

      You wrote: "Is it that Christianity represents, for some, theism itself (perhaps the most "threatening" form of theism), and so it must be thoroughly undermined?"

      I've been thinking about this same question. I think there is a tendency when we hold something to be true--the opposite of which, if it were actually true, would ruin everything--to want to totally destroy that other thing. Everything about it must be false, evil, and ugly. I have this tendency myself. One thing that helps me is the Catholic contention that there is some truth in every religion. There is some truth even in atheism, the Catholic faith teaches me.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        I'm curious: what possible truth does the church find in "I lack belief in god"?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Your rejection of every false belief about God.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That's not clear.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This from Gaudium et Spes 19 (Vatican II document):

            "Moreover, atheism results not rarely from a violent protest against the evil in this world, or from the absolute character with which certain human values are unduly invested, and which thereby already accords them the stature of God."

            It is right to have a violent reaction to evil.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Sure. But that's not related to my atheism. And your quote is even less clear than your comment. Not to mention being wrong (anecdotally).

    • Seanatronic

      i get why people believe in Jesus and God. Most people don't want to actually face the fact that when they die it will be just like how you felt before you were born.

      • David Nickol

        Most people don't want to actually face the fact that when they die it will be just like how you felt before you were born.

        I assume you mean before you were conceived. I think that is a comforting thought, actually. Most understandings of Christianity have the very real possibility of eternal suffering. Nonexistence is somewhat difficult to conceive of, but I think just about anyone would prefer it to eternal suffering, especially if nonexistence were explained in the terms you use.

        • Doug Shaver

          Most people don't want to actually face the fact that when they die it will be just like how you felt before you were born.

          I assume you mean before you were conceived.

          I cannot remember anything from that part of my life, but I'm very sure that I didn't feel anything at all for quite some time after I was conceived.

    • Doug Shaver

      Is it that Christianity represents, for some, theism itself (perhaps the most "threatening" form of theism), and so it must be thoroughly undermined?

      For some? Yes, of course.

      We are all human, and to some extent, at least, we have a tendency to believe things to be true because something in us wants them to be true.

      Yes, we all have that tendency. But I was an atheist for a very long time before I started to question Jesus' historicity. My opinions about Christian teachings that are uniquely Christian have not changed one bit.

      It is easy enough to understand why Christians would want the existence of Jesus to be a fact. It is a bit more difficult to fathom why mythicists wouldn't want the existence of Jesus to be a fact—if, indeed, that is the case.

      As best I can discern my own preferences, I have no preference one way or the other. But if I did, I would do my best to avoid letting that preference influence my assessment of the evidence.

  • I agree with the thrust of this post. Atheists and theist historians seem to generally agree that a person described in the Bible existed. The existence of Jesus as a human being is necessary, but trivial from a theological perspective. The issue we should be discussing is whether Jesus was a god.

    I put it to the editors of this blog to find a reputable historian who will say that it is mainstream historical consensus that this Jesus person resurrected. Not that the historical evidence shows a empty tomb, but that the historical evidence leads to the historical conclusion that Jesus resurrected.

    Until I see that I will defer to Woolsey Professor of Religious Studies at Yale University's assessment in his Yale course "Introduction to New Testament (RLST 152)" on what is defensible as historically sound.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_dOhg-Fpu0

  • severalspeciesof

    ...if the Jesus stories arose out of ideas about and
    expectations of the Messiah, it is very odd that Jesus doesn't fit those
    expectations better. Despite Christian claims to the contrary, the
    first Christians had to work very hard to convince fellow Jews that
    Jesus was the Messiah precisely because he didn't conform to
    these expectations. Most importantly, there was absolutely no tradition
    or Messianic expectation that told of the Messiah being executed and
    then rising from the dead—this first appears with Christianity and has
    no Jewish precedent at all. Far from evolving from established
    Messianic prophecies and known elements in the scripture, the first
    Christians had to scramble to find anything at all which looked vaguely
    like a "prophecy" of this unexpected and highly un-Messianic event.

    While I agree with the gist of this, I think it should be pointed out that the greatest gains (number wise) in the Christian faith came from conversion from the gentiles. Jews were mostly unimpressed and the first Christians did indeed have the hardest time with fellow Jews conversion wise...

    Glen

  • Seanatronic

    Jesus may have existed, but he wasn't a magician. Kind of funny how real miracles only happened back then, and not anymore. The story of Jesus is really just the worst game of Telephone to ever exist, and it happened in a time when people didn't have a public education, and they couldn't read.

  • Mike

    This is handy and concise and really interesting and well presented, thanks for this.

  • Doug Shaver

    Broadly speaking, they fall into two main categories: (1) New Agers claiming Christianity is actually paganism rebadged and (2) anti-Christian atheist activists seeking to use their "exposure" of historical Jesus scholarship to undermine Christianity.

    Those two categories do exist, but it is not my experience that they are the main ones.

    Many of the arguments for a Mythic Jesus that some laypeople think sound highly convincing are exactly the same ones that scholars consider laughably weak, even though they sound plausible to those without a sound background in the study of the First Century. For example:

    1. "There are no contemporary accounts or mentions of Jesus. There should be, so clearly no Jesus existed."

    I agree that this is a really bad argument.

    While Paul was writing letters about matters of doctrine and disputes and so wasn't giving a basic lesson in who Jesus was in any of this letters, he does make references to Jesus' earthly life in many places.

    This is question-begging. Your interpretation of these passages presupposes that Paul's Jesus had an earthly life to which he was referring.

    He says Jesus was born as a human, of a human mother, and born a Jew

    Why did he think it necessary to mention these facts? Did he think his readers might have been unsure about them, and so needed his assurance that they were so?

    He refers to teachings Jesus made during his earthly ministry on divorce (1 Cor. 7:10), on preachers (1 Cor. 9:14) and on the coming apocalypse (1 Thess. 4:15).

    Paul does not attribute those teachings to Jesus. You're assuming your conclusion again.

    So Mythicist theorists then have to tie themselves in knots to explain how, in fact, a clear reference to Jesus being "born of a woman" actually means he wasn't born of a woman

    I have read the works of several mythicists. Not one of them has argued as you say here that they argue.

    These contrived arguments are so weak they tend to only convince the already convinced.

    When you have told me what those arguments are -- not the conclusions, but the arguments used to support them -- then I will decide how weak they are, thank you very much.

    And by the way, when I started reading mythicist literature, I was not the least bit convinced. For many decades prior, I had been convinced of the contrary, that only crackpots could doubt the existence of a historical Jesus.

    1. "Jesus was an amalgam of earlier pagan myths, brought together into a mythic figure of a god-man and savior of a kind found in many cults of the time."

    This is the explanation offered by the New Age writer who calls herself "Acharya S" in a series of self-published books beginning with The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold(1999).

    I first discovered her work over a decade ago, shortly after I found Earl Doherty's website. I found her arguments totally unpersuasive. Whether she or someone else paid for the publication of her books, I knew not and cared less. I have noticed that the only people who ever think it relevant to mention that an author is self-published are those who disagree with the author.

    2. "Jesus was a celestial being who existed in a realm just below the lunar sphere and was not considered an earthly being at all until later."

    This is the theory presented by another self-published Mythicist author, Earl Doherty, first in The Jesus Puzzle (2005) and then in Jesus: Neither God nor Man (2009). Doherty's theory has several main flaws. Firstly, he claims that this mythic/celestial Jesus was based on a Middle Platonic view of the cosmos that held that there was a "fleshly sub-lunar realm" in the heavens where gods and celestial beings lived and acted out mythic events. This is the realm, Doherty claims, in which it was believed that Mithras slew the cosmic bull, where Attis lived and died and where Jesus was crucified and rose again. The problem here is Doherty does very little to back up this claim and, while non-specialist readers may not realise this from the way he presents this idea, it is not something accepted by historians of ancient thought but actually a hypothesis developed entirely by Doherty himself.

    I have read Doherty's primary source on Middle Platonic philosophy. That would be John Dillon's The Middle Platonists, 80 B.C. to A.D. 220 (Cornell University Press, 1996). Doherty's hypothesis is entirely consistent with what Dillon says. The Hellenistic writers quoted by Dillon do not specifically say everything that Doherty claims they were thinking, but what they do say is sufficient in my judgment to establish plenty of credibility for Doherty.

    Despite being the original form of Christianity and despite surviving, according to Doherty, well into the second century, this celestial Jesus sect vanished without leaving any evidence of its existence

    Is that supposed to be something inexplicable? The documents comprising that evidence would have to have been preserved by somebody. Who would that have been? Who, between the fall of Rome and the invention of printing (roughly 1,000 years), was preserving any records from the first and second centuries? The preservation of documents during that millennium was extremely labor-intensive and required both commensurate motivation and commensurate financial resources.

    • Those two categories do exist, but it is not my experience that they are the main ones.

      So what are the main ones? Apart from the odd outlier like Brodie, they seem to be about it.

      This is question-begging. Your interpretation of these passages
      presupposes that Paul's Jesus had an earthly life to which he was
      referring.

      It's not "question begging", it's
      "conclusion stating". And that conclusion is well-founded. To read the
      reference in Romans 1:3 to Jesus being "a descendant of David" as
      meaning he was a historical man descended from the (to Paul) historical
      Jewish king is the clearest meaning in the context of all the
      other evidence we have
      . The Mythcist reading, on the other
      hand, requires us to (i) ignore all of that evidence and context and
      (ii) imagine another conjectural context for which there is no evidence
      at all. This makes zero sense. There is absolutely no rational basis
      that would incline any objective person to do such an absurd thing. The
      only reason anyone would do it would be wishful thinking - an
      emotional desire to find a contrived way to make what
      is an obvious prima facie reference to a historical
      Jesus into something else. I'm a rationalist.

      Did he think his readers might have been unsure about them, and so needed his assurance that they were so?

      No.
      Look at the contexts for these references: both their context in Paul's
      text and their Jewish context. Take the Romans 1:3 reference mentioned
      above. Looked at in context, is there anything in what he's saying
      that hints that he's trying to assure his audience that Jesus is human?
      He isn't. He's assuring them of Jesus' status as Messiah and detailing
      his high status "according to the flesh" as a descendant of a king as
      well as noting this as an unpinning of his status as God's anointed
      one. Then he notes his status "through the Spirit of holiness" by which he was "appointed
      the Son of God in power". The whole passage is about Jesus' authority,
      accorded by both his earthly status and his elevation at his
      resurrection to a spiritual status.

      Besides, have you forgotten
      that according to the variety of Mythcist theory you seem to favour
      (Doherty's brand, amongst the many), Paul isn't supposed to believe
      Jesus was a human, with a human mother or historical ancestor etc. So
      why would be he "assuring" them about something he didn't (supposedly)
      believe? However you cut it, you have multiple references to Jesus as a
      human here that you've failed to deal with.

      Paul does not attribute those teachings to Jesus. You're assuming your conclusion again.

      Wrong
      again. Look up each of those references. He attributes these
      teachings to "the Lord". And each of them corresponds to a teaching
      attributed to Jesus in the later gospel traditions. So, yet again,
      Mythicism asks us to (i) ignore the evidenctial context that we do have
      and (ii) suppose some other context (where "the Lord" is somehow not
      Jesus or not the earthly Jesus) for which we have zero evidence. Which
      means, yet again, Occam's Razor makes short work of this contrived
      alternative based on nothing but wishful thinking and suppositions. My
      reading is the most parsimonious. The Mythicist alternative is, as
      usual, a fairy castle in the air propped up by nothing but what some
      irrational people want to believe.

      I have read the works of several mythicists. Not one of them has argued as you say here that they argue.

      Nonsense.
      You claim to have read Doherty, or at least his website. He spills an
      ocean of ink trying to argue his way around these thorny texts. Either
      you're bluffing about what you've read or this is just bluster.
      Something we see quite a bit of from your highly content-free comments
      here.

      I have noticed that the only people who ever think it relevant to
      mention that an author is self-published are those who disagree with the
      author.

      Self-published hobbyists rarely want to draw
      attention to their amateur status or the fact they can't get a
      mainstream venue for their armchair speculations. It tends to throw
      them into too stark a contrast with those who are actually qualified and
      learned.

      I have read Doherty's primary source on Middle Platonic philosophy. That would be John Dillon's The Middle Platonists, 80 B.C. to A.D. 220 (Cornell University Press, 1996). Doherty's hypothesis is entirely consistent with what Dillon says.

      Really?
      How interesting. I have my copy of Dillon's book here with me now.
      Please tell me where Dillon says the Middle Platonics believed that
      myths were enacted in the sub-lunar realm and that when people spoke of
      Osiris dying or Mitrhras slaying the bull or Jesus being crucified, they
      were referring to celestial, daemonic events and not earthly,
      historical ones? I've read Dillon twice and must have missed that
      part. Because that is the claim on which Doherty's thesis rises or
      falls.

      When backed into a corner a few years ago over the fact
      that no scholar of Middle Platonism makes this claim and that he has no
      external support for it, despite writing as though it was commonly
      accepted and not a supposition purely of his invention, Doherty had this
      to say:

      "I get the idea that you have interpreted me as though I was saying: the pagans placed the myths of their saviour gods in the upper world, therefore we have good reason to interpret Paul that way. Actually, my movement was in the opposite direction. I have always worked first with the early Christian record and come to a heavenly-realm understanding of it through internal evidence"

      This is an astonishing admission by Doherty. Far from finding evidence of the enactment of non-historical, purely celestial daemonic events in the sub-lunar realm to be a common belief in the period and placing his interpretation of Paul in that context, he is actually getting this whole idea from his weird reading of Paul, despite it not being a common idea in the context of Paul's culture. This is an absurdly circular way to proceed.

      what they do say is sufficient in my judgment to establish plenty of credibility for Doherty.

      Garbage - see above. The whole idea that is the crux and lynchpin of Doherty's thesis is a fantasy supposition based on a circular argument. It's nonsense.

      The documents comprising that evidence would have to have been preserved by somebody. Who would that have been?

      Who would have preserved references to, arguments against and comments on this alternative form of early Christianity? The same people who preserved these things on all the other early forms of Christianity that we know about. We have knowledge of scores of alternative proto-Christian sects in the lengthy condemnations of "heresies" that dot the first few centuries of Christian writing. We also know about them from surviving texts - we have dozens of those. And we know about them from references in the works of opponents of Christanity, who used the fractious and divided nature of Christianity as an argument against it. Yet in all this vast amount of material we have not a whisper, not so much as a hint about any branch of Christianity that didn't believe Jesus had a historical life on earth at all.

      So you need to explain this bizarre silence. Your last effort was weak. Try again.

      • Doug Shaver

        (1) New Agers claiming Christianity is actually paganism rebadged and (2) anti-Christian atheist activists seeking to use their "exposure" of historical Jesus scholarship to undermine Christianity.

        Those two categories do exist, but it is not my experience that they are the main ones.

        So what are the main ones? Apart from the odd outlier like Brodie, they seem to be about it.

        I think the only ones in serious intellectual contention are variations of Doherty's thesis. Carrier and Price both endorse some version of it.

        By "New Agers," I suppose you're referring to Acharya S and her fans. Most of the people sympathetic to Doherty think she is an idiot. Price is an exception, insofar as he actually regards her as a competent scholar, but he still thinks she is mistaken.

        Price is also assuredly not hostile to Christianity. I won't deny that most mythicists probably are, but the point of your accusation is that mythicism cannot be justified unless it be motivated by hostility to Christianity. I deny that. It is not necessary to hate Christianity in order to think that there is a cogent argument for the mythicist hypothesis.

        To read the reference in Romans 1:3 to Jesus being "a descendant of David" as meaning he was a historical man descended from the (to Paul) historical Jewish king is the clearest meaning in the context of all the other evidence we have.

        That is precisely what this debate is all about: the most parsimonious way to explain all the evidence. If the immediate question is how Romans 1:3 should be interpreted, and if all of our other evidence justifies a hypothesis for Christian origins that does not include a historical Jesus, then we are justified in supposing that Paul was making some statement here that had nothing to do with anybody's biological ancestry. Therefore, your insistence that its only plausible interpretation is as a claim about Jesus' biological ancestry assumes your conclusion.

        He says Jesus was born as a human, of a human mother, and born a Jew

        Why did he think it necessary to mention these facts? Did he think his readers might have been unsure about them, and so needed his assurance that they were so?

        Look at the contexts for these references: both their context in Paul's text and their Jewish context. Take the Romans 1:3 reference mentioned above.

        Your original reference was to Galatians 4:4. How is the epistle to the Romans part of the context for the epistle to the Galatians? Could Paul have expected his readers in Galatia to have read his epistle to the Romans?

        Anyhow, I still don't see how what Paul told the Romans explains why he thought it necessary to tell the Galatians that Jesus had a mother.

        He's assuring them of Jesus' status as Messiah and detailing his high status "according to the flesh" as a descendant of a king as well as noting this as an unpinning of his status as God's anointed one. Then he notes his status "through the Spirit of holiness" by which he was "appointed the Son of God in power". The whole passage is about Jesus' authority, accorded by both his earthly status and his elevation at his resurrection to a spiritual status.

        That does not account for Paul's having to tell the Galatians that Jesus was born of a woman. Otherwise, though, I agree that your interpretation is reasonable enough, given a presupposition that the Paul's Christ Jesus was the man known to Western history as Jesus of Nazareth. The question at issue is whether that presupposition is necessary for us to make sense of statements like those of Galatians 4:4 or Romans 1:3. And we can't forget that it doesn't matter if they make no sense to us in the 21st century who have benefited from 2,000 years of scientific and philosophical progress. The people to whom Paul's writing had to make sense was 1st-century Middle Easterners whose understanding of the entire universe was quite unlike ours.

        Paul does not attribute those teachings to Jesus. You're assuming your conclusion again.

        Look up each of those references. He attributes these teachings to "the Lord".

        My point exactly.

        And each of them corresponds to a teaching attributed to Jesus in the later gospel traditions.

        Of course. And of course, if we assume that Paul's Jesus was the same person as the gospel Jesus, then it's entirely reasonable to suppose that Paul was thinking of the gospel Jesus whenever he mentioned "the Lord." But that is why I say that in making this argument, you are assuming your conclusion.

        So Mythicist theorists then have to tie themselves in knots to explain how, in fact, a clear reference to Jesus being "born of a woman" actually means he wasn't born of a woman

        I have read the works of several mythicists. Not one of them has argued as you say here that they argue.

        Nonsense.

        You claim to have read Doherty, or at least his website. He spills an ocean of ink trying to argue his way around these thorny texts. Either you're bluffing about what you've read or this is just bluster. Something we see quite a bit of from your highly content-free comments here.

        If you think it's a bluff, you can call it. Let's see a quotation where Doherty or any other mythicist has argued that "born of a woman" means "not born of a woman."

        When backed into a corner a few years ago over the fact that no scholar of Middle Platonism makes this claim and that he has no external support for it, despite writing as though it was commonly accepted and not a supposition purely of his invention, Doherty had this to say:

        "I get the idea that you have interpreted me as though I was saying: the pagans placed the myths of their saviour gods in the upper world, therefore we have good reason to interpret Paul that way. Actually, my movement was in the opposite direction. I have always worked first with the early Christian record and come to a heavenly-realm understanding of it through internal evidence"

        This is an astonishing admission by Doherty.

        Sure it is. And in the same sense, if we are to believe the creationists, paleontologists make an astonishing admission every time they talk about gaps in the fossil record.

        We know that the gospels were written long after Paul's lifetime. But every conventional interpretation of Paul presupposes that every statement he makes about Jesus or the Christ was a statement about the man who appears as the central character of the gospels. If we lose that presupposition, then his writing, viewed as a whole, does not look like it was about an itinerant preacher who got himself executed by irritating a few people in high religious or political places. It looks more like it was about a god or some entity rather like a god. We then have to ask whether a literate man living in that place at that time could have believed, about such a entity, such things as "he died for our sins," "he was buried," and "he was raised on the third day." Doherty is arguing that Dillon provides good reason to regard an interpretation like this as plausible. Having read Dillon, I think he does.

        Who would have preserved references to, arguments against and comments on this alternative form of early Christianity? The same people who preserved these things on all the other early forms of Christianity that we know about.

        We're not talking just about the people who were alive during Christianity's formative years and on the battlefields of the doctrinal wars. We're also talking about the people who copied their works, and the people who copied the copies, and so on for nearly a thousand years. But we know that most of the documents that entered this historical conduit did not survive to modern times. Your argument from silence presupposes that every document that could tell us anything relevant to this debate must have been preserved. I think that presupposition is unwarranted. We have no prima facie reason to think that every argument made by every critic of early Christianity was recorded by somebody, and that that record was copied, and the copy copied, and so on through the fall of the Roman empire and continuing on throughout the entire Middle Ages. This absence of evidence is in no way evidence of absence.

        • I won't deny that most mythicists probably are, but the point of your accusation is that mythicism cannot be justified unless it be motivated by hostility to Christianity.

          What I actually said, and what youdisputed, was that these two anti-Christian groups form the bulk of the
          Mythicists. You've done nothing to show that to be wrong. As I said, there are a few outliers who don't fall into these two groups, but most Mythcists do.

          If the immediate question is how Romans 1:3 should be interpreted, and if all of our other evidence justifies a hypothesis for Christian origins that does not include a historical Jesus, then we are justified
          in supposing that Paul was making some statement here that had nothing to do with anybody's biological ance
          stry. Therefore, your insistence that its only plausible interpretation is as aclaim about Jesus' biological ancestry assumes your conclusion.

          Your problem lies in the phrase I have bolded above. Because all our other evidence DOESN'T justify a hypothesis for Christian origins that does not include a historical Jesus at all. Quite the opposite. We have plenty of references to a historical Jesus. We have zero references to a purely celestial one. So - yet again - you're trying to claim we should ignore an explanation for which we do have evidence in favour of a baseless conjecture based on nothing at all. This is totally absurd.

          Your original reference was to Galatians 4:4.

          Bigdeal. The context there also makes it clear that Paul is not using thephrases "born of a woman, born under the law" to reassure his audience that Jesus was human (and you keep forgetting that according to the Dohertyite hypothesis, Paul didn't believe Jesus was a human anyway). He is talking about Jesus as the fulfillment of the Jewish law. So he uses the phrase - "born under the law" - which means "born a Jew". And he uses it with the phrase "born of a woman" so that together they mean
          "born a Jewish man". "Born of woman" is a phrase that means simply "a man" in many contexts in Jewish writings. It can be found in Job 14:1, Job 15:14, Job 25:4, in DSS 1QH 10.23 and Tractate Shabbath 88b. It just means "a man" in a typically circumlocutory Hebrew expression that is, in Galatians 4:4, translated directly into Greek.

          I agree that your interpretation is reasonable enough, given a presupposition that the Paul's Christ Jesus was the man known to Westernhistory as Jesus of Nazareth. The question at issue is whether that presupposition is necessary for us to make sense of statements like
          those of Galatians 4:4 or Romans 1:3.

          Again, it's not a "presupposition" - it's a conclusion. Because that is the reading that is actually supported by the evidential context. The alternative that you seem to be trying to pretend is equally valid is supported by zero evidence - it's pure supposition. So Occam's Razor hacks it down, yet again.

          "He attributes these teachings to "the Lord".

          My point exactly.

          So he's attributing them to some "Lord" who somehow isn't Jesus. Who is this "Lord" then? And what reason do we have to ignore all the evidential context and decide it isn't Jesus? Mythicist wishful thinking doesn't count as a valid reason.

          If you think it's a bluff, you can call it. Let's see a quotation where Doherty or any other mythicist ha
          s argued that "born of a woman" means "not born of a woman."

          This is getting plain funny. What, you mean like his 12,000 words of argument HERE. Then there is Chapter 15 in his book Jesus: Neither God nor Man. I don't have a copy of his The Jesus Puzzle but he covers it at length there as well, though most of what he says is a reproduction of the article on his website linked to above.

          Let me know if there's anything else I can help you with.

          Sure it is. And in the same sense, if we are to believe the creationists, paleontologists make an astonishing admission every time they talk about gaps in the fossil record.

          That's a truly pathetic comeback. Doherty admits his reasoning is circular and you just shrug and respond with that nonsense. Something other than rationality seems to be driving you.

          If we lose that presupposition, then his writing, viewed as a whole, does not look like it was about an itinerant preacher

          So you keep saying. What you keep failing to do is give us an evidence-based reason to "lose that presuppostion". That conclusion is based on all the evidence we have, which all refers to Jesus as a historical person. In this context, this reading of Paul makes sense. If you have some evidence to support your conjectural alternative reading, now would be a good time to actually produce it. Again, doing so on the basis of mere wishful thinking won't work.

          It looks more like it was about a god or some entity rather like a god.

          Apart from those pesky references to him being "born of a woman", descended from David and having a brother.

          Doherty is arguing that Dillon provides good reason to regard an interpretation like this as plausible.

          Despite presenting zero evidence than Middle Platonists believed in people in the sub-lunar heaven "dying" and "being born" and getting "buried".

          We're also talking about the people who copied their works, and the
          people who copied the copies, and so on for nearly a thousand years.

          That doesn't matter. Again, these people copied all the other references to the scores of other alternative Christianities. You still need to explain why we have lots of references to them but none for the celestial proto-Christianity required by the Dohertyite thesis. Wriggle all you like, you're still on that hook.

          Your argument from silence presupposes that every document that could tell us anything relevant to this debate must have been preserved.

          Nonsense. We have only fragmentary references to all those other early Christianities. But there is a massive gap between "fragmentary references" and "total silence". Why would the Patristic writers spend so much time on all these others but totally ignore the one that would have had a legitimate claim to being the real Christianity? That makes zero sense.

          • Doug Shaver

            What I actually said, and what you disputed, was that these two anti-Christian groups form the bulk of the Mythicists. You've done nothing to show that to be wrong.

            Fine. At this point, we have only your word for it that you're right.

            And maybe you are, if your metric is just the number of websites that are friendly to some variety of ahistoricism. I really have no idea, because I haven't done anything like a survey, and I'm not about to try. I don't judge a hypothesis by how many people use bad arguments to support it. I judge it by whether there is anybody who has found a good argument.

            If the immediate question is how Romans 1:3 should be interpreted, and if all of our other evidence justifies a hypothesis for Christian origins that does not include a historical Jesus, then we are justified in supposing that Paul was making some statement here that had nothing to do with anybody's biological ancestry. Therefore, your insistence that its only plausible interpretation is as a claim about Jesus' biological ancestry assumes your conclusion.

            Your problem lies in the phrase I have bolded above. Because all our other evidence DOESN'T justify a hypothesis for Christian origins that does not include a historical Jesus at all.

            Whether it does or doesn't is what we're arguing about. You cannot isolate this particular proof text and two or three others like it, use them as your basis for interpreting everything else Paul wrote, and thereby conclude that you have won the argument.

            I will qualify my statement to this extent, though. By "all of our other evidence," I meant that portion of the evidence that is relevant to understanding Paul's thinking, by which I meant everything that he wrote other than the two or three apparent references to a historical person. I didn't mean to suggest that historicists have nothing to support their case except the Pauline writings.

            you're trying to claim we should ignore an explanation for which we do have evidence in favour of a baseless conjecture based on nothing at all. This is totally absurd.

            I am trying nothing of the sort. I am disagreeing with you about how the evidence should be interpreted. I realize that there are people saying there is no evidence for a historical Jesus, but I have never said that. I get it that there is evidence. All I claim is that it isn't good enough to support the historicist position.

            But your dismissal of mythicism as "a baseless conjecture" commits the offense of which you accuse me. If I am mistaken -- and I will admit that possibility -- then the basis of my thinking is not as good as I think it is, but that doesn't mean I don't have a basis.

            Your original reference was to Galatians 4:4.

            Big deal.

            I was trying to get us back to the actual point of our disagreement.

            you keep forgetting that according to the Dohertyite hypothesis, Paul didn't believe Jesus was a human anyway

            I am not forgetting that. I am rebutting your assertion that Galatians 4:4 suffices to prove that he could not have believed otherwise.

            "Born of woman" is a phrase that means simply "a man" in many contexts in Jewish writings.

            I'm aware of that. But that construal doesn't work in this context. When applied to a particular man, it is a way of emphasizing his ordinariness, the presumptive fact of his being just like every other man. A modern equivalent would be "He puts his pants on one leg at a time." Whatever else Paul might have believed about Jesus, he didn't think there was anything ordinary about him.

            The question at issue is whether that [historicist] presupposition is necessary for us to make sense of statements like those of Galatians 4:4 or Romans 1:3.

            that is the reading that is actually supported by the evidential context.

            Not just because you say so, it isn't. Which reading is best supported by the evidential context is just the issue we are debating.

            "He attributes these teachings to "the Lord".

            My point exactly.

            So he's attributing them to some "Lord" who somehow isn't Jesus. Who is this "Lord" then?

            Oh, gee, I dunno. God, maybe?

            Let's see a quotation where Doherty or any other mythicist has argued that "born of a woman" means "not born of a woman."

            This is getting plain funny. What, you mean like his 12,000 words of argument HERE.

            I understand Doherty to be arguing in that essay that the phrase "born of a woman" need not be construed as historicists construe it. If you say "X means Y" and I say, "No, X means Z," I am not asserting "X means not-X."

            And in the same sense, if we are to believe the creationists, paleontologists make an astonishing admission every time they talk about gaps in the fossil record.

            That's a truly pathetic comeback. Doherty admits his reasoning is circular

            No, he doesn't. That is how you interpret his reasoning, just like creationists interpret biologists as admitting that the theory of evolution is in some kind of crisis.

            Something other than rationality seems to be driving you.

            Obviously. I disagree with you, and no rational person can do that, can they?

            What you keep failing to do is give us an evidence-based reason to "lose that presuppostion".

            We're debating whether some body of evidence proves X. I'm saying, "Let's see what we can infer from that evidence without assuming X." I need no additional evidence to justify doing that.

            [The Pauline corpus] looks more like it was about a god or some entity rather like a god.

            Apart from those pesky references to him being "born of a woman", descended from David and having a brother.

            If I'm reading a collection of one writer's essays about Barack Obama, and if that writer says 100 times "Obama is a Kenyan" and says only three times "Obama is an American," what should I believe about where that writer thinks Obama was born?

            Doherty is arguing that Dillon provides good reason to regard an interpretation like this as plausible.

            Despite presenting zero evidence than Middle Platonists believed in people in the sub-lunar heaven "dying" and "being born" and getting "buried".

            If someone is claiming "Y is plausible given X," they don't need to prove that X entails Y. All they need to prove is that X is consistent with Y. To have a cogent counterargument, you need to show that anyone who believes X would be unlikely to also believe Y.

            We're also talking about the people who copied their works, and the people who copied the copies, and so on for nearly a thousand years.

            That doesn't matter. Again, these people copied all the other references to the scores of other alternative Christianities.

            All of them? Without exception? How do you know that?

            Your argument from silence presupposes that every document that could tell us anything relevant to this debate must have been preserved.

            Nonsense. We have only fragmentary references to all those other early Christianities.

            The crucial term in that statement is "all." You are claiming that for every argument that any opponent of the historically orthodox Christianity ever made, at least a fragment of some work referencing that argument would have been preserved. Until you justify that claim, I think it's reasonable to doubt it.

  • Paul LeFevre

    Clearly atheists fall prone to fallacies, too. Your false dichotomy, for example: that unless the "mythicist" claim can be "proven," we must accept an historical Jesus. Not so. One can not consider the meager and unreliable "evidence" presented good enough to support the positive claim ("An historical Jesus existed") without having to prove an opposite claim. In fact, given the meager and unreliable evidence, the honest investigator of history should admit "we don't know if an actual Jesus existed or not."
    The ad-hominem rants against the "mythicists" for "ideology" weren't appreciated, either. Also a bit hypocritical; you call them out for "ideology," but neglect to mention that the "broad scholarly consensus" is nearly entirely a Christian consensus -- no ideology as motivation there, right? The odd atheist or agnostic "historicist" may be prone to some of the same biases. The question isn't "How many scholars are convinced?" The question is, "Is the meager evidence given convincing?" And frankly, it's not.

    • "our false dichotomy, for example: that unless the "mythicist" claim can be "proven," we must accept an historical Jesus."

      Nowhere in my article do I say any such thing. In fact, I am the one who is constantly having to point out that historians usually don't and can't "prove" things and people who want "proof" of whether Jesus was historical or mythical are in the wrong game and should probably stick to mathematics or physics. Historians can only examine the evidence to make a determination of the argument to the best explaination - ie what is most likely to have happened.

      So I do not say that unless the Mythicist claim can be proven, a historical Jesus has to be accepted. Given that I make no such claim, it's weird that you put the word "proven" in inverted commas, implying that you were quoting me. You weren't.

      What I actually argue is that the idea that there was a historical Jesus accounts for more of the evidence more parsimoniously and without the ad hoc workarounds and suppositions that are required to keep the Mythicist alternative from collapsing. Therefore it is the most likely explanation of the fragmentary evidence. This is why this is the accepted consensus of almost all scholars on the subject, regardless of their backgrounds or biases.

      "the honest investigator of history should admit "we don't know if an actual Jesus existed or not.""

      Of couse we don't "know". See above. People who want the level of certainty that allows them to "know" what happened in the ancient past should avoid history completely - it ain't going to happen. We are left,. therefore, with an asssessment of what is more likely. And, despite the evidence being uncertain and fragmentary, here the historical Jesus fits the bill better.

      "The ad-hominem rants against the "mythicists" for "ideology" weren't appreciated, either."

      It's not a mere ad hominem to note the ideological biases of the tiny handful of Mythicists - it's directly relevant. It's as relevant as noting that so called "Creationists" also just happen to all be fundamentalist Christians. And of course there are clear biases amongst many of those on the other side. But there is more than "odd atheist or agnostic historicist"- there are many of them, along with many Jewish scholars who also accept the consensus. So the very scholars who don't have a dog in any ideological fight are overwhelmingly on the historicist side. In a field where convincing your peers that your assessment of what is most likely is very important, this consensus actually counts for a great deal.

      • Paul LeFevre

        "What I actually argue is that the idea that there was a historical Jesus
        accounts for more of the evidence more parsimoniously and without the
        ad hoc workarounds and suppositions that are required to keep the
        Mythicist alternative from collapsing. Therefore it is the most likely
        explanation of the fragmentary evidence. This is why this is the
        accepted consensus of almost all scholars on the subject, regardless of
        their backgrounds or biases."

