The Bible’s Dark Ages

Bible ErrorWe’re taking a trip through time, from our English New Testament, back through the translations and various copies (Part 1), back through the textual variants to our best guess at the original Greek manuscripts (Part 2). We’ve arrived at our best reconstruction of the canon determined by the Council of Nicaea (325 CE).

The novel The Da Vinci Code portrayed the Council as the stereotypical politicians’ smoky back room where the features of Christianity and the books that represented it (the canon) were haggled over. Many Christian sources have argued against this characterization, saying that the canon had largely been decided by the early churches by that point, but this doesn’t avoid the problem. Selecting the canon would’ve been a popularity contest either way. While the bishops at Nicaea didn’t vote it into existence, the weeding-out process in the early church created a traditional canon that the bishops accepted with minimal change. Either way grounds the canon on the imperfect shoulders of ordinary people.

Moving further back in time …

Let’s take the next step. We have a big gulf to cross from 325 CE to roughly 50–100 CE, when the original books in the New Testament were written.

Suppose that Mark was written in Rome in the year 70. Copies are made and it gradually makes its way to Alexandria, where it is copied over and over until it finds its way into the Codex Sinaiticus in about 350. What happened to it in those 280 years? How does the version that we have vary from the original manuscript, now lost to history? That’s a lot of time for hanky-panky.

The issue isn’t that I’m certain that the books were changed significantly; rather, we aren’t certain that they weren’t. This period from Nicaea back to the originals is the Bible’s Dark Ages, a period with very little documentation. We have just a few dozen Greek manuscripts that precede the complete codices. The papyrus manuscripts are all fragments, and only a few have more than a chapter of one book. These manuscripts are remarkable finds, but that does nothing to change the fact that we’re bridging a large gap with little information. We can’t say that our copies differ little from the originals because we don’t have the originals.

This biblical Dark Ages was a period of much turmoil in the Christian community. The divisions in early Christianity were much bigger than the modern Lutheranism vs. Presbyterianism distinction, say. To take a language parallel, instead of French vs. Spanish, think French vs. pre-Columbian Mayan. And these divisions were all fighting for survival, fighting for their place in the canon.

Early Christianity

Historians know of four primary divisions in the early Christian church.

Proto-Orthodox. This is Bart Ehrman’s term for the early Christian sect that would become Christianity as we know it today. Paul’s writings (which changed Jewish law to reject circumcision, the kosher laws, and so on) form the heart of this division. Some scholars think that this was one of the first branches on the Christian tree, while others think that it is a composite of later traditions.

Ebionites. These may have been the first Christians, because they saw Jesus as a Jew. This was the Jesus who said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets” (Matt. 5:17). The New Testament documents the struggles between the James/Peter sect and Paul in Galatians 2:11–21. Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus says,

According to the Ebionites, then, Jesus did not preexist; he was not born of a virgin; he was not himself divine. He was a special, righteous man, whom God had chosen and placed in a special relationship to himself.1

Marcionites. This Christian variant was put forward by Marcion in about 144 CE. The Marcionites had no use for the Old Testament, since it documented the Jews’ god, who was distinct from the (unnamed) father of Jesus. Marcion argued that you could answer to Yahweh if you wanted, but Jesus offered a much better option. This Jesus was divine and only appeared to be human. Consider John 20:26: “Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them.” Marcion considered only Paul’s writings to be canonical, and he was the first to pull Christian writings together into a canon. Robert Price argues that much of Luke comes from Marcion.

Gnostics. The Gnostics rationalized the evil in the world by saying that the world was created by a demiurge (craftsman) who didn’t intend to or wasn’t able to create a perfect world. While most people on earth were just animals, some held a divine spark. For that special few, Jesus’s hidden knowledge would be necessary after death to see them safely back to heaven. We see this in Luke 8:10: “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’”

We have decent documentation after Nicaea, but things had settled down by then. Most questions had been resolved into dogma. What we want is documentation before this period, when things were in flux. We don’t; that’s the problem.

Evidence of tweaking preserved in the Bible

Biblical redaction is the deliberate change or concatenation by a later editor, and the Bible is full of examples. For example, the Old Testament has two creation storiestwo flood stories, two contradictory Ten Commandments (Exodus 20 and Exodus 34), and even two David and Goliath stories.

The New Testament holds clues to this kind of change as well. For example, John ends with chapter 20 and then again with chapter 21.2 The authorship of Peter’s two epistles is unclear. Half of the “Pauline” epistles may not have been written by Paul. Jesus says, “But about that day or hour [of the end] no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matt. 24:36), but some scribes omitted the startling phrase “nor the Son” from their copies.

The Ebionite, Marcionite, and Gnostic passages above suggest that our Bible is a conglomeration of different traditions, with verses or chapters added as necessary to dull the edge of an unwanted concept.

This isn’t meant to be a thorough discussion of New Testament redaction. Rather, I want to show just a few places where it is suspected and to suggest that it could have been even more widespread. Claims as remarkable as those of the gospels must be built on more than “Well, they might not have been changed.”

Ehrman says,

The message of James differs from the message of Paul; the message of Paul differs from the message of Acts; the message of the Revelation of John differs from the message of the Gospel of John; and so forth. Each of these authors was human, each of them had a different message, each of them was putting the tradition he inherited into his own words.3

Would writings be deliberately changed? The author of Revelation apparently knew it was widespread enough to end with a curse against anyone who would modify his book. The famous Testimonium Flavianum in Josephus (“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man …”) is almost universally acknowledged to have been added by later copyists. With the pull of competing Christianities, the urge to “improve” a book might have been irresistible.

Would competing writings be destroyed? It happened in Islam. The “Uthmanic recension” was the process through which one version of the Koran was accepted and all competing versions destroyed. The Nag Hammadi library seems to have been buried. Why hide these books unless there was reason to fear destruction? Perhaps, like the Koran, the Bible has been modified through destruction.

While historians have told us a remarkable amount about the societies from which Christianity arose, our understanding is changing even in our time. For example, consider “Gabriel’s Revelation,” a recently discovered first century BCE document that talks about a suffering messiah, not Jesus but Simon of Peraea. “In three days you will know that evil will be defeated by justice.” Perhaps resurrection after three days wasn’t a new concept to Jesus-era Jews. In this revelation, the messiah sheds blood, not for the benefit of sinners but for the redemption of Israel.

Let’s proceed with humility about how little we can say with confidence about the New Testament documents.

Read the first post in the series here: What Did the Original Books of the Bible Say?

There was a time when religion ruled the world.
It is known as the Dark Ages.
― Ruth Hurmence Green

Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus (HarperOne, 2005), p. 156.
Ehrman, 61.
3 Ehrman, 215.

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 4/24/12.)

Photo credit: Walter Noel

About Bob Seidensticker
  • C.J. O’Brien

    The canon wasn’t on the agenda at Nicaea. See the Wiki article on the council, under “Misconceptions”. There were discussions of canon law at the council, a different thing entirely.

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

      Good catch, thanks.

  • ElderMusician

    There’s a very good discussion of the purpose of the Council of Nicaea and what Constantine required of all 250 Bishops who attended, in James Carroll’s “Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews”, published in 2001 (pages 189-194). It was, in fact, the formulation of the Catholic doctrine, of which the original Nicene Creed was its manifestation. Carroll, himself a former priest, digs deeply into that era. Very interesting reading. As for Wikipedia, I have found much misinformation in some of its articles, so I’d not be too certain of getting all of my facts from that source. g

    • C.J. O’Brien

      Are you conflating “doctrine” with questions of canonization of texts? Because those aren’t remotely the same thing. And I am certainly not “getting all of my facts” from Wikipedia. I am pointing to a convenient source that Bob can look at easily for corroboration of a fact that I know from reading books.

  • Greg G.

    Many who assume Christianity began with a first century Jesus place the divisions of Christianity in the late first century and into the second century as they think it was united at the beginning and would have taken time to diverge from the proto-orthodox vein.

    But if the Gnostics believed in the demiurge, they may have been much older as their ideas could be coming from Philo:

    Philo (20 BC – 50 AD), a Hellenized Jew, used the term Logos to mean an intermediary divine being, or demiurge.

    It’s like they never noticed that there was a first century Jesus.

    • MNb

      Given the many messias claimants wandering around that area during those years it would have been remarkable if they actually did.

  • MNb

    “Some scholars think …..”
    Jona Lendering will argue that proto-christianity is a branch of the jewish religion – or rather one of five main streams in jewish religion, besides the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes and the Zealots. Two of them survived the suppression of the Rebellion of 66-70 CE.

    “is almost universally acknowledged to have been added by later copyists”
    Eh no. The consensus is that it goes back to an original core coming from FJ himself, which with christian copiists have thoroughly messed. No matter how much noise they make, JM’s like Carrier and Doherty are fringe.

    “Would competing writings be destroyed?”
    No, because not necessary. They were just not copied.

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

    Don’t be too hasty either to conclude that competing versions of the Quran were destroyed. Between 600 and 800 CE the Quran needed to be copied at least three times as well.
    The Dead Sea Scrolls were hided as well and I’m pretty sure not because the owners were afraid for destruction by jews and christians.

    “Let’s proceed with humility about how little we can say with confidence about the New Testament documents.”
    Good advise. Think it over before the next time you aks “would competing writings be destroyed”. Conspiracy theories usually are silly.

    • Pofarmer

      FJ?

      • wtfwjtd

        Flavius Josephus. He’s talking about the famous passage referring to Jesus, that no one noticed for 300 years until it mysteriously appeared in Eusebius’s copy, and was subsequently “discovered” by him. Nothing fishy about that though, is there?

        • MNb

          Nice strawman, that last question, Wtfwjtd. A creacrapper couldn’t do better than you.

        • wtfwjtd

          Hehe, well, I figure it don’t hurt to chum the water every once in a while. :)

        • hector_jones

          What on earth are you talking about?

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Nothing fishy about that though, is there?

          It’s relevant if it makes me suspicious.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, given that it’s 100% christian language, totally out of charachter for Josephus, it hasmade a lot of folks suspicious. And what it shows, is that the early Church fathers weren’t above a little document tampering, ya know, for Jesus.

        • wtfwjtd

          Anything that Eusebius claims makes me suspicious, and had better be checked carefully. Thus saith those who have investigated his work, and his many known forgeries.

        • Pofarmer

          Lot of convenient stuff pops up about the time of Eusebius, it seems.

        • hector_jones

          It’s only safe to be suspicious when the scholarly consensus is suspicious.

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

          And indeed it is.

        • MNb

          I see many creationists nodding.

        • hector_jones

          Which creationists think that the testimonium flavianum is a forgery?

        • Pofarmer

          The thing is, we have all kinds of evidence that Jesus is largely mythical. I think really the question is how mythical. It’s not like the argument is whether he was actually divine or just a dude.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          I see many creationists nodding.

          Yeah, remember the time all those amateurs on a message board overturned long-held expert opinion on that subject?

          Me neither.

        • hector_jones

          Nice strawman, Defender of the Faith

        • Pofarmer

          Thing is, Jesus Mythicism has a pretty long history.. There is a history of folks bringing up the possibility of Jesus has myth at least back into the 1700’s. Hell, it may have even been one of the original “heresies” of Christianity. This isn’t just some novel crackpot theory, it has simply never been the scholarly consensus. Thing is, to bring it up in earlier years could ruin your career.

        • hector_jones

          Shem seems to have read some Ehrman and decided that’s the last word on the subject, so he’s going to defend the orthodoxy of the scholarly consensus on mere message boards using the very same dishonest tactics that the members of this scholarly consensus use against their mythicist colleagues.

          It’s strange how a guy who mocks the idea of a mere message board overturning the scholarly consensus (a despicably dishonest strawman as no one here is arguing that a message board can overturn such a consensus) feels that a message board can nevertheless help defend the scholarly consensus. He has an intellectual dishonesty that rivals that of any christian.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          I fully agree that the concept has a long history, so there’s a good reason reason scholars reject it: it’s not very persuasive.

          I’m sorry, but all sorts of conspiracy-theory alarms go off for me when amateurs start crowd-sourcing the “truth” about history, evolution, or the collapse of the Twin Towers. When people repeat their opinions over and over, and never engage with criticism of their pet theory, I assume they’re not dealing in legitimate inquiry. And I get suspicious when people tell me there’s an unspoken but airtight bias that has shut right-thinking experts out of the debate entirely.

        • hector_jones

          … never engage with criticism of their pet theory …

          This is you to a T.

          “All sorts of conspiracy alarms going off” isn’t engaging with the actual arguments being made. This is just your gut feeling talking and it’s not very persuasive.

          Take a look at the actual evidence and you’ll see it’s a two part issue:
          1. The evidence for a historical Jesus is actually piss-poor, regardless of what mythicist theories are being put forward.
          2. There are various mythicist theories out there, some much better than others, some terrible.

          Try having a look at the best mythicist theories rather than letting some of the bad ones color your judgement. After all there are also extremely ridiculous historicist theories out there as well, such as one that says Jesus was really the son of a Roman soldier who raped his mother. By your logic you should now be doubting historicism because some historicist has a crack-pot theory.

        • Pofarmer

          First of all, how many of these scholars over time have been theists? I would bet the number is incredibly close to 100%. For most, it would be offensive to ask the question, let alone ponder it. Lets take the twin towers collapse, although I never got very deep into the conspiracy theories. Most of that was supported wth evidence that was a) completely idiotically misconstrued, like there should be big pieces left of the aircraft that hit the pentagon, or simply made up, like workers planting explosives in the towers themselves. All of it is easily debunked. What you have here in the mythicist argument are things that all the experts roundly agree on. The fact that Paul never quotes or mentions anything Jesus does on earth. The fact that Peter, James, and Jude, are exactly the same. Then you have interesting tidbits, like the word used for “born” in “born if a woman” means “came to be”. Then take the fact that there is no archealogical remnant of Jesus. No church, no authentic tomb, no writings, no inscriptions, no grafiti, nothing. Hell, is there even anyone claiming to be descended from his family? It’s a curious puzzle, and one that deserves to be looked at with non theologically shackled eyes. YMMV.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          It’s a curious puzzle, and one that deserves to be looked at with non theologically shackled eyes.

          But since it deals with historical and textual inquiry, I don’t consider message-board discussion all that relevant. Every truther and creationist thinks he’s an expert just because he’s surfed the Web, and I don’t think the source of your expertise is any different. How do you know what we should and shouldn’t expect from the epistles? How do you know what significance specific terminology in Aramaic or Greek has? In other words, why are you so sure this “evidence” really is evidence? And why are you so sure that anyone who rejects the mythicist hypothesis is biased, and not just unconvinced by the case?

          I think it’s much more likely that the whole mythicist thing is, like you yourself said, just a way to rankle Christians.

        • Pofarmer

          Well hell, what is message board discussion relevant to then?

          I’ve read Randal Helms, and Robert Price and Richard Carrier and Bart Enrman et al. Have you read any signifigant, relevant mythicist positions or are you merely appealing to authority?

        • Pofarmer

          One other thing, if the mythicist argument is that bad, I think Carrier will shortly be shown to be a buffoon.

        • hector_jones

          The thing is, the historicist consensus could, and maybe someday will, be overturned without any one particular mythicist theory becoming the consensus. I think historicism can, right now, be rejected due to the paucity of the evidence, without any specific mythicist theory being needed to take its place, although I consider myself an agnostic on the question.

          Right now historicism is the consensus and yet you would be hard pressed to find two historicist scholars who agree on who exactly Jesus was, what he was really trying to teach, or what exactly happened to him in the end.

        • Pofarmer

          Jesus is a cameleon. Each generation of scholars have msde him what they need him to be.

        • busterggi

          Thus Jesus = Proteus, another mythological character.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          No, actually you’re the one appealing to the authority of Price and Carrier. It’s not like you have any way to assess their expertise other than the fact that they tell you what you want to hear. So the vast majority of experts and scholars, according to you, support historicism because they’re biased, religious, and/or fearful of professional disgrace, while Carrier and Price are virtuous mavericks fighting the entrenched orthodoxy.

          Come on.

        • hector_jones

          So the vast majority of experts and scholars, according to you, support historicism because they’re biased, religious, and/or fearful of professional disgrace.

          Pretty much, yes, at least as far as the ones who style themselves ‘New Testament Scholars’ go. Academia isn’t the ivory tower you seem to think it is, Shem.

          If you want an even worse example of an academic field in disarray, have a look at Economics. Or take a look at Anthropology, a field which is doing much better today, but had to go through a long period of mea culpas when it dealt with its disgraceful racist colonial past.

        • hector_jones

          And why are you so sure that anyone who rejects the mythicist hypothesis is biased, and not just unconvinced by the case?

          I’m not sure that’s what Pofarmer is arguing, but I’ll let him speak for himself. I’m certainly not claiming that anyone who rejects mythicism isn’t just unconvinced by the case. Carrier’s book hasn’t even been published yet.

          My personal complaint is that historicism is accepted on the basis of terrible evidence, when no other character would be granted historical status on such poor evidence. This is almost certainly the result of massive cultural baggage that comes with 2 thousand years of believing this guy was the son of god and savior of mankind made flesh. If it weren’t for that fact, Jesus would probably have been labelled as a mythical character back when modern textual criticism first began following the Enlightenment.

          But that doesn’t mean any one particular mythicist theory must be proven in order to dismiss Jesus as myth. We don’t apply that standard to other mythical characters.

        • Pofarmer

          “Jesus would probably have been labelled as a mythical character back
          when modern textual criticism first began following the Enlightenment.”

          He was, it just didn’t take.

        • adam

          So why is everyone so dependent on OLD UNRELIABLE sources?
          It would seem that THESE are just the ‘gods’ of those ages.
          The stories and tales taken from story tellers from generations of story tellers, finally written and rewritten by even newer STORY TELLERS with political agendas.
          WHY depend on STORIES of god that is hundreds and thousands of years old.
          Could it be that the CURRENT evidence for god, has it hiding behind vague redefinitions of quantum mechanical terminology or between the fuzzy metaphysical concepts of philosophy.

        • MNb

          “First of all, how many of these scholars over time have been theists?”
          “with non theologically shackled eyes”
          Yeah, we can’t have that. Max Planck as a practicing Lutheran had theologically shackled eyes too, so let’s doubt Planck’s Constant too and all related physics. The Big Bang hypothesis was first derived by a Soviet-commie and we can’t have Marxist-Leninist shackled eyes either. Not to mention that additional calculations were done by an RCC priest. Heck, even Hubble was raised as a christian. If that doesn’t strongly suggest that we should doubt the Big Bang I don’t know what does.

          “Then take the fact that there is no archealogical remnant of Jesus.”
          Like there are no fossils describing the evolution from unicellular organisms to multicellular organisms. Worse – there were not even people around to witness the whole thing!
          Or perhaps your methodology sucks like creationism.

        • hector_jones

          The examples you give are all scientists, MNb. If you think the scientific method prevails in New Testament scholarship, you need to think again.

          You are engaging in some fallacious reasoning when you seem to be saying that because there are among the most succesful scientists people who had an ideology that didn’t impede their work, that all scholars who have an ideology don’t let it impede their work. The best ones don’t, but plenty of bad ones do.

          Thus you assume that historicist theory is correct and the product of the best scholars who don’t let ideology impede their work, because it’s the consensus. But whether historicism is correct is the very point at issue here.

        • smrnda

          People can also compartmentalize. I know some people whose judgment I can trust a great deal in some matters, but who believe a load of nonsense in others. Steve Jobs is a famous recent example, lots of tech and business sense and he fell for alternative woo in medicine.

          People can believe in bad ideologies and it can distort their thinking, but people can also simply have a few bad or suspect ideas but do good work.

        • busterggi

          I’d say that Gnosticism is damned close to mythicism and it may well predate Christianity as a separate religion from an original Jewish heretical sect.

