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Questioning the Historicity of Jesus

Jesus

EDITOR'S NOTE: Today kicks off a four-part series concerning the historical evidence for Jesus. Popular atheist writer Richard Carrier, probably the world's best known Mythicist, begins with his response to our previous article titled “Did Jesus Exist? An Alternate Approach”. Tomorrow, Catholic writer Jimmy Akin will respond. On Wednesday, Richard will offer his take on “Four Reasons I Think Jesus Really Existed" by Trent Horn. Finally, on Thursday, Trent will wrap up the series with a rejoinder.


 
The hypothesis that Jesus never really existed has started to gain more credibility in the expert community. Some now agree historicity agnosticism is warranted, including Arthur Droge (professor of early Christianity at UCSD), Kurt Noll (associate professor of religion at Brandon University), and Thomas Thompson (renowned professor of theology, emeritus, at the University of Copenhagen). Others are even more certain historicity is doubtful, including Thomas Brodie (director emeritus of the Dominican Biblical Centre at the University of Limerick, Ireland), Robert Price (who has two Ph.D.’s from Drew University, in theology and New Testament studies), and myself (I have a Ph.D. in ancient history from Columbia University and have several peer reviewed articles on the subject). Still others, like Philip Davies (professor of biblical studies, emeritus, at the University of Sheffield), disagree with the hypothesis but admit it is respectable enough to deserve consideration.

The most credible alternative theory of Christian origins is that Jesus began life as a celestial being, known only through private revelations, who was believed to have been crucified and resurrected in the lower heavens. The Gospels were the first attempts to place him in history as an earthly man, in parables and fables meant to illustrate Christian theology and ideals. Their picture of Jesus then became the most successful among the competing varieties of Christianity over the ensuing generations, and the eventually triumphant sects only created and preserved documents supporting their view, and very little supporting any other.

To date the best case presented for this hypothesis is by amateur historian and classics graduate Earl Doherty (in his two books, The Jesus Puzzle and Jesus: Neither God Nor Man). My own forthcoming book, probably titled On the Historicity of Jesus, inspired by his work, will be the first making the case for this hypothesis to pass academic peer review. It will be published this February by the publishing house of the University of Sheffield.

The significance of all this is that a commonly voiced objection to this hypothesis is that only cranks and amateurs find it convincing. That is clearly no longer the case. It deserves serious consideration. In the 1970s, the view that Moses and other Old Testament patriarchs were mythical was considered scandalous, but now is largely mainstream. It is now pretty much the standard view in secular academia, and even has begrudging support from many devout Jewish and Christian scholars. The same hypothesis for Jesus is now where that hypothesis was in the 1970s. Within forty years, the same outcome may prevail.

Strange Notions has featured two articles defending the historicity of Jesus, and I was asked to write a short piece on how we advocates of the alternative view respond to the kind of arguments in them. I will address one of them here, and the next in a sequel.

In “Did Jesus Exist? An Alternate Approach”, Jimmy Akin is aware of much of what we find fault with in the evidence presented. (Although he seems unaware of why both passages in Josephus are Christian interpolations, and that Josephus probably never mentioned Christ or Christianity in any respect at all. I present the evidence and scholarship establishing that point in volume 20 of the Journal of Early Christian Studies.)

His alternative approach is to argue that the Christian movement is well attested as originating in Judea in the first century and spreading across the Roman Empire within a couple generations, rapidly and well-organized. But these facts do not argue against the mythicist hypothesis. Mythicists generally agree with both; they simply regard the first apostle (most likely Peter) to be the actual founder of the movement, not Jesus. On our view, at that point the apostles (like Peter) only claimed to be receiving communications from Jesus by revelation (as in Galatians 1). The Gospels had not yet been written. Their version of Jesus only came to be popularized half a century later, when no evidence indicates any of the first apostles were still around. (There actually were Christian sects that said Jesus lived a hundred years earlier, and Akin does not seem aware of this, but I haven’t space to digress on that fact here.)

On our theory, this revealed being, the heavenly Jesus, was the one who chose and “sent” the apostles to spread the gospel. Which is why Paul says no Jews could ever have heard the gospel except from the apostles (Romans 10:12-18). Evidently the myth of Jesus having preached to the Jews himself had not yet developed.

Akin says the “earliest accounts we have agree that Jesus of Nazareth founded the Christian movement, recruited and trained its earliest leaders, and then sent them out as his apostles,” but that’s not true. The earliest accounts (in the letters of Paul) know nothing of Nazareth and never mention Jesus recruiting or training anyone. When Paul mentions Jesus communicating with and sending apostles, it is always in the context of revelations.

Jesus was probably not originally a Nazarene (Greek nazarênos), but a Nazorian (Greek nazôraios), based on a now-lost scripture (Matthew 2:23). This was actually one of the original names for the Christian movement (Acts 24:5) and remained the name of the original Torah-observant Christian sect (Epihanius, Panarion 9). It clearly did not mean “from Nazareth” (Christians did not hail from there, and the words do not share the same roots). Scholars speculate on what “nazorian” may have meant (Proving History, pp. 142-45). But its attachment to the town of Nazareth appears to have been an invention of the Gospel authors. At the very least, we have no evidence otherwise.

Akin’s analogy to Islam is on point, and I would add Mormonism as equally apt: their founders, Mohammed and Joseph Smith, respectively, were “sent by” and “communicated the teachings of” non-existent celestial beings, the angels Gabriel and Moroni, respectively. In the most credible mythicist thesis, Jesus corresponds to Gabriel and Moroni. Only in his case, Jesus was eventually placed in history in mythical tales about him (as was a common trend to do with celestial deities at the time), and that belief became the most popular (as also commonly happened with celestial deities).

Obviously a great deal more can be said on all these points. I treat all the best objections and suggestions and debates surrounding all the evidence in my forthcoming book. I could only be brief here. But this at least can give you an idea of where this new approach to Christian origins is coming from. A great many advocates of it online (and in print) do have their facts wrong or make invalid arguments (often both). But it is fallacious to assume the conclusion of a fallacious argument is false (that’s literally called the fallacy fallacy.) We have to look at the best case for a conclusion, not the worst, before we can conclude on its merits. And producing that best case has been the object of my research the last several years.
 
 
(Image credit: Namaha)

Dr. Richard Carrier

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Dr. Richard Carrier is a published historian and philosopher, specializing in the philosophy of naturalism and the intellectual history of Greece and Rome. He's a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard with a B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in History and Classical Civilizations, and a Ph.D. in ancient history from Columbia University. He has written extensively for the Secular Web and in various periodicals and books, and discussed his views in public all over the country and on TV. He is best known as the author of Sense and Goodness without God, Not the Impossible Faith, and Why I Am Not a Christian. His latest book is Proving History: Bayes's Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus. He is currently working on his next books, On the Historicity of Jesus Christ, The Scientist in the Early Roman Empire, and Science Education in the Early Roman Empire. Follow Richard through his website, RichardCarrier.info.

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  • 42Oolon

    But if mysticism is the case, why the need to have the holy family move to Bethlehem to give birth? My reading of this is that Jesus was a real person, but he was from the wrong place, he needed to be born in the city of David. Accordingly the ridiculous story of moving to your hometown for a census was concocted. Why bother concocting this story if not to square a real person with the prophecy?

    • Ignorant Amos

      The holy family only moves to Bethlehem in one gospel, the Gospel of Luke account. Could it be that Luke had the predetermined notion that Mary and Joseph must have lived there because of his source material. Certainly the Nativity was "made up" to fulfill OT prophecy. There are numerous literary devices employed in both accounts of the Nativity to get the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem as prophecy demanded.

      Scholars agree that the Nativities are much less historical than theological, which fits the stories much better than them being factual in any way.

      Both Luke and Matthew used Markian priority. Both Nativity may have got the idea of Jesus of Nazareth from the author of Mark. Matthew doesn't mention any journey from Nazareth or from anywhere else for that matter, his narrative begins with the holy family already in Bethlehem. Mathew does refer to Nazareth as the place the holy family settled when they returned from their Egyptian exodus.

      "After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead." So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene."

      Trying to retrospectively forcing a square peg into a round hole has caused all sorts of biblical contradiction and confusion.

      Look at the commotion that the authors of the Nativity have caused when they copied the source of the mistranslated meaning of the Hebrew word Almah.

      • Randy Gritter

        So what about Mary, the mother of Jesus? She is with the apostle John. They never talk about the birth of Jesus? This other story just gets published and nobody brings up the topic with her?

        • Ignorant Amos

          Ah, according to "The Word of Relationship".

          Which John, the beloved desciple?

          You aren't inferring that the gospel according to John and the John, an alleged beloved disciple, are one in the same are you?

          When was Mary with John and for how long?

          When were the Nativities written?

          Why, in your opinion, do you think Mary never talks about the birth of Jesus to John if I grant that they were actually together?

          Only the author of the John gospel relates this alleged statement by Jesus on the cross. Why was it not recorded by the other writers?

          Was it made up?

          How would anyone know if it wasn't?

          • Randy Gritter

            You sound like a holocaust denier. Anyone can just hint at huge conspiracies that everyone was lying and everything is faked. But you don't come out with a coherent theory. You just take shots at the official story. Just implying there is some big bad Catholic church that is pulling all the strings.

          • josh

            Randy, you're not paying attention. The idea isn't that everyone is lying and involved in a conspiracy. The idea is that false ideas spread in the way that they normally do with religions, and Christianity isn't an exception. The big bad Catholic church didn't even exist at the time the lies first got going.

          • Randy Gritter

            This is the other bit of hand waving. Christianity is like other religions in some vague and unspecified way. Mohammed claimed a divine revelation. Jesus claimed to work many miracles publicly including His own resurrection from the dead. The difference? Mohammad has one witness. Himself. Jesus has many. Mohammad gains military and political power early on. Jesus does not. There is just no reason for a guy like St Paul to become a Christian unless he was totally convinced it was true.

          • 42Oolon

            I don't think anyone is saying that the writers of the Gospel did not think it was true. They certainly may have... Paul was well aware of Christianity and could easily have suffered temporal lope epileptic seizure and become a believer. You have to remember, this was a time when thousands believed the sun was pushed across the sky by a dung beetle. That Athena burst out of her father's head. Major political and life decisions were made based on astrology and the entrails of animals. All kinds of beliefs were popping up all over the world and there was little interest in being critical of them as we are now. Being convinced it was true, is not much of an argument for those days, especially when you are talking about Paul!

          • Randy Gritter

            An epileptic seizure? Really? It does not actually fit the story we have. The men around Paul heard the voice. Ananias healed Paul's blindness after 3 days. Did they have seizures as well? You still end up saying Paul lied about it and have to explain why. Then you have Paul going out and preaching, writing the New Testament and becoming one of the most influential people in the history of the world while nobody notices he is mentally ill?

          • 42Oolon

            Who reported the men around him heard it?

          • 42Oolon

            It would appear that the unknown author of Acts reported it some 60 years later, based on oral tradition in a document that is not consistent with Paul's own epistles. Same for the curing of his blindness. Forgive me for not finding that credible. Take these two things away and my interpretation is, I think more credible. Not to mention, that among the millions living, many of which were on continents that Jesus knew would not receive his message for centuries, he decides to "appear" in the same land in which he has already delivered his message in person. And then only once? Goodness! Jesus has just redeemed all sin and saved humanity, he wants this message to get out! AND he has no problem intervening and appearing to people to convince them. Why not appear to everyone, why not keep appearing to everyone? Why not appear to me? Richard Dawkins? Do you think he abridged Paul's free will to chose Life by appearing to him?

          • Randy Gritter

            Luke is the author of Acts. It does not make sense to say it was written 60 years later. Acts must have been written before the martyrdom of St Peter and St Paul around 66 AD. It is the only thing that explains the fact that those events are not mentioned. They were huge in the church yet they are not even hinted at. Acts being written before 66 AD dates the gospel of Luke before that because Luke refers to it in Acts.

            As for the rest of the post. We often wonder why God requires faith. That is another topic. He gives some people like Paul very good evidence and others have a lot less. Is it impossible that God could work that way? St Paul did tell his story and did miracles and caused many to believe.

            Still Jesus could have done more. He could have gone into the temple after the resurrection and let everyone see Him. He didn't. He appeared to more than 500 at one time but they were likely mostly disciples. Why? God chooses to work primarily through faith. Yes, to give us freedom to say No. Did St Paul have the freedom to say No? Sort of. He says he remained faithful to the vision. So he did see a choice of convincing himself it was just his imagination or something. Still it is not quite the same.

          • 42Oolon

            Father Raymond E. Brown, of whom the retired Pope was apparently a fan, says that the current opinion concerning Lukan authorship [of Acts] is "about evenly divided".

            You're right about the dating, I was looking at a controversial source. Okay only 30 years after the event by someone who wasn't there.

            Ultimately my criticism with relying on Paul as some kind of witness the historical Jesus is that not even Paul suggests he met Jesus in the flesh.

            But in the end I don't really care, I actually think it makes more sense if there was a person named Jesus who developed a following and was crucified. I just see no reason to accept that a universe creator brought him back to life though. That, like your appeal to faith is for another day.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Acts is attributed to Luke's authorship because the two books are of the same author, indeed, known by scholars as Luke/Acts...but the auther was not Luke.

            Luke gets the glory because the author of Luke and Acts was one and the same. Because the author of Acts was thought to be a travelling companion of Paul, because of the "we" passages and by a process of elimination, it was thought to be Luke the physician...the name stuck and the gospel got called Luke in retrospect.

            But, Luke is only referred to as a physcian in Colossians and 2 Timothy, both forgeries, the Luke in the genuine Pauline epistles is referred to as a "co-worker". So it all gets a bit suspect.

            Because of the inconsistencies between Acts and Paul's teachings in theology, also historical inaccuracies, it is doubtful Luke the travelling companion of Paul, was the author. So, forgery perhaps as Bart Ehrman posits...but whatever the case, anonymous.

          • Randy Gritter

            Modern scholars have to claim everything is a forgery. There is no evidence they were. There is just an assumption. That is that supernatural events could not have really occurred. If you start with that assumption you end up not being able to make sense of any of it. Guys like Bart Ehrman prove that. It is good to know. It becomes a reductio ad absurdum proof that something supernatural is involved.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Modern scholars have to claim everything is a forgery.

            Why do they? Where is your proof they do? Are you engaging in wishful thinking?

            There is no evidence they were. There is just an assumption.

            An assumption that who was doing what?

            That is that supernatural events could not have really occurred.

            We are not discussing supernatural events. We are discussing whether the character of Jesus was real or made up. The supernatural mumbo jumbo is another aspect to the character entirely.

            If you start with that assumption you end up not being able to make sense of any of it. Guys like Bart Ehrman prove that.

            Guys like Bart Ehrman prove nothing. Supernatural mumbo jumbo is outside the remit of the historian and guys like Bart Ehrman are adamant on that issue.

            It is good to know. It becomes a reductio ad absurdum proof that something supernatural is involved.

            You've lost me completely now.

          • Randy Gritter

            When a document describes a supernatural event as fact and you have a world and life view that does not have room for the supernatural then your choices are limited. It has to be a forgery or a lie or a myth. If your world and life view allows for the supernatural then you have the option of saying it is what it appears to be. That is a story of an incredible event.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Supernatural...got evidence of such?

          • Donald

            Until an objective, verifiable demonstration of any so-called 'supernatural event' is made that can withstand skeptical analysis it does not matter in the least what anyone's 'world view' is it is a matter of pure speculation at best and completely self-delusion at worse. Only in the arena of such beliefs do people set aside the rationalism and demand for evidence that they use in their everyday life to assert faith in such unsubstantiated beliefs.
            Yes in point of fact the first option is the default position since the time to believe in something is when there is evidence to support it and not before. Otherwise what you are proposing is that it is acceptable to believe in any idea that is presented to you in which case you would be forced to believe in contradictory ideas.Your construct would support the belief in EVERY deity ever proposed, EVERY mythological creature, EVERY conspiracy theory and EVERY fantasy yet produced.
            Specifically the concept of supernatural deities has been around probably since the dawn of man's ability to communicate effective yet to date none have every been clearly demonstrated to exist other than with convoluted attempts to reason them into existence. No supernatural or paranormal power has ever been demonstrated nor has any such creature.
            Rational skepticism is what stops you from accept get rich quick scams in your email in box, running forth to join a cult of 'sun eaters' or spending your life hunting Bigfoot, fairies and the Loch Ness monster.
            As to your implication regarding 'making up a story like this' I direct you to the history of the Mormon church and its creation, the fact that L Ron Hubbard did in fact manufacture a religion out of whole cloth that is nothing more than a really poor science fiction short story though its real fact are hidden from its membership, the Realian cult, Heaven's Gate, Jim Jones and the Jonestown mass suicide, the ...
            Getting the picture yet?
            The christian mythology is no different than any other past or present save that it is held by a majority of Americans and yes it is a mythology as the term religion is simply used as a means to self grant a sense of superiority over all other such.

          • My problem is you assert all this prior to looking at the evidence. You say there is no evidence for miracles but when confronted by evidence you are sure it could not be true. Why? Because your creed tells you it can't be true. So no matter how strongly the data points to the supernatural you can't see it as evidence for the supernatural. Your prior belief blinds you to any possible evidence. That is not rational.

            Is every religion the same this way? I would argue atheism requires the same suspension of reason. Christianity does not. If it did I would not be a Christian. Can Islam be explained without the supernatural? Mostly yes. You can say Mohammad is lying or crazy. Same with Joseph Smith or L Ron Hubbard.

            Can you say the same about Jesus? It is hard. He does not fit as a liar or lunatic. So most folks say He must have not existed. Yet that is hard to. Where did those teachings come from? Where did the early church come from? Nothing really makes sense.

          • Donald

            “My problem is you assert all this prior to looking at the evidence.”
            Either you have the ability to reach across time and space to read my mind with absolute certainty what I have and have not done and are therefore eligible for the James Randi Foundation million dollars or you are simply making a baseless assertion attempting to bolster your own position with useless assertions that mean nothing at all.
            What so-called evidence are you referring to?
            State what it is, where it can be reviewed, who has presented this evidence and how it has been analyzed and by whom with specifics making it verifiable. If you cannot or do not then you will be sen as making empty claim that you in fact know are based not on evidence or in reality but on blind, biased, subjective faith used to shield yourself from actual reality.
            I am more than willing and am in fact quite eager to review this evidence so please present it and not simply some claim by a believer that they prayed and they found their car keys…therefore it’s a MIRACLE.

            “You say there is no evidence for miracles but when confronted by evidence you are sure it could not be true.”
            In point of fact that is a totally false statement as I never said anything of the sort.
            I stated clearly that until such evidence is presented, vetted and verified the default position is not to accept such claims as being valid. Are you suggesting that this is not the manner in which you function in your daily life where you ask for extraordinary claims to be substantiated?
            If so then I wish to sell you a life time pass on my intergalactic time ship piloted by fairies with unicorn rides on the recreation deck.

            “Why? Because your creed tells you it can't be true.”
            No because to date every such asserted claim of a miracle has in fact failed to present verifiable evidence beyond personal anecdote which frequently not only cannot be confirmed outside those already predisposed to accept anything offered as long as it does match their CREED and in many cases defies the laws of physics as well as not being noticed beyond those asserting it such as the Fatima myth of the sun ‘dancing across the sky’.
            I think that you most likely dismiss claims of alien abduction, Bigfoot sightings and other such ideas because they lack the verifiable evidence I am speaking of. Why? You are proposing that to do so is being close minded, allowing some undeclared ‘creed’ to control you actions and so on. By the ‘logic’ you are advocating you should, no you MUST accept them all as equally valid whether they have evidence or not.
            That is why evidence must be required to weed out the fiction and the fantasy from reality.

            “So no matter how strongly the data points to the supernatural you can't see it as evidence for the supernatural. Your prior belief blinds you to any possible evidence. That is not rational.”
            What is not rational here is you asserting that I am refusing to accept evidence that you have failed utterly to present or even allude to any. What is irrational is your blind assertions that what you believe is real and that anyone stating clearly that until such evidence is in fact presented, verified and tested is being closed minded when what they are being is rational and open to such.
            Where in fact is this evidence that your allude to yet fail to state in any terms whatsoever?
            First you must provide a clear description of what you mean by ‘supernatural’ then demonstrate in objective, verifiable terms that it even exists rather than just asserting that it does because that is what you wish were true and if everyone else goes along with it you’ll feel better.

            “Is every religion the same this way?”
            Yes in fact religious mythology is the suspension of rationality, the blind and baseless acceptance of myths, legends and fables without question and the dogmatic defense of those ideas to the point of declaring all questions heretical and all persons outside the sphere of faith anathema.

            “I would argue atheism requires the same suspension of reason.”
            Well you are entitled to your opinion however what atheism does or does not entail has absolutely no bearing on whether or not you have any evidence to support your belief in miraculous events associated with the supernatural. Or that the supernatural even exists which you nor anyone else has ever in the entire history of the human race managed to do.
            That remark is ploy intended to divert attention from your lack of evidence and nothing more.

            ”Christianity does not.”
            Really? Then you have never heard of Martin Luther or the Catholic church’s historical / modern stance on ‘reason’ I suppose? Allow me to provide you with a little free education regarding these issues.
            Martin Luther the father of Protestantism had this to say regarding reason and his words have been echoed through christianity up to this very day with the anti-science movements perpetuated by various sects within it.
            “Reason is a whore, the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God. Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but--more frequently than not --struggles against the Divine Word. Whoever wants
            to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his reason. Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and ... know nothing but the word of God.”
            “The fool will upset the whole science of astronomy,” about Nicolaus Copernicus, referring to the heliocentric model of the solar system that showed how erroneous the church doctrine of geocentrism was.
            Do I need to document how the Catholics destroyed the anatomical drawings of DaVinci because they feared that opening a body might reveal the lack of a soul? Or should I delineate their persecution of Copernicus and Galileo for showing that the earth was not the center of the universe which might cause people to question dogmatic doctrines? Must I relate how christians are trying to violate the civil rights of every child by forcing their primitive superstitions regarding biblical creation merely because they are frightened of and incapable of understanding modern astronomy and biology? How many of your fellows rail against the decline of America yet work daily to prevent the teaching of science because it frightens them and does not conform to their ancient, primitive, barbaric mythological ideology? Most either directly or by providing aid, comfort and cover for those who do.
            Sorry but the last thing that christianity utilizes is reason or rational thinking other than in endless attempts to reason some deity into existence.

            “If it did I would not be a Christian.”
            Then like most of your fellows you have either blinded yourself to reality or have failed utterly to ever ask any question or look into history out of fear that your vaunted beliefs might be shown to be based on fiction, fantasy or fraud.
            In fact I serious doubt that other than a few nicey-nice passages in that book you have ever bothered to read it cover to cover. If you have then please explain how slavery is reasonable and unless you can present verifiable documentation from that time period that such an institution was not the exact same thing it is today then such an assertion will be viewed as ridiculous and laughed out of the room. Explain how it is reasonable to stone an unruly child to death and attempting to discount the old testament will of course also be seen as ridiculous as you will then lose your creation myth with its idea of original sin, the ten commandments and all those ‘prophesies’ used to justify the messianic figure and the need for one.
            So please let me hear your explanation of how christianity is ‘reasonable’.

            “Can Islam be explained without the supernatural? Mostly yes.”
            Your own book can be explained without the supernatural as a great deal of it is simply fictional and the actual historical and scientific evidence available contradicts it at nearly every turn. The construct of divine creation is made utterly fictional by modern science and is little more than an attempt to use magic to explain the word around those who wrote it because they didn't know any better. The great flood of Noah is entirely falsified by geology, anthropology, biology and simple mathematics as well as being derived and expanded from earlier regional myths such as Gilgamesh. There is nothing to support the myth of Hebrew enslavement in Egypt and everything associated with it. Most if not all Jewish scholars do not view the so-called ‘prophecies’’ which your messiah is alleged to have fulfilled as any such thing and it is after all their book.
            Shall I continue?

            “You can say Mohammad is lying or crazy. Same with Joseph Smith or L Ron Hubbard.”
            I can state that Hubbard invented his mythological ideology as there is evidence to support such a claim. The same can be said regarding Smith as there are court records regarding his cons, the fact that his so-called ‘reformed Egyptian’ is a fabrication and other details. As to Mohammad there is significant evidence that he based a great deal of his writing on Judaic texts which he had aces to and that he was little more than a merchant warlord seeking power in the region. History, archaeology, biology, geology, astronomy, physics and a great deal of other scientific fields provide clear, verified, objective evidence that most of the bible is not in concordance with reality if not a complete fabrication.
            I can say with a great deal of certainty that the Book of Revelations was most likely written by either a lunatic or someone deranged due to drug overuse as the most frequently ascribed author is John of Patmos where hallucinogenic plants are common. The very authorship of the four principle gospels are a matter of some very serious contention among historians as there are no original manuscripts and if that book was subject to some supernatural divine guidance then the very fact that several variances of it is evidence that either that being is inept or does not in fact exist.

            “Can you say the same about Jesus? It is hard.”
            No in fact it is not as the sole document which relates anything directly related to that character is your one sacred text. There are no extra biblical records of this person, no artifacts from his lifetime and very few post contemporary references such as Tacitus and Josephus both born after his death and who report only what earlier believers claimed to believed which is second hand information at best and would not stand up in any court of law. Considering that you are attempting to assert that this is documentation of a supernatural divine entity that standard is not only applicable but minimal.

            “He does not fit as a liar or lunatic.”
            Oh please! You’re going to go to C S Lewis and not even properly quoted him at that. It is ‘liar, lunatic or lord’ but he, CSL, was trying to sell the same concept you are yet failed to carry it to a logical conclusion that being ‘legend’ which is just as valid. It is entirely plausible that this person was suffering from mental delusion, that those using the story for personal gain embellished it [lied] or that he was possibly some type of supernatural being. However if you wish to forward the latter then you will of course need a great deal more than your personal testimony which is meaningless outside the sphere of your mythology such as evidence supporting the assertions regarding such.
            Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence and a single book combined with your heartfelt statement of wholehearted belief is utterly insufficient in that regard.
            You are suffering from perspective bias as you are accepted everything associated with the set of beliefs you like while dismissing all others without argument or evidence. Sorry but that has no more validity that does your miracle assertions.

            “So most folks say He must have not existed. Yet that is hard to.”
            No most people inside your faith accept it without question as you apparently do while some outside it ignore the issue and others ask questions for which believers like you have no real answers to finally asserting that it is a matter of faith which is equivalent to gullibility anywhere else. The question of whether or not this person existed is unclear at best. He might have, he might not have or he might be an amalgamation of several itinerant Jewish rabbis preaching at the time. Simply asserting that because the ‘bible’ says it true it is ludicrous, biased and irrational in the extreme.
            Regardless of whether or not he in fact existed that does not in any manner support a claim that he was therefore divine or possessing of supernatural powers.

            “Where did those teachings come from?”
            Which ‘teachings’ are you referring to?
            If you are pointing at the pearl ‘do unto other as you would have them do unto you’ that concept can be traced back 300+ years before that time to China where it was better stated as ‘treat others as they would wish you to treat them’.
            The sermon on the mount though touted as the greatest thing since sliced bread is a hodge-podge mixture of some good advice, some nonsense and some utterly bad advice such as ‘sell everything you have, give the money to the poor and god will provide’.
            I suggest that you do not follow that advice since you have a computer and internet access.

            “Where did the early church come from? Nothing really makes sense.”
            It came about by people preaching the ideology to those willing to listen to pipe dreams of eternal life for just believing in a different form of magic than the one in common usage. It gained power as time went by then turned into the same type of vile bigoted cult that views every one and everything outside itself as an enemy deserving of death and eternal torture as all others generally do and which is still practiced by a great many of your fellows today.
            It came about through proselytization just as the Mormons, the Muslims, the Realians and all others did as well as using childhood indoctrination [brainwashing] to teach little kids that they are worthless, evil wretches merely because they were born deserving only of damnation because of some fantasy relating to a myth of creation but that god loves them.
            Please explain to me what form of mental defect or drug induced altered brain state is required to make that seem reasonable then tell me how christianity uses reason and is rational if you don't mind.
            No nothing regarding religious mythologies does make any sense but then it can’t because if it were logical, rational and made sense then it wouldn’t be able to sell the fabricated ideas that it uses to control people and take their money.

            Any other questions?

            When can I expect to start receiving this evidence of miracles that you have failed utterly to provide while at the same time accusing me of never having looked at it as well as being close minded towards? Don't bother citing scriptural references to such as none of that can ever be objectively verified or even confirmed and is therefore useless.

          • Thanks for the reply. Maybe too long to reply to fully but I will try and say something. You ask for evidence. There are so many different kinds. Physical miracles? There are many. You mentioned Fatima. Then you dismiss eyewitness testimony. That is interesting. Many people have been convicted of serious crimes by eyewitness testimony. Is it really something an unbiased person would just dismiss? You assume all the witnesses are suspect because they are predisposed to believe anything. Why? Just because most were Catholics? I know many Catholics and the ones I know would not lie about something like that.

            I am sure you read something on some atheist website that you choose to trust. Then you choose to distrust the people who were actually there. Is that really rational?

            Your dismissal of the teachings of Jesus shows some ignorance. What attracts people to a religion? Normally someone makes a supernatural claim and is able to convince others. Often the claim depends on the word of one person. In the case of Jesus that was not true. Jesus did not go around making big claims. He spoke and acted as if He was God but rarely said so directly. He let others become convinced by His love and His wisdom and His miracles. So the apostles did not just repeat Jesus' words but they experienced it all, especially the resurrection. Sure maybe the apostles just made it all up and told big lies. Yet why do that?

            As soon as serious scrutiny is given to the atheist account it falls apart. Atheists are really not very skeptical of their own belief system. If you want to assert someone is lying you need to look at the character of the people. You need to look at what they had to gain by lying. When many tell the same story you need to ask why they agree and where the common source of information was. These are basic rules for analysis.

          • Donald

            “As soon as serious scrutiny is given to the atheist account it falls apart. Atheists are really not very skeptical of their own belief system.”
            And you are now even further off the topic frantic to divert attention from your false claims regarding miracles. You were asked to explain this and all you can do is repeat your personal bias likely gleaned from some fundamentalist website. Atheism is not a ‘belief system’ but a rejection of a single belief concept, that being a lack of belief in any deity.
            If you wish to discuss your misconceptions regarding that issue we can do that after you either present this miracle evidence or admit that you were in fact wrong in that regard but nor before so stop
            pretending that this is part of the issue as it simply makes you look asinine.
            Again stick to the issue and stop trying to whine and cry about unrelated topic instead of presenting your evidence as you are
            making yourself look like a theistic fool bent of clinging to your mythological fantasies rather than making good on your claims.

            “If you want to assert someone is lying you need to look at the character of the people. You need to look at what they had to
            gain by lying. When many tell the same story you need to ask why they agree and where the common source of information was.”
            First of all that is a common theist tactic of accusing people who do not unquestionably swallow any such claim that they are saying it
            is a lie. That is not the case but the fallacy of poisoning the well. I have listed a number of other possibilities none of which related to dishonesty but you can only think in black and white as your religious indoctrination has taught you.
            You mean like the endless litany of christian ministers such as Ted Haggard who got rich leading a mega-church by railing against drugs and homosexuals until he was caught in a motel room with a
            homosexual prostitute and drugs?
            You mean like Pat Robertson who got rich making endless doomsday prophecies that always fail while screaming against anyone daring to disagree with his narrow minded ideology and who owns blood diamond properties in Africa and a personal jet?
            You mean like Kent Hovind who built a creationist fraud using money he refused to pay taxes on until he spent a decade in jail? You mean like the semi-psychotic, anti-Semite, anti-rationalist Martin Luther who caused the Protestant Reformation to begin and said “Reason is a whore, the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God”?
            You mean like…
            No this is not entirely on topic but as lawyer would tell you, ‘you opened that door’. Sorry but on one hand you argue that a person’s claim of ‘witnessing a miracle’ should be taken on faith then on the other hand you try to claim that their character must be considered because you are trying to demean atheists.

            “These are basic rules for analysis.”
            No they are not. The rules for analyzing evidence is that it must first and foremost be verifiable, that it can be subjected to critical skepticism that is not reliant on faith or mythological bias, that the results of such analysis can be repeated with conformational results again without subjective bias and that where applicable empirical tests can and should be performed. In every case your assertions regarding miracles fail which is why they are not and should not be accepted as based in reality any more that your assertions regarding the undefined ‘supernatural’ and alleged deities.
            Sorry but you are merely preaching your personal ideology coupled with a pandering sermon and linked to a flawed critic of atheism none of which has anything to do with your claim of evidence for miracles. In short you are dancing around afraid to come clean because you know that your fraud has been exposed but you are too invested in the belief system to admit that you simply have and are making fraudulent claims that you cannot support in any valid manner.

            Where is this evidence you asserted exists for miracles other than this useless attempt to create the illusion that ‘eyewitness testimony’ is sufficient when it is the worst possible form of evidence.

            Where is your description of your deity as well as what supernatural means and a clear, verifiable demonstration that either exists rather than just asserting that it does which is nothing more than you offering a subjective opinion that has absolutely no value at all.

            We both know that you have no such evidence but having made such grandiose, positive claims in that regard you are now
            desperately dancing around the flagpole trying to manufacture the illusion that you do.

          • Donald

            “I am sure you read something on some atheist website that you choose to trust. Then you choose to distrust the people who were actually there. Is that really rational?”
            So your telepathy is working again. Congratulations!
            No in fact I evaluate any and all new claims that I come across which appear not to be in concordance with my base of knowledge
            and experience regardless of the source particularly when the claim is of an extraordinary nature or involves a belief in magic. I have looked into many, not all, claims of ‘miracles’ and have yet to find one that can present anything other than these biased ‘eyewitness’ claims and sermons relating to the faith or even well documented specifics regarding the event. You yourself have not offered anything save a desperate rhetorical defense of such and nothing else even as you hide from direct questions regarding whether or not you accept all such accounts or only those within your mythological ideology.
            Yes in fact I do not ‘trust’ without verification anyone’s account in such a regard simply because they might allegedly have been
            present because as stated before people are inherently prone to misperception, deception, subjective interpretation, mental defect and are not trained observers by any stretch of the imagination.
            Again are you going to simply walk into prison when someone who proclaims belief in the same deity you do or any other for that matter asserts that they were present when you raped a child when an angel was present? Why not? That is precisely what you are trying to sell.

            “Your dismissal of the teachings of Jesus shows some ignorance”
            No what is completely IGNORANT is you trying to pretend that you have superpowers that allow you to read other people’s minds
            as you did at first. What is completely IGNORANT is you whining that my rational demand for actual evidence for alleged miracles that you asserted exists equates to my dismissal of your invisible friend when I have never made such a statement. That is the type of IGNORANCE that petty theists try to toss around when they realize that their empty mystical, magical fantasies are being rationally dissected and shown to be utterly flawed.

            “Normally someone makes a supernatural claim and is able to convince others.”
            Perhaps but only within the sphere of belief that they exist in and rely on for support. You will not answer the question as to whether you unquestionably such claims made by people of other faiths or those relating other myths because you understand that by answering you will reveal both your own bias as well as the fact that your argument is flawed to its core.
            Again you have not explained or described what you mean by ‘supernatural’ or demonstrated that it exists but merely assert that it does and demand that other people swallow your idea so as to make you feel better. Sorry but that is irrational and deceptive.

            “Often the claim depends on the word of one person.”
            Then that is a claim that should be most suspect and if you wish to claim that it should be the one most accepted then you need to go to jail, go straight to jail and not collect $200 dollars as I have filed
            a sworn statement regarding my having witnessed you raping a child in the company of an angel. If you think that this is rude sarcasm then you are correct but it is also a precise analogy to the concept you are desperately trying to sell.

            “In the case of Jesus…especially the resurrection.”
            Once again this is not the issue here and you have now descended to the position of simply preaching a sermon because you know full well that you have nothing of value to support your assertions regarding evidence for miracles. You know that you have no evidence, you understand that eyewitnesses testimony is unreliable and almost valueless yet you are so desperate to cling to that fiction that you will dance around making rhetorical arguments and offering sermons to cover your false claim.
            Stick to the issue and stop dancing. Present your actual physical evidence including eyewitness reports if you like provided you
            include names, addresses and links to their full and verified statements.

            “Sure maybe the apostles just made it all up and told big lies. Yet why do that?”
            Perhaps for the exact same reason that modern evangelists do. For fame, profit, self-obsession, self-promotion, mental disorder
            or any number of other reason but since you cannot bring one forth for cross-examination your biased, subjective implication that they did because it was all real and true is dismissed as meaningless opinion not based in fact or reality.

          • Donald

            “You ask for evidence. There are so many different kinds.”
            No there is not and that is just a religionist ploy to avoid coming to grips with the fact that you cannot actually present any. Evidence is objective and verifiable as you were told.
            So where is your evidence because in your entire sermon I see absolutely none just a long rhetorical argument desperately trying to assert that the mere claim should be swallowed without question because it is based in an unsubstantiated mythological belief.

            “Physical miracles?”
            What other kinds are there. Either you are discussing an event which took place in the physical reality we call the universe or you are talking about something which you have not even attempted
            to describe or define therefore it is a non sequitor.

            “Then you dismiss eyewitness testimony. That is interesting. Many people have been convicted of serious crimes by eyewitness
            testimony.”
            There you can and must present clear evidence in the form of say a repeated study which analyzed the primary evidence presented
            in a range of legal cases during a specific recent period otherwise you are once more making an empty, baseless assertion which you most likely merely made up trying to create the illusion that you have support for you assertion. In fact that is a very common tactic among religionists who merely manufacture further claims hoping that they will go unchallenged. Well I am challenging this one but I doubt that you will make more effort to substantiate this rather inane idea than any of your other pitiful claims.
            In point of fact eyewitness evidence is the single worst form in any legal case as it can quickly be torn apart by the opposing
            counsel. The only time it is of any reasonable value is when it is supported by concrete physical evidence which is why experts such as a coroner will have such at hand when presenting their ‘eyewitness’ testimony.
            That specific case, Fatima, makes various claims such as there being 3,000 to 30,000 witnesses yet none have been named or
            verified as being present. I stated that according to the claim the ‘sun danced across the sky’ which if that ‘eyewitness testimony’ was in any way accurate then people around the world would have noticed it. A point you poignantly ignore.

            “Is it really something an unbiased person would just dismiss?”
            Yet you are clearly presenting your own bias in asking that it be accepted without question for no other reason than it conforms to your religious bias. Do you accept such claims made by persons of
            other religious mythologies? I’ll answer for you since you will likely just dance away from this question. No you would not but are afraid to say so as that would in fact reveal your religious bigotry.
            Again the time to believe in any claim particularly those of an extraordinary nature and most certainly those asserting
            supernatural causation is when evidence is presented to support them and in the latter case that requires extraordinary evidence not simply an unconfirmed, irrational and objective impossibly claim.
            I note with some satisfaction that rather than present anything even approaching the evidence that you positively asserted not only exists but which you claimed that I have not bothered to investigate. Instead you offer the exact same type of pointless, empty rhetorical argumentation designed to divert attention from your false claims and total lack of any real evidence mirroring what every theist does after doing as you have done.
            Yes in point of fact I and any rational, skeptical person would in fact dismiss such eyewitness evidence unless it was corroborated
            by a reasonable number of other reputable witnesses AND objective, physical, verifiable evidence.
            I asked if you accept the ‘eyewitness accounts’ of alien abduction, Bigfoot sightings or any other such mythology but like all other highly biased individuals bent on trying to sell their preferred form of subjective ideology you likely cringed when you read that question since you understand that you cannot answer it without revealing your bias and refusal to accept this type of report everywhere save inside your sphere of faith.

            “You assume all the witnesses are suspect because they are predisposed to believe anything. Why?”
            Because such testimony is prone to subjective interpretation, cannot be examined or replicated and simply because they can be
            wrong for any number of reasons. You are trying to assert that they are always to be believed absolutely even when they are contradicted by reality or other witnesses.
            Are you willing to merely accept any person claiming to have ‘witnessed’ you sexually molesting a child? Why not? Are you
            not expressing your bias?
            Sorry your desperate attempt to try and sell that people who have witnessed a ‘miracle’ must be accepted without question is ridiculous and a blatant attempt to ask for special pleading to favor your personal faith.

            “Just because most were Catholics?”
            Not in the least but because their claims are unsupported by actual verifiable evidence and in many cases in contradicted by reality as well as requiring prior belief in a supernatural mythology which has
            never been demonstrated to exist.
            Again unless you are willing to accept those claims of miraculous events made by people of every other faith your question is nonsensical.

            “I know many Catholics and the ones I know would not lie about something like that.”
            That is totally immaterial to the issue. What you ‘believe’ regarding their veracity or honesty is meaningless as that too is a totally
            subjective concept. Whether or not you ‘believe’ that they are honestly relating what they ‘believe’ does not qualify as evidence in any way. It is subjective interpretation piled on top of subjective interpretation.
            The courts do not accept a person’s testimony because someone else claims that they could not be lying. Science does not accept
            claims that have no supporting evidence merely because other people swear that the claimant is honest most of the time. Sadly this is one of the most pathetic and pitiful apologetics put forth to desperately try to prop up a claim.
            They in fact could actually be lying to you, they could be mistaken, they could be suffering from a mental defect or any number of other causes yet you just want to believe in the story so you do.

          • Again your reply is quite long. I am replying on an iPad so I can't really go point by point. I just wanted to point out that you are starting from an interesting position. That is that for Christianity to be taken seriously it must have physical, scientific evidence to support it. Then you dismiss the physical scientific evidence. Whatever.

            Still I want to note that no philosophy should be expected to have such evidence. Atheism does not. How do you prove scientificly that the natural world is all there is? You can't. Science studies the natural world. It can tell us how one natural thing causes another. This is good to know. Still it cannot tell us why the natural world exists OT whether ant deeper reality exists. That is something you have arrived at through faith. There is no experimental result that is consistent with atheism and inconsistent with Christianity. You just choose one over the other and act like anyone who does not make the same choice is a fool.

            The truth is that if atheism is true Christians are fools. Likewise if Christianity is true atheists are fools. Yet at some point we need to stop calling each other that if we are going to have a discussion

          • Donald

            “There is no experimental result that is consistent with atheism and inconsistent with Christianity.”
            Once more you are so desperate to shift attention away from your dishonesty regarding evidence for miracles that you try to drag in this useless comparison. First of all christianity is absolutely inconsistent with any empirical test or demonstration so your remark is both idiotic and ridiculous.

            “You just choose one over the other and act like anyone who does not make the same choice is a fool.”
            No in fact that is the asinine declaration that christians like you make daily claiming that people can only be moral if they swallow your mythology which is proven to be false at every turn. Christians are a large majority of this nation yet the prisons are filled with professed christians, who do you think is buying all those drugs and pornography you rail about, who do you think is getting all those divorces if not christians and so on.
            No, once more you have merely stuck your fingers in your ears to ignore everything that does not conform to your narrow minded ideology so you can preach more theistic nonsense frantically trying to convince yourself that your mental delusions regarding an ancient primitive, barbaric mythology are real. Sorry but in fact despite your desire to delude yourself most atheists have arrived at that position due to reasoned evaluation of the tenets, doctrines and actions of your system of belief and those inside it. The tactics of people like you who do make invalid claims and then argue dishonestly, the endless scandals relating to your proclaimed religious demagogues involving immorality associated with sexual misconduct, drugs, financial fraud and so on has laid bare the inherent hypocrisy of your beliefs which allow people to do as they like then pretend that talking to themselves makes it all better.
            So claim that they aren't 'true christians' and make the logical fallacy trifecta by adding the 'no true Scotsman' fallacy to your list.

            The very contents of the book that forms the basis of your so-called faith in little more than a collection of the most horrendous, abominable, vicious, immoral and repugnant tales of fantasy as to
            be nothing more than a poorly written horror novel and snuff porn.

            “The truth is that if atheism is true Christians are fools. Likewise if Christianity is true atheists are fools.”
            Really, now you’re flailing around so badly that you think that Pascal’s wager might work? Really? The very fact that you try
            that tired, meaningless and flawed construct is almost laughable if I didn’t think that you might actually be serious.

            “Yet at some point we need to stop calling each other that if we are going to have a discussion”
            There has never been a discussion here from the moment that your dishonesty was revealed when you failed utterly to even try to
            present anything that could be considered evidence after being asked for it. That was made even more clear and obvious when you continued to preach instead of making good on your claim and made pathetic attempts to try and sell your christian myth as the superior to a rejection of it because it cannot support itself with the evidence you scream exists. The best that you could do was try to argue that personal claims were evidence tied to a fraud that this is the most common evidence used in court both ideas you likely know are false since you have three times now hid from the question of your accepting such claims by people outside your set of beliefs.
            No the point here has been to show you for what you are, a closed minded, dishonest christian making empty assertions to bolster your own set of preconceived ideas derived from a book of barbaric myths and tailored to conform to various apologetic scripts that you think are valid. The point has been to expose your fraud and deception by allowing you to dance around instead of presenting what you have claimed exists. The point has been to rub your nose in your own self-deceit that you have tried to sell to
            the public on this forum declaring that you have what you know you do not while also revealing your double standard and special pleading ploys as well as several fallacious arguments and pathetic constructs such as Pascal’s wager.