        With all due respect, you just used the false dichotomy again...perhaps without realizing? Mythicist arguments aren't valid, so historicity is the most likely -- seems pretty clear as a false dichotomy to me. Mythicist arguments not being valid doesn't make any alternative any more likely, it only makes mythicist claims unsupportable. The claim "there was an historical Jesus" stands or falls on its own, whether or not mythicist arguments are valid or not. And the meager, unreliable "evidence" put forth to back the historicist claims don't back them. They essentially rest on highly questionable Josephus, much later Tacitus (who calls christian beliefs "a pernicious myth"), and "gospels" that are at best second-hand, and already known to contain a great deal of made-up myth (and that contradict each other). By far the most parsimonius "explanation" is that we can't put forth a supportable explanation, hence there's no reason to claim an historical Jesus is any more likely than any other explanation (and there are dozens of possible ones besides "mythicism").

        I'll also point out that 20 years ago, the "scholarly consensus" was the Moses was an historical figure, that Hebrews were captives in Egypt, and that the "exodus" actually occurred. Those who reasonably doubted that "scholarly consensus," and didn't believe evidence established it, looked for more evidence. They found more evidence, enough to clearly show Mose *not* an historical figure, no Hebrew captivity in Egypt, and no "exodus" -- the current "scholarly consensus." Those who don't believe evidence establishes an historical Jesus aren't crackpots or ideologues, they're reasonable people who feel more evidence is needed before reaching a conclusion is warranted. Bucking the "scholarly consensus," especially when the evidence is so meager and unreliable, is how we get to where we can reach supportable conclusions.

        • I just noticed this ...

          "With all due respect, you just used the false dichotomy again...perhaps
          without realizing? Mythicist arguments aren't valid, so historicity is
          the most likely"

          That's not what I said. I said that the Mythicist arguments are less parsimonious, so the historicist alternatives are, by definition, more likely. This is not a "false dichotomy", it's simply how the historical method works. The rest of your comment also depends on this word "valid" that has been inserted by you - I never used it.

          "They essentially rest on highly questionable Josephus, much later Tacitus"

          They do not. And at least one of the Josephus references is not "questionable" and the fact that Tacitus is "later" is not an issue.

          "Tacitus (who calls christian beliefs "a pernicious myth")"

          Tacitus says no such thing.

          "gospels" that are at best second-hand, and already known to contain a great deal of made-up myth"

          In other words, much like sources that historians use all the time. Big deal. They can be used to tell us what their writers believed about Jesus and that includes elements that indicate a recent historical Jesus.

          "By far the most parsimonius "explanation" is that we can't put forth a supportable explanation"

          That's gibberish.

          "Bucking the "scholarly consensus," especially when the evidence is so
          meager and unreliable, is how we get to where we can reach supportable
          conclusions."

          The "bucking" of this consensus is going to need much better and more parsimonius arguments than the ones the Mythicists are peddling before the consensus changes. And it will need more coherent arguments than your stuff above.

          • Ah Got Somethin Ta Say!

            ""Tacitus (who calls christian beliefs "a pernicious myth")"

            Tacitus says no such thing."

            Huh? He absolutely says that. It's not arguable. It has been translated slightly differently, of course, sometimes as "pernicious superstition", but the meaning is consistent. It's also consistent with the elite class' opinion of Christian beliefs at the time.

            Tacitus' words remain a scathing indictment of early Christians, which is hilariously ironic given that its so commonly revisited as proof of Christ historicity.

            You make some truly confounding arguments here. Historicity does NOT rest upon evidence from Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny, etc? Of course it does. It relies upon it almost exclusively.

            I'm sorry, but despite what appears to be an honest effort, this was a very poor case for your argument.

      • Doug Shaver

        the idea that there was a historical Jesus accounts for more of the evidence more parsimoniously and without the ad hoc workarounds and suppositions that are required to keep the Mythicist alternative from collapsing.

        That is the consensus, yes. I have seen no cogent argument defending that consensus. Every argument I have so far seen in defense of Jesus' historicity either assumes its conclusion or is a naked appeal to authority, and usually both.

        • "I have seen no cogent argument defending that consensus."

          Says the guy commenting on an article that is a cogent argument defending that consensus.

          "Every argument I have so far seen in defense of Jesus' historicity
          either assumes its conclusion or is a naked appeal to authority, and
          usually both."

          Says the guy commenting on an article that is neither.

          Thanks for your comment Doug - as entertaining as ever.

          • Doug Shaver

            An argument is not cogent just because it reinforces a belief you held before you ever saw the argument. It is cogent if it offers a set of facts not in dispute and demonstrates, by valid argument, the improbability of their having obtained if the conclusion did not obtain. I'll get back to that in a moment. First I will address your claim to have neither assumed your conclusion nor appealed to authority.

            Beginning with the latter: Here is your opening statement:

            Scholars who specialize in the origins of Christianity agree on very little, but they do generally agree that it is most likely that a historical preacher, on whom the Christian figure "Jesus Christ" is based, did exist. The numbers of professional scholars, out of the many thousands in this and related fields, who don't accept this consensus, can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

            If that is not an argument from authority, then it is simply a gross irrelevance. Take your pick.

            You then go on:

            More recently the "Jesus Myth" hypothesis has experienced something of a revival, largely via the internet, blogging, and "print on demand" self-publishing services. But its proponents are almost never scholars, many of them have a very poor grasp of the evidence, and almost all have clear ideological objectives.

            This is mostly pure ad hominem, and the "almost never scholars" sneer looks like another appeal to authority, i.e. implying that the real experts disagree with these people.

            Two further examples:

            Many of the arguments for a Mythic Jesus that some laypeople think sound highly convincing are exactly the same ones that scholars consider laughably weak . . . . [T]he least popular of the Jesus Myth hypotheses . . . [are] argued by Italian amateur theorist Francesco Carotta . . . computer programmer Joseph Atwill . . . and accountant Daniel Unterbrink . . . .

            As to circularity:

            He [Paul] says Jesus was born as a human, of a human mother, and born a Jew (Galatians 4:4). He repeats that he had a "human nature" and that he was a human descendant of King David (Romans 1:3). He refers to teachings Jesus made during his earthly ministry on divorce (1 Cor. 7:10), on preachers (1 Cor. 9:14) and on the coming apocalypse (1 Thess. 4:15). He mentions how he was executed by earthly rulers (1 Cor. 2:8) and that he died and was buried (1 Cor 15:3-4). And he says he had an earthly, physical brother called James who Paul himself had met (Galatians 1:19).

            Paul says none of that, except that he died and was buried. All the rest is your interpretation of what he said, an interpretation that presupposes Jesus' historicity.

            You also say:

            Despite being the original form of Christianity and despite surviving, according to Doherty, well into the second century, this celestial Jesus sect vanished without leaving any evidence of its existence behind and was undreamt of until Doherty came along and deduced that it had once existed.

            You could have argued that Doherty's evidence is insufficient to prove his thesis, but you don't. You say his evidence doesn't even exist. To deny that he offers any evidence at all requires two assumptions. You must assume that evidence, by definition, cannot exist for a false hypothesis, and you must assume that historicism is true and therefore Doherty's hypothesis is false.

            As for cogency . . . you say:

            In fact, there are some very good reasons there is a broad scholarly consensus on the matter and that it is held by scholars across a wide range of beliefs and backgrounds, including those who are atheists and agnostics

            You do not, however, say what those reasons are (and whatever they are, they are not good reasons just because you say so). What you offer instead are a few criticisms of arguments against historicity. An argument that your opponent has failed to adequately defend his position is no argument in favor of your own position.

          • "An argument is not cogent just because it reinforces a belief you held before you ever saw the argument."

            I'm an atheist, so I just go with the argument that doesn't require ad hoc workarounds, suppostiions piled on suppositions and contrived arguments marshalled purely to make inconvenient evidence go away. So I don't go with Mythicism. If the Mythcists could actually come up with a coherent argument that wasn't propped up with all this crap, I'd accept it happily. I don't care if Jesus existed or not. But I do care about only accepting coherent arguments and not contrived nonsense
            .
            "If that is not an argument from authority, then it is simply a gross irrelevance."

            It's neither. it's noting a consensus. In the humanities, where the aim is to convince your peers that your argument is the most cogent and parsimonious, consensus actually counts for a lot.

            "This is mostly pure ad hominem, and the "almost never scholars" sneer looks like another appeal to authority"

            It's noting a fact. Whenever I see the experts alll on one side and pack of amateur nobodies on the other, my sceptical alarm bell begins to ring. Perhaps you aren't very sceptical.

            "Paul says none of that, except that he died and was buried. All the rest is your interpretation of what he said"

            Yes, the most logical interpretation. As opposed to the contrived nonsense that takes a phrase like "born of a woman" and twists it into a pretzel shape until it somehow means "NOT born of a woman". Sorry, but I don't have the Mythicist capacity for that kind of doublethink.

            "You could have argued that Doherty's evidence is insufficient to prove
            his thesis, but you don't. You say his evidence doesn't even exist."

            I say the evidence for what he claims on that particular issue doesn't exist. And it should, if his thesis is correct. Therefore this indicates that his thesis isn't correct and this is just another baseless supposition that he uses to keep his thesis from collapsing. See above about coherence.

            "You do not, however, say what those reasons ar"

            Yes, I do. You just tried to counter a few of them, with your usual incompetence.

          • Doug Shaver

            I just go with the argument that doesn't require ad hoc workarounds, suppostiions piled on suppositions and contrived arguments marshalled purely to make inconvenient evidence go away.

            So do I, except I don't accuse my adversaries of trying to make evidence go away.

            "If that is not an argument from authority, then it is simply a gross irrelevance."

            It's neither. it's noting a consensus

            And that's your excuse? An argument from consensus is as much a fallacy as an argument from authority.

            In the humanities, where the aim is to convince your peers that your argument is the most cogent and parsimonious, consensus actually counts for a lot.

            Too bad for the humanities, then. An argument is not made cogent by the fact that it persuades a large number of people, and consensus has no relevance at all to the issue of parsimony.

            "Paul says none of that, except that he died and was buried. All the rest is your interpretation of what he said"

            Yes, the most logical interpretation.

            You say so.

            I say the evidence for what he [Doherty] claims on that particular issue doesn't exist

            On that particular issue, his evidence includes the New Testament epistles as well as the earliest patristic writings. You can disagree all you like about what that evidence actually proves, but it is a blatant misrepresentation to say that he has no evidence.

            "You do not, however, say what those reasons ar"

            Yes, I do. You just tried to counter a few of them,

            I know what I was countering. I was countering some of your objections to mythicist arguments. You don't create a good argument for your position by proving that your opponent has a bad argument for his position.

          • " I don't accuse my adversaries of trying to make evidence go away."

            The ridiculous contrived efforts of Carrier to make Josephus Ant.XX.9.1 and Tacitus Annals XV.44 disappear in a puff of sophistry has convinced no-one but his clueless fanboys. So it's not an "accusation".

            "An argument from consensus is as much a fallacy as an argument from authority."

            I'm not making an argument, I'm making an observation. Then I go on to give many of the reasons this consensus exists. I realise the fact that you and the rest of the Myther Brigade are off on the fringes hurts yoiu, but I'm afraid that's just the reality. Deal with it.

            "An argument is not made cogent by the fact that it persuades a large number of people, and consensus has no relevance at all to the issue of parsimony."

            In a field like history, the idea is to convince your peers that your position is the most parsimonious. So if we have a consensus it's because there is agreement on this. So, sorry again that you're on the wrong side of the consensus. Maybe you need to rethink your position.

            "On that particular issue, his evidence includes the New Testament epistles as well as the earliest patristic writings. You can disagree all you like about what that evidence actually proves ..."

            No, I'm disputing that the evidence exists. Try to focus - we're talking here about Doherty's fanciful claims that there was a proto-Christianity that believed in a purely celestial Jesus that existed alongside the later form of Christianity that (somehow) came to believe in a historical Jesus and then got usurped by it. You claim there is evidence of this proto-Christianity? Great - let's see it.

            "You don't create a good argument for your position by proving that your opponent has a bad argument for his position."

            Please try to grasp that in history we are looking for the argument that explains the evidence best. If your position is made up of bad arguments and mine isn't, then mine explains the evidence best. This is the case with the historical Jesus argument. If the Myther alternatives weren't propped up with such crappy arguments and could be shown to be more parsimonious than the historicist position I'd happily change sides. But while it remains a creaking contrivance propped up by Carrier's sophistry and Doherty's baseless fantasies, it stays on the crap pile where it belongs.

            Perhaps you should ask yourself why you support such a position. I strongly suspect it has more to do with an emotionally based animus against Christianity than anything actually rational.

          • Doug Shaver

            Perhaps you should ask yourself why you support such a position. I strongly suspect it has more to do with an emotionally based animus against Christianity than anything actually rational.

            To sustain your own position, you can suspect whatever you need to suspect in order to discredit anyone who disagrees with you. My writings don't have much a following, but the handful of people familiar with them know just how much of an animus against Christianity I have.

          • Yes Doug, anyone reading your 1580+ obsessive ranting comments on Disqus about Christianity can see you have no animus against Christianity at all and are thus a shining model of objective rationality on the subject of Christianity's historical origins.

          • Doug Shaver

            I wasn't thinking just of this forum, although I have no problem with my record here, either.

  • Phillip Mitchell

    No Richard Carrier? No David Fitzgerald?

    • An unemployed blogger and a self-published nobody? What relevance do they have here, exactly?

      • Phillip Mitchell

        Sweet ad hominems, bro. Your discussion is incomplete if it fails to incorporate new contradictions.

        But then again, you're not interested in anything but the easily refuted, low-hanging fruit, but rather sensationalist, provocative titles and pushing your personal narrative.

        This isn't journalism, and you're not a journalist.

        • "Sweet ad hominems, bro."

          Accurate descriptors actually, "bro". Carrier has never held an academic position in his life and has effectively (and realistically( abandoned his failed attempt at an academic career. Fitzgerald is a complete nobody whose little book was self-published through Lulu.com - an online print-on-demand service. I'm sorry that these facts don't reflect well on the position that you seem to like, but I'm afraid that doesn't change reality.

          "Your discussion is incomplete if it fails to incorporate new contradictions."

          What "new contradictions", exactly? And there is absolutely nothing "new" in this debate. The Mythers are simply reheating old arguments that the consensus position of scholarship rejected a century ago.

          "But then again, you're not interested in anything but the easily
          refuted, low-hanging fruit, but rather sensationalist, provocative
          titles and pushing your personal narrative."

          Gosh. So where is the "high hanging fruit" that I'm supposedly avoiding? Let's see it.

          "This isn't journalism, and you're not a journalist."

          I claimed to be "a journalist"? Where? You seem very confused.

          • Phillip Mitchell

            Carrier has a doctorate in ancient history from Columbia, you twit.

          • Did I say he had no qualifications? I said his academic career has failed. Newsflash - for my day job I head up recruitment at one of the world's leading universities. Every day of the week my team get literally thousands of applications from people with doctorates. When we advertise entry level roles for historians, they flood in. Given the massive competition for these roles, only a small proportion of them make it to the long list my team presents to the academic selection committee. A smaller proportion make it to interview.

            Given his paltry publishing record, his near total lack of citations and his failure to secure even a measly teaching assistantship, Carrier's CV would go straight to the trash can. I see resumes every day that are vastly more impressive than his. And they are often from people who graduated much more recently than he did.

            Still, they haven't wasted years of their time as a dilettante writing self-indulgent polemics and giving talks at Skeptics conferences. They were busy working on their real academic careers. Which is why his faint hope at a real academic career tanked years ago. He's a nobody going nowhere.

          • Phillip Mitchell

            Apologies for calling you a twit earlier.

            The thing is, maybe Carrier doesn't want to teach? I'd understand if your aversion to him was related more to his activity on FreeThought Blogs (Where many people alienated the likes of thunderf00t and The Armoured Skeptic) but that's somewhat different to what we're discussing.

            Also, don't consider this a slam on your school or anything, but I don't think you can expect a CV from Carrier out there in Australia any time soon. It's not like Berkely and Columbia are shit schools by any stretch.

          • "The thing is, maybe Carrier doesn't want to teach?"

            Thing is, because Carrier seems to have a compulsive need to broadcast his life to all and sundry (including, most recently, some pretty sleazy stuff about his cheating on his long suffering wife and how he's decided that this is actually his new "sexual orientation"), he made it clear that he did want an academic position. He's since realised this isn't going to happen.

            "I'd understand if your aversion to him was related more to his activity on FreeThought Blogs"

            My "aversion" is to anyone who distorts history out of an ideological bias. That's whether they are Christians, Jews, atheists or Calathumpians. Carrier is the poster boy for that kind of distortion.

            "Also, don't consider this a slam on your school or anything, but I don't
            think you can expect a CV from Carrier out there in Australia any time
            soon. It's not like Berkely and Columbia are shit schools by any stretch."

            Carrier has a snowflake's chance in hell of getting a position at either Berkely or Columbia. And he would give his right arm to get one in any of the top 100 institutions in the world. I work for a university in the top 50 overall and which is 18 in the world in the Arts and Humanities. He has a snowflake's chance in hell of getting a position there as well.

          • Phillip Mitchell

            As far as his stuff with his wife: I don't really care. Humans are gregariously sexual animals, and monogamy isn't for everyone. Society remains polluted by the endemic preconceptions of marriage as being "one man, one woman" and Carrier, having grown up in such a society (As I did, as well as yourself) means that it was only after he realized that he at 45 looked like he was in his mid 20s meant the dating world was a much broader place than he'd been programmed to realize.

            I personally am monogamous, but monogamy and polygamy/polyamory are equally at home in a species of social ape such as Homo Sapiiens Sapiens. Watch some Bonobo footage, lol. We're not that different in practice, other than the whole "wearing clothes and building shit" thing.

          • As far as his stuff with his wife: I don't really care."

            Believe me, not only don't I care I really don't want to know. But the point is that Carrier feels the need to broadcast all kinds of things about himself, including that and his failure to secure the academic position he wanted. He seems to think we are all as fascinated with him as he is.

          • Phillip Mitchell

            I'm unconcerned with how arrogant he is. He makes good points.

          • How boring and narcissistic he is is a side issue. And he does not make good points - his arguments are tendentious garbage. If you think any of his points are "good", give an example here and let's see how they stand up to sustained criticism.

          • Phillip Mitchell

            Why don't you do a point by point refutation of his book? Like I said before, I'm not exactly an expert, though my criticisms about you refusing to even broach the most current material in the ongoing myth debate are valid even if only because you didn't bother to even include his work on your short list, and went on to point out the failures of all of the mythicists that Carrier also considers (mostly) to be lacking in academic value. So far you've only agreed with him, in a roundabout way.

          • "Why don't you do a point by point refutation of his book?"

            Because (i) that would take a book in itself and (ii) his book is simply not important enough to warrant the effort. His book was launched with great fanfare (by him, of course), but it has sunk without trace. It has been a year since it was published and it has yet to get any academic reviews, let alone any citations. In academic terms, that's a disasterous failure. Poor Carrier has been reduced to responding to Amazon.com reviews on his blog because no-one else is paying any attention. So sorry, but I'm not going to waste months of my life refuting a clunker like that.

            "you didn't bother to even include his work on your short list"

            My article above was first written on December 11 2011. Carrier's book was published June 2014. I didn't mention his book because I'm unable to see into the future and didn't have access to a time machine.

          • Phillip Mitchell

            Would you like me to try and set up a one-on-one debate between you and Carrier in a Facebook group or something? I'm admittedly unqualified to argue his points with even remotely the efficacy as he does, though he has several youtubes up about his stance on the Historicity of Jesus that you plainly haven't watched because you betray your ignorance on most of his points with every word of derision you have for him.

            Atheists playing at Christian Apologetics on primarily religious websites strike me as... Odd.

          • "Would you like me to try and set up a one-on-one debate between you and Carrier in a Facebook group or something?"

            Others have tried, but he seems a bit shy about that idea.

            "Atheists playing at Christian Apologetics on primarily religious websites strike me as... Odd."

            That comment strikes me as not only odd but stupid. I'm talking history - nothing more. I just posted a reply to you where I challenged you to show me where in the earliest Christian texts Jesus is depicted as God. Sound like "Christian apologetics" to you? Try to think rationally. And the only reason I am on this site at all is the owners approached me about reproducing an article from my blog. I'm interested in debunking crappy pseudo historical arguments - nothing more. Don't try that weak smear again or you'll find me getting much less civil and patient with you than I've been so far.

          • Phillip Mitchell

            You were cherry picked because you support their narrative. Just like Ken Ham will cherry pick stuff from Atheists if he thinks it even remotely supports his narrative.

            Having been recruited by theists to support their narrative is a pretty good example of "not atheisting correctly".

          • Michael Murray

            What on earth does

            "not atheisting correctly"

            mean ?

          • Phillip Mitchell

            It's a joke in the online atheist "community". Basically, atheists in general have less in common than people who are not fans of Taylor Swift.

          • "You were cherry picked because you support their narrative."

            One part of it. Given that virtually everyone except the tiny gaggle of fringe contrarians agrees on that part, I fail to see the problem.

            "Having been recruited by theists to support their narrative is a pretty good example of "not atheisting correctly".

            Nice "no true Scotsman" you've got there. I'm an atheist because I have no belief in any God or gods. There's no ideological agenda I have to follow or set of dogmas I have to adhere to lest I be considered a heretic. And you've been warned once already about these feeble little sneers. It seems they are now all you've got, however.

          • Phillip Mitchell

            That second comment was pretty tongue-in-cheek. Nevertheless, roundworms are atheists too.

            Cool that you're accusing me of a "No True Scotsman". Now you choose to care about fallacies after ad-homming Carrier and Fitzgerald both. You won't take them on because you know you're not up to the task.

            I'm sure you could parrot Ehrman some more though, if you ever were put in a position to defend your backhanded dismissal of them.

          • "Now you choose to care about fallacies after ad-homming Carrier and Fitzgerald both."

            (i) Accurately describing them is not an ad hominem, however much it makes you uncomfortable. (ii) Using an ad hominem does not constitute an ad hominem fallacy. You seem to be one of many who don't seem to understand what the ad hominem fallacy is.

            You won't take them on because you know you're not up to the task.

            I "take on" Fitzgerald's awful book in some detail here. I then take him on in more detail, with some demolition of Carrier in the process here. So, you were saying?"

            "I'm sure you could parrot Ehrman some more though, if you ever were put in a position to defend your backhanded dismissal of them."

            If any of my arguments overlap with those of Ehrman or any of the other leading scholars in the field on this subject that just shows that I am on very solid scholarly ground. That you seem to think this is a problem speaks volumes about your grasp of things.

            And I've invited you to present any arguments you think I can't answer several times. You've dodged that offer each time.

          • Phillip Mitchell

            I did tell you that you could just do a point-by-point refutation of Carrier's book, but you declined because you "can't be arsed™".

          • I declined because it would take a book in itself. I have repeatedly offered to counter any argument he makes that you find convincing, but you keep avoiding that for some reason.

          • Phillip Mitchell

            I addressed your biblical assertions that the earliest Christians believed in a historical Jesus.

          • And I just destroyed your feeble cribs from Carrier, in great detail. You have no grasp of the material, zero knowledge of the Greek and can't even keep the topic under discussion straight in your head. Why you keep posting this weak fringe nonsense, taken uncritically from a total nobody, I have no idea.

            Actually, I do know - you aren't thinking rationally. You are working from what you, emotionally, desperately WANT to believe. Just like Creationists do.

            You need to look hard at your motivations and try to actually be a rationalist.

          • "I addressed your biblical assertions that the earliest Christians believed in a historical Jesus."

            Yes, badly. I destroyed your bungled and confused objections. Got anything else?

          • William Davis

            I agree with you completely. For me it's about the truth, at least as close as we can get to it (obviously we can't have but so much certainty on anything in ancient history). Nothing more, nothing less.

      • Phillip Mitchell

        Also, why does whether or not Jesus was a historical figure even matter to you? Whether he existed is secondary to whether or not he was a divine figure or whether or not miracles are a thing. We both agree that even if he did actually exist, Josephus had him wrong, the 1st century apologists had him wrong, a schmuck on a stick is just as dead as any other.

        • "Also, why does whether or not Jesus was a historical figure even matter to you?"

          I'm interested in the history of Christianity including it's origins. So of course I'm going to assess the question of whether its founder existed or not.

          a schmuck on a stick is just as dead as any other.

          So? If Muhammed was just a camel trader and not the genuine Prophet of Allah, does that make him somehow less historically significant? Joseph Smith's claims were almost certainly fraudulent but does that somehow make Mormonism less of a significant topic in American history?

          This argument is very strange.

          • Phillip Mitchell

            Regardless, having looked into a lot of the sources you cite, none of them are really as thorough as Carrier's work in my opinion, so omitting him and his arguments from the discussion in its entirety is a disservice to both sides of the argument, (Which is why I called out your ad-hom earlier, which that's exactly what it is.) Rather than address his arguments for an Euhemerized Jesus based on his extensive knowledge of contemporary mystery cults, you mock and deride him as "an unemployed blogger" and completely sweep his credentials (which in the field of ancient history, far outstrips a, *ahem*, "Master of Arts in Medieval Literature™") under the rug to, again, support your narrative. You said the mythicist materials were basically shit, Carrier actually agrees with you there. By not including his body of work in the discussion due to your personal problems with him (or whatever, iunno) you're failing to properly construct your own argument in favor of historicity, by omission.

          • Okay - so how about you present a couple of these supposedly killer arguments that I'm allegedly avoiding because they are so mighty and let's see if I (with my mere Masters in medieval lit) can't deal with them in detail.

            Take his "arguments for an Euhemerized Jesus based on his extensive knowledge of contemporary mystery cults". His problems there are twofold. (i) He doesn't explain why we should conclude that Jesus is a deity who was "euhemerised" by showing why we shouldn't conclude that he was a man who underwent apotheosis. He fits the latter explanation far better. (ii) Jesus only begins to resemble the saviour gods of the mystery traditions slightly and only in the later material. In the earlier material he resembles Jewish traditions about apocalyptic Messianic expectations. And in the earlier traditions, he is only a man, not a god. That doesn't fit the idea that he started out of as a god and got "euhemerised. Try this - find me a single reference to Jesus as divine in the synoptic gospels or in the seven most-likely authentic Pauline epistles. Good luck.

            Carrier's thesis doesn't fit the evidence. Which is why he spends so much time trimming the evidence to try to shoehorn it into his thesis.

          • Okay - so how about you present a couple of these supposedly killer arguments that I'm allegedly avoiding because they are so mighty and let's see if I (with my mere Masters in medieval lit) can't deal with them in detail.

            Take his "arguments for an Euhemerized Jesus based on his extensive knowledge of contemporary mystery cults". His problems there are twofold. (i) He doesn't explain why we should conclude that Jesus is a deity who was "euhemerised" by showing why we shouldn't conclude that he was a man who underwent apotheosis. He fits the latter explanation far better. (ii) Jesus only begins to resemble the saviour gods of the mystery traditions slightly and only in the later material. In the earlier material he resembles Jewish traditions about apocalyptic Messianic expectations. And in the earlier traditions, he is only a man, not a god. That doesn't fit the idea that he started out of as a god and got "euhemerised. Try this - find me a single reference to Jesus as divine in the synoptic gospels or in the seven most-likely authentic Pauline epistles. Good luck.

            Carrier's thesis doesn't fit the evidence. Which is why he spends so much time trimming the evidence to try to shoehorn it into his thesis.

          • Doug Shaver

            I'm convinced that Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy all by his lonesome with any help or encouragement from anyone else, but I don't throw gratuitous insults at everyone who says he was set up by the CIA to do it.

          • Sometimes insults are not gratuitous.

          • Doug Shaver

            Seems to me like a difference of perspective. Or maybe semantics. In any case, it seems to give you considerable pleasure to insult everyone who thinks you're wrong about this particular issue.

          • Where are these terrible "insults"? Academically speaking Fitzgerald is a nobody. And Carrier is an unemployed blogger. These are not mere "insults" they are statements of fact. They are also relevant statements of fact, since these guys keep getting held up as though they are scholars of significance whose opinions are worth noting as opposed to biased polemicists with an axe to grind. Carrier is a scholar of no significance and Fitzgerlad isn't a scholar at all.

          • Doug Shaver

            Where are these terrible "insults"?

            I did not characterize them as terrible. I did not characterize them at all. I just said you were insulting those who disagree with you.

            Academically speaking Fitzgerald is a nobody. And Carrier is an unemployed blogger.

            And therefore what? Must a statement be untrue in order to qualify as an insult?

          • Whatever you want to call them, if they are making a relevant point, they are (by definition) not "gratuitous".

          • Doug Shaver

            The only possibly relevant point you're making is that the academic establishment is doing its level best to ignore Carrier and anyone else who dares to question its presuppositions about how Christianity got started.

          • The relevant point I'm making is that Carrier can't be held up as some kind of significant scholar in the field when he is an absolute nobody. And "doing its level best to ignore Carrier" makes it sound as though this requires some effort. The few who have even noticed he exists have looked at his arguments and recognised them for what they are - recycled stuff that the field rejected a century ago. Most in the field don't even know he exists, largely because he is not actually part of the field at all - he has no position at any university, takes part in no relevant conferences and has a paltry publishing record in any relevant journals. Try to get it through your head: your hero is a nobody.

          • Doug Shaver

            The relevant point I'm making is that Carrier can't be held up as some kind of significant scholar in the field when he is an absolute nobody. . . . Try to get it through your head: your hero is a nobody.

            Try to get this through your head: His professional significance is irrelevant. The credibility of his argument has nothing to do with his c.v.

            recycled stuff that the field rejected a century ago.

            I know what was rejected a century ago. Carrier is not recycling it. I have also read the counterarguments that historicists were making a century ago. Those are being recycled. They were fallacious a century ago, and they're still fallacious.

          • "Try to get this through your head: His professional significance is irrelevant. "

            Try to get this through your head: It's directly relevant to the question of whether my pointing out his low status and significance is merely a "gratuitous insult" or a relevant counter to the claim that his support of the Mythicist position lends it some kind of credibility. Please focus.

            "They were fallacious a century ago, and they're still fallacious."

            I'll give your assessment of the matter all the consideration and weight it deserves, random ranting biased keyboard warrior man.

          • Doug Shaver

            Please focus.

            On what? I'm not interested in Carrier's reputation. In a debate on Jesus' historicity, I would want to focus on comparing his arguments with the arguments offered in defense of historicity. Your fixation on the academic consensus is nothing but an argument from authority.

          • "On what?"

            On what is under discussion. Here it's whether noting someone's lack of status and credibility in the academic sphere is relevant to whether they should be taken seriously or whether it's merely a "gratuitous insult". Your inability to be able to follow even the most simple line of argument is astounding. And also boring. Go away Shaver, you're a complete waste of my time.

          • Doug Shaver

            you're a complete waste of my time.

            I guess I am, but you're not the only person here whose time I'm taking. Other people are following this discussion. They can learn something from you, or they can learn something from me, or they can learn something from both of us, quite regardless of whether you or I can learn anything from the other.

          • Doug Shaver

            They are also relevant statements of fact, since these guys keep getting held up as though they are scholars of significance whose opinions are worth noting

            I have not studied Fitzgerald's work, so I can't comment on it. I have been following Carrier's work for a long time, and I couldn't care less about his reputation within the academic community. It appears to me that his research is thorough and his reasoning is cogent. Obviously you have formed a different judgment on those points. You and I could debate that if we were in an appropriate venue, but if we did, neither of us could win any points by saying one thing about how easily he could get a job at any reputable university.

          • "It appears to me that his research is thorough and his reasoning is cogent."

            That's nice, random internet person. Unfortunately for Carrier, his academic peers (and superiors) disagree. Which is why his recent two books, launched with such high hopes and great fanfare, have sunk without trace when it comes to academic notice or citation. He is a failure.

            "You and I could debate that if we were in an appropriate venue, but if we did, neither of us could win any points by saying one thing about how easily he could get a job at any reputable university."

            Given what I do for a living, what I had to say on why he has failed to get an academic job despite seven years of trying would actually "win points". I am head of academic recruitment at a top university. So I know what I'm talking about.

          • Doug Shaver

            Given what I do for a living, what I had to say on why he has failed to get an academic job despite seven years of trying would actually "win points".

            You've made it perfectly obvious why he couldn't get hired at any university where he needed your endorsement, or the endorsement of anybody who shares your opinions about Jesus' historicity.

          • His views would not be the issue. The fact that he's failed to secure an academic appointment in seven years alone would put him on the reject pile. And, compared to others who graduated back in 2008, his publishing record is paltry. My team regularly rejects candidates for entry level roles that have only had their doctorates for two or three years who have double the publications he has. Any chance he had at an actual academic career tanked several years ago. He will now remain what is is now - a fringe contrarian that no-one pays any attention to.

          • Doug Shaver

            The fact that he's failed to secure an academic appointment in seven years alone would put him on the reject pile.

            The reasons for that failure would be irrelevant, in your judgment?

            My team regularly rejects candidates for entry level roles that have only had their doctorates for two or three years who have double the publications he has.

            Do you count by pages or by titles? Does one book equal one journal article?

          • "The reasons for that failure would be irrelevant, in your judgment?

            The reason for that failure is the fact that he wasted the years following his graduation writing self-published books on atheism, writing vast blog posts, addressing sceptics conferences and generally performing for a peanut gallery of a anti-theist fanboys. That's the critical period for an early career academic - the one in which they are cramming in all the teaching experience, conference paper delivery, article writing and peer reviewed book publication they can. Carrier was too busy being an atheist celebrity in his own mind to bother with actually doing the hard work required to get his foot on the first rungs of the ladder. He's now missed his chance.

            "Do you count by pages or by titles? Does one book equal one journal article?"

            We have a whole department of people in the office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research who do nothing all day but use a variety of very careful metrics to determine academic rankings. All universities do this. All academics are also very familiar with what journals in their field carry what weight, what citations are significant and what presses are more influential and, therefore, hard to be published by. We know what we're doing when we make these judgements - we do it every day and people have been doing it all over the world for many, many years. If you don't understand what we do, I can't say that's a surprise. But we do.

          • Doug Shaver

            If you don't understand what we do, I can't say that's a surprise.

            I had no idea what you do, so there was nothing for me to understand until you told me. Thank you for the enlightenment.