        • Pofarmer

          The Essenes practiced celibacy before the christians did. It’s not unreasonable to think that the gnostics also predate other christian rites.

        • Pofarmer

          I wish I could remember the blogger who published a paper on Yamal and actually did overturn some of the consensus on global warming. It does happen. Ah, Steve Mcintyre. Climate Audit.

        • hector_jones

          Yeah, that’s the funny part

        • hector_jones

          .

        • smrnda

          In some books of Christian apologetics, the Christian apologists themselves or those they interview take those comments about Jesus to be later interpolations. Since it would be in their interest to say otherwise, that makes me think they’re later interpolations.

        • wtfwjtd

          Exactly. And this guy Eusebius is how we know what we know about a lot of early Christianity, and his credibility has taken a major hit from the religious crowd as well, especially in the last couple of centuries or so. If they question his credibility, we better pay attention to that.

        • Greg G.

          http://www.textexcavation.com/anaorigjos.html

          Origen twice quotes the one about James being brother
          of Jesus who is called Christ in the early third century from Antiquities 20:9:1, so Eusebius didn’t do that one. But Origen seemed to have read Josephus but we have no record of him making a reference to the TF.

          But we know James was called the brother of Jesus who is called Christ by Paul in Galatians almost 50 years before Josephus wrote Antiquities. It’s plausible that he got it directly from Galatians or indirectly through any number of writings.

        • hector_jones

          Neil Godfrey likes to point out that prior to WW2 the ‘scholarly consensus’ was that the TF was worthless as historical evidence. It seems it was mostly as a result of the flawed ‘criteria’ taking hold of NT studies that the reputation of the TF was rehabilitated.

        • Pofarmer

          Would there be any evidence that Josephus would have read any of Pauls letters? That would be interesting. Josephus copying Paul and Acts copying Josephus.

        • Greg G.

          Galatians is the only epistle that calls James the brother of the Lord. James’ introduces himself as a slave of God and Jesus but not a relative. Jude introduces himself as a slave of Jesus and a brother to James but not as a brother to Jesus.

          I think Paul was being sarcastic with that remark but nobody wants to read the Bible with a sense of humor.

          There are three main passages in Josephus that pertain to Christianity: the Testimonium Flavianus, the death of James, and a bit about John the Baptist. Paul doesn’t mention John the Baptist and Mark doesn’t say much about James, the brother of Jesus.

          It is likely that Josephus could have known the James who Paul refers to in Galatians, as Paul calls him a “pillar”.

          Origen talked about the death of James twice so it was in there before Eusebius. But he never wrote about the Testimonium.

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

          Does “brother of the Lord” mean biological brother? Couldn’t it mean “fellow Christian”?

        • hector_jones

          That’s the whole debate right there.

        • Greg G.

          I did a search on the root of the Greek word “adelph- a couple of years ago. In the gospels and Acts, it was about 50-50. In the epistles, it was used about 192 times. In Romans, Paul sends a greeting to someone’s sister. In 1 John, it uses it in the form of a noun and a possessive adjective regarding Cain and Abel. Besides the Galatians and 1 Corinthians 9 references to “brother(s) of the Lord”, every other use is the figurative for “brothers in the Lord”.

          But the more I looked at Galatians, the more I realized that Paul was spewing derision at Peter and James, trying to discredit them. In chapter 3, he says “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” I think Paul knew damn well it was Peter and James. The Epistle of James seems to be a point by point rebuttal to Galatians, defending works over faith.

          Galatians 5:11-12 shows how much sarcasm Paul can write:

          11 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. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!

          In Galatians 3:28-29, he says everyone is equal in the Lord, master and slave, male and female.

          In Galatians 2:6, he mentions the leaders but says whoever they were makes no difference to him as God shows no partiality. Three verses later he mentions Peter, James and John as those leaders. I take that as disdain.

          In the openings of Paul’s letters, he usually uses a script like “Paul, a [servant/apostle/prisoner] of [Christ Jesus/Jesus Christ]” and sometimes followed with “the will of God”. In Galatians, he throws in “sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities”.

          In Galatians 2:12, he throws in that James sent certain people to Antioch.

          So, my argument is that Paul didn’t think anyone should be in a position of sending people here or there as that was what Jesus did. Paul thought that if James was doing that, he was putting himself above everyone else, being a big shot, up to Jesus’ level, so he must think he is a brother to Jesus.

          In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul seems to be justifying his stipend from the Corinthians. He uses “brothers of the Lord” in a list that begins with the apostles and ends with Cephas, which the reverse of the list six chapters later in 1 Corinthians 15, where the “brothers of the Lord” could correspond to the Twelve or the 500, so we’d have to expect it was the Twelve, who he may have thought considered themselves to be big shots, too.

          I think most go with the figurative meaning for brother. I don’t know of anybody who agrees with me but those are my reasons.

        • wtfwjtd

          The Catholic church agrees with you, they’ve always maintained that Jesus had no biological brothers, and hold firmly to the “spiritual brother” interpretation.

        • Greg G.

          Don’t they say that close cousins or half brothers could be called brothers?

        • wtfwjtd

          I’ve heard that, but don’t know how this would reference as far as the epistles are concerned. I’ve done some reading on some Catholic websites, and they seem to agree with this position. Maybe Pofarmer can weigh in on this, I think he’s referenced this topic before.

        • Pofarmer

          yes, that’s the excuse, that the word for brothers and cousins is supposedly the same.

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

          A thorough analysis. Thanks.

        • hector_jones

          Richard Carrier has done a paper, and he’s not the only one, that argues that the death of James passage in Josephus is about an entirely different James who was a Rabbi and not a Christian at all. Here’s his blog post about it.

        • Greg G.

          I think that James’ brother is Jesus Damneus. I left a thought out of the next to last paragraph, I see. I think it’s possible that the James in Galatians and 1 Corinthians that Paul knew could have been the brother of Jesus Damneus. Calling him “the brother of Jesus” wouldn’t mean much in Galatians if he actually had a brother by that name. Calling him “the brother of the Lord” would have bigger implications. Josephus would have been in his twenties so he may have had memories of the event.

          Just thinking out loud hoping someone can dispel these ideas with a fact I’ve missed.

        • hector_jones

          I honestly do not know whether it can be maintained that ‘James the Brother of the Lord’ is James who was the brother of Jesus ben Damneus.

          I may be wrong when I say Carrier argues that James was a rabbi. I think the argument goes that Jesus ben Damneus was a priest and that while he was out of town a rival high priest named Ananus had his brother James tried and executed on trumped up charges, which angered people so that the king had to tell Ananus to cut it out.

          I think Carrier’s argument is that the passage is really about Ananus and his excesses, and that Jesus and James are just incidental to it. Therefore the words ‘who was called Christ’ are interpolated. I get no sense from this that Josephus thought James is the James referred to by Paul. James was an exceedingly common name among Jews at that time. I think Carrier’s view now is that Josephus’s original text never mentions Christianity at all.

          There’s also debate over whether James in the passage is the brother of Jesus ben Damneus at all. I can’t recall but I think Carrier concludes that he is, as that’s the point of mentioning that Jesus ben Damneus took over Ananus’ job, as compensation for the death of his brother. But that’s a lesser point, because either way the argument goes that the James in the passage isn’t the brother of Jesus H Christ.

        • Greg G.

          Yes, but they were all sons of God Damneus. Surely you’ve heard of him.

          I am not arguing that it is likely that those were the same James. I am trying to brainstorm different scenarios and try to shoot them down.

          Ananus’ family had been in control of the high priesthood for most of the previous half century, if John is right about Caiaphas being a brother-in-law to Ananus. James may have been a rival for the high priesthood.

          The gospels have the Sanhedrin going to the Roman authorities for an execution. Perhaps Rome regulated those activities. James was killed after one governor died and his replacement was on the way. Perhaps the people were upset because Ananus took advantage of that situation to eliminate a rival.

          Josephus reports that Ananus was killed by Jews for favoring not rebelling against the Romans, which may have been the secret to his family’s power.

  • MNb

    Totally off-topic: thanks to Adam Lee over at Daylight Atheism I met this guy.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozi#Philosophy

    Perhaps it’s just me, but Mozi looks way more ahead of his time than the famous son of a certain jewish carpenter about some 2000 years ago.

  • Brian Hogg

    Ask far as the destruction of biblical content goes, the bit in Genesis where god says, after Adam and Eve have eaten the forbidden fruit, “they’ve become one of us” makes me wonder if a bunch was removed from that section. I’ve seen apologists saying that god was obviously talking to himself, but their logic is that since god’s the only god, he couldn’t be talking to other gods.

    But since the other gods seemed to be treated as actual existent beings back then…

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

      There’s a lot of referencing other gods in the early Old Testament. In later Genesis, they talk about “the sons of god marrying the daughters of men.” Nowadays they claim that means “angels.” Right. Later it says the nations were divided between gods, and the prohibition against worshiping other than Yahweh is thus explained, etc.

      • Pofarmer

        “Though shalt have no other Gods before me”. I don’t think there’s much question that early Judaism was polytheistic. I also don’t think there’s much question that early Christianity was somewhat Polytheistic with the Father, Son, Holy Ghost, who are most definitely three in the Gospels. Early Christianity was also probably highly mystical.

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

          Definitely. The groups Bob mentions above were all very mystical. There is now archaeological evidence that early Hebrews worshiped the goddess Asherat originally along with Yahweh (they were seen as a married couple) before this was proscribed. One of the names they used for god is El, which was that of the Babylonian father deity.

        • Pofarmer

          I had seen that about Asherat, what, within the last year or two? It’s no surprise that Mary worship took off so fast and is still so prevalent today. It’s a natural instict for humans to think of pairs or groups.

        • wtfwjtd

          I can’t cite chapter and verse at the moment, but there’s a battle mentioned where YHWH got his ass whupped by Baal in the OT. It seems the king–I believe it was the Moabite king–sacrificed his son just prior to, or during the battle, and this was just too much for YHWH to overcome, and the Israelites had to withdraw.

        • Pofarmer

          Is this before or after the starting fire with water episode?

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

          That’s discussed here.

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

          I like the part where the enemy has iron chariots, and this defeats Yahweh.

        • wtfwjtd

          Whoa, Nellie, now hold on there just a minute. Are you suggesting that the Holy Bible is suggesting that the omnipotent, all-knowing, omnipresent, all-powerful God of the universe, got his ass whipped by a bunch of God-damned heathens, who were simply using good old fashioned man-inspired ingenuity and technology? Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!

        • hector_jones

          Turns out though that ‘iron chariots’ was just poetic licence for ‘M1 Abrams Tank’. So you can see what God was really up against. True story, swear to gawd.

        • wtfwjtd

          Ahhh, now that makes perfect sense, thanks for clearing that up. The Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways….

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker
        • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

          Yep, with the Israelites Yahweh started out as one god of many, and not even the head one. Then over time, he grew into lord of the universe. I think there’s a word for that-starts with an “e.” An evil, evil word that is best left unmentioned.

        • Castilliano

          Evilution?

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

          No! Don’t say it! *Covers ears*

        • Pofarmer

          So in the Stele does the king sacrifice his son or not?

        • wtfwjtd

          I haven’t actually read the Stele, maybe moon_bucket will drop by and clarify that point. I would assume so, since they drive the Israelite armies out.

        • $26708516

          Compare (2 Kings 3) and the Meshe Stele. Two accounts that seem to be from different sides of the same war. The Jews are promised victory by Yahweh and do well until the enemy king sacrifices his son to Chemosh. Then the Israelis suddenly lose and the story ends. The Stele shows it from the other side where the god Chemosh drives the Israelis before the king’s armies.

          What happened to Yahweh’s promise? Is Chemosh real?

        • wtfwjtd

          “Is Chemosh real?”

          More real than Yahweh, apparently.

        • busterggi

          SAtan is planning to have Rommell & Guderian lead his next assault on heaven.

        • $26708516

          That’s 2 Kings 3. And it’s Chemosh, not Baal. But it’s funny.

        • wtfwjtd

          With all those OT gods and their similar abilities I guess I got them mixed up a little, thanks for setting the record straight.

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

          And perhaps that’s why Christianity has a trinity. Two means man and wife, and that’s not the God/Jesus relationship. So you need to bring in the Holy Spirit to make it a more appropriate number.

        • wtfwjtd

          I’ve seen some of the religious get all huffy when you start talking about the possibility that David and Johnathan may have been more than just best buddies. I know that Jesus and God were supposed to be Son/ Father, but still… maybe this is partly why Catholicism came up with the whole Mary thing, to kinda round things out a bit. Then throw in a spirit for the mystical crowd, to try and make everyone happy.

        • Pofarmer

          I think the Mary thing got started because they weren’t going to get the Pagans from worshipping female Gods. Then, the Church ramped it up to eleventy until it reached the silliness it’s at now with Marian apparitions and the like. I really want these Marian apparitions to become so prevelant that someone soundly and publicly debunks them. I still can’t believe so many people, including my wife and her family, fall for the medjugorgia crap.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yes, these silly sightings remind me of Bigfoot, he’s everywhere, but on closer inspection…he’s nowhere. Problem is, many of the faithful don’t want to take a closer look. In fact, I saw a news article here awhile back that this guy that debunked a “miracle” of water coming from a religious statue’s feet was facing possible arrest! He figured out that a nearby sewer pipe had cracked and started leaking, and the waste water was coming out around the statue’s feet, which the faithful just knew was a “miracle”. Crazy stuff, a person can face a lynch mob in some places just for thinking rationally.

        • busterggi

          In what way is a threesome more appropriate??

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

          I saw this film once where the local pagan goddess was just replaced with a statue of Mary. While admittedly fictional and oversimplified, that is the gist of how it worked out in many areas.

        • Pofarmer

          The whole “Virgin of Guadeloupe” is essentially just that. convenient that she showed up on a Mayan holy spot.

        • wtfwjtd

          I can see how having a female in your collection of deities would be handy, for some areas it would be accepted more readily than a spirit or father figure would.

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

          Yep. Same as “Saint” Brigid-no relation with the Celtic goddess of the same name, I assure you *wink wink*. That let my ancestors go from pagan to Christian more easily (if that didn’t work, people such as Charlemagne would just kill them-don’t let anyone say forced conversions didn’t happen). A lot of saints are simply Christianized pagan gods.

        • hector_jones

          Modern christians like to believe that Jesus came, people saw the light as the word was spread, and christianity triumphed as people immediately saw the folly of their pagan beliefs and wholly abandoned them on an individual basis. This is how it was always portrayed to me in Sunday school.

          But in reality, most people ‘converted’ because their king, lord or master converted, often for purely political reasons, with little to no understanding of what they were now supposed to believe and not believe. Church leaders complained for centuries, well into the middle ages, that their country parishioners were still clinging to pagan ideas and practices, and that it was a constant battle to stamp these out. In fact this is where the term ‘pagan’ originated, as it’s just the Latin word for ‘peasant’.

        • wtfwjtd

          Do you happen to know when the church deified Mary? Since we’ve seen that Asherah worship was pretty common, it seems like she would have been added pretty early to the arsenal.

        • Pofarmer

          If you read much Catholic stuff you will find out that Mary worship was almost immediate. There are supposedly images of Mary in 1st century Catacombs, however, Robert M. Price thinks that these may have also been images of Isis. Marian Dogma seems to have really ramped up in the 1800’s, The Assumption of Mary wasn’t made Dogma, I think, until the 1950’s. I don’t really have a good feel for how popular Mary worship would have been at any given time, but I have a feeling it would have had a large variation concerning location and local customs.

        • wtfwjtd

          Seeing all this about Asherah poles in the OT helps me see the usefulness of Mary in spreading Christianity, especially in the earlier centuries. I guess the whole Protestantism movement was mainly a rejection of Mary dogma among other things, but this didn’t come until much later. I need to do some research…

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

          According to my sources, Mary was declared the result of an immaculate conception (and declared to be the Daughter of God) in 1854.

        • Pofarmer

          The last piece of the Mary puzzle was her assumption into heaven without dieing. The justification is that we don’t have her bones so what other explanation is there? And, according to Catholics, they don’t worship her, they venerate her. Prayers to Mary are only said to her to be passed along to Jesus. They are rather touchy about it.

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

          You’re right about the 1950. Mary’s assumption was declared dogma then.

          The idea of “Mariology”–the four dogmas just accepted by Catholics about Mary–is pretty goofy. I mean, at least get a cooler name.

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

          The justification is that we don’t have her bones so what other explanation is there?

          Well, when you put it that way, good point. I mean, we have everyone else’s from 2000 years ago. All except Mary and Jesus …

        • wtfwjtd

          Of course, it all makes perfect sense now.

        • hector_jones

          Makes sense to me. Someone has to take his messages while he’s busy fixing the outcome of sporting events.

        • wtfwjtd

          I guess the Jesus Hotline was getting kinda over-loaded, so they added a Mary line to alleviate the bottleneck and reduce wait times.

        • hector_jones

          Call now, Mary is standing by. Because Jesus, apparently, is not.

        • Greg G.

          All the poor woman wanted was a normal life. Instead, she had a kid with an absentee father, no grandchildren, and a husband who was afraid to have sex with her. Now she is stuck forever having to listen to people beg for things she never had like the latest iPhone, the location of car keys, touchdowns, cures for incurable diseases, amputated limbs to grow back…

          Just remember that Hell is supposed to be even worse than that!

        • hector_jones

          God is really just the manager of a call center with shitty customer service.

        • wtfwjtd

          Kinda like on Big Bang Theory, Sheldon once waited on hold for over an hour with HP customer service… just to complain about customer service.

        • busterggi

          Don’t forget all the rappers he has to arrange winning awards for.

        • hector_jones

          Or all the breakfast burritos and grill-cheese sandwiches he has to appear in.

        • wtfwjtd

          That took a while longer than I would have thought. Oh well, I assume that before this she was still considered an intermediary, which would serve about the same purpose as a god.
          So, for Catholicism, as I understand it, one confesses to the priest, who then prays to either Mary or Jesus or God, who then stews on the request for awhile and acts or not. Is an individual allowed to pray to Mary without a priest?
          Interesting, and I hadn’t thought about it much, but as a Protestant we always prayed to either Jesus or God, but never to the Holy Spirit. Hmm…

        • Pofarmer

          Oh, no no no, you can still pray to the saints. They get that from revelations 5

          “And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four
          elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held
          gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.”

          I think that this is a misstranslation of ancient Astrology. According to Bruce Malina ” The surrounding 24 enthroned elders are the points of exaltations and
          depressions of the planets: twelve visible governing the world of the
          living, and twelve invisible governing the dead, and that were known
          since Babylonian times as the “Judges of the Universe”. I think the burning incense is the Milky Way. It’s the only explanation for that passage that has ever made sense.

        • wtfwjtd

          I’ve noted you guys talking about the astrology angle, there does seem to be a lot of parallels.

          So in Catholicism, you pray to the saints too? That’s an interesting angle; I guess then they are like messengers to God for you, or something? There’s more to this than I realized.

        • Pofarmer

          It’s not just parallels. Did you read the passages that I cited in the thread the other day? I think they are clearly astrological symbols. Virgo, Ares, Leo, Orion, Scorpio. Read revelations thinking about it as astrology. It’s a short book.

        • wtfwjtd

          Revelations always seemed to be more for the hard-core prophesy-type nut jobs when I was growing up. I’ll have to take a look at it now, I’m sure it will be make a totally different impression on me now.
          Bob’s deconstruction of Daniel recently was the first time ever for me that any of that jumble made any sense, when you realize it was all written after the fact things fall into place a lot better.

        • Pofarmer

          Agree completely about Daniel. The Bible becomes an interesting puzzle when you de-mystify it.

