Debunking Christianity Debunking Mythicism

I hope to return to blogging about mythicism soon. In the mean time, I can share that the atheist blog Debunking Christianity has once again turned its attention to mythicism, that infamous source of embarrassment for atheists and freethinkers. Take a look at what Tommy Baker has to say over there, and then either leave a comment there, or come back here to discuss it, or both!

  • Anonymous

    Did you see that Ehrman 

    • http://atheisticgod.blogspot.com/ Tommy Baker

      It is a refreshing note.  Though one can see his position in his previous works. Over at debunking Christianity and Rational Response Squad the mythicists call him a closet liberal Christian. And they have called me that too. It seems that there is a dogmatism involved with a belief system that is atheistic but not very historically critical. In attempting dialogue it is like talking to an Evangelical. It seems like a waste of time frankly other than the view may be as dangerous in that it fails to defeat Christian claims. James McGrath soundly defeats Doherty’s claims here

      http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/brother-of-the-lord-doherty-versus-mcgrath/

      Doherty’s response is plausible but weak. (Improbable).

  • Anonymous

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2011/07/personified-myth-or-mythologized-person.html

    “What writings of the New Testament are actually from Paul?  I know of no serious scholars that deny that Paul wrote Galatians.  In fact you will read in any search or book that is of any reputable scholar that Galatians is authentic. Paul claims in these verses to have met James, the brother of the Lord.”

    This is not entirely true.  Robert Price at the Jesus Seminar proposed that Paul did not write Galatians, or any other letter ascribed to him in the New Testament.  This is a crazy position, and not one that I endorse, but there are some marginal people who might believe this.

    Please see this podcast at the 27:20 mark for evidence of this. http://www.pointofinquiry.org/frank_zindler_the_christ_myth/

    Just to be clear, I am not a Christ Mythicist.  I think Jesus of Nazareth was a historical person.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Hanery, yes I saw that and am looking forward to it!

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  • Anonymous

    Dr. McGrath, would you agree that no serious scholar could doubt the provenance of Galatians and no serious scholar could entertain the possibility that there have been interpolations in the first two chapters?

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Not at all. Serious scholars have doubted pretty much anything and everything, and continue to do so. They just do so in scholarly ways, and even having provided the best argument they can, do not always end up making their case persuasively.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, Dr. McGrath, that is exactly right. I think it is scholarly to doubt. So how do you address the arguments of the Dutch Radicals and where do you think they go wrong?

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Do you have a specific question about someththey claimed by members of that school of thought, that is more than speculation? Or is your comment a request that I write a book or do a blog series addressing everything anyone connected with that school of thought has ever written?

  • http://atheisticgod.blogspot.com/ Tommy Baker

    Hey hardin. Price is hardly mainstream scholarship. I certainly would not say he is not a scholar but on the other-hand I can produce a lot of off the wall stuff. I will stand on my statement.

    http://www.radikalkritik.de/did_paul_write_galatians.htm

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Eisenman

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_M._Allegro

    http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Mushroom-Cross-Christianity-Fertility/dp/0340128755

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Passover_Plot

    I have had to put up with years of off the wall stuff that has detracted from legitimate critical research. I am sure James McGrath can state the same thing as well as John Loftus .

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the response Tommy.  I do not consider Price to be a “mainstream scholar” but I thought he should at least be mentioned.  My opinion is that Jesus of Nazareth was a apocalyptic Jewish Prophet, basically Bart Ehrman’s position.

      • http://atheisticgod.blogspot.com/ Tommy Baker

        I agree of course.

  • Anonymous

    The Dutch Radicals questioned the authenticity of Galatians on several bases:

    1. Introduction and genre — the “letter” is addressed to a region (no other Greco-Roman letter was so addressed) as well as to “all those who in every place call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, their lord and ours.” A typical introduction to a Greco-Roman letter was more terse — Cicero greets Atticus for example.

    2. Tense of the verb “to be” in 1:17 and 2:6

    3. The identification of the author’s hand in 2 Thess is seen as a mark of forgery, yet it is also present in 6:11.

    4. Residents of Galatia were largely rustic peasants in the 1st century CE — uncertain that the “recipients” of the “letter” would have understood it.