          • Bruce Grubb

            Yet Carrier achieved what no other mythist has: a PEER REVIEWED WORK PUBLISHED BY A RECOGNIZED ACADEMIC PUBLISHER on the matter. Agree with the position or not (I will say it has some problems) one cannot deny THAT!

          • The idea that this book was "peer reviewed" is actually highly dubious, since Carrier talked before publication about selecting these "peers" himself. That's not how proper, blind review is meant to work and makes the value of this "peer review" deeply suspect.

            That aside - big deal. There are far more marginal theories than Jesus Mythicism that have made it through peer review. That process isn't some imprimatur that guarantees truth, it simply means the argument is coherent and comes up a level of academic seriousness with no patent errors. More significant is the reception of that book - silence. It has failed to receive a single independent academic review notice in two years since publication. That's total failure. His book is stinker that has sunk without trace. It's the tombstone on his stillborn academic career, such as it was. The guy is a failure who has now been, literally, reduced to begging. He's a laughing stock in academia, at least amongst the few who have heard of the nobody in the first place.

          • Bruce Grubb

            Sorry O'neill but by all accounts I could find that is the way peer review is done in the UK's academic circles:

            "The section for potential authors on Sheffield Phoenix Press's website says, 'Manuscripts offered by the author will always be sent for evaluation to a series editor or a reader for the Press.

            http://www.sheffieldphoenix.com/authors.asp

            That's absolutely standard for history books published by UK academic presses, although frequently it's two readers, often one of series editors and an outside reader.Series editors will be major experts in the field covered by the series. That they are the editors of a particular series is not secret. Typically the one who will read it will be whichever of them is most qualified. If a second reader is used, this will usually be an outside expert. The series editors then take a collective decision on whether to accept the book. Obviously the views of the one who has read the book tends to carry the most weight. Given that one of the readers' reports will probably be by a series editor, it may not be too difficult for the author to work out who wrote that particular report. But the author will know that it's the series editors who have the final say anyway. The author may well also find out who the other reader was, as this is where the publishers get their blurbs from. Or the reader may just tell the author.

            The process for collections of essays in history is usually much the same. Most academic presses will send them out to one outside reader. That's because the editor(s) of the collection will usually have invited the contributors to contribute and so cannot be considered independent.

            Academic publishers will sometimes ask authors for recommendations for possible readers. But of course they do so in the full knowledge that authors will recommend names they think will be sympathetic. This can be used as a way of working out who not to send the book to."

            So the process of peer review Carrier used is "absolutely standard for history books published by UK academic presses" and the academic publisher has final say regarding the approval of any reviewer that an author may present. Furthermore in the case of Sheffield Phoenix one of those reviewers will always be a "series editor or a reader for the Press".

            Carrier seems to have the followed the peer review requirements our brethren across the pond have to the letter. You and others may not like it but that is the way it is. Deal with it.

          • "by all accounts I could find"

            You mean "one post in a discussion HERE that otherwise totally condemns Carrier". Anyone who reads that whole discussion will see a general consensus that what Carrier has characterised as "peer review" is not standard at all, that what he did was select and submit his manuscript to four "reviewers" of his own choosing and that the small press in question, when asked what their review process was replied with a rude response that was totally unenlightening.

            Why the hell was Carrier not only selecting his reviewers, but submitting the manuscript to them himself? Why was it Carrier who was receiving their reports? Why did he submitt to four (self-selected) reviewers and then proceed after only hearing back from two? What about the other two? Who were these reviewers? Where is the "series editor" in all this? This is not even remotely "absolutely standard" - in fact it's a dubious as hell.

            And then there is the fact that, as we find HERE (as already pointed out by another commenter on this thread), what Carrier has been trumpeting as "the publishing house of the University of Sheffield" and "Sheffield university press" (with careful use of lower case letters on key words) is, in fact, a private press run by three academics and is "is not in any way formally affiliated with or endorsed by the institution".

            So the stench of lies is strong around this "peer reviewed and published by the University of Sheffield" garbage. But this is all about typical for Carrier.

          • Bruce Grubb

            APB and Exapno Mapcase were the LAST *usefull* words on the matter and NO ONE REFUTED THEIR STATEMENTS.

            More over

            n the thread you referenced we had this:

            "I emailed the publisher, as follows:

            Can you briefly describe the peer review process that Richard Carrier's _On the Historicity of Jesus_ went through? Was that peer review process part of the decision as to whether to publish?

            and got this reply:

            We can assure anyone who asks that all our books are peer reviewed before being accepted. But we cannot undertake to describe the process just to any person who asks us to do so—life is too short."

            Elsewhere there "Sheffield-Phoenix Press is located in Sheffield University campus facilities and run by members of the Sheffield University faculty. Sheffield-Phoenix Press is a fully peer reviewed academic press."

            Unless you have PROOF otherwise you are coming off a delusional fool.

          • "NO ONE REFUTED THEIR STATEMENTS"

            What they said was generally true. The problems remain - (i) why was it Carrier who was selecting and contacting his own referees? (ii) why was it him who received their reports? (ii) where is the 'series editor' in all this? (iv) why can't this "Sheffield Phoenix Press Ltd" outfit simply do what a real academic press would do and reply to the inquiry about their peer review process with a standard document - why the rude and dismissive "we're not going to bother to give you any details" reply?

            None of this is remotely normal and all of it is more than suspect.

            "Sheffield-Phoenix Press is located in Sheffield University campus
            facilities and run by members of the Sheffield University faculty.
            Sheffield-Phoenix Press is a fully peer reviewed academic press."

            Just one that is oddly dismissive and evasive when asked exactly what this review process entails - thus all the questions above. Whether this small three-man private press is located on the Sheffield campus or invovled staff members was not in question. The problem was Carrier's repeated and rather tricky attempts at presenting "Sheffield Phoenix Press Ltd" as ""Sheffield university press" (with careful use of lower case on the key words). "Brive1987" from the International Skeptics Forum contacted them to check their real association with the University and their reply to him was much clearer than their dismissive response above:

            "[W]e are an independent book publisher with no affliation to the University of Sheffield". Clear enough for you? When Carrier's misleading posts were brought to their attention they responded "[this] appears to be a misunderstanding with just this one author and I have emailed him to ensure that he uses the correct details in future when quoting the publisher of his book"

            So even his publisher has had to pull him up on his blatant and seemingly deliberate misrepresentation. Anything else you'd like to get wrong?

          • Bruce Grubb

            Do try to keep up. As pointed out before UK academica does allow authors to present who they want to peer review their BUT (AND this is the important part) the publisher can accept or reject those selections.

            "Sheffield-Phoenix Press clearly stated "all our books are peer reviewed before being accepted."

            It has been documented via pages of Sheffield University factuality is a major recognized academic publisher in Bible Studies.

            All your drivel is FUD on par with Holocaust deny and Moon landing hoaxer nonsense.

          • "Do try to keep up."

            *chuckle* I'm miles in front of you pal, which is why I've been able to kick every single one of your pathetic parroted arguments to pieces without even trying. I've been over all of these silly Myther arguments a thousand times. This is why you are failing so miserably here.

            "UK academica does allow authors to present who they want to peer review
            their BUT (AND this is the important part) the publisher can accept or
            reject those selections."

            Gosh. Yes, they can suggest reviewers. But then it's over to the publisher. They select the reviewers. Theycontact them. They send them the manuscript. They receive the comments. And they then decide if the work is to be published and, if so, what corrections need to be made. So why does Carrier tell us he did all these things? This is not how this stuff is done with real academic presses.

            "It has been documented via pages of Sheffield University factuality is a major recognized academic publisher in Bible Studies."

            They are not a "major" publisher in anything - they are a tiny three man private press FFS. Get a grip. And the point is that Carrier misrepresented them as "Sheffield university press" and was taken to task by the publishers themselves for doing so. What we are seeing here is a pattern of talking himself up and overstating things that is consistent in the little blowhard Carrier.

          • racismisbaddude

            Interesting that you and Grubb should be having this discussion. In the past week, it has come to light that Carrier has been misrepresenting his publisher for some time:

            http://www.internationalskeptics.com/forums/showpost.php?p=11070394&postcount=2834

            Brive1987 had an e-mail exchange with the publisher in which they affirmed that they have absolutely no connection with Sheffield other than the office space:

            https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CYHi-g5U0AA5jkQ.jpg

            In terms of the peer review, Carrier is also being vague on Twitter about Sheffield Phoenix's peer review procedure. Even worse, Sheffield Phoenix is being vague, too.

            It brings me great sadness to come to this conclusion, as Carrier has done so much for poly/fet visibility in the atheist community, but I have to agree with Brive1987 at this time.

            "Bottom line:

            Carrier's peer review claim does not add meaningful weight to his work's credibility.

            Carrier's claim merely accentuates the lack of actual acceptance of his work in continued debate

            Carrier is hoping the casual amateur scholar will channel the *hard science meaning* of "peer review"."

            http://www.internationalskeptics.com/forums/showpost.php?p=11074932&postcount=2840

          • Matt Cavanaugh

            Odd how Bruce Grubb and Dr. Richard Carrier, PhD are never seen in the same room together.

          • Carrier is much smarter and far more articulate than this Grubb person. They all hero-worship Carrier because they aren't competent enough to see through his smoke-and-mirrors act.

          • Matt Cavanaugh

            So, is Grubb the Carrier fan from Poland, or the one from Hong Kong? I get the two confused sometimes.

          • Hermann Steinpilz

            Carrier's act is becoming more and more transparent. He crowed in August 2013:

            My new book, On the Historicity of Jesus, has passed peer review and is now under contract to be published by a major academic press specializing in biblical studies: Sheffield-Phoenix, the publishing house of the University of Sheffield (UK). I sought four peer review
            reports from major professors of New Testament or Early Christianity, and two have returned their reports, approving with revisions, and those revisions have been made. Since two peers is the standard number for academic publications, we can proceed. Two others missed the assigned deadline, but I’m still hoping to get their reports and I’ll do my best to meet any revisions they require as well.

            Taken to task about misrepresenting the private company
            Sheffield Phoenix as being the publishing house of Sheffield University, and about the dubious peer review practices on display, the great man revised this paragraph only yesterday, as follows:

            My new book, On the Historicity of Jesus, has passed peer review and is now under contract to be published by a major academic press specializing in biblical studies: Sheffield-Phoenix, a publishing house at the University of Sheffield (UK). I sought four peer review reports from major professors of New Testament or Early Christianity, and two have returned their reports, approving with revisions, and those revisions have been made. Since two peers is the standard number for academic publications, we can proceed. And Sheffield’s own peer reviewers have approved the text. Two others missed the assigned deadline, but I’m still hoping to get their reports and I’ll do my best to meet any revisions they require as well.

            Spot the differences (bolded by me)! Carrier has suddenly
            remembered that he had also had peer reviewers who were not hand-picked by himself. He must have forgotten to mention this back in 2013 because it was still too fresh in his mind. Apparently we have here a case of recovered memories.

            Dr. Carrier PhD can not only prove history, he can even rewrite it!

          • Facinating. I've seen other examples where eagle-eyed observers have caught him editing his stuff post facto in the face of criticisms, without noting that he'd done so. He's a slippery character, that's for sure.

          • Hermann Steinpilz

            To be fair, in the comment section to that post he did point out the changes he made. But if you bother to read those comments you will come across other questionable stuff. For example, the added sentence was first written as "Sheffield’s own peer reviewers have also approved the text and their revision requests have been satisfied" before he changed it the next day to "And Sheffields own peer reviewers have approved the text."

            What happened to the "revision requests"? He writes with so many words in one of those comments that although Sheffield Phoenix set at least three(!) peer reviewers the task to review his masterpiece, they did not actually ask for revisions. That's why he removed that bit about the revision requests.

            A 700+ page manuscript by Richard Carrier that didn't need revisions. How believable is that? And what does this tell us about Sheffield Phoenix's peer review process? Nothing positive, I'm afraid. And further down the rabbit hole we go.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Carrier is best ignored. Sadly he has some influence.

          • Michael

            Which parts of On the Historicity of Jesus do you disagree with or regard as inaccurate?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            When I say someone is best ignored, why would I then read a 700 page book by such a person?

          • Michael

            I thought that you may have decided that he is "best ignored" because you disagreed with certain claims made in his work or concluded that those claims were inaccurate.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I've read some Carrier. Enough to know that he is best ignored and his works will likely be consigned to the trash bin of history.

          • Michael

            For those who are interested, Richard wrote about this in the comments section of his latest blog post.

          • Matt Cavanaugh

            Carrier's extreme prolixity shields his work from even greater realization of its stinkiness. Most readers simply give up as their eyes glaze over.

  • Phillip Mitchell

    //Since many people who read Mythicist arguments have never actually read the letters of Paul, this one sounds convincing as well. Except it simply isn't true. While Paul was writing letters about matters of doctrine and disputes and so wasn't giving a basic lesson in who Jesus was in any of this letters, he does make references to Jesus' earthly life in many places. He says Jesus was born as a human, of a human mother, and born a Jew (Galatians 4:4). He repeats that he had a "human nature" and that he was a human descendant of King David (Romans 1:3). He refers to teachings Jesus made during his earthly ministry on divorce (1 Cor. 7:10), on preachers (1 Cor. 9:14) and on the coming apocalypse (1 Thess. 4:15). He mentions how he was executed by earthly rulers (1 Cor. 2:8) and that he died and was buried (1 Cor 15:3-4). And he says he had an earthly, physical brother called James who Paul himself had met (Galatians 1:19).//

    Galatians 4:4: Carrier says that the word here was not "Born" but "Made", and that the original language it was written in has words for both and never minces them. That having been said, we know conclusively who Harry Potter's parents are, too. It's easy to write a lineage into a work of fiction.

    Romans 1:3: Because nobody has any reason to shoehorn Jesus into a retroactive fulfillment of Jewish Messianic prophesy to support the intended narrative. There's no way of verifying whether this is historical fact, taking it for granted as such, makes you a blatant apologist.

    1 Cor 7:10 is referring a passage in Malachi, of the Old Testament. When he says "The Lord" he's referring to Yahweh rather than Yeshua. Next.

    1 Cor. 9:14 is referring to the Jewish practice of the Rabbis surviving on the food and material offerings yielded by sacrifices in the Tabernacle, which Jesus was also referring to in Matthew and Luke. Again, this was a precedent before Yeshua came on the scene. Any good work of historical fiction would be cognizant of these practices.

    1 Thess. 4:15: Again, referencing the old testament. (1 Kings). Also what apocalypse? Lol. You know there's not going to be an apocalypse. You know any reference to such lies between fiction and delusion. This cannot be held up as evidence of the earthly historicity of Yeshua.

    1 Cor. 2:8: Carrier says that the term "Rulers of this Age" is used elsewhere in the new and old testaments in reference to powerful demons. And also, don't you think "...for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." is more than a little paradoxical? To what benefit would NOT sacrificing Jesus have been if they knew that doing so would literally create the terms for salvation? Why would they have avoided saving the world by killing him, if only they knew who he really was? Only demons would feel that way. There's no logical reason for a human being avoiding carrying out the prophesy in making Jesus the Scapegoat To End All Scapegoats™ if they somehow knew what the ramifications of doing so actually were.

    1 Cor 15:3-4: I'll call attention to "According to the Scriptures". Easily identifiable self-fulfilling prophesy and circuit logic. As you yourself have primary expertise in medieval prose, you should easily be able to tell when a work of historical fiction has its own fulfillment of an already well-established prophesy employed as a literary and narrative device.

    Gal 1:19: The same term, "Brother of Christ" is used elsewhere in the Pauline texts to refer to other male Christians.

    //These contrived arguments are so weak they tend to only convince the already convinced. It's this kind of contrivance that consigns this thesis to the fringe.//

    Nice projection.

    So far, none of these verses are even remotely upheld as historical evidence for a living Jesus. You should know better than to use the Bible as evidence to support the claims of the Bible.

    Fucking apologist shill.

    • Phillip Mitchell

      Let's look at the best evidence you have for a historical Jesus, shall we?

      //Essentially, it's because it's the most parsimonious explanation of the evidence we have. //

      Uh, wait, that's it?

    • "Galatians 4:4: Carrier says that the word here was not "Born" but
      "Made", and that the original language it was written in has words for
      both and never minces them."

      Yes, "Carrier says". Unfortunately, because of his wall-eyed ideological bias, "Carrier says" many things that are dead wrong. And because this blogger has spent years performing for a peanut gallery of people who are totally clueless about the relevant linguistics and source material and take his every pronouncement as unvarnished truth, he gets away with howlers like this most of the time.

      If Carrier thinks that the verb here - γίγνομαι - can't mean "to be born" then he should inform the learned editors of the Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon - the standard lexicographical work on Ancient Greek. Here is the LSJ entry on γίγνομαι:

      "γίγνομαι γί-γνομαι is syncopated from γι-γένομαι, the Root being ΓΕΝ; cf. aor. 2 γενέσθαι, γένος, etc.; so Lat. gi-gno for gi-geno.
      I. Radical sense, to come into being, Lat. gigni:
      1. of persons, to be born, νέον γεγαώς new born, Od. ;
      γεγονέναι ἔκ τινος Hdt.; more rarely ἀπό τινος id=Hdt.; τινος
      Eur.:—with Numerals, ἔτεα τρία καὶ δέκα γεγονώς, Lat. natus annos
      tredecim, Hdt., etc.
      2. of things, to be produced, Plat., Xen., etc.:—of sums, ὁ γεγονὼς ἀριθμός the result or amount, Plat.
      3. of events, to take place, come to pass, come on, happen, and in past tenses to be, Hom., etc.:— ὃ μὴ γένοιτο, Lat. quod dii prohibeant, Dem. :—c. dat. et part., γίγνεταί τί μοι βουλομένωι, ἀσμένωι I am glad at its being so, Thuc., etc.:—of sacrifices, omens, etc., to be favourable, id=Thuc., Xen. :—in neut. part., τὸ γενόμενον the event, the fact, Thuc.; τὰ γενόμενα the facts, Xen. ; τὰ γεγενημένα former events, the past, Xen. ; τὸ γενησόμενον the future, Thuc. :—of Time, ὡς τρίτη ἡμέρη ἐγένετο arrived, Hdt"

      The LSJ entry cites several uses of this verb to mean "to be born, to be new born", totally contradicting your claim above, but we also find several Biblical uses of it in that sense - e.g. in the Septuagint version of Sirach 44:9 and in John 8:58. So while the more usual verb for "to be born" was γεννάω, the verb γίγνομαι is used by Paul in Galatians 4:4 in the aorist tense. Since you're obviously not literate in Greek, I'll explain. A verb that takes the aorist indicates that the speaker or writer conceives of the action as a completed whole- a once off action, now done. Therefore, unlike the broader term γεννάω, which can mean everything from "conceived, begotten" to "born, given birth to", the aorist form of γίγνομαι - which in Galatians 4:4 is γενόμενον - indicates something that has undergone a once-only transformation from one state to another.

      In the context of how Paul saw Jesus, given that he believed he had had a heavenly pre-existence and then took on human form, his use of this form makes perfect sense.

      So Carrier is, yet again, dead wrong. Why do you blindly believe this nobody instead of checking your facts?

      Romans 1:3: Because nobody has any reason to shoehorn Jesus into a retroactive fulfillment of Jewish Messianic prophesy to support the
      intended narrative. There's no way of verifying whether this is
      historical fact

      *Closes eyes and pinches nose in attempt at maintaining composure* I've been very patient with your incompetent comments and general bumbling, but if you can't even concentrate long enough to remember what the point under discussion is, I'm pretty much wasting my time. Try to focus - you're meant to be trying to defend the idea that Paul didn't believe Jesus was historical and that he believed he was some purely celestial being in Doherty/Carrier's Middle Platonic, sub-lunar, mythic fairy land in the sky. So whether or not Jesus was or wasn't "descended from David" is irrelevant here. The point is that if Paul believed he was, as this passage clearly indicates, Doherty and Carrier are wrong. Please try to keep up.

      "taking it for granted as such, makes you a blatant apologist."

      See above. I'm not saying he was descended from a human Jewish king, PAUL is. Understand now? Try to focus.

      "1 Cor 7:10 is referring a passage in Malachi, of the Old Testament. When he says "The Lord" he's referring to Yahweh rather than Yeshua."

      You seem to be trying to refer to Malachi 2:16:

      ""The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.”"

      Except the Torah explicitly allows for divorce - see Deuteronomy 24:1-3 - especially in cases of adultery. So there was a debate about how this later statement in Malachi should be interpreted. Most rabbis read it as saying "Divorce is a bad thing, so be faithful so that there will be no need for divorce." But Paul is citing a "Lord" who says something more - "A wife must not separate from her husband". Malachi does not say that at all. Who does? Well, we get this in gMark:

      "Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. .... “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:9-12)

      The Malachi injunction does not forbid divorce, just says it should be avoided. But both the 1Cor reference and the Marcan injunction specifically forbid "separation" and even use forms of exactly the same verb: χωρίζω (to divide or separate). So while the injunction by Jesus that Paul is invoking and gMark is reproducing is almost certainly interpreting Malachi 2:16, both go much further in expressly forbidding separation. This means Paul is referencing Jesus, not Malachi.

      Once again, you don't have enough knowledge of the material to understand when Carrier is dancing around the texts.

      "1 Cor. 9:14 is referring to the Jewish practice of the Rabbis surviving
      on the food and material offerings yielded by sacrifices in the
      Tabernacle"

      What he refers to has nothing to do with "rabbis" - he refers to " those who serve in the temple". They are priests and Levites. But then he says that "in the same way" others - "those who preach the gospel" - are owed a livelihood. So the "Lord has commanded" that like these priests and Levites, preachers are also to be supported. And what do we find in the later gospel traditions? Jesus saying that preachers are to be supported: see Luke 10:7 and Matt 10:10).

      1 Thess. 4:15: Again, referencing the old testament. (1 Kings)

      If you're trying to refer to 1Kings 13:17, that is a very weak parallel.

      "You know there's not going to be an apocalypse."

      Now you're losing focus again. What I happen know is not the issue here. What Paul is referring to is. Try to keep up, please. Having to keep dragging you back to the actual topic is getting tedious. If you can't follow the argument, go away and stop wasting my time.

      "1 Cor. 2:8: Carrier says that the term "Rulers of this Age" is used
      elsewhere in the new and old testaments in reference to powerful demons."

      This one, at least, is arguable. It can be read either way.

      "1 Cor 15:3-4: I'll call attention to "According to the Scriptures".
      Easily identifiable self-fulfilling prophesy and circuit logic."

      And yet again you're losing sight of what is being discussed here. Try to focus. Whether what Paul claims is true or not is not the point. The point is that he claims Jesus was buried. That means he is referring to a human who died, not some ethereal cosmic sub-lunar being of Doherty/Carrier's supposed Platonic fantasy land (one that can't actually be found in any Middle Platonic writings of the time - did Carrier mention that? No? Gosh).

      "Gal 1:19: The same term, "Brother of Christ" is used elsewhere in the Pauline texts to refer to other male Christians."

      Wrong. The term used in Galatians 1:19 is "brother OF the Lord". We find it again in 1Cor 9:5, where it is "brothers OF the Lord". He uses the terms "brother/s IN the Lord" and "brothers/sisters IN Christ" elsewhere, and these terms clearly refer to Christians generally. But in both cases cited the "brother/s OF the Lord" are mentioned alongside other Christians who, clearly, don't fall into this category of "brother/s OF the Lord".

      So who are these separate category of Christians, these "brother/s OF the Lord"? Because they clearly aren't just other Christians and are obviously a distinct sub-group.

      The obvious answer, based on many references to Jesus having brothers in both Christian and non-Christian texts is - they are his siblings. Which trashed the whole Myther thesis.

      Ignorant Mythers blithely ignore this problem. Carrier, who unlike his gaggle of acolytes isn't actually ignorant and stupid, knows he can't. So what does he do? He invents a sub-group out of thin air. By the power of his polemic, arrogance and bias he magically conjures up an "initiatory sub group" who were called the "brothers OF the Lord" but were not actually his siblings (because he didn't exist). His evidence for this? Ummm, he has none. His reason for invoking this unsupported idea? Well, he has to otherwise his whole thesis collapses.

      Seeing the problem yet, loyal Carrier acolyte? This is why your hero is an unemployed blogger who can't get an academic job - he's a biased polemicist who twists and distorts the evidence to come up with contrived arguments that support his a priori ideological conclusion. Just like Creationists do. His arguments are tendentious garbage that only convince people without clue who want to believe him for purely emotional reasons. Just like Creationists.

      The question you need to ask yourself is - why do you follow this guy so blindly? Why don't you check your facts better? Why aren't you a rationalist?

      • Doug Shaver

        If Carrier thinks that the verb here - γίγνομαι - can't mean "to be born" then he should inform the learned editors . . . .

        What gives you the idea that he thinks that? As I recall from when I have read his discussions of that issue, he makes it perfectly clear that he is making no such argument.

        • See if you can work out the meaning of the word "IF" at the beginning of the sentence you quote.

          • Doug Shaver

            What is the point of saying "If A then B" when you don't believe A?

      • Doug Shaver

        His reason for invoking this unsupported idea? Well, he has to otherwise his whole thesis collapses.

        Why, in your judgment, does the entire mythicist case stand or fall on how "brothers of the lord" should be construed?

        • Because if Paul is talking about a literal sibling and not a non-literal "brother", Jesus existed. Try to keep up.

          • Doug Shaver

            if Paul is talking about a literal sibling and not a non-literal "brother" . . . .

            And if he isn't?

          • Bruce Grubb

            WRONG as demonstrated by John Frum whose BIOLOGICAL brother is said to be Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh by one of the splinter factions. One little problem: Prince Philip only has sisters. In fact, John Frum is a textbook example of how the more down to earth Christ Myth theory have some validity. Guiart, Jean (1952) "John Frum Movement in Tanna" Oceania Vol 22 No 3 pg 165-177 http://horizon.documentation.ird.fr/exl-doc/pleins_textes/pleins_textes_5/b_fdi_16-17/22920.pdf (which is referenced in the work Carrier uses) gives us a good snap shot of John Frum c 1951:

            We are told that "A man named Manehevi had posed as a supernatural being by means of ingenious stage management." But later we are also told "From elsewhere rail the rumour that, in spite of the Administration statement, Manehevi was not John Frum, and that the latter was still at liberty."

            Here we are told John Frum was a "supernatural being" while the believers are saying he is an actual man who "was still at liberty"

            If that isn't enough we are also told "John Frum, alias Karaperamun, is always the god of Mount Tukosmoru, which will shelter the planes, then the soldiers."

            Here we are told that John Frum is Karaperamun (who is a long existing volcano god) but we were also told that Manehevi was (or pretended to be) John Frum and that John Frum was another person who was still at liberty.

            As you can see from Guiart's 1952 article, a mere 11 years after the John Frum movement become noticeable by nonbelievers it is not clear if John Frum is simply another name for Karaperamun (the High god of the region), a name that various actual people used as leader of the religious cult, or the name of some other person who inspired the cult perhaps as much as 30 years previously. If to confuse things further it has been suggested that Tom Navy (a companion of John Frum) is based on a real person: Tom Beatty of Mississippi, who served in the New Hebrides both as a missionary, and as a Navy Seabee during the war.

          • WRONG as demonstrated by John Frum ...

            How does that prove what I said to be "WRONG"? Was the person Paul met simply pretending to be the brother of a non-existent John Frum-type figure? You're spitting out so many tangled and stupid Myther pseudo arguments that even you seem to be confused as to which one you're trying to parrot where or why.

          • Bruce Grubb

            As far as I know Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh doesn't claim to actually be the brother of John Frum...he just doesn't deny the natives claims that he is. If you are going to argue points have some idea of what the comparison actually is.

            "Belief in [Jesus] Christ is no more or less rational than belief in John Frum." - Worsley, Peter (1957) The Trumpet Shall Sound: A Study of "Cargo" Cults in Melanesia London: Macgibbon & Kee pp. 153–9.

            Even as close as 1951 we can't tell if John Frum was a real person or a new name for a previous existing supernatural being. That is only 11 years from when the movement hit critical mass to actually be noticed by non-believers and a 1949 letter documents "The origin of
            the movement or the cause started more than thirty years ago." that means the idea goes all the way back to the 1910s..and perhaps the "real" John Frum as well.

          • Please try to focus. You responded to a comment by me that " if Paul is talking about a literal sibling and not a non-literal "brother", Jesus existed." You then shouted "WRONG" and then went off on your burble about John Frum and Prince Phillip. How is that relevant to Paul meeting "James the brother of the Lord"? Did this James pretend to be the brother of a non-existent, John Frum-like Jesus when he met Paul? What the hell are you trying to argue in relation to the point that you shouted was "WRONG"? Try to make some sense rather than randomly parroting another Myther non sequitur in the hope that it might look like you're making a coherent argument. This Myther Foghorn tactic is getting dull.

          • Bruce Grubb

            You still don't get it .

            What Paul said about the relationship of James and Jesus doesn't mean anything anymore then what the splinter group says about the relationship ofPrince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and John Frum.

            Also even in the Greek the wording of the passage is awkward enough that even some on the pro-HJ side suggest that it isn't Paul's but rather a gloss incorporated into the text:

            "Coming after the catalogue of hardships (11:23-29), the passage appears to be a non-sequitur. Some think it is was an afterthought, a marginal "gloss" copied into the text, or even a later insertion" - (Raanan Shaul Boustan, Alex P. Janssen, Calvin J. Roetzel (2010) Violence, Scripture, and Textual Practices in Early Judaism and Christianity BRILL pg 94)

            Hanging any relationship regarding James and Jesus on a passage that even some of the pro-HJ people question the validity of just shows the utter desperation of the position.

            ""The entirety of Luke-Acts mentioned only two men by the name of James, yet identifies neither as the brother of Jesus. To the contrary, it specifically distinguishes both of them from his brothers (Acts 1:13-14). One of them is indeed one of the three pillars name by Paul [whole host of references], who was clearly not the brother of Jesus (as all the Gospels agree), but the brother of the other pillar, John. Acts says this James was beheaded by Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:1-2). The only other James in Luke-Acts is James the son of Alphaeus (Luke 6:15, Acts 1:13), who therefore must be the James still around after the first one is killed,..."

            ...Acts has so egregiously toyed with the chronology "(contradicting the first hand accounts of Paul in almost every particular) that we might guess Luke has accidentally transposed a story about James the Pillar to a later period, forgetting he had killed him off earlier. After all, Luke does not otherwise explain why this second James is suddenly and constantly treated as the leader of the church in Jerusalem, which James the Pillar is known to have been." (sic) Later Christian legend (first attested to only late in the second century, a whole lifetime or two after Acts was written) replaced this James ben Alphaeus with James 'the brother of the Lord', but Luke clearly has no knowledge of this connection (nor, we must conclude did any source he may have had) Nor do any of the other Gospels show any awareness that any brother of Jesus ever had a role in the church at all, much less as a leader. Mark had already suggested that none of Jesus family entered the church, as he has effectively disowned them (Mark 3:31-34 (repeated in Matthew 12:46-50 and Luke 8:19-21; echoed directly in John 7:5 and John 19:26-27 See Chapter 10 (§4)" - Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 373

          • "What Paul said about the relationship of James and Jesus doesn't mean
            anything anymore then what the splinter group says about the
            relationship ofPrince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and John Frum."

            I'll try again, this time try to focus on what is being said. You responded to a comment of mine about Paul identifying a person he met as Jesus' brother James. You said this was "WRONG!" and then posted a whole load of dribble about John Frum. What has that got to do with the comment you responded to? Are you saying that the person Paul met was pretending to be this non-existent Jesus' brother? Or that Paul mistakenly identified the person he met as the brother of a person who, like John Frum, didn't exist? What exactly are you trying to argue in repsonse to my point? Try coherence.

            "ome think it is was an afterthought, a marginal "gloss" copied into the text, or even a later insertion"

            Given the many thousands of scholars who have pored over the epistles over the last 250 years, you can find someone who has argued pretty much any passage, sentence or phrase you care to mention is an interpolation. Big deal. Unless there is textual foundation for this idea - and in this case there isn't - this kind of low grade speculation counts for zero as a result.

            "Luke-Acts mentioned only two men by the name of James, yet identifies neither as the brother of Jesus."

            More incompetence from another online nobody. The author of Luke-Acts was well aware that Jesus had a brother called James because it was right there in his primary souce - Mark (Mark 6:3 to be exact). So the " ... and with his brothers" of Acts 1:13-14 includes James among the followers of Jesus who are in Jerusalem after his death. James son of Zebedee is depicted as being executed in Acts 12:1-2, so the later James depicted as the leader who, with Peter, deals with Paul can only be one of three people: (i) James son of Alphaeus, (ii) some new James never attested anywhere who springs from nowhere or (iii) Jesus' brother. Given that was have a whole later literature on how Jesus' brother was the James in question, given that Josephus talks of a brother of Jesus called James and given that James became awkward for early Christianity once the whole "Mary , ever virgin" idea took off, Occam's Razor says that (iii) is the correct answer here.

            Other attempted "solutions" require the usual supposition-laden eisegesis that makes Mythicsim a laughing stock. But please, keep the chuckles coming.

          • Bruce Grubb

            Again. "What Paul said about the relationship of James and Jesus doesn't mean anything anymore then what the splinter group says about the
            relationship ofPrince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and John Frum."

            James brother of Jesus appears NOWHERE in Gospels or Acts. If he existed and was so important to the Church why is that? Or is Occam's Razor something you think one shaves with?

          • "James brother of Jesus appears NOWHERE in Gospels or Acts"

            Garbage. He appears in Mark 6:3. And the Luke-Acts author used that text as his major source. Then in Acts 1:13-14 he tells us Jesus' brothers, the ones his source told him included James, were in Jerusalem before Pentecost. Then we get references to a James who is a leader in the Jerusalem community. This can't be the son of Zebedee and there is no sign it's the son of Alphaeus. So who is it? All the other evidence we have about this Jerusalem community says James, the brother of Jesus, was its earliest leader. So Occam's Razor says the James of Acts is the brother of Jesus.

            And your John Frum stuff still makes no sense. You haven't explained how Paul meeting this "James the brother of the Lord" is analogous to anything you've blurted about Frum. It seems that you know this and are reduced to just repeating your blurts because you've got nothing. This is usually a sign of the end game. The smartest thing for you to do now would be to slink away, though I don't hold out much hope of you taking the smart option on anything much.