        • Pofarmer

          Oh, yeah, yeah, in Catholicism you pray to the saints, special saints do special things. St. Anthony is supposed to help you find lost things. You don’t know how hard it was to break that habit. There’s one for about everything. Taken in toto, it is a completely enveloping superstition.

        • wtfwjtd

          That’s right, I remember something about this now. When travelling, for example, you pray to St. Christopher, I think, or something like that. Seems like there’s one for about everything; as you noted above, Catholics are great for making up useless exercises for wasting time.

        • Pofarmer

          Here’s an example of the cd’s in my wifes door pocket. Accidently stumbled on them today. “The Truth” by fr Larry Richards. (Wanna bet?) “The eucharist, a mystery to be lived” “Mary, the Greatest Christian of them all” by Marc Brumley. “An evangelical protestant discovers our lady”. Mark Brumley. “Divine Mercy Chaplet and the holy rosary, Our spiritual weapons.” It’s crazy shit. I had no idea this is what she was exposing herself to at these conferences. To her credit, she is reading “Demon haunted World”.

        • avalpert

          Eeek, bad taste in belief systems is one thing but bad taste in music is a bridge too far.

        • wtfwjtd

          Wow, that’s some serious stuff. No wonder you guys see things quite differently sometimes.
          “Demon haunted world”? That sounds pretty mystical, kinda like Paul talking about the “rulers of this age” and “prince of the power of the air”, and some of that other claptrap.

        • Pofarmer

          “Demon Haunted World” is a book on science and rational thinking by Carl Sagan. It’s a long story, but when our third child was born, he wound up having two gone marrow transplants and she wound up spending a lot of lot of time with her mom, who is fucking nuts, both religiously and literally. I think she got to her some in that time, because she, and our marriage, has never been quite the same since.

        • wtfwjtd

          Well, maybe that’s a step in the right direction then. Sorry to hear about the difficulties with your child, a traumatic event like that can really have a powerful, not-so-positive effect on a person sometimes. Yes, I’d say the influence of mom was pretty powerful, and took things in a decidedly more religious direction.
          Sometimes, traumatic events push a person more in a direction away from religion, and sometimes people double-down. For me, it was the former, and although I was already headed in that direction, my journey was sped up a bit by it I think.

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

          They don’t have to be saints! You can pray to whomever, but if the prayer is answered through a miracle, let the Vatican know so they can start the process toward sainthood.

        • wtfwjtd

          The bar for a miracle seems to be getting lower and lower these days, so I’m guessing it wouldn’t take much to qualify.

        • busterggi
        • busterggi

          This Malina fella, is he the one who did the latest edition of D & D?

        • busterggi

          The best part is that you can be forgiven for anything as long as you say enough Hail Mary’s.

        • hector_jones

          Wait, the daughter of God? So God impregnated his own daughter who then gave birth to her own father? And they don’t have a problem with this? Catholicism gets curioser and curioser.

        • wtfwjtd

          It seems that when you are trying to tie up loose ends on several made-up stories, you eventually tie yourself up in knots.

          And don’t forget, not only did God impregnate His Daughter with Himself, He also demanded that He be sacrificed to Himself by Himself, in order to bypass a rule that he made up. (Thanks to Pofarmer, and BobS, for clearing that up). Clear as mud, right?

        • hector_jones

          Quantum mechanics makes more sense than this. And quantum mechanics doesn’t make any sense.

        • busterggi

          That’s why I always get a second opinion when my quantum breaks down.

        • busterggi

          How else was he supposed to forgive the people he had previously cursed for disobeying him before they knew what disobeying was he omnisciently knew they would before he created them?

        • Pofarmer

          I have actually made a Catholic cry trying to explain their own theology to them.

        • hector_jones

          How long have you been a nun?

        • Pofarmer

          Lol.

        • busterggi

          Nah, he/she is Loki – I saw Dogma so I’m sure.

        • busterggi

          Incest, water into wine, blasting trees that are inconvenient – its good to be the god!

        • hector_jones

          I wasn’t raised catholic so I don’t know the details of these things. But I do find catholicism fascinating in its baroque complexity.

          For instance, some time ago I came across this catholic organization called the ‘Rorate Caeli’ society or foundation or something. Essentially what they do is raise money in order to pay priests to spend their spare time praying to god to shorten the sentences of those poor souls currently incarcerated in purgatory.

          They truly seem to believe that there is a direct correlation, i.e. the more priest-hours of prayer the fewer soul-hours spent in purgatory. I guess the benefit is spread out among all souls in purgatory on a pro rata basis, but I’m not sure of that, or what the ratio is between priest-hours and soul-hours. I’m still kind of blown away by the absurdity of it every time I think about it.

        • wtfwjtd

          Wow!

        • hector_jones

          If you are interested, I think this is their website.

        • wtfwjtd

          Thanks!

        • $26708516

          I’m sure they could automate that today. Set it up like the SETI@home program.

        • Pofarmer

          It’s hard to really appreciate it from the outside looking in.my MIL has a picture or statue of Mary in every room in her house. Has gotten to the point it creeps me out.

        • wtfwjtd

          I have some now-deceased relatives who may have been Protestant, but believe me, they’d give the hard-core Catholic types a real run for their money when it comes to crazy. I had an aunt who would talk of praying away the demons that were in the air, and rebuke Satan’s agents who were inhabiting someone, etc etc etc. Really nutty stuff, I’m telling you. Funny thing is, she was the nicest, kindest old gal you’d ever care to meet, but man, when it came to religion she’d make your head spin. Typical mid-west experience, I guess.

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

          I found what I assume is their blog here. Archives go back to 2005. They encourage people to submit their dead relatives and friends, and they encourage priests to pray.

          Wow–what a waste of time. Why imagine that anyone, even a priest, praying is going to get God to change his mind and do things differently? I hear he’s really smart, and I doubt he’d be swayed by anyone else’s pleading. If God says that Uncle Frank needs to spend 200 years in purgatory, I suppose that he’s right.

          But maybe there’s a pump sort of analogy–you just have to pump in the mindless hours, and good things happen.

        • wtfwjtd

          Maybe it gives the faithful something to do? I mean, it’s not like there are more productive things folks could be doing to make the world a better place, is there? Oh, wait…

        • hector_jones

          Oh yeah that’s right. They have a list of dead people and presumably the praying priests name them in their prayers. So that’s how God decides whose sentence gets reduced and by how much. I suspect the more money you donate the more priest-hours of prayer for your relative you get.

          It comes across though as extremely mechanical. It’s not about persuading god, it’s just about putting in the hours and being rewarded accordingly. God probably has some lesser bureaucrats handling the paper work.

        • Pofarmer

          Catholics dream up ways to waste time in useless pursuits.

        • $26708516

          We know the 7th century Koran has Allah asking Jesus if he told people to worship himself and his mother as gods. Jesus denies it. But it’s clear that Muslims felt that was what was going on.

        • hector_jones

          You don’t have to worship me as a god either, moon_bucket. Unless you want to.

        • $26708516

          He basically goes on to deny that he is a god. That Allah knows all and Jesus does not. Islam takes monotheism very seriously. Jesus was not actually crucified, didn’t rise, isn’t god, etc. He’s just a human prophet whose message was badly corrupted in the bible.

        • hector_jones

          I’ve tried to read the Koran. I really wanted to know what it says so I could discuss it. Alas, I found it to be as rough going as Mein Kampf, which I didn’t finish either.

        • $26708516

          I read it a long time ago. It’s rough. I only remember a few bits and nothing about Jesus. I reread that recently.

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

          Search “two hour Koran” for a version that claims to have removed the redundancies and the abrogated (replaced by later material) text. I don’t know if the editor had an agenda, but FYI.

          Fun trivia for the day: the Koran’s chapters are sorted by size (largest first), not by date of authorship. That makes it hard to figure out which of two contradictory claims to follow.

        • hector_jones

          Thanks for that tip. I’ll look into it.

        • Greg G.

          Fun trivia for the day: the Koran’s chapters are sorted by size (largest first), not by date of authorship. That makes it hard to figure out which of two contradictory claims to follow.

          That made it easier to fill a hand-written book. The font size and margin width could be adjusted more easily when you had smaller chapters to resize. Think of the scribes!

        • hector_jones

          Sort of like the way Apple sorts the songs on my ipod, to stop me from figuring out where they are and sharing them with others.

        • Greg G.

          If you worship me, you only have to tithe 9% of your income to me.

        • hector_jones

          I’m currently entertaining a couple of offers. I’ll get back to you.

          P.S. If you can throw in a set of seat covers, you might be the guy.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yes, I believe Islam views Christianity as polytheism, and with good reason, it turns out.

        • MNb

          “There is now archaeological evidence that early Hebrews worshiped the goddess Asherat originally along with Yahweh”
          Do you have a link? I like stuff like that.

        • Greg G.

          Have you seen this?

          Jeremiah 7:18
          18 The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger.

        • MNb

          I’m not aware that Jeremiah 7 counts as archeological evidence.

        • Pofarmer

          No, but that does go along with the archeological find, doesn’t it?

        • MNb

          I was asking for archeological evidence. If you ask for experiments regarding falling objects, are you satisfied with a reference to the Second Law of Newton? That goes along too, you know.

          There is a little more to it. When it doesn’t suit Greg – and you, I must add – he rejects the Bible as a source of historical information. Now he supposes me to accept it as such, with only one reason: he likes it. That’s ad hoc methodology, popular among creationists.

        • Pofarmer

          I was talking about the particular archaeological find possibly agreeing with Jeremiah 7. Obviously, it doesn’t count as evidence in itself.

        • $26708516

          The archeological evidence for Asherah is found on pottery shards. “Yahweh and his Asherah”. Ive seen the a both capitalized and not.
          There is also a 6th century Jewish temple in Egypt at Elephantine, which was in regular contact with Jerusalem, which was dedicated to Yahweh-Anat. Anat is the Ugarit – Canaanite goddess of war. The sister-wife of Baal.

        • Greg G.

          What exactly are you accusing me of? What historical method am I misusing?

          I do accept the Bible as a source of historical information. It is important to consider the sources of a document. Various scholars have traced the sources of the Gospel of Mark. Nearly everything about Jesus comes from events in the other sources that did not happen to Jesus, so Mark is not useful as evidence of a historical Jesus. We don’t know what Mark’s source was for John the Baptist and until we do know, I accept that as evidence for John the Baptist. In the trial of Jesus, the Sanhedrin took Jesus to the Roman officials to get him executed. That coincides with the Josephus account of the death of James where Ananus ben Ananus had James stoned while there was no Roman governor, but he got canned when the governor arrived. We can surmise from those sources that the Romans regulated the death penalty in Judea.

          The other gospels use Mark for a source so we can’t depend on them for reliable history. The explanation in John 1 about Simon being Cephas seems tainted by theology. The bit about Caiaphas being the son-in-law of Ananus ben Seth in John 18 might be historical. According to Josephus, the first Ananus was high priest for a long time when the Romans took a direct hand in Judea, and his son was high priest a few years later. Then Caiaphas was high priest the whole time Pilate was there. Then the Ananus family held the high priesthood several times after that. It would seem unlikely for the family to not lose power if Caiaphas was a rival to them and holding the position for 18 years, IIRC.

          Mark used Paul’s letters. Bible scholars assume Paul was relaying oral traditions. Paul mentions Jesus about every three to five verses. When we take a look at what Paul said about Jesus, every passage has the corresponding information in the Old Testament. So Paul says nothing about Jesus that can reliably be said to be about a recent Jesus. Even the other early epistles, whether authentic or forged, don’t say anything about Jesus that seems to be from someone who knew Jesus personally or knew someone who did. There are no anecdotes or teachings.

          But Paul does say he didn’t get his message from humans. He says he is getting revelations of long, hidden secrets. His revelations about Jesus are consistent with OT passages. He says nothing about a recent Jesus. IN 1 Corinthians 15, he describes the “appeared to” for Cephas, the Twelve, the 500, and James using the same word he describes his own, as if he didn’t think their “appeared to” was any different than his own. He even argues that his knowledge is equal to the other apostles, which would make no sense to anyone who thought the other apostles might have known Jesus in person.

          I do think the epistles and the gospels are valuable as historical documents for the development of Christianity. But they are not evidence for a historical Jesus. If there was a historical Jesus related to Christianity, there should be some actual mention of him in the literature we have. If there was such a document, ever, we should expect it to be the most precious of the early Christians and we should have copies or, at least, mentions of it.

          I don’t argue for interpolations unless scholars make the argument. 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16, for example, is commonly thought to be an interpolation, but if it is not, it doesn’t give an indication of the time frame for God’s wrath. Nothing happened during Paul’s career that would be worthy of being called God’s wrath unless it happened in the distant past, which would be consistent with my argument, or in the future, which is consistent with it being an interpolation.

          So we have no good evidence for Jesus and the best evidence for Jesus actually leans to an imaginary Jesus from the apostles’ past.

          I accept the scholars’ word that there is no evidence that Abraham did what the Bible said. I accept the scholars’ word that there was no 40 year migration of more than a million people between Egypt and Jerusalem. I accept the scholars’ claim that there was no major kingdom at Jerusalem as described in the Bible regarding David and Solomon.

          I accept that people throughout history have had their religions and the Bible provides evidence of an evolving religion for a 750 or so year period. I don’t think they got all their facts straight and I don’t think we know everything they knew.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          When we take a look at what Paul said about Jesus, every passage has the corresponding information in the Old Testament. So Paul says nothing about Jesus that can reliably be said to be about a recent Jesus. Even the other early epistles, whether authentic or forged, don’t say
          anything about Jesus that seems to be from someone who knew Jesus personally or knew someone who did. There are no anecdotes or teachings.

          People have tried to point out that there are alternate interpretations of these half-truths and factoids, but you simply prefer your more tendentious reading.

        • Greg G.

          Certainly there are other interpretations but what is there to back them up? Paul loved to mention Jesus. He mentioned him hundreds of times in just six letters to churches. Yet the only things he could tell about Jesus was things that he could have got from the Old Testament. He even said he got nothing from humans and didn’t think other apostles knew anything he didn’t know. This is more consistent with there not being a first century Jesus than if there was and there was no information about him that was worth repeating.

          Your theory is that there could have been a real Jesus behind it. But there could have been a Luke Skywalker long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away. All we could do is show that the light saber duels are similar to the sword fights in swashbuckler movies, the space battles are like WWII movies with dogfights and sea battles, and the themes seems to be modeled on archetypes that Joseph Campbell describes.

          We have hundreds of mentions of Jesus with no information about him as a man, a dozen or so facts about him from the Old Testament, nobody claiming to have known him personally, and no contemporary evidence. These facts are totally consistent with the Jesus of the New Testament being fictitious and are the best we can reasonably hope for there not being one.

          Are there alternate explanations that are better than ad hoc excuses for the total lack of evidence?

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Are there alternate explanations that are better than ad hoc excuses for the total lack of evidence?

          Sure they are, and I’ve explained them to you time and time again. But since they’re not dramatic and paradigm-shattering enough for you, you deny that anyone has ever presented alternative explanations. Then you can pretend that the default position is that Jesus never existed and we get to ride the Greggy-go-round as many times as people still think it’s fun.

          If this truly were a search for historical truth, you wouldn’t be handwaving away alternate explanations and sticking with the most outlandish theory just because it’s fun to speculate and pisses theists off.

        • Pofarmer

          It’s not helpful that your arguments in those links are typically weak.

        • Greg G.

          First, you were saying it was based on factoids and conspiracy theories. I showed every fact Paul provides about Jesus and the corresponding OT verse to show that it wasn’t based on factoids. You rejected it at first but seemed to have accepted that as fact because you then came up with a theory for why Paul wouldn’t mention the real Jesus. I then pointed out that it wasn’t just Paul, it was all the other early epistles, too, which would make your theory a conspiracy theory based on half-truths.

          Both of your theories have been based on speculation and not a scintilla of evidence to favor your explanation over mine.

          If you have come up with a better theory since then, I apologize for not having seen it. Would you direct me to it or repeat it, please?

          EDIT: Sorry, I didn’t notice the links in your reply.

          On Debunking Christianity, you bring up the Suffering Messiah which reminds me of the other places where you have brought that up. You are incredulous that Conquering Messiah could be turned into a Suffering Messiah. That Suffering Messiah does not replace the Conquering Messiah, as seen in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. Paul thinks the Conquering Messiah is still on the way. It’s just that after hundreds of years of waiting for the Messiah, it would be inevitable that some would try to explain why it had taken so long and look for reasons to hope for the return within their own lifetime. That isn’t farfetched. We see it today. It’s not like Harold Camping was unique.

          The Friendly Atheist reply doesn’t have any reasoning or evidence. That the one where you said

          You’ve been tricked into believing that the lack of information about Jesus’s life is evidence that supports mythicism, when in fact the exact opposite is true.

          The other link is where you said that you were only talking about Paul’s letters.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          I showed every fact Paul provides about Jesus and the corresponding OT verse to show that it wasn’t based on factoids.

          Paul was constantly making references to Scripture. It’s to be expected that Paul would dig up vague references to the all-important crucified Christ he felt gave him his authority . That doesn’t mean, as you keep claiming, that “all he knows about Jesus comes from the OT.” This is deceptive on a very basic, obvious level, but no matter how many times I point it out to you, it doesn’t even register.

          The simplest, most reasonable explanation for the lack of biographical detail for Jesus in the epistles is that Paul is exclusively concerned with the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus. But when Paul mentions Jesus eating with the Twelve, being betrayed, dying, and being buried, we have no reason to assume he wasn’t actually talking about some human being.

          Let’s be reasonable. I’m suspicious of elaborate fantasies regarding Jesus, no matter whether it’s fundie Christians or celebrity bloggers peddling them.

        • Greg G.

          Paul also seems to have used the Apocrypha, too, but mostly the Old Testament. He mentions Peter/Cephas a few times in two letters but we know he was married and traveled to Antioch but not anything from the Old Testament. He mentions other people once but we know the names of some of their family. He mentions Jesus hundreds times but no information about a recent Jesus.

          In 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Paul tells us no more about who Jesus broke bread with than what is in Psalm 41:9, which also says he was betrayed. You are reading the Mark 14 account back into Mark. You can find the elements about the blood and the new covenant in Exodus 24:8; Leviticus 17:11; Jeremiah 31:31-34.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          He mentions Jesus hundreds times but no information about a recent Jesus.

          Because you not only think there’s something odd about the lack of information about Jesus in Paul’s letters, but you also dismiss what little information he does provide about Jesus as not being about a real person at all.

          Heads I win, tails you lose? That’s a real conspiracist methodology you’re working.

        • wtfwjtd

          “you also dismiss what little information he does provide about Jesus as not being about a real person at all.”

          Greg’s claim is very simple: Paul tells us nothing at all about Jesus that’s not found in OT scriptures. He doesn’t provide a little bit, he provides nothing, zero, zilch, and neither does any other epistle writer, period.
          You are claiming that Paul does provide even a little biographical information about Jesus that isn’t found in the OT? Please, please point it out, we’d love see it.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          My point has been that what Paul mentions about Jesus is supported with vague references from Scripture, in the same way modern-day preachers mislead their audiences. The OT doesn’t actually describe Christ being betrayed and crucified, there are only ambiguous references to betrayal, and some odd mention of a body hanging on a tree. If that’s good enough for you, that’s nothing to be proud of.

          There’s nothing easier than combing the Bible for a phrase to support a claim. When Christians do this trick, they get rightly laughed at. But when it’s mythicists doing it, I’m supposed to abandon my skepticism?

          Nope.

        • hector_jones

          If that’s good enough for you, that’s nothing to be proud of.

          Uh, it’s not good enough for us. It was good enough for PAUL, just like it’s good enough for modern-day preachers whom you so kindly referred to.

