25,000 New Testament Manuscripts? Big Deal.

It’s a popular Christian argument: historians have roughly 25,000 manuscripts of New Testament books, far more than any other book from ancient history. Compare that with 2000 copies of the Iliad, the second-best represented manuscript. Even more poorly represented are the works of Herodotus, Thucydides, Aristotle, Julius Caesar, Pliny, Tacitus, and other great figures from history, for which we have more like a dozen manuscripts each.

Do we conclude that our records of Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar or Histories by Tacitus are so unreliable that they can’t inform our understanding of the past? Of course not. But if that’s the case, we must then accept the far-better attested New Testament manuscripts—or so the popular argument goes.

The first problem is that more manuscripts at best increase our confidence that we have the original version. That doesn’t mean the original copy was history—just like the original copy of The Wizard of Oz or the Arthurian legends wouldn’t be a record of history.

Consider the claim of 25,000 manuscripts. The originals of every New Testament book were written in Greek, but three-quarters of these manuscripts are translations into other languages. We can avoid the extra layer of interpretation imposed by a translation by focusing on just the 5800 Greek manuscripts.

Now consider when these manuscripts were written.

This chart shows the number of Greek manuscript copies by century. (The data is from Wikipedia, with manuscripts categorized on the cusp of two centuries put into the earlier century.) We have zero manuscripts from the first century and eight from the second. The twelfth century has the most, with 1090 manuscripts. The printing press was invented in the middle of the fifteenth century, which explains much of the drop on the right of the chart.

I recently explored the three most famous additions to the New Testament (the Comma Johanneum, the woman caught in adultery, and the long ending of Mark). The scholarly analysis for whether some of these passages are authentic or not turn on just a few manuscripts, and this chart shows why. The vast majority of the manuscripts, from perhaps the sixth century and after, never enter the conversation.

Our 25,000 manuscripts became 5800 Greek manuscripts, but those have now dwindled to just those few in the first few centuries after the crucifixion.

There are one hundred manuscripts in the first four centuries, and many of these are just tiny scraps. Consider papyrus P52 above—yes, that is considered a “manuscript.” It is a tiny fragment of John just 9cm long. It is our oldest New Testament manuscript and dates to the first half of the second century. Three more manuscripts (P90, P98, and P104) are also scraps of a similar size and date to the second half of the second century. (Though it’s probably obvious, I’ll emphasize that these dates are all just approximations, and arguments can be made for different dates.)

Another handful of manuscripts date to around 200 CE. Six of them (P4, P32, P64, P66, P77, and P103) are scraps, but in this group we get our first substantial manuscripts. P46 (part of the Chester Beatty collection) has much of nine epistles. P66 contains most of John. P75 (the Bodmer Papyrus) has a substantial fraction of Luke and John.

The record looks fairly good when you look at the dates of our earliest fragments of the various books in the New Testament—John in the second century, Matthew and Luke around 200, Mark around 250, and so on. But, again, the emphasis should be on the word fragment. Only when you get to the oldest complete (or nearly complete) texts—the Codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus from the fourth century—do you get all the missing pieces. (I’ve written more about this centuries-long dark age here.)

The “best attested by far!” claim for the New Testament is true but irrelevant. It’s not all that surprising that a handful of early documents from a popular religion in a dry climate were preserved until today, and let’s acknowledge that that’s impressive and historically important. But that we have 1090 manuscripts in the original Greek from the twelfth century is not much more helpful in recreating the originals than that we have 100 million new copies printed each year. What matters are the earliest copies—perhaps the hundred from first four centuries. And the hundred dwindle down to just a relevant handful of copies that are larger than scraps.

25,000 New Testament manuscripts? Big deal.

It is error alone which needs the support of government.
Truth can stand by itself.
— Thomas Jefferson

Photo credit: Wikipedia

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Y. A. Warren

    They are ALL stories written by humans with their own world views and interpretations of events. Even eye witness accounts of events are notoriously unreliable. I am mystified as to why so many people buy into snake oil sales pitches by people who want to look superior while they look down on the “unwashed masses.” Bullies manipulate others to their way with fear. They can kill me, but they can’t make me believe, even when I say what they want to save my skin or the skins of those i love.

    • smrnda

      Agree on the unreliability of eyewitness accounts; after seeing some research on memory, I can’t see how ‘eyewitness accounts’ keep getting propped up as some indicator of reliability. Eyewitness accounts of crimes frequently implicate the wrong person – this is why so many people have been exonerated because of DNA evidence.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        We already talked about “What Jennifer Saw,” didn’t we? It’s amazing how misplaced our confidence in our memories can be.

  • Jason

    Bob,

    I’m glad you wrote this post but I’m disheartened that it was necessary. I’m a Greek philologist, and let me confirm that the total number of manuscripts representing a text is absolutely NO indicator of its authenticity. In general all this tells us is how eagerly people copied the text (and thus how important the texts were to a group of people). Considering the popularity of Christianity in the medieval period, it’s not the least bit surprising that we have a ton of manuscripts. Earlier fragments (Papyri, etc from let’s say the 4rd cent. CE and before) can effectively give us helpful information about what the earliest versions of the NT were like, but even that has absolutely nothing to do with the authenticity of the claims found in the NT.

    I’m eager to see if there are actually people reading this post who will argue that more manuscripts = more reliability/authenticity.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’m an amateur, so I appreciate the input of those who’ve done the hard work. Thanks.

      I’m certain that I’ve heard this argument a dozen times. But yes, it would be interesting if any of its proponents are here and interested in bolstering up their side of the argument.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      I’m a Greek philologist…

      Shame! You stay away from those children.

      • busterggi

        Technically its just the little girls that have to worry, they’re the phillies (damned Greeks for not having an f).

  • JohnH2

    Have to point out that it may not be the case that we can discount completely all translations. If in Greek we have versions say A and B but not C but in a variety of other languages we do have a version C, and have it in very early manuscripts in the other languages then it seems proper to surmise that there was probably a version C in Greek as well that is now lost. Obviously in the cases where we know what manuscript was being translated from then the translation can be discounted, but if we had version C (even fragmented) in Latin from from the second or third century that would provide more evidence then 200 Greek manuscripts from the 9th or 10th century.

    I really have no idea if this is at all the case in reality, just dealing in hypothetical.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      There might be a version in C in Greek. But I agree: a non-Greek version could preserve a tradition lost in the Greek manuscripts that we have. Remember the Gospel of Mrs. Jesus? That was a Syriac fragment, and scholars tried to infer the age of the Greek tradition that it came from.

      I felt comfortable dropping the non-Greek manuscripts and simplifying the argument simply because all the discussions that I could find did the same.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      This reminds me of another tidbit from The End of Biblical Studies by Hector Avalos. He mentions that the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, varies noticeably from the “standard” Hebrew version. Many scholars attributed this to a rather loose job of translation.

      Until the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. And the DSS include Hebrew versions of some of the OT books which are much closer to the Septuagint version.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    The printing press was invented in the middle of the fifteenth century,
    which explains much of the drop on the right of the chart.

    To paraphrase something I read in Hector Avalos’ The End of Biblical Studies, you could argue that God saved the revelation of The Book of Mormon until after the printing press was invented to ensure its accurate transmittal. There are millions of high accuracy manuscripts of the BoM in existence now (where a printed book counts as a manuscript).

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Wow–God’s pretty smart. As Judas said in “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.”

  • GubbaBumpkin

    P52 is the earliest fragmentary manuscript of the NT. Wikipedia sez

    Although Rylands 52 is generally accepted as the earliest extant record of a canonical New Testament text,[2] the dating of the papyrus is by no means the subject of consensus among scholars. The style of the script is Hadrianic,[3]
    which would suggest a most probable date somewhere between 117 CE and
    138 CE. But the difficulty of fixing the date of a fragment based solely
    on paleographic evidence allows a much wider range, potentially extending from before 100 CE past 150 CE.[4]

    So, taking the earlier dates of ~ 100 CE, that’s still almost 70 years after the alleged facts. Imagine someone published a book today about John F. Kennedy and his assassination, which happened 50 years ago. And this wasn’t a scholarly treatment that examined the various primary materials. No, this claimed to be a primary account itself, an eyewitness account. No one would bother to even take it seriously.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Another manuscript complication: someone from a later period deliberately copying the style of an older, more respected period.

      Consider also that the historical consensus always rejects the supernatural. The religionist has an uphill climb.

    • trj

      In fairness, the gospels themselves don’t pretend to be eyewitness accounts. Christians like to claim they are, but they have zero scriptural support for this.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Another manuscript:

    Ancient Magician’s Curse Tablet Discovered in Jerusalem

    Therefore, magic is real. But wait, there’s more:

    To obtain her goal Kyrilla combined elements from four religions, Robert
    Walter Daniel, of the Institut für Altertumskunde at the University of
    Cologne, told LiveScience in an email. Of six gods invoked, four of them
    are Greek (Hermes, Persephone, Pluto and Hecate), one is Babylonian (Ereschigal) and one, Abrasax, is Gnostic, a religion connected to early Christianity. Additionally, the text contains magic words such as “Iaoth” that have a Hebrew/Judaism origin.

    Wow, this manuscript proves multiple religions to be true!

  • joannemcportland

    I’m not being disingenuous, Bob, but WHO is making the claim that “the more manuscripts, the more factual the account”? The presence and number of manuscripts, even those purporting to provide historical accounts, is no test of fact. The Scriptures present truth, not fact (though for believers, of course, there doesn’t have to be a cognitive dissonance in this). There are far fewer early manuscripts of the Jewish Scriptures extant, but that doesn’t make them useless as source of religious truth for Jews and Christians (and even, in part, for Muslims).

    I don’t argue with the facts of your case at all, and most Jews and Christians wouldn’t, either. I just don’t see why you think these facts are going to surprise anybody, disprove the teachings of faith believers hold, or somehow score points for those who aren’t theists. You and I have this discussion–or at least shared puzzlement–all the time. It seems sort of pointless, no?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Stand to Reason. Please Convince Me/Cold Case Christianity. Reasonable Faith.

      They’re not hard to find.

      “The scriptures present truth” is a faith statement. I don’t hold to it.

      You and I have this discussion–or at least shared puzzlement–all the time. It seems sort of pointless, no?

      Are we on the same page? Great! Lots of people aren’t, and it’s to them that I’m making this argument.

      • evodevo

        Obviously, JoanneMc doesn’t live in the Bible Belt, like I do. I hear this apologetic argument all the time.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          She’s Catholic. I can appreciate how this argument may not come from Catholics much. But that doesn’t say that it’s not a very popular argument.

          The shoe’s on the other foot this time. Normally it’s me who gets scolded for not appreciating the breadth of Christianity.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      One additional thought: the argument isn’t completely nonsensical. The New Testament manuscript collection is substantially better than that for many other ancient works, and that is something. I just don’t think that it takes those excited by that argument quite where they think it does.

    • RichardSRussell

      “Religious truth” bears the same resemblance to “truth” that “homeopathic medicine” bears to “medicine”, “creation science” bears to “science”, or “Fox News” bears to “news”.

    • smrnda

      It depends on the nature of the beliefs and their relation to the text.

      Plenty of Christians and most Jews aren’t obsessed with the text being totally accurate – it’s a received tradition which has layers and layers of commentary built onto it, in which factual inaccuracies are not necessarily that relevant.

      However, there are quite a number of Christian sects that base beliefs on the idea that certain events DID happen and that these events have consequences. To some people, Genesis can be a myth and that is fine, but for Ken Ham, if it’s not true, then there’s no original sin, therefore Jesus doesn’t make sense. There are a decent number of Christians for whom certain events must be true, or else their whole belief system falls apart.

  • busterggi

    Just think how many non-Christian manuscripts we might have had the Christians not burned the Library at Alexandria and other book burnings afterwards.
    A little selective history on the Christian part.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’ve heard that the Muslims burned the Library once as well. If the books supported the Koran, they were redundant, and if they opposed it, they were blasphemous. Burn the lot!

      • Greg G.

        They each point fingers at one another but the Library was burned many times. The coup de grâce may have been done by the Muslims but the good stuff was probably in ashes long before the Koran was written.

      • busterggi

        Yeah, the Abrahamic ‘peoples of the book’ sure do like burning other people’s books.

        • JohnH2

          Actually the Christians for a long time really liked burning Christian books, including scripture, just so long as the person didn’t have an authorization letter from the local priest and/or it wasn’t part of the approved version.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Are you referring to the various kinds of early Christianity (Ebionites, Gnostic, etc.) fighting against each other?

        • JohnH2

          It continued long past that; The Cathars had scriptures that the Catholics burned (along with the Cathars).

        • GubbaBumpkin

          You may recall that the Holy Roman Catholic Church wished to monopolize its control of scriptures. Only clergy could possess copies, and they had to be in Latin rather than local languages. This went on until at least the 16th century.

        • Bruce Grubb

          That is a popular myth created in part due to Martin Luther’s actions. In reality the reason was more pragmatic. Local language drifted in spelling and pronouncing do drastically that distances as little as 50 miles could render them unintelligible. Latin as a dead language didn’t have this problem.

          In fact there is a Bible in Old French from the late 13th century that there is NO evidence the Church ever had issues with. Regional councils could have issues but that is NOT the Church as a whole. More over many of the supposed claim never really happened.

          For example the supposed Council of Tarragona of 1234 never happened. The one of 1242 was to deal with doctored versions of the Bible put out by the Muslim Moors.

          from “TurrisFortis.com. :

          One more myth, that is all-too often repeated to make the Catholic Church look unbiblical, is that in 1229, the Bible itself was forbidden to laymen and placed on the Index of Forbidden Books by the Council of Valencia. This lie originated in the anti-Catholic book, Roman Catholicism, by Loraine Boettner. Unfortunately, it has been repeated and repeated by other anti-Catholic writers, and even spread into mainstream literature. It is one of the simplest arguments to refute, as it simply cannot stand up to historic scrutiny.

          First of all, the Index of Forbidden Books was established in 1543, so a council in 1229 could not have placed a book on it. Second of all, there has never been a church council held in Valencia, Spain. Plus, the Moors were in control of that area in 1229, so the Church could not have had a council there even if they wanted to.

          There was a council in 1229, but it was in Toulouse, France. It was a local council, not an ecumenical council (which means it did not represent the entire Church). This council did deal with the Bible, in a way. It was called to deal with the Albigensian heresy, which maintained that the flesh is evil and therefore marriage is evil, fornication is not a sin, and suicide is not immoral. They also opposed taking oaths, which completely undermined medieval feudal society, which was based on oaths. These Albigensians were using corrupt vernacular versions of the Bible to support their theories, twisting the Bible to “prove” their point. To combat this, the bishops at Toulouse restricted the use of the Bible until this heresy was ended. This was a local restriction, not a universal one, and when the heresy was over, the restriction was lifted.

          This restriction never affected more than one area of southern France, and is a far cry from the Catholic Church banning the Bible from all laymen.”

        • busterggi

          Know who else burned books because they didn’t fit the authorities’ approval?

        • TheNuszAbides

          i smell the Truth of Godwin…

      • Bruce Grubb

        To be fair, the Great Library of Alexandria was burned by Julius Caesar in 48 BCE and an Aurelian attack in the 270s CE before the Christians and Arabs burned it in 391 and 642 respectively. Odds are the Library was a shell of its former glory before the Christians burned it and even more of one by the time the Arabs showed up.

    • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

      The Library of Alexandria was apparently burned several times, starting with Julius Caesar when he seized the city (likely accidental), then again when a revolt against Rome occurred. Books from the Library were said to be stored in the Serapeum, a pagan temple, and probably destroyed with all the rest in 391 when paganism was banned by Emperor Theodosius I. It’s not known how many, if any, of the books were actually there however. Later with the Muslim conquest of Egypt, the Library again was destroyed by Caliph Omar according to later Arab writers. Caliph Omar supposedly said: “If those books are in agreement with the Quran, we have no need of them; and if these are opposed to the Quran, destroy them.” However, the accounts have been questioned as this was only written of much later, and those writing it may have had biased motivations. So it’s not that simple as “the Christians burned the Library.” If they did (sort of) it was only one of several times that happened.

    • MNb

      Before you repeat this nonsense you better read this essay, written by a pro:

      http://www.livius.org/gi-gr/gospels/disappearance.html

      Anti-Christian conspiracy theories aren’t any better.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        That article wasn’t entirely convincing. I agree that texts that you don’t like are taken care of by decay, but from the standpoint of a single bishop frustrated at a pernicious heretical belief in his domain, things look quite permanent.

        If the point is that decay caused the majority of the loss of ancient heretical manuscripts, I can buy that. I don’t see that deliberate destruction was never used, however. Wasn’t the Nag Hammadi library buried for safe keeping? If so, that would suggest they were afraid of something.

        • Bruce Grubb

          Also there are strange gaps in works the Christians did have access but for what ever reason didn’t preserve.

          * Philo’s Embassy to Gaius (c.40 CE) is known to have covered at least five volumes including one entire volume that covered Pontius Pilate’s rule of Judea in detail which was NOT the two works the Christians preserved, and if Philo did mention Jesus the Christian copyists didn’t preserve it. This became such a problem that Eusebius in his The History of the Church created the elaborate fiction that Philo not only knew the apostles but met Peter himself in Rome.

          * Damis, author of Apollonius of Tyana, a philosopher and mystic who was a contemporary with Jesus.

          * Pliny the Elder wrote a History of Rome from 31 to the then-present day (sometime before his death in 79) with a volume for each year, which the Christians didn’t preserve.

          * Seneca the Younger’s On Superstition (c.40 – c.62), which covered every cult in Rome, was not preserved. The only reason we know it did NOT talk about Christianity at all is because Augustine in the 4th century complained about it. But if the book could have been as early as 40 CE that would have made perfect sense so Augustine’s issue only makes sense if the work was near the 62 CE date. Seneca’s lack of mention was sufficiently troublesome to some early Christians that they forged correspondence between Seneca and Paul of Tarsus. Jerome, in de Viris Illustribus 12, and Augustine, in Epistle 153.4 ad Macedonium, both refer to the forged communication.

          * Cassius Dio’s Roman History has the sections covering 6 to 2 BC and 30 CE missing.

          * Pausanias, whose massive Guide to Greece includes mentions of thousands of names, including minor Jewish figures in Palestine…but not Jesus.

          * Historians Epictetus and Aelius Aristides, who both recorded events and people in Palestine.

          * Clovius Rufus’ detailed history of Nero, which would have documented the active persecution of Christians by Nero, was not preserved.

          * Tacitus: the entire section covering 29-31 CE of the Annals; “That the cut is so precise and covers precisely those two years is too improbable to posit as a chance coincidence.”

          It is really strange you keep seeing this sort of thing.

  • Greg G.

    The printing press was invented in the middle of the fifteenth century,
    which explains much of the drop on the right of the chart.

    The Black Death explains why the drop began in the 14th century. 30 to 60% of the population died. There was a smaller pool to draw priests from and they were pressed into service with less training.

    Some theorize that the churches inability to halt the plague made people question it. This questioning may have led to Protestantism.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I hadn’t thought of that.

      One slightly relevant connection is that the Black Death created a surplus of rags that made paper (made of rags) cheaper.

      Good point about the church’s inability to stop the plague. But, of course, the church’s fallback would obviously be: “Don’t blame the church! God is obviously judging you. It’s your own fault. Praise God.”

      • Bruce Grubb

        James Burke in _Day the Universe Changed_ put it this way. You got cheap paper but the cost of the person that wrote on it was through the roof. More over business was progressing to the level that the memorization systems that existed just were not up to it.

    • MNb

      “Some theorize”
      They theorize wrongly, for four reasons. The RCC had been heavily criticized before, notably in the beginning of the 11th Century. Protestantism only arose more than 150 years after The Black Death. Luther and Calvin never referred to it. Luther didn’t even mean to cause a schism.
      So it’s not a good point but a bad point – the product of wishful thinking.

      • Pofarmer

        “The RCC had been heavily criticized before, notably in the beginning of the 11th Century.”

        More info?

      • Greg G.

        The RCC had been heavily criticized before, notably in the beginning of the 11th Century.

        That was before the economy of Europe was changed.

        Protestantism only arose more than 150 years after The Black Death.

        Protestantism arose after 150 years of the Renaissance, which began about the time of the Black Death in a city that was hard hit.

        Luther and Calvin never referred to it.

        The American Civil War ended less than 150 years ago and those events still ripple through American society, but it isn’t often cited as a motivation for current events.

        Luther didn’t even mean to cause a schism.

        The fleas didn’t intend to cause an epidemic, either. The Renaissance had paved the way for a new type of religion to get a foothold.

  • Ricker

    Just a thought: why couldn’t the manuscript fragments be carbon dated to determine when they were made?

    • GubbaBumpkin

      They could be.

      But in the case of a valuable and tiny fragment such as P52, that would probably require the destruction of too much material.

      It is also possible that a forger could find old parchment and put new writing on it. Putting new engravings on legitimate artifacts to enhance their value is a well-known practice; consider the James ossuary or the Solomon’s Temple pomegranate (briefly, an ivory pomegranate was carved with an inscription to tie it to Solomon’s Temple in order to increase its value).

      In fact there are cases where old scrolls were scraped clean and reused for reasons of economy, not criminal intent (this would be much more likely with hide-based parchment rather than papyrus). See ‘palimpsest.’

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Also, the style of handwriting is a decent alternative dating technique.

  • Paul D. Miller

    The number of manuscripts is only one way of measuring how accurately the received texts reflect historical events. The proximity of the manuscript to the author, and the proximity of the author to the event, also matter. Here the New Testament does pretty well. You mentioned the Iliad: Homer, if he existed, probably lived 400 years after the events he wrote about, and the earliest manuscripts are some two millennia after his life. By contrast, the authors of the Gospels purport to be eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life, and there are fragments that date within decades of their writing. Even if you don’t accept the claims to eye-witness accounts, some second-century redactor is still far closer to Jesus’ life than Home was to the Trojan War. And the redactor would be working within a culture that valued oral tradition and taught exact memorization of sacred material. Your point about the 25,000 manuscripts is right, but even so, I think we can have reasonable confidence that the NT documents preserve a useful historical record.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      You’re right about those other factors. I ignored them to focus on just the one issue.

      I also agree on the reasonable confidence. But since some Christians think that every word was deliberately placed there with God’s guidance, the doubt that we have due to the centuries (in many cases) from autograph to our best manuscripts puts a cloud over our goal of knowing with certainty what the autographs said.

      I disagree with your point about oral tradition, however. I’ve heard that some Jewish students of the time would be taught to memorize much or all of the Pentateuch. But the New Testament writings weren’t scripture for a long time after they were written.

      Christians do nothing wrong today by writing and publishing their own interpretation of some aspect of Christianity, and another Christian does nothing wrong by writing a rebuttal. They aren’t scripture. And Paul’s letters are now seen as scripture; they weren’t at the time. Important, yes; scripture, no.

      The gossip fence is a better analog to how the gospel story was passed along before being written rather than students memorizing a written text.

      • avalon

        Bob,

        “But since some Christians think that every word was deliberately placed
        there with God’s guidance, the doubt that we have due to the centuries
        (in many cases) from autograph to our best manuscripts puts a cloud over
        our goal of knowing with certainty what the autographs said.”

        The fact that there were deliberate changes made to the NT (the Comma Johanneum, the woman caught in adultery, and the long ending of Mark etc…) give us some idea of how early christians viewed these texts. If the leadership was willing to add to it or change it on purpose and the rank-and-file shrugged off those changes, wouldn’t that show considerably less reverence than today’s christians have? Maybe early christians didn’t see these stories as “every word… deliberately placed there with God’s guidance” nor even as history (in the modern sense of the word).

        Imagine how modern christians would react to changing or adding to the bible and then ask yourself why early christians didn’t seem to care.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I agree that early Christians had no problem tweaking the early books (less so over time, as it became “scripture”).

          Now, of course, the Bible is fixed and immutable (though new translations can cause a stir with different word choices).

        • wtfwjtd

          How about the question of access? In modern times, say, the last 500 years, copies of the Bible can be had by anyone, pretty much anywhere. Wasn’t it the case that in earlier times access to the Holy Scriptures was limited to clergy only? Seems to me this limited access gives loads of room for hanky-panky. Also, you can have a language problem too–the masses aren’t fluent in the original language of the scriptures, and that was another thing that was meant to set the clergy apart from the ignorant masses. The clergy was meant to act as a dispenser and interpreter at the same time.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The hanky panky problem is a big issue for me. But if you’re worred about Bibles from 500 years ago, you can check on changes/drift by comparing them with the best copies (say the codices from the 4th century).

          The real issue is in the long dark period before those codices.

        • Greg G.

          Also, scribes didn’t necessarily understand what they were copying, they were just hired pens. They weren’t familiar enough with the literature to distinguish between a margin note and a text corrections inserted in the margin.

    • MNb

      “that the NT documents preserve a useful historical record”

      Not really because of a simple reason: they weren’t meant to be a historical record. The authors had an explicit religious agenda.

      It doesn’t follow that the NT – same for the OT btw – should be entirely dismissed. In an indirect way a lot of info can be retrieved. But we should always be suspicious if that info is about Jesus or about the authors (ie how the authors saw Jesus).

      Anti-religious apologists often compare the NT with Harry Potter. What they forget is this: that Harry Potter is fiction doesn’t imply that England at the end of the 20th Century hadn’t cars, trains etc. The problem is how to separate fact from myth.

      Your point is discussed here:

      http://www.livius.org/th/theory/theory-maximalists.html

      It looks like minimalism gives the best results.
      Another important method is provided by the principle of embarrassment. If the authors write something that makes them look bad in their own eyes we can be quite sure it’s correct.
      The Gospels were written down at least a few decades after Jesus’ death. His kingdom hadn’t come yet despite explicit promises it would come soon. The authors being literate – very rare in their time – must have realized that. Still they wrote it down. The best explanation is that Jesus actually made that promise. You can’t have cognitive dissonance as described by Leon Festinger without a cult and you can’t have a cult without a leader – ie Jesus.
      Other parts can be demonstrated to be myths: notably the infanticide after Jesus birth and the story of the demon/pig killing. They rather tell us what Jesus meant for his early followers.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        On the principle of embarrassment: keep in mind that we may misinterpret what is embarrassing. One could say that Peter must’ve really denied Jesus 3 times. Otherwise, why would they put that in?

        But, of course, someone who didn’t care for Peter might’ve put that in! It’s easy to imagine infighting.

      • Greg G.

        It looks like minimalism gives the best results.

        But not good results. The early epistles don’t support an itinerant preacher or teacher. They only “preach Christ crucified.” (1
        Corinthians 1:23 )

        Even stories that seem plausible at first glance, such as Mark 7:1-19, fall apart upon scrutiny. If Jesus taught the disciples that they could eat with defiled hands, argued with the Pharisees over it, and declared all foods clean, why would Peter argue with Paul about those things in Antioch as reported by Paul in Galatians 2? It’s more likely that the author of Mark took Paul’s writings and put them in Jesus’ mouth. (Remember that Mark is supposed to have used Peter as his source, according to tradition.)

        If the authors write something that makes them look bad in their own eyes we can be quite sure it’s correct.

        Unless the authors were writing to make someone else look bad. Also, what may seem embarrassing to a later generation may not have been embarrassing when it was written.

        The Gospels were written down at least a few decades after Jesus’ death. His kingdom hadn’t come yet despite explicit promises it would come soon. The authors being literate – very rare in their time – must have realized that. Still they wrote it down. The best explanation is that Jesus actually made that promise.

        Even more likely is that they inferred it from some of Paul’s writings such as

        1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 (NIV)
        13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

        Where did Paul get his ideas?

        Romans 16:25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith—

        If Jesus had lived and been crucified recently, what is Paul talking about with the “revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past”? He thinks the crucifixion and resurrection is ancient history but the fact that they are starting to understand the verses on suffering are telling about Jesus from long, long ago. Many of the same verses that modern Christians tout as prophecy about Jesus, the early Christians were reading as recently revealed history from long before their time. Paul doesn’t say much about Jesus that he couldn’t have read from the scriptures. That these revelations were being made to that generation was evidence to them that the Messiah that the Jews were hoping for was finaly about to come.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      By contrast, the authors of the Gospels purport to be eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life…

      BZZZZZT! No they do not. Thank you for playing. Go break commandments somewhere else.

      … is still far closer to Jesus’ life than Home was to the Trojan War.

      So what? Is someone here claiming the The Iliad is an accurate historical account? If anyone believes that some kind of Trojan War happened, it is due to evidence outside that text.

      • Greg G.

        Luke thought his sources were eyewitnesses but it seems that the early Christians disagreed as they surely would have preserved writings of eyewutnesses. Luke and Matthew are clearly dependent on Mark but nobody considers Mark to be an eyewitness. Q apparently didn’t square with 2nd century theology so it wasn’t worth preserving. John takes some material from Mark as if through storytelling rather than directly from text to text and it seems to be influenced by Egyptian ideas so it can’t be an eyewitness testimony, either.

        The epistles don’t support the idea that Jesus was a teacher or preacher either.

        • TheNuszAbides

          it’s not like i’ve necessarily searched far and wide, but i find it curious that i’ve yet to stumble across some apologist or other who brings up [lack of any particular sort/source of earliest writing] and attributes it to purges, schisms, censorship, burned libraries etc.
          do you know of anyone who takes such a tack? or is that simply too absurd a speculation on balance? (even if it is, it seems odd not to come across it, since there are other absurdities and relatively imaginative excuses for all sorts of religious rabbit-holes…)

        • Greg G.

          I saw something two days ago that said the Church had destroyed some old opposition documents. I was reading a lot of things regarding Marcion and the Gospels of the Hebrews, the Nazoreans, and the Ebionites. Sorry, I can’t recall which source it was.

  • Kevin Walsh

    A more interesting question, I think, is not how many of these manuscripts are from the early centuries but why, given how few of them there were initially, there was an explosion of translation/copying that occurred afterwards. No doubt there were all sorts of texts around in the 2nd century on various topics; the fact that a group of 8 turned into thousands is worthy of further investigation.

  • Clayton

    Your argument that there aren’t any manuscripts from the first century is of course true because the New Testament wasn’t even compiled until the second or third century.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Most or all of the books of the NT were written in the 1st century. That we don’t have any copies from the 1st century is a big deal–it undercuts the possible accuracy of the copies that we do have.

      • The Penitent Man

        Academically speaking, no, it isn’t a big deal at all. When compared to Homer the NT thoroughly beats copies of the Iliad by 400 years.

        • Greg G.

          Homer’s writings are fiction. It doesn’t matter how accurate it is. The NT is claimed to be accurate. People kill people over different interpretations of the Bible. I don’t think the accuracy of the Bible is important either. It’s important whether it’s true.

        • The Penitent Man

          My statement wasn’t about accuracy. I was just mentioning how academics judge the historicity or accuracy of ancient documents. The number of copies of the NT won’t change whether or not it is true or false. So in that we agree. People just use that information to support their personal biases.

          People kill people over many things, religion has been falsely portrayed as the cause of most wars and huge body counts. In reality religious wars account for less then 5% of all recorded wars. I do not deny that false religion has been used to good effect in creating all types of atrocities.

        • MNb

          “religion has been falsely portrayed ….”
          An excellent example of “using information to support your personal biases.”
          All organized religion is politics by definition. Hence this

          “religious wars account for less then 5% of all recorded wars”
          is meaningless. As soon as religious folks go to war organized religion is involved and the war has a strong religous component.
          The flip side is that “religion causes war” is also meaningless. The correct conclusion is that religion does nothing to prevent war, which is qutie an open door.

        • The Penitent Man

          Wow! Lots of logical fallacies going on in your response. No, it isn’t meaningless at all. You’re making some very broad statements.

        • MNb

          As you don’t back up your statements by any means you’re asking me to commit the argument from authority. Alas your authority is exactly zero. So shrug.

        • The Penitent Man

          I don’t believe in “authority”, at least not human authority. I personally don’t care for your arrogant attitude.

        • MNb

          Thanks for confirming that I don’t have to accept your statement that “it’s not meaningless at all”.
          The arrogance is yours, beginning wiht “lots of logical fallacies”.

          “I personally don’t care for your arrogant attitude.”
          So there is something we agree on.

          “religion has been falsely portrayed as the cause of most wars and huge body counts.”
          either. It’s just an unfounded accusation, dressed up with your arrogance. Which I don’t care for.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          And we don’t think of Homer as historically accurate. You’re arguing that the NT is more likely to be accurate, but that’s a far cry from “it’s accurate history.”

        • The Penitent Man

          I could have used Julius Caesar as an example so the point is mute. And no, I’m not arguing “more likely”. There have been many attacks on the historicity of the New Testament in decades past because at that time there hadn’t been many archaeological finds to support, what at the time, seemed like contradictions (in reality they were paradoxes which have been solved and vindicated).

          The New Testament writings align with the history of the Roman Empire very accurately. The same is true concerning the writings of the Sanhedrin.

        • Pofarmer

          You could have used Julius ceasar as an example, and you would have still neen wrong by a mile

        • hector_jones

          But the point is mute.

        • Pofarmer

          deaf,dumb, whatever, pick your bad metaphor.

        • Greg G.

          Luke-Acts used Josephus as a source and Josephus is our witness from the era, so it’s liking to compare better to Josephus than to reality. It would be important to add verisimilitude to a fictional story.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          This sounds like the Argument from Accurate Place names. I wrote about this recently and don’t find it compelling.

        • The Penitent Man

          Accurate place names, accurate historical figures and their job descriptions at the right time, etc. I’m not trying to convince you, just offering my take on the subject.

        • MNb

          The same applies to Robin Hood.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Going back to what I think your point is:

          the NT thoroughly beats copies of the Iliad by 400 years.

          Right. Impressive. But just because it’s better doesn’t mean that it’s historically accurate. The NT story is thoroughly defeated by the Mormon story on historical grounds, but neither of us accept that.

        • MR

          Ha! Scientology has you both beat. And the founder of that lived within my lifetime! I never knew finding the truth could be so easy!

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Dang it! Xenu wins again.

        • The Penitent Man

          Huh? No, the Mormon story does not come close. Think about what you just wrote please. Then explain why your former statement is apples to oranges, and a bit ridiculous,

        • Pofarmer

          The point isn’t that Mormonism is true. The point, at least in my mind, is that the beginnings of Mormonism are much closer in time, much better recorded, and much more easily dismissed than claims of early Christianity and the NT, and yet, there are millions upon millions of true believers in John Smith in the World today. Simply because there is a movement, starting in a place and time, does not mean that a single one of the core tenents of that movement are real, in fact, it’s quite likely, and almost required, that some of them are spectacularly false. You should read Eric Hoffers “True Believers”.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Just thought about it. I’d love to explain why my statement is ridiculous, but nothing comes to mind.

          Instead, here is a 2-part post that explains my thinking.

    • The Penitent Man

      I think we should focus on what are called “The Gospels” (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) since they are the foundational documents. The oldest fragment found is dated somewhere around 200 A.D. (a difference of only 130 years from the original). The original autograph is thought to have been written in 70 A.D. which gives us a difference of only 36 years after the death and resurrection of Messiah Yahushua (commonly called “Jesus Christ).

      That’s better then any other document of antiquity we’ve found to date.

      • Pofarmer

        Wow, only 130 years. Tell me some exploits about your great, great Grandfathers buddies. 36 years was a generation at that time. So you have anonymous writings, a generation removed from the events that they are supposed to describe. And NO description of events from what are considered the earliest writings.

        • The Penitent Man

          You’re making assumptions to support your opinions. Just because we’ve not yet found any manuscripts or documents from the first century doesn’t mean we won’t find them in the future. And funny enough, a fragment or Ms was found of Mark and is said to be from the fist century. We’re all still waiting for the results to come in on that one.

          My point is that the NT is still miles above what you and most other people accept as reliable historical proof that an event occurred, miracles set aside.

        • Pofarmer

          The problem is that the Gospels relay things that simply didn’t occur. Herods,slaughter of the innocents, didn’t happen. Census, wrong timing, wouldn’t have happened as described. Star of Bethlehem, didn’t happen. 6 hrs darkness, didn’t happen. Zombie apocalypse, didn’t happen. So, you are left picking and choosing the possible from among the impossible then further Winnowing down the probable from what’s left. Then, when you realize that Mark is based mostly on existing literature, and you wind up with a very small amount that might be historical

        • Greg G.

          The historical facts might be things like John telling us that Ananus was the father-in-law of Caiaphas.

        • Pofarmer

          Maybe there was a big drunk wedding in Cannan.

        • Greg G.

          Why wasn’t I invited?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          nice summary

        • The Penitent Man

          Herod’s slaughter of the innocent didn’t happen? That’s news to me because there are records that such an event did in fact happen. The other events you mentioned are also documented (the six hours of darkness for instance). Those that are not have just yet to be explained. I expect, as happens in this area, that new information will be revealed and support the accounts in the Scriptures.

          I disagree with everything you have written. I’m not sure how you came to your erroneous conclusions but I suspect a lot of leeway and bias got you there.

        • Pofarmer

          “Herod’s slaughter of the innocent didn’t happen? That’s news to me because there are records that such an event did in fact happen.”

          Let’s have it, then.

        • The Penitent Man

          You have an Internet connection. If you really want to educate yourself then do your due diligence. I’m not here to serve you up information.

        • Pofarmer

          The reason I,asked is because I can’t find anything, and don’t know of anything.

        • Greg G.

          The story of the crucifixion and death of Jesus in Mark 15:16-41 follows the plot of Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-20. It takes many details from Psalm 22. The piercing of the hands and feet comes from Ps 22:16, the dividing of the garments comes from Ps 22:18, the mocking from Ps 22:7, and the “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” comes from Ps 22:1.

