Doherty Mythicism?

Commenter Dave Burke has shared some thoughts on the hurdles that would confront any attempt to quest for a historical Earl Doherty. Would it not be simpler to conclude that he is a myth? I quote three comments here, but I encourage you to click through and read them in their original context.

Doherty claims he is ‘generally considered to currently be the world’s leading Jesus mythicist’ and that ‘my books and website have had a huge impact on this controversial issue and are known around the globe’ (source: http://bit.ly/oLQQCd). This suggests he is a well know historical figure of great repute. But does the evidence confirm it?

When you start to scratch the surface, it’s amazing just how little is known about Doherty. Surely a world leader in any field would require relevant qualifications, academic recognition, and peer reviewed publications. Yet Doherty fails to meet any of these criteria.

Doherty is not mentioned by any recognised professional historian, and does not appear in any historical work of the 20th Century. How do we explain this omission in light of his alleged fame and historical significance?

Where did he acquire his alleged bachelor degree? Nobody knows and Doherty refuses to say.

Has anyone met him in person? This is unclear. Neil Godrey has posted an alleged ‘interview’ with Doherty (the so-called Testimonium Godfrianum) but there is no evidence it was a face to face meeting, and in the absence of independent witnesses Godfrey remains the only source. Since he supports Doherty’s viewpoint, his account cannot be trusted.

Has the TG been interpolated? Undoubtedly. But since none of it can be independently verified, how could we tell where the truth ends and the interpolation begins? It seems more likely the entire document is a pious fraud!

The content of the TG is also highly problematic. It is not what we would expect from someone who knows Doherty or has actually met him.

Godfrey tells us nothing about Doherty’s birth or early life; he sheds no light on Doherty’s education or nationality; there are no details to Doherty’s work, hobbies, family, or friends. Godfrey doesn’t even know where Doherty lives, and has no idea of his age.

Random dates are sprinkled in to give a semblance of reality (1982, 1984, 1996, 2000-2001 and a passing nod to ‘the 1960s’ & ‘the 1980s’) but Godfrey offers nothing to suggest familiarity with the events of these years, and even the words he puts in Doherty’s mouth are devoid of any contemporary references.

Is Godfrey suggesting his ‘interview’ with Doherty took place outside the mundane world; perhaps in the ‘sub-lunar realm’? It’s a compelling interpretation and corresponds neatly with the details provided.

Towards the end of the TG, Godfrey blurts out a frank admission:

>>
I don’t think anyone in “internet land” has any idea of what you look like, your educational background, what you do or have done for a living. Why is this?
>>

(Testimonium Godfrianum, XVI, i).

In reply, Doherty is made to say that he has ‘kept a relatively low personal profile perhaps partly out of caution but also because I don’t want to intrude my personality or background into the debate’ (Testimonium Godfrianum, XVI, ii). It’s an obvious interpolation, clumsily aping gMark’s ‘Messianic secret’ motif. The suggestion is that Doherty – like Jesus – conceals his identity from the faithless, only revealing it to fellow Mythicist believers.

But astute readers will notice this vague response does not answer the question posed. Historical Doherty scholars therefore conclude the entire section is the work of a later editor (‘NG2′) attempting to resolve the contradiction between Doherty’s alleged historical fame and the fact that his existence is not admitted by any contemporary historian (the so-called ‘Dohertian secret’).

Doherty’s disciples have argued the passage is genuine, citing the criterion of embarrassment. ‘Why would an interpolator invent an exchange that undermines Doherty’s historicity and why insert it awkwardly between XV and XVII, requiring two passages to be renumbered?’, they ask.

But Historical Doherty scholars point out that the TG ends more naturally if we read straight from XV to XVII, skipping XVI altogether. Since the original manuscript was not numbered, the ‘problem’ of renumbering does not arise. XVI was fabricated for the sole purpose of raising a question which should have been presented at the beginning of the ‘interview’, boldly confronting the elephant in the room.

So why drop it into the second-last paragraph? Precisely because we would expect to find such an interpolation at the start. By squeezing it awkwardly between XVI and XVII, NG2 has tried to give the impression that this was a last-minute, spur-of-the-moment question. A daring ploy, but just a little too clever to sneak under the radar!

The biggest problem is that we simply don’t have any writings from Doherty himself. All we have is a constant stream of forgeries in his name, every single one of which is either posted on the internet, or conveniently ‘self-published.’ It’s difficult to separate fact from fiction because Mythicists are notorious for historical inaccuracy, literary embellishment, opportunistic interpolation, and downright lying. Gandy & Freke typify this behaviour (source: http://bit.ly/3gERuk) but it is endemic throughout Mythicist literature.

  • Anonymous

    Embellishing the facts is no different than using a text allegorically, is it? Manipulation of symbol is par for the course, as scriptures ARE literature in that sense. And we are not part of “their world”, so how can we fully understand how they understood what truly happened and how they wrote about it? Is there “universal human characteristics” that make for some understanding of how myth is used? And the reasons why they would use it?

     The historicist tries to uncover the “facts”, but for what reason? The proof of Jesus’ life doesn’t really matter, does it, as Jesus Life was a means for theology to promote the Church. Now, it seems that Jesus life is useful to promote a humanist agenda.

  • Dave Burke

    Does Earl Doherty match the hero archetype? Let’s see how he compares to Campbell’s ‘monomyth.’ The results may surprise you!

    In the interests of objectivity I have used only the words attributed to Doherty in the Testimonium Godfrianum, uncritically accepted by all Mythicists as a genuine historical record:

    * The Call to Adventure:
    ‘In 1982 I read a couple of books by G. A. Wells, and I was quite taken aback. While I had vaguely heard of the ‘no historical Jesus’ idea during the 1970s, I tended to regard it as unlikely. Not, however, based on any particular knowledge of the subject. But that has enabled me to understand the automatic dismissal which the Christ myth theory usually receives from those who really know very little about it.’

    * The Road of Trials:
    ‘I am periodically criticized by my dissenters on Internet discussion boards for not making a more determined effort to do that, though it’s clear that their motives are anything but prompted by a desire to have the case for Jesus Mythicism properly evaluated.’

    * The Vision Quest:
    ‘I became an atheist at the age of 19. (I regret that it didn’t happen earlier.) It was largely an intellectual conversion, as too many things about the Catholic faith I grew up in were no longer acceptable. Once one sets aside the indoctrination of belief in a God, one sees the world through entirely different eyes.’

    * The Meeting with the Goddess:
    ‘In 1984, after finishing a novel I had been working on for some time, I began to read more widely, and soon decided I would undertake my own research of the question, perhaps with a view to writing my own book.’

    * The Boon:
    ‘For about a year in the late 1980s, I took a break from my Jesus research and undertook a too-ambitious project of combining reviews of historical novels with a capsule history of the world! I read Fisher’s Testament as part of that project, and my reviews on the series were expanded for American Atheist magazine in 2000-2001. The scope of Fisher’s vision has no equal in the field in my estimation, and they were inspiring.’

    * The Magic Flight:
    ‘While I have a high respect for Prof. Wells, I felt that the subject could use a different approach. Fortunately, I had studied ancient Greek in university during the 1960s, as part of a degree in ancient history and classical languages. I could build on that earlier education and supplement it with my own private study. Before long, I guess you could say it became an obsession.’

    * The Return Threshold:
    ‘[Jesus Puzzle website first appeared] in 1996. The year before, I had written a series of four articles on the Jesus Myth theory for Humanist in Canada, the magazine of Canadian Humanist Publications. Those articles were then posted on a web page owned and operated by a close friend, as I was Internet-illiterate at the time. Much to my surprise, having spent over a decade toiling in obscurity, I saw them gain very wide attention rather quickly, and I became somewhat notorious in biblical circles.’

    * The Master of Two Worlds:
    ‘Though it has come as an unexpected surprise to me, I know that my books and website have had a significant impact and that I am probably regarded as today’s leading mythicism proponent.’

    The parallels are uncanny!

  • Anonymous

    The good news is we have living people who know Earl Doherty personally. Earl has written many things that individuals who have met and spoken with him with have discussed with him. 

    This argument assumes we have similar actual live people who wrote about their actual encounters with Jesus. This is the evidence we are all waiting for, so if it is present, don’t waste time,  let us know where it is.

    • randall.morrison90

      Can you tell me who these people who have met Doherty are?  How can I get in touch with them?

      • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

        To randall.morrison90
        From FRDB
        http://www.freeratio.org/thearchives/showthread.php?t=92838&highlight=doherty
        Doherty showed himself in Los Angeles: “Doherty will be the featured speaker at the Atheists United Awards Banquet, Sept 11 [2004].
        At Les Freres Taix French Restaurant (which is actually Basque), 1911 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles.
        No host bar open at 6 pm, dinner at 7Members and guests $25 in advance (received by Sept 7) or $30 at the doorNonmembers $30 in advance or $35 at the doorMail checks to Atheists United, 4773 Hollywood Bouldvard, LA 90027 with choice of entree: Roast Chicken, Trout Almondine, or Pasta Monaigasque (vegetarian)”
        At least two persons active on FRDB forums claimed they saw him at the restaurants. They go under the web names of Toto and Ipetrich, both sympathetic to Doherty.
        Toto is still very much active on the FRDB forum.

        • OzRob

          This is excellent work. So it appears we have at least one mass hallucination and several independent visions of Doherty. It would appear the redactors and proponents of Dohertyism don’t even have the originality to avoid obvious comparisons with early Christian writers.

        • Roo Bookaroo

          I did search for a picture of Doherty on the Web, and couldn’t find any. I did write to him directly to ask him if there was one somewhere to be found, and he replied that there’s no public picture of him, and he doesn’t want any. I was disappointed as I was eager to put a face behind his interesting and puzzling books.

    • OzRob

      A worthy tactic when establishing a myth. Even Luke and Paul used this beauty of appealing to eyewitnesses who were still alive to question.

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    This is tagged as “parody”. Does either Jason Burke or James McGrath really think it is parody or does either of them actually believe there is an edifying, serious and valid analogy with Doherty’s arguments?

    • Fortigurn

      Neil Gumpelberry, would you like to address the topic?

    • randall.morrison90

       Neil, one question.  Where did Doherty get his college degree?

  • Dave Burke

    beallen0417,

    >>
    The good news is we have living people who know Earl Doherty personally.
    >>

    Do we? Name six. How do you explain the silence of contemporary historians?

    >>
    Earl has written many things that individuals who have met and spoken with him with have discussed with him.
    >>

    Has he? I see no evidence of this.

    • Anonymous

      Hey Dave,
      Kirk Cameron is wondering when you’ll be through using his brain?
      Oh, and I hear that Ray Comfort might be up for loaning his out to you.

      • Dave Burke

        Hi Contra,

        I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I guess that’s OK because mindless polemic doesn’t need to make sense. Feel free to address the topic under discussion. :)

  • Dave Burke

    Neil,

    >>
    This is tagged as “parody”.
    >>

    Well spotted, Neil! Always the sharp one. Now that I’ve got you here, perhaps you can talk us through the Testimonium Godfrianum.

    When and where was this alleged interview conducted? Was it a face to face meeting? (I suspect not). Who else was present? Do you have any eyewitness testimony from non-Mythicists to confirm the details?

    Many Historical Doherty scholars now believe it took place in the sub-lunar realm, perhaps under the influence of spiritual beings (or ‘rulers of this world’, as Doherty calls them). Would you like to comment on this aspect of the narrative?

    >>
    Does either Jason Burke or James McGrath
    really think it is parody or does either of them actually believe there
    is an edifying, serious and valid analogy with Doherty’s arguments?
    >>

    Firstly, I don’t know who Jason Burke is. Secondly, if this is mere parody, does it need to have an edifying, serious and valid analogy with Doherty’s arguments?

    Having said that…

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    No, not interested in discussing a parody. But James’ introduction of Dave’s remarks and Dave’s response indicate that their curious obsesssion with mythicism and Doherty in particular has generated and blinded them to their own logical and comprehension deficits in relation to this question.

    • randall.morrison90

      Then why are you here dicussing it?

      WHERE DID DOHERTY GET HIS COLLEGE DEGREE?

  • Dave Burke

    Neil,

    >>
    No, not interested in discussing a parody.
    >>

    Parody it may be, but the defensiveness of your response betrays a recognition of some wheat among the chaff. If I was serious about this, I could probably make a good case for the mythical Doherty. It wouldn’t be difficult; all the building blocks are there, and Mythicist methodology is well suited to the task.

    At any rate, I didn’t ask you to discuss a parody. I asked you some serious questions about the alleged interview. If you don’t feel comfortable answering, that’s fine. Your refusal to provide verifiable details serves me equally well.

    >>
    But James’ introduction of Dave’s remarks and Dave’s response indicate that their curious obsesssion with mythicism and Doherty in particular has generated and blinded them to their own logical and comprehension deficits in relation to this question.
    >>

    The irony is strong with this one. (I make a few comments every two or three months and that’s an obsession? I’m not the one with an entire blog devoted to Mythicism and Doherty’s work!) At any rate, since Doherty’s work is a parody of scholarship I’m in good company. Or bad company, depending on one’s perspective.

  • Fortigurn

    Neville Godfrey, why do you always resort to personal attacks?

  • http://www.facebook.com/pstenberg Pär Stenberg

    Excellent scholarship! It is great to see free-thinkers like Burke who is not forced by his traditions to confirm ancient dogmas. After reading the article, it becomes quite obvious to any rational person that the classical portrait of a human Doherty does not fit the data that we currently possess.

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

    All we have are stories about Earl Doherty, none of which come from reliable sources. it seems as though, were he interested in being consistent, Evan might rather point out that we have stories about Superman meeting even well-documented historical individuals, such as American president John F. Kennedy, and yet that doesn’t make Superman historical.

    I am always impressed by the rapidity with which all the supposed principles that mythicists claim to adhere to are discarded when it suits them.

    • Anonymous

      Mythists have the authority to dismiss anything they desire, because they are the composers of the myth itself, as we all create our “myths” through our biases!

       Humans are prone to cognitive biases, so I suppose what we should be looking at is how cognitive biases develop, or are these biases innate in certain brains?

       Prejuidice has been identified not just as a cultural bias but a personality type in some cases! Authoritarianism is another type that describes certain personalities.

    • Anonymous

      One gets the idea reading this that this is a serious argument for the OP. Is it meant to be a serious argument, and if so why is it labeled parody?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

    Dr. McGrath,

    After the shortcomings of your last post bearing the label “mythicism,” do you really think that ridicule was the best direction to take on this one?  Your historicist fans may also find this parody “delightful,” but speaking as someone on the fence, I would have liked to see something more substantive.

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

    The shortcomings of my last post on mythicism were almost entirely related to (1) in attentive reading and writing on my part, and thus giving the impression that something had not been mentioned when in fact it had been, (2) my running together two Targums which are distinct but which are both attributed to the same source, and (3) a focus on the relationship of what Richard Carrier had written to mythicism, when he was trying to set that topic aside. I daily acknowledge all of that. I don’t think that any of those issues changes the fact that, as relates to mythicism, Carrier (1) was citing a text that resulted from the actual killing of a historical anointed one, (2) cited a Targum which associates Isaiah 53 with the Messiah but in the process distanced that figure from suffering, and (3) presented a background for early Christianity which fits a historicist scenario rather than a mythicist one.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

    Dr. McGrath,

    The reason I am agnostic about a historical Jesus is because I don’t find the historicists’ arguments nearly as convincing as they do.  I think that some scholars with mythicist sympathies have done a good job of pointing out the shortcomings of the historicist case although I believe that any positive case for mythicism is likely to be hampered as badly by the problems with the source material as the positive case for historicism is.

    I think that what Dr. Carrier did was critique a particular argument that is often used by historicists, i.e.,, first century Jews would not have expected a messiah who died.  I agree that showing that some Jews might have expected this does not increase the probability of mythicism (and Carrier did not claim that it did).  However, it does provide further justification for agnosticism.

    I generally find the ridicule directed towards mythicism rather tiresome both because I don’t find much of it particularly clever and because it does nothing to address what seem to me to be valid criticisms of the historicists’ arguments.

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

    Vince, unless you identify agnosticism with Jesus mythicism, then I don’t see why we don’t see eye to eye on this matter. In your last comment, you acknowledge that the various points discussed do nothing to make the case for Jesus mythicism, and that those whose arguments you find useful are at best scholars with “mythicist sympathies.” Why not just come right out and acknowledge that mythicism of the sort that Earl Doherty (or whatever his real name is) peddles is bunk, and carefully distinguish that “we can know Jesus was a myth” nonsense from your position which takes a stance of principled agnosticism because of the nature of the evidence? I don’t think that considering mythicism an ally does your own position any favors, or helps facilitate serious discussion of your own stance.

    • Anonymous

      Dr. McGrath,

      I don’t think I would be agnostic about a historical Jesus if I didn’t think that mythicism had some positive explanatory power.   I think some form of mythicist hypothesis probably makes better sense of the early epistles’ silence as to a recently deceased teacher and healer.  On the other hand, I think some form of historicist hypothesis probably makes better sense of the
      Jesus of the gospels who progresses from more human to more supernatural as the stories are retold and rerecorded.  I am agnostic because I can see some evidence that points in one direction and some that points in the other and a whole lot of evidence that fits either hypothesis. 

      To my mind, early Christian history is like a 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle for which we only have about 73 pieces. 
      We can make reasonable guesses like sky for the blue pieces and foliage for the green pieces, but they are still just guesses because they could be any number of other things as well and we don’t have enough pieces of either color to be sure.  Some of the pieces, like the synoptic gospels and the Pauline epistles seem to fit into discernible clusters but I think it is very difficult, if not impossible, to say with certainty what the spaces between those clusters look like or how large they are. 

      I think Doherty expresses an unwarranted degree of certainty about his conclusions, but it is hard for me to see it as any more nonsensical than the degree of certainty I see expressed by Richard Bauckham or Maurice Casey or Craig Evans or any other number of scholars who seem to be respectable members of the mainstream of historical Jesus studies.  If I had a nickel for every historicist who claimed certainty on matters
      that seem to me to be little more than interesting possibilities, I would have a tidy little pile of nickels.  I don’t know enough about most of Doherty’s arguments to say whether or not they are bunk. 

      As far as identifying agnosticism with mythicism goes,
      it seems to me that you did exactly that with Dr. Carrier’s post.   I think there is a continuum from historicism to agnosticism to mythicism with many grey areas along the way.  I think that recognizing the overlap  has to go hand in hand with isolating the bunk.

  • Toto

    Yes, I have met Doherty, and heard him play the piano. He has no mythic characteristics, and fits the profile of a Canadian Humanist with a classical education who thinks he can solve historical puzzles. He has produced a large body of writings and spoken at a few conferences. If we had such writings from Jesus, or reports of his speeches from contemporaries, that would change the state of the evidence for Jesus. This seems to be more Mythicist Derangement Syndrome at work.

    • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

      To Toto,
      Can you tell which few conferences Doherty spoke?

      • Toto

        Most recently here:
        http://www.montreal2010.org/pub/announcement_en.html

        ATHEIST ALLIANCE INTERNATIONAL — HUMANIST CANADA
        Joint Convention Montréal, Québec, October 1 - 3, 2010

        • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

          Thanks for the link Toto,
          But no photo of Doherty! I never saw his face in picture. Can you provide one?

  • Just Sayin’

    Very clever piece of writing!

  • observer

    Toto’s comments at first could be considered as evidence  for the existence of Doherty but we still have the possibility this was simply someone impersonating the mythical Doherty or that Toto is lying to protect his deep need for a historical Doherty by making up evidence. I still see no strong evidence for the existence of Doherty.

    • Toto

      No – you see evidence that you choose to dismiss. What is the comparable direct evidence for Jesus that a skeptic even needs to discount?

  • observer

    We still do not know if this is Doherty or someone impersonating.

  • observer

    Josephus

    Tacticus

    References to an Earthly Jesus in the writings of Paul.

    Synoptics

    John .

    All of these are best explained by a historical Jesus.

    A Jesus Myther is not a skeptic any more then a holocaust denier is a skeptic.  Both sides presuppose their conclusions and torture the evidence to fit it. One side loathes Jews, one side loathes Christians.

    Doherty mythicism bothers the mythers here cause we used their methodology to demonstrate the existence of Doherty can be questioned. 

  • observer

    Possibly someone has a photo of an earthly Doherty but we know how easy pictures can be forged. I fear the more and more one analyzes this the existence of Doherty becomes more and more questionable.

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

    Did Doherty actually attend the conference? I thought mythicists didn’t even accept texts the traditional authorship of which was uncertain, never mind ones that are blatantly pseudonymous. How can the Dohertyspel according to Toto be offered as evidence without a hint of irony? :-)

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    The illogic and errors of fact and incomprehension in this thread definitely justify its label as parody.

    Some people appear to genuinely fail to notice (or are they all tongue in cheek?) that they are addressing the implications of internet technology and that without this modern medium the eyewitness evidence supplied would be more than equivalent to what many historicists claim they have for the historical Jesus.

    As for the thrust of the initial parody, it was actually Albert Schweitzer himself who remarked that the evidence for the historical Jesus — questionable sources etc — that did not enable it to the historicity of Jesus to at least theoretically be raised to positive probability. And he was not the only biblical scholar to have realized the nature of the evidence that has eluded people like Tim and McGrath etc today.

    And of course we have the boring usual issue of McGrath, as ever, making sweeping assertions about what Doherty argues without ever referencing their claims to support their their assertions. That is one important reason we have the regular focus of the “at the man” attacks as we also see here in abundance — maintaining diversion from anything Doherty actually argues is most important.

    There seems to be a pathological obsession with mythicism here that breeds — or maybe it’s a prerequisite — subpar reasoning ability and reading comprehension.

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

    I thought it was your view that the very different interpretations of Jesus advanced by historians discredits the whole enterprise. If so, then why do different understandings of Doherty not equally undermine one’s confidence in his historicity?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      I thought it was your view that the very different interpretations of
      Jesus advanced by historians discredits the whole enterprise. If so,
      then why do different understandings of Doherty not equally undermine
      one’s confidence in his historicity?

      You are kidding, aren’t you. If this thread were not a parody I would seriously urge you to read what I have in fact written. But that would spoil the joke, wouldn’t it.

      To continue in the parody vein, looking back I can now see that all those years I spent as a history student studing and debating different interpretations of Jefferson, Hitler,  Tiberius, Innocent III, Alexander, Constantine, Alcibiades, Baldwin etc etc etc meant they were all an illusion.

      If I quote here what I have argued about Jesus by contrast that would spoil the fun. Maybe you can dig out what I said, quote it, and post it as a new thread that is worth a serious discussion.

      • observer

        Did you ever advance the myther stance for those figures?

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  • Just Sayin’

    We’ve now established beyond all doubt that, as well as double standards, Jesus mythicists are devoid of the tiniest shred of humour when it comes to their beloved mytho-beliefs.

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

    Vinny, I think the puzzle is a good analogy, although I remain convinced that while historicism does good justice to the few pieces we have in the Gospels, mythicism does poor justice to what the epistles actually say in places, and largely works at filling silences in the epistles that historicism can fill every bit as well – or which, at the very least, are no less puzzling for the one scenario than the other.

    I would encourage you to familiarize yourself with what Doherty actually claims. If you do, I fully expect that you will want to distance yourself from him and anyone who claims that he is offering something that can be taken seriously, never mind something persuasive.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

      Dr. McGrath,

      I don’t look at mythicism as needing to fill any silences in
      the epistles.  I think it takes what it
      finds in the epistles as reflecting their authors’ understanding.  From the mythicist perspective there are no
      silences in the epistles because the epistles tell us as much as we can know
      with certainty about what their authors and their readers understood.   The silences
      are only there to plague historicists.

       

      The problem is that we don’t know how many pieces are missing from the puzzle between the gospels and the epistles.  The historicist assumes that there are only a
      few and that the transition is smooth. 
      The mythicist claims that there are many and that the picture is
      radically transformed.  The agnostic says
      “Beats me.  Can’t tell.”

      A few more votes in Loftus’ contest and I would have felt obligated to familiarize myself with Doherty’s theories.  Happily, you beat me and saved me the
      trouble.  I can stick with the guys with
      the right letters after their names who don’t claim certainty about mythicism.

  • OzRob

    At the urging of my colleague I’ve been persuaded to come forward with some initial comments regarding source material underlying the Testimonium Godfrianum.

    Clearly source criticism will reveal much of the
    underlying material that was woven together to create the more complete
    (but still awkward) work that has come to be known as TG.

    For example, vs.1:1a reads: “In
    1982 I read a couple of books by G. A. Wells, and I was quite taken
    aback. While I had vaguely heard of the ‘no historical Jesus’ idea
    during the 1970s, I tended to regard it as unlikely. Not, however, based
    on any particular knowledge of the subject. But that has enabled me to
    understand the automatic dismissal which the Christ myth theory usually
    receives from those who really know very little about it.”

    At
    first blush, one not well apprised of the background literature might
    find this believable. But it was obvious to me that these words had been
    placed on Doherty’s lips by a redactor to conform it with other
    mythicist figures. The passage bears an uncanny resemblance to an
    earlier classical piece by the priestess and oracle, Acharya S, who wrote:

    “Despite
    all of this literature continuously being cranked out and the
    significance of the issue, in the public at large there remains a
    serious lack of formal and broad education regarding religion and
    mythology, and most individuals are highly uninformed in this area.”

    Several themes are immediately apparent.

    The
    enigmatic Doherty allegedy refers to a professor, G.A.Wells. This seems
    to be an apologetic insertion to make Doherty seem more informed and
    though part of Acharya’s crowd who lack “formal and broad education”,
    still not completely ignorant. The redactor tries to make Doherty seem
    more of a sympathetic character by having him aware of the literature
    but skeptical due to insufficient exposure. This does fulfill the
    criterion of embarassment – surely Doherty wouldn’t be portrayed as
    being skeptical of the mythicist position that he later subscribes to,
    if in fact he wasn’t.

    Our TG redactor uses a doubling literary
    device to underline an important, pehaps epiphanious moment in Doherty’s
    call to mission.
    1) “not…based on any particular knowledge of the subject”
    2) “those who know very little about it”

    So
    Doherty (1) is identified with the uninformed population (2) but also
    individualised. On that point alone, we must seriously question his
    historicity. Doubtless, we are being led to imagine that he is an
    idealised figure who stands for the crowd. In a sense, Doherty is
    the crowd, but incarnated and personified in a singular way to help the
    reader better relate to the ideals and concepts as embodied in Doherty,
    rather than be confronted with the more impersonal crowd.

    Again,
    we sense the embarrassment of the redactor dealing with the source
    material. There is much “literature…being cranked out” but yet there
    remains a “serious lack of…education regarding religion and
    mythology”. In TG, this is incorporated by having Doherty “understand”
    those who ignorantly dismiss the myth because they “really know very
    little about it”.

    It is at this juncture that I suspected more
    than one source underlies this material. The oracles of Acharya are
    being absorbed but where she appears frustrated, Doherty is portrayed as
    sympathetic and understanding. But if we remove the obvious repeated
    material we can find accretion that doesn’t comfortably fit the purposes
    of our sympathetic redactor (SR).

    The first awkward accretion is
    the attribution of dates to Doherty’s movements. Earlier scholars
    initially thought it was done by SR to localise and further personify
    Doherty. But recent cross-disciplinary research revealed numerological
    considerations with the dates. There is a certain date of 1982 and a
    range of “1970s”. 1982 is one year. “1970s” is 10 years. The prefix 19
    includes the numerals 1 and 9. Adding 1 and 9 yields 10. And adding 8
    and 2 also yields 10. That gives us three instances of 10. The 10 years
    of the 1970s, the 10 from adding 1 and 9 from the prefix 19 and the 10
    from adding 8 and 2 from the one year 1982. Ryrebach et al,
    proposed a trinity of decalogues and argued that TG could be grouped
    into trinities of 10 words. This was the consensus until the
    aforementioned cross-discipline study in numerology revealed that a clue
    was encoded in the text. 10 is composed of the numerals 1 and 0. 1 x 0 =
    0. The 3 or trinity is a symbol of absoluteness. The symbology
    therefore reveals the meaning of “absolute zero”, which has been shown
    to mean a perfect nothingness or having no properties.

    SR clearly
    believes in the message he has drawn from Acharya and placed on the
    lips of Doherty so we are forced to conclude that another later redactor
    with his own agenda wanted to leave the message that Doherty in fact is
    a perfect nothingness or non-existence.

    I have only had the time
    to tease out a few details here, but there is definitely a rich,
    textured wash of layered source material and I look forward to studying
    it more thoroughly and hope to read the insights of my colleagues.

  • JoeWallack

    Well James, you are just using the wrong criteria to prove HD (Historical Doherty). According to you, no serious Bible scholar takes Doherty seriously, so he only embarrasses himself by what he writes.  Since what he writes is embarrassing, per the Criterion of Embarrassment he must be historical.

    Seriously, satire is based on similarity between what you write and what your target sounds like. Since what you wrote doesn’t sound like Mythicists, it isn’t funny. There are criteria available to determine HD. You have just never utilized them because they would not work with Jesus. That’s your problem.

    More importantly, we can start one of those hilarious 1001 proofs that Earl Doherty exists because they will sound just like you:

    1) Everything Earl Doherty writes is not taken seriously by serious Bible scholars.

    2) Writing that is not taken seriously is embarrassing.

    3) The Criterion of Embarrassment proves historicity.

    4) Therefore, Earl Doherty exists.

    Joseph

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

    Since you do not consider this to actually sound like mythicists tend to, that suggests that mythicists would not be and are not embarrassed by the sorts of things Doherty says. And that would seem to prevent you appealing to that criterion in support of historical Dohertyism.

    There is obviously a potential advantage when dealing with a figure in our own time, but pseudonymity and other factors associated with Doherty and with mythicism more generally actually remove some of those, making the situation not analogous, but at least similar enough to make the conversation interesting – and for those who see mythicism from the perspective of outsiders, funny.

  • Dave Burke

    Toto’s claim that Doherty appeared at the AAI-HC Joint Convention (attended by 300 people; source: http://bit.ly/peAhVZ) is interesting, but nothing less than we’d expect from a faithful believer and perfectly explicable by naturalistic means.

    Checking the convention’s website (http://bit.ly/ovRNRj) I find another curious fact: Doherty is one of only two speakers listed without a photograph. How strange… and yet, how convenient! The alleged ‘world’s leading Jesus mythicist’ is reduced to a mere footnote at the bottom of the guest list, without a single photo to confirm his identity or, indeed, his literal existence.

    Was a real flesh and blood human actually there? If so, he could easily have been an imposter. A more likely conclusion is that people at the conference merely *believed* they had seen Doherty. The heightened sense of expectation combined with earnest faith resulted in a form of mass hysteria or delusion.

    Of course, that Doherty appeared to groups of people is the least well-attested fact in the tradition, and is a likely thing to invent for its rhetorical power–these two facts combined make the accounts suspect.

    Even Toto’s tacit claim that 300 unnamed people saw Doherty at one time is curious–are we to suppose he interviewed 300 people? Indeed, is it even feasible that everyone in a gathering of 300 would be able to confirm that some person they saw was actually Doherty?

    It has long been known that hypnosis can in fact induce hallucinations by suggestion. The power of suggestion, and the influence of a similarity in socialization and cultural expectation and background, can also contribute to groups sharing, or believing they are sharing, the same experience.

    Dick Carrier (no jokes, please) whose words I’ve been paraphrasing, has correctly observed, ‘In other words, it is not even necessary for people who claim to have seen something to have actually seen it–it only matters that they believe it, or have any other reason to assert it’ (source: http://bit.ly/fbpltX).

    Well said. Dick.

    • OzRob

      My Dear Dave, I welcome your clarifications and explanatory suggestions in relation to the appearances of Doherty. Your proffered opinion is insightful and certainly worthy of further reflection.

      I wonder, though, if the entire notion of attempting to explain the appearances is wrong-headed? What evidence do we have apart from certain clearly biased claims that these appearances supposedly occurred in the mundane terrestrial realm? Is it not at least equally likely that what we are dealing with here is a spiritual experience or something else that is extra-mundane? In such a case we ought not to think that when one claims to have ‘met’ Doherty, that the lexicographical data vis-a-vis ‘met’ exhausts the ways in which we understand ‘met’. Indeed, the scholarly academia of language have a bias towards excluding understandings of ‘met’ from the lexicons that do not fit their preconceptions of ‘met’.

      If we look to 8th century Peruvian cultic literature we find an instance of ‘met’ meaning ‘dreamed’. Now, if the claim that academia is privileging lexical explanations that omit the  definition of ‘met’ as ‘dreamed’, then the evidence should show that nowhere in the lexicons do we find ‘dreamed’ as a viable translation of ‘met’. Curiously, this is precisely what we find.

      So when a Dohertist claims to have ‘met’ Doherty, it is all the more likely that they are in fact claiming to have ‘dreamed’ about Doherty or been the recipient of some other extra-mundane of experiencing Doherty.

      I do wish I had more time to devote to this fascinating field of inquiry yet my mundane pursuits call.

      I remain, as ever, your humble colleague in this quest.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

    I possess secret Earl Doherty letters that no one has ever seen but me. They claim to be from Earl Doherty himself and provide personal information otherwise not known. I’m willing to release them for scholarly examination to aid in the quest for HD for a mere $100,000. Please make check out to:

    The Historical Doherty Foundation
    1857 Kessler Boulevard West Dr
    Indianapolis, IN 46208

    • OzRob

      Dear Howard,

      We are attempting to establish a seminar committed to studying the historicity of Doherty in which we will inevitably discover he is a mythic construct.

      Due to our pre-establishment phase there are no funds available to meet your request, which otherwise sounds fascinating and could be the breakthrough of the century.

      Perhaps you would be so kind as to share partial transcripts by which we could ascertain prima facie probability of the documents being genuine?

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

        Dear OzRob,

        Sure, I can provide a small sample. In one of the letters he relates:

        “One day in 1966 while I was walking home from my piano lesson, a strange man approached me, he said his name was Martin Moroni. The man told me to meet him on a nearby hill in Wayne County, New York, which I would later find out that he would provide me with a golden pen that would reveal the truth about Jesus and Christianity. The truth was in the golden pen, and no matter what I tried to write, the pen would write the truth in golden ink. . .”

        That is all I can provide for now, but if you inform me of when and where this seminar will be held, I will bring the letters with me. So what do you make of what I have shared? Does it sound credible so far?

  • Dave Burke

    Considering that Doherty Historicists have had literally decades to prove his existence, how do we explain why they’ve waited so long to take an interest in the problem?

    Even more suspicious is the spontaneous production of alleged evidence to answer recent challenges to his historicity (e.g. Toto’s claim about the Montreal convention). Such behaviour has the strong odour of pious fraud. So-called ‘proof’ is being fabricated in an attempt to retrospectively morph Doherty from a mythic hero into a historical figure.

    I suspect these developments have arisen as a consequence of the tension between Doherty Historicists’ traditional fideism and the implications of having their belief shattered. For years they have uncritically accepted his historicity as an article of faith, and the idea of trying to prove it was scoffed at. This fundamentalist view is evident in the posts of Neil Godfrey.

    But now other Mythicists are claiming Doherty’s historicity can be proved objectively. The change of doctrine is intriguing. Could this be a classic case of heresy driving orthodoxy? Will the current heresy *become* the new orthodoxy? It’s a thrilling time for observers of the Doherty cult!

  • Dave Burke

    Howard,

    >>
    So what do you make of what I have shared? Does it sound credible so far?
    >>

    It is as credible as anything else I’ve seen from ‘the world’s leading Jesus mythicist.’

  • OzRob

    My dear Howard,

    Though interesting, this appears to have all the hallmarks of pagan borrowing, which while we expect to see when dealing with mystery religions, is not in and of itself evidence of substance. We should need to evaluate the material more exhaustively, but at this juncture I must confess to some skepticism.

    I am grateful though for your offer to allow us the chance to peruse these documents before committing to their purchase. Collegial numbers for the seminar are still only in collection phase hence no dates have been set at this time.

    But I will be sure to send you an all-access pass when details are finalised.

    By the way I am a world-leading expert in the DH hypothesis with respect to the various layers of source material in the Testimonium Godfrianum, so I do hope you will be able to attend my lectures prior to the seminar fellows voting on individual sayings.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

      Dear OzRob,

      I am a bit perplexed by some of your remarks. Aren’t all religions mysterious, and don’t they all have pagan influence of one degree or another. In all fairness, if a historian is to approach his task in a completely objective way, what exactly constitutes a pagan religion? According to the accepted definition, a true objective observer, would in fact be the pagan. Therefore, your remarks do not readily clarify your initial objections to the subject matter. On the other hand, can a structured refutation of the central figure of an organized religion, namely Christianity, be considered a religion of its own, which can borrow concepts from another Christ opposing religious structure? In the seminar, we will have to address the issue of when and how an inquiry of past events can transform from simply evaluating the available evidence to constructing a past that relies on unsubstantiated claims and supernatural events. And the supernatural events I have in mind include the fact that billions of thinking reasoning people accepted that Jesus was truly God’s son and he died and was resurrected. Is it natural for billions of people to be deceived by the same 2,000 year old story?

  • Fortigurn

    JoeWallack, you have successfully demonstrated that you do not understand the criterion of embarrassment. It is not defined as you have described it. Furthermore the criterion of embarrassment is not of itself used to determine historicity. It is used to identify which parts of a textual record are most likely to be authentic. As a result it can be used to contribute to an argument for historicity, but it does not establish historicity. Like most Mytherists, you don’t actually understand how professional historians work.

  • OzRob

    Dear Howard,

    I am using standard popular nomenclature so as to avoid confusion. Certainly you raise some salient points and we will call for papers to address these foundational issues.

    On the other hand, if at some future point I decide I don’t like your line of questions I will be forced to claim you are beyond reason. Clearly, it is only possible to consider you reasonable insofar as you confirm assent to what I propose as true.

    I remain, as ever, your servant.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

      DearOzRob,

      Ahhh, it is just as I suspected, the underlying momentum of the HD research is merely a facade for the purpose of a popularity contest. How could I have been so blind, your seminar is not a search for truth, but a synod to garner adherents and propagate the mythical Doherty doctrine that has already been established in the dark by a secret council of historians bent on world domination. Their aim is to discredit all relevant data concerning the truth of Doherty’s existence and to vilify all sympathizers. That is precisely why you are so eager for me to bring my secret letters to the seminar, you wish to confiscate them before I can show the truth to others and start a counter movement that would threaten the secret council of historians.

      I don’t understand, what questions? I have no questions for you as I already know the truth. And yes, this truth has set me free to fight this diabolical attempt to take over the world. This secret council of historians are behind Mitt Romney’s attempt to take over the USA, the first step in their plans to get traditional Christians out of the White House.

      P.S. please still inform me of the seminar information as I will still attend but I will be in disguise. I will be the one dressed as chewbacca, with a purple hat sporting a long turkey feather in it.

      • http://twitter.com/BobOHara Bob O’Hara

        Oh shit, now what am I going to wear?

  • Fortigurn

    I have been investigating this conference at which Doherty was allegedly seen. Predictably, the story breaks down immediately. This particular link is damning for its silence on Doherty.

    http://www.atheistnexus.org/group/humanistcanada/forum/topics/aaihc-conference-montreal-oct?commentId=2182797:Comment:999834&groupId=2182797:Group:779419

    Note that a link is provided to ‘the speaker line-up’, but the link is dead; how convenient that the original record of the speaker lineup (on which Doherty should have appeared), has now been lost and cannot be used to demonstrate he was actually scheduled to ‘appear’.

    Even more significant is the complete silence concerning Doherty’s presence; he is not mentioned at all on that page. Most weighty of all is the eyewitness testimony of an attendee, who mentions several significant speakers who were there, but not Doherty.

    * ‘Dan Dennett and PZ Myers didn’t fail to captivate their audience as did Mr. Deity and Chris diCarlo’

    Three high profile atheist speakers are mentioned, as well as the far less well known ‘Agtheist’ (self-described), Chris diCarlo. Doherty is not mentioned at all. This significant silence means that this conference is not evidence that Doherty exists; it is evidence that he doesn’t.

  • Fortigurn

    I have been investigating this conference at which Doherty was allegedly seen. Predictably, the story breaks down immediately. This particular link is damning for its silence on Doherty.

    http://www.atheistnexus.org/group/humanistcanada/forum/topics/aaihc-conference-montreal-oct?commentId=2182797:Comment:999834&groupId=2182797:Group:779419

    Note that a link is provided to ‘the speaker line-up’, but the link is dead; how convenient that the original record of the speaker lineup (on which Doherty should have appeared), has now been lost and cannot be used to demonstrate he was actually scheduled to ‘appear’.

    Even more significant is the complete silence concerning Doherty’s presence; he is not mentioned at all on that page. Most weighty of all is the eyewitness testimony of an attendee, who mentions several significant speakers who were there, but not Doherty.

    * ‘Dan Dennett and PZ Myers didn’t fail to captivate their audience as did Mr. Deity and Chris diCarlo’

    Three high profile atheist speakers are mentioned, as well as the far less well known ‘Agtheist’ (self-described), Chris diCarlo. Doherty is not mentioned at all. This significant silence means that this conference is not evidence that Doherty exists; it is evidence that he doesn’t.

  • Fortigurn

    Bernard, when Toto claims that he has ‘met’ Doherty, we must not draw the literalist conclusion that he intends us to understand that Doherty was physically present and that Toto met him as we would understand the word ‘met’.

    What Toto really means is that he experienced Doherty spiritually through prayer, fasting, and meditation, which enabled his consciousness to enter the sub-lunar realm and communicate mystically with a demi-divine Doherty.

    This is the only sense of the word ‘met’ which actually makes sense in the context of Toto’s text, and although it is completely unattested in all available lexical sources, we cannot rule out the possibility that Toto has applied a new definition to the word ‘met’, which must then be read through our own definition of the beliefs which we attribute to Toto.

  • Pingback: James F. McGrath

  • Dave Burke

    Neil,

    >>
    The illogic and errors of fact and incomprehension in this thread definitely justify its label as parody.
    >>

    A predictable response from someone with a vested interest in maintaining the Doherty myth. Please provide details of the ‘illogic and errors of fact and incomprehension in this thread’ so we can correct them and improve our research into the Historical Doherty, who remains notable by his continued absence. Thanks.

    In the meantime, I repeat my original questions. When and where was this alleged interview conducted? Was it a face to face meeting? Who else was present? Do you have any eyewitness testimony from non-Mythicists to confirm the details?

    • Anonymous

      This is ‘Neil’, playing with y’all.

  • observer

    I must say the rude behavior of Neil is very troubling as he is the only person who allegedly has met this mythical Doherty. I suspect he is hiding something.

  • JoeWallack

    Argument From Parallel Argument =

    1. No 20th century historian mentions that Jesus exists.

    2. James McGrath has never met Jesus.

    3. Jame McGrath claims to have conversations with Jesus but they are unpublished.

    4. Jesus has not had any publications peer reviewed.

    5. James McGrath, serious Bible scholar, says Jesus exists.

    6. Earl Doherty has the exact same qualifications as Jesus above.

    7. Therefore, Earl Doherty exists.

  • Dave Burke

    observer,

    >>
    I must say the rude behavior of Neil is very troubling as he is the only person who allegedly has met this mythical Doherty. I suspect he is hiding something.
    >>

    You need to cut him some slack. People are always at their most defensive when their faith is challenged.

  • observer

    I do understand Neil’s frustration. The evidence for the existence of this so called Doherty is  very weak at best.

  • Fortigurn

    Given the reasonable doubt that ‘Neil’ is an individual, I prefer use of the terms ‘The Neilist’ or ‘The Neiline Community’ as references to writings under this name.

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

    @Joe, what argument is that supposed to be parallel to? Your comment doesn’t make any sense to me, so perhaps you could clarify?

  • JoeWallack

    @Joe, what argument is that supposed to be parallel to? Your comment
    doesn’t make any sense to me, so perhaps you could clarify?”

    Hmmm, you don’t believe that Jesus exists. You are more liberal Christian than I thought.

  • observer

    Has one noticed something, not only does this alleged Doherty exist  as an actual person he is supposed to be still alive. Isn’t it odd indeed if the above is true that he has not posted here to defend his existence. Truly puzzling from the perspective of a historical Earl Doherty.

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

    Vinny, if the absence of substantial details about a historical Jesus is puzzling in the Gospels on the mainstream historical scenario, so too is the absence of details about the myth of Jesus on the mythicist scenario. But in favor of the former are the few details Paul provides – birth of a woman, birth under the Law, descent from David, etc. – and even the fact that this individual has a mundane human name and not one of the distinctive sort usually given to celestial figures.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

      Dr. McGrath,

      I was giving some more thought to your comment.  Are you suggesting that we should expect Paul to have known stories about the activities and adventures of a mythical Jesus just the same as we would have expected him to know stories about a historical Jesus, and that Paul’s silence as to both kinds of stories poses the same problem for mythicists and historicists respectively?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

    Dr. McGrath,

    I think the early epistles discuss a supernatural Christ at great length.  If I didn’t have anything else to go on, I doubt that it would occur to me that anyone thought that Jesus Christ was anything other than a heavenly being.  I would never guess from those few details that Paul’s concept was anything like the Jesus of the gospels.  Because the Jesus of the early epistles seems to be so clearly a supernatural being who operates in a spiritual realm, I think I would assume that those few details were intended to express some theological truths about the heavenly Christ rather than historical facts about some first century man named Jesus.

  • observer

    I am suspecting more and more the view that Doherty is a mythical figure is correct. After all mythical figures cannot peer review :)

  • Dave Burke

    Vince,

    >>
    I think the early epistles discuss a supernatural Christ at great length.  If I didn’t have anything else to go on, I doubt that it would occur to me that anyone thought that Jesus Christ was anything other than a heavenly being.  I would never guess from those few details that Paul’s concept was anything like the Jesus of the gospels.  Because the Jesus of the early epistles seems to be so clearly a supernatural being who operates in a spiritual realm
    >>

    Could you please provide a bullet point list to show how you arrive at this conclusion?

    I must confess some sympathy with your view, because I feel the same way about Doherty’s depiction in the Testimonium Godfranium. It is impossible for me to read Godfrey’s ‘interview’ without arriving at the conclusion that Doherty is a supernatural being who operates in the spiritual realm.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

      No thanks Dave.  That game doesn’t interest me.

  • Dave Burke

    Neil,

    >>
    I expected even a liberal Christian would draw the line at calling Carrier a Dick
    >>

    Who has done this? I called him ‘Dick Carrier’ and ‘Dick’, but I didn’t call him ‘a dick.’ Last time I checked, ‘Dick’ was the accepted abbreviation for ‘Richard.’ Has this changed?

    I showed how effective Dick’s argument is, commended his logic, and even added, ‘No jokes please’ to preclude the very sort of humour you’re attributing to me. Yet here you are, bringing the tone down with references to double entendres. I don’t think that’s appropriate.

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

    I frown upon making fun of people’s names, and am happy to hear that you have come around to that point of view too, Neil!

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Dick Carrier (no jokes, please) . . . .

      Well said. Dick.

      This is Tim’s comment. The last line is not calling Richard Dick but insulting him. There is a full stop there, not a comma.

      So Tim’s disingenuousness is something you tolerate, McGrath?

      I see.

  • Fortigurn

    Vince it’s not a game. It’s a matter of whether or not you can explain the process of reasoning by which you reached your conclusion. It’s symptomatic of Mytherists that they make all kinds of claims, and then become enraged when asked for evidence, for even just asked to explain how they arrived at their conclusions.

  • Dave Burke

    Vince,

    >>
    No thanks Dave.  That game doesn’t interest me.
    >>

    It was a simple question, not a game. You gave your opinion and I asked how you arrived at it. Now you say, ‘that game doesn’t interest me.’

    But there’s no game involved, Vince. You’ve merely been asked to explain your rationale. Any particular reason why that’s too much to ask? You’re not going all presuppositionalist on us, are you?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

      Dave,

      I don’t believe that someone who demands a list of “bullet points” is interested in a good faith discussion of the issues.  I believe that person is looking for something to parody and ridicule in the same way that he parodies and ridicules other arguments.  I do not wish to be your straight man.

      • Dave Burke

        Vince,

        >>
        I don’t believe that someone who demands a list of “bullet points” is interested in a good faith discussion of the issues.
        >>

        Wrong on two levels.

        (1) It’s not a demand, it’s a polite request (hell, I even said ‘please’!)

        (2) It’s an honest request made in good faith. You’ve assumed bad faith without good reason. Why?

        Is there something inherently wrong with bullet points? Why does this suggest bad faith to you? You’ve been perfectly happy to make bold assertions throughout this discussion, so I assumed you’d be equally happy to explain how you arrived at your conclusions. Apparently not!

        I shouldn’t have to push this hard for an evidence-based discussion. It’s quite puzzling.

        • Anonymous

          There is nothing wrong with bullet points if one is composing a PowerPoint presentation, however, they do not normally form part of my reasoning process.  Your assumption that I would be happy to prepare a list in order to satisfy your curiosity was erroneous.   

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

    I find it ironic that you would complain about my lowering my standard about such matters, when had I not done so I would have had to simply forswear interacting with you, Neil.

    I do not approve of engaging in personal insults, no matter what the viewpoint of the person doing so or the person who is on the receiving end. I have given up trying to convince all other users of the internet to follow suit, other than by example.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      But once I used a bit of sarcasm and you jumped all over me. You ignore the insults of others — and they have been crude and many — but will not tolerate any perceived slip on my part.

      I see.

  • Dave Burke

    Neil,

    >>
    This is Tim’s comment. The last line is not calling Richard Dick but insulting him. There is a full stop there, not a comma.

    So Tim’s disingenuousness is something you tolerate, McGrath?

    I see.
    >>

    An intriguing Freudian slip! My name is Dave, not Tim. Perhaps you’re thinking of our mutual friend Mr O’Neill?

    I’m sorry if my use of a full stop instead of the more appropriate comma has upset you. I’m a touch typist with an excellent accuracy rate, but ‘errare humanum est’ as Augustine once said.

    While you’re on the subject of rudeness, perhaps you’d care to review Doherty’s history on this blog and consider if he meets the high standards you’re demanding here. The results may surprise you!

    Isn’t it interesting that atheists are always at their most prudish when criticising Christians? At all other times they’ll defend moral relativism to the death, but the moment they’ve got a Christian in the scope they become fire-and-brimstone Puritans, insisting on Old Testament values. It’s a curious phenomenon.

    Still no answer to my questions about the Doherty interview, I see.

  • Fortigurn

    //This is Tim’s comment.//

    That is not Tim’s comment. That is the comment of Dave Burke, whose name you consistently get wrong. You have called him James Burke, and now you call him Tim O’Neill, despite the fact that every post of his displays his name very clearly as ‘Dave Burke’. Why do you mock his name in this way?

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

    When I asked you about the insults I was receiving on your blog from your regular commentators, you suggested ignoring the shouts from the gallery. Are you now saying that you should have adopted a different stance?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      I do not let my regular commenters insult anyone — including you — and I remove or edit their comments if they do. This has been my practice for some time now since I was embarrassed by what was happening some time ago.

      I thought you believed in leading by example but here you seem to be saying you are justified in doing back to me what you perceive me to be doing to you. I thought you once made strong proclamations you intended to lift your game to a respectable civil standard.

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

    Neil, I have not done anything to you other than to point out that you are being hypocritical in blaming me for not chastising commenters for inappropriate insults on my blog, when you encouraged me to ignore insulting comments on your blog, rather than taking that opportunity to tell those commenters to cease.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      But I have removed insults against you from my commenters and I have told them I have done this and do not accept it. You are ignoring the facts. You do not find the slime standard among commenters on my blog that you accept on yours.

  • Fortigurn

    Well said James.

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    I have not complained about insults directed at me personally — not even the gross obscenities from Mike Wilson that I expect to find here — but I do have this weakness for saying something when I see others being insulted and no-one making a wimper of protest, as I did here with the crudity directed at Richard Carrier.

    It is not me I am objecting to – I fully expect you to make an exception for me and find any and every pretext to ridicule or insult and to support others who do, too (that’s just you being you and it rebounds to my favour and against you in the eyes of readers I care about) – but I do say something, as here, when I see you preferring to quietly sit back and lead by example in the case of one like Richard Carrier.

  • Fortigurn

    //You do not find the slime standard among commenters on my blog that you accept on yours.//

    Frankly I find the comments here far more respectful in tone than on your blog. Michael Wilson aside, which ‘slime comments’ are you referring to? I note of course that you are tone trolling in order to avoid the original point under discussion, and have consistently refused to apologize to Dave Burke for TWICE getting his name wrong (which appears completely deliberate).

  • Dave Burke

    Meanwhile, my direct reply to Neil (here: http://bit.ly/oG6apQ) remains unanswered. This suggests he is more interested in manufacturing outrage than addressing a genuine issue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Would “tone trolling” be a gross obscenitie? 

    I may in fact be the whole slime department. But at issue here is, must everyone be taken seriously? 

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

    Yes, that is pretty much what I am saying. The stories of mythical figures were every bit as important to their worshipers as were stories about teachers and political leaders to their followers – if not indeed more so. And so if it is reasonable to expect Paul to provide detailed stories, then it is reasonable to do so for mythicists and not just historicists. And if it is plausible to explain away the lack of such details on a mythicist scenario, such as through Paul assuming Christians already knew such things, then there is no legitimate reason to disallow the same solution to the same problem in the context of historicism.

    Time and again, Earl Doherty writes as though Paul should be informing his readers of the Gospel and elementary teachings of Christianity as though hearing about them for the first time. This seems to me to reflect a failure to consistently take the genre and nature of Paul’s correspondence into account.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

      Dr. McGrath,

      That is an interesting point that I will need to ponder.

