Carrier and other Mythicists Reacting to Ehrman

In responding to Bart Ehrman’s book about mythicism, Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth, Richard Carrier points out some genuine errors (e.g. that Carrier’s degree is in Classics – although that would not at any rate be an insult) and alleged errors in a lengthy review, which approaches the matter in a fashion I am quickly coming to associate with Carrier. He exclaims that the book is rubbish and error-laden loudly at the start, and then when discussing the details, notes that some errors are minor, some may not be errors at all, and most or all of them do not affect his main point.

For instance, Carrier claims that Ehrman is wrong to say that “there is no penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock in the Vatican or anywhere else except in books like this, which love to make things up” and yet acknowledges that there is no such depiction of Peter, only of the god Priapus, which to everyone but Acharya S is not the same thing. Why is Carrier disputing Ehrman’s claim at all, when Ehrman did not say that there are no such figures, but only that the claim that there is a depiction of Peter in this way is a figment of mythicist imagination?

Carrier also writes, “Ehrman almost made me fall out of my chair when he discusses the letters of Pliny the Younger. He made two astonishing errors here that are indicative of his incompetence with ancient source materials.” One of them is that Ehrman referred to Letter 10 when the appropriate reference is to Book 10 of Pliny’s letters. This indicates something that I would have guessed to be true of Ehrman, as it is true of myself – we do not spend most of our time working in the letters of Pliny. Not only are references to books, chapters, letters, and other sections not standard across ancient works, but many ancient authors are referred to using older and more recent systems of dividing up their work. Anyone who has read much in the way of scholarly publications will know that when we move outside our area of expertise, such errors occur. To make much of it as though it were more than something that is par for the course in such circumstances is disingenuous. By all means, offer a warning and encourage scholars to pay more attention to determining the correct way of referring to passages. But don’t make it more than that. If someone who is not an Islamicist refers to a section in the Qur’an as a “chapter” rather than a “sura” it has no bearing on whether what they say about the passage is correct. And since Pliny’s testimony is only evidence of early Christianity, not directly of Jesus, Carrier’s focus on this and hyperbole about it comes across as an attempt to distract from the substantive criticisms Ehrman offers.

Carrier also spends a significant amount of time alleging that Ehrman is wrong about dying and rising gods even though Carrier himself has in the past said that such deities are unlikely to have been the prototype for Jesus. The main passage Carrier appeals to as evidence can be read online, as do others, and the ones I looked at illustrate rather than counter Ehrman’s point, namely that scholars today consider the idea of a dying and rising god to be read into such texts rather than found in them.

He also fails to address what the expectation of Jews regarding a Davidic anointed one was, and so does nothing to counter the widely-accepted fact that it is profoundly unlikely that someone invented a story about such a figure being crucified, and then tried to persuade their Jewish contemporaries that the figure in question is the long-awaited Davidic anointed one.

I won’t go into more detail, lest I likewise lose sight of the big picture in focusing on details. Even if Carrier were correct in all of his criticism (which even my own incredibly brief and admittedly superficial fact-checking suggests he is not), none of that would support the contention of mythicists that Jesus was originally thought of by Christians as a purely celestial figure, and thus more likely invented rather than an actual historical figure about whom myths and legends arose.

Elsewhere online, Ken Humphreys also offers an apologetics-style response, somehow believing that the fact that Christians were referred to as brothers makes it less rather than more likely that when “James the brother of the Lord” is distinguished from other Christians by that title, it still means that he was just another Christian and not Jesus’ brother in some sense that distinguished him from other Christians Paul mentions.

I just don’t get how such posts are supposed to represent a defense of mythicism, as opposed to a rhetorical ploy that will only work on those already mythicists themselves. (UPDATE: See too Jerry Coyne’s discussion of Carrier’s post).

While Carrier’s treatment lacks nuance and seeks to distract from the force of the book as a whole by quibbling over details (whether fairly in some cases or not so much in others), The Uncredible Hallq, also at Freethought Blogs, has a short review that sums up the heart of the matter clearly and effectively in far fewer words. Which of the two bloggers is closer to the spirit of the name of the site, I leave it to readers to decide.

NOTE: I have removed a section about Carrier’s mention of Mark Goodacre’s arguments against Q, in which I had showed the limitations of my vocabulary by understanding a refutation in only one of the two possible senses of the word, for which I apologize.

  • Akefalos93

    Fear not, rumor is the mysticist are the process of writing a book in responce to Dr. Ehrman’s critiques.

  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

    How does Carrier find support when his arguments are so weak?  When I read his first illustrative “error of fact” against Ehrman (“The Priapus Bronze”), I was aghast.  In it, he refutes his own point by acknowledging that ”
    there is no clear evidence it has anything to do with Christianity, much less Peter.”  Huh?

    Why does he waste readers’ time with irrelevancies.  If intelligence is the ability to retain and recite enormous quantities of facts, then Richard is very intelligent.  However, the issue of relevance does not seem to figure highly in his decisions about which facts to recite.

    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

      It’s relevant Mike because it’s the kind of error that Ehrman doesn’t make in his other books.  I’ve argued with a lot of internet apologists using information that I found in Ehrman’s books and I don’t believe I have ever been caught short because Ehrman overstated the evidence or failed to acknowledge contrary evidence.  “There is no such statue” is different from “There is such a statue, but there is no reason to think that it’s Peter.”   If Ehrman made those kind of mistakes in his other books I would have quit reading him long ago because I would have gotten egg on my face too many times.

      • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

        VinnyJH,

        Bart is certainly mistaken when he says Jesus Christ was not raised from the dead.  However, when he says (and I quote because I have, and have read, his book) that there is no such statue of Peter in the Vatican he is stating the truth, as even Richard himself admits when he says, “there is no clear evidence it has anything to do with Christianity, much less Peter.”  To expect Ehrman to check with the Vatican to see if, irrespective of any association with Peter or Christianity, they had a statue meeting that description is just being silly.  

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    Even if Carrier were correct in all of his criticism (which even my own incredibly brief and admittedly superficial fact-checking suggests he is not), none of that would support the contention of mythicists that Jesus was originally thought of by Christians as a purely celestial figure, and thus more likely invented rather than an actual historical figure about whom myths and legends arose.

    You are quite right that the failure to refute mythicism is not proof of mythicism, but since refutation was the book’s ostensible purpose, it is indeed of no value if it fails to do so while making mistakes about relevant facts and misrepresenting the range of scholarly opinion on relevant issues.

  • Claude

    Prof. McGrath:

    Carrier accuses Ehrman of relying on discredited methodology and offers as examples the “method of criteria,” (positive) “criterion of similarity” and hypothetical sources.

    Would you please comment on this charge? Thank you.

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

      Well, Carrier sounds like he believes that his own methodological approach outlined in a book he just published has already been embraced as the only sound methodology. That is not in fact the case. Could it one day be the case? Sure. But the discussion has just started, and it does his claim to be approaching matters in a serious scholarly fashion when he publishes a book and immediately afterwards treats it as though it is decisive.

      On the one substantive point he makes, he seems to clearly be wrong, since Ehrman’s point on p.293, even if it could have been worded better, is clearly that as historicity is evaluated using various criteria, when something that does not pass the criterion of dissimilarity is also not multiply attested and fails to meet various other criteria, then it is appropriate for the historian to view that particular piece of information as less historically likely.I should perhaps also mention Carrier’s statement in the section on methodology, “We know he made so many factual errors, we can’t trust any of his factual claims. ” If that logic were sound, then surely all of the error-laden products of the mythicists would themselves be grounds for not trusting any mythicist claims, irrespective of how well Carrier’s statement does or does not apply to Ehrman.

      • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

        If that logic were sound, then surely all of the error-laden products of
        the mythicists would themselves be grounds for not trusting any
        mythicist claims, irrespective of how well Carrier’s statement does or
        does not apply to Ehrman.

        It is grounds not to trust any claim made by the mythicists who make those errors and I think Carrier would be the first to acknowledge that.  Of course it is.

        But the point is that up until now, I have had nothing but grounds to trust Ehrman’s claims.  If there were a few rising rising and dying gods but they were unlikely to have influenced the development of Christianity, I would never expect him to say that there were no dying and rising gods.  If there were only a handful of scholars who held a particular position, I would never expect him to say that there were no scholars who held it.  I have always found Ehrman to be incredibly good both about laying out the evidence fairly and accurately and and about laying out the range of scholarly opinion fairly and accurately. 

        I cannot believe that you don’t see the problem here.

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

          Ehrman doesn’t say that there are no scholars who think there were dying and rising gods. He himself provides an example. What he says, I believe correctly, is that scholars of religion currently adopt one of two stances: arguing that the interpretation of these gods as dying and rising is a mistake; and arguing that there were dying and rising gods, but the evidence is much less clear, and the phenomenon far less widespread, than had previously been claimed.

          Ehrman also emphasizes that there is no evidence of the relevant cults in Palestine in this period, and so even if the dying and rising gods interpretation turns out to be correct, we would still lack evidence that it would have been poised to influence early Christianity. And he also points out that in our earliest sources Jesus is not a god.

          I think Ehrman’s point is appropriately nuanced and that it stands, and that Carrier is trying unsuccessfully to distract from that.

          • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

            I did not state that clearly.  I did not mean to imply that Ehrman said that no scholar thinks that there were other dying and rising gods. I intended that to refer to other points where Carrier identifies legitimate scholars who hold to a particular position where Ehrman had implied that none did, e.g., there are legitimate scholars who have argued that the passage in Tacitus is an interpolation.

            I don’t know how to judge whether Ehrman level of nuance is appropriate in an academic sense.  All I can say is that it is not the level of nuance that I have come to expect of him and it is not the level that made his other books so valuable to me.

      • Claude

        Thank you. Good to know that Carrier regards his own recently introduced methodology to be definitive. Not exactly a paragon of humility, is he.

        • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

          C’mon Claude.  Do you really expect scholars to write books if they don’t think what they are writing is correct and important?

          • Claude

            Do you really expect scholars to write books if they don’t think what they are writing is correct and important?

            No. What has that got to do with humility?

            • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

              About as much as McGrath’s musings about what it sounds like Carrier believes.

              • Claude

                Vinny, what do you think Carrier believes (about his own contributions to methodology)?

                • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                   I’m not really sure, although it wouldn’t surprise me if he overrates it.  