          The darkness comes from Amos 8:9 and the vinegar and gall can be found in Ps 69:21.

          There may have been an eclipse that got associated with the story but the crucifixion was supposed to be during Passover which is set by the moon calendar to the time of a full moon which means an eclipse would be impossible. Tertullian, Origen, and Julius Aficanus mention the darkness but they would be at least 150 years too late.

          Mark 15:16-41; Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-20; Psalm 22; Amos 8:9; Psalm 69:21

          Matthew adds the zombies coming out of their tombs. He took that from Ezekiel 37:7-13.

          Matthew 27:52-53; Ezekiel 37:7-13

          The Slaughter of the Innocents is similar to Josephus’ account of Moses’ birth in Exodus.

          Thses stories don’t look like history. They look like a reworking of the literature of the day by using mimesis.

        • The Penitent Man

          No, the Torah precedes the NT and makes concrete prophecies concerning the coming of Messiah so your mention of Torah, Prophets, and Psalm passages support the NT, they do not refute it in any way. There are non-biblical historians that make mention of the darkness during the crucifixion. No one said anything about an eclipse, and as a matter of fact the opposite is argued since there was no eclipse historically. So what caused the darkness?

        • Pofarmer

          Uhm, the only mention is of a partial eclipse, in the wrong place, unless you have something else.

        • The Penitent Man

          Tallus: Tallus was a secular historian who (circa AD52) wrote a history of the Eastern Mediterranean from the Trojan War to his own time.

          On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun.

          The document no longer exists but it was quoted by other writers like the Christian, Julius Africanus, who wrote around AD221. He quotes Tallus’ comments about the darkness that enveloped the land during the late afaternoon hours when Jesus died on the cross. Julius wrote: Tallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun unreasonably, as it seems to me (unreasonably of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was at the season of the Paschal full moon that Christ died.” Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18.1 The importance of Tallus’ comments is that the reference shows that the Gospel account of the darkness that fell across the earth during Christ’s crucifixion was well known and required a naturalistic explanation from non-Christians.

        • Pofarmer

          This thallus?
          “For Thallus also remembers Belus the ruler of Assyria and Cronos the Titan, asserting that Belus waged war along with the Titans against Zeus and the select gods who were with him, stating at this point: ‘and defeated, Ogygus fled to Tartessus. While at that time that region was famous as Akte, now it is called Attica, which Ogygus then took over.’ (Theophilus, Ad Autolycum 3.29)”

        • Pofarmer

          Furthermore, Babylonians, Sumer ins and the e Chinese, who were all practiced astronomers and astrologers should have recorded and mentioned it as it would have been a rather big deal, but, crickets.

        • Dys

          It’d be far more interesting if we knew what Tallus actually said, in context. As it stands, we don’t – there is merely a reference to him by Julius Africanus, whose work was also lost but fragments were preserved in other writings.

          Richard Carrier has discussed the topic of Tallus in depth: http://www.jgrchj.net/volume8/JGRChJ8-8_Carrier.pdf

        • Pofarmer

          I’ll read Carrier. But it is interesting, that without Tallus work, you can’t be sure Julius Africanus,wasn’t just making shit up as,apologetics or Christian scribes had added the passage in to Tallus work, as happened in Josephus and,countless others.

        • Dys

          But realistically, they don’t even have the originals of Julius Africanus. They have the works of George Syncellus (9th century Byzantine) who quoted pieces of Sextus Julius Africanus’s work (3rd century), who referenced Tallus (2nd century).

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Interesting. I’ll have to look into that. The copying aspect is so often ignored by apologists. They’ll say “second-century person X said Y,” not realizing that we “know” that only through a 6th-century Syriac copy.

          I recently listened to a podcast in which the Christians cited the “every disciple but John was martyred,” not realizing that that comes from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (15th century?).

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Oh, c’mon. These are Christians, remember?

          Next you’ll be saying that the reason that the laudatory Josephus passage is traceable back to Eusebius is because he added that bit into his own copy.

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, it’s pretty handy how much stuff conveniently shows up around eusebius.

        • hector_jones

          The cause of the darkness was the imagination of the writer of the story.

        • Greg G.

          The OT supports the NT in the same way that The Odyssey and The Iliad support the NT and The Annead. The NT deeds were taken from the OT and Homer, then reworked.

          Apparently, a Roman historian named Thallus discussed an eclipse. Julius Africanus refers to him and makes it out like Thallus was arguing that the darkness at the crucifixion was an eclipse though Thallus is not quoted. Neither of the writings still exist as only this is known from somebody writing around the 8th or 9th century. The darkness was caused by Amos 8:9 which inspired Mark to include it in the crucifixion story.

        • MNb

          “That’s news to me because there are records …”
          You’re invited to provide any record but Matthew.
          Plus there is quite some indirect evidence that the story was made up.

        • The Penitent Man

          I’m not really into spoon-feeding people with information they will reject because of personal bias.

        • MNb

          Of course not. You don’t have any such information.

        • Greg G.

          The earthquake source for Matthew 27:51 is Zechariah 14:4-5.

          Matthew 27:51; Zechariah 14:4-5

        • Pofarmer

          It seems our Penitent friend is still looking for his sources.

        • Greg G.

          “Hmmm, that evidence for the slaughter of the innocents is around here somewhere…”

        • hector_jones

          I expect, as happens in this area, that new information will be revealed and support the accounts in the Scriptures.

          Um, are you insane?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          It’s weird how the Christian scholars who laughed at the Gospel of the Wife of Jesus as fraudulent before it got examined are now citing this supposed 1st-century Mark fragment as authentic. I’d like them to be consistent.

        • The Penitent Man

          I would agree with you there Bob. Biased people aren’t the best sources to form a solid opinion on.

        • TheNuszAbides

          just to nitpick: 36 years may have been close to an ‘average lifetime’ (which is what i assume you meant by ‘generation’, which to my mind is more like the span between birth and procreation), but not an instructive one, i.e. it’s not the age most people died at. it’s thrown off by infant mortality (which has almost always been a huge factor everywhere) and our longest-lived ‘first-world’ specimens are not really that far outside of the historical range.

      • MNb

        That’s correct, but it’s no reason to be any less skeptical. Myths need far less than 36 years to develop.

        • The Penitent Man

          From my own research (from biased sources unfortunately and long ago) that seems untrue. It takes more then a scant 36 years for myths to form, at least from a historical perspective. It usually takes centuries, not decades. But if you have a good example I have no problem looking at it.

        • Greg G.
        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Whoa–hold on. You’re saying that the miraculous stories about Sathya Sai Baba are a myth?!

        • MNb

          I invite you to investigate the myths around 9/11. Some elementary calculation might teach you that that event is far less than 36 years ago.

          http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-911/2011/08/29/gIQAzfJdwJ_story.html

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Myths? Next you’ll be telling me that the Nostradamus prediction of 9/11 isn’t authentic:

          In the year of the new century and nine months,

          From the sky will come a great King of Terror…

          The sky will burn at forty-five degrees.

          Fire approaches the great new city…

          In the city of York there will be a great collapse,

          2 twin brothers torn apart by chaos

          While the fortress falls the great leader will succumb

          Third big war will begin when the big city is burning.

          Wait–OK that actually wasn’t authentic … but my point remains!

        • The Penitent Man

          What surrounds 911 are definitely not what I or most would classify as “myths”.

        • hector_jones

          “From my own research (from biased sources unfortunately and long ago) that seems untrue.”

          It can’t get any more conclusive than that, amirite?

        • The Penitent Man

          No you are not right. Biased doesn’t instantly equate to incorrect or wrong. And I didn’t say all of the sources I looked at where biased. Also I base the use of the term “biased” on some of the sources being Christian in nature (academics and scientists that are Christian).

        • adam

          Mormonism
          Scientology
          etc

        • Pofarmer

          There are myriad examples of myths forming within a persons own lifetime. There is an American “faith healer”, who’s name currently escapes me, who was said that eyes miraculously appeared on children who were born without them, etc, etc. This excludes, of course, that the accounts weren’t written as myth to begin with. The sources that you read, more than likely, were saying that it would take more than 36 years for the accumulation of myth to completely occlude the original events.

        • The Penitent Man

          Look up the word “myth” in a good dictionary and then place it in the context we are using right now. You are wrong.

        • Pofarmer

          Nope.

      • Greg G.

        Mark is thoughat to have been written no earlier than 70 AD. John borrows a few stories from Mark so it must be later. Matthew and Luke copy parts of Mark verbatim. We have the documents that Mark based his story around and they aren’t even about Jesus. He reenact deeds and miracles from Moses, Elijah, and Elisha while reliving the adventures of Odysseus while traveling around the Sea of Galilee. So the gospels are too unreliable.

        Most of the epistles are earlier than the gospels and they don’t support the itinerant preacher from Galilee at all. But Paul says he got his information not from humans but from revelation of hidden mysteries. It is confirmed that he is referring to the OT scriptures because everything he says about Jesus comes from the OT. That holds for the other early epistles, too. Paul didn’t think he lacked knowledge compared to the other apostles so he must have thought their knowledge came from where he got his knowledge.

        • The Penitent Man

          I’ve heard these arguments before. I’m not sure if they are worthy of respect or not, but from my personal experience researching such claims they usually wind up being propaganda.

          I agree, Paulos preaches a totally different Messiah. If anything, it seems that Paul was deceived (had a vision inspired by the evil one). His preaching and teachings match the mystery religions more-so then the Torah or what Yahushua and His disciples taught.

          There are a lot of problems with the different “gospels” (bad translation of the Greek word euangelion). I’m not sure what that means to me at this point. It does mean I have a lot of work ahead of me.

          Rather then be like the majority I want to know the facts, the problems, the contradictions, etc. I do not want to claim the “in-errancy” of the New Testament like so many King James Only people do (along with other Christian groups). There are just too many problems with the text to claim it was “God breathed”.

          I look at the texts like an autobiography. They are historical in nature (they can be backed up by historical figures mentioned within, along with customs and other indicators of the times ,etc.).

          I also highly respect them because I fear and respect God. But I do not need them to be perfect in order to establish or justify my beliefs and my knowing.

        • Greg G.

          Rather than repost this information that I posted yesterday I will just give the pointers.

          This one points out that Paul was getting his revelations from scripture and it has a link to a page that combines the work of several scholars to show the source material Paul used for most of the verses.

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2012/09/failed-prophecy-psalm-22/#comment-1629136425

          This link shows the verses for everything Paul says about Jesus and where the information can be found in the Old Testament, confirming that is what he meant when he spoke of revelation.

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2012/09/failed-prophecy-psalm-22/#comment-1629157328

        • The Penitent Man

          And your point is what Greg? (respectfully, not trying to be smart).

        • Greg G.

          My point is that the gospels are not about a Jesus from the early first century because they are composed of stories about other characters. The early epistles don’t talk about a first century person either, as everything mentioned comes from centuries old writings.

          So the “foundational documents” are not reliable evidence.

        • The Penitent Man

          You’re right, they are about a man named Yahushua who is the Messiah of Yah. Believe what you like, no sweat off my back.

        • Greg G.

          BTW, is your screen handle “The Penitent Man” from the Indiana Jones movie where he was trying to pass a booby trap that beheaded the foolhardy while the clue was the penitent man shall pass, meaning you had to keep your head down?

        • The Penitent Man

          Good movie. I’m not sure to be honest. I don’t remember. I’m working on being humble but it’s rough.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Paul was deceived by the Dark Lord? But his epistles are part of the Christian canon. What does that say about the reliability of the process that put them there? If some bad apples got through the process, why not more? Doesn’t this cast doubt over the entire canon?

        • The Penitent Man

          Dark Lord? I didn’t mention Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” my friend.

          I agree. Just because a bunch of authorities decided what was inspired and what wasn’t doesn’t make it true. There was a lot of political maneuvering going on during the process, the debate about Arianism, etc. Not to mention the amount of control and power Constantine would wield in the aftermath.

          I believe people need to look at and study the individual writings, where they came from, how old they are, and how well they sync up with history and the message found in the Torah.

          Again, the “canon” is something made up by men (not the actual writings themselves but the process), a consensus that was created in order to construct a religious organization rather then spread the teachings of the Messiah.

        • Pofarmer

          So you can divine the true teachings, from, what?

        • The Penitent Man

          The Torah. If it doesn’t mesh up with the Torah then it must be rejected.

        • Pofarmer

          Ah.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Well, I was thinking Darth Vader, but touche.

        • Pofarmer

          So, you’ve closely studied things like Bart Ehrmans “early Christianities” which points out the wide ranging divergence of beliefs among early Christians?

        • The Penitent Man

          No I haven’t. I’m not a Christian, though that doesn’t necessarily mean I wouldn’t be interested in reading it. The first followers of “the way” were not Christians, they were Nazarenes, Torah following “Jews” (they numbered in the tens of thousands) who were later wiped out by Roman Christianity. Their writings were burned, hence the reason why we have Greek manuscripts but no Hebrew or Aramaic texts.

        • Pofarmer

          So, where is the information on this?

        • Pofarmer

          “I look at the texts like an autobiography. They are historical in nature (they can be backed up by historical figures mentioned within, along with customs and other indicators of the times ,etc.).”

          This can also place them in the genre of historical fiction.

        • The Penitent Man

          No, it cannot. Study the era and the writing practices at the time. It doesn’t make a very good fit by any means.

        • Pofarmer

          Matthew Ferguson, among other ancient historians, disagree. I could give you a link to his papers on it, but I’m sure you could just google it.

        • Ttimes

          What do you do with the new scrap of Mark 5 from pre-90? The news has been out for some years now.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Is this a trick question? You give the scholarly community time to evaluate it.

          Or do you think that that process never does anything but validate the initial hypothesis from the team that introduces it to the world?

        • Greg G.

          I heard about it a few years ago, then nothing. Do you have additional information on it? If it comes from the 70s or 80s, it could be the original or a copy.

        • Ttimes

          The monograph on it is due out shortly, I think.

        • Dys

          They’ve been teasing the publication of the Mark fragment for years now. It was supposed to have been published by now. So it’s been due since about 2013.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          So then we have zero manuscripts from the 1st century.

          Be a little more careful about your scholarship in the future. Even though we’re troglodytes here and you’ve got the big scholarly balls, we do appreciate accurate information.

          Whatever explains this error of yours–ineptitude, overexuberance, cutting corners, assuming we’re too stupid to understand–it’s not appreciated.

        • Ttimes

          Yeah, this explains a lot. Arrogance mixed with an inferiority complex.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’m not your teacher. I cleaned up your argument once, but I don’t plan on doing it again. I hope this was a helpful lesson to be a bit more careful with your “facts.”

          As an aside, I count 18 comments from you. I don’t remember a single one with any substance. Lots of bluster, no content.

          My hypothesis that you’re bluffing gains credibility all the time.

    • Ttimes

      Your evidence is mistaken, not sure where you are getting it from.

      There are now 18 manuscripts (fragments, but the real thing) from the 2nd century. Fathers of the church in the 2nd century thoroughly quote the NT. And now there is a first-century scrap of Mark.

  • Mikeydarev

    That graph with the appearance of the documents in each century is really helpful for me understanding this topic. Answers some questions I had running around in my mind.Thanks Bob

    • MR

      Agree. The world needs more graphs. :)

  • Justin

    I’m finding it interesting that an individual with absolutely no credentials in ancient writings and historiography writing what is essentially an opinion piece on the validity of manuscript evidence for the New Testament. While I understand that Mr. Seidensticker is an intelligent man (one would have to be in order to graduate from MIT) it is a bit of a slap in the face from those of us with credentials to merely throw misleading information out and act as if it is factual. It is evident that the author is not familiar with antiquity…nor that he is familiar with ancient writings and a critical analysis of texts. Everyone is of course welcome to their own opinion, but lets keep in mind that this is all that this is…an opinion. I can tell you with ease that this is not anywhere near a complete look at the manuscript evidence and how it is categorized and compiled. Regardless of Mr. Seidensticker’s opinion 25,000 NT manuscript fragments IS still significant considering there are only 600 some odd fragments of the 2nd best attested piece of ancient literature (that being the Ilyiad). Other ancient texts that record historical events around the time of the first century or slightly earlier where only one or two are found are given more credence and credibility than that of Scripture purely because of the implications of the Bible’s message. If it had any other content and was this prolific it would be regarded as fact and anyone stating otherwise would be recanted as a fool. It is befuddling to me as to why people who clearly don’t know any better insist upon making themselves look foolish by improperly weighing the evidence and jumping to conclusions because they lack the epistemic foundation to understand the study (and its findings) to begin with. Citing papyrus numbers and codices may impress the average person reading this…but anyone with an ounce of classical training knows that merely reciting the manuscript numbers doesn’t mean that they understand their significance or their meaning for critical study. Anything confirming consistency within the canon (and inconsistency) is an item of note. If a mistake had been made (which did happen) than understanding the commonality of these errors and how to recognize them (especially from a particular copying tradition) help us to understand what the originals looked like. The evidence conveyed here isn’t conclusive, and far from complete…so my question is…why the deception? I’m not sure…but I smell someone trying to sell stuff in trying to be controversial regarding a field of expertise that he barely comprehends (as is evidenced in his overview of his “findings”). A graduate from MIT should know better than to post findings without adequate research.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’m finding it interesting that an individual with absolutely no credentials in ancient writings and historiography writing what is essentially an opinion piece on the validity of manuscript evidence for the New Testament.

      Then you’re in the right place! I’m just an amateur. No serious credentials. But that won’t stop me from kicking around some ideas within the Christian apologetics community and passing along the odd critique.

      Don’t feel shy. Respond to the posts.

      it is a bit of a slap in the face from those of us with credentials to merely throw misleading information out and act as if it is factual.

      You’ll be quite an asset! That is, assuming you stop trash talking and actually provide constructive feedback. But so far, you’re just obnoxious.

      25,000 NT manuscript fragments IS still significant considering there are only 600 some odd fragments of the 2nd best attested piece of ancient literature (that being the Ilyiad).

      Closer to 2000 copies, actually. But what’s a factor of 3 error among friends?

      This post intentionally focuses on the single claim of the 25,000 manuscripts. I’ve explored more here if you want something that may be closer to what you’re talking about (it’s part 3 of a series).

      It is befuddling to me as to why people who clearly don’t know any better insist upon making themselves look foolish by improperly weighing the evidence and jumping to conclusions because they lack the epistemic foundation to understand the study (and its findings) to begin with.

      It is befuddling to me what your point is. You’ve not raised a single issue that I’m not aware of or that I haven’t analyzed in a blog post.

      You got a point? Drop the empty bravado and show us the errors.

      so my question is…why the deception?

      Great minds think alike! I’m guessing you’re playing the gunslinger to cover up insecurity issues. Maybe you’re a student, feeling full of yourself in your small pond, and eager to try out your new knowledge in the wide world.

      How’d I do? Did I guess your deception correctly?

      • Maximus

        So absence of evidence is evidence of absence? But does that even apply here? How many 1st century manuscripts of anything have survived? There could have been thousands, but I usually throw away old copies of things I don’t need once I’ve made a new one, don’t you? Did you factor in the Roman confiscation of texts during the persecutions? (A bible costs two years wages at one point in the faith’s infancy). Did you factor in textual families (locales) from various parts of the Roman Empire? The fact that surviving Patristic era Fathers’ works quoted scriptures too? (I’ll admit, I don’t know if those are counted as manuscripts are not, I don’t think they are). 100 is impressive. 6,000 is impressive. We live in a “see it to believe it culture”, but if the bible is true in what it says about us, Jesus could be walking on water now and people would come up with a different reason for how he was able to pull it off other than the one he was articulating.

        The reason why believers put this argument out there is because of the specious argument that the canon has all of these wholesale changes and additions. Are there errors? Absolutely, but one look at “novum testamentum graece” and you see the majority are errors of transmission and not wholesale modifications. Those don’t concern me. What would concern me is if you discovered a textual family that didn’t have the resurrection, substitutionary atonement, original sin.

        How did they maintain all that textual continuity in a faith that spread throughout the empire like wildfire and did so non-violently? “Hey, over there in the east, from now on, you guys need to say that Paul wrote Ephesians and us over here in the west will do the same, kay!” Why would they need to do that? Why not remove the verses that are difficult to understand? Why not harmonize the Gospel accounts?

        • MNb

          Please reread what BobS wrote:

          “The “best attested by far!” claim for the New Testament is true but irrelevant.” And why? Again I quote:

          “That doesn’t mean the original copy was history.”
          Or, in my interpretation: the sheer amount of 25 000 copies does not provide any evidence that says The Resurrection actually happened.
          What’s hard to understand here?

        • Ttimes

          That’s correct, you can’t prove inspiration, or miracles, or incarnation by manuscript evidence. But what he is writing is that the textual attestation amounts to nothing, that it’s a (sarcastic) Big Deal. He is mistaken.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’ve summarized the facts and concluded that it’s not a big deal. You say it’s better than what we have for other ancient books? Sure–big deal, because no one’s building a worldview out of the works of (say) Julius Caesar.

        • MNb

          Good thing Ttimes removed all his comments, because the quality of this one is poor:

          “That’s correct, you can’t prove inspiration, or miracles, or incarnation by manuscript evidence. But what he is writing is that the textual attestation amounts to nothing, that it’s a (sarcastic) Big Deal. He is mistaken.”
          No, you didn’t write that the textual attestation amounts to nothing. Plus your first sentence explicitly says

          “It’s a popular Christian argument”
          Christian. Ie religious.
          Not scholarly.

          What’s really stupid is that he tops you with

          “you can’t prove inspiration, or miracles, or incarnation by manuscript evidence.”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Ah, Ttimes, we hardly knew ye.

          He was an odd one.

        • adam

          …..

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          So absence of evidence is evidence of absence?

          It certainly can be.

          How many 1st century manuscripts of anything have survived? There could have been thousands, but I usually throw away old copies of things I don’t need once I’ve made a new one, don’t you?

          So you’re saying that the gospel story rests on a poor foundation? Yes, that’s what I’ve been saying all along. I don’t much care why the early manuscripts are gone (some reasons are obvious); my point is simply that they’re gone.

          We live in a “see it to believe it culture”, but if the bible is true in wh at it says about us, Jesus could be walking on water now and people would come up with a different reason for how he was able to pull it off other than the one he was articulating.

          You dispute things you see in the paper written about something that happened yesterday.

          you see they errors of transmission and not wholesale modifications. Those don’t concern me. What would concern me is if you discovered a manuscript that didn’t have the resurrection, substitutionary atonement, original sin.

          Not likely to happen because of the issues you raised—destruction of manuscripts, age, etc. But it makes no sense for you to take comfort in the fact that your religion is beyond direct contradiction through history. Nothing is hardly a good foundation for a religion.

          Why not harmonize the Gospel accounts?

          Who’s saying that the gospels were made up? That the errors were deliberate? Not me.

        • Maximus

          Bob, thanks for responding.

          “So you’re saying the Gospel story rests on a poor foundation?”

          No, I’m not saying that. There all millions of European Starlings in the U.S. today. All of them come from a group of 60 released in Central Park in 1890. I don’t need to see the corpses of those 60 to know that they were there. The manuscripts/codices/etc emerged all over the Empire. They did not think ahead to answer methodological naturalistic skeptics 2,000 years later who would want to see the originals. There is no evidence of wholesale modifications. The one’s you referenced are footnoted in most bibles today (along with other instances). Recent history of events in Palestine were fresh enough on the minds of people. They had no need to preserve them once they had made a good copy. (BTW, the fragment from John you reference was a major find. Harvard Divinity School textual critics had long maintained John was a 4th century Gospel at the earliest added to make Jesus more divine than he appears in the Synoptics. Their commitment to methodological naturalism caused them to be “blind” in a sense.)

          “You dispute things you see in the paper written about something that happened yesterday.”

          This is true, but I have to see the witnesses. History cannot be distilled beyond eye-witness testimony. There were enough people at the Nexus of this thing that believed it and died for it with nothing to gain. To butcher Kant’s principals a bit, I am relying on the phenomenal experience of those who encountered Jesus and the post Ascension church age (Paul, Peter, early martyrs, et al) and combining it with my noumenonal experience in this world that tells me that there is probably a first cause that precedes the existence of matter. The Bible does not tell me everything there is to know, on the contrary, to borrow from Calvin, it is “baby-talk” to tell creatures what they need to know.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          There all millions of European Starlings in the U.S. today. All of them come from a group of 60 released in Central Park in 1890.

          Interesting. Kudzu is another invasive species deliberately introduced with another interesting story behind it.

          The manuscripts/codices/etc emerge d all over the Empire. They did not think ahead to answer methodological naturalistic skeptics 2,000 years later who would want to see the originals.

          This is just another excuse for why we have an evidence gap. Why isn’t the point right now. The point is that there’s an evidence gap. It’s like you’re trying to balance a giant pyramid upside-down. Your foundation is far too weak to support the immense claims you’re resting on it.

          There is no evidence of wholesale modifications.

          Yet another appeal to no evidence. You’re forgetting that you have the burden of proof.

          You say that the gospels crossed the chasm from autographs to our oldest copies 200 or 300 years later [EDIT: without change]? Convince me.

          The one’s you referenced are footnoted in most bibles today (along with other instances).

          That’s a common apologetic response, and I agree with it as far as it goes.

          Take the long ending of Mark. We had two manuscript traditions, and scholars weighed the evidence and soberly picked on as our most reliable.

          Now, imagine the same situation for which we don’t have a variant tradition simply because of the ravages of time or deliberate destruction. Or five variant traditions. Now what do you do?

          How many places in the Bible does this describe? Three? Three thousand? We’ll never know.

          This is true, but I have to see the witnesses.

          You’re saying that this is how you evaluate a controversy in today’s paper? OK—you might be able to get good evidence today to resolve a puzzle. Ain’t happenin’ with the New Testament documents. Once again you’re hiding behind lack of information—not a very good shield, I’m afraid. In fact, more of a booby trap than a shield.

          History cannot be distilled beyond eye-witness testimony.

          And you think you have it with the gospels? Show me.

          There were enough people at the Nexus of this thing that believed it and died for it with nothing to gain.

          So it’s said. The gospels that clearly make an eyewitness claim are rejected from the canon.

          I am relying on the phenomenal experience of those who encountered Jesus

          Why imagine that the Bible has anything like that??

          my noumenonal experience in this world that tells me that there is probably a first cause that precedes the existence of matter.

          Yes, that does seem to be common sense, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, common sense isn’t much help at the frontier of science. That’s why a doctorate doesn’t come in a Cracker Jack box (well, mine did, but that’s another story).

          Quantum mechanics postulates uncaused causes.

        • Testmeandsee

          BELIEVE I AM HE OR YOU WILL DIE IN YOUR SIN. Scripture is devine. Supernatural. Spirit. This myth about a dying God. God says there are no atheists, we all worship someone or something, even if it is ourselves. All this debate and argument of what is true and what is not. The debate isn’t with each other … it has always been with man and God. Come let us reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be whiter than snow. I will take out his heart of stone and give him a heart of flesh. I am the Lord and there is no other. The message of the gospels is God in Christ reconciling the whole world to Himself. But, men love darkness more than light.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          God says there are no atheists

          Oops. I gotta tell you that God got this one wrong.

          I see no good reason to believe. If you have one or more, feel free to share.

        • Greg G.

          God says there are no atheists,

          John Loftus says that we are all atheists as we all don’t believe in most gods, but theists are simply inconsistent atheists.

        • adam

          “BELIEVE I AM HE OR YOU WILL DIE IN YOUR SIN. ”

          Why?

          When the bible god itself is a sinner….

      • sojourner4

        As for you lacking the credentials!! Don’t people actually get credentials in a subject such as you are handling so as to be able to show the rest of us “uncredentialed” people evidence?
        If we all need credentials in order to understand historiography etc., then why even have anyone bother sharing them to others? Just tell every one to go to the same seminary or whatever, and get “credentialed” then they will be in the “know.”
        You have obviously gone into the subject a lot more thoroughly than many of us “un-credentialed” folk, and your analysis is no doubt far better than those who claim to be credentialed.

        • Ttimes

          Nonsense. “No doubt far better than those who claim to be credentialed”? People devote their lives and rack up multiple degrees so they can be deciphering, reading, analyzing ancient manuscripts. It is an incredibly painstaking work. Your argument sounds just about like, “Well, we all know what atoms are, so let’s listen to what this guy says about them, because those people with so-called ‘credentials’ are probably holding out on us.”

      • Ttimes

        Kicking around ideas? Listen, not to be a wise guy, but when you can read ancient manuscripts, come back. This isn’t a job for the amateur sleuth.

        The internet is already clogged with people who write in to say, “I’m not sayin’, now, I’m just puttin’ it out there!”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Amateur sleuth is probably all I’ll ever be.

          Do a brother a solid–show me the errors here. So far, it sounds like just hot air and chest beating from you.

        • Ttimes

          Sorry, Bob, but you are the one who has set himself up to teach us about this; you do your homework. I have enough to do, doing my own research.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Nice! You get to whine about faulty thinking and then, when called to defend the charge, say, “Nah–that’s your problem.”

          If I had a list of dirty tricks, I’d be sure to add that to the list.

          Thanks for your contribution to the discussion.

        • Ttimes

          Listen Bob, I just spent weeks preparing a conference on this very topic, and I didn’t ask you to rewrite it – I did my own stuff. That’s the world of scholarship, pal, you can ask a friend for help, but only if you have done your own work first.

          You will notice that I gave, who, Greg a leg up on where to find data on early papyri manuscripts, because he asked.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          We must speak different languages. Where I come from, pointing out flaws is fine. Even pointing out flaws arrogantly is fine. Trouble is, you gotta back up your charges with evidence.

          So far, you got none.

          You want a dick-swinging contest (my interpretation from your opening comment)? Sure, that’s fine. If I’ve made a mistake, I’ll appreciate getting corrected so that I stop embarrassing myself with my error. But in a dick-swinging contest, you’ve got to eventually whip it out and show us. I’m waiting.

        • Ttimes

          BTW, I wrote you a nice comment – see my original one – and it was you, not me, who lit in with “I imagine that your approach is “ignorance is bliss.” Granted, but it’s not scholarship.

        • Dys

          So you’re nothing more than the laziest of armchair critics, capable of little more than a meaningless and worthless “nuh uh”, yet for some reason expects to be taken seriously.

          Go fly a kite, you’re only a legend in your own mind.

        • Ttimes

          Sweet talk.

          Nuh-uh is right, that’s exactly my response to someone who wants me to do his homework. I just spent days preparing a talk on this topic, and I had to do my own research, I didn’t ask anyone on this page to do it for me.

        • Dys

          It’s also apparently the only useful thing you have to contribute.

          If you don’t want to elaborate on the errors you’re whining about, then stop whining. No one gives a damn about your claimed credentialism, and you’re not going to be given the benefit of the doubt so you can try and act professorial.

          I had to do my own research, I didn’t ask anyone on this page to do it for me.

          And if that was at all relevant to what you’re bitching about, you might have a point. But it’s not, so you don’t.

        • Ttimes

          This your caliber of reader, Bob?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I fear you’re not raising my average.

        • Dys

          Don’t you have some other blogs to randomly criticize and not contribute anything meaningful to Ttimes?

          I mean, if we’re talking about caliber, you’re one in quite a long line of self-professed experts who piss and moan, yet when called up for elaboration, insist that their time is far too valuable to bother engaging in any meaningful discussion.

          In short, you’re nothing but a troll.

        • Ttimes

          BTW, please read what I wrote, right up until the point where Bob told me I was ignorant. I contributed a little with this, but won’t bother any more:

          “Awfully sketchy logic here. Have you ever taken a look at the textual history of the Gallic Wars in comparison with the New Testament? The earliest mss of Gallic Wars dates from 900, about 1000 years after the publication. And large chunks of the book are completely missing.

          The NT has hundreds and hundreds of mss that predate the earliest copy of Julius Caesar. That does not prove of course, that it is inspired, but it does prove that it is reliable.

          Your observation about the three major additions (John 8), etc., misses the point. The reason they are not accepted in critical texts is precisely because they were not part of the original text. You don’t need numbers, but weight, to decide the text.”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You’re either a scholar who’s an asshole, or just an asshole. My money’s on the latter. I think this is all bluffing. You’ve made a dozen comments with zero content.

          We have a little experiment now. I’m interested to see if further evidence confirms or denies my hypothesis.

        • Dys

          It appears that our new best friend has a PhD in New Testament studies from Kings College, Aberdeen, Scotland, and also taught at Biblical Theological Seminary for 8 years.

          That being said, you’d think such a scholar would have more substance and far less bluster.

          http://openoureyeslord.com/about/

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Excellent detective work, but how did you deduce that? That does indeed make sense given the email address he used.

          But I wonder why the bluster? If he’s really got the credentials and really has something to say, why the arrogance?

          This is an odd blogger who doesn’t fit the usual stereotypes.

        • Dys

          His disqus page gave his handle as @gsshogren. From there it was a pretty straightforward google search to his personal blog, a “where are they now” article on the BTS site, and some Amazon links to a few books.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I wonder if he’s now deleted all his comments.

          A shame. He had so much to teach us. I know, because he told me so.

    • allan

      Justin, that’s a lot of bluster but how about providing some evidence to support your critique. You complain that the bible is not accepted as fact. There are many good reasons for that. Just one of these is that it can be shown (by scholars) to be mainly a fiction. It’s also full of ‘magic’. There is no evidence that ‘magic’ is real (personal testimony doesn’t cut it). Not a single amputee healed by prayer.

  • TheNuszAbides

    Truth can stand by itself.— Thomas Jefferson

    idealistic claptrap! 😉
    i find myself in a rare instance of wishing i could believe Jefferson. though i suspect surrounding context could shoehorn it into my sphere of cynicism… where would i find that line?

  • Ttimes

    Awfully sketchy logic here. Have you ever taken a look at the textual history of the Gallic Wars in comparison with the New Testament? The earliest mss of Gallic Wars dates from 900, about 1000 years after the publication. And large chunks of the book are completely missing.

    The NT has hundreds and hundreds of mss that predate the earliest copy of Julius Caesar. That does not prove of course, that it is inspired, but it does prove that it is reliable.

    Your observation about the three major additions (John 8), etc., misses the point. The reason they are not accepted in critical texts is precisely because they were not part of the original text. You don’t need numbers, but weight, to decide the text.

    • Greg G.

      It has been noticed that most of the variations in the texts occurred before they were canonized. The earliest copies we have are copies of copies of copies, etc. We have zero copies from the first two centuries. We may have some idea what was changed before those copies but there may be a lot of changes that are not even suspected. Yet some scholars reject the evidence of change without textual evidence.

      Most texts of Mark 1:41 have “moved with compassion” but the older, more reliable texts have “moved with anger”. It seems more reasonable to most scholars that a scribe changed “anger” to “compassion” than that a scribe changed “compassion” to “anger”. But there is no way to know for certain and some theology hangs on it.

      Mark 1:41
      Being moved with compassion, he stretched out his hand, and touched him, and said to him, “I want to. Be made clean.”

      1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1 looks like part of 1 Corinthians 8. 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 sounds like it comes from the Pastorals era. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 sounds like Mark 14:22-25 and even more like Luke 22:19-20. 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 has a pattern of an exhortation, rhetorical questions, and an explanation using the same metaphors as the questions. The third round has an exhortation and some rhetorical questions but then it goes into the questionable passages above. But we find the explanations using the same metaphors from 1 Corinthians 10:22 in 1 Corinthians 11:30-31. That is an apparent interpolation that would have had to happen before the variations we have now.

      These are some questionable gospel passages that I think I got from a Bart Ehrman book. He notes that there are more variations in the New Testament texts we have than there are words in the New Testament. That is mostly due to the number of texts but most of the texts are very late.

      Doxology to the Lord’s Prayer
      Matthew 6:13 (NRSV)
      13 And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.
      Absent in the Alexandrian texts and in oldest versions of Luke.

      Weather forecasting
      Matthew 16:2b-3 in Matthew 16:1-4 (NRSV)
      1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test Jesus they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them, [[“When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’]] 3 [[And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.]] 4 An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Then he left them and went away.
      Excluded from oldest texts, marked as questionable in some and relocated in another.

      The Longer Ending of Mark
      Mark 16:9-20
      Matthew and Luke disagree after that point. Church fathers knew of long ending in late 2nd century.

      Parable of the Two Debtors Luke
      7:36-50
      The anointing seems to be in John 12:1-8 with similar accounts in Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9 but without the parable. That makes it questionable.

      [My own opinion is that it is original to Luke. The independent use of the number “5” and the “ten to one ratio” are earmarks of Lukan redaction.]

      Do in remembrance of me
      Luke 22:19 (NRSV)
      19 Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
      It does not appear in some of the oldest copies of Luke.

      Christ’s agony at Gethsemane
      Luke 22:43-44 (NRSV)
      [[43 Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. 44 In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.]]
      Included in some of the oldest manuscripts but is absent in some of the most reliable copies.

      Angelic disturbance
      John 5:3b-4 (NRSV)
      3 In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed, [[ waiting for the stirring of the water; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was made well from whatever disease that person had.]]
      The passage is not found in the most reliable manuscripts of John.

      Pericope Adulterae
      John 7:53 (NRSV)
      [[53 Then each of them went home,]]
      John 8:1-11 (NRSV)
      [[1 while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”]]
      Council of Trent deemed the Latin Vulgate to be authentic and authoritative
      “The most extreme example of presence in different locations is the story of the Woman Taken in Adultery, which is absent from the best texts of John, but occurs in 12th century and later manuscripts after John 7:52, or John 7:36, or John 4:44, or even Luke 21:38.” [66]

      Last chapter of John
      John 21
      Tertullian writes as if chapter 20 was the last.