    5. Paul’s “trip to Arabia” in Galatians makes no narrative sense, equivalent of a 5th century Socratic traveling immediately to Alexandria on his adoption of Socratic beliefs.

    6. Neither Luke/Acts nor the epistles present a coherent picture of early Christianity, and they appear to be in dialectic tension. Both seem spurious and based on 2nd century points of view (Marcionite and Gnostic controversies).

    Since Tyson has since agreed with the Dutch Radicals that Luke/Acts is a second century document, and there are certainly signs of a dialectic between Luke/Acts and the epistles there are grounds for questioning the first century authenticity of Galatians. However, many people don’t find these arguments convincing, and the whole area seems like a game of whack-a-mole, where no proposed solution solves all the problems in the texts.

    I recall you stating previously that you dated Luke/Acts to the 1st century so we can perhaps start there. Have you read Tyson’s Marcion and Luke-Acts?

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @beallen0417:disqus , those arguments seem rather unimpressive. That Paul’s letter to a community or network of communities does not closely resemble Cicero’s personal letters hardly seems relevant. Nor does Paul’s admittedly puzzling trip to Arabia seem relevant to the date. If it could be shown that letters of this sort were written in a later period but not when Paul supposedly wrote it, that would be relevant. But puzzling features only provide evidence for redating when those features become less puzzling if written at another time.

    I don’t consider the year 100 to have magical properties, and so the question of whether Luke-Acts is “first century” or “second century” seems to me at best a red herring. We don’t know with absolute certainty, and if the range of likely dates is 80-120, I am not going to quibble with an argumentative mythicist over whether it is written in 99 or 101, unless some good evidence has come to light that might allow for more precise dating than has been possible up until now.

    But I regularly hear mythicists like Steven Carr point out what Luke-Acts does or doesn’t say about James the brother of Jesus when it suits him. I would like to see some consistency from mythicists about issues like dating. If one can appeal to late works to settle issues, then why does the dating of either Lk-Acts or Galatians matter from a mythicist perspective? And if date does indeed matter, then perhaps you will be able to persuade your fellow mythicists of this.

    • Anonymous

      Dr. McGrath, I was less concerned with a specific date and more concerned about whether you saw any influence of the Marcionite controversy in Acts (which of course would place it after 140 (which is a bit later than 101)). 

      • http://atheisticgod.blogspot.com/ Tommy Baker

        I would like to ask Dr. McGrath to address the two circulating versions of Acts as related to your question.

  • Geoff Hudson

    Galations is basically a first century prophetic document edited in the second century.  Writing in the second century, the editors could create ‘an event that was supposedly known or at least verifiable to the recipients of Paul’s letter’, knowing that any readers in the second century wouldn’t have a clue that what they had read was false.  The editor’s Paul was created to speak in the first century.         

    • Geoff Hudson

      Galatians.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @f3a85ef3587d266dd38f72f6413e00d6:disqus , might I ask how you “know” these things?

    • Geoff Hudson

      It is a small part of a theory I have built up. There are no known original documents.  We have what we have. You already reject some parts of what we have. I try to relate texts to the situation that I believe existed at the time in Judaism.  There was hostility between priests and prophets. You traditionally go forward in time. I go back.  

      • http://atheisticgod.blogspot.com/ Tommy Baker

        I am sorry but i am completely mystified by this. There is in part an interrelationship of manuscripts that you have to account for also instead of de-contextualizing to create whatever view you want to justify.

        • Geoff Hudson

          My words were clear enough. 

          There was a different story of prophets.  There was no Jesus of Nazareth. 

          • http://atheisticgod.blogspot.com/ Tommy Baker

            Tes your words were clear and that is what is mystifying. There quite simply was a Jesus of Nazareth. See I can make claims without defending them too. You should put up  if you do make a silly claim like that.

            • Geoff Hudson

              One for Tommy. James 1:13-24, er sorry Galatians 1:13-24. The editor really tries it on.     
              The editor knows that James himself wrote this epistle, so he has his pseudo author Paul apparently seeing only James and the fictitious Peter in Jerusalem.  The editor then makes an error. He has Paul unknown to the Judean assemblies, but he says that Paul persecuted them.  It would be quite difficult to persecute a group and remain unknown to them. The editor has his Paul reassure his readers by telling them that what he is writing is no lie. “They only heard the report” of his conversion, and Paul goes away to Lycia and Cilicia.   But perhaps Paul had a different name before he was converted and that was why he wasn’t remembered.     
               