        • Macdonaldjo

          Here’s my “Carrier Makes An Ass Of Himself” quote of the day: “…Ehrman is simply defending a dogma, and as such is simply a priori “certain” he is right…”

        • Ben Schuldt

          Um, actually Carrier is standing on the works of many qualified others who have denounced typical methodology applied to the Jesus studies as well as others who have already pioneered the use and proof of Bayes’ theorem in regards to history.  So to portray Carrier as pretending as though he brought it up five minutes ago and expects everyone to revel without cause, is just stupid.  It means you aren’t paying attention and probably having read even the first few chapters of Proving History.

          • Claude

            Excuse me? Of course I  haven’t read the first few chapters of Proving History! I  just got dropped into this rabbit hole a week ago. (Get me out of here.)

            I’m even having a hard time forcing myself through The Jesus Puzzle. Why? Because it’s just not a very good book. I’m genuinely mystified why it’s attracted a cult following.

            Maybe it will get better, though.

            • Macdonaldjo

              Try closing it.  The cover is pretty.

              • Claude

                I feel like I have to give Doherty a fair shake.

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

                  Claude, you may be interested in my review (still incomplete, because Doherty’s book is so full of problems and errors that it takes, as Ehrman himself put it, a longer book to review it than the book itself) of Doherty’s Jesus: Neither God Nor Man. Here’s chapter 1: 
                  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/05/chapter-1-of-earl-dohertys-jesus-neither-god-nor-man.html

                  If you have trouble finding the rest of the series, let me know.

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

                     It’s a pity the comments — such as Doherty’s own responses — are no longer visible.

                    • Macdonaldjo

                      maybe they went to the upper celestial realm

                    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

                      I contend that there never were any blog comments. 

                      I think that the existence the chorus in ancient greek theatre, commenting on the dramatic action on stage, provides such a close parallel with these supposed blog comments that it’s safest to assume that they are, in fact, the basis of them. Anybody who appears to be talking about these blog comments as if they actually existed, or offering evidence for their existence, is either making a theological statement or guilty of deliberate fraud. 

                      Being a mythicist is a doddle… I’m officially switching sides!

                    • Macdonaldjo

                      Your forgetting about source criticism.  What about the hypothetical “Earl” document, “E” 

                    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

                      I view any suggestion that I’ve forgotten something as an ad hominem attack. And since it’s ad hominem (because I’ve said so), then that proves I must be right (because otherwise you wouldn’t have had to make an ad hominem attack).

                      To fully understand my case, you need to read my 900 page self-published book, “The Blog Comments Conspiracy”. It’s available on Amazon.

                    • Macdonaldjo

                      I bet you self published it yourself because even though publishers were begging to publish your book, you didn’t want those stupid incompetent editors changing one word of your masterpiece.

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

                    NOTE: I have removed a section about Carrier’s mention of Mark Goodacre’s arguments against Q, in which I had showed the limitations of my vocabulary by understanding a refutation in only one of the two possible senses of the word, for which I apologize.

                    This should be a lesson not only to Dr McGrath but to all who likewise read with hostile intent.

                    The reason the suspicion that Dr Ehrman did not read the books he addressed in his book took off so fast is simply because he omitted, misquoted and denied so much of their actual contents that it was plain as day that he either (1) read with hostile intent, thus overlooking or failing to comprehend or misunderstanding anything that did not conform to his hostile preconceptions or (2) did not read the books himself.

                    This is also why it is so easy to “refute” (in the sense of disproving) McGrath’s “reviews” of Doherty’s book. I simply quote McGrath’s statements and place them beside what Doherty really said. McGrath, like Ehrman, is reading with hostile intent and this is the most charitable explanation for their failures to even quote correctly what they claim to be reviewing, or for their failure to acknowledge or understand what they do in fact read.

                    • Macdonaldjo

                      It could be that you only think you are refuting Dr. McGrath

                      Let’s review your credentials for doing biblical criticism:

                      “My background (chronologically) is in secondary school history teaching (ancient and modern history), postgraduate educational studies and information science,
                      academic librarianship, being the metadata specialist with a project building regional university repositories in Australia and New Zealand, digital repository management,two years as a Principal Librarian and Bibliographic Consultant with National Library Board, Singapore, coordinating the digitisation, repository services and digital collections in Australian universities — University of Southern Queensland, RUBRIC Project, Murdoch University, Deakin University, and am currently at Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT. The most exciting project I am involved with here is a national government funded project to digitize, collate and make available for preservation, research and cultural purposes aboriginal languages resource materials,and most recently — research data management. Specifically, my formal educational qualifications are a BA and post graduate Bachelor of Educational Studies, both at the University of Queensland, and a post graduate Diploma in Arts (Library and Information Science) from Charles Sturt University near Canberra, Australia. I am an associate of the professional library and information services organization of Australia. But “librarian” means little as a job label nowadays. I actually never see or deal with books at work. My business cards say things like “metadata specialist” and (currently) “digital collections coordinator”. I work with computer programmers, academics and research bodies as well as librarians. Job titles and labels are as fluid as my responsibilities. My job is to assist with applications of new technologies and metadata schema and ontologies to enhance the accessibility of cultural resources and research data online and to help coordinate systems that enhance the availability of academic research publications and datasets as well as coordinating the development of research data management across CDU. I am also on two national metadata advisory committees (RIF-CS and MACAR). Perhaps “information specialist” is a more accurate term for my profession than “librarian,” NEIL GODFREY

                      Nope, no reason to think you would know you were doing good biblical hermeneutics, even if you really were.

                      Here’s a haggadic midrash of a typical argument I’ve seen between Neil and Dr. McGrath:

                      NEIL: Ehrman drove me crazy when he said no one would make up purposefully embarrassing stories about a mythical person, therefore Jesus must be real. What a nonsense argument. If you read the Norse mythologies, their gods were always doing stupid things, which would make them even more real in his book.

                      DR. MCGRATH: This rejoinder makes more sense in a polytheist theology, where both good and evil were properties of the gods. This does not fit the theology of ancient Judaism quite so well, however. There God is the lawgiver, whose word and act are always supposed to be good. E.g., Matthew (13:57), Mark (6:4), Luke (4:24) and John (4:44) all repeat that Jesus was rejected as prophet (and therefore messiah) in his own town—the place where people knew him best. (In Mark even his relatives deny him, and in Luke the townsfolk try to kill him). This is the kind of embarrassing story that would be unlikely to be repeated if it did not have some kernel of truth to it, since all it could plausibly be used for is to cast doubt on Jesus’s divine stature.  In the same way that the biologist uses evidence of imperfection to argue that organisms were not simply designed out of whole cloth, it’s perfectly legitimate for historians to use evidence of similar imperfection to argue that this story was not simply designed out of whole cloth.

                      NEIL:See, I told you I’m smarter than Ehrman

                    • Brettongarcia

                      Mac and James:

                      Why keep repeating the objection that Jewish tradition would not generate a God/Jesus who dies?  That is irrelevant.

                      The whole point of Classicist mythicism is that indeed, HEBREW tradition did not generate it; the infusion of dying hero tales and so forth, from ANE and especially Greco-Roman culture, did that.

                      Indeed, the very fact that Christianity’s dying messiah is rather inconsistent with Judaism, reinforces the case that that modification of Judaism, the dying God, DID NOT COME FROM JUDAISM.  But must have come from another, DIFFERENT culture.

                      Anybody listening out there?

                    • Claude

                      Maybe you can tell me if Doherty explains why the Roman practice of crucifixion is imitated in the celestial realm. 

                    • Macdonaldjo

                      As Ehrman points out, Paul also says they bury the dead in Doherty’s hypothetical cellestial realm.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Brettongarcia, as you must surely know, the earliest Christians were all practicing Jews from Roman Judea.  How do you explain their embrace of “the infusion of dying hero tales and so forth” in defiance of the God whom they steadfastly said they were serving?

                    • Macdonaldjo

                      TRUE.  the resurrection of Jesus probably cannot have been borrowed from polytheistic mythemes.
                      From about 165 BCE to 70 CE
                      there was no Jewish inclination, but rather the reverse, to accept
                      Hellenistic influence. It’s plausible that the Hasmonean victory over the Seleucid
                      Hellenizers put an end once and for all to the temptation to Hellenize.
                      Hellenization began to rear its ugly head again only after the Roman victory
                      over Jews.

                    • Macdonaldjo

                      As Ehrman says, Jesus was not a god in our earliest sources

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                      Neil,

                      While I agree that Dr. McGrath tends to assume the worst when reading anything with mythicist leanings, I think there is little to be gained by piling on after someone has apologized for a mistake and corrected it. 

                      I also think that it is very easy to overlook the second meaning of “refute” since it almost invariably arises in the context of someone attempting the first meaning.

                    • Macdonaldjo

                      To me the most insulting thing about mythicists like Neil Godfrey is that they a priori dismiss the idea that New Testament scholarship is a real academic field with real experts (Like Dr. McGrath and Dr. Ehrman), comparable to history or biology.  Mythicists like Neil repeatedly claim New Testament scholar’s methodology is groundless, and their academic work is uncritical and biased toward the historicity of Jesus because many of them of Christian.
                       
                      Such arrogance toward a legitimate field of experts is baffiling.  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard mythicists dismiss the scholarly consensus of bible experts as nothing more thana supposed logical fallacy of the appeal to authority.
                       
                        
                      What proof do mythicists offer of this?  None, they just assume bible experts don’t understand their field of inquiry as well as the unbiased mythicists do.  Would this be claimed in any other field of study?  Of course not.  It’s perfectly reasonable, as a rule of thumb, to appeal to the consensus of scholars in biology.  But isn’t it  a fallacy (Godfrey likes to throw around philosophical sounding words like “fallacy’ even though it’s rare to see anything but pseudoarguments from him)?  Of course not, that’s ludicrous.
                      Academics have rigorous standards, and the appeal to academic authority may take several forms.

                      As a statistical syllogism, it will have the following basic structure

                      Most of what
                      authority a has to say on subject matter S is correct.

                      a says p about S.

                      Therefore, p
                      is correct.

                      The strength of this argument depends upon two factors

                      The authority is a legitimate expert on the subject.
                      A consensus exists among legitimate experts on the matter under
                      discussion.

                      These conditions may also simply be incorporated into the structure of
                      the argument itself, in which case the form may look like this,
                       

                      X holds that
                      A is true

                      X is a
                      legitimate expert on the subject.

                      The
                      consensus of experts agrees with X.

                      Therefore,
                      there’s a presumption that A is true.