      Comma Johanneum
      1 John 5:7 (NRSV)
      7 There are three that testify:
      General consensus today is that it is a Latin corruption that entered the Greek manuscript tradition .

      Here is a list of verses that modern translations have omitted due to the evidence that they are not original.

      Verses Omitted From Modern New Testaments
      ◦Matthew 17:21
      ◦Matthew 18:11
      ◦Matthew 23:14
      ◦Mark 7:16
      ◦Mark 9:44
      ◦Mark 9:46
      ◦Mark 11:26
      ◦Mark 15:28
      ◦Mark 16:9–20
      ◦Luke 17:36
      ◦Luke 23:17
      ◦John 5:3–4
      ◦John 7:53-8:11
      ◦Acts 8:37
      ◦Acts 15:34
      ◦Acts 24:6b–7
      ◦Acts 28:29
      ◦Romans 16:24

      • Ttimes

        There are now 18 manuscripts from the 2nd century, and 1 from the 1st, your info is out of date. Not sure where you got it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          One from the first? I suppose that’s the much-ballyhooed fragment of Mark?

          Let’s let that one go through the scholarly review process (which hadn’t started, last time I checked). Remember what happened to the Gospel of the Wife of Jesus.

        • Greg G.

          I remember hearing about that Mark fragment a few years ago and then nothing.

        • Greg G.

          This is what we have about the Mark fragment from the first century. A mummy death mask was discovered that was made of papyri-mache. A scrap of it appeared to have writings from the Gospel of Mark. Other scraps appear to be other New Testament writings. Wallace said a leading (but anonymous) paleographer dated the Mark fragment to earlier than 90AD.

          Dan Wallace explains what he meant from a debate with Bart Ehrman.
          http://www.dts.edu/read/wallace-new-testament-manscript-first-century/

          Craig Evans talked about it in 2014. This has a youtube video. Evans doesn’t seem to know anymore about the fragment itself than what is in the Wallace article.
          http://www.christianpost.com/news/worlds-oldest-bible-scripture-scientists-claim-1st-century-gospel-of-mark-found-in-ancient-mummys-mask-132925/

          Larry Hurtado explains the history of the news and that nothing has come of it so far.
          https://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/a-first-century-copy-of-the-gospel-of-mark/

          I think the Gospel of Mark was probably composed shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem so I think confirmation of this story would be pretty cool. However, my skepticism about it grows after three and a half years of nothing new. It is beginning to sound like a Christian myth like the coming refutation of evolution or the coming of the Messiah.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You wonder if the team has discovered evidence that puts their discovery in a bad light. The lesson from the Gospel of Mrs. Jesus is relevant here. It’s unfortunate that the needs of priority conflict with open source scholarship.

          I also wonder at this process. Taking apart a historic mummy mask in the hopes that they’ll find Christian papyrus seems destructive.

          One final ramble: I remember Bob Price noting that early Mark manuscripts are poorly represented–you find Matthew and Luke more often in the early centuries. That’s because people saw those as the more complete gospels. Why make a copy of Mark when you’ve got a nice copy of Mark V2.0?

        • Greg G.

          I have mentioned before how Luke and John follow Mark 6 up to a point, then abruptly jump to Mark 8. Luke does it in mid-sentence like he didn’t know that chapter 7 was missing. I wonder if Mark was despised for something in chapter 7?

          Matthew would be the basic Mark with New & Improved parts. They didn’t need the base model.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You’ve got a far better grasp of some of these details than I. Let me know if you want to write a guest post sometime.

        • Greg G.

          Please update my information. Do you have links?

          Are you counting fragments no bigger than a credit card as a manuscript with the earliest estimated date? Do those validate any questionable passages?

          I have gotten my information from cites such as these. The first has a five year old copyright so it may out of date.

          http://www.csntm.org/Manuscripts.aspx

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_manuscript#Dating_the_New_Testament_manuscripts

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That Wikipedia link has 2 manuscripts from the second century and 6 more from 2nd/3rd (not enough information to decide, one assumes). I think you said zero from the second century.

        • Greg G.

          Those are fragments and I didn’t see any that were definitely dated to the 2nd century. Some of those dates are done by paleography, aka handwriting analysis by comparing writing styles. That is how they get the early dates for P52. What if a scribe was home-schooled by his grandfather?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yes, that is certainly a weakness of that method. Script styles change, but that’s a jerky process.

        • Greg G.

          What happened to Ttimes? I hope he doesn’t go away complaining that we refused to learn from him. We begged him to enlighten us.

          I couldn’t tell if he was bragging or lying about his credentials.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          He seems to have vanished. Did you see the clever decloaking done by Dys? He found out that his claim of being a Bible scholar appears to be accurate (or at least he’s repeating the same line at his blog).

          I was expecting that all the claims were bravado. I’ve seen plenty of dismissive “This is full of errors and I won’t waste my time pointing them out” drivebys, but I’ve never seen someone stick around and keep complaining but not providing any content.

        • Greg G.

          I had missed that one. Thanks for pointing it out.

        • http://www.christianpublishers.org/ Christian Publishing House

          Paleographers have set out four basic levels of handwriting. First, there was the common hand of a person who is untrained in making copies. Second, there is the documentary hand of an individual who is trained in preparing documents. The third level is the reformed documentary hand of a copyist who is experienced in the preparation of documents and copying literature, and fourth, the professional hand, who is a professional scribe, i.e., experienced in producing literature. Handwriting changes about every 50-years. Some manuscripts have dates, but those that do not are compared against those that do. The daye of 110-125 C.E. is a good date for P52. There are at least 65 papyrus NT MS that date between 110 – 300 C.E.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          There are at least 65 papyrus NT MS that date between 110 – 300 C.E.

          Impressive for a book of this time period. Not much of a foundation from which to build a historical claim, however.

          I hope you appreciate that the Christian claim–that a supernatural being created the entire universe–is about the biggest claim possible. You need a lot of evidence, and “we have some really good copies, considering” doesn’t get you very far.

        • Greg G.

          Paleographers have set out four basic levels of handwriting. First, there was the common hand of a person who is untrained in making copies. Second, there is the documentary hand of an individual who is trained in preparing documents. The third level is the reformed documentary hand of a copyist who is experienced in the preparation of documents and copying literature, and fourth, the professional hand, who is a professional scribe, i.e., experienced in producing literature.

          Very interesting.

          Handwriting changes about every 50-years. Some manuscripts have dates, but those that do not are compared against those that do.

          I remember noticing how the style of handwriting of my grandmother was similar to the style used by my teachers in grade school who were about the same age. But how could you date something written by my grandmother in 1925 versus something from her sister wrote in 1975 just by the style of handwriting? The 110-125 CE span seems to be too narrow for a method that cannot be calibrated.

          I don’t have a problem with the Gospel of John being written that early. I am just skeptical that a piece can be dated that precisely.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That’s the problem that I’ve heard. You might have a single document written by Scribe X in a known date. Now you have another document of unknown date with the same script. What can we say about it?

          Maybe it was written by Scribe X, maybe by one of his students decades after X’s death, and maybe it was used even later by someone who wanted to mimic (or even honor) the great and venerable Scribe X. Heck, maybe it was even written before Scribe X by another scribe we just haven’t seen any examples of.

          I’m impressed by the detective work of modern paleographers, but there are limits.

        • Bruce Grubb

          “Paleography is a last resort for dating” and, “for book hands, a period of 50 years is the least acceptable spread of time”[4][5] with it being suggested that “the “rule of thumb” should probably be to avoid dating a hand more precisely than a range of at least seventy or eighty years.”[6] In an 2005 e-mail addendum to his 1996 “The Paleographical Dating of P-46” paper Bruce W. Griffin stated “Until more rigorous methodologies are developed, it is difficult to construct a 95% confidence interval for NT manuscripts without allowing a century for an assigned date.”[7] William M Schniedewind went even further in the abstract to his 2005 paper “Problems of Paleographic Dating of Inscriptions” and stated that “The so-called science of paleography often relies on circular reasoning because there is insufficient data to draw precise conclusion about dating. Scholars also tend to oversimplify diachronic development, assuming models of simplicity rather than complexity”.[8]

          As Brent Nongbri states “any serious consideration of the window of possible dates for P52 must include dates in the later second and early third centuries.”

          Oh, BTW the 125 date comes from 1935 ie over 80 years ago.

          So the claim “The daye of 110-125 C.E. is a good date for P52.” is totally bogus. A GOOD date for P52 given the limits of Paleography would be 125-225 CE.

        • Ttimes
        • Dys

          Notice all the question marks and “ifs” contained in the article?

        • Greg G.

          Thank you, Ttimes. That is the only thing I found and it is dated February 9, 2012.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I should write a post in response to this concern.

      Hey–wait a minute. I did! In fact, it’s this one here. Perhaps you didn’t read it? I’ve already shown that “yeah, but the NT has thousands of manuscripts!” doesn’t amount to much.

      I’ve written more on the difficulties here.

      The NT has hundreds and hundreds of mss that predate the earliest copy of Julius Caesar. That does not prove of course, that it is inspired, but it does prove that it is reliable.

      Nope. Historians scrub the supernatural out of Julius Caesar. They’ll do the same for the NT if you want them to judge it by the same criteria.

      Your observation about the three major additions (John 8), etc., misses the point. The reason they are not accepted in critical texts is precisely because they were not part of the original text.

      Yes, probably true. But how do we know? Because we have ancient texts documenting two or more variant traditions. NT scholars use various criteria for deciding which one is more authentic. But did you ever wonder how many places there are in the manuscript for which there were two or more variant traditions … but which we only have manuscripts of one? How would we even know?

      I imagine that your approach is “ignorance is bliss.” Granted, but it’s not scholarship.

      • Ttimes

        My friend, please restrain yourself until you know the facts. I have devoted my life to studying and teaching the Greek text. I have a PhD in the field from one of the oldest European universities. If you had turned in this article for homework, you would have gotten a very low grade.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Wow–that puts me in a pickle. As far as I know, I do know the facts. You’ve given me a failing grade, but when I ask the teacher to point out the specific errors I’ve made so that I can avoid them in the future–or even add a correction to this post–I get nothing.

          If I didn’t know better (and we know for a fact that you know the many errors because you said so), I’d think you have nothing.

          Dang–I guess we’ll never know.

        • Ttimes

          Not your teacher, Bob, just someone who happened on your paper and found it a disappointment. You’re right, I’m not going to proofread you.

        • Dys

          In short, you have nothing substantive to say. Thanks for admitting it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Translation: ” ”

          OK, got it.

      • Greg G.

        This page has information about Caesar’s Gallic Wars.

        http://www.bible.ca/ef/topical-the-earliest-new-testament-manuscripts.htm

        The page has some interesting information but it cites Strobel and Slick as sources for some.

  • http://www.christianpublishers.org/ Christian Publishing House

    Bob:

    Of those 2000 copies of the Iliad, how far removed are they from the alleged originals?

    I like how you presented supposed evidence that slighted the New Testament with you chart and comments but fail to do the same with your secular literature.

    YOU WROTE: The first problem is that more manuscripts at best increase our confidence that we have the original version. That doesn’t mean the original copy was history

    RESPONSE: True. And your making such an observation does not, not make it historical either. There is far more support for the historicity of Jesus than most of the people you would argue as being historical.

    • MR

      Eh? Are you saying the Iliad is historical? Does anyone believe the events laid out in the Iliad are true accounts? Do you not see the flaw in your own argument?

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Perhaps CPH is saying that if only the Illiad had as good a manuscript pedigree as the NT, it would be just as true.

        • MR

          Obviously been reading apologetic websites again. Didn’t think things through on his/her own. Seems to be typical.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I think Christian Publishing House is an apologetics website. Perhaps too much holiday eggnog?

        • MR

          Eggnog! Thanks for reminding me; need to put that on the grocery list.

        • http://www.christianpublishers.org/ Christian Publishing House

          Bob:

          Again, thanks for looking to the positive. In the above, I am not saying the Iliad is historical, but am referring to what the original would have said, and the ability of getting back to the original words through textual criticism.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          This is a tangent, but I think it’s where you’re going.

          To your point, the NT manuscripts are pretty good, considering. Nevertheless, you’ve got 2 to 3 centuries of time for hanky panky to happen to the documents.

          You’ll say that textual criticism fixes all the errors. And again, I’ll say that textual criticism is pretty good, considering. When you’ve got two manuscripts–the Comma Johanneum, the long ending of Mark, the woman caught in adultery, say–scholars come up with a pretty good reason to favor one manuscript tradition over another.

          The problem is when there are two or more traditions for a particular passage and we don’t have copies of all of them. Scholars have nothing to compare, nothing to weigh to see which one is more plausible.

          It’s simply naive to imagine that our best copies vary only negligibly from the originals.

        • http://www.christianpublishers.org/ Christian Publishing House

          MR:

          Actually, I have eight years of higher education at top universities in biblical studies, religion, theology, and apologetics. I have penned over 42 books, most of which are apologetic in nature. I will admit my point that you seem to have an issue about was poorly written, ambiguous and did not reflect clearly what I meant to convey.

          AGAIN, I was not saying the Iliad is historical, but was referring to what the original would have said, and the ability of getting back to the original words through textual criticism. I will go and edit it to make this clearer.

        • MR

          Actually, I have eight years of higher education at top universities in biblical studies, religion, theology, and apologetics

          Then you likely knew you were making a piss poor argument.

          I will go and edit it to make this clearer.

          Yes, do go cover your tracks.

        • http://www.christianpublishers.org/ Christian Publishing House

          It must be a very lonely place in your world. I have met some seriously smug individuals on the internet, and you are right up there with the best of them. You will never learn a thing as you already know everything, and your mind is closed by a serious conceited blind spot.

          You are the type that cannot have a serious interchange, so you insult and attack until you drive away the person conversating with you. Then, once they are gone, you claim they ran off because they had no arguments.

          I see below where you and Bob are wonder where certain ones have gone in this conversation. I also see many deleted comments. Well, they abandoned your self-righteous contempt toward others.

          Here are some terms that you have likely seen applied to you on the internet:

          arrogant, proud, haughty, conceited, self-important, disdainful supercilious, snobbish, snobby, patronizing, condescending, uppity, and high and mighty

        • MR

          Do you not see the smugness in your own original and follow up comments? Am I wrong that you should have known your argument was poor? These, plus I sense deception, hence my attitude. Don’t blame me for what you brought to the table.

          I’ve addressed your arguments elsewhere. I’m happy to follow through with a civil conversation there, but it’s not my fault if your arguments thus far have been misleading, so take that into account.

        • MNb

          You seem to be in love with this nice cop out.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I have eight years of higher education at top universities in biblical studies, religion, theology, and apologetics.

          Contrast your 8 years at top universities in Bible study with 8 years at a top university in something evidence-based—physics, say. I’m as impressed as if you’d said 8 years in Muslim or Hindu studies. What happens when you go toe-to-toe with those scholars from other religions? Do you just try to outshout his unevidenced claim with yours?

          It’s like you’ve memorized all the batting stats for the Yankees back to 1901—cool in a narrow domain, but not very impressive elsewhere.

          Ah, I wish Hitchens were here to do this justice!

          AGAIN, I was not saying the Iliad is historical, but was referring to what the original would have said, and the ability of getting back to the original words through textual criticism.

          If “the Iliad is historical” isn’t possible, then what good is this algorithm? Is it tuned so that it only declares Christianity true?

        • http://www.christianpublishers.org/ Christian Publishing House

          Bob:

          Thanks for the cover story. You were actually kind of close. In the above, I am not saying the Iliad is historical, but am referring to what the original would have said, and the ability of getting back to the original words through textual criticism.

          If I were using an excuse, the truth would be 14 hour days, which usually start around 2:30 AM.

      • http://www.christianpublishers.org/ Christian Publishing House

        MR:

        I am not saying the Ilad is historical. However, I am saying the manuscripts that get one one what it originally said are far removed, regardless of the number.

        The gospels and the narrative books of the Bible are actual historical events and their documents are of greater number and light years closer to the originals.

        What you have with the Bible critics is they do not see Bible manuscripts as archaeological evidence. They discount historical events and persons, if they are not found in secular writings.

        Then, when archaeology uncovers evidence of a person or an even, the critic just moves onto the next person or event, as they are not interested in the truth. This cycle just repeats itself over and over again.

        • MR

          It seems pretty clear to me that you don’t know what you are arguing. Your complaint that Bob fails to do the same with “his secular literature,” whatever that means, is simply a red herring. Your comment:

          Of those 2000 copies of the Iliad, how far removed are they from the alleged originals?

          I like how you presented supposed evidence that slighted the New Testament with you[r] chart and comments but fail to do the same with your secular literature.

          Bob isn’t defending that “secular literature,” whatever that means, is original or reliable, and I doubt he would. The point is, no one takes them at face value like they do scripture. If we found an original, signed manuscript of the Iliad, it would likely only seriously interest scholars, and would say nothing about the veracity of the document. People aren’t suddenly going to start believing in the Greek gods. Your complaint is pointless and naive.

          The gospels and the narrative books of the Bible are actual historical events and their documents are of greater number and light years closer to the originals.

          You can’t know that—even if they were original texts. Originality and veracity are two completely different things. Imagine we found a signed original of the Iliad. Does that mean the Greek gods are real? That the events that happened in it actually took place?

          What you have with the Bible critics is they do not see Bible manuscripts as archaeological evidence. They discount historical events and persons, if they are not found in secular writings.

          Then, when archaeology uncovers evidence of a person or an even[t], the critic just moves onto the next person or event, as they are not interested in the truth. This cycle just repeats itself over and over again.

          Oh? Are you aware of the vast amounts of archaeological evidence for the ancient pharaohs and events surrounding them. Do you therefore believe they, too, their claims of divinity? When we read that miracles were attributed to Alexander the Great, that Caesar and Hadrian’s lover, Antinous, were gods, and then we find archaeological evidence for them, should assume the veracity of these claims? Where does our gullibility end?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          When the evidence for the Exodus comes to light with the discovery of the bodies of 2 million people who had to die before they made it to the Promised Land®, then you’ll be singin’ a different tune, Mr. Atheist Smart Guy.

          It’ll happen! Sometime! I think!

        • MR

          Speaking of the Promised Land, I was just traipsing through Edom, Moab and Ammon. I was allowed to look on the Promised Land, but they wouldn’t let me enter. Men with guns. :S

          I also got to see the site where they claim to know with 100% certainty that Jesus was baptized…, and the other place where they claim he was baptized. “He was baptized here!” “No, it was here!” “Here, I tell ya!” “No, here!”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I was just traipsing through Edom, Moab and Ammon. I was allowed to look on the Promised Land, but they wouldn’t let me enter. Men with guns. :S

          Jesus Christ, dude, you struck the rock to get water instead of speaking to it (Num. 20:11-12)! How hard is following the instructions of the Lord?! No, of course the author of the Pentateuch and savior of his people wasn’t allowed to enter the Promised Land!

        • MR

          Oh, and I learned that Moses lived twelve years on Mt. Nebo, the site from which he was supposedly allowed to look on the Holy Land. Twelve years! Of course, visibility is so bad (our guide had only ever seen Jerusalem from there seven times), Moses probably had to wait twelve years just for a clear day. Hell, we couldn’t even see the Dead Sea from there.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I am saying the manuscripts that get one one what it originally said are far removed, regardless of the number.

          You’re not saying that the time from autographs to earliest complete copies (the 4th century codices) are all that worth bragging about, are you? If you want to say that 3 centuries is the smallest gap of any book of that time, that’s fine, but that doesn’t do much for you. Three centuries is a lo-o-o-ong time for hanky panky to change the manuscripts.

          The gospels and the narrative books of the Bible are actual historical events

          A very bold statement. I await the evidence.

          Then, when archaeology uncovers evidence of a person or an even, the critic just moves onto the next person or event, as they are not interested in the truth. This cycle just repeats itself over and over again.

          Huh? The Bible wrote about the Hittites or Jericho or some particular king and scholars are doubtful … but then the evidence is found. That’s nice, but what are you making of that. They get correct the bare facts of the time, and you’re excited about that? That’s the minimum a document must have to even be considered.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      CPH: Thanks for joining the conversation.

      I haven’t seen a chart like the one I made for the NT.

      I’m not slighting anything by presenting the facts about it. If the NT is accurate, surely it can withstanding having its facts made public. As MR noted, what could you possibly be saying with your observation? That if the Iliad had better copies, we’d have to treat its supernatural claims as true, just like those in the NT?

      And your making such an observation does not, not make it historical either.

      The burden of proof is yours. And it’s a very large burden, given the magnitude of the claims.

      There is far more support for the historicity of Jesus than most of the people you would argue as being historical.

      People like Alexander or Julius Caesar? Tell me: what do historians do with the miracle claims in the histories of those men? Do you think they should treat the miracles in the NT the same way?

      • http://www.christianpublishers.org/ Christian Publishing House

        Bob:

        You are clearly not familiar with apologetics. There is negative and positive apologetics. When you make a claim, it is your obligation to prove it. This is a long standing deception of the Bible critic, saying Christians have the burden of proof. If you are making the claims, you are the one who is obligated to back up those claims.

        • MR

          So then we also have the burden of proof to prove that every other religion is false? Have you taken the time to do this? Are you also required to believe in UFOs and ghosts and Bigfoot and fairies simply because you haven’t taken the time to disprove them?

        • http://www.christianpublishers.org/ Christian Publishing House

          I will reply to these few comments that you have here, but only to tell you, I do not waste my time on smug persons. If you cannot show mutal respect and carry on a friendly conversation, you can talk to yourself, which would mean the two smartest men in the room. I do not know how you will cope with that.

        • MR

          Please don’t take my response above about burden of proof for smugness in spite of my other reactions. Those are honest objections to your comment to Bob. You unjustly criticized him for being hypocritical by not treating what you called “secular literature” the same as the biblical manuscripts, but that would apply here as well, would it not? One could also make the case that one must disprove the above. I think we both agree that’s nonsense.

        • MNb

          You clearly like this nice cop out.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          “Go and boil your bottoms, you sons of a silly person!” — taunt from the French knight in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I don’t know about you, but I have a geologist walk ahead of me, making sure that each step is safe. And I wear a gas mask. And a hazmat suit.

          Only a fool assumes things like safety. Ditto the claims for Bigfoot and fairies–I always verify every belief personally.

        • MR

          I haven’t yet been able to disprove Atlantis—can’t afford the research ship—so that one is definitely true.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You are clearly not familiar with apologetics.

          That you can just know that … golly, I wish I were as clairvoyant as Christians. Denigrate it though I do, reading people’s souls has gotta be a big advantage to being a Christian.

          When you make a claim, it is your obligation to prove it.

          What was the claim? Going back to your original comment, you quoted me as saying, “The first problem is that more manuscripts at best increase our confidence that we have the original version. That doesn’t mean the original copy was history.”

          Is that it? You want me to substantiate the claim that the original of Mark might not’ve been 100% correct??

          This is a long standing deception of the Bible critic, saying Christians have the burden of proof. If you are making the claims, you are the one who is obligated to back up those claims.

          I find this popular shirking of the burden of proof fascinating. Do you ever want to take the tough stand and preach the gospel? I thought that’s what you’re supposed to do. That Christians run away from their burden of proof for the incredible claims in the gospels make me think that preaching the gospel is, y’know, a burden.

        • Greg G.

          Bob, you are clearly not familiar with good apologetics.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Don’t forget my hard heart! And being too proud to bend the knee!

        • MNb

          Neither are you or am I, just like we are not familiar with beautiful unicorns.

        • Bruce Grubb

          No it is NOT the “long standing deception of the Bible critic” as demonstrated by this quote from David Kusche regarding the Bermuda Triangle mystery:

          “Say I claim that a parrot has been kidnapped to teach aliens human language and I challenge you to prove that is not true. You can even use Einstein’s Theory of Relativity if you like. There is simply no way to prove such a claim untrue. The burden of proof should be on the people who make these statements, to show where they got their information from, to see if their conclusions and interpretations are valid, and if they have left anything out.”

          The more of the Gospels account one tries to say is actual history the more ad hoc handwaving one needs to explain the irregularities (the efforts to make Matthew and Luke agree would be comical if they were not so pathetic).

          Mainstream believers have so many problems with the Gospel of John that they don’t only throw it under the bus but drive said bus over it several times just to make sure.

        • Greg G.

          I think Matthew and Luke through John under the chariot first.

        • Bruce Grubb

          The Gospel of John is generally regarded as the latest of the four gospels and is so at odd with the synoptics that trying to make things fit just gives everyone headaches.

        • Greg G.

          Once you realize that the gospels are fiction and identify their sources, you don’t need to think common stories come from oral tradition which means they were copying one another. Mark Goodacre makes a good argument using Editorial Fatigue to show that Luke used Mark and Matthew.

          John adds the name of Joseph as Jesus’ father but seems to reject the name of Mary for his mother. but Matthew and Luke accept both. Many things in John obviously came from Mark as we can see more details from Mark’s sources in Mark. Compare the Mocking of Jesus in Mark, John, and Matthew with the Mocking of Carabbas from Philo’s Flaccus VI, for example.

          John seems to have developed the Lazarus resurrection story from Egyptian sources or maybe from the Pyramid Texts in Pepi II’s tomb. Luke seems to reject that episode with the Rich Man and Lazarus pericope as Josephus told him that Annas had five sons who became high priests after he did and John 18:13 told him that Caiaphas was his son-in-law, so the Rich Man was apparently Caiaphas asking about sending Lazarus back to his father’s house to warn his five brothers. The final line shows that Luke didn’t believe the story with Abraham saying, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

          There are many similarities between Matthew and John that do not come from Mark. The best arrow I see at this point is the challenge of John 7:41-42 about how Jesus was from Galilee when the scriptures said the Messiah was supposed to be from Bethlehem. Matthew then constructed the genealogy and the nativity narrative to explain it. It seems less likely to mention that question if Matthew had answered it, had John been getting the coincidental information from Matthew.

          But Matthew and Luke favored Mark’s accounts over John’s for the most part, just taking some information here or there, even making Jesus divine before birth, but rejecting other parts. Luke appears to have rejected Matthew’s genealogy because of some obvious errors, like omitting names and counting to fourteen, and the Slaughter of the Innocents scene for the nativity.

        • Pofarmer

          “John seems to have developed the Lazarus resurrection story from
          Egyptian sources or maybe from the Pyramid Texts in Pepi II’s tomb.”

          Which is interesting. You have to wonder if John isn’t actually a disciple of Philo of Alexandria. Many of these texts were written in or near Egypt, or in societies with Egyptian influences, so the connections makes sense.

        • Greg G.

          Right, John 1:1-18 mentions the Logos, which is used in Greek philosophy and Philo uses it.

      • http://www.christianpublishers.org/ Christian Publishing House

        Christians are not concerned with supposed miracles about Alexander the Great, which are based on writings centuries after biographies by Arrian and Plutarch. Even those latter biographies were more than 400 years after Alexander’s death.

        Miracles are effects in the physical world that surpass all known human or natural powers and are therefore attributed to supernatural agency. Skeptics view a miracle as a violation of laws they accept as natural, irrevocable, inexorable; therefore, they say, a miracle never occurs. It is good to keep in mind that their attitude is that if it is not understandable and explainable to us as far as we discern these laws, it cannot happen.

        Some 60-years ago Professor John R. Brobeck of the University of Pennsylvania stated: “A scientist is no longer able to say honestly something is impossible. He can only say it is improbable. But he may be able to say something is impossible to explain in terms of our present knowledge. Science cannot say that all properties of matter and all forms of energy are now known. . . . [For a miracle] one thing that needs to be added is a source of energy unknown to us in our biological and physiological sciences. In our Scriptures this source of energy is identified as the power of God.” Considering the advancements we have made over the past 60 years, I would say Brobeck’s words ring even more true.

        While there is evidence for the miracles that took place in the life and times of Jesus, there is not actual way of proving them, which holds even more true for the alleged miracles of other figures from ancient antiquity. However, the one exception to this is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

        According to Sherwin-White, the writings of Herodotus enable us to determine the rate at which legend accumulates, and the tests show that even two generations is too short a time span to allow legendary tendencies to wipe out the hard core of historical facts. Evidence of this is found in the historocity of Jesus life, ministry and resurrection. If we jump two generations into the seceond century, we find apocryphal gospels begin to appear, which contain all sorts of fabulous stories about Jesus during his childhood.

        A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), pp. 188-91.

        • MR

          While there is evidence for the miracles that took place in the life and times of Jesus, there is not actual way of proving them, which holds even more true for the alleged miracles of other figures from ancient antiquity. However, the one exception to this is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

          You can prove the resurrection of Jesus Christ? This is indeed earth-shattering news! I’m surprised it hasn’t made the news yet. Do tell.

        • http://www.christianpublishers.org/ Christian Publishing House

          I will conversate with you, if you will get over yourself and stop it with your holier than though attitude. I do not have time for smug attitudes, which is evidence that no answer would be enough for you.

        • MR

          When a person makes a claim, as you appear to have made, that they can prove the resurrection, what kind of reaction do you expect? No one has proven the resurrection and to smugly imply that you can (if I may use that word), is likely to get a smug response.

          …which is evidence that no answer would be enough for you.

          You’re criticizing me for my reaction, but if there truly were proof, I suspect word would already be out. Is it any surprise that I seem incredulous? Forget me. If you have proof, let the world be your judge.

        • http://www.christianpublishers.org/ Christian Publishing House

          This will be my last comment with you. When I say, prove, it is not in the narrow sense that you are thinking of, taking you to the resurrected Christ to say hello.

          I am talking, in the same way, a prosecutor would to a jury. She or he would say, “before I am done, I am going to prove that John killed his wife.” The prosecutor does not need a gun, a video, or an eyewitness, to convict John of aggravated murder. The things mentioned above are tangible, direct evidence.

          If we can put a man to death based on enough evidence and say that it is beyond a reasonable doubt, I am saying we have done the same thing for Jesus Christ. Just as you cannot physically prove the existence of anyone from 200 years ago or earlier, we would still argue that persons such as William Tyndale lived. You are so busy over analyzing what a person has said; you are not being reasonable.

          I have revisited my initial comments above and do not see how I have been a smug person. Thus, the conversation ends here. If you want the evidence, see the sources below:

          The Case for the Resurrection of JesusSep 25, 2004

          by Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona

          The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of ChristJun 3, 1996

          by Gary R. Habermas

          The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical ApproachJun 27, 2011

          by Michael R. Licona

        • MR

          Bob himself has dismantled Habermas’ arguments, but perhaps you can explain what you find convincing and why?

          This will be my last comment with you.

          Fine, if you wish, but it sounds like a cop out to me.

          I have revisited my initial comments above and do not see how I have been a smug person.

          This sounds pretty smug to me:

          I like how you presented supposed evidence that slighted the New Testament with you chart and comments but fail to do the same with your secular literature.

          Not to mention a poor argument. The following:

          Actually, I have eight years of higher education at top universities in biblical studies, religion, theology, and apologetics. I have penned over 42 books, most of which are apologetic in nature.

          sounds pretty:

          arrogant, proud, haughty, conceited, self-important, disdainful supercilious, snobbish, snobby, patronizing, condescending, uppity, and high and mighty.

          Not to mention the smugness and all of the above in your rant starting with, “It must be a very lonely place…,” so, please forgive me if I find your objections empty.

          For all that, your own smugness and arrogance don’t bother me. I’m interested in your arguments. So far you seem to have done a good job of skirting them. Please don’t mistake that for smugness. I’m just pointing out the obvious. You’ve done a lot of taking me to task for tone, but haven’t addressed my concerns which tend to center around what appears to be special pleading for the gospels. I suspect you would never accept the kinds of evidence you are upholding if they applied to beliefs you don’t happen to buy in to.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Most people around here see “prove” and “proof” confined to math and logic. Within evidence-based fields (don’t you think you’re in one?), compelling evidence is what we’re looking for.

          Evidence beyond a reasonable doubt for the resurrection would be interesting. I’ve read much and have found very weak evidence.

          “William Tyndale lived” vs. “Jesus rose from the dead” are two very different claims to support. Surely you see the vast difference?

          As MR noted, I’ve dismantled Habermas here and here.

        • MR

          And what am I to make of the distinction between “no actual way of proving” the miracles, but presumably a way of “proving” the resurrection? From CPH:

          While there is evidence for the miracles that took place in the life and times of Jesus, there is not actual way of proving them, which holds even more true for the alleged miracles of other figures from ancient antiquity. However, the one exception to this is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

          It seems to me that CPH is implying a strong distinction of proof, yet then later pulls back with a qualification:

          When I say, prove, it is not in the narrow sense that you are thinking of, taking you to the resurrected Christ to say hello….

          a) I wasn’t thinking in that narrow sense. That is simply a strawman.
          b) How is this an exception from “no actual way of proving?” They seem the same to me.

          Big claims; no follow up.

          Then as you note, we later went from “proving the resurrection” to:

          If we can put a man to death based on enough evidence and say that it is beyond a reasonable doubt, I am saying we have done the same thing for Jesus Christ. Just as you cannot physically prove the existence of anyone from 200 years ago or earlier, we would still argue that persons such as William Tyndale lived. You are so busy over analyzing what a person has said; you are not being reasonable.

          CPH seems to be equivocating by going from “proving the resurrection” to “physically proving the existence of someone” or “proving that a person lived.” Another pull back from his/her original claim.

          And I’m being unreasonable? I saw his/her original arguments as simply naive, but with eight years of apologetics under his/her belt, it’s starting to feel more like CPH is being disingenuous. What am I to make of this waffling?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I agree that CPH is rather dancing around the issue. I wonder if that’s standard: come out with the bold claim and then qualify it as you get pressed (without admitting error, of course). I’d much prefer his stating at the outset exactly what he can solidly defend and nothing more.

          As for the 8 years, it’s not like he’s one of the very few scholars we’ve confronted. From the ones I’ve seen, they’re all like that.

          As an aside, someone mentioned a lecture that Alvin Plantinga gave here in Seattle some years ago. I would’ve liked to have gone, if only to see someone I’ve heard much about. The person who attended said that it was just word salad, with him defining words in different ways for different occasions.

          Frankly, I was surprised. I guess I’m always surprised when I hear of someone (e.g., John Lennox, Wm. Lane Craig, John Warwick Montgomery) who have multiple doctorates make arguments so weak that freshmen in college should be able to dismantle.

          I guess I should stop being surprised.

        • MR

          I get the feeling that a lot of the apologists who show up here don’t actually do much of their own thinking. They simply look for the get-out-of-jail-free answers that others provide. They never ask themselves, “Does this really make sense to me?” CPH certainly didn’t give me impression he’d put much thought into things. He seemed to be parroting some outdated arguments. Of course, there’s a danger in seriously considering your own beliefs. My rule of thumb was, if we were talking about a different religion, would this argument be convincing? Generally the answer is, “Of course not.” And the next step, “Could my beliefs be wrong then,” is just beyond all comprehension.

          As for the faux outrage regarding my tone, have you read some of his past posts? Pot, kettle! And bigoted to boot! I think it was just a convenient out.

          I’ll have to keep an eye open for local speakers and start attending some of these lectures. Do you know of a good centralized source to monitor upcoming events? I guess I should start keeping an eye on the local religion section of the newspaper.

          Yeah, stop being surprised. If they had anything more than weak arguments, you would have heard it by now.

        • MNb

          “I get the feeling that a lot of the apologists who show up here don’t actually do much of their own thinking.”
          Well, I can’t blame them too much for it, because neither do I. But that’s no excuse. This is internet. You can look up a lot of stuff. Want to pull off the Cosmological Argument? Then don’t parrott WLC or whoever before you have tried to find out what critics of the arguments say about it. I highly doubt if CPH did.

          “there’s a danger in seriously considering your own beliefs.”
          Well, yes, that’s why I have visited quite a few apologist sites when I became interested in the god-issue again several years ago.

        • MR

          Well, I can’t blame them too much for it, because neither do I.

          Oh, I think you have. I’ve seen you in action.

          You can look up a lot of stuff…. I highly doubt if CPH did.

          I agree. At least, I doubt he looked up what the opposite side actually says. This is a huge flaw of those on the religious side, I think. Knowing, and more importantly, understanding your opponent’s argument is key. Otherwise you ultimately resort to distortions, strawmen, equivocation, etc., and that hugely undermines your own argument.

          Have you noticed how rarely a theist can state the atheist position in their own words. It’s almost like if they did they’re opening Schrodinger’s box and the cat is dead.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That’s what surprises me. Any of us could’ve looked at CPH’s first comment and said that this was elementary thinking, stated with far too much confidence, that will not be received well by this audience. I suppose it’s good that he (it is a he) is taking his show on the road to see how well it plays, but it’s still surprising that someone with this amount of experience couldn’t anticipate the reaction his arguments would get.

          As for tone, yes, I agree that his moderately snarky comments got a moderately snarky response in return, not the out-of-proportion barrage that he seems to imagine.

        • MR

          taking his show on the road

          That was exactly my impression!

          his moderately snarky comments got a moderately snarky response in return,

          Ya, ’cause I’m known as Mr. Aggressive around here…. And Susan will slit your throat without even thinking twice. :S

        • MNb
        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Interesting sites. I’ll take a look. Thanks.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          CPH: This is off topic, but you may be able to help me here.

          To learn more about what Christians are thinking, I hang out at some evangelical sites and listen to their podcasts: reasonable faith, stand to reason, cold case christianity, Frank Turek’s cross examined, apologetics 315, apologetics.com, and a few others like this. Do you have any blogs or podcasts that you’d recommend that might help me see the broader conversation? I think I’m in an echo chamber.