      Off the top of my head, I guess the difference that I see is that we know what the activities and teachings of the historical Jesus were believed to be and we can see how those stories would have been relevant to issues that are dealt with in the epistles.   For example, in 1 Clement, the author cites the mythical story of the phoenix in order to communicate the resurrection rather than citing any of the gospel stories about the resurrection.  That strikes me as very strange if he in fact knew the gospel stories and accepted them as authoritative.  On the other hand, we don’t know what stories, if any, might have been told about a Jesus who was only known through myth.  Paul could be making very clear allusions to such stories, we might be unable to tell.

      Another thought I have is that it is not enough to propose an explanation for why Paul is silent about activities of the historical Jesus (or the mythical one for that matter I guess).

      I have read a decent amount of Civil War history, and there are many instances in which stories which cast a different light on battles and campaigns first appeared many years after the end of the war.  In assessing their veracity, historian want to know why the story didn’t come out in the earliest reports.  However, I think they want positive reasons to think that the story is true as well.  For example, the story should fit well with what we think we know from the earliest reports and it perhaps should make sense of some puzzle or anomaly that we were previously unable to explain. If we cannot both explain why the story went untold and provide positive reasons for thinking the story is true, that might be reason to think that the story was invented later to serve some personal or political agenda.  

      When I read Paul (as well as the other 1st century epistles), I find it hard to see positive reasons to think that the Jesus of the gospels was part of Paul’s understanding.  Even though the gospel stories may not directly conflict with what Paul wrote, I don’t think that a historical Jesus does much to explain or make sense of his letters. 

      Even if I can think of reasons why Paul wasn’t interested in the historical Jesus, that doesn’t seem to me to be a positive reason to thing that he knew about him or believed in him.

  • observer

    I must say I fail to see why Neil is upset, he has made some less then kind comments about Tim after all. He had a blog post about him called From Sublime to Slime for heavens sake. Neil seems less then polite to me.

  • Dave Burke

    Vince,

    >>
    When I read Paul (as well as the other 1st century epistles), I find it hard to see positive reasons to think that the Jesus of the gospels was part of Paul’s understanding.
    >>

    Paul’s soteriology is contingent upon the Jesus of the Gospels:

    –I Corinthians 11:23-25
    For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread,
    and after he had given thanks he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
    In the same way, he also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, every time you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

    –I Corinthians 15:12-18
    Now if Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?
    But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.
    And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty.
    Also, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified against God that he raised Christ from the dead, when in reality he did not raise him, if indeed the dead are not raised.
    For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised.
    And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins.
    Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished.

    Pretty difficult to ignore the connection there.

    >>
    Even though the gospel stories may not directly conflict with what Paul wrote, I don’t think that a historical Jesus does much to explain or make sense of his letters.
    >>

    Why not?

  • Fortigurn

    //Another thought I have is that it is not enough to propose an
    explanation for why Paul is silent about activities of the historical
    Jesus (or the mythical one for that matter I guess).//

    You are assuming that he is silent about the activities of the historical Jesus. He isn’t. Mytherists try to get around what Paul clearly says about the historical Jesus by such strategies as the following.

    * Claiming a verse is a much later interpolation, even if there is no textual evidence for this, and even if the consensus of textual scholarship is that the text is original

    * Inventing word meanings which are unattested in any lexical source, and claiming these are the meanings in the passages under review (Doherty freely acknowledges doing this, and sees nothing wrong with making up his own meanings for Greek words)

    * Claiming that the meaning of a passage is ‘very obscure’ and no one can really understand it, so it can’t be used as evidence for the historical Jesus

    * Simply omitting to mention certain passages at all

    This is not the approach of intellectually honest investigation.

  • Fortigurn

    //When I read Paul (as well as the other 1st century epistles), I find it
    hard to see positive reasons to think that the Jesus of the gospels was
    part of Paul’s understanding.//

    The fact that he refers to Jesus’ brother, the fact that he refers to Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, his betrayal, his crucifixion, and resurrection, his post-resurrection appearances to eyewitnesses (all of which information is in the gospels), aren’t positive reasons to think that the Jesus of the gospels was part of Paul’s understanding?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

      Fortigurn,

      In The Historical Figure of Jesus E.P. Sanders gives a list of eleven facts about Jesus’ public career which he says are “almost beyond dispute.”  Of these eleven, Paul only partially corroborates two.  Paul never indicates that Jesus was a teacher or a healer.  He doesn’t say anything about Jesus interacting with John the Baptist, Pilate, or the Pharisees.  He doesn’t indicate that Jesus had disciples.  He doesn’t indicate when or where Jesus lived or died.  Paul doesn’t mention anything Jesus said or did prior to the night before his crucifixion and the one thing Paul claims to know about Jesus that occurred prior to his death, Paul claims to know by revelation.  I don’t see anything in Paul that we would lead me to believe that he thought that the source of his message was a recently deceased itinerant preacher who bore any resemblance to the person described in the gospels.  He might have thought so, but I sure don’t get it from his letters.

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

    Vince, if you would agree that the Gospel authors understood themselves to be speaking of the same Jesus as Paul was (that is presumably uncontroversial, since not only the name and the crucifixion agree but also some very specific things, such as the Lord’s Supper, are found in both), then how would you account for the fact that the earliest Gospel authors show no signs of interest in or need to polemicize against a viewpoint that considers Jesus a purely heavenly figure?

    Isn’t the silence of the early Gospels on this more of a problem for mythicism than the silence of Paul is for historicism?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

      Dr. McGrath,

       

      I don’t know whether I see that as so uncontroversial.  Let me ask a different question that I hope
      illustrates my problem:  to what extent
      did the author of John understand himself to be speaking of the same Jesus as
      the authors of the synoptics?  Did John
      think that he was just adding a few details that Matthew, Mark, and Luke had
      forgotten to mention, or did he see himself as presenting an entirely new Christology?  Would he have expected his
      gospel to be read in conjunction with the synoptics or might he have thought that
      his version would be accepted as the sole authoritative revelation?  Should we have expected him to polemicize
      against a viewpoint that didn’t show Jesus expressly claiming equality with God
      the Father?  None of the gospel writers
      seemed to feel the need to explain why anyone else’s view on any particular
      issue was wrong.

       

      This is where I think we are hampered by how few pieces of
      the puzzle we possess. I can imagine that Mark understood his revelation to be
      very different from the one that Paul had or that Mark’s gospel developed
      independently from a common source such that Paul had little direct influence
      on the tradition behind the synoptics.   I think your objection is much stronger if we
      are only missing a few of the puzzle pieces between the gospels and the
      epistles, but I’m not sure we can be confident that’s the case.  I don’t think we have clear evidence of the
      gospels and the epistles being recognized as elements of the same whole until
      well into the 2nd century. 
      There is much that we don’t know about how they got there.

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

    @0afc84882ce2bf8bdbede723f1020d0f:disqus , I probably ought to have written “relatively silent” or some other expression – Paul’s relative lack of explicit quotations attributed to Jesus and stories about him was what I was addressing. I agree that he is not completely silent about a historical Jesus.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

      Dr. McGrath,

      I understood that you were not conceding absolute silence on Paul’s part. 

  • Fortigurn

    James, understood. I thought you were being quite generous to Vince. There is no such silence as he imagines; such a silence can only be manufactured artificially, which is why Mytherists are compelled to use the tactics I described, instead of addressing the evidence.

  • JoeWallack

    Argument From JP Holding =

    1. Earl Doherty is from Canada

    2. Earl Doherty is the leading proponent of MJ

    3. Canada’s only exports are hockey and cold weather and it has a very small percent of the World population

    4. It is improbable that the leading proponent of MJ would be from Canada.

    5. Therefore, Earl Doherty exists.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MUIGGGWVZRPI7DRSO4ENSPPHCQ ConnorO

    The stories of mythical figures were every bit as important to their worshipers as were stories about teachers and political leaders to their followers – if not indeed more so.

    I think this begs the question. Myths develop over time and reflect the circumstances of the communities that value them. The earlier stories are typically closely tied in etiological fashion with the ritual practices engaged in by the community to express a sacred connection with the figure of worship. Specificity and narrative coherence may be absent. Later stories “fill in the blanks” and may be more varied in genre and intent; some may be edifying, some may be more for simple entertainment, some arise from evolving practice and integrate the updates to the ritual practices made by the larger or more mature or more diverse community, to relate the old rituals and stories to new circumstances. (Plutarch on Isis and Osiris may be instructive in this regard.) 

    This is one way to interpret the development of the early Christian proclamation into the theology of the later church. To the degree that Paul relates stories at all, they have almost entirely soteriological import. They lack setting and narrative detail. You seem to be implying that if Jesus developed as a figure of myth that this development should have from its inception been focussed on a character in a developed narrative. The opposite is the case, and the early Christian literature is consistent with what we would expect if the risen Christ is a myth for Paul.

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

    @yahoo-MUIGGGWVZRPI7DRSO4ENSPPHCQ:disqus , we can safely set aside the “risen Christ” as not within a historian’s purview. As for the earlier Jesus, the one who is said to be born, to have been crucified, to have bled, to have been buried and so on, I don’t see that figure as described as naturally or unambiguously mythical in character. As for your other point, we have no evidence for the myth that would eventually come to be referred to as “Christian” prior to the first century, and so unless you want to posit a long history for this movement which leaves no trace in the historical record, then it would seem appropriate to discuss this movement as one originating not long before the first textual evidence for it was produced. 

    Do you have any examples that would support your contention that the lack of specifics about the mythical stories of the mythical Jesus is what one would expect from a movement centered on a recently-invented, purely mythical figure?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

      we can safely set aside the “risen Christ” as not within a historian’s
      purview. As for the earlier Jesus, the one who is said to be born, to
      have been crucified, to have bled, to have been buried and so on, I
      don’t see that figure as described as naturally or unambiguously
      mythical in character.

      I agree.  If we eliminate everything about him rising from the dead, being exalted to heaven, and making post-mortem appearances, Paul’s Jesus he looks much less mythical.  I’m not sure how safe it is to do that though.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MUIGGGWVZRPI7DRSO4ENSPPHCQ ConnorO

    It’s not just the lack of specifics, but also the pattern that such specifics as there are serve as etiologies or exegeses of the associated rites. Roman Mithraism might be adduced as evidence, but we lack narrative texts or any obviously earlier layers of a textual tradition a la the Pauline epistles. From the sculptures and inscriptions we do have, though, it seems that there was one ineluctible element in the myth, that of the slaying of the the bull. A ritual feast with Mithras and Helios or Sol Invictus is the next “narrative” element frequently represented, and the more elaborate the mithraeum, the more likely that other events less central to the mysteries would also be depicted, like his birth from a rock, or striking the earth with a staff to bring forth water. None of this has any clear setting, such details as there are are standardized (the Phrygian cap, for instance), and there’s scant reason to believe anyone thought it necessary to have a coherent narrative stringing together the mythical episodes.

    Serapis might be considered also in the context of discussing “a movement centered on a recently-invented, purely mythical figure” but I have no time now. Perhaps this evening.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

    If I might say something about Paul and his letters being relatively silent about the historical Jesus. The problem is that was not the intent of the letters. It seems like some are trying to associate modern church practice to what was going on in first century Christianity. For example, today, people who know next to nothing about Jesus go to church to learn about him and the preacher gives sermons relating stories about Jesus and other biblical figures to teach the flock about God and Jesus. People assume Paul was doing something similar and it is odd that Paul never related gospel stories about Jesus. Well that’s not what Paul was doing at all. Things were different in the first century. For example, people in Corinth who knew next to nothing about Jesus, didn’t join the Corinthian church to learn about Jesus, that was done prior to them joining the Corinthian church. The average person learned about Jesus through the preaching that is described numerous times in Acts and in other epistles. This was done at the person’s home, or at the market. They didn’t visit the Corinthian church until they were well acquainted with the subject matter. So the Corinthian church was made up of people who were well acquainted with the basic teachings about the Christ. But all that is not really even the point, if you pay close attention, you will see that these letters were really directed towards those who were in charge at the church, and they were to disseminate the information to the rest. If we look at some highlights from 1 Corinthians, you can see this.

    Paul exposes sectarianism, exhorts unity (1:1–4:21)

    On keeping the church morally clean (5:1–6:20)

    Counsel on singleness and marriage (7:1-40)

    Doing all things for the sake of the gospel (8:1–9:27)

    Warning against injurious things (10:1–33)

    Headship; the Lord’s Evening Meal (11:1-34)

    Spiritual gifts; love and its pursuit (12:1–14:40)

    The certainty of the resurrection hope (15:1–16:24)

    These are not the basic teachings about the Christ, these are how the church should operate and how its members should conduct themselves in and out of the church. So on many occasions, Paul is not preaching Christ to an individual, he is overseeing the operation of his churches and instructing whole communities. The one on one preaching was done in the field by individual members of the church. And that is where you would see the earthly Jesus being talked about, unfortunately we don’t have much in that area outside of the gospels and Acts. So it comes as no surprise that talking about Jesus healing a leper has nothing to do with instructing a church as a whole.

    • Anonymous

      How do you know what the basic teachings about the Christ were at the time Paul wrote other than by looking at what Paul wrote?

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

        VinnyJH,

        You are making a division where no division exists. The basic teachings about the Christ as found in the gospels existed since Jesus’ time, whether orally or in writing. Since Jesus predates Paul, these basic teachings predate Paul. We have these basic teachings today in the written gospels. Who preserved these teachings from the beginning? Why Christians of course. So how did we end up today with these basic teachings in the gospels if all the Christians in Paul’s day knew nothing about them?

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

          Howard,

          I think I might just as well ask “How did we get the Book of Mormon if it wasn’t from the Golden Plates that the Angel Moroni gave to Joseph Smith?”

          I don’t think we have enough evidence to determine the origins of the gospel stories with any certainty.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

            Vince, I didn’t realize that you were questioning the usual dating of the gospels. And it is true that our earliest manuscripts for both the gospels and the epistles are dated to sometime after the middle of the second century. And most if not all of the collaborating evidence, such as the patristic writings are even later than that. So you are correct that there is no hard physical evidence that the gospels were written before 70 C.E. Now it’s not simply a matter of when the gospels were written down for the first time, because that is beside the point. If the events really happened before 70 C.E. there would still be oral traditions. So for your objection to have merit, you have to be claiming the events did not take place at all or they did not take place before 70 C.E. If either one of these is the case, why would gospel authors of the second century place the events 70 years in the past by using known political figures and other contemporary names and places of the mid first century? Would there have been a reason for doing this?

  • Dave Burke

    Well said Howard. I’ve never seen any logic behind the ‘Paul-doesn’t- offer-a-biography-of-Jesus-therefore-he-knows-nothing-about-him-and-doesn’t-believe-he-was-a-literal-historical-person’ argument. Paul is a latecomer to Christianity addressing established Christian communities; people who knew about Jesus and believed in him long before Paul was converted. His letters address pastoral concerns and doctrinal issues. It seems nonsensical to insist that he must start by telling them who Jesus was and what he did, as if this is the first time they’ve ever heard of him.

    • TruthOverfaith

      Biographical facts about Jesus are regularly taught in churches every week in this country and many others.
      And these “facts” have been around for two thousand years.
      Yet they’re still discussed.

      • Dave Burke

        TruthOverfaith,

        What’s your point?

  • Anonymous

    Our earliest Christian source claimed to have learned nothing from the Christians who came before him.  He claimed to know what he knew by divine revelation.  He didn’t tell us why he persecuted the Christians who preceded him.  Most of the communities he addressed were communities that he founded.   The only evidence we have for what those communities knew and understood about Jesus is what we find it Paul’s letters.  It is not unreasonable suppose that they knew other things but any declarations concerning what those things actually were are little more than conjecture and speculation. How much of his message came from those who preceded him and how much was the product of his own  imagination and creativity is also a matter of conjecture and speculation.  Those are pieces of the puzzle that we don’t possess.

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

    Vinny, abandoning skepticism of Paul at this one point when it is in mythicism’s interest to do so, and at a point at which Paul is making a claim that is supernatural in nature and which is explicable in terms of his self-interest, does not make mythicism seem at all persuasive.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

      Dr. McGrath,

      I am absolutely skeptical of Paul’s claim that he learned nothing from the Christians who came before him and of his claim that he learned everything that he knew by divine revelation.  However, his refusal to credit his predecessors for any part of his message and the lack of any independent evidence of what they believed leaves me without any basis other than speculation and conjecture to determine how much of Paul’s preaching and what parts of it conformed to what came before him and what part of it was the added to the mix by Paul’s own theological creativity. 

      If I can invoke my favorite Mormon analogies, I am completely skeptical of Joseph Smiths’s claims that he translated the Book of Mormon from Golden Plates that he got from the Angel Moroni.  Nevertheless, the fact that neither he nor his compatriots admitted that he had any other sources nor identified any sources makes it hard to be sure what those sources were.  Without persuasive evidence to the contrary, I  would have to allow for the possibility that substantial portions really are the product of Smith’s imagination.

      We can speculate about the context in which Paul’s letters were written, but the only evidence we really have is the letters themselves.  I just don’t see sufficient evidence upon which to base claims about what Christian communities were like or what they believed prior to Paul’s conversion, not because I believe Paul’s claim that he learned nothing from his predecessors, but because Paul declines to say what he learned from his predecessors.

  • Dave Burke

    Vince,

    >>
    Most of the communities he addressed were communities that he founded.
    >>

    It is debatable if any of these communities were actually founded by Paul. How many of them does he actually claim to have founded? Can you provide details?

    In any case, Paul was not a lone missionary. He travelled and preached with various companions, including Barnabas, John Mark, and Silas. So any communities founded by Paul would also receive the benefit of his companions’ knowledge.

    >>
    The only evidence we have for what those communities knew and understood about Jesus is what we find it Paul’s letters.
    >>

    Correction: we also have Acts, where Paul gives details of Jesus’ life.

    For example, Acts 13:15-39 shows that Paul knew of Jesus’ foreshadowing in Messianic prophecy, his baptism by John, his ministry in Jerusalem and the local area, the opposition he faced from religious rulers, their collaboration in his arrest and crucifixion (including the role of Piate), his death, his resurrection from the dead, and his appearance to hundreds of believers from Galilee to Jerusalem.

    >>
    I am absolutely skeptical of Paul’s claim that he learned nothing from
    the Christians who came before him
    >>

    Paul makes no such claim.

    >>
    and of his claim that he learned
    everything that he knew by divine revelation.
    >>

    Paul makes no such claim.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

      I totally agree, when Paul says things like his teaching is not from man, it most likely means that man was not the source of the teaching, but a man could have very well been the messenger.

  • Dave Burke

    Vinny,

    >>
    How do you know what the basic teachings about the Christ were at the time Paul wrote other than by looking at what Paul wrote?
    >>

    By looking at Acts, which is contemporary with Paul’s missionary career.

    Acts contains a total of nine preaching lectures (Acts 2:22-42, 3:12-26, 7:2-56, 8:30-39, 10:34-48, 13:15-39, 17:22-31, 24:14-21, 26:2-27) throughout which the following core doctrines are presented repeatedly:

    * The Bible: the word of God, divinely inspired
    * One God: the Father and Creator; the Holy Spirit, His power
    * Jesus: the Son of God
    * Jesus: a mortal man
    * Jesus: his perfect life, sacrifice
    * Jesus: his resurrection, glorification, and ascension
    * Christ as mediator
    * The second coming
    * Resurrection and judgement
    * Promises to Abraham: inheritance of the land
    * Promises to David: his kingdom restored
    * Forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ, repentance, and baptism
    * One body: fellowship and breaking of bread

  • Dave Burke

    ^^ That’s an excellent point. At any rate, Paul only says his *gospel* is not from man. He doesn’t claim that *everything* he knows is derived from divine inspiration, nor does he claim to have learned nothing from the Christians who came before him.

    • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

      Right on Dave!
      Paul’s gospel, about resurrection following crucifixion, plus extrapolations and interpretations from that (such as Son of God, sacrifice for atonement of sins, pre-existence, Savior of Christians) was largely from Paul’s mind (aka revelations!). According to my studies, I think Jesus never imagined to be crucified, even less resurrected (he probably did not believe in resurrection. Certainly his followers (such as Peter) did not). So Paul’s gospel could not come from him. But if Paul’s gospel did not come from Jesus (or the “Nazarenes”), that did not prevent Paul to know about the human Jesus. And he gave in his letters some evidence for it (Jew, a descendant israelites, poor, brother James, dealing with Jews (but not Gentiles), delivered at night, having suppers, being from Zion or/and crucified in Zion). But in view of his gospel, Paul was not likely to dwell on somebody who was likely illiterate, rustic, not a teacher, with a short public life in some area of rural Galilee.
      It is like a bit like Earl Doherty, who may want to be the great Mythicist, the Master of the no-Jesus theory, but let very little to be known about him.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MUIGGGWVZRPI7DRSO4ENSPPHCQ ConnorO

    James:
    ‘abandoning skepticism of Paul at this one point when it is in
    mythicism’s interest to do so, and at a point at which Paul is making a
    claim that is supernatural in nature and which is explicable in terms of
    his self-interest, does not make mythicism seem at all persuasive.”

    I hope you have a macro that generates these formulaic responses, or at least a text file from which you cut and paste pat answers to skeptics, and you’re not actually typing this tedious bilge. I’m so annoyed by it in part because it smacks of intellectual dishonesty to me, a feigned incuriosity for rhetorical effect. I can’t see how you are not yourself intrigued by what Paul means exactly when he speaks of revelation, the tantalizing and variously interpreted insight into an unusually unguarded ancient’s orientation to “things unseen” and Wisdom from on high. I don’t expect you to just acquiesce to the possibly spurious “mythicist” appeal to Paul’s revelatory claims on this account. I expect engagement: a willingness to acknowledge that many of the puzzles that thoughtful HJ skeptics bring up are relevant to genuine points of contention in the academic discussion about what we know and how about ancient thought.

    Dave:
    ‘I’ve never seen any logic behind the ‘Paul-doesn’t-
    offer-a-biography-of-Jesus-therefore-he-knows-nothing-about-him-and-doesn’t-believe-he-was-a-literal-historical-person’
    argument.”

    A strawman made of hyphens. You actually misconstrue the point on two counts. Nobody expects Paul to have “offered-a-biography” of Jesus. It is the absence of any narrative detail from the gospels that couldn’t also be derived strightforwardly from the scriptures such as setting, situation, discourse, miracle, exorcism or healing and the specific silences in which Paul appears to be addressing a controversy that could be argued by appeal to some core element of the synoptic tradition. Second to that, Paul may have “known-nothing-about-him” yet still “believed-he-was-a-literal-historical-person” in the sense that God’s saving plan called for the secret embodiment “according to the flesh” of Wisdom/Logos, variously construed, to be offered in a sacrifice of cosmic import. Maybe Paul believed in an otherwise unremarked upon event right here on Earth (contra Doherty). It doesn’t mean it happened.

    The standard dodge to the argument from Paul’s silence is Bernard’s:

    “But in view of his gospel, Paul was not likely to dwell on somebody who
    was probably illiterate, rustic, not a teacher, with a short public life
    in some area of rural Galilee.”

    But the trouble with this supposed clear view through the fog of theological embellishment is evoked earlier in the very same comment: the evidence for Paul’s knowledge “second hand about the human Jesus” including “brother James”.
    Generally, by what means were the authors of the synoptics reliably informed about this “short public life” of an illiterate rustic from some area of rural Galilee? Specifically, was James also an illiterate rustic? If not, why not? and, if so, then we have the puzzle of Paul’s disinterest in the illiterate rustic whose career culminated in an event of cosmic implications in light of his portrayal of another illiterate rustic as a leader of a sectarian community in the ideologically charged Jerusalem of the period, operating at or above Paul’s level

    Finally, Dave:
    “…Acts, which is contemporary with Paul’s missionary career”

    You state this as if it’s a settled fact. You will get very few scholars of the NT to agree with you on that. I very much doubt our erstwhile host agrees with that. Which only amounts to an appeal to their authority, but for myself, I have to say that only by reading Acts with a complete suspension of critical insight could one come to that belief. There is not a single reason on internal evidence alone to regard Acts as either contemporary with the events it describes or as even an attempt at a reliable history of Christian origins. The discrepancies with Paul’s account when the same episodes are treated makes the assertion even more dubious.

  • Dave Burke

    ConnorO,

    >>
    A strawman made of hyphens.
    >>

    I’m afraid not. I used the term ‘biography’ facetiously, but that’s effectively what a lot of Mythicists ask for.

    >>
    It is the absence of any narrative detail from the gospels that couldn’t also be derived strightforwardly from the scriptures
    >>

    Baptism by John, ministry in Jerusalem and the local area,  opposition from religious rulers, their collaboration in his arrest and crucifixion (including the role of Pilate), details of the Last Supper, death, resurrection from the dead, appearance to hundreds of believers from Galilee to Jerusalem. All mentioned by Paul.

    You claim he could derive this level of detail ‘straightforwardly from the Scriptures’?

    >>
    and the specific silences in which Paul appears to be addressing a controversy that could be argued by appeal to some core element of the synoptic tradition
    >>

    Examples please.

    >>
    Second to that, Paul may have “known-nothing-about-him” yet still “believed-he-was-a-literal-historical-person” in the sense that God’s saving plan called for the secret embodiment “according to the flesh” of Wisdom/Logos, variously construed, to be offered in a sacrifice of cosmic import.
    >>

    Says who? Academic consensus or some random guy on the internet?

    >>
    You state this as if it’s a settled fact. You will get very few scholars of the NT to agree with you on that
    >>

    I’m talking about the events in Acts, not the actual book itself. My apologies if this was unclear.

    You can quibble about the date of composition if you like (academic consensus favours the second half of the 1st Century and there are plenty of reputable scholars who argue for a pre-AD 70 Acts; well within the timeframe of Paul’s own writings) but this is just a sideshow to the main event.

    Are you suggesting Acts itself cannot be used as a valid source of information about Paul?

  • Anonymous

    JW: Why blog anonymously?NTW: It gives you a degree of freedom to say what you really think, without worrying about what those who might employ you think. I ENCOURAGE EVERYBODY TO DO IT.  IN FACT, MOST BOOKS SHOULD BE PUBLISHED PSEUDONYMOUSLY, TOO.   Who doesn’t want to write a scathing refutation of what they wrote ten years ago? I think it could encourage more open writing. It might also make it easier for people to approach works without bias against the author. It wouldn’t help with The Man’s academic publishing requirements — but you know what they can do.

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

    Connor, I am really surprised that, even though you simply repeated a viewpoint that is unpersuasive in the same fashion that it has been presented here (and addressed) countless times before, you accused me of being the one repeating formulaic bilge. Was this intended to be ironic?

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

    I have written a post addressing the “Paul received his message solely by revelation” claim:
    http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/2011/10/18/mythicism-and-pauls-claims-to-supernatural-revelation/

  • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

    To ConnorO:
    BM wrote earlier: “But in view of his gospel, Paul was not likely to dwell on somebody who
    was probably illiterate, rustic, not a teacher, with a short public life
    in some area of rural Galilee.”
    Then ConnorO wrote: “But the trouble with this supposed clear view through the fog of theological embellishment is evoked earlier in the very same comment: the evidence for Paul’s knowledge “second hand about the human Jesus” including “brother James”. Generally, by what means were the authors of the synoptics reliably informed about this “short public life” of an illiterate rustic from some area of rural Galilee?”

    BM: by mean of Peter (another rustic!) during his visit to Corinth (where he had followers –1Cor–). I think Peter was, at best, supplying an outline for Jesus’ last year plus some anecdotal material about a guy very unlike a Son of God or Christ. That gave lot of problems to Paul and that can be seen in 1Corinthians. That also gave a lot of Problem for “Mark” (a Gentile living in Corinth) and that can be seen in GMark.

    That might seem abrupt but a lot of that is explained in my website: http://historical-jesus.info/

    ConnorO wrote: “Specifically, was James also an illiterate rustic?”
    BM: Yes, very likely.

    ConnorO wrote: “then we have the puzzle of Paul’s disinterest in the illiterate rustic whose career culminated in an event of cosmic implications”
    BM: that grandiose ending was not coming from the “Nazarenes”, but the like of Paul and other apostles “in the Spirit”.

  • Anonymous

    Howard,

    I have no particular problem with the usual dates that are give from the gospel.  However, even these dates are thirty to sixty years after the events the gospels purport to narrate.  I don’t think its possible to know how much of the gospels go back to actual people and actual events.  I also don’t think we have enough evidence to determine what part of Paul’s teachings predate him.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

      Vinny, you are absolutely right, there is not enough biblical manuscript evidence or secular evidence to establish with certainty the authenticity of these texts as to the events and people it describes, and it probably never will. That is one of the main reasons why many people over the years have rejected these writings as authentic history and even more so as the authentic word of God. And that is where the division between people occurs. On the one hand, we have people who study the Bible to analyze it as to its origin, its historical accuracy and so on. On the other hand we have people who believe the divine claims, and attempt to live their lives based on these ideas. To me the first group seems like they are doing something like this; lets say you come across what seems like a really great idea, but you are not willing to investigate it farther until you can verify the source of the idea. Then you find that you spent your whole life trying to verify the idea and you never ended up using this great idea to better your life. It just seems really odd to me and I’ve said it a dozen times on here. If the Bible is not really what it claims to be, the divine word of God with a promise of salvation, why do people spend so much time and energy arguing over something that is nothing more than a historical curiosity? I see no point in it. The only reason I bring this up is that your comment is a plain declaration of doubt as to the gospels authenticity, origin and purpose. So all I am saying is that you do not have a lot of places to go from here. You can either continue to doubt because the current evidence is not complete or clear, or you can accept what it says by evaluating more then just historical data.

  • Anonymous

    Howard,

    Once upon a time I became a believer because it seemed like a great idea to me.  It was only after coming to faith that I started to look at what I had been told was compelling evidence for the New Testament accounts.  I was disappointed with what I found, but I stuck with it because it still seemed like a great idea.  After a couple of years, however, I couldn’t help admitting that I was no more at peace and  no happier than before I believed.  My life was still filled with doubts and confusion.  Eventually, I decided that honest doubt was preferable to trying to convince myself that I believed something that no longer made sense to me. 

    I think that many people so badly want to be certain that their lives have some some transcendent meaning that they are willing to believe that the Bible is somehow a magical book despite the lack of empirical evidence to verify the claim.  I think the main reason there are so many arguments about it is that many of these people see it as their obligation to convince others that their beliefs are objectively reasonable.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

    Vinny,

    I know this is getting off topic, but I want to comment on some of what you said. Your explanation is typical of those who once believed in the Bible, but after taking a closer look at it, they started to see inconsistencies and other problems. Now I don’t know what specific problems you were encountering, but I have seen a number of people become discouraged because of theological problems. What happens is that people usually start out being taught a certain theology and the teacher cherry picks certain scriptures to back up what they are teaching. Later when this person starts reading more of the Bible and in its proper contexts and learning the history of the period and more, problems start to arise. In a lot of cases, the person starts doubting what the Bible says because it is not making sense any more. But the problem is more than likely the theology that they learned, and not what the Bible says. So yes, I am advocating the idea of false or apostate Christian theology. And it’s not new, it is my belief that apostasy was taking over the Christian community early in the second century. Just as Jesus explained in the parable of the wheat and weeds. The true teachings and theology would be so badly mixed with false ones that it can not be easily separated until the harvest.

    You said: “I think that many people so badly want to be certain that their lives have some transcendent meaning that they are willing to believe that the Bible is somehow a magical book despite the lack of empirical evidence to verify the claim.”

    You are absolutely right, but not in the way you think. It’s not because of the “empirical evidence” part, because if the Bible is truly from God, he probably made sure that the claims could not be proven empirically. He wants people to believe in him by means of faith, not because you have to believe because his existence has been established beyond doubt. The problem however, is when you say, “people so badly want to be certain that their lives. . .” These people become Christians because of “their lives.” But the main concern of a true Christian is not their own life, but their devotion to God and their willingness to give up that life in the process of doing God’s will. That’s what Jesus did, and we are to follow his steps. So if someone’s theology and beliefs do not fit the facts of the Bible, I would suggest they try a new theology and beliefs until they find one that fits, because there are many, but only one is right. :)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

    Howard,
    We are getting a bit off topic, but I am happy to discuss it.

    After I left the faith, it was suggested to me that the people who had first shared the gospel with me had given me unreasonable expectations about the degree of certainty that I could expect to have about my beliefs.  I acknowledged that this might be true, however, the potential for certainty was one of the things that made it seem like such a great idea in the first place so knowing that I might have been mistaken about that didn’t make the idea of returning any more appealing.

    I have to say that I find the idea of trying to find beliefs that somehow fit to be a profoundly depressing prospect.   How would I ever know that I had hit upon the set of beliefs in which God wanted me to have faith?  I think that God (if there is one) gave me the ability to reason about the world in which I live.  I don’t think that I would be doing justice to that gift by spending my life trying to find something to believe on faith.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

      Vinny,

      I agree, but I don’t recall too many of James’ posts that stay on topic. :)

      “I have to say that I find the idea of trying to find beliefs that somehow fit to be a profoundly depressing prospect.”

      I guess I was a bit too subtle, that was my round about way of getting you to ask me what was the right set of beliefs. And the answer would have been, mine of course!

      Actually, I do believe that, but I don’t expect you to simply take my word for it. I don’t have much time right now, but I would like to ask if you could explain more precisely what it is that you are having trouble with. For example, are your issues theological in nature, or historical, or the authenticity of the texts?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

    Howard,

    It was thirty-five years ago that I was a Bible-believing Christian in my late teens.  I am happily agnostic these days and I don’t think that I am having trouble with anything in relation to the beliefs i once held. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alex-Tulip/561446523 Alex Tulip

    How about some of you gutless fundies actually invite Earl to one of your universities to speak?  Have you ever tried that or is he just untermensch for you holy rollers?  Your suppression, mockery and censorship of accurate analysis of Christian origins is entirely evil, just like how the early church burnt everything that showed their evil tracks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    Apologies, last comment was from me, not from Alex Tulip

    Robert Tulip

  • Dave Burke

    Robert, two points:

    * Nobody involved in this discussion is a fundy (AFAIK)
    * Universities tend to prefer well known speakers with verifiable credentials and academic credibility (alas, Earl fails all three criteria)

    >>
    Your suppression, mockery and censorship of accurate analysis of Christian origins is entirely evil, just like how the early church burnt everything that showed their evil tracks.
    >>

    This is wrong on a number of levels, as anyone with even a passing knowledge of history will tell you. Additionally, there has been no suppression, mockery and censorship here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    Dave,

    On the basis of the information presented in Earl Doherty’s superb scholarly work Jesus Christ Neither God Nor Man, I consider your comment here to be entirely wrong.  Belief in a historical Jesus Christ is pure fundamentalism, in that it has no historical evidence to support it and is solely grounded in faith.  This entire thread is devoted to mockery of Earl Doherty for his failure to be engaged by the dominant fundamentalist ‘Jesus true believer’ strain of Biblical scholarship.  It is all about saying ‘nya nya we can ignore you’. You are like a pack of children.  Your condescending comment “even a passing knowledge of history” is patronising bunk.  Jesus Christ did not exist.  The overwhelming silence about any biographical details for generations after his supposed life makes the mythicist argument far superior to literal historicism as a scientific hypothesis of the truth of Christian origins.  My review of Doherty’s book is at http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A2DXLQ0H6DOFJG/ref=cm_pdp_rev_title_2?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview#R3LMCOZNP5NMRRobert

    • Dave Burke

      Robert,

      >>
      On the basis of the information presented in Earl Doherty’s superb scholarly work Jesus Christ Neither God Nor Man, I consider your comment here to be entirely wrong.
      >>

      OK, good for you. If Earl’s work is ever subjected to the usual process of peer review and subsequently endorsed by professionals in the relevant field, I’ll start taking it seriously. Until then it’s just interesting speculation.

      >>
      Belief in a historical Jesus Christ is pure fundamentalism, in that it has no historical evidence to support it and is solely grounded in faith.
      >>

      If a historical Jesus is purely a matter of fundamentalism, please explain to me why the overwhelming majority of professional academics accept Jesus’ historicity – including atheists and agnostics.

      >>
      This entire thread is devoted to mockery of Earl Doherty for his failure to be engaged by the dominant fundamentalist ‘Jesus true believer’ strain of Biblical scholarship.
      >>

      No it’s not. It’s a parody of Mythicist methodology. I used Earl because he provides a good analog for the mythical Jesus. If you can find anyone more suitable, I’d be happy to use them instead.

      >>
      Your condescending comment “even a passing knowledge of history” is patronising bunk.
      >>

      Thank you for that excellently constructed argument.

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

    Robert Tulip, if you can define Doherty’s book as “superb” and “scholarly” I really feel I must ask how you are defining those words, and what you are comparing his work to. I find Doherty to be thoroughly unpersuasive, disappointing, selective in his treatment of evidence, and at best “poor scholarship” if one wished to be generous and use the term “scholarly” at all.

    I suspect that scholarship is like money. The key to spotting counterfeits is being well acquainted with lots of examples of the real thing.

  • observer

    Robert you will find many non mythers  on this forum are either liberal Christians, skeptics or atheists and none of us have any time for the idea that Jesus was a mythical figure.  I have a degree in history and I am agnostic. If I felt Jesus mythicism could be defended I would at least admit it is a valid historical view. I have read Earl’s arguments and those of other mythers and have concluded they are simply too implausible. Might I suggest you do not have a strong background in ancient history and you should learn more about this period before defending Earl.

    While not in response to Earl might I recommend you read Tim O’Neill’s review of the absurd book Nailed, which also tries to defend the Jesus Myth.  http://armariummagnus.blogspot.com/

    Tim is an atheist for your information

  • observer

    I do find it odd that Neil does not like the fact I simply use the name Observer but he is okay with Doherty being absolutely secret about his academic background. More of Neil’s selective outrage I suppose.

    I have looked at Doherty’s arguments they are not convincing.

    Myther’s do not peer review and they have utterly failed to convince that collective body of classical historians and New Testament scholars that their arguments have any merit what so ever. The fact that one or two historians ( outside of academia I will add) think that it is possible does not suddenly mean it is a serious view on classical history. If that was true then creationism is viable.

    The overwhelming majority of people with any formal degree  in history will find mytherism  to be immediately unlikely and upon further investigation they will realize just how weak the arguments for it are.

    Neil you can waste your time on mytherism all you want but to put it kindly it doesn’t have a snowballs chance in hell.

    Read Tim’s review, then read the sniveling and sneering of mythers in response to it and ask yourself if you want to associate with such people.

    You might also be interested to know myther Humphrey’s used a holocaust denial publishing company to publish his book on mytherism. Do you really want to support this?

    Mytherism is rapidly becoming atheism’s equivalent of creationism.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_64NEHWHSAJMVRF3BXHUQUWBPCY Robert

    Perhaps I was feeling a bit too angry when I posted my first comment above, but I still wish to defend the substance of it, that Christ literalism has direct continuity with fundamentalist belief, akin to true belief in Bertrand Russell’s teapot.  

    It would be very easy for any of you to confirm the existence of Earl Doherty by emailing him and inviting him to speak at a public event.  Have any of you ever tried that?  Why not?  I submit that it is because your emotional commitment to faith in Jesus overrides your rational faculties, due to the extent of brainwashing you have experienced about your Lord and Savior during inculcation of faith.  It is pure prejudice.  Saying that he is beneath your contempt hardly gives the impression that you are objective or fair.

    George Orwell has an excellent term for this syndrome in 1984 – ‘crimestop’ – the ability to suppress thought about an unacceptable idea.  The awful truth is that there is no evidence whatsoever for the historical Jesus, and plenty of coherent logical evidence for his fabrication.  The idea that Jesus Christ was invented is highly traumatic and unacceptable to Christians, as it undermines their institutional and personal identity, so is subject to routine mockery and suppression.  

    The hypocrisy is breathtaking – claiming to bear witness to truth while refusing public debate with critics.  But the Church Fathers were the pioneers and perfecters of this method of faith in their dealings with heretics.I have read a lot of ancient history, and it is clear that the gospels are in a fiction tradition in the line of Josiah’s invention of Deuteronomy and the later invention of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.  A strong enough desire that an anointed savior fulfilled the prophecies, combined with modification of other mythic savior figures, was entirely sufficient to create the mass delusion that such a person had actually existed, based on the fictional accounts of the Gospels, which were written ‘that you may believe’ (eg John 20:31), not to provide accurate history.

    I stand by my comment that Earl Doherty’s Jesus Christ Neither God Nor Man is superb scholarship.  What is happening now is that the final bastion of supernatural faith – the myth of the historical Jesus – is being demolished by science just as Galileo demolished the cosmology and Darwin demolished the teleology.

    Robert Tulip

  • observer

    Robert

    Fundamentalism is a modern phenomena having it’s origins in the 1920s. You are trying to use a very much modern movement in Christianity in to lump all Christians.

    You miss the point of the challenge of Robert. Yes we could do all that stuff and accept it as evidence for the existence of Earl and I certainly would. But if we acted like mythers we could quibble how do we know if it is the real Earl and not simply an impersonator.  Yes he could speak at a conference but how do we know that is not someone simply impersonating Earl based on what people think he looks like. I mean we have Elvis impersonators and Lincoln impersonators, why not Doherty impersonators. If you go to any well stocked insane asylum you will find people who think they are Jesus or Napoleon. How do we know this alleged Earl is simply not an escaped mental patient. If you are determined not to accept facts then you can always find a way not to. Witness holocaust denial.

    I do have to point out your argument from John is weak, just because something is written so that you might believe it does not make it false. Many, many accounts of the holocaust were written so people would believe it happened, do you know doubt these accounts? See the problem with your basic line of reasoning.

    I have no faith in Jesus period. Neither do many posters on this forum. However like many many people familiar with classical history I will defend it from assaults on it by mythers. Seriously study this subject some and you will see just how out there Earl really is.

    Robert, you have fallen for a lot of historical bunk and if I was you I would go through and read some good books on history. One you do this you will be truly angry for lying to you.

    About mytherism I strongly recommend you contact Tim O’Neill-http://armariummagnus.blogspot.com/

    About the history of science and it’s it relation modern and past to Christianity I would recognize you contact Dr James Hannam.- http://www.bede.org.uk/

    You have a lot to learn on this subject. You have been greatly deceived. The existence of Jesus is a historical fact accepted by the overwhelming amount of historians regardless of belief.

  • observer

    I also want to point out no one is suppressing Earl Doherty, he is free to publish and write all he wants. However, academia has no obligation to teach every odd idea as valid, it is the job of academia to teach the best views. Hence why creationism is not taught in academia.

    Now should Earl be allowed to speak at universities, yes if an organization wants to sponsor him. If universities are willing to allow ” Dr” Hovind to speak why not him? However they are simply allowing him to speak that does mean they endorse his views. My senior year at college we had a ghost researcher come to campus and the campus allowed him to speak. I went mainly cause it was Halloween . Does this mean academia supports ghost? Can you see how this works?

    If Doherty wants his views to receive academic acceptance he needs to remove the numerous errors documented by Dr McGrath and numerous other critics and then submit them to peer review in legitimate academic journals. Then he needs to accept the outcome like a man.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_64NEHWHSAJMVRF3BXHUQUWBPCY Robert

    Observer: “The existence of Jesus is a historical fact accepted by the overwhelming amount of historians regardless of belief.”  “numerous errors documented by Dr McGrath”
    Is that why only 12 of 110 readers at Amazon found Dr McGrath’s review of Doherty’s book helpful? (Oct 31)  Admittedly, Amazon lets in the great unwashed, and those looking at this review would be more likely to support Earl’s views, but 11% is still somewhat underwhelming.  

    http://www.amazon.com/review/R2M5I4R8L19JKB/ref=cm_cd_pg_pg2?ie=UTF8&cdForum=Fx13JY8H77Z4CLT&cdPage=2&asin=0968925928&store=books&cdThread=Tx1GTLHOIVNAL12#wasThisHelpful

    I would be genuinely interested to see proof of these ‘genuine errors’ you claim to have been detected.   I have not seen any criticisms that rise to accepted real world standards and move outside the parallel universe of religion. 

    You say Jesus is historical.  Perhaps you think that repeating a statement that is bereft of evidence enough times will make it true?  This is rather like the Tinkerbell Effect – if you wish hard enough it will come true.

    Historians accept the existence of Christ because they cannot imagine the church had the impudence to promote such a Big Lie.  When we look for evidence there is none.  Historians are intimidated by the sheer dominance and emotional force of Christ belief, especially within New Testament studies.

    A comment earlier in this thread claimed that Paul spoke of the baptism of Christ by John and of Christ’s ministry in Jerusalem.  These statements are from Acts, not the Epistles.  Doherty provides a compelling argument that the contradictions between Acts and the Epistles, among other defects, make Acts utterly unreliable as history.  Paul himself says nothing that definitely ties Jesus to any actual place and time.  Extraordinary way to treat the founder of his religion, unless of course Jesus did not exist.

    Best Wishes

    Robert Tulip

  • observer

    Robert

    You nailed the problem with your amazon argument, those comments are from the ” unwashed” masses. The fact that people with no background in classical history find Earl’s arguments to be compelling simply shows that they people with no or little background in classical or being spoon feed views they pretty much wanted to believe.

    Many books on Amazon have negative reviews put on them that are factually correct but disliked simply cause they disagree with various peoples prejudices. Look up negative reviews on books about creationism and you will see many people did not find them to be useful. Does this now mean creationism is viable  now?

    As for errors simply read McGrath’s review. He documents them chapter after chapter.

    Again I cannot stress this enough, mytherism is utterly rejected by academia period. The closest thing you have to an academic myther is Robert Price, but the school he is teaching at might not be accredited. If his school is not accredited then you literally have zero academic mythers among classical and new testament scholars on the planet. If mytherism was plausible then why does it have no academic support. 

    Every year books are published that are critical of traditional Christian views. Non believing scholars such as Bart Ehrman are well respected. So if academia is willing to challenge traditional views then why are none of them willing to use mytherism. The simplest answer is that mytherism is too full of holes. So no historians are not one bit intimidated by the ” big lie”. I got my degree in history, I am not a believer if I thought mythicism was viable I would have no problem saying so. Explain why people like me or Tim O’Neill don’t do that.

    When I say Jesus is a figure from antiquity I am simply stating a fact.  The fact you do not believe it doesn’t change anything.

    People can make erroneous comments on here, did McGrath make the comment? If no what is the big deal, this is an open forum.

    I have to say Earl’s argument against Acts is weak. Often times one has a difficulty lining up chronological events, that does not mean one of the documents is error ridden or not historical.  Might I recommend you read Colin Hemer’s book on Acts. That would help cure Doherty’s nonsense.

    Why should Paul say such things? He is writing to the already converted.  However Paul does make off the cuff remarks such as Jesus had a brother, he taught about divorce, the end times, had a final supper and was betrayed and crucified. Do those sound likely spiritual things or physical things?

    Again I strongly recommend you at least use those two websites and I recommend you study classical history. Do that and you will see Doherty is full of crap.

    Have a good day

     

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

    I don’t think that the Amazon review topic has anything to do with whether people are washed. There are only a slim number of people who a familiar with Doherty’s work, a group of fans who find his approach appealing for whatever reason.

    If Doherty wants to be taken seriously as a writer of scholarship, he needs to stop self-publishing for this select group of fans and publish in a scholarly venue. A peer-reviewed journal of history or university press, for instance.

  • Earldoherty

    As (according to the TG) the world’s most prominent Jesus mythicist, I do indeed have a sense of humor and found this entire thread quite amusing and entertaining, with a lot of clever contributions. (Too bad such writers’ responses to mythicist argumentation usually isn’t as clever.)

    Perhaps that’s because the air up here under the moon is a lot clearer—

    Oops!

    OK, well, as for the business of not providing such information as the University at which I obtained my degree, I once explained my reasoning to the board at IIDB. I told them of Richard Carrier’s experience at the hands of Jeffrey Gibson. Carrier had made the mistake of supporting me in regard to my analysis of the Greek phrase “kata sarka” and Gibson, who typically rarely if ever undertook an actual, let alone effective, counter-argument of his own (I doubt he was capable of it, just as so few here are) against those of the mythicist case, decided to contact one of Carrier’s former professors at Columbia, and tried to weasel out of him some negative evaluation of Carrier’s proficiency at Greek during his studies there. Failing to acquire such a direct comment, Gibson finally presented to the board a silence from the professor in response to Gibson’s final e-mail query as though the professor had actually made a negative comment. (We only found out later that it was based on the prof’s refusal to answer.)

    This, of course, was only one (though the most egregious) of the reprehensible and dishonorable tactics Gibson was in the habit of employing against mythicists, and demonstrated to me and others the manic degree to which anti-mythicist hostility could descend. I have also been on the receiving end of other expressions of extreme hostility starting with the original Crosstalk in 1997, where the volume of insult and personal attack far outweighed scholarly historicist defense of an HJ.

    Let’s just say that my reluctance to reveal too much of a personal nature or background is perhaps understandable. As they say, even if you are paranoid, it doesn’t mean they ain’t out to get you. (Tongue only partially in cheek there.)

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

    I can understand that concern, although I think it also has to be pointed out that were mythicists engaging in accepted forms of scholarship, working in academia, publishing in peer-reviewed journals and in books published with academic publiishers, then on the one hand it would involve having credentials and affiliations publicly known, while on the other hand it would make attempts at digging into one’s educational backstory irrelevant and an uneffective way of trying to undermine that person’s credibility. Once one has shown oneself to be capable of doing serious scholarship and participating fully in academic interaction, it would be laughable for someone to object “But back when he was a freshman undergraduate he did poorly on a Greek exam!” :-)

    • Earldoherty

      But James, you are presenting a classic Catch-22 here. Your own position demonstrates that genuinely honest peer review and publication in reputable journals is simply not possible for mythicists. The animosity and a priori rejection is simply too strong and entrenched. And then you use that Catch-22 in a circular fashion. Because we could never get published and properly peer reviewed by the establishment, this demonstrates that our work is crap. And our work is crap because the establishment won’t give us the time of day.

      Surely even you can recognize the fallacy in all this.

      Something similar goes for Fortigurn’s “It’s a matter of whether or not you can explain the process
      of reasoning by which you reached your conclusion. It’s symptomatic of
      Mytherists that they make all kinds of claims, and then become enraged when
      asked for evidence, for even just asked to explain how they arrived at their
      conclusions.”

      I and other mythicists have supplied reams of explanation and reasoning by which we reach our conclusions. We don’t get enraged by being asked to supply evidence, but by having that evidence and argumentation so often completely ignored and dismissed up front without even an attempt at countering it. It’s clear F isn’t even familiar with it. Nor, I’m sorry, does a bare “I wasn’t convinced by Doherty’s arguments” constitute a counter-argument. 

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

    Earl, why would the establishment of secular historians not be willing to publish your work, other than because it is utter bunk pseudoscholarship? What other motive could they possibly have? Have you even tried, and received feedback? Or do you prefer to complain about the prejudice of an establishment to which you have never actually submitted anything?

    • Earldoherty

      James, the answer to your opening question has been answered many times in discussion between mythicists and historicists, not only on the Matrix. You don’t need me to repeat them. The prejudice and blind rejection in evidence on this blog alone, with a notable lack of substantive countering of the mythicist case, is clear enough.

      With all due respect, people here keep appealing to all the points you’ve allegedly scored against me in your review of my book, but almost without exception those ‘scores’ have been lamentably lame and occasionally even fallacious, and every one of them has been so demonstrated by myself and others in our responses to them. “Paul didn’t need to mention any details of Jesus’ life because everyone already knew them” and “brother of the Lord can only mean one thing, period,” and “Earl didn’t take into account all the possible arguments and cram them into the first chapter” are only a few of the most memorable. Your review thus far has been an embarrassment. By the way, why did you stop, if proving that my case is unadulterated bunk was so easy?

      If it doesn’t contravene your rules, I will take the liberty of stripping in below a brief (but the point was adequately made) response I made today to one mindlessly-hostile historicist who frequents the Freethought-Rationalist DB and who thinks he knows it all. It speaks for itself in terms of the utter superficiality of the anti-mythicist position, one echoed in so much of what is claimed here on the Matrix as ‘proving’ mythicism to be bunk. You guys are simply going to have to do better than this sort of thing.

      ——–

      [quote=Abe]To use my own words, they [modern NT scholars]
      think Jesus was a doomsday cult leader.

      They use criteria to justify this model. They find multiple signs of
      doomsdayism in all of the earliest sources, and they find apologetics for
      failed doomsday deadlines in later sources. They find attestations in the texts
      dissimilar to known early Christian interests, and these attestations seem to
      fit the doomsdayist model. And this model is a highly plausible explanation,
      elegantly fitting the known historical context.[/quote]

       

      Strangely enough, Abe, outside the Gospels, in all those
      “earliest sources” we find everything about this subject and its “historical
      context” EXCEPT the fact that such doomsdayism was preached and presumably
      inspired by an earthly, recent human god-man identifiable with the Gospel Jesus
      of Nazareth. (Even Q, with its supposed focus on Jesus’ sayings, fails to
      include a founder Jesus as such a preacher alongside its reference for such to
      John the Baptist.) It is glaring problems like this which scholars like Bart
      Ehrman conveniently and stubbornly ignore, even when it is called to their
      attention (just as you do). It is only by ignoring such considerations of this
      type that one is able, like yourself, to claim that there is a clear and straightforward
      interpretation for given phrases and statements which ought to be automatically
      adopted. As in several of your itemized list:

       

      [quote]Paul believed that Jesus was born from a woman as the
      Son of God in a Jewish society – Galatians 4:4-5.[/quote]

       

      Then why, alone among every other reference to normal human
      birth in the epistles, as well as to Jesus’ birth in the Gospels, does Gal. 4:4
      use a less direct verb (ginomai) to describe this ‘birth’? We also have reason
      to think, based on certain witness to Marcion’s version of Galatians, and
      common later tinkering with this passage by orthodox scribes, that the phrase
      “born of woman, born under the Law” was not in the original. Not so clear and
      straightforward after all, is it?

       

      [quote]Paul believed that Jesus “was descended from
      David according to the flesh” – Romans 1:3.[/quote]

       

      The original Greek is not “descended from” (a biased
      translation), but “of the seed of David,” and Paul elsewhere can use the phrase
      “of the seed of” to describe a mythical relationship and not a human-descent
      one. Not so clear and straightforward after all, is it?