          There’s nothing easier than combing the Bible for a phrase to support a claim. When Christians do this trick, they get rightly laughed at. But when it’s mythicists doing it, I’m supposed to abandon my skepticism?

          It’s not mythicists doing it. It was PAUL doing it, a Christian. That you can’t seem to comprehend the difference is appalling.

        • MNb

          You’re doing it now by writing that Paul was a christian. That makes as much as sense as calling Jesus a communist.

        • hector_jones

          MNb, fuck off. What’s the matter? Norm not around for you to torment?

        • MNb

          You’re welcome. Excellent “energetic, but civic critique”.
          Good job, Hec. You’re looking more and more like your adversaries your compatriots the creacrappers.
          Norm and you – same difference.

        • hector_jones

          Seriously, MNb, fuck off. You can’t address the actual issues on the merits so you do this piddly crap sniping around the edges bullshit. I’ve lost all patience with you.

        • MNb

          Seriously, Hec, you’re welcome. You do better and better.

        • MNb

          Seriously, Hec, whether you lose your patience or not is your problem, not mine. You claimed something and in the very next sentence you disproved it yourself. How much merit this has on the actual issues I leave up to you. My guess is that you’ll react like a creacrapper: plain denial.

          “What’s the matter?”
          I like torturing all pseudoscientists, whether they are called Hec or Norm.

        • hector_jones

          I didn’t disprove it in the very next sentence. This is just stupid beyond belief. Paul was many things, but he worshipped Jesus Christ as a god. He was a deeply religious and superstitious man. He was NOT a modern day atheist mythicist.

          Arguing over whether that makes him a ‘Christian’ is nitpicking to the max and not of any relevance to this particular discussion. I see it entirely as an attempt to derail from the entire point of my comment, which is that it was PAUL who was reading the scriptures and seeing Christ hiding within them, NOT modern day mythcists. That you just blithely ignore this and start on with your own ridiculous tangent has just completely exhausted my patience with you. I mean it. I am tired of you.

        • MNb

          “This is just stupid beyond belief.”
          Yes, that’s the conclusive argument creacrappers always use when they don’t want to consider an issue. You simply refuse to consider the validity of your definitions. Calling Paul a christian is an anachronism, just like calling Jesus a communist (and I have read that too) is one. You do it because the way you read his stuff. Hence you do exactly the same as you accused Shem of: combing the Bible for your personal benefit. That’s my one and only point and I love it that it pisses you off so much.
          Yeah, you see yourself as infallible as the average creacrapper. Hence your civic language above.

          “I see entirely …”
          That’s your problem too. I never claimed that this issue was relevant or important or decisive for the entire discussion. But I do notice that you dislike to be corrected as much as say Norm.

          “it was PAUL who was reading the scriptures and seeing Christ hiding within them, NOT modern day mythcists.”
          Ah, another favourite creacrap tactic: the strawman. I never claimed that JM’s see christ hiding withing the scriptures.

          “I mean it. I am tired of you.”
          So what? I am not tired of you. Not at all. Oh, I will be away for a while, because I have to do some shopping, but I guarantee you I’ll be back. You have caught my special attention, just like Norm. Learn to live with it or find yourself a nice JM site. Internet is big enough for Brandon; it’s big enough for you too.
          You even whine the same way as a christian apologist with long toes. The more you do the more I like you. The more “fuck offs” from you the better I feel.

        • hector_jones

          .

        • Greg G.

          Calling Paul a christian is an anachronism

          Then it would be an anachronism to call a Tyrannosaurus rex a dinosaur, or even a T. rex, or a reptile, or a vertebrate…

        • hector_jones

          You haven’t ‘corrected’ me on the point of whether Paul was a christian. You simply raised a pedantic point that was not relevant in order to derail the discussion because you just can’t stand this topic and want to stamp it out because as a high school math teacher you can sniff out pseudoscience a mile away. And that’s why I told you to fuck off.

        • hector_jones

          I never claimed that JM’s see christ hiding withing the scriptures.

          No but Shem did. Please try to keep up.

        • hector_jones

          In the very next sentence I disproved myself? What the fuck are you even talking about?

          Paul was a Jew, he was a number of things, but he was most definitely a worshipper of Jesus Christ. If you want to split hairs and say that doesn’t make him a christian for some definition that you personally care to apply, that’s fine, but it’s just so completely irrelevant to the point I was actually making that it’s not even funny. It was an obvious attempt to disrail, or ‘torture’ as you probably think of it.

          “I like torturing all pseudoscientists”. Psychopath.

        • Pofarmer

          I’ve gotta admit, Paul is pretty widely thought of as more or less the first Christian.

        • hector_jones

          Not even Paul was philosophically trained. To be sure, as a literate person he was far better educated than most Christians of his day. [p. 255, Did Jesus Exist?, Bart Ehrman

          Uh oh!

        • Greg G.

          This is good. You are dealing with the evidence instead of name-calling.

          The OT doesn’t actually mention Christ being betrayed and crucified, there are only ambiguous references to betrayal, and some odd mention of a body hanging on a tree.

          Of course it doesn’t. Paul was reading those things into the scriptures as if they were long hidden secret mysteries. He tells us that:

          Romans 16:25-27
          25 Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.

          1 Corinthians 2:7
          7 But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.

          The ambiguity was the mystery that kept them secret, at least to the first century Christians.

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

          Is there influence from a mystery religion like Mithraism here?

          And I wonder how Christians dance away from this problem. Have you heard them try to explain why the Good News should be a secret?

        • wtfwjtd

          My take on this, coming from a fundie background, was that too much education was a bad thing, that polluted the mind and caused doubt. This is where pushing the whole “faith” narrative came into play as well; if you could see God’s wisdom, and other secrets, your faith was strong. If not, you were becoming too wise and learned, and had better dial things back and ratchet up the faith. See I Cor 1-2 for more of Paul’s take on the place of wisdom and learning, and the secrets of the kingdom.

          PS Sorry if you don’t find Paul’s argument convincing. Remember, if you don’t, then that’s where the name-calling comes in–“the fool hath said in his heart that there is no God.”

        • Greg G.

          Justin Martyr says the Eucharist rites were stolen by the Mithras cult, so we know they were very similar. Plutarch says the Mithras religion was popular with the pirates around Cilicia in Pompey’s time in the mid first century BC. He said their rituals were still being practiced in his day which was the late first century AD. He didn’t specify what the rituals were but he did say they were started by the Mithras cult.

          In Galatians 1, Paul of Tarsus says he visited Cilicia, a major city in Tarsus. A circumstantial case could be made.

          If the rite came from a meal like in the gospels, it is interesting that everything that would distinguish it as a Seder meal was lost in transmission, leaving only a ritual exactly like what the Mithras cult practiced.

        • wtfwjtd

          Was it Justin Martyr who complained that Satan had made other cults and religions previous to Christianity that looked just like it, in order to confuse people so they’d call Christianity copy cats when it came along? In other words, Christianity was the real deal and these religions that pre-dated and looked like it were the false ones?

        • Greg G.

          Yes, and that idea is still used as an excuse.

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

          Yes, it was Justin Martyr. I have some quotes at this post.

        • Pofarmer

          Hell, who knows, I’m not sure a modern mind can fully grasp the amount of superstition and mysticism present at the time. Remember, these are people who thought, literally, that comets and meteors were agents of destruction hurled by God. Who thought a total eclipse was the end of the world. Who thought it rained or didn’t rain by gods will if he opened up the doors of heaven or not. People who thought flies came from rotting meat and birds came from trees. And these types of superstitions were wide spread and almost innumerable. If somebodies sacrifice was a little more successful than yours, then heck, why not try it? It’s only recently, after reading Andrew Dickson White , and now a little Bruce Malina, that I’m starting to get a feel for how superstitious and ignorant it really was.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman


          The OT doesn’t actually mention Christ being betrayed and crucified, there are only ambiguous references to betrayal, and some odd mention of a body hanging on a tree.

          Of course it doesn’t. Paul was reading those things into the scriptures as if they were long hidden secret mysteries.

          In addition to pointing out how inadequate this “evidence” is, I’ll also say I find this rhetorical tactic deceptive. You constantly say Everything Paul knows about Jesus comes from the OT, when the truth of the matter is that crucified rabbi Yeshua doesn’t appear in the OT. It would be more accurate to say that Paul read what he knows about crucified rabbi Yeshua into the Scriptures, but what are the chances that your commitment to responsible inquiry will reflect this correction?

        • Greg G.

          You didn’t reply to my reply of your Debunking Christianity post you linked to so I’ll assume you didn’t read it and I will repeat the first paragraph here:

          Yes, Paul was cherry-picking OT verses but he was reading them as “the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles” (Romans 16:25-26), not as a rationalization of the death of a man he never bothers to quote or even met. He got the dying for iniquities from others from Isaiah 53 so the “hanging from a tree” suggested crucifixion to him, cherry-picked out of context, as the previous verse shows the corpse was hung on a tree after execution, not as a form of crucifixion.

          Galatians 3:13 (NRSV)
          13 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”—

          1 Peter 2:24 (NRSV)
          24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

          Deuteronomy 21:23 (NRSV)
          23 his corpse must not remain all night upon the tree; you shall bury him that same day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not defile the land that the Lord your God is giving you for possession.

          The highlighted word in Greek (LXX Septuagint for Deuteronomy) is “ξύλον (xylon)“. The NIV translates it as “pole” in each case.

          The concordance from blueletterbible.com gives this definition for “xylon”:

          I.wood

          A.that which is made of wood

          i.as a beam from which any one is suspended, a gibbet, a cross

          ii.a log or timber with holes in which the feet, hands, neck of prisoners were inserted and fastened with thongs

          iii.a fetter, or shackle for the feet

          iv.a cudgel, stick, staff

          II.a tree

          In the three verses preceding Galatians 3:13, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 27:26, Habakkuk 2:4, and Leviticus 18:5. Do you really think Paul was not associating Deuteronomy 21:23 with crucifixion?

          I think your complaint is with the Bible translations.

        • wtfwjtd

          “My point has been that what Paul mentions about Jesus is supported with vague references from Scripture, in the same way modern-day preachers do the same thing.”

          Ah, finally something we can agree on. And Paul makes it crystal-clear that it was from these very scriptures that he learned everything he knows about Jesus–he wasn’t taught the gospel by any man, he says, nor was it something man made up–he received it by relation from Jesus Christ (Gal 1:11-12).

          Does this in itself prove to me that Jesus was a myth? No, and I don’t think anyone else is making that claim either. It would be just as silly to say that Paul’s lack of familiarity with an earthly Jesus proves Jesus didn’t exist, as would be to try and use Paul’s writings as proof of the veracity of the physical resurrection. My take is that using Paul to say anything about an earthly Jesus, real or not, by either group is suspect, and not supported by Paul’s own writings. Although, if Paul really didn’t know about an earthly Jesus, then Jesus must not have had much of an impact. And if he did know of a physical Jesus, he doesn’t seem to say much in support of this knowledge.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Paul makes it crystal-clear that it was from these very scriptures that he learned everything he knows about Jesus

          Except that, as I’ve shown and Greg agrees, the OT Scriptures don’t actually say that Jesus lived, broke bread, was betrayed, crucified, and buried. Paul was trying to legitimize the new Crucified Messiah myth by supporting it with equivocal references to random bits of Scripture. It appears Paul knew about a rebel rabbi whose mission ended in crucifixion and death, and he dug up some verses he could tie to that knowledge.

          You didn’t ask me whether Paul claimed to have learned about Jesus through the Scriptures. This is what you originally asked: You are claiming that Paul does provide even a little biographical information about Jesus that isn’t found in the OT? Please, please point it out, we’d love see it. I complied, but you have since moved the goalposts.

          I’m not even saying this means executed rabbi Yeshua necessarily existed; it just means that Paul didn’t get the story from the OT, as Greg repeatedly and erroneously claims.

        • wtfwjtd

          “It appears Paul knew about a rebel rabbi whose mission ended in crucifixion and death, and he dug up some verses he could tie to that knowledge.”

          At first glance this explanation seems plausible enough, and is certainly a possibility. But it still leaves gaping holes in Paul’s claims and message. Did he really know a rebel rabbi, see him crucified and buried, and was unconvinced? Why didn’t he say this? Since he learned nothing of the gospel from any other man, how would he find out about the stuff about the breaking of bread and betrayal?
          I guess in essence you are saying that Paul discussing a rite called The Lord’s Supper, a passing mention of betrayal, a crucifixion and burial, then a resurrection, constitutes convincing biographical evidence of a specific historical person, with no other cooberating evidence? Is that the totality of your case for a historical Jesus?

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          I guess in essence you are saying that Paul discussing a rite called The Lord’s Supper, a passing mention of betrayal, a crucifixion and burial, then a resurrection, constitutes convincing biographical evidence of a specific historical person, with no other cooberating evidence? Is that the totality of your case for a historical Jesus?

          I hope those goalposts don’t fall over and harm you, the way they get moved every time you post.

          I specifically said that this didn’t necessarily mean Yeshua-the-crucified-rabbi existed. You merely asked for any biographical details about Jesus, ones that Paul mentioned and weren’t from the OT. I provided those details.

        • wtfwjtd

          “You merely asked for any biographical details about Jesus, ones that Paul mentioned and weren’t from the OT. I provided those details.”

          Fair enough. And so I repeat–Are those details mentioned above all you got in support of the *possibility * of a historical Jesus?

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Are those details mentioned above all you got in support of the *possibility * of a historical Jesus?

          Dude. I don’t even think the most doctrinaire mythicist would deny the “possibility” of a historical Jesus. Even my buddy Greg here admits there were plenty of radical Jews around at the time, he just says none of them were the model for Jesus.

          I’m just saying what I’ve always said: the myths seem to have a core of a Galilean rabbi whose Messianic mission ended in crucifixion. Why they would dream up a Suffering Messiah is anyone’s guess, but it makes sense if the Messiah-du-jour ended up being executed. Why they would make up a Messiah-from-podunk out of thin air is a poser unless some rabbi from Galilee was the model for the myth. And the fact that legends about his birth in Bethlehem had to be awkwardly reconciled with his Galilean provenance strongly suggests a deliberate process of revision of a pre-existing biography, not the creation of a hero or deity de novo.

          I’m not claiming that there’s copious evidence of Jesus. But mythicism can’t explain these odd details about the Jesus story, and historicism does.

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

          You’re familiar with euhemerization, the process by which a god is given an earthly backstory? Richard Carrier discusses it here (search on that page). Or Wikipedia.

        • wtfwjtd

          “And the fact that legends about his birth in Bethlehem had to be awkwardly reconciled with his Galilean provenance strongly suggests a deliberate process of revision of a pre-existing biography, not the creation of a deity de novo.”

          The only source I am aware of that discusses Jesus’s birth with this kind of detail is the gospels. Are you saying then that you accept the gospels as a reliable source for biographical information to establish the historicity of Jesus? Or is there another ancient source for this information?

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Are you saying then that you accept the gospels as a reliable source for biographical information to establish the historicity of Jesus?

          I’m saying no such thing. All I’m saying is that if they were going to concoct a Messiah, we’d expect them to tell us from the get-go that he was a Judean from Bethelehem, since that was King David’s hometown and the assumed provenance of a messiah-figure. If the whole Bethlehem birth was concocted as an afterthought, this suggests that the later narratives are bolting a mythic layer onto a pre-existing life story.

          Hey, I’m just saying this makes sense to me. It’s plausible. And I’ve noticed that (like creationists or 9-11 truthers) mythicists spend a lot of time criticizing the historicist theory and not establishing their alternative theory and its support. Care to give it a whirl?

        • hector_jones

          So a perceived inconsistency in a story (how many times have you told a christian ‘but they are just stories!’?) that you don’t find to be a reliable source of biographical information, is a point in favor of historicism?

          The Gospels disagree amongst themselves. One says Judas hanged himself, another that his guts blew out in a field. By your logic, that’s a point in favor of historicism.

          Why couldn’t they concoct a consistent story? Because it wasn’t one person concocting it. We have 4 Gospels, after all, each one with its own agenda.

        • wtfwjtd

          Well, maybe I’m not where I need to be yet, but I don’t necessarily see mythicism and historicity as an either-or proposition. It seems very plausible to me that the storyteller who wrote Mark may have had an actual dude in mind, kept a few actual, useful elements, and then spun the rest of the story pretty much out of whole cloth. The other guys, Matthew, Luke, and pretty much all the other non-canonical gospels out there, pretty much copied straight from him and added their own embellishments, so it seems pointless to address those as they are just “improvements” on the original Mark tale.

          Of course, the anonymous writer of Mark, whoever he was,was mindful of his audience, and constructed many of the elements that you speak of, and was careful to give his story the broadest appeal possible. And then, Iike I said, the other guys just “improved” Mark’s tale, with additions of their own.
          Bear with me, that’s the simplified version, I don’t like to get to windy in one post. But it does seem to me, that Paul’s knowledge of this original tale is very limited, and shockingly so, considering his supposed proximity to the alleged events. I say shockingly so because I have been amazed a the thin evidence this whole Jesus thing is built on, and I spent a good portion of my life believing it. Like you, I really wish there was more evidence, it would give a more solid basis for a better discussion.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          But it does seem to me, that Paul’s knowledge of this original tale is very limited, and shockingly so, considering his supposed proximity to the alleged events.

          This is the crux of the mythicist position, the constantly repeated complaint that Paul didn’t give a detailed account of Jesus’s life. And I’m not the only one who has offered plenty of good reasons to think there’s nothing weird about the lack of biographical detail in the epistles. Paul’s “proximity” to the alleged events was nil; the core of Paul’s authority was the risen Christ, not the rabbi Yeshua; Paul had his own agenda, one that appears very much at odds with the Jesus of the Gospels; Paul was proselytizing to Gentiles who couldn’t care less about an observant, circumcised Jew like Yeshua. The list goes on.

          Besides, if you’re going to concoct a Messiah out of thin air in the first century, you’d be much more likely to gain traction if your hero is a Judean of good lineage, like the late lamented hero Judah Maccabeus. And if the sky’s the limit, why make your Messiah a hick from Galilee, some nobody without lineage or position, for whom you have to cook up a dubious birth in Bethlehem as well as a forged Davidic lineage or two? Every explanation for the comically unlikely Galilee Messiah I’ve heard from Christian and mythicist alike has been tenuous at best, preposterous at worst.

          So the mythicist thing has novelty value, it’s “fun,” and it pisses off theists. Yawn.

        • wtfwjtd

          Personally, I wouldn’t expect much in the way of a detail account of the life of Jesus, but I would expect something in the way of an occasional personal anecdote or similar. Why did Paul believe what he believed about Jesus? That’s hard to say; but he did at least seem to believe that other people believed in him, as he said at one point he persecuted the “church of God”, which by inference included Jesus worship. So he saw others believing, had some kind of personal “experience”, became a believer himself, and then begin “finding” all kinds of things in scripture about him. And that whole gospels thing about Jesus being followed by the 12 disciples? There’s good evidence that was a fabrication, it never happened, and that would explain Paul thinking he was equal to the lot of them. In fact, he seemed to be competing with them.
          I think there’s more to the mythicist thing than just novelty value. It forces us to look at the totality of the story, and honestly try to address certain elements about the story that just don’t fit with the “traditional” embellished biographical interpretations of the gospels. I suspect though, the truth is more complicated, and my personal feeling is there’s more myth than man to the story. But there does seem to be both, and finding the balance is interesting part to me.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          I think there’s more to the mythicist thing than just novelty value.