        • http://www.christianpublishers.org/ Christian Publishing House

          I am not sure that I could direct you to better apologists. Each of those apologists has their particular niche but also try to deal with all subject areas. For example, William Lane Craig can deal with the sciences and philosophy, but also has a good amount of knowledge about textual criticism but one would turn to Daniel Wallace for the textual criticism. If you are listening to all of those, I would not argue that you are in some echo chamber.

          I would argue that it is a heart condition. I have an online friend who has an MS and Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Notre Dame. Clearly, an extremely intelligent man. He is also a Christian, who has been doing something similar to you. He has been spending his free time studying Bible translation. This is how we met. He has some beliefs, such as humans can go without sinning now, which as you know would go against most Christian denominations, and is totally contrary to Scripture. My opinion is that he has been studying Bible translation for the sole purpose of getting the translations to say what he wants them to say.

          He has never studied Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. He has never studied textual criticism, or the translation process, linguistics, some knowledge of communication theory, psychology, anthropology, theology, history and other fields. I have studied all of these.

          I mean I have studied books like Jean Aitchison’s The Articulate Mammal: An Introduction to Psycholinguistics and Aitchison’s Words in the Mind: An Introduction to the Mental Lexicon

          Yes, he uses tools like the Blue Letter Bible, which will help him to delve into the original languages somewhat in his investigation. Anyway, the point being, I have spent endless hours with him on the phone, trying to get him to see the light of day. I have 25 years of working with Bible translation, I have studied the above fields, and am working on the Updated American Standard Version, and had not one iota of impact on his laser-focused thinking. Thus, I sent him to a friend of mine, the chief translator of the NASB, who has thirty years of translation experience. He also failed to get him to see the light of day.

          Now, why do you suppose that this highly intelligent man is unable to see the truth? What would you say is preventing the information from getting to his mind, so as to persuade him he is dead wrong? Is it the same thing that prevents an extremely intelligent person such as Ken Ham from seeing that the earth was NOT created in literal 24 hours days. Is it the same thing that prevents MAJOR Aplogetic Bible Scholars such as William Lane Craig, Frank Turek, Norman Geisler, John Lennox, Greg Koukl, Hugh Ross and MANY, MANY other GREAT minds from seeing that there IS NO SUCH THING AS Eternal Torment in some Hellfire, or that we have some immortal soul.

          The Apostle Paul was a part of the ONE true religion, nation of Israel, which had been around for 1,500 years. Paul studied under the renowned Gamaliel, meaning he had a Ph.D. level education in Judaism, and could have been the greatest Pharisee of all time. Yes, Jesus miraculously came to him, which certainly helped him to convert to what Jews saw as nothing more than a cult, i.e., Christianity. He would not believe before because he refused to see the evidence, or could not see the evidence from the Scriptures. Paul might have even been sitting there with Gamaliel and the Jewish leaders when Jesus was twelve-years-old and was questioning and astounding the Jewish leaders. The Greek word used in Luke means to question in an interrogative sense, as a lawyer before a court.

          Yet, Paul must have been well aware of Jesus life, ministry, and execution, as he was going around, punishing Christians, even cosigning to have Stephen stoned. But Paul saw the evidence one way. The OT said anyone hung on a tree was accursed by God. Jesus was hung on a tree as a blasphemer of God. The OT said that the Messiah would set up a Kingdom, it would crush all other kingdoms and it would rule forever. Jesus did no such thing, in fact, it was the Roman government that executed him. Yet, after Paul’s long conversation with Ananias, whom Jesus had sent to him in Damascus, he was able to see what he had not seen before.

          What was the difference between Paul and Gamaliel? Gamaliel was likely there for Jesus when he was twelve. However, if he was not, he was there in Acts and listened to the argument of Peter and John, whom he knew to be nothing more than fisherman, arguing as good as Gamaliel could give. He even overrule the vote to let them go. Nicodemus had a whole evening with Jesus, but unlike Paul, he could not see him as the Christ. He was no less intelligent than Paul. What is it that allows one great mind to see the truth while others cannot?

        • adam

          ” My opinion is that he has been studying Bible translation for the sole purpose of getting the translations to say what he wants them to say.”

          As is NECESSARY for any Revealed ReligionTM
          It is what every believer does that doesnt ‘believe’ that the bible is inerrant.

          “Is it the same thing that prevents an extremely intelligent person such as Ken Ham from seeing that the earth was NOT created in literal 24
          hours days.”

          Sorry, I cant take you serious after you claim Ken Ham is ‘extremely intelligent’.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Thanks for your feedback. I’ve riffed on some of your points.

          William Lane Craig can deal with the sciences and philosophy

          Sorry—I can’t resist. I have very little respect for or interest in what WLC says about science since he’s not a scientist, though I agree with your point about him being respected by Christians in his field.

          I would argue that it is a heart condition.

          I think I’m following the facts where they point, and I encourage any Christian to read my posts and point out where I’ve made a mistake. They’d be doing me a favor.

          My opinion is that he has been studying Bible translation for the sole purpose of getting the translations to say what he wants them to say.

          Weird. I do my best to let the Bible speak for itself, without spin or embellishment.

          I have spent endless hours with him on the phone, trying to get him to see the light of day.

          Maybe you should encourage him to browse the topics here.

          Now, why do you suppose that this highly intelligent man is unable to see the truth? What would you say is preventing the information from getting to his mind, so as to persuade him he is dead wrong?

          I see the problem. Welcome to my world.

          Is it the same thing that prevents an extremely intelligent person such as Ken Ham from seeing that the earth was NOT created in literal 24 hours days.

          I presume he sees himself standing up for Jesus. You take away inerrancy in Genesis 1, and the rest of the Bible unravels like a sweater.

          Is it the same thing that prevents MAJOR Aplogetic Bible Scholars such as William Lane Craig, Frank Turek, Norman Geisler, John Lennox, Greg Koukl, Hugh Ross and MANY, MANY other GREAT mind s from seeing that there IS NO SUCH THING AS Eternal Torment in some Hellfire, or that we have some immortal soul.

          There are thousands of Christian denominations/sects. The ambiguity of the Bible allows them each to declare with confidence that they’re right on the points where they disagree with others.

          The story of Lazarus and the rich man makes it pretty clear to me that the New Testament supports torment in hell.

          You’re saying we don’t have a soul?

          The Apostle Paul was a part of the ONE true religion, nation of Israel, which had been around for 1,500 years. Paul studied under the renowned Gamaliel, meaning he had a Ph.D. level education in Judaism, and could have been the greatest Pharisee of all time.

          Well, that was his story, anyway. Nothing much rides on this claim, so I can take it or leave it, but in general you can appreciate that a skeptical outlook has little use for, “The Bible says.”

          He would not believe before because he refused to see the evidence, or could not see the evidence from the Scriptures. Paul might have even been sitting there with Gamaliel and the Jewish leaders when Jesus was twelve-years-old and was questioning and astounding the Jewish leaders.

          You speculate that Paul might have inadvertently seen Jesus when they were both young. But I can speculate as well. Suppose Paul was an early missionary for this nutty new church. To give himself credentials, he could invent the story of the road to Damascus and him being a hateful member of the group rooting out the Christians. Then he’s got a powerful anecdote to make the point, “If Jesus can save a bastard like me, no sin is too great,” etc. It might be a complete fabrication, or there might’ve been a core of truth that got embellished over the years. I’ve heard many speculate that Joseph Smith might’ve believed his own nutty story at the end of his life. In the extreme case, it’s not impossible that Paul’s hateful past could’ve been 100% fabrication. Like Smith, Paul might’ve even believed that after years.

          The OT said anyone hung on a tree was accursed by God. Jesus was hung on a tree as a blasphemer of God.

          Yeah—pretty damning. It’s weird how people will gradually adapt to the story. “No, the humiliating death isn’t a bad thing, it’s a good thing! It just makes the victory sweeter” or whatever.

          The OT said that the Messiah would set up a Kingdom, it would crush all other kingdoms and it would rule forever.

          I’ve not read much about the Messiah in OT thinking. Can you point me to some verses?

          What is it that allows one great mind to see the truth while others cannot?

          We don’t have the historical fact of great minds of history getting (or not) the truth of Jesus’s mission. Rather, we have a story of such a thing. Big difference.

        • Rudy R

          Just as you cannot physically prove the existence of anyone from 200 years ago or earlier…

          If you apply methods used by historians or scientists, then you would need evidence to prove someone existed in the past. Historians use primary and secondary sources as evidence, with primary being the strongest, to come to conclusions on what was most probable to have occurred. Historians are able, with a fair amount of certainty, are able, in your words, to physically prove the existence of people thousands of years ago. Just in case you didn’t know, there is NO primary sources that would support a historical Jesus. Without the primary sources, the secondary sources should be approached with a high amount of skepticism. There has been some scholarly books written recently that disputes the historical Jesus. Since you are providing references for a case for a historical Jesus, might I recommend Raphael Lataster’s “Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate Among Atheists” which provides a compelling argument for an ahistorical Jesus.

        • http://www.christianpublishers.org/ Christian Publishing House

          Rudy,

          Just so you know, there are primary sources, they are called the Gospels, the book of Acts and Paul’s letters, some of which date within a 150 years of Jesus death. You see, Bible manuscripts are archaeological evidence too. Bible critics like to dismiss them as evidence. That would be like Alexander the Great having four generals, who penned a history of him after his death, but we say we cannot use those manuscripts because they were his generals and were biased. We also have other Christians writings who were students of the apostle John, which would be secondary. We also have many secular sources from that time. The historicity of Jesus is no longer even questioned but by deniers. It is like the King James Version Only people, who are in denial of the history of the text behind the KJV New Testament. It is some lone few who are KJVO people. The same is true of those that denied the historicity of Jesus. Even agnostic Bart D. Ehrman has written a book defending the historicity of Jesus. That man has penned twenty books tearing down the text of the new testament, all misleading with an agenda of course, but he even knows that Jesus was a real, historical person.

          Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth Mar 20, 2012 by Bart D. Ehrman

          http://www.amazon.com/Did-Jesus-Exist-Historical-Argument-ebook/dp/B0053K28TS

        • Rudy R

          The Gospels and Acts are not primary sources, because they are not original materials. They are copies of originals and not considered extant. And the comparison is not like Alexander the Great because there are primary sources that can be examined for his existence, but only secondary sources for Jesus. We have known authors with original writings for Alexander the Great, but for Jesus, we have mostly unknown writers and copies, i.e. Gospels. We have Paul’s epistles, but Paul does not give eye witness accounts of any events surrounding Jesus, so his writings would be considered secondary sources. The evidence is very flimsy for the historical Jesus when you rely solely on secondary sources. Applying a healthy skepticism to the sources would be in order.
          I’ve read Bart Ehrman’s books and his scholarship on a historical Jesus is not the gold standard, as every Christian would claim. He relies quite a bit on the Q source for Matthew and Luke, but Q doesn’t exist. He also relies on the M source for Matthew, which doesn’t exit either It’s a very flawed methodology to rely on a hypothetical source. If you were to take away his Q and M sources, his historical Jesus position would be like a house of cards. With all the new ahistorical Jesus scholarship condemning his use of hypothetical sources, my gut tells me it’s just a matter of time before he cedes to the ahistorical Jesus position.

        • MNb

          “the comparison is not like Alexander the Great because there are primary sources that can be examined for his existence”
          Your ignorance is stunning and every apologist will laugh in your face. The oldest sources about AtG still available are from several centuries after his death.

          http://www.livius.org/aj-al/alexander/alexander_z1b.html

          They refer to older sources, but that doesn’t match your own standard. To make things worse for you, the secondary sources “we still can examine” and that refer to lost primary sources are not originals either, but copies. That’s not surprising at all, because every single manuscript on papyrus had to be copied about once a century.

          http://www.livius.org/articles/misc/the-disappearance-of-ancient-books/

          Point 2.
          Your methodology sucks and if you’ve taken it from Lataster his book is a waste of time and paper.
          Really, I often wonder if Jesusmythologists care more or less about facts than creationists.

        • Rudy R

          I’m agnostic on the historical Jesus, not a mythicist. I could care less if there was a historical Jesus. My position is that there isn’t enough evidence to prove or disprove the existence of a historical Jesus. If I had a choice, it’s much easier to defend against Christianity using an historical Jesus versus a celestial Jesus. All the historical Jesus that can be gathered from the Bible can be distilled down to an itinerant apocalyptic rabbi preaching a soon-to-be Kingdom on Earth. All else is just supernatural propositions and in no way proves that Jesus was the son of God.

        • Rudy R

          Assuming that I’m completely wrong about the sources for Alexander the Great, the same problem still exists for an historical Jesus. Not having primary sources is a serious hurdle to overcome. And historians rely on primary sources as their strongest evidence, so it’s not my methodology that sucks.

        • adam

          So how many people are killing other people in Alexander the Great’s name?

          I mean how many since his death?

        • adam

          Jesus is a myth by definition.

          It was also a very popular name back then, so there are many Jesuses, Jesi or people named Jesus.

          But the real question is did ‘The Christ’ exist.
          And that appears to be complete fabrication

        • Greg G.

          But the oldest sources for Alexander the Great are based on earlier sources that were actually about Alexander the Great.

          The oldest sources we have for Jesus are based on Old Testament passages reconfigured as prophecies, or reconfigured with “Jesus” in place of “Moses”, “Elijah”, or “Elijah” and other literature that had nothing to do with Jesus. The epistles aren’t even about a first century Jesus unless you read the fictional gospels back into them.

          You keep ignoring that.

        • Pofarmer

          “They refer to older sources, but that doesn’t match your own standard. To make things worse for you, the secondary sources “we still can examine” and that refer to lost primary sources are not originals either, but copies. That’s not surprising at all, because every single manuscript on papyrus had to be copied about once a century.”

          That’s really not correct. Historians such as Mathew Ferguson even note that the evidence for Alexander the Great is much better and more varied than anything we have for Jesus. And in the extant biographies they do something none of the NT books ever do, they list their sources, they list their authors, and they list thier qualifications for writing these histories.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The historicity of Jesus is no longer even questioned but by deniers.

          “No longer”? Was it ever questioned? Seems like it’s only being credibly questioned now by Carrier, Price, Doherty, and others.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That man has penned twenty books tearing down the text of the new testament, all misleading with an agenda of course, but he even knows that Jesus was a real, historical person.

          I marvel that you have any use for his writings at all after you’ve shown us he can’t write anything not in service to some agenda.

        • adam

          “Did Jesus Exist?”

          Many people shared the name. Christ’s given name, commonly Romanized as Yeshua, was quite common in first-century Galilee. (Jesus comes from the transliteration of Yeshua into Greek and then English.) Archaeologists have unearthed the tombs of 71 Yeshuas from the period of Jesus’ death.The name also appears 30 times in the Old Testament in reference to four separate characters—including a descendent of Aaron who helped to distribute offerings of grain (2 Chronicles 31:15) and a man who accompanied former captives of Nebuchadnezzar back to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:2)

          So there were MANY people named Jesus back then.

          But of course the REAL question is did “The Christ” exist?

          And we all understand that MAGIC is the realm of the IMAGINATION.

        • Greg G.

          Scholars have identified the sources used for the Gospel of Mark. Except for a few places where Paul’s writings are employed, they have nothing to do with Jesus and where Paul’s writings are used, it is used in a fictional way. The scholars seem to ignore the work of the other scholars and appear to assume the rest of Mark was from oral tradition. Independently, they make sense. When combined, there isn’t much left to be from oral tradition. The whole gospel is fiction and probably intended to be an allegory. The other gospels are based on Mark’s fiction.

          The early epistles only refer to Jesus in terms of the Old Testament in quotes and allusions. The only connection that can be made to a first century Jesus is to ignore the sarcasm being directed at the people being mentioned.

          I expected Ehrman to give the best case to show that the historical Jesus was a justified belief. He relied on imaginary sources. It was disappointing.

        • http://www.christianpublishers.org/ Christian Publishing House

          Really? Ok, you have convinced me. Thanks for your time.

        • Greg G.

          You don’t even need to take my word for it. The link below gives the sources passages by passage with the references to the scholars at the bottom of the page. Compare the passage with the source given. At first, you might be skeptical but it is hard to rationally deny every case.

          New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash

        • MNb

          “there is NO primary sources that would support a historical Jesus.”
          Same for Socrates and Diogenes of Sinope. Did they not exist either? If they did according to you your skepticism is nothing but an ad hoc argument.
          Plus of course Alexander the Great nicely shows that it’s totally possible that a character was historical without primary or even secondary sources being available.
          Your methodology sucks.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Scholars have indeed questioned the existence of Socrates, wondering if he was just a puppet to illustrate Plato’s ideas.

          But this is the problem of Lessing’s Ditch. Socrates might be an invention–who really cares? My life wouldn’t change a bit. Plato’s writings would still carry the same power and illuminate the same ideas whether “Socrates” was a man or an invention.

          It’s different with Jesus. (Though Jesus as a moral man about whom stories were told vs. Jesus as an invention are the same to me, and I don’t much care which one is true.)

        • MR

          We hold no doubts that much of what is said about any historical figure is wrong and we all understand that anything said about any person (even current living ones) may or may not be true. And we do understand that someone like Socrates may not have even existed even if we generally believe that he does. Yet, when a theist talks about Jesus, it’s as if we must take everything said about him to be absolutely true. And yet we would never expect that for any other figure.

        • Bruce Grubb

          “Same for Socrates and Diogenes of Sinope”

          Uh, no.

          Socrates (c469 – 399 BCE): written about by contemporaries Plato, Xenophon (430 – 354 BCE), and Aristophanes (c446 – 386 BCE).

          Plato (428 – 347 BCE): written about by contemporaries Aristotle (384 – 322 BC), Xenophon, and Aristophanes.

          NONE of that exists for Jesus.

        • MNb

          “Plato (428 – 347 BCE):”
          Where did I mention Plato? You’re screwing a strawman.
          I mentioned Diogenes of Sinope, whom you conveniently neglect.

          Regarding Socrates you totally miss the point: Plato and Xenophon totally contradict each other regarding Socrates. Both Plato (the dialogues) and Aristophanes (plays) wrote fiction.

          “NONE of that exists for Jesus.”
          No. The Gospels, Acts, Flavius Josephus and the claim of Polycarpus of Smyrna totally don’t exist.
          Man, everything in your comment screams stupid double standard. Thanks for this; you did a better job to discredit Jesusmythology than I ever could.

        • Bruce Grubb

          The Gospels and Acts are so late per John Frum and Ned Ludd they are useless.

          Flavius Josephus is at best questionable as there is NO consensus on what (if any of it) in the Testimonium Flavianum is from Josephus.

          The James reference is a total FUBAR as the connection Origen said Josephus made between the death of James and “fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple” is missing from our version. More until the “Jesusmythologist” pointed it (and some time after) James death was firmly put c 69-70 CE with Hegesippus generally being cited; the James in Josephus died 62 CE some seven years too early. “Instead of James, the Lord’s brother, who suffered martyrdom a few years before the great catastrophe of the year 70 A.D.”-1891 In fact, in the 4th century it was stated James brother of the lord was informed of the death of Peter…which happened no earlier then 64 CE…two years after the James in Josephus was dead and gone.

          Polycarp’s actual works we have Letter to the Philippians (110-140 CE) is again way too late and incomplete in the original Greek.

          These works are a joke in terms of evidence.

        • MNb

          “The Gospels and Acts are so late per John Frum and Ned Ludd they are useless.

          Flavius Josephus is at best questionable.”
          Shifting the goalposts like the worst creationist.

          Creationist: “we have never observed one species turning into another.”
          MNb: “here is the evidence.”
          Creationist: “yeah, that’s evidence, but I was talking about insects turning into fish, ie something else.”

          BG: “NONE of that exists for Jesus.”
          MNb: “we have this, this and this.”
          BG: “yeah, that’s evidence, but I was talking about reliability, ie something else.”

          Every single document from Antiquity is questionable, including the documents about Socrates. Plus what we have about him are copies from copies from copies. Funny that you suddenly don’t care about time gaps when it doesn’t suit you.
          It’s written with big fat letters on your face: “DOUBLE STANDARD”.

          Finally good job ignoring the points I made – again like the worst creationist.
          Socrates: according to JM methodoly didn’t exist because all the sources totally contradict each other.
          Diogenes of Sinope: according to JM methodology didn’t exist because we don’t have a single eyewitness.

          You’re a True Believer, arguing for a predetermined conclusion and hence nicely showing that JM is a pseudoscience.

        • Greg G.

          There you go again, accusing somebody of being like a creationist when it is you who takes the gospels as historical documents. We know parts of them are not reliable because they describe implausible miracles that are based on miracles in other writings that are not about Jesus. But even the more plausible parts appear to be based on other writings that are not about Jesus, either. We don’t treat historical documents differently. We eliminate the implausible parts, in this case, parts that are derived from sources about other people. However, that leaves us with nothing about Jesus.

          You are still touting Polycarp, who only gets you to John, and the existence of John is not in dispute. Paul mentions him as contemporary, in a way he never mentions Jesus. Polycarp’s writings do not speak of Jesus in any way except from quoting from the New Testament. He doesn’t relate anything about Jesus that he got directly from John.

          How is he shifting the goalposts when he disputes what you brought up Josephus? He questioned the major reference to Jesus and scholars mostly believe that it is exaggerated while they see Josephus-like phrases in the remaining part. But it has also been shown that those Josephus-like phrases show up in Eusebius’ writings on other subjects. An intentional interpolation by Eusebius in the fourth century neatly explains why nobody, including Origen who wrote of Josephus often, never mention the Testimonium Flavianum.

          What part of Acts about Jesus do you find plausible? It’s about Jesus after he was resurrected and flew up to heaven? It’s about Jesus appearing in visions.

        • MNb

          “when it is you who takes the gospels as historical documents.”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          All documents from Antiquity are historical documents, silly.
          Parts of all documents from Antiquity are unreliable.
          Even something like Historia Augusta, which are known to be fiction, are used as evidence.
          Try to make some sense next time, then I might take you seriously.

        • Greg G.

          Thanks for proving my point by using more Creationist tactics. You attack one sloppily worded phrase to avoid its intent then bring up somebody else’s post while not addressing the criticisms.

          I’ll give you another chance by rephrasing: You take the gospels as records of actual historical events.

          I’m baffled why you keep bring up Polycarp, again. He claims to have known John, not Jesus. From the writings attributed to him, he only knows things about Jesus from the gospels and epistles, not from John himself. It certainly gives us no indication that John knew Jesus. If Polycarp claimed that John did know Jesus, we would have to think he got that from the gospels.

        • MNb

          Nice try, Greg G. In this subthread I only postulated one thing: according to JM-methodology we have to conclude that Socrates and Diogenes of Sinope are not historical. Exactly none of your criticism – let alone of that fool BG you try to defend – is relevant for that postulation. So I don’t need to address it. One example:

          “You take the gospels as records of actual historical events.”
          You’re still a hypocrite. A priori I do not any more or any less so than that fool BG, who brought up Plato and Aristophanes as records of actual historical events. And you don’t call him out, because he agrees with your position.
          You insist on refusing to discuss your methodology. Instead you keep on trying to move the goalposts.
          Sorry pal, at this moment I’m not interested in discussing the issues that obsess you.

          “I’m baffled why you keep bring up Polycarpus, again”
          Then you lack comprehensive reading skills.
          BG wrote: “NONE of that exists for Jesus.”
          In the most sarcastic way I could think of I gave some examples of facts that totally exist. What you conclude from these facts is question 2; we both know it’s different from mine. In this subthread I haven’t placed even one single comment about my conclusion. You desperately and obsessively want to discuss your conclusion and I consistently decline.
          The only thing I have defended in this subthread is and I link to myself:

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2013/11/25000-new-testament-manuscripts-big-deal/#comment-2387254336

          I wrote this two months ago.
          So why don’t you try to be honest? You usually are.

          1. Admit that the Gospels, Acts, Flavius Josephus and Polycarpus’ claim exist.
          2. Admit that they are relevant regarding Jesus, whether you conclude a mythological or historical Jesus. And before your obsession (see underneath) makes you misunderstand me again: I mean that in exactly the same way as the books of Rowling are relevant regarding Harry Potter.
          3. Admit that that fool BG contradicted this.

          Then we’re done.
          Do you understand why I never replied to BobS underneath? It’s simple. He suggested that Socrates might have been a fictional character indeed and thus confirmed the only point I made in this subthread.
          I am baffled that you don’t get this. Well, not that baffled, because since long I have suspected that you have developed an unhealthy obsession for that Jesus character. So it can’t be that surprising that you are not able to talk about anything else in this subthread – like methodology.
          But you can make me happy and show me wrong on this suspicion.

        • Pofarmer

          “Diogenes of Sinope are not historical.”]

          You do realize that there is archaelogical evidence for Diogenes of Sinope, right?

        • MNb

          No. Teach me.
          You do realize that wouldn’t make the JM method look any better, right? See, if that’s the case and we do a thought experiment (what would the JM method conclude regarding Diogenes of Sinope if there were no archaeological evidence and what would the regular historical method conclude?) the JM method provides an incorrect prediction ….
          Mainstream historians of Antiquity postulate that Diogenes of Sinope is historical and so do I. JM’s like you should deny it if they were consistent. If you don’t you have shown JM is nothing but one big ad hoc argument. The only way to avoid this is improving your method, something JM’s seem peculiarly unwilling to try.

          Disclaimer (because even Pope Gregorius G couldn’t wrap his head around it): that still is not an argument for a historical Jesus, on which I didn’t write anything in this subthread. I only discuss methodology here. What I postulate is that JM methodology sucks. Badly. And I have read precious little last several days that tackles it. That means that JM is unreliable, not that it’s wrong.
          Will you be smarter than the other guys in this subthread?

          Now we’re at it – iIrc you have read Carrier as well. Can you answer my question to that fool BruceG above, namely on what grounds Carrier maintains that JM concudes for a historical Socrates? That would interest me.

        • Pofarmer

          “No. Teach me.”

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diogenes_of_Sinope

          “Nothing is known about Diogenes’ early life except that his father Hicesias was a banker.[6]
          It seems likely that Diogenes was also enrolled into the banking
          business aiding his father. At some point (the exact date is unknown),
          Hicesias and Diogenes became embroiled in a scandal involving the
          adulteration or debasement of the currency,[7] and Diogenes was exiled from the city, lost his citizenship, and all his material possessions.[8][9]
          This aspect of the story seems to be corroborated by archaeology: large
          numbers of defaced coins (smashed with a large chisel stamp) have been
          discovered at Sinope dating from the middle of the 4th century BCE, and
          other coins of the time bear the name of Hicesias as the official who
          minted them.[10]”

          So, there is that.

          Now, I don’t know exactly what methodology you want. Carrier wrote an entire book on his Methodology, before he wrote “On the historicity ofJesus”. Yes, I’ve read most of the book on Methodology. No, I haven’t read “On the historicity”.

          But, even at that, this isn’t an “ad hoc” argument. This is an argument dealing with the sources. None other than Bart Ehrman says that we should read the Gospels separately, in order to see what their theology is and take note of the way that they differ. Yet, he doesn’t do this with the Epistles, where he reads the Gospels back into them to get the “meaning” from the earlier letters. Mythicists, in General, believe that it is better to let the earlier writings stand for themselves, and then work forward from there to see what developed. And, what do we see? When we do this, we see that Paul has an almost complete fixation on Jesus as “Lord” or “Christ” or “Savior”, but only a scant few passages dealing with him in any sort of historical frame. There are about 4 or 5 passages that are commonly cited. The “James the Brother of the Lord” passage. The Passage that includes “The 500 ” and “The Twelve”, the “Last Supper” passage, And maybe a couple of others. That’s it. Out of the thousands of words and 6 or 7 NT Books attributed to Paul, that’s all. And yet, we have chapters and chapters dealing with the heavenly Jesus and the coming of the Son of Man, and all of that stuff. It looks exactly like mythical writing that might have had some historicist footnotes added in later, and we know, with certainty, that Pauls letters were changed and edited and added to. And that is the real problem for the historicist argument. We deal with what we have, not with what we wish we had. And what do we have? No physical evidence, at all, and none noticably forthcoming. No contemporary sources. No mentions of contemporary sources. We do have these for both Socrates and Diogenes as well. The later works do not mention any earlier works on which they are based. In fact, the later works look very much like works trying to rationalize or Euhumerize Pauls Jesus, which was also quite common in the day. Greeks wrote their Gods into lot’s of contemporary settings, and the Gospels are pretty undeniably Greek literature. It looks like what we have here is a synthesis of Greek and Hebrew thought and theology, and NONE of it, if we start with the “Visions”and “Revelations” of Paul, requires an Earthly Jesus. Paul certainly never defers to one, and, more importantly, he doesn’t defer to those who were SUPPOSED to have been disciples of the Earthly Jesus, saying that they came to their knowledge the same way that he did. That’s all this “methodology” is, mainly letting the writings of Paul stand for themselves, noting that there are a few contraindicating passages, but the vast majority of his work suggests his belief only in a celestial Jesus that is going to come to Earth and kick some ass. This is actually supported by the existence, very early on, of Christian sects that believed very close to this very thing and were later declared Heretical, and their texts are mostly lost to us.

        • MNb

          Excellent minequoting, Po. You omitted one sentence. The crucial one. Are you really so disappointingly stupid that you didn’t notice or hoped that I wouldn’t? That you assumed I hadn’t read that Wikipedia entry a long time ago?
          Here it comes. Pay close attention.

          “All that is available is a number of anecdotes concerning his life and sayings attributed to him in a number of scattered classical sources.”
          Anecdotes, Po. You presented nothing but anecdotes.
          You claim that anecdotes and “corroborating evidence” (it’s not like Diogenes’ name was written on those debased coins, was it?) show the historicity of X but that anecdotes and corroborating evidence (like for Pontius Pilatus) show that Y is a myth. Indeed, that’s that. Thanks for confirming that JM is nothing but an ad hoc argument.

          You’ll understand that after this howler I didn’t care to read any further. Maybe another time.
          One other remark though. Because I happen to have a curious mind, I googled “Diogenes of Sinope archeology”. Nothing. Nada. Zero.

        • Pofarmer

          “Diogenes Laertius says that several works are attributed to Diogenes of Sinope, but that there is no certainty that he was the author of any of them. None of the written works of the early Cynics have survived, and their ethics and philosophical thought have to be understood through the anecdotes and repartee reported by later writers”

          http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Diogenes_of_Sinope

        • MNb

          “works”.
          Are documents.
          Not archeological evidence.

          “Diogenes Laertius says”.
          Like for instance “Marcus says”.

          “anecdotes and repartee reported by”
          Ie the stuff myths are made of.

          Diogenes Laertius lived more than 600 years later. That time gap is somewhat bigger than between Marcus and Jesus.
          This source just confirms what I maintain all the time:

          If Diogenes of Sinope was historical than Jesus of Nazareth was.
          If Jesus of Nazareth was mythical than Diogenes of Sinope was.

        • Pofarmer

          And uet, if you look at what we have on Diogenes, if you actually looked at my links, or found any more books on him, you would see that we have much more on diogenes of sinope. We know where his tomb is/was. We even have the inscription piece from the tomb. It is apparently known that Diogenes wrote several pieces that are lost. Diogenes is also mentioned in works about other people of the same time, like Alexander the Great, so there os true multiple attestation, etc. I’m sorry you can’t see the obvious in your pet example here.

        • MNb

          “if you actually looked at my links”
          This is plain stupid. I actually quoted from the two links you gave.

          “We know where his tomb is/was.”
          Care to tell me the exact place? Maybe even a picture? No? Then it’s just another unsubstantiated anecdote, of which there are so many about him.

          “Diogenes is also mentioned in works about other people of the same time,”
          So is Jesus in works with a smaller time gap (eg Tacitus). Plus in the Gospels Jesus is mentioned with a character of which actual archeological evidence has been found – not a quote in an ancient text about a pillar in Corinthe.
          “like Alexander the Great, so there os true multiple attestation, etc”
          Ah. True multiple attestation. I suppose provided by true Scotsmen.

          “the obvious”
          Of course! The obvious! That pet creationist argument!

          You rather be sorry for yourself that you suffer from selective skepticism.
          Thanks. It was entertaining.

        • Pofarmer
        • Pofarmer
        • Pofarmer
        • Greg G.

          I have gone over this before. Mostly I, along with other Jesus mythicists, use the findings of Bible scholars. New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash by Robert M. Price combines the findings of Bible scholars that are not all that controversial in themselves but when put side-by-side, the Gospel of Mark is shown to come from other sources that are not about Jesus. We reject the miracle stories because they are not plausible but also because they are like miracle stories from the Old Testament and the Homeric epics. But on closer inspection from the scholars cited by Price, most of whom are Jesus historists, even the more plausible Jesus stories come from other sources. Mark uses the same recipe for these seemingly plausible stories as he does for the miracle stories. He combines a story from a non-Jesus story dressed with a couple of Old Testament verses. The other gospels rely on Mark’s fictional accounts, pull more Old Testament verses as prophecies to make up more stories. About all that is left are some teachings.

          But the early epistles don’t support those. There is no mention of Jesus being a preacher or a teacher. There is not one “Jesus said” in the early epistles, even when a Jesus quote would strenghthen their argument. The early epistles say nothing about Jesus that couldn’t be found in the Old Testament scripture. Nothing in the early epistles place Jesus in the first century unless the Gospels are read back into them.

          Bible scholars have always assumed that Jesus existed but have never made that case. Several scholars are pointing out the deficiencies in their methodologies in their Jesus studies. They don’t always use sound historical criteria for Jesus. They often make up criteria to get their desired results. These are criticisms that scholars in that field are making.

          You have cited the Embarrassment Criterion that scholars use. But that can only work if Jesus actually existed to verify that the claim is true. If Jesus did not exist, there is no reason for the author to be embarrassed by it. It only seems to work as a circular argument. That criticism is made by scholars in that field.

          How many Bible scholars have come to believe Jesus existed after or during their university studies? Nearly all of them entered the field with their Christian faith as their motivation. They never question whether Jesus existed because of the inertia of the field. They are reluctant to openly question Jesus’ existence because those who do become unemployable. In the 1970s, Tommy Thompson determined that Moses and the Exodus story were fictional accounts in his thesis and couldn’t get a job in the US, but less than two decades later, his thesis was confirmed by archaeology.

        • Bruce Grubb

          As I said before when we can crosscheck Gospels and Acts with what has survived it spectacularly blows up.

          “If you want a more historically plausible account of how the Jewish elite would have actually handled the Jesus problem, look at how we’re told they planned to handle the Paul problem (Acts 23:12-21). More likely, they would have killed him immediately upon his vandalism of the temple square, which was guarded by six hundred armed soldiers (with thousands more to summon just a javelin’s throw away in Fort Antonia, which housed a whole Roman legion, adjacent to the Temple: Josephus, Jewish War 2.12.1, 4.5.1, 5.238-248; Jewish Antiquities 20.8.6, 20.8.11), who were not afraid to beat down any rebellious public who got in their way (most especially trouble-makers in the Temple). Certainly in the temple they could have arrested him easily, with ample armed support (note that Gentiles were permitted in the Temple area that Jesus vandalized, so Roman legions could police it, as well as the Jewish guards authorized to kill any Gentiles who entered the forbidden areas).” – Carrier

          So the ‘throw out the money changers’ part of the story is clearly a fiction.

          Based on what Philo and Jospehus wrote Pontius Pilate didn’t give a fig about his Jewish subjects and was not above using violence to get his way. This ‘Puny Jews annoy Pilate, Pilate smash’ mentality is what resulted in him being ultimately called to Rome (Jewish Antiquities 18.85-87.)

          So the part where Jesus attracted large crowds is likely a fiction as Pilate would have reacted (violently) to such congregations as described in the Gospels.

          The Sanhedrin trial account is totally at odds with the records on how that court actually operated in the 1st century. (Reverend Kenny Nailimup THE TRIAL THAT NEVER TOOK PLACE) In fact, a little quirk of the Sanhedrin court was that a unanimous verdict for conviction resulted in acquittal ( Maimonides, Laws of Sanhedrin, 9:1)

          So that part is likely a fiction as well.

          And so it goes. Point after point that we can check is either majorly off or totally at odds with what we do have.

        • Greg G.

          Josephus tells us about how mobs of people were slaughtered by the sword but he never mentions any crucifixions carried out in Judea from at least two decades before Pilate until two or three decades after he was gone. I have read the claim that Philo records no crucifixions during that time either but I haven’t personally verified that.

        • Pofarmer

          That would make sense if the Gospels were written after 70 A.D., or even after the Bar Kochba revolt as Price thinks.

        • Greg G.

          But that would be a century after the events supposedly occurred!

        • Pofarmer

          Yep.

        • Bruce Grubb

          Philo is an interesting case. His _Embassy to Gaius_ originally covered five volumes with the volumes regarding Pilate’s reign, another volume on Sejanus, and the final detailing the fate of Caligula all missing. As Carrier note the absence of the Pilate volume is suspicious because if Jesus was a popular as the Gospels claim then he certainly would have been recorded in that work so why didn’t the Christians preserve it? ( Carrier, Richard (2014) On the Historicity of Jesus Sheffield Phoenix Press’Italic text ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2 pg 304)

          And Philo is not the only author with weird gaps:

          Pliny the Elder’s History of Rome from 31 to the then-present day (sometime before his death in 79) is gone.

          Cassius Dio’s Roman History has the sections covering 6 to 2 BC and 30 CE missing.