            Yes these have been more than the simplistic grunts and simple minded but totally false ideas you have thrown out because reality is far more complex than your self-centered, childish ideas of a
            magical figure in the sky who cannot make clearly demonstrate that it exists as your own book says that is has done repeatedly in the past but which you think is interested in your sex life and grants you wishes.
            So one last chance, are you going to stop lying about my perspectives on evidence that you have yet to try to present and begin presenting it or are you just going to preach more ridiculous and asinine christian apologetic BS? Because if it is the latter then just go back to your little cave, make a self-obsessed declaration of victory for your one true mythological faith and continue to live in the darkness of the Bronze Age.

          • Donald

            “That is that for Christianity to be taken seriously it must have physical, scientific evidence to support it.”
            It is not simply your preferred mythology but for any idea which anyone wishes to present as being real and true which is exactly what you are doing. You are asserting without ever even attempting to present anything in support of your position instead making further assertions regarding what you want to define as my position which is simply fraudulent and insulting since you have never asked anything from me but just spewed forth what you want to believe with regard to me starting by your asinine assertion that
            I have not reviewed the claims associated with miracles.

            “Then you dismiss the physical scientific evidence.”
            What evidence? You have never presented anything other than a string of assertion that your utter lack of offering anything equates to my refusal to accept it. That is a fraud, no a blatant lie but one
            which theists like you commonly try to use to cover the fact that they fully understand that aside from these subjective claims they actual have no evidence scientific or otherwise.
            You have been asked repeatedly to present more than this type of rhetorical argument and false assertion yet you continue solely on that tact thus demonstrating that you are playing an apologist’s game.

            “Still I want to note that no philosophy should be expected to have such evidence.”
            Yet you stepped forward repeatedly to assert without justification that such evidence does in fact exist trying desperately to trumpet that your ideology has objective support but when called on that claim you dance around making empty assertions, dragging in irrelevant issues trying to obfuscate the point and pretending that you know anything about me in a veiled ad hominem fallacy.
            Is your mental dissidence so rampant that you cannot see the internal inconsistencies you try to put forth asserting at one moment that such evidence exists and in the next that it doesn't?

            “Atheism does not.”
            And despite having your ignorance regarding that position explained to you twice you continue with the common theistic fallacy of making false declarations that have no basis in reality. Atheism is simply the rejection of any and all claims regarding god(s) as in they do not believe that those making such claims have meet their burden of proof for example you and your positive assertion that supernatural miracles are real and that you have evidence which you have failed utterly to produce in any manner.
            Atheism needs no evidence because it makes no claims, asserts no position and is simply the rejection of belief in supernatural deities for sheer lack of substantiating evidence , i.e., that
            there exists no same, rational reason to do so. You have three times no hidden in abject fear of even touching on the issue of why you reject accepting belief in other mythological deities, mythical creature such as Bigfoot and so because you understand, as you have been told, that you know that to do so will expose your inherent bigotry and false reasoning capacities as you ignore and reject those concepts for exactly the same reason.

            “How do you prove scientificly that the natural world is all there is?”
            For the very simple reason that I don’t need to since I have never claimed that this is the case. You have now played the most disgusting but commonly used fundamentalist ploy of trying to shift the burden of proof. You have made the claim that the supernatural exists, you have asserted that miracles are real, you have proclaimed that this is due to a supernatural deity and capped the whole swirling mess off by stating that evidence exists to demonstrate that this is the case. And now when you have been shown to be repeatedly conducting a dishonest, false argument you try to turn the tables and whine ‘well you can’t prove it isn’t real.
            You made these claims and you know you cannot support them so you present a fraud to cover your backside. It is this type of open, blatant hypocrisy and attempts at deception that continue to drive more and more people away from your system of gullibility, what you call faith, as every new research study reveals.

            “Science studies the natural world. It can tell us how one natural thing causes another. This is good to know. Still it cannot tell us why the natural world exists OT whether ant deeper reality exists.”
            Correct but since it does not make any such claim your remark is just another useless one meant to muddy the water.
            You have asserted without offering any justification that such a thing outside the physical universe does exist yet after claiming that you cannot demonstrate it does and make no effort to do so. Where I’m from that is called dishonesty and self-deception bordering on mental defect.

            “That is something you have arrived at through faith.”
            Then you cannot then declare that it exists in reality because your faith is not evidence but merely a statement of personal opinion. If you wish to argue that such a declaration must be considered ‘evidence’ then you will be faced with having to accept every other such declaration as evidence from other mythologies and we both know that you cannot do that because it will cut the legs out from under your attempt to have your faith accepted while you dismiss everyone who does not agree with you in a clear case of special
            pleading.

          • Donald

            Considering your silence when you have previously been so very forceful in your attempted ‘defense’ of these magical assertions regarding ‘miracles’ it is safe to assume that you have realized that your dishonest claim of there being actual ‘evidence’ supporting such has been revealed and refuted.

            The fact that rather than simply present your alleged ‘evidence’ you first tried to falsely assert that eyewitness testimony was the primary source of evidence in legal matters which is blatantly false and when asked to provide any support for that claim you dodged the issue. Tied to that useless idea was your pathetic attempt to shift focus towards what atheists do trying to misdirect the discussion which you did at every turn rather than addressing the real issue. Additionally you also dodged the fact that while you tried to claim that others are biased against unsubstantiated claims regarding some sort of magical occurrence which has no real evidence and in fact violates the known laws of reality when you are doing precisely that with regard to all other religious mythologies and other pseudoscience claims because you likely understand that you are doing that and to touch the issue will reveal it.

            Yes I am extremely skeptical of the endless claims both large and small of ‘miracles’ associated with unsupported and undemonstrated assertions relating to supernatural deities. First and foremost it is simply asking for your beliefs to be accepted without providing a shred of justification for that request when outside your beliefs you understand that this is not how the world or you function. Secondly you are desperate to have others confirm your gullible acceptance of these ideas because that serves as confirmation to your predetermined beliefs in the deity you claim caused them in a blatant example of circular logic; i.e., god caused the miracle and that proves god.

            Sorry but that is simply ridiculous.

            We both know quite well why you failed to even try to offer any evidence when you were called on your clear, positive assertion that there is such. That is because you were just making a bald assertion of what you wish were real but understand that you can never validate in any manner outside the sphere of self-reinforcing belief you are part of in exactly the same way you dismiss and ignore those made by every other person whose mythology does not conform to yours.

            You can if you like consider this to be 'offensive' since I refer to your claims as dishonest and your alleged miracles as being nothing different than claims of magic. Not that I care in the least considering that your faith in general, your church's hierarchy demeans and ridicules those outside the cliche and the precepts of your ideology are based in primitive, barbaric mythology which any rational person not immersed in fear would openly call such. If you dislike my opinion then stop dancing around and provide the clear, objective, verifiable evidence that supports your claim and stop pretending that attacks on science for not doing your work for you because you cannot demonstrate that your alleged mystical 'other world' in fact exists or what atheism does when you have no real idea what it is. Provide rational support for your ideas instead of trying to shift the burden of proof, attempting to obfuscate the issue and dodging the question.

            So please continue to believe whatever you like but when you try to pass off the dishonesty inherent in your belief system attempting to sway people outside it know that you will be called upon to either to back that up with real facts or back away having been shown to be wrong if not fraudulent.

          • Actually I am not convinced at all by anything you wrote. I stopped replying because of the energy it would take to do so. You don't interact with my arguments in a way I find challenging or even interesting. So we are talking past one another. Even now I am contemplating pointing out your errors. I find it hard to be silent but you make it so clear true dialogue would be impossible. So I shall pass. You may declare victory if you like. God bless you.

          • Donald

            First of all I never 'declared victory' I stated that your positive claims relating to your possessing 'evidence' supporting miracles has clearly been shown to have been a complete deception bordering on an outright lie.

            Yes dialogue with a person such as yourself who is inherently dishonest, who constantly tries to drag in unrelated issues to mask you inability to produce what you have asserted exists and who refuses to accept that what you are saying does not in fact conform to what is real such as you preposterous statement relating to atheism.

            "Actually I am not convinced at all by anything you wrote."
            Then you have entirely missed the point sir as I have no intention of trying to convince anyone of anything. The was, is and always will be your false claim that evidence exists for miracles and your completely dishonest methods relating to that discussion. Rather than simply stating that 'well I accept personal reports as being valid but you might not' or 'I just take it on faith and that's my evidence' you tried to dance and dodge around in a vain attempt to shield yourself from reality while clinging to the delusion. That is dishonest and deceitful and that is what I cannot tolerate.

            "You don't interact with my arguments in a way I find challenging or even interesting."
            By which I assume you mean that because I have dissected your remarks piece by piece documenting the inherent flaws, fallacies and deceptions rather than just agreeing with you that you find this not to your liking. Well reality does have a way of disregarding such emotional positions. The point here is that had you the actual evidence that you claimed to posses rather than just a false assertion followed by desperate attempts to manufacture a smokescreen to shield yourself from that fact you would not end to walk away pretending that you have become tired of the exchange. Sorry but I have dealt with christian apologists for decades and can smell a pretense at distance and you are offering one to pretend that you have not been shown to be a fraud claiming to have what you do not in order to bolster your beliefs in public.

            "So we are talking past one another."
            No I am clearly discussing your apologetics and attempted obfuscations while you are simply not listening as you pretend that you are in possession of any real evidence but merely asserting that personal revelation has any value beyond that person.

            "Even now I am contemplating pointing out your errors."
            By all means please do so but when you do stick to the issue at hand which is your assertion that evidence, which requires objective, demonstrable and verifiable facts not merely baseless claims of visions or dreams, exists to support the claims of divine magic affecting this physical reality and refrain from your patent attempts to cloud the discussion with tangential and unrelated issues as that is just a cover tactic.

            However you wish to cloak your retreat is entirely meaningless as I have shown that your claims of evidence for miracle a a deception and that you cannot argue honesty but try to use obfuscation and tangential issues as a mask for this.

            Thank you for that closing sentiment though as you have yet to clearly demonstrate that such a being in fact exists outside your mind I completely fail to see the value of such a remark other than as a typical example of the christian need to assert their self-righteous personal views at all opportunities particularly as a final and dare I say false shot. And in the same manner as you most likely intended it I say 'and I will think for you'.

          • You are still misunderstanding me. I was looking for what kind of evidence you accept. I have no desire to present evidence you have already decided to reject. For example, you reject eye witness testimony. There are many accounts of people having witnessed supernatural phenomena. You reject those. Good to know. Not a rational thing to do but you choose to do it. Still that does not make my bringing it up a deception bordering on an outright lie. That seems unfair on your part.

            So I would ask. Would you accept evidence of near death experiences. I am not talking about anecdotes but serious scientific research on the phenomenon. If there was evidence of people seeing what could not physically be seen with their eyes or hearing what could not physically be hear with their ears would that open your mind to the possibility that something beyond the physical world exists?

            Again, you don't have to take it seriously. You can just dismiss it. I will understand.

          • Donald

            “You are still misunderstanding me. I was looking for what kind of evidence you accept.”
            Sorry but I find that extremely difficult to believe as I stated when you first posited that concept what would be required and instead of following through on that line of reasoning you instead failed entirely to offer anything of the kind but rather tried to divert attention towards tangential issues unrelated to the topic. You attempted to claim falsely that the majority of court cases are settled by ‘eyewitness testimony’ trying to prop up the fact in every claim of a ‘miracle’ it is based solely on such yet when asked to present case studies to support that additional claim, which is a clear definition of what type of evidence would suffice, you moved on to another rhetorical argument supporting the contention that you in fact knew you were just manufacturing a ploy.
            Therefore this newest claim is dismissed as false and simply one more attempt to create a flawed scenario. You cannot try to claim that you are not aware of what might be valid to me when such a detailed description was given.

            “I have no desire to present evidence you have already decided to reject. For example, you reject eye witness testimony. There are many accounts of people having witnessed supernatural phenomena. You reject those. Good to know.”
            Precisely when did I make such a direct statement?
            Sorry but I did not and if you bother to check the comments you will see that once again you as incorrect and are once again merely projecting what you want to be real as you did from the beginning when you falsely cussed me of not having reviewed such evidence when you had no way of determining anything of the kind. At best I stated that “Evidence is objective and verifiable as you were told” when you asked ‘what type of evidence’. If your witness reports are
            objective and can be verified then they might be valid but I think that we both know what you are asking for and that is a blanket acceptance of all such claims regardless of their actual merit.
            I have stated repeatedly there are thousands of such claims made by people asserting to have been abducted by aliens, seen Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster, possess paranormal abilities, have been reincarnated, witnessed supernatural event associated with other belief systems and a host of unsupported ideas yet you ignore them for one reason only and I do not think I need repeat it.
            No I reject eyewitness testimony regarding events that defy the physical laws of the universe, that are essentially claims of magic, which revolve around a mythological being that you have no intention or ability to actually demonstrate exists in reality but assert is the cause, which are contradicted by other sources and which lack any other supporting material when such should be present. I accept as reasonable the eyewitness testimony where the physical evidence confirms that even if minor details are off the mark. In the case of
            your miracle claims all you have is eyewitness claims most of which cannot be confirmed, many of which are contradicted by nature such as the aforementioned ‘sun dancing in the sky’ claim, all of which are based in predetermined belief in an undemonstrated magical being, most of which are not based on the testimony of the actual witnesses but on second hand reports or in many cases relate to events so far in the past as to be little more than myths.
            I reject them for the very same rational and objective reasons which you use to dismiss, reject and discount those claim made by
            people asserting that they were abducted by aliens, who claim miraculous events they attribute to other mythologies, who state that they have seen Bigfoot and so on though despite having this presented to you on many occasions you avoid the issue in all respects because you cannot address it without revealing your reliance on the special pleading fallacy of ‘they’re all wrong but I right because it part of my mythology and theirs can’t be right’.
            Eyewitness testimony is extremely unreliable, subject to multiple manipulative factors and only acceptable when coupled with
            objective, verifiable evidence as you well know but wish to ignore because you are convinced purely on unsubstantiated religious ground that they are real.
            Finally you did not even attempt to present such or any other ‘evidence’ but rather offered rhetorical argumentation relating to
            atheism and other off topic points. So please stop pretending that you have a reasonable case regarding such ‘evidence’ when you are fully aware of the double standard you are in fact using in this regard and promote that which is in your sphere while rejecting all outside it as well as fearing to touch that very issue because to do so would reveal your duplicity.
            It is my opinion that you do not want to present any evidence at all since you likely understand that outside your sphere of faith whenever this has taken place it has failed to withstand skeptical criticism and objective analysis being shown to be little more than subjective anecdotes and exaggerated stories.
            But since you have never offered anything at all we shall never know.

            “Not a rational thing to do but you choose to do it.”
            No it is entirely rational or if you wish to stick to that baseless assertion then I suggest that you report to the nearest prison as I am prepared, along with several dozen highly respected members of the community, to swear out legal affidavits that you are a pedophilic serial murderer and that we have all witnessed you committing such acts.
            Am I lying?
            Most certainly, which demonstrates why such testimony is at the bottom of the scale in every arena save yours because there it conforms to an ideological bent and you know this most likely.
            What you are proposing is totally irrational and unreasonable and if accepted would require any and all such claims regardless of the validity, veracity or whether or not they conformed to reality be accepted without question.
            I have stated this before 'the time to accept a proposition is when it is supported by evidence, objective and verified evidence and not a second before' yet you have offered nothing of the kind just false accusations, rhetorical argumentation, off topic issues and hyperbole.

            “Still that does not make my bringing it up a deception bordering on an outright lie. That seems unfair on your part.”
            When after having the above points detailed to you on various occasions yet you refused to even discuss them most assuredly
            because you likely know that they refute your contention in the strongest terms while you continue to try to foist such subjective, undemonstrated, unverifiable and generally unreliable material forward this does after a time support the concept that deception and obfuscation is being used.

            “So I would ask. Would you accept evidence of near death experiences."
            And once again you are trying to divert attention from your total inability to offer any evidence, even the ‘witness testimony’ to support your claim, your positive, clearly worded and direct assertion that EVIDENCE exists regarding miracles. One can only conclude that you are once again resorting to the tactics of obfuscation and diversion to keep from dealing with your flawed assertion.
            No in fact I do not accept such anecdotal reports for the very same reasons stated above. Additionally there exist several clinical studies which have tested this so-called phenomena and found that it fails in every case.

            “I am not talking about anecdotes but serious scientific research on the phenomenon. If there was evidence of people seeing what could not physically be seen with their eyes or hearing what could not physically be hear with their ears would that open your mind to the possibility that something beyond the physical world exists?”
            Then first present the evidence supporting your miracle claim and then we can move on otherwise you are playing the theist game of
            duck-and-dodge to avoid confronting your lack of actual evidence. When that has been done you can offer your ‘scientific research on the phenomenon’ which must have been conducted by reputable neuroscientists under clinical conditions outside the control of any religious organization, published in at least one reputable, per reviewed scientific journal, replicated by other similar researchers who reported reasonably confirmatory results under the same conditions and cited in at least two other studies. If you think that these are overly restrictive conditions then you have no idea of what scientific research entails but I do having been a geologist and paleontologist for over thirty years but feel free to ask another scientist if they are. I think that you will find that this is the barest minimum for any idea to gain even a modest level of acceptance in the scientific community and generally much, much more is necessary which explain why all such ideas of the paranormal are still relegated to the 'alternative Beliefs' section of the book store and do not appear in real science journals.
            By the way I can present several such studies which used very simple tests and yet never produced a single a positive result but
            first things first.
            So you have an answer now please stop dancing around and bring forth the miracle evidence.

            “Again, you don't have to take it seriously. You can just dismiss it. I will understand.”
            It is nice to know that I have your permission but if I do I will certainly state in detail my reasons for doing so. However I will
            NOT entertain anything relating to that topic unless and until you FIRST either present your miracle evidence or admit that all you have is unsubstantiated, unverified and biased ‘eyewitness reports’ which is not valid evidence by any definition but mere anecdotes regardless of what your church hierarchy declares as that is as meaningful as asking Erich von Daniken what he thinks of alien abductions stories.
            Can you do this or must we suffer yet another round of your trying desperately to shield your belief in magical miracles from the light of reality?

            By the way didn't you state that you were 'done'?

          • Donald

            Yet again we see that when you are confronted with a sound refusal to allow you to divert attention away from your original but extremely empty and false claim regarding evidence for miracles which does not involve only the type of unreliable, unverifiable and wholly biased second hand accounts you rely on you simply retreat. This is because as has been pointed out to you repeatedly you are desperate to defend these myths as you have wrapped most if not all of your own self-image around this flawed and deceitful ancient mythology which is based on magic that cannot be objectively demonstrated and which is the crutch people use to hide from the responsibility of their actions instead of dealing with them in the present. Rather they pretend that talking to themselves and worshiping a barbaric, vile and blood soaked deity somehow alleviates them of correcting their wrongs shifting the blame away from themselves.

            Or in your own case talking with a third party then performing some outdated and meaningless ritual inside an organization that is wholly corrupt, utterly mired in the past and is in effect a criminal organization is how you likely deal with such. Yes when the hierarchy of that group is more interested in protecting their own image than in the welfare of its most vulnerable members and prevents the civil authorities from investigating the most heinous of crimes, pays hush money to those victims to cover up the crimes and hides those guilty of such acts in other jurisdictions where they repeat those acts over and over it can only be termed an ‘organized crime family’.

            If you are so deluded by self-blinded as to what I am speaking of allow me to force you to face reality as I am talking about the decades long activities of your church in protecting, harboring and allowing pedophile or more correctly stated CHILD RAPING priests to escape the law and rape more children rather than defending the innocent. That organization’s mandate of unquestioning submission to the authority of itself allowed those priests to intimidate children in order to hide their crimes. The past pope was likely ‘forced’ to resign and go into ‘hiding’ as the evidence mounted that he was at the head of the effort to protect them in order to shield the church from the scandal they were part of having gone so far as to actually write down that ‘this matter must be only handled within the church’ in clear defiance of the superiority of civil authority.

            If you doubt these claims I am quite prepared to literally bury you with the hard evidence of them and not simply the type of second hand eyewitness testimony you rely on but criminal investigations, direct testimony from the victims, the records of out or court settlements with nondisclosure caveats and a wealth of other material that can all be objectively verified. Why one of the most influential cardinals of the church is in court in Australia facing charges of sexual misconduct with minors, conspiracy and other crimes relating to this abominable campaign of silence and shame at this very moment.

            Sorry but Ratsinger is not living in the 12th century when your archaic temple of mysticism ruled but in the 21st were secular society does and he should be arrested and tried in a court in every nation were his minions harmed even a single child while those people are punished in this life, the only one there is, to the fullest extent of the law regardless of their health or age. Were any other member of society to have committed such a deplorable act they would be hunted down by mobs of outraged citizens yet your cult of mysticism has worried more about its precious reputation and ability to continue fleecing its member than in the welfare of children.

            For shame! You and every other member of your congregation should be pounding on your bishop’s door screaming for his blood until this affair is dragged into the light of day and every effort made to punish the guilty and prevent any further such episode regardless of the cost to the church otherwise it deserves to be torn down and its leaders chased from civilized society as they are little more than predators hiding behind magical ideas to mask their crimes.

            Sorry but the days when your corrupt and vile church could control society are long dead and unless it starts conforming to the modern world a day of reckoning is coming that will make the religious wars of the Reformation look like a Sunday picnic.

            Additionally at every turn your church, which is wealthy beyond belief and runs numerous for profit businesses in several countries under the false guise of ‘religious properties’, whines and pleads for others to foot the bill daily to support their activities placing not a single penny of its own resources in the bucket. This becomes even more miserable when a disaster is involved as they will act in the most limited fashion until the contributions start coming in so as not to reveal just how rich they are.

            Yes there are miracles. It is a miracle that people have not seen through the veil of mystery your church has manufactured to hide its litany of crimes that extend through the centuries to the present day. It is a miracle that people are still living in fear instilled in them by the self-serving members of that crime family and every other such belief structure who think that paying off the clergy will buy them a ‘stairway to heaven’. It is a miracle that people are still too lazy and ignorant to learn what marvels reality has to offer and dismiss the pathetic stories of magic that you are trying to pawn off as such.

            So before you drag forth the very petty and common apologetic meant not to argue against the case before the bench but to try and
            demean the author of it using a miserable ad hominem attack let me tell you that no I have never been catholic though I did attend such services in Marine boot camp as my buddy said we could catch a little sack time there. Nor was I ever molested by anyone clergy or secular but find the entire idea revolting and would like to offer you a phrase I heard from a very intelligent lady regarding this issue. She said, “I am definitely more moral than your god as if I were aware of a person raping a child I would stop them but your god sits back, closes the door and let’s that child be raped saying ‘when you’re done I’m going to punish you’ except that your religion allows even that to vanish if the rapist just prays for forgiveness or converts”.

            So let’s hears your attempt to justify that with a ‘miracle of faith’.

            Spare yourself the embarrassment of offering that utter nonsense of ‘god can’t interfere because of free will’ which nonsense in the extreme. First of all in the above case it is clear that this mythical deity favors the free will of the vile rapist over that of an innocent child.
            Secondly the creature you call satan had direct and lengthy first hand contact with that being yet went its own way clearly demonstrating that were such direct knowledge of it made available it would not prevent anyone from walking away. Then the very book which is the sole source of information regarding this alleged being states clearly that it directly interfered with the free will of the Egyptian pharaoh during the plagues, revealed itself dozens of times to the Hebrews, rained destruction on various cities when primitive superstition ruled the world and basically made weekly appearances when magic was the only game in town. Yet today when science and reason can see through the fakery suddenly this ‘wizard behind the curtain’ has become shy and agoraphobic.

            I am very happy to cite chapter and verse to demonstrate the points and will post entire chapters if you’d like to play the ‘that’s out of context’ BS card. Yet today when science can explain such events in natural terms it is limited to flawed second hand accounts of children hallucinating and interpretations of clouds and stains on walls. Really? That’s the best this ‘creator of the universe’ can do now when it destroyed entire armies and cities in a flash because modern scientific knowledge can reveal that magic is NOT the real cause?

            No wonder you dance around like a flea on a hot griddle and then hide when your attempts to assert magic are shown to be mere fantasy and your attempts to present hallucinations and fabrications as fact are revealed to be fiction.

            Believe whatever you like but do not expect the rest of humanity to simply roll over and accept your delusional ideas as fact merely because you have yet to outgrow the need for invisible friends and fantasy which are not supported by rational, objective, verifiable evidence that can withstand critical analysis and skeptical review.

            This type of clearly detectable fraud and religious obfuscation is why in every scientifically valid and verified study of public sentiment conducted over the past few decades the number people stating that they do not consider themselves to be religious increases while those stating such beliefs declines. It is only the fact that the rabid zealots on the far right who see their power and prestige being continually eroded while people no longer fear or respect them but are willing to speak out openly against their abuses that has caused them to become ever more vocal and desperate. Yet at almost every turn they have been and continue to be slapped down in the courts, ridiculed and demeaned in public and shown to be the power and money hungry charlatans that they are.

            So since it has been clearly demonstrated that you cannot in any manner whatsoever present any real evidence aside from flawed, fraudulent and useless anecdotes and fables regarding these so-called 'miracles' care to have your alleged 'NDE science' shot down in flames and exposed as yet another of your patent attempts to bolster your beliefs by manufacturing false claims?

          • You love to type. I think I should tell you I have stopped reading your rants. The conversation ceased to be useful a while ago.

          • Donald

            Yes I do when it is justified by the frauds, ploys and utter nonsense that theists like you try to use to to justify your religious delusions.
            You made that pitiful excuse before then returned trying to claim that you didn't know what I'd accept as evidence before trying to foist off some lame excuse for an NDE study that when told precisely what would suffice as such you just fled again because you know full well that your so-called 'scientific research' is nothing of the kind but just another miserable collection of anecdotes you wish could pass muster outside you sphere of mythology but don't.

            What you wish to irrationally dismiss as a 'rant' I and many other non-indoctrinated and brain washed people see as a valid deconstruction of your dishonest and biased attempt to foist off subjective and meaningless anecdotes as actual evidence when you do not accept such outside the realm of your mythological beliefs when you have asserted without justification as being real.
            You can hide inside you corrupt and evil religious organization desperate to ignore reality by playing games of obfuscation and actually dishonesty claiming that you don't understand what 'evidence' was.
            You can try to claim that the conversation was not useful but the clear utility is that others can see you mindless obsession with fantasy to the point of fleeing when your attempts at offering fictional stories as evidence was rejected and your blatant dishonesty that your use to shield yourself from reality.
            So go back inside your pit of child raping priests where bishops and popes are more interested in protecting the image from scandal instead of protecting the most innocent and vulnerable of their followers.
            It is pathetic fanatics like you who make this type of meaningless assertion then play childish games when cornered rather than being open and honest that is driving people in ever increasing numbers away from your primitive, barbaric mythology.

            So you enjoy your fantasies while you pretend that that priest in front of you is not potentially a child rapist.

          • Rick Stone

            Even if your world view allows for the supernatural, you have to ask what the most likely explanation is when some anonymous, ancient book describes a supernatural event. We have lots of evidence of liars and fiction books. Stories about a talking snake, talking donkey, 900-year-old men, a virgin birth, zombies, and a demigod healing blind men using magic saliva, etc. are vastly more likely to be fiction than actual historical events.
            For every miracle story you have, it is far more likely to be a lie--by definition--because miracles are extremely unlikely--by definition.
            In other words, the obvious conclusion to all of the miracle stories in the bible is...a liar wrote a lie. If you claim otherwise, you have the burden of proof. And you have ZERO evidence for your supernatural claims. You also disregard similar supernatural claims of other religions for the same reasons. For instance, Muslims claim that Muhammad rode a flying horse. Should you believe it? Of course not. You reject the claim for the same reason that other reasonable people reject your holy book's claims.

          • Miracles are rare. So are miracle stores. Is it so implausible that in the rare case where a miracle does happen that it gets written down and collected in a holy book?

          • Donald

            Miracles are nothing more than anecdotes for which there is not a shred of objective, verifiable evidence to support which is why even though you have positively asserted that 'evidence exists' you have failed utterly to even attempt to provide anything at all other than obfuscation and dodging the issue.

          • Saying no evidence exists is just silly. The written account is itself evidence. Evidence does not mean proof. Evidence means any data point that makes it more likely. There is strong evidence and weak evidence. Reasonable people can disagree about how strong the evidence on each side is. Whether or not there is any evidence at all? Of course there is. Otherwise we would not even be talking about it.

            You concede this yourself be sometimes adding qualifiers like objective and verifiable. Why add any qualifiers if you really believe there is no evidence at all? You can dismiss the evidence if you want. Just admit that is what you are doing.

            You want me to provide something. Try this
            https://strangenotions.com/wright-question/
            You can call him a liar or a fool if you like. If you read enough of his stuff you will realize he is neither.

          • Donald

            “Saying no evidence exists is just silly. The written account is itself evidence.”
            No that is simply the story, the fable, the myth and counts only as unsubstantiated anecdote.
            I have never said that there is NO evidence but have stated clearly that what you wish to present as evidence in the form of unsubstantiated, subjective anecdotal claims generally either second hand or so old as the preclude any inquiry is meaningless as evidence but mere fable.

            “Evidence does not mean proof.”
            Correct but evidence must be objective, verifiable and not based solely in predetermined belief in unsupported constructs which all claims of supernatural ‘miracle’ fall under.

            “Evidence means any data point that makes it more likely.”
            Yes but that evidence must be objective, rational and verifiable otherwise it is not evidence but mere assertion. The very fact that all alleged claims of ‘miracles’ are intrinsically linked to the unsubstantiated idea that magical powers is the cause making them utterly irrational, completely subjective and not open to verification on any level.
            You are simply trying to manufacture a scenario wherein your alleged deity becomes real through this flawed attempt to manufacture the illusion that miracles are real when they are simply fables. First you must demonstrate that this supernatural creature does exist before you can assert that it is the source of miraculous events.
            Can you do that?
            If not then you are just trying to claim that because you believe in myths they are real. That is why evidence must be rational, objective, verifiable and not just a personal opinion based on faith.

            “There is strong evidence and weak evidence.”
            I will grant you that but all you have, and you never even tried to present anything at all, is the worst and weakest form of ‘evidence’ that being subjective accounts generally presented as second and accounts relating to the possible hallucinations of small children. You have absolutely nothing at all which can ever be considered as ‘strong evidence’ and rely solely on anecdotal accounts.
            the very fact that you are attempting to argue this type of issue demonstrates that you know you do not have any 'strong evidence' and are seeking to manufacture a case where you can foist off useless anecdotes as you have in the past because that is all you have to prop up this magical idea.

            “Reasonable people can disagree about how strong the evidence on each side is. Whether or not there is any evidence at all?”
            That is possibly the case when expressing personal opinions but you have asserting that there is ‘scientific research’ regarding an aspect of ‘miracles’. If you wish to assert that miracles are real then you are only expressing a personal opinion which is not validated in any substantive manner relying only of shared belief. All objective scientific research in alleged miracles and the near death experience you tried to drag into the discussion when you could not present anything other than those subjective and unverified anecdotes has shown such claims to be without merit, not based in reality and totally biased based on predetermined mythological views

            “Otherwise we would not even be talking about it.”
            No this is because you wish to have your beliefs, your unsupported ideas regarding supernatural magic accepted as being part of reality.

            “You concede this yourself be sometimes adding qualifiers like objective and verifiable.”
            No I do not ‘concede that but demand it. Unless the material you are seeking to use as supporting a contention is objective and verifiable it is useless and meaningless. What is subjective can be dismissed merely because of the subjective views of another. You yourself have refused to
            even acknowledge this when I have stated that you do this relative to every other mythology in the world as well as possibly all those modern myths such as alien abduction. This is because you understand that you cannot touch this without revealing that you are using a totally subjective point of view to accept your myths and dismiss the others.
            That is called special pleading and is why evidence must be objective or it is just an personal opinion.
            Anything that cannot be verified is also unless and you understand this otherwise you would pay any bill that appeared on your door and simply accept any charge leveled against you which we both know you would not do. Verification is what turns a mere claim or assertion into a validated fact.

            “Why add any qualifiers if you really believe there is no evidence at all?”
            You know full well the answer to this question as I explained it to you in detail. I am open to reviewing evidence that is objective, that can be verified but will not waste my time on the sort of useless, unverified anecdotes based in subjective beliefs that you want to use because that is all you have.

            “You can dismiss the evidence if you want. Just admit that is what you are doing.”
            As soon as you stop playing creationist games of obfuscation, false accusations, tangential dodges and begin to present any evidence at all then you will have a case to make this newest and equally false accusation. Otherwise you are simply trying to ‘poison the well’ by claiming that I am not being open when you have never tried to test that ploy.
            You began this by falsely claiming that I had not reviewed the evidence when you know nothing of the kind but were trying to go
            on the offensive rather than arguing honestly. What you need to consider is that you are the one not conducting yourself in an open and honest manner as well as making these baseless accusation because you know that you cannot operate in an equal, honest mode.

            “You want me to provide something. Try this”
            Well you finally managed to stop playing game and actually present something even if it is exactly what you know is invalid in any rational, verifiable, objective sense. That is rather pitiful.

            Sorry but I asked for ‘objective’ material and posting a link to a Catholic apologetics website is by no means anything that can be considered ‘objective’. They like you have a vested interested in
            promoting and defending their predetermined set of mythological beliefs and not in seriously considering or presenting anything that will cast doubt on this beliefs.
            Additionally what is offered there is just a set of unverified, unsupported assertions of personal experience mired in your theology. In it the author asserts that he ‘prayed’ and was healed. Please explain how that is in any way verifiable or objective rather than simply as baseless assertion of faith. Considering that recent studies of neurological activity in the brain demonstrates that when people are talking about ‘god’ the same centers show increased activity as when they are talking about themselves.

            Sorry but what you have offered is not even weak evidence but mere anecdote if not a sermon intended to claim that ‘well I was once a non-believer but then I talked to myself and now believe in magic’. There is nothing there that would even be accepted in any court of law despite your false earlier assertion that ‘witness testimony’ was the main evidence used to convict people. I am still waiting for you to back that assertion up with any material at all.

            “You can call him a liar or a fool if you like.”
            I would do neither but I am convinced that he has deluded himself into accepting an unjustified position based solely on a subjective determination that an magical being which neither of you has yet to
            try to validate as being real was the cause of an alleged medical problem. Where is the diagnosis from his medical provided since he makes certain claim that we are expected to swallow on faith. Sorry but that word is the equal of GULLIBILITY in my mind.

            “If you read enough of his stuff you will realize he is neither.”
            I am sorry to burst your bubble the but the plural of anecdote IS NOT evidence. It is ANECDOTES. You can stack up unsupported, subjective, unverified stories from people bent on defending their beliefs in the face of growing dismissal of them because they are primitive, barbaric and unsupported in reality all you like but that does make the stack actual evidence.
            There are literally TENS OF THOUSANDS of such reports of people claiming to have been abducted by aliens which you are afraid to even acknowledge because you understand that if you do it will immediate demonstrate that your attempt to have this type of story accepted as fact is nothing more than a story, a personal fable making an invalidate and unjustified conclusion.
            It isn’t evidence it is ANECDOTE and you know this which is why you try to present it.

          • Elka

            Not getting into all of the points discussed, but actually, the well-known "Jesus Seminar" indeed starts with the presupposition that the miraculous cant happen when they decide what Jesus said and what he didn't say.

          • Rick Stone

            It is not that they assume that miracles can't happen, but that it is far more likely that a religious text that describes miraculous events is a lie. If you claim these are actual historical events, you have the burden of proof. Can you prove that zombies invaded Jerusalem after the death of Jesus, as is claimed in the Gospel of Matthew? No. This story doesn't appear in any other gospel story, and strangely...wasn't noticed by any of the many historians of the time...almost as if it was a fiction story!
            Muslims claim that Muhammad rode a flying horse. Even a person like yourself who believes that miracles CAN happen have no reason to believe that this actually DID happen. It's more likely that a liar wrote a fake story.

          • anselmo

            ?!

          • When you want to prove something is true, one way to do that is to assume it is false and show it leads to a contradiction. Modern scholars do this inadvertently. They assume the origins of Christianity are natural and not supernatural. Yet they cannot come up with a coherent story. I mean these are smart guys really trying hard to construct something that fits the evidence and still does not involve God intervening in human history. They can’t do it. Bart Ehrman changing his theory again shows that. He admits his old theory was full of holes. The new one is to. They assume the miracles described in the gospels could not happen yet they can’t explain early Christianity plausibly. The logical conclusion to draw is their assumption is false. The story is true.

          • Sean Chambers

            In actuality, Luke, John, Mark, Mathew were not the authors of the gospels.. The actual authors according to most well know scholars are in fact unknown. The writers of the gospels wrote down stories they heard and in the second century these writings were labeled as the gospel according to.... fill in the blank.

            Here's a great read with a lot of source material from scholars.

            https://celsus.blog/2013/12/17/why-scholars-doubt-the-traditional-authors-of-the-gospels/comment-page-1/#comment-2839

          • Randy Gritter

            Pope Benedict respected Fr Brown but also disagreed with him sharply on many points. He saw him as a scholar who was very smart but often very wrong. A worthy opponent.

            Luke was a traveling companion of St Paul. He makes it clear that Paul told his conversion story a lot. Luke is going to be very familiar with the details.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Luke was a traveling companion of St Paul. He makes it clear that Paul told his conversion story a lot. Luke is going to be very familiar with the details.

            Which the author of Luke/Acts was not...whoever that author was.

          • Elka

            Do you realize how far removed other ancient historical works are from the dates they actually happened? Some by hundreds of years, but we don't doubt that they are true.

          • Pofarmer

            "Acts must have been written before the martyrdom of St Peter and St Paul around 66 AD"

            Unless those events are fabrications.

          • Pofarmer

            "He appeared to more than 500 at one time but they were likely mostly disciples."

            And not one of them wrote an account? Your lack of credulity is interesting.

          • Bruce Grubb

            Several things here.

            1) There is no real evidence that Luke and Acts wre written by the same author.

            2) No Church Father makes a reference to "our" Gospels until at the earliest the 130s.

            3) The first "Christian Bible" was by Marcion in the 140s and contained the Evangelikon (Supposedly a version of Luke with *no* birth stories and other differences) and several letter of Paul. And Marcion claimed Evangelikon was also written by Paul.

            4) It isn't until c180 that sizable quotes from what appear to be "our" Gospels in _Against Heresies_ and there Irenaeus also claims Jesus was at least 46 years old when crucified and in other work ( _Demonstrations_ ) claims that this was overseen by "Herod King of the Jews" (a title Herod Agrippa I gained in 42 CE) and that Pontius Pilate was a governor of *Claudius* Caesar. (ie no earlier then 41 CE).

          • Rick Stone

            You said, "Acts must have been written before the martyrdom of St Peter and St Paul around 66 AD". Do you know the original source document that claims that these martyrs deaths occurred? For instance, the information on Paul's martyrdom comes from the apocryphal book "The Acts of Paul" (http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/actspaul.html). Is this a reliable, historical source?
            The story claims about the execution of Paul, "And when the executioner (speculator) struck off his head, milk spurted upon the cloak of the soldier. And the soldier and all that were there present when they saw it marveled and glorified God" and that after this, the resurrected Paul appeared to Emperor Nero, "Paul came about the ninth hour, when many philosophers and the centurion were standing with Caesar, and stood before them all and said: Caesar, behold, I, Paul, the soldier of God, am not dead, but live in my God. But unto thee shall many evils befall and great punishment, thou wretched man, because thou hast shed unjustly the blood of the righteous, not many days hence. And having so said Paul departed from him. But Nero hearing it and being greatly troubled commanded the prisoners to be loosed".

            This is not only bad fiction, it's laughably bad fiction. When you investigate the origins of these supposed 'facts'--they fall apart. Additionally, when you investigate the source materials you realize how widespread fraud and fiction were in the early church.

          • There was widespread fraud and fiction. The reality is they knew the difference between truth and fiction. Later on there was more concern about defining a canon because many might get confused. For a long time that was not needed because local bishops simply knew what was legit and what was not. So you are confused by this writing. Maybe St Paul was executed in 67 AD. I have seen datesmoved a year this way or that. So what?

            You can go find the least credible document and decide we can't know anything based on it. Is that rational? One poor source does not discredit all the other sources. Lots of tradition affirms that Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome. Pick the date you think makes the most sense. Put Acts before that.

          • Rick Stone

            If the 'tradition' is based on fictional, apocryphal sources...then how is it accurate to make claims of truth based on these sources? What evidence is there that Peter and Paul were even real people and not simply fictional characters? You are making claims, such as about the "martyrdom of St Peter and St Paul around 66 AD" when there is no evidence that such martyrdom occurred.

          • The concept of tradition describes multiple sources that may or may not depend on each other. There is one source you find less credible. Then you assert all other sources depend on this one. You don’t know that.

            I am always amused when atheists use the phrase ‘no evidence.’ They simply have no idea what those words mean. You cited one source yourself and then claim there is no evidence. Weird. There is a ton more evidence including the bodies of St Peter and St Paul being found in Rome.

          • Rick Stone

            There is zero evidence that "Luke" is the author of Acts. The book was written anonymously. And you keep referring to the stories as if they happened, such as "He appeared to more than 500 at one time." Yes, and Mohammed rode a flying horse named Buraq, right? I mean, if an ancient religious fanatic claims that something happened, it must be true, right?
            You have no evidence who wrote the book of Acts, you do not know when it was written, you have no original copies of the book--only corrupted versions from hundreds of years later. There were also many other fraudulent "Acts" books written by Christian liars during the same period, such as the Acts of Peter, Acts of John, Acts of Paul, Acts of Andrew, etc.
            See http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/

          • There is internal evidence Luke wrote Acts. If you look closely at the pronoun usage the author sometimes uses “they” and sometime “us” indicating the author was with them in the ladder cases. You can dig into the companions named and make a good case thatLuke is the name that seems to trigger the switch.

            What is more, the author refers to his first book which sounds like a gospel. There is a gospel attributed to Luke with a similar style.

            Again, zero evidence is a common claim but a false one.

          • anselmo

            He was faithful to the vision by one account. By another he was not

          • You have to be more explicit about what you mean here.

          • Ectopic73

            Believers are really bad at distinguishing reality from fiction. For instance you talked about dismissing eyewitnesses of miracles If I am forced to accept eyewtiness testimony about miracles, I would then have to believe the thousands and thousands of witnesses to Sai Baba miracles.

            .
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0J0CFOdq09Q&t=15s

          • I don't agree that believers are bad at distinguishing reality from fiction. Human observations can be very reliable or not. It depends on the kind of observation. If it is subjective like saying the pain seemed to just go away then you have to wonder. If it is objective like a man born blind who can now see. That is something humans are typically not mistaken about.

            Then you have to examine the possibility they are lyng. Does that make sense? Are we talking about one witness who has a lot to gain by telling this story or many witnesses who have nothing to gain? Are said witnesses generally an honest people? Basic questions that we all know to ask when we want to figure out if testimony is reliable.

            I don't think faith or lack of faith really comes into it. If it does I would say people of faith are more reliable. Being willing to change your life based on what you saw makes it less likely you are lying. The moral conviction that lying is wrong often goes with faith. So saying a bunch of people are just not reliable because they have faith is not really valid.

            The guys on the video? What did they experience? For some it is in the subjective category. All of them? Not sure. I have no trouble believing God would heal people through this guy even if his theology is very bad. God could just see a person asking for healing and heal them. I would have to see the evidence. You, you are forced to irrationally dismiss them because your creed says so.

          • Ectopic73

            Christians promote "faith" as a tool for truth. But as soon as "faith" leads to another religion or "truth" - Satan is up to his antics or its not real faith or bleh bleh bleh.

          • Faith is a tool for truth everyone uses. WE trust certain people and certain sources without being able to check everything out. It is notmal. Christian faith is just trusting in certian sources. You trust Christian tradition. Now Catholic Christianity does not say we should distrust reason. The truth should be reasonable so you should use reason along with faith to arrive at deeper truth. No all Christian traditions are this way. Some say you should trust faith over against reason. That rational argument is a tool of the devil. I find that highly problematic. That is one reason I am Catholic. I am never asked to ignore my ability to reason. Faith can take me beyond reason but not against reason. Some things are beyond my ability to reason and understand but that is a different thing again. I am never asked to believe 2+2=5 because God said so.

          • Ectopic73

            My wife is catholic. I like the fact that popes have said if the evidence for evolution is true, then it is.
            But my question is this. If the science for evolution is true, then genesis is false factually. If the grand majority of historians and archaeologist say the exodus did not happen and Moses did not exist, and the Torah was written in 500-800 BCE then a grand majority of the OT is simply fiction.
            At what point do you abandon Catholicism? Do you think atheistic Catholicism is possible?
            " Faith can take me beyond reason but not against reason." - Faith goes in a different direction than reason.

            Once you study ancient history and realize where these stories and traditions come from, there is no reason to be christian. Abraham, Moses, Adam, Eve - did not exist... but Jesus thinks they did. WHy is Jesus so wrong? BNecause he is as ignorant as the first century writer who invented him.

          • There is no one answer. What does help is the Church. That is there are a bunch of really smart and really faithful Catholics who think about these things and make it work. Evolution is one question where most seem to agree the evidence from science is hard to deny. Does that mean Genesis is false? Not really. The Catholic tradition has suggested, going as far back as St Augustine, that a literal reading of Genesis to answer questions of science was problematic. So those who see a faith/science conflict there do not really know the faith.