       

      [quote]Paul believed that Jesus taught that “those who
      proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel” – 1 Corinthians
      9:14, see also Luke 10:7.[/quote]

       

      And

       

      [quote]Paul believed that Jesus commanded that a wife should not
      separate from her husband and a husband should not divorce his wife – 1
      Corinthians 7:10-11, see also Mark 10:11-12.[/quote]

       

      And the language of such remarks indicates that Paul
      received such ‘teachings’ directly from Christ in heaven through spiritual
      channels, an interpretation common in mainstream scholarship. Not so clear and
      straightforward after all, is it?

       

      [quote]Paul believed that Jesus, on the night he was
      betrayed, took bread, gave thanks, broke it, said, “This is my body that
      is for you. Do this in remembrance of me,” took the cup, said, “This
      cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in
      remembrance of me” – 1 Corinthians 11:23-25, see also Luke 22:17-20.[/quote]

       

      And Paul introduces this ‘belief’ by telling us he got it
      directly from the Lord through revelation, a rather silly claim to make if
      indeed this was an historical event being passed around through oral tradition.
      Not so clear and straightforward after all, is it?

       

      [quote]Paul believed that Jesus was crucified by rulers of
      this age who did not understand that Christians speak God’s wisdom – 1
      Corinthians 2:7-8.[/quote]

       

      With “rulers of this age” being a common phrase for the
      demon spirits, something many mainstream scholars have acknowledged. Not so
      clear and straightforward after all, is it?

       

      [quote]Paul believed that Jesus died for our sins, was
      buried, was raised on the third day, appeared to Cephas, to the twelve
      disciples, to five hundred Christians (some of whom have since died), to James,
      to all of the apostles, and much later to Paul himself – 1 Corinthians
      15:3-4.[/quote]

       

      Considering that Paul’s appearance was courtesy of a
      visionary experience, we can reasonably conclude that all the others were, too,
      something quite applicable to a spiritual deity, just as God himself (who was
      never on earth) was capable of appearing to people through visions. And no
      historicist has ever demonstrated that gods were not capable of dying, being
      buried and resurrecting in the heavenly sphere, something I provide
      proof-of-concept for in writings of the time. Not so clear and straightforward
      after all, is it?

       

      [quote]Paul believed that Jesus had a brother named James -
      Galatians 1:19, see also Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55.[/quote]

       

      Only by begging the question that Paul means a sibling of
      Jesus and not a ‘brethren’ within a sect. And it’s “brother of the Lord” not
      “brother of Jesus”. Not so clear and straightforward after all, is it?

       

      Your other two items have no evidentiary value whatsoever as
      pointing to a human or once-human figure, and don’t see your reason for
      including them.

       

      I go through your same tired old list once again, not
      because it has not been done umpteen times by mythicists, but to demonstrate how
      historicists like yourself are utterly impervious to mythicist argumentation,
      which you consistently ignore and simply parrot the same old claims. That’s not
      scholarly debate.

  • Earldoherty

    Sorry for forgetting about the formatting problem above. But it should be easy enough to follow.

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

    I know that you keep claiming that your own arguments are brilliant and that all objections to them are fallacious. But that does not make it so.

    The question remains why it is objectionable to suggest that Paul didn’t need to retell basic information about Jesus when writing to Christians, when apparently on the scenario you propose he also didn’t need to spell out basic information such as being explicit about the celestial location where the events he alludes to transpired? Given that apparently everyone except you and a small handful of others have misunderstood Paul, mythicism is suggessting that Paul omitted much more than historicists do.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PJ6PZMYZVJL4CGQBUYBVMQSDPQ james Harrison

    If you put aside as perhaps unresolvable on the existing evidence the question of whether there was a real guy named Jesus who was actually crucified and had something to do with theological statements like the Sermon on the Mount, the debate between the Mythicists and liberal Protestants like Dr. McGrath becomes a modern example of the ancient conflict between two tendencies of thought, a struggle that was already being played out in the first century of the common era. The mythicists fit in with the tendency, obvious in Marcion the gnostic but, or so I’d argue, also fundamental to the emergence of rabbinic Judaism of spiritualizing everything in sight—obviously the rabbis didn’t reject the Law ala Marcion but they did manage to insert Hellenistic notions like the resurrection of the dead into whatever you want to call the pre-rabbinical religion of Judea. The opposite tendency, which emphasizes the humanity of Jesus, seems to lie beneath the wish to turn every myth into a realistic novel written in sermo humilis style. For liberal Protestants, it is hardly a problem to deny the supernatural aspects of Christ. Indeed, asserting that the man Jesus died and stayed dead is simply kenosis squared. What we have here is something like a choice of styles, though it is obviously a lot more than that too. I’m reminded of the difference between the florid mythologizing and indulgence in literary special effects one encounters in Mahayana Buddhism and the extreme sobriety of certain forms of Theravada, especially it’s 19th Century American and European renditions

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

    I guess the question I would ask is why we should set that matter aside as unresolvable. It may not be resolvable to everyone’s satisfaction, but neither is evolution, nor the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. Absolute certainty is clearly not available, but does that mean the matter is not resolvable with a high degree of probability to the satisfaction of pretty much all professional historians who have investigated the matter?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      It may not be resolvable to everyone’s satisfaction, but neither is evolution

      James has said something like this a number of times now. No matter how often one might point out that there is a difference between evolution being a certainty (which it is) and the uncertainty of the particular mechanism by which evolution may have occurred, past performance indicates that he will continue to repeat this logical confusion again and again and again.

  • Earldoherty

    James: I know that you keep claiming that your own arguments are brilliant and that all objections to them are fallacious. But that does not make it so.

    I don’t ever remember referring to my arguments as brilliant, nor saying that all historicist objections are fallacious. When they ARE fallacious, and that is not infrequently, I have demonstrated such, and that DOES make it so, unless someone can clearly point out how my demonstration is erroneous.

    James: The question remains why it is objectionable to suggest that Paul didn’t need to retell basic information about Jesus when writing to Christians, when apparently on the scenario you propose he also didn’t need to spell out basic information such as being explicit about the celestial location where the events he alludes to transpired? Given that apparently everyone except you and a small handful of others have misunderstood Paul, mythicism is suggessting that Paul omitted much more than historicists do.

    James’ objection here has often been phrased as ‘Paul needing to tell Jesus’ biography.’ I have never claimed that Paul ought to have given us every detail of Jesus’ life, or that we should expect that he should have included that in his intentions. What I have said is that there are countless places in his letters (along with all the other epistles not written by Paul) where a mention of some biographical element of Jesus’ alleged life is not only invited, we should strongly have expected such an element to be inserted, to be appealed to, at least some of the time. I have also said and demonstrated that there are times when Paul presents a picture of his faith and its genesis/development which leaves no room for a biographical element, indeed excludes the possibility of any such thing.

    The Gospels present us with a vast amount of alleged biographical elements—events, characters, times and places, sayings by Jesus and others around him—which often would have admirably served the writers’ purposes and arguments and urgings of actions, etc., and yet nowhere do any of these writers supply them. In the rare exception often claimed (such as the two words of the Lord in 1 Corinthians, or Paul’s Lord’s Supper words, or the ‘Jews killed Jesus’ remark in 1 Thessalonians), all of these are severely compromised as identifiably being references to an earthly life, rather than products of revelation or in the latter case a generally recognized interpolation.

    Now take Paul’s failure to appeal to elements of a spiritual-realm scene of crucifixion by Satan and the demon spirits. Aside from failing to identify the specific spiritual location as the sublunar firmament, which would have required no repetition once understood by the community (if the Pauline Christ cult in fact made such a localized specification rather than just the mythological heavenly world), what exactly would one expect him to draw upon and mention? Was there a trial, with various evil angels serving as jurors or witnesses to Christ’s alleged transgressions? Did he perhaps trash Satan’s money-changing tables in the firmament’s satanic temple? Was he accompanied in his sacrificial excursion by a few angelic apostles, one of whom betrayed him in the firmament’s Garden with a kiss? Did he appoint those apostles personally before leaving heaven? Did Satan question him as to his personal claims of divinity and get a blasphemous answer deserving of death? Did Christ, during his descent to the sublunar realm, stop at some of the layers of the higher heavens and teach to its various angels, and some tradition, written or oral, existed of those teachings? Would some of them have served Paul’s purposes in the arguments he was making? Did he declare all heavenly foods to be clean? Perhaps he underwent a heavenly rite equivalent to baptism, administered by a notable angelic baptizer?…Well, you get the picture.

    I suppose theoretically the heavenly Christ could have done any of these things in the heavenly world, or something of a ‘biographical’ nature like them. But we have no reason to think so, and no reason to think that the Christ cult possessed any traditions that he had done so. Scripture simply told them that he had been crucified and God raised him from the dead, something they say was now revealed by God through the Spirit after long ages of being hidden. Other than being crucified by “the rulers of this age” (with that also interpreted by many as a reference to the demon spirits), reading more out of scripture to come up with specific elements related to that crucifixion and resurrection, as Mark and the other evangelists were to do in an earthly setting (though probably with the original intention of creating an allegory only), did not yet occur to them. And why not? Because no such setting existed in their minds. No such figure had yet been created, allegorical or historical.

    In the historicist scenario, on the other hand, a record does exist of all sorts of words and deeds for the Jesus figure. They don’t all have to be regarded as authentic, indeed mainstream scholarship has properly rejected much of that record, but one can hardly deny that traditions of one sort or another must have existed within the early Christian community of which Paul and the other epistle writers were a part, and I have often made the point that where certain authentic traditions would not have existed, the needs and biases of the various communities (and Paul certainly had his needs!) would lead to their invention and attribution to Jesus, as the Gospels demonstrate.

    So any parallel between Paul’s silence on ‘biographical’ details in a mythicist scenario is hardly the equivalent of his silence on biographical details in the historicist scenario. The very suggestion is ludicrous, and is simply a mark of the desperation which leads not only James but others here to make similarly dubious suggestions to try to counter the mythicist case.

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

    “would have required no repetition once understood by the committee”

    A statement that doesn’t seem to apply only to mythicism’s stance.

    You claim that there could have been a mythical religion centered on a celestial Jesus with no detailed stories. What is the evidence for such detail-free religions in antiquity? All the instances you offer in your book are not ones in which details are not provided in at least some literature connected with this tradition. Yet the original Christianity you posit not only never does so, but it vanishes as soon as it appears. Who stamped it out? Where did it go? How did not noy proto-orthodox Christianity but also Gnostic and other versions never manage to give the slightest hint of a Christianity having ever existed in which Jesus never appeared on earth?

    Which is more likely? That the original Pauline Christianity left no trace anywhere, or that your interpretation of Paul is wrong?

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    I think we need to be reminded of the parody theme here. This is all so repetitive. James raises an objection. His objection is answered. So he raises another objection. That objection is answered. So he finds another one.

    Now I predict that he will at the end of the day say how he has demolished Doherty and mythicism soundly with objection after objection — lots and lots of them — and none of Doherty’s responses was ‘persuasive’.

    That will be the extent of his rebuttal at the end of the day. He will probably even at some point link back to these comments in the proud confidence that he has addressed and said all that needs to be said to demolish mythicism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    The question here is one of burden of proof regarding the claim that Christ founded Christianity.  If Paul built on the work of Christ, the least we could expect would be that his mentions of the great founder would contain at least one unambiguous statement that shows Christ actually existed.  Surely respecting the founder would demand no less? 
     
    And yet, as Earl Doherty explains above, all the mentions of Christ by Paul are ambiguous as to historical circumstance, and can readily be interpreted as imaginary. It is like Paul sees ‘anointed savior’ – the actual meaning of Christ Jesus – purely as a title rather than a name. Very fishy. 

    Christians read the scanty references in Paul through rosary colored glasses to justify a predetermined faith in Jesus.  Christianity is extremely far from satisfying any normal burden of proof on the existence of Christ, and a hermeneutic of suspicion is fully justified.
     
    By comparison, Earl Doherty is participating on this blog, perhaps remaining a bit shy, but already demonstrating more evidence for his existence than we have for Jesus.
     
    Robert Tulip

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

    Evolution can only be “proven” in the sense that it is the natural conclusion if one is willing to use deductive reasoning and follow the evidence where it leads. If one posits an “author” of the natural world who is incompetent enough to design organisms with the shortcomings that they have yet skilled enough to make the cosmos with the deceptive appearance of having evolved, then all bets are off.

    In a comparable manner, if one is willing to treat the early Christians as infinitely skilled at conspiracy and yet at the same time infinitely stupid and gullible, and to treat any text they produced as infinitely ambiguous and infinitely metaphorical, then all bets are off, and no historian will be able to demonstrate any mainstream conclusion to a mythicist’s satisfaction.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Oh come now. You know that evolutionists – Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, whoever –  say that evolution is as good as a fact. It is as “theoretical” as gravity. That is, it is a fact.

      The probability of it being otherwise is a goo-zillion to one. You know of no evolutionist, I dare say, who says otherwise.

      You also know that even the likes of Dale C. Allison admit that there are only degrees of probability behind the historical Jesus hypothesis — and uncertainty and the need for finding a point to enter a circular argument is all there is. The only thing in favour of the historicist argument is consensus in relation to very little and often quite ambiguous evidence — and nothing like the overwhelming substantial evidence there is for evolution — from micro-biology to palaeontology.

      And no-one says that these odds in favour of a historical Jesus are based on evidence that is as comparably or qualitatively abundant and replete and tangible as is the evidence for evolution. Nor is there any circularity at the basis of the argument for evolution.

      Oh — sorry, I forgot. This thread is a parody, isn’t it. That’s why you try to draw such a fatuous comparison, yes?

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

    The point of the comparison, as I keep saying, is not that history and biology offer comparable levels of certainty, but that mythicists and creationists reject the conclusions of mainstream scholars about the degree of certainty possible in the cases of the historical Jesus and the evolution of life on earth respectively. 

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      That’s what you alternate in saying. But it’s not what you said at all in the previous two posts. You were speaking of proving evolution in the abstract, not about scholarly consensus, which is what you slip back to asserting whenever and every time you are reminded your black and white statement is fallacious.

      But you are wrong in your claim here about the comparison that it is all about rejecting scholarly authority. Not at all. Evolution is not accepted because of scholarly authority but because people have been persuaded by the evidence — the tangible and observable evidence — that the scientists have shown us.

      But historical Jesus scholars have no “facts” except those arrived at by overlooking or living with the circularity of their position — unlike the evidence for evolution — and that are divined by means of “criteria” and assumption of tradition.

      Evolution’s facts are not deduced by criteria. They are observable and in your face. But you know the criteria used to establish the facts about Jesus are fallacious and self-contradictory and self-serving. You also ought to know that those same criteria are used to interpret facts to create historical meaning in other historical endeavours. Only in biblical studies, as far as I am aware (can you tell me differently?) are they used to find facts to begin with.

      You also must assume the narrative in the gospels is based on tradition going back to historical events portrayed in that gospel, but that is not what historians of other texts are forced to merely assume. Biblical studies IS unique — and circular — in this respect.

      We are an enlightened and literate society now. People do not reject or accept arguments because of the authority of the consensus, whether it is evolution or otherwise. The only exceptions are probably theories of physics that get into the mind-boggling and mathematical constructs that few can master. But the basics of evolution and most all of biblical studies are not in that league.

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

    In both fields, the data can be accounted for in more than one way, and one particular conclusion only seems self-evident if one is dedicated to using reason, inference and deduction, to following the evidence to where it most naturally leads, and introducing as few ad-hoc suppositions as possible.

    Perhaps the greatest similarity between creationism and mythicism is that both stand at the sidelines, criticize mainstream scholarship’s conclusions and methods, and yet offer neither a better set of tools nor a more persuasive set of conclusions as an alternative.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Well as someone else said recently, just your saying that another argument is “not/less persuasive” is not in itself an argument. It is a lazy cop-out. It is the sort of rejoinder I see biblical scholars make of their own peers. But I don’t see the same lazy dismissal of creationism by evolutionists. You should try to argue and demonstrate why a mythicist alternative is not valid or is erroneous.

      Your ability to conflate the huge differences between evolution and biblical studies and the scholarly standards of evidence and argument into some singular abstraction is clever but it merely avoids the point I was making about the differences.

      You seem to so very very often avoid addressing arguments head on by escaping to another question, another level of abstraction. Whenever do you stop to actually argue a point being made? You argue like a flat-earther or creationist when you do this.

      But again, even at your new attempt to abstract the question to find a way to unite biblical studies with evolution you are wrong. Only at a meaningless level can it be said that it is possible to interpret the evidence for evolution in the way the creationists do. If you are wanting to argue at that level of meaningless abstraction then we can say that about anything — not just evolution. The creationist can say it about his evidence. I can say it about my proposition that the moon is made of cheese. You spend too much time in your sci fi world and have lost touch with reality.

      But let’s get real. In the real world the evidence for evolution can no more be explained by creationism than gravity can be explained by angels making the planets move the way they do.

      But when it comes to the story of Jesus raising the daughter of Jairus then we can interpret that quite validly as a mythical or midrashic tale — as many of your own peers do — or we can interpret it as a historical memory told with Elijah-like trappings. The alternatives are both valid initial propositions.

      It is not a valid proposition by the rules of reason to interpret gravity by resorting to angelic forces or evolution being pulled along by the finger of God.

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

    Ignoring the misuse of the term Midrash, the problem is not with the suggestion that some stories may have been invented – any more than the Piltdown Man hoax is a problem for evolution. The problem is with the suggestion that the whole story and every story was invented from scratch or on the basis of earlier stories, however little those stories on at least some occasions provide a plausible basis for the story about Jesus supposedly inspired by it. 

    What mythicists propose happened is only slightly less miraculous than what creationists propose happened.  :)

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Ignoring your difficulty with my use of the term midrash in the same way as your peers and Jewish midrash scholars use it as I have clearly demonstrated in the past, and ignoring your failure to address that demonstration, your comparison with the Piltdown man hoax is totally off the planet as far as any logically consistent argument is concerned.

      Piltdown man was a hoax. Midrashic stories (Dale C Allison Jr’s and a dozen other scholars’ term) are not hoaxes at all. They are recognized and established facts and deserve historical and literary study for what they contribute to our understanding of Christian origins. The only difference of opinion among your peers is the extent to which they are found in the Gospels. Piltdown man has no value at all for the study of evolution.

      A logical comparison with Piltdown Man would be the Secret Gospel of Mark if that was forged by Morton Smith.

      So your attempt to draw a parallel here is completely muddled and indicates you are scraping at anything you think you can throw at a mythicist argument without thinking it through. Your arguments are not consistent or logical but ad hoc and rarely survive logical scrutiny.

      You keep sidestepping my responses and trying to find a new way to ask the same question each time you get a response instead of addressing the responses themselves.

      Your statement of what you see as the problem has been answered a dozen times. No-one is saying that someone sat down one day and suddenly out of nowhere made up a whole new story and invented a Jesus who had no precedent or precursor etc. The closest to that scenario might be your own peer Burton Mack but even he says he used lots of information available to him.

      What you keep sidestepping is the fact that whereas evolution persuades people because of the black and white tangible observable evidence, biblical scholars — at least the more astute of them — frankly (and “with humility”) admit the circularity of their methods and the assumptions that are their starting points.

      When I read books by evolutionists I have noted the times they point out that, contrary to creationist arguments, their theory and their dating methods etc are NOT circular — and they demonstrate why.

      Biblical scholars say their methods ARE circular.

      Biblical scholars have NOT studied and researched whether Christianity started at some level with a Jesus figure. This has always been a given. This is NOT the same as evolutionists who have studied whether life evolved from a single ancestral thing. There is no comparison.

      Biblical scholars cannot agree on a single fact about Jesus apart, perhaps, from the fact that he died. And there are respectable and mainstream scholars who do not belong to the Christian tradition who even deny that. So the historical Jesus is very much bound up with the assumptions of our cultural traditions. It is not something that has been researched and objectively arrived at in the same way evolution has been objectively arrived at as a theory cum fact.

      It is perfectly reasonable for an educated and reasonable person to question the assumptions of biblical scholarship. Your only objection to this is an argument from authority. What biblical scholars present for evidence is by their own admission based on circularity and fallacious criteria.

      And there are among your peers, perhaps more than you want to admit or know about, who do at least express respect for the mythicist position even if they do not agree with it or prefer to suspend judgement. So when you try to compare mythicists with being loonies you risk insulting some of your own peers. And at least one of your (non-mythicist) peers has blogged to say that academic quiet on the question has more to do with fear of losing academic tenure than the logic of the arguments.

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

    You keep missing the point of the analogy, or are eager to avoid tackling its point. There is no more circularity (and no less) in investigating a historical Jesus than a historical Socrates or John the Baptist or Shakespeare. And those who detract from mainstream scholarly methods in any of these cases, and even in the natural sciences, say that mainstream methods are fundamentally flawed (although usually only when they aree used to draw conclusions that the detractors don’t like) and fail to offer a better alternative. This selective quotation of scholars who aree seeking to improve our methods and our conclusions as thought they are suggesting that something is fundamentally misguided about the very attempt to reason historically – or scientifically – is something that unites denialists in both domains. And so I will say it one more time: the point of the analogy is not now and has never been that history and biology offer the same degrees of certainty, but that the degree of certainty offered by each is denied by detractors who use many of the same tactics.

    But I expect that you’ll ignore this clarification just as you have every other time it has been made.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      You keep missing the point of the analogy, or are eager to avoid tackling its point.

      I addressed the analogy head on and in detail showed it was completely false – was not analogous at all. I do so again below. You fail every time to respond to my answer except with a fallback appeal to authority.

      There is no more circularity (and no less) in investigating a historical Jesus than a historical Socrates or John the Baptist or Shakespeare.

      Wrong. Dead wrong. I have shown you a dozen times the objective basis for a historical Socrates. See again http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/another-way-to-study-christian-origins/ , for example.

      We have the sort of evidence for Socrates that Albert Schweitzer was lamenting did not exist for Jesus.

      John the Baptist? Who investigates the historical John the Baptist? Who cares? What’s the point? 

      Shakespeare? Oh do be serious. Even parody has its limits. No-one denies the historical existence of Shakespeare. No-one.

      And those who detract from mainstream scholarly methods in any of these cases, and even in the natural sciences, say that mainstream methods are fundamentally flawed (although usually only when they agree used to draw conclusions that the detractors don’t like) and fail to offer a better alternative.

      Who detracts from mainstream scholarly methods in any of those cases or in the natural sciences? I have no idea who or what you are talking about. Are you still addressing anything I or Earl Doherty have ever argued?

      All I have ever argued is that mainstream methods be consistently applied to biblical historiography.

      This selective quotation of scholars who agree seeking to improve our methods and our conclusions as though they are suggesting that something is fundamentally misguided about the very attempt to reason historically – or scientifically – is something that unites denialists in both domains.

      Again, what on earth are you talking about? What’s this mind-reading “as if they are suggesting that something is fundamentally misguided about the very attempt to reason historically?” What a load of bollocks. I suggest no such thing. That is entirely your misdirected mind-reading.

      So let me be clear: I applaud the intellectual honesty of many of your peers who acknowledge the weaknesses of their methodology. I fully acknowledge that they by no means believe that the very attempt to reason ‘historically’ is misguided. I respect that this is exactly what they are seeking to do with full intellectual integrity. I applaud that.

      But I also happen to argue that there is another method that is used by their peers in other areas of history, even biblical history, that would open up a whole new set of questions that are currently not on the table. By arguing this I am by no means disrespecting or denying the integrity of biblical scholars with whom I disagree. I am not “in denial” against anything. I grapple with the methods discussed, argue their merits or otherwise, and argue for an alternative.

      That is not denial. That is respectful and reasonable engagement.

      As for ‘selective quotation’ – am I to be faulted for engaging with the literature? What quotations or sources would you recommend do give balance if you think balance is missing?

      And so I will say it one more time: the point of the analogy is not now and has never been that history and biology offer the same degrees of certainty, but that the degree of certainty offered by each is denied by detractors who use many of the same tactics.

      Oh my goodness. I have just shown you that “THE DEGREE OF CERTAINTY offered by” biblical scholars and evolutionists is by NO MEANS COMPARABLE!

      One is circular, the other is not; one relies on fallacious criteria, the other does not; one is evidence based, the other is criteriology based, and those criteria are acknowledged as having serious limitations; one is a universal science, the other is a study of a cultural tradition.
       
      The ONLY way you can draw any comparability between the two is to appeal to authority!

      But I expect that you’ll ignore this clarification just as you have every other time it has been made.

      No, I just addressed your clarification as I have so many times before. In what way did I miss your point?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    James, I fail to understand Neil’s tizzy about you not answering Earl’s answer to the one question mythicism can’t answer. What does Earl really say?
    – I have also said and demonstrated that there are times when Paul presents a picture of his faith and its genesis/development which leaves no room for a biographical element, indeed excludes the possibility of any such thing.–
    when did he ever demonstrate this? We discussed it at length and his evidence was crap, and if Neil doubts it was, he can go look it up.
    – In the rare exception often claimed (such as the two words of the Lord in 1 Corinthians, or Paul’s Lord’s Supper words, or the ‘Jews killed Jesus’ remark in 1 Thessalonians), all of these are severely compromised as identifiably being references to an earthly life, rather than products of revelation or in the latter case a generally recognized interpolation.–
    who says they are all “severely compromised as identifiably being references to an earthly life”? We have had this argument before, for the life of me I don’t know why Neil feels the need to answer an evidence free assertion with a complete argument, not everyone has as much time to waste as he.
    –Now take Paul’s failure to appeal to elements of a spiritual-realm scene of crucifixion by Satan and the demon spirits. Aside from failing to identify the specific spiritual location as the sublunar firmament, which would have required no repetition once understood by the community (if the Pauline Christ cult in fact made such a localized specification rather than just the mythological heavenly world), what exactly would one expect him to draw upon and mention? Was there a trial…–
    You’re correct James that he undercuts his own argument here. Paul isn’t teaching why he thinks Jesus is Christ, as we have told Earl, he doesn’t need to rehash this. Most Supreme Court arguments don’t start with a retelling of war for independence. The rest of this seems to rely on the fact that we don’t know what Jesus myth is so we should just assume that what wasn’t mentioned would have served no purpose to Paul. Earl claims that they are countless places Paul should have mentioned some tradition of Jesus, but are there? List as many as you can Earl and we will see if we can count them. I have to point out again, that many later Christian authors that we know believe in a historic Jesus don’t use more references to the deeds of Jesus than Paul. And, again, the more works we drop into the mythic Christianity file (where Earl is fond of placing early Christian text that don’t mention historical Jesus material), the more incredible that it disappeared without mention from orthodox Christians.
    –I suppose theoretically the heavenly Christ could have done any of these things in the heavenly world, or something of a ‘biographical’ nature like them. But we have no reason to think so, and no reason to think that the Christ cult possessed any traditions that he had done so.–
    Neil is plainly incorrect that you didn’t answer Earl, this is the heart of his answer and you give the obvious response. We absolutely have reason to think so because all mythic savior cults did. Earl thinks Christianity is so like these other mythic faiths, but not in this, now it is different because that’s what it needs to be to make his theory work.
    – Scripture simply told them that he had been crucified and God raised him from the dead, something they say was now revealed by God through the Spirit after long ages of being hidden–
    Well that makes sense. Paul: “Worship Jesus Christ, it has been revealed by the spirit after long ages God raised him from the dead!” Audience: “who the f is Jesus Christ, how did die, and why was he raised?” Paul: “I don’t know, the spirit didn’t tell me anymore” Audience: “sounds great we will do whatever you tell us now”
    –Other than being crucified by “the rulers of this age” (with that also interpreted by many as a reference to the demon spirits), –
    Earl is being dishonest here, but his arguments do need a lot of dishonesty to work, he must have learned that from Von Ranke I suppose. How many scholars think Jesus was literally crucified by demons Earl?
    –reading more out of scripture to come up with specific elements related to that crucifixion and resurrection, as Mark and the other evangelists were to do in an earthly setting (though probably with the original intention of creating an allegory only), –
    How do you know this? You probably believe it, but that doesn’t make it probably so
    –did not yet occur to them. And why not? Because no such setting existed in their minds. No such figure had yet been created, allegorical or historical.–
    Evidence to support you claims, any at all? What is there to respond too? Earl’s baseless speculation on what existed in people’s minds? Is this what Neil thinks is good historical method?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    “Biblical scholars have NOT studied and researched whether Christianity started at some level with a Jesus figure. This has always been a given.”
     
    Absolutely untrue, the Jesus myth has been around for a long time and has been addressed (and caps lock does not make assertions more credible). How has Neil missed this? And if more scholars bothered to read Neil’s post (of those I asked, they don’t feel that people who work exclusively on the internet to be worthy of much attention, good advice), I think they would agree that mythicist are loony’s.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

    I do not agree with either James’s  or Neil’s conclusions, but I think I can see where Neil is coming from.

    I agree that James and other historians, but not all, are being circular when they attempt to study the origins of Christianity, because the approach they use is to go straight to the supposed source. Since Jesus Christ is traditionally suppose to be the source of Christianity, they feel that by providing convincing evidence that Jesus really existed it will give credence to the origin of Christianity and what came later. That is circular in the sense that you all ready know the answer to what you are seeking.

    On the other hand, Neil is saying that his quest for the origin of Christianity is by ignoring any supposed traditional source, so as not to overly influence the outcome of the search. And there is merit to this approach, for example, if someone wanted to examine the origin of the Hebrew language, it would probably be better if they did not assume it started with the Hebrew people before they began their examination. That could influence the evidence to a biased Hebrew origin, where a strictly objective view might not.

    If for some reason Jesus was not the source of Christianity, Neil’s approach would not be hampered by that fact. And if you think about it logically, the historians quest for the historical Jesus is a bit of a catch 22. If the evidence pointed to the fact that it was unlikely that a Jesus figure did exist, that would provide a large degree of probability to mythicism, the idea that historians hate. So the whole point to the original quest for the historical Jesus sounds like a desperate attempt to squash anything to the contrary.

    • Dave Burke

      Howard,

      >>
      And if you think about it logically, the historians quest for the historical Jesus is a bit of a catch 22. If the evidence pointed to the fact that it was unlikely that a Jesus figure did exist, that would provide a large degree of probability to mythicism, the idea that historians hate. So the whole point to the original quest for the historical Jesus sounds like a desperate attempt to squash anything to the contrary.
      >>

      I don’t see the logic here. The original quest for the historical Jesus was instigated by an anti-supernaturalist Deist (Reimarus) who would have had no qualms about discovering a mythical Jesus if that’s what the evidence had supported.

      Reimarus’ fellow questers included Jefferson (another anti-supernaturalist Deist), Strauss (an anti-supernaturalist theologian who denied the divinity of Jesus), Renan (an anti-supernaturalist philosopher who also denied the divinity of Jesus) and Wrede (a skeptical theologian responsible for the ‘Messianic Secret’ hypothesis).

      Your observation that mythicism is an ‘idea that historians hate’ neglects to address the reasons why historians hate it. The primary reason, of course, is that it is not an evidence-based theory but a purely speculative one. Historical study requires the objective analysis of verifiable data. Mythicism merely requires a highly active imagination. Viva la difference.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

        Dave,

        I understand that the original quest was done by people who might not have had an agenda, I guess I was referring to the idea of someone who already accepts Jesus and then decides to investigate his historicity. This might be viewed merely as someone looking for evidence that will support their current belief, and not an objective search.

        I am not condoning any particular mythic interpretation of the evidence, I am merely saying that their approach has merit. Christianity is real, it exists today, so it means it came from somewhere. And if historians can take large sections of scripture and whole books themselves and consider them forged or embellishments, I think it can equally be claimed that all books might be forged or embellishments. Under the modern humanistic view of the Bible today, I feel this has at least as much merit as the historical view. Neither of which I agree with by the way. But the big disagreement between historians and mythisists that you are referring to has to do with their attempts to explain the reason why all the books are not authentic history. That is why I stick with the all or nothing approach. If all the Bible is not from God, it will never be humanly possible to explain what is or what isn’t from God. And the same applies to those who think none of it was from God. There would simply be no humanly way to accurately explain why it exists with out a time machine.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Howard and others, just to clarify my position:

      My position is not an argument for mythicism. My argument is about the nature of evidence in historical inquiry.

      I challenge McGrath’s arguments against mythicism because they are ad hoc and rely on straw men spawned by gratuitous ‘mind-reading’, and for the other reasons I have stated in the previous comments.

      If I pick up a text and have no idea who wrote it and only a vague idea of when (give or take 50 years either way) or for whom or why, and it was riddled with events of the supernatural, and if it was not quite like any genre known in that broad general period, I would be naive in the extreme if I approached it by assuming that the central character and event in its narrative were derived from real historical events.

      I would want some external evidence to offer me some assurance before I took that assumption on board.

      When it comes to the figures of Socrates or Cicero’s slave or an otherwise unattested philosopher Seneca writes about (note I am trying to find figures comparable to a relatively “obscure Jesus” here) I have a range of assurances that many such persons are indeed very probably genuinely historical. I have discussed these evidences and controls many, many times in my posts and in other venues.

      When it comes to Jesus, however, we have no similar controls or external supports to assure us that the narrative originated in historical memory. On the contrary, the literary internal evidence of those gospels, when compared with other literary evidence (both Jewish and non-Jewish) of that era, and for which we have strong reasons to believe were known to the world of the Gospel authors, — that literary evidence strongly and very simply (not simplistically) explains the origins of the Gospel narratives as creative literature.

      Further, we also have broad cultural contexts to strongly point to very plausible cultural motivations for the creation of such theological narratives as we find in the Gospels.

      This has been my argument. I have spelled out the details to support the above summaries many, many times.

      My argument is an argument that we should approach historical sources for early Christianity in the same manner as historians approach, or should approach, any documentary evidence.

      If there is a historical Jesus anywhere to be found then he needs to be found by the same methodologies as historians find Socrates, Cicero’s slave, etc. It is not valid to claim some special status for the historical Jesus and continually expend energies arguing why we have no comparable evidence for a person we must still believe existed.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

        Neil,

        I believe I understand your position, and I agree. If someone claims he is a critical historian, he must be critical on all matters of history. For example, when Paul says “brother of the Lord” To use this as support for the historical Jesus, don’t we first have to prove Paul was a historical person? So I don’t get the selective evidence approach either.

        • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

          Exactly! That “brother of the Lord” issue is an attempt to balance an elephant on a mouse’s tail. Only cultural heritage enables it to keep making its routine appearance in the discussion.

          Quite apart from the question of identity of the author of Galatians and the letter’s provenance we also have the very real ancient evidence for the plausibility of interpolation and also the linguistic question that historicists so often seem quite incapable of grasping. In the recent exchange between Doherty and McGrath on this McGrath concluded by suggesting that Doherty’s use of logical argument was an attempt to cloud and mislead men of good sense: http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/2011/05/29/in-mythicism-but-not-of-mythicism/#comment-214221964

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

            Neil, James makes no such suggestion, as he did no concede Doherty’s argument was logical, which it was not. Like you, Doherty uses illogical arguments in the hopes of confusing people. I mean it is only bad if you think dishonesty has no place in historical discussion, I’ll leave that for you to decide for yourself.
            Neil, you are far too uncritical of evidence for interpolation when it suits you. Good historians don’t just cherry pick solutions they like, the scrutinize them. Read some books on historical method, it should make you more aware of biases.
            And elephant on a mouse’s tail, really? Is it such a huge claim that Paul’s Jesus is a man who is the brother of James, the apostle he knows? Why would you think otherwise? Stop if we have all heard this before; I mean if you have something new to add. As it stands in reality, Doherty requires much more complicated interpretations of the evidence than theories that simply say Jesus existed, and so his ideas fail the Ockham razor test. With no simpler alternative, and this being an un-extraordinary claim, I don’t know why someone would spend a lot of time researching Christian origins from the perspective of a mythic founder and that is confirmed by the lack of academic scholars who do. It assures me of the competence of that community that at least they aren’t promoting this.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

          What would “prove” Paul is historical? what is the criteria? How many sources agreeing prove something? Can a thousand be proof? 100? 50? 10? And shouldn’t we apply the same standered to prove mythicism? 

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

            Michael,

            I will admit that I am not aware of any scholarly attempt to prove Paul’s historical existence. That said, I would assume it would be done in the same manner as any other historical figure. Is Paul mentioned in Roman records? Is Paul mentioned by historians or in Jewish writings? But if in reality, Paul was merely a run of the mill man in the first century who merited no attention from these sources, then all we have about him is what is contained in the Bible. Now if someone was questioning the historicity of Paul’s letters, how could we prove to them that Paul was historical apart from his writings? In other words, it would be extremely helpful in giving credence to Paul’s writings if Paul can be shown to be a real historical figure. And that can not be done by using Paul’s writings to prove his existence, that would be circular.

            Now if scholars have done this with Paul, I am not aware of it. But thankfully, I don’t need to be aware of it either, as I do believe in the historical existence of Paul and Jesus and I do believe that “brother of the Lord” refers to Jesus’ biological brother. All I was saying is if you are going to be a critical historian, you should have determined Paul’s historicity in the same manner that you have determined any other historical figure. Another interesting thing is that apparently most historians, reject the book of Daniel, because of what the books says and not on whether Daniel was historical or not. I guess you just can’t win.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

      Well put Howard, you raise good points. We come from nieve people who did not question the source of tradtional stories. a lot of skepticism has paid off. we have shed a number of fantasys about dragons and suposed ancient kings so it provokes the question, so who else? I think however that the existance of Jesus has been questioned for a long time. While never a popular stance, it has always maintained adherents, but it has simply failed to convert more scholars to its conclusion. It has been examined, that is not to say it should not be examined again, but you can’t say people have just assumed this.

      James how many of your peers would you say have never examined the evidence for Jesus existance? Do you think it would be helpful for every one in a field to do this?It seems if you challanged every thing you knew, you wouldn’t make many new discoveries, you would be too busy reinventing every thing

      –If for some reason Jesus was not the source of Christianity, Neil’s approach would not be hampered by that fact.–

      Yes but it would be hampered if Jesus were also a person. If he says to just not investigate there, the evidence is too subjective; then there is little for him say about the period. But he does seem to like Doherty’s work, who uses the same sources. If he thinks that the sources can be reliable evidence of Christianity being founded on a mythical Jesus, then his ideas on how Christians first developed their ideas are flawed.

       I think their is a bit of gut reaction against mythers and birthers and such. But as has been shown by  people who think Shakespear a fraud and those wanting to claim Obama is an userper, there are good reason to feel a twang of disgust. It makes one less likey to really ask that question again. How many scholars of American History will really try to confirn Obama’s birth certificate? Still, historians have burst a lot of bubbles, I don’t think their is a lot of basis to the argument that there too afraid to concider mythicism. There have been a number of odd theories held by people who have been well respected. Morton Smith, T. Thompson, I think maybe some of the earlier Jesus myth proponets, but I may be wrong. Any how, I just don’t think professors are that shy, but they are aware all the Jesus myth ideas have been examined before.   

       

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

    Neil, I believe what I suggessted is that Doherty’s use of illogical argument was an attempt to cloud the issue for people or poor judgment.

    Michael, I think that everyone who has looked into the subject of the historical Jesus has looked into the question of his existence, because contra what some mythicists say, existence is not something we evaluate in relation to historical figures independently of evidence for their having said or done something. It is only the various denialists who say things like “First show me the evidence for a historical Shakespeare independently of these plays you say he wrote, and then we can discuss whether he wrote those plays.” Historical individuals’ traces in the historical record usually come in the form of mentions of their words or deeds, and when we have only a name, as in Paul’s greetings to some people at the ends of his letters, we feel that we really know nothing of consequence at all.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Neil, I believe what I suggessted is that Doherty’s use of illogical argument was an attempt to cloud the issue for people or poor judgment.

      Another instance where irony totally escapes you, James. Of course that’s what you suggested. That was what was so funny to any neutral or non-believing outsider reading the exchange. It was you utter inability to even imagine the possibility that there could be a different interpretation to what you believe the passage to say that blinded you completely to the logic of the alternative argument. No matter how clearly and simply it was spelled out in step by step detail you simply shut your mind at every step as if to say: “No, it means X”, “No, it means X”, “No, it means X”. It would translate into a good cartoon.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_64NEHWHSAJMVRF3BXHUQUWBPCY Robert

    “Observer” said: “Robert  - You nailed the problem with your amazon argument, those comments are from the ” unwashed” masses. The fact that people with no background in classical history find Earl’s arguments to be compelling simply shows that they people with no or little background in classical or being spoon feed views they pretty much wanted to believe.”

    Lets pick this apart.  “Nailing a problem” is generally seen as providing a definitive point.  But Observer’s assertion – that Amazon readers are generally stupid idiots for saying ten to one that McGrath’s review is not helpful – hardly nails anything.  Rather it is just empty Christian rhetoric, more from the ‘washed in the blood of the lamb’ evidence-free zone of evangelical bluster.  

    Who is being “spoon fed” here?  It is Christians who see a historical Lord and Savior as central to their institutional and personal identity, who have been fed this myth with their mother’s milk, and who get immediately prickly when anyone asks for evidence for their belief.  

    Jesus traditionally was believed to have done numerous things that are impossible and therefore clearly are invented lies (virgin birth, rose from dead, walked on water, etc).  He also was believed to have been famed far and wide, even though there is no mention of his personal circumstances anywhere until nearly a century after he died, in a place and time that is one of the best recorded in the ancient world.  

    So we have a fantasy figure performing miracles, whose supposed life is recorded only by late hearsay and invention.  And yet, this obscure carpenter from a backwater province, even more miraculously is meant to have suddenly become the personal object of divine worship for all the churches whom Paul wrote to, by mechanisms so obvious and well known (although completely unattested) that Paul, or anyone else in his day and age, had no need to mention any of them.  Oh, that’s it, all these early churches resulted from the Great Commission, where Jesus sent out the disciples after he came back from the dead.  Yeah right.

    You have to “want to believe” all this Christian invention pretty hard not to see it as a crock.  Doherty presents a remorseless and rigorous demolition of the Big Lie at the center of western civilization, the invention of the historical Jesus.  Christians should engage in serious dialogue about this problem, not stick their tongues out and pretend it will all go away like a bad dream.

    Robert Tulip

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

    And somehow all the atheists, agnostics, Jews and others in the realm of academic historical study are happy to go along with what you claim is simply an expression of faith? What makes that seem plausible to you?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      And somehow all the atheists, agnostics, Jews and others in the realm of
      academic historical study are happy to go along with what you claim is
      simply an expression of faith? What makes that seem plausible to you?

      That’s easy. It was once a matter of faith — Church doctrine –  that the earth did not move and so was the centre of the moving universe. I can quite imagine many closet atheists and agnostics and Jews other others among the learned of that day happly to go along with that faith claim.

      That’s why I myself have always seen Jesus as a cultural icon — he has a place in western society that extends beyond the churched.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    a remorseless and rigorous demolition of the Big Lie at the center of western civilization, the invention of the historical Jesus.

    sounds familliar…

    a remorseless and rigorous demolition of the Big Lie at the center of western civilization, 9/11.

    a remorseless and rigorous demolition of the Big Lie at the center of western civilization, Jesus had no heir.

    a remorseless and rigorous demolition of the Big Lie at the center of western civilization, capitalism.

    a remorseless and rigorous demolition of the Big Lie at the center of western civilization, Zionism.

    Conspiricy types love the feeling that their revolutionizing the world from their basements. Their egos desperately need to be convinced they aren’t like everybody else.

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

    And yet somehow they are willing to challenge every other element of traditional Christian dogma except his existence? How very peculiar.

    What would it take to persuade you that the historians and scholars who are persuaded that Jesus existed actually consider that conclusion to be one based on a critical examination of the evidence, and not blind acceptance of a traditional component of Christian faith?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      What is the peculiarity? Do you seriously suggest that non-Christians or Christians of various stripes or simply different personalities are not interested in refashioning a cultural icon more in liking with their own image or ideals? That is the most natural thing in the world when it comes to cultural icons.

      As for you second question, you are once again (yawn!) setting up a false dichotomy. No-one has said — in fact my post was inferring the exact opposite to your claim — that non-Christian historians are “blindly accepting a traditional component of Christian faith”. Jesus is a cultural figure — non-religious people in our culture learn about him too, and he has a place in the world that shapes their identity, too.

      Have you ever heard of any belief being assumed by society and its intellectuals long before it is seriously challenged?

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

    Actually, I showed that Doherty’s attempt to treat “brother in” and “brother of” as though they were interchangeable is based neither on evidence of use nor considerations of grammar, and in fact is at odds with both. But of course, mythicists, like creationists, always claim that they were the “winners” of debates and discussions, regardless where logic or evidence actually point.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Assertion of the contrary is not engaging in argument.

      I would like to see you try to return there and actually pull Doherty’s argument apart — not merely say it is “unpersuasive” or “clouding” the issue.

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

    Indeed! 

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      So are you going to show me where I have failed to address your arguments here or failed to rebut them or are you just going to ignore my responses and later claim that “mythicists had no answer” for you and you said all that needs to be said here?

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

    You could begin by showing that you’ve grasped the force of my arguments about Doherty’s dubious claims about “brothers in” and “brothers of” being interchangeable, perhaps…

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      I see, so you have no response to any of MY arguments or responses here.

      As for the fiasco of your humorous exchange with Doherty on the other topic I am preparing a little cartoon type dialogue to illustrate the point and will post it on my blog when complete.

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

    I think you are confusing your assertions about my arguments for having offered arguments of your own.

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

    You discussed point by point things that you either misunderstood me to be saying or things you wished to depict me as having said. But that is not the same thing as actually understanding what I am saying and interacting with it.

    This is my blog, and so I don’t know where you imagine I would “walk away” to…

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      You discussed point by point things that you either misunderstood me to
      be saying or things you wished to depict me as having said. But that is
      not the same thing as actually understanding what I am saying and
      interacting with it.

      Can you give me a specific example?

      I had no intention of misrepresenting you in any way. I believed I did understand your argument and disagreed with it and gave my reasons why I found your point flawed. If I am wrong then please give me at least one example where I am wrong.

      Also, do you find any fault in my position in my other post that I also pointed to where I outlined by central argument?

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

    What’s wrong with the clarification I already offered?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      I have not seen any reply to the comment in which I responded point by point to you. Can you link to the “clarification” you mean?

      Why can’t you point to a specific example where I misunderstood or failed to offer a reasoned engagement with your argument?

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

    Because no matter how many times I do so, you come back later asserting things such as that I objected to Doherty’s use of logical argument. Because no matter how many times I clarify things, offer links to those clarifications, or address a topic in detail, I am still accused by you of rejecting mythicism because my mind is not open enough.

    If this is to be a conversation, then you need to actually read and comprehend what people write, and not merely ask how you can use what they wrote to serve your agenda.

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

    I may perhaps be permitted to add that I found your comment about Shakespeare amusing. You may need to do a better job of keeping up with the latest movies…

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      So is that it? Is that your pointing out one example where I failed to grasp or engage with your point?

      We are engaging in a debate about historicity of individuals and there is ample concrete evidence for the existence of Shakespeare so I discarded this one example of yours as irrelevant to the discussion about historicity.

      I pointed out that your Shakespeare example is not analagous to a discussion about historicity of persons.

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

    I would never claim that your summary of your own point of view is flawed.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Ah, you got me on that one! ;-)  But you will no doubt point out to me where my point of view itself (even in summary form) is flawed, yes?

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

    Obviously that wasn’t a topic I brought up in the comment which responded to the earlier one that you linked to. I brought it up now because it is so timely. How is Shakespeare-mythicism different than Jesus-mythicism other than that you are interested in one of them but not the other, and so have the good sense to see through the crazy of one but not the other?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Are you serious? There is no such thing as Shakespeare mythicism as far as I know. If we had the sorts of evidence for the existence of Jesus as we have for Shakespeare we would have no Christ myth discussion at all.

      You mentioned 3 names in that particular point and I responded to each one. If you want to have a clear-headed discussion with analogies then you need to put up analogies that are, well, analogous. Socrates is, but Shakeseare isn’t — except to show the sorts of evidence that convince us of the historicity of someone.

      • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

        Your attempt to muddy the waters with a false analogy is not restricted to your Shakespeare effort. You made the same gaffe with the Piltdown Man hoax. As I pointed out to you, a hoax is comparable to Morton Smith’s (presumed) forgery of the Secret Gospel of Mark — not with fiction in the Gospels.

        If you are going to use analogies then do try to make them applicable to the discussion.

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

    Seriously, there’s no need to actually watch the movies, but keep up with the news about them, at least.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, I know very well you are referring to the authorship dispute and I knew about that dispute long before any movies were made about it. (It sounds like it is news to you.) You are missing my point. I am trying to point out to you that an authorship dispute among people of known and demonstrable historicity is not in the slightest comparable to a question about the historicity of persons!

      Can’t you see that?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      So you raise a true analogy (Socrates) and a false analogy (authorial dispute over plays).

      You ignore my response to the true and relevant analogy.

      I show you that your false analogy is irrelevant and you respond with remarks about what you assume to be my ignorance about modern movies.

      Who is the one who is addressing the issues here?

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    So for the fifth time, can you please just give me one example where I
    failed to comprehend what you wrote and where I failed to engage
    with your point with a reasoned argument @ http://www.patheos.com/communi… ?

    Can you also show me where my point of view is flawed : http://www.patheos.com/communi… ?

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

    I believe that you were the one who brought these examples up. And you seem still not to grasp just how similar the cases of Socrates and Jesus are. And you seem not to have noticed that some self-styled mythicists who flit back and forth between your blog and here would say that a Jesus who didn’t do the things attributed to him in the Gospels is no different than the case of a purely mythical Jesus, and so I don’t see how a Shakespeare who didn’t write any plays is an irrelevant comparison.

    Why is it so hard for you to find my comment that followed immediately after yours? I cannot creat a link to it on this device, but I don’t even understand why you feel it would be necessary for me to so so.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Did you read my comment? I was quoting your comment — in full, paragraph by paragraph — and responding to your points. YOU brought up the 3 analogies — Socrates, John the Baptist and Shakespeare — and I was responding to your point.

      Now you are saying I was not responding to you but introducing something new myself? Yet you complain I don’t respond to you? You are confusing me!

      But let’s try to get somewhere on the Socrates question. You say I “seem still not to grasp just how similar the cases of Socrates and Jesus are”. Can you address what I actually said? In what sense have I failed to grasp the similarity? I linked to my fuller discussions on Socrates from the past. You have never responded to those arguments except once — and that was to say I was arguing that we should believe playwrights more than philosophers. But that is not what my argument was at all, was it.

      Can you respond to my actual argument? You sometimes say you have responded to or addressed my arguments when I can never find where you have done that.

      You then take me to task for something I was supposed to notice blog readers doing. Sorry, not interested. What has this to do with your addressing my argument? What has this to do with the fact that I have addressed yours and your failure to respond in kind?

      And now you chastise me for my failure to find a comment of yours? Can we please address the arguments instead of this silly business?

      The comment I have been linking to so often and speaking of is http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/2011/10/14/doherty-mythicism/#comment-352468358 and I can see no comment of yours immediately following this. Can you have the courtesy to repeat this clarification?

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

    OK, it is useful to know that if in the future someone else comments after you before I get to respond, it will not be worth responding at all, since you will be incapable of finding my response.

    As for what you have written previously about Socrates, you seem to still be under the illusion that the mere fact that you have posted something about the subjects means that you have adequately addressed the issue. I could reread with bemusement once again your claim that the mere fact that two different genres mention Socrates – one of them being a play – that somehow vouchsafes his historicity more effectively than the combined evidence of Paul, the Gospels, and Josephus, and the fact that no one in antiquity seems to have at any point doubted Jesus’ historicity. But of course, suddenly you will raise objections to these sources, never acknowledging that you could do the same with those that mention Socrates, and draw the very same conclusions.

    Are you really so deluded that you cannot see this?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      I still don’t know what your “clarification” to my comment was. I read all your comments subsequent to mine but recognized nothing by way of clarification in relation to my comment.

      Okay, thanks for responding to the Socrates point. Can I just point out that I fail to appreciate your opening ad hominem. Why do you begin with a mind-reading statement? Does this really advance your argument or undermine mine?

      Secondly, you speak of my “claim that the mere fact that two different genres mention Socrates — one of them being a play”. I have never based my argument on different genres. You just made that up. You didn’t get it from anything I wrote.

      So can you please address my argument?

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

    Perhaps when you say “address your argument” you mean offer lame discussion of the topics you consider important, and easy to respond to, rather than the ones that actual scholars and historians judge to be substantive? Otherwise, I can’t fathom why you keep saying that over and over in the midst of the attempts of others to interact with you.

    I apologize if I misunderstood genre to be more significant to your point in this post than it was: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/was-socrates-a-man-or-a-myth-applying-historical-jesus-criteria-to-socrates/

    But that post illustrates my point well – if you asked even half of the skeptical questions about Socrates that mythicsts typically do about Jesus, you would not be content to conclude that he more likely existed than not.

    And that is the crux of the matter. Mythicsts care so much about having Jesus not exist, that they are not content to draw the natural conclusion that historians agree upon – Jesus’ historicity is not certain but is probable – and press on into absurd twistings of language and forced attempts to make unlikely meanings of texts seem not only possible but probable, all in the attempt to make Jesus and Socrates, or Jesus and John the Baptist, or whoever else one might choose to compare, seem more different cases than they are.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, so you continue to think that ad hominem insult is necessary when I persist in trying to get you to respond to my arguments?

      Can I remind you that YOU were the one who introduced Socrates in this thread to support your point, and I responded to YOUR point about Socrates.

      Now you are saying that I am bringing up my own points and avoiding yours!!!!????

      Also, you continue to suggest I was arguing about genre even just a bit when I was not at all. Why can’t you accept that you simply stuffed up 100%.

      You never bothered to read or understand my argument before responding. That is the very thing of which you accuse me. Yet when I ask you for examples of my failure to read or understand you, you do not give me any.