          Clovius Rufus’ detailed history of Nero, which would have documented the active persecution of Christians by Nero, was not preserved.

          Tacitus Annals; the entire section covering 29-31 CE is missing;
          “That the cut is so precise and covers precisely those two years is too improbable to posit as a chance coincidence.”

          The fact this keeps happening should send up a red flag.

        • Greg G.

          I didn’t know that. We would expect that if there was a mention of Jesus in them, they would certainly be copied more often and cited extensively by the early church fathers.

        • Bruce Grubb

          Which is the point Carrier is making. Yes, Argument from Silence in of itself is not a strong argument but when you know there were at one time works that did cover the period that for what ever reason the Christians didn’t preserve there does seem an effort to Memory Hole the past. And remember with so few copies you don’t need a conspiracy for to happen…just one or two copyist who for what ever reason didn’t copy the works for later generations.

          Eusebius who in his The History of the Church claimed “It is also recorded that under Claudius, Philo came to Rome to have conversations with Peter, then preaching to the people there … It is plain enough that he not only knew but welcomed with whole-hearted approval the apostolic men of his day, who it seems were of Hebrew stock and therefore, in the Jewish manner, still retained most of their ancient customs.”

          As if to compound this piece of blatant nonsense in his Ecclesiastical History Eusebius identifies the Therapeutae as the first Christian monks despite Philo in The Contemplative Life writing about them but saying nothing about them being Christian. Epiphanius of Salamis calls the Therapeutae “Jessaens” and similarly identifies them as a Christian group.

          Yet why are there no reference in what we have of Philo to these events?

        • MNb

          Your congregation has a new member, Pope Gregorius G. May I presume that you still don’t care to discuss your methodology?

        • Bruce Grubb

          Actually it is HJ crowd that is like the Creationists; holding on to concepts long past their use by date. The Testimonium Flavianum requires all this ad hoc garbage to explain why everyone before the 4th century missed it…even when it was in their best interest to mention it.

          More over it doesn’t explain Goldberg’s discovery vis computer that the passage is basically a reworking of the Emmaus Narrative of Luke. The best explanation he could come with (strangely throwing out the Occam’s Razor idea that one used the other) was “Josephus and Luke may have used similar or identical sources in composing
          their passages.” Ie Goldberg basically pulled a Q Gospel handwave. But if Luke and Josephus did use similar or worse the same source then that shoots the whole idea of Josephus being an independent source. It also raises the awkward question of why was there so little to work with?

        • Greg G.

          Goldberg did some great work on the TF but his conclusion overlooks the fact that the Emmaus Road passage is a summary of the Gospel of Luke so it could not be from a separate source.

          The Testimonium Flavianum, Eusebius, and Consensus by Ken Olson shows that the Josephus-like phrases are also Eusebius-like phrases.

          That takes us back to his second option that he rejected:

          (2) The coincidences may be due to a Christian interpolator who altered the Testimonium, or forged it entire, under the influence of the Emmaus narrative. This proposal has the weakness of supposing that a writer capable of imitating Josephus’ style and daring enough to alter his manuscript would at the same time employ non-Josephan expressions and adhere rather closely to a New Testament text. A forger of the required skill should have been able to shake free of such influences.

          Olson answered Goldberg’s objections.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Thanks for the link. I’d not seen that blog.

          To get the new year off right, here’s an admittedly irrelevant image of Beast Jesus from that blog.

          http://www.hotnewsgator.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/tourists-are-flocking-to-the-spanish-church-where-this-lovable-monstrosity-right-hangs.jpg

        • Greg G.

          If humans didn’t evolve from monkeys, why does Jesus look like a monkey?

        • Bruce Grubb

          I was showing how even someone who says the Testimonium Flavianum is genuine is ALSO providing a best case argument which destroys the INDEPENDENT source argument. Personally, I agree that the whole thing is likely from the hand of Eusebius and not Josephus as you have to come up with all these Ad hoc handwaving to explain why those before Eusebius who used Josephus didn’t mention it and why those after him with copies of Josephus that came from elsewhere also didn’t mention it.

        • MNb

          Thanks for not addressing again what I wrote.
          Like a True Creationist.

          Socrates: according to JM methodology didn’t exist because all the sources totally contradict each other.
          Diogenes of Sinope: according to JM methodology didn’t exist because we don’t have a single eyewitness.

          Well, as JM methodology sucks it’s not like you have a choice. Again exactly like a True Creationist you rather accuse your opponents what you’re guilty of:

          “ad hoc garbage”
          Your refusal to apply your method to Socrates and Diogenes of SInope makes everything you write an ad hoc argument by definition. Typically you have to add all kind of stuff that’s irrelevant for the two points I made, which I repeated again for you.

        • Bruce Grubb

          No it is YOU who are like a true creationist; claiming something hasn’t been addressed when it has.

        • Bruce Grubb

          It is not just the Gospels contradicting each other but recorded history (when we can cross reference it). We are given a Pontius Pilate at odds with the one Philo and Josephus describe. Furthermore we know from Christian writings later then the Gospels like The apocryphal Acts of Paul they they weren’t above portraying themselves as seditious radicals by claiming Nero was told to his face by some revived dead guy that Christ Jesus would “overthrow all kingdoms”; so why the white washing of Pilate?

          Never mind that given how guarded the Temple was (600 soldiers with a Roman legion in nearby Fort Antonia available if those guys couldn’t handle it) the story of Jesus going on a rampage through the Temple is clearly fictional. The more you compare the Gospel account to what records do still exist the more problems you find.

          Then you have all the records we know existed that for what ever reason the Christians did NOT preserve. The volume of Philo covering Pontius Pilate reign in detail is gone as are Tacitus Annals covering 29-31 CE with “That the cut is so precise and covers precisely those two year is too improbable to posit as a chance coincidence.” – OHJ

          It wouldn’t be so suspicious if it didn’t keep happening.

        • MNb

          And again you refuse to address my point: according to JM methodology Socrates and Diogenes of Sinope are mythical as well. Of course that’s what you’re a pseudoscientist for. Creationists never address what I write either. Same difference.

        • Bruce Grubb

          Given the very term “mythical” has many different meanings (historical vs philosophical, vs poetic) you are dodging the real issue and that is that Jesus as we have him has so many contradictions that it is highly questionable that any of the Gospel account is historical.

          Heck, the story of Robin Hood as it appeared in the 16th century better fits known history and there are hints that Robin Hood was time shifted from the time of a “King Edward” to King Richard I. Lena Einhorn makes the same argument about Jesus; that Jesus actually preached in late 40 to early 50s period.

          Which bring up another issue about the comparison with Socrates and Diogenes of Sinope: WHERE is the claim they lived in another freaking century as there is with Jesus which has been documented by Christians clear back to the 4th century if not earlier?

          Finally, this hyperfocus on a sub topic is another dodge used by Creationists ie the focus on Moon dust accumulation to ignore the issues with radiocarbon dating.

        • MNb

          You don’t get to decide for me what the real issue is and what’s not. You wrote total nonsense and are too dishonest to admit it. And because I have a nasty character – I treat creationists in exactly the same way – I enjoy trying to hammer it through your skull. The only way to stop me is simply by typing “yeah, there are relevant sources regarding Jesus – I derive from them that he was mythical.”

          “Jesus as we have him has so many contradictions”
          Same applies to Socrates. Same again: admit that according to your argument Socrates was mythical as well and it’s done.

          “this hyperfocus on a sub topic”
          Methodology is not a sub topic at all, ignorant. Incorrect methodology yields unreliable results. That’s exactly why you should apply your arguments to other historical figures, which you – and (almost?) all JM’s refuse to do.
          It’s as simple as that. It’s your refusal that makes you a pseudoscientist, because it makes your version of JM one big ad hoc argument. It’s typical that you don’t even try to remedy it.
          And it’s exactly what creationists do as well.

          “it is highly questionable that any of the Gospel account is historical”
          Like Pontius Pilatus being procurator, you mean? No, that’s not an argument for a historical Jesus. In fact I haven’t made any and as I already told Greg G I won’t either. I just wonder if you think that highly questionable too.

        • Bruce Grubb

          Yes I DO get to decide as that “you don’t get to decide for me what the real issue” BS is another dodge the Creationists use. Address the points brought up or go away.

        • MNb

          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          Dear Bruce, you are the one who came to me – you reacted to a comment of me from two months ago. I didn’t invite you. So the fact that you refuse to address the point I brought up – that according to JM methodology Socrates and Diogenes of Sinope are mythical as well – makes you look bad, not me, not matter how hard you try.
          And now you order me to go away. You can command your dog and bark yourself.
          Good luck trying to force me, fool. You have no idea how funny you are.

        • Bruce Grubb

          And you keep avoiding the real issue. Typical.

        • MNb

          You like running around in circles, don’t you? And perhaps you are so in love with yourself that you enjoy typing the same over and over again. Does it make you horny?
          So I refer to what I wrote just above:

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2013/11/25000-new-testament-manuscripts-big-deal/#comment-2465661094

        • Bruce Grubb

          Let look at this from another angle. Sun Tzu whose life was recorded in the Records of the Grand Historian (whose author Sima Qian noted the problems with incomplete, fragmentary, and contradictory sources stating in the 18th volume of the 180-volume work “I have set down only what is certain, and in doubtful cases left a blank.”) and Spring and Autumn Annals which used earlier official records but his existence is doubted.

          The “evidence” for Jesus doesn’t have anything like that kind of quality (There is no evidence Tacitus used official records for the claims on Jesus and given two fires in Rome had destroyed it is unlikely that Tacitus had much in the way of official documents to work with and it is unlikely that he would sift through what he did have to find the record of an obscure crucifixion).

          The fact you don’t want address the points I raise and now indulge in insults shows ‘you got nothing’.

        • MNb

          “The fact you don’t want address the points I raise and now indulge in insults shows ‘you got nothing'”
          Big deal. In this subthread I never claimed anything regarding Jesus, so I don’t have to show anything either. My insults and mockery are the results of your incapability to understand that and ridiculously trying to make me defend a claim I didn’t make – which resulted in several stupid statements of you. Yup, I think that funny. Now if it makes you happy to conclude that that scores a point for you, be my guest. I don’t care.
          My point now and as it was two months ago is that lots of arguments for a mythical Jesus also argue for a mythical Socrates and Diogenes of Sinope. You refuse to accept that, which makes your arguments ad hoc fallacies. And that makes your JM pseudoscience, because it’s the most normal thing in science – and absolutely not a sub-topic – to test a methodology with a case which outcome is known. If that methodology results in a different outcome you have to be suspicious of it.
          The good news is that I finally got through your skull and you write something about methodology indeed. My hammering resulted finally in something tangible.

          “Never mind Carrier in his peer reviewed scholarly book addresses the comparison with Socrates in detail showing why it is effectively a dodge.”
          As long as you don’t tell us how this is nothing but an argument from authority – another logical fallacy liked by creationists. Yup, my friend – you’re the one who’s guilty of logical fallacies, not me. That’s what makes you so hilarious.
          Make my day and tell me that I must buy his book. Again that would be what many creationists do as well. My answer will be the same: my income is about 600 USD a month and I’m not going to spend my money on a recommendation made by some random guy on internet.
          Or be sensible and summarize how Carrier concludes the comparison with Socrates is a dodge. A link will do as well.
          Now onto your best – still not very good – part: Sun Tzu.

          “anything like that kind of quality.”
          You’re invited. Explain me how you determine the quality of evidence by comparing the evidence regarding Sun Tzu with the evidence regarding Jesus. Unfortunately you immediately descend into stupidity again. I wrote exactly nothing about Tacitus, don’t think he provides evidence for the question whether Jesus was historical or mythical (he is not independent) and think he only becomes important after that question has been answered.
          So you made yourself horny indeed, because you’re screwing a strawman.

        • Bruce Grubb

          Your effort to dodge my points shows you got nothing.

          As Carrier points out the evidence for Socrates is very different from that of Jesus “Because very much unlike Jesus we know the names of over a dozen eyewitnesses who wrote books about Socrates; in some cases we even know the titles of these books, and a number of paraphrases from them survive in other sources” (sic) and he goes on for nearly 4 pages like this. (OHJ 289-293)

          You have not produce one single thing to refute anything Carrier says in a peer reviewed scholarly published work.

        • MNb

          “Your effort to dodge my points shows you got nothing.”
          If that thought makes you feel good I’m happy for you. You can repeat this as often as you feel like, I still will be happy for you. See, I don’t care, especially as it didn’t take any effort at all. The trick is just keep on talking about what does interest me in this subthread: methodology. Your points hardly tell me anything about your method and that’s exactly why it’s so easy to ignore them – there simply is nothing to dodge, because you fail to hit any aim. You’re like a soccer player who complains that the keeper doesn’t react while his shots go wide.

          “we know the names of over a dozen eyewitnesses who wrote books about Socrates”
          Now we’re getting somewhere. Finally. See, my stubbornness pays off.
          Names?
          Examples of those paraphrases?
          Which “other sources”?

          “You have not produce one single thing to refute anything Carrier says in a peer reviewed scholarly published work.”
          And there you go again. Is it so hard for you to stick to a topic?
          I never even tried to produce such a thing, so shrug. And despite all your enormous efforts you’re not going to tempt me either. Because in this subthread I’m simply not interested in your conclusion. I’m interested in your method – how you arrive at that conclusion. That you’re so stubbornly resisting to discuss it makes me suspect that your method sucks. Badly. But unlike you I’ve an open mind and like to learn something new, so you remain invited to explain your method. Plus me, again unlike you, not being an ignorant fool I won’t jump from “BG doesn’t talk about method” to “RichardC’s method sucks badly” – as long as I haven’t read anything of him (and that will remain the case for a long time for reasons I already gave you) I do the only sensible thing: I don’t make any claim about the content of his work.

          And if you’re done with Socrates my next question is: what about Diogenes of Sinope? Plus I repeat: what about Sun Tzu?

        • Bruce Grubb

          You REALLY want answers? READ Carrier’s book. Otherwise stop wasting the readers time with your nonsense regarding Socrates. And Sun Tzu shows there is a double standard in that he has a far better level of evidence then Jesus ever had and yet his existence is doubted.

        • MNb

          “You REALLY want answers?”
          From you. And according to your own logic it’s telling that you don’t want to provide them.

          “READ Carrier’s book.”
          Spoken like a true creationist again. Btw many of them like shouting like you do.
          If you REALLY want me to read that book, buy it and send it to me in Moengo, Suriname, where I live. My name is Mark Nieuweboer, the only one in town. The postman is an ex-pupil, so it will arrive just fine.
          Like I wrote before I’m not going to read any book just because some random fool on internet commands me too. There are more important ways to spend my hard earned money.

          “Otherwise stop wasting the readers time with your nonsense regarding Socrates.”
          Again go command your dog and bark yourself. I’ll stop the moment you cease being fun and entertaining. That moment looks far away. See, in fact I intended not to answer you today, because I’m a bit ill (light inflammation in my mouth), but your reaction totally cheered me up. Thanks.

          “And Sun Tzu shows there is a double standard in that he has a far better level of evidence then Jesus ever had and yet his existence is doubted.”
          And I asked you before how you measure that level of evidence. It’s telling – again to your own argument – that you keep on refusing to discuss your method(s). Apparently it sucks. Badly.
          Notice that you got upvoted by our house catholic Greg. Two fools have found each other.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          I just wanted clarification (I know this is a bit late): do you consider the outing of the money changers to be probably fictional as “how guarded the Temple was (600 soldiers with a Roman legion in nearby Fort Antonia available if those guys couldn’t handle it)”?

        • Bruce Grubb

          If we are to use the really STUPID jury example then all of the evidence would be thrown out because the chain of custody is total crap.

        • MNb

          Nice cop out.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          … but didn’t you start it?

        • MR

          According to Sherwin-White, the writings of Herodotus enable us to determine the rate at which legend accumulates, and the tests show that even two generations is too short a time span to allow legendary tendencies to wipe out the hard core of historical facts.

          My mother can turn a tale in one week.

        • Bruce Grubb

          Sherwin-White clearly missed Abraham Lincoln where the myth of a beloved president over took the reality of him being one of the most hated Presidents in history in DAYS.

        • MR

          Right? Read the news–I don’t care which side of the political spectrum fall–and tell me that “hard core historical facts” aren’t wiped out on a daily basis.

        • Bruce Grubb

          True, but Abraham Lincoln is a better example of just how quick myth can eclipse reality (rather then a politician trying to cover up an ‘oopsie’). John Frum is another example.

        • MNb

          “surpass all known human or natural powers ”
          Nice version of the god of the gaps.

          “Skeptics view a miracle as a violation of laws they accept as natural,”
          That’s much better.

          “irrevocable, inexorable;”
          That’s superfluous at best.

          “therefore, they say, a miracle never occurs.”
          Uh no, they don’t say that. What they say is this.

          http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/understanding/section10.rhtml

          “A scientist is no longer able to say honestly something is impossible.”
          Correct. To which the christian evangelist Henry Drummond replied some more than 100 years ago:

          “… an immanent God ….. is infinitely grander than the occasional wonder-worker, who is the God of an old theology.”

          This was refined by the famous theologian Dietrich Bonhöffer more than 70 years ago:

          “how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know.”

          Yup – the burden of proof is yours – so why should anyone but christians be concerned with Jesus’ miracles?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Christians are not concerned with supposed miracles about Alexander the Great

          They should be. They must consistently apply the rules they use on the gospels on other books to see if the net catches only Christianity.

          … which are based on writings centuries after biographies by Arrian and Plutarch.

          Nope. Legends about him grew up in his own time.

          Skeptics view a miracle as a violation of laws they accept as natural, irrevocable, inexorable; therefore, they say, a miracle never occurs. It is good to keep in mind that their attitude is that if it is not understandable and explainable to us as far as we discern these laws, it cannot happen.

          Is that ignorance? Or arrogance? I can’t tell.

          I’m happy to consider new evidence for the supernatural. Every atheist I know feels the same way.

          While there is evidence for the miracles that took place in the life and times of Jesus, there is not actual way of proving them, which holds even more true for the alleged miracles of other figures from ancient antiquity. However, the one exception to this is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

          No one asks for “proof,” just compelling evidence.

          According to Sherwin-White…

          Oh, please. I eviscerate that ridiculous claim here.

        • MR

          They must consistently apply the rules they use on the gospels on other books to see if the net catches only Christianity.

          This.

          We now have a manuscript of the Koran that dates from the time of Muhammed or to within a decade of his death…. And, therefore Islam is true?

          Where is the critical thinking?! These are not valid arguments!

    • Bruce Grubb

      This argument is absurd as textual reliability has nothing to do with historical reliability as demonstrated by how the printing press from 1436 on allowed the production of perfect copies of fantastical (and now known to be totally fictitious) material.

      Moreover, we have no reason to suspect that scribes altered writings from Homer to support their particular religious dogma. But we have every reason to suspect it with the New Testament – in fact, we know they did.

      Finally, as “Textual Reliability / Accuracy Of The New Testament” by Islamic Awareness ( http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Bible/Text/Bibaccuracy.html ) shows the argument is deceptive in many ways:

      The often quoted “over 5000 Greek manuscripts” actually covers a period of time from the 2nd century to the 16th: i.e. 14 centuries!

      The over 5000 Greek manuscripts also cover all 27 books of the New Testament.

      Just 6.29% of these 5000 distinct pieces of evidence have been dated before the 9th century and only 48 supposedly predate our oldest intact Bibles

      Most of the really early manuscripts are actually fragments no larger then a modern credit card and in many cases not even forming complete words.

      “Comparing the above-named seven major critical editions, from Tischendorf to Nestle-Aland, we can observe an agreement in wording of only 62.9% of the verses of the New Testament.”

      “The percentage agreement of the verses when all the four Gospels are considered is 54.5%.”

      So the Gospels, the key point of the Jesus story, have verses that have about the chance of a coin toss of matching or being different over the course of 14 centuries.

      Our oldest complete Bibles are the Codex Siniaticus (330–360 CE) and Codex Vaticanus (c325–350 CE), so anything regarding historical reliability must involve Greek manuscripts before those dates. This at best gets us a pathetic 48 Greek manuscripts, all of which have date ranges that allow them to be after Irenaeus’s c.180 CE work Against Heresies which extensively quotes from what would in the 4th century become the four canonical Gospels.

  • CJ

    Bob, you have nicely stated the argument at the beginning of your article — but it seems to get lost by the end. The argument is simply that the NT has been accurately transmitted — or if one rejects that conclusion, then one must logically also reject the accurate transmission of *any* classical document. You seem to be simultaneously agreeing (“The ‘best-attested by far’ claim is true but irrelevent”) and disagreeing ([The subset of MSS] “in the original Greek is not…helpful in recreating the originals…”).

    You’ve also not presented very much on the other classical documents — e.g., placing a time-line graph of MSS of one of those other documents might put it all in perspective. For example, Herodotus’ History survives in 109 MSS (many of them mere fragments) — and the oldest of them dates to the 10th century AD. How would that graph look alongside your NT graph?

    Regarding fragments, consider Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War. It has 96 MSS, and our knowledge is based primarily upon just 8. Most of these date only back to perhaps 900AD. However, it is helpful that there are some fragments — yes, mere fragments — that date to the 3rd century BC. Isn’t it helpful to have older fragments that show the same document was around over a millennium earlier?

    Finally, it appears that you are overlooking the **quotations** of the NT documents, within early Church writings. We have many thousands of letters and books written by early Church bishops & theologians. Within these multiplied documents are many quotations from the NT books. Even if we didn’t have the many ancient copies of the NT books themselves, we could use these quotations and reconstruct virtually the whole of the NT. As far as I can perceive, you have not considered this aspect. [To be thorough, this would raise the question of what are the oldest surviving copies of those many documents. I doubt anybody has tried to tackle that large of a task. But they are written by Church “fathers” as early as the dawn of the 2nd century — e.g., Ignatius of Antioch.]

    Again, the entire argument is simply about the accurate transmission of the NT documents. You can of course hold that the accurately-transmitted NT is just accurately-transmitted fiction. That is not the point of this argument. The point of the argument is merely that it is illogical to hold that the NT documents are not accurately transmitted, and are therefore unreliable, while simultaneously holding that any other classical document **is** reliable. In other words, one can either dismiss the NT (but also dismiss all classical documents) as unreliable, or one can accept other classical documents (along with the NT). But it is illogical and inconsistent to dismiss the NT while simultaneously accepting other classical documents.

    • adam

      “That is not the point of this argument. The point of the argument is
      merely that it is illogical to hold that the NT documents are not
      accurately transmitted, and are therefore unreliable, while
      simultaneously holding that any other classical document **is**
      reliable. ”

      So you accept the supernatural claims of other classical documents because of the documents themselves?

    • Greg G.

      The point of his argument is the refutation of the Christian claim that 25,000 copies attests to the validity of the originals. Many documents have supporting evidence or are consistent with the evidence. The New Testament raises more questions that answers. Was this Jesus a famous preacher and a teacher, like the gospels, or not, like the epistles? Was gospel Jesus an allegory or a biography?

      • CJ

        That may well be the point that Bob was intending to establish; indeed, I think you are right about that. I’m just trying to point out that he’s failed to adequately analyze the situation, on several counts (noted above); and that his ultimate conclusion is a bit cloudy.

        Meanwhile, your interpretation of the NT books themselves makes some odd interpretive work of the epistles. They do not denigrate the “famous preacher and teacher” status of Jesus. Of course, you are free to argue for such an interpretation if you want; I would observe that it is strained.

        • adam

          “I’m just trying to point out that he’s failed to adequately analyze the
          situation, on several counts (noted above); and that his ultimate
          conclusion is a bit cloudy.”

          I would observe that your observation is strained.

        • Greg G.

          I would go much further than that on the early epistles. They make hundreds of mentions of Jesus but most are adulation about Jesus in heaven. The few that appear to be about Jesus on earth are allusions to Old Testament scripture. I listed all such references from the most accepted Pauline corpus but it is the same with pseudo-Paul and the General Epistles:

          Paul’s Sources about Jesus

          The Gospel of Mark appears to be an allegorical story based on the literature of the day from Greek, Jewish, and Christian sources. See New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash by Robert M. Price, which collects the work of several scholars who independently identified Mark’s sources. When they are combined, nearly every passage is accounted for.

          The other three gospels used Mark’s fictional stories.

        • CJ

          Re: Paul: or else he was always writing to churches — i.e., groups of people who were already familiar with the events of Jesus’ life — so he didn’t find it necessary to discuss those basic facts very much. (Cf. Hebrews 6:1 — which is not Paul, but expresses the idea.)

          You can always find lots of people to agree with any position. If Robert M. Price makes you happy, I expect he’ll be happy to serve that role for you.

        • Greg G.

          Re: Paul: or else he was always writing to churches — i.e., groups of people who were already familiar with the events of Jesus’ life — so he didn’t find it necessary to discuss those basic facts very much. (Cf. Hebrews 6:1 — which is not Paul, but expresses the idea.)

          It is not that Paul “didn’t find it necessary to discuss those basic facts very much”, he did find it necessary at times. In those times, he only did it by alluding to the Old Testament and not once talking about the Jesus like the gospels do. It is not just Paul, either, it is every early epistle.

          In Galatians 3, someone had “bewitched” them into thinking Jesus was not crucified. He then demonstrates to them that Jesus was crucified, not by calling on Cephas and James who he spent two chapters discrediting, but by verse after verse from the Old Testament. Galatians 5:12-13 seems to address the bewitchers as “those who trouble you” in Galatians 3:1 and the circumcision faction, identified as Cephas and James.

          Why would all the epistles quote verse after verse from the Old Testament but never make a single reference to a single deed or teaching?

          You can always find lots of people to agree with any position. If Robert M. Price makes you happy, I expect he’ll be happy to serve that role for you.

          Price simply aligns the work of several scholars who had no intention of showing that Mark was completely drawn from other literature. They just worked on different aspects independently. Some of them are Christian. They just happen to cover nearly the whole gospel.

        • CJ

          Greg,
          Thanks for a reasoned & calm argument. In reply, I’ll try to explain that your interpretation of what’s going on in Galatians — although reasoned & calm — is incorrect. I’m doubtful that I’ll convince you, but at least your response merits an attempt.

          You identify the “bewitchers” of the Galatians as Cephas and James, and assert that Paul spent two chapters discrediting them. This is a mistaken interpretation. Paul has several goals (naturally; most any writing does). One that he starts with is to establish that he is an apostle NOT dependent upon the reports of others, but rather having had direct revelation of Jesus and being an apostle on that basis. See Gal.1:1 — his very first statement (where, BTW, he also refers to Jesus’ biggest miracle — his resurrection). When in Gal.2, Paul describes his interaction with Cephas and James, it is fair to conclude that he still has that point in mind (among other things). In other words, he shows his independence from them (and his commitment to be faithful to Jesus’ gospel, even in the face of opposition from others), by relating that incident.

          However, his main point is that salvation is by faith in Jesus, not by works of the Mosaic Law. That is the definition of the “bewitchers” who preach a different so-called gospel. In making that point, yes indeed, he does recount a time when he had opposed Cephas while in Antioch. (Note: it is not at all clear that James was complicit in Cephas’ behavior. Cf. the account of the incident in Acts 15, and esp. Acts 15:24.) Paul’s point is that following the Law was not the way of salvation; and he recounts the incident with Cephas not to say that Cephas is still wrong and is now misleading the Galatians — the incident with him had been resolved several years earlier (the counsel of Acts 15; see esp. Acts 15:7). Rather, Paul is showing that *anyone* (even Peter, the recognized early leader of the Church) who asserts that Gentiles must first convert to Judaism before they can be saved — such as Peter implicitly did by his actions in that incident — *anyone* must be corrected in that error. Note that this is what Paul started out saying, already in Gal.1:8. He’s still following that topic, and he will continue it in chapter 3. Furthermore, Paul condemns his *own* past behavior (Gal.1:13-14); one can hardly argue that Paul was counting himself among the “bewitchers.”
          The circumcision faction is not identified as Cephas and James. Rather, Paul used that past event in Antioch (which had subsequently been resolved in support of Paul’s position, with both Peter and James agreeing) to bolster his argument against that now-present faction in Galatia. In other words, Paul used the correlations between the past event exhibited in Peter, with the current “bewitching” faction in Galatia. But a correlated feature does not imply nor necessitate identity. And since we have Peter’s retraction and agreement with Paul (Acts 15), it is quite safe to conclude Peter is not involved in the current Galatian “bewitching.”

          Here’s another serious misinterpretation of Galatians: you stated, “In Galatians 3, someone had “bewitched” them into thinking Jesus was not crucified.” But that’s not the case at all. Paul is arguing against a faction that is preaching obedience to the Mosaic Law — not against a faction preaching that Jesus was not crucified. It seems that both he and his readers take it for granted that Jesus was in fact crucified and resurrected. Paul does not seek to establish that as a fact, but rather simply refers to it (Gal. 2:20,21; our disputed 3:1; 3:13,27; 5:24; 6:14). Note esp 6:12, where Paul states that his opponents are seeking to make the Gentiles convert to Judaism, SO AS TO AVOID PERSECUTION based upon the Cross. Now, you could certainly take that as meaning that they deny the Cross itself; but in context, I think it is clear that it means they do accept the Cross (and are thus open to persecution by the Jews) and seek to add something so as to avoid persecution. Besides, Paul goes on in Gal. 3 (as well as throughout the book) to discuss faith vs. works. He does not argue the death of Jesus; he simply assumes agreement on that point. It is constantly faith vs. works, over and over. If that isn’t clear to you, then… I’m not quite sure what to say. Perhaps the best I can do is say: read Galatians again. And set aside Mr. Price’s book and biases; read Galatians for what it says about itself.

          Finally, you ask: “Why would all the epistles quote verse after verse from the Old Testament but never make a single reference to a single deed or teaching?” I think you’re overstating the case. But for a direct answer:
          +because the OT is what everyone (everyone in view in the epistles) accepts as authoritative Scripture. Obviously, he can’t quote the NT — which largely hasn’t yet been written down, let alone circulated.
          +he does refer to Jesus’ resurrection. Frequently. And once you’re talking about that, all other events pale in comparison. (Furthermore, the Galatians themselves have witnessed miracles — see 3:5. So they hardly need to be reminded of others.)

          I assume you’re already thinking about those few places where there’s an explicit reference to something Jesus taught, such as 1Cor.7:10, which certainly appears to be Paul applying Jesus’ teaching found in Mat.5:32 (and elsewhere in the Gospels). So I’ll leave off at that. But note there is also a singular reference in 1Cor.11:1 (cf. 1Th.1:6).

          But let’s consider if perhaps there is some more connection between Paul’s epistles (or others) and Jesus’ teaching. We’re talking about Galatians, so how about within Galatians?
          + Gal.5:13-14 certainly seems to be a discussion of Jesus’ teaching in Mat.22:37-40 and Mk.12:30-31 and Lk.10:27-28. Which, BTW, fits exactly with Paul’s main point in Galatians: the Law is not the way to salvation; just love God and let that work itself out in your life. (Also, the fact that Jesus taught it is explicit in 1Jn.4:21, a later epistle)
          + Mat.28:19 in Gal.3:27f

          There are some expositors who consider that Paul is expounding upon the Beatitudes (Mat.5:3-11), in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22-23). Note the phrase “kingdom of God/heaven” is rare in Paul, but occurs in 5:21 at the end of his list of deeds of the flesh. This list may also relate to Jesus’ lists in Mat.15:18-19 and Mark 7:21-22. This connection is debatable (what isn’t?). But hopefully it at least points out that there can possibly be references without explicit quotation formulas.

          I’ll admit that, at first, it seems like your point has some merit. There seem to be few places where the epistles directly take Gospel sayings and expound upon them. But that’s only at first. With a little thought, ideas start popping up. I chased down the first few & found others. And more. And others. Here are some:
          + Lk.12:3 in 1Cor.4:5
          + Mat.25:34 in Eph.1:4
          + Mat.10:16 in Rom.16:19
          + Jn.13:34-5 in 1Th.4:9 and in 1Pet.1:22 and esp in 1Jn.3:14
          + Mat.25:35-36 in Jam.2:15-16 and in Heb.13:1-3
          + Jn.3:3 in 1Pet.1:3, 23.
          + Jn.6:51 in Eph.5:2
          + Mat.5:21-22 (also Jn.8:44) in 1Jn.3:15
          + Lk.21:19 in Heb.10:36
          + Jn.3:16 in Rom.5:8 and 8:32 and Eph.2:4 and 1Jn.4:10
          + Jn.1:12 in Gal.3:26
          + Mk.16:19 & Mat.26:64 in Eph.1:20-22 and Col.3:1 and 1Cor.15:25f and Heb.1:3 and 8:1 and Rom.8:34 and 1Pet.3:22.
          + Jn.15:20 in 2Tim.3:12
          + Jn.10:11 (et al) in 1Pet.2:25.

          This list is hastily compiled and reflects only a few hours of thought. If one really reflected on it, I’m sure there would be an expansive list, very soon. In short, I’d say that you haven’t looked very thoroughly.

          I hope that is of some value to you.

          Regards.

        • Greg G.

          + Lk.12:3 in 1Cor.4:5
          + Mat.25:34 in Eph.1:4
          + Mat.10:16 in Rom.16:19
          + Jn.13:34-5 in 1Th.4:9 and in 1Pet.1:22 and esp in 1Jn.3:14
          + Mat.25:35-36 in Jam.2:15-16 and in Heb.13:1-3
          + Jn.3:3 in 1Pet.1:3, 23.
          + Jn.6:51 in Eph.5:2
          + Mat.5:21-22 (also Jn.8:44) in 1Jn.3:15
          + Lk.21:19 in Heb.10:36
          + Jn.3:16 in Rom.5:8 and 8:32 and Eph.2:4 and 1Jn.4:10
          + Jn.1:12 in Gal.3:26
          + Mk.16:19 & Mat.26:64 in Eph.1:20-22 and Col.3:1 and 1Cor.15:25f and Heb.1:3 and 8:1 and Rom.8:34 and 1Pet.3:22.
          + Jn.15:20 in 2Tim.3:12
          + Jn.10:11 (et al) in 1Pet.2:25.

          This list is hastily compiled and reflects only a few hours of thought. If one really reflected on it, I’m sure there would be an expansive list, very soon. In short, I’d say that you haven’t looked very thoroughly.

          Thank you for the list. I will look at them as I have time. I tend to not make associations between verses here or there based solely on a phrase. I like to look for patterns of associations. I have spent a great deal of time investigating these. I notice you have Matthew 26:64 which comes from Mark 14:62 which is similar to Mark 13:26 but Mark 16:19 is not original. The “coming with the clouds” would be from Daniel 13:7 and the “right had of Power” would likely be from Psalm 110:1, so I would expect all of the epistle references to be drawing from those passages as well, since those books are quoted and alluded to often in the NT.

          For Matthew, I usually look to the parallel in Mark first. The Matthew 25:35-36 and James 2:15-16 connection is one that interests me as there is no parallel in Mark. The Sermon on the Mount Site: James and the Sermon on the Mount by Robert I. Kirby shows many parallels between Matthean verses with no Markan parallel with James, and most, if not all, are all words of Jesus in Matthew though James never quotes Jesus, even if a “Jesus said” would have helped his argument. Kirby cites his sources and one is 50 years old, so scholars have known about the parallels for a while. It is a devotion to the hypothetical Q that keeps them from considering that Matthew mined the Epistle of James for Jesus quotes.

          I think the gospel authors used some of the epistles. Mark seems to have relied on Galatians a lot, but also 1 Corinthians and Romans, too. Where the link above shows a connection between James 2:8 with Matthew 22:39, Luke 10:27, and Mark 12:31, Mark is treating as Paul did in Galatians 5:14 and Matthew and Luke came from Mark. James 2:8-10 seems to agree that Galatians 5:14 is a nice start but goes on to reject that it is the whole law. From that point on, James seems to be refuting Galatians, mostly in order, but doubling back over the last few chapters.

          The rest shows exactly what I mean. I have posted this before but I don’t have the link for it. It shows the Epistle of James as if it was a response to Galatians in Disqus.

          James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:Greetings.My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; , for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.Let the believer who is lowly boast in being raised up, and the rich in being brought low, because the rich will disappear like a flower in the field. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the field; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. It is the same way with the rich; in the midst of a busy life, they will wither away.Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my beloved.Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures. (James 1:1-18)

          You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? (Galatians 3:1-2)

          You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. (James 1:19-21)

          Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. (Galatians 3:23-26)

          But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:22-27)

          And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those leaders contributed nothing to me. (Galatians 2:6)

          My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? (James 2:1-7)

          For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. (Galatians 5:13-15)

          You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For the one who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:8-13)

          Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing?—if it really was for nothing. Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? (Galatians 2:3-5)

          What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? (James 2:14-20)

          Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:6-14)

          Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:21-24)

          Tell me, you who desire to be subject to the law, will you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and the other by a free woman. One, the child of the slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise. Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the other woman corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free, and she is our mother. For it is written,

          “Rejoice, you childless one, you who bear no children,

              burst into song and shout, you who endure no birth pangs;

          for the children of the desolate woman are more numerous

              than the children of the one who is married.” (Isaiah 54:1)

          Now you, my friends, are children of the promise, like Isaac. But just as at that time the child who was born according to the flesh persecuted the child who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. But what does the scripture say? “Drive out the slave and her child; for the child of the slave will not share the inheritance with the child of the free woman.” (Genesis 21:10) So then, friends, we are children, not of the slave but of the free woman. (Galatians 4:21-31)

          Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. (James 2:25-26)

          Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth? Such persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. I am confident about you in the Lord that you will not think otherwise. But whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty. But my friends, why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves! (Galatians 5:2-12)

          Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh. (James 3:1-12)

          Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. (Galatians 5:16-18)

          Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. (James 3:13-18)

          Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

          Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says,

          “God opposes the proud,    but gives grace to the humble.” (Proverbs 3:34)

          Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:1-10)

          By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:22-26)

          Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-12)

          Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. (Galatians 6:6-10)

          Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)

          It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! (Galatians 6:12-15)

          Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you. (James 5:1-6)

          Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.Above all, my beloved, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “Yes” be yes and your “No” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. (James 5:7-12)

          Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. (James 5:13-18)

          My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads. (Galatians 6:1-5)

          My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)

        • CJ

          ” I notice you have Matthew 26:64 which comes from Mark 14:62 which is similar to Mark 13:26 but Mark 16:19 is not original. The “coming with the clouds” would be from Daniel 13:7 and the “right had of Power” would likely be from Psalm 110:1, so I would expect all of the epistle references to be drawing from those passages as well, since those books are quoted and alluded to often in the NT.”