            On the question of Moses, things are different. Does the science really say Moses did not exist? That is interpreting the data through an anti-supernatural world view. When you are Catholic you are not bound to exclude the supernatural. So you can take the most plausible explanation. The truth is the theory that the Torah was written 500-800 BCE is logically incoherent. People who are forced by their religion or lack of religion to deny the supernatural are forced into choosing from some bad options when trying to explain how the bible came into existence or how Christianity came into existence. There simply is no good natural explanation so scholars pick something and pretend that consensus counts as evidence. So it is the atheist theory that does no fit the data. The Catholic view of history fits the data much more naturally.

            I should mention that you don't have to believe Abraham and Moses are historical. I do because it fits the data. One could say Jesus was referring the Jewish story. You are right that it does seem odd but it is not impossible be Catholic and view the bible much less literally than I do. I just have not seen any scholars produce some actual good reasons to doubt the scriptures. If you disagree with me on some of those matters you could still be Catholic. The resurrection of Jesus and the virgin birth you must believe. Not sure of any other historical event you must believe to be Catholic.

          • Ectopic73

            "On the question of Moses, things are different. Does the science really say Moses did not exist? That is interpreting the data through an anti-supernatural world view." - I beg to differ. There is a long history of good academic work examining the history and literature and archaeology and linguistics of the ancient near east. A nice synopsis of what we know about Ancient Near east is one of several videos of a conference in the early 2000's regarding the Exodus. Renown scholars of pertinent fields gave talks. One you might dip your toes into these series is by watching William Propp (search youtube - William Propp: What Was the Exodus?) He answers this question before the his talk in the following manner "I don't know, and by the end of this lecture, neither will you". He talks about people loosing their faith after taking his class. People like to tout Christianity as transformative in nature therefore true. But I know going the opposite direction that knowledge is transformative as well. And many people loose their faith the more they learn about science and history.

            "I should mention that you don't have to believe Abraham and Moses are historical. I do because it fits the data." So it sounds like your faith is not contingent of the reality of what is written in the bible. I agree, fiction can be as illuminating about the nature of humanity as any documentary historical writing. In fact, Even the 4 gospels of Jesus can be viewed as an extended fiction/parable to teach followers of the Pauline Christ(Paul never talks about the living Jesus from the gospels) . What do I mean by this? We read in Mathew 13 10-11 "10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given" So first century Christians could have used these stories to communicate meaning outsiders would not know. But by the end of the second century, these fictions began to be thought of as true stories about a real Jesus.

          • I have no doubt that a presentation like Propp's can be confident and convincing. What I question is whether it is based on actual data. The phrase "renowned scholars" suggests No. I have no doubt that Christian thinking is not fashionable among scholars. I know the video will take some time so I am not sure when I can see it but I suspect it will be long on argument from scholarly opinion and short on real data. I am not as aware of the Exodus issues as I am of the New Testament issues so I shall not go into details. It would be helpful if you could outline exactly what raw evidence seems to contradict a Catholic interpretation of the data. Not someone's opinion, but actual evidence.

            My faith is based on the historical reality of Jesus. The gospels do seem to be very historically reliable. They distinguish history from parable quite clearly. Yet it is true. The faith does not require beleif in all the details. If somehow one could show that Jesus, Mary and Joseph never went to Egypt it would not destroy my faith. Right now I think they did based on Matthew's general historical reliability. Still that is just a detail. The resurrection is not a detail.

            So first century Christians could have used these stories to communicate meaning outsiders would not know. But by the end of the second century, these fictions began to be thought of as true stories about a real Jesus.

            This is a theory that does not make a lot of sense. It assumes a huge lack of seriousness about the gospel by early Christians. The same gospel they were risking their lives for. It also makes the first century Christians completely incoherent. That is they chose Christianity based on fictional stories from a dead teacher. One wonders why. Then it morphs into the powerful crucifixion/resurection story and nobody notices? Have you read Christians from the second century? St Polycarp, St Ignatius of Antioch, St Clement, Justin Martyr, St Irenaeus, etc.? If you read them then this theory falls apart. They are just way to serious about embracing the faith of the apostles.

          • Ectopic73

            "What I question is whether it is based on actual data." - Is the bible actual data? For centuries in church funded schools, no doubt it was. But slowly that has degraded depending on the level of credulity of the believer. For my Catholic wife, you could prove Jesus did not exist and it wouldn't matter. She would be OK if I told her the entire OT is false, wouldn't matter. She loves her faith and ritual and church. Reminds her of her dead dad. I suffer the entire time I am there. I'm dumbfounded at its survival.

            "It would be helpful if you could outline exactly what raw evidence" - Well, the raw evidence is zero evidence that, as written, the exodus happened. So professor Propp's video is an overview of what we do know of the history and writing of the peoples of the Ancient near east. Then the other 42 videos has scholarship on linguistics, archaeology, history, literature.

            "That is they chose Christianity based on fictional stories from a dead teacher. One wonders why." - just think Islam and the Church of LDS. You and I are absolutely sure Smith and Mohammed are wrong and these faiths are false. But what these two religions prove, especially Mormonism, is that given the right conditions any religions can flourish regardless of validity. Is it hard to prove Jesus did not exist in Universities funded by Christians? Yeah. If your specialty is Christianity and you prove Jesus did not exist, you've basically pushed yourself out of a job. Its not popular to call the gospels not historical. It is kind of a death null to your career. As it was to your career if you said the book of Kings was not an accurate representation of the facts 50 years ago. But now, its well established that the book of Kings is not at all accurate.

            Your theology could be 100 percent correct and feel true. But if the basis is Judaism, and virtually all of the OT is fictional and none of the prophets existed, then basically the jews were just another primitive tribe that sacrificed goats and cut off their penis tips. Also, a Jesus may have existed 20-30 years after people wrote stories, in the tradition of Homer, memorialized him in stories. And given the propensity of writers to embellish, they made Jesus into a Greek hero. --- Side note, there are over 100 parallels in Mark to Homer's epics as shown by Dennis MacDonald. He wrote a book called The gospel of Mark and Homer's Epics. He has also shown that when ACTs was written, the writer basically took the Josephus writing and created a history out of thin air. Most all the characters and places in the Antiquities, are also in Acts. Like, Josephus wrote about Bob and Tim in Miami. Acts has Paul with Bob and Tim in Miami. Don't get me wrong, it is not 100 percent like this. But it happens enough to not ignore.

          • The bible is clearly data. It does not depend on the credulity of believers. It is a collection of historical documents. People have claimed it is more than that. Still when you are deciding whether or not to believe those claims you just view it as as a document.

            People can experience God in many ways. They can come to certainty about the faith through spiritual experience. You wife might be like that. It is not that truth does not matter. It is just that she knows what she knows without digging into that particular part of the data.

            The survival of the church is interesting. If Catholicism was false would the church survive? GK Chesterton identifies 5 times when the church should have died by human standards. Modern skepticism is likely a 6th time. It should not survive but it does because it is true.

            Zero evidence outside of the bible and the broader Judeo-Christian tradition that Exodus happened actually does not prove it did not happen. Historians believe lots of things based on one document.

            just think Islam and the Church of LDS. You and I are absolutely sure Smith and Mohammed are wrong and these faiths are false. But what these two religions prove, especially Mormonism, is that given the right conditions any religions can flourish regardless of validity.

            This is not the same thing. Mohammad and Joseph Smith made claims. So you can see that based on the socio-political dynamics of the day and the claims they were making they got the following they got. Then further generations of followers basically retained the same beliefs.

            With Christianity things are different. Scholars assert, based on zero evidence, that a different religion from Christianity existed in the first century, call it christianity-lite. This lite version had
            a Jesus with no miracles, no resurrection and no divinity claims. Then somehow this disappeared without a trace and the heavy version of Christianity replaced it. Yet nobody noticed the radical change in teachings at the time. So there is a fundamental incoherence in the account of how Christianity and the Catholic Church came into existence.

            One thing you get used to is bad scholars throwing mud at the Catholic church. There are a thousand Dennis MacDonald's out there. It is more work to wipe mud off than to throw it. So pointing out the errors in the latest book is a full time job. The one quote, "given the propensity of writers to embellish, they made Jesus into a Greek hero" is a common mistake. Early Christian writers did value truth over embellishment and they did not turn Jesus into a Greek hero. Jesus is more like Socrates than Hercules. So why didn't miracle stories and divinity claims grow up around Socrates? Because they did not happen.

          • Ectopic73

            "Scholars assert, based on zero evidence, that a different religion from Christianity existed in the first century, call it christianity-lite." There is evidence for this is internal in the bible.

            Galatians 1 6:8 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God's curse!

            Later in the first century, it is still a problem. Luke had to investigate and had to sort through all the sources he had to create his own gospel. People were uncertain what to believe. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. If Christians had one coherent gospel, then there would be
            no need to sort through available information. Notice Luke also says everything and from the beginning. This is meant to be a complete account. Interesting that he excludes anything from John

            Even Matthew complains about Pauline Christianity or some other person/gospel that promoted getting rid of commandments, Matthew is said to be more Jewish than other gospels. - 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Mt 5:19

            In Mark's gospel Jesus comes down to cleanse his sins and God tells him directly he is his son.

            In matthew john the baptist says Jesus doesn't need a baptism of sins. and God announces Jesus is his son to people near by.

            Matthew directly copies much of Mark so something about the scene does not sit well with Matthew.

            In a sense these are accounts are at odds theologically with each other.

            I know I know I know, after 2000 years with the documents, you have an explanation that sounds good to you.

          • I am not sure what your point is. What I take from this is that people were very careful. They noticed when things changed. They wanted to get it right. So if small things would create controversy then why should we expect huge changed to create no controversy? That is what many scholars suggest, a massive change in doctrine with no hint of a controversy and no remnant remaining of the old teaching. Who instigated this change and why? No idea. We just assert it must have happened because it is needed for our theory. You see why the Catholic narrative fits the data better?

          • Ectopic73

            You say there was no difference in the teachings, yet clearly Paul warns of other gospels, Luke has to sort through all the various traditions. Its not a theory that lots of different teachings existed.

          • I didn't say no differences in teachings. Yet the central gospel was still the same. It was preserved by apostolic succession. So apostles would have successors and form them in the faith. The successors would do the same for their successors and so on. So they knew they would need leaders who understood the faith and could tell people when they got it wrong. That is what Paul did with the Galatians. Luke was doing more historical research. The early Christians knew the faith depended on the actual life of Jesus so he went back to talk to eye witnesses and document what happened. So lots of teachings existed just like they do today but orthodox Catholicism was defined by the church much like today.

          • Ectopic73

            "Yet the central gospel was still the same." - Angels and other people were teaching other gospels of Christ. Paul said it. Why are you ignoring it? The conclusion is that early in the first century lots of people were teaching various gospels of Christ. Again, how do we know? Because people began to follow other gospels, which Paul reprimanded and Paul warns about not listening to other gospels of Christ.

            Yes, what you believe was taught in the first century. But that does not change the fact that the proto-orthodoxy was in competition with other forms and gospels of Christianity. And this is not a slander or a guess. It is straight from your bible.

          • You are still ignoring the fact that we know what was going on with the Galatians and then inject a bynch of specualtion about what might have been going on. Paul used strong language. He does so because the Galatians likely think what they have done is no big deal. Paul is saying matters. Little changes in theology have big implications.

            For example the discussion about whether Jesus is the greatest created being or if he is co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father was a big deal. It was called the Arian controversy. It dominated the church for a long time. Yet both sides agreed Jesus was God-like and did miracles and rose from the dead and all of that.

            The difference scholars suggest here is so much larger with Jesus going from being an ordinary rabbi to divine status. Yet it happens quickly and silently? Is it not much more plausible to suppose it did not happen at all? That Jesus was always the miracle worker, who claimed to be God and who rose from the dead? I know it violates your ideas about the supernatural being impossible. Yet at least admit that if you did not come to the data with that anti-Christian conviction that these things are impossible then the evidence would point you to the Catholic historical narrative.

          • Ectopic73

            Answer this with a yes or no. Did Paul say people were following other gospels? Answer is yes. We don't know what those other gospels were.

            So to say Christianity was unified in the early first century is false. For Paul to warn that angels could be doing the preaching of other gospels implies, to me, the severity of false gospels.

            Think about it. No books, no gospels yet, just word of mouth. Small 20-100 people churches popping up here and there.

            What was Paul's qualification as an apostle? His word that he had a vision of a Christ? Self appointed? It seems as if the qualification is having seen a risen Christ. In Paul's case he tries really hard in his letters to convince people his gospel was received via revelation.

            So you either believed Paul and you were a christian, or you didn't believe Paul and weren't. But what would stop Bob from saying he saw a Christ and believe something different? nothing.

          • Mark

            What do you think Paul means by the term gospels here? It might help to give an example of what you're conceiving as a false gospel in Galatia.

            Pauls' qualifications also include
            5 x (40-1) = 195 lashings from the Jews.
            3 roman scourges with rods
            3 shipwrecks
            >2 imprisonments

            1 stoning
            1 execution by Nero

            That's what St. Paul meant by "bearing in the body the dying of Jesus"

          • Ectopic73

            "What do you think Paul means by the term gospels here?"

            Well, considering any time Paul mentions his gospel, he talks about Christ revealed to him in scriptures.

            15 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

            3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,

            So when he complains about other gospels, Surely they have to do with teachings about christs. As it is plainly clear, Paul soley ever talks about Christ the vision or the thing revealed in scripture... Never the Jesus of the 4 gospels.

          • Mark

            "So when he complains about other gospels, Surely they have to do with teachings about christs." What other christs? "The Jesus of the gospels." The gospels hadn't been written yet, so I'm not sure what gospels you're referencing Jesus in or not in.

          • Ectopic73

            What other christs?

            I actually said gospels of Christ. The reason I brought this up is Randy says there is no reason to think there was a Christianity lite or some other type of Christianity. But clearly, Paul complains that people he has converted have moved on to other gospels. He also warns that angels and others might be teaching different gospels of christ.

            I mention the 4 Gospels because it's Paul's message and revealed gospel that are of prime importance to his churches. Not the jesus of the gospels written decades later.

          • Mark

            "according to the scriptures" is a fulfillment of messianic prophesy of the OT. Paul wasn't using the term scriptures as we use it today because the NT wasn't written at the time and the gospel existed but wasn't written at the time. He is referencing the Septuagint prophesy.

            Gospel, from the anglo godspell (good to tell) is the translation of the greek word euaggelion. This, in Biblical times would best be translated, "the good tidings of salvation announced to the world in connection with Jesus Christ". There is one true gospel. It wasn't until the second century St. Justin used the term in a "memoirs" way i.e. Euaggelion kata Matthaion. Here in the latter part of the second century they were used in early church father's writings in this way as reference. There would be false gospel and always has, today more than ever. Jesus established the way to preserve the one true gospel which is seen practiced by the apostles before Matt, Mark, Luke, or John were written. When Paul complained of perverting the gospel he is likely referencing Judiazers in Galatia. Or it could have been gnostic (Acts8) followers of Simon of Mage. You might ask yourself why doesn't Paul warn any other churches in his epistles of fake gospels?

          • Ectopic73

            I guess you are complicating things.

            "You might ask yourself why doesn't Paul warn any other churches in his epistles of fake gospels?

            Here you go:

            "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God's curse!" Galatians 1:8

            So, I can tell you as a teacher, I don't make rules for my classroom unless there is a problem. For instanced if I don't have a problem with running in my class, and I make a rule for NOT running in my class.... the first thing that happens is people start to run in my class.

            Paul is clearly dealing with false gospels of christ. This inst a minor doctrinal issue.

          • Ectopic73

            "according to the scriptures" is a fulfillment of messianic prophesy of the OT. ----

            Well, that is your interpretation. But what it sounds like to me is that the death and the resurrection is something he sees as a hidden secret wisdom in scriptures. Hidden all this time, but now revealed to him.

          • David Nickol

            "according to the scriptures" is a fulfillment of messianic prophesy of the OT

            Fulfillment of scripture is a fairly difficult New Testament topic, which I don't pretend to understand well and which I don't have the stamina to do major research on. But remember that Old Testament prophets did not foretell the future, and in the case of many "fulfillments," there is no prediction. My trusty Dictionary of the Bible gives as an example Matthew 2:15:

            He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophetd might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

            The reference is to Hosea 11:1:

            When Israel was a child I loved him,
            out of Egypt I called my son.

            My JPS translation is

            I fell in love with Israel
            When he was still a child;
            And I have called [him] My son
            Ever since Egypt.

            I certainly don't think anyone could reasonably claim Hosea predicted the birth of Jesus, the Slaughter of the Innocents, and the Flight into Egypt.

          • David Nickol

            And of course there is a real problem if the Exodus from Egypt isn't historical.

          • David Nickol

            Here's a pretty good couple of paragraphs on fulfillment by a Protestant scholar and blogger whom I cannot vouch for at all. It is just that this is how I understand the concept of fulfillment to be interpreted by a certain group of Christian believers:

            The early chapters of Matthew present several other problems along these lines. This gospel also says that Jesus dwelt in Nazareth “to fulfill what was spoken by the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.” Yet nowhere in the prophetic corpus, nor indeed anywhere in all of the Hebrew scriptures, is such a prediction recorded. And when, after Jesus’ flight into Egypt and return to Israel after Herod’s death, Matthew concludes, “So was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son,’” the reader is puzzled indeed. The prophet in this case is Hosea, and he was writing history, not predicting the future, when he made this statement. Specifically, he was describing the Exodus.

            The necessary conclusion is that when Matthew speaks of “fulfillment,” he does not mean that a foreseen future has come to pass. Instead, he means that words spoken at an earlier time in redemptive history have taken on a fuller and deeper meaning in light of later, more developed redemptive-historical circumstances. This, to me, is actually a much more powerful concept: not that humans were given an advance glimpse of what was going to happen in the future, but that the God who superintends and overrules human affairs has demonstrated His unchanging character consistently through time and has revealed more and more of his purposes while reaffirming the earlier-revealed ones.

          • BTS

            One thing to consider is that Paul probably wrote hundreds or possibly thousands of letters and we have 7 that are uncontested. Not a very good sampling.

          • Answer this with a yes or no. Did Paul say people were following other gospels? Answer is yes. We don't know what those other gospels were.

            If you read Galatians Paul tells you exactly what the false gospel was. It was the Judiazers who ere saying you had to be circumcised to be saved. You keep saying we do not know. We do know.

            So to say Christianity was unified in the early first century is false. For Paul to warn that angels could be doing the preaching of other gospels implies, to me, the severity of false gospels.

            You are not good with hyperbole. Paul is saying we should not accept any other gospel from any other source. Even an angel is an exageration.

            Was the church unified? As much as it is today. Do people disagree? Yes. But the orthodox teaching is clear. People unify around the truth or they separate themselves from the truth. The same choice was there in the 1st century. St PAul was an apostle who had authority to speak for the church. You could listen to him or you could separate yourself from the church. So you get the one legit church and a bunch of splinters. It is always like that.

            Paul was not self appointed. Again, read Galatians. His story was vetted by Peter and the other Christians in Jerusalem. He was send multiple times by the church. The church discerned his road to Damascus experience was legit. If someone else said he had a vision of Jesus saying something different they could well have been rejected by the church. So no. The apostles and their successors were defining the church from the beginning.

          • Ectopic73

            If you read Galatians Paul tells you exactly what the false gospel

            was. It was the Judiazers who ere saying you had to be circumcised to be

            saved. You keep saying we do not know. We do know.

            Great, we know one false gospel, how many others were their? Well, Paul seems to think they may come from angles and other people?

            Even an angel is an exageration.

            Why shouldn't we expect angels to preach false gospels? 1/3 of angels fell from heaven.... Satan is a fallen angel.... Why would an apostle from God prophesy something not true? He should take his position seriously and not joke about angels preaching other gospels

            The church discerned his road to Damascus experience was legit.

            I think the second century view of acts is different than paul's own view of his conversion. Enough controversy swirls around acts to dismiss it as a viable explanation of anything.

            .

          • "Great, we know one false gospel, how many others were their? "
            Probably some. The New Testament criticized the teaching of the Nicolatians. So the apostles had doctrinal issues to deal with. But there is simply nothing to suggest the existence of a Christianity-lite that scholars assert. Such a belief happens today because people want to say they believe in Jesus without believing anything he actually taught. In the first century there would be no motive for this because the name of Jesus was not known. You could get in trouble for believing in Jesus so why go there? Be a Jew. Be an emperor worshiper. Be something safe.

            "Why shouldn't we expect angels to preach false gospels?"
            Actually I do not think Paul meant it literally at all. Still he was guided by the Holy Spirit. If we look around at religions today we see both the Mormons and the Muslims claim their gospel was taught to their spiritual leader by an angel. Interesting.

            "I think the second century view of acts is different than Paul's own view of his conversion"
            Acts was almost certainly written in the first century. Before the martyrdom of Peter and Paul and before the destruction of Jerusalem. Why else would Luke leave out any reference to those events?

            Paul tells the story of his conversion a few times. Yes, he tells it a little bit differently each time. Do you tell stories about your life exactly the same way every time?

          • Ectopic73

            "But there is simply nothing to suggest the existence of a Christianity-lite that scholars assert."

            -

            Paul disagrees. He complains of his followers following completely different gospels. He warns about following other gospels. Notice he does not say people leaving the faith. Whatever these gospels are, they are Christian but completely not what he preaches. Just look at the advent of Protestantism. Everybody has there own truths. All kinds of denominations pop up. As soon as people started to preach Christ, others started to preach it too. There own versions. Versions Paul did not like.
            2 Peter But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. - Even the Peter says there are Christians who deny the master, deny the divinity of Christ. --- Its pretty damn clear that some people don't believe in a resurrected Christ. Why should they? dead people don't live again.

            "If we look around at religions today we see both the Mormons and the Muslims claim their gospel was taught to their spiritual leader by an angel. Interesting.

            --- The same thing could be said about warnings from the old testament about Paul. Paul sounds exactly like the spiritists described in the old testament. Paul talked in tongues, spiritist sputtered and mummered...

          • This is just becoming repetitive. It does not prove your point. You keep saying it does. That just tells me you don't have anything else to try and make your rather hopeless point. I can see why so many look at the evidence objectively and conclude the resurrection must have happened.

          • Ectopic73

            My point? Early first century people believe in different gospels about Christ? Paul and Peter complain about people following different gospels and being led astray.

            Fine - its not Christianity lite...

            "I can see why so many look at the evidence objectively and conclude the resurrection must have happened." - So this is how you're selling the resurrection.

            Lets see how Paul sells the resurrection - 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. People believe Paul. Paul does not mention an empty tomb or evidence. People believe Paul's revelation from God about raising Christ is true. Its not being sold as a recent historical knowable event. He says "we are then to be false witnesses about God" - that means everyone who is preaching about Christ risen is preaching it as a result from knowledge given from God.

            Then those unbelieving Galatians, just watch how Paul breaks out all that evidence.....

            3 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?[a] 4 Have you experienced[b] so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”[c]

            Nothing in what Paul preaches is he talking about a recent historical event that has evidence.

            Paul's writing reminds me of this guy. Invokes spirits, speaks in tongues and is always worried people don't believe him

            https://youtu.be/jNCR6PZ4-oA

          • Paul's primary evidence is his road to Damascus experience. He met Jesus. Yes, may Christians still use their own personal experience. They met Jesus and that is why they know He is alive. Historical evidence actually only convinces a small percentage of people one way or they other. The evidence does prove the resurrection. Still GK Chesterton says we are not really convinces of Catholicism because something proves it. We are not really convinced until everything proves it. That was my story. I read a ton before taking the plunge. Still I am so glad I did.

          • Ectopic73

            "He met Jesus."- Paul never writes that he met Jesus. He said in his writings that he had a revealed gospel of a risen Christ that he sees from scripture as revealed by God. A long hidden mystery. Full stop.

            He does not offer his followers evidence. He offers ridicule and mind games for not having God's spirit and not believing what they have heard. He says that he and everyone else who preaches about a risen Christ would be guilty of false witness of God. What does that mean? It means they would be lying about getting revealed information from God. A risen Christ is 100 percent revealed knowledge. (right now in Corinthians would be a perfect time for Paul to bring up all this "historical details in the gospels", like the temple veil, the risen dead, the rocks spiting, darkening of the day - as the power of God) and yet, he simply implores people to believe him, because he says so.

            14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.
            It is a 100 percent matter of faith that Christ has been risen from the dead.

            " The evidence does prove the resurrection."

            - Yes, the claims have become the evidence. The fictions of the gospels and Acts are now the evidence. But the man who wrote 20k words of the NT and lived near the the theoretical historical events, never offered any of it as a reason to believe when the question of resurrection and resurrected bodies came up.

            In Paul's writing he describes believers and non-believers and gives a hint as to what types of people are in his congregation.

            Believers - 26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. - In other words, common folk. In the first century, servant classes, illiterate, no access to an education, little understanding of civics and history.

            Non-Believers - 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? - So along with the previous verse I quoted, we have the influential, the noble, wise men, philosophers, teachers of the law were absent from Paul's followers.

            A clear line is drawn.

            Thucydides a Greek historian described the common folk a few hundred years before Christ -

            “So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand.”

            Just look at today's news. What are the common folk doing? They believe stupid stuff they read from memes on facebook, the get sucked in by charismatic men who make claims, they think evolution is false, they think global warming isn't happening....

            I Know I know.... the gospels is evidence, and historians say a Jesus existed. - But like we see time and time again, some thing always fills the faith void... across the planet. I know, the universe is designed so it must have a creator... we have the catholic faith last 2000 years, boy it must mean something...

          • Ectopic73

            ""Scholars assert, based on zero evidence, that a different religion from
            Christianity existed in the first century, call it christianity-lite."" - So your assertion is wrong. We don't tell people to wear a mask because of covid if there isn't covid.

            Like wise Paul wouldn't warn of other gospels if A: people he taught switch to a different teaching. And B an actual gospels complained of people who were teaching something different.

            This fully meets the definition of various forms of Christianity. Now, does it make sense that orthodoxy would stamp out competing forms of Christianity? Yes it does.

          • Except nothing really got stamped out with the Galatians. We know what teaching Paul was condemning. This was the bit about not leaving any evidence of a controversy. The issue with circumcision is tiny compared to the divinity of Jesus yet that issue left lots of historical evidence behind. In fact, to move Jesus from human to divine is such a big leap it is almost unthinkable. Monotheistic Jews asserting 3 persons in one Godhead. Nobody but Jesus Himself could have made that suggestion fly.

          • Kevin Wright

            In all honesty, we have functioning mentally ill people now, we also know it's a time when mental illness wasn't understood, and something like schizophrenia could be masked as receiving messages from "God". At a time when understanding of nature was at a low, why should we expect them not misinterpret what they saw?

          • Randy Gritter

            The trouble is Paul became probably the strongest and most respect leader of his time. He trusted how own mind. Others judged him to be sane and became believers based on his testimony. I really don't think people were so unfamiliar with crazy people that they so many would have been so impressed by him.

          • Kevin Wright

            Of course he trusted his own mind, many people in psychiatric hospitals due since it is your only link with reality, so you trust every thing it comprehends (it is as after all your brain). You also speak to them knowing crazy people, but there are varying degrees to what one would call crazy. Paul being ultra-passive made him more acceptable to people, but just because he was not violent or erratic would not at all speak to whether or not he completely appreciated reality. (It could have also been a paranoia which afflicted him).

          • Randy Gritter

            People who have seizures know they have seizures. They know to question anything strange their mind presents to them during a seizure. So the fact that he trusted his own mind makes the seizure theory highly doubtful.

            Was Paul ultra-passive? This guy went to the synagogue and the marketplace to look for arguments. Again people were convinced by him. That means his thinking struck people as more sane than their current philosophy.

          • Kevin Wright

            Passive in the way that he wasn't attacking people. Also, there are many forms of mental illness, so perhaps using seizures is a misnomer. Also, here's an interesting example. there is scientific evidence that the reason for the Salem witch trials were a result of people hallucinating due to mold similar to methamphetamines . No one realized the cause was the wheat supply, they just blamed "witches". This is 1600 years later, after some advancements in understanding, yet people were still unable to understand it.

          • Randy Gritter

            People hallucinate. People know that. You assume that in the 1st century someone like St Paul would not dismiss something as a bad dream or his mind playing tricks on him. Paul would have been highly motivated to find another explanation for his experience. Nobody wants to admit they are wrong. Nobody wants to leave a respected position as a pharisee in order to join some strange new group. If he could have convinced himself it was something he ate he would have. But why did others hear it? Why did he go blind?

          • Kevin Wright

            Firstly, you only know hallucinate if you have a rational grasp of reality, and you know and understand what the hallucination is or what caused it. In a superstitious time, hallucinations could result in or reinforce beliefs. Also, people change positions and belief systems all the time when something becomes more apparent to them or is demonstrated false. "Nobody wants to leave a respected position as a pharisee in order to join some strange new group." Well Jerry Dewitt always wanted to be a pastor until he realized he no longer held a belief in God. I know of Christians who became Scientologists. Belief changes happen all the time, especially in areas which allow many different kinds of beliefs (which Rome definitely did, don't get into the false idea that early Christians were persecuted any more than every other belief.)

          • Ignorant Amos

            Charles Manson, David Koresh, Shoko Ashara. Joseph Smith, Marshall Applewhite, Sun Myung Moon, Jim Jones, L. Ron Hubbard...oh aye, and Adolph Hitler...you can do better than that argument Randy.

          • ksed11

            It’s probably unlikely that a schizophrenic Paul hallucinated seeing Jesus. Combining the three accounts in Acts (chapters 9, 22, 26), they state that both Paul and his companions saw the light, heard the voice and fell to the ground. So it’s unlikely that Paul’s experience was a hallucination since hallucinations are private experiences of things already in the person’s mind. Since he did not believe that Jesus rose from the dead, there would have been no antecedent cause for a hallucination. At worst, one could simply chalk the whole thing up to some strange, unexplainable event. At best, one could say that the risen Christ actually appeared to Paul. And if one accepts the reliability of Acts, then one can accept the second option.

          • Kevin Wright

            So, one source claims there were multiple witnesses. One source that was allegedly written by one guy. If we got independent sources from each of the witnesses, then we would have a bit more of an idea of the validity. As it is, we only have Paul's account as to what occurred, and that he alleges others saw it too. The entire instance it is very possible was a hallucination, which is why he never knew anything about many of the facts of Jesus' life, in fact Paul never even states Jesus walked among men, just that he was a descendant of David (which he technically wasn't since it was Joseph who was the descendant of David, and he wasn't really Jesus' Dad allegedly) sacrificed and resurrected for them. No mention of Jesus' life, barely one mention of his teachings (which could have been added into the gospels later to draw a correlation), and none of Jesus' alleged miraculous birth. Here is a PhD essay about Jesus and Paul's connections by a believer http://barriewilson.com/pdf/If-We-Only-Had-Paul.pdf. There is no proof of the gospels occurring before Paul's accounts.

          • ksed11

            If one wants to dismiss this account then we’d have to
            dismiss all historical accounts based on a single source. Much of what we know of history is based on a single source. The single source in this case just happens to be the main character and most involved in the account
            (Paul). Why shouldn’t we trust him? And as someone else has mentioned, the writer of Acts (let’s call him Luke) was his travelling companion and would have had plenty of time to receive his testimony.

            People can be thrown in jail on the testimony of one
            witness. Reliability is what counts, not necessarily quantity. 10 unreliable witnesses are less valuable than 1 reliable one. In a modern case, Timothy McVeigh was convicted for the Oklahoma city bombing without a single eyewitness. Using your criterion, he should have been let go. The authorities however had a strong circumstantial case. In the case of Acts, we have the testimony of the principal actor in the event in question, given to a reliable historian while he was still alive. This follows best practices for ancient historians. Thucydides, Polybious, Tacitus all believed that the best history was that which was based on the memory of a living eyewitness or eyewitnesses. So we see here that Luke was following, as best as possible, the practice of the best of ancient historians.

          • Kevin Wright

            Yes, Timothy McVeigh was convicted with evidence. Eyewitness testimony is highly suspect, unless you have multiple with similar accounts. It's especially unreliable if someone is paying attention to something completely different. The "hurricane" was convicted with three eyewitness accounts despite the fact he was with several other people miles away from the murder. Humans are notoriously poor at remembering tertiary details. And this fact has been proven!

            I'm not saying Paul wasn't a real person, as I understand it, there is less debate over whether Paul existed than whether Jesus, Noah, or Moses existed. I'm saying that since we understand there are explanations in nature as to why some many of the things in the Bible happen (can you believe they thought that lightning was God's wrath? Just like it was attributed to Zeus and Thor.) there is every possibility and likely hood that we are dealing with a disturbed person who got people to follow him at a time in history when scientific literacy (especially among the poorest) was in a fetal stage, not even in infancy.

            Other leaders who inspired followings based on somewhat questionable personal experiences include Charles Manson, Raëlism founder Claude Vorilhon, Indian Gurus Sri Sri, and Asaram Bapu, even the Black Jesus recently hacked to death recently in New Zealand. I just gave you a nice mix of evil, strange and good people, from all across the spectrum. Each has a different story, each claims different beliefs, and each claims a "divine revelation". Their modern day delusions are no different from old ones.

          • ksed11

            I agree that memory can be unreliable under certain circumstances. Different witnesses to a car accident or a crime of some sort will often give differing details (though usually in the secondary details – everyone will be in agreement that an accident took place). But the type of memory that is quite reliable includes certain factors, such as: 1) a unique (or unusual) and consequential event; 2) an event in which a person is emotionally involved. Such is the case in Paul’s conversion expereicne. He wasn’t simply a detached observer.
            Also, Luke had other testimony, namely that of Ananias. The fact that he is named indicates that he is the source of the particular narrative of Acts 9:10-19.
            The fact that there are “explanations in nature” does nothing to discount the existence of God who can do miracles and ‘signs and wonders’.
            I’m not familiar with most of the people you mentioned. All I can say about Paul is that this devout Pharisee who was going to Damascus to arrest Christians, for some reason, becomes one himself. What could explain this turn of events? If he was a disturbed individual, the other apostles may very well have detected a deranged personality and withdrawn fellowship and rejected his claims to apostleship. Instead, he is viewed is one of the leaders of the early church.
            Luke was a reliable historian. The inclusion of Paul’s conversion seems to indicate that he considered it historically reliable.

          • Ignorant Amos

            All I can say about Paul is that this devout Pharisee...

            Who said this?

            ...who was going to Damascus to arrest Christians,...

            Who said this? And here's a problem...

            "The first problem is that, according to Acts, Paul is travelling to Damascus empowered with authority from the high-priest to arrest dissident Christian Jews and bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. But, whatever about high-priestly power in Judea, it could never have been exercised across Roman provincial borders as far away as Damascus." ~ John Dominic Crossan.

            ...for some reason, becomes one himself.

            For some reason is right.

            What could explain this turn of events?

            If he was a disturbed individual, the other apostles may very well have detected a deranged personality and withdrawn fellowship and rejected his claims to apostleship. Instead, he is viewed is one of the leaders of the early church.

            This is where incredulity comes in. Why is it that when looking out, it is perfectly acceptable for the patriarchs of other religions to be deranged or unscrupulous, but heaven forbid anyone should tar my belief with the same scepticism? Here is a few I prepared earlier...

            Charles Manson, David Koresh, Shoko Ashara. Joseph Smith, Marshall Applewhite, Sun Myung Moon, Jim Jones, L. Ron Hubbard...oh aye, and Adolph Hitler.

            Luke was a reliable historian. The inclusion of Paul’s conversion seems to indicate that he considered it historically reliable.

            No he wasn't. Whoever wrote Luke/Acts, heard or read some books and put his own slant on them.

            "It is not that Luke lacks correct information about Paul. It is that he interprets all he has from the viewpoint of at least two generations after Paul. It is also a viewpoint within which Paul would have been unable to recognize his own mission or message, purpose or intention." ~ John Dominic Crossan

          • ksed11

            ****Who said this? ****

            Paul himself. See his statements in Philippians 3:5 and Romans 11:1 which are both from the undisputed Pauline letters.

            ****Who said this? And here's a problem...

            "The first problem is that, according to Acts, Paul is travelling to Damascus empowered with authority from the high-priest to arrest dissident Christian Jews and bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. But, whatever about
            high-priestly power in Judea, it could never have been exercised across Roman provincial borders as far away as Damascus." ~ John Dominic Crossan.****

            First, an overzealous attempt to squash a movement
            would not let restrictions in authority to prevent their goal. The Jews had no right to enact capital punishment yet that is what happened to Stephen. Second, Acts 9:2 specifically says Paul asked for letters to the synagogues. Of all the peoples in the Roman empire, Jews were allowed to not worship the gods of Rome, but were allowed to exclusively retain[D1] their own religion. As such, anything happening in the synagogues would be within the orbit of Jewish authority.
            An example of this can be found in Acts itself, ch.18:14 – “14 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to them, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. 15 But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.” 16 So he drove them off. 17 Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front
            of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever.”

            Now, lest you think this is circular (using Acts to validate Acts), I stated before that Luke was a reliable historian. The evidence of this reliability vouches for the reliability of the narratives in Acts. Luke’s historiographical bona fides can be found in the many details he gets right.

            Acts contains scores of details that are better explained by the presence of eyewitnesses. Historicity can be established to a fairly high degree by these details. These include geographical knowledge (for example, the author lists the correct sequence of small cities (Assos, Mitylene, Chios, Samos, and Miletus) the travelers would have encountered (Acts 20:13),

            knowledge of Jewish and Greek customs, especially those that were obscure and very local, such that only a visitor to the particular area would know about them (e.g. the
            use of the feminine pronoun with the masculine word for god in describing the goddess Artemis in Ephesus (Acts 19:37),

            knowledge of political and legislative matters (e.g. the proper use of the terms politarchs, asiarchs, first man of Malta, that were thought to be wrong but have now been confirmed to be correct),

            and other things such as the presence of the staircase
            from the Roman barracks down to the Temple (Acts 21:30-32 -a detail which would not have been known by a later writer since the temple would have been rubble), the proper itinerary, weather conditions, and ship procedures during Paul trip to Rome (Acts 27). The list of details is quite long (and too long for me to reproduce here - see Colin Hemer’s book The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History).

            There is also an absence of anachronisms that a later
            writer would have committed.
            Plus, Acts notes problems in the early church that would have been irrelevant if it had been written after 70CE, such as the controversy between Jewish and Gentile believers .

            So the argument for historicity is not circular. We find a number of accurately portrayed details in Acts, many of which are confirmed by archaeological finds.

            If the author was so accurate and meticulous in the
            small and essentially trivial details, what reason do we have that he would not be accurate in his recounting of his main topics of concern, including the appearance of Jesus to Paul outside of Damascus, one of the most important events of the early church?

            *****This is where incredulity comes in. Why is it that when looking out, it is perfectly acceptable for the patriarchs of other religions to be deranged or unscrupulous, but heaven forbid anyone should tar my belief with the same scepticism? Here is a few I prepared earlier...

            Charles Manson, David Koresh, Shoko Ashara. Joseph Smith, Marshall Applewhite, Sun Myung Moon, Jim Jones, L. Ron Hubbard...oh aye, and Adolph Hitler.*****

            Well, for one thing (off the top of my head) Manson murdered people, Koresh effectively committed murder suicide by not surrendering to authorities, Jones killed his
            followers by forcing them to drink poisoned koolaid. Are you trying to compare these guys to Paul, who, undoubtedly quite earnest and zealous, did not kill anyone (post-conversion), suffered imprisonment and other hardships for his missionary cause, took no money for his work, allowed women to be his co-workers (in a culture that disdained womens’ rights), willingly associated with Gentiles (showing no racial prejudice), willingly followed Roman law, and was ultimately executed. There’s no comparison. Hitler?
            Not quite.

            ****No he wasn't. Whoever wrote Luke/Acts, heard or read some books and put his own slant on them.****

            There was no Wikipedia in the first century. Nor many reference books. Usually the only way to know such details was to actually be in those places and/or be acquainted with locals in the area. It’s known that well-respected historians of the day got things wrong. Luke on the other hand has been shown to be consistently right in the details.

            ****"It is not that Luke lacks correct information about Paul. It is that he interprets all he has from the viewpoint of at least two generations after Paul. It is also a viewpoint within which Paul would have been unable to recognize his own
            mission or message, purpose or intention." ~ John Dominic Crossan****

            A late dating for Acts is unlikely given that there are reasons for thinking that Acts was written no later than the mid-60’s CE.
            We find a number of things not mentioned that we would expect would have been.

            First, there is no mention of the destruction of the temple and fall of Jerusalem in 70. For Jews, Jerusalem was the “center of the world” and a lot of the narrative of Acts focuses on Jerusalem, so it’s strange that there’s nothing about it. This makes it likely that Acts written before that event. There is also no mention of the Jewish war starting in 66. Since Christians thought that Jesus prophesied about the destruction of Jerusalem, it’s odd that Acts doesn’t mention it, especially if it’s a fulfillment of a prophecy by Jesus.

            Second, there’s no indication of persecution by Nero which started in the mid-60’s.
            Third, there’s no mention of the deaths of key figures such as Peter, James (brother of Jesus) and Paul. This would be expected since Acts already made note of James son of Zebedee’s death in Acts 12.

            So Acts can be dated to the early 60’s. Generally speaking, the closer the writing of a document is to the events it portrays, the more likely that it is giving accurate information because there’s not enough time for inaccurate stories to develop.

            *****The NT is it's own evidence that the oral tradition wasn't all that. ****

            Don’t know what you mean here. Can you please
            elaborate?

            ****Moreover, the New Testament apocrypha is further evidence that all sorts of nonsense was being spoke about in the early days of the Christian church.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N...****

            I agree about the apocrypha, but this is irrelevant since
            the historicity for Jesus is being made from the NT canon, not the apocrypha.

            *****"The Gospel authors were Jews writing within the midrashic tradition and intended their stories to be read as interpretive narratives, not historical accounts." -Bishop
            Shelby Spong, Liberating the Gospels*****

            The antecedent to any use by the gospel writers of midrash techniques would be the use of midrash by Jewish exegetes.
            However, there was a strong tradition of Jewish exegesis that interpreted OT texts according to their original literary context .
            Midrash doesn’t provide a sufficient foundation for the gospels being midrash. If the writers wanted to invent
            events in Jesus’ life in light of OT texts, they wouldn’t have done so in such a partial and awkward manner .
            For example, Jewish exegetes quoted and interpreted OT scripture quite literally. The opposite occurs in the gospels. In most cases the OT references are reworded or reapplied such that the gospel writers were trying to show how the OT fitted the events of the life of Jesus, not the other way around (prime example being Hosea 11:1).
            To quote NT scholar R.T. France,

            “if the history were being created out of the text, there would be no need to adapt the text to fit the history.”

            NT historian Mark Allan Powell states that all the gospel narratives Spong identifies as invented midrash are events that have no adequate scientific explanation. He says:

            “Basically, Spong’s position seems to be this: Events that cannot happen, did not happen….This seems like Bultmann redivivus….literary-critical analysis of the Gospels as literature reveals that the implied readers of these narratives are expected to receive them as narrative reports of events
            that actually transpired in history….the historical evidence does not support Spong’s claim that the Gospel’s original readers would have understood accounts of spectacular events as metaphorical midrash as opposed to literal
            historical reporting.”

            So, it seems that Spong’s only reason to employ the midrash thesis is his bias against miracles. But again, this simply begs the question against theism. Spong would
            need to refute all the theistic arguments and then build a case for a naturalistic worldview before employing the midrash thesis.

            ****Circular argument. Who wrote the themes of “bearing witness ” and “remembering” the life of Jesus?****

            If the argument from Bultmann is that the disciples had no intention of transmitting reliable history, then the disciples’ own words rebut his claim. Even if one wants to say they got the details wrong, the *intention* to transmit reliable history was there. Again, the genre (Greco-roman biography) is
            good indication of their intentions.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Paul himself. See his statements in Philippians 3:5 and Romans 11:1 which are both from the undisputed Pauline letters.

            Okay then...so Mohammad must have flew on a winged horse? Joseph Smith was visited on numerous occasions by an angel called Moroni

            Or that Ron L. Hubbard fellow...

            "The Church of Scientology describes Hubbard in hagiographic terms, and he portrayed himself as a pioneering explorer, world traveler, and nuclear physicist with expertise in a wide range of disciplines, including photography, art, poetry, and philosophy. His critics have characterized him as a liar, a charlatan, and mentally unstable. Though many of his autobiographical statements have been proven to be fictitious, the Church rejects any suggestion that its account of Hubbard's life is not historical fact."

            History is chock full of religious charlatans and Christianity is the champion of hoaxes.

            "Religions, scams, and hoaxes succeed because they exploit powerful psychological processes. These processes are the very ones that have enabled humans to survive and create art and technology, but also transform Homo Sapiens into Homo Suckers!"

            First, an overzealous attempt to squash a movement would not let restrictions in authority to prevent their goal.

            Really? Yet that is exactly what the Sanhedrin is alleged to have done according to the story, let restrictions in authority prevent their goal, hence the reason the story has them going to Pilate. There is no contemporary accounts of all this early persecution of Christian Jews by other Jewish sects outside the Christian texts.

            The Jews had no right to enact capital punishment yet that is what happened to Stephen.

            The Jews had the power to convict and prescribe the death penalty...just not to carry out the punishment. According to the only account of Stephen's death...he was convicted for blasphemy and stoned by an angry mob that got out of control.