          • Bruce Grubb

            "Later Christian legend (first attested to only late in the second century, a whole lifetime or two after Acts was written) replaced this James, son of Alphaeus with James 'the brother of the Lord', but Luke clearly has no knowledge of this connection (nor, we must conclude did any source he may have had) Nor do any of the other Gospels show any awareness that any brother of Jesus ever had a role in the church at all, much less as a leader. Mark had already suggested none of Jesus family entered the church, as he has effectively disowned them (Mk 3.31-34 (repeated in Mt. 12.46-50 and Lk. 8.19-21; echoed directly in Jn 7.5 and 19.26-27 See Chapter 10 (§4)." - Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 373

          • Nice story.

          • Bruce Grubb

            Ie You got nothing to refute it...otherwise you would have provided something. :-P

          • You're a waste of time. And citing that hack Carrier is like a Creationist citing Ken Ham.

          • Will

            To me, Occam's Razor is against the mythicist position. Every religion like Christianity had a really nice guy (sometimes) that started it. Buddha, Joseph Smith, Confucius, ect. are believed to be all real people, with excellent historical reasoning for that belief. Certainly you could be right, but positing the existence of some Rabbi named Yeshua results in much less special pleading than doing otherwise. Catholics engage in special pleading to propose that James was only the half brother of Jesus in order to preserve the absurd doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary (invented because early Christian ascetics thought sex was evil and of the flesh). Accusation of special pleading isn't meant to be insulting, people do it all the time. Read the wiki article on James if you haven't, but books can be a better source.

            For the record, here is a list of actual people who founded religions, Jesus is on the list for a reason, but so are Paul and James the Just (they had different versions of what was likely started by Jesus, and Paul won because of his appeal to the gentiles who were the main one's to convert in the beginning).

            In general, the standard of evidence required by mythicists for the existence of a person seems to high for historical use. This same standard when applied evenly to history would turn all kinds of people into myths who probably aren't myths (though stories about them are generally mythological). I don't think historians are willing to reinvent historical method (and rightfully so) just to make Jesus disappear from historical record. The fact that only atheist activists subscribe to this view is telling, and for the record, I'm an atheist. Christian apologetics are chock full of special pleading, let's leave that sort of thing for them ;)

            I don't think atheism is an answer for anything, but excellent critical thinking is, and critical thinking tends to lead to atheism. I wish more atheists would be critical thinking activists instead of atheist activists, lol. Obsessing over atheism seems to miss the point, to me, at least.

          • Darren

            William Davis wrote,

            Every religion like Christianity had a really nice guy (sometimes) that started it. Buddha, Joseph Smith, Confucius, ect. are believed to be all real people, with excellent historical reasoning for that belief.

            Notice you left of Judaism and Islam. Abraham, Moses, and Mohammed being most-likely fictional. Hinduism, too, I see.

            Guess it depends on what you mean by "religion like Christianity".

            (EDIT - not that I am saying you are wrong, just, perhaps, cherry-picking our samples a bit)

            (EDIT 2 - I appreciate the inclusion of Joseph Smith, though I typically use him as an example of a religious founder who probably was _not_ fictional, in contrast to the doubtful existence of some others)

          • Will

            You are the first person I've seen posit that Mohammed didn't exist, though like Jesus it's hard to tell how much that is written about him actually happened. From the relevant wiki article (and there is a lot more there).

            Historian Michael Cook takes the view that evidence independent of Islamic tradition "precludes any doubts as to whether Muhammad was a real person" and clearly shows that he became the central figure of a new religion in the decades following his death. He reports, though, that this evidence conflicts with the Islamic view in some aspects, associating Muhammad with Israel rather than Inner Arabia, complicating the question of his sole authorship or transmission of the Qur'an, and suggesting that there were Jews as well as Arabs among his followers.[40] For Patricia Crone, a single Greek text written at around the time of Muhammad's death provides "irrefutable proof" that he was a historical figure. There is also, she says, "exceptionally good" evidence that Muhammad was an Arab political leader and prophet. She says we can be "reasonably sure" in attributing all or most of the Qur'an to him. She takes a view that Muhammad's traditional association with the Arabian Peninsula may be "doctrinally inspired", and is put in doubt by the Qur'an itself, which describes agricultural activity that could not have taken place there, as well as making a reference to the site of Sodom which appears to place Muhammad's community close to the Dead Sea.[41]

            I also think it's quite possible Abraham existed, and someone probably came from Egypt to start the myth of Moses and the Exodus (I did some courses on ancient Egypt by Bob Brier and he was impressed with knowledge of Egypt present in the book of Exodus, though he was pretty certain a large Exodus never happened).Ur, the city Abraham left, was a real Sumerian city"> and much of Genesis comes right out of Sumerian mythology, often inverted. Of course, it's more likely that a tribe migrated out Sumeria, ended up in Canaan, and the legend of Abraham was invented as a result. I'm more confident about Muhammed, Jesus, and Buddha existing, but it's hard to be too confident about anything in ancient history, lol. Hinduism seems to be a very different kind of religion than Christianity, but Buddhism has many similarities. There is little evidence that Buddha existed other than the religion, but few historians doubt that he existed. Buddha even became a god in Hinduism ;)

          • Darren

            William Davis wrote,

            You are the first person I've seen posit that Mohammed didn't exist, though like Jesus it's hard to tell how much that is written about him
            actually happened.

            I claim no expertise, and my knowledge does not go any further than the Wiki you linked. I am not particularly invested one way or the other.

            Abraham? I defer, as a general rule, to the neutral-third-party consensus*, but if neither David nor Moses were historical, if (almost) the entirety of pre-exilic Jewish history was invented out of myth and political expediency,
            then I am not sure how Abraham could stand as the lone exception.

            Perhaps it depends on what you mean by “existed”. It is not quite a Ship of Theseus situation, but just how much of the literary person must be found within the purported historical personage for us to say the one gave rise to the other.

            Hinduism does have its own supposedly historical texts, though. I am having no luck finding the link, but within the last couple of years there was a kerfuffle in India over, IIRC, the governments plan to dredge out a shipping channel that would disturb a chain of large partially submerged rocks that was supposed to have been laid down by Hanuman, the Monkey God, when he was rescuing Rama from the island fortress of the demon king Ravana. It was, apparently, quite insulting for the government engineers to imply the rocks had _not_ actually been set in place by a giant flying monkey.

            * - bit of a joke, there; as if there really could be such a
            thing.

          • Bruce Grubb

            Your examples have logical flaws: It is unsure if Buddha ever existed. Joseph Smith like Muhammad is acting as a scribe for the "true" founder of the religion who is a supernal being. Confucius founded a philosophy NOT a religion.

            As Remsburg pointed over 100 years ago the Gospels describe a mythical person and any connection to a Jesus who may have existed is tentative at best.

            Note how little actual detail Paul gives regarding the Jesus he describes. It isn't until after the temple falls that be get any real details and either we can't check those details or they are at odds with the other records of the time.

            Pontius Pilate didn't give a fig about his Jewish subjects often dismissing their concerns even when they did peaceful demonstrations and if the demonstrations were large enough he had a simple solution--have soldiers kill them. It was this typical reaction to The Samaritan prophet of 36 CE that resulted in Pilate being called to Rome to explain himself.

            Sanhedrin trial account is totally at odds with the records on how that court actually operated in the 1st century. - http://www.christianity-revealed.com/cr/files/thetrialthatnevertookplace.html

            Luke's list of temporal cues is full of errors and the ad hoc tap dancing to make "Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests" work is ridiculous when Josephus does mention in 48-52 CE when there were two high priests: Jonathan, son of Annas, and Ananias, son of Nebedaios but NOTHING for this time period. In fact, we get Annas c 6 CE - c 15 CE followed by Eleazar the son of Ananus followed by Caiaphas was high priest c 18 - c 36 CE.

            Lena Einhorn argues that these and other temporal hiccups can be explained by Jesus ala Robin Hood being shifted for social-political reasons from an actual ministry of c 45 - c 52 CE. - http://lenaeinhorn.se/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Jesus-and-the-Egyptian-Prophet-12.11.25.pdf

            But if Einhorn is right then the Gospel Jesus is a fiction.

          • Will

            Could you precisely point out the logical flaws? If Buddha didn't exist, from whence came Buddhism? Part of your statement about Muhammad seems to be missing.

          • Will

            Ah, I see the rest now.

            Confucius founded a philosophy NOT a religion.

            The level of dogma you approach this with is interesting. Just for reference, from note1 in the wiki article on Confucianism:

            There is no consensus on whether Confucianism is a religion or not. Yong Chen opens his book on this very topic thus: "The question of whether Confucianism is a religion is probably one of the most controversial issues in both Confucian scholarship and the discipline of religious studies."[3] In another work on this topic the authors observe that "There have been, and are still, those scholars who have understood Confucianism as a religion; others have argued that Confucianism is not a religion but something else, often, a philosophy."[4]

          • Bruce Grubb

            That wiki article ALSO states "With particular emphasis on the importance of the family and social harmony, rather than on an otherworldly soteriology,[7] the core of Confucianism is humanistic.[8]

            Religions generally have a reward-punishment in the afterlife (or next life) for actions performed on Earth but Confucianism throws that under the bus by saying the afterlife was beyond human comprehension. Confucianism certainly picked up religious elements but so have more modern philosophies like Social Darwinism but we don't call those religions.

          • Will

            As Remsburg pointed over 100 years ago the Gospels describe a mythical person and any connection to a Jesus who may have existed is tentative at best.

            No argument there :)

          • Doug Shaver

            Buddha, Joseph Smith, Confucius, ect. are believed to be all real people

            Not unanimously, except in Smith's case.

          • Phillip Mitchell

            Hi again, it's been like a year, lol.

            One little niggle with this, if Paul was intent on starting a religion (In this case, what would in short order evolve into Constantine Christianity) and were it expedient for him to make Jesus look real for the sake of his narrative/meal ticket, I don't think many in his position would choose not to do so.

            I'll grant you the point that Paul likely either thought Jesus was a real man, or at least presented that facade.

  • mclarksn9

    I would like to see Tim O'neill debate Richard Carrier. Is there any chance that could happen?

    • Very unlikely. Firstly, we live on opposite sides of the planet. Secondly, he doesn't like me much because I've made him look a fool in the past (not that he'd admit that's the reason - he still maintains that he caught me "lying" when actually the problem was in his reading comprehension skills).

  • EightPeaks

    Many contemporary mentions of Hannibal were made, do your research - Wikipedia for starters.

    • Really? The earliest source that Wikipedia mentions that has any mention of Hannibal is Polybius. He was writing around 167 BC, though he seems to have added to and extended his work until his death in 119 BC. Hannibal died in 182 BC. This makes Polybius' work about 30-60 years after Hannibal's death and so not contemporary. Co-incidently, the synoptic gospels are dated to roughly 30-60 years after Jesus' death, so if you somehow want to make Polybius "contemporary' you'll have to admit the gospels to that category as well. By any useful meaning of the word "contemporary", Polybius is not contemporary at all.

      So I've done my research thanks. It seems you haven't.

      • EightPeaks

        182BC - 167BC = 15 years. As you yourself pointed out, Polybius began writing about Hannibal a mere 15 years after his death, and yet, in your belief they weren't contemporaries? Contradict this statement to your other comment about the conflicting gospels being contemporary because they were "written 40-90 years" after the Jesus god's supposed death. Not to mention, contradicting your statement in the article: "Yet how many contemporary mentions of Hannibal do we have? Zero. We have none. So if someone as famous and significant as Hannibal has no surviving contemporary references to him in our sources,...", so now you admit there was Polybius but you still haven't corrected this glaring error in your article now 8 months later. Thanks for playing, I don't believe that you are really an Atheist, you sound more like a Jesus apologist.

        • " Polybius began writing about Hannibal a mere 15 years after his death, and yet, in your belief they weren't contemporaries?"

          I said his account is not contemporaneous. But if you want to argue that because their lives overlapped we can call his account of Hannibal "contemporary" then we can say the same about Paul's epistles. Are you okay with that too?

          "you still haven't corrected this glaring error in your article "

          It's not my fault that you don't understand what the word "contemporary" means.

          " I don't believe that you are really an Atheist, you sound more like a Jesus apologist."

          He says in a comment made the same day where I am responding to Christians here on why I don't believe Jesus was anything more than a Jewish preacher and how I came to abandon belief in God. Hilarious.

        • Will

          Thanks for playing, I don't believe that you are really an Atheist, you sound more like a Jesus apologist.

          So Tim doesn't agree with your atheist dogma, therefore he isn't a true atheist? Sounds like your atheism is a religion...pretty lame.

          • As I keep pointing out in response to these feeble "No True Scotsman" sneers, if I'm pretending to be an atheist, it's a pretty elaborate pretence. I have a posting record as an atheist that goes back to Usenet back in 1992. So either this is one of the most elaborate deceptions of all time or these guys have simply run out of actual arguments.

          • Will

            Some of the mythicists almost seem to think one is required to believe Jesus = God. Therefore, if you believe Jesus existed, you believe God existed. Such is the only sense I can make out of their enthusiasm over the issue.
            Quite a few of the comments I've seen from these guys do border on conspiracy thinking. The conspirators have planted your atheist backstory (it's an interpolation)...prove it's not true ;) It is giggle worthy that every inconvenient passage must be an interpolation.

  • EightPeaks

    How to explain how the Jesus stories came about? How did the stories about Zeus and Hera, Jupiter and Saturn come about? How did the stories of Horus and the Egyptian panoply come into existence? When you can answer those questions then you'll have your answer as to how the Jesus stories came into fruition.

    • "How to explain how the Jesus stories came about?"

      People in the ancient world told that kind of story about all kinds of historical people. He have a miraculous conception story about Augustus, an ascension into heaven story about Julius Caesar and an healing the blind and lame story about Vespasian and lots more besides. It's not hard to see how similar stories arose about a preacher that some Jews thought was Yahweh's anointed one.

      How did the stories about Zeus and Hera, Jupiter and Saturn come about?

      Possibly the same way. The difference is that we don't have a letter dated to just 20 years after Zeus' death talking about how the writer met Zeus' brother and best friend. We don't have two historians writing about Saturn as a historical person just 60-90 years after his death. And we don't have four accounts written 40-90 years later putting Hera in a distinct historical context. So you're comparing apples to watermelons and getting very confused as a result.

      • Doug Shaver

        we don't have a letter dated to just 20 years after Zeus' death talking about how the writer met Zeus' brother and best friend.

        And if we did?

        • "And if we did?"

          We would logically conclude that "Zeus" is a mythic figure based on a historical person. Just like Jesus.

          • Doug Shaver

            For B to be a logical conclusion from A, the conjunction of A and not-B must be a logical impossibility. How does "Someone claimed to have met Zeus's brother" logically contradict "Zeus never existed"?

  • bean420

    As an atheist historian, thanks for this!

  • AKFletch

    So.. Did you get paid for this exercise in scholarly masturbation? I mean like, more than $10/hr all inclusive? If so: Nice Work!

    • I hope that stupid little comment made you feel better. Now run outside and play - the grown ups are talking.

    • Lazarus

      You seem to know a lot about the hourly rate for such activities.

  • Lazarus

    Tim
    I do not think the current crop of arguments for the mythical Jesus has done much to advance the cause. I also do not see much development or new material coming to the fore in decades to come.

    What I do foresee, and what I may very well be seeing already, is that Jesus is becoming a myth by the sheer will and persistence of atheist arguments on the Internet, and that in a few years the Internet consensus (for what that may be worth) will be that the myth has been established. I hope I'm wrong but facts and even comprehensive arguments seem to be dismissed as if they never existed. will this not hand the mythers the foot in the door, where future scholars that grew up in that environment then work from such "consensus"?

    • Hard to say. There are a hell of a lot of things that are "common knowledge" which people have to unlearn once they get to higher education levels. Most people "know" that medieval people were taught the earth was flat, and are quickly disabused of this as soon as they study medieval history past high school level.

      So even if the Mythicist thesis becomes "common knowledge" among atheists outside of the academy, they will have to actually argue that case properly if they want to enter the discourse of actual scholars. And given that their arguments are seriously flawed, I can't see them overturning the consensus. However much Carrier and Co try to pretend otherwise, anyone can see that their arguments are only persuasive if you share their ideological agenda and its attendant emotion. Looked at objectively, stripped of that emotion and incentive, it is not a parsimonious case.

  • mclarksn9

    Tim, any chance of you and Lataster debating? I'm a mythicist but I want hear a comprehensive defense of the historical Jesus. I'm looking forward to Price and Ehrman as well

    • Debates on these kinds of topics tend to generate more heat than light. I rarely see any outcomes other than people leaving having had their prior convictions massaged for an hour or so. This topic needs thorough analysis and detailed and objective disuccion of the evidence. Debates are too constrained and favour the side that is better at simplistic zinger arguments and memorable sound bites. I think they are a waste of time. I'm also not Lataster's favourite person at the moment.

      • Doug Shaver

        This topic needs thorough analysis and detailed and objective disuccion of the evidence.

        Oh? Why bother with analysis and discussion, if we already have a consensus?

        • "Oh? Why bother with analysis and discussion, if we already have a consensus?"

          So people like you can finally understand why that consensus exists. Scholars don't need to bother with this topic at all - it's a settled issue for them.

          • Doug Shaver

            I know why the consensus exists. I have read the scholarly arguments, such as they are, for historicity. They all presuppose their conclusion.

          • Lazarus

            I really do not know how you can say that after having read the scholarly arguments.

          • Doug Shaver

            I really do not know how you can say that after having read the scholarly arguments.

            Give me one and I'll show you how I do it.

          • Lazarus

            No, let's make it even easier than that for you. Take any of those scholars' arguments, say one from Robert Hutchinson, Brant Pitre, Craig Keener, NT Wright, Dale Allison, Paul Meier and show us how you do it. Or use one of the atheist /agnostic scholars like Ehrman. Or show us how Carrier or Price do not presuppose their conclusion.

          • Doug Shaver

            It's easier for me if I do the hunting?

          • Lazarus

            I'm not asking you to "hunt". You said :

            "I know why the consensus exists. I have read the scholarly arguments, such as they are, for historicity. They all presuppose their conclusion."

            You say that you've read the arguments, so no hunting necessary.
            You say that they ALL presuppose their conclusion. No hunting necessary.

            So show us.

          • Doug Shaver

            You say that you've read the arguments, so no hunting necessary.

            Yes, hunting is necessary. I wasn't taking notes or trying to memorize anything, and if I make the slightest mistake when reporting that so-and-so said such-and-such, you'll be on me like stink on rotten meat.

            You say that they ALL presuppose their conclusion.

            And now you say, "Take any of those scholars' arguments." So if I show that one is circular, you'll come back with "But that you haven't shown that they're all circular, just that one." So tell me again how easy you're trying to make it for me.

          • "So if I show that one is circular .. "

            HOW can you "show" they are circular? Simply declaring that they presuppose their conclusion is not "showing" that they do so. I can just as easily "show" that Mythicists presuppose their conclusion - by declaring that they do so.

            Are you actively trying to make Mythicism look idiotic by these stupid arguments? If so, you're doing a great job.

          • Doug Shaver

            HOW can you "show" they are circular?

            Like I told Lazarus. Pick any argument for historicity that you think is a logical slam-dunk, and I'll show you how. Or else I'll be eating crow for the next week.

          • What? You claim that you can somehow know that people who argue Jesus existed presuppose their conclusion. You are the one who needs to demonstrate that you have this amazing psychic ability. Please do so. Show us how you know this. Or shut up.

          • Doug Shaver

            You claim that you can somehow know that people who argue Jesus existed presuppose their conclusion. You are the one who needs to demonstrate that you have this amazing psychic ability.

            Do you believe all claims of circular reasoning require the ability to read minds, or just when applied to arguments for Jesus' historicity?

          • I require that you show the reasoning is "circular", rather than just mumbling that it is. Try that. Demonstrate your claim. Or shut up.

          • Doug Shaver

            Demonstrate your claim.

            Show me an argument for historicity and I will.

          • YOU are making the claim. The onus is on you to demonstrate it. There is an argument for historicity that you have detected assumes its conclusion? Fine - produce it and show us how you know it does so. Put up or shut up.

          • Doug Shaver

            YOU are making the claim.

            My claim was that they all are. I can't prove that by showing that one of them is.

            However, your claim seems to be that none of them is circular. If I can show that at least one is, I disprove your claim, and if I fail to show it, then I vindicate you. Agreed?

          • "I can't prove that by showing that one of them is."

            This is getting surreal. If they "all are" you should be able to demonstrate that at least one of them is. Why won't you do so?

            "However, your claim seems to be that none of them is circular. "

            More gibberish. I've said nothing of the sort. I just need you to demonstrate how you can tell any of them are. You keep failing to do so.

            Put up or shut up.

            Again, are you actively trying to make Mythicism look idiotic with this crap? If so, you're doing a fine job.

          • Doug Shaver

            If they "all are" you should be able to demonstrate that at least one of them is.

            Obviously. But as a defense of my claim, that would constitute the fallacy of affirming the consequent.

            More gibberish.

            Gibberish, by definition, is unintelligible. You seem to have understood me easily enough.

            I've said nothing of the sort.

            That's always easy for you to say unless I quote you verbatim.

            are you actively trying to make Mythicism look idiotic

            No, I'm trying to make historicism look evasive.

          • Put up or shut up. Show us how you can know ANY historicist argument is circular by choosing one and demonstrating that it is. Stop flapping your gums and do it. Now.

          • Doug Shaver

            Put up or shut up.

            I could say the same to you. One of us has to make the first move, and it obviously won't be you, so I guess it's up to me.

            I'll need some time to put it together, though, and right now other responsibilities beckon. I should be back sometime tonight (West Coast time).

          • "I could say the same to you."

            More nonsense. The onus is always on the claimant. That's you. Try to keep up.

            I'll need some time to put it together, though .... I should be back sometime tonight.

            Hilarious. Run away Shaver. What a joke.

          • Doug Shaver

            The onus is always on the claimant. That's you.

            I was the initial claimant, yes, but your immediate response was a counterclaim: “Yet another ridiculous assertion.” You don’t lose the burden of proof just because you weren’t the first to make a claim.

            Anyhow, for my example I’ve chosen Josephus’s Testimonium, because it seems to be among the historicists’ favorite arguments. For the sake of this discussion I will stipulate its partial authenticity, by which I mean that Josephus actually did assert at least that Christianity originated among the followers of a charismatic preacher named Jesus who was crucified by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.

            The argument for historicity, to be logically valid, must be in effect as follows: It is highly improbable that Josephus would have written the Testimonium unless Jesus’ historical existence was an actual fact. The issue of probability is pertinent because, as you have said yourself, Jesus’ historical existence, as with historical propositions in general, is not a certainty but only “the most likely conclusion [emphasis added] that can be drawn” from the relevant evidence. The conjunction of a partially authentic Testimonium with Jesus’ nonexistence is not an impossibility. The argument asserts only that it is so unlikely as to eliminate reasonable doubt about Jesus’ existence. And we may now ask: Why should we think so?

            Josephus was born several years after Jesus was supposed to have died, and so he was not a contemporary and could not have personally witnessed his existence. Strictly speaking he is therefore not a primary source. This is not per se a disqualification. A great deal of what we think we know about history comes from secondary sources. We trust them if we have good reason to think that whatever sources they used were reliable.

            And we do need a good reason. This is not radical skepticism but just the ordinary kind of skepticism that says we should have a good reason for whatever we believe or affirm. It is the same skepticism that leads us to doubt stories about alien abductions, ESP, or massive government conspiracies. There is no justification for simply assuming that someone's sources were reliable if we know nothing about those sources.

            With that noted, proximity in time to the events in question could be a justification in some cases. Although Josephus tells us nothing about his sources regarding Christianity, we can argue that he was more likely than not to have gotten his information from someone who he believed was in a position to know the facts about Christianity’s origins. But the key phrase here is “he believed.” We’re entitled to assume that he trusted his sources, but we must also ask why he trusted them: How good were his reasons for believing what they told him?

            Josephus wrote the Jewish Antiquities during the last decade of the first century CE. It is possible but unlikely that he could have known anyone with firsthand knowledge of Jesus, so his own sources would have been secondary at best. Assuming the best possible case, they were Christians themselves, but they could have known only what they had been taught about the origins of their religion, and we have no idea by whom they were taught. Some of them could possibly have been taught by people who were eyewitnesses or acquainted with eyewitnesses, but possibility is not probability. We are not justified in assuming that what could have been the case was actually the case.

            Therefore, if we are to trust the Testimonium, we must assume that the Christians whom Josephus talked with had been taught the truth about their religion’s origin, but that is just to assume that their religion originated among the followers of a charismatic preacher named Jesus who was crucified by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. But that is just to assume Jesus’ historicity.

          • Michael Murray

            So is another way of saying this that the conclusion that should be drawn is that it is reasonable for us to conclude that the Christians that Josephus talked to believed in a historical Christ ?

          • Doug Shaver

            Yes, given the stipulation that Josephus actually wrote any of the Testimonium. I don't think he did, but my argument was that even if he did, he can't be vouching for Jesus' existence, but only to the belief of whomever he talked to that Jesus existed.

          • Lazarus

            The Josephus argument actually plays a very small role in the modern day arguments (plural). I have to wonder why you pick that out of all the others, some of which I have referred to earlier.

            In any event, the example you have mentioned, as unrepresentative as it may be, shows nothing of circularity or presupposing their conclusions. Josephus, or his sources, could have been basing their conclusions on a rich variety of other strands of evidence. Othe than "just assuming" their conclusion they could have based that on trusting reliable people, the well-established rituals and creeds of their church through the decades, an absence of any plausible alternative explanations for their historical realities and so on. Why do you assume circularity?

            When you tell us that "possibility is not probability" on the eyewitness argument you seem unaware of the recent arguments put forward by people like Wright, Bauckham, Pitre, Keener and others.

            I believe you have significantly overstated your argument here, Doug.

          • Doug Shaver

            The Josephus argument actually plays a very small role in the modern day arguments (plural).

            That is one reason I repeatedly asked my interlocutors to pick the argument. I knew full well that somebody was going to object to whatever choice I made.

            Josephus, or his sources, could have been basing their conclusions on a rich variety of other strands of evidence.

            I was not critiquing any argument that Josephus or any of his contemporaries was making. I was critiquing the argument made by historicists today that the Testimonium is compelling evidence for Jesus' existence.

            When you tell us that "possibility is not probability" on the eyewitness argument you seem unaware of the recent arguments put forward by people like Wright, Bauckham, Pitre, Keener and others.

            Do they actually argue that whatever is possible is probable, without exception? Or do they demonstrate, regarding certain particular possibilities, that they actually are probable?

            I believe you have significantly overstated your argument here, Doug.

            Can you be more specific? Can you demonstrate a logical flaw in my argument, or can you demonstrate that something I asserted as fact is probably not true?

          • Lazarus

            You seem to understand circularity very loosely. If scholars arrive at a specific conclusion supporting the Christian thesis then they have presupposed their conclusion. Try the argument that says that even the very early Christian groups knew and worshiped Jesus as Lord, as a real person. This includes their rituals, references thereto by Paul and so on. How can that possibly be a circular argument?

            Bauckham and the others obviously do not argue that what is possible is probable. I remain convinced that you have little to no knowledge of these recent arguments.

            When you say that you have read the scholarly arguments and that they all presuppose their conclusion you have wildly, and without foundation, overstated your argument. Have you considered the possibility that it may be you are presupposing your conclusions?

          • Doug Shaver

            Try the argument that says that even the very early Christian groups knew and worshiped Jesus as Lord, as a real person.

            That is not an argument. That is just an assertion. If you can produce the documentary evidence on which it might be based, then we can see what we might infer from it if we don't presuppose Jesus' historicity.

            I remain convinced that you have little to no knowledge of these recent arguments.

            Why? Just because I don't find them as convincing as you do? I could as easily say that anyone who still believes in a historical Jesus must be unfamiliar with the arguments for mythicism.

            Bauckham and the others obviously do not argue that what is possible is probable.

            Then could I trouble you to explain what you were getting at when you said:

            When you tell us that "possibility is not probability" on the eyewitness argument you seem unaware of the recent arguments put forward by people like Wright, Bauckham, Pitre, Keener and others.

          • Doug Shaver

            When you say that you have read the scholarly arguments and that they all presuppose their conclusion you have wildly, and without foundation, overstated your argument.

            On further reflection, I am forced to concede that you have a point, sort of. I don't know if overstatment is right term, but I was certainly guilty of a certain sloppiness, logically speaking. Let me reformulate my claim with a little more attention to rigor.

            I have been seeking out arguments for Jesus' historicity ever since I read Earl Doherty's The Jesus Puzzle in 1999. In that time, obviously, I could not have read every scholarly work that has ever been written on the subject. But I have read several, and for many others I have read commentaries by either historicists or mythicists and usually both. After 17 years of doing this sort of thing I believe I have a pretty good idea of what is out there, especially considering that it has been quite a while since I have seen for myself, or seen a reference to, any argument that I had not previously been aware of. But of course, none of this excludes the possibility that somebody, in some book, journal, or website that I've never heard of, has presented an argument for historicity that has escaped my attention so far.

            As with any controversy that engages people's emotions, some arguments on both sides are just invalid and thus prove nothing at all. But all the arguments I have thus far encountered for Jesus' historical existence, if they are not simply fallacious, have seemed circular in my judgment.

          • "I was the initial claimant, yes, but your immediate response was a counterclaim"

            That is total nonsense. Simply noting your claim was baseless isn't "a counterclaim". And it sure as hell doesn't somehow mean you don't have to back your claim up.

            And then we get this meandering nonsense about Josephus. All that says is that Josephus doesn't tell us who his sources were. Big deal. We can say that about 99% of ancient source material. So are we meant to reject it all? No historian works that way - it's only if we have some reason to suspect a writer would have had no access to any reliable source that we judge their information less reliable. Josephus grew up in Jerusalem surrounded by people who could tell him about the origins of this Jesus sect. It's not like the Prefect crucifying a Messianic claimant at Passover was something that happened every day ot the week - that kind of thing tends to get remembered. And there is nothing to indicate that he got this information from Christians or that he would need to.

            But the really hilarious thing is somehow this ramble is supposed to prove historicists "assume their conclusion". Except ... it doesn't. Again - are you trying to make Mythicism look stupid?

          • Doug Shaver

            But the really hilarious thing is somehow this ramble is supposed to prove historicists "assume their conclusion". Except ... it doesn't.

            I have presented my case. You have presented yours.

          • Except your "case", as usual, makes no sense. How does your "case" show that scholars who accept Jesus existed "assume their conclusion"? It shows nothing of the sort. As expected.

          • Doug Shaver

            How does your "case" show that scholars who accept Jesus existed "assume their conclusion"?

            That isn't what it was supposed to show.

          • Lazarus

            That was exactly your assertion. That they all do so.

          • Doug Shaver

            I did assert that they all do so. I also stated quite explicitly that I could not prove that assertion by demonstrating the circularity of one particular argument. I demonstrated the circularity of one argument for one reason only: you and O'Neill both demanded that I do so. I asked you both to present me with an argument that was not circular in your own opinion, and you both refused.

          • Lazarus

            Ok Doug, you seem quite intransigent on this one. You claim to know the arguments, yet we should present you with one, after the Josephus attempt.

            I think that we have all made our points, let's rather leave it there.
            I value your exchanges here more than taking this further into the Silly Zone.

          • Doug Shaver

            I think that we have all made our points,

            I'm not sure what your point was. You seem way more concerned about discrediting my claim to know the arguments than with defending the arguments themselves.

          • Lazarus

            Come on, Doug. Answer the question. Show us your work.
            Or did you overstate the position?

          • Doug Shaver

            Show us your work.

            Done.

          • Lazarus

            You seem to have painted yourself into a corner here, Doug. Even if you cannot substantiate your claims, let me help you with the current arguments for historicity, even though it really is up to you to prove your claim.

            As you know, or should know, historicity is arrived at by many different strands of evidence and argument. Peter S. Williams, in his excellent "A Skeptic's Guide to Atheism", in an appendix called "Evidence for Jesus", sets out a good modern example of this scholarship. It's a few pages long, and can probably be read online or in five minutes in a bookstore or library. It shows the various lines of evidence and arguments, from diverse approaches and scholars such as Bauckham, Jaroslav Pelikan, Tom Wright and many others (not all Christians) and deals with arguments such as contemporary references, reliability of the Gospels, probability of eyewitness accounts, the facts regarding the beliefs and practices of the original Christian communities and so on. These are solid arguments. You may of course reject all of them, but you cannot do so based on their alleged circularity or presupposition.

            Mythicism is simply not a wise intellectual investment.

          • Doug Shaver

            These are solid arguments.

            You say so.

            You may of course reject all of them, but you cannot do so based on their alleged circularity or presupposition.

            Of course not, if the circularity is only alleged. But I certainly can if I see the circularity myself.

          • Lazarus

            You use that "you say so" tactic a lot. I'm not sure what it is supposed to mean. In this particular case you seem to simply gainsay my reference to those scholars and their arguments. You have earlier indicated that you have read "the scholarly arguments" and that they all presuppose their conclusions. To then respond to that with a "you say so" sounds to me like a dodge. Or not having read the arguments.

            I know that you have tried to show this alleged presupposing going on, but I remain completely underwhelmed by your understanding of the scholarly arguments or their (remember, ALL of them) circularity.

            Thanks in any event for the discussion.

          • Doug Shaver

            You use that "you say so" tactic a lot. I'm not sure what it is supposed to mean.

            I mean that the person I say it to has given me no other reason to believe the statement in question.

            I remain completely underwhelmed by your understanding of the scholarly arguments or their (remember, ALL of them) circularity.

            I made it as clear as I could make it that I had no intention trying to prove that all historicist arguments are circular. But it takes only one demonstrably noncircular argument to prove the contrary. If you know one that is, show it to me and watch me say, "I was wrong."

          • Lazarus

            Well, in this case "you say so", in reaction to reference to several scholars and their different arguments then simply show that you do not know those arguments, despite telling us that you have read the scholarly arguments.

          • Doug Shaver

            My statement was in reference to your assertion "These are solid arguments." That is a judgment. My making a different judgment does not imply that I am unfamiliar with the arguments.