          Yes, that’s a casualty of my haste. Sorry. And yes, they are references to Daniel & Psalms. The shared interpretation of those OT statements being the connection. I keep in mind Luke 24:27 and take it that this teaching was passed on and would eventually get to Paul.

          I agree that a single word or phrase is merely a tentative connection. And we really want a shared theme, as well as the shared word/phrase, before deciding it is a real connection between 2 different authors. (I did not have time to chase down how strong such multiple connections are, in my previous list.)

          Thanks for the link on the James-Matthew connections. I’ll have to look into that. It’s a good point — that some of the epistles were probably written prior to the Gospels. So the Gospel writers might possibly have had some epistles at hand (or even just in mind) when writing their thoughts down.

          On the relationship of James to Galatians (or to Paul in general), I’m not so confident as are you. I’m always going to stress taking each book in its own context, and letting it say what that author said on its own. So interleaving the texts as you suggest holds an inherent and easily-succumbed risk of forcing the one context onto the other. This is an unusual example, but similar to a widespread problem of snipping statements out of their native context — and then losing track of that context and the real point that the author was making. It is a common problem, both within & without the Church.

          As for the specifics of James and Galatians. Well… that will take some considerable time for me to digest. I’ll observe that James is notoriously difficult to analyze in terms of its structure and direction. I’m leery of an approach that takes a different book and seeks to explain that confusing structure. But, it’s an interesting idea. (I would, of course, disagree that James is refuting anything in Paul. Or vice versa. I see it rather as different problems that they’re addressing in their audiences & different emphases that result.)

        • Greg G.

          (I would, of course, disagree that James is refuting anything in Paul. Or vice versa. I see it rather as different problems that they’re addressing in their audiences & different emphases that result.)

          Galatians 5:14 (NRSV)14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

          That is very similar to what Rabbi Hillel said. I suspect that Luke recognized that connection when he put Paul at Gamaliel’s feet, a descendant of Hillel. (Acts 22:3)

          James 2:8-10 (NRSV)8 You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

          Paul says the whole law is summed up by Leviticus 19:18 but James says it is just a good start. He insists that one must keep the whole law. None of that faith-based salvation in James.

          PS: I recall that Martin Luther despised James and, IIRC, that is the reason.

        • CJ

          That’s one way of interpreting it. However, one could study it more & see if James is coming at the same topic as Paul, but from a different angle. That’s an example (and a rather large one) of what I mean by studying more intently to see if there might be a logical resolution — instead of just throwing up one’s hands and saying that there is no resolution.

          That reminds me: in one recent post you asserted that Matthew takes OT quotes out of context. I dispute that. It is a common charge, yes. But look closer. Look at the context of both the OT and the NT passages. Certainly, most of the quotes are straightforward & cause no confusion. But some are confusing — until you look closer. But if you conclude early that they are just random & out of context, then you never get to the point of looking.

        • Greg G.

          That reminds me: in one recent post you asserted that Matthew takes OT quotes out of context. I dispute that. It is a common charge, yes. But look closer. Look at the context of both the OT and the NT passages. Certainly, most of the quotes are straightforward & cause no confusion. But some are confusing — until you look closer. But if you conclude early that they are just random & out of context, then you never get to the point of looking.

          Look at when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. It may be an allusion to 1 Kings 1:33-48 where Solomon rode a donkey for his coronation, a sign of peace, rather than a horse, for war. But the young donkey also suggests that it comes from Zechariah 9:9. John 12:15 tells the same story and quotes that Zechariah verse. Matthew 21:5 follows John by quoting the verse, too, but Matthew has two donkeys, a colt and its mother. Many, and I was one, think Matthew misread the Hebrew poetry “riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” as two donkeys. I picture Jesus standing and straddling them in a Captain Morgan pose. But I give Matthew the benefit of the doubt that he knew that a colt should be with its mother. I think I recall that there are some OT verses about a colt and mother being sold together.

          OTOH, Matthew 4:13-16 says Jesus moved to Capernaum to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1-2, which mentions Galilee, land of the Gentiles, but Nazareth would have fulfilled that as a prophecy, being in Galilee. Maybe Matthew didn’t know where Nazareth was supposed to be or maybe Matthew knew there was no Nazareth in Galilee.

        • CJ

          Yes, it’s a fulfillment of the Zech. prophecy. Yes, it has as background the fact that Davidic kings rode on donkeys (found at multiple places in the OT histories). It is, BTW, an odd choice of prophecy to contest, as it is one that Jesus could simply have orchestrated. I.e., he could have read in Zech and said, “Oh, hey! Almost forgot. I gotta find me a donkey for this entrance.”

          If there were 2 donkeys, then there was 1 donkey. Obviously, Matthew would be an incompetent if he was trying to assert that Jesus rode on 2 simultaneously. This is obvious.

          As for the reason that Matthew makes the Isa reference: I think you’re only seeing half of it. There is the geographic reference to the region of Zebulun & Naphtali. Nazareth is in Zebulun. Capernaum is in Naphtali. It was a region with Gentiles in Isaiah’s day, and even moreso in Jesus’ day. Seems terribly reasonable that Matthew points out the move with an OT geog ref. Furthermore, Isa 9 is familiar literary territory. Verses 6 and 7 are pretty significant for understanding Jesus.
          But you’re ignoring half of Matthew’s reference. He also quotes v.2 about a light shining on the people. And here’s the key — Matthew is now bridging from his introduction to his ministry section. Note the next sentence in Matthew, “From that time on Jesus began to preach…”

          This is a nice example of what I mean when I say to pay attention to the context. (And in this case, we have 2 contexts: Matthew & Isaiah.) Much can be learned by doing so.

          Archaeology shows that Nazareth was there all during Herodian times, and on thru Byzantine era.

        • Greg G.

          If there were 2 donkeys, then there was 1 donkey. Obviously, Matthew would be an incompetent if he was trying to assert that Jesus rode on 2 simultaneously. This is obvious.

          But Mark doesn’t say Jesus said to get two donkeys. Mark is saying there is one and only one donkey and Luke agrees with him. Zechariah 9:9 is talking about one donkey in terms of a doublet, not two donkeys.

          Mark 11:1-6 (NRSV)1 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5 some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it.

          Mark 14:13-16 (NRSV)13 So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” 16 So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

          Mark is following a story telling formula in these passages. I see other parallels but I’m running out of HTML tag combinations. Surely Jesus did something worth mentioning that isn’t a retelling of tales from Jewish, Greek, and Christian literature in the form of mimesis. If you are set on believing these are actually fulfilled prophecies, then you would have to believe Homer’s Odyssey is scripture and prophecy to be consistent.

          Note the next sentence in Matthew, “From that time on Jesus began to preach…”

          This is a nice example of what I mean when I say to pay attention to the context. (And in this case, we have 2 contexts: Matthew & Isaiah.) Much can be learned by doing so.

          Or Matthew saw “Galilee” in Mark 1:14 and decided he could take an out of context passage from Isaiah, insert it into Mark’s verse and pretend it is a prophecy. The Isaiah passage appears to me to be talking about the land beyond the Jordan to be the Galilee of the Gentiles/nations. Capernaum is not on the other side of the Jordan.

          Archaeology shows that Nazareth was there all during Herodian times, and on thru Byzantine era.

          Their evidence and methodology is so poor, an amateur has pointed out the flaws and made them retract their original paper.

        • CJ

          A couple quick examples:

          Jupiter has a moon.
          This does not imply that Jupiter has only 1 moon.

          Obama took his daughter to the movies yesterday.
          This does not imply that he took only 1 daughter to the movies.

          Is it odd that Mark doesn’t mention 2 donkeys? Perhaps. Or perhaps he dropped out what was not important. It hardly proves that the story is fabricated. But your view requires that it be fabricated, so you think it is. So be it.

          You: “Their evidence and methodology is so poor, an amateur has pointed out the flaws and made them retract their original paper.”

          Good heavens. You seriously think there has only been ONE paper published on the archaeology of Nazareth???? (And besides, your “they” is mildly vague.)

          Seriously, you can continue to construct this bizarre view of the NT documents. Obviously I will not be able to dislodge these notions from your thinking. Nobody can, I suppose.

          All I can really do is encourage to take it up & read it. “It” being any one of the NT documents that you like. But read it for what it actually says.

          I think I’m done spending my time on this.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          But your view requires that it be fabricated, so you think it is.

          So let me understand: Greg G has an agenda and couldn’t possibly conclude or even consider that the story isn’t fabricated*, but you’re open minded and quite happy to agree that the different gospels were not independent records of a single historical event given sufficient evidence. Is that it?

          *I doubt Greg G would say that it was fabricated as in deliberately invented.

        • CJ

          I’m saying that his evidence is weak or non-existent and that his reasoning is extremely contorted.

          And yes, I think he is saying that it is fabricated. But obviously, he can speak for himself.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’m suggesting that you consider if you’re living in a glass house once in a while.

        • CJ

          Likewise, dude.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Sorry–I’m missing the parallel. What’s my glass house?

          If you’re saying that I need to consider seriously the other guy’s position, yeah, you’re right. I’ve been blogging for 4 years on that very project.

        • MNb

          There isn’t any evidence for a mythical Jesus. It’s all interpretation of the available evidence. Sometimes that interpretation is nothing but theology, a branch you usually don’t have any use for. Greg G uses it too when explaining quotes from the Gospels. Remarkable that you never criticize him for it.
          So it’s all about method – or as CJ puts it: reasoning. Given the many variations of JM – including a Roman conspiracy – I conclude that JM doesn’t have consensus about the correct method or worse: doesn’t have a method at all. That’s confirmed by them being unwilling to discuss their method; it took me quite some effort to make Greg G do it.
          That’s the most damning part: JM’s claim to be skeptical but display zero skepticism towards their own positions. For that one we have evidence on this very blog. When some bypassing JM produces crystal clear nonsense our main JM’s and specifically Greg G never criticize him. Big Tent strategy, I assume.
          You once remarked that I don’t think much of JM. Exactly this is why.

        • Greg G.

          When some bypassing JM produces crystal clear nonsense our main JM’s and specifically Greg G never criticize him.

          Teacher, you didn’t say that was going to be on the test. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I do things IRL. I’m not the JM police.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Jesus mythicism may have multiple approaches and no consensus because it’s an infant idea. Is there squabbling in the JM tent? If you say so. All I conclude from that is that, again, it’s new. With maturity will come consensus. Or a rejection of the theory.

          I assume you meant that I said that I don’t have any use for JM. That’s true. I find it intriguing and, if I had infinite time, I’d read more on the subject. However, it doesn’t directly support my main interest of counterapologetics, so I don’t bother. Whether Christianity came from an actual man or not doesn’t change the big issue: Christianity is bullshit.

          Why does JM agitate you so much? Have you read Price and Carrier on the subject? If not, that might be the next step.

        • Greg G.

          Exactly. I think the early first century Christians thought of Jesus as from there distant past – in Old Testament times. Mark wrote an allegorical story with enough hints to his references that he didn’t expect it to be taken as history. But it was.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, really who would expect made up stuff in the Bible?

        • Greg G.

          I understand what you mean by two being at least one. Maybe when Jesus said, “I and my father are one”, he really meant two.

          The problem though is that Solomon rode one donkey. The donkey represents peace. Two donkeys would ruin the message Solomon would have been projecting. The Zechariah passage is about one donkey. Mark and Luke say there was one donkey. If there were two donkeys as Matthew says, then you can’t claim it was a fulfillment of a prophecy. It might be a fulfillment they way Matthew misread it and used some logic, but it doesn’t fulfill what it was supposed to fulfill as Mark wrote it. Pick your poison: either Matthew was wrong about the number, all of them are wrong about it having some meaning, or it was just something made up. Then there’s John’s account.

        • CJ

          The prophecy is from Zechariah, centuries after Solomon. The prophecy has nothing to do with Solomon. Solomon & David & several other kings simply establish the symbolism.
          Matthew obviously does not picture Jesus riding on two donkeys. Do you think he’s an ass? (HA!! I made a funny!!!) But seriously, you constantly attribute absolute stupidity to Matthew. You seriously think he doesn’t understand how semitic poetry is structured?
          The only way a 2nd donkey could negate the prophecy would be if the prophecy said that there would not be any other donkeys anywhere in the area. Which, of course, it doesn’t.

          This is just foolishness now. I’m out.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’ll quote from the Good Book: “They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on” (Matt. 21:7).

          Two animals and two cloaks. Yes, Jesus sat on two donkeys.

          Matthew obviously does not picture Jesus riding on two donkeys. Do you think he’s an ass? (HA!! I made a funny!!!)

          Well, someone seems to be an ass.

          This is just foolishness now.

          Apparently more than you know.

        • Pofarmer

          The way CJ is going he could prove that the New Testament was written before the Old Testament.

        • Greg G.

          Paul opens Galatians differently than every other with an embedded rant on him not being sent by human authority. This is a theme. He brings it up in Galatians 1:11-12 to say his gospel is not of human origin or a human source. Then he says he visited Cephas and James which is saying he did not get his message from them.

          In Galatians 2:6, he expresses disdain for the pillars and says God agrees with him. Three verses later, he identifies the pillars as “James and Cephas and John”. Galatians 2:11-12 tells that Cephas changed when certain people were sent to Antioch by the human authority of James who apparently headed the circumcision faction that Cephas kowtowed to. Paul then recounts a story of his argument with Cephas that ensued.

          Galatians 5:12 (NRSV)12 I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!

          Here Paul is using extreme sarcasm by exaggerating circumcision which is directed at the circumcision faction in Galatians 2:12, which is Cephas, James, and company. But nobody else is mentioned, except for Barnabas, between the Galatians 1:1 and Galatians 5:12 so “those who unsettle you” would have to be the answer to the rhetorical question “Who has bewitched you?” in Galatians 3:1. The very next sentence is about Jesus being crucified and he continues on about demonstrating the crucifixion through verse Galatians 3:14, citing:

          c.Galatians 3:6 Gen. 15:6
          d.Galatians 3:8 Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18
          e.Galatians 3:10 Deut. 27:26
          f.Galatians 3:11 Hab. 2:4
          g.Galatians 3:12 Lev. 18:5
          h.Galatians 3:13 Deut. 21:23
          i.Galatians 3:16 Gen. 12:7; 13:15; 24:7
          [NIV footnotes]

          Why didn’t he just say that Cephas and James could tell them all about the crucifixion?

          Paul does go on about faith over works. The Epistle of James addresses each of his points with works over faith.

          Finally, you ask: “Why would all the epistles quote verse after verse from the Old Testament but never make a single reference to a single deed or teaching?” I think you’re overstating the case.

          We have Paul actually saying his message does not come from a human source right in Galatians. In other letters he says he gets his information from the prophets. Is he telling the truth? I have established that everything he tells us about Jesus can be found in the Old Testament in a link I gave you. So, yeah, he didn’t get any information from the other apostles. In 2 Corinthians, he claims that he is not inferior to the super-apostles, a ballsy claim if he thought they might have a source he didn’t have.

          (Furthermore, the Galatians themselves have witnessed miracles — see 3:5. So they hardly need to be reminded of others.)

          Galatians 3:5 (NRSV)5 Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?

          I would like to hear more about those miracles. Were they any different than the claims of modern miracles where somebody got very sick and got better?

          I think the early Christians were from a sect of Jews who were expecting the Messiah. They started to read the prophets for clues about when the Messiah would come. They began to see the Suffering Servant in Isaiah as a historical person hidden inside the allegory. The fact that this revelation came to their generation was a sign that the Messiah would return during their generation. Isaiah 53 was actually their template.

          Cephas may have been the first to see, as in 1 Corinthians 15. The “according to the scriptures” just means the were reading it from the scriptures. The “appeared to” is the same Greek word each time, including for Paul, so he doesn’t think “appeared to” means appearing in person after the crucifixion. That is just reading the gospels back into the epistles. The verses following that are arguing that the resurrection had to have happened in a way that would be unnecessary if he was citing eyewitnesses.

        • CJ

          Well… let’s trace this through.

          Gal.2:20 — ties Jesus’ crucifixion to Paul’s living life by faith.
          Gal.2:21 — places in opposition living by works of the law, vs. the purpose of Jesus’ death.
          Gal.3:1 — Apparently the crux of our disagreement. It is a statement that needs some explanation, as its purpose is not immediately apparent. But, it is safe to say that:
          + Paul is chastising the Galatian believers for changing their direction (in some way).
          + The fact of Jesus’ crucifixion, and the Galatians’ knowledge of it, is key.

          Continuing:
          Gal.3:2 — They received the Spirit by believing, not by doing works.
          Gal.3:3 — They are foolish to change streams, having started with the Spirit, to attempting to perfect themselves with their own efforts.
          Gal.3:4 — If in that new stream, their experiences thus far have been in vain.
          Gal.3:5 — God has given them his Spirit & worked miracles among them based upon their belief of the Gospel preaching, not based upon works of the law.
          Gal.3:6 — Abraham was also saved by belief. (Implied, “and not by works.”)
          Gal.3:7 — Abraham’s true children are those of faith. (Implied, “and not those of works.”)
          Gal.3:8 — The OT already predicted that Gentiles would also be saved by faith. (Implied “and not works”)
          Gal.3:9 — People who rely on that faith are blessed.
          Gal.3:10– People who rely on works of the law are under a curse.
          Gal.3:11– People who rely on the law are not justified before God, but those who rely on faith are.
          Gal.3:12– The law is counter to faith.
          Gal.3:13– Jesus brought us out from under the law. [Here, the crucifixion is again finally brought in. But note that Paul doesn’t bring it into the discussion in order to establish that it happened; rather, he brings it in to show its effects.]
          Gal.3:14– Jesus’ sacrifice accomplished the spreading of Abraham’s blessing to Gentiles, through faith.
          Gal.3:15– An analogy to day-to-day human contracts. They can’t be set aside.
          Gal.3:16-17 — God’s promise to Abraham about faith preceded the Mosaic Law, and thus cannot be set aside.

          Well, that gets us through 3:16, where you had referenced. The crucifixion is certainly there — 2:20,21; 3:1; and 3:13-14. But it is absent from 3:2-12, where every single verse is developing Paul’s argument for the necessity of faith over works. How then can you maintain that 3:1 shows that Paul is debating people who disbelieve in Jesus’ crucifixion? No; it’s all about faith vs. works, and the crucifixion is brought in as an assumed fact, in order to explain and support his argument for faith over works.

          Furthermore, how can you maintain that Cephas and/or James was denying the Crucifixion? Cephas(Peter) was there. He saw it himself. He went to jail [Acts 4:2] because he wouldn’t stop preaching it. And again in Acts 12, where he was nearly executed — though in Acts 12 it doesn’t explicitly say *because* he was preaching Jesus had risen from the dead. Perhaps you suggest that he later concluded that Jesus didn’t actually die?? And then how would you explain Peter’s eventual martyrdom, for his faith — a faith which you seem to deny he maintained?

          Again, your flow of events just doesn’t make sense. I mean… you’re certainly welcome to your view. But I’m saying that your view doesn’t add up.

        • Greg G.

          Galatians 3:1: Someone has told the Galatians that there was no crucifixion. I think the other Christians believed in the resurrection and the suffering but they don’t think there was a crucifixion.

          Galatians 3:2-5: Chiding about losing their way.

          Galatians 3:6: An allusion to Genesis 15:6 to point out the faith of Abraham.

          Galatians 3:7-9: An allusion to Genesis 12:3, 18:18, and/or 22:18 about all nations being blessed in Abraham as scriptural support for Galatians 3:7 and 3:9.

          Galatians 3:10: Deuteronomy 27:26 quote about being cursed for not observing the law.

          Galatians 3:11: An invocation of Habakkuk 2:4 about the righteous living by faith.

          Galatians 3:12: A quotation of Leviticus 18:5 about the law not resting on faith.

          Galatians 3:13: A quotation of Deuteronomy 21:23 equating being cursed, as in Galatians 3:10, with being crucified. Paul is using the Septuagint here, not the Masoretic Hebrew version that says “tree”. The word “tree” comes from the Greek word ξύλον (xylon) in Galatians and in LXX Septuagint Deteronomy 21:23. It can mean “tree” or “wood” and is sometimes translated as “cross”, as in 1 Peter 2:24.

          Galatians 3:14: Ties it all back to Galatians 3:6-9 about the blessings of Abraham.

          Galatians 3:16 was an serendipitous copy error. It is referring to three verses from Genesis on Abraham’s offspring which are related to Galatians 3:7.

        • CJ

          Again, how can you put that together & say that Paul’s topic is the defense of Jesus’ crucifixion? Clearly, the bulk of the material is about living by faith, not works. A simple test, but quite useful. On a deeper level, just follow the logic of what Paul is saying — and not what somebody’s views are on some hypothesized background. Just what do the words say.

        • Greg G.

          I am about half way through your list. Here is what I have looked at so far.

          Luke 12:3; 1 Corinthians 4:5

          Luke 12:3 would have come from Matthew 10:26 but Matthew may have been looking at 1 Corinthians. That is an interesting correlation I have never considered.

          Matthew 25:34; Ephesians 1:4

          Both use the Greek phrase “καταβολῆς κόσμου” for “foundation of the earth”. But we find that phrase in eight other verses:

          Matthew 13:35; Luke 11:50; John 17:24; Hebrews 4:3; Hebrews 9:26; 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8

          Matthew 13:35 is quoting Psalm 78:2 which seems to say something like “days of old”, and Matthew substituted this phrase so it may just be a common idiom like “old as the hills”.

          Matthew 10:16; Romans 16:19

          This is an interesting connection. Matthew seems to have read Romans from other connections. The topic seems similar. The word “wise” appears in the two English translations but they are translated from different Greek words.

          John 13:34-35; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:14

          The “love one another” command comes from Leviticus 19:18 and is also in Mark 12:31, Matthew 22:39, and Luke 10:27

          John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:3,23

          John 3:3 is based on a pun as “from above” sounds like “again”, but it only works in Greek. It is unlikely that Jesus would have been speaking Greek with a Pharisee so it seems this was a story made up for Greek readers. The whole conversation would then be fiction. Say “goodbye” to John 3:16.

          John 6:51; Ephesians 5:2

          I don’t see much of a connection in either the NRSV or the NIV between these other than the general concept of Christianity which can be derived from OT verses such as those I gave for Paul’s sources.

          Matthew 5:21-22; John 8:44; 1 John 3:15

          John 8:44 just talks about murder and doesn’t equate anger with it. Matthew 5:19-22 seems to stick James 1:19-20 with the “slow to anger” phrase between James 2:10 on keeping the whole law and James 2:11 which brings in murder and adultery. I would say Matthew built that idea out of James. There seems to be ideas from James express from Matthew 5:19-26. That would mean that the author of 1 John either read Matthew or came up with the idea independently.

          That’s about half of them. I spent about 20 minutes or so on these but I think my eyelids are wanting to hug each other so I take up the rest later.

        • CJ

          Weeelll….. now you’re actually impressing me. You’re actually researching and chasing things down. Well done.

          I fear that your constant reliance upon your source theories will always cloud your thinking, however.

          Still, here’s a little bit:

          John 3:3 —
          You make a very good point about the language that Jesus would have spoken, while talking with Nicodemus. Very unlikely that they would normally speak in Greek. Presumably either Aramaic or Hebrew. Which does, indeed, raise the question of what that turn of phrase would have been in Aramaic or Hebrew. Of course, we’ve got it in Greek, so ultimately anything else is speculation. However, in Hebrew, “from above” would possibly be מֵעָֽל . It is perhaps of value to note that this is made up of 2 prepositions, both of which can mean “more”. I’m just speculating now, but it is conceivable that there was a usage of this as a way to say “more more” = “again”. Just speculation, though. It could also be “more besides”. But this is OT Hebrew, not Hebrew as it would have been in Jesus’ day. We’d have to look at Mishnaic Hebrew, as well as Aramaic.

          IN ANY CASE, you have correctly observed that we’re dealing with a translation of spoken words, here in John 3. BUT where is it written that a translation is forbidden from using literary word plays? There is, in fact, no actual problem with that. So — even if we assume that there was no pun in the spoken Hebrew/Aramaic — this hardly forces the conclusion that the event never happened!

          Say “hello” to John 3:16.

          Besides which, it’s always possible that Jesus did speak Greek at that point, specifically so as to take advantage of that pun. If he felt it was helpful, he certainly could have. Indeed, it might contribute to Nicodemus’ confusion. (But again, speculation.)

          But I’ll have to look that one up in a good commentary & see what their take is. Good observation — even if I reject your drastic conclusion.

          + John 6:51; Ephesians 5:2
          Yeah… John 6:51 probably isn’t the best choice there. Take any Gospel statement about Jesus giving himself as a sacrifice, though. That was the goal of this list: to find events in the Gospels that are also referred to in the epistles.

          + Matthew 5:21-22; John 8:44; 1 John 3:15
          You: “John 8:44 just talks about murder and doesn’t equate anger with it. ”
          Yes, OK. It is only tangential & it detracts from the simplicity of the connection between Mat & 1Jn.

          You: “Matthew 5:19-22 seems to stick James 1:19-20 with the “slow to anger” phrase between James 2:10 on keeping the whole law and James 2:11 which brings in murder and adultery. I would say Matthew built that idea out of James. There seems to be ideas from James express from Matthew 5:19-26. That would mean that the author of 1 John either read Matthew or came up with the idea independently.”

          See this is the problem. There’s a very simple correlation between Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:22 and a reference back to it in an epistle (which was the exercise at hand), specifically 1John 3:15. Very simple. Pretty clear. “Hate is as much as Murder”. Q:Where did John get that? A:From Jesus.
          But you are instantly wanting to pull in your sources theories — in this case, James. I think that your assumption that Matthew’s Jesus quotes are derived from James, drives you away from the simple conclusion. And this, despite your own admission that the arrangement in James doesn’t really fit Matthew. Well, in the end, you do conclude that John might have read Matthew. So that’s something. But why all this muddle with James? It seems that your theory steps in & messes up your view.

        • Greg G.

          I fear that your constant reliance upon your source theories will always cloud your thinking, however.

          As a reformed Christian, I can now see how my religion had clouded my thinking.

          BUT where is it written that a translation is forbidden from using literary word plays? There is, in fact, no actual problem with that. So — even if we assume that there was no pun in the spoken Hebrew/Aramaic — this hardly forces the conclusion that the event never happened!

          Neither is it written that fiction cannot be written down either. The conversation and the word play are based on that story. Even much of Christian language and understanding follows from that. The conversation either happened or it didn’t and it couldn’t have happened as presented by God.

          That was the goal of this list: to find events in the Gospels that are also referred to in the epistles.

          That is not what I am saying. I think the gospel authors knew the epistles, or some of them. That is what I mean when I say they used Christian literature. What I am saying is that the early epistles (excludes the Pastorals and 2 Peter) do not give any information about an earthly Jesus that is not independent of the Old Testament scriptures. The later epistles, actually just 1 Timothy and 2 Peter, give some gospel based information but there is reason to think they are second century writings independent of the gospel references.

          My claim is that the early epistles do not have an reference to earthly Jesus that is independent of the Old Testament, even an insignificant one, whether it is also found in the gospels or not. I do not argue for interpolations to maintain my claim. I don’t have to. When I argue for an interpolation, it is based on textual or manuscript evidence.

          But you are instantly wanting to pull in your sources theories — in this case, James. I think that your assumption that Matthew’s Jesus quotes are derived from James, drives you away from the simple conclusion. And this, despite your own admission that the arrangement in James doesn’t really fit Matthew. Well, in the end, you do conclude that John might have read Matthew. So that’s something. But why all this muddle with James? It seems that your theory steps in & messes up your view.

          The apparent connection between the Jesus quotes and Matthew with the Epistle of James was noted by Christian scholars. A few can be chalked up to coincidence. When it reaches into the dozens, it is a pattern. It is the difference between anecdote and data.

          Sticking James 1:19-20 between James 2:10 and 11 puts three elements that appear in Matthew 5:19-22: righteousness, anger, and murder. James 3:6 has the same word for hell that Matthew uses in the passage but Matthew may have known that word from Mark.

          1 John doesn’t say that Jesus said that nor does it say that it was Jesus’ idea. If it did, it would refute my claim that there is no reference to Jesus that is not an allusion or reference to the Old Testament. I think you are making a big assumption.

        • CJ

          Greg,
          I’m afraid we’re just going round & round, now. No point to that.

          So as briefly as I can:

          You (on born again): “The conversation either happened or it didn’t and it couldn’t have happened as presented by God.”
          Yes, it either happened or it didn’t. No on “it couldn’t have happened”. Sure it could. If nothing else, you have to at least admit that Jesus *could* have spoken Greek with Nicodemus. That alone rules out your assertion of impossibility.

          You:”The apparent connection between the Jesus quotes and Matthew with the Epistle of James…”

          I’m not saying there’s no connection. I am saying that somehow, you are not reading the texts for what they actually say. Maybe your misreading has absolutely nothing to do with your source ideas. All I know is that you’re missing the point of the texts that we have been discussing, and substituting meanings that just aren’t there.

          You: “1 John doesn’t say that Jesus said that nor does it say that it was Jesus’ idea. If it did, it would refute my claim that there is no reference to Jesus that is not an allusion or reference to the Old Testament.”

          So you require something with these characterisitics:
          + Explicitly stated quotation of Jesus, or explicitly stated action of Jesus.
          + Not only an allusion
          + Can’t have anything to do with the OT
          + In an early epistle

          The action of Jesus’ crucifixion is stated over & over & over again. That seems to qualify as 1. Ah! But it does have something to do with the OT.

          You (from a different posted reply): “But 1 Corinthians 7:10 does not say that Jesus said it. It says “the Lord”. 1 Corinthians 14:21 also quotes the Lord but it is from Isaiah 28:11-12.”

          Multiple problems. You have to go to 1Cor 14 to find a time when “Lord” refers to the Almighty? How about just staying in the immediate context: 1Cor.6:14-17 uses “Lord” obviously to refer to Jesus. And that’s just a dozen verses removed from the “Lord” reference that you dispute.
          But seriously, this is an obvious reference to Jesus’ teaching. If Paul had meant to refer to an OT passage, he surely knows how to do that. And at least typically, he uses certain formulas. As in your 14:21 example, “In the Law it is written…, says the Lord.” Rather different here in 7:10.

          But, you see an OT allusion in the following vv, so you’re going to disqualify this reference, anyhow. Convenient for your theory. If you set up the definitions the right way, you can exclude everything. This reminds me of a conversation I had not long ago with a very angry atheist. She said that she would believe in Jesus if there were just 1 ancient reference to him. However, she defined it such that nothing could qualify. The NT documents are of course unacceptable. She wouldn’t accept the Roman historian references (Tacitus, Seutonius, Josephus[un-modified]). She wouldn’t accept very early but post-NT Christian writings (Ignatius, Polycarp). Everything was too late or too distant or not signed by name or not iron-clad textually. Of course, Bob would tell her that *nothing* is iron-clad.

          You: “As a reformed Christian, I can now see how my religion had clouded my thinking.”

          That’s a good pun. A “Reformed Christian” vs a “reformed Christian”. :-)

          But seriously, this is my final point, my main point, the only point that matters:
          Whatever route you’re taking to get there — be it source theories or whatever — you’re ending up with interpretations of the text that are blatantly, obviously, clearly mistaken. Something is clearly clouding your thinking RIGHT NOW. All I can say is, go back & just read the books (Gospels, Epistles) themselves.

          All the best to you.

        • CJ

          Oh, BTW, Marcan priority (ie, that Mark was written first) is far from unanimous. It is certainly the majority view. But there are scholars who think Luke was first, and others who think Matthew was first. (I don’t suppose there’s anybody who thinks John was first!)

        • Greg G.

          Does anybody doubt Marcan priority for anything but theological reasons?

          In the story of John the Baptist’s beheading, Mark is drawing on the book of Esther. The dead giveaway is the offer of up to half the kingdom, as in Esther 5:2, 3, and 6. To be consistent with Esther, Mark makes Herod a king so he can offer half the kingdom. Matthew corrects Mark by saying Herod was a Tetrarch but fails to maintain the correction all the way through. A king would have the power to divide a kingdom but the tetrarchy was assigned by the Romans. A tetrarch would not have the power to divide the terarchy. If Mark was copying Matthew, he made the wrong correction. There are other cases of this editorial fatigue for Matthew copying Mark, Luke copying Mark, and Luke copying Matthew. But there are no signs of editorial fatigue going the other way.

          Mark has Jesus giving the prophecy of Peter’s betrayal. Then he uses a sandwich to show simultaneity of the betrayal and Jesus’ trial to illustrate that while Jesus was being beaten and ordered to prophesy, his prophecy was being fulfilled. Nobody could have been at both scenes to know that the two incidents were simultaneous. Mark’s omniscient narrator mode shows that he made the story up for the irony. But John also has the prophecy being made, the same literary technique to show the simultaneity of the trial and the beating with the betrayal of Peter, but he left out the order to prophesy. Since Mark made it up, John had to have gotten the story from Mark. That is just one of the many indications that John used Mark.

          John 7:41-42 raises a conundrum about how Jesus could be from Galilee and be the Messiah who was supposed to be from Bethlehem. Matthew seems to have taken up the challenge by creating a genealogy and a birth narrative that puts Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem but has him grow up in Galilee. Luke seems to have rejected both stories and substituted his own. Matthew makes a big deal about three groups of fourteen generations but there are problems with omissions that can be seen in the OT scriptures. Luke probably didn’t like the idea of God allowing a Moses-like slaughter of babies to save Jesus and had Jesus living in Galilee but traveling to Bethlehem.

          Luke also apparently knew John and rejected the Lazarus resurrection story by having Abraham refusing to send Lazarus back because it would have done no good. Luke used Josephus a lot. Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 20.9.1) makes a note of Ananus (Annas) having five sons who followed him as high priests. John 18:13 tells us Caiaphas was his son-in-law. So the rich man in Hades who wanted Lazarus to go to his father’s house to warn his five brothers represents Caiaphas.

        • CJ

          + “Does anybody doubt Marcan priority for anything but theological reasons?”
          Yes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerusalem_school_hypothesis
          (And even if it were based on theological arguments, which in the above case it is not, would that necessarily make it false? Not at all. It may well place it into a category that you’re not willing to deal with. But that doesn’t make it false.)

          + You wrote: “Mark is drawing on the book of Esther. The dead giveaway is the offer of up to half the kingdom, as in Esther 5:2, 3, and 6. To be consistent with Esther, Mark makes Herod a king so he can offer half the kingdom. Matthew corrects Mark by saying Herod was a Tetrarch but fails to maintain the correction all the way through.”

          Maybe Mark does draw on Esther. There is that one phrase in common. Would that be a problem for some reason? There again, maybe that’s just what Antipas said — so perhaps Antipas was drawing on Esther. Why does Mark call Antipas “king” when he was only “tetrarch”? Well, why do you call him “President Clinton” or “President Bush”? They aren’t President anymore. Why do you still call your Jr. High math teacher “MISTER Jones” or “MISSES Smith” — or maybe even “MISS Smith” even though she is now “MISSES Jones”? People get accustomed to certain terminology, and continue it. It may even be considered politically & culturally correct — even if it is not technically true.
          But consider what you’re saying about Matthew. You’re saying that he saw that Mark had erroneously used the term “king” and so Matthew decides to correct it. But then he doesn’t. He only takes out “king” sometimes. He must be an incredibly incompetent editor, then. “Editorial fatigue”?? So, do you envision Matthew under a time crunch & he’s got to get his manuscript written quick quick quick? I’d say that if he couldn’t catch the word “king” then he’s not tired, he’s grossly incompetent. But seriously, surely it is much more reasonable to explain the usage of the term “king” (in both Mark and Matthew) as a way that the Jews actually did refer to Antipas, despite it being technically incorrect according to Roman designations. Now, I’m not actually arguing against Marcan priority here. And the use of “king” is certainly an interesting data point. I’m just taking issue with your interpretation of this passage, which you are forcing into one particular box even though the evidence doesn’t really fit. I’m happy to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that the argument is actually coming from somebody else — Robert M. Price, perhaps? But either way, the argument is weak, at best.
          And if we take a step back and look at the passage, Antipas’ offer of half his kingdom is hyperbole. Whether he was thinking of Esther or not, the point of the passage is pretty clearly that Antipas was boastfully (and probably drunkenly) offering a huge reward to the little dancer girl, in order to impress his guests. He would never have actually given her half his territory (even if he could have) — and neither his guests nor we readers should think otherwise. Note that he even hesitates to follow through on the request that she does make — and that is a whole lot less than half of his territory. We’ve got to let the context guide our interpretation.