            Acts:

            57 But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears, and they rushed upon him with one impulse. 58 And when they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him, and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” And having said this, he fell asleep. 8:1 And Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

            "Raymond E. Brown (An Introduction to the New Testament) says that the scene involving Stephen's trial and death is significant because the death of Stephen in Acts matches so closely the death of Jesus in Luke. Both cases begin with a trial and then the Jewish mob demands the death penalty. Both accounts speak of the Son of Man at the right hand of God (Luke 22:69; Acts 7:56); both have a prayer for the forgiveness of those who are effecting this execution ( Luke 23:34a; Acts 7:60); both have the dying figure commend his spirit heavenward (Luke 23:46; Acts 7:59). Brown says that Acts has shown Peter providing continuity with Jesus' ministry of healing and preaching, while Stephen provides continuity with Jesus' death. He says we can never verify the existence or martyrdom of Stephen. If we can never verify that Stephen was really stoned by the Jews, we can not say with certainty why this happened."

            Now, lest you think this is circular (using Acts to validate Acts),

            Hmmmm! I can't understand why you would think that.

            I stated before that Luke was a reliable historian. The evidence of this reliability vouches for the reliability of the narratives in Acts. Luke’s historiographical bona fides can be found in the many details he gets right.

            What about the facts he gets wrong? The facts he gets right are easily verifiable if the author wrote the book around 80-90 AD as most scholars believe it to be. There are some date it earlier, but some much even much later.

            "A key contested issue is the historicity of Luke's depiction of Paul. According to the majority viewpoint, Acts described Paul differently from how Paul describes himself, both factually and theologically. Acts differed with Paul's letters on important issues, such as the Law, Paul's own apostleship, and his relation to the Jerusalem church.Scholars generally prefer Paul's account over that in Acts."

            Acts contains scores of details that are better explained by the presence of eyewitnesses.

            That is a subjective opinion. Others might adduce that they might be better explained from plagiarizing other sources accurately, while the errors in Acts come from plagiarizing mistakes or making inaccuracies from other sources, say Josephus.

            Historicity can be established to a fairly high degree by these details. These include geographical knowledge (for example, the author lists the correct sequence of small cities (Assos, Mitylene, Chios, Samos, and Miletus) the travelers would have encountered (Acts 20:13),

            I'm sorry, but from what I read, the scholarship is divided on the historicity of Acts for a number of reasons, including its connection to Luke by authorship.

            ...other things such as the presence of the staircase from the Roman barracks down to the Temple (Acts 21:30-32 -a detail which would not have been known by a later writer since the temple would have been rubble),...

            So how is Acts account corroborated?

            "There is widespread agreement that an exact description of the milieu does not prove the historicity of the event narrated"~Talbert, "Reading Luke-Acts in its Mediterranean Milieu", p. 201 (2003)

            ...the proper itinerary, weather conditions, and ship procedures during Paul trip to Rome (Acts 27). The list of details is quite long (and too long for me to reproduce here - see Colin Hemer’s book The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History).

            So how is Acts account corroborated?

            There is also an absence of anachronisms that a later writer would have committed.

            Really? Acts is flawed by internal inconsistencies and anachronisms, especially in the earlier part. An example is the "Italian Regiment".

            http://www.harrington-sites.com/source.htm

            Plus, Acts notes problems in the early church that would have been irrelevant if it had been written after 70CE, such as the controversy between Jewish and Gentile believers .

            Acts is a forgery. The author inferred that he was a travelling companion of Paul. He was not. If the author was aware of the controversy, it would be prudent to include it when pretending to have firsthand knowledge of Paul. Even an early date for Acts puts it 10 years after the Council of Jerusalem, so why do you think the author of Acts would write about it, it being irrelevant by that time already?

            So the argument for historicity is not circular. We find a number of accurately portrayed details in Acts, many of which are confirmed by archaeological finds.

            Well, the fact that scholarship is all over the place on the subject of the Acts is a problem more for you than it is for me. You wouldn't suggest that Sherlock Holmes was a historically accurate account of Victorian London because archaeology confirms the accuracy of the stories details? Robin Hoods adventures are not historically accurate because archaeology and much literature provides clues to just such a person, even if there wasn't.

            "Specific sites linked to Robin Hood include the Major Oak tree, claimed to have been used by him as a hideout, Robin Hood's Well, located near Newstead Abbey (within the boundaries of Sherwood Forest), and the Church of St. Mary in the village of Edwinstowe, where Robin and Maid Marian are historically thought to have wed."

            If the archaeology and literature was copper bottomed, scholarship debate would be moot on the subject.

            If the author was so accurate and meticulous in the small and essentially trivial details, what reason do we have that he would not be accurate in his recounting of his main topics of concern, including the appearance of Jesus to Paul outside of Damascus, one of the most important events of the early church?

            Again...this is special pleading. Supernatural events are beyond evidence. Ockham's razor implies an illusion or hallucination. We have Paul's word for what happened on the road to Damascus as written by who knows who, if anything happened at all that is. If Paul was telling the truth, then so was Mo, Joseph Smith, Ron L. Hubbard, et al. The knife has to cut both ways.

            Well, for one thing (off the top of my head) Manson murdered people, Koresh effectively committed murder suicide by not surrendering to authorities, Jones killed his followers by forcing them to drink poisoned koolaid.

            So what? That is not the point I was making. The point I was making is that gullible people are susceptible to all sorts of nonsense from influential types. Manson didn't murder anyone, he was convicted through the joint-responsibility rule, which makes each member of a conspiracy guilty of crimes his fellow conspirators commit in furtherance of the conspiracy's objective, which kinda proves the lengths people will go to in order to impress. Jones coerced most of his followers into taking the Kool-Aid. That is my whole point. Charismatic cult leaders can induce the idiots that hang on their every word to believe, and do all sorts of stuff that the rational minded wouldn't ordinarily do.

            Are you trying to compare these guys to Paul, who, undoubtedly quite earnest and zealous, did not kill anyone (post-conversion),..

            I'm comparing the ease that these type of guys can brainwash the needy.

            ...suffered imprisonment and other hardships for his missionary cause,

            You know this how?

            ...took no money for his work,...

            You know this how?

            ...allowed women to be his co-workers (in a culture that disdained womens’ rights),...

            You know this how?

            "The inevitable conclusion, as my professor pointed out, is that the picture of first century Jewish women as cloistered and segregated is not much more than an unrealized "ideal" created by a small handful of influential (male) rabbis. It may have been what the religious leaders thought "ought" to be the case, but the actual lives of real people were far different."

            As the author of Acts was conversant with earlier texts, he would be well aware of the role women played in the cult of Christianity.

            ...willingly associated with Gentiles (showing no racial prejudice),...

            That's how proselytizing operates.

            ...willingly followed Roman law,...

            Not much choice really if his mission was to succeed.

            ...and was ultimately executed.

            You know this how?

            There’s no comparison. Hitler?

            The comparison is in that Hitler used diplomatic humiliation, domestic poverty, an alleged crisis of morality, the perception that criminality was rife, and a fractured political landscape prior to 1933 to coerce the German people to follow him blindly into the abyss that was WWII, national humiliation and world pariahs.

            Not quite.

            Yes quite...and a lot of those gullible Germans were also Roman Catholics too.

            There was no Wikipedia in the first century. Nor many reference books. Usually the only way to know such details was to actually be in those places and/or be acquainted with locals in the area. It’s known that well-respected historians of the day got things wrong. Luke on the other hand has been shown to be consistently right in the details.

            You can repeat the mantra as often as you like, nevertheless, the author of Acts used external source material for his writing...take it up with the experts.

            "How can it be that a biographer tells a story so successfully that the subject's own version of the story is overlooked? Such is the case with the author of Acts. A third generation Christian working from his perspective at the end of the first century, and an ardent admirer of the apostle, he crafted an eloquent, dramatic, and edifying portrait which has easily "stolen the scene" from Paul himself. The author was a master of vivid and circumstantial narrative, so much so that every one knows about Saul's falling to the ground when a blinding light flashes about him on the road to Damascus, but few pay much attention to, ". . . and last of all . . . [Christ] appeared also to me" (1 Corinthians 15:8)."

            J. Peter Bercovitz, Ph.D. (New College, University of Edinburgh), was Professor of Religion at West Virginia Wesleyan College, Buckhannon, WV.

            http://www.harrington-sites.com/source.htm

            A late dating for Acts is unlikely given that there are reasons for thinking that Acts was written no later than the mid-60’s CE.
            We find a number of things not mentioned that we would expect would have been.

            The fact remains that the date of authorship is unknown.

            "The range of proposed dates for Acts is quite wide, from c. 60 CE-150 CE. Within this range of dates, three are prominent in the scholarly literature: an early, an intermediate, and a late date."

            http://www.bibleinterp.com/opeds/actapo358006.shtml

            So Acts can be dated to the early 60’s. Generally speaking, the closer the writing of a document is to the events it portrays, the more likely that it is giving accurate information because there’s not enough time for inaccurate stories to develop.

            Does this logic apply to all NT books?

            *****The NT is it's own evidence that the oral tradition wasn't all that. ****

            Don’t know what you mean here. Can you please
            elaborate?

            What it means is that if the oral tradition was so accurate, why all the contradictions, inconsistencies, and also omissions of important details in the earlier texts?

            I agree about the apocrypha, but this is irrelevant since
            the historicity for Jesus is being made from the NT canon, not the apocrypha.

            The apocrypha is important because it was also those books that much of early Christianity used for their preaching of the message. It wasn't until centuries after Christianity got started that the books now being used for the historicity, i.e. the canon, were selected as the standard. It doesn't concern you at all that there was Christians in the earliest days that had no concept of a bodily risen Jesus? Christians who should know better than those writing later being around at the time, or close after.

            The antecedent to any use by the gospel writers of midrash techniques would be the use of midrash by Jewish exegetes.
            However, there was a strong tradition of Jewish exegesis that interpreted OT texts according to their original literary context .
            Midrash doesn’t provide a sufficient foundation for the gospels being midrash.

            The point of the gospels is to convince the reader that Jesus was the messiah mentioned in the Hebrew scriptures. Much of this is done by way of interpreting the OT scriptures in such a way that the narrative in the gospels describes just such a messiah. The gospels use literary devices and even lies to get there. That is not being historically accurate.

            If the writers wanted to invent events in Jesus’ life in light of OT texts, they wouldn’t have done so in such a partial and awkward manner.

            But we know they did...the Nativity narratives and lack thereof.

            For example, Jewish exegetes quoted and interpreted OT scripture quite literally. The opposite occurs in the gospels. In most cases the OT references are reworded or reapplied such that the gospel writers were trying to show how the OT fitted the events of the life of Jesus, not the other way around (prime example being Hosea 11:1).

            " Earlier scholars (e.g., John Wick Bowman), as many today (e.g., J. Duncan M. Derrett), saw gospel echoes of the ancient scriptures in secondary coloring here or redactional juxtaposition of traditional Jesus stories there. But the more recent scrutiny of John Dominic Crossan, Randel Helms, Dale and Patricia Miller, and Thomas L. Brodie has made it inescapably clear that virtually the entirety of the gospel narratives and much of the Acts are wholly the product of haggadic midrash upon previous scripture."

            To quote NT scholar R.T. France,

            “if the history were being created out of the text, there would be no need to adapt the text to fit the history.”

            That's if you consider the NT as historically accurate, I don't.

            So, it seems that Spong’s only reason to employ the midrash thesis is his bias against miracles. But again, this simply begs the question against theism. Spong would
            need to refute all the theistic arguments and then build a case for a naturalistic worldview before employing the midrash thesis.

            No, supernatural events are not history. Critical Bible historians don't deal with supernatural assertions. The believer has onus probandi to supply the evidence for their supernatural claims.

            "Forgotten were the elementary rules of logic, that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and that what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence." ~ Christopher Hitchens

            If the argument from Bultmann is that the disciples had no intention of transmitting reliable history, then the disciples’ own words rebut his claim. Even if one wants to say they got the details wrong, the *intention* to transmit reliable history was there.

            We don't know what the disciples said about anything, we don't have any of their words, only hearsay accounts from anonymous sources. Paul claims to have met Peter, James and John, but he doesn't write about what they talked about regarding Jesus. According to Paul, his authority came from Jesus himself...via vision.

            Again, the genre (Greco-roman biography) is good indication of their intentions.

            You must be confusing the gospel authors with the apostles Mark, Matthew and John.

          • ksed11

            First, the demand for external corroboration for all accounts would leave us in a state of total skepticism about all ancient
            events. NO ancient history can be corroborated on ALL details. But if we have corroboration for a fair amount of material in the document, we can give the benefit of the doubt to the document (and author) in the areas where we
            cannot (as of yet) check on the details. This is not special pleading for the NT but applies to all historical documents. By not applying it to the NT, one sets up a double standard (but why would anyone want to do that?)

            With regard to some of your statements:

            ****Mohammad must have flew on a winged horse*****

            It doesn’t follow that the presence of miracle claims in
            other religions somehow negates Christianity

            *****Really? Yet that is exactly what the Sanhedrin is alleged to have done according to the story, let restrictions in authority prevent their goal, hence the reason the
            story has them going to Pilate.There is no contemporary accounts of all this early persecution of Christian Jews by other Jewish sects outside the Christian texts.*******

            If you read john’s gospel, they were afraid of the people
            turning on them in revolt since they viewed Jesus as the messiah. Their going to Pilate was to keep their hands
            as clean as possible while getting rid of him.

            As for the lack of contemporary accounts, why would there be any with regard to what amounted (at the time) to be a very minor Jewish sect?

            ***That is a subjective opinion. Others might adduce that they might be better explained from plagiarizing other sources accurately, while the errors in Acts come from plagiarizing mistakes or making inaccuracies from other sources, say Josephus.*****

            So he used sources. He states this specifically in his preface to his gospel. And it’s not a subjective opinion. Evidence has been found.
            Colin Hemer shows 84 facts from Acts that have been shown to be true.

            This page gives a short summary.

            http://truthbomb.blogspot.ca/2012/01/84-confirmed-facts-in-last-16-chapters.html

            *****the scholarship is divided on the historicity of Acts for a number of reasons… Acts is a forgery….****

            If it’s so divided why so adamant that it’s fake. At the very least one ought to be agnostic about it.

            Regarding the marine travel account, Colin Hemer writes:

            "Cauda, for instance, is precisely where a ship driven helpless before an east-northeast wind from beyond the shelter of Cape Matala might gain brief respite for necessary maneuvers and to set a more northward line of drift on the starboard tack. As the implications of such details are further explored, it becomes increasingly difficult to believe that they could have been derived from any contemporary reference work. In the places where we can compare, Luke fares much better than the encyclopedist Pliny, who might be regarded as the foremost first-century example of such a
            source. Pliny places Cauda (Gaudos) opposite Hierapytna, some ninety miles too far east (NH 4.12.61). Even Ptolemy, who offers a reckoning of latitude and longitude, makes a serious dislocation to the northwest, putting Cauda too near
            the western end of Crete, in a position which would not suit the unstudied narrative of our text (Ptol. Geog. 3.15.8)”

            So we see that two first century sources actually get the geography wrong, while Luke gets it right meaning he didn’t get it from another source. He was there.

            ******An example is the "Italian Regiment".*****

            All Acts 10 says is that Cornelius was a member of Italian
            cohort – just because it is not specifically attested to be in Caesarea by non-NT sources does not mean it wasn’t there.
            In fact, if not for the fact that it is mentioned in Acts, most skeptics would probably say that Act was the first mention of it.

            Another point. The favorable picture of Cornelius (and the other centurions) is indication that Acts was written pre-66 since most Jews would have had an even more unfavorable view of Roman soldiers after the Jewish war had broken out

            ***Sherlock Holmes*****

            Genre is clearly that of fiction

            ****Robin Hood*****

            The difference between the accounts of Robin and the NT
            accounts can be seen in the chain of custody.
            St. Augustine wrote: “Why does not one doubt the authenticity of the books attributed to Hippocates?
            “[B]ecause there is a succession of testimonies to the books from the time of Hippocrates to the present day, which
            makes it unreasonable either now or hereafter to have any doubt on the subject. How do we know the authorship of the works of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Varro, and other similar writers, but by the unbroken chain of evidence?” (Contra Faustum 33.6).

            The accounts of Robin Hood were passed down by who knows who and we don’t know if embellishments creeped in over the years. The NT documents, by contrast, were passed down from the apostles to their disciples (e.g. Polycarp) and then to their disciples (e.g. Irenaeus), etc. And each of them wrote letters where they quote and allude to the documents. So we know that what was written was
            transmitted carefully, and the attribution of authorship is always to the traditional author.

            *****Supernatural events are beyond evidence*****

            How do you know this?

            ******Ockham's razor implies an illusion or hallucination.*****

            If by this you mean we should accept the simplest
            explanation, then I ask, why is that? More important considerations are explanatory power and scope. The resurrection of Jesus and his appearing to people explains more facts than hallucination. And hallucinations are not plausible given that a risen man (never mind Messiah) in the middle of history was not in the background of Jewish beliefs and thus could not have served as the basis of
            hallucination.
            What we can do is employ abductive reasoning, or argument to the best explanation and infer a reasonable cause.

            *****Charismatic cult leaders****

            Paul quotes his own critics who say that he was “unimpressive”.

            *****can induce the idiots that hang on their every word to believe, and do all sorts of stuff that the rational minded wouldn't ordinarily do.****

            If that’s your point, then Paul wasn’t all that successful. Acts itself tells us not everyone (in fact probably most people he encountered) didn’t accept his preaching.

            ****suffered imprisonment etc.***

            These are found in Paul’s undisputed letters. He’d have no reason to lie about them. Plus, letters to small groups are more likely to contain true accounts, especially to groups of people that he had previously had personal contact with.

            ****coerce the German people to follow him blindly****

            People didn’t follow Paul blindly. The fact that Acts tells us
            this is another piece of evidence that it is not mere propaganda, but intending to report actual events. It doesn’t
            report that everyone fell at his feet and believed.

            ****"The range of proposed dates for Acts is quite wide, from c. 60 CE-150 CE.****

            An allusion to Acts is in 1 Clement (95 CE), so we can date Acts to at least before the second century.

            ****What it means is that if the oral tradition was so accurate, why all the contradictions, inconsistencies, and
            also omissions of important details in the earlier texts?****

            The studies of oral cultures show that such is the nature of oral transmission, namely, the handing on of the core narrative with small differences in the secondary details, which are due to things like differing eyewitness perspectives. But the core narrative is retained and transmitted accurately.

            ****apocrypha is important because it was also those books that much of early Christianity used for their preaching
            of the message****

            Apocrypha was essentially “entertainment” books for 2nd century Christians.

            Again, it is perfectly rational for a person to look at the evidence for the NT docs and conclude they are
            accurate reports.

          • Ignorant Amos

            First, the demand for external corroboration for all accounts would leave us in a state of total skepticism about all ancient events.

            What? Are you serious? Do you know how the historical method works?

            I don't understand how you can continually ignore the blindingly obvious likelihood that the 'facts' which in your mind confirm these stories may be complete fabrication.

            When we read an account of something we know, as rational, intelligent people, that the author may have an agenda, or a bias, or they may have been deliberately misled into reporting an event in a particular way, it should be treated with skepticism. The same way you regard the ridiculous claims of other religions.

            Therefore, historians use multiple sources to confirm an event. The more precise the event, the more detailed the historical evidence needs to be.

            Henry VIII is a good example, as historical records in various forms exist to tell us about his life, and to corroborate each other. But if I was to read a quote from him, which had only a single source and had extreme implications, I would need an extraordinary amount of evidence to believe it.

            So if you want us to examine what Jesus was supposed to have said as historians, we'd need a lot better evidence than a single source 2000 years old. I'm sure you understand this.

            NO ancient history can be corroborated on ALL details.

            Well that is not strictly accurate, but it doesn't matter. It depends on the importance of the details and the claims being made. A 1st century Jew called Jesus is actually a god who had himself tortured, put to death and resurrected to life before ascending to heaven to sit on his own right hand is a pretty hefty assertion based on some anonymous tales.

            But if we have corroboration for a fair amount of material in the document, we can give the benefit of the doubt to the document (and author) in the areas where we
            cannot (as of yet) check on the details.

            What corroboration? Those details available to anyone with the nous to research? Again, what about the problems that do not corroborate the story? The problem with blatant inconsistencies in an account can through the authenticity of the whole account into question.

            This is not special pleading for the NT but applies to all historical documents. By not applying it to the NT, one sets up a double standard (but why would anyone want to do that?)

            I'm sure you will have no problem pointing to all those historical documents, particularly ones that have had such an impact on humanity over the last two millenia.

            It doesn’t follow that the presence of miracle claims in other religions somehow negates Christianity

            But you have to acknowledge all supernatural claims in that case or you are guilty of more special pleading.

            If you read john’s gospel, they were afraid of the people turning on them in revolt since they viewed Jesus as the messiah. Their going to Pilate was to keep their hands as clean as possible while getting rid of him.

            John's gospel is not considered historical in anyway.

            "The Gospel of John developed over a period of time in various stages, summarized by Raymond E. Brown as follows:

            An initial version based on personal experience of Jesus;

            A structured literary creation by the evangelist which draws upon additional sources;

            The final harmony that presently exists in the New Testament canon, around 85-90 AD.

            In view of this complex and multi-layered history it is meaningless to speak of a single "author" of John, but the title perhaps belongs best to the evangelist who came at the end of this process.The final composition's comparatively late date, and its insistence upon Jesus as a divine being walking the earth in human form, renders it highly problematical to scholars who attempt to evaluate Jesus' life in terms of literal historical truth.

            As for the lack of contemporary accounts, why would there be any with regard to what amounted (at the time) to be a very minor Jewish sect?

            Oh c'mon. We are talking about someone allegedly convicted for raising sedition.The claims being made of the things this guy did, or caused to have done, are astronomical.

            Starting with the slaughter of the innocents and visit by magi through to his crucifixion for sedition and resurrected sighting by the 500 among others.

            No mention of anything he did from a contemporary. Not a sausage from the disciples, if there were such people. Historians of the time of Jesus or within a century make no mention of him. Less a couple of ranker interpolations in Josephus.

            Apollonius
            Appian
            Arrian
            Aulus Gellius
            Columella
            Damis
            Dio Chrysostom
            Dion Pruseus
            Epictetus
            Favorinus
            Florus Lucius
            Hermogones
            Josephus
            Justus of Tiberius
            Juvenal
            Lucanus
            Lucian
            Lysias
            Martial
            Paterculus
            Pausanias
            Petronius
            Persius
            Phaedrus
            Philo-Judaeus
            Phlegon
            Pliny the Elder
            Pliny the Younger
            Plutarch
            Pompon Mela
            Ptolemy
            Quintilian
            Quintius Curtius
            Seneca
            Silius Italicus
            Statius
            Suetonius
            Tacitus
            Theon of Smyran
            Valerius Flaccus
            Valerius Maximus

            Not one had heard the tale of the Jewish miracle worker.with a cult following of and alleged audience of 5,000. Not a snip in that area at that time.

            ""Philo was born before the beginning of the Christian era, and lived until long after the reputed death of Christ. He wrote an account of the Jews covering the entire time that Christ is said to have existed on earth. He was living in or near Jerusalem when Christ's miraculous birth and the Herodian massacred occurred. He was there when Christ made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He was there when the crucifixion with its attendant earthquake, supernatural darkness, and resurrection of the dead took place -- when Christ himself rose from the dead, and in the presence of many witnesses ascended into heaven."

            "These marvelous events which must have filled the world with amazement, had they really occurred, were unknown to him. It was Philo who developed the doctrine of the Logos, or Word, and although this Word incarnate dwelt in that very land and in the presence of multitudes revealed himself and demonstrated his divine powers, Philo saw it not."

            So he used sources. He states this specifically in his preface to his gospel.

            Which makes those facts that he got right unremarkable and at the very least, secondary information.

            And it’s not a subjective opinion. Evidence has been found. Colin Hemer shows 84 facts from Acts that have been shown to be true.

            What is subjective is how the evidence is assessed and where it originated. Colin Hemer shows 84 facts from Acts that may have been shown to be true, he does not know how the author of Acts came by those facts. Because 221B Baker Street is a real place in London doesn't mean Sherlock Holmes was real.

            If it’s so divided why so adamant that it’s fake. At the very least one ought to be agnostic about it.

            It appears you have some misunderstanding on what a forgery in literature means. Pseudepigrapha does not infer necessarily infer fake or false information. Read Ehrman's "Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are"

            "Ehrman also includes the Acts of the Apostles, broadening at this point the notion of “forgery” in discussing evidence that he feels suggests that the author intentionally insinuated that he had been a companion of Paul’s (the “we” passages) when this is unlikely to have been the case. "

            So we see that two first century sources actually get the geography wrong, while Luke gets it right meaning he didn’t get it from another source. He was there.

            You can't know that. To be able to discredit two contemporary historians, one needs to know the facts. How do we know the facts? Why could the author of Luke not used the same source?

            "Nor can the question of Luke’s historical reliability be considered resolved. On the one hand, are those many erudite scholars who continue, in the spirit of William Ramsay, to defend Luke’s reliability. In addition to Hemer (Hemer 1990) and Witherington (Witherington 1998), many of the contributors to the multivolume series on The Book of Acts in Its First Century Setting have as one of their goals the defense of Luke’s historical accuracy (see Winter 1993–1998). On the other hand, Gerd Lüdemann, in his attempts to separate tradition from redaction in Acts, has claimed that while Luke preserves individual and isolated facts accurately,much of his chronology and framework is secondary, and Lüdemann rejects out of hand all reports of the miraculous (Lüdemann 1989). Such presuppositions on
            the part of the interpreter inevitably and profoundly shape the conclusions drawn about this historicity of a narrative like Acts (see appendix in Talbert 1997). Critical evaluation of the historicity of Acts continues with the work of the Acts Seminar, a group of scholars convened by the late Robert Funk and the Westar Institute, to evaluate the reliability of early Christian history as depicted by Luke, in ways analogous to what the Jesus Seminar (sponsored by the same institute) attempted with the historical Jesus.
            ~ Dictionary of Biblical Criticism and Interpretation ~

            Whatever way you want to cut it, the scholarship on Acts is complex and divided...it's not by far the done deal you'd like it to be.

          • arkenaten

            I have always wondered why Paul was sent to Damascus to arrest Christians when the 'leaders' were right there in their midst , in Jerusalem.

            Any thoughts?

          • ksed11

            First, even if they had been arrested, that wouldn’t have
            stopped the movement since the traditions would by then have been wide spread and believed by many.
            Second, Damascus was an important city and home to many
            synagogues  (as well as being considered the
            outer edge of the border of Israel in the minds of Jews).  Many Jews would have been susceptible to the influence of xians who had been forced out of Jerusalem.
            But perhaps the most interesting factor is that the majority
            of converts were Greek speaking Jews.  Stephen,
            likely representative of what the Grecian Jewish Xians were saying to both Grecian Jews (e.g. the Freedmen Synagogue) and  Palestinian Jews, stated that the temple was no longer necessary.  This precipitated
            the persecution and dispersal.  The
            apostles, on the other hand, were highly regarded by the people (Acts 2: 42-47).  They had shown themselves to be pious temple worshippers, generous to the poor and performers of signs and wonders.  Any move against them might have been unpopular.  So  the Sanhedrin (though undoubtedly would have
            liked to silence them) would not have had any feelings of restraint when it came to the Grecian Jewish xians.  The
            Greek speaking Jewish xians were the main focus of this persecution,

          • arkenaten

            First, even if they had been arrested, that wouldn't have stopped the movement since the traditions would by then have been wide spread and believed by many.

            Is this speculation or is there evidence for this claim?

            Widespread? I would be interested where the evidence is found for this statement.

            Second, Damascus was an important city and home to many synagogues (as well as being considered the outer edge of the border of Israel in the minds of Jews). Many Jews would have been susceptible to the influence of xians who had been forced out of Jerusalem.

            Is there evidence of these statements?

            This precipitated the persecution and dispersal.

            Persecution of who? Jews or Christians?

            So the Sanhedrin (though undoubtedly would have
            liked to silence them)

            This seems contradictory to the way they behaved towards Jesus. Logic would suggest they would move swiftly against the disciples as they were now the main carriers of Jesus message. If, as you are suggesting, they were hesitant to actively move against (arrest them) Peter and James - considered the head of the new Jerusalem church and the brother of Jesus- then surely they would have taken steps to at least censure them?
            The Sanhedrin was instrumental in the death of Jesus for blasphemy (sedition) so why would they (or the Romans for that matter) let the disciples continue to openly flaunt this new message when they had only recently put to death their leader?

          • ksed11

            “Is this speculation or is there
            evidence for this claim?”
            Well, when the apostles eventually died out years later, the
            movement continued without them.  This
            would have happened even if they had been silenced earlier. “Widespread?”
            I didn’t mean geographically necessarily; simply that they
            were believed by many people.

            Is there evidence of these
            statements?
            “the border
            of Damascus was considered the boundary of the ideal Jewish state (Ezk. 47:16–18; 48:1; Zc. 9:1).”
            “The city
            had many synagogues ”
            --(Wood,
            D. R. W. ; Wood, D. R. W. ; Marshall, I. Howard: New Bible Dictionary.  3rd ed. Downers Grove : InterVarsity Press; s.v. Damascus)
            The reasonable inference is that there many Jews in
            Damascus.  And it follows there would
            have been many synagogues.

            Persecution of who? Jews or
            Christians?
            Well, not to be pedantic, but of Christians obviously.  Of course, all Christians in Jerusalem at the time were Jews by birth, but the distinction between “jew” and “Christian” tells us who is who.

            “This seems contradictory to the way
            they behaved towards Jesus. Logic would suggest they would move swiftly against the disciples as they were now the main carriers of Jesus message. If, as you are suggesting, they were hesitant to actively move against (arrest them) Peter and James - considered the head of the new Jerusalem church and the brother of Jesus- then surely they would have taken steps to at least censure them?”

            They did try to censure them (even beat them);  see Acts 4.

            “The Sanhedrin was instrumental in
            the death of Jesus for blasphemy (sedition) so why would they (or the Romans for that matter) let the disciples continue to openly flaunt this new message when they had only recently put to death their leader”

            I gave a sufficient answer already.  In addition, Gamaliel’s intervention (Acts 5) explains things.  As for the Romans,
            first, they were pressured to execute Jesus by the Sanhedrin, and second, as far as the Roamsn were concerned this Jesus was dead and buried.  Why would they care about a bunch of crackpots claiming that people ought to follow a dead man?

          • arkenaten

            Well, not to be pedantic, but of Christians obviously. Of course, all Christians in Jerusalem at the time were Jews by birth, but the distinction between “jew” and “Christian” tells us who is who.

            If the Romans could care less about the 'crackpot' followers of a dead man why would they be so keen to persecute them in Jerusalem?
            Please explain?

          • ksed11

            I’m not sure which persecution you’re referring to
            here.

          • arkenaten

            You said:

            This precipitated the persecution and dispersal.

            So, I was asking about which persecution you were referring to?

            In light of this I hope this makes more sense of the question?

            If the Romans could care less about the 'crackpot' followers of a dead man why would they be so keen to persecute them in Jerusalem?
            Please explain?

          • ksed11

            So, I was asking about which persecution you were referring to?

            The persecution of Acts 8 which was by Jews, not Romans.

          • arkenaten

            And we are back to the point that if this were a real event why not drive the apostles out as well?
            It is obvious from the way the account in Acts is written it is solely for the purpose of creating a basis for Paul to begin his mission and then come back to jerusalem and meet the Apostles once he had "seen the light"
            It is a story. A fictional mechanism very much like laying out a plot in a novel.
            There are no extra biblical accounts of this ''Persecution" and simple common sense would suggest that if you were going to drive out the followers you would then arrest and jail the leaders.

          • ksed11

            why not drive the apostles out as well?

            I pointed out earlier that the persecution involved the Grecian Jews who had converted to xianity.

            It is obvious from the way the account in Acts is written it is solely for the purpose of creating a basis for Paul to begin his mission and then come back to jerusalem and meet the Apostles once he had "seen the light"

            It's only obvious if one presupposes that Acts is a fictional work. There are reasons for thinking Acts is reliable history. Colin Hemer's book 'Acts in the setting of Hellenistic History" gives many details. As do Martin Hengel and Craig Keener in his recent Acts commentary. Even John D. Crossan says that Paul had a genuine conversion experience.

          • arkenaten

            You seem to be obfuscating the central point on purpose and it is beginning to become frustrating.
            Even if we assume the story is factual, why would the leaders of the new christian sect be left unmolested?

            If the new sect was considered illegal and a persecution set in motion the leaders would have fled, or gone into hiding.
            But there is no suggestion they did this.
            These is no logic to adopt this position. None, and there is no precedent I can think of where such has taken place.

            Sadly,you are fast making this a straw man argument.

            And why is Crossan's opinion relevant?

          • ksed11

            why would the leaders of the new christian sect be left unmolested?

            As I said, I gave a response to this already. If you'd like to respond to it, you're welcome to.

            These is no logic to adopt this position.

            The logic is found in the historically reliable text of Acts itself, as I pointed out.

            Sadly,you are fast making this a straw man argument.

            Not sure what you mean here. How am I misrepresenting your (or someone else's) position?

            And why is Crossan's opinion relevant?

            A skeptical scholar accepts a major point in Acts, namely Paul's conversion. Just thought I'd throw that in there :)

          • arkenaten

            So the Sanhedrin did not arrest the leaders of the new sect as they were very popular and there might have been a backlash, but showed no compunction to execute their leader, Jesus, and the populace was fine with this?

            Hmm interesting...

            The logic is found in the historically reliable text of Acts itself, as I pointed out.

            Yes, you did, didn't you?
            May I ask
            a) do you have any relevant qualifications to make such a statement as Historically reliable
            and
            b) would you care to comment on how ''Historically reliable'' Paul's boat trip and subsequent sinking etc are?

          • ksed11

            “ but showed no compunction to execute their leader, Jesus, and the populace was fine with this?”

            First, the populace wasn’t fine with this (not entirely – see Luke 23:27). The crowd that wanted Jesus executed was incited by the sanhedrin, but a good number of people were hoping that Jesus was the messiah. But in this case, since the Romans were now in charge of the matter, the people really had no say in the matter. This was not the case with the apostles.

            Second, the Sanhedrin feared that the followers of Jesus were on the verge of a revolt that would end up in the removal of their place of leadership as well as destruction of the nation. As Caiaphas noted, better one man die than the whole nation.

            “do you have any relevant qualifications to make such a statement as Historically reliable”

            I’m relying on the scholarship of experts such as Colin Hemer. One could ask the same question to you, Do you have any relevant qualifications to say that Acts is fiction?

            “would you care to comment on how ''Historically reliable'' Paul's boat trip and subsequent sinking etc are?”

            Well, Hemer writes in his book The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History, p.331:

            “Cauda, for instance, is precisely where a ship driven helpless before an east-northeast wind from beyond the shelter of Cape Matala might gain brief respite for necessary maneuvers and to set a more northward line of drift on the starboard tack. As the implications of such details are further explored, it becomes increasingly difficult to believe that they could have been derived from any contemporary reference work. In the places where we can compare, Luke fares much better than the encyclopedist Pliny, who might be regarded as the foremost first-century example of such a source. Pliny places Cauda (Gaudos) opposite Hierapytna, some ninety miles too far east (NH 4.12.61). Even Ptolemy, who offers a reckoning of latitude and longitude, makes a serious dislocation to the northwest, putting Cauda too near the western end of Crete, in a position which would not suit the unstudied narrative of our text (Ptol. Geog. 3.15.8)”
            Hemer also goes on to point out accuracy in details such as weather patterns, actions of sailors during a storm, etc.

            Given the amount of accurate details througout Acts, the burden seems to be on the skeptic to show that Acts is not historically reliable.

          • arkenaten

            And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves

            Acts 28.3-6.

            Care to have a shot at this?

          • Bruce Grubb

            "Second, the Sanhedrin feared that the followers of Jesus were on the verge of a revolt that would end up in the removal of their place of leadership as well as destruction of the nation."

            The problem with that line of reasoning is there had been movements before c 28 C where the "riot" didn't go anywhere:

            Simon of Peraea (d 4 BCE)

            Judas, son of Hezekiah (4 BCE)

            Matthias, son of Margalothus (during time of Herod the Great) - thought by some to be the "Theudas" referenced in Acts 5.

            Athronges (c 3 CE)

            Judas of Galilee (6 CE)

            And you also have this relatively concurrent mess:

            The Samaritan prophet (36 CE) killed by Pontius Pilate.

            And these are the guys Josephus felt were worth mentioning.

            Then you have the Egyptian Jew Messiah (between 52 and 58 CE) who supposedly lead an army of 30,000 people in an attempt to take Jerusalem by force which the Romans drove back killing 400 and capturing 200.

            As these guys hold the logic doesn't hold.

          • Ignorant Amos

            A skeptical scholar accepts a major point in Acts, namely Paul's conversion. Just thought I'd throw that in there :)

            I think you are over cooking it a bit.

            Why do you call J. D. Crossan a "skeptical" scholar?

            He may accept that Paul converted...every Christian had to and no one doubts that, but how does he agree that this method of conversion was due to a revelation on the road to Damascus, I'm not sure that's the case, anyway, how could he know, J. D. Crossan wasn't there, and neither was the author of Luke/Acts, whoever that person was...so it Acts is hearsay two generations removed at best. However, though Crossan agrees with a vision of Jesus conversion story, not bad for a so-called skeptic, he has difficulties with the Lukian version in Acts.

            "What Really Happened to Paul on the Road to Damascus?"

            By John D. Crossan, Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies, DePaul University

            "The vision of Jesus that changed Paul from a Pharisaic Jew to a Christian Jew happened, says Luke's Acts of the Apostles, on the road to Damascus. That event is so important that Luke records it three times for maximum emphasis: first, as it happens (9:1-19); next, as Paul tells it to the Roman officer in Jerusalem (22:3-21); and, finally, as Paul tells it to the Jewish king, Agrippa II at Caesarea Maritima (26:1-18). But that triple account, written around 50 years after Paul's death, has two major historical problems."

            Read on at...http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-dominic-crossan/paul-and-damascus_b_1348778.html

            "It is not that Luke lacks correct information about Paul. It is that he interprets all he has from the viewpoint of at least two generations after Paul. It is also a viewpoint within which Paul would have been unable to recognize his own mission or message, purpose or intention."

            So Crossan isn't behind you on your Acts assertions after all.

            Some other interesting thoughts from your skeptic on Paul here too...

            http://www.johndominiccrossan.com/The%20First%20Paul.htm

          • ksed11

            Sorry for the confusion. I should have qualified my earlier comment to say, John D. Crossan says that Paul had a genuine conversion experience, even though he doesn’t accept the account as given in Acts since we know that he famously rejects the actual resurrection in favor of Jesus’ burial in a shallow grave. This last part about his rejecting the resurrection surely qualifies the label ‘skeptical’.

            neither was the author of Luke/Acts, whoever that person was...so it Acts is hearsay two generations removed at best.

            On this point I’d disagree. The “we” statements in the second half of Acts indicate the author was part of the action. The naming of specific persons (such as Ananias of Damascus) indicates that the author interviewed the persons in question.

            And the accurate details of things that could be known only by someone who was either an eyewitness or interviewed an eyewitness show that Acts was not written 2 generations after the fact.

            Inordinate skepticism about the reliability of NT documents would apply just as easily to other historical documents from antiquity. If such skepticism doesn’t apply to non-NT docs (which is the case since most people, I think, claim that we have knowledge about the past based on these documents), then the only way to apply such skepticism to the NT is to apply an unjustified double standard; i.e. the NT docs meet the same criteria that would be applied to non-NT docs but we won’t accept the NT because of – well, because of what exactly? There is no good reason given. Every time evidence is given for the reliability of Acts, the skeptic will say, “yes, but he just made it up”. Really? How does he know that? The xian has presented evidence, the skeptic has merely pronounced his personal opinion.

          • Ignorant Amos

            But the point is much scepticism is applied to non NT documents...many of which have been penned by known historians...unlike the author of Luke/Acts. One example is that of Romulus by the scholar Plutarch. You are not suggesting that Plutarch's history of Romulus has any grounding other than myth even though it contains real characters and events from history, are you?

          • Sofia Sousa

            When you don't know the real sources, you can be victim of falsity. Then what is false becomes truth. When that happens, everyone can be arguing about something which is based on wrong paradigm, without ever reaching the right conclusions. That is called social psychoscotoma (partial blindness of the mind). All this is just to hide the fact that the 3 religions-of-convenience (judaism, christianity and islam) are all but a result of plagiary, made conceal the fact that they come from African spirituality (Osirian Rituals). That is why those religions brought about the worst barbarities, ever committed by humans, on this planet. Please analyse the real beginning, grow spiritually and find inner peace. Ignorance is the recipe for all the disasters and the father of all the mess we have lived in. Please check this out and spread the truth, if you want to make a difference for a good cause. http://www.theosophical.ca/boo.... Justice, Love and Peace!!!

          • Pofarmer

            The problem is, Acts contradicts Paul on many key points.

          • ksed11

            Could you cite some?

          • Pofarmer

            There are several apparent contradictions with the conversion narrative. Acts 17:23-31 vs Rom 1-18-32 is another one. There was a book reccomended to me, called, I think, "The mysteries of Acts" or something to that effect. I'll have to see if I can find that.

          • ksed11

            Re: act17 and rom. 1
            I don’t see a contradiction here. He’s addressing different audiences. In Acts Paul is trying to persuade persons who have never heard the gospel before, and in the process uses the unknown god as a way of finding a point of common interest. This is the way many missionaries work in a different culture.
            In Romans, he is recounting to his readers how certain people, having already been presented the one true god, knowingly and persistently reject God. Paul seems to be saying that once a person has been given sufficient information, that person is culpable for his actions.

          • Pofarmer

            Yep, that's the standard apologetics.

          • ksed11

            I suppose it is.  Were you trying to make a point about standard apologetics?

          • Pofarmer

            I just meant that that's the common apologetic answer, which some or mosf scholars may or may no agree with, sort of like harmonizing the gospels.

          • Paul VB

            Randy only Paul mentions those witnesses, no names are given , we never hear of those witnesses again so the only witness is Paul telling he had witnesses circular reasoning .

          • anselmo

            Depends on which version in Acts you believe. In one the bystanders "see the light but hear not the voice." In the other they "hear a voice but see no one." .....

          • Ler_pra_crer

            That's not about different versions of the book of Acts. It's about two different functions (grammar cases) used in Greek, which your English can not grasp in a single word (hearing vs. hearing + comprehension). There's no contradiction also in seing "the light" and seing "no one". What's your point?
            Btw:
            http://schsraiderreview.weebly.com/foreign-words-with-no-english-equivalent.html

          • Elka

            I mean you no disrespect, but when people start blaming anything miraculous on epileptic seizures, it seems like they are grasping for strays to support what they want to believe. Paul also mentioned seeing miracles, being blind for several days, hearing God's voice more than once, and a host of other things one can't blame on an epileptic seizure.

            Either he lied, which doesn't seem likely as he suffered much as a Christian, or he was completely, totally nuts, which also doesn't seem likely when some of his writings have been esteemed by even secular culture as beautiful truth (I Cor 13 is one example).

          • Ron Maimon

            It's not a seizure. It's a pretty well reproducible thing, it is like a voice from outside talking in your head, but without words exactly, although saying specific things. It is not a hallucination in the normal sense, it's like putting yourself to the side of an ethical center, and listening to it speak to the rest of you.

            I had this experience after reading the 120 Days of Sodom by Sade (which I consequently think is purposefully designed to induce this experience in an atheist). I would recommend this for understanding Paul's vision. Not only is it not a hallucination, it is not even FALSE, in that it is teaching you true ethical things. That Paul had a true ethical epiphane can be witnessed in the earliest and greatest document of Christianity: The Epistle to Philemon.

          • josh

            I'm not hand waving, I'm assuming you are clever enough to figure out the parallels yourself. Many religions have divine revelations, many have miracle working founders, many have founders whose true origin is buried in mystery--despite a large body of tradition that has grown up around them, many have key teachings and emphases that shift over the years as different factions gain power, many have followers and successors who squabble over the 'true' teachings and from an outside perspective clearly alter the message to suit their own interpretations, many have miraculous births, many were allegedly heralded by seers and prophecies, many 'die' in ways that involve the body transforming or being assumed. Do I need to go on?

            Obviously there are differences too, but a central point to take away is that people will believe things. I don't know how people convinced themselves that Joseph Smith wasn't a charlatan, but they did. I don't know how Mohammed got enough people to side with him that he could have any military success, but he did. Peter and James and Paul (or their self-proclaimed chroniclers) claimed that Jesus worked miracles, it's your interpolation that there really was a person who made these claims for himself. (And really, we don't lack for claims of apostolic and saintly miracles.)

            There are plenty of reasons for Paul to become a Christian but the mythicist position is not that he didn't believe any of it. Now I'm not committed to the mythicist idea, but the version described above is that the original stories were significantly different than how you imagine them: Christ was a spiritual being involved in various spiritual miracles and goings-on, the physical miracles are later additions. And guess what, if you're going to make up a miracle, you can just as easily make up witnesses.

          • Ron Maimon

            Paul thinks it is true that Jesus rose from the deead, because he has had a revelation of the risen Christ. This is not an uncommon vision, it happens today still, perhaps it has happened to you, it has happened to me. The stories of the historical Christ are there to give a historical anchor to these otherwise otherworldly visitations of the risen Christ. Paul doesn't need material confirmation--- he is a sincere religious person.