            If you are so inclined, it would perhaps be enlightening for us both if you were to pick one of those arguments so that we could exchange our reasons for making our judgments: you explaining why you think it is solid and me explaining why I think it is not.

          • "They all presuppose their conclusion."

            Yet another ridiculous assertion from Shaver the fundamentalist. How on earth can you know what they are presupposing Shaver? Do you have psychic mind reading powers? Seriously - give up.

          • Doug Shaver

            How on earth can you know what they are presupposing Shaver?

            By analyzing the logic of their assertions. They say "If A then B" when the implication depends on the prior supposition that B is true.

          • Now explain to us how the "logic of their assertions" would look different if they didn't "presuppose their conclusion".

          • Doug Shaver

            Now explain to us how the "logic of their assertions" would look different if they didn't "presuppose their conclusion".

            Their premises would be provable independently of any supposition about Jesus' actual existence.

          • That's gibberish. Show how that would look different to the arguments you claim presuppose their conclusions. Give examples that demonstrate the difference. We'll wait while you fail.

  • Chris m

    Gonna do my own research but I have heard that many other Jesus like figures, that is religious teachers who claim they were the Messiah or were proclaimed by others to be the Messiah, at the time are actually historically mentioned by contemporary historians and by the Roman government records. Does anyone know how accurate this is?

    If this was true then this would kind of cast the idea of an historical Jesus into doubt.

    Obviously Jesus was a popular name at the time and I'm sure there was some religious teachers who had that name and maybe something resembling a guy who did some pretty new type of philosophical teachings and was a different type of thinker.

    But to make the leap from that to there was anything that resembled the stories of the gospels of the New Testament is just crazy. And this is surely a case where the informational thinking that we do just takes a life of its own and has little relation to historical reality

    In other words clearly there wasn't a person doing superhuman things and almost none of the gospels have any reality Beyond mythical Tales. So it's almost of little concern because if none of that stuff is literally true obviously it's just an archetypal representation of human longing

    In all this it seems question of the historical Jesus just gets into the more important question how humans make sense of the world and how literal and factual they are vs how metaphorical and fancy driven or mystical mythical driven they are.

    • "I have heard that many other Jesus like figures, that is religious teachers who claim they were the Messiah or were proclaimed by others to be the Messiah, at the time are actually historically mentioned by contemporary historians and by the Roman government records. Does anyone know how accurate this is?"

      It's totally inaccurate and totally wrong. Unfortunately, it's something that has been claimed (without any supporting evidence) by Jesus Myth proponent David Fitzgerald in his self-published booklet Nailed:Ten Christian Myths that Show Jesus Never Existed at All (page 22 to be exact) and so now keeps being repeated on the internet. Which shows that Jesus Mythers are, yet again, much like Creationists - their idea of "research" is reading books by other Jesus Mythers and accepting everything they say uncritically.

      We know of about a dozen early first century Jewish preachers, prophets and Messianic claimants who are analogous to Jesus and none of them are attested by any contemporary historians. Like Jesus, all of them are only attested by historians writing decades or even a century after their deaths and we know of most of them by a single reference in Josephus. In fact, even if we leave the gospels and other Christian writings to one side completely, we have slightly more attestation for Jesus from this later material than we have for any of the others.

      The claim that these figures are attested in "Roman government records" is another one that keeps getting repeated and it's even more stupid. Because we DON'T HAVE ANY Roman government records from Judea in this period. So no-one can be mentioned in records that don't exist. This claim is therefore totally clueless.

      "If this was true then this would kind of cast the idea of an historical Jesus into doubt."

      It would, but it isn't true. So you need to ask why people keep repeating it, much the way Creationists keep repeating claims like "evolution contradicts the Second Law of Thermodynamics" despite that being untrue as well. In both cases, something other than rational analysis is driving these people.

      "In all this it seems question of the historical Jesus just gets into the more important question how humans make sense of the world and how literal and factual they are vs how metaphorical and fancy driven or mystical mythical driven they are."

      I've found that the question usually hinges on whether the person can accept nuanced thinking (eg "just because a historical Jesus existed doesn't therefore mean all the rest of Christianity's claims about him are true") vs those who can only think in fundamentalist-style black and white absolutes ("if many of the stories about Jesus aren't true, the whole thing must be a complete myth!").

      Jesus Mythers seem to be only capable of limited all-or-nothing thinking. Not surprisingly, many of them are former fundamentalists, who seem to have been conditioned to think that way. And some of them have even admitted to me that they cling to Jesus Mythicism because they fear that if they admit Jesus existed they might have to admit other Christian claims about him are true as well. As I said, things other than rational analysis are driving these people.

  • Appeal to authority right from the gate. Waste of time.

    • Well, that ignorant comment was certainly a waste of time. People who are literate in historical analysis know that noting a consensus is not a mere "appeal to authority" - in history a scholarly consensus counts for something. This is because what a historian strives to do is twofold: (i) analyse the relevant evidence to determine which plausible hypothesis about what may have happened in the past is most likely and (ii) make a case for that hypothesis, drawing on the evidence, to convince their scholarly peers of that idea. Given that those scholarly peers are usually rivals in the field, if a historian achieves this second objective it's usually because their case is solidly founded and highly persuasive. And if it convinces enough peers that it becomes a consensus position, that means it is not just persuasive but generally accepted for good reason.

      So a consensus position in history is as close as you get to proving a point. But people who are historically illiterate don't understand this and knee-jerk emotionalists who are looking for excuses to ignore arguments that might disturb their faith-based, uncritical and emotional positions often use this "appeal to authority" nonsense as a way of closing their eyes as they run away.

      • "Given that those scholarly peers are usually rivals in the field" - but share a common religion when it comes to Jesus...

        • "... but share a common religion when it comes to Jesus>"

          Sorry - that gambit won't work either. There are plenty of scholars in the relevant fields who are not Christians and who share in the consensus view. Vermes, Fredriksen, Ludemann, Casey, Ehrman, Hofmann and many more are atheists, Jews, agnostics or simply non-Christians. So, fail.

          Next bad argument?

          • Sorry if noting that your argument that the consensus is purely based on the number of Christians is wrecked by "dragging out Ehrman et al", but it's not my fault you tried such a stupid argument. If we had a consensus on the subject made up entirely of Christians and all the non-Christians on the other side, you'd have a point. But the consensus is across the board. So your argument fails.
            As does that idiotic video.

          • Idiotic? You understood that was Ehrman himself, right? Jeez...

          • The video is presented by the New Ager acolytes of the moron who called herself "Acharya S", supposedly as evidence that Ehrman somehow contradicts his own position on the existence of a historical Jesus. Except, he doesn't. Noting that the gospels can't be taken at naive face value is not saying there is no historical information at all indicated in them. People who manage to think beyond binary black or white can grasp this. Noting that there are no first century references to Jesus outside the NT also doesn't mean there was no historical Jesus. We have no such reference to any early first century Jewish preachers, prophets or Messianic claimants, so this is precisely what we'd expect of Jesus.

            This brain-dead video by "Acharya S"'s drones is exactly like Creationists quote mining scientists like Stephen Jay Gould to "show how they contradict evolution". Holocaust deniers do it with historians. It's a weak tactic used by fringe loons all the time.

      • Doug Shaver

        So a consensus position in history is as close as you get to proving a point.

        So how does one prove the consensus is mistaken, if it happens to be mistaken?

        Or is a consensus, once reached, unfalsifiable?

        • A consensus forms when a majority of relevant scholars in a field agree that an argument or position on a given question is the most persuasive explanation of the available evidence. So it changes when (a) new evidence emerges or (b) when someone presents a new argument that is agreed to be more persuasive.

          No new evidence on the historical Jesus has appeared for quite some time and none at all that has changed the consensus view. And the Mythicist arguments are all about a century old. They were rejected as unconvincing back then and remain unconvincing now.

          So enjoy your hopeless task of defending a fringe idea. Clutch a conspiracy theory about why the silly old experts don't agree with you and the other crackpots and contrarians if it makes you feel better.

          • Doug Shaver

            A consensus forms when a majority of relevant scholars in a field agree that an argument or position on a given question is the most persuasive explanation of the available evidence.

            Sure, but the key word there is "persuasive." Even the best scholars can find poor evidence persuasive of a conclusion that they (a) presupposed was true and (b) were highly motivated to confirm before they even began examining that evidence.

            Clutch a conspiracy theory about why the silly old experts don't agree with you

            I have proposed no conspiracy theories. And until I do, this is purely a strawman.

            you and the other crackpots and contrarians

            Your utter contempt for anyone who disagrees with you is noted.

          • "Even the best scholars can find poor evidence persuasive"

            Sure. Feel free to propose some alternative way that consensus can be reached or revised.

            "Your utter contempt for anyone who disagrees with you is noted."

            No, I reserve my contempt for the much smaller group who deserve it by their bias and stupidity.

          • Doug Shaver

            Feel free to propose some alternative way that consensus can be reached or revised.

            The same way Kuhn said any paradigm gets changed.

            I reserve my contempt for the much smaller group who deserve it by their bias and stupidity.

            So you think all mythicists are biased and stupid?

          • "The same way Kuhn said any paradigm gets changed."

            Okay. If the Mythicist argument ever manages to convince the majority of critical non-Christian scholars, then we'll see such a shift. There's no sign of that happening.

            "So you think all mythicists are biased and stupid?"

            No. Bob Price, for example, proved himself to be neither in his debate with Bart Ehrman yesterday. IMO he still lost the debate and is still wrong, but he does not seem driven by an ideological agenda (unlike many Mythicists) and is far from stupid. You, on the other hand ...

          • Doug Shaver

            Bob Price, for example, proved himself to be neither in his debate with Bart Ehrman yesterday. IMO he still lost the debate and is still wrong, but he does not seem driven by an ideological agenda (unlike many Mythicists) and is far from stupid. You, on the other hand ...

            What have I said that Price doesn't say?

          • Content isn't motivation. And it's more about what Price says and knows that you don't. He's still wrong, but at least he knows WTF he's talking about and his position is based on deep knowledge. You don't and yours isn't.

          • Valence

            I think your article is decent, but I'm somewhat surprised that you stoop to childish insults like calling Doug stupid. You are correct that mythicists are often driven by and agenda, but clearly your anti-mythicism is very emotional and personal, and clouds your judgement. Very unprofessional.

            P.S. I think mythicism does not explain the evidence well and I do not expect the historical consensus to change.

          • "I'm somewhat surprised that you stoop to childish insults like calling Doug stupid"

            My patience has limits. If yours is more extensive than mine then congratulations.

            "clearly your anti-mythicism is very emotional and personal, and clouds your judgement."

            Crap. I post in the same tone to Holocaust Deniers. Is my judgement of them "clouded" as a result? Or am I just weary of idiots?

          • Valence

            Doesn't losing patience and being weary clouds one's judgment?

          • Potentially, but not necessarily. If you can show me evidence of my judgement being clouded, you'd have an argument. Can you? Substance please.

          • Valence

            I'll let it go. Being able to do that is a useful life skill but it can be difficult to learn. Suffice it to say that my it is my judgment that Doug Shaver isn't stupid, so both of our judgments can't be correct.

          • "Suffice it to say that my it is my judgment that Doug Shaver isn't stupid"

            Then we'll agree to differ on that. Go in peace.

          • Valence

            Peace to you as well.

          • Doug Shaver

            Content isn't motivation.

            Right, but of the two, content is the only thing by which you can rationally judge my views.

            his position is based on deep knowledge.

            You may infer the depth of his knowledge by the number of books he has written and his having earned two doctorates. Since I have written no books and earned no graduate degrees, you haven't a clue about my knowledge except what I've posted here.

          • Doug Shaver

            If the Mythicist argument ever manages to convince the majority of critical non-Christian scholars, then we'll see such a shift.

            I was thinking more of comment by Max Planck that Kuhn apparently endorsed: "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."

          • "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."

            Fine. There is nothing much that the current crop of fringe Mythicist contrarians are saying that wasn't said by Drews et al a century ago. The scholars who rejected those guys have been pushing up daisies for a while now. So, you were saying?

          • Doug Shaver

            There is nothing much that the current crop of fringe Mythicist contrarians are saying that wasn't said by Drews et al a century ago.

            I've heard that, but have seen no confirmation. I have not read any of the earlier ahistoricist literature, but neither have I read any modern criticism of it by anyone familiar with it at first hand. But I have read Shirley Jackson Case's critique of it (The Historicity of Jesus), and he seems to have read all of it. It seems to me that the modern case for mythicism goes well beyond what Case's adversaries were arguing.

            I also don't think it's irrelevant to note that the feelings typically aroused by the issue of Jesus' existence -- on both sides -- are more intense than those aroused by most issues that physicists or geologists have to deal with. Even secular intellectuals in the West are bound to have a strong emotional stake in a historical datum that has been uncontested, and presumed to be uncontestable, for nearly 2,000 years. We shouldn't be surprised, then, if defenders of the consensus are at least as intransigent as previous defenders of the scientific orthodoxies of their day.

            Furthermore, at least some of us in the mythicist camp are readily admitting that the evidence on our side is not conclusive. We don't claim to have proven Jesus' nonexistence beyond reasonable doubt. All we're claiming is that some doubt is reasonable.

          • " It seems to me that the modern case for mythicism goes well beyond what Case's adversaries were arguing."<

            How? Give details.

            "Even secular intellectuals in the West are bound to have a strong emotional stake in a historical datum"

            Crap. How does a non-existent Jesus differe greatly from a historical Jesus whose stories are largely unhistorical? There's no substantive difference and no great emotion involved. If someone actually presented a Jesus Myth thesis that wasn't tediously tendentious and constantly propped up with ad hoc suppositions I'd happily embrace it. I don't care if he existed or he didn't. I do care about the crap arguments of the Mythers.

            "Furthermore, at least some of us in the mythicist camp are readily admitting that the evidence on our side is not conclusive. We don't claim to have proven Jesus' nonexistence beyond reasonable doubt. All we're claiming is that some doubt is reasonable."

            I'm glad you aren't claiming your arguments are "conclusive", because that would be hilarious. And historians have "some doubt" about most things. But is the doubt here sufficient for your pupose? Ummm, no. Which is why your position is supported by a tiny handful of fringe nobodies and a vast cohort of biased clueless amateurs and crackpots.

          • Doug Shaver

            How does a non-existent Jesus differe greatly from a historical Jesus whose stories are largely unhistorical?

            The historicity of Jesus -- as opposed to his divinity -- has been as much a part of secular orthodoxy as it has been of Christian orthodoxy, in somewhat the same way as heliocentrism used to be. As we're often reminded in this forum, Copernicus was not opposed only by the Church. Even in modern times, secular intellectuals have presupposed that Eusebius's account of the Church's origins must have been approximately correct save only for its supernaturalism. That was a very safe presupposition for anyone concerned about maintaining amicable relations between the secular and Christian communities, especially within academia.

          • "The historicity of Jesus -- as opposed to his divinity -- has been as much a part of secular orthodoxy as it has been of Christian orthodoxy, in somewhat the same way as heliocentrism used to be."

            Let's try that with another subject:

            "The historicity of the Holocaust has been as much a part of secular history as it has been of Jewish history, in somewhat the same way as heliocentrism used to be."

            Yes. So?

          • Doug Shaver

            Yes. So?

            So, you are implicitly claiming that the historical evidence for Jesus' existence is, to some rough approximation and in some relevant sense, as substantial as the historical evidence for the Holocaust and ought to be as convincing to any reasonable person without some ideological axe to grind.

          • "So, you are implicitly claiming that the historical evidence for Jesus' existence is, to some rough approximation and in some relevant sense, as substantial as the historical evidence for the Holocaust "

            No. Obviously. But thanks for demonstrating that you aren't bright enough to take seriously.

          • Doug Shaver

            No. Obviously.

            What, exactly, made it obvious that you intended no such comparison?

          • There is no "comparison" involved. The word you're groping for is "analogy". Holocaust denial is analogous with Jesus Mythicism in that both are fringe ideas. That's where the analogy begins and ends. The respective evidence for the Holocaust or for Jesus is completely irrelevant to the analogy. Please try to understand. I shouldn't have needed to explain this simple thing to you, but I make allowances because you're ... well, Doug Shaver.

          • Doug Shaver

            Holocaust denial is analogous with Jesus Mythicism in that both are fringe ideas.

            Insofar as that is the case, the analogy is irrelevant to our discussion. You have, however, reinforced my response to your question, "How does a non-existent Jesus differe greatly from a historical Jesus whose stories are largely unhistorical?" I noted that Jesus' historicity is a presupposition that has been embedded in our culture for nearly 2,000 years, and that this suffices to account for at least some of the emotional resistance to any challenge to it. Another reason for the hesitancy of any academic craving the respect of his peers to accept it is the certain knowledge that many people will compare him with Holocaust deniers, or creationists, or the acolytes of Joseph Atwill or Acharya S.

          • "Insofar as that is the case, the analogy is irrelevant to our discussion."

            Garbage. You tried to claim (assume, actually) that the consensus for historicism was some kind of fixed paradigm for no good reason. I used the Holocaust denial analogy to show you how your claim was flawed. Deal with it.

            ""How does a non-existent Jesus differe greatly from a historical Jesus whose stories are largely unhistorical?""

            By the bits that don't make sense unless he was historical.

            "Another reason for the hesitancy of any academic craving the respect of his peers to accept it is the certain knowledge that many people will compare him with Holocaust deniers, or creationists, or the acolytes of Joseph Atwill or Acharya S."

            If the hat fits. And boo fricken hoo. Go away Shaver, you're a waste of time.

          • Doug Shaver

            By the bits that don't make sense unless he was historical.

            For instance?

          • Why a Messiah from Nazareth in Galilee when the Messiah was meant to be from Bethlehem in Judea? Why was he baptised by John when baptism was meant to be by a superior and represent a sinful nature? Why was he killed when even the passages from Isaiah that the gospel writers tried to use to justify this said the person in question was to die of old age and look upon his offspring and descendants? Why crucifixion when, even according to Paul, that was a "stumbling block" to Jews because it meant he was accursed according to Deuteronomy and a "scandal" to non-Jews because only terrorists against Rome died that way?

            Over and over again the gospels are having to shoehorn a historical Jesus into the expectations of a Messiah. If he didn't exist we wouldn't have all these awkward elements.

          • Doug Shaver

            If he didn't exist we wouldn't have all these awkward elements.

            This presupposes that the gospel authors intended to present a factual account, or something like a fact-based docudrama, of their religion's origins. I don't think that presupposition is justified.

          • "This presupposes that the gospel authors intended to present a factual account, or something like a fact-based docudrama, of their religion's origins."

            Garbage. It concludes that despite many elements which are trying to present Jesus in the best way possible and make him conform to their "Messiah" narrative, there are still elements that don't fit with that idea at all. Why? Because they are historical.

          • Doug Shaver

            It concludes that despite many elements which are trying to present Jesus in the best way possible and make him conform to their "Messiah" narrative, there are still elements that don't fit with that idea at all.

            I claimed you were making a presupposition. You defended it by repeating your conclusion. That makes your argument circular.

            If the gospel authors were not even attempting to explain how Christianity got started, then there can be no misfit between what they said about Jesus and the plausibility of any account of Christianity's origins.

          • "If the gospel authors were not even attempting to explain how Christianity got started, then there can be no misfit between what they said about Jesus and the plausibility of any account of Christianity's origins"

            Who said they were "attempting to explain how Christianity got started"? Where did you get that irrelevant crap from? They were just telling stories about Jesus they thought were true. If some of those include stories that only make sense if they are historical, despite the awkwardness that they pose for the gospel writers, the logical conclusion is that these elements are historical.

            Try to keep up Shaver.

          • Doug Shaver

            They were just telling stories about Jesus they thought were true.

            That is the presupposition to which I was referring. Your attempt to distinguish between stories about Jesus and stories about Christianity's origins is fatuous. The historicist position, at least among secularists, is that the religion of Christianity originated either with the ministry of one Jesus of Nazareth or, after his death, with the preaching of certain of his followers. That is a distinction without a relevant difference for purposes of this discussion.

          • "That is the presupposition to which I was referring.'

            It's the most coherent conclusion, not a "presupposition". You have that backwards. As usual.

            "The historicist position, at least among secularists, is that the religion of Christianity originated either with the ministry of one Jesus of Nazareth or, after his death, with the preaching of certain of his followers. That is a distinction without a relevant difference for purposes of this discussion."

            And that is just gibberish. A "distinction" between what and what? Try to type English sentences that make sense. Please.

          • Doug Shaver

            It's the most coherent conclusion, not a "presupposition".

            Show me the logic by which you reach that conclusion without presupposing it.

          • That makes sense logically because the elements I mention work against their polemic that Jesus was God' anointed. Clear enough for you?

          • Doug Shaver

            Clear enough for you?

            Not entirely. If your conclusion is that the gospel authors must have believed they were writing true stories, then you seem to be saying that this conclusion follows from the logical incoherence of what they wrote. Am I understanding you correctly?

          • "Am I understanding you correctly?"

            Unsurprisingly, no. The conclusion follows from the fact that they are having to deal with elements that don't fit their agenda. This is because those elements are historical. Their ways of dealing with them are coherent, but contrived enough to alert us to the fact that they had some trouble making them fit the story they were telling.

          • Doug Shaver

            The conclusion follows from the fact that they are having to deal with elements that don't fit their agenda.

            What do you think their agenda was, and why do you think so?

          • "What do you think their agenda was, and why do you think so?"

            That Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. And have you actually read the gospels? They kind of make this point with some emphasis. Have you considered actually reading any scholarship on this subject from the last 150 years? It would be nice if you clueless Myther parrots actually did so - you may even learn something.

          • Doug Shaver

            "What do you think their agenda was, and why do you think so?"

            That Jesus was the Jewish Messiah.

            And in claiming that that was their agenda -- the purpose for which they wrote the gospels -- you don't think you're presupposing your conclusion that they intended to write true stories about Jesus?

          • " you don't think you're presupposing your conclusion that they intended to write true stories about Jesus?"

            What? Of course they thought the stories were true. What the hell does that have to do with anything I'm arguing? Try to keep up. You're a total waste of my time. Go away.

          • Doug Shaver

            What the hell does that have to do with anything I'm arguing?

            It has to do with whether you're arguing in a circle when you claim that the gospel narratives provide evidence beyond reasonable doubt for Jesus' historicity.

          • Doug Shaver

            I'll be away from the computer for a while. I shall return.

          • Please don't bother.

          • Lazarus

            It really is a pity that you are so rude to people who are trying to have conversations with you, where they disagree with some of your conclusions. I suppose that as a guest poster you are not kept to the same rules we are held to by management. You could have made all of your points without detracting from the discussion with this unpleasantness. Doug is a well-respected member here, and I have never seen him ask questions or take a position that he has not done some work on.

            But you have been called on this many times, you clearly cannot or will not change. This is a pity, as I otherwise mostly enjoy your opinions.

          • "It really is a pity that you are so rude to people"

            I'm actually highly selective about who I am rude to and I was entirely civil to Shaver for several YEARS before I ran out of patience with his boneheaded bumbling. I have my limits. If you are more tolerant then congratulations.

            "Doug is a well-respected member here"

            Not respected by me. Respond to him as you wish. But get your prissy finger out of my face.

          • Lazarus

            One more reason why so few people take you seriously.

          • Alexandra

            Ok Doug, - so apparently you're an idiot, Lazarus is a chowder head, and I'm brainwashed.
            Yet, we all somehow seem to have nice, substantive discussions together here.

            See, miracles do happen! ;)

            Thank you for always taking the high road in your conversations. Lazarus is right, you are well-respected here.

          • I said nothing at all about Lazarus and I have no idea who you even are. And if it helps any, I won't be bothering with responding to Shaver's replies from now on - he's a complete waste of my time.

          • Alexandra

            .. he's a complete waste of my time.

            What are you trying to accomplish here with your time?

          • Usually, trying to respond to people who aren't clear on some element of the evidence or how it's interpreted but are open to understanding these things better, even if they may not be convinced by the consensus position.

          • Alexandra

            Usually, trying to respond to people who aren't clear on some element of the evidence or how it's interpreted but are open to understanding these things better, even if they may not be convinced by the consensus position.

            Thank you for your response. That is an admirable goal.

            First, I did not mean to imply that you said all the insulting names that I listed. I'm sorry for causing a misunderstanding.

            Your explanation to Lazarus about your use of "selective rudeness" was helpful, and I appreciate the forthrightness.

            However, you are participating at a Catholic site.
            Any form of name calling, denigration, or insults against a person violates the commandment to love for us Catholics. We are compelled to object.
            Furthermore, even if you are saying something truthful about a person, for us, it is the sin of detraction to publicly damage someone's reputation, without just cause. We are compelled to object.

            How tolerant are you to this difference?

          • David Nickol

            Furthermore, even if you are saying something truthful about a person, for us, it is the sin of detraction to publicly damage someone's reputation, without just cause. We are compelled to object.

            As I have said, I would not have used the words Tim O'Neill used, but I think an argument can be made that saying someone "is a complete wast of my time" is not defamatory. It may not be nice, but I don't see how it is any more damaging than saying, for example, "You drive me crazy."

          • Alexandra

            David, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you missed the first part of the conversation. I'm not objecting to not speaking to a person, or ending, or the like.
            I let Doug know calling him an "idiot" is laughable. That's what this conversation is about. Also note my conversation was directed to Doug.

          • David Nickol

            I let Doug know calling him an "idiot" is laughable.

            Had anyone actually called Doug and idiot at that point? If so, I can't find it.

          • Alexandra

            Yes.
            Also, Lazarus objected directly Tim. I think Valence was first to directly object to Tim at some point over insults. (There were several.)
            So after, I showed my support directly to Doug.

            I should add, I don't know the timing, so I don't know when Lazarus in the long conversation specifically objected.

            Edit added words, changed words, removed words.

          • Valence

            He called him stupid, indirectly, I complained about it.

            https://disqus.com/home/discussion/strangenotions/an_atheist_historian_examines_the_evidence_for_jesus_part_1_of_2/#comment-2964242653

            Alexandra comes off very "holier than thou" about the whole thing, however.

          • Alexandra

            Found it.

            ".. I have better things to do on a Sunday afternoon than repeatedly explain simple ideas to an idiot."

            http://www.strangenotions.com/an-atheist-historian-examines-the-evidence-for-jesus-part-1-of-2/#comment-2964472731

            I'm having trouble linking it, but its Tim's response to this comment by Doug. Towards the end.

            Also he directly called him stupid at another point.

          • David Nickol

            What we need is for "management" to provide new posts more frequently than every three weeks so we have something better to discuss than each other!

            Also, we need a moderator or two to warn individuals who violate the site's guidelines.

            Strange Notions seems to be dying a slow death.

          • Michael Murray

            The only way to deal with recalcitrant management is collective action comrade. The IPLUI (Internet Posters and Lurkers Union International) calls for an immediate withdrawal of labour and downing of keyboards, mice, tablets and phones until the following demands are met

            (1) one new post every week

            (2) an immediate inquiry into the mental health risks associated with managements use of metaphysics

            (3) immediate reinstatement of all previously sacked members

            (4) a transparent appeal procedure for all future moderator actions

            We appoint Comrades Nickol and Lazarus as Shop Stewards to negotiate on our behalf.

          • Lazarus

            Viva um, something, IPLUI, comrade.

          • Alexandra

            No siree, Bob. We're mainly red-blooded Americans here, and here in 'Merica we got rid of all our pinko foreign rabble rousers. You HIPPIES!!!! And Extra Bacon with Bacon rules!

            (Sorry Brandon, we're going a little stir crazy in excited anticipation of the new OP.)

          • David Nickol

            Strike! Strike! Strike!

            Solidarity Forever!

          • Michael Murray

            Some credit goes to Tim for respecting the Sabbath though :-)

          • Alexandra

            ROFL. :D .
            Thank you Michael, I needed a good laugh after today.

          • "However, you are participating at a Catholic site.
            Any form of name calling, denigration, or insults against a person violates the commandment to love for us Catholics. We are compelled to object. "

            Fine, so you've objected and your objection has been noted. I, however, am not a Catholic and I am not constrained by your "commandments". I am usually constrained by attempts at civility, even in the face of boneheaded stupidity, but my patience has limits. I've been responding to literally hundreds of comments on this by that Shaver guy over several years and his incapacity to grasp simple concepts and his ability for failing to even keep track of what is being said is exasperating. So I'm over it. If you've never experienced this with him then all I can say is you're lucky.

            So now you've wagged your Catholic finger at me and told me I'm a naughty boy for saying a person who I think is rather thick is rather thick, so hopefully you can go back to whatever it is you do and I can go back to ignoring Shaver and responding to anyone else here who I think has an open mind.

          • Alexandra

            I, however, am not a Catholic and I am not constrained by your "commandments".

            Of course. I have not said that you must think Catholic, or act Catholic. I have asked you how tolerant are you of our differences?

          • Tolerant enough to accept why you felt justified in giving me a little scolding lecture. But that tolerance is now running out, I can assure you. Please mind your own business.

          • Alexandra

            You engaged me. And I have said nothing about what you shouldn't do.

            Edit: meant to write: And I have said nothing about what you should or shouldn't do.

          • You commented on me and I responded. The fact that you did so passive aggressively by talking about me rather than to me doesn't mean I can't be direct even if you are trying to pretend you haven't "engaged" me. You have. Now you've said your piece, so give it a rest.

          • Alexandra

            ...by talking about me...

            I didn't say anything about you (at that point).

          • Lazarus

            No, indeed, you are not a Catholic. But you are a guest poster on a Catholic website, and you should either conform to the general standards of civility followed on that website, or management should hold you to those standards, as they generally do to the rest of us.

            Now, either management condones your rudeness (and yes, that is what it is) or it is some other management failure. I'm not sure which is worse. The simple fact is that this site seems to be completely rudderless at times, which is quite ironic given the strict discipline adhered to in the beginning.

            Unpleasantness like this, and a general lack of control and quality has now made my experience of this site one where there are more debits than credits. Until such time as it gets its act together I will not participate here.

          • Sample1

            Thanks for asking!

            My existential response, if you will allow me to call it that, is learning how to examine the opinions I hold most dear in a manner that also puts them in jeopardy of being abandoned. To boldly think where I have not thought before. (Thanks Doug Shaver for that Star Trek comparison).

            Mike

          • Alexandra

            "Live long and prosper" , Sample.

          • David Nickol

            What are you trying to accomplish here with your time?

            I'm very much supportive of calls for civility, but what Tim O'Neill has been trying to accomplish here is to demonstrate that the most reasonable position for both believers and nonbelievers alike is that Jesus was a historical person. He is arguing the position of the vast majority of scholars, and while I wouldn't have used the words he did, it is perfectly appropriate to end an exchange of messages by pointing out that further attempts at dialogue would be unproductive.

          • Will

            It was a person named Pofarmer on another website that called Lazarus a "chowder head", I have no idea why she is accusing you of that. I've found that being rude to people on sites like this usually just encourages them as opposed to making them go away. Ignoring them works best though sometimes one can have a hard time letting a comment stand...the new block feature comes in handy for that.
            I'll agree with some of the others that I don't think Doug is stupid, but I can certainly understand being weary of having a conversation with someone for years without making progress.

          • Alexandra

            I have no idea why she is accusing you of that.

            Hold on. At no point did I say Tim did all the name calling. That is an incorrect assumption.

            Edit: changed word

          • Will

            Ok, but you certainy gave Tim and I that impression:
            Alexandra: "Ok Doug, - so apparently you're an idiot, Lazarus is a chowder head, and I'm brainwashed."

            Tim:"I said nothing at all about Lazarus and I have no idea who you even are."

            Alexandra:"What are you trying to accomplish here with your time?"

            In the future it would be helpful to clarify that you were not accusing him of saying something about Lazarus when they mention in it in a comment :)
            Was there a logic in including that in your comment to Doug or are you just keeping a count of any name-calling for the long term. It seems you usually only comment when there is name calling, but that could just be a sampling bias. Obviously we are on the same side of the issue (other than occasions where I called people names, heck, I might have been called you brainwashed) as Geena and I were the only people who called Pofarmer out on calling Laz a "chowder head" among other things.
            As far as brainwashing goes, the Christian Church I was raised in tried very hard to brainwash me but it failed. I've talked to many ex-Catholics who say they experienced the same thing, but that probably isn't the case universally.
            If you are interested we can certainly compare brainwashing techniques to typical religious indoctrination. Certainly calling someone brainwashed is quite a bit different the a childish name like stupid or "chowder head:

            Lifton ultimately defined a set of steps involved in the brainwashing cases he studied:

            Assault on identity
            Guilt
            Self-betrayal
            Breaking point
            Leniency
            Compulsion to confess
            Channeling of guilt
            Releasing of guilt
            Progress and harmony
            Final confession and rebirth

            http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/human-brain/brainwashing1.htm

            Does the use of guilt, confession, ect. sound familiar? The article goes into detail on how the Chinese approached it, and it is just like religious indoctrination. I speak from direct experience.
            Of course, if your belief system is correct, brainwashing would be justified to keep people out of hell. That's a big "if" of course.

          • Will

            P.S. I do apologize if I called you brainwashed (memory is fuzzy but I know I thought it at one point). I realize it can be quite offensive even if there is truth to it, and maybe there isn't, but maybe...

            It also might be possible that any moral teaching may be in the general direction of brainwashing, though not at the level of sophisticated religious indoctrination.

          • Alexandra

            No apology needed. It wasn't you.

            I've never had someone innocent confess to me. This is pretty funny, William. :D

            Thank you for the gesture.

          • Doug Shaver

            Alexandra, thank you very much for the kind words. Thanks also to Lazarus and anyone whose name I might be forgetting who has expressed similar support.

          • "It has to do with whether you're arguing in a circle when you claim that the gospel narratives provide evidence beyond reasonable doubt for Jesus' historicity"

            What? How? What "circle"? They thought everything they were saying was true but elements of them work against the story they were telling. They felt they accounted for these elements, but they did so in a way that we can see these awkward parts despite their attempts to harmonise them with the overall narrative. And these elements seem to be in the story despite these awkward efforts at integrating them because they seem to be histoical

            Try to understand before we all die of old age and/or boredom. I have better things to do on a Sunday afternoon than repeatedly explain simple ideas to an idiot.

          • Doug Shaver

            I have better things to do on a Sunday afternoon than repeatedly explain simple ideas to an idiot.

            Then do them. If I'm so obviously an idiot, no one will think less of you for just ignoring my posts. You're not afraid, are you, that somebody here might think I've actually made a point worth considering?