                       

                       

                      This isn’t to say that mythicists havent raised some legitimate issues regarding what we can know about the details of Jesus’ biography.  It is reasonable to assume there is some midrash going on in the New Testament.  As Dr. Ehrman says in his book, Matthew portrays Jesus as the new Moses.  And in midrash, it poses methodoloogical issues for what we can know about the historical Jesus because a midrash story (1) might start with a lot of facts about Jesus, but just shape the story to sound like a story from the Old Testament, or (2) might start with the story from the old testament, and simply invent a story about Jesus on its pattern.   It then becomes a complex methodological issue to determine what, if anything, in the midrash is conveying information about the historical Jesus.
                       
                      If this is new to you and you’re interested, to name a few, here are some of the few more well known texts  that explore this issue of midrash and the New Testament (This reading list might make for an interesting undergraduate paper lol): 

                      EARLIER WORKS
                       
                      - Liberating the Gospels: Reading the Bible with Jewish Eyes by John Shelby Spong 
                      http://www.amazon.com/Liberating-Gospels-Reading-Bible-Jewish/dp/0060675578/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335034166&sr=8-1
                       
                      - Encyclopedia Of Midrash: Biblical Interpretation In
                      Formative Judaism ed. Jacob Neusner, Alan J. Avery-Peck: “New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash,” by Robert M. Price
                      (here is the article)  http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/art_midrash1.htm
                       
                      The Birthing of the New Testament: The Intertextual
                      Development of the New Testament Writings (New Testament Monographs) by Thomas L. Brodie
                      http://www.amazon.com/The-Birthing-New-Testament-Intertextual/dp/1905048661/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1335035597&sr=8-4
                       
                      Gospel Fictions by Randel Helms
                      http://www.amazon.com/Gospel-Fictions-Randel-Helms/dp/0879755725/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335035688&sr=1-1
                       
                      The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark by Dennis R. MacDonald
                      http://www.amazon.com/The-Homeric-Epics-Gospel-Mark/dp/0300172613/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335035781&sr=1-1
                       
                      Does the New Testament Imitate Homer?: Four Cases from the
                      Acts of the Apostles by Dennis R. MacDonald http://www.amazon.com/Does-New-Testament-Imitate-Homer/dp/0300097700/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335036444&sr=1-2
                       
                       
                      AND MORE RECENTLY
                       
                       
                       
                      Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World by John Shelby Spong
                      http://www.amazon.com/Re-Claiming-Bible-Non-Religious-World-Shelby/dp/0062011286/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335034626&sr=1-1
                       
                      The Jewish Annotated New Testament edited by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Z. Brettler
                      http://www.amazon.com/The-Jewish-Annotated-New-Testament/dp/0195297709/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335034700&sr=1-1
                       
                      The Jewish Jesus: Revelation, Reflection, Reclamation
                      (Shofar Supplements in Jewish Studies) ed. Zev Garber
                       
                      http://www.amazon.com/The-Jewish-Jesus-Reclamation-ebook/dp/B005061YDQ/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1335035083&sr=8-2
                       
                      The Jewish Gospels by Daniel Boyardin
                       
                      http://www.amazon.com/The-Jewish-Gospels-Daniel-Boyarin/dp/1595584684/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335036549&sr=1-1-spell

                      But then what grounds do mythicists claim to argue from the fact that we can see midrash happening clearly in some cases, that it is happening in all cases of every New Testament Story.  As Ehrman says, some of the cases mythicists cite are far from obvious.  So how would mythicists make the argument?  They can’t, there is no argument here, they just have to assume it’s true. 

                      And where’s the historical context for the argument?  Mythicists posit we went from a Christ understood mythically to a Christ understood historically, but are completely unable to propose a hypothetical reconstruction about how that transition could have happened historically.

                      Neil is repeatedly rude, dishonest, abusive, and sarcastic, and so in  my remarks to him (When I have bothered to respond to him) I have also made rude comments in hopes of him seeing how immature and silly he sounds.  Neil is rude to Dr. McGrath, and Dr. McGrath responds professionally.  Carrier is rude to Dr. Ehrman, and Ehrman responds professionally.

                      I myself have been been inappropriate at times with hopes that Neil might see it as an example of what not to do.

                      That was arrogant of me.  People have the right to misbehave if they want without someone taking a holier than thou attitude toward them.

                      Anyway, I’ve had fun posting.  I was going to leave earlier but Neil got under my skin lol.  Thanks for letting me share my ideas Dr McGrath.

                      Peace everyone!

                    • Macdonaldjo

                      “than a” lol

                    • Macdonaldjo

                       “are Christians” – me and my spelling again lol

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Spong, Alice-in-Wonderland style, is able to turn biblical prophecy on its head.  That is, when a NT writer claims that Jesus did something which fulfills an OT prophecy, Spong says this means that what the writer says about Jesus is contrived in whole or in part.  It’s a fine method for interpreting scripture if you assume that biblical prophecy is not possible, but it’s a horrible method if you just want to know the truth.  This is how the labeling of a NT passage as midrash has become, in the eyes of some, just another way of saying that it lacks historicity in whole or in part.  If, however, you are open to the idea that God can make promises and that those promises can be fulfilled, then midrash is merely the means of describing that.

                      Thus midrash should not be considered an antonym of historical.  It’s a misuse of the term.  Midrash is simply a way of interpreting scripture in which the midrash is saying, essential, “This is that,” where “this” is the scripture passage and “that” is the situation or scene that the writer is describing.

                      The irony here is that fulfillment of prophecy ought to be an encouragement to a human being’s faith in God, but Spong’s methodology leads a person in the exact opposite direction.  The Mad Hatter would be proud.

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                      Whatever criticisms you might level at Neil and his arguments, it is hard for me see a priori as an accurate one.  He really has read an awful lot of stuff.  Perhaps he reached all his conclusions before he read any of it, but that would not be my guess..

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

                      I jumped in very quickly to engage MacDJo in discussion but gave up responding to him when he ignored my responses to his questions and continued to repeat his claims as if no answers had been given. I asked him for arguments in response to my points but he failed to give any. He is not interested in discussion. Only in debunking.

                      My offer for serious discussion with Dr McGrath remains open, however.

                    • Macdonaldjo

                      “than a”

                      if my grammer was an argument, it would be mythicism

                    • Macdonaldjo

                      “grammar”

                      my spelling too!

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

                      Dr McGrath’s misreading of mythicist arguments is not restricuted to but one example. It is persistent, even systematic. But I’m an optimist. I like to think that if someone attempts to have the possibility of hostile intent register in McGrath’s consciousness there is at least a 0.0001 chance that it will prompt some moves towards self-correction. We gotta have hope.

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                      Neil,

                      I try to heed the advice of W.C. Fields, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.”

                  • Claude

                    Prof. McGrath: Thank you for pointing me to your series. You’re a lucid guide, and I appreciate it.

                    So you’re blogging the super-sized version of The Jesus Puzzle! One would hope you’re getting paid by the word. 

          • Macdonaldjo

            Bayes’ theorem can be applied effectively to solve statistical problems in a limited way. It depends on what you mean about whether Bayes’ theorem is “useful” for historical study.

            For example, in forecasting, we predict, in historical investigation we do the reverse

            Take predicting: 
            Marie is getting married tomorrow, at an outdoor ceremony in the desert. In
            recent years, it has rained only 5 days each year. Unfortunately, the
            weatherman has predicted rain for tomorrow. When it actually rains, the
            weatherman correctly forecasts rain 90% of the time. When it doesn’t rain, he
            incorrectly forecasts rain 10% of the time. What is the probability that it
            will rain on the day of Marie’s wedding?

            Solution:
            The sample space is defined by two mutually-exclusive events – it rains or it
            does not rain. Additionally, a third event occurs when the weatherman predicts
            rain. Notation for these events appears below.

            Event A1.
            It rains on Marie’s wedding.
            Event A2.
            It does not rain on Marie’s wedding.
            Event
            B. The weatherman predicts rain.

            In
            terms of probabilities, we know the following:

            P( A1
            ) = 5/365 =0.0136985 [It rains 5 days out of the year.]
            P( A2
            ) = 360/365 = 0.9863014 [It does not rain 360 days out of the year.]
            P( B |
            A1 ) = 0.9 [When it rains, the weatherman predicts rain 90% of
            the time.]
            P( B |
            A2 ) = 0.1 [When it does not rain, the weatherman predicts rain
            10% of the time.]

            We
            want to know P( A1 | B ), the probability it will rain on the day of
            Marie’s wedding, given a forecast for rain by the weatherman. The answer can be
            determined from Bayes’ theorem, as shown below.

            P( A1 | B ) =

            P( A1 ) P( B | A1 )

            P( A1 ) P( B | A1 ) + P( A2
            ) P( B | A2 )

            P( A1 | B ) =

            (0.014)(0.9) / [ (0.014)(0.9) + (0.986)(0.1) ]

            P( A1 | B ) =

            0.111

            Note
            the somewhat unintuitive result. Even when the weatherman predicts rain, it
            only rains only about 11% of the time. Despite the weatherman’s gloomy
            prediction, there is a good chance that Marie will not get rained on at her
            wedding.

            So there’s a lot of fancy math and we look clever.  But we can’t actually know if Marie will get rained on or not.  And there’s the question of how subjective your calculated probabilities are when dealing with historical questions. 

            (Or maybe not, I’m better with formal logic and predicate calculous lol) 

            • Claude

              OK, so Carrier’s methodology is a probabilities application, as opposed to dissimilarity, multiple attestation, and so on.

              What kind of historical insights has it yielded, or is it scientism?

              • Macdonaldjo

                Well that’s the question.

                On one historical issue, McGrath said to Carrier

                “And so I ask Richard to plug his own assumptions and the relevant data fairly into his Bayesian method, and let us know what it is most likely that Paul meant … It seems to me that, unless you’re inputting things into the method in a manner that accurately reflects these your own presuppositions, then the fact that your method has formulas will not make the results any less dubious.”

                McGrath’s point sounds about right, but it’s not quite that simple for Carrier. I would ask the follow up question, “By what method and criteria do we determine that we have plugged in our assumptions and the relevant data ‘fairly’ into the Bayesian method?” And how do you define ‘fairly?’ If you can’t answer that then the formula simply amounts to a complicated way of making an educated guess that doesn’t guarantee to be any better than a judgement we could have arrived at by other methods.

                The problem is Carrier is trying to apply it to history. In the prediction example I gave, the probabilities were exact. That example seemed to be a reasonable inference. But the question is whether you can reverse the direction and make an inference into the past with similar reliability of accuracy. Offhand I would say Carrier would have to make a very sophisticated argument to demonstrate that.

                Employing complex equations doesn’t guarantee accuracy, it just implies you have created a complicated procedure for yourself. The validity of the foundation of the complex equation and its proper application (in this case whether you can apply it ti history) must be demonstrated.