      But still after all of this you have STILL NOT addressed my point about Socrates.

      You were the one who brought up Socrates. I responded, and now you are saying my response is “lame” because it is “easy to respond to” and not one raised by actual scholars?

      Well pray then bring up an argument by an actual scholar.Or deal with my responses to those.

      You then write:

      But that post illustrates my point well – if you asked even half of
      the skeptical questions about Socrates that mythicsts typically do about
      Jesus, you would not be content to conclude that he more likely existed
      than not.

      So again you avoid addressing my argument. You are now changing the subject with some vague meaningless or irrelevant generalization. If it is not a vague or meaningless statement then explain what its relevance is to the specific arguments that you and I acknowledge are significant for assessing historicity.

      You then conclude with another swipe at mythicists in general and avoid addressing the argument.

      Will you now say I have failed to address your point about Socrates and that it still stands?

      I am glad you put the parody tag on this thread.

      James, this is how I think every discussion between us has concluded. You walk away every time with a series of ad hominems and vague generalizations and swipes at how impossible it is to argue with mythicists.

      You have failed even till now to address my answer to your point about Socrates — (you are a scholar, aren’t you, so forgive me if I thought it was a point made by scholars.)

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey
  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Neil, the manner in which all our interactions end is indeed being seen once again. But I don’t think you are describing its key features accurately. What happens, time and again, is that you call irrelevant anything that doesn’t allow you to score points for mythicism, no matter how many times key points are addressed you complain that they haven’t been, and even when links are provided you claim that the post or comment to which links were provided do not address your points. You then wait for someone to say something or word something in such a way that it is possible to find an interpretation that allows you to go off on a tangent and criticize them for what you think they meant that you meant, or what you have read in their mind or between the lines, or in some cases what they actually typed in error or had changed by autocorreect, and then you make that the focus in order to distract from the substantive issues.

    I don’t see that such an interaction is worth pursuing. If you ever wish to engage in conversation, it will have to involve you actually reading what people say, paying careful attention, and treating them in the way that you yourself would want to be treated.

    As I said before, this is my blog, and so I am not going anywhere. But I think at this point I will take a break from commenting, not only because it is late, but because you seem to be determined to persuade me that it is pointless and unlikely to turn this into a conversation in which you participate in genuine human-to-human communication, never mind rigorous scholarly treatment of the issues. So perhaps others will choose to chime in. I hope they have more success than I have had thus far.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      I don’t understand why you cannot respond to my simple argument against your point about Socrates.

      You first of all didn’t bother to even read it properly so you failed to even know what it was about (and you accuse me of not reading or understanding your comments!) and when I pointed that out to you you respond with all of this broad sweeping generalized attacks for which you offer no supporting evidence.

      Can I ask a 6th time. Can you respond to my rejoinder to your point about Socrates?

      Why can’t you do that?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      So James once again walks away rather than address my point.

      I see, however, that he hopes others will choose to chime in in the hopes that they will have more success than he. I hope so, too.

      What McGrath has failed to do is respond to my rebuttal of his assertion that:

      There is no more circularity (and no less) in investigating a historical Jesus than a historical Socrates or John the Baptist or Shakespeare.

      I contend that this is false. There is no circularity in the investigation of the historicity of Socrates or Shakespeare. We have multiple independent witnesses to both of these. Yet when it comes to Jesus, we have no independent witnesses and this is admitted by biblical scholars as far back as Albert Schweitzer:

      In
      reality, however, these writers are faced with the enormous problem
      that strictly speaking absolutely nothing can be proved by evidence from
      the past, but can only be shown to be more or less probable. Moreover,
      in the case of Jesus, the theoretical reservations are even greater
      because all the reports about him go back to the one source of
      tradition, early Christianity itself, and there are no data available in
      Jewish or Gentile secular history which could be used as controls.

      And modern scholars such as Stevan Davies and Dale C. Allison Jr acknowledge the circularity at the heart of historical Jesus studies and I have cited their words at various places including here: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/it-all-depends-where-one-enters-the-circle/

      In the case of Socrates we have, on the contrary, enough evidence to avoid circularity. We have truly independent witnesses to Socrates — both the writings of his student, Plato, and the testimony of one who made fun of him in the public theatre, Aristophanes. As Schweitzer lamented in the above passage, we lack any such independent witnesses for Jesus.

      But not even all scholars are absolutely convinced of the historicity of Socrates. Even a few have voiced at least the possibility that Socrates may not have been historical. But the question is of little interest to them nothing would change if it turned out he was not historical. So we must acknowledge that the evidence for Socrates, while attesting to strong probability, does not give us iron-clad certainty. But the evidence for Jesus is even less.

      Josephus was discounted as a witness by Schweitzer because of the doubts raised over the mentions of Jesus in his works. One also should discount his mentions of Jesus because they are not contemporary but could have derived from what Christians believed at a later time. Schweitzer (nor I) are saying here that Josephus is no evidence at all — but only that his status as a witness is not secure enough to offer certainty or even very strong probability.

      Now why can James McGrath not respond to this argument?

      Why the need for insults or attempts to claim I was talking about genres or something?

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    James, I have to apologize to you. I was only reading your responses to me and skipped anything you were saying to others. I just learned that you made this comment in response to Michael:

    It
    is only the various denialists who say things like “First show me the
    evidence for a historical Shakespeare independently of these plays you
    say he wrote, and then we can discuss whether he wrote those plays.”

    Is THAT what you were smoking when you were objecting to my argument about Shakespeare?

    I had no idea, and so I do deeply apologize for assuming that you knew the first thing about the historical Shakespeare or anything at all about the debate of the authorship of his plays.

    I took it for granted that everyone with a reasonable education or knowledge of Shakespeare knew about the material, physical evidence for his historical existence. Historians, literary critics, do NOT rely solely on the plays as evidence for his existence as you say.

    With all due respect, Professor, you don’t know what you are talking about!

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    James, I have to apologize to you. I was only reading your responses to me and skipped anything you were saying to others. I just learned that you made this comment in response to Michael:

    It
    is only the various denialists who say things like “First show me the
    evidence for a historical Shakespeare independently of these plays you
    say he wrote, and then we can discuss whether he wrote those plays.”

    Is THAT what you were smoking when you were objecting to my argument about Shakespeare?

    I had no idea, and so I do deeply apologize for assuming that you knew the first thing about the historical Shakespeare or anything at all about the debate of the authorship of his plays.

    I took it for granted that everyone with a reasonable education or knowledge of Shakespeare knew about the material, physical evidence for his historical existence. Historians, literary critics, do NOT rely solely on the plays as evidence for his existence as you say.

    With all due respect, Professor, you don’t know what you are talking about!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Neil should keep in touch with more media. The buzz over the film about the Shakespeare is a hoax theory led to a few articles being published which are instructive to this argument, in general ways. I read one that said it was the field of Biblical criticism and Homeric criticism that inspired it. They both use the same sort of ad hoc explanations for difficulties plus reliance on false premises and unfounded assertions. Neil can quibble with the Shakespeare birthers about whether their claim is less founded than he. I would be a hoot to see two people engage in a thoroughly illogical attack on each other’s opinions. If we find that Jesus mythers are more believable than Socrates mythers am not sure if that is a big victory for Neil, and as we’ve said before, if you are willing to conjecture wildly about the nature of the testimonies, there is little reason to believe any of the consensus positions, so by using Neil’s methods, I’m not sure there is more evidence for Socrates than Jesus.
     
    “Josephus was discounted as a witness by Schweitzer because of the doubts raised over the mentions of Jesus in his works. One also should discount his mentions of Jesus because they are not contemporary but could have derived from what Christians believed at a later time. Schweitzer (nor I) are saying here that Josephus is no evidence at all — but only that his status as a witness is not secure enough to offer certainty or even very strong probability”
    James what do you make of Switzer? He is a rather old name in this, is he still held in as high a regard he once was? I don’t recall him being a Christ myth proponent, if Neil’s quote is correct, did Sweitzer explain how concluding Jesus existed is compatible with the statement?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      You and James may get your education from movies but I was familiar with the debate over the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays from my studies of Shakespeare at university. I assumed a basic level of literacy about this topic beyond a modern popular movie.

      My apologies to you all.

      As for Sweitzer (sic) — if you took a blink of notice you would know I have pointed out he is not a mythicist at all. The very opposite. Now why on earth would I be quoting him? You will just have to go off and wonder how I could be such an idiot, won’t you.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Mike and James tell me I should keep up with the latest news about the movies. James also speaks about “rigorous scholarly treatment of the issues”.

      I wonder if the esteemed Clarence Goodwin Chair knows the difference.

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    Well I am still gobsmacked over the realization that I was talking to a professor who was trying to compare the Christ myth arguments to something he called “Shakespeare mythicism”. Since he appeals to the need for rigorous scholarly standards in discussions I assumed he knew what he was talking about. I am deeply embarrassed for my gaffe in a public forum for making such an assumption and do again offer my most respectful apologies to the Professor.

    As a little token to try to make amends I offer here a link to a Shakespeare site where one can see the tangible, abundant, black and white evidence for the historical existence of Shakespeare: http://www.shakespeare-online.com/biography/

    Just click on any aspect of biography you would like to know about and you will be taken to a page explaining the tangible historical evidence for our knowledge of Shakespeare.

    I hope with this small contribution I can help offer a means for those with an interest in rigorous scholarly standards of discussion to expand their knowledge beyond what they learn in some sci fi or other movie.

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

    Neil, you seem not to grasp that the big differences between Shakespeare mythicism and Jesus mythicism is that they have featured in different movies, and you like one but consider the other nonsense. But clearly there are other people out there who hold the reverse stance. I appreciate very much your willingness to illustrate that you don’t understand that neither viewpoint is taken seriously by scholars, and that mythicists do not grasp what their views look like to those familiar with the fields across which they ride roughshod.

    The point of mentioning it, as everyone but you seems to have grasped, was precisely that both are equally ridiculous, not to suggest that mythicism is something “just as good” – although one obviously could say that as a sort of backhanded “compliment.”

    I also appreciate your willingness to descend once again into the sorts of insults that illustrate not only your incomprehension of the discussion and points being made, but also the way you treat other people. It doesn’t make mythicism look any more appealing.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, do you have any idea what you are talking about?

      What, exactly, do I fail to comprehend. Tell me.

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

    Since Neil Godfrey seems to wish to dissociate himself from those mythicists whose views are comparable to “Shakespeare Mythicism” – those who regularly say that there could have been several people combined into the Jesus of early Christianity, or that if Jesus didn’t do or cannot be confirmed to have done the majority of things that he is said to have done in early sources, then he is no different than a mythical Jesus – much like a Shakespeare who was not the author of plays, perhaps those with such views would care to join in this conversation?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      What on earth are you talking about? What on earth do you mean by “Shakespeare Mythicism”? Are you really saying that the only evidence for Shakespeare is comparable to the evidence for Jesus Christ? Seriously?

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

    What do you mean by “Jesus mythicism”?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Are you seriously saying that a debate about Shakespearean authorship is comparable to discussions about how we determine the historicity of persons? Yes or No? (I really feel embarrassed to ask such a question even of you! I know this is supposed to be parody, but. . . )

      Or are you seriously saying (as you wrote to Michael) there is no evidence for Shakespeare apart from his plays?

      Please give me a straight answer. Yes or No. To both questions.

      • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

        You do realize, you do, don’t you . . . . Please tell me this is all a silly dream — You do realize, don’t you, that the debate about Shakespearean authorship has nothing whatever to do with any sort of “mythicism” of any kind?

        Did you just make up the term “Shakespeare mythicism” yourself? Where can I find this term outside your own blog?

        Did you get a notice about the film from Mike Wilson and jump on board from the mere possibility of “mythicism” in there somewhere without having a clue about the long history of the debate over the authorship of the plays or even any idea of the concrete evidence cited to many high school students about the historical Shakespeare?

        Where is your rigorous scholarly standard in any of this? Where is your basic Shakespeare literacy? Where are your logical faculties?

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

    OK, Neil, let’s start with the basics. When I compare mythicism to creationism or to “Shakespeare mythicism” it is an analogy. I am not accusing you of saying that Jesus didn’t write plays or of arguing that Jesus is not the explanation for the present form that life on this planet takes.

    Now that that is clear (I hope), let’s try a more direct approach.

    Do you understand that mythicism is not currently participating in mainstream scholarly discussion, and that it is a fringe phenomenon limited mostly to a few blogs and discussion boards on the internet and the occasional self-published book?

    Do you understand that in every field, from physics to biology to the study of Shakespeare, there are also people outside the academy with fringe views, web sites, and self-published works?

    Do you understand and acknowledge that if a historian happens across your blog they will not be impressed with what they find there, and will not find your approach and your claims representative of what they do as historians?

    Can you show that you understand and acknowledge these points, stated prosaically, since you seem not to be willing or able to grasp them when made by means of analogy?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James James James. Why do you so scarcely ever give me straight answers to any of my questions?

      Please help me understand you.

      Are you seriously saying that a debate about Shakespearean authorship is comparable to discussions about how we determine the historicity of persons? Yes or No?

      Or are you seriously saying (as you wrote to Michael) there is no evidence for Shakespeare apart from his plays?

      Please give me a straight answer. Yes or No. To both questions.

      Finally, what on earth do you mean by “Shakespearean mythicism”? Is that a term you just made up?

      Have you taken your entire knowledge of the history of the authorship question re the Bard from a couple of movie reviews? Did the tone of those reviews appeal to your unhealthy obsession with mythicism and is that what triggered your absolutely bizarre attempt to concoct some notion of “Shakespearean mythicism”?

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

    Can you please answer my questions before we move on? I think that my first paragraph is clear in explaining that I was making an analogy. 

    Your response to my questions, however, is not. Please answer them, and then we can move on to other subjects.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      No James it wasn’t. I have asked my questions repeatedly now and all of a sudden you ask me to answer yours first?

      I do not understand your analogy re Shakespearean mythicism because I have no idea what that is. It makes absolutely no sense to me. I never heard of it before till you coined the expression. It sounds like a symptom of something Carrier said about an unhealty obsession.

      These are the questions I have been asking:

      Are you seriously saying that a debate about Shakespearean authorship is comparable to discussions about how we determine the historicity of persons? Yes or No?

      Or are you seriously saying (as you wrote to Michael) there is no evidence for Shakespeare apart from his plays?

      Please give me a straight answer. Yes or No. To both questions.

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

    Your questions are an attempt to distract from the point of the analogy by discussing the analogue itself. I’ve restated the point of the analogy in the form of questions, and so we can set aside Shakespeare (who I never intended to be a precise analogue to Jesus and more than I intended evolution to be) and keep the focus on mythicism where it belongs.

    Do you understand the point of my analogy now that I have restated it prosaically in the form of questions? And if so, what is your answer to those questions?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      No analogy is ever precise in all its details I suspect, but if we are going to have a logical and coherent discussion then if you bring in an analogy it needs at least to be analogous at some level.

      I don’t understand your point of the analogy in the form of questions. So can you explain to me, yes or know, if you believe that the authorship question re Shakespeare’s plays is comparable in ANY way to a question about how we determine the historicity of a person? Is it comparable in ANY way? Yes or no.

      Secondly, do you believe that the question of Shakespeare’s existence depends entirely upon the evidence of his plays as you indicated to Michael? Yes or no.

      Or if you do not wish to answer these questions and want to move on then will you withdraw your “Shakespeare mythicism” fabrication as a bad mistake?

      Can we return to a genuinely comparable person, Socrates?

      • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

        My questions are based on arguments you have made so you have considered them germane to the question. Yet when I challenge them you suddenly tell me I am trying to distract from the question?

        Where is the consistency in this?

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

    I will happily withdraw “Shakespeare mythicism” – by which I mean any of the numerous variations on the view that the true author of the plays attributed to him was someone else – as perhaps a poor analogy to Jesus mythicism, if you will then answer the questions I asked.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Do you understand that mythicism is not currently participating in mainstream scholarly discussion, and that it is a fringe phenomenon limited mostly to a few blogs and discussion boards on the internet and the occasional self-published book?

      I understand that mythicism is not currently participating openly and publicly in the mainstream scholarly discussion, and that it has a long history since the Enlightenment including some prominent intellectuals and the mainstream hostility to it has been on the whole shallow and poorly argued, defensive and acrimonious. Today the internet has enabled a widespread publication of the concept of mythicism at various levels of scholarly value, as is the case with most ideas spread through the internet. This democratization of information is seen by SOME biblical scholars as a threat to mainstream scholarship that has till now been able to exercise control over ideas filtered to the public from their professional publications unavailable to most readers — not just with respect to mythicism but to other biblical studies concepts as well.

      Do you understand that in every field, from physics to biology to the study of Shakespeare, there are also people outside the academy with fringe views, web sites, and self-published works?

      Yes. So? There are ALSO a lot of people outside the academy with strong personal interests in various topics who also offer stimulating and informed ideas.

      Do you understand and acknowledge that if a historian happens across your blog they will not be impressed with what they find there, and will not find your approach and your claims representative of what they do as historians?

      Well, no. I say that because a number of professional scholars have contacted me and expressed the very opposite. I have sometimes discussed their own books on my blog — that’s when they sometimes contact me. Some are nonhistorians. Some are historians. Most are not even mythicists but some have expressed sympathy or interest in the mythicist concept.

      Further, what I have said about historical methods is nothing bizarre or unusual at all. It  is copied straight from what historians themselves have written, and from some biblical scholars, too.

      Sure there will be some who disagree and I have had debates on my blog and in some cases I have realized in the past I may have overstated some aspects but I have over time worked more closely to a more balanced explanation as a result of those discussions.

      I also concede — and have written about this too — that some who write history don’t even think about some of these things because they are so embedded in the culture and taken for granted. Sometimes bringing them out into the open forces a re-think and can be a bit confronting at first.

      I only arrived at my own point of view after a lot of thinking: How DO we know about the past? And that led me to think over all the history I had studied, the various schools of thought, and to compare this with the nonsense ideas that are out there. Few others have really stopped to think these things through systematically.

      Can you show that you understand and acknowledge these points, stated prosaically, since you seem not to be willing or able to grasp them when made by means of analogy?

      So now I have told you what I understand, do you feel I satisfactorily understand my place as some sort of “fringe looney” in your view? Is that what you want? Is that your argument? Does this excuse you now from having to address directly and unequivocally any of my responses to your arguments or assertions?

      But your withdrawal of Shakespeare mythicism was qualified and to the extent that it was qualified I will refer to it in a future post of mine. But of course I do hope you will clarify your position even less ambiguously with respect to the questions I have asked you about it before then.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Neil, I don’t think your ignorance of American pop-culture = wisdom, though I don’t hold it against anyone who didn’t stumble across this, modern media trades in a vast amount of information these days. I do think you should engage in more relaxing activities than cooking up hair brained theories for nit wits on the internet. It is an intellectually unworthy use of time that could be better spent watching Desperate Housewives. On another note, I find pointing out spelling errors in informal conversations a low-brow debate tactic. I don’t bring up yours because I think doing so is an admission of how little weight one’s own argument has. Look up spelling nazi. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=spelling%20nazi
    James, I noticed the discrepancy that Neil has been parading around (well now you don’t need to send him a Christmas gift!) but didn’t think much of it. While Neil thinks this should be taught to everyone in collage (did they spend a lot of time on this? I have wondered about the quality of Neil’s education, but I assume the fault lies with Neil, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink), I think it’s silly and need not be discussed. I learned of ti(sic) from my brief time in theater. If you were unfamiliar with the topic, you are probably in good company. I myself have not thoroughly researched, as again, it seems on the surface to be silly, and the majority of experts agree, so it doesn’t strike me as a fruitful use of time to check their work.
     
    Regarding Shakespeare, I used Shakespeare mythicism. Others use Anti-Stratfordians. It is relevant even though both cases do not involve whether such and such person is a myth. It is the methods that count, and the same historical methods can be used to investigate different types of historical questions. The relevant bits of the article are below:
    “I’ve called the theory Anonymous shills for—that Shakespeare’s plays were actually written by the Earl of Oxford—“Shakespearean creationism,” but that’s not fair to the creationists. I said that before the rise of birtherism, which it’s far closer to, since it’s also about supposedly falsified origins. And some have gone further.
     
    Harvard Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt once compared Oxfordianism to Holocaust denial. This is probably taking it—the Oxfordian theory, not the Holocaust—too seriously. But here’s a portion of Greenblatt’s lament he published in a letter to the Times several years ago:
     
    The idea that William Shakespeare’s authorship of his plays and poems is a matter of conjecture and the idea that the “authorship controversy” be taught in the classroom are the exact equivalent of current arguments that “intelligent design” be taught alongside evolution. In both cases an overwhelming scholarly consensus, based on a serious assessment of hard evidence, is challenged by passionately held fantasies whose adherents demand equal time. The demand seems harmless enough until one reflects on its implications. Should claims that the Holocaust did not occur also be made part of the standard curriculum?
     
    And if Oxfordianism is not exactly the literary equivalent of Holocaust denial, it’s not entirely harmless, either. Inevitably, a few credulous people will end up denying themselves the pleasures and rewards of reading and rereading Shakespeare’s works for the thrilling iambic pentameter and instead opt to read for “clues” pointing to the mind-rotting conspiracy theory.”(Mike sez: Of course some would be Jesus historians read far too much into the text to glean facts about Jesus, but far more damage is done to understanding the text by people looking for clues to Christ myth. Saying Mark is an allegory is to completely miss what Mark is as literature just as much as saying the Bible is code)
    http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/the_spectator/2011/10/anonymous_a_witless_movie_from_the_stupid_shakespearean_birther_.single.html
    I thought it interesting because what some experts say of Anti-Stratfordians is what some experts say of Jesus Mythers. I doubt that Anti-Stratfordians feel they are in the same league as Holocaust deniers and Jesus mythers just as Jesus mythers don’t think they are in the same league as birthers and Anti-Stratfordians. And from the lesser source:
    “The rise of historical criticism, which challenged the authorial unity of Homer’s epics and the historicity of the Bible, also fuelled emerging puzzlement over Shakespeare’s authorship, which in one critic’s view was “an accident waiting to happen”.[129] David Strauss’s investigation of the biography of Jesus, which shocked the public with its scepticism of the historical accuracy of the Gospels, influenced the secular debate about Shakespeare.[130] In 1848, Samuel Mosheim Schmucker endeavoured to rebut Strauss’s doubts about the historicity of Christ by applying the same techniques satirically to the records of Shakespeare’s life in his Historic Doubts Respecting Shakespeare, Illustrating Infidel Objections Against the Bible. Schmucker, who never doubted that Shakespeare was Shakespeare, unwittingly anticipated and rehearsed many of the later arguments for alternative authorship candidates.[131]”
    (129)Dobson, Michael (2001). “Authorship controversy”. In Dobson, Michael; Wells, Stanley. Oxford Companion to Shakespeare. Oxford Companions to Literature. Oxford University Press. P 31. . ISBN 978-0-19-811735-3.
    (130)Shapiro, James (2010). Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?. UK edition: Faber and Faber p. 83-9. ISBN 978-0-571-23576-6 (US edition: Simon & Schuster ISBN 978-1-4165-4162-2). http://books.google.com/books?id=W8KtHtT3jNYC. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
    (131)Gross, John (March 2010). “Denying Shakespeare” (subscription required). Commentary (Commentary) 129 (3): p. 40 . ISSN 0010-2601. http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/denying-shakespeare/. Retrieved 2 March 2011
     
    I bring this up to show the link between Biblical criticism and Anti-Stratfordians. Of course David Strauss’s work is not controversial 150 years later, but that does not mean that Anti-Stratfordians are correct, and debunking them and Jesus mythers is not an attack on historical criticism of the Bible or Homer’s epics. This should be a cautionary statement about assuming that the historical criticism will eventually lead to all supposed truths being myths.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Michael Wilson. Do tell me. Are YOU the source for Dr James McGrath’s discovery that there is something out there that can be described as “Shakespeare mythicism”? yes or no?

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

    Thank you. I appreciate your responses.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      So what was the point of that little exercise? Did you really expect me to say anything different?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    Observer said: “Fundamentalism is a modern phenomena having it’s origins in the 1920s. You are trying to use a very much modern movement in Christianity in to lump all Christians.”

    Just on this point, fundamentalist has broad and narrow meanings.  Yes the term has a specific genesis in the movement of Biblical inerrancy, but it also has a broader meaning, of people who take things on faith that are unsupported by evidence.

    Against this broader meaning, anyone who believes in the historical Jesus is a fundamentalist.  The only “evidence” for this belief is the authority of tradition.  Argument from authority is entirely fallacious. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    Michael Wilson wrote “invention of the historical Jesus …9/11…capitalism….Zionism. Conspiricy types… ”
    Michael, are you seriously asserting that Christianity involved no conspiracy? That would be like saying the Bolsheviks did not conspire to bring about revolution in Russia. 

    The church systematically destroyed documents and temples that provided evidence of its origins and of alternative ways of understanding.  Have you not heard of the imperial edicts to this effect?  See for example http://www.mountainman.com.au/essenes/article_060.htm

    By placing the Gospels in front of the Epistles in the New Testament, the church fraudulently pretended that Paul was aware of the fictional Gospel accounts of a historical Jesus.  If you were capable of taking off your rosary colored glasses to read the work of Earl Doherty, you would see he provides a compelling explanation for the early evolution of the Christ myth, in which a historical Jesus founder plays no part.

    Pointing out that some claims of conspiracy are false (eg that NASA faked the moon landing) is the purest straw man regarding discussion on Christian origins, and an entirely unethical form of debate. There is no evidence for a historical Jesus, and all your bluster and slur cannot change the facts.  Or maybe you believe in Tinkerbell too – just wish hard enough…

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

    Neil, I was simply trying to get you to grasp the force of the analogies I had made by foregoing the analogies. Whether that will avoid similar misunderstandings in the future remains to be seen.

    Robert Tulip, how did the conspiracy work in the time before Christianity had imperial power behind it, in your opinion?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      So, Dr McGrath. First you appear to indicate you are withdrawing your Shakespeare analogy in order to strike a bargain for me to answer your questions.

      But after I answer them you turn around and tell me you analogy was a “force” that nonetheless underlies them?

      I would seriously advise you to withdraw your comment, Dr McGrath.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      So, Dr McGrath. Am I correct in understanding the whole point of your set of questions was to elicit responses from me that, in your eyes, exposed me to an admission of some sort of loony or crackpot or humiliating position?

      Do respond without your usual equivocation. Is that correct?

      Now that you have done this, and insisted that your bizarre and ignorant attempt to bracket me with some sort of “Shakespeare mythicism” is in some sense valid (i.e. “has force”) — will you now respond to MY questions and rebuttals of your arguments?

      Or will you respond again by simply saying that when you make an argument or an analogy it is relevant, but that when I rebut that argument or analogy I am simply trying to avoid the central issue?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      So, Dr McGrath. Am I correct in understanding the whole point of your set of questions was to elicit responses from me that, in your eyes, exposed me to an admission of some sort of loony or crackpot or humiliating position?

      Do respond without your usual equivocation. Is that correct?

      Now that you have done this, and insisted that your bizarre and ignorant attempt to bracket me with some sort of “Shakespeare mythicism” is in some sense valid (i.e. “has force”) — will you now respond to MY questions and rebuttals of your arguments?

      Or will you respond again by simply saying that when you make an argument or an analogy it is relevant, but that when I rebut that argument or analogy I am simply trying to avoid the central issue?

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    So, Dr McGrath. Am I correct in understanding the whole point of your set of questions was to elicit responses from me that, in your eyes, exposed me to an admission of some sort of loony or crackpot or humiliating position?

    Do respond without your usual equivocation. Is that correct?

    Now that you have done this, and insisted that your bizarre and ignorant attempt to bracket me with some sort of “Shakespeare mythicism” is in some sense valid (i.e. “has force”) — will you now respond to MY questions and rebuttals of your arguments? (e.g. at http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/2011/10/14/doherty-mythicism/#comment-353369644 )

    Or will you respond again by simply saying that when you make an argument or an analogy it is relevant, but that when I rebut that argument or analogy I am not being relevant but trying to avoid the central issue?

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

    I wanted to know whether you truly understand what mythicism looks like to an outsider, and why.

    You responded by suggesting that anonymous scholars spoke highly about your blogging in the past. But you also said that most of your blog posts are not “about mythicism.” And so it seems that either the latter is not quite true, or the former is not quite relevant.

    • Guest

      I wanted to know whether you truly understand what mythicism looks like to an outsider, and why.

      So tell me, what do you think I should do? Worry about my image among certain people so that I change my mind? Is that what guides you in your intellectual pursuits? Image? Respectability in front of those you wish to acknowledge as your peers? Is that what it’s all about for you?

      You responded by suggesting that anonymous scholars spoke highly about
      your blogging in the past. But you also said that most of your blog
      posts are not “about mythicism.” And so it seems that either the latter
      is not quite true, or the former is not quite relevant.

      What don’t you understand? I was addressing my posts about historical method. Historical method is not about mythicism per se. What is your problem? Where is my untruthfulness or irrelevance here?

      • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

        I wanted to know whether you truly understand what mythicism looks like to an outsider, and why.

        So tell me, what do you think I should do? Worry about my image among certain people so that I change my mind? Is that what guides you in your intellectual pursuits? Image? Respectability in front of those you wish to acknowledge as your peers? Is that what it’s all about for you?

        You responded by suggesting that anonymous scholars spoke highly about your blogging in the past. But you also said that most of your blog posts are not “about mythicism.” And so it seems that either the latter is not quite true, or the former is not quite relevant.

        What don’t you understand? I was addressing my posts about historical method. Historical method is not about mythicism per se. What is your problem? Where is my untruthfulness or irrelevance here?

        But if you ask, then yes, some scholars (even biblical ones) have indeed told me they are sympathetic to mythicism but of course it is not in their career interests to advertise that fact. This should not surprise you since there are even a number of biblical scholars who have indeed expressed public sympathy with the notion at least.

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

    I wanted to know whether you truly understand what mythicism looks like to an outsider, and why.

    You responded by suggesting that anonymous scholars spoke highly about your blogging in the past. But you also said that most of your blog posts are not “about mythicism.” And so it seems that either the latter is not quite true, or the former is not quite relevant.

    • Guest

      I wanted to know whether you truly understand what mythicism looks like to an outsider, and why.

      So tell me, what do you think I should do? Worry about my image among certain people so that I change my mind? Is that what guides you in your intellectual pursuits? Image? Respectability in front of those you wish to acknowledge as your peers? Is that what it’s all about for you?

      You responded by suggesting that anonymous scholars spoke highly about
      your blogging in the past. But you also said that most of your blog
      posts are not “about mythicism.” And so it seems that either the latter
      is not quite true, or the former is not quite relevant.

      What don’t you understand? I was addressing my posts about historical method. Historical method is not about mythicism per se. What is your problem? Where is my untruthfulness or irrelevance here?

      • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

        I wanted to know whether you truly understand what mythicism looks like to an outsider, and why.

        So tell me, what do you think I should do? Worry about my image among certain people so that I change my mind? Is that what guides you in your intellectual pursuits? Image? Respectability in front of those you wish to acknowledge as your peers? Is that what it’s all about for you?

        You responded by suggesting that anonymous scholars spoke highly about your blogging in the past. But you also said that most of your blog posts are not “about mythicism.” And so it seems that either the latter is not quite true, or the former is not quite relevant.

        What don’t you understand? I was addressing my posts about historical method. Historical method is not about mythicism per se. What is your problem? Where is my untruthfulness or irrelevance here?

        But if you ask, then yes, some scholars (even biblical ones) have indeed told me they are sympathetic to mythicism but of course it is not in their career interests to advertise that fact. This should not surprise you since there are even a number of biblical scholars who have indeed expressed public sympathy with the notion at least.

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    So will you now respond to my response to your argument:

    There is no more circularity (and no less) in investigating a historical Jesus than a historical Socrates or John the Baptist or Shakespeare.

    I contend that this is false. There is no circularity in the
    investigation of the historicity of Socrates or Shakespeare. We have multiple independent witnesses to both of these. Yet when it comes to Jesus, we have no independent witnesses:

    In reality, however, these writers are faced with the enormous problem that strictly speaking absolutely nothing can be proved by evidence from the past, but can only be shown to be more or less probable. Moreover, in the case of Jesus, the theoretical reservations are even greater because all the reports about him go back to the one source of tradition, early Christianity itself, and there are no data available in Jewish or Gentile secular history which could be used as controls. (Schweitzer)

    And modern scholars such as Stevan Davies and Dale C. Allison Jr acknowledge the circularity at the heart of historical Jesus studies and I have cited their words at various places including here: http://vridar.wordpress.com/20

    In the case of Socrates we have, on the contrary, enough evidence to avoid circularity. We have truly independent witnesses to Socrates — both the writings of his student, Plato, and the testimony of one who made fun of him in the public theatre, Aristophanes. As Schweitzer lamented in the above passage, we lack any such independent witnesses for Jesus.

    James said that we have no more circularity in the case of Socrates than we do for Jesus.

    I demonstrate that his assertion is false.

    Now why can James McGrath not respond to this argument? Why must he respond with insult?

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    So will you now respond to my response to your argument:

    There is no more circularity (and no less) in investigating a historical Jesus than a historical Socrates or John the Baptist or Shakespeare.

    I contend that this is false. There is no circularity in the
    investigation of the historicity of Socrates or Shakespeare. We have multiple independent witnesses to both of these. Yet when it comes to Jesus, we have no independent witnesses:

    In reality, however, these writers are faced with the enormous problem that strictly speaking absolutely nothing can be proved by evidence from the past, but can only be shown to be more or less probable. Moreover, in the case of Jesus, the theoretical reservations are even greater because all the reports about him go back to the one source of tradition, early Christianity itself, and there are no data available in Jewish or Gentile secular history which could be used as controls. (Schweitzer)

    And modern scholars such as Stevan Davies and Dale C. Allison Jr acknowledge the circularity at the heart of historical Jesus studies and I have cited their words at various places including here: http://vridar.wordpress.com/20

    In the case of Socrates we have, on the contrary, enough evidence to avoid circularity. We have truly independent witnesses to Socrates — both the writings of his student, Plato, and the testimony of one who made fun of him in the public theatre, Aristophanes. As Schweitzer lamented in the above passage, we lack any such independent witnesses for Jesus.

    James said that we have no more circularity in the case of Socrates than we do for Jesus.

    I demonstrate that his assertion is false.

    Now why can James McGrath not respond to this argument? Why must he respond with insult?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    James McGrath wrote: “Robert Tulip, how did the conspiracy work in the time before Christianity had imperial power behind it, in your opinion?”

    James, my opinion is that the production of the Gospels was workshopped within faith communities.  The documents produced were designed to synthesise the swirling currents of messianic belief within the new context of the Roman Empire into a single story that could unite believers under a common purpose.  Factors included the need to syncretise different traditions, especially Judaism, Greek, Syrian and Egyptian, the desire for an historical story that could put deeper spiritual wisdom into a popularly accessible parable form, and the desire for a ‘one for all’ redeemer who could represent Jewish trauma following the destruction of Jerusalem, as a unifying symbol of all the prophetic martyrs.

    With all these motives, we can readily use Voltaire’s line about God to say that if Jesus did not exist, it would have been necessary to invent Him. 

    The Gospel of Mark seems to me a decisive moment, where the spiritual tradition seen in Paul was set into an historical framework, introducing the settings in Galilee and Jerusalem.  Matthew and Luke then added the detail of Bethlehem, with flourishes from John such as the wedding at Cana and the raising of Lazarus at Bethany.  The strong likelihood that none of these details are actually historical means that the writers had to consult within their community to develop a believable story, giving new life to archetypal themes from older myth and legend and prophecy. 
    Robert

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    So Neil you would like to be granted some sort of acknowledgment of refuting James assertion on the regarding circularity of Socrates and Jesus based on their being a friendly contemporary source (do you not find Xenophon relevant? It would add another pro Socrates source) and one hostile one for Socrates. We can then say at least Socrates had one hostile source that acknowledges his existence and Jesus none, if we are willing to go against the majority of scholars who argue that Josephus attest to the existence of Jesus. This is without considering the arguments of those who have held Socrates did not exist, who no doubt feel their evidence on their issue is as good as the evidence you claim for yours. If that is all so, then yes, Socrates is better attested than Jesus.
     
    Out of curiosity, do you think this sort of attestation constitutes proof of Socrates existence? If it were not so attested, say we only had sources from supporters of Socrates, would you think that we should then assume Socrates is a fiction and Plato’s suggestions otherwise to be fiction as well?  
     
    Now beyond the issue of basic existence, would you say that Plato and Xenophon’s accounts of Socrates are only relevant to the extent that they can be supported by sources neutral or hostile to Socrates in reconstructing what is likely the person of Socrates?  Further, should we assume information Plato gives regarding Socrates should be considered false unless attested by a neutral or hostile source?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Classic. You and James are certainly matching intellects. It’s not about hostile or friendly sources at all, duh. It’s about independent sources. You haven’t followed a thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    Michael Wilson wrote: “majority of scholars who argue that Josephus attest to the existence of Jesus”

    Michael, tell me, how do you explain that, according to Earl Doherty, many Christian authors in the second and third centuries, and some even later, refer to the works of Josephus, but none refer to his supposed mention of Christ, although that is something you would expect them to leap on with alacrity if they saw it?  Why did texts without the notorious forged addition circulated for hundreds of years? Do you see a similarity to the majority of scholars who once argued the sun went around the earth?  Are these so-called majority engaged in confirmation bias, seeing only what they want to see?

    • Mikew1584

      More capable hands than I have discussed Josephus, it is popular on the internet, shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours to find all sorts of opinions on that.

       “Do you see a similarity to the majority of scholars who once argued the
      sun went around the earth?  Are these so-called majority engaged in

      confirmation bias, seeing only what they want to see?”

      They aren’t the “so called”, they are the majority. Yes their is a similarity, again, they are the majority of scholars, do you disagree with the majority of scholars who say the Earth moves around the sun? It seems rational to me, but irrational people never see there own bias. Still, can you rationally explain why they have this bias? if not, perhaps it is not there, and any how, it is worth asking from time to time “could most of the people be right?” I mean you don’t believe all minority opinion are true, do you?

      • Mikew1584

        If you miss it, “it seems rational to me is in relation to the question on confirmation bias, not the earth moving about the sun.

  • Mikew1584

    Neil, could you explain what you think constitutes an
    independent source? If it is not about “sources neutral or hostile”
    what makes the source independent? You seem to imply here

     “We have the
    writings of Aristophanes, another apparent contemporary. Now far from writing
    as an admiring follower of Socrates, Aristophanes wrote plays in which he
    lampooned Socrates. Socrates appears in his works as a wastrel, dirty, leading
    people astray though deceitful, self-serving cleverness. But even if
    Aristophanes had been kinder to his portrayal of Socrates, he would still have
    been writing as one relatively independent of those claiming to be personal
    followers.”,http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/was-socrates-a-man-or-a-myth-applying-historical-jesus-criteria-to-socrates/#more-20567

     that independent
    sources are in fact hostile or at least disinterested. Perhaps you have
    mis-read my post, you seem to leave out the neutral part in your response, and
    I don’t know if that was intentional or not?

    In fact I would say relatively disinterested would be best,
    as a hostile witness is no more reliable than a friendly one.  Thus the value of Aristophanes isn’t so much
    that he is independent, in fact he has an axe to grind with Socrates, and thus
    we shouldn’t rely too much on his testimony. The value is in the multiple attestation,
    that both he and Plato and Xenophon agree Socrates exist, and dissimilarity (
    or embarrassment), since it would be odd for Aristophanes to indulge in a
    fantasy of the existence of a philosopher that he dislikes (though not
    impossible). Further, I would say that despite the fact that none of these
    early witnesses are truly independent, they are not irrelevant in discussing
    Socrates, despite being unreliable. In fact I think someone wanting to
    investigate Socrates would be irresponsible to not consult these works.

    On a related point, and this back to Doherty’s work, if the
    early Christian material cannot be used as evidence regarding a “historic”
    Jesus, how are they useful for as sources for a mythic Jesus? He seems to argue
    that the Christian text themselves, Paul, the epistles, and the “allegorical”
    Mark are speaking of a mythic Christ and not a historical one and he uses them
    as evidence for that theory, but while you support this you seem to say that if
    the text had said, “Jesus was defiantly a real person in history and this is definitely
    not an allegory”, that we must dismiss this as too unreliable because we have
    no independent control. If the text can’t be used to support a historic Jesus,
    they also cannot support a mythic one.

     

    Finally, I have a question regarding your use of the term
    circularity. The definitions I see regard it as using the question to be proven
    as the premise, but above you write

    “In the case of Socrates we have, on the contrary, enough
    evidence to avoid circularity. We have truly independent witnesses to Socrates
    – both the writings of his student, Plato, and the testimony of one who made
    fun of him in the public theatre, Aristophanes.”

    How is deriving information from partisan sources circular
    logic?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alex-Tulip/561446523 Alex Tulip

    Hi Mikew, I notice you ignore my question of why the Josephus mention of Jesus was apparently invisible to church readers for centuries, and instead indulge in wild insinuations, typical of the low critical standards of believers. 

    The Josephus mention of Jesus is an obvious interpolation.  Christians are desperate to hang on to this fraud as their only straw to indicate there was any independent notice of their Lord and Savior, even though ‘gospel truth’ says he was supposedly “famed far and wide”.  This thread, with its mockery of a fine scholar, is aimed at defending obsolete supernatural errors.  I hope you don’t mind me pointing out the error of your ways in the hope you may repent.  For a start, I don’t believe there is a majority in support of the claim that the Josephus Jesus fraud was genuine.  Did you mean a majority at one seminary in Texas?  In any case, it is rather like the situation with Einstein, who is supposed to have said in response to the mob of 100 critical scientists that if he were wrong one  would have been enough.

    Robert Tulip

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

      I didn’t ignore you Robert, I simply directed you to look into the issue else where as it is easy to do I and I don’t want to spend the time having a debate on Jocephus, I’m a busy man. If you don’t agree with the scholarly opinions for it, then I doubt my restating them will convince you. if time permits I’ll send you some links to save your time.

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

    Robert/Alex, the early Christians don’t really fit your description of synthesizing messianic beliefs. The belief that the anointed son of David would be crucified by the enemies of God’s people, and/or was raised from the dead prior to the resurrection of all humankind, are not there to be synthesized in earlier Jewish sources.

    What is your evidence that any of the non-Jews you mentioned expected an anointed one, or had the practice of anointing that gives Christ and Christianity their designations?

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

    Neil, if you think that concern for what scholars say, or in the case of someone working in academia what other scholars say, is a matter of image, then you have badly misunderstood what the academy is like and how it works, at least in places like the US and Western Europe and Australia and New Zealand.

    I am expected to add to the conversation in my field. If I were to simply say what everyone else says, I would be showing myself to have stagnated with respect to research.

    I could be a mythicist at Butler. No one would have any objection, assuming I were to continue publishing in appropriate venues. The academy thrives on new ideas, and if you have been in touch with people who claim to be closet mythicists because they cannot do so openly, they are either at religiously-affiliated universities or were not being honest, but either way a change of job could eliminate that hindrance.

    But the question of whether they could continue to do research and have it published, that is a different matter. To get published you don’t have to show you are right, but merely show that you have an idea that is worth serious consideration. If any mythicist were to do that, they could get published in academic publications. If they do not publish there, it is either due to a lack of trying or a failure to meet the rigors of academic standards.

    The onus is on the academic to make the case that what they say is worthy of being taken seriously. It would simply expose my inadequacies were I to try to pretend that it is everyone else’s fault but my own, their lack of imagination or open-mindedness.

    It is not about image. If the academic community doesn’t find your claims even worth disagreeing with in scholarly venues, that indicates as clearly as anything could that they do not find your ideas to have merit. If they did, they would at least consider them worth disagreeing with in academic publications of their own, and not on blogs or other forums where one would address popular misunderstandings related to one’s academic field.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      So James, when are you going to stop addressing your judgments upon me and intent to distort what I say and defend your own image etc etc etc? Had you spoken to me “human to human” as you wished from me you would not have needed to have gone into your red herring comment. But that’s what you wanted to address wasn’t it, your red herring.

      When are you going to get on to answering my arguments?

      I address your arguments and you say I am trying to get off the issue. All you are interested in doing, evidently, is to seek to attack the concept of mythicism by association and to denigrate me personally, and anyone else who says a word half way sympathetic to mythicism or in its favour.

      You are persistenly — clearly deliberately — refusing to address any of my questions and have led me into a trap where you can focus on the person.

      You clearly have no interest in engaging with the arguments I have presented.

  • observer

    A few comments as I am not busy today.

    Robert you should not misrepresent people’s arguments. You did not quote  my refutation of your view on Amazon being a meaningful measure of the merit of someones arguments.  If you had quoted my full argument you will have noted where I showed cases of negative reviews of blatant nonsense were not rated as useful.

    I will certainly say now that I have no doubt whatsoever that the average American is clueless about history period. I am a history teacher so yes I know just how little the average person leaves the public system knowing. I am also in the National Guard and from conversations with my fellow soldiers I know just how weak their skills in history are. So yes the fact that anyone supports Earl’s arguments shows to me they are historically illiterate. The blunt fact is that Earl has no support whatsoever in academia, unless you count Robert Price, but that is a maybe at best. Earl also refuses to peer review which means he knows his arguments are worthless.

    Earl does not have a doctorate, he does not peer review nor does he teach at any university so he is certainly not a scholar.

    Your definition of fundamentalist is interesting but when one discusses fundamentalism one should use the definition used by practically everyone else. That is a person with a rigid narrow view of the world that holds onto dogmatic stances. No one except for the mythers on this board remotely meet that criteria.

    You are utterly mistaken on Josephus

    I am going to borrow a bit from a response Tim O’Neill gave to someone asking about Josephus and arguing the entire passage is fake.

    “Then you need to read the surveys of the literature, because that’s precisely what they show. Louis H. Feldman’s Josephus and Modern Scholarship (1984) surveys scholarship on the question from 1937 to 1980 and finds of 52 scholars on the subject, 39 considered the TF to be partially authentic. 

    Peter Kirby has done a survey of the literature since and found that this trend has increased in recent years. He concludes “In my own reading of thirteen books since 1980 that touch upon the passage, ten out of thirteen argue the Testimonium to be partly genuine, while the other three maintain it to be entirely spurious. Coincidentally, the same three books also argue that Jesus did not exist.” That speaks volumes.”

    • Anonymous

      Observer,

      If 39 out of 52 scholars consider the TF to be partially authentic, that would mean that 25% of scholars believe it to be entirely spurious.  That seems substantial.  Moreover, the part that may be authentic could still be reliant upon Christian tradition, couldn’t it?  That would mean that it isn’t really independent.  

      It is hard for me to see Josephus as being terribly strong confirmation of historicity. 

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

    From where I stand, it seems as though you are the one who provides nothing by way of a satisfactory response (merely writing something after someone else has raised an issue is not enough in and of itself to make that a satisfactory response). I have no interest in focusing on you as a person. It is the ideas that matter, and I suspect that it is because I have cogent criticisms of mythicist claims that you try to pretend that my criticism are personal. But I don’t think that anyone who does not already buy into the mythicist conspiracy theory (which  claims that mythicism is an ingenious bit of scholarship rejected by closed-minded academics) would fail to see what is really going on.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      So will you now address my response to your statement:

      There
      is no more circularity (and no less) in investigating a historical
      Jesus than a historical Socrates or John the Baptist or Shakespeare.

      I contend that this is false.

      There is no circularity in the investigation of the historicity of Socrates or Shakespeare. We have multiple independent witnesses to both of these. Yet when it comes to Jesus, we have no independent witnesses:

      In reality, however, these writers are faced with the enormous problem that strictly speaking absolutely nothing can be proved by evidence from the past, but can only be shown to be more or less probable. Moreover, in the case of Jesus, the theoretical reservations are even greater because all the reports about him go back to the one source of tradition, early Christianity itself, and there are no data available in Jewish or Gentile secular history which could be used as controls. (Schweitzer)

      And modern scholars such as Stevan Davies and Dale C. Allison Jr acknowledge the circularity at the heart of historical Jesus studies and I have cited their words at various places including here: http://vridar.wordpress.com/20

      In the case of Socrates we have, on the contrary, enough evidence to avoid circularity. We have truly independent witnesses to Socrates — both the writings of his student, Plato, and the testimony of one who made fun of him in the public theatre, Aristophanes. As Schweitzer lamented in the above passage, we lack any such independent witnesses for Jesus. James said that we have no more circularity in the case of Socrates than we do for Jesus. I demonstrate that his assertion is false.

      Now why can you not respond to this argument?

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

    It is not an argument. It is a claim. One could say the same thing about Paul, the Gospels, and Josephus, but of course, that raises issues of authenticity and date. If one raises the typical mythicist objections about the date of our earliest manuscripts, or the possibility that the figure in the text is not a historical one, then what happens in the case of Socrates?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      No, what is YOUR response to the logical fact that the evidence for the historicity of Socrates is not circular by virtue of the control of independent testimonies? Do YOU accept this or not. No need for your “if one raises typical mythicist objections”. This is not a mythicist argument. It is a historical methodological argument.

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

    No, what is YOUR response to the logical fact that the evidence for the historicity of Jesus is not circular by virtue of the control of independent testimonies? Do YOU accept this or not. This is not a historicist argument. It is a historical methodological argument. 

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      All the evidence for Jesus comes from one source, the one narrative tradition, that that is found in Christianity itself. It is circular and this is conceded by your scholarly peers going back as far as 1905. Historical Jesus studies are circular and this is fully acknowledged by your peers. The only way to break the circularity is to have an external control. This does not exist in the case of Jesus though it does exist in the case of Socrates.

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

    That is only true if one (a) views the mentions in Josephus as both interpolations without any authentic Josephan version underlying them, and (b) accepts the dubious claims of people like Doherty about the meaning of Paul’s letters. I do neither, nor do most scholars and historians.

    But if one were inclined to play fast and loose with words and evidence as Doherty does, then neutralizing some of the alleged evidence for Socrates would be fairly easy. You should try it sometime.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Good grief. Can you get over your obsession with mythicism and Doherty for a while and address the historical methodological and logical argument.

      It has nothing to do with Doherty — for heaven’s sake! It matters not one whit how one interprets Paul. Althought in fact, the argument is much stronger if Paul is understood as speaking of an ultimately human Jesus. Contra Doherty. Good grief. You are exposing your obsession as surely as if you are doing a Rorschach test, even misreading evidence that supports your side for another hint of mythicism.

      And no, your Josephus references are no more controls than is the evidence of Pliny or Tacitus. A witness that appears at the end of the first century — 20 years after the first gospel — is not controlling evidence. Even Garraghan the historian you alerted us all to when you advised everyone to read the sources behind the Historical Method article on Wikipedia — even he demonstrates with examples why a mere 20 years after the event is not reliable testimony at all in the absence of other linking evidence. At that date there are so many variables that can enter it cannot be considered bedrock controlling evidence in its own right. Josephus is for so many reasons open to so many variables that rob it of any use as a firm “control”. That is not a mythicist argument.

      You know that the Jesus story comes from the one tradition — that of woshipers of Jesus who have a vested interest in propagating the faith. This is wny your own peers — at least some with sufficient humility — accept the circularity of the HJ enterprise.

      You don’t have to be a mythicist to accept the circularity of the method. You really are allowed to still be a historicist and even a believer and talk to Jesus daily if you like. We are not talking about belief or mythicism — simply the circularity of method. A circularity that does not exist in a comparable figure like Socrates.

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

    Good grief, Neil, can you get over your obsession with mythicism and discuss the relevant methodological considerations? How is it that a historian or two from close to the time are not controls, but a playwright depicting what may be a fictional character is? 

    Can you please treat the sources consistently?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Dr McGrath. I was attempting to be serious but all you can do is retort with some childishly flippant “you too”. Just like Joel Watts. Why not have the humility you admire in Dale C. Allison Jr and admit you have no argument at all, that your claim was wrong and my position is correct. You can still believe in your historical Jesus.

      Your retort that we should think in this context of Socrates being a fictional character in a play is completely circular and ignoring the argument altogether. We have the contemporary control to give us some confidence Socrates was not such a figment of imagination.

      You are just being silly here and not even trying to follow a logical argument.

      The evidence for Socrates comes from people who pupport to have known Socrates first hand and who are clearly independent from each other. Not even you can put Josephus in that category of evidence for Jesus!

      You also know (or should, if you are a historian) that controls must be bedrock and not be matters of interpretation that change with the scholarly winds of time, or that are from any quarter arguable as inauthentic, or a passing on of a tradition from the singular source under discussion itself. It was for such reasons that Mark Goodacre explained he no longer uses these later Jewish and gentile sources as evidence for Jesus in his podcast. Much the same reason that Schweitzer himself conceded they cannot be used as controls.

      20 years is a very long time, and 60 years is much much longer. Remember Garraghan’s examples from the historical reports that circulated about Martin Luther a mere 20 years after his death. History is full of examples of complete fabrications about events arising within such time spans. That is why we speak of primary (meaning contemporary) as opposed to secondary (later) evidence — the two are necessarily treated differently in historiography — at least outside HJ studies.

      The evidence for Jesus as a historical character does not reach the level of evidence we have for Socrates as a historical person.

      Schweitzer was right.

      You only have flippant retorts and gratuitous assertions that I argue this or that way “like a mythicist” and no reasoned argument at all.

      I am consistent in my treatment of the evidence, in my argument, and you can retort with nothing stronger than sarcasm and ridicule.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    James McGrath said: “Robert/Alex, the early Christians don’t really fit your description of synthesizing messianic beliefs. The belief that the anointed son of David would be crucified by the enemies of God’s people, and/or was raised from the dead prior to the resurrection of all humankind, are not there to be synthesized in earlier Jewish sources.  What is your evidence that any of the non-Jews you mentioned expected an anointed one, or had the practice of anointing that gives Christ and Christianity their designations?”