          • Rick Stone

            You said, "There is just no reason for a guy like St Paul to become a Christian unless he was totally convinced it was true." But that doesn't make it true. There are plenty of Muslims and Mormons who are totally convinced it was true. Stories about claimed events do not mean the events actually happened--such as a story of the angel Gabriel visiting Muhammad, or the angel Moronai visiting Joseph Smith.

          • anselmo

            No one 'saw' the 'resurrection'.

          • St. Paul lists many witnesses in 1 Cor 15, including himself.

          • Ignorant Amos

            You sound like a holocaust denier.

            Uncalled for ad hom and against the rules I suspect. Bad form.

            Anyone can just hint at huge conspiracies that everyone was lying and everything is faked.

            I'm not hinting that people lied, I'm stating it as a fact.

            According to the NT, what was the last words of Jesus before he died?

            According to the NT, who found the empty tomb?

            According to the NT, who was Josephs father?

            If Jesus was born of a virgin, what is the need for a genealogy of Joseph back to the patriarch David? How was Jesus a descendant of King David as prophecy demanded?

            Perhaps the gospel writers were unaware of Romans 1:3.

            Why did the author of Matthew include 4 women in his version Josephs genealogy?

            One gospel has the birth of Jesus during Herod's reign, the other during the census of Quirinius. How can this be? There is a 10 year discrepancy. I have a god idea the reason...but why don't you explain it?

            The list goes on and on and on. Someone was faking it or lying...whichever you like. All the contradictory accounts can't be correct.

            But you don't come out with a coherent theory.

            The point of the OP is to posit a coherent theory.

            You just take shots at the official story.

            I'm not the only one taking shots at the "official" story, whatever the official story may be. Scholarship is also taking shots at the official story. Ever heard of the Jesus Seminar for example? If the gospel story is as copper fastened as you'd like to think, it would hold up. But because it is full of holes it loses credibility. That is not my fault.

            Just implying there is some big bad Catholic church that is pulling all the strings.

          • Randy Gritter

            Uncalled for ad hom and against the rules I suspect. Bad form.

            Sorry if I offended you. I was just trying to show that radical skepticism can be hard to argue against but it is not the most rational way to think. Just dismissing everything as potentially made up is easy.

            The fact is there is good reason to believe the gospels and Acts as history. Compared to other documents they are well preserved and they seem to include statements against the interests of the preservers. So they sound more like a true story than a legend or propaganda piece.

            Do they differ on a few details? Sure. If they didn't you would take that as evidence of collusion. They are remarkably the same not remarkably different. So much so we think they must have been drawn from a common source like oral and liturgical tradition.

          • Ignorant Amos

            The fact is there is good reason to believe the gospels and acts as history.

            Lets hear them then....that is the point, there really isn't good reasons.

            Compared to other documents they are well preserved and they seem to include statements against the interests of the preservers.

            Never mind other documents, the Christian texts are not, in of themselves, well preserved. Do the research.

            Do they differ on a few details? Sure. If they didn't you would take that as evidence of collusion.

            A few details? We are not taliking about the colour of someones eyes here, or whether they wor a turtle neck or v-neck sweater.

            They are remarkably the same not remarkably different.

            They are remarkably different....that is the whole point.

            So much so we think they must have been drown from a common source like oral and liturgical tradition.

            The problem is that the plebs in the chapels believe that Mark, Matthew, Luke and John wrote the gospels from personal eyewitness accounts....not "a common source like oral and liturgical tradition", which is why the faith succeeded and why the church was keen to keep it from the sheeple over the centuries...it's not rocket science.

          • Ron Maimon

            Nobody was lying, people just wrote stories and parables.

          • I wonder about how a guy like Carrier can find this the least bit credible. Perhaps it is that he is only familiar with a very liberal version of Christianity. True Christianity has always been a very historical religion. God is with us in the real person of Jesus. What you are talking about is a half-hearted belief where truth does not matter so much because people are not fully invested. That is simply not what existed in the early church. They believed despite the danger of death. Of course it mattered to them.

          • Ron Maimon

            No, no no. True Christianity has always been a SPIRITUAL modification of Judaism, with which it shares a historical notion of God, and a synchretism with Platonism, with which it shares the notion of heaven, perfectibility, and afterlife.

            The point of Paul and Peter's authentic epistles is to induce the experience of the risen Christ. The risen Christ is not the historical Christ, and has no relation to the historical Christ a-priori. The risen Christ binds the community through communion, and produces spiritual awakening in those who are dead in spirit.

            The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as flesh Messiah is revealed to Paul and Peter, and is interpreted as removing the idea of blood sacrifice from Judaism. This is the revelation that allows the religion to start and grow, and it has nothing to do with the historical Jesus. It doesn't matter WHERE Jesus was crucified, it doesn't matter WHO crucified him, it doesn't even matter WHO HE WAS, so long as he was Messiah, he embodied the spiritual son and effective angel of God, and he was crucified somewhere, in whatever manner. Jesus does this so as to produce a new form of religion, independent of temple sacrifice, and it has no importance what historical event is associated with this, and most likely, none is (although it is possible that there was a historical event that got merged into the story, it isn't required, and the historical event is not important at all).

            The earliest Gospel is designed to produce a historical story, just to EXPLAIN the concepts of the religion, so you can understand this stuff. The concepts of the risen Jesus are very subtle, and require a lot of background knowledge. The concept in the Gospel of Mark are immediately understandable, and convert people based on the story alone.

            But you can understand Mark, and then Matthew and then Luke and John, as evolutions of the historical story which illustrates the important features of the risen Christ. The only point of Carrier's book is to argue that the risen Christ is primary, and the historical Christ is tacked on later.

          • Like I said, you are talking about a completely different religion. It is nothing like what you find in the New Testament and nothing like what the early church believed. You make St. Paul out to be the most incompetent evangelist ever. He converted many but not to what he believed. His preaching and writing converted people to something else. Very strange.

            There is still the question of where what we know as Christianity cane from. People made up this history? Why? If they had a spiritual Christ why did they need to invent a false incarnation story? The spiritual resurrection is just so much easier to sell. A historical falsehood is just going to risk being exposed as false. If they believed all that was needed had happened why make up more stuff?

          • Ron Maimon

            I am NOT talking about a different religion, I am talking about Christianity. It is a subtle faith, it is not an obtuse superstition about a historical magic-doing guy who became a zombie for a few weeks then flew away.

            The notion of the congregation forming the body of Christ through communion, that's there from the beginning. The spiritual center is the risen Christ, the body does works, and the notions of blood sacrifice are removed from the Jewish component of the faith.

            The historical parts of Christianity, the Gospel tales as history, this comes much later than communion, resurrection, and crucifiction, which are aspects of Paul's earliest Epistles, and Peter's, and have prophetic prefigurements in the old-testament.

            You can't expose this type of historical falsehood as false, because there are no witnesses, nor do there have to be. It is written as exegesis of a religious experience, not as history, and the historical interpretation only takes off in the 2nd century, after everybody has died.

            It's not "making up stuff", it is illustrating the faith with a simpler to understand story. The actual beliefs are tough to understand at a first exposure, it takes several years to understand what the "body of Christ" means, what communion means, etc. What it means that cultic sacrifice has ended, what it means to have a vision, or speak in tongues, etc, etc. The story "ok, this guy came to Earth, preached, died, and resurrected" gets the main idea across with the minimum of fuss, and gets the quickest conversion, and when it was composed, it is not clear it was thought of as historically true, historically false, as I think the answer Christians back then would have given is "who the heck cares? We're not here to give you a history lecture, we are after saving your soul."

          • Rick Stone

            The burden of proof is on the person making the extraordinary claim. If you claim that a story about zombies, and virgin birth, healing blind people using magic saliva, paying taxes with a magic fish, etc. were real events, then you have the burden of proof. These are clearly fairy tales. Further, your source documents were written anonymously by biased religious fanatics and are proven to have been subjected to forgery and fraud for hundreds of years.

        • Ron Maimon

          In the mythicist view, Mary simply doesn't exist as a historical person.

        • Rick Stone

          You claim that "She is with the apostle John". Based on what--a fictional story? You have no evidence that these were even real people.

          • Again you are clueless about what the phrase ‘no evidence’ even means. It is hard to take you seriously.

        • anselmo

          If there was no Jesus, there was no Mary.

          • It is part of the incoherence. If there is no Mary, is there a John or is he fictional as well? If there is no John, is there a Polycarp or an Ignatius of Antioch? At some point you are going to have to admit someone is historical and then deal with the question of why he claims to have friends that did not exist. The church has a very well documented succession. Every generation has many contracts with the previous one. So if you start saying they were making stuff up then you have to answer which generation did it and why.

      • Ian

        On the narrow point of the birth narratives, the issue is that both solve the problem of how Jesus can be from Nazereth, and yet be the Messiah who is to be born in Bethlehem. Luke has them from Nazereth, but temporarily in Bethlehem for the census. Matt has them from Bethlehem, but moving to Nazereth when Jesus is young. It is the two different solutions to a theological problem that suggest strongly that nativities were constrained by a pre-existing tradition that associated Jesus with Nazereth. As de-novo creations they don't make theological sense.

        To that extent, they are considered evidence of a historic figure, from a Galilean backwater, who's situation of birth is inconvenient to his messianic claim.

        Having Nazereth drawn from GMark, and therefore a literary rather than a historic constraint is another approach. Though the advocate of that needs to then explain why it is in Mark.

        • Ignorant Amos

          The Nativities are independent de-novo creations in parts. The parts that are contradictory. The non contradictory parts draw from OT prophecy and older Christian texts. This is well understood by scholars.

          If the existing tradition up to then had a Jesus the Nazarene (as from the place), then fair do's. But that issue is not clear cut by any stretch. Misinterpretation was not that unusual, just like it is not that unusual today.

          Having Nazereth drawn from Mark, and therefore a literary rather than a historic constraint is another approach.

          Or perhaps a missing source familiar to all three, or even the oral tradition.

          • Ian

            Not quite my point. The 'de-novo' I was referring specifically to placing Jesus as 'from' Nazareth. Since my point was that they then create independent (de-novo, if you like) solutions to the theological problem, you're response seemed to agree in content while disagreeing in tone.

            This is well understood by scholars.

            Thanks for the gentle patronizing!

            But that issue is not clear cut by any stretch.

            I can't think of any scholar who argues that Matt and Luke independently came up with the idea of Jesus being from Nazareth, since GMark has it prominently in both title and narrative. So to at least that extent, the sources used by the nativity writers we are sure had Jesus from Nazareth.

            What I suspect you're referring to is the question of whether GMark's Nazareth is a misinterpretation of a previous tradition of Jesus as Nazerite or Netzer, for example (other root have been suggested). That isn't settled, but most contemporary scholars see the arguments (which are due to the early fathers) as being synophonic rather etymological.

            Settled, no. But a harder case to make. It sounds-a-bit-like-therefore-could-be is an argument that has somewhat dropped out of favour in the academy. It is too easy to connect any dots that way.

            Or perhaps a missing source familiar to all three, or even the oral tradition.

            If by 'a missing source familiar to all three', you mean that Mark, Matt and Luke all independently used a fourth source, then that we can exclude. Luke quotes Mark's Nazereth in the pericopae of the Capernaum Demoniac and the Healing of Bartimaeus, Matt interprets Mark's Nazereth as a place in Galilee in the Denial of Peter.

            But whether it was just a generally known fact about Jesus, or part of the zeitgeist of traditions that all wrote in, it could well be.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Not quite my point. The 'de-novo' I was referring specifically to placing Jesus as 'from' Nazareth. Since my point was that they then create independent (de-novo, if you like) solutions to the theological problem, you're response is a bit odd.

            Thanks for the gentle patronizing!

            My apologies, it was not meant in that manner. Don't forget, lurkers read these threads too, they may not be aware of the views of at least some of the scholarship. Which is a major point being made by Carrier ironically.

            I can't think of any scholar who argues that Matt and Luke independently came up with the idea of Jesus being from Nazareth, since GMark has it prominently in both title and narrative. So to at least that extent, the sources used by the nativity writers we are sure had Jesus from Nazareth.

            Yes, the source material has Jesus either from Nazareth as in Luke, or going to be from Nazareth, as in Matthew.

            I think we are at cross purposes, probably my bad comms skills.

            The bits of the Nativity that are not from a traditional source or the Hebrew texts, are exactly what one would expect if they had been made up from whole cloth independently. They are at odds with one another and fail the criterion of multiple attestation. The bits that have been developed from Hebrew prophecy also fail the criterion of multiple attestation. What is left comes from the tradition, so fails the criterion of multiple attestation.

            What I suspect you're referring to is the question of whether GMark's Nazareth is a misinterpretation of a previous tradition of Jesus as Nazerite or Netzer, for example (other root have been suggested). That isn't settled, but most contemporary scholars see the arguments (which are due to the early fathers) as being synophonic rather etymological.

            Settled, no. But a harder case to make. It sounds-a-bit-like-therefore-could-be is an argument that has somewhat dropped out of favour in the academy. It is too easy to connect any dots that way.

            Or perhaps a missing source familiar to all three, or even the oral tradition.

            If by 'a missing source familiar to all three', you mean that Mark, Matt and Luke all independently used a fourth source, then that we can exclude. Luke quotes Mark's Nazereth in the pericopae of the Capernaum Demoniac and the Healing of Bartimaeus, Matt interprets Mark's Nazereth as a place in Galilee in the Denial of Peter.

            I'm not sure we can exclude that thought. It is hypotheisised that both Matthew and Luke plagiarized Mark and both to varying degrees. It is also hypothesized that all three may have had an earlier source outside the oral tradition, perhaps the elusive Quelle. Matthew is the enigma though...

            "And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene."—Matthew 2:23

            Wherever Matthew got this prophecy from is any ones guess. Is it yet another literary device to enforce the veracity of Jesus as the messiah to Matt's audience? Perhaps. Or is it a misunderstanding of a passage from Isaiah (11:1), where the Messiah is called a nezer (branch); in other words, a branch from Jesse's (father of David) "stump". Matthew reads into "nezer" the city of Nazareth..."?

            Perhaps the whole deck of Nazarene cards is a misinterpretation of this same passage.

            Could the confusion be the alternate word for the Essenes, nazoraioi?

            But whether it was just a generally known fact about Jesus, or part of the zeitgeist of traditions that all wrote in, it could well be.?

            Indeed. Apparently, if it existed at all at the time, it was nothing more than a couple of houses cobbled together, but evidence for even that is very sparse.

          • Ian

            On the ahistoricity of the nativities - yes, absolutely. There are a few critical scholars who will gamely argue for little bits of historicism in there, but the consensus is indeed that they are mythological inventions.

            It is also hypothesized that all three may have had an earlier source outside the oral tradition, perhaps the elusive Quelle.

            Erm, kinda sorta.

            So it is established basically without challenge (the exceptions being some very fundamentalist evangelical 'scholars') that Luke and Matt have a direct literary dependency on GMark. So they copied, in detail. Q comes into the picture only because there are direct literary connections between Luke and Matt that aren't in Mark (e.g. Sermon on the Mount/Plain). The nativity is not part of Q in any sane reconstruction. The Nazareth origins of Jesus are in Mark, so also, by definition, don't originate in Q.

            Matthew is the enigma though...

            Arguing for a linguistic origin before Mark (can't be unique to Matt, because GMark already has it). It has been argued that Matt preserves an earlier reading here, but there's little reason to suspect that. Matt regularly mistranslates OT passages to fit his story, so it is hard to make the case that in this case, it isn't his mistranslation, but a prior one, is tough. Especially given GMark being firmly of the opinion that Nazareth is a place.

            if it existed at all at the time

            Hmmm. You have a small minority of archaeologists arguing this, cited a large number of times by ardent mythicists. It certainly was small though. Which is the impression we get also from the gospels.

            ---

            You have to be careful, I think. It is tempting to make the mythicist case by arguing to the conclusions of scholars from a range of disciplines (archaeology, linguistics, textual criticism) who are not part of the consensus. And who are, critically, independent of one another. At that point, mythicism starts to feel more like a crank pseudo-science, cobbling together any anti-consensus opinion that seems to support it.

            Some of the objections you raise are the 'usual suspects' which rely a little too much on that, if used in the full bore case for mythicism.

            I think a mythicist case can be made (it has been made before, and perhaps Carrier will make it in a scholarly manner again), and I would like to see it made in more rigorous terms. But I think it is important when considering a particular form of mythicism (there are lots) it is wise to consider how many conclusions from different fields would need to be overturned if it were to be true. The more, the less likely, I'd say. Or at least, the more work needs to be done in making the specific detailed case in each field, rather than the large overall case. And the less you can rely on "well this might be this way, and this might have come from here".

          • Ignorant Amos

            You make very good points. I'm playing Devils Advocate here. While I certainly am not dispensing with an historical Jesus, I am nevertheless swaying past 50/50 agnosticism on the subject to perhaps 60/40 because of what I've been reading lately and the lack of a convincing counter by the other side.

            It is unfortunate that we have to rely on linguistics and textual criticism. Textual criticism has its problems because there is no original autographs. I guess that is more a problem of
            redaction criticism. All the criterion for biblical criticism can and have been addressed by Carrier and others.

            I'm not aware of any archaeology supporting an historical account of Jesus stories apart the Pilate stone or the geography of the ground. But they have no bearing on the theses either way.

            Some of the objections you raise are the 'usual suspects' which rely a little too much on that, if used in the full bore case for mythicism.

            Agreed, and I shouldn't be making any of them because lay people only make the situation worse. But I'm giving my opinion on the questions being asked based on what I remember reading. e.g. the Nazareth question. I guess the question is not a slam dunk either way or the question would be moot already.

            Hmmm. You have a small minority of archaeologists arguing this, cited a large number of times by ardent mythicists. It certainly was small though. Which is the impression we get also from the gospels.

            It isn't a deal clincher in any case.

            According to the gospels it was large enough to have its own church though, it seems both gospels call it a "city" (polis Natzoree) which smacks of copying, I'm not sure whatever archaeology there is, it supports a congregation sized village, let alone a city. But, like I say, I don't suppose it matters whether Nazareth existed at the time as opposed to who might have lived there.

          • Ian

            I agree in general.

            I wasn't suggesting that all these disciplines have evidence that Jesus was historical. I'm suggesting that the mythicist hypothesis, if true, has implications beyond the narrow question of Jesus's existence. So while a non-existent Nazareth might support the mythicist case, one can't merely drive by that argument and say "well, there's archaeological opinion that there wasn't even a Nazareth". One should independently figure that question out and then use it. Otherwise one is being tendentious.

            Similarly Carrier hasn't dealt with the textual critical issues because he isn't a textual critic. Doherty makes claims about the textual status of various passages, which, if true, support his view. But he hasn't made the textual case at all. Instead he suggests the textual case on the basis of his thesis, because, if the status of the texts were as he suggests, that would strongly support his case.

            You see the inversion? That's the problem.

            It is a problem that plagues pseudo-scholarship generally. Creationists are fond of giving alternate explanations for why radioactive dating appears to work, why fossils are buried in sequence, and so on. But explanations have consequences, and as long as you're only interested in making one point, you're not motivated to chase down those implications for the wider method and conclusions of all those fields.

            So, it is important to try not to read the question you're interested in, into the findings of other fields, and pick and choose data from them without fairly reflecting the consensus of folks who are methodologically committed to that field.

            [Standard disclaimer, I use creationism as an example to illustrate a point, not to compare mythicists of the Carrier type to creationists in terms of the quality of their claims!]

          • Ignorant Amos

            [Standard disclaimer, I use creationism as an example to illustrate a point, not to compare mythicists of the Carrier type to creationists in terms of the quality of their claims!]

            The problem with using creationism as an analogy is that it is a false equivalence.

            Science refutes creationism quite conclusively. History is based on probabilities gauged upon what we can know, which in the case of the historical Jesus is very little for what we have. What little we do know doesn't stand up to criticism very well.

            I was happy enough to accept an historical Jesus, I really hadn't considered the subject and it doesn't matter as a non-believer. But I've recently become a bit sceptical having looked at it for a bit. If the argument for an historical Jesus was beyond doubt, this discussion would be moot.

            I'm an ardent fan of Bart Ehrman, but his last book on the historical Jesus was a poor show by his scholarly standards, even if written for the layperson. His arguments were poor and well refuted with no rebuttal. I was somewhat disappointed all in all. I know Ehrman is only interested in the historical Jesus and takes no truck with the supernatural. It's just that after being highlighted, his work was shown to be a bit slovenly. Ehrman is a textual critic, but was not convincing in the arguments found in his latest tome.

          • Ian

            Everything is a false equivalent at some point - analogies are not valid beyond their point. My point was merely that claims have implications beyond the context of the claim, and it is problematic to make claims that would have implications on the consensus in other fields unless you're willing to make the case from within that field.

            As I said (I thought clearly) I don't think creationism and mythicism are on the same epistemic level. [Well, there are versions of mythicism that are that wacky, but those are a long way from anything Carrier would suggest!].

          • Ignorant Amos

            All fair enough, thanks for keeping me right and honest.

          • Pofarmer

            "Especially given GMark being firmly of the opinion that Nazareth is a place.

            if it existed at all at the time

            Hmmm. You have a small minority of archaeologists arguing this, cited
            a large number of times by ardent mythicists. It certainly was small
            though. Which is the impression we get also from the gospels."

            So, is it reasonable that you would have an OT prophesy about a place that-wasn't? Wouldn't that more argue for a different interpretation of Nazorene? Maybe one that had been lost to history by the time of the NT authors?

          • Ian

            Thanks for the question, pofarmer. The problem is that this isn't an OT prophecy at all. Matthew, who I assume you are referring to, is pulling this out of nowhere.

            Jermone, in the fourth century, thought Matthew might have been misreading 'Netzer' (branch), and be referring to Isaiah 11:1, but even then it is a long way from Matthew's quote. This then comes back to the linguistic argument, and there is no good reason to link Nazarene with Netzer beyond Matt 2:23. If Matthew is referring to that, he is engaging in very creative word-play. There is no evidence that anyone before Matt came even close to interpreting Isaiah that way.

            In fact, Matthew's bungled prophecy may suggest that Nazareth is a real place. The idea being that it is evidence that Matthew was trying too hard to make being from a neckbeard backwater like Nazareth is actually a positive point in favour of Jesus of being genuine. He'd simply not have needed to resort to such trickery, if the idea that Jesus was from Nazareth wasn't already well known, and being used by skeptics as a reason Jesus couldn't be the messiah. That's a subtle argument, but I think the degree of strain in Matthews 'prophecy' is worth noting.

          • Andrew G.

            That wouldn't explain why Matthew removes all of Mark's "Nazarēne" references and uses "Nazaret[h]" and "Nazōraios" instead (note that translators often translate Matthew's "Nazōraios" to "of Nazareth" making it hard to see which was used). Likewise, Acts uses "Nazōraion" applied to Christians generally ("the sect of the Nazarenes").

            There are also some odd places where neither Mark nor Matthew use a place name even when one seems called for. When Jesus is poorly received in his hometown, for example (Mk 6:1, Mt 13:54, Lk 4:16), neither Mark nor Matthew name the town, while Luke names it "Nazara".

          • Ian

            Why would you think the source of Matthew's prophecy would 'explain why Matthew removes all of Mark's ... references'? Why would the latter question have any bearing on the fact that Matthew's prophecy is simply not in the OT?

            Why would you expect Mark 6:1 to use a place name? The story reads fine without. Basing an argument on that is strained I think.

            So then there's the issue of different ways of spelling Nazareth. You characterisation is sweeping, but misleading. Mark uses Ναζαρὲτ (1:9) (Ναζαρατ in some mss) and Ναζαρηνέ (1:24, 10:47), with textual variants on the latter to Ναζωραῖός (including Sinaiaticus, Alexandrinus, Ephraemi, et al. prob. interpolation). The only conspicuous removal is 1:9, he does not have the entire Capernaum demoniac pericope, rewrites 10:47 quite dramatically. But then uses Ναζαρέτ (several places) and Ναζωραῖός in both the 'prophecy' and in his one use of Nazareth in the genitive (26:71). And refers to the place as πόλιν λεγομένην Ναζαρέτ, (2:23) and Ναζαρὲθ τῆς Γαλιλαίας (21:11) making his meaning indisputable. The Acts passage you quote is reported speech of an accusation against Christians. Luke doesn't use it to mean Christians generally in another context (though it did later come to be used that way).

            So the question is, given those specific facts, what point can you make from it? You can't make a convincing point that Nazareth was originally a status designation. The earliest sources have it clearly as a location, one passage in Matthew does a bit of creating interpretation of what is still explicitly a location, and only later do we have any evidence of it being used more generally. That is very tendentious to argue all that in reverse. You can't make a convincing linguistic argument, on the basis of different forms of a word that are used explicitly about a place in different authors, without considerably more to go on than Matthew's renowned creative use of prophecy.

            So other than vague doubt, what actual textual argument can be made from them? Various people have made various arguments, but the point of an academic subject is that those arguments are tested, applied to other topics, and refined. So casting the consensus aside because an alternative reading supports a pet theory is a huge problem.

            In general, in all kinds of arguments it is easy to sling around data as innuendo. But much harder to build a piece-by-piece case from it. So you can "how about this... or this... or this... seems odd, right?", Sure. But how about actually making a case, and seeing if each bit fits on its own terms. And, crucially, making those cases from within their academic speciality.

            It is easy to make blanket statements on linguistics, for example, but although I know the language well enough to read the NT, I'm a *long* way from being a Koine scholar.

            I don't know, and I assume you don't, to what extent koine greek texts outside the NT use variant spellings for place names throughout the whole corpus. Or what the patterns of variation of spellings in the 1st century Koine transliteration of Aramaic are. Or what variation in Aramaic place terms there is alone. Or to what extent Aramaic place names gave rise to membership nouns of different forms, as English does.

            Do you see the issue with waving facts around without care? You see the problem with doing a drive by discussion of these issues when you don't care less about the actual language, you just want to cast doubt on some unrelated issue, i.e. the historicity of Jesus. That is why mythicism is too often seen as pseudo-scholarship.

          • Pofarmer

            Forgive me if I am being thick headed here. What is the chance that the Nazareth tradition came from possibly a parallel but slightly different scriptural tradition? Say from the Essenes, or a sect like that, or from a version of the Torah before it was all compiled into one book?

          • Ian

            It is possible of course.

            But can you not see that this is rather reaching? What is the probability of something happening that we've no real reason to think happened, because if it did, it would be evidence that marginally supported a case I'm sympathetic to?

            Not really how scholarship should proceed.

          • Pofarmer

            I'm just askin the questions!;0) Bart Ehrman put a post up today or yesterday talking about "studying" old texts that we only know about because others commented on them. One of them is the "Gospel of the Nazareans" so, naturally,.........

          • Ian

            No offence intended at all, btw.

            Yes, GN is fascinating. Beyond my area, by quite a bit. But be careful not to confuse its contents and its name. The name has very little attestation before Jerome in the fourth century, and in its full form later than that. The contents may be one or more early gospels, but we have no reason to think those early gospels would have been called that.

            There is no doubt that 'Nazarene' came to be used as a designator of Christians, the word survives as both the word for Christian in Hebrew and Arabic. The issue is whether that use was the original, and the use of the term as a place name was derived from it. Or whether the use of it as a designator was derived from it being the village Jesus originated from.

          • Pofarmer

            I'm just trying to learn, the subject is fascinating.

          • Ian

            I agree, and I've only scratched the surface myself. Always good to have discussions like this to have an excuse to go back through my bookshelf and reread stuff. Thanks :)

          • Ron Maimon

            Carrier shows how to overcome these problems and evaluate this evidence--- you have to ask whether "Nazorean" is an indication of a historical source at a historical "Nazareth" or whether "Nazorean" is an indication of something else. "Nazorean" has some meaning in Hebrew, as "notzar" means "formed" in the sense of "manufactured", the same as Carrier proposes for the body of Christ. The existence of symbolic meaning you could make up is true of a lot of places, but not of "Bethlehemi" or "Beer Shevite" or "Canaanite" for example. Since the word has some plausibly related meaning, it is not completely ad-hoc that Mark made Nazareth the town (whether it existed or not) just to retro-fit "Nazorean", neither it is implausible that it derives from the history, you just can't say with any solid confidence.

            That just means that you don't really know where "Nazorean" came from, and the assertion that it is good evidence is simply problematic. It is evidence, but it is simply another piece of weak evidence made to look strong by reinforcing myth, and contradicting myth. The best you can argue for the occurence of Nazareth is that it gives mythicism a 2/3 confidence factor at best, but this is a problem, because it can't counterweight the other evidence which suggests mythicism at the many hundreds to 1 level, much much stronger than Carrier conservatively states.

            I should say that since "mythicism" does not have a specific prediction for any of this stuff, historicity needs to get a better factor in a Baysian analysis--- simply for predicting a consistent birthplace (which is what is observed). But the consistency is in strongly dependent sources, which reduces the confidence to at best something like 2/3. Mythicism would not care if the birthplace was consisten, or if you have wild gospels claiming Jesus is from elsewhere This is a methodological weakness in Carrier's method, the specificity of the predictions are not taken into account in the method. This would make a good rebuttal to the claims in the book, but in the specific case of Jesus, the rebuttals are not solid.

          • Ian

            Check out the other comments in this thread for a detailed walkthrough of the problems with your argument. "Notzar" isn't "Nazorean" - they just sound the same. There have been several such suggestions, but none with good contemporary evidence. The order of sources progresses from a geographic place to a group designator. The overwhelming majority of uses throughout the NT are of it being a place. A handful have it being metaphorical, and none in GMark. No history deals with absolutes but the evidence points to the fact that it was a place first and a group designator last. The contradictory nativity accounts also suggest that its geographic nature was established by the time Matt tries to make it more vague. The only reason you'd assume otherwise is you didn't want Jesus to be from Nazareth, which some mythicists have in common with some branches of Christianity. On this point it is creative pseudo-scholarship at its best. Saying "you couldn't do this for Canaanite" is just bizarre, and shows how much the tail is wagging the dog.

            When you get onto putting numbers on probabilities around this, all hope at a plot is lost. There's no credible basis on which to say that confidence is 2/3 in a result like that, except in a very narrow syntactic sense that is basically meaningless. That is not how confidence works.

            Carrier is still to derive a probability that he can demonstrate is correct. His 'cheeky solution' to the old and detailed problem of Bayesian vs Frequentist understanding of probability has still zero citations in academic work on probability theory. I'd suggest you avoid following him into putting numbers on this stuff. It marks your suggestions as being about as credible as when fundies claim they can calculate the probabilities of prophecies coming true by coincidence.

          • Ron Maimon

            I didn't claim "Nazorean" is "Notzar", although in Hebrew the two terms coincide almost exactly, but "Nazorean" isn't "Nazarethian" either (in Greek, I mean, Carrier discusses the subtle distinctions in the book)! Both interpretations are not a 100% match, and neither gives good confidence either way. Unlike Carrier, I consider such a thing some evidence for historicity, but it's extremely WEAK evidence for historicity, it's a Baysian factor of 2/3 at best, and it only comes from the dependence of dependent sources, so really 2/3 is the best factor for nonsense like this.

            When I say you couldn't do it for "Canaanite", what I mean is that there is a PLAUSIBLE mythicist argument for Nazorean, which could be a coincidence, but it also could be the actual reason for the term. That's something that would happen if the Christians called themselves "Samaritans" (from Shomer, keeping tradition), but not if they called themselves "Galileans". So it's just not a very good piece of evidence.

            I am NOT following Carrier in doing Baysian probabilities on these sorts of things, I have been advocating this as a way to quantify opinion for over a decade, independently of him. Scientists use Baysian tools to quantify the strength of evidence, and use Baysian arguments to avoid the pitfalls of authority based evaluation, where reinforcing expert opinions drown out the comparatively ambiguous evidence. Baysianism is a TOOL to describe your biases, and a tool for seeing how different evidence comes together to support or refute a hypothesis, it is not a way of making false objectivity where there is none.

            It is also a tool that is very easy to abuse, because by claiming improbabilities that are not there, you can convince yourself of almost anything. It takes a heck of a lot of training for scientists to do it right, and you need to know when confidence is overwhelming. There are lot of three sigma signals in physics (99.9% confidence ostensibly) which are false, because of the cherry-picking issue. Scientists generally want 5 sigma evidence (1 in a million baysian confidence of error). You don't get 5 sigma evidence in history unless you have solidly independent sources with careful attestation and very reliable reporting.

            Carrier is doing it, but he isn't doing it perfectly. He is the first to do it in history correctly, others who do it do it in an extremely biased way. His Baysian comparison of the hypothesis is roughly accurate, except for things that are subtle.

            The subtle things are how to deal with correlations in evidence, how to quantify expectations, and how to deal with the specificity of theories. These are "higher order effects", and they do not change the conclusion in the Jesus case very much.

            I think that it is possible to see with good confidence that the Jesus of the Gospels is a mythical creation, which does not derive from any single historical source with connection to Peter. It might include elements of other people, including a Galilean preacher named "Lazarus", a (different) Zealot named "Simon" crucified in the middle of summer, not during Passover (I'm making these people up), and that Judah dude who stormed the Temple in ~ AD 60 saying "The end is nigh", but whichever historical narratives contributed to the story, the elements are incorporated into a legend of a composite character at best, there is no single character that produced the mythology. The single most important factor in the mythology is the RESURRECTED CHRIST, the divine figure who replaces Temple worship. That this figure came FIRST, and the rest retrofitted to fit this figure, this is what Carrier is persuasively arguing, at least in Paul's theology (we have little direct evidence of Peter's theology).

          • Ian

            [edit: deleted snark]

            If we were able to determine the probability of the truth of a hypothesis by justifying a reference class and observing historical data, what applications do you think Carrier's method would open? Why do you think this approach has been so thoroughly rejected in the past?

          • Ron Maimon

            The deleted snark was fine by me--- I don't claim expertise, I don't have any authority in any field. I get all my communication out of the asylum written in poo on rolls of toilet paper that I slip out through the bars at night to my devoted but brainwashed lover, who gives me her own rolls containing your response, also written in poo. I don't know why she does that, as she has access to pens.

            (deleted text: "It takes a heck of a lot of training for scientists to do it right" In what did you do your post-doctorate? The fact that you assign a 2/3 'Bayesian' probability to determining two words are linguistic cognates, in the same post as giving me a lecture
            on what 5-sigma events mean in Physics is a very good indication that you've no clue what such a result entails.)

            Answers:1. no postdoc, asylum.

            2. Let me explain this--- it's NOT 2/3 probability of the cognates, the probability is probably 20% at most. What I meant by a 2/3 Baysian factor is that knowing that all the gospels reference the same hometown for Jesus is a-priori not required in mythicism, and is a required prediction in historicity. So it provides a Baysian factor against mythicism and for historicity, which is determined by asking "what is the probability of getting the same hometown in 4 myth sources".

            If the sources were entirely independent, the probability would be effectively zero. But they are not independent of each other, and not independent of shared tradition. So the lack of disagreement about the hometown is simply not that unexpected under mythicism either. It's like asking "what's the probability that a new Sherlock Holmes story would place him at 229 Baker St." (or wherever). The new series placed him there, and so did the old Arthur Conan Doyle stories. But that's not because of a historical Sherlock. On the other hand, I could see a dispute arising where one gospel would present one hometown and another gospel would present another. That means that the probability of hometown agreement is < 100% under mythicism, and this counts as evidence for historicity.

            You then can look at other things, like inconsistent geneologies as evidence going the other way. There is really very little you can say from this, as geneologies would be likely made up even under historicity. But, on the other hand, the disagreement between gospels on who was in charge during Jesus birthyear (6AD vs 4BC) is troubling, and cancels out the 2/3 as this goes the other way. Similarly the disagreements on the death date, and other details. Carrier gives it as a wash, meaning both historicity and mythicism are equally likely from the Gospels alone, only considering their agreement and disagreement, and I completely agree.

            But Carrier then gets a 1/3 anti-historicity prior, which people don't like very much. This is based on the gross character of the Gospels. In particular, the fact that they add a virgin birth, a confrontation with Satan, a lost childhood, attempts to kill him, etc etc, the Raglan criteria. The statement he is making is that when you have a historical figure, and you try to add mythological criteria, you stub your toe--- even in cases where figures are mythologized, most of the time you can't get away with mythologizing them to such a great extent. He scores Mark as 15 on the Rank Raglan scale (I score it 14), and considers this 2/3 likely from myth, rather than historicity.

            That's actually not a bad estimate as I see it, it's not overwhelming, but it is biased to myth. It's about the same confidence as you get from the agreement of "Nazareth" in all four gospels. I agree with his judgement there too. It is hard to mythologize a historical person to this great an extent, and finding that it happened should start you off at this position. But it really doesn't matter, because all these things are so close to 50/50 that they would be overwhelmed if there was an accumulation of real evidence. Remember that 5 1/4 pieces of evidence is 1/4^5, which is 1 in a thousand Baysian confidence. So real evidence overwhelms speculation and bad priors, always. It's just that in this case, there really isn't any really good evidence for historicity at all.

            The match on Nazareth in all the sources in all is extremely weak evidence, because it is at least 2/3 likely to my mind that the gospels would agree on this fact even without historical input, simply by following a tradition that started either with Mark, or with the Nazoreans (for all I know the first communal settlement of independent socialistic Christians living as brothers was the establishment of Nazareth, that sort of thing). I really think it's 4/5 likely, perhaps even 10/11 likely, meaning that this evidence is not a significant factor. It's very difficult to assign the confidences, but the point of these numbers is only that you can't hang your conclusion on this fact in isolation.

            I don't agree with Carrier that the probability of truth of a
            hypothesis can be determined by justifying a reference class and observing historical data, but I don't think Carrier agrees with this either.

            What he is advocating is explicitly stating what likelihoods you are using, and using a Baysian calculation to derive the certainty you claim for any claim. It's not hard to do, and when you do it, if you do it wrong, it is possible to criticize the assumed probabilities and to criticize the independence of the things you used, etc etc. It's not more objective, it's just more precisely stated, so that you can pinpoint errors of judgement, even when they are qualitative errors which require subjective judgement. This is what makes it different from "it seems to me" and "in all probability" that historians use, without a quantitative ballpark estimate.

            The reason this approach is rejected is because it INVITES abuse, and in fact, in history in the past, it has only been used for abuse. Carrier is the only historian who does it roughly right (but I think he makes a few inconsequential mistakes, see below--- but in the end I haven't read "Proving History" yet, and after I read that I might change my mind on his mistakes).

            Baysian methods require not just simple honesty, but a much more exacting honesty, where you actually have to ask "is this really an appropriate probability", "Are these actually independent events" and "have I missed a possible scenario which would make this probability estimate totally bogus". All of these are very hard to do, and the calculations are usually done better by intuition, because accumulating evidence generally quickly pushes the probabilities so close to 1 or 0 that it's pointless to do calculations. Except in certain cases. But these are the exactly the controversial cases!

            But in certain cases, in those cases where academic authority has a strong consensus which comes from something other than strong evidence, then it is very important to look at the evidence with a Baysian lens, EVEN THOUGH this is rife for abuse. The online review and checking process can get rid of abusive Baysianism, and really hone down the confidence factors.

            Now, these are not objective facts, the probabilities, and a different person with different priors and estimates can come to different conclusions. But at least they have to STATE THEIR PRIORS and STATE THEIR PROBABILITIES. In a way better than "it seems to me..." and "after reviewing the evidence, the great likelihood is..." These don't work when the authoritative biases cloud the judgement, which unfortunately happens in history more often than it should.

            The reason that this method is not universally used is that it practically INVITES abuse! It is so easy to present false probabilities in this methodology. In order to trust the conclusion, you need a back-and-forth, like an online chat, to establish that you really aren't missing something that would completely shift the probabilities around.

            I'll give an example of mistakes in Carrier, for instance. IF the Gospel of John were REALLY independent of the Synoptics, for example, if we find out it came from Alexandria, and the Alexandria church had no communication with the Rome Church, then historicity goes through the roof simply on the agreement between John and the Synoptics. That means that the estimate of likelihood on independence of John is really a good estimate of historicity. Carrier effectively assumes we are 100% sure of the dependence between John and the Synoptics, but we are NOT, we only are 80% confident based on the evidence he gives, so it should have a 4/5 factor or so. That means that it is only 80% likely that the writer of John was familiar with the synoptics by oral contact, not that he was ripping them off.

            But this doesn't change the conclusion at all. These higher order dependencies are important when you have a bunch of documents which you KNOW are independent with strong likelihood, for example, the Talmud and that Greek guy writing about the Nazoreans. The fact that they both report the same thing lends essentially infinite confidence to the Nazoreans being the Jewish Christians, and confirms the historicity of the Nazorean references. But although I don't NEED Baysianism to state this conclusion, it doesn't hurt, so long as it is done honestly.

            For example of dishonest Baysianism, I can pretend that the Synoptics and John are independent, and then find the probability that they agree on all the details they agree on (Jeusus betrayed by Judas, Jesus having a ministry in Galilea, etc), and this would slam down to zero so quickly you would conclude "Jesus is historical" after about 4 points of agreement. But this is to ignore the elephant in the room of agreement by dependence.

            Carrier really is honest about it. He demonstrates his conclusion, which is NOT that there was no historical Jesus exactly, just that the historical figure is not what Paul had in mind (but maybe Peter did!), and that this historical figure is not the source of the Jesus presented in the Gospels, at best, some history is an additional source to Jesus in the Gospels, along with scripture and myth.

            The way I state it is as follows:

            An ancient source reports: one day a fox came to a field and saw a large bunch of ripe purple grapes on the tree. He jumped and jumped to get the grapes, and failed to reach them. As he walked away, he said to himself "those grapes were probably sour anyway".

            Now what can we know about the historical fox? It is quite remarkable feat of thinking for an animal like a fox, and if the fox actually spoke, it would be miraculous.

            Given that it was attested that the fox jumped to get the grapes, and knowing that grapes were common in Greece, it is safe to say that the historical fox was jumping, and the goal was to get the grapes. Although some scholars dispute that the grapes were purple, as it makes more sense for the latter confusion with immature and green grapes, if the grapes were green throughout. Most scholars conclude that the report that the fox then spoke are probably exaggerated. The historical fox probably simply walked away from the grapes without saying anything, or at least without saying anything clear, so the only clue Aesop could have had to conclude that this is what the fox was thinking must have been by the manner in which the historical fox walked away. I hypothesize that the fox shook his head, and made a whimpering noise of a sort, leading Aesop to conclude that the fox was hungry, and disappointed, but rationalizing the disappointment in this way. I also hypothesize that the historical fox never ate grapes again, due to this experience. I am sure that the fox in reality did not get the grapes by the criterion of embarrassment, it is quite embarrassing to make up such a remarkable fox that is nontheless unable to get grapes from a tree.

            Why is my discussion ridiculous? Do foxes not exist? Would they not jump for grapes? It is ridiculous, because the tale is obviously not a history, it is a parable illustrating an important lesson.

            The Gospel stories are written to illustrate an even more important lesson, namely that the cultic sacrifice of Judaism has ended, and the Christian religion has salvation and immortality without a direct requirement of Jerusalem temple worship. The sacrifice of Jesus parallels the passover sacrifice and the Yom Kippur sacrifice, as explained by Carrier, and all aspects of Jesus ministry serve an allegorical purpose in describing the manner in which Christianity sets itself apart from Judaism. The death of Jesus is symbolic and meaningful, all aspects of his life are presaged in the old testament.

            Any attempt at deducing what the historical Jesus was like is simply as hopeless as deducing what Aesop's fox was like. While it is possible that there was a historical fox, it is not a bet a rational person would make, nor is it particularly possible to know what that fox was doing.

          • Ian

            It's interesting and rather new conversing with someone more verbose than I.

            1. The point wasn't a pissing contest over education, but you brought up the point of scientists needing a lot of training to understand probability. I assumed you didn't include yourself in that 'lots of training', and undergrad degree is sufficient in your case, because you're really smart, right?

            2. You've not given any justification for your 2/3 still. I assumed it was a frequentist calculation based on the linguistics, but it seems from this piece that it is a guess. I think the pattern of evidence, and the chronology of the use of the different forms of Nazareth and Nazarene (their greek terms, specifically) gives at least a 95/100 probability that the term was geographic first, and a group designation later. I can't derive my number either, but I'm pretty sure I'm right. :)

            I'm quite aware of how Bayesian calculations are done. I do R&D for software companies, and I did a PhD in evolutionary mathematics, both intensely use probability. I've done contracts involving Bayesian analysis of very large data sets, and separately of financial data. Your analysis, and Carriers, isn't exactly wrong, but it is a very long way of saying 'I guess', and isn't much practical use.

            Now, you seem to be claiming that it is a more explicit way of expressing your judgement. But that's disingenuous too, I think. Because they are frequencies, but he uses them as if they give him a confidence, via a specious argument in Proving History where he claims the two are equivalent.

            He doesn't seriously deal with the reference class problem, the problem of priors more generally (w.r.t. Bayesian interpretations), or the excluded middle. He dismisses the questions in ways that don't take them seriously, or hugely underestimate their effect.

            Interestingly, you call even correlation 'higher order effects', which is strange phrasing, but oddly apt: working on these probabilities is like asymptotically analysing the linear term in a quadratic equation, not exactly wrong, but irrelevant compared to the higher order term. The rabbit goes in the hat well before this, however. There are terms which are far 'higher order' than correlation between variables.

            There are interesting arguments he wants to make. And some of them I think are valid. In Proving History, for example, he mounts a criticism of the Criteria approach to Historical Jesus studies, which I have a lot of sympathy for.