                Otherwise you can just bias the results by weighing the probabilities according to your preference.

                It’s like when William Lane Craig thinks he can prove the resurrection by plugging his prejudices into a pseudo philosophical formula. It’s an interesting coincidence that Carrier’s method just happens to “prove” the outcome he desires.

                I’ve only skimmed through “Proving History (if it were any more boring I would shoot myself), but I haven’t seen anything yet where Carrier demonstrates the reliability of applying the method to history with the kind of accurate results he is claiming he can get.

                Who knows, maybe he’ll surprise me. 

                • Macdonaldjo

                  “to history”

                • Claude

                  Thanks very much for this, I’m beginning to get the picture.

                  And you and Paul Regnier had me chortling over my coffee.

                  • Macdonaldjo

                    It’s all in good fun.  Jesus existed / Jesus didn’t exist.  Pick a side and try to argue it.  A little sarcasm now and then adds some spice.  It’s all just low stakes rhetorical chess.  The Historical Jesus Paradigm has always been in front and always will be in front.  Only an insane person would argue otherwise.  Even if Jesus never existed, in our world, always had existed and always will exist.

                    • Macdonaldjo

                      “he” always had existed and always will exist. lol

                    • Macdonaldjo

                      Speaking of which, here’s a prophesy from Earl Doherty: ” I am convinced that within a generation, the Christ myth theory will be one of the principal theories of New Testament study, acceptable to the secular academic community (a segment which is growing, though not without opposition) and a significant portion of the interested lay population.”

                    • Claude

                      Wow. The hubris.

                      I have only the slightest acquaintance with the NT, so if in my reading of Doherty’s book red flags pop up everywhere, that tells you something.

                    • Macdonaldjo

                      The truth is Doherty has been fairly reviewed and rejected by experts like R. Joseph Hoffman, James McGrath, and Bart Ehrman.  The conclusion is that his theory has no merit.  The problem McGrath and Ehrman found was that there was so much wrong with Doherty’s work that there was simply no way to cover all the errors. 

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

        Dr McGrath, is Carrier’s methodology something new to the field of ancient history or only new to the consciousness of New Testament scholars such as yourself?  Is Carrier expecting his method to revolutionize the entire field of ancient history or is he addressing it only to NT scholars?

        Or, is Carrier’s method merely the application of basic logic that is generally found in ancient history studies but is substituted in HJ studies by fallacious criteriology instead?

        What is the difference between Carrier’s methodological approach and what I have been arguing myself and that you have said is a dishonest pseudo-argument?

    • Macroman52

      Stephen Law has a similar criticism about the methods. See his paper in fath and Philosphy, available on his blog.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    And towards the end of the post, Carrier uses internet apologist type claims, such as that Mark Goodacre has “refuted” the Q hypothesis, while Mark Goodacre would I think be the first to point out that just because he has made what he finds to be a persuasive case on this matter, that does not mean that the consensus view has been “refuted,” the matter is settled, and discussion of the topic among scholars is now at an end.

    I am curious as to why you chose to put word “refuted” in quotation marks here as it is not the word that Carrier uses.  What Carrier wrote was “he is irrationally dismissive of Mark Goodacre’s refutation of Q, and claims no one is convinced by it but cites not a single rebuttal; I myself find Goodacre’s case persuasive, well enough at least to leave us in complete doubt of the matter.” 

    Now I will concede that it might have been more accurate to refer to Goodacres’s “case against Q” rather than his “refutation of Q,” but Carrier is certainly not suggesting that “the matter is settled” or that “discussion of the topic among scholars in now at an end,” is he?  I don’t see how that’s an “internet apologist type claim.”

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

      If it is a refutation, that means that he has disproved the Q hypothesis. That is what it means to refute something. It may be that Carrier was not using the term correctly, but if he was, then what he meant does not fit what Mark Goodacre has done with respect to Q – or, for that matter, what any of us who disagree with him about Q have done to Mark Goodacre’s case against Q. Both hypotheses have strengths and weaknesses, and while I think the explanation in terms of Q better fits the evidence than the attempt to do so without it, neither is either airtight and neither has thus far been shown to be clearly and incontrovertibly wrong.

      • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

         Dr.  McGrath,

        Every dictionary that I have gives two separate definitions of refute, one is to disprove a claim and the other is to deny the truth of a claim.   Therefore it is not improper to call something a “refutation” even where reasonable minds may differ as to the conclusiveness of the proof.   Your clearly implied that Carrier was claiming that Q had been “refuted” in the first sense, when in fact that is not what he was saying. 

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

          Thanks, Vinny – you’ve expanded my vocabulary! I think I’ll actually go in and rework that section, since I did indeed assume that Carrier meant one of two possible meanings of “refutation.” And to anyone who read this before the correction is made, I offer an apology!

          • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

            Fair enough.

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

             James, you should have read the context. You would then have understood his meaning like the rest of us did.

  • Macdonaldjo

    Just in case anyone is still wondering about whether Ehrman actually read the mythicist books, this is from his personal blog (something similar was on Facebook):

    “I was surprised, shocked, dismayed, incredulous, and well, OK, pretty ticked off and aggravated when some of the mythicists that I deal with in my book, Did Jesus Exist, went on the attack and made it personal. Let me make a confession: before getting ready to do this Blog, and getting into Facebook as a preparation for it, I had no idea how grimy the Internet can be. It is one messy place. I know, I know – welcome to the 21st century!
    One of the charges against me that is being made is not just atrociously wrong but insulting to my integrity, something I take very seriously. It’s one thing to have a disagreement about how to interpret historical data; it’s another thing to charge a scholar with dishonesty. The first instance I know of the charge was suggested by Achyra S on her blog, and most forcefully by Robert Price on his podcast. The charge is that I did not actually do any of the research for Did Jesus Exist myself, but that I had my Research Assistants (RA’s) read the mythicist literature for me and I relied on what they summarized (poorly, is the implication) for the comments I make about it This is wrong, wrong, wrong … [When]  I began to write Did Jesus Exist,   I did not have my RAs summarize any of the mythicists’ writings to help me decide which ones I needed to read. I needed to read all of them. And so I did. It was a long and painful process, let me tell you! Much of this is not pleasure reading, and some of it is so bad that it made for a miserable few months. But I did the reading and took notes on just about everything. And my RAs had nothing to do with it.  I’ve said this on my Facebook page, and a number of mythicists simply don’t believe me. As I said, I don’t mind if my views are challenged or my conclusions are rejected. But I really don’t like my integrity being impugned. The Internet. What a place!,” Bart Ehrman

    Robert M Price and Acharya S should be ashamed of themselves.

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

      I don’t understand why Ehrman is so upset or thinks his integrity is challenged. Dr McGrath should give him a call and explain to him that he was quite within his rights not to read the books himself. McGrath has no problem with writing reviews of mythicist books he hasn’t read and has justified why Ehrman should have done the same. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/04/review-of-bart-ehrman-did-jesus-exist-part-two.html#comment-499933618

      • Macdonaldjo

        And now for the grand finale, “My Neil Godfrey makes an ass of himself quote of the day, the ENTIRE Bart Ehrman blog post. 

        Do My Research Assistants Do All My Work For Me?
        I was surprised, shocked, dismayed, incredulous, and well, OK, pretty ticked off and aggravated when some of the mythicists that I deal with in my book, Did Jesus Exist, went on the attack and made it personal. Let me make a confession: before getting ready to do this Blog, and getting into Facebook as a preparation for it, I had no idea how grimy the Internet can be. It is one messy place. I know, I know – welcome to the 21st century!One of the charges against me that is being made is not just atrociously wrong but insulting to my integrity, something I take very seriously. It’s one thing to have a disagreement about how to interpret historical data; it’s another thing to charge a scholar with dishonesty. The first instance I know of the charge was suggested by Achyra S on her blog, and most forcefully by Robert Price on his podcast. The charge is that I did not actually do any of the research for Did Jesus Exist myself, but that I had my Research Assistants (RA’s) read the mythicist literature for me and I relied on what they summarized (poorly, is the implication) for the comments I make about it.This is wrong, wrong, wrong.Let me explain how I use my RAs generally, then say something about their role in Did Jesus Exist.
        I’ll start at the beginning. Most senior professors at research universities are given, in addition to their salary, a research budget. My colleagues at UNC and around the country use their research budgets for all sorts of things – to purchase computer equipment and books, to afford to go to academic conferences, to travel for research to visit archives, and on and on and on. I tend to use my research budget, however, for one main thing: to hire my graduate students to serve as research assistants. I do this both because I like having the help, given the enormous demands on my research time, and even more important because it is a way to provide funding for poor graduate students and advanced opportunities for them to be involved in doing real research.I do know other colleagues hither and yon who have RAs, and who use them to do menial tasks: photocopying and scanning of books and articles, getting books out of the library, making indexes for books they’ve written, and so on. I tend to use my RAs for meatier work. The main reason: I want them to have real, hard-core, research experience as part of their education. And to get paid to do it! It’s a great system and the students love it and profit from it enormously. As they will tell you.One of the things I typically have students do is read important scholarship in the field that I am currently working on, for the books that I happen at that time to be writing. I give students a bibliography of books and articles, and ask them to write one-page summaries of this or that book or article. They do so. Some of these summaries are better than others, depending on who is writing them. But this next step is crucial. Once the student has produced the summary, his/her work is done, and mine can now begin. I use the summaries to decide which books / articles I can scan quickly, which I can read around in (some chapters more fully than others), and which I need to read slowly and carefully, taking full notes on them.I never, ever rely on the summaries my RAs write for me if I actually decide to use a book /article in my own research (never!). In other words, I use these summaries simply to see what I myself need to read, and at what depth. It’s true that these RAs are very smart and are advanced graduate students. But I would never trust the work of someone else for work that I myself have to do. Apart from the fact that this would strike me as lazy and marginally dishonest (passing off someone else’s work as mine), I simply do not think that I can trust someone else’s views of what is important, what is right, and what is wrong – even if it’s an advanced graduate student. And these RAs are, after all, students. Most of them will become top-rate scholars, some of them world-class. But most of them are not that yet.That, in short, is how I typically use my RAs.But I did not use them that way for Did Jesus Exist. And there is a simple reason. In almost every instance, I have my RAs do this kind of work for me for the serious scholarship I am interested in and dealing with, for the works of scholarship I am writing. In other words, I only rarely use them in this way for the trade books (i.e., the “popular” books – written for a general audience) I write. For the past several years my serious scholarship has been on the polemical use of literary forgery in the early Christian tradition. This has resulted in a book that is now in the pipeline to be published in the Fall by Oxford University Press. It is a big book – 800 pages in manuscript – called Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics. It is also complicated and hard. It deals with lots of Greek and Latin texts and with scholarship in such languages as French and German. I had my RAs read a lot of books and articles for that book. And to do lots of other really hard tasks, like checking out all my references to Greek and Latin authors of antiquity.While my RAs were checking my references in Forgery and Counterforgery, I began to write Did Jesus Exist. I did not need to have my RAs summarize any of the mythicists’ writings to help me decide which ones I needed to read. I needed to read all of them. And so I did. It was a long and painful process, let me tell you! Much of this is not pleasure reading, and some of it is so bad that it made for a miserable few months. But I did the reading and took notes on just about everything. And my RAs had nothing to do with it.I’ve said this on my Facebook page, and a number of mythicists simply don’t believe me. As I said, I don’t mind if my views are challenged or my conclusions are rejected. But I really don’t like my integrity being impugned. The Internet. What a place!Bart Ehrman

    • josh

       So the argument is that Ehrman didn’t fail to read his opponents, he just misrepresented them so badly that they thought he hadn’t read them?