          No one has ever explained it to me in ways that didn’t make it sound like an amateur romp through scholarship that should take actual education to come to terms with. Just because you and I think Bible Jesus and theology are BS doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of real historical and textual analysis involved in this “debate” that we’re not equipped to understand. Yet I hear many amateurs making pronouncements about translations of Greek terminology, textual variants, and first-century geopolitics as if literally anyone can become an expert on this stuff just by surfing the Web.

          Amateur presumption makes my conspiracism alarms go off as strongly when I read the Jesus Myth chatter as when I read 9-11 truthers telling me how a burning building should and shouldn’t collapse. I’ve discovered first-hand how deceptive and self-infatuated the mythicists are. Since mythicism is vastly more popular in message-board world than it is in academia, I guess the experts share my low opinion of the “hypothesis” and its adherents.

        • wtfwjtd

          ‘Just because you and I believe Bible Jesus and theology are BS doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of real historical and textual analysis involved in this “debate” that we’re not equipped to understand.”

          There are people who have devoted years, decades, of their lives studying this stuff, and the sane course for me is to listen to what they have to say. The title of Robert Price’s book sums up my feelings pretty well: “The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man”. Not “The Disappearing Son of Man”; there is a difference. And I don’t consider Price to be an amateur, either.
          To me, the gospels are just stories, and the character described in those stories named Jesus doesn’t exist; he’s fiction, or a myth, however you want to put it. But the character himself is probably based on some actual person somewhere, at some time, and was the “inspiration” for this character.

        • Greg G.

          Amateur presumption makes my conspiracism alarms go off as strongly when I read the Jesus Myth chatter as when I read 9-11 truthers telling me how a burning building should and shouldn’t collapse.

          Philip R. Davies, Professor emeritus of biblical studies at the University of Sheffield, England, says “the rather fragile historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth should be tested to see what weight it can bear,” criticizing scholars like Bart Ehrman who write from certainty with dismissive language and ad hominem attacks against anyone who raises the question of Jesus’ existence, and concluding that “recognition that his existence is not entirely certain would nudge Jesus scholarship towards academic respectability.”

        • wtfwjtd

          The evidence is fragile all right, and it’s a question that should be asked. Shem says “amateur presumption (makes) his conspiracism alarms go off”, and that’s understandable. But red-faced hysteria whenever the question of historicism is raised makes me sit up and take notice too, and I have to wonder what all the fuss is about. For the present, I still accept the consensus that probably somewhere, at some time,there may have been a real guy that the Jesus character was modeled after in the gospel stories.But the idea that the gospels are even just an embellished biography is nonsense. There’s a lot more fiction than fact there, that much seems clear.

        • Greg G.

          I would expect that if the scholarly consensus had a good argument for the historical Jesus, they would present it. Ehrman is one of the few who have actually considered the question and he had to resort to assumed documents of Q, M, and L and assumed that they were legitimate. Scholars can read all the documents in the field but if they don’t put the studies together as Price did, they won’t realize that every story about Jesus comes from other non-Jesus sources.

          Scientists try to disprove their theories and test them and refine them. They get nasty if anyone questions the existence of Jesus, let alone actually trying to test it.

        • wtfwjtd

          “They get nasty if anyone questions the existence of Jesus, let alone actually trying to test it.”

          There seems to be no shortage of nasty when this issue comes up, but I’d like to try and look past that as much as I can. I’ve started reading Price’s “Shrinking Son of Man”, it seems like a good read so far. I noticed that 100-scholar “Jesus Seminar” that he was part of, I think the average consensus there was that maybe as much as 18 per cent of the gospels could be considered history, and Price thought that number was too high. If nothing else, the Jesus character in the gospels keeps getting smaller and smaller, and that’s not wishful thinking by me, that’s by scholarly consensus.
          In which Ehrman book does he make a historicist case? Maybe I’ll check that one out next.

        • Greg G.

          Serendipty! I was looking at that today. 18% of the sayings and 16% of the deeds they voted were authentic. I glanced one they voted as probably true. That Jesus obeyed the sabbath in one verse. I haven’t read the book to see what reasoning anybody gave but if you assume a first century Jew existed, you would have to think he would observe the sabbath if he could. I didn’t see anything special about the verse that made that stand out. There wasn’t much information associated that jumped out as unlikely or likely.

        • Pofarmer

          Yep, me thinks the lady doth protest to much. Like I said. We’ll know soon enough if Carrier is a buffoon.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          I would expect that if the scholarly consensus had a good argument for the historical Jesus, they would present it.

          It’s one thing to be skeptical of the historicist thesis, but to claim that scholars have never even presented an argument for the historical Jesus is textbook conspiracism. Should we also believe there’s not a shred of evidence for evolution? That there’s no reason to believe terrorists flew jets into the Twin Towers?

        • Greg G.

          Where did I say “claim that scholars have never even presented an argument for the historical Jesus”? Presenting an argument and presenting a good argument are not the same thing. This would have been a good place to mention a good argument instead of assuming there is one. If there was a good argument, I would have expected Ehrman to have used it and we would not be having this conversation.

          If I’m wrong about it, just show me. You seem like the conspiracists who say they have evidence but can’t present it. I’ve seen you make reasonable arguments on other topics. What is your problem here?

        • hector_jones

          Sham sees conspiracist thinking in everything you post, Greg. But he’s the clear-headed one in this conversation with sound reasoning skills.

        • Greg G.

          I’m beginning to wonder if he thinks one needs a PhD to use a concordance. He must have thought it requires a Masters degree to understand the Bible so he didn’t bother to read it before trying to make an HJ proof. Since then he seems to have settled on catching me in a misstatement. That shouldn’t be so difficult that he would have to misrepresent what I say. I misspeak a lot. Sometimes I don’t use no good English.

          Maybe he’ll catch me in a spelling error.

          But sometimes he forces me to look stuff up. It was interesting that the same Greek word can be used for tree, wood, cross, or pole depending on the translation of the Bible. It’s cool to learn something new.

        • hector_jones

          You need a PhD to argue for mythicism, but the PhD doesn’t really help you because arguing for mythicism means you are crazy. But you don’t need a PhD or anything at all to argue for historicism, even if you don’t understand the arguments at all. All you need is to know that there is a consensus, and you can just make up the arguments from there.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          I’m beginning to wonder if he thinks one needs a PhD to use a concordance.

          Before your arm gets sore from patting yourself on the back, you should at least admit that people undergo years of specialized education to become experts in subjects like historical research and textual and linguistic analysis. In one breath you’ll deny that you’re an expert, but then in the next you make sweeping pronouncements about the political and cultural context of first-century Jerusalem and the semantic complexities of Koine Greek.

          In other words, Greg, you don’t need a PhD to fall for a conspiracy theory, either. You don’t need a PhD to become an expert on shit.

        • Greg G.

          I have noticed a disparity in what I actually say and what you say that I said. I don’t know what you are talking about with “sweeping statements” but I’m guessing the fact that I used a concordance to find out that the same Greek word was translated differently when you were making an argument based on those very translated words is what you mean by “semantic complexities”.

          I accept expert opinion when I understand their methodology in reaching a conclusion even if I don’t know all the facts. OTOH, when all the evidence is presented but instead of being given their methodology, they give us the opinion they formed in high school, then it is fair to question that opinion.

          You accuse me of conspiracy and creationist tactics but that is projection. You ask for evidence, I provide a list of evidence and you reject it, then ask again, just like creationists. I ask you for evidence, you give me scholarly consensus instead. I ask for their methodology and you give scholarly consensus like you’re a creationist citing the Bible.

        • Greg G.

          then in the next you make sweeping pronouncements about the political and cultural context of first-century Jerusalem

          Is this about when I was saying that the Sanhedrin couldn’t execute people without Roman consent. I provided my sources and my reasoning. A refutation would have been an instance of the Sanhedrin executing someone without consequences from the Roman government. Five minutes on Google and I found Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin and Judeo-Christian Research:

          Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the Sanhedrin were exiled and took up residence in Hanuth. Whereon R. Isaac b. Abudimi said: This is to teach that they did not try cases of Kenas. ‘Cases of Kenas!’ Can you really think so! Say rather, They did not try capitol charges46.

          footnote 46

          V. A.Z. 8b on Deut. XVII, 10: And thou shalt do according to the tenor of the sentence which they shall declare unto thee, from that place; this implies that it is the place that conditions the authority of the Sanhedrin in respect of the death sentence. [J. Sanh. I, 1 has, ‘the right to try capital cases was taken away from them, i.e., by the Romans. For a full discussion of the subject v. Juster. op. cit, II, 138ff.]

          I suppose that “Juster” citation refers to Jean Juster.

          I was trying to find a Sanhedrin execution to prove myself wrong to show you how quickly I can change my mind when presented with evidence to the contrary. I couldn’t. Instead found that scholarship had arrived at that conclusion a hundred years ago and is apparently still respected by scholars.

          I am not always right but it is beginning to look like I am when you disagree with me. I am beginning to doubt things we agree on though.

          I do appreciate your criticisms though. I would prefer if you put some thought into them first to make sure the scholars disagree with me.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Five minutes on Google and I found

          This speaks volumes about what you consider legitimate research.

        • Greg G.

          If you are going to poopoo a research method, you should at least show a claim that is non-factual before becoming condescending. It led me to actual scholarly work.

          Whatever research method you are using isn’t working.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          If there was a good argument, I would have expected Ehrman to have used it and we would not be having this conversation.

          Again using conspiracist tactics: There wouldn’t be a controversy about the historical Jesus, evolution, or the 9/11 inside job if the evidence were there! The only reason there’s a ‘controversy’ in the first place is because amateurs don’t want to acknowledge the validity of expert opinion and the basis for it.

          If I’m wrong about it, just show me. You seem like the conspiracists who say they have evidence but can’t present it.

          The perceived weakness of the historicist case isn’t support for mythicism. Instead of playing the flamebaitery-debatery game, why don’t you concentrate on putting a better case forward for mythicism than your incoherent slew of factoids and half-truths?

          And while you’re at it, you could try explaining why we should believe that the overwhelming majority of secular scholars don’t buy mythicism. Should we believe that these scholars are all ignorant and biased? Is there a sinister anti-mythicist conspiracy in the halls of academia? Or are scholars just unimpressed with the theory because they understand how selective, deceptive, and incoherent the Jesus Myth hypothesis is?

        • Greg G.

          The only reason there’s a ‘controversy’ in the first place is because amateurs don’t want to acknowledge the validity of expert opinion and the basis for it.

          This would have been a good place for you to demonstrate your claim instead of asserting it. Why should we acknowledge the validity of expert opinion and its basis if we can’t see it when we look? I accepted the expert opinion until I tried to follow their methodology.

          The perceived weakness of the historicist case isn’t support for mythicism.

          I have been posting that any perceived direct evidence for Jesus is really not about him but some literary character. Some, Strobel for instance, argue that the growth of the religion points to a historical Jesus but there are three major religions based on Abraham who is now considered by many to be fictional.

          Instead of playing the flamebaitery-debatery game, why don’t you concentrate on putting a better case forward for mythicism than your incoherent slew of factoids and half-truths?

          When you point to something you think is a factoid or half-truth, the true part turns out to be what I said and the false half is in your head. You have been shown that everything said about Jesus is made up from other literature. That is the hallmark of a created character. It’s that simple. If there is evidence I am not aware of, stop blustering and tell me.

          And while you’re at it, you could try explaining why we should believe that the overwhelming majority of secular scholars don’t buy mythicism.

          I asked you first. Most came into the field as believers and have never questioned it because of the scholarly consensus. If the consensus is not based on evidence and reason, it should be open to inquiry. If it is based on evidence and reason, please, please, please tell me where. If you can’t find any, try giving your own thoughtful inquiry, which would require you to actually read the text.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Why should we acknowledge the validity of expert opinion and its basis if we can’t see it when we look?

          Oh, stop playing this puerile game. You can’t see anything worthwhile if you cover your eyes whenever something doesn’t fit your predetermined conclusion. Conspiracists aren’t engaged in inquiry, they just want suckers to jump through hoops to try to educate them about subjects like evolution or steel structural failure. Then they around and scoff at the answers they get, and turn around and claim that “there are no good arguments” for the subjects so the process can start all over again. If you can’t be bothered to read and engage with what Ehrman or other real scholars say, why should I waste time playing the conspiracist shell game with you?

          You haven’t shown that Jesus was made up from other literature, you just copied and pasted a bunch of inadequate references and vague parallels gleaned from your amateur research. You haven’t shown that Jesus was a literary character, you’ve just reinterpreted any references to the living Jesus in the light of your speculation and dismissed anything that doesn’t support your predetermined conclusion. You have to stop making it sound like you’ve accomplished anything other than demonstrating what an agenda-driven conspiracist you are.

        • Pofarmer

          I think that if you want to insist a religion must have been based on a real person, you have to deal with scientology and dianetics, not to mention Mormonism which is a slightly different case. I also think Shem fails to acknowlege that there has been a scholarly opinion that Jesus may well have been a myth within Christianity since it was physically safe to hold such an opinion. He also likes to hand wave away that almost all biblical scholars have also been Christians. I don’t see how this paints me as some sort of a conspiracy nut. Mythicist scholars, or those who question the historicity of Jesus and those who don’t, agree on the vast majority of material. The mythicist just think the last little bit is questionable too. I even pointed out to Shem in another post when he derided me for saying there might be some lost scroll, is bolstered by the fact that Mathews contention that the messiah would be called a Nazarene isn’t supported by any extant text. So, you apparently have dualing prophecies that Jesus would be a Nazarene, from Bethlehem, from out of Egypt, etc, that all had to be worked into the story. Does the fact that the authors made him from everywhere, wnd there were apparently prophecies supporting each position, point to history or myth. I personally think it could go either way, but the kernel of history keeps getting smaller and smaller.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          I’ve never said it’s absolutely impossible that Jesus was mythical, or that it’s certain that Jesus existed. In fact, I agree with you that there’s very, very little in the Bible that’s historical. But this notion that there was no rabbi Yeshua is a claim that requires a lot more evidence that hasn’t been provided, and flies in the face of a lot of reasonable argument.

          The basis of the mythicist argument is pointing out how little biographical info Paul provides in his letters, and denying that what little he does provide is about a real person. I’ve looked through Carrier’s video, and his interpretation of the mentions of Jesus in Hebrews is so tendentious I’m not impressed. If you’ve already made up your mind that Jesus is mythical, fine. But anyone who looks at it with an objective set of eyes has every right to be skeptical.

          The amount of amateur pronouncements about what we should and shouldn’t expect from the epistles, and the offhand analyses of scriptural minutiae, are probably more persuasive to people who are into the online-research game than people who respect professional erudition.

        • Pofarmer

          It’s not just Paul. Have you read Remsburg ” The Christ” or Randal Helms “Gospel Fictions”? The former is free on line.

        • Pofarmer

          The problem is not just based on Paul. It’s also based on the lack of any confirming information from outside of purposeful religious tracts, and the lack of any contemporary archaelogical evidence that would be confirmatory. Remsburg does a good job going through all this.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Remsburg does a good job going through all this.

          Remsburg never denies that some Jesus guy may have existed: “It is not against the man Jesus that I write, but against the Christ Jesus of theology…That a man named Jesus, an obscure religious teacher, the basis of this fabulous Christ, lived in Palestine about nineteen hundred years ago, may be true. But of this man we know nothing.”

          In other words, he’s trying to distinguish between an obscure teacher and a miracle worker who was followed by multitudes. And in essence, I agree with that.

        • Pofarmer

          “may be true but of this man we know nothing.”

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          “may be true but of this man we know nothing.”

          And correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s not what mythicists are saying. They’re saying that no such human ever existed, and we know this because it’s much more plausible that Jesus was a fictitious deity character.

        • Pofarmer

          Notice, “may be true”. Remsberg says there is no historical evidence for Jesus. I believe this was written in about 1909. It’s been awhile since I’ve read it, but Remsberg pretty well dismantles the idea that there is some hidden information out there about the historical Jesus. You accuse Greg of quote mining, and then you quote Remsberg out of contest without, I presume, even reading his work about the paucity if the actual historical record.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Both you and Greg like quoting experts to suggest that their work supports mythicism, when neither Remsberg nor Prof. Davies appears to subscribe to the notion that a crucified rabbi Yeshua didn’t exist. Both are skeptical of the existence of miracle-worker Bible Jesus, as you and I are. But you guys like to use their words in a bait-and-switch tactic that misrepresents their opinions on the matter.

          That’s the problem when amateurs think they can crowd-source the truth about history with factoids culled from Internet searches. They can’t make relevant distinctions because their grasp of the complex scholarship involved is so lacking. And since “close enough” is more than adequate for the conspiracist’s purposes anyway, he doesn’t even consider this a problem.

          But that doesn’t make what you’re doing any less deceptive.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Just in case anyone else smells quote mining in Greg’s citation of the illustrious Philip R. Davies, this is the professor’s bottom line from his article about the Jesus Wars:

          Am I inclined to accept that Jesus existed? Yes, I am.

          Hmm.

        • Pofarmer

          Inclined merits a “hmmmm”

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

          Yeah, stop the presses. Davies says that it’s 51% likely that Jesus was historical.

        • hector_jones

          Lucky for him, because 2% less and we would have to, sadly, classify him as a conspiracist nut.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          I just wanted to point out that Davies isn’t offering support to the mythicist hypothesis. He’s just calling for a fair assessment of it instead of dismissing it outright.

          Since we’d call out creationists for quote-mining experts, I didn’t think mythicists should be exempt from correction on the same grounds.

        • hector_jones

          If Davies had been a mythicist you would have just dismissed his call for a fair assessment of the evidence as conspiracist thinking. So you didn’t help your case at all by pointing out that Davies is a historicist, because now you have to take Davies’ call seriously.

          Oh but you did get a chance to call Greg a quote miner (for leaving out a fact about Davies that actually helps Greg’s point and not yours), so I guess it wasn’t a total loss for you.

        • wtfwjtd

          In another comment here, Greg said this:”Philip R. Davies thinks the evidence for Jesus is fragile and should be re-evaluated.”

          That seems fair. That’s an interesting article, and the comments were also worth a look, thanks for the link.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          That seems fair.

          It is fair. It’s also fair to point out that an expert can assess the evidence for both sides and still lean toward historicism. Is there any reason to think that most historicists aren’t similarly fair-minded?

        • Greg G.

          Did you notice that I didn’t include him with the three Toms in a reply to Bob?

        • hector_jones

          Oh no, so Davies isn’t a mythicist? Good thing you didn’t let Greg get away with not disclosing this, because then some commenter could have dismissed Davies’ call to test the rather fragile historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth to help nudge Jesus scholarship towards academic respectability, as the fevered imaginings of a conspiracist. But now we have to take him seriously, because he’s part of the consensus. Sorry, Greg.

        • Pofarmer

          you realize that the “core argument of a risen Christ” can very well he fed right back into revelations as ancient astrology, right?

        • Pofarmer

          Also, if you’re gonna make somebody up, close after the events happened, wouldn’t you NOT make t someone famous and powerful? The Jews were occupied, saw themselves as underdogs, wouldn’t it make sense their messiah would be an underdog as well?

        • Kodie

          Someone famous at the time would be on record as having existed, and there you go. Some schmo hanging out in Jerusalem for a few years is a pretty broad biographical detail that would be difficult to follow up on in a few years. It takes a while for a story like this to get rolling and the town’s turned over.

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

          I don’t know if deliberate making-stuff-up fits in, but if you were to invent someone powerful, that story would risk being contradicted by historians’ accounts (or lack thereof). A nobody could slip in under the radar.

        • Pofarmer

          That’s all I’m sayin.