            But when he dresses them up in numbers, like your 2/3, it acts to obfuscate, not to clarify. Such pseudo-mathematical dress-up has been used by various sides to give their judgement a veneer of accuracy. Carrier spends a lot of time in 'Proving History' (the title is a clue), talking about how Bayes's theorem is proven, how it can be used to find the posterior probability of a historical claim, and claiming to find solutions to well known objections for its use in that way. He isn't just using it as a numerical estimate of his confidence.

          • Ron Maimon

            1. Yes, I include myself in "lots of training", but my training wasn't through school. I'm not an experimentalist. I "rediscovered" the Baysian stuff in grad school for myself (nobody taught me, I mean), and I reviewed some experimental papers much later, to make sure I wasn't crazy, after I realized this probability stuff was called "Baysianism", so I got the hang of it pretty quickly, on my own, without any authority telling me anything. Rediscovery is the normal way to know something deeply. I used the method about 10 years ago to argue about another controversial case where all experts agree (in my opinion, completely wrongly), which is the case of Shakespeare and Marlowe, whether Marlowe was alive and wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare.

            In the case of Marlowe/Shakespeare, unlike Jesus and history, I had to give a 100/1 prior AGAINST this hypothesis (at least) coming in, because Marlowe faking his death starts out so WEIRD as a hypothesis. But then the stylometric evidence (comparing style markers in Marlowe Shakespeare) is so statistically strong, so quantitative and so easy to make precise, that it overcomes this prior very easily, and immediately pushes you to 100/1 for, and better, as more stylistic points of agreement come in and they all match precisely. The publication of "The Shakespeare Guide to Italy" close the case for me, as it made the discrepancies in the historical record for the Marlovian idea disappear. This is where I realized the power of Baysianism, it really resolved this question in the a-priori surprising direction.

            2. The 2/3 is not a frequentist calculation, or a calculation of ANY SORT. It is simply describing how good I consider this evidence SUBJECTIVELY in my head. it is asking the question "What confidence does my subjective probability get from seeing agreement of Nazareth from the four Gospels".

            This 2/3 factor is what Carrier calls the a-fortiori estimate, meaning, I'm bending over backwards to make this evidence into as big a deal as possible. It isn't really what my personal estimate is, my true factor is actually between 5/6 and 10/11, meaning hardly anything at all. I prefer to say it in "log" terms, so that it's additive and not multiplicative. The "free energy" of this evidence (log P) is .1, give or take, and a-fortiori at most 1. The "free energy" of the remaining evidence in the Gospels from agreement is of the same order, with fluctuating signs, so in the end, the sum is a wash, it is basically 0, give or take order 1, so nothing at all. To say something with confidence you need at least 3 or 4 free energy.

            One must not try to justify these calculations too much, because they are not calculations in a traditional sense, as too many factors enter into it. They are quantifications of judgement, they tell you how I am thinking. But the nice thing about the numbers is that they also tell me how YOU are thinking, and it allows me to correct your mistakes, so that the discussion isn't stuck.

            For example, your statement that you are 95% sure it is a geographic term is manifestly INCORRECT, not just an opinion, and I will show the power of Baysian evidence by arguing it, now that I get your opinion.

            Remember that in this assessment of how likely the Nazorean is to be geographical, you aren't allowed to assume historicity, you must compare the two hypotheses within historicity and a-historicity. Assuming historicity, I AGREE WITH YOU, it is true that the Nazorean is around 80-90% likely to be a place marker. But we are trying to find evidence for historicity, so you need to compare the "fit" of Nazorean to a place under historicity with the "fit" of Nazorean to something else OR to a place under mythicism (both are possible), and in the end take the ratio of how good the "fit" of this is for the two cases (or the difference in free energy) to say how good this evidence is. Under no circumstances is this 2 free energy units, it isn't even 1, it is about .1-.2. That's a judgement call.

            The reason this is better than saying "I guess" is that you can CRITICISE THE GUESS, much as I did before, and you can see how the DIFFERENT PIECES OF EVIDENCE FIT TOGETHER TO REACH A CONCLUSION without having to guess at the precise method of judgement of the author. You also can incorporate precise evidence (like stylometry) into history, and use the precise evidence with its proper power. The stylometric evidence of Shakespeare and Marlowe matching has wrongly not been considered strong historical evidence by historians.

            Your use of Baysianism is in precise large data sets, and is not likely to be very good for this. So your experience is really useless. You need to think of everything you do as baysianism, and live your life as if every decision is a baysian decision. When you start to do this, you quickly learn to translate your subjective judgements into Baysian factors (or free energy factors) and communicate these judgements precisely. Not to give them a veneer of objectivity, simply to make your subjective judgement clearly communicable, and easily understandable.

            3. PHILOSOPHY:

            The philosophy of probability is a thorny issue. I am a LOGICAL POSITIVIST (physicist), and I don't consider the philosophical question valid. The interpretation of probability is not a meaningful question really, as it is not approachable by the senses. But if you force me to answer whether I am a frequentist, I would say I am a Baysian, not a frequentist.

            But there is still a frequency interpretation of probability, which is the convergence of frequency in many trials, which is just true, it is independent of philosophy. This is what Carrier is using, and because he is enamored with the numbers, he tries to justify everything by hypotheticals with many trials.

            This isn't WRONG, it just is OVERLY objective-seeming, meaning it makes the act of judgement involved less overtly obvious. I consider this slightly dishonest, so I don't do it, I just state the bald probabilities. But Carrier has to pass peer review, and he has to justify himself more, and this kind of thing is simply not significant. It is not incorrect, just slightly makes the numbers seem more iron-clad than they are.

            I should point out that if Carrier is trying to pull the wool over people's eyes, then he is really doing a crappy job, because nobody is getting fooled. He really is trying to methodologically answer a question of "how do you find out when expert opinion is being clouded by authority, rather than by neutral best-evaluation of existing evidence?" Making the experts put their priors and probabilities on the table allows you to see how the conclusion is achieved, and removes the ability to obfuscate by authority.

            I advocate, with Carrier, the use of Baysian analysis to explain subjective judgements, because this is what Baysianism is good at doing. This allows different people to understand each other, and to correct each other, and for the judgements to converge, because it really is the correct calculus of subjective judgement, much as first order logic is the correct calculus of mathematical inference.

          • Ian

            2. You say you're going to 'show' that my 95% is manifestly incorrect. But all you do is assert it by converting it into a log. Which is another way of saying you believe your guess. You're not actually showing anything.

            "You need to think of everything you do as baysianism" Why? I can think of everything as the whims of fairies, b but until someone can show that it is useful and dependable way of doing anything, then I'll pass. My whole point is that Bayesianism, as actually used, is useless in this case. It's a point Carrier doesn't seem to get. Telling me I just have to believe that everything is Bayesianism is rather transparent. I've been told to have faith in something undemonstrable before.

            3. You've missed the point of the difference between Bayesian and Frequentist interpretations of probability. I've no problem with either, but they have very different kinds of applicability, and different conclusions. My problem with Carrier's approach is he tries to import the use of frequencies (and its undeniable power) into what he wants to say about Bayesian interpretations. That takes a better argument than he musters, and if successful would have a big impact on numerous fields.

          • Ron Maimon

            2. That's not my argument. It doesn't matter if you convert to a log or not. The mistake is that in order to get 95% you are a-priori assuming historicity, and asking "What does Nazorean mean under historicity". You conclude it is a reference to Nazareth with 95% confidence. Then after you get the 95% confidence, you are circularly using this confidence to argue backward for historicity, what is the probability that the same place name would be used in all the Gospels and the Epistles to refer to Christians, and you get confidence for historicity. Then you are even more confident of the place-name identification, and so on and so on. The reinforcing loop allows you to conclude your 95% confidence is correct, and also historicity is correct. This is how false judgements are propagated in history. It is not the proper procedure to evaluate evidence. This is the confirmation bias fallacy--- your hypothesis has confirmed itself through it's own conclusions circularly, in a self-consistent loop. That doesn't mean it's wrong necessarily, just that your confirmation bias intuition leads you to overestimate it's likelihood.

            To show you the fallacy, let me argue that "There is no dark matter". First, assume that there is no dark matter, then I need to explain rotation curves of galaxies. This leads me to MOND theory, so that I get a new accelaration for a given tiny force. Now assuming MOND, I reproduce the galaxy curves, so I get high confidence in the precise MOND parameters. Now I look at the rotation curves and ask "What is the probability that I would reproduce the exact curves from MOND?" It's a-priori very small, but I reproduce the curves exactly! But I fit the MOND parameters from these very curves, so this is confirmation bias, it isn't evidence. I would get the same results from standard General Relativity and dark matter, and this involves no ad-hoc MOND assumptions.

            Likewise, for your "place-name" identification, you assumed historicity. Now suppose you assume non-historicity, that means, you need to make yourself mentally sure that Jesus was a myth (temporarily), and ask yourself "What is the probability that Nazorean derives from Nazareth now?" You know that this is a myth, you know that Mark wrote the Gospel as fiction. So he made up the town from something pre-existing. You know that Matthew Luke and John are responses to Mark (and to each other), and you ask "What is the probability that they would produce the same place-name?" The probability is now very close to 100%. Under this assumption, you know "Nazareth" is either made up or comes from "Nazorean", and you simply don't know where "Nazorean" comes from. Now you look linguistically at the match of "Nazorean" and "Nazareth", and you are only 50% confident that it's a place name, perhaps even less.

            So when you say "I'm 95% sure that Nazorean refers to Nazareth", you have simply argued circularly. You need to make sure that you use this fact once and only once, and that you consider the mythicist point of view thoroughly. As evidence, it is weak soup.

            3. I have NOT missed the point, I am telling you that the distinction between the two philosophies you read in the literature is ridiculously overblown, due to the history of work on probability.

            The Baysian method was criticized in the 19th century (unfairly), so a new philosophy was set up which gave a different, more objective seeming, basis to probability than what Bayes and Laplace gave. The philosophy was used to argue for objective tests to replace the subjective Baysian tests. The name for the philosophy behind these tests was "frequentist".

            In point of fact, you can justify all these tests on Baysian terms, and conversely you can justify Baysian reasoning on frequentist terms, they are just not incompatible philosophies. They were only made to seem so because of philosophical debate in an academic field. So criticizing people's philosophy is not the right thing to do, you should post your own Baysian estimators for the conclusions you reach, as Carrier advocates, and stop nitpicking his philosophy, which is just weird, not wrong.

          • Ian

            > The mistake is that in order to get 95% you are a-priori assuming historicity

            No, I'm not.

            > Likewise, for your "place-name" identification, you assumed historicity.

            Nope, still not true. Said a few more times, it might make it true, so keep going.

            It is interesting the way you deal with someone disagreeing with your number.

            I'm still waiting for your demonstration that it is 'manifestly' incorrect. So far you've just told me I'm doing something I'm not. That would be manifestly incorrect, but is just another undemonstrated assertion.

            The detour into 'let me give an example from a unrelated thing I know lots about but you probably don't, because that demonstrates I'm right and I know stuff' is another classic tactic.

            Your approach is amusing, but ultimately unconvincing so far.

            The 95% figure was facetious, I feel I should be explicitly clear, in case you didn't understand the point I was making with that comment. I wanted to make sure you understood that I picked it to demonstrate the stupidity of replacing a complex arguments with a number you'd just guessed based on a bit of musing.

            > stop nitpicking his philosophy

            I'm not. I'm saying his conclusions on the basis of his arguments are fallacious, and his 'cheeky' (his term) approach to the very significant problems with his approach identified in the literature is naive and ineffectual. I'm further saying that, to the extent his and your numerical reasoning on this is warranted, the numbers are irrelevant to the larger question (those higher order effects) and obfuscatory to the underlying arguments.

            (NB: It's Bayesian, not Baysian)

            (I'm off for a couple of days in an hour, so nothing personal or harumphy if I don't get chance to make another reply)

          • Ron Maimon

            So your claim is that you can be 95% confident that Nazorean is derived from a place name, without any assumptions, just based on the word? This is a disingenuous position.

            I was assuming you were sincere, not making rhetoric. When you do Baysian stuff, you need to stay honest with yourself and with others, not say "Oh, look how easy it would be to make up nonsense and reach nonsense conclusions". Yes, that's true. That's why you need to do it honestly, and not take the probability estimates coming out as objective or too definitive, unless they are overwhelming (like 5 sigma or something).

            I wouldn't know how you would reach a conclusion of 95% confidence on Nazoreans by any method that does not presume historicity, so I just assumed that's how you got it. Now I realize you were just playing devil's advocate, and you really don't attach that confidence to the conclusion. I have to tell you, please stop doing that. I KNOW and everyone knows, that Baysian estimates aren't immune to devil's advocacy unless the evidence is extremely strong, you can get different conclusions.

            Regarding the "higher order effects", these are the nebulous coming together of disparate pieces of evidence to produce more confidence than any one piece individually. Unfortunately, in the case of Jesus, this simply does not happen. If you are honest with the coming together of evidence, it is the exact same coming together that is expected on mythicism, it is no more unexpected in mythicism, and it is not evidence. The additional synchronicity of evidence only seems to happen when you have some ignorance about the background, when your background makes the myth sources for the stories not understood, for example, when you think that the crucifiction is embarrassing, or when you think that the ministry is important, or when you presume a historical interpretation to Nazorean and so on.

            I wasn't trying to snow you with the MOND example, just give an example of how you can reach false conclusions with probability. I will point out that we both agree that it's not 95% likely that the Nazorean refers to Nazareth (without assuming historicity), so we reached agreement on this datum with a little back and forth. This is what Carrier advocates Baysian methods for. Sorry for misspelling everything, I have no dictionary in the asylum, and Wanda-June keeps misinterpreting my poo-stain writing.

          • Andrew G.

            It's by no means certain that the Nativities are independent creations; the possibility exists that Luke copied from Matthew rather than from a hypothesized "Q". See Goodacre's The Case Against Q for more on this (Goodacre is a widely-known mainstream biblical scholar).

          • Ian

            Hmm, you seem to be making rather general comments, rather than tracking the specific substance of the discussion.

            Farrer's thesis is that there is a literary dependency of GLuke on GMatthew, not that there is no independence between them. Not, particularly, that their theological solutions to the nativity problem are different.

            Goodacre has said that he thinks Luke has cause to rewrite the nativity to match his own theological program. Nobody is suggesting that Luke's nativity is a literary reworking of Matthew's.

            Q was raised by the person I was talking to, and my response was that -- even if one is staunchly supportive of Q -- one cannot argue that Nazareth comes from Q, because it is in Mark, and in particular triple tradition pericopae.

            So Farrer doesn't fundamentally change the point, that both Matthew and Luke felt the need to reconcile Nazareth with Bethlehem, and did it in two different ways.

            [I was a student of Goodacre, incidentally, and (perhaps inevitably) lean towards his view, though he admits to it being a weak case for the nativities, in comparison with, say, the 'minor agreements' in triple tradition material, as in the passage you quoted in your previous comment.]

          • arkenaten

            There is no archaeological evidence to support a Nazareth of the time the character Jesus was supposed to have lived.

            Furthermore , Luke's description is geographically incorrect.

          • Ian

            Anyone who starts a comment with "there is no evidence for X" sounds like a creationist to me "there is no evidence of macro-evolution", "there is no evidence that Jesus was a real person", "there is no evidence we landed on the moon", "there is no evidence for the holocaust".

            What people who usually try that gambit means is "I don't believe what people normally put forward as evidence". The practice of erasing what your intellectual opponents think of as evidence (usually with the bombast of "come on then, show me the evidence", and a good measure of derision if they try), is sadly very common in ideologically sensitive discussion.

            You may be right, and the early Roman finds from Nazareth, or the 1st century building footings and pits, might be actually later, or earlier, or have some other way of being discarded. In the same way a creationist wants to say that transitional fossils aren't really transitional fossils, they are just touted as such by over-zealous scientists. But in either case entering the conversation by pre-emptively rejecting that any such claimed evidence even exists is merely a way to appear like a crank.

            Are you a crank? Or are you capable of reasonable engagement with a position you don't hold? (hint, replying with 'show me the evidence then', is probably not a good start).

          • robtish

            Whoa! "There is no evidence for X" is a perfectly appropriate thing to say. I could understand if you preferred the construction, "I know of no evidence for X," but then I'm taken aback by your statement that "replying with 'show me the evidence then', is probably not a good start."

            It sounds like a great place to start! It opens the discussion rather than shutting it down. It also cuts down on the chance that the person will focus on straw men, because they've now given you a chance to put forth what you see as the *best* evidence, and then the burden will be on them to explain why they don't accept it.

            "Show me the evidence" is frankly one of the most productive things a person can say in a debate.

          • Ian

            "I know of no evidence" is very different from "There is no evidence". The former can be remedied by reading the appropriate archeological field-reports, or looking at the Israeli Antiquities Authorities catalogs of the findings in recent Nazareth digs.

            The dates of occupation of Nazareth is not my dog in the race. And I am not an archaeologist.

            FWIW, I think the evidence for a later 1st century occupation of a small village is pretty good. The evidence for early 1st century occupation is a little less clear. But there is evidence, regardless of whether you think it is *good* evidence, or whether it convinces you.

            Claiming there is no evidence when a few simple searches or a trip to your university library will show the evidential basis of what credential scholars conclude, is a sign of predetermined ideological conclusions, or else someone who has been content to get all their information from apologists they agree with.

            I agree with you "show me the evidence" is one of the most productive things that can be said. But if you've ever had that pulled on you by a creationist who has just insisted that there is no evidence for evolution, you'll probably be aware that the request was in no way intended constructively. "There is no evidence for X" is, in my experience, a very dependable sign that the conversation will go that way.

            Perhaps I'm wrong with Arkenaten. Perhaps he's genuinely not found any reports of first century digs on Nazareth. Perhaps he is genuinely seeking the evidence. That will be cool.

            But I don't think I'm being unduly skeptical for suspecting that he's more likely to respond with a passive-aggresive dismissal of 'so-called evidence' that he (as a non archaeologist) doesn't think meets his standards.

          • Ian

            And apologies to him and you I'm being cranky and unreasonable about this. It could well be.

            But I get this opening gambit pulled on me by creationists, all. the. damn. time.

          • arkenaten

            No. I am neither Creationist nor crank. There is no evidence to support a Nazareth from the time the supposed character Jesus of Nazareth was alive.
            Bagatti couldn't find any and neither has any archaeologist since.
            And Luke's biblical description is fallacious - as well you should know

            This is one of the most contentious issues concerning Jesus.

            If you are merely trying now to obfuscate with rhetoric then you are guilty of being disingenuous.

            Nazareth falls into the realm of the Exodus and Moses.

            However, if you feel you have sufficient evidence. No. Let me amend that. If you feel you have any evidence to support not only the village, Nazareth but also the title Jesus of Nazareth, then please, I am sure everyone on this thread will be eager to see what you have.

          • Ian

            I have discussed the linguistic arguments in detail in this thread. You can read my responses for my opinions on that.

            I'm not an archaeologist, but my understanding of the consensus of scholars, derived from conversations with scholars who are archaeologists of second temple period (but not of the region) is that the issue of when Nazareth was occupied isn't settled, but a majority think it was settled in some form from the early first century. And it is almost unanimously accepted that it was occupied by the middle of the first century.

            As I remarked in response to robtish, the actual catalogues of finds are registered with the Israeli Antiquities Authority, and the field reports are also available. The interpretation of them requires expertise I do not have, so I am willing to defer to the consensus, noting that the lack of unanimity means it is unsettled. I don't play the games of arm-chair experts or pseudo-scholarship, I'm afraid. Elsewhere in the thread I've discussed at length the problem of parachuting into a field and casting doubt around with no actual interest for the field in its own terms.

            You seem to be trying to position me as some kind of opposition, and puff out your chest and strut around as taking the opposite view. Which is sadly very common in these kinds of discussions online, and almost ubiquitous among armchair pundits on these topics. Unfortunately I'm not up for playing that silly game. I've no desire to find a historical or mythical Jesus, no real interest in the showy pissing contests that pass as debates. I am interested in textual and historical critical analysis of the bible and early Christianity, which I'm happy to discuss. That has somethings to say about Nazareth, and forms part of the puzzle.

            But my experience of the "There is no evidence of X" brigade, regardless of their ideological passion, is that they are rarely interested in the details of anything. If it doesn't either support or clearly refute a position, then it is unimportant.

          • arkenaten

            It is the details- especially the little niggly ones that either won't go away or cannot be squeezed, jammed or forced into the overall picture without raising serious doubts - that you seem to wish to gloss over.

            but a majority think it was settled in some form from the early first century. And it is almost unanimously accepted that it was occupied by the middle of the first century.

            Who is questioning this? Not I, sir.

            But the consensus does not lean toward a Nazareth of Jesus' time as described in the bible.

            One could introduce Josephus but that would take us down another path. But we can, if you wish?

            The linguistic argument has been raised, and anyone with an ounce of integrity would be prepared to state that, based on available evidence, the word does not lead to a place but rather the gospel authors concocted a place from the name and later, thanks to people such as Helene,(dear old Constantines mum) Nazareth got the kick it required to wed it to the myth.

            Of course, what isn't often raised, is the amount of vested interest re: tourism and ...oops dare we say it , Money.

            A simple reading of Luke and a non- scholarly understanding of the geography of the area with a smattering of Josephus plus the myriad of opinions from supposed biblical scholars over the years should set off the alarms.

            Last, but by no means least, is simple common sense, something that so often gets turfed overboard in the attempt to find some truth in the biblical text to match the myth.

            The bottom line is there has never been found a single piece of archaeological evidence to support the biblical Nazareth.

            And I reiterate, if you have something then please , offer it up.

          • Ian

            Why would one introduce Josephus on a question of the dating of archaeological finds?

            anyone with an ounce of integrity

            Right, so you are a crank. Sorry, I've discussed the issue, the details and the problems with both accounts in detail. And I have an ounce of integrity. And you're still trying to engage me in a pissing contest.

            Sorry, if you want to know what the scholarly consensus is, ask scholars. If you want to tell them they're wrong. Tell them.

            If you want to measure your dick and how you can see through the evil plots of capitalist religionists, fine, find a capitalist religionist with a dick to measure.

            Why you're laying all this crap at my feet, I've no idea. You have pretty convincingly mistaken a) what I think and b) that I care.

          • Ian

            In terms of Luke's confused geography. Yes, in fact, it seems unlikely that any of the synoptic authors had a good idea of detailed Galilean geography. In particular, Mark has some problems, which we infer from the routes he describes, which turn out to be illogical. Matthew and Luke have their own issues, and don't correct Mark.

            There's some problems with building too big an argument on this, however. We are inferring their geographies from the routes they describe Jesus taking, and the direction he arrives/leaves in. This has been challenged, because there are reasons we all travel odd routes sometimes. But still, a majority of scholars conclude that none of the synoptic authors, in particular Mark and Luke, had a good knowledge of the regional geography.

            Personally I think it very unlikely that either of them had any first hand knowledge of the village of Nazareth. Mark clearly thinks it is a place, so if it isn't, and was originally a status designator, we can at least say that it had morphed to be misunderstood as a place name by the time he wrote. The NT evidence suggests that Nazareth as a place was a fairly old tradition, (old in terms of early Christianity). It absolutely can't tell us much about what happened before GMark was written.

          • Ian

            ... and finally the title 'Jesus of Nazareth' (Ἰησοῦ Ναζαρηνέ) we first have in GMark, and Mark is unambiguous that it is a place name. It is missing from Paul, but appears in our second-earliest source on Jesus. So again, as a title and as a place name, it is relatively pretty early.

          • arkenaten

            You see, you seem to love verbosity.
            Let's cut to the chase. I raised the initial objection about no evidence simply because the thread was meandering about over the linguistics of the name.
            This is like arguing over the dynamics of Santa's sleigh as if it were real when we all know there is no Santa.
            If you are unaware of what value Josephus brings to the Nazareth debate then maybe you should research it.

            Marrying the scriptural description with archaeological evidence is an impossible task simply because the gospel descriptions are of a fictitious village/town/city (take your pick)

            And as there was no biblical Nazareth it follows there was no biblical Jesus of Nazareth.

            I hope this is succinct enough?

          • Ian

            It is, and if you'd demonstrated your circular reasoning initially i'd have dismissed you straight off.

            Marrying the scriptural description with archaeological evidence is an impossible task simply because the gospel descriptions are of a fictitious village

            Those of us who care about doing scholarship to find stuff out, however can carry on trying to figure what the evidence actually says and go from there.

            As I initially said folks who start with "there is no evidence for X", never, in my experience, turn out to be genuinely interested in anything but their predetermined conclusions.

            I agree with you, the biblical character of Jesus was an invented character, who rapidly became such a religious and cultural bandwagon that the whole of the history of the Levant is skewed in bizarre ways around his myth. Including Nazareth, perhaps especially so. But that is no reason to adopt the most egregious tactics of pseudo-scholarship in untangling the actual evidence we have. If there was a settlement at Nazareth in the early first century, so what, why would you care? I'm sure Christians will jump up and down about how it proves Jesus, but if they do they are idiots. Christians make all kinds of idiotic arguments to justify their beliefs. The question of the dating of early Roman finds in Nazareth is an archaeological one, nothing else. If you are unaware of how useless reading the Jewish war is to dating pottery fragments by their shape and decoration, then maybe you should research that!

            Sometimes verbosity is needed. Simple answers may make you feel good about sticking it to the man, but the real world is complex. If all you're interested in is being able to prove Christians wrong and feel clever by reading Salm and Doherty, that's fine.

            But real people with a real ounce of integrity do study this period and these texts with a view to understanding them. And the bravado and cluelessness of people who purport to be on their side is embarrassing, frankly.

          • arkenaten

            But real people with a real ounce of integrity do study this period and these texts with a view to understanding them. And the bravado and cluelessness of people who purport to be on their side is embarrassing, frankly.

            Smile, you thought I was referring to pottery fragments and the jewish war did you? Oh well....

            The trouble is those with the vested interest have a nasty habit of drowning out "real people".

            For some reason we seem to be talking past each other and I am now not sure what point you are trying make , other than vaguely defend the Nazareth hypothesis and get all pissy because I stated there was no archaeological evidence for a biblical Nazareth.

            Surely this is the basis to start from?
            Or go even further back and focus on the character 'Moses'.
            The historicity of the character Jesus depends as much on archaeological evidence as it does textual.
            The fictitious biblical village of Nazareth is crucial in rubbishing the erroneous title Jesus of Nazareth and to that aim I would thought anyone seeking truth and eventual closure on this matter would have avidly pursued.

            Continually including Nazareth in any dialogue as if it were real merely adds credence to its claimed status as the hometown of the man god.

          • Ian

            Okay, thanks for resetting the tone of the discussion. I'm unduly cranky at the moment, and have been unhelpful. So I'm glad to have chance to be civil again.

            My point in citing archaeological detail is that there is a genuine question about when settlements were inhabited on the hill at Nazareth. We know for basically certain that there was settlement in the middle Roman period (well after Jesus). But we also have a bunch of Roman material culture, and footings and pits which appear to be from earlier Roman periods. Credentialled experts in the subject generally seem to agree that some of these finds are from at least the late first century, and they are consistent with early first century dates. So, in that very specific sense, there is evidence that a settlement Nazareth existed at the time of Jesus. It is important not to just erase that careful detailed work. Because if we do , we're no better than the creationists who just use derision to dismiss the detailed scholarship of biologists.

            Now, the Nazareth tourist board, of course, would *love* these finds to be from the early first century. They would love nothing better to find a big 1st century find and turn it into a museum so Christians can come and "see where Jesus slept" (no matter how absurd that would be). They fund a lot of the IAA digs, because of that. Lots of the properties in Nazareth are owned by Christian groups (for obvious sentimental reasons), and they love digs on their land for buried Jesuses too. So the whole thing is bizarre, and twisted. Nazareth is getting *far* to much attention for what it is. And it gets that attention because of the myth of Christ and what i means to people (and their wallets). BUT! That *cannot* be allowed to undo any finds or scholarly conclusions that actually come from the area. From a schadenfreude perspective its amusing that with all this interest in the area, at best they've found a tiny hamlet rather than the 'city' claimed by the bible. But if they genuinely have found early 1st century material, it is disingenuous to be hyper-skeptical about the scholarly consensus, just because we don't want to give quarter to religionists.

            There's also a similar question about the use of Nazareth in the biblical texts, one I've discussed in detail below, and one I know more about than the archaeology. But here, also, there is evidence that Nazareth was considered a place name from the earliest sources we have. It might not be very good evidence, it certainly isn't a lot of evidence. But a reasonable person has to consider it. It can't just be ignored or scoffed out of existence. One can say "the totality of the evidence sits more comfortably with the idea that Nazareth was first a religious designator that later came to be thought of as a place" (I don't agree with that conclusion, but it is a reasonable conclusion, and there are good scholars who do come to it), but you don't have to pretend that the evidence is clear cut, when those who actually deal with the evidence in detail don't think it is.

            That's my problem. I got all pissy with you because I get into pissy conversations with Christians and creationists all the time who use that kind of whitewashing tactics. As you say the real scholarship gets drowned out in the politicking and grandstanding.

            And I really don't think the other side (us, atheists and skeptics) of the argument needs to engage in the same tactics. There is plenty enough ammunition in the truth, without pretending things that aren't ideal for our opinion don't exist, or can't make our life harder.

            Continually including Nazareth in any dialogue as if it were real merely adds credence to its claimed status as the hometown of the man god.

            But pretending Nazareth is clearly fictional in a conversation about the textual evolution of its use in the NT just begs the question.

            That's my concern, and why I reacted badly initially.

            Sorry for that, and sorry for the continued verbosity!

          • arkenaten

            So, in that very specific sense, there is evidence that a settlement at Nazareth existed at the time of Jesus. Weak evidence, but significant enough that professionals in the field take it into consideration.

            Sorry, but this raised a red flag for me.

            Which professionals are you referring to?

            I am unaware of anyone digging in this area other than those that were on the Pfann dig of a few years ago and the rather inflammatory statements concerning 'house remains from the time of Jesus' ( that were quickly covered over and built upon.

            If there have been more recent discoveries I would be very happy for you to share such.

            But pretending Nazareth is clearly fictional in a conversation about the textual evolution of its use in the NT just begs the question.

            But not stating that the village is likely a narrative construct to place the biblical character of Jesus is is misleading.

          • Ian

            Which professionals are you referring to?

            I've been asking around friends and colleagues. I stress again, I'm parotting second hand information, because I am not an archaeologist. This paper by Ken Dark

            http://centaur.reading.ac.uk/29782/1/Ken%20Dark%20Nazareth%20paper%20from%20Ant%20J%20.pdf

            was mentioned a couple of times as a survey of the Convent site, and some good links to the history of archaeology of Nazareth. Dark has also worked on the surrounding valley (significant because you can trace road networks, and crucially you typically don't have to demolish properties to dig like you would in central Nazareth).

            The Pfann dig was a legitimate dig. The IAA logged several finds of pottery.

            I am unaware of anyone digging in this area

            The IAA has issued 9 season licenses for digs in and around Nazareth in the last five years, not counting digs on places within Nazareth that I wouldn't know the names of (if any). Some of those are duplicates for multi-year digs (licences are issues each year). Most of them were sponsored by the IAA. I'm at home, so I can't do the legwork, but if you have access to an academic library you should be able to view the field reports.

            The reports in the press are silly yes. But they are for any archaeology in the area. A find on the Sinai desert will always arrive in the press as the place where the ten commandments were given, a site in the fertile crescent could be the Garden of Eden, or (if on a hill) Noah's ark, etc.

            It is sloppy, but comes back to the PR use of the archaeology, vs what the finds actually say. It is doubly important, I think, that we try to consider the evidence on its own terms, rather than fitting it into our preferred framework.

            But not stating that the village is likely a narrative construct to place the biblical character of Jesus is is misleading.

            Is it likely? I'm personally not convinced it is a narrative construct, I think the texts suggest it is, at the very least, a tradition that GMark inherits, and the bizarre and contradictory girations of GLuke and GMatt suggest to me that Nazareth as a location is pretty firmly foundational by the 80s CE. As I've said, the earliest source has it unambiguously as a place, and later texts interpret it to be some kind of prophecy or status designator, the use of the term Nazarene as a Christian designator is put on the lips of *enemies* in Acts, and only attested as a self designation much later still, and the arguments for association with Hebrew or Aramaic terms are largely synphonic. For all those reasons, I think it isn't 'likely' that it is a narrative construct. It may be, but the evidence we have seems to suggest the development went in the opposite direction.

          • arkenaten

            Well, until the likes of Devers or Finkelstein or any archaeologist without a vested interest gives it the okay then the evidence for a biblical Nazareth is non existent.

            I have a copy of the Nazareth farm report.

            Did nobody ever wonder why Eusebius never visited the place?
            Why Josephus makes no mention of it, and he lived just down the road in Yapha?

            The tenth legion under Titus would have marched right by it ...and no mention.

            Luke is supposed to be a good historian.
            Really? Based on his description I wouldn't have even asked him to do my GCE history paper at school.

            People are slowly coming around to the fact that Moses and the Exodus etc is fiction, eventually they will be forced to
            confront Nazareth as a similar fiction.

          • Ian

            Your description of where archaeology is, seems pure fantasy to me, I'm afraid.

            Among scholars there is simply to controversy over the existence of Moses and the Exodus, and very little, in fact, over the historical accuracy of the bible up until the return from exile, i.e. among scholars it is much worse for Christians than perhaps you are aware of. But there are actual digs and actual material culture from a settlement at Nazareth. The question is merely one of dating those layers.

            Why would Finkelstein, a bronze age archaeologist, be 'giving it the okay' and what is 'it': the dating of pottery fragments? the stratigraphy of the site? In what possible forum would he do so? In a popular work? Maybe it is worth reading Israel's book, because he is pretty clear about how real archaeology is done.

            Similarly for Dever [no s], where do you expect his 'okay' to arrive? Will he give a press conference where he gives his official endorsement to the work of the scholars who are actually working on the subject? Would that not be astronomically patronizing for his colleagues who actually work in the correct subspeciality? Isn't this akin to expecting some evolutionary biologist who wrote a popular science book to 'give the okay' to the work of some geneticist?

            The idea that the material finds from Nazareth simply don't exist until someone who's written a book about the archaeology of Bronze Age or Neolithic Israel 'gives it the okay', is utterly bizarre. Can you not see that?

            And what, specifically, is Ken Dark's vested interest? Would you mind laying out why he is incapable of giving a scholarly opininon on the topic? Or is it just that you've not heard of him, or he hasn't written a popular book about the lack of evidence for the Exodus, (despite being a Roman / Byzantine archaeologist) and therefore is clearly not willing to stick it to the faithful?

            Why would the dates of inhabitation of Nazareth be a similar archaeological question to whether the Exodus occurred, or whether there was a Moses?

            Scholarship simply doesn't work that way. It would be bizarre if it did.

            Your view of how scholarship works seems to be at the level of polemic of mythicist literature. I'd suggest if you are actually interested in the topic, taking a continuing ed class in archaeology, so you can find out more about how scholarship works, and the kinds of questions that are being asked, and the way they are expected to be answered.

            Perhaps, as earlier in the thread, you see yourself as paying attention to 'difficult details' that Christians miss in their whitewashing. Probably true, but that's not what I'm talking about by details. Details in archaeology is the actual data, the position of finds, their shape, their context in other layers, their function and what that says about patterns of inhabitation. Similarly with texts, the details are at a much lower level than "Luke was a bad historian". It is about actually reading the texts, seeing the forms of words, as they change, the variants among manuscripts, the dating of those texts.

            Such things can tell us a lot. And from everything I know, such things support your case. So please don't get into defensive mode about this. To ignore or sweep away the details just gives people who are aware of the reality and excuse to ignore you.

            Perhaps that doesn't matter. Perhaps your main target is Christians with a naive and simple view of the world. In which case your rhetoric might be fine. But please be aware that bringing that rhetoric to people who want to discuss the detailed case isn't helpful.

            This, I think, is why Carrier is the first interesting voice in mythicism. Because he at least understands this and can drop down to the appropriate level. Whether he can defend his thesis at that level, remains to be seen, I look forward to his book.

          • arkenaten

            But there are actual digs and actual material culture from a settlement at Nazareth. The
            question is merely one of dating those layers.

            Yes, of course there are ''actual digs'' and have been since

            Bagatti. What an odd thing to say?

            However, based on all current evidence, there is no archaeological material from an actual settlement that could be construed as a biblical Nazareth from the time of the character Jesus.

            Although I would be interested to know where you have gleaned this from to make such a bold claim?

          • Ian

            Did you read the paper I linked to, or look at the find catalogues from the 2009-2010 digs? There is material from the roman period. It isn't conclusive this is early Roman or hasmonean, but it can certainly be construed as being from the correct time. You haven't said why you think Dark is indelibly intellectually compromised, and so his scholarship should be disregarded until a Bronze age popular archaeologist can rule on the matter.

            What on earth is a 'biblical Nazareth'? Nazareth is a place, it may or may not have been occupied in the first half of the first century of the CE. That is a question that will be answered based on material culture recovered from the digs.

            If a settlement was occupied then, would this be the 'biblical Nazareth' - I've no idea what would constitute a 'Biblical Nazareth'. Luke thinks Nazareth was a city, no archaeologist believes that. So no, GLuke's 'biblical' Nazareth didn't exist. Mark just says Jesus came from a place called Nazareth and taught in the synagogue. What would constitute a 'biblical' Nazareth that met that criteria? The discovery of a synagogue? The whole question is bizarre and meaningless. The question of the dates that the settlement at Nazareth was occupied is a scholarly question.

            You didn't answer all my other questions.

          • arkenaten

            Let me be brief as this is becoming tiresome and with no definitive agreement in sight I am becoming frustrated by your reluctance to address the core issue regarding Nazareth.

            1. There is nothing official that states the settlement is from the time of the supposed character Jesus of Nazareth. Nothing.
            The finds, what little there is does not suggest a settlement at all.
            What material that has been recovered, a few pottery shards some coins are not automatically indicative of settlement and could easily be transient material.

            The funerary oil lamps are just that...found at the site of the tombs.

            2.Nothing from Pfann's digs regarding Nazareth has, to my knowledge, ever been peer reviewed or submitted to a recognised scholarly publication.
            There is only the farm report.

            3. No archaeological statement pertaining to Nazareth that I am aware of has ever stated categorically that it existed directly before or during the time of Jesus' supposed ministry.

            4.

            What on earth is a 'biblical Nazareth'?

            As described in the bible. Time, location, topography, size demographics etc.
            Nazareth is a place constructed around the title of the erroneous messiah.

            People have been digging in the area for how long?
            Has any definitive conclusion been drawn from all the activity regarding Nazareth?
            No.

            If it were not for the sake of Christian interests - and now of course Israeli tourist interests and the amount of money the States are investing the whole thing would have been summarily dismissed.

            As for Dark. Has he issued a definitive statement regarding Nazareth existing during the time of the character Jesus?
            Maybe you have read one. I haven't.

            Let's consider we are done for now, okay?

          • Ian

            1. There is nothing official that states the settlement is from the time of the supposed character Jesus of Nazareth. Nothing.

            You keep sneaking these words in: what does 'official' mean? Who decides if something is official Finkelstein and Dever?

            I've linked to peer reviewed research that shows that at a dig in Nazareth pottery fragments, a spindle, the footing of a house, and water courses were found dating from the early Roman period, and indicate a building, most likely a residence of the time. You continue to say there is no evidence, or accuse the archaeologist of malpractice, but this is published, peer reviewed research. You can't ignore it. You might come to a different conclusion based on it, but it is not nothing.

            How is that any different to creationists who, when pointed to peer reviewed results in biology continue to insist none exist?

            2. Why are you going on about Pfann? I get he is the star of whatever website debunking Nazareth you happened to have read, but really. The IAA has logged several early Roman finds from the IMC dig, but those finds have not yet been published. You want to build a conspiracy theory off that? Perhaps you'd like to mention how many other of the IAA's >50 licenses for archaeological digs in 2009 have not yet been published?

            3. No, of course. No archaeological statement will say anything categorically when the issue is explicitly the dating of the early roman material and structures. What an odd claim. However, I've referred you to peer reviewed archaeological research that says that parts of the structure found in the dig can be securely dated to the early Roman period. Are you complaining that archaeologists can't give a dating within 10 years? Why would you expect that?

            4. 'Biblical Nazareth' is an apologists errand. At what point would the discovery of 1st century settlement ont he hill at Nazareth meet your criteria. It is easy to throw some hand-wavey criteria around. Can you be specific? How many dwellings, what size, how would you specifically measure demographics, how small a time window? Have you been to Nazareth? If there were, say fifty houses there in the first century, how do you think Archaeologists could locate them?

            You see, its an apologetic question. The archaeological question is different.

            So perhaps you want to say 'there is no archaeological evidence for a pseudo-scholarly claim', true, very true. But that's irrelevant to the question of whether the tradition GMark reports of Jesus being from Nazareth refers to an actual place.

            You're either interested in the actual research or you're not. You're clearly not. In which case saying 'there is no evidence' or saying that the people doing actual work in the digs around there have no ounce of integrity or are ideologically compromised is unfair. Its fine to be a polemicist, but please leave scholars out of your diatribes.

            I'm happy to consider we're done. I'm happy that this discussion stands for anyone who is interested in how archaeology works. If you're into Finkelstein, I'd really recommend reading his book again, for his methodological discussions: he describes the difference between an Archaeological approach and an ideological approach very well. Perhaps you don't think that people opposing Christian claims can be ideological, but it is worth another read, I think.

          • arkenaten

            ..but this is published, peer reviewed research. You can't ignore it. You might come to a different conclusion based on it, but it is not nothing.

            What peer reviewed research from any IAA sponsored or any other early first century dig concerning the Nazareth that the supposed character jesus lived at are you talking about?

          • Ian

            See there you go again, defining your target in polemic ways so that you can ignore any scholarship on the subject. Now we have to find a dig that is not just at Nazareth, not just at the right time, but is "the Nazareth Jesus lived in". Presumably excluding any other Nazareth the Jesus might have lived in; or a settlement on the location of later Nazareth that might not have been called that at the time; or a Nazareth that is in the right time and place and name but didn't have someone called Jesus living there? Good luck archaeologists! Quite a long way from 'there is no evidence that Nazareth existed'.

            I'm happy for the conversation to stand as is, if you think people will read the above and conclude that there is no evidence for Nazareth at the time of Jesus, then that's fine. I hope people will use their skepticism to beware of pseudo-scholarship, however. I'm happy to leave it to people to make up their own conclusions.

          • arkenaten

            Now we have to find a dig that is not just at Nazareth, not just at the right time, but is "the Nazareth Jesus lived in".

            Truly, I despair of the style of pedantic dialogue you display. What on earth do think the sole reason was for the Catholic Church purchasing the land in the first place? What do you think Bagatti and his Franciscan buddies were looking for?

            What do you truly believe the likes of Pfann and Alexandra have been searching for?

            What do you think was the reason behind them announcing a so -called dwelling ''of Jesus time '' a couple of weeks before xmas 2009? (especially as it had been uncovered weeks before)

            Even Dark mentioned in his paper there was no official report. I hope you read that?

            The initial IAA report differed measurably in its wording and was quickly withdrawn. Only the press release is now available and that's it.

            If you want to ''point score '' your way to what you consider is a debate victory, then so be it. I really couldn't care less.

            Everyone is entitled to an opinion, not their own facts, and those facts that there are do NOT lead to a biblical Nazareth or a Jesus of Nazareth.

            However,If you wish to think there really is evidence for a City of Nazareth, as described in the gospels, super. But all you do is come across as defending a christian leaning perspective.

            And the only reason this is even on the table all boils down to money.

            But, please stop being so naive

          • Ian

            I'm not being pedantic, I'm trying to get you to understand how actual archaeology is done. And what constitutes archaeological evidence. You seem to be naive about how archaeology works. You seem to think it operates at some grand polemic level, which is untrue.

            If you want to ''point score '' your way to what you consider is a debate victory, then so be it. I really couldn't care less.

            I don't want to point score. I want skeptics, folks who I consider on my side on the issues, to not resort to tactics of pseudo-scholarship and impugning scholars who say things that don't make their arguments easier.

            Look, a while back it seemed that Nazareth was only settled 200 years after the setting of the gospels. This would have made a really cool argument. The problem is, it is clear that is not the case now. So rather than say "oh well, even if there was a settlement there at roughly the right time, it doesn't mean the gospels are any more true", some groups of atheists resort to character attacks on the archaeologists ("not an ounce of integrity" I think you said), and trying to squabble about the definition of Nazareth, etc.

            Who cares? If Nazareth was a village at roughly the right time, it just means that Mark used the name of a village that existed at roughly the right time.

            Folks like Salm claim that the whole thing is a conspiracy and all archaeologists (including Dark, presumably) are conspiring to mis-date everything they find, to lie and falsify records. That is a slander, and the fact that folks who purport to be skeptics are doing it (rather than Creationists, and their ilk who I expect it from) is an embarrassment to me, I'm afraid. So that's why I care.

            I couldn't care less about whether Nazareth was occupied in the early-Roman period. I care very much about the way that ideologically motivated folks feel free to pick-and-choose scholarship and throw around accusations of malpractice at those who's research they don't like.