      • John MacDonald

        Ehrman’s critique is perfectly correct.  Price and Doherty dont’ provide an adequate explanation of why the New Testament writer were rewriting the Old Testament stories.  There is no reason, based on the model Price and Doherty present, that the gospel writers would be using midrash to anywhere near the extent Price and Doherty claim they were.  This is why R Joseph Hoffmann, the first actual scholar to review Doherty, called “The Jesus Puzzle” by Doherty the equivalent of amateur guesswork.

        • John MacDonald

          “writers”

        • John MacDonald

          “writers” not “writer”

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

    Mythicist errors are dishonest, inexcusable and hypocritical. Historicist errors are honest, excusable and inconsequential. 

  • Claude

    I’m confused. Wasn’t “Guest” Neil? If not, who is the “I” in Guest’s post? Anyway, maybe Neil will explain Carrier’s methodology, since Carrier doesn’t do so in his review.

    Also, it’s curious that no one has commented on Carrier’s review at his own site. Is the piece so interminable that readers flame out before making it to the end? Where are his admirers? Is it a Conspiracy of Silence?!

    • Macroman52

      Do you mean you want an explanation of Bayesian probabiliy, conditional probability, or the way Carrier applies it to historical questions?

      Seems to me it would be great if histroians could say, given the following assumptions about the chances of various different things, the chances that the following is correct is at elast x% or no more than y%. So I admire Carrier’s attempt, and am looking to see what historians outside new testmant studies make of it.

  • Brettongarcia

    On the other hand?  Many biblical researchers in an occasional moment of honesty, will admit that, even compared to other fields of historical study, their field is very, very loose.  And filled with at best, speculations that are only vaguely “probable” or even barely “possible.”   How firm is the evidence for Q, actually, for instance?  What can we really, firmly say from those jars in the desert – which might have writing or might just have scratches; which might be authentic or might not be; which might be metaphorically about Jesus - or might be about Ahura Mazda?  Which …

    I think Carrier is right to begin to call religious scholars here, on precisely their methodology.  At some point we should multiply all these “mights,” and conclude that  the final conclusions have been so speculative and problematic, as to be useless.

    And then there is the matter of their inevitable conclusion. It seems the fix is always in.  On the one hand, religious scholars will at times admit that their own results are tentative, speculative; I think Dr. McGrath for a moment, hinted at defending “probablistic history” a week or two ago.  But then, after being humble about their method and conclusions, and noting the uncertainty of data, for one moment?  Curiously, somehow, biblical scholars  1) inevitably end up reaffirming the existence of Jesus.  And/or 2) then hand over their affirmation of Jesus to the dogmatic … who instantly convert it into “proof of Jesus.”

    Was it really scholarship at all?  Or just a show?  Was it ever really impartial research?  Or just an exercise in rationalization?

    Carrier was right to call them on this one.

    • Macdonaldjo

      I think we can say with relative certainty that in no point in history has Earl Doherty made a meaningful contribution to the field of biblical textual criticism. 

  • Brettongarcia

    So Ehrman is now claiming that 1) though to be sure he had his RA’s read and abstract much material; 2) now, after the scandal, he is at pains to assure us that he ALSO of course read all the relevant documents himself.

    And since E is defending Christianity (for the moment)?  We can be absolutely he is not just lying, and covering his own a**?

    • Macdonaldjo

      your right

      its always most reasonable to assume a conspiracy

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

      Macdonaldjo, yep them publishers were falling over themselves to publish a book about the blog comments conspiracy written by me, a person who wholly lacks the appropriate qualifications or expertise to be able to write an academic text on blogs. But as you say I wouldn’t want anybody interfering with my work. 

      BG – there is a big difference between defending the historicity of Jesus and defending Christianity. I would defend the existence of Baha’u’llah as a historical figure, but that wouldn’t necessarily make me a defender of the Baha’i faith or of Baha’i theological claims about him. 

      I hope that doesn’t provoke the wrath of any Baha’u’llah mythicists out there?

      • Macdonaldjo

        I’m not religious. 

        It just seems massively weird to me that the entire scholarly field of New Testament Studies and the whole history of civilization would be wrong about Jesus existing, and that Earl Doherty  with his self published book and his undergraduate degree in an unrelated area of study would have outsmarted them all.

        But I guess stranger things have happened.

        No, I can’t say that with a straight face.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

          That, pretty much word for word, is my take on it too.

  • Brettongarcia

    Mac:

    For several days, I have avoided getting into this petty squabble; because it is petty and silly, and likely cannot be determined one way or the other; this matter of Ehrman and his RA’s.  But?  Since people seem to think it is important here?  Suppose we think through it.

    What conspiracy?  I’m claiming E, on his own, could have lied. There is no conspiracy involved. 

    • Macdonaldjo

      But wouldn’t that mean his students are also lying to keep the secret – hence the conspiracy?

      I’m confused, when does the part come when you start thinking things through?

      I’m waiting for you here at the finish line.

      • Macdonaldjo

        I’m just kidding.  Ehrman said his students never worked on the mythicist books for him.  Read his post.

  • Brettongarcia

    Vinny:

    Thank you for your comments on Ehrman.  I agree that he seems MOSTLY quite accurate and reliable; though, as Carriernow  notes, he does make some errors, sometimes. 

    Particularly, the normally mythicist Ehrman, seems to have slipped up in his latest book … when he reversed direction, and tried to make a case for the Historical Jesus.  Then?  He in fact, found himself in hot water with many scholars, like Carrier, for … repeating bad information.

    My quess?  Mythicist Ehrman wants to cover all the bases; and so for a moment, he has – rightly, briefly – considered and supported the case for a (albeit tiny) historical Jesus.  But?  After howls of criticism on his alleged factual data, from the larger scholarly community?  And after selling lots of books to the popular public, for supporting its God?   Perhaps he will reverse direction, once more, again.  And sell more books - from people eager to follow the emotional drama of his mood swings.   And his E-mails. 

  • Brettongarcia

    Mac:

    So let’s use this endless bog of conflicting petty rumors, jealousies, competing egos, to hypthesize a little about Oral or Hearsay Culture; and just how “rich”ly … unreliable it is.  In the matter of: did Ehrman use RA’s to read his sources for him?  And only RA’s?

    Do we have complete information on this matter?  Somewhere I read an E-mail that DOES have him admitting he used RA’s.  Against dozens of other conflicting statements.

    Are popular rumors of a “conspiracy” between Ehrman and his RA’s, in now denying all this,  reliable?  But would a “conspiracy” necessarily have been involved here (or in a Jesus deception either)?  Most likely scenario, from my own experience:  Ehrman simply told his RA’s to read and abstract the texts.  He did not tell them, or think it important to mention, that he was or was not, ALSO reading them himself. 

    So?  The RA’s would not have been involved, one way or the other.

    Bottom line:  no conspiracy was necessary.   Just a lone gunman.

    (Likewise?  In the case of Jesus and the culture around him?  If various false documents or E statements, were introduced into the religious community in Israel, and were somehow accepted, that would not necessarily have involved a “conspiracy” on the part of other members of the community, to let a deception pass.  Others might simply have not seen the larger picture; and were not able to spot a deception, or lack of it either.  They just found a jar in the wilderness, and could not tell what larger picture it was part of).

    • Macdonaldjo

      ” I did not have my RAs summarize any of the mythicists’ writings to help me decide which ones I needed to read. I needed to read all of them. And so I did. It was a long and painful process, let me tell you! Much of this is not pleasure reading, and some of it is so bad that it made for a miserable few months. But I did the reading and took notes on just about everything. And my RAs had nothing to do with it,” Bart Ehrman, from his blog

      give it a rest dude-who cares?

      • Macdonaldjo

        I’m just kidding, talk about it all you like lol

      • Brettongarcia

        Mac:

        Did y0u understand E’s statement:  “I did not have my RAs summarize any of the mythicists’ writings to help me decide which ones I needed to read”

        Can you understand this?  This does 1) NOT say E did not have his RAs summarize any mythicists’ writings,” period.  It rather instead says, he did not do this 2) “to help me decide.”

        I’m beginning to see why you are an Historicist….

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

    Good points on rhetoric style, James, thank you.  But questions of methodology, agreed insights and such still seem important.  It is fun seeing the discussion.

  • Brettongarcia

    Mac:

    Recent statistics bear out Doherty’s claim that mythicism will just get bigger and stronger; the fastest growing segment in the American population, on religious orientation, is the “nones.”  And/or the Atheists and Agnostics.  This group is overall, quite sympathetic to the notion that there is no firm historical foundation for our religions; but only myths and guesses.

    • Macdonaldjo

      A 2005 study conducted by Baylor University, a private Christian university, found that one percent of Americans in general believe that Jesus is a fictional character.

  • Brettongarcia

    MAC:    “Even if he never existed, in our world, Jesus always existed and always will”
     
    ????

    • Macdonaldjo

      I think the evidence clearly shows that Jesus existed.  But even if, historically, he didn’t, this will have no impact on our world.  The consensus will always be that Jesus existed.  That’s my opinion.

  • Brettongarcia

    Baylor University is the most partially Christian “secular” university in the US; it is quoted regualrly in pro-Christian publications, like First Things, and organizations like EWTN/RN.

    I’m ashamed of it; even though part of my family founded it.

    By the way? Say  1%  or less of all Americans have an IQ of 160 or more.  Since they are the minority, they must always be wrong of course.