            They thought everything they were saying was true

            So did the writers of Star Trek, but they didn't think that anything they were saying had anything to do with starships. The messages they wanted to propagate were embedded in a fictional narrative, meaning a narrative they themselves did not think was factual and did not expect their viewers to think was factual. I think it plausible that the gospel authors had messages they wished to convey in the same way. In fact, I think it's not just plausible, but more probable than the conventional assumption. But I'm not ready to start insulting everyone who thinks otherwise.

          • " I think it plausible that the gospel authors had messages they wished to convey in the same way."

            "Plausible" and "actual" are a wide gulf apart. Lots of things are merely "plausible" - you need to make a coherent case that this one is actual, and you need to make it more parsimonious than the alternatives. You can't do that. Go away Shaver, you're a waste of time.

          • Doug Shaver

            "Plausible" and "actual" are a wide gulf apart.

            Of course. But which one needs to be established depends on the claim being asserted. If I claim that anyone who still thinks Jesus really existed is an idiot, I have a greater burden of proof than if I claim only that it is not unreasonable to doubt his existence.

          • Doug Shaver

            and you need to make it more parsimonious than the alternatives.

            That's a point well taken, but what are the chances of you and me agreeing on a metric for parsimony?

          • Doug Shaver

            If the hat fits.

            Especially if it doesn't fit, actually. Real crackpots equate ridicule with vindication.

  • Bahumuth

    1. If Jesus had led a group of people to a revolt in Jerusalem, he would have been relevant enough to have been included in the history of Justus of Tiberias. Justus of Tiberias was a first century Galilean historian who, according to Photius of Constantinople, failed to write about Jesus.

    2. The majority of modern Biblical scholars believe it is only a partial forgery, but the vast majority of 19th century Josephus scholars believed the whole passage was a forgery and close to half of 20th century Josephus scholars still think it. The problem with it being only a partial forgery is that the next paragraph references the preceding paragraph, meaning Jesus completely interrupts the flow of the narrative, and if Josephus had really received reports of Jesus' revolt at the Jerusalem Temple, Josephus would have hated him.

    http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/testimonium.html

    3. The arguments about the "human Jesus" in the epistles aren't weak. Just weak thinking about the subject. If it read "Jesus was born from a carpenter's wife named Mary", that would make perfect sense. Saying that someone was "born of a woman" is extremely strange language. Have you ever talked about that regarding a contemporary or near contemporary? "Bob was born of a woman, all right." As opposed to what, exactly? Why would anyone say that? There are only two explanations: 1) if Jesus was a demi-god, or 2) the person writing was a heresiologist aware that others believed Jesus to be a celestial being without a mother. Likewise, saying someone was a "seed of David" is also pretty ridiculous when talking about a Galilean peasant with no known genealogy considering David had lived 1000 years ago. All the other statements are from "the Lord", which, if you read the context of the letters, make it absolutely clear means that they are received through revelation, not tradition (Gal. 1:12). There is no mention of Jesus being a teacher, an exorcist, an itinerant preacher, and no suggestion that any of the apostles were once disciples.

    3. There are remnants of these discussions. 2 Peter 1:16 is obviously arguing against the mythic Jesus when he says: "For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of His majesty." This statement is clearly being made against the argument that the gospel story was fictional. The Church Fathers talked a lot about Docetists and Gnostics who believed Jesus was not born but started out as a heavenly creature.

    http://www.lost-history.com/dying-and-rising-gods.php

    1. That's the problem. If the first followers of Jesus were Jews, how would they accept Pauline theology that would equate a recent Galilean peasant with God and celebrate his death using the ceremonial drinking of non-kosher blood?

    2. There are, and they are called Docetists. They are widely acknowledged to be a very early sect of Christianity.

    http://www.lost-history.com/images/religion_tree.jpg

    3. You are wrong to think that Price has a fundamental disagreement with Doherty and does not leave open the possibility of a Hellenistic origin. He heaps nothing but praise on Doherty on all Bible Geek podcasts. And there absolutely is a precedent for a rising Messiah in the Gabriel Revelation Stone.

    http://vridar.org/2010/03/26/robert-price-on-earl-dohertys-new-book/

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabriel%27s_Revelation

    4. I actually have a unique theory that Jesus was a combination of Honi III and Honi the Circle Drawer. I think Honi the Circle Drawer, from the first century B.C., is the Jesus referenced by the Talmud, the Toledot, Epiphanius (regarding Jesus inheriting his kingship from Alexnader Jannaeus), and Mara Bar Serapion (who says the "wise king" was killed shortly before the first century B.C. Jewish kingdom fell).

    http://www.lost-history.com/honi_the_circle_drawer.php

    • "If Jesus had led a group of people to a revolt in Jerusalem, he would have been relevant enough to have been included in the history of Justus of Tiberias"

      Would he? Says who? How on earth can you make an assessment of what a work that no longer exists "would" or would not have said? And that's leaving aside the loaded assumptions in this stuff about leading people "to a revolt in Jerusalem". What if he led them to nothing more than a Passover celebration where he preached about a coming apocalyptic kingship of God. "Would" Justus have mentioned every ragged peasant preacher who ever did that? It would be nice if you people worked out how to construct a valid argument from silence.

      "The majority of modern Biblical scholars believe it is only a partial forgery, but the vast majority of 19th century Josephus scholars believed the whole passage was a forgery"

      They didn't have or notice the textual variants in Agapius, Michael and Jerome that underpin the current consensus. So big deal.

      " and close to half of 20th century Josephus scholars still think it."

      Really? Citations and detailed substantiating evidence please. Because the surveys of 20th Century scholarship on the issue by Feldman and Kirby show that the consensus on partial authenticity far outweighs the alternatives and is growing. So you need to back that claim up.

      "The problem with it being only a pa rtial forgery is that the next paragraph references the preceding paragraph, meaning Jesus completely interrupts the flow of the narrative"

      Wrong, this is not a "problem" at all. Anyone who has actually read Josephus (most people who burble about this passage haven't) knows that he includes these digressive episodes all the time. I can give you about a dozen separate examples of Josephus doing so where he introduces a figure in a way that, if the passage was removed, the narrative would flow seamlessly.

      "and if Josephus had really received reports of Jesus' revolt at the Jerusalem Temple, Josephus would have hated him."

      There are at least two loaded assumptions in that sentence.

      "The arguments about the "human Jesus" in the epistles aren't weak. Just weak thinking about the subject. If it read "Jesus was born from a carpen ter's wife named Mary", that would make perfect sense."

      It might make sense, but it's not what we'd expect to find in this kind of epistle. Try this - see how many statements like that you find in 1Clement. Try 2Clement. Any luck? These are occasional works about points of theology, not chats about Jesus' life.

      "Saying that someone was "born of a woman" is extremely strange language. Have you ever talked about that regarding a contemporary or near contemporary?"

      No, but I'm not a first century Jew. We have multiple examples of exactly this phrase being used in both Hebrew and Aramaic in the OT and in the DSS. It is used a little like the English expression "I'm only human" - as a way of emphasising some aspect of the person's humanity. In context, it's being used about the human aspect of a heavenly being who took human form and so makes perfect sense.

      "There are only two explanations: 1) if Jesus was a demi-god, or 2) the person writing was a heresiologist aware that others believed Jesus to be a celestial being without a mother."

      No, there is a third explanation: the writer was a Jew who, like many Jews of the time, believed that the Messiah (like the Temple and the Torah) had a heavenly pre-existence. This is consistent with everything else Paul says about Jesus. You just don't know the source material or its Jewish context well enough.

      "Likewise, saying someone was a "seed of David" is also pretty ridiculous when talking about a Galilean peasant with no known genealogy considering David had lived 1000 years ago."

      It isn't if Paul has been told by others that Jesus was a descendant of David and has come to believe this is true. Such claims may or may not be true, but they get made all the time. I know a guy who will bore you stupid about his descent from KIng Edward III given enough excuse. My grandfather told me the story of our descent from the fifth century Irish king Niall of the Nine Hostages when I was six.

      "All the other statements are from "the Lord", which, if you read the context of the letters, make it absolutely clear means that they are received through revelation, not tradition"

      Paul defensively emphasises his revelations, particularly in Galatians where he is mounting a defence against the idea that he subordinate to those in Jerusalem who knew Jesus directly. But the teachings he refers to as coming "from the Lord" have direct parallels in the later gospel traditions. To pretend they are not part of an oral tradition about Jesus' teachings is pretty unconvincing stuff given those parallels.

      "There is no mention of Jesus being a teacher, an exorcist, an itinerant preacher, and no suggestion that any of the apostles were once discipl es."

      Ditto in 1Clement, 2Clement and a whole mass of second and third century material written by people who did believe in a historical Jesus. So this tells us nothing about whether Paul did or did not.

      "2 Peter 1:16 is obviously arguing against the mythic Jesus"

      That is not "obvious" at all. And for this to be the only reference to a variant form of Christianity that was not only the original form but was dominant for the best part of the first century is absolutely ridiculous.

      "This statement is clearly being made against the argument that the gospel story was fictional. "

      More loaded language trying to prop up weak arguments. "Clearly"? All it says is "we didn't make this up - we saw it happen".

      "The Church Fathers talked a lot about Docetists and Gnostics who believed Jesus was not born but started out as a heavenly creature."

      Yes. And? The Docetists still believed that this heavenly creature had an earthly, historical life as an illusion of a man. So that doesn't help you. There is no reference to a form of Christianity that didn't believe Jesus had an earthly, historical life as a human. For Mythicism to work, there should be. Mythicism fails right there.

      "If the first followers of Jesus were Jews, how would they accept Pauline theology that would equate a recent Galilean peasant with God and celebrate his death using the ceremonial drinking of non-kosher blood?"

      The earliest Jewish followers of Jesus clearly did not equate him with God at all, they just saw him as God's messiah. Unless you want to use the same weak arguments that convince Christian apologists, you won't find a single reference to him being "God" in any of Paul's seven epistles or in any of the Synoptics or in Acts. So your "if" there fails.

      "You are wrong to think that Price has a fundamental disagreement with Doherty and does not leave open the possibility of a Hellenistic origin."

      You're getting your Prices confused. I was referring to R.G. Price, not Robert Price - they are two different people with two very different mythicist theories.

      "And there absolutely is a precedent for a rising Messiah in the Gabriel Revelation Stone."

      *chuckle* Even Knol has abandoned that reading. Try to keep up.

      "I actually have a unique theory that Jesus was a combination of Honi III and Honi the Circle Drawer."

      Gosh. Then we'll add that to the two or three dozen "unique theories" by amateur nobodies where they have "discovered" that Jesus is "really" somewhere else and store it with the "unique theories" about who "really" wrote the works of Shakespeare.

      • Bahumuth

        The "loaded assumptions" are from the primary documents you are using to argue for a historical person. If you do not think you can apply the "Cleansing of the Temple" incident that all three Synoptic gospels claim was *the reason Jesus was executed*, then you need to point that out from the start in your essay instead of immediately launching into attacks on mythicists for believing that a person who supposedly created a major historical event would be remembered as a historical person.

        And this goes to the heart of the problem. There are virtually no historical details about Jesus that we can draw from the epistles. The gospels are already massively contradictory. If we can't even use the tiny amount of source material that the main three gospels agree on, then exactly what small list of universals can you get most historicists to agree on?

        I also find it strange that Josephus, who usually prattles on forever about tiny, unimportant figures would provide what has got to be one of the smallest paragraphs he has ever written about a wise, beloved, tolerant lover of truth who is killed by the Pharisees and the Romans. Usually Josephus would blame this kind of thing on some overly zealous Jews or on a few "bad apple" Romans but it just ends up blaming the two groups that Josephus usually defends.

        The fact that early Christian literature shows no interest in any historical details is what makes him appear to be mythical. It would be like if there was no suggestion in the early sources that Socrates was a philosopher from Athens and if Plato was referred to as a messenger of Socrates rather than a student.

        I think the fact that we do not have any surviving scripture of Docetists means we should be open to the possibility that the belief in a historical Jesus was an assumption brought on by the fact that they still read a gospel about a fictional Jesus. 2 Peter 1:16 is not the only example of scripture arguing against Jesus being a myth who didn't come in the flesh. There's also:

        "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves." -2 Peter 2:1

        "This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist." -1 John 4:2-3

        "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist." -2 John 7

        The Pauline epistles emphasize that the teachings of "the Lord" come from heaven, not human tradition, and the Docetic Marcionites who championed Paul said that Jesus himself came not from human means but from heaven.

        I agree with you that those kinds of myths like "born from David" are assumed from time to time even if they are not really true, but they are also applied to mythical demi-gods all the time as well. That the epistle writer applied it to a past figure he didn't know does not add to the historical description or even historical viability of Jesus.

        Other than the reference to "brother of the Lord", there is no suggestion that the Jerusalem "pillars" knew Jesus personally. The context of "the big three" Peter, James and John make it obvious that this James is equivalent to James son of Zebedee. The gospels of Mark and John say that Jesus' brothers did not believe in him. Are we to believe that James found his faith, moved to Jerusalem, took over as leader from Peter(?), and then Paul decided to mount an attack on his authority without a narrative about how he strayed?

        Of course mythcists draw parallels between Pauline teachings and the teachings of Jesus in the gospels. The whole point is that Paul never says he inherited those teachings from oral tradition going back to a historical Jesus. He always says he received them through revelation and interpretation of scripture, just like every other apostle he refers to, and these traditions are then attributed to a historical Jesus in the gospels.

        If Biblical scholars can not give a unanimous decision on whether Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet, an itinerant cynic, or a suicidal zealot, and, as you seem to believe, we Just as "Everyone disbelieves most gods. Atheists just disbelieve in one less god than everyone else", Everyone disbelieves most Jesus's. Mythicists just disbelieve in one less Jesus than everyone else. There's no reason to be so nasty to people who disagree with you. I don't really understand why King Arthur scholars can disagree on whether Arthur was historical without poisoning the discussion with personal insults like you doing here. Definitely not a way to make me interested in reading anything else you write.

        • ” If you do not think you can apply the "Cleansing of the Temple" incident that all three Synoptic gospels claim was *the reason Jesus was executed*, then you need to point that out from the start in your essay instead of immediately launching into attacks on mythicists for believing that a person who supposedly created a major historical event would be remembered as a historical person.”

          A “major historical event”? We have one source about pretty much any “historical events” in Jewish affairs in this period: Josephus. Do you honestly think he recorded each and every disturbance or scuffle that ever happened in the Temple? This minor event could easily be sufficient for Jesus to be eliminated, but still not be “major” enough to rate a mention in Josephus.

          There are virtually no historical det ails about Jesus that we can draw from the epistles.”

          Why should we expect there to be? And the ones we do have clearly indicate a recent historical person. The reading of the Pauline material that tries to pretend the Jesus it mentions was a purely celestial being is so ridiculously contrived (complete with Carrier’s “Davidic sperm bank in the sky” nonsense) that it’s one of the main reasons most people can’t take Mythicism seriously.

          ” also find it strange that Josephus, who usually prattles on forever about tiny, unimportant figures would provide what has got to be one of the smallest paragraphs he has ever written about a wise, beloved, tolerant lover of truth who is killed by the Pharisees and the Romans. “

          Josephus actually doesn’t “prattle on forever about unimportant figures”. And we know that the passage in the textual receptus of Book XVIII is not what Josephus originally wrote anyway, so any argument based on its current length or brevity is going to be hard to sustain.

          ” Usually Josephus would blame this kind of thing on some overly zealous Jews or on a few "bad apple" Romans but it just ends up blaming the two groups that Josephus usually defends.”

          Wrong. He is scathing about the abuses of the Roman administration in the lead up to the Revolt and the Jewish leaders are second only to the radical insurgents in his condemnation for the calamities of the Jewish War. So this fits his approach nicely.

          ” The fact that early Christian literature shows no interest in any historical details is what makes him appear to be mythical.”

          The early Christian literature includes the gospels, of which we have a great many from the first three centuries. So that’s garbage. The rest is theological, but when it does talk about his earthly career assumes or refers to the gospels.

          ” It would be like if there was no suggestion in the early sources that Socrates was a philosopher from Athens and if Plato was referred to as a messenger of Socrates rather than a student.”

          Nonsense. Given that we have multiple accounts of his life making up about half of the earliest corpus, it’s not remotely like that at all.

          ” I think the fact that we do not have any surviving scripture of Docetists means we should be open to the possibility that the belief in a historical Jesus was an assumption brought on by the fact that they still read a gospel about a fictional Jesus.”

          You “think” that because its only by assuming your conclusion with that fantasy that you can pretend this “Docetism = mythicsts” argument fails totally.

          ” 2 Peter 1:16 is not the only example of scri pture arguing against Jesus being a myth who didn't come in the flesh. There's also:”

          The first of those is just a general reference to alternative heresies and the second is a clear reference to Doectism, so they don’t help you at all.

          ” The Pauline epistles emphasize that the teachings of "the Lord" come from heaven, not human tradition”

          And in context those references are to the idea that Paul’s “revelations” are as legitimate a basis for his authority as that of those back in Jerusalem. And why was he having to make this argument? Because those guys in Jerusalem knew Jesus or got their authority from those who did.

          ” The gospels of Mark and John say that Jesus' brothers did not believe in him.”

          gMark says no such thing. And Acts 1 has his brothers and mother present at Pentecost.

          ” If Biblical scholars can not give a unanimous decision on whether Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet, an itinerant cynic, or a suicidal zealot”

          Most of those categories overlap, with the difference being mainly one of emphasis. Vermes emphasises the charismatic Hasid and Allison emphasises the apocalyptic prophet, but both see Jesus as a faith healer and miracle worker and both agree that he had an eschatological message. Their ideas about Jesus are not at odds.

          ” There's no reason to be so nasty to people who disagree with you.”

          I give back what I get. I’ve been perfectly civil with you, I just don’t have much time for your rehearsal of the same weak arguments we have heard a thousand times before. They don’t get any stronger with repetition.

          • Bahumuth

            >>Do you honestly think he recorded each and every disturbance or scuffle that ever happened in the Temple? This minor event could easily be sufficient for Jesus to be eliminated, but still not be “major” enough to rate a mention in Josephus.

            No, crucifixion was used only against rebels, not against people who caused minor scuffles. The question of why Jesus alone but none of the followers who "would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple" were crucified has been a long, ongoing theme in the vast majority historical Jesus inquiries. I guess you are not familiar with that side of historical Jesus scholarship.

            >>Why should we expect there to be?

            Because typically when a historical person is referenced over a hundred times, you typically get some personal details about who they were in the context.

            Can you name any other peasants that were ignored by history but became so historically important?

            >>>And the ones we do have clearly indicate a recent historical person. The reading of the Pauline material that tries to pretend the Jesus it mentions was a purely celestial being is so ridiculously contrived (complete with Carrier’s “Davidic sperm bank in the sky” nonsense) that it’s one of the main reasons most people can’t take Mythicism seriously.

            Carrier works under the assumption that Paul was a historical person and the epistles we have are the unaltered originals. Personally, I think it is too much of a coincidence that we have a letter about Paul fighting Peter over authority in Antioch and after a century of everyone ignoring Paul completely, there is suddenly an explosion of Paulinism in the second century causing Paul and Peter sects to fight over authority in Antioch.

            Reconstructions of the Marcionite version fail to mention the verse so I can definitely see why it would have been added to combat Marcionite Docetism. But assuming it is authentic, that doesn't disprove mythicism because plenty of demi-gods were born to human mothers.

            >>Josephus actually doesn’t “prattle on forever about unimportant figures”. And we know that the passage in the textual receptus of Book XVIII is not what Josephus originally wrote anyway, so any argument based on its current length or brevity is going to be hard to sustain.

            Wait... hold on... so what you are saying is that, even though you do not know how large the Testimonium was or what it contained, you just know it was there? Every Josephus scholar who accepts the Testimonium believes the statement is 5 sentences or less. I have seen it suggested that the "called" in "he was called the Christ" was deleted but I have never heard any suggestion that Josephus wrote many other lines of text that the Christian editor removed. No form of the Testimonium Flavianum is cited in the extant works of Justin Martyr, Theophilus Antiochenus, Melito of Sardis, Minucius Felix, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Julius Africanus, Pseudo-Justin, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origen, Methodius, or Lactantius, even though each of those authors showed familiarity with Josephus. Louis H. Feldman surveyed 13 Josephus scholars who believed the Testimonium to be completely inauthentic. The idea that the Testimonium wasn't there originally just is not as far out as you think it is.

            >>Wrong. He is scathing about the abuses of the Roman administration in the lead up to the Revolt and the Jewish leaders are second only to the radical insurgents in his condemnation for the calamities of the Jewish War. So this fits his approach nicely.

            Josephus is a Jewish Roman general who defends both his religion and the nation he switched his alliance over to. His writings are an attempt to place the abuses of the Roman administration, which all his fellow Jews are completely aware of, in a positive context. I think everyone agrees with that. In every other instance in which Josephus talks about a subject like this, he provides an explanation for what went wrong so that his readers do not just form blind hatred for the empire.

            If you have another example where Josephus used positive language for a Jew either rebelling or even causing a "scuffle" at the Temple, or where Josephus uses positive language for a Jew and then just says he was killed by the Romans without any explanation as to why, I would definitely like to see it.

            >>The early Christian literature includes the gospels, of which we have a great many from the first three centuries. So that’s garbage.

            What historical details come from the gospels? That he has brothers who think he is crazy? Well, you don't believe that. That he was killed for halting sacrifices at the Temple? I assume you think that's an exaggeration. That he had an unconfirmed list of 12 disciples with different names and who strangely morph into "apostles"? That he's from a village called Nazareth even though Nazareth is not even mentioned in the "Jesus in his hometown" episode? That he spoke against divorce even though the majority of Christian sects were against marriage?

            >>The rest is theological, but when it does talk about his earthly career assumes or refers to the gospels.

            Give me one example of an early reference to Jesus' earthly career.

            >>Nonsense. Given that we have multiple accounts of his life making up about half of the earliest corpus, it’s not remotely like that at all.

            Are you talking about Socrates or Jesus? No one believes the gospels were written by people who knew Jesus.

            >>You “think” that because its only by assuming your conclusion with that fantasy that you can pretend this “Docetism = mythicsts” argument fails totally.

            It is pretty common to move the goalpost after you are proven wrong, so when you demand to see evidence of the belief of a heavenly Jesus, and I show it, I am not at all surprised that the answer is "Sure, that is a heavenly Jesus, but it's a heavenly Jesus that came to earth, so that doesn't count." There are a lot of stories about gods coming to earth. That does not make them any less mythical.

            >>The first of those is just a general reference to alternative heresies and the second is a clear reference to Doectism, so they don’t help you at all.

            So basically any mention of a mythical Jesus is automatically attributable to a mythical Jesus that is also historical, therefore any and all mentions of the name Jesus, regardless of context, are de facto evidence of a historical Jesus. Makes perfect sense.

            >>And in context those references are to the idea that Paul’s “revelations” are as legitimate a basis for his authority as that of those back in Jerusalem. And why was he having to make this argument? Because those guys in Jerusalem knew Jesus or got their authority from those who did.

            Only Paul never says they knew Jesus! Neither does the Epistle of James, and the Epistle of Jude identifies the author as the "brother of James", not "the brother of Jesus". 1 Peter also shares no indication that Peter knew Jesus personally. You are just assuming that Paul is being coy, as if not talking about the fact Peter and James knew Jesus personally would cause the reader to forget that they have more authority than Paul, but even if that made sense, that doesn't explain the silence of the other early epistles.

            >>gMark says no such thing. And Acts 1 has his brothers and mother present at Pentecost.

            "When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind."... Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him."
            -Mark 3:21,31

            And even if you want to set aside Jesus' brothers calling him crazy, you are still ignoring the fact that the Cephas, James, John trio in the epistles is obviously equivalent to the Peter, James, John trio in the gospels, meaning that the James of Galatians would have to be James son of Zebedee. And if James was a brother and a disciple of Jesus, then why didn't any of the gospels say so? Why do the people from Jesus' hometown refer to Jesus' brothers as still living "here with us" in the village?

            >>Most of those categories overlap, with the difference being mainly one of emphasis. Vermes emphasises the charismatic Hasid and Allison emphasises the apocalyptic prophet, but both see Jesus as a faith healer and miracle worker and both agree that he had an eschatological message. Their ideas about Jesus are not at odds.

            If you are going to try and argue that every book about the historical Jesus basically agrees with one another on all the important stuff, then all I have to say is you are not familiar with historical Jesus scholarship at all. Vermes and Allison are not the only ones writing books, you know! The Jesus Seminar has made strong arguments that Jesus was not apocalyptic at all. John Dominic Crossan in "The Cross That Spoke" tries to show how the apocalyptic sayings in Q can be shown to have been added later. S.G.F. Brandon and Reza Aslan posit that Jesus was a Zealot. Paula Fredriksen says Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah. These ideas are all very much at odds.

            >>I give back what I get. I’ve been perfectly civil with you, I just don’t have much time for your rehearsal of the same weak arguments we have heard a thousand times before. They don’t get any stronger with repetition.

            No, that's simply not true. You started mocking me without any impetus, which goes against your professionalism. If you don't want to talk about a subject, then don't post articles on that subject. While I think most people are able to have constructive discussions about whether Zoroaster or King Arthur really lived or not, I have found that is almost impossible when it comes to Jesus. I know you prefer using mythicism as a cudgel to prove that you are a more serious historian than other internet atheists, but reactions like that denote the opposite.

          • No, crucifixion was used only against rebels, not against people who caused minor scuffles.

            It would have been used against people whose rhetoric when causing disturbances in the Temple while Pilate was in town was interpreted as seditious. This does not mean this was a “major historical event”.

            ”The question of why Jesus alone but none of the followers who "would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple" were crucified has been a long, ongoing theme in the vast majority historical Jesus inquiries. I guess y ou are not familiar with that side of historical Jesus scholarship.”

            Then you’d “guess” wrongly. I’m well aware of this, thanks. Exactly what happened is obscured by the fact that we are only getting the story from apologetic sources and ones that seem to be downplaying the sedition element and trying to exonerate the Romans. But the overall tenor of the gospel accounts make sense – Jesus was causing a disturbance, the Jewish leaders feared a broader Roman reprisal in response, so they arrested him at night and handed him over to Pilate to placate him and then Jesus’ followers ran away and hid until well after Passover when Pilate would have been back in Ceasarea. This all makes sense and in no way represents a “major historical event”.

            ”Because typically when a historical person is referenced over a hundred times, you typically get some personal details about who they were in the context.”

            Really? So try this – find me these personal details in 1Clement. Or try 2Clement. Any luck? You need to pay more attention to things like genre, intent and context.

            ”Can you name any other peasants that were ignored by history but became so historically im portant?”

            Sure - Muhammad. A camel trader revered by 1.6 billion people, yet even more scantily attested historically than Jesus.

            ”Carrier works under the assumption that Paul was a historical person and the epistles we have are the unaltered originals.”

            Carrier champions some dumb positions, but even he isn’t going to pretend there wasn’t a historical Paul. He also accepts the consensus that at least seven of the epistles are actually by Paul on stylistic and other grounds. Where you’re going with that other stuff about Marcionite Docetism I have no idea.

            ”Every Josephus scholar who accepts the Testimonium believes the statement is 5 sentences or less. I have seen it suggested that the "called" in "he was called the Christ" was deleted but I have never heard any suggestion that Josephus wrote many other lines of text that the Christian editor removed.”

            Then you need to read more widely – it’s been noted many times that the fourth century interpolators could have removed elements as well as adding them to the Bk. XVIII reference; though it doesn’t get much more than mention as a possibility because it is nothing more than that. I’m merely noting that you need to check some of your assumptions.

            ”Louis H. Feldman surveyed 13 Josephus scholars who believed the Testimonium to be completely inauthentic. The idea that the Testimonium wasn't there originally just is not as far out as you think it is.”

            I have simply said that it’s the minority view, which it is. Much more so that when Feldman did that survey, in fact, as Kirby’s more recent assessment shows.

            ”Josephus is a Jewish Roman general who defends both his religion and the nation he switched his alliance over to. His writings are an attempt to place the abuses of the Roman administration, which all his fellow Jews are completely aware of, in a positive context. I think everyone agrees with that.”

            Everyone agrees on those general principles, certainly. But Josephus also placed the blame for the rebellion and its calamitous results on three factors: (i) some heavy-handed and oppressive Roman administrators (like Pilate), (ii) often foolish and/or corrupt Jewish leaders (like the Sanhedrin) and (iii) hot-headed radical nationalists. The Jesus account in Bk. XVIII (minus the obvious additions) contains two of these three elements. The whole of Bk XX is a litany of condemnations of all three of these elements. Have you actually read Josephus?

            ”If you have another example where Josephus used positive language for a Jew either rebelling or even causing a "scuffle" at the Temple, or where Jos ephus uses positive language for a Jew and then just says he was killed by the Romans without any explanation as to why, I would definitely like to see it.”

            Remove the elements in that challenge where you are deliberately narrowing things to a ridiculously specific degree, and I can do so easily. John the Baptist is presented as another wise man who was accused of fomenting a rebellion and was unjustly executed by a Jewish leader and Roman puppet.

            ”What historical details come from the gospels?”

            There’s a whole discipline called “New Testament studies” that tries to answer that question. But your claim was that the “early Christian literature shows no interest in any historical details” about Jesus. The existence of a whole genre of works that show great interest in those details shows this is total nonsense.

            ”Give me one example of an early reference to Jesus' earthly career.”

            Outside the gospels? Sure – Paul says he was born as a human, of a human mother, and born a Jew (Galatians 4:4). He repeats that he had a "human nature" and that he was a human descendant of King David (Romans 1:3). He refers to teachings Jesus made during his earthly ministry on divorce (1 Cor. 7:10), on preachers (1 Cor. 9:14) and on the coming apocalypse (1 Thess. 4:15). He mentions how he was executed by earthly rulers (1 Cor. 2:8) and that he died and was buried (1 Cor 15:3-4). And he says he had an earthly, physical brother called James who Paul himself had met (Galatians 1:19). The Dohertyite attempts to make all those references to a recent, earthly, historical Jesus go away and to turn them into this “celestial Jesus” doing all these things in the heavens are contrived and ridiculous and so have convinced pretty much no-one in the field. Carrier’s attempts to bolster them with things like his crazy “Davidic sperm bank in the sky” theory are doubly so.

            ”when you demand to see evidence of the belief of a heavenly Jesus, and I show it,”

            *chuckle* You didn’t “show it”. You came up with two references to Docetism and then triumphantly simply assumed your own conclusion about them. I’m afraid that’s not how you argue a point.

            ”There are a lot of stories about gods coming to earth. That does not make them any less mythical.”

            The difference being that (i) we have references to this one being on earth that date to just 20 years later, (ii) they mention him having an earthly brother who the writer had met and (iii) we also get references to him as an earthly historical human in two neutral sources written within a century of his death. Find me all of that for Mithras or Osiris and you’ll have yourself an argument. You need to stop thinking that assuming your conclusion and stating it assertively is actually making a case – it isn’t.

            ”And even if you want to set aside Jesus' brothers calling him crazy”

            That’s an artefact of translation. Look at the Greek and it makes more sense that it’s the crowd in that anecdote who thinks he is crazy and its “those who were with him” who went to rescue him. His family don’t turn up until 10 verses later.

            ”you are still ignoring the fact that the Cephas, James, John trio in the epistles is obviously equivalent to the Peter, James, John trio in the gospels, meaning that the James of Galatians would have to be James son of Zebedee”

            That would be a bit hard, given that James son of Zebedee is reported as being executed at Acts 12:2. Paul’s confrontation with the elders in Jerusalem is later, in Acts 15.

            ”And if James was a brother and a disciple of Jes us, then why didn't any of the gospels say so?”

            Luke-Acts does. See Acts 1:14. You do realise that Acts is a continuation of gLuke don’t you?

            ”Why do the people from Jesus' hometown refer to Jesus' brothers as still living "here with us" in the village?”

            Actually, they only say that his sisters were “here with us as well”, but that implies that his mother and brothers who they have just mentioned are also living there. Yet by Acts 1:14 his mother and brothers are all gathered in Jerusalem with the rest of his followers. You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to work this one out, so I’ll leave the rest of this puzzle for you to solve.

            ”If you are going to try and argue that every book about the historical Jesus bas ically agrees with one another on all the important stuff …”

            I’m merely saying that those who use this weak argument overstate the differences, not that there are no differences at all. It would be more surprising that there weren’t any such differences, given that if you gather together more than four or five scholars of Shakespeare or Ceasar or Napoleon or … anyone at all in history, you get such differences. Doubly so in the case of ancient figures where our sources are scanty and often contradictory. They do agree on some things though, such as his crucifixion and the fact he existed.

            ”You started mocking me without any impetus, which goes against your professionalism.”

            If I ever decide to actually “mock” you, you’ll be sure to notice I can assure. Nothing I’ve said to you has risen above some mild wry sarcasm. Stop the pathetic whining.

          • Bahumuth

            >>>>”Because typically when a historical person is referenced over a hundred times, you typically get some personal details about who they were in the context.”

            >>Really? So try this – find me these personal details in 1Clement. Or try 2Clement. Any luck? You need to pay more attention to things like genre, intent and context.

            I was thinking along the lines of using a different example other than Jesus. Take any of the letters of Plato and, without knowing anything about Socrates, you can immediately identify him as a living, breathing person who said and did many different things in the real world and had a distinct personality.

            1 Clement is an early epistle that shows no knowledge of either the gospels or that Jesus was a Galilean exorcist and healer. The millstone quote looks like a more original version of the verse than the one used in the gospel, seemingly transposed to use against Judas. Jesus is mentioned 28 times but he doesn't actually DO anything except say things (in revelation). True, its said he is descended from Jacob according to the flesh, but again, that could be a reference to a demi-god or a shadowy figure from the first century B.C. with little to no historical information known about him. Just as with the Biblical epistles, scripture takes the place of history. For example, when we are told to "pattern by those who went about in sheepskins and goatskins heralding the Messiah’s coming...", does he bring up John the Baptist? No, instead he thinks of "Elijah, Elisha and Ezekiel."