        • Pofarmer

          The simplest reason for dreaming up a suffering messiah, is that the real one wasn’t showing up, and they had to explain why. But, shoot, think of every action/superhero/hell just about every movie you’ve ever seen, the hero must fail/be tested/ be in pain before they can finally triumph. This goes clear back into ancient greek literature and hero’s. Also, regarding Bethlehem, they had to get him to bethlehem the same reason they had to get him back and forth to Egypt. Hell, who’s to say there’s not some lost scroll somewhere saying the messiah had to be from Galilee, then they realized after more reading he also had to be from Bethlehem. It’s a slim reed to hang your hat on.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          The simplest reason for dreaming up a suffering messiah, is that the real one wasn’t showing up, and they had to explain why.

          No, the simplest reason is that your prospective messiah showed up and, um, suffered.

          Hell, who’s to say there’s not some lost scroll somewhere saying the messiah had to be from Galilee, then they realized after more reading he also had to be from Bethlehem.

          Speculation overload!

          Is that really more plausible than that some Galilean was your failed messiah, and you have to invent a story about his birth in Bethlehem?

          No, it isn’t.

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, I shouldn’t speculate, but I was simply pointing out that there are other possible answers. We didn’t have the Gospel of Thomas until all that long ago, and things are being put in the public domain as they are traslated all the time. Earlychristianwritings.com is the best compilation I know of.

        • Pofarmer

          Interesting

          At the same time, an origin in both Galilee and Nazareth was exploited by some Christian evangelists in another way: as confirming that Jesus was the Christ. This is the tactic employed by Matthew, who tells us that the Christ had to come from Nazareth, “that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, that he shall be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2:23). Although no such prophecy can be found in the extant text of the Bible, there was no canon at the time, and we don’t know what texts Matthew’s audience may have relied on or how they interpreted them.[18] Matthew also claims (more credibly) that prophecy predicted a messiah who would come from “Galilee of the Gentiles,” a land that was “previously held in contempt, but later made glorious” (Isaiah 9:1), and that he would preach out of the Galilean city of Capernaum (as all the Gospels depict him doing).[19]

          http://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/improbable/galilee.html

          It appears that what we have is a case od dualing prophecies.

        • Greg G.

          Because you not only think there’s something odd about the lack of information about Jesus in Paul’s letters, but you also dismiss what little information he does provide about Jesus as not being about a real person at all.

          Paul mentions “Jesus” and/or “Christ” 300 times in 1469 verses yet he only gives any type of information just over a dozen times. If there were only three or four correspondences to scripture, you could say it was coincidence. But every single time for more than a dozen instances, that’s a pattern that demands an explanation.

          Paul says:

          Galatians 1:11-12
          11 For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; 12 for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

          He didn’t get his knowledge from anybody but the scripture. He says it was revelation from Jesus but everything he relates in his letters comes from the scripture.

          1 Corinthians 1:22-25
          22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

          and later in the same letter:

          1 Corinthians 9:19-23
          19 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

          Paul is willing to be a Jew to the Jews, outside the law for the Gentiles, and weak for the weak. Is it that he refuses to learn about Jesus from others or is it because he doesn’t think they know anything about Jesus either? That question is answered by:

          2 Corinthians 11:5-6
          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.

          Paul doesn’t think he knows less about Jesus than anybody else. He doesn’t seem to think anybody alive during his time could have known the Jesus he talks about.

          There is no viable evidence outside of the New Testament. The gospels do not provide viable evidence. The epistles don’t provide evidence for Jesus. But the epistles do provide evidence for the non-existence of the first century Jesus character.

          Heads I win, tails you lose? That’s a real conspiracist methodology you’re working.;

          You think reading what the words actually say is a “conspiracist methodology”? That’s all I had time to show you with the “Last Supper” argument. I thought it was good that you actually tried to find an example of evidence for Jesus in Paul’s letters.

          It’s not a competition to me. I’m just looking at what the Bible says. You are going on what you think the Bible says. Please don’t feel like a loser. You are an intelligent person. You should be able to make better arguments. If you can’t, it may be simply because the facts are against you. Just stop pounding the table.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          You think reading what the words actually say is a “conspiracist methodology”?

          But you’re not reading what the words actually say, when they appear to be describing a human being who lived, broke bread, was betrayed, died, and was buried. You’re ignoring disconfirming evidence of your pet theory, like any good conspiracist.

          Please don’t feel like a loser.

          I won’t, Greg, if you promise not to pretend you’re an expert.

        • hector_jones

          You’re ignoring disconfirming evidence of your pet theory, namely the words ‘according to the Scriptures’ that appear in 1 Cor 15.

          Greg has never once pretended to be an expert. On the contrary. Clearly you have a major bug up your ass about any independent research carried out by a non-professional. In your world, if it doesn’t come from the mind of Bart Ehrman or some other pre-approved scholar it is not only wrong but it must be stamped out with mockery and insults.

          It’s not about the truth with you, it’s about what might make atheism look bad. That’s a political agenda.

        • MNb

          “That’s a political agenda.”
          Ah, the kind of tu quoque creationists excel at. Tell me, why is JM so much more popular in the USA than in Europe? Are American atheists so much smarter perhaps? No, I don’t think so. Then what could it be?
          Got it! The cultural war going on in the USA between atheists and fundies, which is largely absent in Europe. Yup – JM has a political agenda.

        • Greg G.

          Thomas Brodie is from Ireland. Tommy Thompson was a professor of theology at the University of Copenhagen. He was born in the US but is now a citizen of Denmark. Philip R. Davies, Professor emeritus of biblical studies at the University of Sheffield, England, says “the rather fragile historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth should be tested to see what weight it can bear,” criticizing scholars like Bart Ehrman who write from certainty with dismissive language and ad hominem attacks against anyone who raises the question of Jesus’ existence, and concluding that “recognition that his existence is not entirely certain would nudge Jesus scholarship towards academic respectability.”

        • MNb

          Nice strawman. No historian of Antiquity – I am not interested in Biblical scholars and theologians; they are about as relevant for the issue as plumbers – denies “the rather fragile historical evidence” for anything in their field. Read a few articles here:

          http://www.livius.org/

          “”recognition that his existence is not entirely certain”
          Another excellent strawman. No historian of Antitiquity – in fact no scientist in any field – claims that something is entirely certain on anything. Reread the first chapter of Hawking’s Brief History of Time. That applies to historians of Antiquity as well.
          It’s the other way round. JM’s demand absolute certainty; if there is the slightest doubt they immediately conclude myth, without providing empirical evidence for anything. Thanks for confirming that JM’s use the same methodology as creationists.

          Another similarity: as soon a creationist finds a piece of evidence that seems to confirm his/her pre-determined conclusion he/she never asks how Evolution Theory explains this. As soon a JM finds a piece of evidence or an argument that seems to confirm his/her pre-determined conclusion he/she never wonders how this fits into the simple hypothesis of a historical Jesus with lots of legends attached.
          Also – I realized it a bit late – there is the excellent argument you brought up a while ago. Historians of Antiquity thought Abraham was historical and were wrong. Historians of Antiquity thought Moses was historical and were wrong. Never mind that you don’t provide any quotes; it might be a strawman as well as far as I can see. Never mind either it was the Israeli archeologist Finkelstein – and the archeologist is to the historian of Antiquity what the paleothologist is to the evolutionary biologist – who did the actual digging; most JM’s do about as much actual research as the average IDiot from Seattle. What you pulled off was another creacrap fallacy – scientific consensus always changes, hence science must be wrong now too.
          What I also enjoyed was the argument “christian scholars who postulate a historical Jesus are biased”. Duh. The same applies to all JM’s. They all are atheists and hence have as much political motivation for their pet theory as those christian scholars. The simple fact you don’t even recognize this shows how biased you are. You imply that as an atheist you are objective and unbiased a priori and hence contradict psychological research. Atheists want the truth; believers want to confirm their prejudices. Yeah. Forget about Feynman’s “the first principle is not to fool yourself and that you are the easiest to fool of all”. Forget about the fact that JM is much more popular in the USA than in Europe. Of course that has nothing to do with the cultural war that is absent in Europe.
          Finally you’re silly to bring up Ehrman for anything. I haven’t read him and don’t plan to. It became clear to me well before I even had heard of him that JM is pseudoscience. It’s the lame methodology – almost a copy of creacrap methodology – of JM’s like you that convinced me JM is pseudoscience.

        • Greg G.

          Dude, you said “Tell me, why is JM so much more popular in the USA than in Europe?” and “largely absent in Europe”. Are there any out JMs employed in academia in the US? You have to look to Europe to find them. That undercuts your premises. You didn’t specify “historian of antiquity” in your post, in fact, you were so vague as to include only American atheists. You moved the goal post and threw out a “strawman” accusation.

          I am not asking for certainty, just evidence and a solid methodology that points at the conclusion.

        • MNb

          “Dude …”
          Isn’t it typical? Fundies like Norm like to call me names like that too.

        • Greg G.

          Dude, you were comparing me to creacrappers but you complain when I call you “dude”.

          BTW, it was the Tommy Thompson I mentioned that brought up the idea that Abraham wasn’t a real person in his doctoral thesis. His thesis was rejected by future-Pope Joseph Ratzinger. He finished his degree in the US but after his study was published, nobody in the US would hire him. (Might that be the reason so few scholars will openly question the existence of Jesus? And that those who do are in Europe?) Finkelstein vindicated him.

        • Pofarmer

          Hell, jesus Mythology STARTED in Europe. I dunno, I have been reading quite a bit about science and reason and psudeoscience. As far as the idea of an historical Jesus with a lot of mythology attached, that has always been the default position. I think it is rather interesting to make the historicists prove their position from the same types of evidence as would be used for Ceasar Augustus, or Pontious Pilate, or Alexander the Great or Plato or Socrates, or Herod. I think you’ll find that most of the evidence used to confirm most other individuals is absent.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          I think it is rather interesting to make the historicists prove their position from the same types of evidence as would be used for Ceasar Augustus, or Pontious Pilate, or Alexander the Great or Plato or Socrates, or Herod. I think you’ll find that most of the evidence used to confirm most other individuals is absent.

          Yes, I recall you expressed surprise that there were no coins with Jesus’ face on them, or buildings with his name inscribed on them. Why you’d find it so significant that some obscure Jewish teacher didn’t leave the same kind of evidence as a Roman Emperor is something that only makes sense to you amateur historians.

        • Pofarmer

          Are you being obtuse or dishonest?

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          I think anyone who would expect the same kind of evidence for the existence of a crucified hick rabbi as for that of Emperor Augustus Caesar is the one being obtuse and dishonest.

        • Pofarmer

          Then it’s a good thing nobody is asking for that. Hell, let’s apply the methods used to say that Jesus is certainly historical to Odysseus, or Hercules, or Harry Potter or Jack Ryan. What do we come up with then? All, I’m really arguing, and Greg too, is that the reasoning surrounding the scholarship on Jesus here certainly appears to be circular, and depends on your starting presumption, and is going to come up with a lot of false positives. I I think even you will admit there is basically none of the types of evidence used to validate other historical figures, and new categories of “evidence” were created, like the criterion of embarrasment, that seem to be unique to biblical studies. Add to this, the fact that we KNOW that a religious movement doesn’t have to be based on a real person or factual events and the case gets weaker. I think the question is what is the probability of a real Jesus s a made up Jesus? At this pont I think it is probably to the left of probably real, just due to the lack of generally confirmatory evidence.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Then it’s a good thing nobody is asking for that.

          So why did you assert that you make online fun out of demanding the same evidence for Jesus as you would for Caesar Augustus? You do understand that someone could get that impression from those words you typed, don’t you?

          All, I’m really arguing, and Greg too, is that the reasoning surrounding the scholarship on Jesus here certainly appears to be circular, and depends on your starting presumption, and is going to come up with a lot of false positives.

          All that tells me is that you’re struggling to understand the scholarly consensus on the matter, and that for some reason you think your amateur criticisms of historical methodology are supposed to hold weight.

          If you don’t read all sorts of elaborate meanings into the way Paul refers to the living Jesus, you sort of come to the conclusion that most scholars do: Paul thought Jesus was once a living guy. If you don’t feel the overwhelming need to concoct unwieldy ad hoc explanations involving euhemerization and mythic hero archetypes, you’re left with the plausible explanation that there was a plain old executed rabbi at the core of the miraculous Christ story.

        • Pofarmer

          Why do you assume that the position that it is possible/likely that Jesus is a myth comes from a lack of understanding or evidence? I’ve read Ehrman, WLC, Randal Helms, Remsberg, Ingersol, Aaron Adair, Stephen Law, and a host of others that are scholarly, many peer reviewed, not crank works. Greg G has listed others that he has read. I hope that Carrier gives this a fair hearing in his book coming out. For many Christians they can’t even conceptualize that it may be possible that Jesus was a myth, or even largely myth or even slightly made up. Let’s have the conversation,and engage the arguments rather than resorting to fallacious reasoning.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Why do you assume that the position that it is possible/likely that Jesus is a myth comes from a lack of understanding or evidence?

          I don’t assume that at all. It’s a conclusion I’ve come to after recognizing the near-total lack of expert support for the hypothesis as well as the scattershot and deceptive methods used by its online proponents.

          I think it’s easy for people to get the impression that historicism is like theology, just a bunch of Christians chanting kum-ba-ya and not much substance. But historical research, ancient languages, and textual
          analysis are specialized disciplines. I know you guys think that Googling stuff and downloading a few e-books are enough to make anyone an expert on these subjects, but it just isn’t true.

          I’m no expert either, but I’ve never been given an explanation as to why secular scholars wouldn’t get behind the mythicist theory that didn’t sound like typical conspiraloon rationalization. Prof. Davies seems very fair-minded about hearing out the mythicists, but even he’s skeptical that mythicism is going to be the consensus view in twenty years. If this matter were as cut and dried as Carrier makes it out to be, why are scholars reluctant to be anything more than magnanimous about it?

        • Pofarmer

          If Carrier thought it were a simple cut and dried argument, he wouldn’t be sending his book through peer review. Which secular scholars have seriously considered it and written about it?

          “I know you guys think that Googling stuff and downloading a few e-books
          are enough to make anyone an expert on these subjects, but it just isn’t
          true.”

          See, and that’s just dismissive nonsense. I’ve been pretty darn careful to read credited works by people who are, in fact, considered to be scholars. Are some of them controversial? Obviously they are.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Which secular scholars have seriously considered it and written about it?

          Not so keen to waste five minutes doing a Google search when it might tell you something you don’t want to hear, are you now?

          Like I said, the explanations for why scholars aren’t jumping on the mythicist bandwagon are way too convenient for my liking. Even though this hypothesis has been around almost as long as Christianity itself, you figure nobody knows about it or has seriously considered it. Meanwhile, you’ve discovered the Truth that all these credentialed scholars have overlooked in their folly.

          Please.

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

          Not so keen to waste five minutes doing a Google search when it might tell you something you don’t want to hear, are you now?

          You’re sounding a little hysterical, like this JM thing is getting a little too real for comfort. Why not just welcome the discussion instead of trying to shut it down?

        • Pofarmer

          “Not so keen to waste five minutes doing a Google search when it might tell you something you don’t want to hear, are you now?”

          I thought you might at least have a name in mind, so we could be on the same page, but it appears you are merely pulling things out of your ass and making appeals to authority. Well played.

          “Meanwhile, you’ve discovered the Truth that all these credentialed scholars have overlooked in their folly.”

          I’ve made no such claim.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          I thought you might at least have a name in mind, so we could be on the same page

          Just on the Wiki page for Historicity of Jesus, there are dozens of names listed. I have no reason to think these guys have never heard of mythicism or are biased against it. Even Prof. Davies doesn’t think too highly of the theory as such, he just thinks scholars should be forthright about how little certainty we should expect either way.

        • Pofarmer

          You said secular historians. You want me to cull through a list of dozens of names with no other information to determine who is what? You can’t even name one who’s argument you are familiar with? You are being an insincere ass.

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

          you’re struggling to understand the scholarly
          consensus

          Let’s remember the field we’re talking about. This isn’t physics, it’s theology. There’s no consensus on the number of gods, let alone nuanced questions like this one.

          I’ve got plenty of respect for scholars like Ehrman and Price (on opposite sides of this particular issue), and I very much know my own ignorance. But “the consensus of New Testament scholars is that Jesus was historical” is not completely dissimilar from “the consensus of Chicago Bears fans is that the Bears are the awesomest team evar.”

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Let’s remember the field we’re talking about. This isn’t physics, it’s theology.

          But it’s not theology, it’s historical research and the study of ancient texts. Even Carrier admits that the scholarly consensus for historical Jesus just among secular historians is pretty solid.

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

          I wonder what your point is. I’d been apathetic about the Jesus Myth theory, though Greg keeps providing compelling evidence that makes me take it more seriously. You’re great at mocking, though I don’t think that you’re doing your side of the argument much good.

        • hector_jones

          Apparently we are just talking about ‘some obscure Jewish teacher’ and not about the guy whose followers turned him into the son of god within the most powerful religion the world has ever seen.

        • wtfwjtd

          And let’s not forget, the actual differences between JM vs HJ are pretty small, as Davies pointed out in his article.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          I think every one of their points is seriously lacking, and I’ve explained why I do several times.

          As far as the lack of biographical detail in the epistles, I think we’re being made to see a problem that doesn’t exist. There are plenty of plausible reasons for this lack. Whether Paul was embarrassed at his lack of personal involvement with the living Jesus or just intimidated by the influence that Jesus’ actual apostles claimed because of their proximity to Jesus during his lifetime, it’s obvious that Paul felt his authority derived from the risen Christ. His epistles consisted of rants about theology, morality, and Church administration, not about the life of Jesus or Paul himself or anyone else. Paul was preaching to Gentiles in whom the symbol of an observant, circumcised Jew wouldn’t resonate as strongly as a rising deity. And Jesus’ supposed teachings are as irrelevant to Paul as the rest of his earthly life. Why would we expected to hear a lot about Jesus the rabbi from such a self-aggrandizing visionary?

          That said, there are references in the epistles to Jesus’ life that appear to distinguish between the pre-crucifixion Jesus and the risen Christ. The mythicists insist we look at these all as references to a deity, but I see no reason to do so. The supposed parallels to other gods are just as supportive of the theory that the story of dead-rabbi-Jesus was elaborated to create Bible Jesus as they are of the theory that deity-Jesus acquired a human biography.

          Mythicism can’t provide a better answer to why the Messiah all of a sudden got redefined to mean a suffering hero who dies instead of a conqueror; or why the King of the Jews got redefined as a Galilean instead of a good, upstanding Judean with a respectable lineage. Later Gospel writers even concocted ways to have Jesus born in Bethlehem as well as a couple of phony Davidic lineages. This is much easier to understand if there was a Galilean whose messianic mission failed, and myths accrued around his life and mission.

          Paul quotes Scripture constantly and at great length. Not surprisingly, he refers to Scripture when he’s describing the life and sacrifice of Jesus. But that’s no reason to claim that “everything Paul knows about Jesus comes from the OT,” as the Gregster does more often than not. I have pointed out how misleading and deceptive this tactic is several times, but evidently mythicism is unconstrained by a commitment to honesty.

          Also less-than-honest is the way any Biblical historian’s critique of the existence of miracle-Jesus gets quoted as if it supports the theory that rabbi-Jesus never existed. Even authors who explicitly state that they have no particular issue with historicism are made to appear as if they support mythicism.

          As I keep saying, I’m no expert. But it can’t be gainsaid that most experts seem very unconvinced by mythicism, even secular ones we’d expect to jump on the mythicist bandwagon if there were anything to the theory. I guess we’re supposed to think that all these experts on history, linguistics, and textual research are all ignorant, inept, biased, or too intimidated by academic repercussions to publicly acknowledge the truth of this powerful theory. I think there’s a much better reason, which is just that scholars have weighed the evidence and found it wanting.