    James, first, my son Alex shares my computer, and I thought the software would give me a chance to log in while posting, but it picked up his facebook login.  The comment from ‘Alex’ was from me. Sorry about that.

    In Egypt, the term for the anoint mummy was ‘KRST’.  This is discussed at length by DM Murdock, citing Gerald Massey, in her book Christ in Egypt The Jesus-Horus Connection.

    As explained at http://www.booktalk.org/post96651.html#p96651 

    “Christ the anointed is none other than the Osiris-karast, and that the karast mummy risen to its feet as Osiris-sahu was the prototypal Christ. Unhappily these demonstrations cannot be made without a wearisome mass of detail…. Dr. Budge, in his book on the mummy, tells his readers that the Egyptian word for mummy is ges, which signifies to wrap up in bandages…. [The word] ges or kes, to embalm the corpse or make the mummy, is a reduced or abraded form of an earlier word, karas (whence krst for the mummy). The original word written in hieroglyphics is —- krst, whence kas, to embalm, to bandage, to knot, to make the mummy or karast (Birch,Dictionary of the Hieroglyphics, pp. 415-416; Champollion, Gram. Egyptienne, 86). The word krs denotes the embalmment of the mummy, and the krst, as the mummy, was made in the process of preparation by purifying, anointing, and embalming. To karas the dead body was to embalm it, to bandage it, to make the mummy. The mummy was the Osirian Corpus Christi, prepared for burial as the laid-out dead, the karast by name. When raised to its feet, it was the risen mummy, or sahu. The place of embalmment was likewise the krs. Thus the process of making the mummy was to karas, the place in which it was laid is the karas, and the product was the krst, whose image is the upright mummy=the risen Christ. Hence, the name of the Christ, Christos in Greek, Chrestus in Latin, for the anointed, was derived…from the Egyptian word krst….”

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

      Robert,

      I know you have probably heard it all before, but could you further explain this connection between KRST and Christ? Because I do not see where the connection is being made.

      It is true that the Israelites lived in Egypt for hundreds of years before the exodus. Is this when they picked up on the word KRST? It doesn’t appear to be the case. Subsequent to leaving Egypt they used the word mashach, which means anointing with oil, and the word mashiach which designates the Messiah or the Anointed one. The word mashach was not a title, it was a ceremony which provided the definition for the word. When a person was anointed with oil, the oil was put on his head and allowed to run down on his beard and onto the collar of his garments. (Ps 133:2) During the times of Biblical history, both the Hebrews and some of the non-Hebrews ceremonially anointed rulers. This constituted the confirmation of their official appointment to office. (Jg 9:8, 15; 1Sa 9:16; 2Sa 19:10)

      This was the usual word employed by the Israelites until around 300 B.C.E. when some Israelites were back in Alexandria Egypt producing the Septuagint. This was more than 30 years after Alexander the Great founded the city, and Alexandria was a center of Hellenism. Would the language of these Hellenized Jews be some Egyptian language or would it be Koine Greek? The answer is easy, the Septuagint was produced in Koine Greek. Therefore, can you show that in the midst of the Koine Greek of the Septuagint, these translators incorporated an Egyptian term that was equivalent to the Hebrew term mashach, which means to anoint with oil? Because the clear connection of the use of christos in the New Testament is the result of its use in the Septuagint, which was the holy Scriptures for both Hellenized Jews and early Christians. And proof of this is established through numerous quotations of the Septuagint in the New Testament documents, including places where the words anoint and christos were used. And there is clear manuscript evidence that a Septuagint predates the first century C.E. So when was this acquisition of the Egyptian term suppose to have taken place? It would have to be before the 3rd century B.C.E.

      Ron Leprohan, Professor of Egyptology at the University of Toronto, pointed out that “KRST is the word for “burial” (“coffin” is written “KRSW”), but there is no evidence whatsoever to link this with the Greek title “Christos” or Hebrew “Mashiah”.

      Again, can it be shown that the Egyptian word KRST, which originally meant “burial” was transformed over time to take on the meaning of mashach or anoint?

      Also, in your quote of Massey, “Christ the anointed is none other than the Osiris-karast”, he disfigures the English language to make his point. Christ means “Anointed one” so the above quote is actually saying “Anointed one the anointed is none other than Osiris-karast.” It’s true that Christ is used as a title sometimes, but it is redundant and meaningless to say “Christ the anointed.”

  • observer

    Robert

    You are aware that Acharya is a complete garbage source right? You are seriously using a women who believes in Atlantis and a primordial race of pygmies to support your views.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    Observer wrote: “Louis H. Feldman’s Josephus and Modern Scholarship (1984) surveys scholarship on the question from 1937 to 1980 and finds of 52 scholars on the subject, 39 considered the TF to be partially authentic. ”

    This discussion of Josephus illustrates how this thread is little more than a baseless attack on Earl Doherty. The early silence regarding the Testimonium Flavianum from Antiquities 18 is deafening, even if we have that fraudulent text to thank for the later survival of the work of Josephus.   In Jesus Neither God Nor Man, Earl states (p538):

    “Origen alone spent a quarter of a million words contending against Celsus.  He draws on all manner of proofs, and witnesses to the arguments he makes, including citing Josephus (11 times in several different works).  … An appeal here to the declaration by Josephus, a respected Jewish historian, that Jesus had been a “wise man” who performed “wonderful works” would have served to place Jesus and his miracles in the favorable light in which Origen is trying to cast them.  We know that Origen had read the Antiquities of the Jews … In Contra Celsum he summarizes … from Antiquities 18″

    Origen is blissfully unaware of the TF because it had not yet been interpolated into the text he had.  The only way to dismiss this evidence of the inexplicable absence of this reference from early commentators is to approach this whole question from the a priori certainty that Jesus was real.

  • observer

    Actually this conversation is between people who are literate in classical history who know what a con artist Earl is. The fact you do not like our views( views supported by historians across the planet) changes nothing what so ever. 

  • observer

    Are you amazingly this clueless about Josephian scholarship. The passage once you remove the Christian gloss would not support Christian claims whatsoever. You have very strong views on a subject you are ignorant of.

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

    Robert,

    Claiming a particular meaning based on similarity of sound to a word in another language is the worst sort of linguistic pseudoscholarship. It is hardly feasible either that everyone who used the Greek word for “greased” had mummies in mind, or that early Christians used that word and expected everyone to realize that they meant something in old Egyptian rather than Greek. It does not appear (from glancing at Crum) that it is even a root that was in current use in Coptic. So what you and Murdoch propose is rather ludicrous – to put it kindly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    Observer: “Acharya is a complete garbage source right? You are seriously using a women who believes in Atlantis and a primordial race of pygmies to support your views.”

    Ha ha, what did I expect but visceral ad hominem bigotry?  The fact is that Murdock/Acharya proves traditional Christianity is baseless, and you don’t like it, so you resort to such vicious slander.  No, she does not believe in Atlantis.  Her work on pygmies is actually sound, but then you may well hold to the racist view that pygmies are not human beings and that their beliefs should be ignored out of hand.In the post above, the sources are Budge and Champollion.  If you want to say that the idea of an anointed savior (a Christ Jesus) sprang forth with Jesus like Athena from the brow of Zeus, then engage with Massey’s reference to sources, not cheap ad homs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    Observer said “people who are literate in classical history who know what a con artist Earl is”

    So tell me Observer, why do you think Origen discussed AJ Chapter 18 in detail but did not mention the TF?

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

    Robert, where does Origen discuss Antiquities 18 in detail? That seems like an exaggeration.

    Origen’s reference to Josephus not being a Christian seems to me to make perfect sense as a reference to an original reference to Jesus that did not have the Christian elements. With no reference at all, it is hard to understand what Origen would have been basing his statement on.

    I notice you have not followed up on the linguistic point I made. If mythicism is to be taken seriously, it must respond to criticism and not merely change the subject when its reliance on bunk pseudoscholarship is pointed out.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

      James McGrath said: “Robert, where does Origen discuss Antiquities 18 in detail? That seems like an exaggeration.  Origen’s reference to Josephus not being a Christian seems to me to make perfect sense as a reference to an original reference to Jesus that did not have the Christian elements. With no reference at all, it is hard to understand what Origen would have been basing his statement on.”
      Origin’s discussion of the detail of AJ18 is at Contra Celsus Chapter 47
      http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/origen161.html

      “I would like to say to Celsus, who represents the Jew as accepting somehow
      John as a Baptist, who baptized Jesus, that the existence of John the Baptist,
      baptizing for the remission of sins, is related by one who lived no great length
      of time after John and Jesus. For in the 18th book of his Antiquities of the
      Jews, Josephus bears witness to John as having been a Baptist, and as promising
      purification to those who underwent the rite. Now this writer, although not
      believing in Jesus as the Christ, in seeking after the cause of the fall of
      Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, whereas he ought to have said that
      the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these calamities befalling the
      people, since they put to death Christ, who was a prophet, says
      nevertheless–being, although against his will, not far from the truth–that
      these disasters happened to the Jews as a punishment for the death of James the
      Just, who was a brother of Jesus (called Christ),–the Jews having put him to
      death, although he was a man most distinguished for his justice. Paul, a genuine
      disciple of Jesus, says that he regarded this James as a brother of the Lord,
      not so much on account of their relationship by blood, or of their being brought
      up together, as because of his virtue and doctrine. If, then, he says that it
      was on account of James that the desolation of Jerusalem was made to overtake
      the Jews, how should it not be more in accordance with reason to say that it
      happened on account (of the death) of Jesus Christ, of whose divinity so many
      Churches are witnesses, composed of those who have been convened from a flood of
      sins, and who have joined themselves to the Creator, and who refer all their
      actions to His good pleasure.”

      Analysing this passage, we see that Origen discusses the 18th chapter of AJ in detail to explain how Josephus “bears witness to John”.  It is hardly credible that Origen, whose apologetic purpose in this book was to critique pagan attacks on Christianity, would have failed to mention, in text laden with devotion, that Josephus also bears witness to Christ, if Josephus had in fact done so within this very same Chapter of AJ.  Instead, Origen emphasises that Josephus says the calamity of the Jews was due to the death of James the Just.  Origen then goes on to explain that Paul calls James a brother of the Lord, but Paul did not regard this James as a physical brother of Jesus Christ, cutting out another major pillar of Christ literalism.  The “evidence” for Jesus evaporates before your eyes.

      DM Murdock told me that she had never mentioned Atlantis in her books.  Apparently she had forgotten about the footnote in Christ Conspiracy.  It hardly speaks to someone for whom Atlantis is central to their views that they would entirely forget about mention of it in one footnote.  As well, this footnote is about Kersey Graves, who Murdock used in early work but who she has since criticised.  I will ask Murdock if “we concur” is what she really meant, or if this is a typo, since she does not follow it up anywhere else in her work.

      My earlier comment about Atlantis, lost in the froth here, was that sea level actually did rise by 120 meters after the last glacial maximum.  There actually are extremely large areas of our planet that were along the coast for thousands of years and are now submerged. This is just scientific knowledge.  We actually do not know how (or perhaps even when) the great pyramids were built.   It is nothing but a vacuous distraction to imply that anyone with an interest in such topics, and who refuses to simply tow the fundamentalist line, is a believer in magical idiocy.  Atlantis was only raised in this discussion because you Christ fundies think that it discredits mythicism.  That is a pathetic straw man argument.

      • GakuseiDon

        @facebook-1266985469:disqus DM Murdock told me that she had never mentioned Atlantis in her books.  Apparently she had forgotten about the footnote in Christ Conspiracy.  It hardly speaks to someone for whom Atlantis is central to their views that they would entirely forget about mention of it in one footnote.

        Robert, your initial comments were these:

        “… you resort to such vicious slander.  No, she does not believe in Atlantis.”

        “And by the way, DM Murdock has never mentioned Atlantis in any of her books.  Observer’s slur is just misogynist bigotry. ”

        I think you should, at least, retract “misogynist bigotry”.

        @facebook-1266985469:disqus I will ask Murdock if “we concur” is what she really meant, or if this is a typo, since she does not follow it up anywhere else in her work.

        That would be great. I’ve probably read more Acharya S than yourself, and I recalling her raising the idea of an island/continent between the “Old World” and the “New World” to explain the cultural and linguistic similarities between the two continents in a few times in articles. For example, on Page 396 of The Christ Conspiracy, she notes the following similarities:

        >>”A more complex etymological similarity can been found in the Mexican name Mexitli or Mesitli, meaning “the Anointed One,” obviously related to the Egyptian Messu and the Hebrew Messiah.”<>”In Maya, “balaam” is a priest, while in Hebrew it is the name of a prophet. There are in fact numerous correlations between the ancient Mexican language and that of the Middle East, including the Sumerian. Indeed, the Mexican culture has close parallels in art, religion and language to Sumer as well.”<>”Moreover, the Mayan creator god was called “Hurakan,” and the Caribbean storm god was “Hurukan,” both of which are nearly identical to the Tibetan wrathful deity, “Heruka,” which in turn is related to Herakles or Hercules. It is from this stormy god that we get the word “Hurricane.” Walker hypothesizes that “Horus” was “Heruka” of the East and notes that the Pygmies revered Heru, an archaic name for Horus.”<<

        Robert, what is your explanation for these coincidences in terms like "Anointed One Mexitli/Messiah" and "Hurakan/Hercules" on both sides of the Atlantic?

        Anyway, if you can clarify with Acharya S on whether she is still in concurrence with a centralized civilization (perhaps in the Atlantic, between the Old and the New Worlds?) that would be great. If she is no longer in concurrence with that idea, ask her what changed her mind. If she states she no longer thinks it is reasonable to believe in a centralized advanced civilization that spread common motifs and language throughout the world, and she states this clearly, I'll never raise the topic again.

  • observer

    Already answered that very easy one but if you remove the obvious Christian gloss from the passage the passage becomes a lot more skeptical in nature and would not support Origen. Try reading Geza Vermes :)

  • observer

    Amazing two people who have studied classical historical can instantly give you the same answer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    James McGrath said “similarity of sound to a word in another language .. is ludicrous”.

    James, your question was about evidence that non-Jews had the practice of anointing that gives Christ and Christianity their designations.  In Egypt, the anointed mummy, known as the Osiris, is also called the KRST in the hieroglyphs.  

    There is abundant continuity between Ancient Egypt and the Gospels.  The Gospels were written in Alexandria  by Therapeuts in order to update the Greco-Egyptian Serapis cult by incorporating Israeli prophetic traditions after the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome.  So, Isis became Mary, Osiris became Lazarus, and Horus fed into the newly manufactured savior figure of Jesus.  The fact that the Egyptians called the anointed mummy a KRST fits entirely with this linguistic evolution, answering your question of non-Jewish practice of anointing.  

    Similarity of sound between words is actually used to map linguistic families, hence the designation of the Indo-European language family.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indo-European_languages

    Looking at this linguistic heritage, we see the Latin Deus Pater evolved from Jupiter, Zeus Patera, and back to the Hindu Sky God Dyaus Pita.  The evolution of the term Christ, meaning anointed, out of Egypt, fits entirely with this model, and with the view of a broader linguistic connection between Christ and Krishna.

    Anointing was a widespread ancient practice and concept relating to divine kingship. For example the sacred Hindu text the Bhagavad Gita speaks of Krishna as the anointed. Chapter 11, The Cosmic Vision, says “Krishna, the Almighty Prince of Wisdom, showed to Arjuna the Supreme Form of the Great God…. anointed with divine unctions.”  

    Ancient religions are far more connected and continuous than is accepted in Christian tradition, which has come to believe its own lies about separation and superiority.

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

    Neil, you seem oblivious to the irony that the silly way I am treating the evidence for Socrates is exactly what your silly treatment of the evidence for Jesus looks like.

    Robert, all languages have false friends, so similarity is not proof of connection. But more than that, even in the Egyptian language of the time of the rise of Christianity, that particular term does not seem to have been pronounced in the same way any longer. Are you really going to try to claim that when Christians used an ordinary Greek word, the meaning they ascribed to it was one that depended on a knowledge of how ancient Egyptian was pronounced long before their time?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, I am treating the evidence for Jesus in exactly the same way as did Albert Schweitzer and coming to the same conclusion.

      So you are accusing Schweitzer of being “silly” in his treatment of the evidence.

      So you think Hobsbawm’s treatment of evidence for bandits is “silly”. So you think to treat multiple, independent and contemporary evidence differently from evidence that appears 60 years later in controversial circumstances is “silly”?

      • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

        James, take a deep breath and understand that this methodological argument does not prove Jesus was a myth or non-historical. No need to panic.

        It’s all a matter of logic and justifiable treatments of the different kinds of evidence and sources. It’s not about mythicism versus historicism. It’s about something much more important.

  • GakuseiDon

    Just to lighten the mood a little:

    @observer: The blunt fact is that Earl has no support whatsoever in academia, unless you count Robert Price, but that is a maybe at best.

    Actually Robert Price has written a lot more in praise of Acharya S’s work than of Doherty’s, for what it’s worth. A LOT more. Even Doherty gives Acharya S’s “The Christ Conspiracy” five stars out of five on Amazon. He writes: http://www.amazon.com/review/R2QE1LGGUKNCZ6

    “… Acharya S has done a superb job in bringing together this rich panoply of ancient world mythology and culture, and presenting it in a comprehensive and compelling fashion.”

    @observer: You are aware that Acharya is a complete garbage source right? You are seriously using a women who believes in Atlantis and a primordial race of pygmies to support your views.

    Acharya S suggests in her “The Christ Conspiracy” book that those Pygmies had an ancient advanced global civilization. Yes, global, with advanced technology! This is the scoop of the century! But apparently she didn’t think it worth spending a lot of time of this in her book.

    More recently she has put two articles on her website. I’ve given the links below, with snippets following:

    Article 1: Pygmies in ‘The Christ Conspiracy’: http://freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=18880

    “Jackson summarizes [in his book]:

    “The Pygmies believed in a Father-God who was murdered, and a Virgin Mother, who gave birth to a Saviour-God Son, who in turn avenged the death of his father. These later on became the Osiris, Isis and Horus of Egypt. The Pygmy Christ was born of a virgin, died for the salvation of his people, arose from the dead, and finally ascended to heaven. Certainly this looks Christianity before Christ.”

    … The facts recited by Jackson here alone should suffice in demonstrating that the gospel tale is a fictional rehash of an old mythical theme that can be found even in the most primitive cultures, evidently dating back thousands of years.”

    Article 2: Garden of Eden originally a Pygmy myth?: http://freethoughtnation.com/contributing-writers/63-acharya-s/562-garden-of-eden-originally-a-pygmy-myth.html

    “There is no reason to suspect that the Pygmy “Garden of Eden” story is anything but original, and there is much reason to suggest it may well be the oldest account we possess–and the first. What this development suggests, of course, is that the biblical account did not originate in the Middle East and was not originally handed down to Semitic “chosen people.” The same can be said for other biblical myths, such as the Exodus and Christ stories, both of which appear to have emanated from the same Pygmy source as well.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    GakuseiDon said: “Acharya S suggests in her “The Christ Conspiracy” book that those Pygmies had an ancient advanced global civilization.   Yes, global, with advanced technology! ”

    Since this thread is devoted to baseless mockery and anonymous defamation of those who question obsolete ideas, such as “Observer”‘s description of Earl Doherty as “a con artist”, why not throw in Murdock, too?

    In fact, GakuseiDon’s assertion about Murdock/Acharya S’s writing on the Pygmies is nothing but a distorted slander.  Murdock states (p391) “the pygmies… claim to have been a global culture many thousands of years ago.”  She does not endorse this claim.  Her discussion of advanced technology refers to the pyramids, which Murdock points out are astoundingly precise, and involve unknown methods to move stones weighing up to 200 tons.  

    We see here how myths get going where there is motive to distort.  Just because Murdock studies pygmies, and recounts their beliefs without endorsement, suddenly we find the unethical anonymous apologist here lying about what she said, seemingly in order to protect his own baseless supernatural mythology.

    As Murdock states at http://freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=18880 “Rather than mocking or ridiculing these ideas, a scientific person may wish to do some actual research on these fascinating subjects.”

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Robert, the tone of ad hominem and ridicule and outright avoidance of addressing the arguments themselves is set by the Clarence L. Goodwin Chair himself. This discussion turns into the sort of ignorant retorts one finds from fundamentalists and creationists on discussion forums like those of J P Holding.

      You present arguments and the hostile closed minded apologists retort with ad hominem by association — anything to deflect from the actual arguments.

      It took me several days and many exchanges just to get McGrath to respond to my rebuttal of his assertion about evidence and when he finally did all he could bring himself to do was mock, scoff and deliver puerile retorts. He does not even know what my arguments are — he just assumes I am arguing a certain point and addresses his assumption. He does the same with his reviews of Doherty and Price and even of Carrier’s post recently. He takes his cues from intellectual lights like Mike Wilson as we learned in the Shakespeare Mythicism fiasco.

      He cannot even bring himself to admit — maybe he doesn’t even care — that he was flat wrong in suggesting that the evidence for Shakespeare is anything remotely comparable to that for Paul or Jesus. Maybe he moves in circles where such ignorance is accepted so he feels no embarrassment.

      He is all bluff and bluster and ignorance. He even reacts with outrage against arguments of his mainstream peers if I or Doherty or anyone who does not support historicity uses those same arguments or terminologies.

      He has no ability to sustain a simple logical argument. His reasoning is circular and he does not even recognize this when it is pointed out to him in the simplest and plainest terms.

      He is an embarrassment to academia. The only thing he has going for him is his blog and a promotion of science fiction.

      Even his blog posts about social conditions are anti-intellectual. When trying to understand why creationists etc think the way they do he turns to the Bible and delivers a blog sermon on “pride” — as if he is totally ignorant of the sociological and psychological studies of mainstream academia about such phenomena.

      In short, he is one of those academics who is the epitome of all that is despised and ridiculed by academia beyond the shores of America — and even shunned with some embarrassment by the better institutions within the U.S.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Neil, Robert, thank you for your contributions. Your post speak for themselves, what else could anyone add?

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

    I love it! To mythicists, like creationists, pointing out that pseudolinguistic arguments based on similar-sounding words in different languages in different periods rather than the actual meaning of words in a given time and language is an “ad hominem” argument.

    Such attempts at misrepresentation and false accusation don’t deserve a response, other than to offer gratitude to those mythicists who continue to provide evidence here on this blog of the utter worthlessness of mythicism and its character as pseudoscholarship.

    I am still at a loss to figure out why it is that someone like me, who apparently is incompetent and illogical if Neil Doherty is to be believed, continues to manage to have papers accepted for conferences, articles and books accepted for publication with academic publishers, and grant proposals approved, while mythicists don’t seem to do any of that.

    But someone who does is derided as “anti-intellectual.”

    But of course, the basis for that insult is the fact that I find mythicism to have only unpersuasive claims and bogus pseudoscholarship to offer.

    I’ll leave it to others to make up their own minds.

    • Dave Burke

      James,

      >>
      I am still at a loss to figure out why it is that someone like me, who apparently is incompetent and illogical if Neil Doherty is to be believed, continues to manage to have papers accepted for conferences, articles and books accepted for publication with academic publishers, and grant proposals approved, while mythicists don’t seem to do any of that.
      >>

      It’s all part of a historicist conspiracy to marginalise mythicism. The ‘powers that be’ have colluded to exclude mythicist scholarship from mainstream publications!

      Apparently.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    James, is there a reasoned mythacist arguement out there? It seems a lot of time is spent on Doherty, but i can’t help but think that Price or Carrier may have made better cases, I mean they have advanced degrees. Have they presented thoeries for a mythical Christ or do they just explore the issue? Don made a suggestion at Neil’s page for a sort of Jesus Myth Seminar to put foward the best case, though others sadly feel that the best case is already there and only the Forces of Darkness are keeping it from accepted, beyond what ever advanced (pygmi?) civilizations beyond the America’s shores Neil was refering to. Does Doherty teach at a university there?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    James McGrath wrote: “I love it! To mythicists, like creationists, pointing out that pseudolinguistic arguments based on similar-sounding words in different languages in different periods rather than the actual meaning of words in a given time and language is an “ad hominem” argument.”

    James – let’s backtrack.  You asked “What is your evidence that any of the non-Jews you mentioned … had the practice of anointing that gives Christ and Christianity their designations?”

    I pointed out that the Egyptians used the term KRST to mean anointed.  This is well attested in the hieroglyphs.

    To which “Observer” said “Acharya is a complete garbage source right?”

    I pointed out that Observer’s opinion of Acharya is pure ad hominem.  If I can give you the definition here, argumentum ad hominem, is an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it.  In this context, “complete garbage source” is a purely personal comment, unrelated to the matter at hand.

    Observer and GakuseiDon added fallacious claims about Atlantis and Pygmies, apparently to bolster the ad hominem assertion that the Krst Egyptian anointing translation is unreliable, and perhaps also, though this has not been said, to imply that the Christian anointing tradition was original and was not based on widespread older practices.

    So, yes, selective cherry picking of arguments that you dislike in order to cast aspersions on completely separate arguments, when these separate arguments have clear provenance and accuracy, is committing the fallacy of ad hominem argument.

    Whether the Egyptian Krst, meaning anointed mummy, has anything to do with the Biblical Christ, meaning anointed savior, is a complex argument.  You have to first be willing to explore the context, which it appears some here are less than willing to do.

    To illustrate the Egyptian provenance of Gospel texts, a good example is Lazarus, who is based entirely on Osiris.  This is proven not only by the etymological identity, through El-Azar, but also by the close similarities between the story in John and the story of the Pyramid Text in which Osiris is accompanied by two women known as Merta, who correspond to Mary and Martha, and by Egyptian images of Horus resurrecting Osiris.  Tom Harpur also discussed this point at some length, but found that Christians face the barrier of fundamentalist belief in historicity of the Gospels, which prevents them from seeing reason or evidence.

    For this obvious example of Egyptian provenance of Gospel ideas, I urge you to look at the direct comparisons between specific biblical and pyramid texts available at http://freethoughtnation.com/contributing-writers/63-acharya-s/455-is-lazarus-a-remake-of-osiris.html

    Oh, and Michael Wilson, I am glad you think my comments speak for themselves.  I assume this means you admit you were wrong about Josephus and are incapable of refuting me?

  • observer

    Should I even ask for academic support for ole Acharya and her um sources :)

    So it is racism to laugh at her absurd pygmy thesis now :)

    Ah yes she does support the existence of Atlantis. http://www.truthbeknown.com/links.htm

    I am agnostic so what do I care if Christianity is refuted.

    This is becoming a very entertaining myther thread indeed :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    I don’t know, I would love to have an intelligent debat with you fellows, James, Observer, Burke. What do you think? what’s something we disagree on?

    • Dave Burke

      Well I’m a Christian, so I imagine that offers plenty of scope. :D

  • GakuseiDon

    Robert Tulip: In fact, GakuseiDon’s assertion about Murdock/Acharya S’s writing on the Pygmies is nothing but a distorted slander.  Murdock states (p391) “the pygmies… claim to have been a global culture many thousands of years ago.”  She does not endorse this claim.  Her discussion of advanced technology refers to the pyramids

    Robert, I think you may need to consider the implications if you think that I am slandering Acharya S by QUOTING her. Reread what I wrote. I didn’t write she endorses the idea, but that she suggests it. She thinks it worthy of future study, based on the credibility of Dr Hallet’s Pygmy friends and that fact that Pygmy remains and culture can be found around the world (see below).

    On the advanced Pygmy technology: In “The Christ Conspiracy” (Page 388), Acharya S quotes Jackson:

    >>”Hallet’s Pygmy friends told him that in the distant past they developed a highly technical and advanced type of material culture and that they built boats and traveled widely around the world, but that this technical excellence brought them nothing but bad luck, so, preferring happiness to misery, they finally gave up this high material civilization. There may be a lot of truth in these traditions, for Pygmy fossils have been found in all parts of the world.”<>”Thus, Pygmy remains and culture are found around the globe, including from Egypt to India…”<>”Over and over again, we hear about the great character of these little people, and, again, it would seem to be calumny of the highest order to suggest that they were lying about their religious and mythical traditions, as it would be likewise in making the same pronouncement of “deceit” or “naivete” concerning Dr. Hallet.”<<

    So am I right that Acharya S is suggesting that Pygmies had an ancient advanced global civilization? That Pygmy remains and culture is found around the world? That they originated the belief in a Pygmy Christ born of a Pygmy Virgin? And more importantly, do YOU think the evidence suggests this as well?

  • observer

    I am either busy or do nothing, that is the nature of the military so no promises with a debate.

    However here is an idea.

    Is the traditional view of the empty tomb historical or a later embellishment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    GakuseiDon wrote: “Reread what I wrote. I didn’t write she endorses the idea, but that she suggests it. She thinks it worthy of future study, based on the credibility of Dr Hallet’s Pygmy friends and that fact that Pygmy remains and culture can be found around the world.” 
    Gakusei, if Murdock does not endorse the claim she quotes about Pygmies having high technology, it is twisting her words for you to say she suggests it.  The context here is that Murdock welcomes discussion of many eclectic views that challenge dominant opinion, without endorsing them.  She points out in that chapter you quote that “the further we delve back in time, naturally, the more difficult it is to discover solid ground and the more speculative is the discussion.” (CC p391).  Information about the past is fragmentary, so speculation requires caution and strong research.  Yet you ignore these caveats, just because I quoted her about Osiris and Christ, and trot out a twisted distortion of her comments seemingly designed solely to trash her reputation out of some feeling of religious hurt. 

    The same applies for Atlantis.  It is a fact that at the last glacial maximum sea level was 120 meters below its present height, and there are vast areas of the earth that have since been inundated.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Post-Glacial_Sea_Level.png Just because Murdock provides a link to a magazine that explores such themes does not make her like Von Däniken or Velikovsky.

    I would agree the pygmy idea is worth study, from a skeptical perspective, noting the warnings associated with poor anthropological research such as that of Margaret Mead in Samoa and Robert Temple in Mali.  That does not mean rejecting it out of hand as you and “Observer” propose in your ad hominem attacks on her research about Christianity.  

    Further to the context, the book The Christ Conspiracy, like Doherty’s Jesus Neither God Nor Man, provides an exhaustive analysis of the systematic deceit practiced by the Christian church in its construction of the mythology of Jesus Christ, and explores how Christian archetypes are much older than the orthodox picture.  This means that prevailing opinions are often baseless.  In looking at the question of ancient civilizations, there are many real mysteries.  Scoffing at anyone who investigates them seriously is not a mark of good scholarship.

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

    Robert, how would knowledge about this old Egyptian word have been mediated to Paul? How would those who heard or read him using the common Greek work christos have understood the link with old Egyptian? Do you have good reason for not giving priority to the Jewish term mashiach and the Jewish context of use of that term, rather than something from a very different time and culture than Paul’s?

  • observer

    It seems the less qualified an author is the more they are a scholar in Robert’s eyes. Now this has been a fun myther thread indeed :)

    Neil is too clueless to realize he is being parodied and Robert now is defending the idea of a race of super pygmies and the existence of Atlantis.

    Gotta love mytherism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    Observer, even though you are anonymous, you should not lie, as it makes you look unethical.  Saying that something cannot be rejected out of hand by banal scoffing is not the same as defending it.  For example, accepting the claim that there may be life elsewhere in the galaxy as a reasonable hypothesis is logically quite different from defending a theory that there actually is life elsewhere.  

    The question of the connection between Egypt and Israel is massive, complex, under-researched and bedeviled by prejudice.  Murdock’s Christ in Egypt presents excellent analysis and sources on this topic, as long as readers approach it without their mind made up in advance to defend Christian prejudice.  The role of the Therapeuts of Alexandria in adding the Biblical prophetic tradition to the Serapis cult to create Christianity involved use of much hidden material that is now lost, including much that was deliberately destroyed by fanatics.

    The origin of this anointing discussion was a question from Dr McGrath whether there are older traditions giving rise to the designation of Christ as the anointed one.

    There are abundant connections between Israel and Egypt, making the hypothesis of hidden Egyptian influence on the Gospels very plausible.  Within this hypothesis, the observation that Egyptians referred to their anointed mummy, the vehicle whereby an individual was saved for the afterlife, as a KRST, is prima facie a highly likely candidate for such an older anointing tradition linked to the name of Christ.  It is part of a bigger puzzle whose pieces are fragmentary.  However, it is possible for a scientific archaeological approach to be applied to the evolution of theology, so the available fragments can be placed within a coherent causal picture.  It is likely that considered alone, the KRST anointing piece is just one small fragment.  However, when seen together with the other abundant evidence of hidden Egyptian influence on Christianity, it should not simply be dismissed as implausible.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

      Robert,

      “There are abundant connections between Israel and Egypt, making the hypothesis of hidden Egyptian influence on the Gospels very plausible.”

      That may very well be, but just as you said, it is only a hypothesis until you can verify the connections. For example, for you to make the KRST / Christ connection, you need to show that christos and the other Greek forms of anoint were derived etymologically from Egyptian KRST before the production of the Septuagint prior to the 3rd century B.C.E. Even if you could do that, there is still another problem. Even if KRST made its way into Koine Greek, you would then have to show that the Jews used it in an Egyptian sense of embalming the dead as apposed to the Hebrew mashach, which was used in the sense of anoint with oil for confirmation of official appointment to office. So in reference to your quote shown below, the office of Christ had nothing to do with salvation or the afterlife, it was the confirmation of his appointment as king of God’s kingdom.

      “Within this hypothesis, the observation that Egyptians referred to their anointed mummy, the vehicle whereby an individual was saved for the afterlife, as a KRST, is prima facie a highly likely candidate for such an older anointing tradition linked to the name of Christ.”

      Actually, I found the book you quoted from, and Massey says, “krst, whence kas, to embalm, to bandage, to knot, to make the mummy or karast (Birch, Dictionary of the Hieroglyphics, pp. 415-416; Champollion, Grant. Egyptienne, 86). The word krs denotes the embalmment of the mummy, and the krst, as the mummy, was made in the process of preparation by purifying, anointing, and embalming.”

      I tried to find this dictionary on Google, but I had no luck. The only results brought me to web pages with Massey’s quotation. However, I did find a 1920 dictionary that was dedicated to Birch’s first dictionary, “An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary”, but it contained none of the words listed by Massey, I did not find krst, krs, or karast. I did find kas, but it meant sanctuary or vessel. However, it did contain a number of words that mean embalm or anoint, none of which started with the letter K. In fact, the closest word I could find was Kar, Kara and it also means sanctuary or shrine. So I am at a loss here with locating any verifiable information.

      Here is an interesting quote from, “The Dead Sea scrolls in their historical context.”

      “Anointing with oil had various connotations in ancient Israel. Oil was used to strengthen, to cleanse or purify, or simply for pleasure. The anointing of kings has been explained as strengthening or empowering. The practice is usually thought to have been taken over from the Canaanites, although clear documentation is lacking. Kings were not anointed in Mesopotamia or in Egypt, but they were anointed among the Hittites. There is also evidence for the anointing of non-royal officials in Egypt and of Egyptian vassals in Syria. In Israel, anointing is associated with monarchy from the beginning.”

      Lim, T. H., Hurtado, L. W., Auld, A. G., & Jack, A. M. (2004). The Dead Sea scrolls in their historical context. (200). London;  New York: T&T Clark..

  • observer

    What is the lie Robert? Just because you disagree with something does not make it a lie.

    You don’t  get it, your claims are not credible because your source is garbage. Period. Sources plural .

    None of your sources are peer  reviewed period. They have as much academic credibility as a Jack Chick track. When Earl and Acharya act like scholars I will treat them like scholars. As of now they are an intellectual circus act.

    when you can give me some peer reviewed sources which back up your claims I will take them seriously.

    It is odd though, Robert rejects the existence of a first Century Jewish Preacher but gets upset if you laugh at such ” evidenced” ideas as Atlantis or a race of super pygmies. Gotta love mythers.

    I will let McGrath sort through your latest garbage but I will give you two hints, first century Hebrew is not related to Egyptian and words separated by 1000 years from two different languages just cause they kinda sound alike proves nothing. 

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

    I don’t see the need to add anything to that! :-)

  • GakuseiDon

    Acharya S believes it is reasonable to conclude that the cultural and linguistic similarities between countries around the world points to our current global civilization not being the first. From her “The Christ Conspiracy”:

    >>”The linguistical/etymological evidence that connects the world is startling and has been demonstrated throughout this book… A more complex etymological similarity can been found in the Mexican name Mexitli or Mesitli, meaning “the Anointed One,” obviously related to the Egyptian Messu and the Hebrew Messiah. In Maya, “balaam” is a priest, while in Hebrew it is the name of a prophet. There are in fact numerous correlations between the ancient Mexican language and that of the Middle East, including the Sumerian. Indeed, the Mexican culture has close parallels in art, religion and language to Sumer as well.

    Moreover, the Mayan creator god was called “Hurakan”, and the Caribbean storm god was “Hurukan,” both of which are nearly identical to the Tibetan wrathful diety, “Heruka,” which in turn is related to Herakcles or Hercules. It is from this stormy god that we get the word “Hurricane.” Walker hypothesizes that “Horus” was “Heruka” of the East and notes that the Pygmies revered Heru, an archaic name for Horus. (Page 396)

    The global civilization and its mythos are reflected in the amazing physical remains around the world, which have never been fully explained or addressed by mainstream authorities. (Page 397)”<<

    Darn those mainstream authorities! When are they going to get their act together???

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    I earlier gave a link to a post where Murdock provides these references to sources for the Egyptian KRST meaning embalmment.

    Here they are again, from http://www.booktalk.org/post96651.html#p96651 .

    Champollion: http://truthbeknown.com/images/krstchampollion80.jpg - Hieroglyph, signifying KRST or Mummy (Champollion, Grammaire Egyptienne, 80)

    Birch: http://truthbeknown.com/images/krstbirch416.jpg - (Birch, Dictionary of Hieroglyphics, 316)

    Observer, you said I am “defending the idea of a race of super pygmies and the existence of Atlantis.”  I have simply said that distorted scoffing about such topics  is worthless.  That does not equate to me defending these ideas, which is nothing but a typical piece of evangelical deceit from you.  Need I point out that you and your partners in dissembling introduced these ideas as straw men?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

      Robert,

      Thanks for the links, with that information I was able to locate the term in the dictionary I mentioned. In the more modern dictionary, the word is transliterated as qrst and the dictionary uses qeres-t for the full spelling. And it defines the word as, “funeral, burial, sepulture.” Murdock agrees with this definition on page 317 in “Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection”,  By D. M. Murdock, Acharya S

      However, the problem begins when he infers that the funeral process includes anointing the body with oil. Then he goes on to conclude that because Jesus body was prepared for burial in a similar manner and supposedly Jesus would acquired the title of Christos because of the pre-burial anointing and subsequent resurrection. He mentions Mr 16:1 to support this idea, but the Greek doesn’t actually use the term in question, but a common expression (aleipho) to grease the body with oil. But the real problem that I have been trying to get you to recognize is that if Murdock is suggesting that Jesus’ acquired the title Christos because of the anointing at his funeral, that is clearly a wrong application. The Jewish application of the term Christos referred to an important position in Jewish culture, a different term was applied to anointing a dead body with oil or perfume. (Hebrew sukh and the Greek aleipho). Before Jesus was even born, the awaited Jewish Messiah was clearly referred to as Christos in the Septuagint in verses such as Psalm 2:2, hundreds of years before his burial anointing. So even if KRST would have anything to do with the word Christos, it certainly has nothing to do with his burial.

      Then we have the issue of whether this Egyptian word even sounded like Christos. Depending on the time frame, the hieroglyphics for this word can be variously transliterated. Not to mention, do we know which vowels belong in the proper pronunciation?

      K – q or k
      R – r or l
      S – z or s
      T – t

  • observer

    Robert you are one of  the dumbest  fools I have ever come across. Pull you head out of you ass, and read what people say on here. I am agnostic you waste of oxygen. I have said that many times and I have said that to you. So calling me evangelical is pretty stupid, but hey you are pretty stupid so that is typical behavior for you.

    Maybe you didn’t notice but using “Atlantis Pygmy  Woman” as a source is not going to impress anyone around here. So read a book written by a peer reviewed press and come back and discuss it . Or maybe admit you had no idea ” Atlantis Lady” was such  a crack pot.

    Till then you have shown you only accept fringe ideas that have zero evidence, but mainstream ideas with multiple lines of evidence will never be accepted by you. And you say Christians are cultist? Oh the irony.

  • Dave Burke

    Simon of Peraea: proclaimed king, burned down a palace at Jericho, led a violent revolt, and died in a battle against Herod’s infantry commander. Historians who mention him: ONE (Josephus).

    Athronges: a shepherd famous for his large stature and prodigious strength; proclaimed himself messiah, led a long and violent revolt against Herod Archelaus, and died with his four brothers in a series of battles. Two thousand people were crucified in the aftermath. Historians who mention him: ONE (Josephus).

    Simon the Caesarean: near identical description to Simon Magus. Historians who mention him: ONE (Josephus).

    Anonymous Egyptian prophet: declared himself a prophet, gained a following of thousands (Josephus claims 30,000) and marched to the Mount of Olives, but was repelled by an army sent by Marcus Antonius Felix and fled while hundreds of his disciples were massacred. Historians who mention him: ONE (Josephus).

    Menahem ben Judah: declared himself messiah, leader of the Sicarii, led a violent revolt, captured the Antonia Fortress, pushed out the Roman garrison; tortured and killed by Eleazar the Temple Captain. Historians who mention him: ONE (Josephus).

    Mythicists and other skeptics accept the historicity of these men solely on the basis of Josephus’ unsubstantiated testimony. Apparently a single mention by Josephus is enough to confirm the historicity of anyone, provided they’re not Jesus of Nazareth.

    Complicating the matter is the fact that contemporary Roman historians show no knowledge of the destruction of a palace at Jericho, the revolt against Herod Archelaus and subsequent crucifixion of 2,000 people, the 30,000 cultists repelled by Marcus Antonius Felix, or the capture of the Antonia Fortress and subsequent loss of its garrison.

    Explanations, please?

  • observer

    Vinny

    My main issue is Robert’s complete ineptness on this subject.
    Yes I acknowledge the minority view but I do not find it to be convincing. The shorter passage referring to Jesus does not make any sense without the longer passage.

    Even if it was based on christian tradition this hardly means Josephus could not investigate it anyways so that is hardly an objection. However this is questionable cause of the reference to a Greek following in the passage.

    I think the passage is enough to verify the existence of Jesus but tells us little we did not know.

    • Anonymous

      Observer,

      Of course Josephus could have investigated it anyways, but do we have any reason to think it more likely than that he relied on Christian tradition? If it is an open question (and I don’t claim to know whether it is), then I think it is an open question whether on not Josephus corroborates historicity.

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

    Vinny, let me just point out that those numbers are from a survey of works published from the 1930s until 1980. Shlomo Pines’ book on the Arabic evidence for an undoctored version of the TF was published in 1971, and it has taken some time for that work’s impact to be felt. And so my hunch (and I acknowledge that it is not more than that) is that the consensus at present, were it to be surveyed, would reflect an even more significant amount of agreement about this point. Just for everyone’s information…

  • observer

    Vinny

    It seems unlikely that he used Christian tradition cause he mentioned Jesus also had a Greek following during his lifetime, which is not recorded in the Gospels. Even if he just used Christian tradition it still does not mean that he did not investigate was there any basic truth to it, which being a good historian he would have done.

    Yes I think it is reasonable to say Josephus along with other lines of evidence, despite the squealing of mythers shows that Jesus existed.

    • Anonymous

      Observer,

      Isn’t the mention of his Greek following one of the things that many scholars believe to be interpolation?

  • Anonymous

    Dr.  McGrath,

    Do you have any guess as to how the average scholar might assess the probability that the TF is totally spurious?  For example, suppose that every scholar surveyed agreed that it was more likely than not that the TF was partially authentic but they also all agreed that the probability that it was totally spurious was 25%.  The fact that 100% of scholars agreed upon partial authenticity might be somewhat misleading.  

  • observer

    Dr McGrath

    What are the arguments for and against the Pines discovery with Josephus. I am still debating that one with myself.

  • observer

    Hey Vinny

    Not likely. That is simply an error no Christian scribe would have made. That is much more likely from the hand of Josephus.

    I do wish I could time travel with this and flog a certain Christian scribe. He has caused a huge headache to say the least.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    My good evangelical friend observer has still failed to respond to my challenge.

    How about it evo?

    Why does Origen discuss AJ18 but not mention the TF?

    Logic: it had not been written yet

    Observer’s Evangelism: Reject and Despise logic and evidence, introduce spurious lies about pygmies, make ad hominem slurs about Atlantis, anything but the matter at hand.

    And please no more hissy fits, even though they are impressive.  I am sorry to have to taunt you a second time, but the very slender thread of the only first century independent mention of your beloved Lord and Savior, who the Bible tells us was famed far and wide, is a fraud.  Earl Doherty proves this comprehensively, if you can lift your head out of the sand to read him without burning the book.

    For discussion and non-references from Origen, and for that matter from Justin, Jerome and Augustine, see Josephus, the Bible, and history By Louis H. Feldman, Gōhei Hata p431
    http://books.google.com/books?id=lV70mR-E0DQC&pg=PA459&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q=origen&f=false

  • observer

    I am ignoring Robert from now on as it is obvious he does not read people’s responses to him. I and Dr McGrath answered his question about Josephus two days ago and I have told him again and again I am agnostic.

    Last response Robert. Thanks for being a typical myther.

    I am still involved in serious discussion.

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

    Observer, the gist of the argument for there having been an authentic TF based on Agapius’ citation of it is that he leaves out most of the details that have been suspected of being Christian additions, and since he himself was a Christian, he is unlikely to have done so either intentionally or inadvertently.

    The opposing view emphasizes that he is paraphrasing/quoting from memory, and so that could in their view explain the differences from the Greek version we all know.

    Personally, I find the former more persuasive.

    I believe that there are places where Agapius’ version is reproduced online, and so it is worth taking a look at. At some point I need to track down the Arabic original and give it a closer look.

  • observer

    Thanks Dr McGrath

    I must say I find the former to be more persuasive too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    I’m pleased to hear that Observer has decided to ignore me
    as I will be safe from his abusive fundamentalist ignorance.

    Why do I call Observer a fundamentalist?  He asserts he is certain that Jesus Christ
    existed as a historical individual, despite the fact that there is zero
    objective evidence for this belief, and compelling evidence for His invention. 
    Taking something on faith when you have no evidence for it is the
    definition of fundamentalism.  In this
    case it is evangelical because it promotes the Gospel line that we should believe
    in Jesus Christ.

    A stock in trade of liars for the Lord is the assertion that
    a point under dispute has previously been addressed so can be ignored.  Observer uses this lame tactic regarding
    Josephus and the Testimonium Flavianum.  To
    quote from Jesus Neither God Nor Man by Earl Doherty (p538), which provides a
    comprehensive scientific demolition of the apologist arguments: “the startling
    fact is that during the first two centuries when [the TF] is claimed to have
    existed in all manuscripts of the Antiquities of the Jews, not a single
    Christian commentator refers to it in any surviving work.  This includes Justin, Irenaeus, Theophilus,
    Tertullian, Clement, Origen, Hippolytus, Cyprian, Lactantius and Arnobius.  All these apologists are intimately concerned
    with defending Christianity against pagan hostility, yet not one of them draws
    on what may have been the sole example of a non-negative comment on
    Christianity by an outsider before Constantine’s conversion.”

    They did not use it because it did not exist.  The claim of authenticity of the TF is
    utterly absurd, a vacuous piece of fundamentalism.  It is grossly implausible that early
    Christians read and ignored this passage. 
    It is an obvious fraud, which apologist fundamentalists cling to as some
    desperate reed to prove a historical Jesus.

    As to Agapius, writing from a third hand translation nearly
    a thousand years after Josephus, he was simply embarrassed by the absurdity of
    the TF and edited it to something mildly closer to Josephus’s actual views.  No joy there either.  Doherty’s analysis of this material is
    superb, and cannot be dismissed by ignorant hand-waving and evasion.

    Robert Tulip

  • observer

    Dr McGrath

    Is it just me or is Robert becoming another Evan? If I do recall we thoroughly answered his argument about Josephus days ago. Yet another myther ignoring responses that he cannot refute, how typical .

    I do have to admit his Agapius comment is priceless though. Clearly Agapius foresaw the needs to ” doctor up Josephus” to rebut  an internet conspiracy theory lead by a Canadian fraud, a woman who believes in super Pygmies and an assistant librarian  many  hundreds of years after his death. That is priceless. 

    • neilgodfrey

      Dr McGrath

      Is it just me or is tim or observer or whoever becoming another James? If I do recall you adamantly insisted that one such as me who you label a mythicist must refrain from the slightest demeaning remark or insult or sarcasm against historicists. How is it, then, that historicists are free to be merely led by your shining, silent example of self-proclaimed absolute shunning of the same?

      But observer, do pinpoint for me the posts where you and Dr McGrath “thoroughly answered the argument about Josephus”. This is a regular line by anti-mythicists — “we thoroughly answered that ages ago: — but I always have a difficult time finding where that definitive moment occurred. So kindly link to the comments that are indeed the definitive answer that no mythicist can reasonably refute.

      Thankyou.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Is it abuse to say Robert shares Evan’s style of argumentation? Is it abuse to say that Evan or Roberts arguments are witless? No they have been demonstrated to be such. It is an insult to the intelligence of the people posting here to share this non-sense, and it should be treated with disdain. Neil and Evan’s treatment takes the place of reasoned argument and is unsupported by evidence. Why be nice to someone with no respect for polite honest intellectual conversation? They cannot convince stable minded people to share their position, and as it has been shown, there is no point in dialogue, which they see as a theater for manipulating the intellectually lazy, their base of support. I have absolute confidence however that scholarly opinion will not bow to the demands of a loud, uneducated, internet mob. Does Neil really think that universities are going to read something he or a supporter has wrote and conclude that New Testament scholarship is horribly flawed and drivel like the Jesus Puzzle or Nailed should be taught instead? It must be, what a waste of a hobby.

  • observer

    Neil on this thread as of the time of this posting Dr McGrath and I answered Robert’s question on Josephus five days ago. It was immediately after his question too. So he certainly got the response, but he is pretending it does not exist. He might not like the answer but the answer is there.

    Explain to me why I am obligated to waste any time on Robert when answers to have questions have been posted by more then one person and he refuses to acknowledge they even exist.

    I have a lot of SERIOUS historical areas I want to study. Mytherism is demonstrated nonsense with zero academic credibility so I will not spend much time on it because it is not profitable to me as someone who wants to further my historical background. I certainly will not waste time on any myther who wants to pretend he did not receive an answer to his question even if he does not like it.

    I see you are still engaged in your childishness when you call me Tim. I do want you to explain why it is okay for Earl Doherty to be very private with his background and he is a much more public figure then I am.

    If for some reason you think I am Tim O’Neill I can certainly say I am not.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    Michael Wilson, your comments are pure psychological projection, and well describe your own behaviour here.  You say my statements are “unsupported by evidence”.  This looks very much like bigotry on your part, refusing to engage with the evidence I presented of how none of the early Christian apologists used the supposed sole piece of early pagan support of Christianity.  You attack me in this ad hominem fashion because you are incapable of reasoned argument, because you believe things that are false.  But faith means never having to say you are sorry or admit you are wrong.

    To again repeat the point repeated by Neil, the liars here claim the material on Josephus has been refuted, but they won’t say where because they are lying and hope they can hide behind empty rhetoric.  It worked in the days of the Inquisition, but it does not work any more.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

      Robert if you can’t find any material on why scholars accept that parts of the Josephus passages on Jesus are genuine, you are incompetent.

  • observer

    Neil also engages in another mytherism tactic when he confuses his ability to offer an implausible ”  how it could have been scenario” as being a true rebuttal. Mythers fail to realize that arguments that only convince their  little cult and no one else period ( including academia who they should try to be convincing) are not rebuttals period. That is another thing  mythers have in common with creationist and holocaust deniers. 

    • neilgodfrey

      Oh come on anonymous observer, stop playing silly beggers and just link for me the definitive arguments you and James laid out about Josephus a few days ago and that you indicated no mythicist could answer.

      If I have such a lame “mytherism tactic” with which to respond to them then you should be able to double your laughs if you give me a chance to repond to them again. So where are they?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    And by the way, DM Murdock has never mentioned Atlantis in any of her books.  Observer’s slur is just misogynist bigotry.

  • observer

    Oh this thread is rich now. I posted AGAIN where James and I responded to Robert and he is still pretending we didn’t :)

    My hobbies are restoring phonographs, collecting civil war guns and scuba diving. Whoever reading mythers is always fun.

    • observer

      Err However not whoever, silly typo :)

  • observer

    And yes she mentions it and endorses it on her website though  :)

    So I am a misogynist now. 

    Oh the joys of interacting  with mytherism

    So far we have learned from Robert.

    Peer Reviewed scholarship – Bad

    A women who believes in a race of super pygmies and supports the existence of atlantis. – Good source of knowledge :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    As I mentioned before, the fact that Murdock has a page of links does not constitute an endorsement of the content of those links, especially when in her own writings she never mentions the topic.  If a Christian blog linked to a creationist blog, by Observer’s logic the link is an endorsement of YEC, and we can start calling the writer YEC names.  

    Again, where oh where is the AGAIN link on Josephus?  I saw a statement that it had already been done, but not the actual response, except for some lame tangential comments about a tenth century re-working.  In fact, this writer was so embarrassed about how Eusebius had put farcical words in Josephus’ mouth that he retracted half of them.  If someone in the tenth century had read a butchered version of the TF, that still does not explain why none of the apologists mention it for two hundred years after it was written.  Especially since apologists today see it as the best proof there is that Jesus was real!  Origen talks about the very chapter in which the TF sits, as part of his effort to rebut paganism, but miraculously fails to see the TF, even though it is tailor-made to support his argument.  This literal historical story has no actual evidence.  All the real evidence points clearly to invention of Jesus as an imaginary fiction.