               

              • http://atheisticgod.blogspot.com/ Tommy Baker

                Well Paul does not say where he persecutes the Church.

                For ye have heard of my
                conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond
                measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:  14And
                profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation,
                being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.

                Show us how Peter is fictitious??????

                The Greek reads more like this:

                 22 And I was still unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:

                This means Paul is saying he is known by reputation but not by sight.  Your argument is after the fact and revisionist. it does not hold i am sorry but I see no need to go further with a response.

                • Geoff Hudson

                  And here is another inconsistency: Acts 22.5.

                  as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.

                  And the people of Jerusalem didn’t know about it.

    • http://atheisticgod.blogspot.com/ Tommy Baker

      It seems to be a matter of faith?

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    Since there has been a bit of discussion about the dating of these books, I want to know how some of you feel about the use of nomina sacra in reference to the dating of the original compositions. For instance, if the nomina sacra were not used in the original compositions, but were introduced in the copying phase, how long would it take this scribal practice to be accepted and incorporated universally in all the books of the NT and also across linguistic and geographical areas? Depending on how long you think this would take, would it have a bearing on putting late dates on some books? Also, just the existence of the nomina sacra provides evidence for close association between all the NT writings from the middle to late second century. It would indicate that copyist from this time period were well acquainted with all the other writings. I know most of you are speculating about things that occurred many years before our oldest manuscript evidence, but how do you fit the issue of the nomina sacra into your specific views?

  • Anonymous

    Again, Dr. McGrath, do you see any evidence of knowledge of the Marcionite controversy on the part of the author of Acts? This is not about the difference between 99 and 101 CE, but the difference between late first century and mid second century.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @beallen0417:disqus , I don’t see any clear evidence of the Marcionite controversy in Acts. It is like the question of the Gospel of John being Docetic or anti-Docetic. There are elements that might fit that context, but it is not entirely clear that they fit that specific context so precisely as to exclude others, nor is it always clear whether an issue is found in the text or is being read into it.

  • Anonymous

    So you disagree with Tyson’s book, especially chapter 3, I take it. Yet there must be some explanation for the silence of authors before Justin regarding Acts. Do you agree with Haenchen that the work was first century but didn’t find its proper audience until after Marcion?

    • Geoff Hudson

      Acts is an edited book, which was originally written pre 62. The editied (extanct) version tells the story of the beginning of the church in Jerusalem, the conversion of Paul, the mission to gentiles and their countries, and Paul’s final journey to Rome where he disappears off the radar in about 62.  One assumes he was executed. 

      Original Acts was about the Spirit, beginning in Rome.  The epistles were originally the letters of James written to the prophets in Jerusalem.  There was no mission to Gentile countries.  The interested Gentiles were in Rome.  The final journey was James’s journey to Jerusalem in about 60.  He was sent there at Nero’s request to sort out a difference with the priests over sacrifice.  Two years later he was executed by Ananus the high priest who was persecuting the ‘christians’ (prophets). Nero invaded Judea in 66.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @beallen0417:disqus , as with the absence of Esther from among the Dead Sea Scrolls, one needs to be cautious. A work may not appear, or appear to be mentioned, because of a failure of relevant evidence to survive down to our time, rather than for other reasons.

    • Anonymous

      τὰ κατὰ Λευκίππην καὶ Kλειτoφῶντα (Cleitophon and Leucippe) is dated to the late second century on the basis of papyrus findings. When does the first copy of Acts date to?

      • http://atheisticgod.blogspot.com/ Tommy Baker

        What is the Oldest Surviving Manuscript of Plato’s Tetralogie?How bout the oldest surviving manuscript of Herodotus?   Both cases around 900 CE.  You guys need to get a grip.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    The earliest copy we have of Luke-Acts is from the third century. But since we have others making reference to it in the second century, we know the work is older than our earliest manuscript. The question is how much older. And as Tommy pointed out, there is also the puzzle of why we have such different versions.


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