            There are only 9 references to Jesus in 2 Clement. It has a back-and-forth between Jesus and Peter that does look a lot more like a discussion between a historical Jesus and his disciple than a discussion through meditative revelation, but there is something similar to that in the Gospel of Thomas. It looks to me like Jesus is known only through sayings in this epistle, so the author is probably basing everything on one or more sayings gospels like Thomas.

            >>Carrier champions some dumb positions, but even he isn’t going to pretend there wasn’t a historical Paul. He also accepts the consensus that at least seven of the epistles are actually by Paul on stylistic and other grounds. Where you’re going with that other stuff about Marcionite Docetism I have no idea.

            As I said, I have a problem with the way Paul is supposed to be some unknown, so much so that Justin Martyr has a reference to Marcion but not Paul, and then his "legacy" suddenly explodes in popularity in the second century. I also don't understand why most scholars assume the epistles we have now are the earliest versions considering some Marcionite variations look earlier. Consider that Tertullian's Against Marcion quotes the Marcionite gospel as skipping from Luke 3:1 to 4:31 and Luke has Jesus refer to healings in Capernaum before he does them, indicating the verse was originally placed after Jesus arrives in Capernaum in 4:31. Joseph B. Tyson's "Marcion and Luke-Acts" does a pretty good investigation on it.

            >>Then you need to read more widely – it’s been noted many times that the fourth century interpolators could have removed elements as well as adding them to the Bk. XVIII reference; though it doesn’t get much more than mention as a possibility because it is nothing more than that. I’m merely noting that you need to check some of your assumptions.

            I am sure they are talking about maybe another sentence or two. Otherwise, give me a link or reference. I guess whatever you read about it was not illuminating enough for you to the point where you can further an explanation for why. Basically, you are saying I should not make assumptions about even the general size of the text because of your own assumptions that it might have been a little bit longer.

            >>>>”Louis H. Feldman surveyed 13 Josephus scholars who believed the Testimonium to be completely inauthentic. The idea that the Testimonium wasn't there originally just is not as far out as you think it is.”

            >>I have simply said that it’s the minority view, which it is. Much more so that when Feldman did that survey, in fact, as Kirby’s more recent assessment shows.

            Really? Because it looked to me like you were making the argument that dismissing Josephus is part of the problem with mythicism.

            >>Remove the elements in that challenge where you are deliberately narrowing things to a ridiculously specific degree, and I can do so easily. John the Baptist is presented as another wise man who was accused of fomenting a rebellion and was unjustly executed by a Jewish leader and Roman puppet.

            Good example. The John the Baptist narrative provides an explanation for why he was killed because Herod "feared that such strong influence over the people might carry to a revolt -- for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise -- believed it much better to move now than later have it raise a rebellion and engage him in actions he would regret." Now look for a reason for why Jesus was killed. There is no explanation. If Josephus received contemporary news about Jesus, then he would have known the charges. Although the Synoptic gospels provide a specific explanation for his execution -- the Cleansing of the Temple -- the general impression that most readers get from the numerous repetitive miracle stories in the gospels is that Jesus was killed for no other reason than angering the elders and teachers of law, which is exactly what Josephus tells us.

            >>There’s a whole discipline called “New Testament studies” that tries to answer that question. But your claim was that the “early Christian literature shows no interest in any historical details” about Jesus. The existence of a whole genre of works that show great interest in those details shows this is total nonsense.

            Biblical scholars do not go into New Testament studies with the question of whether Jesus existed or not. They are just taking the assumption that he existed and are working backwards to find a narrative for why we can accept some things as history and dismiss others as nonhistory. If the question of the historical Jesus wasn't inherently problematic, then there would not be a genre of works trying to figure out what is historical and what isn't.

            >>Outside the gospels? Sure – Paul says he was born as a human, of a human mother, and born a Jew (Galatians 4:4). He repeats that he had a "human nature" and that he was a human descendant of King David (Romans 1:3).

            We've been through this. Demi-gods are born to humans. Shadowy mythical figures from the past are born to humans. You don't find it a little weird that you get all this talk about his "human nature" without any mention of human actions in the real world?

            >>He refers to teachings Jesus made during his earthly ministry on divorce (1 Cor. 7:10),

            You don't find it weird that every Pauline sect EXCEPT the Apostolic presbyters who decided to adopt the theology of Paul based solely on his letters ended up ignoring that teaching completely and demanded asceticism? Even a writer from the "presbyters should be married" Apostolic sect ended up writing an apocryphal story of Paul demanding asceticism to be saved in The Acts of Paul and Thecla, and according to Tertullian, he was punished for it!

            >>on preachers (1 Cor. 9:14)

            Just before "the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel", it says "Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?". This shows that being an "apostle" means you had visions of Jesus, and it's the vision that told him that, not human tradition, as he emphasizes over and over again.

            >>and on the coming apocalypse (1 Thess. 4:15).

            Another saying? When I asked for history, I meant actions. There's no indication as to whether this is supposed to be a historical or heavenly Jesus. The very next sentence, 4:16, says "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven", suggests the latter. 4:9 says the Thessalonians were taught about brotherly love from God, not Jesus.

            Notice there's no mention of Pilate, no reference to Nazareth, no miracles, no exorcisms, no disciples. The one "historical" verse is marred by the fact that Jesus is said to have been killed by Jews without any mention of Romans. This matches better with the first century B.C. Jesus in the Talmud and the Toledot. Both John Dominic Crossan and Delbert Burkett have hypothesized early gospel sources (the Cross gospel and Sanhedrin Trial source, respectively) where Jesus is executed and buried by his Jewish enemies without any help from the Romans (although neither believes the source to be historical, obviously).

            The Toledot version called "The Jewish Life of Christ" says that 30 years after Jesus was hung (around 33 B.C.), twelve men, called “bad offspring of foul ravens,” traveled through Israel as apostles, popularizing Jesus' faith. Acts also mentions Seven “Grecian Jews” (NIV) or “Hellenists” (NJB) who were chosen by the Twelve Disciples to overlook the daily distribution of food; these men were “full of Spirit and wisdom” but were nevertheless given a back-handed denigration by “Luke” in that they given this task so that the Twelve would not have to “neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables”. The Gospel of Mark has two episodes where Jesus feeds 4-5,000 people, and soon after the second episode, Jesus tells his disciples when they are complaining about food that after he broke FIVE loaves for 5,000, there were TWELVE left over, and after he broke SEVEN loaves for 4,000, there were seven left over (8.19-21). According to the Talmud, Jesus had five disciples. Thus the five loaves appear to me to be symbolic of the five original disciples of Jesus “feeding” the inspiration of 5,000, with twelve apostles left over many years later. The seven loaves likewise represents the seven Hellenists feeding the inspiration of 4,000, presumably leaving another seven Hellenists in their place. The author appeals for the numerical significance in the code when he has Jesus ask his disciples, “Do you still not realize?”

            >> He mentions how he was executed by earthly rulers (1 Cor. 2:8)

            If you don't already know the mythicist interpretation of what "archons of this aeon" means, then I don't think you know enough about mythicism to be criticizing it.

            >> and that he died and was buried (1 Cor 15:3-4).

            "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,"

            The "buried" part is definitely problematic for most mythicists (not me) but this looks a lot more like scriptural exegesis than a historical elaboration to me.

            >>*chuckle* You didn’t “show it”. You came up with two references to Docetism and then triumphantly simply assumed your own conclusion about them. I’m afraid that’s not how you argue a point.

            Okay, how do you argue a point when there is absolutely nothing you will ever accept as "mythical"? Any heavenly Jesus I point to is just labeled "Docetism", which doesn't count. You have hermetically sealed off any possibility of an acceptable answer, and thus are basically admitting your question was a set up question made in bad faith. I can point to other examples, like all the references to Jesus being "hung on a tree", but if you can't even accept a reference to a heretical sect believing in a heavenly Jesus when you ask for a reference to a heretical sect believing in a heavenly Jesus, then I probably shouldn't waste my time.

            ”There are a lot of stories about gods coming to earth. That does not make them any less mythical.”

            >>The difference being that (i) we have references to this one being on earth that date to just 20 years later,

            What evidence do you have that the Pauline epistles were written in the 50s other than scholarly consensus?

            >> (ii) they mention him having an earthly brother who the writer had met

            Yet he somehow didn't know the name of Jesus' mother, and proudly said that everything he taught about Jesus had come through visions long before he met him.

            >> and (iii) we also get references to him as an earthly historical human in two neutral sources written within a century of his death.

            What exactly does Tacitus say about Jesus that would provide us with evidence that he really existed, other than Christians knew the gospel story and sung to Jesus "as if he were a god"? If you replaced the name Noah with Jesus in the Tacitus quote, would that prove Noah was historical?

            >>>>”And even if you want to set aside Jesus' brothers calling him crazy”

            >>That’s an artefact of translation. Look at the Greek and it makes more sense that it’s the crowd in that anecdote who thinks he is crazy and its “those who were with him” who went to rescue him. His family don’t turn up until 10 verses later.

            What does that matter? Whoever said it, Jesus' mothers and sons are clearly coming to "take charge" of him because they agree with that assessment. Jesus confirms this by dismissing them by saying they are not his *real* family. The hostility is unarguably evident, which is why Matthew and Luke had to change it to fit the Virgin Birth narrative. Every scholar I've read acknowledges this. So, are you going to tell me that every serious historian has to accept the "literal brother" interpretation of Galatians over the gospels of Mark and John?

            >>That would be a bit hard, given that James son of Zebedee is reported as being executed at Acts 12:2. Paul’s confrontation with the elders in Jerusalem is later, in Acts 15.

            Okay, so after Jesus dies, James son of Zebedee becomes leader in Jerusalem, not Peter. Then a completely different James, Jesus' brother, takes his place, even though the author of Acts never explains any of this and none of the gospels portray him as a disciple of even a follower before his death. I guess you are just assuming "Luke" forgot to mention all that?

            >>>>”And if James was a brother and a disciple of Jes us, then why didn't any of the gospels say so?”

            >>Luke-Acts does. See Acts 1:14. You do realise that Acts is a continuation of gLuke don’t you?

            I think you are wandering out of the scholarship consensus you are defending here. The majority of Acts is generally believed to be complete fiction. Luke-Acts does not even identify any of Jesus' brothers by name and removes the hostility evident in Mark. Acts only says his nameless brothers joined the apostles in prayer, obviously trying to supplant the "hostile family" narrative in Mark. It certainly does not say any of Jesus' brothers became leaders of the movement, much less that his brother is the second James! It's funny that you keep complaining about my assumptions even when I start off saying "Assuming that..." and here you are going into a completely unintuitive speculation without so much as an "if". You are just inventing history by using the apologetic practice of combining the parts you like from contradicting gospels.

            >>Actually, they only say that his sisters were “here with us as well”, but that implies that his mother and brothers who they have just mentioned are also living there. Yet by Acts 1:14 his mother and brothers are all gathered in Jerusalem with the rest of his followers. You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to work this one out, so I’ll leave the rest of this puzzle for you to solve.

            I think you do need to be Sherlock Homes to explain how you go from the James in the Gospel Mark being hostile towards Jesus to leading the movement in Jerusalem in Galatians. Trying to fix a tiny part of the problem by splicing in a single apologetic verse from Acts that contradicts the context of Luke-Acts is absolutely ridiculous. It still doesn't answer why someone who didn't follow Jesus would instantly rise to a leadership role.

            >>I’m merely saying that those who use this weak argument overstate the differences, not that there are no differences at all. It would be more surprising that there weren’t any such differences, given that if you gather together more than four or five scholars of Shakespeare or Ceasar or Napoleon or … anyone at all in history, you get such differences. Doubly so in the case of ancient figures where our sources are scanty and often contradictory. They do agree on some things though, such as his crucifixion and the fact he existed.

            No, questioning whether Jesus really believed in "Love your enemies" or if he believed all the Romans will die in a fiery apocalypse is way more different than whatever unmentioned differences scholars have on Shakespeare.

            >>If I ever decide to actually “mock” you, you’ll be sure to notice I can assure. Nothing I’ve said to you has risen above some mild wry sarcasm. Stop the pathetic whining.

            I believe you when you say you can be an even bigger jackass than you are now, but the problem is when you decide to show your "mild wry sarcasm" over complex questions like the historicity of Jesus, it just shows you have some emotional chip on your shoulder. Would you be such a jerk towards someone if they questioned the historicity of Moses? I doubt it. How much and which parts of the gospel Jesus is considered historical are highly debatable and the list you produced of historical facts about Jesus, even if most of them weren't contested by plenty of Biblical scholars, is paltry. There's just no reason to form such a big ego over such a problematic question.

  • Vanessa Pouso

    regarding "There are no contemporary accounts or mentions of Jesus. There should be, so clearly no Jesus existed.", were the records about Hannibal never written or were they lost? If they didn't survive I understand they were written and then lost, yet Jesus' were never written.
    Not quite the same then.

    • Can you tell how you know there were no comtemporary records of Jesus written and lost?

      • Vanessa Pouso

        I don't know, that's why I am asking. As you express it, it's understood Jesus' were never written, but Hannibal's were and then they were lost. I'm asking you to explain that.

        • For all we know, there were dozens of contemporary references to Jesus, which are all lost. An estimated 90%+ of ancient works are lost, and that's just the ones we know about. The Hannibal example simply illustrates this - if all contemporary references to someone as famous and prominent are lost, it's ridiculous to expect any for someone as obscure as Jesus to survive and absolutely ludicrous to base an argument about his existence on the totally unremarkable fact that we have no contemporary references to him.

          • Donald

            Which of course is a meaningless assumption that does not in any support the base contention that this person in fact existed. It is pure supposition in the same light as von Daniken's baseless assertion that aliens built the pyramids. What you are implying is little more than the conspiracy theorist's contention that no evidence is evidence.
            Bollocks!
            The obscurity idea and every other constructed excuse to paint over the lack of any external supporting evidence for this person is a sham. There are inscriptions, graffiti on the walls of the Coliseum regarding lowly gladiators, scraps of writings from legionnaires on Hadrian's Wall have been unearthed in great numbers, records of grain and nails sent to distant outposts of the empire, clay tablets of minor disputes between neighbors and all manner of other trivial matter from obscure persons many of which are not even named and you wish to contend that obscurity is the reason nothing exists.
            That is so thin as to be invisible and meaningless.
            In fact it is absolutely rational to base a sound contention that until and unless hard evidence is forthcoming then there exists no reason to accept such a contention that such a person existed. Otherwise the lack of logic you are presenting can be used for every half baked ridiculous idea that any one wishes to toss out and is nothing more that a variant on the 'well you can't prove its wrong ideology'.
            If you truly believe what you have said then you must then accept that the pyramids WERE built by aliens, that Atlantis IS the foundation of all human civilization and that every other religious mythology IS equally as true as the one you are attempting to defend as they do not have any rational, objective evidence supporting them either.
            It works both ways.

          • Oh dear, here we go again ...

            "What you are implying is little more than the conspiracy theorist's contention that no evidence is evidence."

            Total nonsense - I'm not saying that the lack of contemporary sources means anything at all other than the hard FACT that we lack contemporary sources for almost everyone in the ancient world - we only have them in exceptional cases. I'm noting this to argue against the claim that their lack for Jesus necessarily indicates that he didn't exist. I'm not noting it to argue that he did exist. If you've going to comment on what I'm saying at least try to follow what's being said.

            "The obscurity idea and every other constructed excuse to paint over the lack of any external supporting evidence for this person is a sham. "

            Please explain how this is a "constructed excuse". We have no contemporary sources for ANY early first century Jewish preacher, prophet or Messianic claimant. So it's not surprising that we don't have any for this one - they were obscure figures and so Jesus is also, unsurprisingly, an obscure figure. This is not a "constructed excuse" , but a clear and logical argument based on demonstrable facts. Simply blurting silly phrases like "constructed excuse" isn't making a coherent argument, it's just shouting.

            "There are inscriptions, graffiti on the walls of the Coliseum regarding lowly gladiators, scraps of writings from legionnaires on Hadrian's Wall ... "

            Yes, there are. And they represent contemporary testimony for a microscopic fraction of the population of the time. For more than 90% of the people we know about we have no contemporary references to them at all.

            "you wish to contend that obscurity is the reason nothing exists."

            What a confused argument. Try to focus - we are talking about people who are only known by references after their deaths because they were obscure in their lifetimes but became prominent enough to be mentioned, often in passing, some time later. All early first century Jewish preachers, prophets and Messianic claimants that we know of fall into this category, including Jesus. The fact that there is a tiny number of other, equally obscure people who, by chance, we know of through the random fragments of evidence you mention is irrelevant.

            "In fact it is absolutely rational to base a sound contention that until and unless hard evidence is forthcoming then there exists no reason to accept such a contention that such a person existed."

            That is not rational at all. First of all, what exactly would constitute "hard evidence" of a kind that we could expect to find for an early first century Jewish preacher? Because that last part is the key point. Unless you are prepared to establish that, all you're doing is demanding an undefined level of evidence that can therefore never be met. Secondly, given the nature of ancient source material, where we don't have eyewitness or even contemporary evidence even for most very famous people, the idea that the default position for anyone for whom we don't have such evidence is "they didn't exist" is ludicrous. Most people who are only mentioned in later sources, like Hannibal, DID exist. To pretend that it makes sense to assume that anyone only mentioned in a later source was a mythic being is not "rational" at all, it's ridiculous.

            "If you truly believe what you have said then you must then accept that the pyramids WERE built by aliens, that Atlantis IS the foundation of all human civilization and that every other religious mythology IS equally as true as the one you are attempting to defend as they do not have any rational, objective evidence supporting them either."

            And speaking of ridiculous, you end with that spectacularly stupid non sequitur. I suspect you are going to be another waste of my time.

          • Donald

            “I'm not saying that the lack of contemporary sources means anything at all other than the hard FACT that we lack contemporary sources for almost everyone in the ancient world”
            Yet you and the author are attempting to in fact use that as evidence to support your assertion that this one specific figure did exist. That the majority of humanity left no real record is not the issue because no one is attempting to build a religious ideology around the implied existence of Clavius of Tarraco for example.
            You are!

            “we only have them in exceptional cases”
            That is precisely what you are attempting to make this person into. You assert that he was so unique and special then turn around and try and claim that he was so obscure that none took notice. That is a double standard and the very fact that you then assert that is if the corner stone of an entire mythology makes that idea ridiculous.

            “I'm noting this to argue against the claim that their lack for Jesus necessarily indicates that he didn't exist.”
            Correct, however you are defending the author who asserts that he did, you have argued vehemently that he did and yet neither of you can produce the necessary objective evidence to support those positive claims resorting to rhetorical argument that are in effect meaningless without such.
            There is a very simple axiom that applies here, ‘the time to believe something is when there is evidence supporting that is does’. To date you have relied solely on non-evidentiary arguments that are not evidence but argumentation dependent on subjective belief.

            “Please explain how this is a "constructed excuse".
            Because it is arguing that non evidence is evidence which is an excuse. Your claim that ‘he was so obscure that none took notice’ and have yet to offer any rational explanation regarding the wealth of information that we have unearthed about other equally ‘obscure persons’ while at the same time defending the ideology that he was so important and magical as to have spawned an entire religion.
            Those two ideas are almost self-exclusionary.

            “We have no contemporary sources for ANY early first century Jewish preacher, prophet or Messianic claimant.”
            Yes and were you in fact a real skeptic rather than someone merely using that term incorrectly you would understand why their
            existence is also not demonstrated as being real. You are falsely attempting to imply that they are real but no evidence exists therefore the other must be as well. That is insanely ridiculous.

            “And they represent contemporary testimony for a microscopic fraction of the population of the time. For more than 90% of the people we know about we have no contemporary references to them at all.”
            Yes which means that anyone trying to claim that a specific individual existed, as you are doing, must then provide actual evidence that they in fact did exist rather than playing a variant of the ‘well you can’t prove I’m wrong’ fallacy which is what you are doing. Actually I’d place the figure in the same realm and the number of extinct species, 99.9% but that still does nothing to prop up your ‘no evidence is evidence’ nonsense.

            “we are talking about people who are only known by references after their deaths because they were obscure in their lifetimes but
            became prominent enough to be mentioned, often in passing, some time later”
            That is completely wrong and you either know that is the case or are being willfully dishonest. Alexander, Julius Ceasar, Augustus, every Egyptian pharaoh, the kings of the Hittites, Sumerians, Babylonians, Chinese emperors as well as many, many nobles, couriers and others were all documented during their lifetimes as well as many common citizens in tax records, land deeds, judicial record and other documents. You are simply manufacturing a false idea to try and cover over the empty hole you are calling evidence.

            “All early first century Jewish preachers, prophets and Messianic claimants that we know of fall into this category”
            Yes you played that card already and it means nothing other than their existence is not demonstrated either.

            “That is not rational at all.”
            Then you do not understand what rationality means and prefer to accept baseless assertions related to a myth you likely think is
            true.

            “First of all, what exactly would constitute "hard evidence" of a kind that we could expect to find for an early first century Jewish preacher?”
            Anything at all actually that goes beyond the rhetorical argumentation, the false claims of obscurity being the reason nothing exists when that has been clearly demonstrated not a valid excuse, the petty conspiracy theory nonsense that no evidence is really evidence and all the other deceptions apologists like you try to use to prop up a vacuous idea.
            A coin, a letter, a record in the Roman archives since he was executed by them and they were very good at record keeping, an
            inscription made by one of his apostles or firsthand followers, ANYTHING AT ALL other than this blank slate you think is evidence.
            However you and you brethren know that all you have is faith, that there is no evidence beyond those subjective and meaningless assertions that will stand up outside the sphere of the beliefs

            “given the nature of ancient source material, where we don't have eyewitness or even contemporary evidence even for most very famous people you are trying to distance yourself from but your words lay that out to be entirely suspect."
            Which you in fact know is a false statement but are indeed pretending that it is true to manufacture the illusion that there is
            reason to accept you assertions.
            There are in fact a vast store of contemporary accounts of persons of historical note and many of their underlings which you have to try to claim do not in fact exist to bolster you assertions. When you
            have to resort to deceptions like this it is clear that your underlying
            argument is also deceptive.

            “Most people who are only mentioned in later sources, like Hannibal”
            Sorry but that is not true and I think that you know this. Hannibal was recorded by contemporaries in Rome and among his own
            people in Hispania. You are simply making another false assertion desperately attempting to construct a house of cards to protect your lack of evidence.
            I point you towards the Greek historian Polybius who wrote at that time of Hannibal Barca as did the Roman Titus Livius Patavinus. These two alone show that your statement if false like so
            much else you try to present.

            “I suspect you are going to be another waste of my time.”
            No I already have concluded through your deceptive remarks your false claim of atheism, your repetitive attempts to use the same ‘no
            evidence is evidence’ theory and other apologetic tactics that you are a closed minded theist using the personal deceit of claiming atheism when nothing could be further from the truth.
            No I have already determined that you are a colossal waste of time as you pretend to be a skeptic yet are immersed in this mythology to the point of irrationality to defend and protect your obsession with it being true. You are not interested or even open to a rational discussion but are merely defending your belief in this myths claiming it is true and grasping at straws to stay above the waterline.
            Is there the possibility that an itinerant Jewish, first century rabbi who went by the name of jesus or something similar existed? Quite possibly so.
            Does that then imply or infer that this is the same person spoken of in a book written between 30 to 70 years after the fact? Most likely not until and unless the same type of evidence you would demand at a trial where you are charged with a crime is presented rather than these pathetic and useless arguments attempting to reason him into existence.
            Would such evidence of his existence present any justification for accepting the supernatural claims of magic associated with this legend or the further claims of divinity? Not in the slightest as both are totally in the realm of superstition that cannot be demonstrated in reality.

  • Vanessa Pouso

    Has he never read Paul's epistles either? I am genuinely asking, you seem to know about religious scholars regarding what you wrote.
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/12/18/did-historical-jesus-exist-the-traditional-evidence-doesnt-hold-up/?utm_term=.c83341bae792

    • Lastaster is a former fundamentalist Christian turned militant atheist who parrots the Mythicist thesis of Richard Carrier. He claims Paul saw Jesus as a purely celestial, mythic figure who had no earthly existence. He accepts Carrier and Doherty's contrived and unconvincing attempts to explain away the various clear Pauline references to a human, earthly Jesus. Virtually no actual scholars find these arguments remotely convincing, but Lataster seems motivated mainly by an emotional reaction against his former fanatical Christianity as well as by a rather smug contrarianism.

  • Donald

    So aside from attempting to argue this figure into existence claiming like any good conspiracy theorist that 'lack of evidence is actually evidence', using the fallacy of circular argument by citing scripture to prove scripture and presenting the fraud of Josephus and Tacitus who were born well after the event and never by their own record encountered a single first hand witness what evidence does this author pretending to be an 'atheist', thus trying to use the apologist's tactic of claiming 'well if the opposition accepts our claims they have to be true, present in the way of actual objective evidence?
    That would be absolutely nothing!
    This is pure rhetoric desperately attempting to manufacture the illusion of objective analysis when it is little more than a historical clone of the fraud called 'creation science' where a predetermined conclusion tries to lead the evidence where it does not point yet smiling and saying 'look we're doing science they're just persecuting us for our truth which we can't actually demonstrate is real'.
    Sadly this type of pandering nonsense only holds water within the sphere of belief as people outside will validate the alleged facts present and find that they are flawed or nonexistent which is the case here. We will ask the questions you cannot answer and dismiss the use of unsubstantiated ancient religious texts as not evidence but mythology.
    Want to argue that this person in fact existed then stop dancing around the Maypole and present real, tangible, objective evidence instead of these endless song and dances.

    • Another incoherent rant from "Donald". I'm beginning to wonder if this guy's surname is "Trump".

      "So aside from attempting to argue this figure into existence claiming like any good conspiracy theorist that 'lack of evidence is actually evidence'"

      Utter nonsense. I note the lack of contemporary evidence is exactly what we would expect, given that we have a similar lack for any other early first century Jewish prophets and preachers, as well as for over 90% of figures we know of in the ancient world. I make this point to counter the argument that this lack for Jesus therefore means he didn't exist - that doesn't follow at all. Try to understand what I'm saying before blundering like that again.

      "using the fallacy of circular argument by citing scripture to prove scripture "

      Another confused comment. If I were saying "The Bible is true because this passage in the Bible says it's true" then that would be a circular argument and "citing scripture to prove scripture". I do nothing like that. I simply do what historians do with any ancient source - look at the writings of the earliest Christians to see what they tell us about what their authors believed about Jesus. Because that is an obvious line of inquiry into how those beliefs arose. To pretend that this is not relevant to the question of whether or not Jesus existed is simply stupid.

      "presenting the fraud of Josephus and Tacitus'

      Their passages are "frauds"? I'm afraid the overwhelming consensus of Tacitean and Josephan scholars is against you there. But I suppose assuming your own conclusions is nice tactic when you're trying this kind of Gish Gallop.

      "who were born well after the event and never by their own record encountered a single first hand witness"

      About 95% of all of our sources on ancient history fall into this category. Are you happy to throw all of that out as well or is this bizarre level of scepticism only to be applied in this case for some strange, logically inconsistent reason?

      "this author pretending to be an 'atheist',"

      *Chuckle* This weak gambit again? If I'm "pretending" to be an atheist, it's one of the most elaborate pretences in modern history. I have a posting history as an atheist that goes back to alt.atheism in 1992, I've been a state president of the Australian Skeptics and am a paid up subscribing member of the Australian Atheist Foundation and have been for years. So don't even try to go there.

      "Want to argue that this person in fact existed then stop dancing around the Maypole and present real, tangible, objective evidence instead of these endless song and dances."

      Define "real, tangible, objective evidence" and give examples of it for any other early first century Jewish preacher, prophet or Messianic claimant. If you can't, then all you're doing is raising the bar for Jesus just high enough to exclude Jesus. Which is patently illogical.

      • Donald

        “I note the lack of contemporary evidence is exactly what we would expect, given that we have a similar lack for any other early first century Jewish prophets and preachers, as well as for over 90% of figures we know of in the ancient world.”
        That is bollocks as you are simply mimicking the author and cannot present a rational explanation for why some many other artifacts have been discovered relating to completely obscure and forgotten person while none exist, a complete and total dearth, for this mythic figure.
        What you are doing is trying to pretend that as I stated ‘no evidence is evidence’ but it is merely wishful thinking. Name a dozen of these first century figures that are widely known and I will gladly reference the support documentation for their existence.
        Oh and your exaggerations to impress mean very little.
        I say I have a million dollars but there is no evidence supporting this claim. Now give me a hundred thousand using your lack of logic and I’ll pay you back a hundred and ten next Tuesday.

        “If I were saying "The Bible is true because this passage in the Bible says it's true" then that would be a circular argument and "citing scripture to prove scripture". I do nothing like that. I simply do what historians do with any ancient source.”
        You are the one who is confused as I did not say that you did this. I clearly stated that the author is doing that and he is.
        The writings of the ‘early christians are statements of their beliefs which are not germane as the are no different than anyone today saying something similar. They were not direct first hand witnesses none did any of them live when this figure was alive. That is not how historians work, they do not simply take a single ancient story and accept it as truth the way that theists ask their fables to be swallowed. They rely on multiple supporting documents, artifacts and other materials.

        “Their passages are "frauds"? I'm afraid the overwhelming consensus of
        Tacitean and Josephan scholars is against you there.”
        Really then why not name at least a dozen of these scholars who are not directly and solely associated with a religious website or organization such as this who in fact support that sweeping and meaningless claim?
        I said that those attempting to lay claim to Tacitus and Josephus as valid direct, credible sources relating to this person are fraud since that claim is not substantiated by the very writings of those ancient historians.
        You cannot avoid dealing with the simple fact that both of those commonly used apologetic mainstays where simply not alive at the time when that person was. Their reports clearly state that they are only reporting on what those people within that group believed. Using the ‘logic’ you are attempting to present then every other religious ideology that has a
        similar second or third hand account is equally valid.
        Are you going to accept that as a valid assessment or are you going try to use special pleading to claim that your mythology is true but theirs isn’t?

        “About 95% of all of our sources on ancient history fall into this category.”
        Sorry but that is simply not true and you likely know it isn’t but are trying to create an illusion that will allow you to then present flawed evidence you believe will support your beliefs.
        Alexander, for example, left a wake of destroyed and created cities behind. We have buildings, libraries and cities, such as Alexandria, left in his name. We have treaties, and even a letter from Alexander to the people of Chios, engraved in stone, dated at 332 B.C.E. For Augustus Caesar, we have the Res gestae divi augusti, the emperor's own account of his works and deeds, a letter to his son (Epistula ad Gaium filium), Virgil's eyewitness accounts, and much more. Napoleon left behind artifacts, eyewitness accounts and letters.
        We can establish some historicity to these people because we have evidence that occurred during their life times. Yet even with contemporary evidence, historians have become wary of after-the-fact stories of many of these historical people.
        Yes there are accounts written after the death of historical figures many by people who did not meet them yet many relied on accounts from people who were well acquainted with them, who reviewed documents available at
        the time and for which we have so existing artifacts.
        Your ‘95%’ figure is just a common theist over exaggeration trying to impress but which you cannot support.

        “If I'm "pretending" to be an atheist, it's one of the most elaborate pretences in modern history.”
        Yet here you are constantly posting on a christian apologetic website, defending mythological concepts with rhetorical argumentation, over exaggeration and a distorted logic that would make any conspiracy theorist green with envy. Claiming to be this or that when it cannot be verified as well as when your actions in words demonstrate more the exact opposite does very little to support your case.
        Yes in fact I contend that your zealous but completely rhetorical defense of this idea sans any reasonable evidence does lead one to rationally conclude that you are not either skeptical to this question nor are you really what you claim to be.
        Personally I view this claim as being little more than an empty attempt to impress since it has little hope of being verified other than seeing that you have posted on this christian apologetic website for a long time though that supports the view that your 'atheist' claim is not entirely true.

        “give examples of it for any other early first century Jewish preacher, prophet or Messianic claimant”
        Ah yes the ever popular apologetic attempt to shift the burden of proof when you realize that none of your rhetorical obfuscations are working and your total lack of actual evidence is screaming in your face. How sad and pathetic but a clear demonstration that you are not the unbiased, skeptical non-believer you claim to be.
        I do not need to do anything of the sort as I am not the one making empty and baseless assertion regarding the validity of the biblical claims. That would be the author and you therefore you will need to do far better than rhetoric, second hand accounts and advocating that ‘no evidence is really evidence’ because it was all an ancient conspiracy.
        I am and have been asking for more than these rhetorical assertions that lack any real credibility other than being a long winded sermon regarding the authors actual belief in biblical tenets.

        “If you can't, then all you're doing is raising the bar for Jesus just high enough to exclude Jesus.”
        No I am holding that biblical myth to the exact same standard I hold every other pseudoscience ideology such as Bigfoot, ancient aliens, alien abduction and the rest. They are all mythical beliefs until and unless you stop dancing and provide real, tangible and objective evidence to support your claims. I require the same level of evidentiary support for every such character and to date the vast majority fail utterly.
        The vast empire attributed to David and Solomon did not exist as clear evidence shows that the lands the bible claims they ruled were held by other kingdoms and no evidence exists for them outside that book either. Are you going to argue for them being real as well and dig yourself further into the ‘closet theist pit’?
        I am a real skeptic and hold very alleged mythical figure to exactly that same standard regardless of what system of belief they represent.
        Did Mohammed exist. There is evidence to support that claim from several quarters yet I doubt all the supernatural claims associated with him just as I doubt the same magical claims attributed to your pet case.
        And that is what this is about isn’t it. The pretense that apologists try to manufacture that if you can create the illusion that despite the complete lack of evidence this person is real then all the supernatural claims of magic and divinity will become real as well. Sorry but that is not going to fly and not I did not say that you are making such claims though my impress that you are just too clever in your camouflage to do so.