  • observer

    Ah you want to field this one Dr McGrath :)

    Yes a 10th century bishop was embarrassed  by an interpolated passage of Josephus because he foresaw the ” devastating”  refutations of Atlantis woman, an assistant librarian and please do not ask me about my degree Earl.

    This thread is always fun, but adding an Acharya S drone just makes this comedy gold.

    • neilgodfrey

      I asked you, “anonymous”, for the links to those definitive arguments you said you and James make some days ago. You refuse to do so just as James refused to respond to a query of mine for days — and only finally resorted to sarcasm when he was finally pushed. Please be a gentleman and respond to this third or fourth request for the links to your definitive argument(s) that you indicate no mythicist has any reasonable argument by way of contradiction. Or will this be yet one more in the historicist annals of clear rebuttals to mythicism that were made long ago but that no-one can find any longer?

  • observer

    Neil

    I do not know  how to link to a SPECIFIC comment, that is why I said go to the COMMENTS by me and Dr McGrath from five days ago ( obviously the ones about Josephus) . Now you can acknowledge I did this and tried to be reasonable or you can continue in the default mode of assholery which is common among mythers. Your choice.

    Now you can be useful and give me some instructions on how to do this ( or at least direct me to them) or you can simply read what I said earlier and look for the comments from five days ago. Again your choice.

  • Dave Burke

    observer, each post has a permanent link embedded in the bottom left corner. You will see a tag there which tells you when the post was made. E.g., ’3 weeks ago in reply to James F. McGrath.’ Right-click on the first part (’3 weeks ago’) to get a direct link to the post, or on the second half (‘in reply to James F. McGrath’) for a link to the post it’s replying to.

    Hope this helps. :)

  • observer

    Neil would you please show where I indicated anything about links in my comments about Robert’s question about Josephus. I indicated Dr McGrath and I answered his question on this forum. You are being annoyed at me for a comment I never made.

    Now that I have answered my question would you politely answer my question from earlier.

    I do want you to explain why it is okay for Earl Doherty to be very private with his background and he is a much more public figure then I am. 

    Please explain this.

    • neilgodfrey

      Observer , no, your pseudonym is not aptly chosen. You fail (and this seems typical) to observe my question. I asked you for links TO your responses. Not links “in” your comments. I am merely asking you to point out comments where you and James provided the answers re Josephus that you indicated no mythicist could or has reasonably answered.

  • observer

    Robert’s question- http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/10/doherty-mythicism.html#comment-355973560

    Dr McGrath’s answer- http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/10/doherty-mythicism.html#comment-355977241

    My answer- http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/10/doherty-mythicism.html#comment-355977294

    That should be enough to show Robert is not remotely interested in dealing with answers to his question.

    I will be curious to see his response about Acharya S clear endorsement of Atlantis. I suspect he will continue to defend her.

  • observer

    It is also funny that Robert calls Josephus Pagan. He was Jewish. Yet more evidence that he is utterly clueless about this subject. That would explain why he takes Doherty and Pygmy woman seriously.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

      “observer” said: It is also funny that Robert calls Josephus Pagan. He was Jewish. Yet more evidence that he is utterly clueless about this subject. That would explain why he takes Doherty and Pygmy woman seriously.”

      Observer, please let me clarify, with apologies to readers for allowing this irrelevant red herring.  Contrary to your false assertion, I did not call Josephus pagan.  I said “This looks very much like bigotry on your part, refusing to engage with the evidence I presented of how none of the early Christian apologists used the supposed sole piece of early pagan support of Christianity.”

      The Antiquities of the Jews was written in Greek for Josephus’ pagan patrons.  As such, it was a work within a pagan imperial milieu, published by pagans.  Its political influence was partly in its use of Greco-Roman traditions of objective historiography, outside the Judeo-Christian tradition of Biblical writing.  Were the TF authentic, it would have indeed constituted the sole piece of early pagan support for Christianity, although I concede this formulation is unclear.  But the fact is that the TF did not exist for hundreds of years after Josephus wrote, and that is the substantive point I was making, which Observer ignores.

      The standards of apologetic on this forum are very bad.  This example, together with Observer’s abusive ad hominem references to Atlantis and the pygmies, indicate a complete lack of interest in scholarly objectivity.  May I remind readers that there is nothing on Murdock’s website that defends the Atlantis theory.  Her early references were discussing speculation by other authors in a way for which she clearly states the weak evidentiary status.  It would be more productive to have a civil collegial conversation than to indulge in pathetic bullying and intimidation while avoiding all substantive content.  For Observer to call me “utterly clueless” based on my legitimate placement of the Antiquities of the Jews within its correct pagan context is not a serious contribution.

      Rather than “engage with evidence”, which was the substance of my comment, Observer prefers firstly to leap on an irrelevant side issue rather than simply ask me for clarification, and secondly, to continue a racially tinged ad hominem method of ridicule of scholarly work on African mythology. 

      This partly started because I had the temerity to cite DM Murdock’s work on the Egyptian term KRST meaning anointed.  Such claims are highly controversial, because they question the dominant prevailing views of Greek and Christian identity.  Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization, by Martin Bernal, Professor Emeritus of Government and Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University, provides a good explanation of the prejudices that constrain academic debate on such matters and lead to new approaches being ignored and suppressed.  The level of vitriol in the responses here shows the emotional charge of this material.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

        Such claims are highly controversial because the evidence is pure coincidence with no plausible connections and other readilly availble explanations. Academics are suppressing arguments with no evidence or logic to support them.

      • Geoff Hudson

        You wrote: “The Antiquities of the Jews was written in Greek for Josephus’ pagan patrons.”  

        That is one version.  Josephus probably did not exist.  And were the pagans as pagan as you think?  Surely you would think some Romans at least would have had an interest which was not pagan.  And how do we know that the first production was not in Latin?  And why would Vespasian of all people have wanted to hear about the history of the Jews?  He had, or rather his son had, just destroyed the Jewish temple.  He would have wanted to bury the past.  Just a few reasons why I think original Antiquities was written before 62 CE, by someone else other than the fictitious Josephus. 

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

          Geoff, thats a lot of assertion I think the rest of us are unfamiliar with. What is the source for all of this, We need to be brought up to speed before having the conversation on the non existant Josephus.

          • Geoff Hudson

            Here is an example.  

            War 3.7 – Vespasian supposedly took Jotapata supposedly in Galilee.  

            Jotapata in Josephus is an accurate description of Qumran. Nero took Qumran from the priests and destroyed it. The battle must have originally been in Nero’s war records. No mention of Qumran as such in Josephus.  The description of Yodfat in Galilee (a recent suggestion for Jotapata) is nothing like the description in Josephus.  In fact Qumran, a fortress, was taken by Placidus. (War 3.6.1). 

            At Jotapata, Josephus was supposedly captured.  The ridiculous story is unbelievable, a Roman fabrication. 

            In parallel with Placidus’s attack on Qumran, Trajan was sent by Nero against Masada, which in the extant Josephus is Japha.  At Masada there were priests who had tricked their way in.  Japha in Josephus is an accurate description of Masada. (War 3.7.31).  The Romans caught many of the priests outside the fortress walls.   

            Then in extanct Josephus, one place left in Galilee, was Gamala.  Gamala in Josephus is an accurate description of Machaerus in Judea. 

            There are no identifiable places for Jotapata, Japha and Gamala in Galilee.  There is no archaeological evidence that Vespasian ever went to Galilee.

            The priests knew that the Romans were coming.  They had killed James and king Agrippa. Many priests fled to the fortresses they had taken from Agrippa’s forces.  They dumped their scrolls and tefillin near to Qumran and all around the Judean desert.               

            • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

              a book you might suggest? every thing you have said is news to me so I would have to see the arguments for my self in full.

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

    Observer, sorry for not chiming in sooner, but it doesn’t look like I was needed to field anything! :-)

    It is interesting to me that while Robert was offering an ad hoc suggestion that the Christian Agapius unlike all other Christians who quoted Josephus before him thought that the Testimonium was “too Christian” and/or “ridiculous,” on another thread, there were young-earth creationists offering ad hoc responses to evidence for the age of the earth.

    We all instinctively defend our own ideas and beliefs, but at some point the offering of off the cuff, spur of the moment responses may, perhaps should, begin to seem inadequate and one may be faced with a choice between finally seeing why experts treat one’s views with scorn and opening oneself to rethinking, or becoming an entrenched fundamentalist willing to defend their views no matter whether the line of argument is reasonable.

    I also noticed that on both threads, there was an attempt by detractors from mainstream scholarly/scientific views to get summaries of what experts say, rather than going away to read the scholarly works themselves, presumably because it is much easier to dismiss a summary of a convincing piece of research than the actual published version of the research itself.

  • observer

    Are we taking bets on if Robert sticks around or not. He might want to wipe the egg of his computer screen from his absurd claim that Acharya does not support the existence of Atlantis.

  • GakuseiDon

    A little more on Acharya S and Atlantis. In the link I gave above, I noted that Acharya S states:

    >>”… we are in concurrence with the “ancient advanced civilization” theory (“Atlantis”) that would allow for one or more centralized civilizations to have spread throughout the world during a very remote period in protohistory…<>”… although Egypt is often given the honor of being the originator of much human culture, the Egyptians themselves recorded that they were the inheritors of a great civilization that came from elsewhere. Indeed, the Egyptian culture seemingly appeared out of nowhere at a high level of development, as did the Sumero-Mesopotamian and South American. This fact is explainable if the civilizers were advanced groups coming from elsewhere, from lands that had been destroyed by climatic change, war or other cataclysm.”<<

    The first references for "Atlantis" came from Plato, whose information came from Egyptian priests. So it seems to me she is referring to Atlantis here. Acharya S also writes of the "ancient advanced civilization" being "centralized", that highly developed cultures in Egypt and **South America** appeared suddenly, and that "this fact is explainable" if the civilizers were advanced groups coming from lands destroyed by war or cataclysm.

    Robert, are you in concurrence with the "ancient advanced civilization" theory ("Atlantis")? Do you think the Egyptian, Sumero-Mesopotamian and South American cultures seemingly appearing out of nowhere at a high level of development is explainable if the civilizers were advanced groups coming from lands destroyed by war or cataclysm? If you do, where would that land be located, such that groups would spread to both Egypt and **South America**?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Noam Chomsky is on record as having serious problems with evolution as an explanation for human language. No scholar would for this reason dismiss Chomsky as not worth reading in any study of linguistics. So what’s all this about someone’s thoughts on pygmies? Should I reject any scholar about Jesus who in his private life thinks he talks to Jesus?

      • Dave Burke

        ‘Have straw, will grasp’!

        The reason people don’t dismiss Chomsky is because he has a well established track record as an authority in linguistics and his theories are perfectly reasonable. His position re. evolution & language simply states that natural selection alone cannot account for the evolution of language. There’s nothing controversial about this.

        By contrast, Murdock has no track record as an authority on anything, and her ideas are so ridiculous that describing them as ‘controversial’ is like calling the tooth fairy a controversial hypothesis about the origin of money under pillows. It implies a level of legitimacy (or possible legitimacy) that simply does not exist.

        Unlike Chomsky, who arrives at his theories using a legitimate methodology, Murdock’s ideas reflect a flawed and idiosyncratic methodology driven by an equally flawed ideology. She finds the answers she wants to find by using a method that will produce the results she needs.

        For example, Murdock thinks ‘KRST’ looks like ‘Christ’, and this is evidence that the ‘Christ myth’ began in Egypt. Murdock believes her reasoning is perfectly valid, yet I’m sure we all understand why it’s bogus.

        I tried to explain this to her during one of our exchanges many years ago, but she seems incapable of comprehending even the simplest logical concepts. Like a young earth creationist, she simply ignores or distorts any evidence that doesn’t fit her uniquely warped perception of the universe. Comparing her to Chomsky is ludicrous (not to mention deeply insulting to Chomsky).

        • neilgodfrey

          Oh Dave Burke, you are too predictable. It crossed my mind at the time I made that comment that the name Chomsky might lead someone to completely miss the logic of the anology and focus only on the name of Chomsky itself just as you have done. Just in the event someone might make this mistake I decided to toss in my second analogy by way of invitation for any such person to consider what they had in common and so pick up the point of the analogy. But no, that didn’t work either.

          So how about dealing with the issue instead of trying to muddy the waters with other nonsense. Some historical Jesus scholars actually believe in miracles and angels and that Jesus is even alive today. Should I reject their scholarship because they entertain such sillinenss even though it is related at some level to their interest in the historical Jesus?

          • Dave Burke

            Neil, I’ve understood the logic perfectly. My point was, your example doesn’t actually work.

            >>
            Some historical Jesus scholars actually believe in miracles and angels and that Jesus is even alive today. Should I reject their scholarship because they entertain such sillinenss even though it is related at some level to their interest in the historical Jesus?
            >>

            If you can show that their acceptance of a historical Jesus is based solely on the same methodology that leads them to believe in miracles and angels, you have every right to reject their scholarship.

            The problem with Acharya is that the methodology by which she arrives at mythicism is the same methodology by which she arrives at every other piece of nonsense that bounces around in her head – and it is a demonstrably flawed methodology, resulting in untenable conclusions.

            • neilgodfrey

              Well commenters would do well then to argue methodology, wouldn’t they. I don’t see evidence that anyone here has any idea what methodology really means and implies let alone has the ability to discuss it.

              • Dave Burke

                Neil,

                >>
                Well commenters would do well then to argue methodology, wouldn’t they
                >>

                Absolutely. What makes someone wrong is not a belief in miracles or genius pygmies per se, but the conclusions they draw and the methods involved in reaching them.

                >>
                I don’t see evidence that anyone here has any idea what methodology really means and implies let alone has the ability to discuss it.
                >>

                I’ll take that for what it’s worth. Which is… well it’s not really worth anything, is it Neil?

                • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

                  David, you no doubt can link to all the comments here addressing discussions of Murdoch’s or others methodologies just as easily as observer can point me to the definitive presentations of the Josephus arguments he indicated no mythicist could answer. Not even James has demonstrated any capacity to address methodology in historiography.

                  • Burke Davej

                    Neil,

                    >>
                    David, you no doubt can link to all the comments here addressing discussions of Murdoch’s or others methodologies
                    >>

                    Assuming there have been actual discussions of methodology, they’d take a long time to find in a thread with 390 comments. Surely that would be your job, if you’re so keen to see them?

                    >>
                    Not even James has demonstrated any capacity to address methodology in historiography.
                    >>

                    Presumably you’ll be in a position to substantiate this claim after you’ve found all the comments addressing discussions of Murdoch’s or others methodologies and comprehensively scrutinised James’ contribution to them. Let me know how that works out for you.

                    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Mythicist claims are particularly extraordinary, but where is the extraordinary evidence required to vindicate them? Nobody seems to know. Young Earth Creationists have their ‘God of the gaps’; Mythicism has its ‘hypothesis of the gaps.’ They make good bedfellows!

                    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

                      Dave, I have just scrutinized the 390 comments and can confirm that not a single one addresses methodology. So by your own rules my claim that McGrath nor anyone else on this thread (and I have read every other comment by McGrath in which the question of methodology is raised) has demonstrated the slightest understanding of methodology or preparedness to address it stands.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Robert, read the argument being made Origin. He is not arguing for the existence of John. He says that Celsus presents Jews as accepting John the Baptist. He then says that this John’s existence was related by Josephus, that is, Josephus told Johns history. He wants to tell Celsus this not because Celsus does not think John existed; it appears here he does, but to introduce the opinion of Josephus that the temple was destroyed because of the murder of James, brother of Jesus. How Origin comes to that conclusion is not explained here, but the point is Origin is using the Jews admiration of John to establish Josephus’s validity, he accurately describes the Baptist, and then his neutrality, he says Josephus did not think Jesus was Christ.

     Now why would Origin need to specify the material in the TF? His object is this mention of James, brother of Jesus, called Christ. What is the point of bringing in the other phrase?  The Jews didn’t accept Christ so using Josephus description of Jesus wouldn’t help to establish Josephus as a trusted source to Jews. And again, he isn’t try to convince Celsus Jesus exist and is attested too, Celsus himself Jesus was a real person in history born to a soldier named Pantera. He is arguing that it is natural that it was Jesus not James’ death that was the cause of the fall of Jerusalem. The Jews accept John, Josephus agrees with their view of John, and despite not being a Christian, says the temple was destroyed on account of the death of James (again irrelevant that Origin is mistaken in his analysis), but if God would destroy the city on the account of James, isn’t it more likely that he destroyed it on account of James master, Jesus? See simple Robert. That is why people don’t think this passage supports the TF as a complete interpolation. If Origin had mentioned it, it would have disrupted his argument for no reason. It is not evidence of any thing that Origin doesn’t say what we logicaly don’t expect him to say. Seriously, where would you put the TF into this passage?

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

    Robert, we clearly have different ideas of what it means to discuss something “in detail” but for the present purpose that is beside the point.

    If there was no version of the TF in Josephus, one without Christian tampering, them what precisely do you consider to have been the basis for Origen’s confident assertion that Josephus was not a Christian? It sounds like he is not merely working from the absence of reference, but from what Josephus actually says.

    Of course, in considering this subject one must also keep in mind that Origen is sketchy in his recollection of exactly what Josephus wrote about James. But there too he indicates what all of our manuscripts of Josephus do, namely that Josephus referred to James the brother of Jesus called Christ.

    Origen does not seem to help the mythicist case in any obvious way, but he does seem to have the potential to undermine it.

  • Dave Burke

    Neil,

    Your original claim was:

    >>
    I don’t see evidence that anyone here has any idea what methodology really means and implies let alone has the ability to discuss it.
    >>

    Leaving aside the implicit accusation that James (a professional academic) has no idea what methodology really means and implies let alone has the ability to discuss it, I still consider this claim unsubstantiated.

    You now say:

    >>
    I have just scrutinized the 390 comments and can confirm that not a single one addresses methodology.
    >>

    Oh really? This raises questions about your criteria. I recall that we shared some exchanges about the respective methodologies of Earl and Acharya, one of which included my reference to her conflation of ‘KRST’ with ‘Christ.’ Did these not count?

    Your original claim was overblown. Your more recent version isn’t much better. If you want a discussion on methodology, perhaps you should start one and show us where you believe the problems lie.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      And my original claim stands. I still don’t see any such evidence. Least of all from “a certain professional academic”.

  • Fortigurn

    //In The Historical Figure of Jesus E.P. Sanders gives a list of
    eleven facts about Jesus’ public career which he says are “almost beyond
    dispute.”  Of these eleven, Paul only partially corroborates two.//

    So what? You have yet to address the list of passages in Paul’s writings which indicated Paul believed Jesus was a historical figure. Whether or not these can all be corroborated as historical is irrelevant; they still indicate Paul believed Jesus was a historical figure, which is the point under discussion.

    //I don’t see anything in Paul that we would lead me to believe that he
    thought that the source of his message was a recently deceased itinerant
    preacher who bore any resemblance to the person described in the
    gospels.  He might have thought so, but I sure don’t get it from his letters.//

    This suggests strongly that you don’t want to see it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    I would love Neil to discuss what he thinks proper methodolgy is, without that I really don’t know what to make of his assertion that no one is doing it right.

  • Fortigurn

    This is a point on which Neil Geoffrey prefers to remain mysterious. He is convinced that all historians are ‘doing it wrong’, but he doesn’t ever quite explain how to ‘do it right’. Nor does he ever actually approach the historians he criticizes, with his explanation for how they should ‘do it right’.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      This is a point on which Neil Geoffrey prefers to remain mysterious. He
      is convinced that all historians are ‘doing it wrong’,

      This is a strange statement. I am always acknowledging my debt to historians and other scholars for my understanding of the methodology they themselves explain and that I myself discuss.

      but he doesn’t
      ever quite explain how to ‘do it right’.

      This is very strange given that I have discussed methodology on my blog more than any other single topic, and my discussions are exactly about how historians do it right.

      Nor does he ever actually
      approach the historians he criticizes, with his explanation for how they
      should ‘do it right’.

      This is even more bizarre. I have posted several reviews of historical works by biblical scholars and have had exchanges with some of these.

  • Fortigurn

    Neil, if the pygmies didn’t have gills, then how did they build Atlantis? And if they didn’t have wings, then how did they build the pyramids? The questions just keep adding up!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    I share Fortigurn’s confusion. I don’t think Neil has explained what he considers to be good methodology.  Neil has a lot of post under methodology, but I don’t see any post explaining his. It is a lot to sort through to solve the puzzle of Neil’s methods of history, and the thread takes a while to scroll though. So unless Neil takes the time to explain his method, a summary of it, I can’t say it would be worth my time to try and piece this together. Since he disagrees with virtually every researcher that has dealt with Jesus or John the Baptist as a historical figure, not only biblical scholars but historians of antiquity, it seems he can find few historians that agree with his position, and must enlist amateur historians.
    It makes you question his assertion that bible scholars do history wrong when it also requires the ad-hoc argument that non biblical historians that touch on the subject just aren’t thinking when it comes to Jesus. But again, this just tells us that most historians don’t come to the conclusion Neil thinks they should using the methods that they developed, not Neil. So why should we believe Neil when he says that scholars aren’t using the proper methods, shouldn’t he explain what he thinks the proper methods are?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Oh Boobs, if you knew the difference between a free text search and an index search you would not be so confused. If you even read the simplest and briefest of summaries of what is involved with assessing the historicity of Socrates as just one simple example – a summary not even our professional academic McGrath has once made the slightest effort to address: every response has been sarcasm or ridicule and not once has he addressed the argument, not once. As soon as I mention methodology with anyone here, everyone, McGrath included, goes bananas with ridicule and insult. Now that suggests to me that no-one here has the first clue about the fundamentals of source assessment and evaluations of historicity.

      Professional biblical historians themselves claim that the historicity of Jesus is an assumption and that their methodology is circular. Historians in other fields know how to avoid starting with an assumption only and how to avoid circularity. All I have argued is that the same methods that build on something substantial and avoid circularity be applied to Christian origins. But that suggestion of mine sends everyone here into mindless responses of buffoonery and insult.

      • Geoff Hudson

        He says: “Now that suggests to me that no-one here has the first clue about the fundamentals of source assessment and evaluations of historicity.” 
        And then he says on his blog  “The myth of Masada has long been accepted as ‘historical fact’ ”  He appears not to have a clue how to evaluate the Roman Camps at Masada?  (I wrote to his blog on this matter, and as usual he refused to publish it).

        • Geoff Hudson

          Perhaps he thinks that some early Christians created the Roman camps so that they could write the finale to War.

        • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

          Geoff, your mails go into spam on my blog. I write for an audience with a general knowledge that encompasses awareness that the Josephan account of the mass suicide etc at Masada is entirely mythical. Archaeology has recently come to the support of the older literary arguments for this.

          • Geoff Hudson

            You didn’t say that.  You refer to the “myth of Masada”, as though its all myth.  But I want to pin you down about something which is not mythical, as you fully realise.  It is about the Roman camps around Masada, and dare I say the ‘camps’ on top.  What explanation has our master historian got for these?   

            • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

              No, I didn’t spell that out. I sometimes forget or don’t bother to dumb-down my posts for the less well-informed.

              But as for being pinned down, ouch, you got me. I confess that though I think the Homeric tales a myth there really was a Troy and it faced a number of wars, sometimes against the Greeks.

              • Geoff Hudson

                So we have a well-informed, Greek speaking, historian, who can’t write simple blogs, concisely, for the less well-informed.  He can fill a page or two in a jiffy with flowery, smooth language. And we know he is well informed because he constantly fills his blog with the writings of other scholars who on the one hand he strangely loves to denigrate, and on the other hangs on their skirts for dear life, as though he really wants to be their friend.   

                Yet for all his suggestion of brilliance, he can’t tell us why there are the remains of a number of Roman camps around Masada that would have held about 8000 troops.     

              • Geoff Hudson

                He wrote on his blog: “The myth of Masada has long been accepted as “historical fact” largely because it forms a literary and ideologically aesthetic conclusion to the demonstrably historical report of the siege and fall of Jerusalem.”  

                Some big smooth words here!  Literary. Ideologically. Aesthetic. Demonstrably. 

                So what report of the seige and fall of Jerusalem was he referring to? Surely he doesn’t mean the report in Josephus’s War books 5 and 6.  This what’s-its-name, I’ve forgotten, had just spent a large part of his blog of bashing Josephus. http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/11/14/sifting-fact-from-fiction-in-josephus-john-the-baptist-as-a-case-study/

                So not only can’t he explain the reason for the large Roman presence at Masada, he relies upon an imagined report in the writings attributed to Josephus for a siege and the fall of Jereusalem. I mean the myth of Masada and the seige and fall of Jerusalem couldn’t have been invented by Vespasian’s historicists (sorry I’ve used a big word), could they?        

                • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

                  It  ought to be obvious but I know that even an academic chair learns his wisdom from some barely literate bloggers (the only criteria for wisdom in his eyes appears to be that they abuse Doherty and me) so let me state that yes, I do believe the world is round but that it is a myth that Atlas carries it on his shoulders; and yes I do believe there was an ancient Troy involved with wars with Greek states but that Homer’s story of Achilles is a myth; and yes, I do believe that Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans but that it is a myth that a cow gave birth to a lamb as a sign of this; and yes, I do believe there was a siege at Masada, but that the tale Josephus dramatizes of all that happened on the top of Masada is a myth.

                  • Geoff Hudson

                    He wrote on his blog: “The myth of Masada has long been accepted as ‘historical fact’ largely because it forms a literary and ideologically aesthetic conclusion to the demonstrably historical report of the siege and fall of Jerusalem.” 
                    What an idiot of a smooth historian this man is!  He can’t even see that these two ideas were linked by Roman literary editors to form an ideological whole.  The SAME writers wrote both accounts.  There was no siege of Jerusalem, just as there was no siege of Masada.  The two topics go hand-in-hand in the text of War.  Both were invented. The siege of Masada is a myth.  The siege and destruction of Jerusalem is a myth.  Both perpetuated by Vespasian, who had fabricated such a victory for Claudius.  The historians have got it all wrong.  There are no Roman remains of any circumvallation (excuse the big word) wall around Jerusalem, and no Roman remains of a siege, or siege weapons.  There were no coins of any ‘revolt’ – the signs on the coins were of peace and joy.  And Vespasian didn’t start his campaign in Gallilee where there is also no archaeological evidence.  At Masada, there was no circumvallation wall to keep Jews in, and again no Roman remains of any siege weapons.   The wall at Masada was built by Herod as a part of the defensive system.  

                    The temple was ransacked for its wealth.  It was destroyed from within after being stripped of its gold.  This funded Vespasian’s rise to power.  He had played a waiting game.         

          • Geoff Hudson

            “I write for an audience with a general knowledge that encompasses awareness that the Josephan account of the mass suicide etc at Masada is entirely mythical.”
            Oh, do you!  Never mind that that includes me.  And what is the “etc” for?  The remains of roman camps?     

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

    As I pointed out once recently, Neil Godfrey offered a lengthy restatement of Dale Allison’s treatment of a particular topic, and then dismissed it at the end because he said he was already persuaded to think otherwise.

    I think that he and other mythicists think that if you have mentioned a subject, you have treated it adequately – and conversely, that if you don’t reach mythicist conclusions, then your treatment lacks a clearly-defined method.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James F. McGrath continues to avoid discussing methodology and here uses a counter attack on some other issue in which he repeats a blatant falsehood. As I said, not once has anyone here attempted to address methodology or my arguments about methodology, not one of you. The response is always attack, scoff, ridicule or ignore. Always.

      McGrath knows that I directly quoted Dale Allison’s argument in full. There was no “restatement” or summary of it at all — it was a direct quotation in full and McGrath knows that because I told him by way of reminder after he had read it for himself.

      I pointed out that not a single one of Dale Allison’s points addressed the counter-argument to his position even though that counter-argument is posed not by mythicists but by mainstream scholars who accept the historicity of Jesus.

      That was a simple matter of fact. It is an outright falsehood that I rejected Allison’s argument for the sole reason that my mind was made up otherwise from the beginning.

      Rather, my post was entirely critical of the METHOD of Dale Allison’s argument and his FAILURE to address the opposing view.

      I rejected Dale Allison’s argument because of his METHOD of argument and his FAILURE to address counter-arguments.

      As the good Doctor himself has said many times, just repeating the case for your own position is not good enough. You have to show why your argument is better than another one.

      Dale Allison merely presents a grab-bag of reasons for one argument and simply fails to address the opposing argument.

      I submit my post as exhibit A: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/rulers-of-this-age-dale-allisons-shotgun-argument-for-human-rulers/

  • Pf

    So Neil, the next logical sentence in that sequence would be … Yes, there was a Jesus but his followers dramatized and exaggerated his exploits.

    Crap, that wasn’t so hard, was it? Now can we all go home and talk about something less silly?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      I like your intellectual tone, pf. Unfortunately your proposition is vacuous and fails to grasp the logic underpinning my pairs. If you actually think beneath the surface you will notice that the things that I acknowledge are facts are determined to be facts by objective, tangible, measurable, observable, externally controlling evidence.

      I am merely agreeing with mainstream biblical scholars who have said in the past and continue to say now that the evidence for the historical Jesus based on circular methodology. They may not like the comparison, but to be blunt it is the same methodology as supports some people’s belief in Atlantis.

      Yet people here respond with scoffing and insult whenever I mention there is a methodology that is used by historians generally, even other biblical historians, that avoids this circularity. This indicates to me a latent fear and inability to admit that a belief so widely accepted could be all built on sand.

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

    Which sounds exactly like what another group (who shall remain nameless) says about another field (which shall remain nameless)…

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      McGrath, would you like to discuss methodology with me? I mean discuss it, not scoff and insult. Creationists use insult and fail to engage with the real and serious arguments of scientists. They walk away or mis-state them. Scientists are not afraid to engage the creationists and demonstrate where their arguments are flawed.

      How about having a little humility and a little courage and actually addressing methodology seriously with me?

  • Fortigurn

    //I am always acknowledging my debt to historians and other scholars for
    my understanding of the methodology they themselves explain and that I
    myself discuss.//

    Since when do you actually address their methodology, rather than your caricature of it? For example, you claimed that the criterion of embarrassment isn’t used in any other historical field except Jesus research, and I showed you it is. You then fell silent.

    //This is very strange given that I have discussed methodology on my
    blog more than any other single topic, and my discussions are exactly
    about how historians do it right.//

    No they aren’t, because you describe as ‘wrong’, what the consensus of professional historians describe as ‘right’.

    //I have posted several reviews of historical works by biblical scholars and have had exchanges with some of these.//

    Spot the change of subject; I said ‘approach the HISTORIANS he criticize’, and you wrote ‘several reviews of historical works BY BIBLICAL SCHOLARS’ (whom you refuse to acknowledge as professional historians).

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      I have not said criteria are not used in other historical disciplines but that they are used to “interpret” facts or data — not “create” or “manufacture” facts where none hitherto exist. That is the difference. HJ studies is, as far as I am aware, unique in the way it uses and relies upon criteriology to find basic facts to work with in the first place.

      You can contradict what I say all you like, but I do know what I post about and what I am arguing. I am arguing that most historians and historiography use logically valid methods for their assessment of source material, finding of facts, etc. Carry on and say I don’t say this but that will just show you have not bothered to read what I have posted about this and, like others, just like to make up any old stuff about me.

      And please try to be civil and give a little benefit of the doubt, if you can. I am not trying to change the subject but to be as honest to the facts as I can be. I have never said “biblical scholars” should not be acknowledged as professional historians. Some of them indeed are. You just make up all this stuff about what I say. Why not read what I say instead?

    • Dave Burke

      The criterion of embarrassment enjoys strong empirical support from the example of Akhenaten, an Egyptian Pharaoh who replaced traditional worship with monotheism.

      Following his death the Egyptians did everything they could to eradicate every trace of Akhenaten’s existence. His temples were destroyed and any Pharaoh who had endorsed his religion was omitted from the royal chronologies. So successful were their efforts that Akhenaten remained unknown to archaeologists until the late 19th Century.

      Ancient cultures were not kindly disposed to embarrassing historical details, and the fact that the Jesus story contains many such details is positive evidence for its historicity.

      • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

        Embarrassment is hardly the preserve of ancient cultures.

        Greek myths also contained many embarrassing features.

        Even mainstream HJ scholars are aware of the logical deficiencies of this criterion. Have you ever read about the problems with this as a criterion?

        But I like your Akhenaten example. It shows the importance of primary evidence to establish historicity. It also demonstrates the natural tendency to suppress embarrassing details, not publish them as the evangelists supposedly did (because they were too embarrassed not to publish what was so embarrassing to them).

      • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

        One might also add that what your Akhenaten case study demonstrates is the way embarrassment as a criterion can be used to interpret the evidence. It explains why the attempt to conceal the fact of Akhenaten’s reign.

        But embarrassment here does not of itself establish the fact of Akhenaten’s reign.

        Contrast the place of this criterion in HJ studies. There embarrassment is used as the sole means of establishing the “fact” of Jesus’ baptism, for example. This is completely unlike the function of embarrassment in interpreting the evidence of the otherwise established fact of Akhenaten’s attempted reforms.

        • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

          I would be interested in Doctor McGrath’s serious response to this — not his usual ridicule or insult. I do not believe Dr McGrath has once addressed this question. Never. Not once. Except by way of ridicule.

          His latest tactic is to say he has addressed it ages ago millions of times and no-one bothered to reply sensibly then. But of course he cannot point to a single instance of one of those many times he has addressed the specific arguments seriously — because he never did and, I suggest, cannot do so now.

          All he has to do to prove me wrong and prove I am “like a creationist” is point to a single post or comment where he did address a single argument of mine seriously. In his latest attempt to address my argument about the Socrates analogy he demonstrated he had no idea what my argument even was! And when I explained it to him he responded with ridicule and then explained that my argument deserved nothing but ridicule by way of response.

          I guess when you have no argument and cannot argue a case all you have left is either ridicule or insult or character assassination.

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

    I’ve tried, Neil, but to pariphrase something someone recently said…

    Mythicists use insults and fail to engage the real and serious arguments of historians. They walk away or misstate them. Historians and those using mainstream historical tools are not afraid to engage the mythicists and demonstrate where their arguments are flawed.

    But that doesn’t mean that mythicists are open to being corrected, or acknowledging this state of affairs, any more than creationists are. Both claim that they are doing “real science/history” and thus a whole area of fervent scholarly activity is being undertaken by people who are allegedly deluded or misguided. And yet somehow universities with tight budgets decide to keep funding this supposedly worthless field of inquiry – presumably because they too are in on the conspiracy.

    As long as you cannot see just how much mythicism looks like historical study’s version of creationism, it doesn’t seem like you are going to be open to any of the criticisms of your approach that would inevitably be part of an attempt to discuss this with you. Certainly past attempts on my part have not met with a positive reception.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Oh James, stop playing funny games. I have tried and tried and tried to get you to discuss methodology over and over and over and you know very well that you avoided my challenges repeatedly, only to finally come around to claiming that my argument was about genre when it was not, and finally finally responding with insult and parody.

      You have NEVER tried to discuss it seriously with me, James, and you know it. If you have I ask you to point me to a single comment of yours that shows how wrong I am.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Neil: “I mean discuss it, not scoff and insult. Creationists use insult and fail to engage with the real and serious arguments of scientists”
     
     
     
    Neil: “I like your intellectual tone, pf. Unfortunately your proposition is vacuous…” “I know that even an academic chair learns his wisdom from some barely literate bloggers”
     
      Neil seems a bit desperate for attention these days. He should get out more, make a friend or something or buy an X Box. As for his challenge, I notice whenever one tries to have a dialogue with him, he retreats to insults, evasion and dis-honesty. If any one doubts this, please look at any thread involving Neil and a dialogue. If he can find a historian who will take up his cause, then have the discussion, but otherwise, Neil’s a boring waste of time in my opinion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    had to pass this along, it’s a hoot.

    John Loftus is on record as saying quite explicitly that he believes mythicism is counter-productive to his personal goal of debunking Christianity. It is not a good tactic. Christians tune out immediately if you hit them with mythicism. John does not want that. So the lack of interest in mythicism on the part of John Loftus is explained.
    The irony is that the Biblioblogging community expelled Vridar from their ranks because it was seen as promoting mythicism, while John Loftus’s blog with the intent to debunk Christianity was embraced. The enemy they know is welcome. They are used to handling atheist crusaders against the faith.
    They can argue with atheists and debunkers of the faith. But the can’t argue with mythicism, so it seems. I hesitate to refer to the Clarence L. Goodwin Chair at Butler University a serious intellectual, but he has made many, many noises about mythicists not engaging with mainstream scholarship or being open to having their views analysed by academics, but I have tried several times (too many times, really) to engage him with my views and those of others such as Doherty and he simply point blank refuses to ever go beyond outright ridicule or insult — with rare exceptions when he thinks he has nailed a mythicist point, but he has proved himself incapable of ever following up a mythicist response to his arguments.
    If he is the only one on the mainstream side who is taking up the anti-mythicist cause today then it is little wonder interest in mythicism appears to be expanding. Such an “academic” is actually doing much to demonstrate that historicists have no arguments.”

    http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/11/04/bart-ehrmans-failed-attempt-to-address-mythicism/#more-22326

    again, if anyone feels I’m being too hard on Neil, just read his some of his blogs.

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

    And if anyone feels that I have not adequately addressed methods and mythicism, please read what I’ve written on the subject in the past, as it is now all conveniently located here in this new location. Or better yet, read what mainstream historians have written about their methods and about Jesus, and see if you can figure out what is going on when Neil Godfrey claims to use the same methods as them, and yet cannot seem to figure out why they don’t reach the same conclusion that mythicists do about Jesus.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, can you link to one comment or post where you have discussed (as opposed to ridiculed) my points about methodology? I do not believe you can. Can you prove me wrong? If, as you seem to suggest, you have seriously addressed my argument many times then pointing to just one post or comment should not be difficult.

      I have posted many times on what mainstream historians have said about their methods and about Jesus. Why have you consistently refused point-blank to respond with a serious argument to demonstrate where my argument or claim is actually flawed? Why has every one of your responses been mere ridicule or insult?

      If you really have responded seriously then simply point me to a single comment or post where you have done this. I don’t think you can. But I would love to be proved wrong.

      Can you actually set out in summary form what you believe my argument to be and where it both coheres with and contrasts with what HJ historians do?

  • Fortigurn

    //Or better yet, read what mainstream historians have written about their
    methods and about Jesus, and see if you can figure out what is going on
    when Neil Godfrey claims to use the same methods as them, and yet cannot
    seem to figure out why they don’t reach the same conclusion that
    mythicists do about Jesus.//

    Excellent point. Let’s look at an example. This is from Godfrey himself.

    * ‘We do not know who wrote the gospels, when or where or for whom. Yet
    “biblical historians” treat their narratives as sources of historical
    data. I know of no other historical studies that would ever contemplate
    using such “unsourced” documents as evidence in this way.’

    Note the claim again.

    * ‘I know of no other historical studies that would ever contemplate
    using such “unsourced” documents as evidence in this way.’

    Yet secular professional historians outside Biblical studies DO use the narratives gospels and Acts as sources of historical data. Not only that, but they also use the narratives in documents which are equally or even more ‘unsourced’, as evidence. What Neil is saying here is simply wrong, and just demonstrates that he doesn’t know what happens in ‘other historical studies.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Oh dear, you caught me out, outrageous fraud that I am. Yes, there are mainstream historians who have followed the field of New Testament scholars when discussing Jesus or Christian origins.

      I usually state my point by explicitly making clear I am contrasting other historical topics against HJ studies.

      But now I guess I have to confess I am an outright fraud, won’t I . . . :-(

      Unless, that is, one does take note of what I was quoted as saying — I was speaking about “Historical Studies” — not individual historians . . . .

      • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

        I find this so incredibly amusing — all I have been asking from the start is a serious discussion on methodology and all that anyone has ever replied with is excuses not to discuss it.

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

    We have been through this before. Creationists and mythicists always say that their claims have not been addressed, at least not adequately. The question is how to communicate mainstream scholarship to someone who is a detractor from it and for whom no explanation or argument is deemed adequate. If I find the answer to that question, you can expect me to try getting through to you again. Until then, sharing links or even copying and pasting from old posts is unlikely to be any more successful this time around than it has been in the past.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      I don’t know if Creationists always say their claims have not been addressed or not, but I am sure anyone can point to where they have been answered directly. Yes?

      All I am asking you — and I have asked this many times over probably more than a year now, James — is for you to cite one post or comment where you have responded with serious argument (as opposed to ridicule) to my point about methodology.

      I am asking you to cite me one place where you have done this. Just one place. That’s all.

      Why can’t you do that? Why do you always seem to come up with a reason not to do this?

      You have been saying all along you will not bother to discuss something with me, and you have been saying  all along you are right to ridicule me, and then you turn around and say you have discussed seriously and without ridicule my point many times????

      All I am asking is for one place where you have addressed any one of my particular points about methodology without mockery?

      If I am like a creationist then prove it by showing me the answer I am supposedly ignoring.

  • Pf

    Neil, you can call me a lot of things, but vacuous? Hahaha

    And you can say a lot of things about your own writing, but logical and objective? Hahaha

    I gotta go wipe the spittle off my face.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      No one called you vacuous, pf. Well I certainly didn’t. You seem to have problems with reading comprehension.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

     zzzzzzzz….. and if it is pointed out, you simply repeat the same thing all over again, your just like your idiot “friends” Evan and Steve. We have already proven your just like a creationist and your garbage has been dealt with all the seriousness that clownish drivel deserves. I don’t know why you insist on lying to us, and can only imaging your mentally defective or this is a stupid ploy to appeal to those aren’t familiar with your brand of pseudo-argument. All I have to say is look up Neil Godfrey here and you will see all the jive this turkey stands for. And no one knows what your argument is because you can’t communicate worth a shit because you are always trying to misrepresent yourself and others. And you are ridiculed because your are A. ridiculous and B. a douche with a severe ego problem and venom for every one with the utter gall to disagree with your illogical non-sense. How many times do you want people to explain how your wrong and have no clue as to how historians study history? Go peddle your conspiratorial pseudo-scholarship on the street corner or at least on your blog where you can delete the comments of those who don’t pay you undeserved respect. No one thinks you’re brilliant; no one is worried about your ideas. They have concluded they are too unlikely for serious consideration. You can continue in your delusion and suspect you will till you find your next delusion. Do yourself  a favor, relax, read some intelligent books, see a shrink.
     

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

    Merely searching for keywords such as “mythicism” and “methodology” or “historical” and “method” produced a range of posts. Here are some of the more relevant ones. 

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/08/historians-on-jesus.htmlhttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/06/the-last-best-hope-for-mythicism.htmlhttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/04/explaining-mythicist-sleight-of-hand.htmlhttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/05/jan-vansina-on-oral-tradition.htmlhttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/07/mythicist-qumi.htmlhttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/04/review-of-anthony-le-donne-historical-jesus-what-can-we-know-and-how-can-we-know-it.htmlhttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/07/minimalism-mythicism-and-modernism.htmlhttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/01/eric-hobsbawm-vs-the-mythicists.htmlhttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2010/06/review-of-the-historical-jesus-five-views-jesus-at-the-vanishing-point-by-robert-m-price.htmlhttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/01/david-fitzgerald-on-the-existence-of-jesus.htmlhttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/01/richard-carrier-on-bayes-theorem-historical-probability-and-the-existence-of-jesus.htmlhttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/07/a-challenge-to-mythicists.htmlhttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/06/chapter-7-of-earl-dohertys-jesus-neither-god-nor-man.htmlhttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/05/chapter-4-of-earl-dohertys-jesus-neither-god-nor-man.htmlhttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/04/james-the-brother-of-the-lord-and-mythicism.html

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/08/mythicism-the-heart-of-the-matter.html

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/04/a-menu-of-answers-to-mythicists.html

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2010/02/more-mythicist-creationist-parallels-messiahs-wisdom-and-jesus.html

    I now await the sort of response that Michael Behe gave in Dover, when presented with a stack of examples of research that he said did not exist, having claimed that “molecular evolution has never addressed the question of how complex structures came to be.” He simply said they were “not relevant” to what he was interested in or something to that effect.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, Can you stop hand-waving and pointing to “all those posts with the word
      methodology etc in them” and actually give me one that specifically (and
      seriously) addresses one of my actual points about methodology?

      Your first link leads to a 404.

      Your second link leads to a post in which you attempt to justify NOT answering my points.

      Your third link leads to a spoof of non-answers you regularly give. It contains only one paragraph addressing methodology and you present no argument about my point of methodology at all there. You only say historians agree with HJ scholars. That’s not an argument about methodology.

      Your fourth link leads to a post that does not discuss methodology at all.

      I have asked for a single post or comment (give more if you like) in
      which you have addressed seriously a single argument of mine about
      methodology. You simply cannot do so because none exists. You have never bothered to take up the challenge. The posts you link to demonstrate the most you have ever done: ridicule and avoidance.

      Just posting a list of everything you have written with the
      keyword methodology in it is a copout. It reminds me of your criticism
      that you have attempted to level at me: Just because you have written a
      lot of words doesn’t mean you have addressed the question.

      • Fortigurn

        Neil you just did exactly what James predicted you would do.

        • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

          Fortigurn, perhaps you would like to help James out here. He appears to have no idea what my point about methodology is, and cannot point to a single post of his where he has addressed it.

          Do please have pity on him and help him out. Either explain to him my argument or point to him a single post where you really  think he actually addressed a single point I have made.

          Just one point will do. Just one.

          I am still waiting.

  • Pf

    The Myther School of Language:

    Neil: “your proposition is vacuous….”

    Me: “you can call me a lot of things, but not vacuous.”

    Neil: “I didn’t call you vacuous.”

    About sums it up.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      I see, pf. So you are telling us that you are your proposition. Your ideas are you, they are your ego, your identity. They are not exploratory ventures but ego identities. If someone says your idea is mistaken you will believe they are saying you yourself are by definition a mistake and that they are abusing you.

      That about sums up the reason for your inability to engage rationally with ideas you find threatening — and why you find them threatening in the first place.

      If someone tells me my idea is vacuous or mistaken I would want to find out why and what I missed and what my error was. My ego wants me to correct errors and learn. If I can’t find errors then and I learn the person is not prepared to explain my error or shallowness then I can dismiss the charge without any ego impairment.

      But this is not the way it is with you, according to your comment.

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

    Sorry, Neil, that first link got garbled – I wouldn’t want you to miss that one!  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/08/historians-on-jesus.html

    I didn’t share posts that merely have the keyword “methodology” in them. I used a keyword search to show how easy it would have been for you to find posts that mention or discuss methodology, and then chose from them the ones that actually discuss some points about method at length or in a manner relevant to mythicism – again, just to show how easily such posts can be found, if you actually are interested in finding them.

    But perhaps I should simply address your “method” here, since a comment is all that is needed to address the “method” illustrated in one of your recent posts, as well as many older ones:

    Simply imagining a fantasy world in which anything could be invented, in which there are no constraints of historical setting, cultural context, or religious tradition on authors, is not a method.

    OK, I have addressed your “method” directly. Yet somehow I don’t think that this will settle things, primarily because you genuinely seem to believe that you have a method, and that it is the same one that historians use.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, can you please copy and paste here the words in your linked post that actually discuss (1) methodology and (2) my specific argument about methodology?

      I am sorry, but I did not see anything in that post that discussed (1) methodology or (2) my specific argument about methodology.

      But you confuse me even more with your claim to address my method directly with this:

      Simply imagining a fantasy world in which anything could be invented,
      in which there are no constraints of historical setting, cultural
      context, or religious tradition on authors, is not a method.

      Do forgive me, but my argument involves no imagination of other worlds, fantasy or otherwise, and certainly does not involve something without historical constraints. I am completely at a loss to know what you are thinking. Do you have any idea what my methodology argument is? Did you once bother to read that one link to that one post in which I outlined it and that I posted to you at least half a dozen times?

      Your supposed response or address does not in the least have any relation whatever to anything I have argued.

      Do you have any idea what I have argued or would you like me to repeat it here in summary form once more?

      Or is it your tactic to say anything that comes into your head and say that “There, I have answered mythicists but they never engage with my response.”?

      That’s like me saying the “Daisy the cow gave us half a bucket of milk today” and you saying, “No,  Cows don’t give milk, they jump over the moon”, and then turning around and saying I never responded to your rebuttal!

      Please either respond to my actual point about methodology or show me where you have responded or else have the honesty to admit you have forgotten and ask me for my point again.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, you came closest to addressing my point about methodology when you raised the question of the evidence for Socrates.

      Are you able to sum up succinctly what the methodological question actually is? If not I will be very happy to spell it out again for you and other readers.

      Can you point me to a single post or comment where you have seriously (that is without ridicule or abuse) addressed my methodological question?

      This is a simple question. Can you give a straightforward answer?

      • Geoff Hudson

        We’ve seen what your methodology is like.  Illogical. 

        • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

          Geoff says my methodological is “like illogical”. Can Geoff or anyone actually sum up what they believe is so illogical — does anyone have any idea of the argument I have advanced a zillion times over so many years now and that everyone says is “illogical” or worse?

          Does anyone want me to repeat it? If so, will they promise in advance to respond seriously — that is, without insult or ridicule, but with reasoned, logical and evidence-based argument?

          • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

            I do acknowledge that James McGrath came close when he demanded that a source 60 years after an event should be treated as good as an eyewitness testimony. Does anyone else support this proposition? Can anyone name me a historian of any area of study who supports this proposition?

          • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

            I do acknowledge that James McGrath came close when he demanded that a source 60 years after an event should be treated as good as an eyewitness testimony. Does anyone else support this proposition? Can anyone name me a historian of any area of study who supports this proposition?

            • Burke Davej

              Neil,

              >>
              I do acknowledge that James McGrath came close when he demanded that a source 60 years after an event should be treated as good as an eyewitness testimony.
              >>

              Did he? Where? In what context?

              Modern historians accept accounts from ancient historians who lived literally centuries after the events they describe, many of whom are known to be biased and selective.

              Yet for some reason Mythicists believe it’s reasonable to argue the Gospels can’t be historical because they describe events 60 years earlier than their date of composition.

              Confirmation bias is a funny old thing.

              We have no contemporary biographies of Socrates, and know him only through the traditions of men who claimed to be his disciples (contradicted by Plato, who says Socrates denied having disciples).

              The famous historian Thucydides was completely unaware of Socrates’ existence, which is remarkable given that they were supposed to have lived in the same era and Socrates was supposed to be a famous public figure.

              Xenophon claimed to have spoken with Socrates, but even he shows no knowledge of any details concerning Socrates’ life. Perhaps he merely met someone claiming to be Socrates. Perhaps the alleged encounter should be understood as a mystic experience in the sub-lunar realm. Perhaps Socrates is a metaphor for personal introspection.

              Was Socrates really tried and condemned to death by the Athenians? We have no evidence of this outside the Socratic tradition. It’s just a convenient myth to explain his absence from contemporary records (criterion of embarrassment, anyone?)

              It’s just like all those messianic claimants with thousands of followers who fought raging battles with local Roman militia, destroying at least one palace and garrison.

              There is no objective evidence that any of this took place. No archaeological evidence, no oral tradition, no contemporary accounts, no writings by any of the participants. Our only source is Josephus (who was contemporary with some of these alleged events, but not an eyewitness) and in most cases he merely gives us two or three sentences. Yet historians accept his account as perfectly valid.

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

    OK, so now the problem is allegedly that I have provided too many links, and yet none of them supposedly addresses methodology, while your posts supposedly do?

    One of your recent posts was about whether John the Baptist could have been invented based on the Babylonian God Ea.

    Your post also erroneously suggested that Rene Salm knows something about the Mandaeans.

    Perhaps it is because you have no methodology to speak of and your posts are filled with so much nonsense that you cannot identify discussions of methodology when you enounter them.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      OK, so now the problem is allegedly that I have provided too many links,
      and yet none of them supposedly addresses methodology, while your posts
      supposedly do?

      No, James. No, I did not say that at all. That is NOT what I am saying.

      I read each of your linked posts and I pointed out that not one of them addressed my point about methodology. Not one of them. Can you deny that? Which one proves me wrong?

      I also said that just because they might contain the word “methodology” in them (though not all of them do) does not mean you are addressing my argument. Recall you yourself like to say that just because someone has written a lot of words doesn’t mean they have addressed the point.

      Can you show me just one post or comment where you have addressed a single point of mine about methodology seriously (i.e. without mere ridicule or insult)?

      I say you cannot because you have never once addressed a single one of my points about methodology seriously. Not once.

      I have pointed you to my posts on methodology quite a few times and not once have you responded to a single one of them. Not once. Unless you did it on some other venue without linking to them.

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

    That’s what creationists and mythicists always say – nothing that I or anyone else has written is relevant or addresses the self-proclaimed brilliant insights of the allegedly unfairly despised, ridiculed and spurned fringe viewpoint.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, can you prove I am like a creationist by pointing to just one place where you have already addressed my point about methodology?

      You are the one who is arguing like a creationist. You are saying that you have addressed the arguments for evolution many times and that it is evolutionists who refuse to admit this or who try to say creationists have missed the point no matter how many times they write criticisms of evolution.

      It really looks like you are projecting, James.

      Why do you refuse point blank to acknowledge that you have not once — not once — addressed a single point of mine about methodology seriously?

      Why do you always re-phrase my point to make it sound as if I am suggesting you have never discussed anything that you think is about methodology? I am talking about any of my specific arguments. You have not addressed a single one seriously. Not once. Have you?

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

    I have. If you are not willing to accept that anything I have written is relevant to your views, then there is not much more that I can say – at least, nothing that is likely to convince you that it is you who has no method to speak of and is consistent only in being inconsistent.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      That is simply false, James. I read your posts and I pointed out very specifically what they addressed and failed to address.

      I am very willing to accept what you have written as relevant to what I have said if I can find it.

      But you refuse point blank to show me one post of yours where you have addressed seriously (that is with serious argument and not mere ridicule or insult as a response) what I have said about controls (which are at the heart of every one of my points about methodology). Not once.