          BTW, I seriously doubt that even a “king” under Rome would have the authority to divide his territory. It would be an interesting point to research, I guess. I don’t know, but I really don’t expect Rome was so apt to give latitude to its puppet kings. [As a little jab at Bob’s position: “Sigh. It’s too bad we don’t have any reliable Roman documents to consult, that might explain Roman allowances to puppet kings. But, all those documents are hopelessly flawed.” Sorry. Sorry. I couldn’t resist.]

          + You wrote: “Mark has Jesus giving the prophecy of Peter’s betrayal….” You’re making many assumptions, stacking one upon another. Certainly, if you fall back on “Mark [or whoever] just made it up & it’s not true,” then it relieves you of the task of looking closer for a more encompassing solution. There are different solutions, and I certainly can’t cover them here. Much has been written on it.
          [Again, I’m certainly not arguing for Johannine priority!]

          + You wrote: “John 7:41-42 raises a conundrum about how Jesus could be from Galilee and be the Messiah who was supposed to be from Bethlehem.” No; think of the context. Read John for what he’s communicating. That passage clearly assumes that the reader knows something that the crowd members in the story do not: that Jesus is in fact from Bethlehem, even though he’s known as a Galilean. Remember also that the Gospel of John is written well after the others (at least, so it appears from both internal & external evidences); so John might well assume that the reader is familiar with Matthew et al. In sum, your entire argument is based upon misreadings and false presuppositions. What more can I say?

          + You wrote: “Luke also apparently knew John and rejected the Lazarus resurrection story by having Abraham refusing to send Lazarus back because it would have done no good.”

          Your previous arguments — well, at least there was something there to talk about. But not on this one. Perhaps the most productive thing I can say is this: whoever gave you that argument — throw it in the trash. Was that from Robert M. Price? Well, whoever it came from is way way way waaaay off target. John’s account of the raising of Lazarus has zero to do with the parable of the poor man (who coincidentally is named Lazarus). Zero. The nearest point of connection is that they are both in the NT. If you count that as greater than zero, then… well, ok, I’ll buy that.
          John’s account (John 11-12) of the raising of Lazarus is a near-capstone miracle in John’s progression of miraculous signs. (The actual capstone will come soon thereafter, when Jesus himself is resurrected.)
          Luke’s account of a parable of Jesus has probably nothing to do with any real person named Lazarus, let alone with the specific man who’s sisters were Mary and Martha. Granted, some people take it that the parable comes from a real person, sick, poor, and named Lazarus. However, I would argue that it’s just a parable and portrays no actual persons. Furthermore, this parable is known to us also from rabbinic literature. In other words, Jesus didn’t originate this story! He took a parable that already was familiar to people, and he used it as a teaching tool. In that pre-existing parable, the characters have names — the poor man is Lazarus (a common name at the time, and hardly correlated with the real person Lazarus whom Jesus raised from death).

          The two passages (Luke 16 and John 11) could scarcely be more different. Connecting them as if they were the same event is … shall we say “irresponsible.”

          As for any correlation to Caiaphas — well, I suppose one could read that in. But does it fit the context of Luke 16? It sure doesn’t look like it to me. Indeed, just a few verses prior to the parable, we have the Pharisees referenced as opponents. So it is all the more unlikely that Caiaphas is in view in the parable (Caiaphas being a Sadducee). But in the whole sweep of that portion of Luke, is there anything about corrupt Jewish leaders? Is there any hint about the high priest? Is there any clue that would justify the notion that Jesus’ parable relates to Caiaphas? Again: look at the context. Let the context guide your interpretation & not vice versa.

        • Greg G.

          I hope this isn’t too confusing without the quotes of what I am referring to. It is long enough as it is.

          There is much more of the John the Baptist beheading story that is in common with Esther than just the quote. Mark used the Greek art of mimesis using Esther for elements of the story. The quote unmistakably points to Esther.

          Bush and Clinton were presidents. That Herod was never a king. Mark calls him a king because he is doing mimesis using a story with a king.

          Matthew was writing by hand. He had no ballpoint pens, either. Writing materials were not as cheap as they are to us. He may have been doing it in his spare time like we are here. He may have attended to business and then came back. Matthew 14:7 eliminates the word “kingdom” from Mark 6:23. Mark says “king” in 6:22, 25, 26, and 27. Matthew eliminates all but one of them, using “king” in Matthew 14:9, a parallel to Mark 6:26. Matthew could have used a pronoun or “tetrarch” at that place. Anything would have been better than “king” because the only connection to the word “king” at that point is from Mark.

          I am offering an all-encompassing solution. I gave you the link to Price’s collection of scholars independently identifying sources of Mark. Together, they show that Mark consistently took a story from Greek, Hebrew, or Christian literature of the day, flavored them with a couple of Old Testament verses and created a mimesis. Peter’s denial was modeled on a reversal of Elisha promising Elijah that he would not leave him three times in 2 Kings 2:2, 4, 6 before Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind in 2 Kings 2:11. Mark has Peter make one promise but deny him three times.

          You are reading Matthew and Luke into John. John was working with Mark, who never said that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Mark’s Jesus was adopted by God. John’s Jesus was the Logos from the beginning of time. Matthew and Luke have a Jesus who had a Divine conception.

          Luke rejected Matthew’s genealogy and nativity stories. He mostly stuck with Mark’s chronology where he said he was setting things in order in Luke 1:1. Luke rejected John’s passover lamb theology of the death of Jesus being on the day of preparation of the passover in favor of Mark and Matthew, who had Jesus eating the passover before he was arrested.

          Luke has Martha and Mary, too, but Mark and Matthew don’t. Luke’s Mary doesn’t wet Jesus’ feet with her tears as she does in John, it is a different woman, the woman from Mark but no longer set in Bethany.

          John 1 discusses the Logos, which is Philo’s philosophy. It would suggest that John has Egyptian influences. The parallels of John 11 with the Pyramid Texts is astounding.

          Luke 16:31 (NRSV)31 He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

          That verse just screams that he is rejecting the Lazarus resurrection.

          Furthermore, this parable is known to us also from rabbinic literature.

          Cite? I have read many speculations that it might have come from rabbinic literature. I have read that it is similar in style to rabbinic literature. I have never seen a single quote of this rabbinical literature. The Wikipedia article on this passage says “Some scholars—e.g., G. B. Caird,[28] Joachim Jeremias,[29] Marshall,[30] Hugo Gressmann,[31]—suggest the basic storyline of The Rich Man and Lazarus was derived from Jewish stories that had developed from an Egyptian folk tale about Si-Osiris.”

          The Egyptian sources are more likely from John’s use of the Egyptian sources.

          I am not saying that John 11 and Luke 16 are the same. I am saying that Luke 16 is a rejection of John 11. The closing line should make that very clear.

          The Caiaphas connection is in John 12 regarding Lazarus.

        • CJ

          When I said “all-encompassing solution” I meant a solution that takes the statements of the texts at face value, and grapples with any apparent differences, seeking a logical explanation of how those differences can coincide. In other words, we’ve got 4 different witnesses & they are giving some details that don’t appear to coincide. One option, which you have adopted, is to label one or more of them as fiction. By doing so, you relieve yourself of the need to look any further. It all gets wrapped up very neatly. However, it does not actually encompass all the data in a way that takes that data seriously. Certainly, your option is one that many people take. It is, if you follow me, a “skeptic of the gaps” approach. When there’s some problem, you can simply say, “Well, it’s fiction. QED.”

          Your take on Luke’s parable of Lazarus and John’s raising of Lazarus — sure I see what you’re saying. If you posit that John was written prior to Luke [an unusual view, I think], and if you think Luke rejected the story of John’s Lazarus, and if you think Luke was specifically responding to John’s story, and if you reject the notion that it was a pre-existing parable, and if you set aside the whole context and flow of Luke, and if you especially ignore how that Lukan parable fits into Luke’s thematic development, then sure, you can connect the two stories in that way and say that Luke’s final sentence clearly dismisses the raising of the dead that John had discussed. But it’s a big pill to swallow. I’ve already given my response. The main thing I can say is: go read that again. Read it with an open mind. Read the whole passage — indeed, the whole book of Luke — in one sitting. Your interpretation just doesn’t fit.

          I read that last line of Luke’s parable and I see a prediction of Jesus’ resurrection. I don’t see any particular connection to John’s raising of Lazarus. (Which, according to John, did convince many people.)

          I guess I’m confused about your assertion about a connection to Caiaphas. You had pointed to the 5 sons of Annas as being represented in the 5 brothers of Luke’s parabolic Lazarus. That seemed like you were talking about Luke’s Lazarus.

          PS: I don’t have my notes handy, to get that citation of the rabbinic use of the same parable. It was in a class, many years ago. In my argument, it is a helpful but minor point. I am willing to yield it to you; let’s just assume that I was misinformed on it. It changes nothing in my argument.

        • Greg G.

          When I said “all-encompassing solution” I meant a solution that takes the statements of the texts at face value, and grapples with any apparent differences, seeking a logical explanation of how those differences can coincide. In other words, we’ve got 4 different witnesses & they are giving some details that don’t appear to coincide.

          But you don’t have four different witnesses. You have four different versions of one account that don’t concur despite having the text in front of them.

          If the apostles thought Jesus had lived centuries before they did but was coming as the Messiah soon, the early epistles make sense without reading the gospels into them. Paul says Jesus was descended from David and relies on Isaiah most heavily and Isaiah speaks of the Suffering Servant in the past tense, so Jesus would have been after David and before or contemporary with Isaiah.

          If Mark, wrote an allegory as if Jesus had existed in the first century, favoring Paul’s perspective by writing the disciples as illiterate fishermen who failed to go to Galilee because the women were too afraid to tell, you have a solution that explains it all. Nearly all of Mark’s sources can be identified to the verse. Most of Matthew comes from Mark, James, a little from Josephus, a little from John, and lots of out-of-context OT verses written as prophecies. Luke used mostly Mark, used Matthew and John, lifted information and rewrote stories from Josephus, and based the central section on Deuteronomy. John used his sources differently but Mark and Philo shine through. Each seem to be aware of some of the epistles.

          I guess I’m confused about your assertion about a connection to Caiaphas. You had pointed to the 5 sons of Annas as being represented in the 5 brothers of Luke’s parabolic Lazarus. That seemed like you were talking about Luke’s Lazarus.

          Antiquities of the Jews 20.9.1 1. AND now Caesar, upon hearing the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as procurator. But the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus. Now the report goes that this eldest Ananus proved a most fortunate man; for he had five sons who had all performed the office of a high priest to God, and who had himself enjoyed that dignity a long time formerly, which had never happened to any other of our high priests.

          You should be very familiar with this part of Antiquities. The second sentence after that passage has “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ”. Ananus the Younger had James killed.

          John 18:13 (NRSV)13 First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year.

          Luke may have had another source for that fact but we can identify many sources. It appears that Luke used John and there are several lines of evidence.

          I just follow the best arguments I can find. The order most scholars have seems to be based on the idea that Jesus actually existed and they order the gospels to support the assumption they had since childhood. They allow that Matthew and Luke both used Mark in a similar fashion. John didn’t use Mark the same way, therefore he didn’t use Mark at all. They see a different genealogy and nativity in Matthew and Luke and assume they were independent of one another without considering that Luke may have thought Matthew’s early chapters were crap and needed to be redone. Luke agreed with Matthew that Jesus’ miracles should not have taken time to work so Luke eliminates them from Mark and John. If there was no Q, the similarities between Luke and Matthew are easily explained. If Luke rejected parts of Matthew and Mark, then why not parts of John?

          It changes nothing in my argument.

          But it would change my argument if it actually came from rabbinic sources. I think you have read sources talking about rabbinic sources but they probably didn’t have a specific one that relates to it.

        • CJ

          Good heavens, man! You’ve got an incredible host of assumptions. If the earliest Christians were a sect (apparently prior to Jesus himself), if Mark copied this & that, if Matthew copied that & this, if John, if Luke, if if if if if if. It’s very creative & all… but wow.
          How about simplifying it: if Jesus really lived & died & inspired some followers, then…
          Occam might have something to say here.

          Deny it if you wish. It now sounds like you are on the verge of denying that Jesus even existed.

          I think I must conclude with simply repeating: read those books again, trying to come at them with a “clean slate” and seeing what they are actually, in & of themselves, trying to communicate.

        • Greg G.

          The “if’s” are just a way to try to break it to you gently.

        • CJ

          :-) Thanks for your concern. :-)

          But I’m still going to assert that it’s a whole awful lot simpler & more logical to suppose that Jesus was a real person, that he inspired some followers, and that their written documents are straightforward accounts, as they appear to be. It does seem likely that there was some form of pre-Gospel document (be it oral or a lost ‘Q’ document in Aramaic or Greek). And we can ponder which of our documents was written first. That’s great. But when you come to interpret one of those documents (say, Matthew or Galatians or whichever), you really want to just see what does that document say in & of itself. Whatever guesswork about sources aside — what does the document itself say?

          Then choose to believe it or disbelieve it, as you see fit. But do so on the basis of the document itself.

        • Greg G.

          My explanation tells us why the early epistles never, ever refer to an Earthly Jesus except in quotes and allusions to OT passages. My explanation explains why nearly every passage in Mark can be traced to literature that isn’t about Jesus. My explanation explains why the other gospels had to rely on Mark for their basic story.

          Have you ever noticed that the pillars mentioned in Galatians play the biggest roles of all the disciples in Mark? Andrew and Judas are the only others that get a second mention. Mark relied on Galatians. If the argument between Jesus and the scribes in Mark 7 actually happened, then the argument between Paul and Peter in Galatians 2 would not have happened. Mark used Paul’s side of the argument for Jesus and what Peter’s side would have likely been for the scribes. The “Abba, Father” opening of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane can be found in Galatians 4:6, too.

          That link I gave you to Price’s article is the heart of a book with these types of references. That is just the gleanings of six or eight books and studies on Mark alone. I am giving you a small sample.

        • CJ

          OK, I feel like we’re just going round & round here. But I’ll give it one more whirl. Allow me to start with responses to specific claims, and then conclude with an attempt to get back to the heart of the matter.

          + You claim: “My explanation tells us why the early epistles never, ever refer to an Earthly Jesus except in quotes and allusions to OT passages.”
          Well, I’m not sure what or how you define “early” epistles & I fear the definition is open to a sliding scale, as it were. But here are some references to the earthly Jesus in some early epistles. I guess I’ll leave out those that also touch on OT passages, as you already accept them:
          ++ As previously noted, there is a very explicit reference to Jesus’ teaching in 1Cor.7:10. Or do you label 1Cor as “not early”?
          ++ Again in 1Cor.11:1
          ++ Again in 1Thess.1:6
          Now add:
          ++ 1Thess.1:10 (yes, there’s the “from heaven” part — but also the “raised from the dead” which necessitates earthly embodiment.
          ++ Rom.1:3 (which explicitly mentions “his earthly life”)
          ++ Rom.1:4 (resurrection from the dead necessitates earthly)
          ++ Rom.3:25-26
          ++ Rom.4:24
          …and lots of others in Romans…
          ++ 1Cor.1:6 — specifically states that Paul talked about Jesus with the Corinthian church.
          ++ 1Cor.1:12-13
          ++ 1Cor.1:23
          ++ 1Cor.2:2
          ++ 1Cor.2:8 — specifically states that the rulers of this age crucified him
          …and lots of others in 1Corinthians…
          ++ 2Cor.1:5 — Jesus suffered
          ++ 2Cor.1:19 — specifically states that Paul (and Silas and Timothy) preached about Jesus to the Corinthian church
          ++ 2Cor.2:12 — specifically states that Paul preached about Jesus in Troas
          …and lots of others in 2Corinthians…
          ++ Gal.1:1 — raised from the dead, which necessitates being earthly
          ++ Gal.2:21 — Christ died — necessitates that he lived on the earth
          ++ Gal.3:1 — ditto
          …other references to Jesus’ crucifixion in Galatians…
          ++ Eph.1:10 — at least a good implication that Jesus has an earthly existence
          ++ Eph.1:12-13 — a strong implication that Paul had preached about Jesus to the Ephesians.
          ++ Eph.2:13
          …etc…

          Seriously, this is easy. Very easy.

          A second brief specific:
          + You assert: “If the argument between Jesus and the scribes in Mark 7 actually happened, then the argument between Paul and Peter in Galatians 2 would not have happened.”
          They are dealing with similar topics, yes. But even if they were identical topics, the logic of one precluding the other is not valid. Peter was a human being. He acted in inconsistent ways sometimes. Furthermore, note that in the Acts15/Gal.2 incident, Peter didn’t actually even *preach* a Judaizing word; rather, he simply acted a certain way that implied a separation between Jews and Gentiles. To say that Peter would never possibly ever ever have ever slipped up in his discernment between Judaic principles (of his whole life up until Cornelius in Acts 10) and the new Christian principles — this is demanding an awful lot of our poor friend Peter.

          But on to the main point.

          You’re misinterpreting the clear statements of the NT. I don’t know what is cause and which is effect, between the misinterpretation itself and the edifice of your sources theory/ies. Probably a complex interplay. But the bottom line is that you’re winding up with an interpretation that is blatantly wrong. [Not to put too fine a point on it.] Take Galatians 3 for example. You interpret it such that:
          + Paul is establishing the fact of Jesus’ crucifixion and death
          + the bewitchers, against whom Paul is arguing, are Cephas and James
          + Cephas and James deny the Crucifixion

          But that’s blatantly wrong. That is clearly not what Galatians as a whole nor ch.3 in particular, is talking about. In ch.3, Paul is completely focused on showing the effectiveness of faith and the ineffectiveness of works of the Law. The bewitchers are unnamed; their goal is to get Gentile Christians to convert to Judaism & follow the Law — while maintaining their Christian-hood. And it’s utterly illogical to hold that Cephas or James denied the Crucifixion, given their history elsewhere.

          Clearly, I am not going to convince you of these things. That’s why I keep urging you to just go back and read the book itself (be it Galatians or Luke or any other). It’s clear. It’s right there. Take a look!

          And finally — something that will probably come as no surprise — I don’t think I’ll spend my time or money on that Robert M. Price book. I am now quite thoroughly convinced of its meaninglessness.

          I hope I haven’t finished up being too strident. It’s just – having exhausted other means — I’m trying to be kind but confrontive.

        • Greg G.

          Well, I’m not sure what or how you define “early” epistles & I fear the definition is open to a sliding scale, as it were.

          Nope, just the ones that scholars put as late – the Pastorals and 2 Peter.

          ++ As previously noted, there is a very explicit reference to Jesus’ teaching in 1Cor.7:10. Or do you label 1Cor as “not early”?

          But 1 Corinthians 7:10 does not say that Jesus said it. It says “the Lord”. 1 Corinthians 14:21 also quotes the Lord but it is from Isaiah 28:11-12. 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 references Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Paul is writing to Gentiles who live under a law that allows women to divorce whereas Deuteronomy has no such porvision. Mark took Paul’s words and attributed them to Jesus. Matthew copied Mark but thought it would be silly for Jesus to mention women divorcing when talking to his disciples who would have followed Old Testament law. Luke thought the conversation shouldn’t be mentioned. There are some other places that Paul used the same language to refer to OT scripture.

          I’ll get back to this later. Many of those verses you brought up are already shown to be OT references in the link I gave earlier. Here it is again:

          Paul’s Sources about Jesus

          The one about Jesus being crucified by the rulers of this age follows what I am saying that the early Christians thought Jesus had existed on Earth centuries before their time and all they knew about him could only be known through scripture. So the being raised from the dead doesn’t argue against me. 1 Corinthians 15:4 says Jesus was buried, found in Isaiah 53:9, and that he was raised on the third day, a mystery found in Hosea 6:2.

          What I am looking for could be as bold as “Jesus walked on the moon”, as insignificant as “Jesus liked kumquats”, or something in between like “Jesus taught X” so long as it doesn’t have a source in the scriptures of the day. Anything that would show that the author knew something about a first century Jesus. It is remarkable that Paul could talk mention Jesus by name or by Christ over 300 times in about 1500 verses, or once about every third verse if you count pronouns and the ambiguous “Lord”, without giving out even one such detail. That goes for every other epistle, too. Even 1 Timothy and 2 Peter can only make gospel references with nothing like independent knowledge of Jesus.

          I hope I haven’t finished up being too strident. It’s just – having exhausted other means — I’m trying to be kind but confrontive.

          I like your criticism. I don’t care how contentious criticism is if it has some interesting challenges.

        • CJ

          You: “The one about Jesus being crucified by the rulers of this age follows what I am saying that the early Christians thought Jesus had existed on Earth centuries before their time and all they knew about him could only be known through scripture. So the being raised from the dead doesn’t argue against me.”

          Well, you got me there. If Jesus lived centuries BC, and was crucified [by Romans???] and resurrected centuries earlier, then yes those same statements could be made. Yes. So… are you wanting to found a new Christian sect, “The Church of the Long-Before Resurrected Lord”? In other words, you have a very unusual view.

          How is it that nobody earlier in the 2000 year history of the Church managed to figure that out? Might you be reading something into the text that just isn’t there?

        • CJ

          You: “What I am looking for could be as bold as “Jesus walked on the moon”, as insignificant as “Jesus liked kumquats”, or something in between like “Jesus taught X” so long as it doesn’t have a source in the scriptures of the day. Anything that would show that the author knew something about a first century Jesus. It is remarkable that Paul could talk mention Jesus by name or by Christ over 300 times in about 1500 verses, or once about every third verse if you count pronouns and the ambiguous “Lord”, without giving out even one such detail.”

          OK, one last try. I’m sure you’ll find some reason to disqualify it, because it can’t be something you haven’t noticed. But I’ll still point out that 1Cor.11:23-26 is a “Jesus said & did X” statement. It clearly relates to the Last Supper, as found in Matthew 26:26f, Mark 14:22f, Luke 22:17f, and for that matter in 1Cor.10:16.

          Now, just to pre-empt the discussion of sources: I’ll accept that Paul wrote it down first, here in 1Cor. And then Mark, Luke, Matthew in any order you like. Great. The point is that here’s one example that sure *seems* to qualify through your criteria. Or does the reference to the Passover Seder constitute an OT disqualifier?

          Finally, and BTW, why on earth should the OT disqualify a reference to Jesus as being to a 1st-century Jesus? It is entirely natural for Jews to reference the OT. In fact, we have direct statements that Jesus explained to his disciples how the OT showed who he was. The most direct is of course Luke 24:25-7. And then we have statements that the disciples picked up on that (rather obviously), e.g. Acts 3:18.

          Your requirement to exclude any OT references is peculiar. I see that you must have it, in order to claim your conclusion that Jesus actually lived centuries earlier. But it is artificial. Jews would naturally use the OT to argue their case about a Messiah.

        • Greg G.

          Finally, and BTW, why on earth should the OT disqualify a reference to Jesus as being to a 1st-century Jesus? It is entirely natural for Jews to reference the OT. In fact, we have direct statements that Jesus explained to his disciples how the OT showed who he was. The most direct is of course Luke 24:25-7. And then we have statements that the disciples picked up on that (rather obviously), e.g. Acts 3:18.

          Your requirement to exclude any OT references is peculiar. I see that you must have it, in order to claim your conclusion that Jesus actually lived centuries earlier. But it is artificial. Jews would naturally use the OT to argue their case about a Messiah.

          I am asking for epistle evidence that the authors knew about a first century Jesus. If it includes an allusion to the OT, it is not clear that it is a first century event. The epistles make hundreds of references to Jesus. The epistles are a third of the New Testament, which is supposed to be about a first century Jesus. If he were a first century person, it shouldn’t be too much to ask for just one clear reference to him as a first century person from the earliest Christian writings. It shouldn’t even be difficult. It definitely should not be impossible to do.

          You have given several potential verses and I haven’t investigated them all yet, so maybe you have been successful and we don’t know it yet.

          As to 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, it fails on several points. I gave it to Yonah a few days ago and he wasn’t bothered by it.

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2016/02/five-christian-principles-used-to-give-the-bible-a-pass-2-of-2-let-the-bible-clarify-the-bible/#comment-2521705048

          The epistles do not say that Jesus was a teacher or a preacher. They do not give anything that is clear that the apostles thought he was a first century person. The fact that Paul, who never claims to have met him, could think he knew as much as the other apostles indicates he didn’t think they knew Jesus either.

          The gospels are written as if they are a mimesis, a combination of older literature to tell a new story. They have Greek and Egyptian influences besides the Hebrew literature.

          The early first century Christians thought of a Jesus who had lived a long time before and the late first century Christians wrote him as a contemporary of the first century Christians.

        • Greg G.

          I don’t think I’ll spend my time or money on that Robert M. Price book.

          No need to do so. I gave you the link to the essay that is the heart of the book. Here it is again:

          New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash by Robert M. Price

        • MNb

          “My explanation ”
          is nothing but one big Ad Hoc Argument as long as you refuse to discuss your methodology and test it on other characters of Antiquity. It’s telling you flat out refused to do so the last time I asked you and instead tried to play a creationist-like game with me by blaming me for refusing to go with you when you wanted to change topic.
          It’s also telling for JM methodology that – again like creationism – in that very same thread three versions of JM were presented (one with a frigging conspiracy theory) and you guys were not capable of settling your differences, but rather tried to downplay them. And I’m not even talking your buddy Po who promised to provide archeological evidence and instead presented a mine-quote from Wikipedia – what he omitted was exactly the opposite of what he claimed.
          Ah well, I suppose atheism must have its own version of pseudoscience.

        • Otto

          I have yet to hear of a convincing argument for a historical Jesus. There are a whole host of holes in that argument as well.

          What part of the Biblical story of Jesus can be considered historical and what is the basis for it?

        • MNb

          So that’s your method? Only what argument you think convincing matters? Creationists will rejoice. I rather stick to evidence plus consistent and coherent theories – ie the scientific method.
          Apparently you are just another JM who doesn’t care about methodology. In my previous comment I didn’t make any argument for a historical Jesus. I question JM methodology.

          “What part of the Biblical story of Jesus can be considered historical and what is the basis for it?”
          You first. What part of any document from Antiquity can be considered historical and what’s the basis for it?
          Plus of course: which version of JM do you think correct and how do you decide that?

        • Otto

          I rather stick to evidence plus consistent and coherent theories – ie the scientific method.

          OK what is the evidence? The only thing available is the Bible. The Bible is shown to be highly unreliable as a historical document from antiquity so what contemporary corroborating evidence is there? According to the Bible Jesus was known far and wide in and around Syria, yet no contemporary historian records anything about him. So either he wasn’t known far and wide but was still a real person or it is all made up. So what I am asking is what information about Jesus should be considered historical and why? The Jesus story contradicts much of what is known about the culture at the time.

          You seem to argue like a Christian apologist, i.e. we are just supposed to take the historical Jesus as a given until it can be proven otherwise. That does not sound like the application of the scientific method. You may not have made an argument for a historical Jesus but it is plainly obvious that you take it as a given and a settled issue.

          I don’t know if there was a historical Jesus or not and since that is the case you are wrong to call me a JM. My point is that the historical question does not seem to be a settled issue. If you think it is settled I am wondering what makes you think that?

        • MNb

          “You seem to argue like a Christian apologist,”
          As you’re not stupid I must conclude you’re prejudiced. In my previous comment I explicitely stated that I won’t argue for a historical Jesus.

          “i.e. we are just supposed to take the historical Jesus as a given”
          Quote please. Where did I write that? You are the one who uses creationist logic by addressing all kind of things I didn’t write and have zero desire to defend.

          “You may not have made an argument for a historical Jesus”
          Then you’re wrong to assume I will. Prejudiced, dishonest or both, pick your choice.

          “but it is plainly obvious that you take it as a given and a settled issue.”
          Great. We have another guy who understands better what I write than I myself. ‘Cuz obvious. Now that’s a solid base for a discussion.
          Marvellous how self-declared skeptics can be skeptical about everything except what they postulate themselves.

          “you are wrong to call me a JM. My point is that the historical question does not seem to be a settled issue.”
          OK. Then I withdraw those words. See, unlike you I accept what people actually write and not what I want to read in their words. Also I have lost interest as I cannot expect from you to discuss JM methodology – which is the sole topic that does interest me. Plus it makes your first reaction to me totally irrelevant. Unlike you may assume I’m also totally desinterested in convincing you. The only interesting issue that remains is

          “contemporary corroborating evidence”
          Is that your method? You only accept a character as historical if there is contemporary corroborating evidence without any contradictions?

        • Otto

          “I explicitly stated that I won’t argue for a historical Jesus.”

          But you seem to argue against anyone who seriously considers the possibility of Jesus being a complete fabrication as a loon. Am I wrong about that and you agree with me that the issue is not settled? If I am wrong I am sorry, but I have seen you take a position on these boards against anyone taking the stance of Jesus being fictional as ‘pseudoscience’ and conspiracy nuts.

          Since you you won’t argue for a historical Jesus and yet take issue with anyone who does maybe you could clear things up by explaining and clarifying your position?

          Richard Carrier and Robert M. Price are leading proponents of JM and yet neither would say that in their opinion Jesus being a myth is 100% in their minds. Ricard Carrier says that in his opinion he would put is at a 1/3 chance that Jesus was historical. They argue in probabilities.

          “Is that your method? You only accept a character as historical if there is contemporary corroborating evidence without any contradictions?

          Contemporary corroborating evidence would at least be a data point but it is not the only thing I would accept, but we don’t have that. We have the Bible and the Bible is not contemporary to Jesus. If we accept the Jesus story from the Bible sans the supernatural elements we have a cult leader that pissed off the establishment to the point they put him to death because he was a serious threat….yet none of his enemies took notice enough to record anything. One of the big incidents that lead to his death of Jesus was his attack of the money changers driving them out of the Temple grounds in Jerusalem. Historically we know that could not have happened as it is related in the Bible. So the question becomes what part of the historical Jesus can we hang our hats on and why?

          You seem to get very angry and emotional when discussing this issue and I just don’t know why? It really doesn’t matter to me if there was a historical Jesus or not, I just find the question interesting. I accepted Jesus as historical for most of my life but after listening to reasonable JM theories I have moved into the agnostic category on the subject. How would you describe yourself on the issue?

          A good analogous example would be King Arthur. Historians generally don’t believe that there was a King Arthur but many suspect there was a historical figure on which the legend is based on, but just because there was someone it was possibly based on they do not make the argument ‘King Arthur was historical’. Why should we accept that ‘Jesus was historical’? (That question is rhetorical because you have clearly stated you will not attempt to answer it).

        • MNb

          “But you seem to”
          Sorry, if you didn’t accept what I wrote in my previous comment I have no reason to assume you will now. I don’t like repeating myself.

          “yet take issue with anyone who does”
          Since when is asking someone to explain his/her methodology synonymous with taking issue?

          “You seem to get very angry and emotional”
          Are you another internet psychologist? Apologists like to tell me the same. Just another christian fool whose name I can’t remember now just did today. I don’t see any reason to take your remark any more seriously than his.

          “when discussing this issue and I just don’t know why?”
          I wrote that six hours ago just above. Look it up, will you? It’s just a few comments above – the first comment of mine you answered. Yes, I admit I have little patience for stupidities like those, especially from people who are not stupid at all otherwise. I expect people like you not to ask questions I already have answered for instance.

          “Contemporary corroborating evidence would at least be a data point but it is not the only thing I would accept,”
          What more would you accept?
           

          “So the question becomes what part of the historical Jesus can we hang our hats on and why?”
          No – the question is how we decide to separate fact from fiction in literature from Antiquity. Two criteria are multiple attestation and the principle of embarrassment. Also relevant is Ockham’s Razor. Above all any method should be tested or is nothing but an Ad Hoc argument. And now we’re back at where I started.

          “‘pseudoscience’ and conspiracy nuts”
          Well, pardon me, but a JM minequoting something from Wikipedia and presenting it as archeological evidence is a sure sign of pseudoscience. And you’re misrepresenting what I wrote – prejudiced once again? I called exactly one JM a conspiracy nut. Because he defended the “theory” that the Romans invented the character of Jesus and referred to this book. 

          http://www.amazon.com/Caesars-Messiah-Roman-Conspiracy-Invent/dp/1569754578

          How is that not pseudoscience? Especially if the main argument of that nut was “I only accept conspiracy theories that are true”?
          Crap is crap, whether atheists or believers produce it. I don’t suffer from tribal preferences and don’t discriminate, so I’m not going to be polite just because someone doesn’t believe in god and writes sensible things on other topics. I treat all crap the same. What I’m not saying – and what you falsely suggest – is that all JM is crap. Once again that’s only your prejudice.
          In fact JM’s should be happy with me asking those questions. It should increase their credibility. Typical that they neglect that opportunity, I think. But who knows, once upon a time ….

        • Otto

          I am happy you ask the questions…and I do agree the idea of Jesus being a Roman invention is crap.

          Multiple attestation is a good data point. We don’t have that for Jesus. Embarrassment is another I agree, though I don’t see that as being terribly convincing in the case for Jesus either.

          I don’t have a problem with you being blunt at all. I just think this could be more discussion and less attack. Goes for me too.

        • MNb

          “We don’t have that for Jesus.”
          Can you show me how Marcus, the Q-document and Acts depend on each other? With evidence, not merely speculations? If you can’t we have multiple attestation. Greg G rejects the Q-document because we don’t have the original. I have forgotten what his view on Acts is.

          “Embarrassment is another I agree, though I don’t see that as being terribly convincing in the case for Jesus either.”
          You don’t think the endtime prophecy of for instance Marcus 9:1 and 14:62 embarrassing for Jesus? If we accept a date of 70 CE or later – and most atheists don’t accept an earlier date – it was already clear the prophecy hadn’t come true. Given the enthusiasm most atheists – including me – display when rubbing this christians under their nose I find that quite peculiar.
          Another famous one is Mattheus 27:46. According to Pofarmer that’s a literary device. What was the intention of the author in that case? What point did he want to make?

          And regarding Ockham: what sense do apostles make without a messias? Or do you doubt them as well?

        • Otto

          The authorship of Mark is unknown. The existence of a Q document is speculation and if it did exist the authorship is also unknown. When it comes to attestation there is far more needed for verification than 2 separate stories, we need to know the connection the writers had to the subject, etc. Just because they are separate says nothing about the historical value without further information about the people doing the attestation.

          I don’t see how a failed prophecy points to a historical Jesus. Christians thought Jesus would return to bring the end of the world and it didn’t happen. How does that connect to a real person? There were Christians that lived in the 1st century that never believed in a flesh and blood Jesus, only a spirit.

          What do we know about the apostles historically and what are the sources for them?

        • MNb

          Then you reject multiple attestation. It just means two or more independent sources, nothing more. You have replaced it by “we must know biographical details about authors before we can accept what he writes.”

          You didn’t answer my question. Does an unfullfilled prophecy embarrass a character that claims to be the messias or not? If yes, why would an author who promotes a messianic character put an unfullfilled prophecy in his mouth, given that the author already knew that the prophecy was unfulfilled?

          “What do we know about the apostles historically and what are the sources for them?”
          Too broad a question. It’s enough that they existed and claimed to follow Jesus (the latter is by definition). Various apostles were mentioned by

          Papias.
          Polycarpus.
          Pope Clement I.
          Ignatius of Antioch.

          Again you didn’t answer my question What sense do apostles make without a messias?
          Or are you again demanding a detailed biography before you even want to consider the question?

        • Greg G.

          Then you reject multiple attestation. It just means two or more independent sources, nothing more.

          We don’t have multiple independent attestation for Jesus. The epistles don’t tells us specifically when they thought Jesus lived but their information about him is centuries old and one writer who knew people who were supposed to know the guy thought he knew as much as they did about Jesus, which implies that he thought they didn’t know Jesus.

          Mark takes quotes from Paul so it is not independent and it writes passages which are fiction unless one is a true believer. The three other gospels use those fictional passages, showing they are not independent.

        • MNb

          Then show how Marcus is completely, from the first letter to the last letter, dependent on Paulus. Same for the parts in Mattheus and Lucas that can’t be found in Marcus. Thus far you haven’t done that.
          And back that up with concrete evidence, not with your particular exegesis, for which I don’t care anymore than for the exegesis of Ken Ham.
          Just to compare:

          http://www.livius.org/articles/theory/testis-unus-testis-nullus/

          Still enough to conclude that Gracchus issued a bill indeed.

        • Greg G.

          Then show how Marcus is completely, from the first letter to the last letter, dependent on Paulus.

          I am not saying that Mark is completely dependent on Paul. Mark uses the literature of the day from Greek, Jewish, and Christian sources. From near the end of Mark 3 to near the end of Mark 4 correspond well to sayings from the Gospel of Thomas but CJ pointed out a Pauline verse that may have been a source for a verse in Mark 4 so I am reconsidering Thomas as a source. That would leave the epistles as the only Christian source and mostly Galatians, Romans, and 1 & 2 Corinthians.

          Mark’s use of Paul is usually to give Paul’s words to Jesus, so it is not evidence of Jesus. The Jesus character is often representing Paul’s view. The disciples in Mark are not the sharpest knives in the drawer. They are not heroes in Mark. The three disciples who play the biggest roles throughout are James, John, and Peter. Andrew is mentioned once and Judas plays a role at the end. The other seven are not mentioned after chapter 3. James, John, and Peter just happen to be the three guys named in Galatians. Paul reports that Peter changed his behavior kowtowing in fear of the circumcision faction when the men James sent arrived in Antioch. Mark has Peter kowtowing in fear to a maid who asked if he followed Jesus. The three of them are said to be “pillars” and Paul expressed disdain for the high and mighty postiton. Mark has James and John asking for a greater position, to sit at either hand of Jesus when he comes into power. In Mark 7, scribes take issue with the disciples not following Jewish cleanliness rituals when eating. Jesus is taking Paul’s position in the argument with Peter about him starting to follow Jewish customs when the men from James came. If Mark 7 had actually happened, Peter would have agreed with Paul in Galatians 2. The theme of Mark may be taken from Galatians itself.