        "Real, tangible, objective evidence" is defined as something other than totally subjective opinion, biased and unsupported opinion, or useless rhetorical argumentation.
        Real means something based in reality, that is concordant with reality, based in the physical universe, not fictional. I don’t find it the least bit odd that a person actively and passionately defending and protecting their personal belief in such an idea as this, and yes I think that no one not in fact believing in it would rush to its defense so ardently as you have, needs to have this simple concept explained to you.
        Tangible would be something that can be detected with your senses, held, seen and so forth not merely a thought exercise as this author puts forth. A coin bearing the image and name of a Roman emperor, a gravestone inscribed with the name of a first century Judean merchant, records of the Roman garrisons in Judea and a cache of letters written by the Roman governor of Judea have all been unearthed and they represent tangible artifacts. Yet nothing of the kind has yet been found for this person or any of his colleagues save for the unverified claim that one named Peter is buried below the Vatican.
        Something objective does not rely solely on the subjective views of the person assessing that material. Its interpretation might be a matter of debate but it is what it is in the objective sense of the word. A horde of coins emblazoned with Roman characters is still an objective artifact regardless of whether one attributes them to the pay for a legion or profits from commerce.
        An ancient artifact exists in a real, tangible and objective manner regardless of the beliefs of views of the person assessing it and to date nothing of that sort exists in relation to this biblical figure.
        Is this clearly defined enough for you or do you wish to play some further game of semantics to try and create an apologetic view or the usages of those terms

        • "That is bollocks as you are simply mimicking the author"

          I AM the author, genius boy. Way to stumble in your very first sentence. You're off to a flying start.

          [You] cannot present a rational explanation for why some many other artifacts have been discovered relating to completely obscure and forgotten person while none exist, a complete and total dearth, for this mythic figure."

          This stupid argument again? Of course we are going to find random contemporary evidence of obscure people. That's beside the point. What we almost never find is random evidence of that kind for obscure people who are also mentioned in later literary sources. So to draw a conclusion from the fact we have found none of this kind of evidence for Jesus when that is precisely what we'd expect is absurd.

          "What you are doing is trying to pretend that as I stated ‘no evidence is evidence’ but it is merely wishful thinking. "

          When are you going to grasp that I am not noting the lack of contemporary evidence as any kind of argument FOR the existence of Jesus. I'm doing so to counter a stupid argument AGAINST his existence. Given that we don't have contemporary evidence for most people who are mentioned in literary sources, that fact that we have none for Jesus is precisely what we'd expect and does NOT mean he didn't exist. Try to grasp what I'm actually saying.

          "Name a dozen of these first century figures that are widely known and I will gladly reference the support documentation for their existence."

          *Chuckle* Hoo boy - you really are a sucker for punishment. Okay genius boy, present us with the contemporary references to the following first century BC and early first century AD Jewish figures: Theudas, Athronges, Judas bar Hezakiah, Simon of Peraea, Judas the Galilean, the Egyptian Prophet, the Samaritan Prophet, Menahem, Hillel, Shammai, John the Baptist and Gamaliel. They are Jewish preachers, prophets and Messianic claimants like Jesus. When you fail totally and realise that, like Jesus, all of these people are only attested in much later sources, perhaps you will finally grasp the point.

          "You are the one who is confused as I did not say that you did this. I clearly stated that the author is doing that and he is. "

          Someone is confuised, bumble boy, but it ain't me. I AM the author. Perhaps it's time for you to realise that you really aren't up to taking part in this discussion without making a total fool of yourself.

          "Really then why not name at least a dozen of these scholars who are not directly and solely associated with a religious website or organization such as this who in fact support that sweeping and meaningless claim?"

          You clearly know nothing about the scholarship on this question. Steven Mason, Paula Fredrikson, E.P. Sanders, Geza Vermes, Louis H. Feldman, Paul Winter, Bart Ehrman, Maurice Casey and R.Joseph Hoffman are all leading non-Christian scholars who accept the MAJORITY consensus view that Josephus's Ant. Book XVIII reference to Jesus is partially authentic. Leading Jewish Josephus scholar Louis H. Feldman surveyed the relevant literature from 1937 to 1980 in his Josephus and Modern Scholarship. Feldman noted that 4 scholars regarded the Testimonium Flavianum as entirely genuine, 35 as partially genuine and 13 regard it as being totally an interpolation. Since 1980 the consensus for partial authenticity has become even stronger. If you had the faintest clue about this subject you would know all this.

          As for the Tacitus passage, the consensus is even stronger. The scholars who have even suggested that the passage may be in some way inauthentic are few and far between and none of them are recent. There was a brief article to that effect by L. Rougé back in 1974 and something along the same lines by Charles Saumagne in 1964. And that's about it. ALL other Tacitean scholars accept that this passage is authentic. So you fail again.

          "Sorry but that is simply not true"

          Wrong. If we have no contemporary references to about 95% of ancient figures mentioned in later sources, it follows that there are about 5% that we DO have contemporary references. And it also follows that we will be more likely to have such references for very famous people. So what examples do you produce? Alexander and Augustus! How ridiculous. Of course we have far more and far earlier references to people like them. You aren't comparing apples to apples. Remember my list of obscure Jewish preachers, prophets and Messianic claimaints above? That's comparing apples to apples when it comes to someone like Jesus. And what do we find? NO contemporary references.

          "Yet here you are constantly posting on a christian apologetic website, defending mythological concepts with rhetorical argumentation"

          The editor of this website contacted me and asked if he could publish the article above, which I had written elsewhere and published on my blog. I gave him permission to do so, despite the fact that he is a Catholic and I am an atheist. I respond to comments here because I see junk reasoning by bumblers like you and see some worth in countering it. If you conclude that somehow means I'm not an atheist then logic seems to be something else you fail at. Google "Tim O'Neill" and "Australian Skeptics" and read the PDF of The Skeptic Vol. 12, No. 2. Then eat some more crow, failure boy.

          "No I am holding that biblical myth to the exact same standard I hold every other pseudoscience ideology such as Bigfoot, ancient aliens, alien abduction and the rest. They are all mythical beliefs"

          Speaking of circular arguments. So you're starting with the assumption that nothing in the Bible is in any way historical and is all "mythical beliefs" and then using that assumption to conclude that nothing in the Bible is in any way historical and is all "mythical beliefs"? Spectacular logic there.

          And finally, your definition of "real, tangible, objective evidence" which rules out subjective interpretation effectively makes the study of the past virtually impossible. You clearly have no idea how history is studied. I think I've wasted enough time on you, blunder boy. Go stumble off somewhere else.

          • Donald

            “You clearly have no idea how history is studied.”
            Nor do you apparently considering that your background in is literature. I asked before and you ignore the point so I ask
            again.
            Where is this article to be found outside of your self-promoting blog and a Catholic apologetics website? What historical journals have you even submitted this idea to for consideration for publication?
            We both know that they answer to these questions is NOWHERE and NONE as you fully understand that even attempting to do so would
            see this slapdash nonsense rejected out of hand and returned without comment.
            Demonstrate that you have a firm grasp of the mechanisms in actual historical research and submit your work for publication. Or will we hear the patent theist excuse of ‘repression of the truth’ to excuse
            your lack of even trying.

            “I think I've wasted enough time on you”
            Yes you barked that on your last silly attempt to use fraud to assert that you are arguing a valid concept yet her you are with some 1,000+ words desperate to defend your case.
            Yes in fact we are done here because I find your deceitfulness repugnant and your attempts to mask your clear attempts to manufacture a case supporting a biblical myth through distortion and false claims ridiculous.

          • "Nor do you apparently considering that your background in is literature."

            I have a Bachelor's Degree in History and English Literature and a Master's in English Literature.

            "Where is this article to be found outside of your self-promoting blog and a Catholic apologetics website?

            Here: https://www.quora.com/Do-credible-historians-agree-that-the-man-named-Jesus-who-the-Christian-Bible-speaks-of-walked-the-earth-and-was-put-to-death-on-a-cross-by-Pilate-Roman-governor-of-Judea/answers/863434

            "What historical journals have you even submitted this idea to for consideration for publication?"

            None. That would be like asking someone who has explained why all the experts agree the earth is round why they haven't "submitted this idea" to journals of geography.

            "you fully understand that even attempting to do so would see this slapdash nonsense rejected out of hand and returned without comment."

            What colour is the sky on your planet?

          • Donald

            Hurray for you.
            I have a BS in geology from SIU, an MS in geology from UA as well as a PhD in the same from the same and a doctorate in paleontology from UChi.
            More importantly I can spot a deception based in flawed rhetorical argument and distorted historical facts when one walks in the room and claiming that no evidence is evidence is a fraud that would not stand up to any academic or scholastic review for more than five minutes and you know this. That is the real reason you are afraid to present this ideology for publication instead hiding inside the security of the net.
            Your flawed assertion that this moronic construct is as well defined and universally accepted as the fact that the earth is spherical is a joke where you attempt to simply once more assert that through your faith you are correct because you say that you are. And yes I say that you aren't fooling anyone other than the faithful who want to be fooled as you have claimed to not be part of the faith yet your actions defended in every possible manner that these myths should be taken as reality despite their total lack of evidence makes that false.
            It appears that you do not understand the basic concept that the time to believe an idea is when there is evidence to that effect and not when some self-proclaimed amateur expert manufactures a clever sermon asking for faith in nothing equaling something.

          • Donald

            “I AM the author, genius boy.”
            Really? I hadn’t noticed since I was too busy refuting you historical ignorance, religiously motivated deceits and general frauds but thank you for pointing that out.
            In case your education was so minimal that you did not take the time to expand you understanding of the language one can mimic, parrot, repeat and generally satirize oneself.

            “genius boy [twice]… bumble boy… failure boy”
            I see that someone has yet to mature beyond the elementary school level and thinks that such childishness makes their argument more valid. Did that work during your master’s thesis defense? If so then the state of the educational system in Tasmania needs a serious overhaul or do they just pass out M.A. degrees for perfect attendance?

            “I'm doing so to counter a stupid argument AGAINST his existence.”
            That is not the how your article reads. It reads as a sound assertion that you are in fact arguing for the acceptance without evidence of this construct. So rather than simply barking juvenile taunts, making false claims that almost all historical figure were written about only after they died, trying to distort the facts and words of Tacitus and Josephus to make them into what they are not why not quote some of your own words where you clearly state that concept.
            Then explain why you did in fact argue directly that all those other unsubstantiated biblical figures make a case for this one.
            That is a fallacy.

            “Given that we don't have contemporary evidence for most people who are mentioned in literary sources, that fact that we have none for Jesus is precisely what we'd expect and does NOT mean he didn't exist.”
            Nor does it mean that he did in any manner which is a point you refuse to address but continue to defend you obvious desire to see the ‘no evidence is evidence’ defense accepted. Well it is not and I find it rather strange that a person claiming to be writing a book entitled ‘History for Atheists: How Not to Use History in Debates About Religion’ desperately trying to do just that.
            I do and can clearly see that your contention is that therefore it is just as valid to accept that he did which is a false idea. The time to accept that something exists is when the evidence supports that claim and not before. Manufacturing a rhetorical argument that we should expect any evidence and since we don’t have any it is safe to conclude that X did in fact exist.
            That is theistic nonsense and can be just as easily applied to any other mythic figure as you well know but appear to have a vested interest in promoting this one.
            You are willfully ignoring the facts presented to you that there are numerous examples that have been discovered which make your
            idea invalid

            I did say "Name a dozen of these first century figures that are widely known” rather than listing a dozen somewhat obscure Jewish figure plucked from the place and period you are fixated on.
            “Theudas”
            Biblical figure [Acts 5:36 ] and once again your theism is showing.
            Related by Josephus “It came to pass, while Cuspius Fadus was procurator of Judea, that a certain charlatan, whose name was Theudas, persuaded a great part of the people to take their
            effects with them, and follow him to the Jordan river; for he told them he was a prophet, and that he would, by his own command, divide the river, and afford them an easy passage over it. Many were deluded by his words. However, Fadus did not permit them to make any advantage of his wild attempt, but sent a troop of horsemen out against them. After falling upon them unexpectedly, they slew many of them, and took many of them alive. They also took Theudas alive, cut off his head, and carried it to Jerusalem. (Jewish Antiquities 20.97-98)
            “Athronges”
            Again from Josephus “"Athronges, a person
            neither eminent by the dignity of his progenitors, nor for any great wealth he possessed. For he had been a mere shepherd, not known by anybody. But because he was a tall man, and excelled others in the strength of his hands, he was so bold as to set up for king. This man thought it so sweet a thing to do more than ordinary injuries to others, that, although he risked his life, he did not much care if he lost it in so great a design.”
            “Together with his brothers, he slew a great many of both of Roman and of the king's forces, and managed matters with the like hatred to each of them. They fell upon the king's soldiers because of the licentious conduct they had been allowed under Herod's government; and they fell upon the Romans, because of the injuries they had so lately received from them. But in process of time they grew more cruel to all sorts of men, nor could anyone escape from one or other of these seditions, since they slew some out of the hopes of gain, and others from a mere custom of slaying men.”

            “Judas bar Hezakiah” and “Judas the Galilean” appear to be one and the same so unless you provide a more detailed description you will have to accept this
            Bar meaning ‘son’ in Hebraic thus Judas son of Hezakiah or Hezekiah; Judas the Galilean, the son of Hezekiah, is spoken of in Eccl. R. i. 11 as one of the scholarly Ḥasidim to whom in the world to come God shall join a band of the righteous to place him at His side because he failed to receive due homage as a martyr (see Derenbourg, "Palestine," p. 161).

            “Simon of Peraea”
            Josephus wrote of "There was also Simon, who had been a slave of king Herod, but in other respects a comely person, of a tall and robust body; he was one that was much superior to others of his order, and had had great things committed to his care. This man was elevated at the disorderly state of things, and was so bold as to put a diadem on his head, while a certain number of the people stood by
            him, and by them he was declared to be a king, and he thought himself more worthy of that dignity than any one else."
            "He burnt down the royal palace at Jericho, and plundered what was left in it. He also set fire to many other of the king's houses in several places of the country, utterly destroyed them, and permitted those that were with him to take what was left in them for a prey. He would have done greater things, but care was taken to repress him immediately. [The commander of Herod's infantry] Gratus joined
            himself to some Roman soldiers, took the forces he had with him, and met Simon.
            And after a great and a long fight, no small part of those that had come from Peraea (a disordered body of men, fighting rather in a bold than in a skillful manner) were destroyed. Although Simon had saved himself by flying away through a certain valley, Gratus overtook him, and cut off his head."

            “the Egyptian Prophet”
            As this is little more than a vague allusion to an unnamed personage that is hardly well known outside say some theist group I should ignore it as meaningless, however here is an appropriate answer.
            “There was an Egyptian false prophet that did the Jews more mischief than the former; for he was a cheat, and pretended to be a
            prophet also, and got together thirty thousand men that were deluded by him; these he led round about from the wilderness to the mount which was called the Mount of Olives. He was ready to break into Jerusalem by force from that place; and if he could but once conquer the Roman garrison and the people, he intended to rule them by the assistance of those guards of his that were to break into
            the city with him.” — Flavius Josephus, Jewish War, 2.261-262
            I have omitted the Nov. 2012 presentation by Dr. L. Einhorn to the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting in Chicago entitled “Jesus and the “Egyptian Prophet” due your fixation with the Zealots and their revolt.

            “the Samaritan Prophet”
            Now you are truly wandering well into the forest of theism trying to use an Old Testament prophetic concept that is hardly well known and in fact rather obscure. One has to wonder if you are either desperate of being deceptive, most likely both as that would fit your track record.
            The sect of the Samaritans had its origins in a doctrinal conflict in Jerusalem in the age of Alexander the Great. One group of priests had left the city and started a new sect in the city of Samaria.
            One of their beliefs was that the prophet whose coming Moses had predicted, [Deuteronomy 18.14-18.] would reveal his identity by showing Moses' sacred vessels. This (Messianic?) belief was shared by the members of the Sect of Qumran, who knew that a treasure could be found on top of this mountain. [Copper Scroll 12.4.]

            “Menahem”
            Back to plucking people from the bible I see. I think that your theism is showing again.
            Menahem's ten-year reign is told in 2 Kings 15:14-22. When Shallum conspired against and assassinated Zechariah in Samaria, and set
            himself upon the throne of the northern kingdom, Menahem - who, like Shallum, had served as a captain in Zechariah's army - refused to recognize the murderous usurper. Menahem marched from Tirzah to Samaria, about six miles westwards and laid siege to Samaria. He took the city, murdered Shallum a month into his reign (2 Kings 15:13), and set himself upon the throne. (2 Kings 15:14)
            According to Josephus, he was a general of the army of Israel.

            “Hillel”
            I assume that you mean Hillel the Elder frequently cited as the western source of the ‘golden rule’.
            When Josephus ("Vita," § 38) speaks of Hillel's great-grandson, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel I, as belonging to a very celebrated family, he probably refers to the glory the family owed to the activity of Hillel and Rabban Gamliel Hazaken. Only Hillel's brother Shebna is mentioned; he was a merchant, whereas Hillel devoted himself to studying the Torah whilst also working as a woodcutter (Hertz 1936).
            Hillel lived in Jerusalem during the time of King Herod and the Roman
            emperor Augustus. In the Midrash compilation Sifre (Deut. 357), the periods of Hillel's life are made parallel to those in the life of Moses. Both lived 120 years (Deut. 34:7), and at the age of forty Hillel went to the Land of Israel; forty years he spent in study; and the last third of his life he was the spiritual head of the Jewish people. A biographical sketch can be constructed; that Hillel went to Jerusalem in the prime of his life and attained a great age. His activity of forty
            years likely covered the period of 30 BCE to 10 CE.

            “Shammai”
            You mean the Shammai (50 BCE – 30 CE) who was a 1st century Jewish scholar and an important figure in the Mishnah one of Judaism's core works of rabbinic literature I suppose. And who is
            documented in the surviving records as a Nasi (President) of the Great Sanhedrin of Jerusalem.

            “John the Baptist”
            Oh dear you finally managed to drag forth a figure that even the man on the street might recognize instead of playing this little deceit of digging around for days to dredge up obscure seldom heard of figures from the Jewish rebellion against Roman rule.
            Sorry to disappoint you but Josephus recounted this account of John the Baptist is found in all extant manuscripts of the Antiquities of the Jews (book 18, chapter 5, 2).
            “Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he
            did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews irate, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by
            sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late.
            Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God's displeasure to him.

            “Gamaliel”
            Gamaliel the Elder or Rabban Gamaliel I, was a leading authority in the Sanhedrin in the early 1st century AD. He was the son of Simeon
            ben Hillel, and grandson of the great Jewish teacher Hillel the Elder, and died eighteen years before the destruction of Jerusalem (70 AD).

            “They are Jewish preachers, prophets and Messianic claimants like Jesus.”

            No in fact they were for the most part rebels against Rome such as Athronges, the Egyptian Prophet. Some were scholars such
            as Judas bar Hezakiah or Judas the Galilean, Hillel, Shammai and Gamaliel. Simon of Peraea was a slave. The Samaritan Prophet is a prophesized figure from the Old Testament whose reality is doubtful and a biblical king named Menahem.
            So where are the ‘messianic claimants’?

            “When you fail totally and realise that, like Jesus, all of these people are only attested in much later sources, perhaps you will finally grasp the point.”
            Sorry but you are just twisting the facts once more. The First Jewish–Roman War took place between 66–73 CE which was during the life time of Josephus meaning that he was reporting on concurrent information so that his accounts of Athronges and the Egyptian Prophet can be taken as contemporary and are supported by the accounts from the Roman commanders in the field. That also applies to Gamaliel and Judas bar Hezakiah or Judas the Galilean.
            For Shammai that might be a relevant point though for Hillel the Elder we have the accounts of his son and grandson to support Josephus but you are still clinging to your flawed contention that nearly all records of historical person were written post vixit which has already been shown to be utterly false.

            Sorry but you have not provided anything more than a name trying to once more play a tactic of bait and switch as if there were but one ‘Steven Mason’ on this rock. Cite these people with enough information to verify the existence and your claim or stop pretending that you have any understanding of scientific/historical discussion which you obviously do not based on your flawed attempts to use conspiracy theory nonsense and utterly fraudulent assertions.
            Additionally it was a condition that these must not be persons of religious affiliation and you have deceptively ignored that by submitting Louis H. Feldman who is part of Yeshiva University adding in the inflating claim that he is the ‘leading Jewish Josephus scholar’ when he is highly respected but not the foremost. You also name only 9 which is not a dozen unless the mathematics that taught you are as flawed as your logic.

            Do you mean the issue on the cover of which appears
            the words “astrology, paranoia, armageddon’? Yes the name ‘Tim O’Neil’ does appear on page 11 of a quarter century old newsletter which says that you possibly share that name or may in fact be that person but neither in conclusive and as a person claiming to be a skeptic though one showing no aspects of that viewpoint you should know that a single data point means extremely little. However since you are arguing that ‘lack of evidence is evidence’ or at least that it is a clear indication that there is no reason to rule out the negative I can see how you’d think this was solid evidence.
            That is your sole evidence that your assertions of skepticism and atheism in valid despite your eager promoting that myths without evidence should be treated as based in reality when no evidence supports them because you subscribe to the 'no evidence is evidence' fallacy?
            Please tell me that you are joking.

            “And finally, your definition of "real, tangible, objective evidence" which rules out subjective interpretation effectively makes the study of the past virtually impossible.”
            Subjective interpretation is an opinion which unless supported by empirical evidence means little to nothing. I have many colleagues
            in geology with subjective opinion that we discuss at length yet none of them would even consider making the ridiculous leaps of faith that your propose without serious evidence. Yet your entire line of reasoning is founded on the ‘no evidence is evidence’ ideology found in conspiracy theories and no where else.
            No respectable historian would ever so vehemently, and childishly i might add, defend a mere subjective opinion without some objective evidence to base it on.
            Sadly to are preaching and not discussion any reasonable concept which is why I dismiss your ideological tract as nonsense.

          • "Really? I hadn’t noticed"

            *Chuckle* We know. Keep on bumbling.

            "That is not the how your article reads. It reads as a sound assertion that you are in fact arguing for the acceptance without evidence of this construct."

            The problem here is your poor reading comprehension skills.

            "why not quote some of your own words where you clearly state that concept."

            You need a grown up to hold your hand and lead you through the article that you didn't quite understand? Okay.

            I talk about the lack of contemporary references to Jesus in a section entitled "Unconvincing Arguments for a Mythic Origin for Jesus". Even someone with your toddler-level reading skills should have been able to work out that this section was, therefore, refuting arguments AGAINST the existence of Jesus. One these arguments is then paraphrased: "There are no contemporary accounts or mentions of Jesus. There should be, so clearly no Jesus existed." And I then note that this argument doesn't work because we don't have contemporary references for most ancient figures. I then note that we don't even have them for some very prominent figures, using the example of Hannibal, so to say we "should" have them for someone as obscure as an early first century Jewish preacher is absurd. I then conclude "So while this seems like a good argument, a better knowledge of the ancient world and the nature of our evidence and sources shows that it's actually extremely weak."

            Anyone who can read English above pre-school level can see that I am refuting an argument AGAINST the existence of Jesus, not making an argument FOR it in that section. This has been explained to you three times now. Please grasp this simple concept before we all die of boredom and/or old age.

            "Then explain why you did in fact argue directly that all those other unsubstantiated biblical figures make a case for this one."

            I'm afraid I can't even work out what this bizarre sentence is trying to claim. I do no such thing in my article.

            Then we get to this challenge from you: "Name a dozen of these first century figures that are widely known and I will gladly reference the support documentation for their existence."

            You were meant to be able to show that there is more substantial and contemporary evidence for these people. Yet, despite what appears to be a lot of pointless work on your part (and several more hilarious blunders), you failed utterly.

            Leaving aside the fact that you got the wrong Menahem (try the one in Josephus, Jewish War 2.433-450) and didn't manage to even find the reference to the Samaritan Prophet (try Josephus Antiquities 18.85-87, in every single other case you simply proved what I had already told you - that you would not be able to find contemporary references to any of these people. In every case you were only able to find references written decades or even centuries later.

            Then we get this desperate nonsense:

            "The First Jewish–Roman War took place between 66–73 CE which was during the life time of Josephus meaning that he was reporting on concurrent information so that his accounts of Athronges and the Egyptian Prophet can be taken as contemporary and are supported by the accounts from the Roman commanders in the field. That also applies to Gamaliel and Judas bar Hezakiah or Judas the Galilean."

            Perhaps you could buy a dictionary and look up the meaning of the word "contemporary". Josephus wrote the Jewish War in the mid 70s AD and Antiquities around 94 AD . Athronges' uprising was in 4 BC, as was that of Simon of Peraea. The very latest of the people on my list was the Egyptian, whose brief career was sometime between 55 and 60 AD - about 30 years before Josephus mentions him.

            So none of these references are "contemporary". Though if you want to argue that references written 30-90 years after the death of the person in question can be called "contemporary" then all of the references to Jesus in the Pauline epistles, all of the gospels, both the references in Josephus and the one in Tacitus just became "contemporary" as well. Congratulations - your argument just completely collapsed.

            "Cite these people with enough information to verify the existence and your claim or stop pretending that you have any understanding of scientific/historical discussion which you obviously do not based on your flawed attempts to use conspiracy theory nonsense and utterly fraudulent assertions."

            Do you really think this kind of flatulent bluster does anything other than make you look increasingly stupid? Information on Steve Mason can be easily found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Mason_(biblical_scholar). You can look the others up yourself.

            "Additionally it was a condition that these must not be persons of religious affiliation and you have deceptively ignored that by submitting Louis H. Feldman who is part of Yeshiva University adding in the inflating claim that he is the ‘leading Jewish Josephus scholar’ when he is highly respected but not the foremost. "

            So who exactly is "the foremost" and how exactly was that decided? Feldman was, until his retirement, widely regarded as the leading scholar in the field. And why the fact that he is a JEW would somehow disqualify him on a question about CHRISTIAN history I have no idea. You seem to be clutching desperately at any straw that floats by.

            Speaking of which:

            "Yes the name ‘Tim O’Neil’ does appear on page 11 of a quarter century old newsletter which says that you possibly share that name or may in fact be that person but neither in conclusive "

            Yes, because it must just be co-incidence that someone called "Tim O'Neill" at the University of Tasmania happened to be president of the Tasmanian branch of the Skeptics at exactly the same time that I was at that university. What are the odds?

            You have zero credibility. Go away.

          • Donald

            The sole place you published is on another web forum then you do not have any academic legitimacy outside the web blogger realm. You could not get this accepted for review let alone publication in any reputable scholastic journal which is why you have never made the attempt and your 'quora.com' arm wave is laughable. I find it to be a sham as you likely understood what I was asking for and are merely playing a creationist type tactic. I am asking whether you have ever presented any of your arguments to a reputable historical journal for consideration but when both know that you have not since it is clear that your ideas are based in flawed logic a total lack of evidence and a religious bias.
            "None. That would be like asking someone who has explained why all the
            experts agree the earth is round why they haven't "submitted this idea"
            to journals of geography."
            That is a rather idiotic idea but does follow your semi-creationist tactics of tossing around useless analogies rather than rational answers. Journal publication, open academic submission of new ideas is where they are reviewed and debated, assessed for validity and their errors pointed out. The concept of a spherical earth is well documented, supported by empirical data which is a concept you find abhorrent obviously and does not need to be restated at every turn. You are proposed that no evidence is evidence, you have clearly stated false facts related to other historical figures to support that idea and know that these would not state up to critical review in the exact same manner that the frauds in the incestuous shell called 'creation science' hide from venturing into the real world of scientific debate.
            You sir are a fraudulent huckster too cowardly to leave the security of this pathetic self-serving realm of fellow believers and face the full force of scholarly analysis instead making such childish claims.
            You do know that there are other self-proclaimed 'experts' selling their personal ideologies in fields that they have little or no qualifications in don't you. Yes you do claim to have a bachelors degree in 'history and English lit' and a masters in 'English lit' though since you fail to clarify them I must assume that it is the far less rigorous BA /MA which leaves you woefully under-qualified as a historian. Basically you are trained as a mid-level expert in literature, a writer just as Graham Hancock who is selling the neo-Atlantis myth, the majority of the 'NASA Hoax' promoters and Erich von Daniken. All of who are unqualified in the fields that have set themselves up as 'experts' to pander to the faithful.
            No sir you are making an excuse to avoid having your ideas laughed out of the room by people who in fact are well qualified and well trained and highly credentialed in the field of history.

            And you cannot and did not present anything other than that obtuse quarter century old pathetic little reference.
            You still think that petty and childish taunts makes your arguments more valid. It is no wonder that you have recently been banned on other forums likely since you apparently cannot control your temper when opposed since a review of your so-called 'academic' ideas show that you are in fact promoting religiously supportive constructs and that the majority of your commenters are theists looking for something to prop up their predetermined conclusions and not what is true in reality.
            Your juvenile taunts rather than dispassionate and considered replies shows that for all your pompous bluster asserting how marvelously qualified you are that you cannot tolerate dissension or opposition to your beliefs.
            Your pathetic arm wave at Wikipedia in a desperate attempt to cover your false presentation of religious personages when your were asked for exactly the opposite shows that you cannot be trusted and are merely distorting everything to cling to your case.
            Yes you have degrees in LITERATURE but you have no academic standing, nor accredited research experience and no publications outside of blogging and posting on religious apologetic websites. In short you are a fraud, a trumped up fraud pretending to be objective but clearly promoting a false idea that no evidence is evidence as conspiracy theorists do but which you understand would be laughed of the desk of any REAL historian as you well know which is why you offered up a list of people without enough information to check them out and the one that could be was a religious scholar.
            Please enjoy your fame in the religious apologetics community but we both know that you will never get anything beyond a brief scan then rejection by those who in fact have actual scholarly credentials. That likely explains you childish anger and behavior.

          • This is insane. Try to understand - all I am doing in my article above is explaining the basis for the overwhelminig consensus of the experts in the field who, regardless of whether they are Christians or not, agree that a historical Jesus existed. My qualifications are not relevant here (though thanks for detailing yours and showing that I have relevant training in history and you absolutely do not). If I were the one who was peddling a fringe idea that almost every relevant expert on the planet rejects, then perhaps my qualifications would be relevant.

            But I'm not.

            YOU, on the other hand, ARE doing precisely that. So how about you explain to us why YOU aren't presenting this "Jesus didn't exist" gibberish in peer reviewed journals. All I'm doing is explaining what the actual experts who DO publish in those journals say on the matter. YOU are the unqualified nobody who is simply ranting about a rejected idea on the internet. YOU are the complete waste of time and space on this question.

            So here's an idea - go get your PhD in a relevant discipline, put your Jesus Myth thesis into some kind of coherent form, get published in peer reviewed journals or imprints, convince the whole field that you're right and then overturn the consensus with your brilliant grasp of the material. Then come back and tell us all about it.

            Until then, just shut up.

      • Donald

        Oh I almost forgot. Your pretentious and childish taunt shows another true characteristic of the theist mind set which is their complete inability to deal with criticism ans rational questions in a mature manner.
        Really? Other than a juvenile attempt to insult, wound or intimidate what purpose did that serve?
        Do you really think that such infantile actions are appropriate when you are trying to convince people that you are conducting a rational, 'scientific' discussion?
        Sadly that is just another data point supporting my serious doubt that you are either completely honest or divorced from this ideology in any real manner.

        • Lazarus

          How many examples of atheists who regularly and in public show "their complete inability to deal with criticism ans (sic) rational questions in a mature manner" do you want?

          • Donald

            What others do is not my problem nor is it germane to the issue at hand. It is however merely an attempt to lump all together and claim that it is not appropriate to comment on the actions of an individual directly at oneself. That is nonsense.
            Do some on both sides of the topic act like bratty children because they can hide on the net. Most certainly but the issue here is the actions, words, of one not the entirety particularly when that person is the one who claims to be presenting a scholarly work defending a position. He knows full well that acting in such a manner in the circles of academia, where he undoubtedly fears to offer this work for review, would see him tossed into the street or at best have his works dismissed as that of a child with a chip on their shoulder.
            I have higher degrees than the author and have stood for a thesis defense and two dissertation defenses as well as several paper presentations. Had I begun my remarks with anything approaching such juvenile retort the hall would have cleared so fast as to form a vacuum.
            Either he is proposing a piece of actual scholarship that can withstand critical review and questions relating to serious logical errors or he is preaching a sermon and should say so.
            It cannot be both and the evidence thus far in his article and responses is that this belongs to Sunday morning.

          • Lazarus

            A response with a higher integrity content would have been "I overstated my case, I withdraw my comment". But then, this is the internet.

          • Donald

            “A response with a higher integrity content would have been "I overstated my case, I withdraw my comment". But then, this is the internet.”
            Now because you cannot present a cogent counter to my assessment of this authors pathetically childish taunt you present such a blatant attempt to shift the blame once more to me. How typical.
            I did not overstate my position, do I retract anything I have said nor am I using the net as camouflage. I have maintained an appropriately mature and professional attitude in content and speech while the
            author has opened with juvenile taunts. That you seem set on defending this childish nonsense makes one curious as to your own motivations.
            State clearly and specifically how my ‘integrity’ is open to question if you can. Otherwise I will consider your remark as merely hyperbole intending to imply erroneous that I am the offender here.

          • Lazarus

            No, it is much simpler than all of that hysteria.
            You stated that Tim was acting in a certain manner, just like theists do.
            I pointed out to you that atheists do exactly the same, and I asked you whether you want examples. Instead of simply conceding that you have overstretched your bow you are now off on all sorts of tangents.

          • Donald

            “No, it is much simpler than all of that hysteria.”
            And what hysteria would that be as I did in fact state a clearly defined assessment that what others do is not my problem nor is
            it germane to the issue.

            “You stated that Tim was acting in a certain manner, just like theists do.”
            Yes I did and had you read that one sentence in the greater context you would have seen that it was stated as support for my
            dismissing his assertion of being an atheist as he is exhibiting all the classic indicators of a theist vehemently defending his beliefs through flawed logic, conspiracy theory ideas, distortion of reality and simple fraudulent statements.

            “I pointed out to you that atheists do exactly the same, and I asked you whether you want examples. Instead of simply conceding that you have overstretched your bow you are now off on all sorts of tangents.”
            And what would those ‘tangents’ be that his childish taunt has no merit or place in support of what he is defending as a scholarly work? That is nonsense and you are still missing the points I am
            making.
            First of all I serious doubt that he is what he claims to be, an atheist, as he is using flawed theistic ploys and tactics to manufacture a completely fictional case to assert without evidence that because no evidence exists that in itself demonstrates that scripture is correct. Sorry but only a theist would try such a patently false ploy as an atheist does not care a thing about scripture in most cases.
            And secondly that his snipe was pathetic and meaningless.
            Once again “I did not overstate my position, do I retract anything I have said nor am I using the net as camouflage. I have maintained an appropriately mature and professional attitude in content and
            speech while the author has opened with juvenile taunts.”