      I read your posts and they talk about something that is entirely unrelated to what I have argued.

      If you want to rebut someone’s argument you need not only to advance your own, but you need to show where the other’s is flawed and why yours is better. You have not done that at all.

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

    Funny, that’s exactly what I predicted you would say, as Michael Behe said in a parallel universe to that of the mythicists.

    Either you have not read anything I have written, or you are being deliberately deceptive. I don’t expect you to admit that, but fortunately for me, anyone not already committed to the ideology of mythicism can read your posts and mine and draw the logical conclusion for themselves.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      In your Historians On Jesus post that you particularly wanted me to read (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/08/historians-on-jesus.html) you argued that

      (1) I was implying nonbiblical histoirans are derelict in their duty when they follow biblical scholars for what they say about Jesus;

      (2) Invited such historians to chime in and tell me how wrong I was;

      (3) Explained that biblical scholars regularly interact with nonbiblical historians;

      (3) HJ scholars are very dedicated to recreating Jesus in both broad brush strokes and discovering every word he said;

      (4) Spoke of the positivistic approach to history and how this overplayed the certainty some scholars once attributed to their histories of Jesus;

      (5) You then drew the analogy of Hillel and Socrates with Jesus. You said that there is room for some doubt because of the fact that there are no inscriptions for them as there are for emperors, but that absence does not mean it is “more probable” that they were invented or were celestial figures who were later historicized;

      (6) HJ historians are themselves always examining ways to improve or find better methods — they do not have absolute certainty in their methods;

      (7) Historians are not insulted for assuming that Hillel was historical and if they try to develop better methods they are not insulted but appreciated for their efforts;

      (8) No one in their right mind would argue Hillel was an angelic being who was later historicized;

      (9) By contrast the problem with Jesus is the amount of love and hate Jesus generates: this has led to overblown claims about him by those who worship him and (by implication) mythicist nonsense by those who hate him;

      (10) A dispassionate approach to Jesus difficult but what historians of Jesus strive to achieve, and if they have not been fully successful in being objective there are still some things they have no doubts about at all, and one of those is that he was historical.

      I have addressed the relevant content of your earlier posts in a previous comment, though more briefly.

      Would you care to tell me which of the above points of yours actually addresses a single point I have ever made about methodology?

      • Geoff Hudson

        Why does he do it?  Writes under one name so that he can respond.    

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

    Which of them do not?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 do not address my point about methodology at all. My point is about external controls and how to avoid circularity. Not one of your points addresses this although this is the one theme I have been advancing repeatedly and the one issue you refuse point blank to address apart from sarcasm or insult.

      My point about controls and circularity covers historiography at a general level and points to HJ studies as being the exception to the rule generally applied elsewhere. Even your own peers acknowledge the circularity of their methods. And some biblical scholars have indeed seen fit to embrace the methodology of controls that I speak of. In fact I learned of it from them — from your own peers. But you seem to have a problem with the method if you don’t like the potential results it might lead to if applied to HJ studies.

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

    You seem to really think that that is your point, but you don’t grasp the similarity between cases such as John the Baptist, Jesus, and Socrates.

    But feel free to repeat your claim that because Socrates appears as a character in a play, that provides an external control. It would be entertaining to hear it again.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      I seem to think that is my point? So you excuse yourself from addressing my point by simply saying that you do not believe I am arguing what I am actually arguing? Well that is a new copout.

      Presumably you can tell a creationist that you don’t have to answer his arguments because he only seems to thinks he is arguing for divine creation — but he is not really. He is really arguing the points you have answers for! Great come-back, there, James!

      So why do you refuse to address my argument about Socrates and Jesus without ridicule? I have been saying you only address my points by means of ridicule and insult and here you are repeating your ridicule.

      You have not addressed it seriously. Not once. I don’t mind you having a good laugh. But first why not show your competence in demonstrating — seriously and logically — why my point is in error. Do that seriously first and then you might wish to claim the right to laugh.

      You are a professor. I am sure you can demonstrate, in an educative and respectful manner, the logical flaw in my argument if there is one.

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

    “I am sure you can demonstrate, in an educative and respectful manner, the logical flaw in my argument if there is one.”

    I have, to the satisfaction of everyone except you and a small number of people with similar views, who do not seem to be able to grasp what differentiates mythicism from the kinds of views held by historians and scholars.

    So the question is not whether I can demonstrate the flaws in your arguments and those of other mythicists. The question is whether it is worth going through this over and over again simply because you are unwilling to accept mainstream historical methods and their conclusions, even though you are convinced that you in fact do just that, and that the reason no one in the fields of history or Biblical studies reaches the conclusions you do is some flaw in their thinking, not yours.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, you acknowledge, I believe, that you did NOT demonstrate the logical flaw in my argument in the post of yours I outlined in 10 points.

      If not, please do direct me to the one comment or post (or thread if you prefer) where you did/do address this without sarcasm, ridicule or insult — that is, where you addressed it with a clear incisive logical demolition.

      You did NOT demonstrate the logical flaw or even address my argument in any of the posts you linked to. That is not hand-waving against something I have not read. I have read your posts and know you do not address this point in them. I have pointed out to you what you do argue and do not argue.

      The only times you have ever addressed the Socrates example is when you have ridiculed it. That is a fact, is it not?

      I am asking if you have EVER, once, addressed my particular argument about methodology — an argument I have derived from your peers, by the way — without ridicule or insult. I do not believe you have.

      So I am asking you now to please, just for the sake of the record, show that you do have an argument that is logical and serious in response and that demonstrates my own flawed reasoning in this particular point about methodology — that is, the point that has been raised by your own peers past and present and that I have borrowed from them.

      If a teacher always only ridicules something and never addresses its logical flaws does that not suggest the teacher is a tad on the defensive and resorting to ridicule because he or she has no argument?

      You do realize, don’t you, that my argument about methodology is not an argument “for mythicism” nor is it an argument “for historicism”? I wonder if your point-blank insistence of refusing to address this argument except by way of ridicule or insult is fear that it is an argument “for mythicism”. It is an argument about methodology so ideally it should stand regardless of mythicism or historicism.

      Please don’t hand-wave with some remark that you have addressed this too many times in the past or even once to the satisfaction of others. Humour me and do it now for the record. Or point me to where you have so argued — I mean actually argued and not merely brushed off my point with ridicule or insult.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Tulip/1266985469 Robert Tulip

    I pointed out Earl
    Doherty’s comment in Jesus Neither God Nor Man that it is simply unbelievable
    that Origen of Alexandria in the early third century discussed in detail the
    very chapter of the Antiquities of the Jews in which the Testimonium Flavianum
    is located but apparently did not notice it.

    The text from Origen’s Contra Celsus, Chapter 47,
    is at  http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/origen161.html

     

    Origen writes: “in the 18th book of his Antiquities of the Jews,
    Josephus bears witness to John … [and says] disasters happened to the Jews as a
    punishment for the death of James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus (called
    Christ), …. Paul … regarded this James as a brother of the Lord, not … by blood
    … as because of his virtue and doctrine. If, then, [Josephus] says that it was
    on account of James that the desolation of Jerusalem was made to overtake the
    Jews, how should it not be more in accordance with reason to say that it
    happened on account (of the death) of Jesus Christ.”

    If “Josephus bears witness to John”, it is hardly credible that Origen,
    whose apologetic purpose in this book was to critique pagan attacks on
    Christianity, and defend the argument that there exists solid evidence and
    proof for Christ, would have failed to mention, in text laden with devotion,
    that Josephus also bears witness to Christ, if Josephus had in fact done so
    within this very same Chapter of AJ.

    Instead, Origen emphasizes that Josephus says the calamity of the Jews
    was due to the death of James the Just, whom Origen says was a brother of
    Christ in ‘virtue and doctrine’, not in blood. Origen does not make clear if
    this sibling relation was alleged by Josephus, but he does make clear that Paul
    did not regard this James as a physical brother of Jesus Christ, cutting out
    another major pillar of Christ literalism. And then Origen expands on how the
    story of Jesus is in ‘accordance with reason’, without, despite all his
    comments about evidence and proof for Jesus, taking this prime opportunity to
    note that an early historian, living close to the time of Christ, had actually
    mentioned Christ in the same passage that he is discussing.  The supposed “evidence” for Jesus
    evaporates before your eyes.

    It seems to me quite plausible that Eusebius’ interpolation of the
    Testimonium Flavianum owed not a little to the need to explain this strange
    passage in Origen.  Origen, despite later
    being excluded as a heretic, was one of the greatest of early Church fathers,
    precisely because of his deep knowledge of and faith in the Gospels. Living two
    centuries after the purported events, Origen accepts the Gospels on face value.
    In Contra Celsum, we see that Origen makes use of Celsus as a pagan who also
    had passing knowledge of the Gospels, which are taken as the primary source of
    evidence.

    Of course the Gospels are not primary evidence, and Origen sees that
    external commentary from Josephus gives weight to the ‘witness to John’.  Yet he does not notice that Josephus also
    gives witness to Christ in the same chapter. 
    This yawning gap in the Contra Celsum must have been a source of great
    embarrassment to Christians.  Pagan
    readers of Origen could well have asked – If Josephus bears witness to John,
    why does he not bear witness to Jesus? 
    The easiest way to deal with this devastating question was to alter
    Josephus by adding in the mention of Jesus at the appropriate point, where
    Josephus speaks of bearing witness to John.

     

    Origen goes on to criticise Greeks who wish us “to believe them without
    any reasonable grounds, and to discredit the Gospel accounts even after the
    clearest evidence. For we assert that the whole habitable world contains
    evidence of the works of Jesus”.    He
    says if a critic “demands of us our reasons for such a belief, let him first
    give grounds for his own unsupported assertions, and then we shall show that
    this view of ours is the correct one.”   Here again is perfect opportunity passed up to
    say that Josephus gives evidence for Christ.

    Key
    questions raised by Celsus are quoted by Origen as including “What credible
    witness beheld this appearance? What proof is there of it, save your own
    assertion, and the statement of another of those individuals who have been
    punished along with you?”   In
    response, Origen says Josephus bore witness to John, but omits to say Josephus
    bore witness to Jesus, which would be a far more pertinent and logical
    rejoinder if it were true.  Origen speaks
    of “a manifest proof that these things are done by His power”, ignoring the
    supposedly manifest evidence that a credible independent historian mentioned
    Him.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Earl Doherty’s arguments relating to Origen are strong. Doherty also shows how Origen contains strong evidence for the understanding generally extant up till his time about the meaning of that little phrase “rulers of the age”. This was a significant part of Doherty’s argument. But Dr McGrath completely failed to address it in his review of the first half of chapter 10 of Doherty’s book. When pushed a couple of times, however, he did address it, but only with hostile abuse. That seems to be the only answer historicists have for mythicists. Ridicule and insult.

      So much so that it appears Dr McGrath has had too much fun and is no longer interested in continuing his reviews of Doherty’s book.

      Oh– but my personal experience leads me to suggest that Dr McGrath might also say if you want to know what mythicists argue don’t read a mythicist’s posts, read what McGrath himself says they say — because “a mythicist” will tell you only what he thinks he is arguing. McGrath, however, has all the answers to mythicism posted on his blog many times, and if anyone he thinks is a mythicist says none of those posts answers or even addresses the mythicist arguments, then the mythicist is just being like a creationist and hopelessly deluded and doesn’t even know what his or her own arguments are!

      But I do hope for better things from Dr McGrath this time round with our latest exchange on methodology. I would like to think that he really will attempt to respond with dispassionate logic to my argument that he has till now only ridiculed.

    • Geoff Hudson

      On page 64 of James the Brother of Jesus, Eisenman has: “Origen, the third-century theologian, AND Eusebius his successor in Caesarea in the next century, both claim to have seen a copy of Josephus different from the one we possess.  This copy included a passage ascribing the fall of Jerusalem to the death of James.”  Mark Goodacre would do better to spend his efforts on this erasure from the history books.  It is a reality check for a mythicist like Godfrey and his alter ego Burke.   

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

        Take into consideration

        “Origen, Commentary on Matthew 10.17. “And to so great a reputation among the people for righteousness did this James rise, that Flavius Josephus, who wrote the ‘Antiquities of the Jews’ in twenty books, when wishing to exhibit the cause why the people suffered so great misfortunes that even the temple was razed to the ground, said, that these things happened to them in accordance with the wrath of God in consequence of the things which they had dared to do against James the brother of Jesus who is called Christ. And the wonderful thing is, that, though he did not accept Jesus as Christ, he yet gave testimony that the righteousness of James was so great; and he says that the people thought that they had suffered these things because of James.”

        Origen, Against Celsus 1.47. “Now this writer [Josephus], although not believing in Jesus as the Christ, in seeking after the cause of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, whereas he ought to have said that the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these calamities befalling the people, since they put to death Christ, who was a prophet, says nevertheless-being, although against his will, not far from the truth-that these disasters happened to the Jews as a punishment for the death of James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus called Christ,–the Jews having put him to death, although he was a man most distinguished for his justice. Paul, a genuine disciple of Jesus, says that he regarded this James as a brother of the Lord, not so much on account of their relationship by blood, or of their being brought up together, as because of his virtue and doctrine. If, then, he says that it was on account of James that the desolation of Jerusalem was made to overtake the Jews, how should it not be more in accordance with reason to say that it happened on account (of the death) of Jesus Christ, of whose divinity so many Churches are witnesses, composed of those who have been convened from a flood of sins, and who have joined themselves to the Creator, and who refer all their actions to His good pleasure.”

        Origen, Against Celsus 2.13. “But at that time there were no armies around Jerusalem, encompassing and enclosing and besieging it; for the siege began in the reign of Nero, and lasted till the government of Vespasian, whose son Titus destroyed Jerusalem, on account, as Josephus says, of James the Just, the brother of Jesus who was called Christ, but in reality, as the truth makes dear, on account of Jesus Christ the Son of God.”
         
        Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 2.23.22. “James was so admirable a man and so celebrated among all for his justice, that the more sensible even of the Jews were of the opinion that this was the cause of the siege of Jerusalem, which happened to them immediately after his martyrdom for no other reason than their daring act against him. Josephus, at least, has not hesitated to testify this in his writings, where he says, ‘These things happened to the Jews to avenge James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus, that is called the Christ. For the Jews slew him, although he was a most just man.’ And the same writer records his death also in the twentieth book of his Antiquities in the following words:….”

        While is possible that Origin and Eusebius have varient copies of Josephus, consider this argument,

         “Other scholars, such as Steve Mason, think that the reference derives from Origen misreading Josephus. I can see how that could happen. One might interpret the whole of Josephus as seeking the causes for the war. Maybe Origen just needed a scapegoat for his polemic. Josephus fit the bill. This suggestion could be supported by the observation that Jerome doesn’t seem to have a clue of where this would be found in Josephus, and Eusebius’ apparent quotation looks so very fragmentary. Even Origen, who refers three times, never gives an exact quote. So this could be something like a patristic rumor about what Josephus said, started by Origen. This suggestion could also be supported by the observation that, perhaps, scribal deletion of the so-called lost reference is not entirely explicable in a satisfactory way. Zvi Baras writes: “Such an assumption [that there was a lost reference] overlooks the question of why the Testimonium passage should have remained in Josephus’ text, while the story of James’ martryrdom – neither disdainful nor defamatory toward Christ – should have been excised from Josephus’ writings.” (Josephus, Judaism, and Christianity, p. 343) Moreover, Zvi Baras quotes Against Celsus 1.47 and Ecclesiastical History 2.23.20 and comments: “The precise parallelism between the two texts has already been remarked by Chadwick, who proved that Eusebius quoted Origen’s passage verbatim, but changed it to direct speech.” (op. cit., p. 345) So it seems likely that there was no other passage concerning James to be found in Josephus. Of course, this theory then casts aspersions on the ability of the Church Fathers (particularly Eusebius) to quote Josephus accurately.”

        from: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/testimonium.html

        It is interesting that nobody mentions where this passage is and only Eusebuis seems to quote it, as opposed to paraphrase it, again without mentioning where it is, even though he cites the place to find the other material. It is to be noted that Origin says Josephus does not accept Jesus as Christ, which wouyld seem to indicate that his version lacks the affirmation that Jesus was Christ as found in the current form, so if their is a varient with James as the cause of the fall of Jerusalem, its seems to to be appart from the varient that added Jesus was the Christ. Since the death of james is among the last of the events in Antiquities I can see how a Christian reader might want to intepret this as Josephus saying that this event brought God’s wrath. It is hardly clear, and it is not like the case of John, where josephus explicily says this is what people thought, but churchemn were found of making tortured arguments to prove their case.

        Of course you may disagree, but i see nor reason to maintain that their was a varient of Josephus around with Eusebius’ supposed quote.  

        • Geoff Hudson

          Your quotation, Origen, Against Celsus 2.13 is interesting. “But at that time there were no armies around Jerusalem, encompassing and enclosing and besieging it; for the siege began in the reign of Nero, and lasted till the government of Vespasian, whose son Titus destroyed Jerusalem, on account, as Josephus says, of James the Just, the brother of Jesus who was called Christ, but in reality, as the truth makes dear, on account of Jesus Christ the Son of God.”
          This provides another reality check.  “The siege began in the reign of Nero.”  The very mention of Nero is a clue.  I say that there was no long drawn-out siege.  But there was an attack on Jerusalem by forces commanded by Nero.  In fact those forces were let into Jerusalem by friends who were prophets who were being held in the sanctuary by the high priest Ananus.   This history was written by Flavian writers who falsely called the prophets zealots.   These writers substituted Idumeans for Romans.  The ‘Idumeans’ “fenced one another…connecting their shields over their heads”, tortoise fashion, as they approached the walls of Jerusalem – a battle tactic typical of Romans. (See War 4.4.6).The Romans had come in 66 because the priests (the true zealots) had executed James, a friend of Nero’s, who Nero had sent to Jerusalem in 60, and had killed their king Agrippa.  After the Romans had killed the priests, there followed a period (four or five years) of peace, the so-called period of the revolt, when coins celebrating the peace were issued.  A Roman garrison was left in Jerusalem to keep the peace.  No doubt Titus was included in that garrison.           

        • Geoff Hudson

          Michael, you wrote: “so if their is a varient with James as the cause of the fall of Jerusalem, its seems to to be appart from the varient that added Jesus was the Christ.”
          I agree with this statement, in that I believe that it is substantially true.  There was a Roman version of events that blamed James for being the cause of the war, and this version was subsequently edited by Christians.   

          James was the author of most of Antiquities, and Flavian historians the writers of most of War, and Christians have edited Antiquities and War.  

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

    Neil, If you show even the slightest sign of being able to recognize your inconsistency concerning your treatment of Socrates and of Jesus, according to your own expressed principles, or of being able to recognize Doherty’s work as the bunk it is, then I will gladly try again to get my position across to you. As it is, though, you inhabit a pseudoscholarly realm that you have convinced yourself is a mainstream scholarly one, and I have yet to figure out how to reach you and help rescue you from it. 

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Instead of this put-down, why not simply take a deep breath and try just once to tell me: Where is my logical deficiency in the Socrates example? Where, exactly, is the inconsistency in my position that you refer to here?

      How may times will you continue to find excuses to avoid answering my challenge or to try to claim you have answered it already (though you can’t tell me exaclty where)?

      Just answer the challenge without sarcasm, ridicule or insult. Just point out the error in my argument.

      (Do you want me to remind you what my argument actually is — you mock me enough for it so I have assumed you know, but maybe you don’t?)

      So let it go on record that THIS is the thread where you have answered my point about methodology once and for all — without ridicule, without insult, and with clear logic and sound, respectful and intellectual argument. And henceforth whenever I may ever attempt to say you have never so addressed my point you will always be able to say HERE it is!

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Or is it enough for you to say that you don’t believe I will accept your argument and therefore you have no intention to present it?

      But you have never presented it, have you. For the same reason?

      Well either show me where you have presented your rebuttal of my piont (without ridicule and insult) or present it here now at least for the benefit of anyone “foolish” enough to be “misled” by anything I might have argued.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    “My point about controls and circularity covers historiography at a general level and points to HJ studies as being the exception to the rule generally applied elsewhere. Even your own peers acknowledge the circularity of their methods.” Neil
    —————————————————————————————————————————
    Neil quotes Dale Allison as writing, “ Jesus turns out to have been a proponent of an apocalyptic eschatology. This result is of course contained in the methodological premise, according to which Jesus was an eschatological prophet. But in this regard history is not different from hermeneutics: circularity we will always have with us” in the book, Jesus of Nazareth: Millenarian Prophet. Neil says in response,
    “It is encouraging to read scholarly literature by academics who are intelligent, honest and humble enough to acknowledge such a weakness in their methodology. (What one sometimes encounters on internet blogs by a few scholarly types can be rather depressing by comparison.) One can (generally) respect such scholarly works and read them with some assurance that they are reading works by authors aware of their limitations and ultimate fragility of their findings. Some readers will be aware that I personally think there is a way to avoid this circularity,… which are, in reality, those normally followed among other (nonbiblical) historical disciplines. And that means setting aside the historicity of the narrative of (or presumed to lie behind) the Gospels as a “fact” and relegating it to the status of a genuine hypothesis.”
    What is Alison talking about? It looks as though he is examining the material attributed to Jesus and finding that his message is eschatological, which is circular, not because he is culling the information only from Christian sources, but because he has already established in his premise that Jesus is an eschatological prophet, so no surprise he finds Jesus says eschatological things. But he goes on to say this,
    “”at the same time, some sayings may be deemed authentic not just because they illuminate or are illumed by the paradigm of Jesus as eschatological prophet, but also satisfy other indices….so the conclusions that certain apocalyptic sayings go back to Jesus is not just a product of the premise: the final conclusions also fortifies the opening supposition.”
    http://books.google.com/books?id=Vb2bdc27AOoC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ViewAPI#v=onepage&q&f=false
    Basically, some sayings are thought to be authentic by other means, so the apocalyptic verses deemed to be more likely authentic are better evidence that Jesus was an apocalyptic. Simple. Alison mentions his method of finding the authentic Jesus is to “enter the circle” with a generalization about Jesus and the Jesus tradition.
    Alison does not believe his argument is ultimately circular. If we say, “all the stories of Alexander fighting dragons are fiction because Alexander fought no dragons”; it is not circular because we have demonstrated through other means dragons don’t exist.
     
    Alison also is quoted as saying,
     “We have, admittedly, no proof that Jesus authored any of the materials that, once heard, are hard to forget. So doubt we will always have with us. At the same time, all the relevant items are attributed to him, not to anyone else, and I know of no explanatory advantage in assigning them to some anonymous contemporary or contemporaries of his. (p. 24 of Constructing Jesus)”
    Neil adds,
    “This, likewise, makes refreshingly much more logical sense than scholarly type bloggers who beg the question by arguing that we know Jesus exists because we have sayings and deeds attributed to him! Of course, the problem for Allison’s point here is that many words are likewise attributed to Moses, many to Mohammad, many to God himself. It is surely the most natural thing in the world to attribute choice free-floating sayings to a figure one wishes to glorify as a source of wisdom or authority.”
    No problem here, we can doubt all sorts of so called facts. The scientist who measured the faster than light neutrinos were not fired for suggesting the impossible, but where permitted to try and repeat the test, because nothing, no matter how well established is above questioning. So when Dale speaks of verses deemed authentic, he does not mean that it is not possible to question them, only that some conclude a high probability they are authentic and treat them as such for evidence purposes.  Unless a better explanation can be made for why the axe is in the corpses head, it is logical to treat it as the murder weapon. McGrath has stated many times that it is possible that Jesus is a myth, so I don’t know why want’s to argue against this, falsely claiming it as McGrath’s position.
                    Now Neil sometimes seems to think that circularity is obtaining your conclusion from a single source tradition. He wants controls that are from outside this source. Most historians do. New Testament Historians have them. They are archeology and non-Christian testimonies. Do they mention Jesus? No. They confirm that the Christian testimonies are based on the real world. If they are right about Pilate and his role in Jerusalem, they might be right about Jesus. Do scholars of eras not well attested uses sources that cannot be externally confirmed? Yes, all the time. They even use them in contemporary history. Can all the observations in a diary be externally confirmed? No, we cannot examine the mind to know if the writer felt as they did. Good historians use all the possible evidence at their disposal, and evaluate the relative value of all the evidence. Everyone knows the Christian text are not fully reliable but to say they provide no information about the true nature of Jesus, be it a myth of a man, cannot be supported by the known evidence.
    Neil’s statement, “I personally think there is a way to avoid this circularity,… which are, in reality, those normally followed among other (nonbiblical) historical disciplines. And that means setting aside the historicity of the narrative of (or presumed to lie behind) the Gospels as a “fact” and relegating it to the status of a genuine hypothesis.” is a shallow ploy for to make himself seem erudite by again asserting without evidence that New Testament scholars have never examined the factual basis for concluding Jesus existed.  For the most part there is no need to. Should we chastise Egyptologist who just assume humans built the pyramids and have not sought to prove this by examining the case for alien overlords? The Jesus myth is well known and near universally dismissed. Neil may disagree with the findings but he cannot honestly say that it has not been seriously considered by New Testament scholars. It is a possibility as is the possibility that J. Edgar Hoover once raped JFK in the oval office, sure it could have happened but where is the evidence?
     
    What do the rest of you think?

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

    Neil, it is not a put-down, it is genuinely how things look from my perspective.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, I have demonstrated that you have not addressed my point about methodology at all in any of the posts you have pointed to.

      You have since replied that you did address my point to the satisfaction of others.

      But you know very well that your discussion of the Socrates point was pure sarcasm and ridicule. Do you want me me repeat it here to demonstrate that point?

      So you have not once addressed my point with a reasoned argument but only with sarcastic dismissal.

      If a person can only respond with sarcasm, ridicule or insult it indicates they have no logical argument at all.

      Your responses to mythicism have to date been a lazy failure to engage with mythicist’s arguments and to confuse my arguments about methodology with mythicism.

      Your responses are superficial. If, for example, I point out that you have not addressed my arguments you lazily respond by saying I sound like a creationist. Would you say that to a colleague who complains in some other debate that one had missed their point? Of course not. You are just using superficialities as an excuse to avoid engaging with substance.

      If a creationist says evolutionists have not answered his arguments, does the evolutionist lazily say “We have answered it dozens of times?” or do they point to where their particular argument is addressed, or even address it again? My observation is the latter. You cannot do that because you have never once argued with substance.

      For example: you were keen for me to read your post that I summarized in 10 points. You said it hit my arguments directly on the head. When I said no, they don’t, you even replied that I did not know my own argument! and implied that if I knew my own argument then I would see that your post does answer what I was saying!!!!

      So take the first point of that post. You wrote that I was implying nonbiblical historians are derelict in
      their duty when they follow biblical scholars for what they say about
      Jesus. Right here you are ignoring what I said and replacing it with your own straw man. What I was saying was that nonbiblical historians defer to the studies of other fields or common knowledge when making references incidental to their main focus of study. Everyone does that in every discipline. It is normal everyday acceptable professional practice and not dereliction of duty at all. I work with academic researchers and new publications, assessments of them, reporting of them, every day and know this is taken for granted and I know you must know this, too.

      As for most of your other points I agree with them. You think you are arguing against my point but in fact I am agreeing with most of what you say.

      Does this sound like I am a creationist complaining that you do not address my arguments? Do creationists say they agree with what evolutionists do say? Maybe you really ARE missing the point.

      So, will you, if you can, respond to my argument about methodology here with reasoned educative and respectful argument, that is without ridicule and insult, for the first time ever? You may refer to my example about Socrates if you like, or my quotation by Schweitzer, or any other of my points about controls and methods to avoid circularity. But can you do it without ridicule or insult?

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

    Neil, you have not demonstrated either that I have failed to address your alleged points about methodology, nor have you demonstrated that my responses to mythicism have been lazy. In fact, you have complained about my not mentioning supposedly positive elements in Doherty’s book as I have blogged through it, even though I have been giving Doherty’s book a level of detailed attention that goes beyond what one normally finds in book reviews. I find your claims about my blogging on this subject simply incredible, given the amount of time and attention that I have given to views that have been put forward by people who do not take their claims seriously enough to submit them for scholarly publication.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, will you respond to just one of my points about methodology (i.e. about controls and avoidance of circularity) with reasoned argument pointing out where it is either valid or in error — and without insult or ridicule?

      If you really have done this before then kindly copy and paste it again here.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      As for demonstrating your failure to address my arguments: I have responded to the content of the 4 posts you linked to.

      I agree with nearly everything you wrote in your post major post — the first one you wanted me particularly to read. So how can you say you are addressing my arguments and still say my arguments are wrong? I agree with just about all of your post and your post simply does not address my points.

      To go through your post in detail:

      You wrote that I was implying nonbiblical historians are derelict in their duty when they follow biblical scholars for what they say about Jesus.

      Response: Right here you are ignoring what I said and replacing it with your own straw man. What I was saying was that nonbiblical historians defer to the studies of other fields or common knowledge when making references incidental to their main focus of study. Everyone does that in every discipline. It is normal everyday acceptable professional practice and not dereliction of duty at all. I am always reading scholarly works and I work with academic researchers and new publications, assessments of them, reporting of them, every day and know this is taken for granted and I know you must know this, too.

      You explained that biblical scholars regularly interact with nonbiblical historians.

      Response: No doubt. I have never denied this. But I do suggest that their interactions are limited to topics of direct relevance to biblical questions. This has nothing to to with anything I have argued.

      You said HJ scholars are very dedicated to recreating Jesus in both broad brush strokes and discovering every word he said.

      Response: Of course they are. I know this. This is not a refutation of anything I have said.

      You spoke of the approach to history and how this overplayed the certainty some scholars once attributed to their histories of Jesus.

      Response: I have no quibble here. This has nothing to to with anything I have argued.

      You then drew the analogy of Hillel and Socrates with Jesus. You said that there is room for some doubt because of the fact that there are no inscriptions for them as there are for emperors, but that absence does not mean it is “more probable” that they were invented or were celestial figures who were later historicized.

      Response: I agree absolutely. We have no argument here. This has nothing to to with anything I have argued.

      You said HJ historians are themselves always examining ways to improve or find better methods — they do not have absolute certainty in their methods

      Response: I know. I agree. No argument here, either. This has nothing to to with anything I have argued.

      You said historians are not insulted for assuming that Hillel was historical and if they try to develop better methods they are not insulted but appreciated for their efforts.

      Response: I know and think that’s a good thing. No argument here either.

      You said no one in their right mind would argue Hillel was an angelic being who was later historicized.

      Response: Of course not. I agree wholeheartedly. No argument here either. I have no idea what this has to do with anything I have argued at any time. I suspect this is a dig at Doherty, but if the evidence for Jesus was comparable to what we have for Hillel no-one would have ever heard of Doherty nor of Jesus mythicism.

      You said that by contrast the problem with Jesus is the amount of love and hate Jesus generates: this has led to overblown claims about him by those who worship him and (by implication) mythicist nonsense by those who hate him;

      Response: This as ad hominem here. It is entirely gratuitous to suggest I am motivated by some sort of hatred for Jesus. That’s absolute nonsense and simply false.

      You said a dispassionate approach to Jesus is difficult but what historians of Jesus strive to achieve, and if they have not been fully successful in being objective there are still some things they have no doubts about at all, and one of these is that he was historical.

      Response: I know. I agree. No argument here either.

      Not a thing you said here has addressed any of my arguments about methodology — despite the fact that I have pointed out to you many times what my argument is and where to read it.

      Most of your post is basically motherhood statements about the scholars work and simply ignores anything I have actually argued.

      I agree with what you are saying here. We have no argument on 90% of all you say. But nothing you have said addresses anything I have argued.

  • Dave Burke

    Keep it up chaps, this is like a window into an alternative universe. Better than Dr Who.

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

    Neil, I’m glad to hear that we agree about most things. From your persistently hostile and derogatory comments, you consistently gave the impression that this was not the case in the past. Thank you for the clarification.

    Now if I could only get you to grasp that Jesus is not a unique case in ancient history, as you claim in a recent blog post, perhaps we could make genuine progress!

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, will you respond to just one of my points about methodology (i.e.
      about controls and avoidance of circularity) with reasoned argument
      pointing out where it is either valid or in error — and without insult
      or ridicule?

      If you really have done this before then kindly copy and paste it again here.

      If you can manage to do this then you might persuade me Jesus is not a unique case in historiography.

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

    I can simply make the most important pooint succinctly again. In the case of any other figure who is comparable to Jesus with respect to the evidence: John the Baptist, Socrates, Hillel, Honi the Circle Drawer, etc., you don’t accept ridiculous claims that the figure was thought to be a purely celestial one. You would, perhaps, adopt the stance that we cannot be certain about their historicity, but you would see through mythicist-type bunk, were anyone to propose it in relation to them. And so you treat Jesus differently than every other historical or allegedly historical figure.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      I have addressed all of such persons as you assert (without argument) are comparable to Jesus. You are once again simply ignoring my argument. My argument addresses those people.

      Would you like me to remind you of what my argument about controls, circularty and historicity actually is and that you are so hostile against?

      Will you respond to just one of my points about methodology (i.e.
      about controls and avoidance of circularity) with reasoned argument
      pointing out where it is either valid or in error — and without insult
      or ridicule?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      On a second reading of your comment I understand that you are saying that rather than being able to address my argument about methodology what you can do is to “simply make [what to you is] the most important point succinctly again.”

      This is instructive. So your problem is not against my argument about methodology but about what you perceive is my apparently different treatment of Jesus.

      Is that correct?

      If so, then I need to try to point out that my methodological argument holds regardless of whoever or whatever name in history it is applied to.

      It works equally for Julius Caesar, Hillel, and Jesus and all the rest.

      It leaves a number of persons without any secure historicity, as you acknowledge. There are many shades of gray. But it is by no means a dereliction of duty or irresponsible conduct for the ancient historian to accept that there are many names of uncertain historicity and I am sure you agree.

      A historian can have doubts in the back of his or her mind about the historicity of Socrates and still write a worthy history of Greek philosophy and Socratic method. In ancient history, because the nature of the evidence forces us to discuss questions at a more general level, it does not matter if Socrates was historical or not. What matters is what he represents.

      This is not by any means giving up on historical standards. It is respecting the limitations of our methods and working within valid constraints.

      My argument highlights the simple fact — and it is a simple fact — that the qualitative nature of the evidence we have for Jesus does not match the qualitative nature of the evidence we have for Socrates.

      This is not treating Jesus differently from anyone else. It is lining him up along with everyone else and checking off the criteria for historicity against each name. Jesus doesn’t score a single tick. Socrates gets one tick. This is consistent with what Albert Schweitzer himself recognized when we are addressing the theoretical underpinnings of historicity. It is also one reason that some other contemporary scholars acknowledge the circularity at the heart of HJ studies.

      Now that does not mean Jesus did not exist. It means we have no positive evidence either way.

      Your problem with celestial beings seems to be interfering with your ability to address or even recognize or address the methodological arguments.

      Celestial being ideas have nothing to do with methodology any more than does the idea that Jesus was a Cynic Sage or a Rabbi. Those are conclusions arrived at when seeking best explanations for the evidence and not methodology at all. Mythicism, you might also like to keep in mind, is not monolithic in its conclusions — and nor are the conclusions of the HJ quest. And for the record I am still exploring what I wonder might be the best explanation for the evidence I am looking at.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

        “It is also one reason that some other contemporary scholars acknowledge the circularity at the heart of HJ studies.” Would you care to explain this? You repeat it a lot, but I read Alison’s full chapter on it and i don’t think he is communicating what you think it does.
         
         
         
        I agree with you on the lack of positive evidence for Jesus, If that is what you mean by positive evidence is in fact,
         

         
        Direct proof of the fact or point in issue, as distinguished from circumstantial proof; proof that if believed, establishes the truth or falsity of a fact in issue and does not arise from a presumption.
         
         
         
        Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/positive-evidence#ixzz1eKA9eENj
         
        But without a plausible alternative, there is little point to speculate too much on how a mythical Christ was the source of Christian religious development. I mean, not every conceivable answer to a question is equally possible. I mean I have no positive evidence that any one in particular ate on the night of June 8th 303 CE, but I do have very good circumstantial evidence. To argue based on the lack of evidence that no one ate that day would be ludicrous. Jesus myth of course isn’t that bad, but I hope you see why the mere fact that it is possible does not meant it must be considered likely.  I understand you believe that you have presented many convincing arguments for that theory. But it remains that as long as they have been available, most researchers of the era have not found them convincing and it seems a bit paranoid to conclude that this is obvious everyone is either in conspiracy against it or incompetent. In fact mythacist have strengthened the confidence of the historical Jesus by showing how hard it is to challenge that idea. And it does matter to the study of Christianity. Beyond the healthy interest in what people in history actually accomplished which you seem to dismiss as unworthy of study, consider the post you made where you discussed Joseph Campbell’s theory that John the Baptist was derived from the god Oanes. This is a rather silly case of parallelomania, since John of course is a common Jewish name, so there is no need to speculate that it signifies a god, and this would be lost on most of the readers anyhow. Had he been more astute in history he would have known this, and not made this mistake. When we assume a mythic Jesus, we miscalculate the significance of the traditions, and if we just leave it unanswered, well fine, but it leaves the question of origin unanswered, and of course Historians don’t work to let the past stay hidden but to find out the truth.

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

    Neil, mythicist claims that Jesus was initially thought of as a purely celestial figure or was invented based on earlier deities do indeed have to do with methodology. The difference is between a methodology focused on matters of context, genre, and language, versus one that is willing to play fast and loose with such concerns in order to get the evidence to appear to say what they want it to.

    Robert Tulip, it is not an effective attempt at spin to label as “controversial” that which is nonsense.

    Scholarly methods do not guarantee agreement or a set outcome, but they do distinguish between conclusions which are possible based on the evidence or at least compatible with it, and ideology masquerading as scholarship to try to achieve an agenda.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Neil, mythicist claims that Jesus was initially thought of as a purely
      celestial figure or was invented based on earlier deities do indeed have
      to do with methodology. The difference is between a methodology focused
      on matters of context, genre, and language, versus one that is willing
      to play fast and loose with such concerns in order to get the evidence
      to appear to say what they want it to.

      James, what I believe you are arguing here is that all your arguments against mythicism are by nature soundly methodological arguments. You have no interest in any other methodological approach to the question if it will mean you have to give up changing your understanding of the historicity of Jesus.

      So in your view the only way to test whether a methodology is valid is to see if it leads to the conclusion that Jesus was historical.

      I believe what you mean, for example, is that your own understanding of “James the brother of the Lord” and “rulers of the age” can only possibly mean one thing to anyone of good sense. Anyone who disagrees is, in your mind, a fool.

      Am I correct? Am I putting words in your mouth?

      You are saying, if I understand you correctly, that interpretations of context, genre and language are only valid if they support a conclusion for the historicity of Jesus.

      So it sounds to me as if you are the one who is “playing fast and loose with such concerns in order to get the evidence to appear to say what you want it to.”

      But I know you believe exactly the same of the mythicists.

      So what we need is a methodology that transcends both sides and is conclusion-neutral yet is valid. That is the whole point of my methodological argument that you either refuse or are unable to discuss — at least without ridicule or insult.

      While you remain unable to accept or understand a point of view you are arguing against, it is inevitable that your arguments will be polemic rather than scholarly argument.

      And they are polemic. You do not understand the points you are railing against — as I have shown you repeatedly, even in this series of posts. You thought my method was about genre when it wasn’t; you thought your post on historicity addressed my arguments and I showed you point by point that it did not; you think you have addressed Doherty’s arguments and I have shown you and others sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, that you have not — and your only response has been to say “Just because I write a lot of words doesn’t mean I address your point!”

      The bottom line is that you cannot accept mythicism viscerally. It goes against all you believe and have understood and is as crazy an idea as if I said the moon and sun are big marshmellow pies.

      Methodology is only valid methodology, as far as you are concerned, if it means you must interpret every relevant context, genre and language detail in a way that leads to only one conclusion.

      The irony is that you often find yourself arguing against your own peers when you do this.

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

    Neil, your claim that I am disagreeing with my colleagues, and your suggestion that we might be dealing with the same evidence and merely offering differing but equally valid interpretations, closely parallels what a young-earth creationist has been trying to claim on another thread on this blog. The parallels are instructive. I understand why you wish to spin the matter in this way, and claim that you have adequately addressed things. You may actually believe that you have adequately addressed things. But that does not necessarily mean that you have, in actual fact, adequately addresses things.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

      It’s funny how Neil ask rhetorically whether he is putting words in your mouth when he clearly is and you must be an inflexible ideologue when you don’t find merit in ideas that no other accredited academic finds merit in.  On his issue of multiple interpretations, yeah sure, his aren’t impossible but the only reason anyone would prefer them is if you knew there was no real Jesus, the very definition of a circular argument. And if he means about you arguing against your peers that some of them think “rulers of the Age” refers to demons is he unaware that none of them think that means Jesus was crucified by demons?

      James, on a different yet related subject, you should look into David Henige’s “Historical Evidence and Argument” It is a study on bad history. It is the antidote to Neil’s charge that NT scholarship is off in its own world since most of its examples are from non-biblical history. He discusses how a lot of non-biblical history is based on single sources and flawed sources. His opinion so far seems to be that one should use what data is available but to be humble in your conclusions. When I’m finished I could send you a summery, but I think you would like to read it for yourself, given the sorts of discussions you so often find your self in.

      • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

        James, on a different yet related subject, you should look into David
        Henige’s “Historical Evidence and Argument” It is a study on bad
        history. It is the antidote to Neil’s charge that NT scholarship is off
        in its own world since most of its examples are from non-biblical
        history. He discusses how a lot of non-biblical history is based on
        single sources and flawed sources.

        You might also like to look at Historians’ Fallacies”. That also shows a lot of bad history. It would be facetious to suggest that these books would be a good start if one wants to understand what is meant by Dr McGrath’s insistence that HJ historians really do follow the practices of nonbiblical historians.

        As for the use of single sources and flawed sources, oh my goodness! Of course historians use them all the time. But the question is the way in which they use them and for what purposes. What questions are they attempting to answer through them. This has nothing to do with my argument about methodology and historicity, of course. But it does indicate the ignorance of those who think they are rebutting my argument without ever once engaging my argument! (Though it is not “my” argument of course, but one I have borrowed from mainstream biblical scholars themselves — a point quite often overlooked.)

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, you cannot avoid insult, can you. I am trying to be serious and reasonable and you have distorted my words completely to fit me into some sort of creationist stereotype. Can we have a discussion without resorting to this sort of language and actually address the content at hand?

      You have said, if I understood you correctly, that you cannot discuss my argument about methodology but can only discuss methodology from your perspective when we are dealing with the historical or mythicist Jesus.

      So I am attempting to seriously understand your view.

      Comparing me to a creationist for my efforts does you no credit.

      Your reference to my observation that you are disagreeing with your colleagues is twisted into something I cannot recognize.

      What I was referring to was the simple fact that there are interpretations of biblical passages that you insist must be interpreted one way only by any reasonable person, yet one who is reasonably widely read knows that other mainstream scholars — your peers — have quite different views.

      You even fault mythicists for “cherrypicking” these interpretations.

      My point was that you appear to be claiming that methodology must support only the interpretation that directly supports the historicity of Jesus. Other peers of yours, it seems, may have other views but presumably they are tolerated because the scholars themselves believe in the historical Jesus even though they may disagree with a certain passage or argument that most others use to support an argument for historicity.

      But mythicists are not being fair, it seems, if they employ these variant views among your peers. Why? Because they use the interpretations to support mythicism.

      Is this correct? If not, then explain to me what you mean.

      Because if it is correct, then it looks to me like the core criterion to make any “methodology” credible in your eyes is that it directly underpins the historicity of Jesus.

      Am I wrong?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      You may actually believe that you have adequately addressed things. But
      that does not necessarily mean that you have, in actual fact, adequately
      addresses things.

      You say this a lot. But all you have to do to demonstrate that your claim has substance is to select just one key point that I failed to address on any particular occasion. I have been attempting to be very specific — referring to the details — when I show you that you have not addressed my arguments. If I fail to address key points in your own reviews of Doherty’s book then all you have to do is single out one key point in one of your reviews that I failed to address.

      Otherwise merely saying I don’t address something is meaningless.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Thank you for the book suggestion. I don’t think “ these books would be a good start if one wants to understand what is meant by Dr McGrath’s insistence that HJ historians really do follow the practices of nonbiblical historians.” Dr. McGrath would be a good start for what Dr. McGrath thinks. The book is however a good primer on the problems involved in researching history in areas where sources are limited. In regard to historical Jesus studies, I’m not sure how much the author read into that particular arena, but he doesn’t single it out for any special censure apart from the other areas of study he mentions.  But that is just one historian. You may know of some others that have.
     
    On single source history, what is your argument? If you have stated clearly at some point could you link to it? And what questions do you think can be answered with them?  How is it that someone like Doherty uses the same sources as HJ scholars and comes to a conclusion on what Jesus Christ was avoids circularity? Or do you feel his work is circular as well?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      I was being ironical, Michael. Subtle. If you want  a serious discussion with me then you first need to demonstrate a willingness to be civil. You can start by apologizing for and withdrawing all the venom you have ever posted about me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Well I don’t think a serious discussion with you would be that valuable. I guess I can go on living not knowing what the hell you keep going on about.

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

    Neil, as usual, you are indeed wrong, but perhaps I will simply hold you to your own standard from now on. You wrote, “If you want  a serious discussion with me then you first need to demonstrate a willingness to be civil. You can start by apologizing for and withdrawing all the venom you have ever posted about me.”

    That seems like it is something you might wish to exemplify yourself, seeing as you demand it of others?

    • Geoff Hudson

      Does Neil Godfrey exist? 

      • Geoff Hudson

        Is he a myth like many of the authors that he promotes?  Perhaps someone could prove that he is real. Find out if he does work as a librarian.  Which library?  Where?  I am sorry, but I just can’t believe he is not qualified academically, and just plays everyone along.   

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, I have indeed been attempting to hold a reasonable discussion with you many, many times and especially in this thread only to be met in virtually every response with insult, ad hominem, ridicule, innuendo on your part.

      I have never spat venom at you in the way Michael Wilson has at me. I have never treated anyone the way Michael Wilson has verbally abused me. And I can say you have never resorted to the depths of his slime.

      Now, without ridicule or insult, are you willing to explain to me the point at which my attempt at a logical presentation of your position is in error?

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

    Never?!

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, I have indeed been attempting to hold a reasonable discussion with you many, many times and especially in this thread only to be met in virtually every response with insult, ad hominem, ridicule, innuendo on your part.

      I have never spat venom at you in the way Michael Wilson has at me. I have never treated anyone the way Michael Wilson has verbally abused me. And I can say you have never resorted to the depths of his slime.

      Now, without ridicule or insult, are you willing to explain to me the point at which my attempt at a logical presentation of your position is in error?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, would you like to avoid this little ad hominem game of yours — this isn’t an excuse to avoid the issue I have been at pains to engage you with civilly repeatedly now, is it? — and without ridicule or insult, are you willing to explain to me the point at which my attempt at a logical presentation of your position is in error?

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

    OK, so when you ask for civility, it is not a dodge, but when I suggest that if you, having asked for civility, ought to practice what you preach, it is an ad hominem and a dodge?

    I have painstakingly shown why mythicism is regarded bunk by historians, and you continue to ignore all of that and ask me to explain it to you again. So let me try yet again. Here is what is wrong with mythicism: words are not infinitely flexible, but have ranges of meaning; you cannot simply make things up and expect it to be found more convincing than detailed historical treatments of the same subject which take the available evidence into account in a serious historical manner.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, you are speaking in generalities again and not addressing the logic of what I have attempted to present to you. Just making sweeping generalizations is not “painstakingly showing” anyone anything.

      I am attempting to invite you to address the specifics and the logic of both my argument about methodology (not mythicism) and your assertions against mythicism. But each time I feel I am met with ridicule, insult, innuendo or vague sweeping generalizations.

      No-one, mythicist or historicist, believes or argues on the basis that “words are infinitely flexible”. This is clearly an exaggeration on your part and a failure to grasp with the details of the arguments.

      No-one, mythicist or historicist, believes you can simply “make things up”. Again, this sounds more like insult than an attempt to address the details of a particular argument.

      Just generally saying that one must “take the available evidence into account in a serious historical manner” is another sweeping generalization that is meaningless since it fails to address any specific point.

      I have demonstrated, I believe, by very specific sentence by sentence and paragraph by paragraph comparisons between what Doherty has written and what you have asserted about Doherty’s arguments that you have failed to understand or address his point. That is not sweeping assertion “like a creationist” as you like to say, but a very specific detailed demonstration of my claim. Your only response has been to say “just because I have written a lot of words doesn’t mean I have addressed your point”. That is surely a copout — a mere smearing my words without any attempt at argument.

      So when I ask you to address the logic of my own argument about methodology you say that, rather, you “can only” repeat your assertions about your own method and what you have said many times about mythicism. That is, you appear to be saying you cannot address the logic of my argument.

      So I took a step back by accepting this and attempted to express in my own words your own position in order to test with you (by asking for your feedback) on whether my understanding was correct or not. Of course you don’t like the implications of the way I express it because I attempt to strip it of what I see are the pejoratives in the way you couch your argument, but I did ask if the logic and factness of my understanding was correct.

      You have said that no, my understanding was incorrect.

      I accept this and am quite prepared to revise my understanding. So can you explain to me why or where my understanding is incorrect, please?

      You must admit that you do speak in generalities a lot, and that generalities are notoriously open to various interpretations and applications. So it would help if you could attempt to explain more specifically in logical steps your position on methodology as I have attempted to do rather than make innuendo laden generalizations.

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

    You went sentence by sentence through my review and failed to actually address the heart of it, at times making a fuss about the wording in an attempt to distract from the substance of my criticisms.

    If my comments are not detailed, that is because they are comments. Perhaps you should try genuinely interacting with my blog posts in a form that is not mere ideologically-driven attempt at spin. If at some point you actually address what I have already written, then the discussion can move forward, but when you have failed time and again to write anything of substance that persuasive addresses mainstream historical study of Jesus in an open and honest fashion, there isn’t much point in saying those same things over and over again to you. If you were open to a scholarly interaction, you would have respoonded in an appropriate manner by now.

    Instead, you have offered polemic, and your recent comment to Michael Wilson made me think that you were perhaps gearing up to offer me that long-overdue apology. It seems not.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, please can we refrain from ad hominem.

      You are absolutely correct when you say “there isn’t much point in saying those same things over and over again to you”. That is why I am asking you to clarify exactly the applicable meaning of your comments, and to understand the logic of your argument. I do not see that your generalized claims are based on the facts or the logic of the case. Instead of defending your position you merely repeat it and seem to reject my attempts to question it as inappropriate.

      Instead of addressing any of my requests or questions to this end you seem to habitually return to “saying the same thing over and over again” — the very points I am trying to address.

      What has been inappropriate in any of my questions so far or in my requests for you to address the logic of my argument or explain the logic of yours?

      I recently asked you where my understanding of your position is wrong and you simply won’t tell me. That leaves me to suspect you have no logical answer.

      I will give you my impression. My impression is that what you see as my having an “ideologically driven attempt at spin” really your response to my different point of view.

      It seems to me that you cannot accept that anyone could possibly argue for a methodology that is neutral of historicism-mythicism, or who can possibly defend any specific case that might be used in support of a mythicist case.

      It seems to me that this is your real issue with me, since you do not address the logic of my arguments, or defend the logic of yours, etc. You only repeat yours and dress your responses to me in what amounts to ad hominem innuendo.

      Okay, James, I have tried many times now to draw you out to defend your assertions, your criticisms and to answer my arguments without insult or ridicule.

      You still do not appear to even know what my own argument is about methodology, and I would challenge you to ever attempt to explain a single one of Earl Doherty’s arguments, too. The impression you convey is that you are so emotionally hostile to mythicism as a mere concept that you cannot believe anyone could possibly have a legitimate argument for it. Hence the innuendo and quickness to find sinister character or serious intellectual flaws in anyone who even presents a argument that is neutral on the question.

      This is why you cannot address a methodology that is indeed neutral of the question and why you cannot refrain from some level of insult in virtually every one of your replies or references to me.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      You went sentence by sentence through my review and failed to actually
      address the heart of it, at times making a fuss about the wording in an
      attempt to distract from the substance of my criticisms.

      Generalization is meaningless, James. This is just another way of your meaningless truism: “just because one has written a lot of words doesn’t mean one has addressed the point.”  Demonstration please? Specifics? Never do I see this — always generalization and put-down. Insult and sweeping generalization substitutes for argument and demonstration.

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

    As for your “methodology” it seems to consist of the following:

    1) maintain a blog
    2) write complimentary things about mythicists
    3) write denigrating things about mainstream scholars
    4) pretend that mainstream historical methods support the former rather than the latter
    5) repeat ad nauseam

    Is there some step in your method that I have missed? I am perfectly happy to admit that I seem to be incapable of mounting a response to your method as outlined above that would succeed in persuading you that it is unhelpful and unscholarly. Does that mean you win?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, why this insult? I have been asking repeatedly if you can respond without ridicule and insult. You can’t???

      And why the outright falsehood? I do not denigrate mainsteam scholars at all — you know I have posted many positive things about the works of scholars of all kinds regardless of mythicism-historicism. You know this. So why the lie? 

      You also know I am not uncritical of mythicists. So again, why this blatant falsehood?

      It really sounds like you are playing an immature child’s game of taunt-taunt tease-tease just to provoke me.

      You protest that mythicists do not engage with mainstream scholars yet look at your responses to my attempts to engage you in a serious discussion of the issues. You have responded each time as if anyone who can even entertain the possibility of mythicism is an idiot and any attempt to discuss the arguments is beneath you.

      May I suggest to you that if you wish to take on ideas that lack scholarly or normal rational or informed substance that you deal with the issue and not resort to insult. Sceptics and evolutionists are generally able to present reasoned arguments against Atlantis and aura beliefs etc — but you are clearly (from all evidence so far) incapable of addressing the details of the logic or the specifics of arguments, resorting always to generalization and abuse.