          • arkenaten

            You attempt to cast aspersions on Salm and his ilk ( I don't jump through their sensational hoops either) and yet you allude that folk like Alexandra and Pfann are somehow beyond reproach and would not smudge the lines?
            They are not and never have been digging in the area merely because it might yield some nice artifacts. No sir.They , like Bagatti began, are looking for evidence to state this is the Nazareth of the bible.
            To suggest there are truly other motivations is naive at best and disingenuous at worst.

            Even if one were to step back a moment and look solely at the facts: at what is known it should be fairly clear that this is a manufactured town for the sake of religious expedience and everything has been done on this basis and where doubt surfaces oblique language and terminology is used that would not be lying but does not tell the real truth, and is enough to sham Christians and non-committals to accept the view Christianity and big business want the public to swallow. Everything that can be done to vindicate their position is good for business.
            Look at the investment figures and revenue from tourism.

            What archaeological finds of this period in question in no way lead to consider a City, town or hardly a village - hometown of a Christian saviour/Messiah, and this is what this is ALL about.

            That the area may well have been settled late first century is eminently possible.
            That there was some sort of thriving community let alone a city as per biblical spec is fallacious.

            Even if one were to accept a version of the gradually shrinking Nazareth it rubbishes the biblical description.

            And when one takes into account all the linguistic interpretations, the ridiculous way in which Matthew tried to shoehorn his ''prophecy '' it makes it all look even the more ridiculous.

          • Ian

            I don't think anyone is beyond reproach. But I do think it is important to have a sense of proportion on what you're accusing people of. There are a lot of people involved in archaeology of the period. A conspiracy by a large group of them I don't buy. The accusations of conspiracy are *very* common in any ideologically sensitive field, however. Name one ideologically sensitive area of research where scholars aren't routinely accused of conspiracy to hide the unpalatable truth!

            ---

            So I think perhaps we can be clear that this conversation has forked.

            1. Is the biblical portrayal of the life of Jesus historically accurate?

            No.

            In that sense, Jesus's Nazareth didn't exist. There is no evidence for it.

            Neither did Jesus's Jerusalem, or his Galilee. Jesus's god-man existence is an invention.

            I think that is true.

            2. Scholars try to figure out the history of early Christianity. Not 'whether early Christian texts are historically accurate' (that's point 1). But 'what is the most likely sequence of events that led to the texts and evidence we have'. So we end up with a mythical Jesus Christ, did we end up with that figure by starting with a poorly remembered historical figure and adding layers of celestial myth and story, or did we start with a celestial myth, and add layers of biography and inaccurate historical detail? On the Nazareth story specifically, Christians generally came to be known as Nazarenes, and identified the name with a place in the Galilee. So did we arrive there because Nazareth was the name of a place first and then become the designator? Or was it originally a designator for the Christian movement that was then invented into a place (where later an actual place was settled)?

            That might be 100% irrelevant to you. I agree it is irrelevant to anything that makes Jesus significant in our culture. Because such scholarship starts at the point that Jesus Christ is a myth, and asks how that myth began.

            But point 2 is the question that Carrier is trying to answer in his book. It is the one I was discussing in this thread you responded to. It is the one that the archaeological evidence from Nazareth feeds into.

            Sure, there are Christians (and people who want to sell to them) who take the answers to question 2 and treat it as if it were an answer to 1. So if, for example, we conclude Nazareth went from place->designator, then some Christians will say "Nazareth exists - therefore the resurrection!" Clearly nonsense. But it is just as illogical to say "There was no God-Man Jesus, therefore Nazareth didn't exist." The questions need to be separate, or point 2 cannot be answered.

            Our textual evidence (as described below) suggests Nazareth was first understood as a place, and later as a designator (though it can be interpreted the other way, this is the most natural reading of it, for reasons I describe below). Also the archaeological evidence seems to suggest that there was a settlement at Nazareth in roughly the right time period (certainly much closer to the time period that we'd previously thought). Therefore, I would tentatively suggest the place->designator hypothesis is a little stronger than the designator->place hypothesis. Though I'm not going to reject either, we're always dealing with balances of probability in questions concerning antiquity.

            But if you or anyone else takes that to mean I think the gospels are historically accurate, then you're misunderstanding the question at point 2, and trying to make it change the answer to 1.

            See where I'm coming from?

            The conversation i was having here, and the one Carrier is entering with his book, is 2, not 1. So I thought that's what you were interested in too. If not, sorry about that, this disagreement has been a misunderstanding, I agree with your conclusion on 1.

            I would ask you, though, to try not to read your concern with 1 into the work being done on 2, and thereby accuse people who are genuinely interested in 2 of lacking integrity, because they aren't coming up with answers to 2 that seem the easiest to turn into the right answer to question 1.

            Does any of that make sense?

          • arkenaten

            Archaeologists working on these digs sponsored by those with a vested interest obviously adhere to the belief that the character , Jesus,was

            A) historical and therefore

            B) there is no real reason to suggest /believe that there wasn’t a (some sort of) Nazareth he came from

            As no definitive statement or archaeological evidence has ever been put forward to back such a
            character and/or place of the time indicated in the bible then one is forced to ask what is the motivation behind continually
            issuing ambiguous statements the likes of ‘Jesus' time' as opposed to merely saying mid first century CE

            I don't recall having used the word conspiracy, but you seem to be at pains to be trying to put this word in my metaphorical mouth.

            Yes, Nazareth was likely understood as a place, But this is from an erroneous reading of the gospel as it does not feature in any pre Christian literature, and noone of the early Christian period was even aware of where the “City of Nazareth’’ was situated.

            It is referred to as a City (polis) four times in the bible.

            There is nothing ambiguous about this word.

            Yes, there was a settlement, but not in the time frame that
            the character, Jesus was said to have been walking around, and what evidence has been recovered suggests maybe a single farm rather than even a village.

            Nazareth is an integral part of any Jesus Myth argument.

            No Nazareth –No Jesus of Nazareth.

            And as I have mentioned on several occasions, what facts we
            have should be quite enough that anyone with common-sense will see that the biblical description is a complete fiction:

            Archaeologists maybe digging for remains of a Nazareth settlement but they are not digging for a Nazareth that Jesus lived in as none existed, and for them to tacitly imply what they have found is of Jesus time/era or whatever word
            they wish to use is disingenuous.

            There has to come a time when a much more inclusive view of this Jesus of Nazareth is taken into consideration.
            When the fictional Moses/Exodus is eventually acknowledged by mainstream Judaism its impact on Christianity and Islam will be far-reaching and maybe all this to-ing and fro-ing over Nazareth will prove to be futile.
            Archaeologists the likes of Albright couldn't make jam his Christianity into the reality of archaeology and I suspect that a similar scenario will eventually manifest over Nazareth and much of the biblical nonsense.

          • Ian

            But again you're just making claims that don't match the pubiished evidence.

            You can say "but not in the time frame that the character, Jesus was said to have been walking around," but, that is contradicted by the evidence. When faced with this you've previously tried to nuance what 'biblical Nazareth' or 'Nazareth of Jesus' meant. Now you're back to making untrue claims about the dates of occupation of a settlement at Nazareth.

            Archaeologists maybe digging for remains of a Nazareth settlement but they are not digging for a Nazareth that Jesus lived in as none existed,

            Indeed, you've given the same tautology before. A foregone conclusion. Fair enough, but misses the point I'm trying to make.

            No point going around this again, if you want to keep insisting the same things, I'll keep insisting you look at the actual archaeology. So perhaps it is worth letting anyone who stumbles on this discussion look things up themselves and see who's telling the truth.

          • arkenaten

            What published evidence!

            I have looked at the evidence as reported.
            What on earth are you looking at?

            making untrue claims about the dates of occupation of a settlement at Nazareth.</blockquote?

            What untrue claims?

            Dark does NOT say anything pertaining to a Nazareth Jesus may have lived in.

            And Alexandra?

            Give me a link, a peer reviewed paper an official IAA report ANYTHING that states this is the City or town or even village that Jesus probably lived in around the turn of the century.

            Are you even aware of what has actual actually been recovered by Alexandra? Have you read the Nazareth farm report?

            Do you appreciate the significance of the funerary lamps and the tombs?

            The wine press etc?

            Are you even aware of the post publication amendment to the farm report because of factual errors?

            Or are you merely giving a cursory read of the link you provided?

          • Ian

            I gave a link to a peer-reviewed published paper detailing evidence of occupation from the early Roman period in Nazareth.

            Anyway, I get that you don't think that evidence is good, or means what they claim, or whatever. I don't think we need to go around your doubts again. I acknowledge your dismissal of what I've presented, and I think you've expressed them in several different ways. As I've tried to express why I think your dismissal is unfair or misdirected. Clearly I'm not convincing you, and vice versa. Shall we leave it there? Unless you have a new angle you want to pursue.

          • arkenaten

            Dark's paper makes no allusions to what you are implying - the possibility that there existed a settlement when the character Jesus was supposed to have lived.and I already mentioned that he brought up Alexandra's claim and was explcit that no official statement is available as it was withdrawn soon after the discovery, leaving only the inflammatory and ambiguous press release in circulation.

            I will state one final time.
            The meagre amount of artifacts recovered in the area do not presuppose there was a settlement that could in any way be construed as a city, town or even a village.
            At best there may have been a small single family farm.

            This evidence alone refutes any claim pertaining to a biblical Nazareth.

          • Ian

            God, do we have to go through this again, haven't you made those claims already, before we had a long discussion about dating and time periods and so on, and what you'd expect to find if there were a village there?

            As for what you say Dark says, the paper is linked, people can read what he actually says. I've read it, I think you're being tendentious and imagining things. Dark describes the IMC dig, but the results he presents are from his own dig.

            Really, I get your point. I think it is a lousy one. I think you've stated that your conclusion is foregone twice now. Do we have to do it again?

          • arkenaten

            You see, your whole approach is ambiguous and seems to be argumentative just for the sake of it.

            You continually sidestep the points raised pertaining to Alexandra and even Bagatti.

            I cannot even work out what you are trying to defend, or why?

            You did take notice of what Dark said about Alexandra's report, yes or no?

            If Carrier's point of a lack of historicity to Jesus is true, and there is enough evidence or lack thereof for it to merit credence then there is little point in any of the Nazareth digs that have been going on for years.

            If you actually have a point that is diametrically opposed to what I have been saying then please, for the sake of any god you fancy, spit it out in a single paragraph or preferably less.
            Are you able to do that?

          • Ian

            Okay, brevity is a problem for me. Particular as you raise several questions. Sorry. I'll try.

            I am defending the idea that there is evidence that a settlement was present at Nazareth in the first half of the first century, which I take to be the scholarly equivalent to "the time of Jesus", a phrase I've never used here, i don't think.

            That's all I'm saying. If you think that I'm defending the historical accuracy of the bible, then I'm happy to tell you I'm not, and never have been anywhere on this post. Either with you, or with the other folks I've talked to.

            ---

            I agree that if Carrier's Christ Myth theory is true then it makes the existence of Nazareth moot

            If Nazareth was genuinely only founded as a town much later, then it supports the idea that GMatt preserves an earlier tradition than GMark about what Nazareth is. Which in turn helps the Christ Myth hypothesis.

            But the converse is not true, even if there is a small settlement at Nazareth in the early Roman period, it doesn't mean the Christ Myth hypothesis is wrong.

            It just makes it more likely that Mark is name checking a place. It most certainly doesn't mean that the bible suddenly becomes historically accurate. We know, even if it were a place, that the gospel writers are unfamiliar with it, for reasons I've described in detail elsewhere on this thread.

            I personally find the Christ Myth hypothesis unlikely. Or at least, less likely than other possibilities. But my reasoning is detailed, just as Carrier's reasoning in support of it is (or I expect it to be, when the book comes out). But please don't interpret me as saying that I think therefore the bible is historically accurate, or that what we know about the period in any way supports Christian doctrine.

            ---

            Alexandre and Bagatti:

            The Christmas press release where Alexandre [not -a] was quoted saying "the time of Jesus" was tendentious, yes, and as it turned out, the conclusions at that time were early or mid-Roman. I'm reluctant to read into this foul play on behalf of her, given that it was the official statement of her organisation that put a better and wider range of time on the finds.

            Bagatti was motivated in his search by his faith? Yes. He didn't find the Nazareth he wanted to find? Yep. He thoroughly excluded the claim that Nazareth was a city or even a town of any notable size? Yes. This torpedoes the idea that the gospel writers were portraying Nazareth accurately? Yes (though that's hardly news, we also can conclude they were inaccurate for other reasons).

            ---

            I don't have a point that is diametrically opposed to you. No. I've said I agree with your conclusions on the historicity of the biblical Jesus. But to me, that is a separate question to whether you are presenting the scholarship, and scholars, fairly and accurately. I don't think you are when you say 'there is no evidence'.

            I am asking for you to do understand and acknowledge the evidence (such as it is), and to present it fairly.

            --

            any god you fancy

            No, thanks. For the avoidance of doubt, I am an atheist.

          • arkenaten

            I am asking for you to do understand and acknowledge the evidence (such as it is), and to present it fairly.

            The onus on fair presentation lies with the archaeologists, surely?

            It is their job to present the material in as honest and unbiased manner.

            To suggest that the archaeologists who have been digging in this area for all this time, from Bagatti have had any other motivation that did not include the bible and specifically the character Jesus is to believe Egyptologists examine the great Pyramids solely because they are nice pointy buildings.

            Jesus & the New Testament is Nazareth's whole raison d'etre.

            But to me, that is a separate question to whether you are presenting the scholarship, and scholars, fairly and accurately. I don't think you are when you say 'there is no evidence'.

            Let me rephrase the sentence, 'there is no evidence' ;something I maybe should have done at the onset of this dialogue.
            I thought the rider was implied but we have been dancing to different tunes and obviously you are looking for a more definitive understanding of what I wrote
            So...

            There is and never has been nor will be any evidence that portrays the biblical Nazareth before the turn of the first century or beyond and anything that might suggest it was a city or established settlement as described in the bible.

            There never was a Nazareth that Jesus lived at.

            Even if there was a character called Yeshua he never lived in any place called Nazareth as this was established later.

            The word Nazareth does not feature in any pre christian literature and any allusion to the word likely referred to a Jewish sect and not coming from anywhere

            In other words, there is no connection with the Nazareth archaeologists are/have been digging for and the bible.

            None.

            I sincerely hope this was succinct enough as I am knackered.

          • Ian

            "I am knackered." - me too, and on the road, so typing is a pain.

            "any allusion to the word likely referred to a Jewish sect" - now you're in the textual area where I do know more. I think you're wrong, (though it is impossible to say 100% either way) as I've explained below. There is no evidence(!) GMatt preserves an earlier tradition that GMark here, despite being later. There is no evidence for a sect of Judaism of that name at the time. Christians came to be called that by the end of the century, but the earliest text has Nazareth portrayed as a place only, nothing else. That doesn't mean it was a place, but we have only two allusions to Nazareth as something other than a place, neither are in GMark, compared to tens of uses as a place in the synoptics. The linguistic argument isn't a good one, based on the most common etymologies suggested into Hebrew, Aramaic, and Syriac. Scholars are divided on this, but I know enough greek and semitics to form an opinion. And I think you're wrong. Some scholars would agree with you (conservative catholic and evangelical scholars in particular, incidentally, for reasons I don't have time to describe), and I respect that position. We can get into the scholarship, I'll have more time next week. Or not, if the conversation is tedious.

            Thanks for clarifying. Glad we got some kind of understanding, if not agreement!

          • arkenaten

            "any allusion to the word likely referred to a Jewish sect" - now you're in the textual area where I do know more. I think you're wrong, (though it is impossible to say 100% either way) as I've explained below.

            Well then, as well read as you are you are merely voicing an educated POV and, sadly, have no more evidence that the archaeologists.

            But common sense...ah, now this is where people don't want to go.
            It is my understanding the the original designated title of Yeshua was:
            Jesous o Nazoraios which meant Jesus the Nazarene.

            No Nazareth here, right?

            As you have studied the texts then you will be aware of the gnostic gospel of Phillip and what it had to say?

            I always thought the Nazarenes were a sect of the Essenes?
            And of course there is this naughty little verse that the writer of Matthew misquoted or mistranslated to suddenly make it a fulfillment of prophecy.

            "And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene."

            – Matthew 2.23.

            CITY see?

            And where might he have got this idea?

            "For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines."

            – Judges 13.5.

            When taken into consideration with every other anomaly,
            not least Matthew's virgin birth narrative and the cock up that caused, then no matter which way one tries to justify it it simply wont fit.

            As one of the characters on the movie Life of Brian says:

            "He's making it up as he goes along"

            Maybe this is a bit of a sweeping statement to apply to genuine scholars ( or at least scholars who genuinely believe they are as honest as the day is long) but I truly believe they and everyone else have been suckered along by the keepers of the faith.

            Besides, as an atheist you should have already accepted Finkelstein's appraisal of Moses etc and this well and truly piddles on Christianity, and especially everything related to Jesus of Nazareth(sic)

          • Ian

            On this point, the evidence is for me. Of 30+ references in the texts of the NT, only 2 suggest anything other than a place.

            There are various ways to say Jesus of Nazareth, GMark has Ἰησοῦν ζητεῖτε τὸν Ναζαρηνὸν (Jesus who lives in Nazareth), σὺ μετὰ τοῦ Ναζαρηνοῦ (he who is from Nazareth), Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲτ τῆς Γαλιλαίας (Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee). The form you mention is particularly associated with Acts, i.e. after the purported resurrection.

            See my detailed comments on the sequence. Reading Nazarene as a status or sect designator is only suggested by the prophecy in GMatt, but the other half dozen times in Matt it is clearly a place, e.g. : Οὗτός ἐστιν [a]ὁ προφήτης Ἰησοῦς ὁ ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲθ τῆς Γαλιλαίας. (This is the prophet Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee) and the earliest source has Nazareth as a place only. The form you mention isn't the earliest the earliest reference we have are those in Mark. Mark is not ambiguous at all that it is a place.

            Philip is gnostic and much later, 3rd century. By that time we known Christians were called Nazarenes, but they don't start calling themselves that until the second century (there's a crinkle to that in Acts, but that's another rabbit hole). I think I mentioned this above. I've gone through this on the thread somewhere.

          • Ian

            Don't just connected Nazarite with Nazareth because they sound the same. That way lies foolishness. A case can just about be made to connect them, but it isn't a good one. Jesus was not a Nazirite. Or at least, the portrayal in the gospels is a long way from what we know Nazirites were. John, however, could possibly be a Nazirite.

          • arkenaten

            And the supposed fulfilled prophecy from the verse in Judges?
            I notice you didn't bring this up.
            Whats your take on this?

          • Ian

            Another comment below, sorry for the multiples.

            Matt has been linked to this passage by Christians desperate to have Matt's 'prophecy' be an actual part of the OT, but it is highly tendentious. Jesus isn't a Nazirite, there is no solid linguistic connection between Ναζωραῖος and ναζιρ (the word in Judges). If Matt had meant Nazirite, he could have easily said it, to invent a new word that sounds a bit the same is odd. Jesus's status as a Nazirite is not used again in early Christian tradition (though several other members of the early church explicitly do take Nazirite vows, and the word used is never the word used by Matt).

            For all those reasons, I think evangelicals are wrong in thinking Matt is quoting Judges here. I think Matts weasel words introducing the 'quote' indicate he's making it up.

            There are other suggestions people have made for what Matt means by Ναζωραῖος, incidentally. Including 'branch' (as of branch of David), magician (from an Aramaic root), and so on. Still, doesn't change the fact that Matt's 'prophecy' does not appear to be what Nazareth originally means. Or at least, we have no evidence of its use before that verse, but many examples of Nazareth's use as a place name by Matt and Matt's main source, Mark.

          • arkenaten

            I am no scholar, but the translation seems to favour Jesus the Nazarene rather than Jesus of Nazareth.

            Of the 31 times the various words appear 19(?) times the terms Nazarene or Nazorean are used rather than Nazareth.

            Your take is worthy of consideration but it is not cut and dried; if it were there would not be so much contention.

            Again, taking everything else into consideration I am of the mind that it is a sham, and each Synoptic writer merely added to the myth.

            The texts were rewritten and suffered from interpolation, and Luke did his famous 'number/ and invented his city and Christians and their cohorts have been trying to shoehorn
            archaeology to somehow make the texts look halfway respectable with all the theological two step they are mst adept at

          • Ian

            the terms Nazarene or Nazorean are used rather than Nazareth

            Indeed, but be careful of relying on the Christian translation. There are five different terms, and they are translated into two different English terms. Some of them translated Nazarene very clearly mean the place (as I showed), there's only Ναζωραῖος which we're actually debating, at that appears 6 times in the gospels.

            The view you're leaning to is the one favoured by many Christians, particular conservative Christians. So be careful not to just take the linguistic tricks they play at face value!

            Your take is worthy of consideration but it is not cut and dried; if it were there would not be so much contention.

            No, indeed. It is absolutely a complex linguistic puzzle. I think my view is most likely right, based on the work I've done, and I'm certainly not alone in that. Many scholars think that, particularly those on the minimal end of the spectrum (i.e. those who think there is little or no historical accuracy in the NT). But there are scholars who back a wide range of positions. So anyone with any sense has to concede it is in no way cut and dried.

            I am of the mind that it is a sham

            Doesn't surprise me! I think it is a sham too. But that's not the point. It can be a sham if the transmission history was designator->place as easily as place->designator. Again, one must separate the narrow, geeky, rather irrelevant scholarly question, from the important question of historicity, which isn't affected much either way by the conclusion of the academic question.

          • Ian

            each Synoptic writer merely added to the myth.

            Just a note on that, notice that Ναζωραῖος is not in the earliest gospel, Mark. And by the latest gospel, John, it appears 3 times. So if each synoptic writer added to the myth it is more likely they were adding this than this being original and them adding Nazareth the place (which is very explicitly in Mark).

          • Ian

            Last thought on this for now:

            "the translation seems to favour Jesus the Nazarene rather than Jesus of Nazareth."

            I can't agree, and I can't imagine any greek scholar agreeing. In some cases you can certainly translate it Nazarene, (even then I have qualms about thinking that two different greek words mean the same 'Nazarene'), and I would translate it as that at some points too. But in others you have prepositions or verbs like ζητεῖτε, μετὰ, ἀπὸ. There's just no way that means 'Jesus the Nazarene' in the way you mean. And no translator will render it that way.

            The argument doesn't rest on the fact that some parts can be read in both ways, but that other parts cannot be read both ways, and clearly refer to a place.

            As I said before, you appear to be making an argument that no scholar would want to make. Your conclusion is a reasonable one, but it is based on the idea that the change happened before GMark, not that it happened during the creation of the synoptics, and certainly not that the synoptics were later rewritten to add the place. That's not totally impossible, but its unnecessary, there are much less convoluted ways for you to be right!

          • arkenaten

            I can't agree, and I can't imagine any greek scholar agreeing.

            Could you cite any other Greek scholars that specialize in such biblical texts that would substantiate your claim?
            Not necessarily doubting merely checking for facts. The ''I can't imagine'' is a bit open-ended.

          • Ian

            You can look through any translation, or commentary. The critical commentary by Collins in the Hermeneia series, or Marcus's commentary for Anchor. Of course, given your latent sketpicim of biblical scholars, that might not be convincing! But really Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲτ τῆς Γαλιλαίας is such basic greek, that if you head into any greek forum and ask them whether Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲτ means that Jesus is part of a group called the Nazarenes, I'm confident you'd get a unanimous answer. (If you ask "could it mean Jesus the Nazarene" you might get some yeses, but clarify if you do, because I bet those people think "the Nazarene" means "of the place Nazareth" which is what you're trying to exclude!).

            ---

            But anyway, I think I should wean myself off this conversation now. I don't think any of this really matters to your conclusion. I'm quite happy with those who want to conclude that Matthew's 'Nazaraios' segues into 'Nazarene' (which there is no doubt comes to be a general term) and preserves an earlier form.

            Carrier is not the only person to conclude that, by a very long shot, even ardent anti-mythicists like James McGrath, who regularly posts against Carrier and other mythicists views, argues for a variation of that idea. So if that sounds convincing to you, then you're in very broad company!

            The only thing I'd say is that your argument is easier than you're perhaps making it. You've no need to propose that it has to be *later* corruption. it could be, but if you're right, the corruption could just be early. Whoever makes up the basic structure of the historical Jesus story to fit the myth needs to put his hometown somewhere, because they want to do the whole 'prophet rejected by his own town' story, because they're setting up the 'prophet rejected by the whole nation' thing at the crucifixion. So they set it in some backwater that nobody could ever check (or even invent Nazareth all together), because there's some word that sounds a bit like it that people already use to talk about the mythical God-man (Nazirite, Nazaraios, Nazarene, Nazir, or some combination, say).

            Then, once it is in Mark, Matthew and Luke can't exactly remove it, so they then have to find ways to put Jesus's birth in Bethlehem, even though the earlier story doesn't mention Bethlehem, and so on.

            That's certainly the model mythicists seem to be suggesting. And it doesn't require any hypothetical editing of the gospels after they are written.

            ---

            On the whole issue of whether Nazareth was invented, Carrier, interestingly, seems to previously have been on-the-fence-leaning-towards-there-being-a-Nazareth.

            http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.co.uk/2009/04/richard-carrier-on-existence-of.html

            I know his thoughts about some of these topics have developed towards the mythicist position since 2009. I'm very much looking forward to his book to see where he is now on several of these topics.

          • arkenaten

            Here's a post I am sure will make youy smile.

            http://thesuperstitiousnakedape.wordpress.com/

          • Ian

            Which post, that link just goes to the front page of the blog.

          • arkenaten

            Sorry, Ian. This one.
            It isn't directly related to our chat but I am sure you will see the relevance as soon as you start to read.

            http://thesuperstitiousnakedape.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/of-course-what-you-say-is-true-but-we-should-not-say-it-publically-13/

          • Ian

            Thanks, a good read.

            I know several Christians, including Christian ministers, in the same position over the reality of many NT accounts, including the resurrection. It frustrates me that large numbers of Christians don't believe in the stories, but for some reason there is this veneer of using the language anyway, saying the creeds, singing the songs. Would it be so bad to just be honest?

            I mean, I'm as guilty as anyone of 'playing along' with the Santa myth, and Halloween. But, if there were large numbers of adults who really did believe that Santa came down the chimney, or that ghosts came out on Oct 31, I don't think I'd want to carry on the pretence. I enjoy them partly because we all agree to suspend our common disbelief. I find it bizarre that anyone would call themselves a Christian and not believe.

            Yet I know folks who do, even in my own family. There are a *lot* of Christian atheists, I think.

          • Ian

            Besides, as an atheist you should have already accepted Finkelstein's appraisal of Moses etc and this well and truly piddles on Christianity, and especially everything related to Jesus of Nazareth(sic)

            Moses doesn't piddle on the historicity of Jesus, because they are separate texts from five hundred years apart, written by people with totally different cultures and irreconcilable ideas. Christians like to pretend there is a continuity between the OT and the NT, but that's another lie. But yes, there was no biblical exodus, no biblical Moses. I also think there is basically nothing historical in the bible until the exile. We have corroboration to confirm the basic outline from there, and into the intertestamental books, the Hasmonean war, etc. Though the specific details are often either wrong or unverifiable. The biblical account of Jesus is ahistorical for its own set of reasons. Even if we only had the NT, there'd be plenty of reasons to disregard it as history, the OT doesn't impact it much that I can see.

            Matthew and Luke's nativities are pure theological fabrications. I think it is obvious what they are doing (trying to get someone known for being a Galilean to be born in Bethlehem to fulfil a prophecy). They both do it in different and incompatible ways. Clearly rubbish. But, I have to say, it is more obviously rubbish if you read Nazareth as a place, not a sect. Which is why, I alluded to, evangelical scholars tend to agree with you, that Nazareth was a long-standing sect or status within Judaism.

            Gah! Now I'm spending my afternoon I should be prepping typing long missives very slowly... Maybe you could take pity on me and not reply for a bit? Maybe I should stop checking my email...

          • Ian

            Just FYI, I have to go awol, so I won't be around to respond to replies for a week or so. So feel free to wrap the convo up with a devastating take down :)

            Thanks for the conversation, though its been frustrating.

          • Ian

            At the risk of comedy verbosity, again, I want to agree with a particular point you made.

            They are not and never have been digging in the area merely because it might yield some nice artifacts. No sir.

            Indeed.

            I'm an example here. I've been studying the new testament texts seriously for 20 years. I learned greek (and Hebrew and a bit of Syriac) to study it better.

            I know other folks who study Homer, and ancient Greek drama, and Mithras, and Zoroastrianism, and the Vedas.

            I'm not studying a collection of greek texts of a first century cult just at random. I am studying them because of their huge, disproportionate significance in our culture.

            That is not to say I study them with deliberate foregone conclusions, or that the scholars who work on these texts do not do so honestly and carefully.

            So I agree with you. But one shouldn't leap from the social reasons why something is studied to conclusions about necessary bias in the results.

          • arkenaten

            Oh, and this is what the term Early Roman Period means when cited by archaeologists.
            This has often led to a certain amount of ambiguity and this is why In was a tad confused by your continual (apparent) reluctance to acknowledge certain aspects of so-called Jesus related claims re Nazareth.

            Hope it helps clear up certain misunderstandings?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaeology_of_Israel#Roman_period

          • Ian

            Not really, you have to understand what archaeology can do. The styles of construction, goods, decoration change slowly in antiquity. So dating anything is done in periods, often those periods have boundaries that are marked by political change, or else they are boundaries of convenience. Early Roman spans a period of about 150 years, and it is often difficult to pin things down more closely than that. In the research I showed, some features are dated first century, so the second half of the early roman period.

            So it is difficult to say whether the finds from Nazareth dated to the time tradition has Jesus living there, or whether Nazareth was suddenly settled for the first time 10 or 30 years later. If you read my early posts I made this clear: the evidence is good for occupation by the second half of the first century and there are reasons (outlined in the paper I referenced) to think it is earlier (Dark has a detailed explanation of his logic at this point).

            If you are saying "we have no evidence that in the exact year of 6BC, there was a village that was called Nazareth by the surrounding populations, that a person called Jesus lived in" then you're right. But this is a bizarre request, there is no possible way we *could* have such archaeological evidence. It is akin to a creationist complaining that we've never seen a fish turn into a mammal.

            That was not my complaint with your mischaracterisation. My complaint with your naivity was that you ignored the fact that there is evidence that Nazareth existed at the right time. One can quibble with that evidence, push it later or earlier, argue it away in many ways, but one shouldn't pretend it doesn't exist. Because in doing so, you're just content to wallow in pseudo-scholarship.

            Again, a re-read of Finkelstein may help you to understand how archaeology works.

          • Ian

            Incidentally, early Church fathers rather disagreed with you that no Nazareth = no Jesus of Nazareth. They were rather keen to have Nazareth be something beyond a place, i.e. a religious term. Because Jesus was born in Bethlehem, so the Nazareth angle was a bit more inconvenient. Modern fundamentalists are a bit more constrained by their interpretation, so can't wiggle out of GMark as easily, so would be upset if Nazareth didn't exist. But it is always important not to believe the fundies lies that their version of Christianity is old or significant. It is not even 150 years old.

          • josh

            There is no evidence that homeopathy works. There is no evidence that vaccines cause autism. There is no evidence that Joseph Smith spoke Ancient Egyptian. There is no evidence that the US Government was involved in the 9-11 attacks...

            I think you need a better marker of creationist-style thinking.

          • Ian

            Indeed, but I've rarely had my posts hijacked by anyone making such statements. So the point is not one of syntax, but of context.

      • Sofia Sousa

        When you don't know the real sources, you can be victim of falsity. Then what is false becomes truth. When that happens, everyone can be arguing about something which is based on wrong paradigm, without ever reaching the right conclusions. That is called social psychoscotoma (partial blindness of the mind). All this is just to hide the fact that the 3 religions-of-convenience (judaism, christianity and islam) are all but a result of plagiary, made conceal the fact that they come from African spirituality (Osirian Rituals). That is why those religions brought about the worst barbarities, ever committed by humans, on this planet. Please analyse the real beginning, grow spiritually and find inner peace. Ignorance is the recipe for all the disasters and the father of all the mess we have lived in. Please check this out and spread the truth, if you want to make a difference for a good cause. http://www.theosophical.ca/boo.... Justice, Love and Peace!!!

    • Randy Gritter

      Why bother concocting this story even then? Why not another angel? Why come out with the most falsifiable lie you can imagine? Make up a census so that anyone anywhere in the Roman empire can find somebody who is older and can confirm or deny that it happened. It you are going to lie that is about the worst lie you could tell. The gospel writers seem to go from being the best liars ever to being the worst liars ever on issue after issue. Or they are simply telling the truth.

      • Ignorant Amos

        The synoptic gospel writers were writing for a parochial audience. An audience that wasn't about to jump up and go research the minutiae of the story they had had written for them. I doubt the first gospel readers were even aware that conflicting versions even existed.

        Do you imagine the gospel authors had any concept that their accounts would be selected from a bag of accounts 3 centuries later and go on to be investigated and held up against the history and geography of the area in question 2 millenia later? I wouldn't have thought so otherwise more of an effort to accuracy might have been employed in their research and sources...which was evidently just about nil.

        The fact that Herod died a number of years before the Nativity is set in one version, or that no such census occurred at all, didn't bother the story writers. The fact that the nonsense in one account was not mentioned in the others account doesn't seem to have bothered the authors. And that none of the nonsense was recorded by earlier writers, Paul and Mark, bothered them even less. Why should misunderstanding words like Nazorean, Nazarene, or whatever the different spelling ya like to choose, from a source with no veracity in and of itself have been of any concern? Concocting theological stories was the norm. It was all about proving to those who'd listen that Jesus was the messiah through prophecy fulfillment.

        I know it's hard to accept, but that is how fiction works. Unless we don't give the authors the benefit and just declare that they were lying to deceive their audience. Who would have even thought such a thing?

        • Randy Gritter

          You are right. It is hard to accept mostly because it makes so little sense. You see Christians believe Christianity is true. If on the one hand they have to make stuff up and change stuff and lie about everything. On the other hand those same people have to live like Christians and reorder their lives around the truth of Christianity. But not just one or two people. These same lies must be told by church leaders in every city around the empire. Nobody should notice.

          • Ignorant Amos

            History is replete with just such examples...yet Christians have no problem crying folly on such examples. Even in these modern times the gullible have been coerced into believing the most ridiculous stuff. First century Jews living in the Palestinian Levant were also believing all other sorts of stuff...why not this cult?

            I'm assuming you have no truck with denying Mormonism, a religion only 200 years old with much of it plagiarized from Christianity by a known charlatan. Or what about Islamism, Christianities baby brother? Scientology is the new boy on the block, yes, I know, it is hocus pocus, but that doesn't prevent it having followers every bit as adherent as Christians who believe it to be true, but whose followers should know better having a lot more intelligence than first century Christians. The popularity fallacy is well understood.

            "Christians believe Christianity is true"

            Which one of the 39,000+ versions is true?

            That is not even the issue at hand. Religions exist. "Mormons believe Mormonism is true", "Hindus believe Hinduism is true", "Zoroastrians believe Zoroastrianism is true"...see how it works. What this debate is about is to whether the character which the religion is founded upon is historical or myth. It matters not to me as I have no investment in the answer per se...but it is interesting all the same.

          • Randy Gritter

            You compare apples and oranges here. Sure religions can change. People can lie. But nobody in Mormonism is supposed to have embrace Mormonism at great personal cost and then changed it radically for no real reason and had nobody notice.

            BTW, the 39,000+ versions of Christianity is a anti-protestant comment. It does not really make sense with Catholics.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Don't cherry pick Randy. Hinduism is allegedly the oldest religion. Hindus had to embrace Hinduism at great personal cost. Muslims too. Never mind apples and oranges, we are talking about religion, Christianity to be precise. Early Christianity was very diverse prior to Nicaea. Those Christians embracing great personal cost were not all singing off the same hymn sheet no matter what you might think.

            BTW, the 39,000+ versions of Christianity is a anti-protestant comment. It does not really make sense with Catholics.

            I'm not interested in whether it makes sense to Catholics or not...it is what it is. There has never, in its history, been one church of Christianity. From the days of Paul to the present. There was never even one universal Catholic church. All that misses the point. Each Christianity believes it is the true Scotsman. By your logic, early Protestants should curry more favour due to their great personal cost. It's a red herring.

          • Randy Gritter

            So what is you point? Hindus had to embrace Hinduism at great personal cost but do they change Hinduism radically while they do so? Early Christianity was very diverse prior to Nicaea? In what sense? When they convened the council of Nicea they knew who their leaders were. Those leaders got together and had remarkable unity. So I am not sure what you are talking about.

            You need to actually understand Catholicism to refute it. The Catholic church is the one, holy, universal, and apostolic church. That is our faith. To simple assert that it is not is to fail to make any argument. It was started at Pentecost. It is the same church that exists today with a continuous succession of popes back to Peter and a a continuous succession of bishops back to the apostles.

          • Ignorant Amos

            So what is you point? Hindus had to embrace Hinduism at great personal cost but do they change Hinduism radically while they do so?

            Did Christianity?

            Early Christianity was very diverse prior to Nicaea? In what sense?

            Did ya read the OP?

            Prior to Nicaea...

            Artotyrite, Ascitans, Encratites, Marcionism, Montanism,
            Valesians, Angelici, Antidicomarianite, Apotactics, Arabici,
            Elcesaites, Gothic Christianity, Novatianism, Arianism‎, Church of Caucasian Albania‎ , Abelians, Circumcellions,
            Colluthians, Collyridianism, Donatism, Meletians,
            Pneumatomachi, Priscillian and Celtic Christianity‎ ... many with many numbers of sub-sects.

            When they convened the council of Nicea they knew who their leaders were. Those leaders got together and had remarkable unity. So I am not sure what you are talking about.

            I don't know what you are talking about. Nicaea was convened by Constantine to repair the rifts between the numerous Christian sects and to unify the churches and to agree on a doctrinal statement. In particular, address the trouble brought about by the Arian controversy and Meletian schism.

            They might have known who was leading who, but they differed in agreement on doctrine.

          • Pofarmer

            Does it matter that the papacy was sometimes bought and sold? Or that there were wars for the Papacy? Or that Popes sometimes posthumously excommunicated other Popes?

          • Pofarmer

            A couple hundred years after the events, when literacy was maximally maybe 10%, how would anyone know?

      • 42Oolon

        I'd really rather hear from a pro-mythicist. I am guessing the response will be that the Christians were calling the Messiah the "Nazorian". Easily by broken telephone this turns into "the man from Nazareth". This story is challenged by Jews who point out that the Messiah must come from the city of David. So someone says maybe his parents had to come there for some reason and the myth develops. That would make sense.

        Anyway, I think historicity is interesting but not as relevant as the supernatural claims. Atheists can easily accept a man named Jesus existed. I just don't believe that if he existed, he was a god.

    • Toadaly

      Once people come to see Jesus as real, it no longer matters whether he was or not. A mythical Jesus that people had come to think of as real, needs to have a story concocted about Bethlehem, just as much as a real Jesus would. What the Bethlehem fabrication does, is establish that Jews who expected the messiah to originate from Bethlehem, had joined Christianity. It doens't tell us anything about whether or not Jesus was historical.

    • Ron Maimon

      The need to move Jesus to Bethlehem in the mythicist framework is due to the need to reconcile two conflicting sources of myth. The "Nazoreans" name for the early Jewish Christians, which led Mark to place Jesus in Nazareth, and a separate OT tradition that the Messiah is born in Bethlehem.

      When you see a concocted story in a Jewish source, it is in the context of hundreds of invisible scriptural sources you don't see, and reconciling them is just as important for the authors as reconciling history would be to others who are not living in a world of Biblical literature.

      This type of evidence is equally compatible with both ideas, although superficially, given modern biases to reconcile to history rather than to prophecy and tradition, we don't see this. Similar "embarassing" stories can be found in the OT, for example, if Abraham and Sarah are not real people, why are they described as brother and sister in one of the two "pimping to a king" stories? Incestuous ancestry is a sign of weakness and accursedness.

      The answer is that this is reconciling different myths, not that it is reconciling a history with myth.

    • Sofia Sousa

      When you don't know the real sources, you can be victim of falsity. Then what is false becomes truth. When that happens, everyone can be arguing about something which is based on wrong paradigm, without ever reaching the right conclusions. That is called social psychoscotoma (partial blindness of the mind). All this is just to hide the fact that the 3 religions-of-convenience (judaism, christianity and islam) are all but a result of plagiary, made conceal the fact that they come from African spirituality (Osirian Rituals). That is why those religions brought about the worst barbarities, ever committed by humans, on this planet. Please analyse the real beginning, grow spiritually and find inner peace. Ignorance is the recipe for all the disasters and the father of all the mess we have lived in. Please check this out and spread the truth, if you want to make a difference for a good cause. http://www.theosophical.ca/books/AncientEgyptTheLightOfTheWorld_GMassey.pdf. Justice, Love and Peace!!!

    • Sofia Sousa

      If you take the time to read this book, you may be able to reverse the enormous damage that fallacy has caused to humankind: http://www.theosophical.ca/boo....

      Justice, Love and Peace!!!

    • anselmo

      To invent a real person who squares with prophecy

  • Peter Piper

    Jesus was eventually placed in history in mythical tales about him (as was a common trend to do with celestial deities at the time).

    Would you mind giving a few examples of such tales from the time which are comparable to the gospels?

    • Ignorant Amos

      "euhemerization ...a Greek named Euhemerus started the practice of writing stories to place mythical deities in historical settings on Earth. Supposedly, this was based on the assumption that such deities were originally demigods, who walked the Earth as men before ascending to full godhood."

      Romulus and Remus?....Hercules?

      • Peter Piper

        What I was hoping for was a few specific examples of actual texts that I can look up and compare with the gospels, rather than a quote that appears to be from a review of one of Carrier's own talks.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Forget about the review...I quoted it as a definition of the genre and trend Carrier was alluding too.

          Look up Romulus and Remus...

          Look up Hercules...

          "Euhemerus has become known chiefly for a rationalizing method of interpretation, known as "Euhemerism", which treats mythological accounts as a reflection of historical events, or mythological characters as historical personages but which were shaped, exaggerated or altered by retelling and traditional mores. In more recent literature of myth, such as in Bulfinch's Mythology, Euhemerism is called the "historical interpretation" of mythology. Euhemerism is defined in modern academic literature as the theory that myths are distorted accounts of real historical events. Euhemerus was not the first to attempt to rationalize mythology through history, as euhemeristic views are found in earlier writers, including Xenophanes, Herodotus, Hecataeus of Abdera and Ephorus. However, Euhemerus is credited as having developed the theory in application to all myths, considering mythology to be "history in disguise"

          • Peter Piper

            There are lots of texts about Romulus and Remus and about Hercules. That is why I have asked, and am asking again, for specific texts. After all, if I just pick a text at random and find it is nothing like the gospels then I have no idea whether I just chose unluckily or whether they are all like that.

            Do you agree with the characterisation of Euhemerism in the quote I gave above, and if not why not?

          • Ignorant Amos

            After all, if I just pick a text at random and find it is nothing like the gospels then I have no idea whether I just chose unluckily or whether they are all like that.

            Carrier never said they were the same as the gospels. He said mythical tales...

            "Only in his case, Jesus was eventually placed in history in mythical tales about him (as was a common trend to do with celestial deities at the time), and that belief became the most popular (as also commonly happened with celestial deities)."

            Therefore, the trend of turning myth into history was not uncommon for antiquity as you can see with any version of Hercules or Romulus and Remus.

            The few accounts I've looked at do just fine as examples of myth being made to look like history. Try wikipedia or read Carriers books.

            Do you agree with the characterisation of Euhemerism in the quote I gave above, and if not why not?

            Nope.

            "Euhemerism is a rationalizing method of interpretation, which treats mythological accounts as a reflection of historical events, or mythological characters as historical personages but which were shaped, exaggerated or altered by retelling and traditional mores. It was named for its creator Euhemerus. In more recent literature of myth, such as in Bulfinch's Mythology, Euhemerism is called the "historical interpretation" of mythology. Euhemerism is defined in modern academic literature as the theory that myths are distorted accounts of real historical events.Euhemerus was not the first to attempt to rationalize mythology through history, as euhemeristic views are found in earlier writers, includingXenophanes, Herodotus, Hecataeus of Abdera and Ephorus. However, Euhemerus is credited as having developed the theory in application to all myths, considering mythology to be "history in disguise"

            Which I believe the manner in which Carrier was defining it also.

          • Peter Piper

            Carrier's argument only has any force if there were other texts of the time which were examples of Euhemerization and were at least comparable to the gospels. Otherwise it is not plausible that the gospels are examples of Euhemerization.

            If any texts will do, then it should be easy for you to give examples of specific texts, on which we can focus. Please do so. If you do not, I will choose the texts myself and proceed as if any problems with Carrier's argument based on the texts I have chosen are present for all texts you could have picked.

            By the way, and sorry for missing this before, you seem to be mixing up euhemerism (the theory that myths tend to arise from distorted versions of historical events) with euhemerization (the practise of writing stories which place mythical figures in historical contexts). It is a subtle difference, I know, but Carrier is claiming that what took place was euhemerization, and that is the claim that the quote I gave earlier is directed at.

            Nothing in the quote you have given (twice) contradicts the quote I have given. So I must ask once more why you disagree with it.

          • Ignorant Amos

            By the way, and sorry for missing this before, you seem to be mixing up euhemerism (the theory that myths tend to arise from distorted versions of historical events) with euhemerization (the practise of writing stories which place mythical figures in historical contexts). It is a subtle difference, I know, but Carrier is claiming that what took place was euhemerization, and that is the claim that the quote I gave earlier is directed at.