        • Pofarmer

          “I guess we’re supposed to think that all these experts on history,
          linguistics, and textual research are all ignorant, inept, biased, or
          too intimidated by academic repercussions to publicly acknowledge the
          truth of this powerful theory.”

          Who, who, who, who, who. Give me a name.

        • wtfwjtd

          Here’s a few names: Geoffrey Blainey, , Robin Lane Fox, Michael Grant. I haven’t found these guys to have wrote anything specific to JM vs HJ, but they have written historical works on Christianity that likely address the topic to a degree. AFAIK these guys are accredited historians, though I am not familiar enough with them to say whether or not they actually have an expressed religious preference.

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

          Sounds like you’re saying that a mythical Jesus is quite plausible and explains the facts but that a historical (non-divine) Jesus is also plausible, and that’s the likelier explanation?

          And Jesus’ supposed teachings are as irrelevant to Paul as the rest of his earthly life. Why would we expected to hear a lot about Jesus the rabbi from such a self-aggrandizing visionary?

          Because Jesus is where his authority comes from and he’s comfortable acknowledging his own inferior status?

          [Paul] refers to Scripture when he’s describing the life and sacrifice of Jesus. But that’s no reason to claim that “everything Paul knows about Jesus comes from the OT,” as the Gregster does more often than not. I have pointed out how misleading and deceptive this tactic is several times, but evidently mythicism is unconstrained by a commitment to honesty.

          I remember Greg asking you for counterexamples. Do you have any examples of Jesus in Paul’s writings that don’t come from the OT? I haven’t been paying close attention, so I might’ve missed this.

          Also less-than-honest …

          We must assume that Greg is just a liar? I don’t think the evidence is strong. Maybe we have instead two enthusiastic atheists who are eager to explore the JM theory with an open mind. No?

          As I keep saying, I’m no expert. But it can’t be gainsaid that most experts seem very unconvinced by mythicism

          We’re in the Wonderland of Christianity. When the options for some scholars is either rejecting JM or burning in hell, I’m not sure everyone’s following the evidence objectively.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          I remember Greg asking you for counterexamples. Do you have any examples of Jesus in Paul’s writings that don’t come from the OT? I haven’t been paying close attention, so I might’ve missed this.

          The simple fact is that none of this knowledge comes from the OT. Instead of the crucified Christ, there is an incongruous mention in Deuteronomy that ‘someone hanging on a tree is under God’s curse.’ (How could this be Jesus if he were ‘under God’s curse’?) Instead of Christ’s betrayal and passion, there are vague references to betrayal and destruction. They’re just examples of Paul scrambling for scriptural support for his Suffering Messiah trope. If some fundie showed up here peddling these as OT prophecies of the Crucifixion, we’d laugh ourselves sore.

          We’re in the Wonderland of Christianity. When the options for some scholars is either rejecting JM or burning in hell, I’m not sure everyone’s following the evidence objectively.

          As far as fundies go, you’re absolutely right. But why would secular scholars or popular historians like Michael Grant or Geoffrey Blainey have had qualms about stirring up controversy, when they never shied away from it otherwise?

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

          Instead of the crucified Christ, there is an incongruous mention that ‘someone hanging on a tree is under God’s curse.’ (How could this be Jesus if he were ‘under God’s curse’?)

          Good question, but hardly the only puzzle that Christians ineptly ignore.

          But why would secular scholars or popular historians like Michael Grant or Geoffrey Blainey have had qualms about stirring up controversy, when they never shied away from it otherwise?

          Interesting question. I’ve never heard of them. Have they weighed in on JM? There are many topics vying for attention, and I would’ve thought that most New Testament scholars simply haven’t put the time in to have an interesting opinion.

        • Greg G.

          I’m begging for the dis-confirming evidence. I am not an expert nor do I claim to be. I am begging for someone to show me where I am wrong. I’m not an historian but I have read up on their methods. If I am not following their methods, I’m begging to be corrected.

          You make claims that are too easy to be refuted by simply showing what Paul actually said. You have mentioned that he quotes the Old Testament a lot but you don’t think he saw those verses? Paul quotes Isaiah 53:1 in Romans 10:16 and Isaiah 53:11 in Romans 15:8. If you don’t think the early Christians were reading Isaiah 53 and associating it with Jesus, see 1 Peter 2:22-25. I included the NIV footnote links in that link.

        • MNb

          “If I am not following their methods, I’m begging to be corrected.”
          When it comes to JM there are several questions you don’t seem to avoid. I might do you injustice here; due to the structure of Disqus it’s nearly impossible to read all your comments. First of all: how does your method apply to other historical characters? Do they provide good results? If not you have to dismiss it or you’ll be guilty of the ad hoc fallacy. Then you should ask: what positive evidence do you have for JM? Casting doubt on a historical Jesus (eg by pointing out that christian copiists messed with the infamous FJ quote) is useful, but doesn’t necessarily lead to JM. Next question: how coherent is JM? Here you get issues like “why would the authors of the Gospels invent an entirely fictional character if there where plenty of Messias claimants around, John the Baptist being one example?” Next question: how consistent is JM? One issue here is “why would the authors of the Gospels go against the grain and develop a new mythology around a person who was supposed only recently (from their point of view), whereas other myths always were situated in the far past? Finally you should avoid the false dichotomy “a theory is either 100% proven or it’s totally incorrect.” Now I’m not convinced you are guilty of this error, but it is a strategy very popular among JM’s and also among creationists. The correct approach is of course to consider all the available known facts (we do that with theories of the natural sciences too) and then decide which theory describes them best.

          When I met JM the first time I liked it very much. But when I noticed how pseudoscientific JM methodology is I lost my enthusiasm.One example I recall – I realized it too late and am not going to look up your actual comment – is your “Scholars used to think Noah was historical; not now anymore. Then they used to think Abraham was historical; not now anymore. Same for David and Solomon. Jesus will follow”. This is basically the creationist argument “scientific consensus always changes, hence science today must be wrong too”.
          It’s a sure way to lose me.

        • Greg G.

          First of all: how does your method apply to other historical characters? Do they provide good results? If not you have to dismiss it or you’ll be guilty of the ad hoc fallacy.

          First we consider the evidence. There is no contemporary evidence. The fact that there were Christians by the late first century is not evidence that there was an early first century Jesus. Most of the literature about Jesus was rejected by the early Christians as being too ridiculous but they may have shifted the Overton window to make the gospels sound reasonable.

          Various scholars, mostly non-mythicists, have traced the sources for the Gospel of Mark. Combined, nearly every deed attributed to Jesus was previously attributed to somebody else in the literature where it was probably fictitious there as well. The other gospels rely on Mark as a source as they repeat the fictitious stories, which shows they had no reliable knowledge base for Jesus. R. J. Hoffman is a scholar and an anti-mythicist but he says:

          I don’t know too many New Testament scholars who would argue that the gospels are good history, and some (me among them) who would say that for the most part the gospels are totally useless as history. The gospels were written as propaganda by a religious cult. That impugns them as history, even at a time—the last decades of the first great Roman imperial century—when history wasn’t especially committed to recording what really happened in a dispassionate and disinterested way.

          So, I dismiss the gospel stories as not being reliable evidence. The late epistles are also dependent on them so I think they can be dismissed, too.

          That leaves the early epistles. They mention many people and give some information about them. Cephas is mentioned in four different passages in 1 Corinthians and is mention once as Cephas and four times as Peter in Galatians. We learn that he has been to Antioch and he had a wife.

          For Jesus, we get no information that doesn’t appear in the Old Testament, though he is mentioned at least 300 times in less than 1500 verses by Paul. He has no information that would give us a clue that Paul knew anything about him as a first century person. Paul say he would be a Jew to the Jews, outside the law, to those outside the law, weak to the weak just to help them get saved, but he says he doesn’t have the signs for the Jews or the wisdom for the Greeks. Yet he says that he is not lacking in knowledge that the other apostles have. That would be ridiculous if he thought they had known Jesus.

          The other early epistles have no other information either. When any of the early epistles make arguments, they quote scripture, but a quote from a recently resurrected person or from that person while he lived would have strenghtened the argument.

          So we have no evidence in the early epistles in favor of a first century Jesus. No teachings, preachings, or anecdotes.

          Then you should ask: what positive evidence do you have for JM? Casting doubt on a historical Jesus (eg by pointing out that christian copiists messed with the infamous FJ quote) is useful, but doesn’t necessarily lead to JM.

          That would be the evidence that everything about Jesus in Mark comes from sources about somebody else. That Paul doesn’t seem to think that anybody else knew any more about Jesus than he did. That Paul explains that his gospel comes from revelation from long hidden secret mysteries in the scriptures backed up by the fact that everything he says about Jesus is found in the scriptures.

          Next question: how coherent is JM? Here you get issues like “why would the authors of the Gospels invent an entirely fictional character if there where plenty of Messias claimants around, John the Baptist being one example?”

          It wasn’t the gospel writers that made up Jesus. The early apostles didn’t believe that the others were the Messiah. They thought the Messiah was still coming as in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. They seem to have thought that the fact that the so-called mysteries were being revealed at that point in time was an indication that the Messiah was coming.

          Mark may have written an allegory to explain the destruction of Jerusalem because of a failed religion only to give it new life when people believed it was a history.

          Next question: how consistent is JM? One issue here is “why would the authors of the Gospels go against the grain and develop a new mythology around a person who was supposed only recently (from their point of view), whereas other myths always were situated in the far past?

          Mark may have been an allegorical tale. He didn’t seem to understand the Jewish literature as well as he understood the Greek literature. He used the Greek art of mimesis to blend several source elements into the story. He wrote it in a chiastic form. He seemed to be trained in composition. Perhaps he wrote in broken Greek to make it look like the story came from a Jewish source. It appears to have worked.

          But this is irrelevant speculation. The fact that we still have so many sources that we can identify shows that it was made up. The fact that he had to have known that he was creating fiction should be enough to show that he was not doing it as theology.

          Finally you should avoid the false dichotomy “a theory is either 100% proven or it’s totally incorrect.” Now I’m not convinced you are guilty of this error, but it is a strategy very popular among JM’s and also among creationists. The correct approach is of course to consider all the available known facts (we do that with theories of the natural sciences too) and then decide which theory describes them best.

          I confess that my arguments in comments may come across as black or white but it’s just cumbersome to keep putting the perhaps’s, maybe’s, and “it could be”‘s in every statement. Aren’t my arguments long enough already?

          I agree that there are many bad arguments for JM just as there are bad arguments for HJ. I try to base my arguments within the test of the Bible and related documents of the day. There is no good evidence for HJ that wasn’t collected into the canon, anyway, that I am aware of. When I am presented with extrabiblical for HJ, I will reconsider my position.

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

          I agree that there are many bad arguments for JM

          That’s Richard Carrier’s story. He said that he would occasionally bump into Jesus mythicist arguments and they’d be weak. Then he read Dougherty’s (?) book and found a decent amount of good argument. From that point on, he began looking for evidence in support of the argument rather than against it.

        • Greg G.

          I had heard many say that there was no Jesus but didn’t follow their arguments past the lack of evidence in favor of HJ. Then I started reading Ehrman which led to other New Testament scholars. So I had some basics when I began to watch Truthsurge’s Excavating the Empty Tomb series on YouTube. He isn’t a scholar but his presentation was good for most YouTube content. I became acquainted with the arguments. I debated those who argued against him and sometimes against Truthsurge himself.

          I held onto the scholarly consensus for HJ under the assumption that deep down, there was a good, highly sophisticated argument I didn’t understand. When Ehrman’s book came out, I thought he would explain it but he showed that scholars don’t have any better arguments than the Bible thumpers. I was reading Carrier’s blog then so I saw his criticisms of DJE? .

          Then I read Doherty’s The Jesus Puzzle and Price’s The Christ Myth Theory and haven’t been able to take HJ arguments very seriously ever since. Even scholars make silly arguments for HJ because they read the gospels back into the epistles.

        • Pofarmer

          John the Baptist got himself killed and didn’t rise from the dead. He was probably too well known for the mythicist treatment. Seems to me, if you are going to go full blown son of God supernatural, it’s actually easier to do that with a full on fictional charachter.

        • hector_jones

          John the Baptist may have been an entirely fictional character. There’s debate about that too. The passage in Josephus that describes his death may well be an interpolation. There are good arguments that it is.

          Aside from Josephus, John the Baptist only appears in the Gospels (and in the Koran, but that’s not saying much.) So the evidence for John isn’t at all good enough to conclude that he was probably too well known for the mythicist treatment.

        • Pofarmer

          Next you’re going to tell me Mary, if there really was a Mary, ( ’cause if there wasn’t a Jesus would there have been a Mary) wasn’t a Virgin who gave birth to a living God( and when you put it that way, THAT isn’t even all that rare in ancient literature.).

        • hector_jones

          Next I’m going to tell you – hold on to your hat – that Joseph of Aramathea may not have been a real dude either!

          Mary, however, was real. Her phone number appears on far too many middle eastern men’s room walls to doubt it.

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

          John the Baptist got himself killed and didn’t rise from the dead.

          Right, although one of the guesses to who Jesus was was a risen John.

        • wtfwjtd

          And I wouldn’t think it’s too far-fetched to say that Jesus could have been *modeled* after one of the many first century messiahs. Take a real guy, keep a few useful elements, make up a back story, and then throw in all the apostles and the supernatural stuff. This way he’d be both mythical *and* historical at the same time, and who’d know the difference? This is actually quite a useful story-telling trick, and can be very effective if done properly.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          I wouldn’t think it’s too far-fetched to say that Jesus could have been *modeled* after one of the many first century messiahs.

          I fully agree. Look at Judas the Galilean and his son, the Zealots who rebelled against Roman rule only decades before Jesus was supposedly around. There could have been a lot of appeal for a reboot of the Messiah that got rid of the violence and sectarianism that many people probably realized led to the destruction of the Temple. Appeal, that is, among Gentiles who distrusted Jews as well as among Jews who thought Galileans were worthless thugs.

        • wtfwjtd

          I seems to be that the Jesus that Paul writes about is a lot more myth than actual man, and a loner to boot. But he seems to imagine that this Jesus is associated with the “church of God” that he himself claims to have persecuted.
          So scholars tell us that Paul wrote his stuff somewhere from 40-60 AD. Then along comes the author of Mark, picks up on some of Paul’s stuff, and maybe some local things mixed in, and spins his tale around 70, more or less, so we’re told. A loner Jesus tale just won’t do, so he adds some ad hoc stuff about 12 disciples, picking out some names from Paul’s writings, but not Paul, as that wouldn’t work too good, to give some drama. He then picks up on some local Messiah character, who may or may not be the same actual guy that Paul thinks he was referring to. But with all the war and upheaval going on, who’s going to notice? He mashes it all together, spins his tale, and ends it with the “cliffhanger” version at verse 8, maybe even with the intent of writing a sequel or something.
          Did I just completely make this explanation up? Of course I did, but with the evidence being so thin it’s about all I’ve got, and just as plausible as a host of other ad hoc explanations. Even yet, it makes loads more sense than the Christian apologist nonsense that I’ve seen. Of course that’s a low bar, but geez, I find it kind of a fun exercise to play “what if” every once in while. Like the “less filling, tastes great” argument, I doubt this one will ever be settled with a very high degree of confidence.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          I doubt this one will ever be settled with a very high degree of confidence.

          Regardless of what you and I believe, we’re still faced with a near-unanimous opinion among historians and Bible scholars that the issue is settled. Even Carrier admits that there’s a historicist consensus among just secular scholars. Pushing this mythicist, ahem, “controversy” is increasing his celebrity and gaining him lots of fans among message-board denizens, but Carrier is pretty much the only credentialed scholar who thinks this isn’t a done deal. For mythicism to be true, therefore, all these scholars would have to be inept, lying, biased, or too frightened of losing their professional standing to acknowledge this subversive truth. Let’s be serious.

          I know we’re supposed to be fair-minded, and we all love an outspoken maverick. But I have to be honest, it creeps me out to think that the Bible-studies version of anti-evolutionism and 9/11 truth is so popular among so-called skeptics here in the digital sandbox.

        • wtfwjtd

          I am definitely willing to accept the scholarly consensus, and right now the consensus is for an actual guy in the story somewhere. My perception, however, has changed, and my personal feeling now is that he was a lot more myth than man. But still, there’s probably a grain of truth in there somewhere; likely, there was a deluded rabbi/conjurer wandering around at some point, someplace in Judea, who got himself killed, maybe even executed by the Romans. I’ll go further and say that the Josephus reference, by scholarly consensus, is genuine, but altered. Once again, though, it’s second-hand information, but he had likely heard rumors or something about a guy somewhere and felt the need to put in a blurb about him. And Celsus, a 2nd Century Christian critic, felt the need to criticize Jesus, mainly to say that he did his magic like any other conjurer of the time, and there was nothing special about him.
          I used to believe that the gospels were semi-biographical works that had been embellished and altered. I don’t see it that way now; more like a storyteller who spun a tale, but who had an actual guy in mind, and kept a few details of his life that were useful and making up the rest. It may not have even been the same guy that Paul had in mind in his writings. With all the upheaval in the area going on at the time, and this apparently being a very common name, who knows? Christianity is simply a mashing together of several stories and traditions, with very messy beginnings. Not at all surprising, given that’s how most enterprises like this seem to get started.

        • hector_jones

          Even the mainstream consensus concedes Jesus is more myth than man in the surviving sources. Ehrman says we can ‘tease’ the historical facts about Jesus out of our sources, including the Gospels, with careful reading, yet there is no consensus at all as to what these historical facts are. Gerd Ludeman, a historicist, argues that, even though Paul ‘knew’ there was an actual historical Jesus, he didn’t really know a single thing about him, which is why he gives almost no details of Jesus life on earth.

          It all just boils down to the idea that, since one can imagine that a guy like Jesus could have led a failed uprising and been executed for it, then he probably existed. The problems are just hand waved away.

        • wtfwjtd

          “Even the mainstream consensus concedes Jesus is more myth than man in the surviving sources.”

          I totally agree. Since the stories about Jesus and others were concocted decades after the fact, that gives pretty broad license to the spinners of these stories to say lots of things. And with war and upheaval in the area, who is going to be able to check out the details? Who would really care to? I’m guessing that actually none of the writers of the NT had ever met the actual guy they were writing about; they had just heard tales about him from somewhere, it sounded great, then, amazingly,they had their own “experience” with this dude, they create their own stories, and off we go. Like UFO stories in our own time, stories seem to beget stories, and they get more absurd with the re-telling.

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

          Robert Price (two doctorates) also supports JM.

        • Greg G.

          Don’t forget the three Toms: Thomas Brodie, Tommy Thompson, and Tom Harpur.

          Philip R. Davies thinks the evidence for Jesus is fragile and should be re-evaluated.

        • hector_jones

          Why stop at one? He could have been modelled after 2 or 3 or 4 of many first century messiahs. Several historical Jesuses! Gosh, the historicist case just gets better and better.

        • wtfwjtd

          That’s actually not as far-fetched as it sounds. Did you read this article? http://www.bibleinterp.com/opeds/dav368029.shtml

          Note in the “comments”section, what Tom Verenna says about Paul. That Christianity could be an amalgamation of 2 or more Jesus traditions is a possibility that deserves a look.

        • hector_jones

          I’m not saying it’s far fetched. I’m saying it destroys historicism. How ‘historical’ is Jesus if there were two of him? Is he even more historical if there were 3 of him?

          But historicists ignore this obvious problem. They blithely claim that historicism is more likely true because there were a whole bunch of messiah-like figures running around the region at the time who could have served as model-Jesus. They seem to think that the more these figures there were, the more likely that Jesus was real, when nothing of the sort can be concluded from that. Indeed it would help their case much more if there had only been one of them. Historicism would have latched on to this one person by now and argued that the fact that he’s the only one they can find means he’s probably the historic Jesus.