  • Brettongarcia

    Gantt:   Here’s where what they teach in common sermons, and what is true even of the Bible, divides.  In a thousand homilies, we have been assured that the NT is absolutely consistent with the OT.  But?  When it came to the OT prohibition on working on a Sabbath, and even gathering food, on pain of death?  Jesus quickly generated his own Midrash, to allow his apostles picking corn on the Sabbath; and allowing himself to heal on the Sabbath.

    So the NT is rather less traditionally Hebrew than you thought.

    While?  Read Paul a little more closely:  he is constantly arguing that you don’t have to be Jewish/”circumcised” to be Christian.  He constantly advocates “Greeks,” and is the “apostle to the Gentiles.”  Which supports the idea that the earlier converts were only partially Jewish … but also increasingly Gentiles, goyem, non-Jews.

    While today?  How many Christians are immediately desceneded from Jewish parents?

    I’ve spent many pages here, showing there were many hellenized Jews,t hat don’t really appear in the Bible so much, but are found in history, bigtime.  THEY WERE receptive to Greco-Roman infusions.  Even though much of the OT seemed rather against it, the NT began to allow it.

    Read your Bible.

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      Brettongarcia, no one denies that by the 2nd Century non-Jewish influences were taking hold.  After all, Jews amounted to about 1% of the world’s population.  Therefore, once they began admitting Gentiles it was only a matter of time before Gentile influence dominated Jewish influence.

      However, the question of mythicism is a question of Christian origins.  And at its origin, Christianity was an intramural issue between Jews.  Yes, some interpreted the Old Testament this way and some that.  But they were all Jews and it was Old Testament (not Plato) they were all interpreting.

      Paul was a Jew persecuting Jews about whether a Jewish carpenter’s son was the messiah.  The crucified-risen Messiah was a fixture long before Greek influences had a voice in the matter.

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

    For those who might like to see the comments on the older posts from my Doherty review, or indeed any older comments which failed to get imported into the new blog when it moved here, there is a way to do so. Just stop the page from loading when you see them. They are all there, but then vanish from view when the Disqus commenting system has fully loaded. It is a nuisance, but better than nothing.

    Bretton Garcia, it was a common view in late 19th and early 20th century scholarship that Christianity transitioned from a Jewish to a non-Jewish context and in the process gathered up lots of new ideas, which contributed to Jesus becoming a god. In that context, all one had to do was cut off the evidence for Christianity’s Jewish roots (which many were all too happy to do in that era of anti-Semitism) and then one could make a case that the Christian view of Jesus was wholly derived from Greco-Roman philosophy and/or  mythology. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls required that to be rethought, since it showed that, on the one hand, many of the elements in early Christianity that were thought to be explicable only in terms of non-Jewish influences were found within Judaism in that period. And, on the other hand, even while showing that the “Judaism vs. Hellenism” dichotomy was a false one (on which see Martin Hengel’s classic studies), the evidence also showed that neither was Judaism without distinctives – a good instance being the fact that almost all Jews believed that one God alone should be worshiped (see on this the studies of Dunn and Sanders on the common Judaism of this period, i.e. the unifying features in the midst of the diversity, and perhaps you might also be interested in my own treatment of the evidence for Jewish monotheism in this period).

  • Brettongarcia

    James is committed in his publications to the view that early Chrsitianity was Jewish; and that the notion of Chrsitianity as being quite Hellenized, is just an old scholarly idea, since rejected.   But?  It was rejected as part of a political move, by the sudden defensive turn to the Right, by Reagan-era “Evangelical Scholars.”  In recent weeks, I’ve mentioned DOZENS, if not HUNDREDS of examples, of Greco-Roman influence, in the Bible itself.

    By the way?  It is no coincidence that Dr. McGrath’ most serious and devastating problems, were aired, in an online-debate with a Classicist/Roman-era Historian, Carrier.  See that exchange.  The reason being that in fact, the anti-classicising Judaeizers, like Dr. McGrath, have very, very serious opposition, outside their protected religious enclaves, from especially, Classicists.  Who now all too well, just how Greek Christianity is.

    The Dead Sea Scrolls?   Evidence of WHAT in Chfristianity?  Christianity is never explicitly mentioned in them; indeed, that is the great historical embarrasment of them.  Since you would expect it WOULD be mentioned, in documents believed to have been cached c. 67 AD or so.  More than anything else, the Dead Sea Scrolls are very sstrong evidence there WAS NO CHRISTIANITY in the early days.  And if anything?  They are evidence of a spiritual/Gnosticizing influence, probabloy from some enclave like the Essences.  Who may or many not have been mainstream Judaism.  Since they had left Jerusalem, after all.

    One might suggest that one distinctive feature of Judaism, was retained in Chritianity; monotheism.  Though there have been historical suggestions that various kinds of monotheism existed before Judaism.  While arguably, Christainity has trouble with Monotheism itself; with three possible gods, Father Son and Holy Spirit, it took some time before it was able to resolve itwself into a (in some ways implausible) “Trinity.”    And thn too in any case?  The carrying over of a single major trait, from Judaism, to Christianity, does not prove that Christianity was not influenced heavility, by religions, myths, of other local ethnicities.

    One might try to resolve any “Judaism/Hellenism” dichotomy, by simply asserting that Jews were already quite Hellenized.  But that would ignore, gloss over, real differences … and the dramatic and revolutionary nature of the final merger, in Christianity.

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

      Would you care to explain exactly why scholars in Europe and around the world went along with something to do with the Reagan era, and did so before Reagan’s time? Your statement about the Dead Sea Scrolls is frankly bizarre – they illustrate that there was no Christianity before the time of Christianity? No surprises there. I would strongly encourage you to read the scholarship of the past half a century or so and not simply get defensive over points that you will find adequately addressed in countless scholarly publications many of which not only have nothing to do with the Reagan era but in fact have little to do with Christianity, other than clarifying its context if one is interested in that particular topic.

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      Brettongarcia, it is you who are glossing over important distinctions and conflating time periods, resulting in anachronistic views.  Just as a starting point for you, consider that neither trinitarianism nor “dying and rising gods” are issues that show up in the first-century Christian documents that we have (i.e. the NT documents).  These are later developments which have nothing to do with original Christianity.  Even the term “Christianity” itself is absent from the NT, and we only find there its cognate “Christian” three times – and used cryptically on each occasion.  The Jews who first promulgated what we call Christianity most often called it “the Way.”  

      The NT’s dependence on the OT is beyond measure.  Remember as well that there was no NT when each of the NT documents was written.  When NT authors said “Scripture” they were almost exclusively talking about what we call the Old Testament.  Thus, they had very little maneuvering room to bring in other influences, or to become innovative.  That is, the playbook they used was written before any of them were born.  

      Your reference to “Reagan-era evangelical scholars” controlling the discussion sounds particularly odd since you are arguing with Bart Ehrman and James McGrath on this blog.

  • Brettongarcia

    Mar 7:26Now the woman was a Greek, a Syrophoeni’cian by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.Jhn 19:20Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek.Act 16:1And he came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek.Act 16:3Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews that were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.Act 17:12Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.Act 21:37As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” And he said, “Do you know Greek?Rom 1:16For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.Rom 2:9There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,Rom 2:10but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.Rom 10:12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him.Gal 2:3But even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek.Gal 3:28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.Col 3:11Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scyth’ian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all.

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      Brettongarcia, how do you manage to miss the fact that in practically of these Scriptures you have quoted Greek interests are subordinated to Jewish ones?

  • Brettongarcia

    James?  You  seem to think that the Dead Sea Scrolls were cached in 67 Before Christ?  You seem unaware that typically, they are dated up to 70 AD?

    This is quite a serious mistake, James.

    Gantt:

    If the early “Way,”  does not include Jesus as a god?  Then … doesn’t that suggest a problem in itself?    Or as part of a godhead?  Then why cite it as if it proves continuity between Judaism and Christianity?  When in fact the main distinctive person/feature, Jesus, was not integrated into the godhead?  And therefore was quite discontinuous.

    Wait a minute Mike:  there was no “scripture” when the NT was being written, therefore there could only be influence from the OT?  And not … the vast culture all around?  Especially from Hellenistic Jews like Philo?  From a Roman-occupied Jerusalem?  If the canon had not yet been formed … wouldn’t you expect that would be the moment of most receptivity to the local – Hellenized – culture?

    No doubt, the problem is that conventional sermons for years, have tried to assert that the NT was totally continuous with the OT.  But what do you make of say, my example above?  Of the OT firmly setting a death penalty, for gathering food on a Sabbath; and then Jesus allowing it all?

    We like to think that Greeks were subordinated to the Jews, throughout the New Testamwent.  And that is the impression that the NT gives superficially in fact.  But in actuality?  Note St. peter, having nothing more substantial than a “dream” … and dropping the old Jewish food prohibitions, for example, to accomodate the Greeks and other non-Jews.

    Mike and James?  Rather than speaking in authoritative generalities, can we see if you assertions stand up to actual examples?  Please address yourself to these two actual biblical examples, for a moment.  Instead of citations of abstract authority, with apparently no good basis in actual examples, explain how thie Jewish tradition was not changed at all, in the following examples.  And especially, not in the direction of a Gentile culture:

    First:  1) Jesus dropping the old testament prohibition on gathering food on a Sabbath.

    Then more seriously  2) Peter having a dream, and dissolving Jewish food prohibitions, in favor of Gentile/Greek preferences. 

    Or then say?  Paul 3) dropping the Jewish demand for circumcision, and accomodating uncircumcised Greeks.  THus CHANGING JUDAISM IN A GREEK DIRECTION.  To create christianity.

    I know perfectly well why Religion departments are so desperate to defend a Jewish seeming Christianity;  since the Old Testament seems so determined to defend the Jewish people over all others.  But?  Re-read your NT a little more closely; over and over, it accomodates Hellenism, or Greeks, more and more. 

    And with the influx of Hellenism?  Come Greek and Roman – guess what – MYTHS.  Deep into the heart of Christianity.

    Can we not speak here in terms of Absolute Dogmatic Academic Authority, and address actual examples and counter-examples?  For the sake of the common people? 

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

      If you are suggesting that the vast majority of the Dead Sea Scrolls are not pre-Christian, then I suggest that you read some mainstream scholarly treatment of them, as I can only presume that your reading on the subject is limited to Eisenman.

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      Brettongarcia,

      You’ve mentioned circumcision several times, as if Paul’s attitude toward it was a manifestation of Hellenism.  There was nothing Greek about Paul’s view of circumcision.  In fact, Greeks considered it an anathema, for it involved putting away all other gods and worshiping only the God of Israel – grossly unattractive behavior in a polytheistic culture.  