          I have posted New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash by Robert M. Price many, many times. It summarizes the work of several different scholars who have traced the sources of Mark, independently. It doesn’t cover that chapter 4 gap very well but most of the other gaps are verses about traveling between scenes.

          Same for the parts in Mattheus and Lucas that can’t be found in Marcus. Thus far you haven’t done that.

          I have referenced Mark Goodacre, who references Goulder and Farrar, and posted links to his articles that show evidence that Luke was copying Matthew.

          The Sermon on the Mount Site: James and the Sermon on the Mount by Robert I. Kirby shows a pattern of Matthew’s Jesus quoting ideas from James, that were not said to be quotes from Jesus. If that is the source for the Sermon on the Mount, Luke using the same wording in the Sermon on the Plain clearly eliminates the need for Q.

          I have shown that Matthew’s nativity is modeled on Moses’ nativity but it is more like Josephus’ account of it and other aspects of the story are also in Josephus.

          New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash by Robert M. Price also addresses some of the sources for Matthew and a large portion of Luke.

          “And back that up with concrete evidence, not with your particular exegesis”

          Says the guy who takes Q as an attestation.

        • Greg G.

          Greg G rejects the Q-document because we don’t have the original. I have forgotten what his view on Acts is.

          Correct that we don’t have a Q document or any mention of it anywhere but Greg G. rejects the Q document hypothesis because Luke copying from Matthew solves more problems than the Q document would. I think it was only imagined because they didn’t know why Luke would have rejected Matthew’s genealogy and nativity. Matthew’s genealogy makes a big deal about fourteen generations but according to OT sources he omitted four generations. Luke came up with a more reasonable and elegant genealogy. Luke probably rejected all the baby killing in Matthew’s nativity. Luke’s is more peaceful. The turn around seem to show rejection like lowly shepherds getting heavenly notification instead of foreign magi. Maybe Luke saw the problem with magi from the east following a star they saw in the east and ending up west of their location.

        • Greg G.

          “My explanation ”

          is nothing but one big Ad Hoc Argument as long as you refuse to discuss your methodology and test it on other characters of Antiquity.

          Jesus may be a singular case because we have no physical evidence and lots of excuses for that lack, a lot of literature about him, and a significant amount of the literature that was available to the authors who wrote about Jesus. It would be unreasonable to expect to have every writing they had. Most of the extrabiblical evidence is very late and appears to be derived from the gospels, which makes them as reliable as the gospels.

          We must read the texts to see what the authors knew about Jesus. We can look for first hand knowledge or the sources for their handed-down knowledge.

          Scholars have identified several possible, plausible, and probable sources for the gospels. We can pretty much rule out oral tradition completely. But the sources are not about Jesus, except for some of the epistles where the gospel authors have Jesus saying what the epistle writers wrote as their own ideas. We can rule out the gospels as authentic evidence for Jesus. The gospels can be classified in the genre of fiction.

          The epistles talk about Jesus a lot. Much of it is adulation about Jesus. Some of it is about Jesus coming as the Messiah or sitting at the right hand of God in heaven interceding on our behalf. Everything about an earthly Jesus is in terms of the Old Testament. There is nothing that indicates the authors knew a first century Jesus. Paul writes that his knowledge did not come from human authority but he doesn’t think that his knowledge is inferior to the super-apostles.

          It seems that the early first century Christians did not know the Christ they spoke of. It seems their Jesus was from their past and only known through scripture through prophecy, supposed prophecy, and allegory. There were plenty of people named Jesus in the first century but the epistles don’t seem to be about them with no clear references to a recent Jesus.

          The gospels then seem to have put that Jesus in the first century.

          We have no real evidence for Jesus and the closest thing to evidence appears to be two fictional Jesuses.

        • MNb

          How exactly is Jesus different from Diogenes of Sinope and Mohammed when it comes to physical evidence etc.?
          In the rest of your comment you don’t present any general principle. So shrug. I don’t share your obsession. It’s boring. I already know and understand your position. Not interested. Only interested in the road to that position.

          “We have no real evidence.”
          As long as you’re unwilling to test your method on other historical characters – and with “singular case” you imply you are – it remains the conclusion of one big Ad Hoc Argument.

          Also thanks for not explaining your method to decide between the several variations of JM. Given your generous approach to those who advocate other versions than yours I suspect that you like the Big Tent philosophy.

        • Greg G.

          Do we have literature available to the writers about Diogenes of Sinope or Mohammed that would show that the tales of those two were modeled on stories about others? Do we have any writings from their contemporaries that only refer to them as an already ancient person?

          It’s not only that the epistles and gospels don’t support Jesus in a positive way, there is also the evidence that practically everything about him was made up.

          Let’s try out this method on Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer. We have plenty of evidence that the Vampire Slayer part is made up but we have lots of evidence that Abraham Lincoln was real, so that is partially true.

          George Washington the cherry tree feller has evidence that he existed and evidence that the cherry tree story was made up.

          Paul Bunyan has no evidence that he existed and plenty of evidence that he was made up.

          Santa Claus has lots of evidence that he was made up but if we trace the transliterations of his name, “Santa” comes from “Saint” and “Claus” is a shortened form of “Nicholas”. There seems to be contemporary evidence of his existence plus stories that sound legendary. There would seem to be a real person there.

          Osiris, the Egyptian god, has thousands of years of writings about him but none that predate a fully developed legend. We can’t tell whether he started out as a god or a man that was deified, even if we reject the god part as made up.

          Jesus Christ has three types of documents: those that appear to be historical documents from non-Christian sources written about two generations later, writings that appear to be somewhat biographical but written a generation or two later, and letters from people who are from the time the other writings say he lived but they don’t speak of him as a recently living person. The historical non-Christian document appear to be taken from Christians who were reading the biographical writings. The biographical writings have lots of fantastical tales from Hebrew and Greek literature that were widely available to the authors and the non-fantastical parts also seem to be drawing from the centuries old Hebrew and Greek literature. So we have no reliable evidence that he existed and the best evidence appears to be fiction.

          Bond, James Bond has many stories about him and most of them appear to be complete fiction. But the stories can be traced back to a single author who reports that the Bond character is a composite of many people.

          King Arthur has many stories that are implausible. There were kings at the time. We cannot connect any of the tales to any one of them but neither do we have writings from anybody from that time making similar claims about a king from further back in history.

          PS: Cephas, James, and John have a contemporary mention of them as people living at that time. They are as reliably real as the letters, and portions of the letters, where they are mentioned. Cephas and James are mentioned multiple times.

        • MNb

          Now we’re getting somewhere. I’ll need some time though – look things up, so my compliment for the quality of our comment. For now two short remarks.

          As a Dutchman I’m very familiar with Saint Nicholas of Myra. We Dutch have celebrated his day for at least four centuries. And you’re wrong. There are no contemporary authors about him. The most important sources are from the 9th and 10th Century.

          “lots of fantastical tales from Hebrew and Greek literature that were widely available ”
          How does that rule out a historical character with a lot of fantastic tales attached?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          And you’re wrong. There are no contemporary authors about him.

          I think Greg G was talking about Santa Claus. There’s good evidence about the 8 reindeer and the Coca Cola connection–that presumably was the contemporary authors reference.

        • MNb

          Greg G wrote

          “Santa Claus has lots of evidence that he was made up but if we trace the transliterations of his name, “Santa” comes from “Saint” and “Claus” is a shortened form of “Nicholas”. There seems to be contemporary evidence of his existence plus stories that sound legendary. There would seem to be a real person there.”

          Ie Saint Nicholas. Coca Cola never named the character that way. Santa Claus comes from Sinterklaas. That’s Dutch for Saint Nicholas. That character goes back to Saint Nicholas of Myra. That’s the transliteration of the name. Now please reread the last sentence:

          “There would seem to be a real person there.”
          I somehow don’t think Greg G is talking about a real person called Saint Nicholas living in the USA around 1930. Do you?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I was using “contemporary” to mean “in our time.” Looks like that wasn’t the meaning either you or Greg G had in mind. I retract the comment.

        • Greg G.

          Now you are correct.

        • Pofarmer

          Rudolph, at least, was a marketing campaign by then retail giant J.C. Penny.

        • Greg G.

          “lots of fantastical tales from Hebrew and Greek literature that were widely available ”
          How does that rule out a historical character with a lot of fantastic tales attached?

          They crowd out the spaces where one could try to claim something came from an oral tradition or a recent source. By themselves, it only shows that the gospels don’t provide evidence for a first century Jesus. When the epistles are examined, the references to Jesus are past tense and allude to centuries old writings. One must read the gospels back into the epistles to get an impression of a recent Jesus but we have ruled that out by their reliance on out of date material.

        • MNb

          Merely repeating your statement with more words does not provide an answer. So I repeat: how does that rule out a historical character with a lot of fantastic tales attached?

        • Greg G.

          I told you that by itself does not rule out that possibility. You need the second prong of those who are supposed to be contemporaries and companions speaking as if he didn’t exist during their time. That is in the epistles.

        • MNb

          “speaking as if ”
          Ie your personal exegesis. Thank you.
          Now pardon me, I find that other comment of yours far more interesting.

        • Greg G.

          2 Corinthians 11:4-6 (NRSV)
          4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you submit to it readily enough. 5 I think that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. 6 I may be untrained in speech, but not in knowledge; certainly in every way and in all things we have made this evident to you.

          2 Corinthians 12:11 (NRSV)
          11 I have been a fool! You forced me to it. Indeed you should have been the ones commending me, for I am not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing.

          Pretty ballsy claims if Paul thought the super-apostles were trained by Jesus, or even if he knew that they knew him.

        • Pofarmer

          “And I’m not even talking your buddy Po who promised to provide archeological evidence and instead presented a mine-quote from Wikipedia – what he omitted was exactly the opposite of what he claimed.”

          What? I provided archaelogical evidence as defaced coins and what archaeologists believe was the grave marker for Diogones, where it should have been. The rest of the literature is hard to access on line, but those are definite.

        • MNb

          You quoted from this link:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diogenes_of_Sinope

          and carefully omitted

          “All that is available is a number of anecdotes concerning his life and sayings attributed to him in a number of scattered classical sources.”

          That’s the very definition of mine-quoting.

          Talking about coins is not the same as dug up actual coins.
          That grave marker you talk about is nothing but an erected pillar in Corinthia that is gone. Again talking about a pillar is not the same as an actual pillar.

          But you remain invited to produce actual dug up stuff instead of just more quotes from literature. You won’t, because there isn’t any. In the meantime it remains funny you’re still as gullible as a creationist and fond of your double standard.

        • Pofarmer

          Wow. Who’s the hyper skeptic now?

          “The coins found at Sinope, however, are ones which have been deliberately defaced. This is what it says in A History Of Cynicism by Donald R. Dudley (pages 54-55) [3]:

          During the decade after 350 the credit of Sinope was being seriously

          undermined by the circulation of imitations of her currency,
          emanating notably from the satrap of Cappadocia. What action was taken
          to meet the situation is readily seen. Of the 55 coins with Aramaic
          legends 31 (or about 60 per cent.), of the 40 barbarian coins 8 (or 20
          per cent.), have been defaced by a large chisel-stamp. This was done to
          put them out of circulation; and is, Mr. Seltman argues, paracharaxis
          in the true fourth-century sense. (The word was a rare one, it cannot
          mean the issue of false coinage, for which there was a different word,
          and besides no Sinopean coins of base metal are known.) The work must
          have been that of a high official at the Mint, it exactly coincides with
          what we are told about Diogenes’ father Hicesias. Hicesias, then, was a
          ‘sound money man’, he acted in the best interests of the State; why did
          he suffer imprisonment? Mr. Seltman has two suggestions. After the
          control of Datames at Sinope from 370 to 362 there was probably a
          pro-Persian party in the city, which could easily say that the paracharaxis, of the coins of the Cappadocian satrap was an insult which would probably lead to trouble. Furthermore, the paracharaxis
          was not confined to the imitation currency: of the good Sinopean coins,
          2 out of 43 listed of the first issue, 10 out of 130 of the third issue
          have been so defaced. This was probably due to carelessness on the part
          of under officials, but it could easily be turned into a serious
          accusation against the Master of the Mint. So for one or both of these
          reasons Hicesias was imprisoned, and his son Diogenes, who was an
          assistant at the
          Mint, was driven into exile.”

          A book by Percy Gardner talks about finding the plate with his tomb inscription on it.

          “One by Percy Gardner in 1896 – Sculptured tombs of Hellas – has this to
          say:

          An epitaph, which may have
          been written beneath the sculptured dog, on the tomb of Diogenes the
          Cynic , runs thus: “Lies he here, who dwelt in an earthen cask? Aye
          truly; but now that he is dead, he has the stars for his home.””

        • MNb

          “Who’s the hyper skeptic now?”
          Yeah, the results are less funny when I apply your own method to your own views, are they? I’m happy to play your own game a little more. Remember: it’s your game, not mine. Except that you want to apply it only to one specific historical character.

          “what we are told about Diogenes’ father”
          I underlined it for you, Cardinal Po. Again, so you can’t miss it: told. Comes from “tales” if I understand English well enough. And I seem to recall you don’t accept tales as evidence – let alone archeological evidence. Unless it suits you of course. Which is exactly my point.

          And did Percy Gardner tell when exactly that epitaph was written? I especially like the “may have been written”. Or may not. How do you know it’s the same Diogenes? It was not exactly an uncommon name.

          Dense as you are as soon as someone drops a five letter name beginning with J and ending with s I’ll repeat it explicitely: you’re hyperskeptical regarding a particular historical character that happens make your life miserable and not regarding other historical characters.
          I don’t have any problem with their historicity. You fail to make clear why I should reject one and accept another. Your method sucks. Badly.
          Thanks for confirming. It was fun again.

        • Pofarmer
        • CJ

          Greg,

          In our earlier discussion, I said that I’d take a look at John 3:3 “born again/from-above” when I got a chance to hit a library. (I can’t find the exact old posting, and it’s not worth ferreting out; so I’ll attach it here.) If for no other reason, then at least to show that I was serious, I’ll now report back. As it turns out, I think it is a good example of how it pays to read carefully & consider one’s presuppositions.

          I checked a couple of top-notch academic commentaries, and they “were not concerned” [a reference to something in the earlier conversation] about it. The two that I checked both noted the ambiguity of the phrase and both said that the best translation would be “born from above”. However, they did not delve into it further. Now, I thought, “Hey, how can you let it go at that? Shouldn’t you have discussed further the Greek ambiguity, Jesus’ intent, Nicodemus’ confusion, and even dealt with the question of different languages?” But they didn’t. So I got to thinking: maybe I wasn’t reading it very well.

          And indeed, upon rereading John 3 & further reflection, I think that – despite the vast differences in your & my viewpoints – we both were making the same bad assumption when we read this passage. If you’ll allow me to try to articulate both of our thoughts, it went something like this, as we understood the presentation of John 3:3ff:

          1. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born X”, where X is an ambiguous term that can mean “from above” or “again”.
          2. Nicodemus was confused by the ambiguity, and picked the “again” option, and replied to Jesus, “How can a person be born again?”
          3. Discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus ensues.

          However, in reading it this way, we were both assuming the confusion came from the ambiguity of the Greek term. This is an easy assumption to make, as we have our nice Bible editions with handy footnotes – one of which tells us that the Greek can mean “from above” or “again” – and as we are very familiar with the terminology (and, to some extent, even the concept) of spiritual rebirth.

          But hang on. As I re-read that section, it occurred to me that those background items were not necessarily part of the original setting. That is, the confusion could arise from something else (not an ambiguous word) and further, the familiarity of the term & concept of spiritual rebirth was not at all familiar to Nicodemus. Indeed, this would quite possibly be the very first time that Nicodemus had heard any statement at all about the concept; certainly, he would not have had 2000 years of Christian theological discussion to get familiar with being “born again”.

          So, I now suggest that the discussion could have proceeded along any of the following lines:

          Option 1:
          =======
          1. Jesus spoke in either Aramaic or Hebrew, and said, “You must be born from above” – in a phrase that was unambiguously “from above” and not “again”.
          2. Nicodemus didn’t know what Jesus was driving at, so he asked for clarification, “What do you mean, ‘born from above’? Nobody can climb back into his mother’s womb for a 2nd birth.”
          3. Discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus ensues.

          Option 2:
          =======
          1. Jesus spoke in either Aramaic or Hebrew, and said, “You must be born again” – in a phrase that was unambiguously “again” and not “from above”.
          2. Nicodemus didn’t know what Jesus was driving at, so he asked for clarification, “What do you mean, ‘born again’? Nobody can climb back into his mother’s womb for a 2nd birth.”
          3. Discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus ensues.

          Option 3:
          =======
          1. Jesus spoke in either Aramaic or Hebrew, and used a phrase that was ambiguous, possibly “You must be born again” or “You must be born from above”.
          2. Nicodemus was confused by the ambiguity, so he asked for clarification, “What do you mean, somehow ‘born’ a 2nd time? Nobody can climb back into his mother’s womb for a 2nd birth.”
          3. Discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus ensues.

          Option 4:
          =======
          1. Jesus spoke in Greek (perhaps specifically so that he could make use of the Greek ambiguity) and used the phrase that we have in the Greek Gospel of John, ambiguously either “You must be born again” or “You must be born from above”.
          2. Nicodemus was confused by the ambiguity, so he asked for clarification, “What do you mean, somehow ‘born’ a 2nd time? Nobody can climb back into his mother’s womb for a 2nd birth.”
          3. Discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus ensues.

          Any of these would explain the story as we find it in John 3. Of course, John is written in Greek, so we have additional steps in terms of the writing process; but in terms of the actual encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus, any of the above make sense. But in addition to this explanation of John 3, I’m trying to make 2 key points:

          1. We were both assuming that Nicodemus could only have been motivated to ask what he did if there was some ambiguity in Jesus’ statement. This is a bad assumption. Jesus’ statement could have been perfectly clear, but the concept was brand new to Nicodemus & he didn’t follow. So he asked for clarification.

          2. When we read the Bible (or any text), we need to try to take the text as the author intended it & thus we need to try to become aware of our biases & presuppositions – and set them aside as much as possible. In this particular case, we were both assuming knowledge that was not part of the original setting: a written Greek text, footnotes about Greek ambiguity, and most especially a long history of the Christian concept of spiritual rebirth. Nicodemus would not necessarily have shared either of these – certainly not the latter.

          It then occurred to me to check into the concept of being “born again,” in later NT texts. The phrase found in John 3:3 does not occur elsewhere in the NT. However, there is something very interesting. In 1Peter 1:3 and 1:23, the same concept is stated, but using a different word. This could be a significant clue. Peter uses a very rare verb which prepends a Greek prefix (‘ana’) that means “again, up, back” to the verb “to be born”. The verb is quite literally “to be born again”. This is not the same phraseology found in John. But it is a very rare verb and it is pretty reasonable to conclude that Peter is referring to the same concept that Jesus discussed with Nicodemus. If one were open to the idea, one might conclude that both John and Peter took an Aramaic/Hebrew phrase [either from their memory of the event, or from a written Aramaic/Hebrew document] and independently translated it into Greek. (Which, BTW, would argue against Option4, above.) One might also conclude that Peter in his letter was referring to a specific teaching of an earthly Jesus.

          However, I don’t really expect that you’ll care. I certainly don’t expect that you’ll accept the conclusions. In our previous discussions, it became clear that you are committed to a particular view. Which, of course, you’re certainly welcome to. I should apologize if my previous tone eventually became too… blunt. It’s just that it had become clear I was wasting my time. I find it quite pointless to debate committed anti-Christians and try to get them to set aside those biases when reading the Bible text. Honestly, I only followed up with this post because I had said I’d do the research (though I never promised to report on it), and because it turned out to be a good example of the benefit of setting aside our a priori assumptions – whatever they might be.

          With that, I’ll leave you with a repetition of my previous exhortation: read the text for what the author intended to communicate, whether it’s John 3 or Galatians, or for that matter Josephus or Augustine or Copernicus or Newton or Jimmy Carter.

          Have a good life.

        • Greg G.

          The 1 Peter verses are referring to being born again after death which aligns with Paul and the heavenly bodies in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:35-50. In that case, John 3 is talking about being born again/from above after death, which conflicts with the beliefs of every Christian who goes around claiming that they are “born again” already. The rest of the passage would then be about getting into position for the heavenly body, which aligns with Paul’s theology of faith.

          The author of John could have used the wording that the author of 1 Peter used but he didn’t. It is unlikely that the author of John would have written the story that way if he didn’t choose the wording he used deliberately. It is likely that was his intent.

          The author of John used Philo’s ideas about the Logos in the first 18 verses. Philo based his studies on some of Plato’s philosophy. He was probably smart enough to know what he was doing with the wording in chapter 3. On the other hand, in Mark after Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him, there is a sandwich used as a technique to show simultaneity when Jesus is being beaten and ordered to “Prophesy!” while his prophecy is being fulfilled. John has all the elements except for the “Prophesy” command, which spoils the irony Mark had. We know the story was invented by Mark because nobody could have been in both places to know they happened together. Luke seems to have recognized that problem by having the cock crow at Peter’s denial and Jesus giving him a “told ya” look, before being beaten and ordered to prophesy.

          The gospels are written with some entertainment value in mind. There is drama and suspense. One can expect some levity, too, to make a point in a clever way.

          Apologetics tries to make up reconciliations to make the Bible stories plausibly true in lieu of showing that any of it is true in a substantial way. Preachers go to college and get disabused of the what they were taught in Sunday School about the Bible. But after they graduate, they find that if they try to teach what they learned in college, they are out of a job because the congregation won’t have that.

        • Greg G.

          Regarding consideration of the author’s purpose or intent, it is clear that the author’s theme throughout the gospel is that people misunderstood Jesus. That should sound alarm bells for the believer if Jesus was wise but couldn’t express himself any better.

          John 2:19-22  “this temple”John 3:3-7  “born again”John 4:10-15  “living water”John 4:31-34  “food you don’t know about”John 6:32-36  “bread of God”John 6:41-51  “bread of God”John 6:52-58  “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”John 7:33-36  “where I am, you can’t come”John 7:41-43  “origins of Jesus”John 8:16-19  “Where is your father?”John 8:21-23  “Will he kill himself?”John 8:24-25  “Who are you?”John 8:26-29  “They didn’t understand that he spoke to them about the Father”John 8:31-36  “the truth will set you free”John 8:37-44  “Abraham’s children”John 8:51-55  “keep my word, never see death”John 8:56-58  “Before Abraham was born, I AM”John 10:1-7  “shepherd”John 10:38  “the Father is in me, and I in the Father”John 11:11-15  “sleep”John 11:23-27  “Your brother will rise again”John 12:32-36  “The Son of Man must be lifted up”John 13:33-14:3  “Lord, where are you going?”John 14:4-6  “Lord, we don’t know where you are going”John 14:7-12  “Lord, show us the Father”John 14:21-23  “Lord, what has happened that you are about to reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?”John 16:16-22  “What is this that he says to us?”John 21:22-23  “If I desire that he stay until I come, what is that to you?”

          There are also some editorial problems with the Gospel of John besides Peter’s denial.

          John 8:37“you seek to kill me” “to those Jews who had believed him”[John 8:31].John 11:2“it was Mary who anointed the Lord” occurs in the next chapter[John 12:3].John 14:31Jesus says, “Rise, let us be on our way” then gets up 86 verses later[John 18:1].

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      The argument is simply that the NT has been accurately transmitted

      That’s the argument … that I’m refuting. Did that not come across?

      Sure, we might have the New Testament books with zero meaningful errors, but how likely is that? We simply don’t know. The Christian stance must be, “Well, our New Testament might be accurate,” which isn’t that great a foundation on which to build a religion.

      one must logically also reject the accurate transmission of *any* classical document.

      Uh, yeah! We can’t be 100% certain of the accuracy of any document from that time. Is this a bombshell to you?

      The difference, of course, is that nothing much is riding on Julius Caesar’s account of the war with the Gauls. In the case of a religious document, however, the supernatural claims maybe being accurate is deadly to the religion.

      Herodotus’ History survives in 109 MSS (many of them mere fragments) — and the oldest of them dates to the 10th century AD. How would that graph look alongside your NT graph?

      Yeah, I get it—they’re both abysmal. Saying anything with 100% certainty is impossible.

      it appears that you are overlooking the **quotations** of the NT documents, within early Church writings. We have many thousands of letters and books written by early Church bishops & theologians. Within these multiplied documents are many quotations from the NT books. Even if we didn’t have the many ancient copies of the NT books themselves, we could use these quotations and reconstruct virtually the whole of the NT.

      Yes, I’ve heard this argument. I think I remember someone saying that every verse in the New Testament was in the early church fathers’ documents except for 11 verses. (Maybe you can confirm.)

      The problem with this argument, as I’m sure you’re aware, is that “every verse is in that corpus” is a pretty flabby statement. For starters, given just the early church fathers’ writings, separating out and recompiling the New Testament would be impossible. Some is quoted verbatim (“As the gospel of Mark says, ‘blah blah blah’”), but you don’t know how it fits with other quotations of Mark since there were no chapter/verse numbers. And much is identified by modern scholars in hindsight, with the books in mind. That is, separating out the father’s personal comments from the bit inspired by a line in Luke (say) can only be done with the gospels open next to you.

      This may be worth a post. I haven’t researched it much.

      To be thorough, this would raise the question of what are the oldest surviving copies of those many documents. I doubt anybody has tried to tackle that large of a task.

      Oh, yeah—a huge task. When was the original written? What are our best copies, and when were they written? In general, what’s the chain of custody, going from our best copies, back through translators and/or copyists, to the original, and thence on to the New Testament book?

      You can of course hold that the accurately-transmitted NT is just accurately-transmitted fiction.

      Or, I could worry about inaccurately transmitted New Testament books.

      it is illogical to hold that the NT documents are not accurately transmitted, and are therefore unreliable, while simultaneously holding that any other classical document **is** reliable.

      “Reliable” means two different things. “Not bad, considering” is fine for most documents of history. For a religion, however, that gives one very little trust in the supernatural claims.

      • CJ

        “That’s the argument … that I’m refuting. Did that not come across?”

        Yes, of course. And my response is that, in my opinion:
        + you’ve overlooked the strength of the data, in various ways.
        + you’ve lost sight of the nature of the original argument, and have moved into topics of the historicity of the content — when that was not what the original argument was even concerned with. [Though of course, it is what we’re all ultimately thinking about.]

        From your response now, as in “We can’t be 100% certain of the accuracy of any document from that time.” it now appears that you are taking a particular position. And it’s a fine one to take: don’t trust any classical document. That is logical, coherent. It leaves us not knowing much about history… but at least it is a coherent view.

        Regarding the quotations from the early Church fathers: I agree with you on the difficulty of the hypothetical task of reconstructing the NT based purely on the quotations in the fathers. However, that’s not the real point of that argument. The point there is that we do, in fact, have a great deal of additional textual evidence supporting the NT texts, which can [in addition to all the direct MSS evidence] help raise the confidence level in a given passage’s wording, on the occasion that there is some meaningful doubt. Which is not often. (Language is like that. You can out a few and the meaning of text still through.)

        Regarding 100% confidence: of course not. If you want 100% confidence, better become a mathematician, because no other topic will hit that bar.
        As regards Christian faith — it will always require an element of faith. It is a reasoned faith. There is good supporting evidence. But it will always come down to faith in a God who loves, and who communicated his love by incarnating himself as a human, explaining his plan, and dying for us.

        PS: Re: “except for 11 verses. (Maybe you can confirm.)” I don’t know. Honestly, I’d be surprised if it was only 11 verses. There are some pretty mundane verses here & there which would seem unlikely to ever come up in conversation. But I don’t know.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          don’t trust any classical document.

          No, it’s don’t trust any classical document completely. News flash: no one does.

          I agree with you on the difficulty of the hypothetical task of reconstructing the NT based purely on the quotations in the fathers.

          It’s good that we agree.

          However, that’s not the real point of that argument.

          Maybe not in your hands, but that’s precisely the argument that I’ve heard from others.

          The point there is that we do, in fact, have a great deal of additional textual evidence supporting the NT texts, which can [in addition to all the direct MSS evidence] help raise the confidence level in a given passage’s wording, on the occasion that there is some meaningful doubt.

          OK.

          Which is not often.

          And you’ve identified the biggest problem.

          Suppose there are two textual traditions, A and B. The scholars go to work and conclude that tradition A is the older and therefore more authentic. So far so good.

          Now suppose there are two traditions, but we’ve lost all of tradition B. Those manuscripts just didn’t make it. Now what do you do? You don’t even know where this problem exists. Are there ten instances in the New Testament? A thousand? We just don’t know.

          Again, for something that requires absolute reliability like a supernatural story, you see the problem.

          (Language is like that. You can out a few and the meaning of text still through.)

          Does it? I think you’re a for having such a idea.

          Regarding 100% confidence: of course not. If you want 100% confidence, better become a mathematician, because no other topic will hit that bar.

          Yep, that’s the problem. You’ve got a book full of supernatural claims, and all you can say is, “Well, at least some of it might be true. Maybe.”

          As regards Christian faith — it will always require an element of faith. It is a reasoned faith.

          You’ve lost me. There’s simply not enough evidence to believe. You don’t believe in astrology or Bigfoot, do you? The evidence must cross a bar before you believe (unless you’ve got some particular agenda that leads to special pleading, where you lower the bar of evidence for something).

          Of course, you might “just believe.” Evidence isn’t an issue for you. That’d be fine, but in that case, don’t come here and tell us that there’s sufficient evidence to support your incredible claims.

          it will always come down to faith in a God who loves, and who communicated his love by incarnating himself as a human, explaining his plan, and dying for us.

          A supernatural guy created the universe just for us? That’s the most outlandish claim possible. No, faith won’t do.

        • CJ

          Bob,
          Your original article sounded like you were a level-headed, calm kind of guy. Now, you’ve seemed to jettison that approach and are even resorting, literally, to name-calling.

          Well, as you wish. I will only reply thus:

          You speculate about lost textual traditions corrupting the NT. We have thousands of MSS that typically differ on things like spelling or the order of words or the inclusion or exclusion of a definite article. Such things are extremely unlikely to alter the meaning of a sentence/paragraph/book. You’ve looked at a critical edition of the NT, haven’t you? How would you characterize the typical textual uncertainty? Is it not fair to characterize them as variant spellings, word order, verb conjugations, etc? There are a few passages that are indeed more substantial; that gets us into a global view of the entire biblical text. That is, let’s say we just throw out any such passage; nevertheless, the same topic is covered in multiple other passages that are not subject to textual uncertainty.
          Meanwhile, when those thousands of MSS copies agree on the text, you can always say, “Well, maybe tradition B was completely lost.” Sure, maybe. But that’s the biggest argument from silence I’ve ever seen.

          You conclude with: “A supernatural guy created the universe just for us? That’s the most outlandish claim possible. No, faith won’t do.”
          I can think of one that’s more outlandish: the universe created itself. Don’t you see that your position requires every bit as much faith as does mine? You have faith in creation ex nihilo … ex nihilo. You place ultimate faith in yourself & in your power of reason. Well, more power to you, then. Most humans are fallible.

          You complain that I have faith in a book that cannot be proven to be 100% true. OK. But simultaneously, you have faith that that book is false — which you cannot prove to be 100% true. So how exactly is it that your position is fundamentally superior to mine? At least mine has the support of real, extant textual evidence.

          But enough. I see that I’m wasting my time.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          you’ve seemed to jettison that approach and are even resorting, literally, to name-calling.

          Did I? Show me the name.

          If you’re thinking of my “I think you’re a for having such a idea,” where I tried my hand at dropping words after your example, you’ve undercut your argument. The words that didn’t make it were only complimentary. You must’ve inserted the wrong ones.

          We have thousands of MSS that typically differ on things like spelling or the order of words or the inclusion or exclusion of a definite article.

          (1) The point of the article must’ve been much harder for an honest reader to pull out. Yes, there are thousands, but no one cares. Imagine if the 25,000 manuscripts went to only the most useful 25. That’s a factor of 1000 reduction, but how much would be lost of the New Testament? Something, I’ll agree, but our Bibles would change insignificantly, if at all.

          (2) But ignoring all that and looking at your point, yes, I understand that most errors are meaningless.

          Such things are extremely unlikely to alter the meaning of a sentence/paragraph/book.

          Agreed, but you’ve gone off on a tangent. The point is that the manuscript record, so impressive numerically, is quite incomplete and is potentially in error in many significant ways. We just don’t know.

          How would you characterize the typical textual uncertainty?

          My point is very simple. Surely it’s not confusing.

          Given the set of manuscripts, the English version of the New Testament is quite reliable. But you see the problem that remains, right?

          Is it not fair to characterize them as variant spellings, word order, verb conjugations, etc?

          Wow–so not what I’m talking about.

          you can always say, “Well, maybe tradition B was completely lost.” Sure, maybe. But that’s the biggest argument from silence I’ve ever seen.

          For the New Testament books, look at the time gaps, verse by verse, between original document and our oldest copies. For a couple of verses of John, it might be 25-50 years. For much of Mark, it might be more than two centuries. What confidence do we have that any verse is authentic (no, I’m not quibbling over spelling trivia; I’m talking about our correct understanding of the original point)? “Pretty good” isn’t much on which to build a supernatural claim.

          I can think of one that’s more outlandish: the universe created itself.

          Huh? Every instance where we’ve had a science vs. supernatural question (Where does lightning come from? etc.) that has a consensus answer, science has won. Every single time.

          It’s not looking too good for the supernatural creation of the universe.

          Don’t you see that your position requires every bit as much faith as does mine?

          Nope. I have no faith (that is, belief built on insufficient evidence or in the face of contrary evidence).

          You have faith in creation ex nihilo … ex nihilo.

          Wrong again. When there’s a consensus on the creation of the universe, I’ll be happy to accept it. But you believe in creation from nothing … without evidence.

          You place ultimate faith in yourself & in your power of reason.

          The buck stops here—show me something better.

          How about you? Does someone besides you make your decisions for you?

          You complain that I have faith in a book that cannot be proven to be 100% true.

          No, I complain that you have faith in a book that doesn’t deserve faith. A book that is obviously another book of mythology and legend, just like all the rest.

          you have faith that that book is false — which you cannot prove to be 100% true.

          Wow—what’s this obsession with faith? I have no faith.

          The evidence points to the Bible being false. I’m happy to consider interesting new arguments that claim otherwise.

          So how exactly is it that your position is fundamentally superior to mine?

          I can sleep at night knowing that I followed the evidence where it lead. If we die at the same time, and I stand in judgment along with you, I’ll be able to honestly say that I used God’s gift of the human brain to its fullest, never believing because it pleased me or because I was raised that way or because of peer pressure or whatever.

          But enough. I see that I’m wasting my time.

          Having repeated much of my previous comment, I know the feeling.

  • Monica Hesse

    Wow he says ” Big deal” as if that has no bearing for ANY KIND OF EVIDENCE. If that doesn’t convince you of God being active with his creation nothing will with the exception that after you die, you will be in front of angry Judge.à

    • Michael Neville

      If you had bothered to read the post then you would have noticed that most of those manuscripts are translations into other languages from the original Aramaic and Greek. It’s no more a big deal than seeing a warehouse full of translations of Tolstoy’s War and Peace into French, German, Japanese and English.

      And please, knock off the threats of judgement from your sadistic god. Nobody here is impressed.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      As Michael noted, you need to read and respond to the entire post.

      The “You’ll be sorry!” argument also doesn’t do much for those of us who care about evidence rather than threats.

      Invite some of the others from your church to drop by. Discuss the ideas among yourselves. If your Christian beliefs are well founded, they should be able to take the critique.

    • Dangitbobby

      The number of copies of a book is evidence…that the book exists.

      I suppose, by your logic, the 450 million copies of the Harry Potter books MUST mean that Harry Potter was real and the events “documented” really happened!

    • Greg G.

      Good things happen and bad things happen. If you put your thumb on the scale for good things, you will mislead yourself into thinking there is a good God. If you put your other thumb on the bad side, you might thing there is a bad god. If you look at the scale without imposing your wishful thinking, it looks just like an indifferent universe. Eliminate your confirmation bias.

    • adam

      “the exception that after you die, you will be in front of angry Judge”

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        “the exception that after you die, you will be in front of angry Judge”

        It’s OK–I hear he’s in therapy for that.

  • Josh Roeloffs

    It seems to me, the point of 25,000 manuscripts is not to directly prove the original story, but to prove that the translations have not changed through time. The point is to prove that the original authors penned the God-inspired words, then through history, the scribes did not intentionally changed the wording to “make more sense” to purposefully change the story to fit a culture. It shows that The Word has been faithful for 2,000 years, whether or not one believes if the stories are actually true. It shows the stories have been maintained how they were orignally were written.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Josh: Thanks for your input.

      I don’t think that’s right. The Old Testament is the one that the scribes copied so carefully, with a single mistake meaning that the entire page was discarded and done again. The books of the New Testament weren’t even agreed to until the 4th century, there is much evidence that they weren’t treated as inviolable scripture in first couple of centuries, and our oldest copies only take us back to the second, third, or sometimes fourth century. Pointing to any NT passage and declaring that it was definitely in the original document is on shaky ground.


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