            My first quote and definition from the review...

            "euhemerization ...a Greek named Euhemerus started the practice of writing stories to place mythical deities in historical settings on Earth. Supposedly, this was based on the assumption that such deities were originally demigods, who walked the Earth as men before ascending to full godhood."

            My second quote and definition from the wikipedia entry

            Euhemerism in the modern world...

            "Euhemerus has become known chiefly for a rationalizing method of interpretation, known as "Euhemerism", which treats mythological accounts as a reflection of historical events, or mythological characters as historical personages but which were shaped, exaggerated or altered by retelling and traditional mores. In more recent literature of myth, such as in Bulfinch's Mythology, Euhemerism is called the "historical interpretation" of mythology. Euhemerism is defined in modern academic literature as the theory that myths are distorted accounts of real historical events. Euhemerus was not the first to attempt to rationalize mythology through history, as euhemeristic views are found in earlier writers, including Xenophanes, Herodotus, Hecataeus of Abdera and Ephorus. However, Euhemerus is credited as having developed the theory in application to all myths, considering mythology to be "history in disguise"

            But for all the semantics and to give you peace of mind and keep you content, here is the lay down

            euhemerization:
            1. The interpretation of myths as historical events

            euhemerism
            1. interpretation of myths as traditional accounts of historical persons and events

            Nothing in the quote you have given (twice) contradicts the quote I have given. So I must ask once more why you disagree with it.

            I disagree because the quote misrepresents Carriers position as outlined in my definition example above. The research the reviewer carried out was a wikipedia search, but like many an apologist, he quote mined the bits that suited his argument and omitted the common usage of today. No surprise there then.

            The fact is, mythical characters where given historicity.

            "The ancient Greeks celebrated the festival of the Heracleia, which commemorated the death of Heracles, on the second day of the month of Metageitnion (which would fall in late July or early August)."

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heracles#Greek_mythology

            Doesn't sound to me like the Greeks personification of Hercules was for derogatory ends.

            Remember, Jesus had to be personified and made an historical person for the story to progress. The story requires him to suffer on the cross, not the trait of a deity.

          • Peter Piper

            Until you understand the distinction between euhemerization (a practise which Carrier claims was common at the time the gospels were written) and euhemerism (a theory which may, for all I know, be held by some academics right now) we will not make much progress in this discussion.

            The quote I gave was from the very same article from which you quoted `Carrier's position'. As you might expect, this article does not misrepresent itself. Of course, the quote does disagree with Carrier's position (this is different from misrepresenting it), but that is hardly an objection to it.

            You say that the author of this review `quote mined' and `omitted the common usage'. It is not possible to quote mine without giving a quote: thus it is impossible that this reviewer quote mined wikipedia. I was unable to find any examples of common usage in opposition to what this reviewer said. Please note that the quote you have given has no hope of providing such an example, since it discusses euhemerism rather than euhemerization.

            Your example of a festival commemorating the death of a demigod proves nothing, since it is possible for an account of a death to be given either with or without historical context.

            You say that the logic of the story pushes presentations of it towards a more historical form. How then do you explain the fact that later gospels, such as that of Peter, make Jesus less of a man and more of a demigod?

          • Pofarmer

            What about the stories of Apallonius of Tiana?

          • Peter Piper

            What about them? As far as I know they are about a real guy. Are you suggesting that instead they are examples of Euhemerization (that is, that previously there was a myth of a demigod Appolonius and that the stories about this demigod later had historical context added to them)? If so, what evidence do you have?

          • Pofarmer

            Sorry, I had gotten my terms mixed up.

          • Peter Piper

            No problem.

  • Timothy Reid

    A very interesting article.
    Thank you for contributing to this debate and for engaging in it respectfully.
    I think about what you've said here and say to myself that while there are not writings that exist from the estimated years of Jesus' public ministry (c. 27-33 A.D.) that mention Him or any of the activity of His disciples....... within 30 years there are multiple documents written by His followers speaking to his existence in the flesh and his public ministry. His movement was not as large as the philosophical academies of Athens or as respected as the Roman historians, but these writings came into existence a relatively short amount of time after the events that took place. Christian scholars believe that by the beginning of the 2nd century, all of the New Testament had been written. For the next 200 or so years, the Roman Empire had many periods of severe persecution of this sect that had produced these documents. That's 2 centuries of Roman citizens being aware of, having prejudices towards, arresting, torturing, killing, being disgusted by and in general dismissing these bizarre folks belonging to this new sect called "Christians". Could a sect that reviled and despised have survived intact after 200 years of persecution and rejection with its' writings, hierarchy and theology intact?
    AND even if it did...... could 1 emperor (Constantine) change so many Roman's minds towards this new religion so that any attempt to return to the gods of Rome was thwarted?
    To me that makes us humans look like absolute idiots. In essence, if Jesus were not historical, then we (for 1,600 years, or at least 1,100 if you think this ended in the Enlightenment) have been victims of the cruelest and most embarrassing prank perpetrated by a few odd Jews living almost 2,000 years ago.
    I would like to think more highly of our ancestors and believe that many of the amazing figures of human history were not rubes, but were AMAZING human beings with intelligence as well as faith in Jesus Christ. Do we think that human intelligence only started to exist when the apple hit Newton on the head? I don't.
    Yes, of course there are few pieces of evidence from the exact decade of Jesus' public ministry........ but the mounds and mounds of written documents and evidence in the decades that followed lead me to believe that so many people living in the Roman Empire believed in Jesus' historicity not because they'd been bamboozled, but because they were smart.

    • Pofarmer

      If you are really interested, read "Not the impossible Faith."

  • Kevin Aldrich

    Paul says no Jews could ever have heard the gospel except from the apostles (Romans 10:12-18). Evidently the myth of Jesus having preached to the Jews himself had not yet developed.

    This seems bizarre to me. Romans 10:12-18 says nothing remotely like these two claims.

    • Timothy Reid

      I just re-read Romans 10:12-18. It does not say that Jesus didn't preach to the Jews at all. What about 1 Corinthians 11 where Paul says explicitly that Jesus spoke the words of institution to his disciples at table?

  • Kevin Aldrich

    Mythicists . . . regard the first apostle (most likely Peter) to be the actual founder of the movement, not Jesus. On our view, at that point the apostles (like Peter) only claimed to be receiving communications from Jesus by revelation (as in
    Galatians 1).

    Galatians 1 is yet another of St. Paul's claims that he had received a special revelation of Christ (his road to Damascus experience) that set him apart as unique among the apostles. Carrier is taking a claim to an unique experience and applying it to the very apostles that Paul would deny had this experience.

    The Gospels had not yet been written.

    The fact that the Gospels had not yet been written down does not mean the Gospel did not exist in the oral preaching of the apostles.

  • Dear Richard,

    If someone's not really all that interested in biology, and he's asked whether he thinks all life came from a single common ancestor, he might say yes. If asked why he'd say it's because most biologists say so and he trusts the experts. Same with people who are uninterested in physics and quantum mechanics. They actually accept quantum mechanics, not because there's good evidence, but because experts say there's good evidence and they trust the experts.

    I'm not an historian. I'm not interested in history. Most experts say Jesus existed. I trust the experts. Let me know when your theory about Jesus becomes consensus, and I'll change my mind.

    Cheers,
    Paul

    • Octavo

      This, so much this. Some historians and professors of religion, have been amused to refer to this as the Intelligent Design theory of Christianity.

    • David Nickol

      Paul,

      I am actually quite interested in the "historical Jesus" and have read many books on the topic. However, I have to echo your sentiments somewhat. Carrier says:

      To date the best case presented for this hypothesis is by amateur historian and classics graduate Earl Doherty (in his two books, The Jesus Puzzle and Jesus: Neither God Nor Man).

      Apparently (according to Wikipedia) Doherty has a BA in Ancient History and Classical Languages but no advanced degrees. The first book mentioned was published by Canadian Humanist Publications, which appears to be a journal that has published only a handful of books (ten or which are currently available) and the second book is just a revised and expanded version of the first, self-published by Doherty (who has also self-published a few other titles).

      This, of course, does not say necessarily anything about Doherty's work. But the question is for those of us who have no particular reason to take "mythicism" seriously, why would we want to spend our time reading an 800-page book self-published by an amateur historian that contradicts the consensus about the existence of Jesus even by scholars who are not Christian? Whether or not Carrier and Doherty are right is not the primary issue. What is the issue is if they can make a compelling case that ordinary folks like us should devote a significant amount of time to read their books when we could spend the time in other pursuits.

      Every once in a while I will have a book recommendation from Amazon for a book on physics, cosmology, or some related area of science that presents a "whole new approach" to something in the field. Although the topics interest me greatly, I don't buy such books, because I don't know enough to evaluate a "whole new approach."

      If the "mythicists" want my attention, they will have to grab it by presenting some new discovery or by giving a few very simple examples of how their theory is more plausible than the theory that Jesus existed. It's not going get my attention if they present long, detailed critiques of what is usually given as evidence for the existence of Jesus and try to raise doubts.
      I believe Jesus did exist, but I also believe it is difficult to know very much with certainty what he really said and did. If I thought the "mythicists" could explain the difficulty of knowing the historical Jesus by demonstrating that he didn't exist better than historical Jesus scholars can explain why it is so difficult to speak with confidence about what he said and did, then I would be intrigued. But I think all the difficulties, contradictory statements, different interpretations, and so on about Jesus are understandable given a relatively obscure figure who lived in the fist century and grew in stature and reputation after his death.

      • Ignorant Amos

        But the question is for those of us who have no particular reason to take "mythicism" seriously, why would we want to spend our time reading an 800-page book self-published by an amateur historian that contradicts the consensus about the existence of Jesus even by scholars who are not Christian?

        Because the arguments Docherty makes are worthy of Richard Carriers attention to the point that he was inspired by it...

        "My own forthcoming book, probably titled On the Historicity of Jesus, inspired by his work, will be the first making the case for this hypothesis to pass academic peer review."

        Richard Carriers books are well researched and sources ware ell cited in the bibliography for those that wish to follow up.

        You do know that Einstein formulated his ideas that eventually led Einstein to his radical conclusions about the nature of light and the fundamental connection between space and time while working in a patent office?

        You do know that Michael Faraday had very little formal education and educated himself while working as a bookbinder and developed his understanding of science and experiment while working as secretary to the partially blinded Sir Humphrey Davey?

        Just Saying.

        • David Nickol

          You do know that Einstein formulated his ideas . . . . while working in a patent office?

          Yes, but he published his three great papers of 1905 (which were peer reviewed) in Annalen der Physik, which had been publishing since 1799. (The Walter Isaacson biography of Einstein is one of the best books I have ever read, in case you haven't read it.) If there has been any "revolutionary" scholarly work in the last fifty years that was self-published and now is taken quite seriously in its field, I would be interested to hear about it. This is not to say it is impossible that Doherty and Carrier are right. But how many of us here have sufficient knowledge of the field to even judge? Anything I read aside from fiction I choose based on the reputation of the publisher and on the reaction of people in the relevant fields to the author and his or her work.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Anything I read aside from fiction I choose based on the reputation of the publisher and on the reaction of people in the relevant fields to the author and his or her work.

            So peer review will fit the bill then?

          • David Nickol

            So peer review will fit the bill then?

            Peer review is only the first step of vetting scholarly work. Just because something has gone through the review process doesn't mean it is considered to be correct, even by the reviewers. It merely means it meets certain standards that make it worthy of publication. I don't know if you have ever tried to tackle a serious work on the historical Jesus, but one of the most notable at the moment is John P. Meier's five-volume work A Marginal Jew (four volumes published, the fifth to come). I urge you to pick up one of the volumes, or somethings similar (for example, James D. G. Dunn's Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making, Volume 1, and Beginning from Jerusalem, Christianity in the Making, Volume 2) and see if you feel you are qualified to read, understand, and pass judgment on the scholarship.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I don't profess to pass judgement on anything, especially without checking it out...unlike some.

          • David Nickol

            I don't profess to pass judgement on anything, especially without checking it out...unlike some.

            It is not so much a matter of passing judgment as deciding what is worth the time to dig into further and what is not worth pursuing. Sam Harris makes the point that Sathya Sai Baba has worked all kinds of wonders that eyewitnesses swear to. I am not about to spend more than a few minutes of my time investigating Sathya Sai Baba, and I bet you aren't either. (I believe he is no longer alive, actually.) It is not so much that I have passed judgment, it's just that I seriously doubt that it would be worth the time. There are many religions in the world that I know almost nothing about, and probably many more that I have never heard of. It is not so much that I pass judgment on them, and if someone ridiculed them, my first instinct would probably be to leap to their defense. But another phrase that I have heard Sam Harris use is "What are the odds?" What are the odds that an amateur historian, after 2000 years, has revealed in his self-published books the true story of the origins of Christianity? I'm not saying the odds are zero. But I am saying I don't intend to read an 800 page book on the topic.

        • Faraday was recognized for his achievements by the scientific community. He was awarded a named professorship at the Royal Institution, was elected to the Royal Society, the French Academy of Science, was twice offered to be president of the Royal Society and refused to be knighted. He was twice awarded the Royal Medal for "the most important contributions to the advancement of natural knowledge".

          Einstein won the Nobel Prize.

          As far as I know, Doherty's got the attention of one expert in the relevant history, a Richard Carrier. It seems even the creationists have more biologists on their side than mythicists have historians on theirs.

          So I think I'll wait to see what happens to Doherty's and Carrier's ideas before changing my mind about anything. I think Carrier got a book of his past some serious peer review. If so, that's a good first step.

          • Ignorant Amos

            You miss my point. Before Faraday and Einstein were somebody's they were nobody's. In both cases, there formative years academic qualifications left a bit to be desired, yet in spite of that, they formulated theories they revolutionized science. Their recognition came after.

            Of course Docherty is not a pup, but none of this matters, it was an idea found in his work that Carrier appears to be expanding on. Carrier will, if what I've read of him so far, will be supporting his theses with reference.

            Now I was not saying Docherty is a future Faraday or Einstein, but to write someones hypotheses off without knowing what it is, because of academic snobbery, is a bit arrogant. Just my opinion.

            BTW, amateurs are, and have, made important contributions to all sorts of disciplines.

            As far as I know, Doherty's got the attention of one expert in the relevant history, a Richard Carrier.

            "As far as you know"?

            "Writers who do not necessarily support the hypothesis that Jesus did not exist have found merit in some of Doherty's arguments. Hector Avalos has written that "The Jesus Puzzle outlines a plausible theory for a completely mythical Jesus."

            It seems even the creationists have more biologists on their side than mythicists have historians on theirs.

            And for all the wrong reasons too. Approximately 40% of Americans are creationists. Most people know as much about evolution as they know about biblical studies....very little. No believer I know has passed the "have you read the bible?" test, let alone have any knowledge on how the thing came about.

            How's about someone knocking down the mythicist accusations with an unrefutable argument? That would impress me a lot more than ad hom attacks, straw men and non sequiturs.

            Evolution theory is clear cut. An historical Jesus, not so much so.

            So I think I'll wait to see what happens to Doherty's and Carrier's ideas before changing my mind about anything.

            Which is everyone's prerogative of course.

            I think Carrier got a book of his past some serious peer review. If so, that's a good first step.

            Yes it is. His next book, out in February. I'm guessing you are not au fait with Carriers previous books?

          • Evolution theory is clear cut. An historical Jesus, not so much so.

            The historians I've talked with say different about the historical Jesus. They think it's pretty clear cut. I'll stick with what they say for now...

            Which is everyone's prerogative of course.

            ...and with your permission.

            I'm guessing you are not au fait with Carriers previous books?

            Like I said above, I'm not that very interested in history (I have read nothing longer than 10 pages from either side). Let me know if more than a half dozen relevant historians start taking his idea seriously.

          • Ignorant Amos

            The historians I've talked with say different about the historical Jesus. They think it's pretty clear cut. I'll stick with what they say for now...

            ...and with your permission.

            If you think you need it, knock yerself out!

            Like I said above, I'm not that very interested in history (I have read nothing longer than 10 pages from either side).

            Ah...like those who have an opinion on taking ecstasy that haven't bothered their arse trying it...figures...opinion from ignorance. So why are you getting yerself into a debate where, from your own admittance, you are asinine.

            Let me know if more than a half dozen relevant historians start taking his idea seriously.

            More asinine ignorance...mythicism as a genre dates back to 1700's with Volney and Dupuis.

            Earl Doherty, Robert Price, Frank Zindler, Thomas L Thompson, Richard Carrier, Tom Harpur, and George A Well...there's seven...including Carrier...do you reckon there isn't any more?

            What about arguing the points and stopping with the ad populum fallacy.

          • Ah...like those who have an opinion on taking ecstasy that haven't bothered their arse trying it...figures...opinion from ignorance.

            Or:

            Ah...like those who have an opinion on taking heroin that haven't bothered their arse trying it...figures...opinion from ignorance.

            Or:

            Ah...like those who have an opinion on Christianity that haven't bothered their arse trying it...figures...opinion from ignorance.

            Yes, that's about right! Happy trusting the experts, forming my opinion on that basis, and not giving MDMA a try.

            Earl Doherty, Robert Price, Frank Zindler, Thomas L Thompson, Richard Carrier, Tom Harpur, and George A Well...there's seven...including Carrier...do you reckon there isn't any more?

            There are dozens and dozens of scientists who accept creationism. http://creation.com/creation-scientists

            The problem is that most on the creationist list do not do recognized research in evolutionary biology (although maybe you'd get a list of four or five there).

            I don't think Earl Doherty (no relevant degree or relevant peer-reviewed scholarly works), Frank Zindler (same), Thomas Thompson (specialized in old testament), Tom Harpur (as far as I can tell, a theologian and classicist, whose works include "prayer, the hidden love" but not a historian and has never published any real history), George Well (who seems to accept that Jesus existed, but didn't perform any miracles; if that's what mythisicm means, then the group should change their name; I think Julius Caesar existed but I don't believe in the miracles attributed to him) count. Amazing what some half-interested google and wikipedia can accomplish.

            So you got two. Robert Price and Richard Carrier. You doubled the number of relevant historians and mythicists for me. Only about four or five to go, and I'd be willing to call it "silly fringe history" instead of "absurd pseudohistory".

            What about arguing the points and stopping with the ad populum fallacy.

            Not interested enough. I'll stick with the experts.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Ah...like those who have an opinion on Christianity that haven't bothered their arse trying it...figures...opinion from ignorance.

            Thats the problem with a lot of believers when engaging the non-believer. The assumption that they were always non-believers and never knew a religious environment.

            Yes, that's about right! Happy trusting the experts, forming my opinion on that basis, and not giving MDMA a try.

            So you'll argue from ignorance or authority before saying nothing or finding out for yourself? Fair enough.

            There are dozens and dozens of scientists who accept creationism. http://creation.com/creation-s...

            Yes, and there used to be thousands and thousands of scientists who accept creationism. Not so much these days though. It wasn't until 1950 that Catholicism came to terms with evolution...many Catholics still hold to creationism. But generally speaking, it is considered a ridiculous position for those that are ignorant. Go figure.

            The problem is that most on the creationist list do not do recognized research in evolutionary biology (although maybe you'd get a list of four or five there).

            That's because of a little thing called compartmentalization.

            "Compartmentalization is an unconscious psychological defense mechanism used to avoid cognitive dissonance, or the mental discomfort and anxiety caused by a person's having conflicting values, cognitions, emotions, beliefs, etc. within themselves."

            (who seems to accept that Jesus existed, but didn't perform any miracles; if that's what mythisicm means, then the group should change their name; I think Julius Caesar existed but I don't believe in the miracles attributed to him) count.

            Well, from what I can gather, there is as diverse a group of definitions of what it is to be a mythicist as there are to be a Christian.

            Amazing what some half-interested google and wikipedia can accomplish.

            Yip...time enough to gather up credentials but still nothing on the core arguments.

            So you got two. Robert Price and Richard Carrier. You doubled the number of relevant historians and mythicists for me. Only about four or five to go, and I'd be willing to call it "silly fringe history" instead of "absurd pseudohistory".

            Call it what you will, you have still not refuted a single argument.

            Not interested enough. I'll stick with the experts.

            Yet here you are, making a non argument about the players involved...good for you.

          • Yip...time enough to gather up credentials but still nothing on the core arguments.

            Exactly!

            It's been fun.

  • Linda

    This is an interesting article. It seems, though, that the idea that the hypothesis should be taken more seriously because more people are starting to believe it is the same one Christians and any other religion uses, and that atheists use against religion: just because more people believe it doesn't make it true. Also, I don't understand how scholars know that Nazorean is not from Nazareth if you don't have the text to begin with. How do you speculate on what it is and say definitively what it is not if you have only this one verse to go on? Still, I am looking forward to the second of your articles. I imagine it will clarify things for me. Thanks for contributing.

    • Ignorant Amos

      You are stating the appeal to authority fallacy or argumentum ad auctoritatem.

      The strength of this authoritative argument depends upon two factors:

      1.The authority is a legitimate expert on the subject.

      2. There exists consensus among legitimate experts in the subject matter under discussion.

      Does the authority cited by Carrier fulfill those two factors?

      I'd say "yes" to number one.

      I'd say "getting there" to number two.

      The point of listing those esteemed scholars is to show that it is not just a few cranks that are asking questions on the scholarship, like many believers and non-believers like to think.

      He gave the example of the historicity of the Hebrew patriarchs being questioned in the seventies as fringe. Now just forty years later, the tables have turned.

      • Linda

        I think you could say "yes" to both your points with regard to Christianity as well.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Who is a legitimate expert on Christianity and by whose standard?

          • Linda

            I would imagine its someone with advanced degrees in history and or theology, and by whatever standard defines reputable universities that confer such degrees.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Who decides the standard which defines what is reputable when the bible is about interpretation, bearing in mind there is over 38,000 different Christianities? What makes a particular interpretation any more valid than any other, and who decides?

          • Linda

            I feel like you are quarreling with me about something but I can't figure out what or why. My understanding is that Universities are accredited based on independent standards. They award their degrees based on the merit of the work done. These degrees, plus continued experience in their chosen fields, make people experts or authorities on particular topics. These authorities then present their theories, hypotheses and opinions on different subjects. However, being an authority or an expert means only that you are qualified to present that theory, hypothesis or opinion; not that the theory, hypothesis or opinion is accurate and regardless of whether others agree with you. The number of differing opinions is irrelevant. Shakespeare and his works is a good example. There are many different interpretations of his work, and even disputes of authorship. Though I will add that most people study things because they love the subjects, not because they hate them or want others to dislike them. That version of scholarship seems suspect and a bit untrustworthy.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I'm not quarelling with you, I'm just trying to get to the bottom of what constitutes an expert in Christian theology.

            Was Martyn Luther an expert? Aquinas? Who decides and by what standard given the many variables and interpretations?

            Well the number of differing opinions is not irrelevant. An expert theologian learning theology at an Protestant evangelical seminary and one learning at a Catholic seminary might consider themselves experts on their respective beliefs, but what does that mean to a LDS theologian at a Mormon college?

            Though I will add that most people study things because they love the subjects, not because they hate them or want others to dislike them.

            What about finding out the truth?

            That version of scholarship seems suspect and a bit untrustworthy.

            An unbiased search for the truth is hardly suspect or untrustworthy.

          • Mikegalanx

            So you'd only trust a biography of Hitler that was written by a
            Nazi ? You would think a study of Marx's thought suspect unless it was by a Communist? A Catholic scholar writing on Martin Luther seems untrustworthy?

  • Kevin Aldrich

    Their picture of Jesus . . . became the most successful among the competing varieties of Christianity over the ensuing generations, and the eventually triumphant sects only created and preserved documents supporting their view, and very little supporting any other.

    So a theory of the existence of non-triumphant sects is evidenced by the non-existence of any evidence for those sects.

    • Ignorant Amos

      Why do you quote mine to build a straw man to demolish?

      "The most credible alternative theory of Christian origins is that Jesus began life as a celestial being, known only through private revelations, who was believed to have been crucified and resurrected in the lower heavens. The Gospels were the first attempts to place him in history as an earthly man, in parables and fables meant to illustrate Christian theology and ideals. Their picture of Jesus then became the most successful among the competing varieties of Christianity over the ensuing generations, and the eventually triumphant sects only created and preserved documents supporting their view, and very little supporting any other."

      Why leave out the four character "then" and replace it with a three character ellipsis changing the comments context?

      Docetists, for example, who believed Jesus as purely spiritual, where declared heretical in 325...while the "orthodox" sects, believing in a flesh and blood Jesus were accepted as, well, "orthodox".

      Subsequently Docetic texts were maligned and burned, while those that made the canon excelled.

      Many other Christian sects were also declared heretical and were all but forgotten and left without much of a trace. The rest were subsumed into the big orthodox church for the most part.

    • Pofarmer

      Actually, scholars know that exactly this happened.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        To which "this" are you referring?

        And do you have a name?

        • Pofarmer

          I am referring to the fact that we know the Gospels of non-triumphant sects were destroyed, or at least neglected, because what remains is refutations of those Gospels/letters/ whatever, with quotes from those that were refuting them. Of course I have a name.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Of course I have a name.

            One of the rules of this forum is that people are supposed to use their actual names.

          • Pofarmer

            Was not aware.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            We know the Gospels of non-triumphant sects were destroyed, or at least
            neglected, because what remains is refutations of those Gospels/letters/
            whatever, with quotes from those that were refuting them.

            I agree. Lots of evidence exists that there were all kinds of religious adherents with some connection to Christianity from the Apostolic period on.

            What Carrier does not establish is that one of them (which is not the orthodox Christianity established by the Ecumenical Councils) was the actual original seed of Christianity rather than an aberration.

          • Pofarmer

            I guess I'll have to go back and see where he makes that claim?

  • AThanatos

    I find it interesting that the "Nazorian" idea that this theory puts a heavy burden on comes from Matthew. The scholarly consensus of the most rigorous historical-critical scholars (read those that have no stakes in Christianity) is that Mark came well before Matthew. That there is no mention of a Nazorian in Mark (which instead is much more clearly geographical in Mk 1:9 - saying that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galiliee). The common rule of thumb in the textual criticism is to favor the older texts over the newer.

  • Pete

    Hi Richard,

    I really love your work, despite not being swayed
    entirely by your arguments. I am still holding onto the Ehrman camp
    with the tips of my fingers, but I will be following this debate to see
    if you can wrestle another finger off :)

    All the best - your a great ambassador for your cause :)

    Kind regards
    Pete

  • SDG

    I'm a little nonplused at just how little I understand Dr. Carrier's position after reading his article.

    For instance, if the Gospels were "the first attempts to place Jesus in history as an earthly man," does Carrier mean to say that Paul had no concept of Jesus in history as an earthly man?

    Even though Paul describes Jesus as "born of woman, born under the law" (i.e., a Jewish man), a biological descendant of David "according to the flesh" (Gal 4:4, Rom 1:3)? Does Carrier mean for us to imagine Jews believing in celestial beings descended from David and born of women under the Torah of Moses? I have no idea.

    In what is generally regarded as the first extant Christian document, 1 Thessalonians, Paul describes the persecution of Christians in Judea at the hands of "the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out…" (1 Thes 2:14-15).

    Jesus' death is here situated in a historical continuity from the deaths of the Old Testament prophets to the persecution of the early Christians, including Paul and his fellow evangelists. Jesus was killed, Paul says, by the same Jews who persecuted the prophets and are persecuting the early Christians.

    How does this very earthly picture relate to Carrier's notion of a crucifixion "in the lower heavens"? I have no idea.

    Jimmy Akin's new article today raises many of the thoughts I had yesterday reading Carrier's piece.

  • Matjaž Črnivec

    Carrier's argument has two fundamental flaws:

    1. It does not explain why a purely "spiritual" revelation would have to develop into a "myth" which perfectly fits into the 2nd temple Judaism, which clearly establishes itself in the Old Testament history and prophecy (which was, this must be admitted, at least perceived to be historical by 1st century Jews). Why the necessity to ground itself (and that in a masterful way!) into a religious tradition which was stressing the concrete realm (the land, the temple, the resurrection of the body), while there were many other religious traditions which were intrinsically more open to purely spiritual speculation. Where is the need - and how likely is it - that a purely spiritual revelation would clothe itself in this vast, complex and masterful realistic story that concretely responds and in a radically unexpected way resolves some of the deepest concrete concerns of the Judaism? Celestial deities of the time might have been clothed in mythical tales which could appear historic (although I would really like to see some examples here - I believe that they would reveal a lot), but the genre is clearly fundamentally different, without any or with just a few historical and geographical references that the four Gospels are replete of.

    2. The "triumphant Christian sect" (~ the "orthodox" Christianity) was heavily opposed from the beginnings. It is telling that it was never attacked with this argument (Jesus' nonexistence), although at those early stages it would be the most easy and devastating. If this was the case it is absolutely unthinkable that absolutely none of the many opponents would use this argument. The earliest Jewish critiques that are preserved independently accuse Jesus of witchcraft and mock him as an illegitimate child. Gospels actually seem to know about this (Mark 3:22; John 8:41). It is also quite natural that Jesus' opponents would see him this way. This actually shows that this attack on the historicity of Jesus lacks its own historicity. The absolute silence of the early opponents of the "triumphant Christian sect" about Jesus' nonexistence is a lethal piece of historical evidence against the "Mythicist" hypothesis.

    If this is really the "most credible alternative theory of Christian origins", I think the case for the "standard" theory remains pretty strong. The ring of, shall we say "randomness", and disconnection with the actual (Jewish!) world where these documents emerged, which pervades the Mythicist's hypothesis, could be actually properly seen as a good case FOR the "standard" theory. Thank you, dr. Carrier.

  • ksed11

    If by “mythicist” one means that the accounts of Jesus are myths, then this seems wrong-headed. The Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology states:

    …"myth" would appear to have three characteristics….First, a myth is a story. Second, this story is concerned with the sacred in Emile Durkheim's sense of the word, that is, with persons or things surrounded with reverence and respect in the society where the story is told. Third, the events described in this sacred story are set initially in a previous age that is qualitatively different from the present age."

    If the early church were making stories up, they most likely would have placed the
    narrative in some primordial time or epoch, such as the time of the early
    chapters of Genesis, not during the reign of Augustus and Tiberias.

    • Pofarmer

      But they sort of were. None of the accounts were written down until a minimum of 20 years after the proposed crucifixion, and some say more like 40. The later ones may have been close to a hundred. If you were wanting to influence things now, it would make sense to have a tradition closer to your own time. "Remember that fellow who........"

      • ksed11

        My point was just that the category of ‘myth’ is the wrong one for gospels. In any case, Richard Burridge and others have pointed out that the genre that is best represented by the gospels is Greco-Roman biography. The genre alone would tell us that the gospel writers were intent on conveying an accurate account of the life of Jesus.

        • Ignorant Amos

          And the late Rudolf Bultmann, German Lutheran theologian and professor of New Testament at the University of Marburg, states the gospel authors had no interest in history or in a historical Jesus and the gospels must be read and interpreted in this light.

          The gospels are not written in a biographical manner. Only Luke attempts to claim as such...but fails way short of what would fulfill the criteria even by the standards of the times.

          • ksed11

            Form critics like Bultmann made certain assumptions that have been shown to be unwarranted. Recent scholarship on oral cultures have shown that the transmission of historic traditions is a rather conservative activity which preserves the historic information quite well . This overturns that assumption of the unreliability of oral transmission.

            In addition, his assumption that modern peoples who use electric lights cannot believe in miracles is, again, unwarranted. Only by begging the question against a god who intervenes in history can he make that claim; but of course that is a central point of dispute, and Xians have independent arguments for god’s existence. Only after dealing with those arguments, and with the historical record can he be justified in making that claim.
            As I mentioned elsewhere, many scholars today belive the gospels to be Greco-roman biographies. Genre is a good indicator of the writer’s intent. Additionally, the N.T. is replete with themes of “bearing witness ” and “remembering” the life of Jesus. These recurring themes cannot be squared with the form critical assumption that the early disciples had no interest in relaying accurate information.
            Luke meets the historical standards of his time. He interviewed primary eyewitnesses and when they weren’t available, he used extant written sources (such as Gospel of Mark).

          • Ignorant Amos

            Recent scholarship on oral cultures have shown that the transmission of historic traditions is a rather conservative activity which preserves the historic information quite well . This overturns that assumption of the unreliability of oral transmission.

            The NT is it's own evidence that the oral tradition wasn't all that. Moreover, the New Testament apocrypha is further evidence that all sorts of nonsense was being spoke about in the early days of the Christian church.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Testament_apocrypha

            As I mentioned elsewhere, many scholars today belive the gospels to be Greco-roman biographies. Genre is a good indicator of the writer’s intent.

            "The Gospel authors were Jews writing within the midrashic tradition and intended their stories to be read as interpretive narratives, not historical accounts."

            -Bishop Shelby Spong, Liberating the Gospels

            Additionally, the N.T. is replete with themes of “bearing witness ” and “remembering” the life of Jesus. These recurring themes cannot be squared with the form critical assumption that the early disciples had no interest in relaying accurate information.

            Circular argument. Who wrote the themes of “bearing witness ” and “remembering” the life of Jesus?

        • Pofarmer

          My take is that "accurate account" would be much different for the early Greco-Roman historians than it would be for us today. Even Josephus has a lot of miraculous things going on in his accounts.

        • Ken Scaletta

          Are familiar with the works of Ehhemerus?

    • Ken Scaletta

      That third thing is not a requirement of myth and the Romans frequently set mythical stories and characters within a historical context. Virgil's Aneiad, for instance and Romulus.

  • jasmine999

    There's a lot of guesswork here.

    Re "Jesus was eventually placed in history in mythical tales about him (as was a common trend to do with celestial deities at the time)," Romans also deified humans post-mortem, and believed in miracle workers like Apollonius of Tyana, who could raise the dead. Hebrews were no different; there were plenty of miracle worker/prophet contemporaries of Jesus in Judea, some of whom had fairly large followings. Given this, why is it more likely for Jesus to be Peter's divine messenger than for him to be a miracle worker/prophet whose legend caught on?

    Re Paul: That his letters conflict with later gospels proves little. Paul could not see the future, and lived decades before the gospels developed. We could argue about what Paul means by a "resurrection," but not about the fact that he presents Jesus as a historical person.

    btw I don't believe that Jesus was god, or the son of god. I believe a man called Jesus existed, and was incorporated into the myth which developed around him. I need more evidence to change my mind.

    • Sid Martin

      There are three methods of relating myth and history in the Gospel. Evangelicals treat the Gospel as pure history. Mainstream scholarship sees the Gospel as myth mixed in with history. Their job is to filter fact from fiction and isolate the "real, historical Jesus," the nucleus around which myth developed. The fhird approach is to treat the Gospel as pure myth. This is Carrier's position. What all of these views have in common is that they are linear, i.e., myth expands at the expense of history. I suggest another, nonlinear approach. The Gospel is a myth about history. The narrative as such is myth but the myth figuratively reflects history. The Gospel of Mark, the earliest Gospel, is an allegory of the history of Israel from the Essenic point of view written in response to the fall of Jerusalem. Jesus is a symbol of salvation. The story of Jesus recapitulates the history of salvation. Although some pagan mythic motifs may be incorporated, the messiah myth is essentiallly Jewish, not paga. I explore this analysis in my new book, Secret of the Savior: The Myth of the Messiah in Mark. http://amzn.to/14XwpHt

  • crewe49

    12 Disciples who fawned over and recorded every word he spoke yet totally neglected to to record the date of his birth. The dates he made all these alleged pronouncements, or the date of his death.
    Nothing that could pin down when he was born or died and therefore be verified by third parties. He didn't exist.

  • ORAXX

    The mere fact people have to debate this issue should be raising questions. The question people should be asking is: Why would a divine being, capable of willing the universe into existence, communicate the most important message imaginable, in such a hap hazard fashion? This question becomes even more troubling when played out against history, and the horrors that resulted from trying to determine the 'correct' interpretation of the Bible. Surely, such a divine being could have anticipated the problems, and made the message as unambiguous as mathematics and evidence for the messenger overwhelming and incontrovertible.

  • Ralph Ellis

    I would not believe anything Carrier says: he does not even know that Jesus is mentioned many times in the Talmud. He is mentioned as Yeshu the Nazarene in Sanhedrin 43, and called Balaam in many other locations. If Carrier does not even know that, then of what value are his pronunciations?

    If you want to find the historical Jesus - the person, not the demigod - the complete evidence for this if contained in the books ‘King Jesus’ and ‘Jesus, King of Edessa’.

    Jesus was a king of Edessa called King Izas-Manu (while Jesus was called King Jesus Em-Manu-El). And all the kings of Edessa wore a ceremonial Crown of Thorns.

    • Donald

      Sorry but trying to use parts of the bible as evidence as to the validity of the bible is a circular argument and totally meaningless rhetorical argumentation not based in objective, verifiable evidence but in subjective interpretation that can be twisted in any way to suit the desires of the person doing so.
      In essence the argument is 'the book says what I want it to say because I say that it does' and is no different that asserting that some poetic passage that you like means 'X' because that is what you say it does.
      This is made even more clear and useless as there is no evidence outside of that collection of ancient myths, fables and legends with a few exceptions such a some geographical locations and a few historical persons that supports any of the claims contained in it. In fact all of the myths relating to 'creation' are false and contradicted by objective science and as a geologist I state categorically that the entire legend of a global flood is completely contradicted by reality.

      • Jordan Williams

        He didn't use "parts of the bible" in the argument above... He's referring to the Babylonian Talmud and the Sanhedrin (Both accounts of ancient Jewish history)
        That's not the Bible my guy...

        Furthermore many of the ancient Jewish writings of that time period OPPOSED Christ and the early church... so if there was any doubt in their minds or even the slightest notion that Jesus never existed and his crucifixion was "made up"... that's what the ancient documents would say. However we have nothing of the sort... no ancient evidence or documents from those OPPOSING Christianity pointing to it all being a myth... because it isn't a myth. It's real!

        2000 years from now as technology advances and the records of today wither away... a sect of people will claim that Barack Obama never existed... or slavery in the USA was made up and all documents were forged (of course tied to their own philosophical bias)... and they will be just as intellectually dishonest in their claim

  • James Hartic

    On the historical Jesus matter.....the general consensus among historians, atheist and otherwise is that Jesus actually lived. Carriere is not taken seriously even among his peers.
    Perhaps atheist/agnostic Bart Ehrman historian and biblical scholar can shed light on this matter and will put to bed for some of you, the claim that Jesus did not exist. I should remind the reader, that I too fit into the agnostic/atheist camp. So I have no axe to grind one way other the other. I try my best to be objective in all matters of religion, history and the sciences.

    Bart Erhman on youtube.

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

    • Ian

      I disagree that Carrier isn't taken seriously. That's true of folks like Acharya S and Earl Doherty, who have no relevant experience or qualifications in the area.

      But, in my experience, Carrier is treated a bit more seriously. It isn't clear, yet, what Carrier's case for mythicism is, if indeed he is actually pressing that as the most likely reading of the evidence. He has a book due early next year that aims to develop his argument. It is a scholarly book that has received a pre-press peer review. It will, I suspect, be reviewed in the relevant venues as a work of scholarship. Whether it succeeds or fails in the academy is another matter. If it does not persuade, no doubt ardent mythicists will see it as evidence of the closed-mindedness of the scholars. Who knows.

      Did Jesus Exist, Ehrman's, book is not a scholarly treatment. In terms of presenting a case for a historical Jesus with comprehensive rigour, it is rather weak, IMHO. And I say that as someone who is not a mythicist.

      You are right that the vast majority of non-theistic biblical scholars think the evidence supports a historical figure mythologized, rather than a mythical figure historicized.

      Though ardent mythicists, who see the lack of a historical Jesus as a stick to beat religions with, tend to not really 'get' where the actual scholarly argument. They want to claim that the character of Jesus portrayed in the gospels is mythological. That is pretty much the view of all scholars I know: 'historical Jesus' doesn't mean that what any particular person thinks of as Jesus, was historical. Particularly not the Jesus of Christian theology or tradition. Read the comments and see how many people miss the point and respond with variations of "of course Jesus didn't exist, how could a god-man really rise from the dead?", which isn't at all the discussion Carrier is participating in.

      I've said before that, for the ways that Jesus is important to our culture, it is pretty uncontroversial among scholars that Jesus is a myth. There are a few exceptions, but the folks (like NT Wright) who's names come up in that camp are on the fringes of historical Jesus scholarship, if they would describe themselves as that at all.

    • Doug Shaver

      Bart Erhman on youtube. . . .

      I watched part of the video, but I've read the whole book.

      Having read several of Ehrman's previous books, I was quite looking forward to what he had to say on this issue. I was severely disappointed.

  • newenglandsun

    I can't access the article you wrote so I can't see what you have to say about the Josephus interpolations. Until then, I would have to contend that Horn has established well-credited scholarly sources emphasizing that Josephus and Tacitus both provide evidence that there was *some* sort of historical person called Jesus.

  • Bill D

    Dr. Carrier's reference to Romans 10:12-18 reference is fascinating, because I believe it destroys his position entirely. By quoting it, Dr. Carrier is tacitly admitting that Paul's letter to the Romans is valid, and that Paul is a credible witness. And, while the doctor's interpretation is debatable, just 3 verses prior Paul points explicitly to a historical Jesus. Romans 10:9, ESV: "because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." That sentence witnesses Paul's belief in Jesus' life, death, resurrection and divinity. In first Corinthians, Paul is just as explicit: "And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." 1 COR 15:14 Now, I'm not sure if Dr. Carrier would challenge the validity of first Corinthians, but the refutation stands without it. There is no way one can imagine Paul writing Romans 10 with a mythical Jesus in mind - so long as one reads the whole chapter, and not just verses 12-18.

    Jesus is Lord.

  • Sid Martin

    My own view is the Jesus is a symbol of salvation and that the story of Jesus recapitulates the history of salvation. Secret of the Savior: The Myth of the Messiah in Mark. http://amzn.to/14XwpHt

  • Elka

    What of the secular accounts from the first and second century that treated Jesus and the Disciples as real people? What of the scholars who say that the Gospels do not at all read like contemporary fables of the day? If these were fables, why in the world would the histories assert that women, who were disrespected as "talebearers" and unreliable witnesses in that culture, be written in as the first to find him risen?

    Why did this religion grow, under horrific persecution and slaughter under Nero within decades after Jesus's, if a real person name Jesus never existed?

    I could ask plenty more questions, but the theory you proposed doesn't make any sense in light of these things.

  • Sofia Sousa

    If you take the time to read this book, you may be able to reverse the enormous damage that fallacy has caused to humankind: http://www.theosophical.ca/books/AncientEgyptTheLightOfTheWorld_GMassey.pdf.

    Justice, Love and Peace!!!

  • tobi billups

    My colleagues required Copyright PTOL-85 Part B some time ago and learned about a great service that hosts 6,000,000 forms . If you require Copyright PTOL-85 Part B too , here's http://goo.gl/4txgbH.

  • Jeff J

    20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
    21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to
    him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
    22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools

  • Kalyan Krishnan

    There is not a singe mention of Jesus till 325 AD in any independent ( of Vatican ) ancient text. Helena. who was born in Drepana in Bithynia ( modern Turkey ) and was the mother of Roman emperor Constantine the Great was the one who cooked up Jesus Christ and Bible at the First Council of Nicea in 325 AD.

    Jesus was indeed modeled after Apollonius of Tyana.

    Helena was a stable maid. She was planted to seduce Constantius Chlorus, an officer in the Roman army who would later be pushed by hidden forces to become emperor.

    Helena a mere concubine was beautiful and she accompanied Constantius Chlorus at all stages of his military career to Germany and England. Helena was the driving force in creating the new religion named Christianity using Jesus as the hero.

    Constantine the Great was baptized and converted to Christianity within an hour of his death by his son Constanine II who poisoned him and usurped his throne. Constantine II was thus the first true Christian Roman emperor.

    Indeed, Helena is the greatest fraud in the history of this planet. In addition to creating Christianity, Jesus and the Bible, she planted fake relics all over Jerusalem and then exhumed it with great fanfare.

    Thus, almost all the great historical places of worship in Jerusalem are her fake cooked up edifices.

    To know more just search Google or DuckDuckGo with the keywords "Helena Vadakayil" to come across an article called "HELENA , mother of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great , THIS PLANETs GREATEST CHEAT - CAPT AJIT VADAKAYIL"

    As you scroll down you will come across several links worth a read if things have kept up your interest so far.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bb7b8e68fa197cc985a0f6dce09268d4b46d451f617f6ee072098ef251bd83fe.jpg

  • Michael Uplaznik

    The most credible alternative theory of Christian origins is that Jesus
    began life as a celestial being, known only through private revelations, who was believed to have been crucified and resurrected in the lower heavens.

    I wonder how do we make sense of the notion of baptism according to Paul on that view. In Romans 6 : 5-7, Paul depicts how by the baptism the baptized is united to Christ in his death and resurrection and by consequence is free from sins already in this life. If Jesus is a celestial being, how can this be ? It seems that Jesus must be incarnated in order for its sacrifice to be efficient to save us.

    Moreover, later in Romans, 8 : 5, Jesus is said to have been sent by God in likeness of a sinful flesh in order to abolish the sin. This passage is strongly against the celestial being's hypothesis, because celestial being is contrary to a being in flesh.

    P.S. As you can see, English is not my first language. Be indulgent.