      Now can you respond to the methodology I have addressed @ http://vridar.wordpress.com/2010/04/24/historical-facts-and-the-very-unfactual-jesus-contrasting-nonbiblical-history-with-historical-jesus-sham-methodology/ or if that is too lengthy and detailed for you, how about this shorter summary here @ http://vridar.wordpress.com/2010/05/01/comparing-the-evidence-for-jesus-with-other-ancient-historical-persons/ ?

      • Geoff Hudson

        What I can’t understand is why the emphasis on mythicism?  You write as  though it is the truth and the whole truth.  According to you there can be no other explanation for the received NT texts.  According to you, they are all false.  This cannot be acceptable to anyone with a reasoning mind.

        As you know, I do not believe you are Neil Godfrey, an Australian librarian.  You may say the arguments are what you should focus on.  You are disqualified if you are writing under an alias and thus lying.  

        • Geoff Hudson

          He wrote: “and to my own pet notion (anathema to most interested classicists, I am sure) that Luke’s second volume, Acts, is structured around the founding myth of Rome: both narrate the voyage of a hero from the east, via Troy, to establish a new (imperial/spiritual) headquarters in Rome.”
          This poor man has myth on his brain!  The only problem is that the actual voyage was the other way.  The myth was Paul going to Rome, whilst in reality, and at the same time, James sailed from Rome to Jerusalem.  Paul’s ship would have sailed to Rome quite easily with a “north easterly wind” (Acts 27:14) behind it and would not have had to shelter in an island harbour.  James’s ship, travelling to Ceasarea, was sailing into the wind and was forced to take shelter in the lee of an island, probably Cyprus. The prevailing winter winds are north easterly, i.e. blowing from the north east, and overlooked by the editor.

    • Geoff Hudson

      James, I agree:  He accused me of always coming up with the same theme.      

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

    You do not, as far as I can tell, have a methodology for me to respond to. On the one hand, you claim that your approach is simply that of mainstream history. On the other hand, you fail to provide a convincing explanation for why all professional historians are persuaded that Jesus existed while you are not. And worst of all, you attribute this viewpoint of yours to having been duped by Earl Doherty’s pseudoscholarly drivel.

    If copying and pasting everything that one has previously written is so easy and takes up so little time that would be better spent on other things, then feel free to copy and paste here anything that you have written that demonstrates that you have a coherent methodology.

    And please stop pretending that the mere fact that I treat pseudoscholarly nonsense as pseudoscholarly nonsense an ad hominem. It is the ideas that are at issue, not the person holding them, whoever they may be.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, why the insult? Why can you not simply reply in a reasonable and civil manner?

      Why continue to avoid my actual argument? The fact that I source my argument to others is irrelevant to the logic of the argument itself so why comment on this? The fact that most people accept the historicity of Jesus is also quite irrelevant to the logic of the argument of methodology, so why attempt to deflect attention from the methodological argument with these red herrings?

      And why on earth do you insult me by twisting my words to some sort of claim that I have been duped? Why always this insult, James? You surely know that no such thing was ever implied in anything I have written.

      Why repeat your charge that I am pretending when I pointed out to you that pretence implies an intent to deceive? Why these character attacks?

      Why your insult and innuendo in virtually if not every single comment you have directed towards me here?

      But your last paragraph is telling. You speak of what you call “pseudoscholarly nonsense” and say it is the ideas that are the issue and not the person holding them. Then why the constant personal insults directed at me and others?

      It is the ideas I have attempted to address but you have at every point refused to discuss the logic of the arguments — mine or yours — and always fallen back to repeating generalities and insult.

      This is not how one would expect a scientist to approach the question of a creationist, but it is how we expect creationists to respond to scientists. Perhaps you are projecting, James.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

     
    Neil:
    “I have never spat venom at you in the way Michael Wilson has at me. I have never treated anyone the way Michael Wilson has verbally abused me.”
     
     
     
    My language is more colorful, but you are a far bigger a-hole. An a-hole is someone who spits venom and is verbally abusive. Verbal abuse is accusing some one of moral and intellectual failure without just reason-your stock in trade. Anyone who doubts me can read though your blog or the post you contribute here and elsewhere.

    • TruthOverfaith

      Mike, you truly are a f-tard.

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

    Neil, I’ve already read your posts illustrating your failure to understand mainstream historians and philosophers of history, and your willingness to drive an artificial wedge between them and scholars looking into the historical figure of Jesus. Simply pasting links to such posts does not show that you have a methodology, and clicking through them just reinforces the impression that you do not.

    I suggested that you copy and paste here things that show that you have a method that can be interacted with, but instead you offer nothing but accusations that I am insulting you. Just provide evidence for your position, as you were asked to, instead of trying to turn this around or make it about persons when my criticisms are all about your ideas (or in some cases lack thereof).

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, I have no reason to believe you have seriously read any of my posts about methodology. Just because you say you have done so does not mean you actually have. (Heard that before?) If the sweeping accusations you make against them are indeed supportable on the basis of anything I have actually written in them, they you can certainly support and demonstrate the truth of your claims. So why not simply do that? That would really put me on the back foot and establish your case against my arguments.

      I should remind you that copying and pasting to a target that does not support their formatting or maintain the supporting references etc in my own posts will not be a pleasant experience for anyone. On the other hand, I have noticed that you have been known to discuss the contents found on other people’s blogs and websites, and even to link to them. So unless you are prepared to copy and paste one of my posts and do all the necessary reformatting yourself, why not just treat my posts the same way you treat others?

      But let me make things easy for you. I will give you here the basic outline of my argument about methodology.

      Can you kindly respond to this with a reasoned and evidence based argument and without any resort to ridicule, insult or character innuendo of any kind? (Don’t creationists spend a lot of energy attacking the characters and insulting the intelligence and arguments of scientists and repeating their own assertions rather than addressing the actual arguments?)

      The theoretical underpinning of the historicity or factness of the contents of any report, document or narrative is that those contents can at some level be independently corroborated. This is a truism we learned as children: don’t believe everything you hear. This theoretical principle operates in our legal systems, in our media reporting culture, in our research investigations, in our everyday lives.

      Let’s take a birth certificate as a case study. This contains information about the parents and birth time and place of a person, but also official seals or stamps and logos and names of the issuing authority in order to establish its authenticity. People who invented birth certificates recognized the need for independent corroboration of the contents contained in it, so they decided to add all this sort of information to it to make it more than just a blank piece of paper (that anyone could have written) saying so and so was born to x and y at this place here, etc.

      Now let’s take the Romance of Alexander as another example. Only this time let’s imagine that we have absolutely no other references of any kind to Alexander surviving from ancient times before the appearance of this Romance. No coins, no epigraphy, no other histories, no other references anywhere to Alexander. Let’s imagine all other evidence of Alexander only began to appear well after the Romance. We don’t know who wrote this Romance and we only know the earliest evidence of it is from the third century.

      If we had only the Alexander Romance in these circumstances, we would have absolutely no reason to assume the historicity of Alexander. Some people might suspect the tale is based on a historical memory, and wonder if the tale’s knowledge of the name of the Persian king and place names in Persia was evidence it was a true story after all. Others would withhold judgment and acknowledge that historical persons and places often appear in ancient fiction. Some would deny it outright.

      But let’s say archaeologists uncover a manuscript that they have reason to date to the period in which the Alexander Romance were composed. And imagine this manuscript tells another tale about Alexander and refers to an event or two we already know from the Romance. Would that fact give us reason to think that Alexander was indeed historical after all? Of course not. All it would mean is that the two authors knew about a similar tale and maybe they belonged to a common school of some sort.

      Now this is not an exact analogy. I know from other posts you appreciate that analogies are never exact in all details, but I am sure you will be able to appreciate the principle that is being illustrated here.

      In the case of Jesus we have only one source of tradition, Christianity itself. External references independent of Christianity only emerge well after the supposed time of Jesus, and they are all arguably in response to what those later Christians themselves were saying.

      Now some might say that if the Alexander Romance were written in the genre of historiography, then that would lend support to the historicity of Alexander. Yes, it would be a tick in favour of historicity, but it would not be conclusive. We do know of historical genres peddling much outright fiction. Besides, Burridge’s argument for the biographical genre of the gospels lacks any theoretical foundation or methodology for assigning a work to a particular genre, unlike Vines’ work that is grounded in genre theory.

      We have no primary evidence for Jesus, and by primary evidence I mean evidence that is itself physically located in the time and place in question. We have only secondary evidence, which by its nature must always be treated differently from primary evidence. That is not to dismiss secondary evidence at all, but it is particularly important to understand its provenance and purpose, etc in order to know how to interpret it.

      Now someone may wish to bypass all of the above argument and point to Paul’s statement in Galatians about the brother of the Lord. Yet as even some who have argued against mythicism have had the integrity to acknowledge, for a number of reasons that is not at all conclusive evidence for the historicity of Jesus. I don’t need to repeat those (historicists’!!) arguments now.

      The above methodology is merely an elaboration of what other biblical scholars since (and before) Schweitzer and others have acknowledged, and is an elaboration of the approaches to documentary and narrative evidence that other historians generally take for granted.

      It does not support mythicism or historicism. It means the evidence requires us to start with an agnostic position. Historicism is no more justified as a starting premise than is mythicism.

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

    Neil, I will gladly respond to your comment, even though it is more an offering of examples than an articulation of methodology.

    But first, can you please include some details that correspond more closely to the case of Jesus, so that the analogy is more apt? On the one hand, let’s have letters which mention a brother of Alexander, written by someone who indicates his assumption that Alexander was a human being who was born and died. On the other hand, let’s have some folks on the internet who claim that Alexander was thought of by the author of the Romance as a purely celestial being, or was invented on the prototype of a variety of deities, who disagree with all the historians and yet claim to be using their methods.

    That will give us an analogous case to discuss. Perhaps you can also indicate what you think historians ought to do under such circumstances.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, please try to avoid sarcasm and respond to the logic of my argument. As I pointed out explicitly if it were not already clear enough this is not a case for mythicism.

      Please let me know what you think of the logic of my argument as far as it stands.

      My argument is about methodology and stands apart from any specific case, whether Jesus or Socrates or Hillel and Caesar. It can be applied to any such case. That is why it is a methodology — it is not contingent upon just one specific historical topic.

      So if you can accept the logic of the methodological principles I have addressed here we can then move to the next step.

      We can then attempt to see if it does, and in what ways, applies to the case for Jesus — though Albert Schweitzer clearly understood that the logical force of the argument does apply to Jesus. After all, my argument is nothing more than making explicit the theoretical underpinnings of historicity to which he was referring.

      Can you please respond without sarcasm, ridicule, insult or innuendo. Please. A rational and logical discussion is all I am asking.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      If you don’t want to get distracted by analogies — and you shouldn’t let them distract you — then simply delete all the analogies I made and focus entirely on the principles I expressed.

      The analogies were merely illustrative. Forget the analogies.

      Look at and respond only to the principles I set out.

  • Geoff Hudson

    He wrote: “One other (and even more favourite) fancy of mine is that Acts has a similar structure to the Primary History, that is, Genesis to 2 Kings. Among several points of contact is that both conclude with the lead protagonist at the time in prison yet at the same time enjoying some form of liberty that gives promise for the future.”
    Paul spent two years under house arrest in Rome from 60 to 62.  Then he completely disappeared, supposed by many to have been executed.  May be he escaped!

    James, arriving in Jerusalem in 60, really was executed in 62 by Ananus the high priest.  Two years to prove himself.  There was a battle between two protagonists, one a prophet and the other a priest.  This was just about the same period as Jesus’ ministry.       

    He dreams-up dreams from primary history.     

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

    Neil, so far you have not offered principles, other than the need for independent corroboration. But your analogy, a birth certificate, seems on the one hand to suggest that the presence of a stamp or seal, with no assessment of its authenticity, provides “independent corroboration” of the document’s contents, while you suggest on the other hand that the alternative would be for the paper to be blank.

    You are not making sense yet, much less offering a method. And the analogies you offered do not explain why you find persuasive claims that an ancient text was using language in a very specific non-standard way to depict its central character as a purely celestial being without explicitly saying so, but only if that central character is Jesus.

    If your presentation of your methodology cannot account for why you find mythicism persuasive, then presumably it does not accurately present your methodology.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, let me say for a third time that my argument is about a methodology and NOT an argument for mythicism. It is entirely an attempt to make explicit what is very often only implicit (but by no means always) in the way many historians evaluate evidence.

      If my methodology was an argument itself for mythicism then it would be a self-serving rationalization and not a methodology at all. So I am encouraged by your criticism. It shows that the methodology is just what it should be: independent of mythicism or historicism. That is the whole point of my argument. It is not an indication I am being dishonest at all. That is exactly the point I am wanting to make and that deeply interests me.

      You imply I am being dishonest because my argument does not support mythicism or Doherty. But if my argument did support mythicism or Doherty it would be a useless rationalization and not an argument about methodology as you rightly realize.

      Did you read my last two paragraphs? Here they are again in case you missed them.

      The above methodology is merely an elaboration of what other biblical scholars since (and before) Schweitzer and others have acknowledged, and is an elaboration of the approaches to documentary and narrative evidence that other historians generally take for granted.

      It does not support mythicism or historicism. It means the evidence
      requires us to start with an agnostic position. Historicism is no more
      justified as a starting premise than is mythicism.

      But the details of analogies and examples are distracting you despite my warning against this in my comment, so let me present here the principle of my argument without analogies or illustrations.

      The theoretical underpinning of the factness of the contents of a narrative is independent corroboration at some level. Yes. It’s very simple. That’s the first point.

      That’s most basic and not to be dismissed. If we say the content of a narrative are true because the narrative itself seems to ring true or because no-one dishonest would have written it or because it contains realistic settings and details or because we believe it was passed down by long tradition from the event narrated, then we are merely reasoning in a circle. We are saying the narrative is true because we can think of reasons it would be true.

      That’s why I speak of controls. We need to find a way to break this circle if we are to have a valid reason for arguing the contents of the narrative might be historical.

      So I also addressed primary and secondary evidence. Evidence that appears some time after the event (that is, is not contemporary with the event) must by necessity be afforded a different value than evidence that is contemporary with the event.

      Yes, sometimes secondary evidence can be more accurate than contemporary evidence which may be less accurate propaganda. But such cases need to be established on a case by case basis.

      So independent corroboration that is contemporary is the most powerful evidence of all. I could give you examples but fear these will distract from the principle being addressed here.

      In other words, the contents of a narrative need controls of some sort if they are to be established as having been “true” or non-fiction reality.

      As the word “control” itself suggests, controlling evidence must itself not be subject to question. Otherwise it can hardly serve as a “control”. To the extent that it is opent to question the strengh of it as a control is compromised and the case for factness is reduced exponentially.

      I am avoiding giving examples for fear that they will distract you from the principles I am expressing here.

      By controls we mean the sort of independent corroboration that is contemporary with the supposed event of the narrative. If our corroboration is secondary and not primary evidence we need to be more cautious.

      Now it goes without saying that we have no primary evidence for Jesus. But that is not in and of itself decisive against historicity. We have no primary evidence for other figures that are regarded as historical, too. But in those cases we do have controls for the secondary evidence. In such cases the contents of narratives in the secondary evidence are afforded a positive probability of historicity because of thse controls. Those controls are both secure and independent sources of corroboration.

      I am avoiding examples and analogies in order not to distract from the principles.

      And this is why Albert Schweitzer himself said that when we address theoretical methodological underpinnings of what establishes the historicity of a figure, we have no controls in order to give Jesus even a positive probability.

      Now of course Schweitzer was not a mythicist. He made that remark after addressing at length, without insults and with reasoned arguments that demonstrated a knowledge of the arguments of those he was addressing, the mythicists of his day.

      So can you address the principles I have attempted to raise here without resorting to insulting accusations against my honesty or sincerity or suggestions that I do not know what my own argument is?

      If I lean to mythicism it is because the starting point of methodological foundations allows me to begin my investigation by being truly agnostic about the historicity of Jesus. From this starting point we can begin our investigations on truly neutral ground.

      If we subsequently conclude historicism or mythicism it will not be because we have approached the question with our minds made up to begin with. And if we do come down on the side of historicism then it will be on stronger grounds than the logically fallacious reliance upon one sole source tradition for Jesus, Christianity itself. We will have found a way to avoid circular argument.

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

    Neil, if your argument is about a methodology, then please present it. Thus far you have not done so. We can get to the question of why your method leads you to strange conclusions about Jesus but no one else after you have articulated your method in a clear, well-defined and well-argued fashion. Thus far you have not done so.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      For the fourth time, James, my argument does not “lead” me to mythicism. You seem to be so completely focussed on this and your gratuitous assumptions about me that you are failing to see what I am attempting to argue.

      If you don’t like the word methodology then I am quite happy to argue my point without reference to the word. Let’s just call it “Schweitzer’s maxim” or “Historical Evaluation of Sources 101″ or “Avoiding Circularity in Historiography” or simply “Neil’s argument” if you’d rather.

      I have expressed the problem of circularity and the need for controls to avoid this in order to establish whether or not a figure can be deemed historical or not, or with some in-between degree of probability.

      What is wrong with this argument? These principles. To the best of my ability I have drawn on the works of other historians and biblical scholars and my own reflections on my knowledge of historical studies to try to make explicit what is very often operating at the implicit level in historical studies.

      Now, is my logic flawed? Is my argument flawed? Do you agree with the principles expressed?

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

    Neil, I don’t have a problem with the term “methodology” and I don’t mind what you call your method, but please don’t refer to it as though you have already presented an articulation or summary of it. You have not. Please do so, in order that the discussion of it may then take place. It cannot be discussed until you present it.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Sorry, James, I am not sure I understand. You say that you “don’t mind what [I] call [my] method.” Do you mean by this that you are in agreement with the logic and principles I have expressed?

      If my two posts, one rich with analogies and the other articulating the principles without analogies or examples, are not presentations of my argument then what are they?

      I have presented some very basic, very simple points that I think most would consider truisms. Do you agree with these points?

      Why are you refusing to respond to such a simple question?

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

    Are you saying that you think that because you used “the problem of circularity”, for instance, in a sentence, that that constitutes an articulation of a method and its theoretical framework? If so, I disagree. If not, then why not clarify what you meant and simply actually articulate your method and its theoretical grounding, assuming you have such things to articulate?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      No James, I am simply raising a series of points and asking if you agree with them. Do you?

      It’s as simple and straightforward as that.

      No hidden agenda.

      I am simply trying to show you what I base my whole approach to Christian origins upon. The starting logical principles.

      You know that some of your own peers acknowledge the circularity of their methods. I am merely making explicit how circularity can be avoided.

      Your fear of giving a straightforward response wouldn’t have anything to do with a fear of conceding that someone who leans towards mythicism is actually capable of a straightforward and sound logical argument, would it?

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

    If that is what you intend to show me, then please start! I think we have had enough preliminaries. Please actually present your method and its theoretical underpinnings, your methodology. The starting logical principles, as you call them – please present your understanding of them. I think you have kept me in suspense long enough.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      What are you looking for? Do you want me to come up with gobbledegook that leads to mythicism?

      That IS my starting position. You simply don’t get it, presumably because you cannot believe it. Are you so convinced by your own polemic that I have no rational argument?

      That is it.

      Presumably you do not accept this starting point. You insist, rather, on treating the sources we work with as evidence of historicity of Jesus.

      I am showing that that is not permissible. With a valid methodology the sources themselves are no evidence of historicity, but leave the question open.

      Do you accept that? Apparently not. Am I correct – and I do not mean to be putting words in your mouth so do advise me if I am wrong — in thinking that you are content to say the sources are evidence of historicity because we can think of reasons why they would be narrating a historical person or event? That is, circularity.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      I would also invite you to recall, James your earlier chagrin that I am not arguing for a mythicist position. My argument is about Christian origins and finding a methodological approach that does not shut out logical alternatives. What I have called my methodology — really a set of logical truisms adopted from other scholars, historians included — is just that.

      But my impression is that you are so set on accusing me of entertaining irrational nonsense simply because I tend towards mythicism without ever being aware of what I am actually arguing. Now I am trying to show you and you appear to be flummoxed because it is not irrational nonsense.

      My point is that most historical Jesus studies does not begin with these basic truisms at all. It begins with circularity — as some of your  own peers recognize.

      Of course when I set them out like this they all sound very logical (I think — though you won’t admit to this so I don’t know what you are thinking about them). As I said, I am attempting to make explicit what is too often only implicit in historiographical works. And that is probably the problem with HJ scholars. They have missed the obvious. They have generally started with an assumption that the Alexander Romance is of and by itself evidence of a historical Alexander (you know what I mean, I hope).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Well, so far as he has described it, I don’t have a problem with Neil’s basic principles. He may not understand the methods of other scholars, for instance his statement ;
     
     “If we say the contents of a narrative are true because the narrative itself seems to ring true or because no-one dishonest would have written it or because it contains realistic settings and details or because we believe it was passed down by long tradition from the event narrated, then we are merely reasoning in a circle. We are saying the narrative is true because we can think of reasons it would be true”
     
    I’m not sure who he believes thinks like this.  It isn’t a characteristic of the works on early Christianity I’ve read. 
     
    I do have to disagree with his statement “It means the evidence requires us to start with an agnostic position. Historicism is no more justified as a starting premise than is mythicism.” The evidence really gives little reason to contemplate mythicism and this is probably why few works on early Christianity or Jesus address the subject now.  This is because despite the fragility of the evidence concerning the accounts of Jesus, the evidence that Jesus was a myth created by the early church is far more ethereal. Now if we had no evidence concerning Jesus, then the two positions would be equal, but of course that is not the case.  Neil acknowledges this when he supports arguments for Jesus being mythical. We have sources that can be used to calculate the chances that claims about Jesus are mythical or historical.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Was Neil’s last comment a joke? If mysticism is his starting position, then his argument for mythacism is entirely circular. If we start with a conclusion, then we will always be able to find a way to justify it.
     
    I don’t know how James feels, but I think the sources are evidence for historicity, because when we ask, “why were they written like this?”, a historical Jesus is the most straight forward explanation.  Likewise my posts are not proof that I disagree with mythicism, but I think that would be a reasonable conclusion to make.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Er, Michael, perhaps you can show me where I ever even hinted that mythicism was my starting position. What is your reading-age level?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      but I think the sources are evidence for historicity, because when we
      ask, “why were they written like this?”, a historical Jesus is the most
      straight forward explanation.

      This was written by someone who says he has no problems with my basic principles but he clearly hasn’t understood them or has no grasp of what is meant by circularity.

      As I said earlier, accepting a narrative’s contents as being based on historical events without any form of controls at all, but merely because we can think of reasons why the narrative would be based on historicity — that is entirely circular.

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

    Neil, is Michael right? Are those vague generalities and assertions without context or argumentation what you were referring to as your “methodology”? 

    If so, then in place of those, can you offer something that would pass muster as methodology in a scholarly discussion for us to talk about? Or is that all you plan on presenting? When scholars speak of methodological underpinnings of their work, they usually have in mind something that is clearly articulated and systematically presented. If that is your “method” then I can see now why I didn’t understand your apparent belief that you had already presented it. If that is not, then please stop delaying and actually present your method.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Michael has no understanding of what I am arguing and has made it very clear many times that he is quite happy to remain ignorant of what I say and to laugh at anything I might say. Are you taking your cues from Michael, now? Remember what happened last time you followed his lead about “Shakespeare mythicism”.

      James,  do you have any interest in understanding what I am arguing?

      My point is very simple. It is very basic. It is generally implicit and not explicit. And this is probably why most HJ historians have overlooked it.

      HJ studies are based on circularity of method. My basic points explain why this is so and how to avoid that.

      Can you bring yourself to acknowledge this simple logical fact?

      I don’t think you can. Though fortunately some of your peers have more courage.

      That is not an argument for mythicism. It is not an argument for historicism. It is a neutral starting point. And it is a valid starting point for any historical inquiry and treatment of evidence.

      My “method” begins with an ability to acknowledge the principles I have addressed. I don’t think you can acknowledge them.

      I think, rather, that you insist that a narrative about Jesus is itself evidence for historicity about Jesus — like our Alexander Romance in and of itself being an argument for historicity of Alexander.

      I do not think you can accept this. You can see the logic when applied to Alexander in this hypothetical scenario, but you cannot accept the same logic being applied to the narratives for Jesus.

      This, I think, is where you are inconsistent and arguing on the basis of circularity.

      My point is that once we accept this neutral or agnostic position about the content of the narratives and other faith documents in Christianity, then the next step is to find the simplest and most valid explanations for the content of these documents.

      HJ scholars have approached the question on the assumption of historicity from the get-go and so all their explanations have been designed to explain or flesh out that assumption. They have never considered the possibility that there might be more direct and straightforward explanations for the contents of those narratives. The question has never arisen.

      But those who have raised the question have for most part been cast out into outer darkness.

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

    Neil, you wrote: 

    What are you looking for? Do you want me to come up with gobbledegook that leads to mythicism? 

    That IS my starting position. You simply don’t get it, presumably because you cannot believe it. Are you so convinced by your own polemic that I have no rational argument? 

    That is it. 

    Now, I guessed that what you wrote did not express well what you meant, but it is unfair and mean to speak to Michael abusively because he interacted with what you actually wrote, is it not?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      My goodness, James. Michael has made it abundantly clear he has no interest in honest discussion with me and is merely replying sarcastically and you have never once chided him for his outrageous abuse towards me. Your standards are very clear. Anyone who supports you can dump obsenities upon me without qualm but if I respond with the merest hint of sarcasm — given the history of what Michael has said about me here and on my blog and elsewhere — you jump all over me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

     Neil, the Alexander Romance is evidence for a historical Alexander, if that is all we had, based on our knowledge of other folk traditions you would have reason to believe their might be an Alexander, you would not have is proof. When there is no evidence for a thing, there is no reason to suspect it.
     
     
     
    “My point is that most historical Jesus studies does not begin with these basic truisms at all. It begins with circularity — as some of your own peers recognize.”
     
     
     
    Are you talking about Alison again? I showed that he does not think the evidence for Jesus’ existence is circular.
     
     
     
    I think we all understand you arguments and that is why we think they are irrational nonsense.

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

    Neil, never mind what other commenters are writing. Either present your method as you as you said you would, or acknowledge that the disjointed snippets you have expressed in comments are what you are calling your method. Please just present the theoretical underpinnings of your approach, articulated in a logical, clear, and theoretically sound and rigorous fashion, or clarify that what you are calling your method lacks such characteristics. But please stop delaying the conversation and avoiding what you yourself said should be the focus of the discussion. It cannot be discussed until you offer something clear!

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

    So your method is to state and believe that historical Jesus study is circular? That is not the sort of thing that scholars mean by “method.” Do you have one to present for discussion or don’t you? Your last comment involved you talking in circles. Was this intentionally ironic, or is this in fact illustrative of your “method”?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Well, James, I have said I am very happy to avoid using the term “method”. Perhaps that is too pretentious for what are really as set of truisms. But I have begged you repeatedly to explain to me where my explanations are in error, lacking or flawed. I attempted to explain my point without any distracting analogies at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/10/doherty-mythicism.html#comment-372324556

      Can you please tell me what, specifically, is wrong with what I am attempting to say there?

      I have asked you this several times now but you seem not to want to help me or answer me.

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

    So are you saying now that you do not in fact have a method? What, then, do you have, and why do you claim to be using the same method as mainstream scholars if you are now happy to acknowledge that you do not have a method at all? Or if you in fact do have a method, then why do you continue to postpone presenting it? Please just provide something clear so that the conversation can begin and have something to talk about. Is that too much to ask? I am not criticizing anything that you have written elsewhere, I am asking you to be clear, systematic, explicit and logical in what you write here.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      James, I thought you earlier said you don’t mind if I call it a method or something else when I offered to ditch that term. Now it seems that this is all important to you.

      What I have is an explanation of how we can determine the historicity or otherwise of contents of narratives. I have given you this explanation and for some reason I do not understand you seem to be saying I have said nothing you can respond to. All I have asked you is if you agree with my statements or not? Simple.

      Do you agree with my points or not? You can respond to that question surely.

      What I have is an explication of what lies behind Schweitzer’s and others’ statements about the problems of circularity in HJ studies.

      My points also indicate a way to avoid that circularity. I did recently explain that, too, but that explanation clearly confused you. It shouldn’t have. It is the way most historians proceed with evidence, even our good friend Hobsbawm.

      You seem incapable of addressing what I have said and are now trying to fault me for not saying or arguing something else that you think I should be arguing.

      Do you agree with my points or not? That’s all I am asking.

      • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

        Even Michael can say he has no problem with them, but you can’t. Why?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Neil, I think I missed where you explained how to avoid “circularity”. And can you explain what you mean by circularity, I guess I’m confused? You often link the phrase with something Alison said, but when I looked it up and found the quote he used it in the way I’m accustomed to seeing the word, meaning circular logic, using the conclusion as part of the premise.  You seem to relate it to using a text without external controls. Without your clarification it is hard to understand what you are trying to communicate. While I understand you question my reading skills, but all the indicators I’ve seen say my ability to read is fine, so I think the problem probably lies elsewhere, perhaps you are writing to the Steves and Evans of the world.  And who are these peers of James that has the courage to admit the circularity at the heart of HJ studies anyhow?
    “HJ scholars have approached the question on the assumption of historicity from the get-go and so all their explanations have been designed to explain or flesh out that assumption. They have never considered the possibility that there might be more direct and straightforward explanations for the contents of those narratives. The question has never arisen.”
     
    And
     
    “Now of course Schweitzer was not a mythicist. He made that remark after addressing at length, without insults and with reasoned arguments that demonstrated a knowledge of the arguments of those he was addressing, the mythicists of his day. “
     
    Could you please explain this???
     
    “I think, rather, that you insist that a narrative about Jesus is itself evidence for historicity about Jesus — like our Alexander Romance in and of itself being an argument for historicity of Alexander.
    I do not think you can accept this. You can see the logic when applied to Alexander in this hypothetical scenario, but you cannot accept the same logic being applied to the narratives for Jesus.”
    It’s pretty common procedure to use a narrative about x as evidence for the historicity of x. I’m not sure why you feel this is a special problem of James or HJ scholars.
     
      For example consider the wicker man of Julius Caesar’s “Gallic Wars”, book VI.  That this ever occurred is based on hearsay Caesar reported, the account from Starbo’s “Geographies” IV could very reasonably be argued as based on Caesars’ account.  I think you will find a lot of non-biblical historians treat it as something Celts did.  Why? There is no independent confirmation that the Celts used these wicker men. Could it be that Caesar merely claiming that he heard that such a thing was done count as evidence for it? I think they would agree that it does. Is it proof that they burned victims in wicker men? No. and I doubt any modern historian would say the issue is settled because Caesar said it. He may be lying, and he has reason to do so, but that can’t be proven either. But based on other evidence of Celtic human sacrifice and the practices of other societies at the same level of organization, it has to at least be considered plausible. Now if it could be proven that Caesar made up the whole thing, then we would have no evidence for a wicker man, because false evidence is no evidence. To maintain that wicker men were used would just be idle speculation at this point.
     
    Now you may not care for that work, or any other based on using a narrative about x as evidence for the historicity of x, and it certainly has its problems, but I don’t think you can say that HJ scholars are out of step with other historians. Hell, I’ve even seen cases made for the historicity of things mentioned in 1001 Arabian Nights.

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

    Neil, you were the one who said you wanted to discuss method, and so I was waiting for something that fit that label.

    If you want to discuss something else, what “points” precisely are the ones you want to discuss?

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

    Michael, in case Neil continues to resist giving straight answers, clear presentations of his views, and clear statements of what he is looking for, do you think that the “points” he is referring to are things like his assertion that historical Jesus studies are circular? I wonder if he is confusing circular reasoning with something like the hermeneutical circle, in which data are often situated historically based on their correspondence to other data from history, and then once thus situated, used to interpret other historical data. There is an element of circularity in various aspects of historical reconstruction, but not in a sense that makes it “circular reasoning.” Perhaps a misunderstanding on this point is at the root of his crusade against what he perceives to be going on in historical Jesus studies?

    I still don’t buy his claim that if a playwright had written about Jesus as one wrote about Socrates, that would constitute an “external control” and all mythicists would suddenly accept the possibility that Jesus might have been historical. Based on previous encounters with mythicists, I expect the opposite would be the case – they would say “In a play – just where you would expect to find a fictional character!”

    This is why it is so frustrating that they do not have methodological underpinnings to their approach. When one has clear tools and processes, it makes it easier to point out when they are not being used or not being used appropriately.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Ah, so James, you have finally spoken the words that I believe are the key to your resistance to responding with a simple answer to my question.

      You have also repeated here your presumably deliberately false description of what I have argued — I say deliberately because I you have repeated it often enough before and continue to do so despite my pointing out to you that you are writing a falsehood, something I have never said and that is a mere caricature of my argument. You know very well I do not argue that “because a playwright wrote about Socrates we have an external control”. It is important for the Doctor to avoid conceptual thinking and keep it at the level of the concrete. “Independent control” is to be avoided; “playwright” only is to be used. (And of course, James inadvertently even puts his finger on the very reason some Scholars are NOT persuaded of Socrates’ existence. The evidence really is in the realm of shades of gray! If only James could have been courageous enough to have said all this from the start we could have had a fascinating — and far more enlightening and intellectually honest — discussion.)

      But I do thank you, James, for finally responding to my repeated series of earlier requests to respond to my Socrates illustration of the historical method. You have finally given me your opinion. You do not accept the logic of my argument. You cannot. To do so would mean, logically, the undermining of the whole HJ enterprise — an intolerable fear. Better, rather, to shut one’s mind to simple logic.

      And King Herod summoned Jesus and demanded of him some great miracle and sign from heaven. But Jesus confounded him by the simplicity and truth of his mere presence. So Herod, enraged, sent him away.

      James, I put it to you that the reason you are unable to give a straightforward answer to my simple question about whether or not you accept some simple truisms is that they have caught you in a double bind:

      And the Pharisees consulted with themselves and said:

      (a) If we say ‘no’ to his question, then we will look complete fools because all the people can see the simple logical truth of his argument — as he himself says, they are mere truisms;

      (b) If we say ‘yes’ to his question, then we will have to concede what we have denied all along and that we cannot afford to admit if we are to maintain our reputation — that our whole enterprise of HJ studies really is based on circularity.

      I also appreciate, James, the reason you prefer to use tools rather than a logically coherent methodology that avoids circularity.

      The tools to which you are referring are simple and easy to understand and, like Burridge’s checklist of concrete points of comparison of the Gospels with the external features of ancient biographies, easy. Unfortunately other scholars with a little more cranial matter have demonstrated that the tools are fraught with contradictions and fallacies and do not rescue their users from circularity. They really take their users on rides in spinning wheels within wheels. (And heaven forbid the work of Vines on genre. Reading Bakhtin and genre theory? Oh no, way too hard. At least Burridge’s checklist of externals is easy to understand!)

      So thank you for finally at least touching all the Freudian buttons in your comment to Michael, Dr McGrath. It has been an interesting exchange. Even if it did take 565 comments before you finally responded just enough to demonstrate your real fears and limitations.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

         
        Neil your claim of James’ falsehood is false. for anyone following along, the meaning is clear. He speculates that a play mentioning Jesus would not be accepted as an independent control by Mythicist. We here all agree that the playwright in the case of Socrates is an independent control. He is not attempting to argue here that it is not.
         
         
         
        “… like Burridge’s checklist of concrete points of comparison of the Gospels with the external features of ancient biographies, easy. Unfortunately other scholars with a little more cranial matter have demonstrated that the tools are fraught with contradictions and fallacies and do not rescue their users from circularity.”
         
         
         
        Do you have support for your claim that Vines has more “cranial matter” than Burridge? I don’t think this sort of personal attack is going to convince intelligent people to disregard Burridge’s work (“Most scholars agree with Burridge that the gospels fit the genre of biography”—–”oh yeah? well some guy on the internet said burridge isn’t as smart as the guys who say otherwise, so disregard him”)
         
         
         
        The passage is good evidence, however, for my contention that you are a douche bag, since insulting the intelligence of scholars he disagrees with is a douche bag thing to do.
         

      • Geoff Hudson

        He’s a professional hobbyist.  

        • Geoff Hudson

          Was the mythical name Earl Doherty derived from Ed, aka Edgar Rice Burroughs?  The inventor could have been a Tarzan enthusiast. And wasn’t a Doherty one of Ed’s illustrators? How many people has he fooled with his Earl Doherty?    

          • Geoff Hudson

            This quote from ‘Neil Godrey’s’ blog http://vridar.wordpress.com/2010/05/27/how-and-why-scholars-fail-to-rebut-earl-doherty/ gets to the heart of his hypocrisy:

            “Dr Jeffrey Gibson is on record as saying he has no intention of reading any of Doherty’s books but that did not prevent him from pulling out a critical line from Dr R. Joseph Hoffmann’s preface to a publication reissuing Goguel’s rebuttal of mythicism, and placing it in a Wikipedia article.”‘A “disciple” of Wells, Earl Doherty has rehashed many of the former’s [Wells'] views in The Jesus Puzzle (Age of Reason Publications, 2005) which is qualitatively and academically far inferior to anything so far written on the subject. . .’Gibson, thus agreeing with Hoffman, appears to distance himself from Doherty.  Gibson maintains his academic reputation intact.  But he has no intention of reading Doherty’s books because he wrote them. 

            • Geoff Hudson

              Who doesn’t believe that Niel Godfrey is an alias for Dr Jeffrey B Gibson?

              • Dave Burke

                Geoff,

                >>
                Who doesn’t believe that Niel Godfrey is an alias for Dr Jeffrey B Gibson?
                >>

                I don’t.

                • Geoff Hudson

                  Coming from you, that means you do.

                  • Dave Burke

                    ???

                    Coming from me, it means I don’t. What makes you think Neil Godfrey and Jeff Gibson could be the same person? That doesn’t make sense to me.

                    • Geoff Hudson

                      That’s because you are schizophrenic.

                • Geoff Hudson

                  It seems as though you are the only one.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

      On circularity, it does seem Neil has misread Alison.  Alison addresses the criticism that his finding that the apocalyptic sayings of Jesus are more likely genuine is based on his premise that Jesus said apocalyptic things. As Ehrman also points out, a number of Jesus’ sayings pass a number of other tests, so it isn’t merely on the model that Jesus is a doom’s day prophet that the greater likelihood of genuineness rest.  He also discusses the issue of hermeneutical circles in a foot note. The difficulty is trying to figure out what Jesus believed based on what is attributed to him without first knowing what Jesus believed so we can check if it is likely Jesus said what is attributed to him.   His recommendation is to start with the general picture of how Jesus is described and start from there, as opposed to trying to start with whether Jesus was an advocate of social justice, a dooms day prophet or  faith healer and then examining the traditions.  That is a good principle. For instance, if I wanted to know what sort of person Julius Caesar was, rather than try and figure out if was a selfish tyrant or champion of the common man before trying to determine the reliability of the reports, it is better to look at all the reports and see what the most likely portrait is.  Quoting Alison as claiming HJ studies are based on “circularity” simply isn’t true. I think he may feel it better for his position to present Alison as oafishly concluding Jesus existed while acknowledging his methods are illogical than to discuss what he thinks circularity means or what Alison means by it, thereby presenting HJ as faith based history. Unfortunately, it is possible to read Alison’s book and by not addressing the discrepancy between how Neil presents Alison and what Alison says, it gives the impression that Neil’s argument is a kind of scam, which raises the question of why he believes his own position. I presume there is a reason he does, and presenting that honestly with the faith that others will examine it with an open mind seems like a better ploy than using tricks which just undermines his credibility.  He should study Tom V. and Carrier more. I often disagree with them, but they can explain their ideas in an honest and straight forward way.
       
      Yeah, if Paul’s mentions of Jesus’ brothers, his being descended of David in the flesh, born of a woman and so on aren’t problems to a Doherty, I doubt he would let a contemporary mention of Jesus in a play by a detractor of Jesus get in the way. Doherty thinks his other evidence proves Jesus was a myth, so given that, of course any explanation is preferable to contradicting what we KNOW to be true.  The problem is Doherty’s other evidence is not as solid as he believes. I think this is Neil’s problem.  He thinks the evidence that Jesus is a myth is so slam dunk that anyone who doesn’t agree simply cannot have honestly reviewed the evidence.  I don’t have an issue with a lot of his premises.  I think he is under the impression that HJ scholars have convinced themselves they have “proved “ Jesus exited and thus can dismiss claims to the contrary as inherently impossible. While more than a few have more faith in the accounts than I think is warranted, I think it is clear that most scholars understand the limitations of the sources. The reason Jesus Myth ideas haven’t caught on is that most researchers don’t find them to be the “simplest and most valid explanations” for the existence of Christianity or the early Christian text.
       

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    I might help the Doctor here just one last time before I disappear.

    Had he been able to think the Socrates case study through at a conceptual level he would have been able to exchange playwright and philosophers as sources. He would have been able to have said:

    “Let’s suppose we start out with this ambiguous reference to Socrates in a mocking play. Is this Socrates character historical or not? Ah, hang on, we also have writings by those claiming to be the very students of this Socrates, not mocking at all — this strongly favours the historicity of Socrates.”

    But formal logic and conceptual thinking are not this Doctor’s strong points. But he is a great aficionado of science fiction.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    On circularity, it does seem Neil has misread Alison.  Alison addresses the criticism that his finding that the apocalyptic sayings of Jesus are more likely genuine is based on his premise that Jesus said apocalyptic things. As Ehrman also points out, a number of Jesus’ sayings pass a number of other tests, so it isn’t merely on the model that Jesus is a doom’s day prophet that the greater likelihood of genuineness rest.  He also discusses the issue of hermeneutical circles in a foot note. The difficulty is trying to figure out what Jesus believed based on what is attributed to him without first knowing what Jesus believed so we can check if it is likely Jesus said what is attributed to him.   His recommendation is to start with the general picture of how Jesus is described and start from there, as opposed to trying to start with whether Jesus was an advocate of social justice, a dooms day prophet or  faith healer and then examining the traditions.  That is a good principle. For instance, if I wanted to know what sort of person Julius Caesar was, rather than try and figure out if was a selfish tyrant or champion of the common man before trying to determine the reliability of the reports, it is better to look at all the reports and see what the most likely portrait is.  Quoting Alison as claiming HJ studies are based on “circularity” simply isn’t true. I think he may feel it better for his position to present Alison as oafishly concluding Jesus existed while acknowledging his methods are illogical than to discuss what he thinks circularity means or what Alison means by it, thereby presenting HJ as faith based history. Unfortunately, it is possible to read Alison’s book and by not addressing the discrepancy between how Neil presents Alison and what Alison says, it gives the impression that Neil’s argument is a kind of scam, which raises the question of why he believes his own position. I presume there is a reason he does, and presenting that honestly with the faith that others will examine it with an open mind seems like a better ploy than using tricks which just undermines his credibility.  He should study Tom V. and Carrier more. I often disagree with them, but they can explain their ideas in an honest and straight forward way.
     
    Yeah, if Paul’s mentions of Jesus’ brothers, his being descended of David in the flesh, born of a woman and so on aren’t problems to a Doherty, I doubt he would let a contemporary mention of Jesus in a play by a detractor of Jesus get in the way. Doherty thinks his other evidence proves Jesus was a myth, so given that, of course any explanation is preferable to contradicting what we KNOW to be true.  The problem is Doherty’s other evidence is not as solid as he believes. I think this is Neil’s problem.  He thinks the evidence that Jesus is a myth is so slam dunk that anyone who doesn’t agree simply cannot have honestly reviewed the evidence.  I don’t have an issue with a lot of his premises.  I think he is under the impression that HJ scholars have convinced themselves they have “proved “ Jesus exited and thus can dismiss claims to the contrary as inherently impossible. While more than a few have more faith in the accounts than I think is warranted, I think it is clear that most scholars understand the limitations of the sources. The reason Jesus Myth ideas haven’t caught on is that most researchers don’t find them to be the “simplest and most valid explanations” for the existence of Christianity or the early Christian text.
     

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

    I love it! I kept asking Neil for a presentation of his methods, because he said he wanted to talk about method. He finally admits that it isn’t method that he wants to talk about, but still complains as though I was the one holding up the conversation. :-)

    Then he discusses Socrates, but doesn’t get that on the one hand, the reasoning he presents as a positive example is not unlike the way historians reason about Jesus, although Neil’s presentation of it is simplistic. And on the other hand, no mythicist would accept that reasoning when applied to the figure whose existence their ideology denies.

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

    Since I know Jeffrey Gibson, and know that he does not work in Singapore as a librarian, and thinks mythicism is bunk, not to mention that he doesn’t look like any of the photos of Neil Godfrey available online, I will offer my own testimony that Neil Godfrey and Jeffrey Gibson are not the same person.

    • Geoff Hudson

      Which goes to show that you don’t have to believe everything that you read via the internet, especially when it is not accompanied by any other evidence.

    • Geoff Hudson

      Saying he works for a library is an obvious cover for Godfrey, because it enables him to have an excuse for having access to all those books. It would not be unreasonable to ask which library did Godfrey work for?  Perhaps he would like to give us the phone number of the library?  And where does this amateur, hobbyist find the time to read them all; books by such obscure persons as Guignebert and Loisy?  I don’t believe that all that reading brings him any relief.

      • Geoff Hudson

        So who doesn’t think that Neil Godfrey is an academic in the field of biblical studies? 

        • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

          Oh Geoff — I have been as open as I can possibly be about who I am etc etc but I am sure nothing from me, not even a photo or phone number or personal meeting would convince you otherwise. In my “about vridar” profile I attempt to answer all the questions that others have put to me over the years about who I am etc and it would take very little effort on the part of anyone genuinely interested to follow up the leads I place there to confirm exactly who I am, what I do, and the rest.

          Jeffrey Gibson.

          • Geoff Hudson

            You have not revealed anything about who you are, save a photo and a supposed location, which can easily be false.  You know it, your friend Burke knows it, in fact we all know it, and I am sure that no-one with an interest believes that you are not an academic in the field of biblical studies.    

            • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

              You clearly did not take the trouble to read my profile or follow up any of the links and much more I provided there.

              • Geoff Hudson

                Listen, how do you expect anyone to believe that you write your blog as a mere hobbyist.  You obviously read a very wide spectrum of religious books well beyond the reach of the average person.  You are an expert in New Testament Greek.  And when I read that you have an interest in books by French writers Guignebert and Loisy then a certain person by the name of Gibson comes to my mind .  

                • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

                  As I said, I don’t think any evidence will convince you otherwise. Not even the phone call confirmation nor official publications about me by my employer — all of which can be obtained via links in my profile. (I am no expert in Greek of any kind, by the way.)

                  • Geoff Hudson

                    I know all about your “links”.  They disappear, or get taken down as they say, or even get put into a place for hobbyhorse comments.  

                    You are losing your touch.  You can’t imitate writing like a true amateur with a rushed account of Acts 6, thus:  “SUCH miracles created SUCH excitement that multitudes more rushed to join up with SUCH an idyllic group.”  http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/the-hellenistic-hebrew-division-in-the-jerusalem-church-1/#respond Tut, tut!

                    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

                      The links are recent. If any are broken then let me know and I’ll fix them. (But I suspect you are not even trying to check out my profile. To do so would shatter your delusions.)

                    • Geoff Hudson

                      So you are quite welcome to “shatter my delusions”!  You can do it in the normal manner which befits a scholar.  

                    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

                      You only have to read my profile and follow the links. Try this bit: “For the benefit of those who are curious about internet claims that I am someone else I invite them to read the Synapse Newsletter volum3 2011, page 7.”

                    • Geoff Hudson

                      My apologies Neil. Geoff.

                    • Geoff Hudson

                      And here is my interpretation of Acts 6:2.

                      ‘So I gathered all the brothers together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the distribution of food in order to wait on the Spirit”.  

                      What had they been neglecting?  The daily distribution of food. In order to do what?  WAIT ON the Spirit.  This originally had nothing to do with waiting on tables.  So in spending time praying they hadn’t been looking after the widows properly.

                        

                    • Geoff Hudson

                      They were recognising their own hypocrisy.

                    • Geoff Hudson

                      Similarly to Acts 6.2, 1 Cor.11.33 was originally, “So
                      then, my brothers, when you come together to pray, wait for the Spirit”.  

                      They met together to pray, not eat.  This wasn’t the ridculous matter of being polite and waiting for all to start eating a meal at the same time, but was the matter  of waiting for the Spirit to lead. 

  • Geoff Hudson

    Neil is discussing Acts 6 on his blog. http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/the-hellenistic-hebrew-division-in-the-jerusalem-church-1/

    He has Acts 6.3 as: Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them.

    My version would be: Brothers and sisters, choose seven women from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them.

    They were not going to send men around to widows. 

    “Brothers and sisters” are being addressed.  

    It is an individual speaking, not the fictitious “twelve”, who would hardly speak together. 

    There was a real natural story behind Acts which has been extensively amended.  

  • Geoff Hudson

    Neil says here http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/stephen-the-hellenistic-hebrew-division-in-the-jerusalem-church-2/#more-22739 that “Stephen makes a a most awkward fit into the narrative that follows Acts 6.1-7 when we try to make sense of the account as history.”

    Well given that the brothers (a word which we can take to mean brothers and sisters) selected seven sisters to distribute food to the widows, the pointed naming of seven men with Greek names becomes redundant. So does the whole concept of a Hellenist-Hebrew division.  Both were an editorial fabrication. 

    My version of Acts 6:4-7 is:
    4.and we will give our attention to prayer.
    5.This proposal pleased the whole group. 
    6.They presented these women to the brothers who prayed and laid their hands on them.
    7.So the Spirit of God spread.  The number of brothers in Rome increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the Spirit.

    It was due to the involvement of women distributing food that the congregation grew.  And priests, no doubt of the poorer sort, were being converted to a belief in the Spirit as God, which leads us onto ‘Stephen’.  
    6
     

    • Geoff Hudson

      Acts 6:7 has: “the word of God spread”.  This is a mixture of ideas.  the word of God would have had to be communicated.  But a spirit can spread of its own accord which is the sense here. Thus I have: “the Spirit of God spread”.

      My version of Acts 6:7 has:”a large number of priests became obedient to the Spirit”. Wherever there were large numbers of Jews, there would have been priests  serving them.  In Rome there was freedom for priests to change their views. There were synagogues for worship and prayer.  There was no aristocratic priesthood keeping an eye on them. Some priests had sided with those who worshipped the Spirit as God.  Following the lead of their fellow believers in the Spirit, they now saw animal sacrifice as redundant. This was bound to cause trouble among more orthodox Jews.  Thus disputes were between Jews who were for animal sacrifice and those who were not.      
           

      • Geoff Hudson

        One part of the dispute was about the Spirit:  

        Acts 7.51.“You stiff-necked people, with
        uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: you always resist the [Holy] Spirit”.

        The other part was about animal sacrifice and with it the temple:  

        7.42. “Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings for forty years in the desert, O house of Israel”.

        The issue was one of entirely Jewish concern.

          

    • Geoff Hudson

      In his book James the Brother of Jesus, Eisenman alludes many times to Stephen actually being James.  It seems this Greek name was substituted for a Jewish name, and simply added to the list of the seven who were supposed to have ‘waited on tables’.  I go with Eisenman, but not for any reason which he gives.        

  • Geoff Hudson

    Acts 6;14 says something was going to “change the custom Moses handed down to us”. 

    The Spirit of God was going to change those customs. One custom in particular was animal sacrifice. The man who was alleged to have said these words saw sacrifice as redundant. A Jew may go through the ritual of sacrifice without changing his ways. Sacrifice did nothing. Obedience of the Spirit made you right with God.  It was everything.

    James’s interrogators were the leaders of the synagogue in Rome where James worshipped. He was well known in Rome. He had attended school with Nero, written the History of the Jews as a schoolboy exercise, a friend of king Agrippa, a Hasmonean, descended from Asamonious whose family had held the offices of high priest and prophet for a long time. His father Matthias held an important position in the emperor’s court.

    Acts 6:15. (My version) All who were sitting in the synagogue looked intently at me. (James was the original writer).

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

    Geoff, I don’t understand why you are posting comment after comment even when no one replies to earlier ones, especially when the topic of them is not of obvious relevance to this post and the comment thread. Would you care to explain?

    • Geoff Hudson

      The topic was Doherty mythicism. I am attempting to explain that there was at least some truth in what we have.  I have only one or two posts to finish making that point. I have just realised something which is to do with Stephen’s speech.   

  • Geoff Hudson

    Our arch mythycist Neil Godfrey gives a number of vague options for fitting Stephen into the narrative that follows Acts 6;1-7.  None are are convincing.http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/stephen-the-hellenistic-
    hebrew-division-in-the-jerusalem-church-2/

    There are two options in my opinion.  Either the writer of Acts wrote the speech attributed to Stephen, give or take some editorial.  Or the speech was fabricated for some reason.  I take the former view. Thus, only the writer of Acts (original Acts) would have remembered the content of his speech. And the writer wasn’t your average Greek new convert who had acquired his knowledge all of a sudden without training. He was what in today’s terms would be called an academic, with a detailed knowledge of Jewish history. An educated, aristocratic Jew. He was sufficiently confident to expound his views to a large group of his fellow Jews.

    But there is something very strange about his speech. The writer wasn’t just recounting Jewish history. He identifies himself with it. He says:

    7.2, The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in 
    Mesopotamia.
    7.5.God spoke to him in this way: ‘your descendents will be strangers in a 
    country not their own’.     
    7.22.Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was 
    powerful in speech and action.
    7.26.Moses thought that his own people would recognise that his own people would realise that God was using him to rescue them.
     
    Coming from an educated Jew, his hearers would immediately understand that he was speaking about himself. God spoke to him through the Spirit. He lived in a foreign country, Rome. He was educated in a Roman school with Nero.  He even thought that his own people would recognise what he was. 

    Thus he wrote: Acts 7.52.”was there ever a prophet your fathers did not 
    persecute”.   
     

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