          But the fact that there are many, and that not one of them can be singled out as historical Jesus, destroys this line of thinking completely.

        • wtfwjtd

          I suppose he’s historic in the sense that Mark’s gospel could be loosely based on one of these messiah claimants. Yes, there did seem to be several to choose from, and ‘Jesus’ seems to have been a common name. Paul warns several times against following “false Christs”, leaving one to wonder just who and what the hell he was talking about.

        • hector_jones

          ‘[L]oosely based on one of these messiah claimants’ proves absolutely nothing. Of course it’s possible, but without corroborating evidence it’s conjecture, not evidence of an historical Jesus. The fact that there is more than one messiah claimant on which the accounts could be based means that no historical Jesus can be claimed using this argument.

          On the other hand, a mythical Jesus could just as easily have been loosely based on one, two, several, or none of these messiah claimants. The plethora of such claimants doesn’t make historicism any more probable than mythicism. Historicism has to point to one of them, with corroborating evidence, before it can say that this line of reasoning proves anything about historical Jesus, let alone is powerful enough to justify a ‘consensus’.

        • MNb

          “He was probably too well known for the mythicist treatment.”
          Nice circular reasoning.

          “Seems to me …”
          That shows two things:

          1) you’re incapable or worse unwilling to try to think like someone who lived there in the 1st Century.
          2) you reject the scientific method when it suits you.

          http://www.livius.org/men-mh/messiah/messianic_claimants19.html

          Not to mention that world famous characters got the mythicist treatment as well: Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Constantine the Great. So much for consistency.
          But even if you insist on your ad hoc explanation you are not out of the woods. Plenty of unknown guys around as well:

          http://www.livius.org/men-mh/messiah/messianic_claimants00.html

          Your comment exactly shows why I dislike JM so much: ignorance, pre-determined conclusion, unsubstantiaded claims that you won’t accept from any christian, bias and logical fallacies. In short: pseudoscientific methodology.

        • Pofarmer

          Look, I’m just having some fun and throwing ideas around. After having been a victim of this stuff for too long, it’s just a way to blow off some steam. I’m not tryint to make some sort of hard core scholarly argument.

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

          The Bible includes notes to references in other parts of the Bible. When you read Paul’s epistles, are all these OT references noted? That would be good confirmation of your argument.

        • Greg G.

          I collected the ones from the NIV footnotes plus various other sources. The NIV identifies them when the text says things like “it is written” or simple verbatim Septuagint quotes.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          I’m begging for the dis-confirming evidence.

          But then you handwave it away when it’s presented.

          You make claims that are too easy to be refuted by simply showing what Paul actually said.

          But what he actually said was that Jesus broke bread, was betrayed, crucified, died, and was buried. You haven’t “refuted” that. You merely dismiss it as being about a living person, because you’ve already decided that Paul’s letters say nothing about the life of Jesus. Responsible scholars don’t put the cart in front of the horse like that, conspiracists do.

          You have mentioned that he quotes the Old Testament a lot but you don’t think he saw those verses?

          As I’ve made it clear way too many times for you to claim otherwise, I absolutely think he saw those verses.

          Whenever you want to discuss the matter in a reasonable way, let me know, because the constant evasion, equivocation, and conspiraloon hijinks are getting tiresome.

        • Greg G.

          But what he actually said was that Jesus broke bread, was betrayed, crucified, died, and was buried. You haven’t “refuted” that. You merely dismiss it as being about a living person, because you’ve already decided that Paul’s letters say nothing about the life of Jesus. Responsible scholars don’t put the cart in front of the horse like that, conspiracists do.

          I gave you that in that “wall of text”, as you called it. Paul definitely said those things so why would I refute them? We find “broke bread” and “betrayed” in Psalm 41:9 and those elements appear together in 1 Corinthians 11. The “crucified” comes from Galatians 3:13 where he quotes Deuteronomy 21:23. The “died” is included with “for our sins” in 1 Corinthians 15:3 comes from Isaiah 53:5.. The “was buried” comes from Isaiah 53:9. If the “died” wasn’t clear enough here for you in Isaiah 53:5, it should be in verse 9.

          I never said, nor ever thought, that everything Paul says about an earthly Jesus appears in the OT until after I saw that everything Paul says about Jesus is in the Old Testament. I am not an expert so maybe there is a verse I, and all the sources I looked at, have overlooked a verse that does actually say something about Jesus that doesn’t come from the Old Testament. All you have to do is quote it.

          Whenever you want to discuss the matter in a reasonable way, let me know, because the constant evasion, equivocation, and conspiraloon hijinks are getting tiresome.

          I’m glad you are taking responsibility for those things as I am tired of your projections. I’m curious about whether your claim that Paul said Jesus broke bread with the Twelve was a “factoid” or a “half-truth”?

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          I am not an expert so maybe there is a verse I, and all the sources I looked at, have overlooked a verse that does actually say something about Jesus that doesn’t come from the Old Testament.

          And once again, you return to your original claim, as if no one ever challenged you on your deceptive conspiraloon antics. One minute you’re admitting that the OT doesn’t actually say Christ was crucified, then the next you’re handwaving away any distinction between Paul reading details of Jesus’s life into the OT and Paul somehow creating the details out of the OT.

          You’re a pathetic fraud, Greg. Period.

        • Greg G.

          In the link you provide I am responding to your saying “The OT doesn’t actually mention Christ being betrayed and crucified”. There is nothing in the Old Testament that explicitly says Christ or the Messiah would be crucified.

          In the post you are responding to here, I am saying Paul read it as Christ being crucified.

          See the difference? One time I was talking about what the Old Testament actually said and the other place, I was talking about what Paul says the Old Testament says.

          Do try to keep up. It makes you look foolish when you accuse someone of being a fraud because you aren’t comprehending the argument.

          When I try to keep it simple, you start with the factoids and half-truth accusations. When I give you all the evidence for a claim, you complain that it’s a “wall of text”. When I try to strike a balance in the middle, you make accusations of contradiction when the discussion is about different aspects of the topic. Others appear to understand my argument. The arguments you make show a lack of understanding of even what the Bible says. I think the problem is at your end.

          What is your methodology for arriving at the historical Jesus conclusion. If you merely rely on the scholarly consensus, what is their methodology?

        • hector_jones

          There’s only something ‘odd’ about the lack of information about Jesus in Paul’s letters if you think Paul’s letters are proof of an historical Jesus. If you don’t think that, there’s nothing odd about the lack of information at all.

        • wtfwjtd

          “In 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Paul tells us no more about who Jesus broke bread with than what is in Psalm 41:9, which also says he was betrayed.”

          Importantly, I Cor 11:20, Paul calls this the LORD’s Supper, and NOT the LAST Supper. Saying that Paul called this the Last Supper is putting words into Paul’s writing that he didn’t write, and it’s a wishful-thinking attempt to shoehorn Paul’s writing into the gospel stories. Almost like trying to mix oil and water.

        • hector_jones

          This is only the simplest and most reasonable explanation if you first believe that Jesus was a real person, who led a failed rebellion against the Romans, and was being turned from a conquering messiah into a sacrificial messiah by Paul, who was convinced that mentioning details about Jesus as a man could somehow jeopardize the sacrificial messiah myth he was trying to create (a concern which none of the writers of the Gospels shared, btw). And all of that is conjecture, which makes your argument circular.

          Nowhere does Paul say that Jesus ate the Last Supper with the Twelve. You are making the typical historicist mistake of reading the Gospels back into the letters of Paul and attributing to Paul things that he never said.

          As for Christ dying, being buried, and rising, Paul writes that these things happened ‘according to the Scriptures’ (1 Cor 15). What scriptures is he talking about? The very things that you think establish that Paul thought Jesus had been a man, instead point to Greg’s idea that Paul got all his knowledge from the OT. Your argument is really a perfect example of how historicism has gone off the rails. You’ll have to do better than this.

          I’m suspicious of elaborate fantasies regarding Jesus too – your elaborate fantasies.

        • Pofarmer

          Jesus-the most elaborate fantasy ever constructed

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Jesus-the most elaborate fantasy ever constructed

          This will really piss off theists who get pissed off by vapid hyperbole.

        • Greg G.

          Like they wouldn’t be pissed at the Jesus you are trying to salvage from the lack of evidence?

        • Pofarmer

          As if the Catholics haven’t taken it to dizzying heights

        • Pofarmer

          It’s interesting you mention the twelve. Paul only talks of three, correct? It seems to me that the 12 come from the “12 judges of the heavens ” in ancient astrology. One more mythical component.

        • wtfwjtd

          Paul does mention the Twelve, but it’s a vague–and incorrect, IF taken to mean a literal, physical appearance–reference to whom Jesus “appeared to” after he “was buried, (and) raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures” (I Cor 15:4). IF this would have been referring to a physical appearance of Jesus after he was raised, he would have “appeared to” the eleven, NOT the twelve. See the difference?

        • Greg G.

          I came across this a few weeks ago and put it into a notepad but apparently got too busy to get back to it to put in the link. It about the Council of the Temple which was 12 men. Google can probably find it.

          the two ‘Katholikin’ (chief treasurers and overseers),
          the seven ‘Ammarcalin’ (supreme command over all the gates) and
          the three ‘Gizbarin’ (under-treasurers)
          constituted the standing Council of the Temple, which members were also called ‘the elders of the
          priests’ or ‘the counsellors’, and which regulated everything connected with the affairs and
          services of the sanctuary. It was this “council”,62 which consisted of 2 + 7 + 3 = 12 ordinary
          members

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

          Yes, that is it. His idea was that Jesus named Simon after Caiaphas, who he thought got the name for lasting so long as high priest when most were replaced like diapers on a baby with diarrhea.

        • Pofarmer

          How many gates? Seven?

        • Greg G.

          I think many cultures liked the number seven because there were seven moving lights in the sky: Sun, Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus, and Mercury.

        • Pofarmer

          O.k so where do three and two come in? Three seems to come up in resurection stories quite a bit. Two for the sun and the moon?

        • Greg G.

          As far as I know the three days for the resurrection comes from Hosea 6:2. The gospels added the Jonah element to the story.

          But the twelve is for the Temple duties that would have preceded Christianity. It may be that the 2 was because there was too much work for one man for that job and the other was because there was too much work for two people. It may be that there were seven gates because there just happened to be seven good ways to get up to Jerusalem. I would have to rule out those simple reasons first.

          My guess for the number 12 being important would be that there are usually 12 full moons in a year. This would have been important to early farmers.Then they would have realized the constellations were a better way to time spring planting and kept the 12 to divide up the sky. Then it would be very significant to their lives.

          If there is a relationship between the breakdown of the jobs, I would look at the relationships between the 12 tribes of Israel. But that probably won’t work as the Levites would be a singular unit and wouldn’t pair up with any of the others. Besides, all the temple priests would have been Levites, so I’m inclined to drop that association.

          Paul mentioned the Twelve one time but he may have referred to them as “the brothers of the Lord” one other time. He referred to other apostles. Mark likely put those together to come up with the Twelve disciples. He doesn’t include Peter and James within that group.

          When I work in maintenance, I try to keep the repairs simple during a production tour. When I worked with the guys in Harrisburg PA, they had a name for that method. It was the “How Would the Amish Fix It?” approach.

        • Pofarmer

          “This number is presided over by Jupiter, who, in Roman mythology, is the king of gods. Number 3 represents good mental ability and sound judgement. It stands for accepted customs and rituals, orthodoxy and religiousness. A pleasing personality and popularity are its other attributes.”

          “This is the number of dualism. As long as Adam was alone, there was calm and serenity. With the birth of Eve, dualism came into being, and, consequently, chaos, confusion and contention became dominant around the world. Dualism also gave rise to antagonism.”

        • Pofarmer

          As with much else, Greek influence played a crucial role in the transmission of astrological theory to Rome.[33] However, our earliest references to demonstrate its arrival in Rome reveal its initial influence upon the lower orders of society,[33] and display concern about uncritical recourse to the ideas of Babylonian ‘star-gazers’.[34] Among the Greeks and Romans, Babylonia (also known as Chaldea) became so identified with astrology that ‘Chaldean wisdom’ came to be a common synonym for divination using planets and stars.[35]

          Now, what people were captured in Babylon?

        • Pofarmer

          Ah, yes because Judas was out, and they hadn’t selected what’s his name yet.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yes, and I love how they chose Matthias–they “cast lots”!

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

          What better way to let God have a hand in the choice?

          Of course, God could’ve just said something, but I guess they weren’t so gullible as to expect that.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yeah, it’s not like God could speak to them directly, or anything crazy like that. In the absence of this, couldn’t these guys just take a vote? We’re talking about men who had supposedly spent the last several years with the friggin’ Son of God, for Christ’s sake.You’d think a little bit of that ethereal wisdom would have rubbed off on them, but, sadly, all they could come up with was…casting lots. How boring and soo ordinary….

        • Pofarmer

          “Jews want signs and Greeks want Wisdom and all I got is Christ crucified.”

          Why not a “Hey, ya all, ya know the story about when Jesus lived over on 5th street in Galilee?” Yeah, none of that from Paul.

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

          “Jews want signs
          and Greeks want Wisdom
          and all I got was a lousy Christ crucified.”

          I see a t-shirt …

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

          Thanks.

        • wtfwjtd

          IIRC, there’s something in the OT about “Asherah Poles” or something similar, that’s an abomination to Yahweh. Anyone remember where this is?

        • Greg G.

          Deuteronomy 16:21 (NIV)
          Do not set up any wooden Asherah pole beside the altar you build to the Lord your God,

        • $26708516

          Divorce is never pretty

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

          2 Kings 21:7: “And he set a graven image of the Asherah pole that he had made in the house, of which the Lord said to David and to Solomon his son, ‘In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put My name for ever.’ “

        • Greg G.

          I wonder if Christmas trees would count as Asherah poles?

          Jeremiah 10:1-4 (NRSV)
          1 Hear the word that the Lord speaks to you, O
          house of Israel. 2 Thus says the Lord:

          Do not learn the way of the nations,
          or be dismayed at the signs of the heavens;
          for the nations are dismayed at them.
          3 For the customs of the peoples are false:
          a tree from the forest is cut down,
          and worked with an ax by the hands of an artisan;
          4 people deck it with silver and gold;
          they fasten it with hammer and nails
          so that it cannot move.

          I suspect Jeremiah was describing Asherah poles, but this description could fit a modern Christmas tree. Jeremiah would likely have called a Chrismas tree an Asherah pole. The Christmas tree likely came by “learning the ways of the nations.”

        • wtfwjtd

          Damn, that sure sounds like an Xmas tree to me! A tribute to the goddess of motherhood and fertility…that’s a pretty good match.

        • Greg G.

          When I have pointed that verse out to Christians, they almost always say that they are not supposed to carve it up, as if it is just a matter of how much whittling you do to it. Never mind the part about not learning the ways of the nations.

        • wtfwjtd

          Haha, so as long as you don’t whittle on it too much, it’s OK then, I guess? That’s hilarious!

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

          Isa. 44:9–20 imagines a man who carves an idol as a god out of part of a piece of wood and then uses the remainder for his fire. How can anything holy come out of something so mundane?

        • wtfwjtd

          What does it say about your god when his sovereignty is threatened by a whittled stick? It’d say to me, “maybe you need a different god, one that’s a little more kick-ass…”

        • hector_jones

          Many of these types of rules probably came about in an effort to stamp out some rival religion or sect that we now know little about, by turning its core rituals into abominations.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yep, it’s clear that Yahweh was just one of many, and possessed the same power as any of the other gods of the time.

        • hector_jones

          Yes. We see this today in the way the practices of pre-christian paganism tend to resemble what christians conceive of as satanism. That’s just christianity having turned its earliest main rival into an abomination.

        • wtfwjtd

          I guess when it came to steam-rolling other religions, Christianity co-opted what was useful, and tried to forbid the rest. No wonder it’s such a mish-mash of…stuff.

        • hector_jones

          It’s probably inevitable that any religion that makes a bid for dominance has to incorporate some of the beliefs and practices of the religion(s) it seeks to replace or fend off. As moon_bucket was discussing, the Koran isn’t silent about christianity, and probably couldn’t have afforded to be if it was going to succeed. It incorporated Jesus, but reduced him to a lesser prophet.

          We also see this within ancient Greek paganism. It’s widely believed that the story of the Titans that Zeus overthrew and kept locked up in the bowels of the earth recalls in mythic form the replacement of an earlier Old European religion with one brought in by the Indo-Europeans. It’s impossible to say just how many practices and beliefs from that Old European religion were incorporated into the religion we know about from classical Greece and Rome, but they are probably there.

        • Greg G.

          Holidays are important, too. It is said that the Book of Esther doesn’t actually talk about God, though Mordecai and Esther might be Marduk and Ishtar, but it justifies the festival of Purim.

          Christianity seems to have had to repurpose old European religious holidays.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yes, many of our holidays were pagan holidays that were re-purposed, or made concurrent with, certain Christian teachings so they could make it their holiday over time. All part of the process of absorption.

        • busterggi

          Clearly the religion of polyesther fabric defeated the god of Abraham.

        • busterggi

          Now what’s afraid of wooden stakes?

        • wtfwjtd

          Uhh…vampires, maybe?

        • busterggi

          And who else is undead?

        • Greg G.
        • busterggi

          thanks

        • $26708516

          They thought they were so fancy with their invisible god who resided in the temple…but..uh… they were essentially worshipping a building.

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

          “Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places.”

          Deut. 12:3

        • MNb

          http://mainzerbeobachter.com/2014/04/07/in-petra/

          Alas in Dutch. The relevant passage is

          ” Het is een abstracte weergave van een drie-eenheid, zoals wel meer werd vereerd in Syrië. De Arabieren in Palmyra erkenden de oppergod Ba’alshamin, de maangod Aglibol en de zonnegod Malakbel. In de Syrische heilige stad Bambyke werd Atargatis geflankeerd door de weergod Hadad en een niet goed bekende Semeion. Zulke drie-eenheden waren heel normaal.”

          Free translation:

          “It’s an abstract account of a trinity; more were worshipped in Syria. …..
          Such trinities were very normal.”

        • wtfwjtd

          Is that saying that the idea of a trinity wasn’t a new idea, with a logical inference being that Christianity just cut and pasted it into their own theology? I’m shocked, I tell you, shocked…

        • http://pleonast.com/users/closetatheist Mr. Two

          I think it’s pertinent to note here that the Masoretic Hebrew text of the 7th to 11th centuries CE deliberately excised some of the polytheism. It seems very bold of the ESV to put some of it back in by going back to the Septuagint for certain passages.

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

        The polytheism becomes clearer still when you look at the surrounding religions.

    • RichardSRussell

      In Hebrew, plurals are formed by adding “-im” to the singular, much as we add “s” in English. Thus the plurals of “cherub” and “seraph” are “cherubim” and “seraphim”. What, then, are we to make of “Elohim”?

    • $26708516

      The bible is full of that kind of language. Including actual divine councils and “thrones”. This is probably evidence of its polytheistic past. Both the Babylonian and Ugarit myths have divine councils. And the Ugarit council is led by “El”. He and his son Baal share many attributes and stories with Yahweh. Including in Baal’s case battles with specific monsters and being the “rider on the clouds”.
      You can also see today that the language was changed since the Hellenistic period. The modern Jewish MT text is slightly different from the older Dead Sea Scrolls and the Greek translation of that time. Back then you had Yahweh getting Israel as his inheritance from El (as one of the seventy sons of El). His “inheritance” remains in other passages. But with no indication of who he inherited it from. 😉

  • Drew Stonebraker

    What source(s) is the author relying on that the Council of Nicaea determined or deliberated over the canon?

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

      I agree: that wasn’t the best way to state it.


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