      Paul’s argument for a spiritual instead of a fleshly view of circumcision was a stick in the eye to the Greco-Roman world as it imposed Jewish monotheism in a way that fleshly circumcision never had.  Fleshly circumcision was something that a Greek could undergo and at least attempt to hide.  Spiritual circumcision meant you could not bow to any other god, which would make you look anti-social to practically everyone since there were idols and temples everywhere.

      Someone has grossly misled you regarding 1st-century history and early Christianity.

       

  • Brettongarcia

    I am of course not assuming that the “vast majority” of scrolls, are not pre-Christian.  But I am assuming that MANY of them are.  As the vast majority of scholars agree.  Are you disagreeing?

  • Brettongarcia

    Gantt?  Gantt? How could you have so utterly misunderstood Paul on circumcision?  The Jews required physical circumcision - the removal of the foreskin of the penis - as part of their religion. The Greeks did not practice this generally.  And being told they must practice it, was a barrier to Greeks entering early Judeo-Christianity.  So guess what?  Christianity DROPPED THIS CORE BELIEF OF JUDAISM.  To guess what?  Admit  – guess who – Greeks!

    While spiritual circumcision?  How does that invalidate the accomodation to the Greeks?  Even if greater obedience was required? (Which is silly)”

    Then too?  Was spiritual circumcision really all that difficult?  What if it meant following “one Lord.”  The Greeks, though used to religious polytheism, WERE however, often used to following one, local lord, or say Emperor, in that context. In fact, there were many forms of monotheism in ancient culture – and especially in Greek Platonism in fact.  Read Parmenides’ book, on the “one,” in Plato.

    Look guys: you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.  I’m getting a little tired of this, myself.

    Long ago, your 1)  mothers and 2) churches brainwashed you with endless, 3) hypnotic accounts, repetitions, of how perfect you and your traditional Christianity was; and 4) then you in effect took an oath to believe it blindly, with total “faith,” rigorously ignoring aLL mere arguments, evidence.  To blindly obey higher Authority and religous convention; its “Christ.”.  

    Utterly immune as you are to evidence?  And sworn as you are in advance to ignore all
    “worldly” evidence, all logic, all science, in favor of blind faith?  Perhaps there is not much more I can do here. 

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

      Bretton Garcia, your rhetoric does not do anything to help your position. You seem to be unaware or deliberately ignoring that the circumcision issue is one about which Paul and those who were Christian leaders before he joined the movement disagreed. You also seem not to realize that your language of abandoning this Jewish requirement only makes sense if the origins of Christianity are found within Judaism. One cannot jettison something one never held to.

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      Brettongarcia,

      Yes, maybe a break would be a good idea.

  • Brettongarcia

    For purposes of argument – only – I will often assume the common vantagepoint of most Christians; that the Gospels for example, authentically re-create the reality of early Christianity, etc..  Though in the defense of Mythicism, and of especially Pauline Priority, I adamantly do not hold that view myself?  Still, since it is the (apparently only) mental framework of most Christians, I will often situate some of my arguments from that standpoint. And say in effect, that “even if” the Gospel account is historical, if the Gosples really do describe early Christianity,  then in effect… this or that.
     
    In the present case?  If I begin with the conventional view - that Judaism was the origin of Christianity?  Then I would have to speak of the “abandonment” of elements of it, soon enough; as Christianity for example “abandons” the requirement for literal circumcision.  And becomes more … Greek.

    But indeed, more properly speaking, if I manage to modestly convince myself, and speak out of my own genuine position, more or less convinced?  Then … in fact, it would not seem at first, proper to speak of Christians  “abandoning” Judaism.

    To be sure, therefore, 1) some acknowledgement of latent Hellenistic elements already in much of Judaism “proper” might be useufl.  Though?  I would also add that 2) likely, there were SOME firmly Jewish, anti-Greek believers, who did experience a transition from a rather purely jewish to a Hellenized position.  And so had the experience of “abandoning” Judaism.

    Indeed, 3) even the rather Hellenized Jews of the time – likely those say, working for Roman overlords, or children of mixed jewish/Greek families, or Jews educated in Greek etc. – might have experienced some sense of transition. Though they were already one third there, one third Greek say?  Still, the next third would be experienced as a change; a partial “abandonment.”

  • Brettongarcia

    I agree Mac does not listen.  Several times we reiterated an explanation of how something goes from myth, to “reality.”  He just doesn’t listen.

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

       I have no doubt that if we could ever pin Mac down to any sort of consistency — and McGrath, too (though he is an adept at avoiding being pinned down on anything) — we would be able to sell him (them) the line that Ned Ludd was historical, as was William Tell, and El Cid, and the Masada story of Josephus, and Solomon, and Moses, and Abraham, and maybe with a bit of luck even Adam and Eve.

      • Macdonaldjo

        Dear Mr. Godfrey:

        I guess you must have missed my last post to you on the other webpage: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/04/review-of-bart-ehrman-did-jesus-exist-part-two.html

        To repeat, I’m sorry to bother you. I’m not in this discussion any more, but I was passing by the other web site and wanted to gently remind you that Mike Gantt asked you a question, and you still have not replied. I know, things slip my mind some times too. Anyway, to refresh your memory, here is Mike’s question:

        Neil Godfrey said: “Oh, and not that many people here care, but no-one has ever argued that Mark was written as a fiction and suddenly everyone forgot that and treated it as non-fiction. McGrath has suggested that himself about mythicists and knows from many responses it is not true. So I am sure he was simply too busy to correct Macdonaldjo on this point himself and is grateful I have taken the trouble to do it for him.”

        Mike said: “Even if what you say here is all true, you have not told us what mythicism does argue for if not scenario that Macdonaldjo described. I must say that, in this regard, it is a typical response from the mythicists’ side. That is, you defend yourself vigorously against what you say are false characterizations but never seem to give us what the true characterization should be. Thus the dialogue doesn’t advance.
        Therefore, let me try to be constructive at this juncture and ask you directly, “If Macdonaldjo’s scenario is an inaccurate characterization of mythicism, what would be the correct characterization?” In other words, please rearrange Macdonaldjo’s argument into something that represents your position so that we can understand it.”

        As I said on the other web page, I imagine Mike is waiting patiently for a reply, so if you don’t mind, now you can elaborate on how the Gospel of Mark, whose stories and characters were originally, as you said, fictional literary creations with theological messages, later came to be regarded by interpreters as stories about real historical characters. Please be kind enough and suggest a model of how your interpretattion could have happened GIVEN WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE SPECIFIC HISTORICAL CONDITIONS IN WHICH CHRISTIANITY FIRST EMERGED.  I GAVE YOU ONE:

        I said,

        The early church valued the Gospel of Mark for its preservation of the apostolic voice and gospel narrative of Peter. Moreover, an abundance of comment has been discovered to be embedded and interleaved amidst the textual archives of patristic homilies, apologies, letters, commentaries, theological treatises and hymnic verses. Ancient commentaries on Mark, such as the the insights of Augustine of Hippo and Clement of Alexandria, Ephrem the Syrian and Cyril of Jerusalem join in a polyphony of interpretive voices of the Eastern and Western church from the second century to the seventh.

        Our oldest texts that comment on Mark treat it as historical happenings. For those commentators, one would assume that is how Mark was understood in the tradition before them.

        On the other hand, referring to your argument, I said one could ‘posit’ that Mark started off as a fictional made-up narrative, and then “magical event X” happened where everyone forgot it was just a fictional made up narrative, and then “magical event Y” happened and everybody suddenly understood Mark to be historical happenings, and our first commentators on Mark therefore never knew about the original nature of the fictional Mark. But the only problem with this hypothetical reconstruction is that it seems to be misrepresenting and bending the evidence to say that the most plausible historical scenario is that Mark started off as complete fiction, everyone forgot, and then everyone suddenly started to understand it as historical happenings. 

        You kindly replied that my attempt to characterize your position was incorrect.

        if this is so, please provide a relevant historical analogy, specific with details,  of your explanation that fits with the established facts of the origins of Christianity.  And please copy your response to the other page in response to Mike Gant’s question on this matter. 

        And most important, please explain why your reconstruction is a more plausible argument than the current established theory of the origins of Christianity, because as I said, mythicism is not simply trying to argue that we are agnostics about the existence of Jesus, but that it is more likely than not he was a myth.  Otherwise, as I said, Doherty would be an agnostict about the historicity of Jesus, not a mythicist, and Price would not have said in his midrash article, for instance, ” the words in Hosea 11:1 “my son,” catching the early Christian eye, GENERATED THE WHOLE STORY,” but rather Price would have said something like ” the words in Hosea 11:1 “my son,” catching the early Christian eye, MAY HAVE generated the whole story, ORPART OF IT, BUT WE DON’T KNOW.”

        Thank you for responding and have a nice day,

        John

        • Macdonaldjo

          “interpretattion” should be spelled “interpretation,” lol

        • Macdonaldjo

          There should be a space between the words “OR” and “PART,”  lol

        • Macdonaldjo

          Keep in mind you would have to posit a break in continuity in the early church, going from the mythical Jesus to the historical Jesus, whereas we know, by historical analogy, Early Christians preserved a continuity of worship from the Old Covenant to the
          New, employing elements from the Jewish Temple liturgy, the synagogue liturgy
          and the rituals of the Jewish home. Old Testament
          worship is not only continued but also fulfilled in the Orthodox liturgy.

  • Brettongarcia

    Why would we say that Bible experts just don’t actually know what happened in early Christianity?  First Because of their limited perspective and professional blinders/bias.  The entire field, is 1) emotionally- and 2) often financially-driven by an emotional base of believers.  

    FINANCE.  Where is a theologian going to get a job,  and money to live, if not in academe?  But … preaching in a church.  Which imposes its own belief structure.  While all those who get PhD’s in Religion know that if they don’t get a faculty position, they’re going to have to be cooperating with … native religious ideas.  With that always in mind, the entire field is distorted, to cater to … uneducated perceptions of religion. 

    Then too, who FUNDS chairs and so forth, in religious programs?  Often some very nice pious widow.  Who has her own ideas about what a religious program should do. 

    But then too, especially:  what determines the number of STUDENTs that a religion department has – and therefore the academic funding allocated to it – except?  Student interest in religion; along with their (frequent) expectation that a religion department will of course, simple rubberstamp their native religious beliefs.  And if it does not?  It is teh work of the devil, and they will not of course, sign up for classes. 

    And with no students?  No need for faculty. 

    Therefore?  Religious departments must always cater to .. uneducated belief, to some degree.

    Therefore?   Their results are often invalid.

    • Claude

      “Some pious widow”? Good God, man!

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

      In actual fact, mythicism reinforces mainstream Christianity, on the one hand saying that conservative Christians are right that Jesus matches scriptural prophecy and was conceived of as divine from the beginning, while on the other claiming he didn’t exist without evidence that can be taken seriously. Mainstream historical critical scholarship, on the other hand, rocks and often shatters the faith of conservative Christians, because it challenges their beliefs using the relevant evidence. Anyone who studied the Bible in that sort of academic context after coming from or through a conservative Christian background will attest to that.

      If someone thinks the opposite is true, that historical critical scholarship panders to Christian faith while mythicism challenges it, they either don’t know much about the mainstream academic study of religion, or are detatched from reality.

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

        Are we meant to be impressed or surprised that biblical studies are dominated by liberal Christians?

        I wish more of these liberal Christians would share the findings of their peers with the wider public. Too many, it seems, are quite content not to share information that they fear might rock the faith of their less well-informed flock.

  • Macdonaldjo
  • Brettongarcia

    It is true that deeper down, scholarly religious study is finding many things quite different than what is expected by popular/conservative religious sentiments.  However? There is always the practical need, to keep up appearances, of pious attachment to established notions of religion.  To remain tied to uneducated bises.  Which is the emotional/financial base.

    And indeed?  The net result is that, whatever better ideas might be expressed in private, or obscurely in obscure journals, is said obscurantistically, and so in effect only to the very few.  While for all practical purposes, the larger, more influential message that gets out – and that unfortunately has the most influence by far.  Is that “yes indeed, your traditional belief in Jesus is exactly right, congregations.  Indeed if anything, we are scientifically proving it. ” (And only in easy-to-miss parens, “parts of it”).

    By the way?  Though I don’t like this system much, I would not advise anyone in a religious faculty, to oppose this system too voceriferously; it is in point of fact,  a good way to lose a job.  

    Are mythicsts doing the same thing at times?  Speaking as if the conventional but substantially false “Christ” is real?  To be sure, they are beginning with the traditional standpoint, as the knowledge base from which their audience is working.  But there is an important difference – and advance – going on in Mythicism:   Mythicists are very openly – not in private – beginning with that conventional base … and then openly, prominently, pointedly, noting how different the reality is, from popular perception.

    In many ways, Historicists and Mythicists to be sure, are often really the very same people; to say otherwise is to indeed pose a “false dichotomy.”  That is, many Historicists in effect, admit that there are “Hellenizing influence” in chrsitaintiy; and see that the Historical Jesus is in fact, quite tiny.  But there is a significant, real difference,  and a real advance, among those who are openly Mythicist:  this group is far, far more honest and open, about its disconcerting conclusions.  And far less catering to popular biases.

    I know perfectly well the difficult position of religious academics.  And I don’t entirely blame them for what they do.  Though on the other hand?  In effect, they have been bought off by popular pressure and “fility lucre.”  Catering to popular bias is where the jobs – and money – is.

    Or anyway?  Until now; the picture is changing.  For anyone who is interested?  For those “Historicist” who would secretly like to make the transition to Mythicism, and openly noting problems with the conventional “Christ”?  Actually TODAY, for once,  we do  ALMOST  have a potentially viable alternative.  Given the increasing popularity of Agnosticism and Atheism - it is ALMOST possible today, to make a living, to sell enough books … even when crossing the old religious prejudices.

    Again, I understand why many religious faculty members might not want to make that move, for largely financial reasons.  At the same time though? 

    Incidentall -Mc Graths’ contention -  is the search for the Historical Jesus defensible, as “Chrsitianity,” or “religion”?  Possibly.  Though it still makes – out of financial necessity in part – too many compromises.

    • Claude

      Do you hear yourself, Brettongarcia: Biblical scholars are categorically incapable of dispassionate inquiry and academia structurally forecloses sound scholarship by religion professors. This is a preposterous conspiracy theory.

      Jesus is in your head not in a good way. Step outside and feel the sun on your face.

  • Brettongarcia

    But in any case?  This being a potentially explosive topic?  Having discussed briefly the problem of institutional/financial bias, in scholarly religious study?  I’d be happy to move on to … the search for a pre-Biblical Jesus.

    But even there?  Note that I 1) have explicitly acknowledged any conventionally explicated Biblical base in my own remarks, as conventional.  While furthermore?  2) WHEN we go looking for a pre-biblical Jesus, what methods do we use?  Having few texts?  We might use the search for Q1, 2, 3?  But 3) even more, we might try to contextualize the Historical Jesus, by way of … Cultural context (my field, in part). 

    But what happens when we do THAT?  The “Christ” I would come up with, would … be quite Hellenistic.  That being the major cultural influence in Roman-occupied Jerusalem, that would transform elements of Judaism, into a different religion.  And as it turns out, that is also the major different voice inputting in part, even from Q.  The “sage” or “Stoic” – Greek – voice.

    A voice which by the way, eventually can be found even in – and confirmed by – the Bible itself.  Not just Paul, but also the Gospels. For those who look closely enough.

  • Brettongarcia

    Neil and Vinnie:

    I, Brettongarcia (not James etc; separate!) thank you for your help.

    I think we’ve all outlined a fair, academically-supported case for a particularly Hellenistic voice in the NT; first in Paul.  

     But James is now asking apparently for something earlier than that.   Here, we are suggesting there may be nothing much at all earlier than that.  But?  If there is an earlier voice at all in the days before Paul?  c. 30 BC -50 AD?  I’d say it also, if there is any such voice at all, it would seem rather “sage” or SToic like.  As in fact, Q is sometimes described.  

    Most likely though in any case?  Any voice in the NT before Paul, or from 30 BC to 50 AD?   Is not fully real.  But is simply from midrashic-style or parable-style  fiction, likely, of this era.   By a process we might suppose, like the following. 

    I think there’s some scholarly literature  out there, on some contemporary outright moral/didactic  fictions, especially for children, in this era.  Moral tales about good (ironically Greco-)Jewish martyr-heroes.  Spinning out of Maccabean-era, intertestimental hero tales (in the Catholic Bible, etc.).  But being generated especially, out of the highly Hellenized Jewish culture around Philo of Egypt, fl. 20 AD.  Where “Jesus” is said to have come (out of Egypt; in Mary and Joseph’s brief exile there in part).  Possibly from the Therapeutae community around Alexandria; which were related to healing, etc..

    The theory – as I mightly reconstruct and modify it here?  – would be that  there were many moral/ethical traditions, tales,  in the ANE.  And one or more of them finally expanded the pattern of rumors, midrashes, and made-up, Jesus-style parables, into full-length false biolographies. of an exemplary/ideal – but made up –  moral figure.  

    Since Greeks or Hellinized Jews more than anyone, were behind this creation, this new moralizing figure/hero/martyr, voiced many ANE and Greek/Stoic/Roman heroic ideas.  Mainly about self-sacrifice; dying for your country.  Which were very,very Roman ideas.   Then?  Since the Pharisees (and at times other ANE cvulture)believed that resurrection was possible?  These two (and other) traditions were melded together into one Composite, fictional hero. 

    In a fictional construction or literary character.  That was called “Jesus.” 

    This figure was largely made up.  But since most the culture of the time did not have much literary sophistication, and often did even not know what a “parable” or “fiction” was, this fiction was quickly taken to have been real.  Whole masses of people believed in it.  As its wonderous miracles are still widely believed today, by some.

    This to be sure, is just one very, very hypothetical reconstruction.  But will give an idea of how it all could have come about.

    Anyone with good experience in texts, in any historical library, should have a fair idea of how fictional stories and rumors, were often written down and reported as “facts,” etc..

    This, I stress, is a VERY rough, and hypothetical picture of what might have happened; just one of dozens of related, plausible scenarios.  But it gives people one rough idea, of how it might come about. 

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      Brettongarcia,

      Thanks for outlining a hypothesis for mythicism.  Please entertain a couple of follow-up questions.  You said oral versions of various ANE character stories resulted a composite character named Jesus who was a literary creation.  Then you said, 

      “But since most the culture of the time did not have much literary sophistication, and often did even not know what a “parable” or “fiction” was, this fiction was quickly taken to have been real.  Whole masses of people believed in it.”

      1) What was this fictional piece of writing which was quickly and mistakenly assumed to be historical by “whole masses of people” – was it the gospel of Mark, as Neil seemed to be suggesting earlier? If not the gospel of Mark, what writing was it?

      2) Are you saying that this transition from literary creation to belief as historical by “whole masses of people” took place 30-50 AD?  If not then, when did it take place according to this hypothesis?

    • Macdonaldjo

      Brettongarcia says:

      “Since Greeks or Hellinized Jews more than anyone, were behind this creation, this new moralizing figure/hero/martyr, voiced many ANE and Greek/Stoic/Roman heroic ideas. Mainly about self-sacrifice; dying for your country. Which were very,very Roman ideas. Then? Since the Pharisees (and at times other ANE cvulture)believed that resurrection was possible? These two (and other) traditions were melded together into one Composite, fictional hero.  In a fictional construction or literary character. That was called “Jesus.”  This figure was largely made up. But since most the culture of the time did not have much literary sophistication, AND OFTEN DID EVEN NOT KNOW WHAT A “PARABLE” OR “FICTION” WAS, THIS FICTION WAS QUICKLY TAKEN TO HAVE BEEN REAL.  Whole masses of people believed in it. As its wonderous miracles are still widely believed today, by some.”
      Actually, The
      word “parable” comes from the Greek παραβολή (parabolē),
      meaning “comparison, illustration, analogy”.   It was
      the name given by Greek rhetoricians to any fictive illustration in the form of
      a brief narrative. Later it came to mean a fictitious narrative, generally
      referring to something that might naturally occur, by which spiritual and moral
      matters might be conveyed

      Nice try though

  • Macdonaldjo

    This is kind of funny.  Neil Godfrey just used Bayes’ theory to show you can’t clam Jesus and James weren’t actually siblings: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/putting-james-the-brother-of-the-lord-to-a-bayesian-test/  Moreover, he says if a historicist did the same procedure, the theory would prove Jesus and James were siblings.  lol

    • Macdonaldjo

      “claim,” not “clam,” lol

      • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

        Macdonaldjo,

        Perhaps you and I are using different browsers and don’t see the same thing, but whenever I post a comment here I see an “Edit” link just to the left of the “Reply” link at the bottom right of my comment.  (Everyone else’s comments have a “Like” link in that same spot.)  Thus, if I see something wrong with the way my comment formatted, or if I misspelled a word, I can click on “Edit” and fix it.

        My browser is Google’s Chrome.

        • Macdonaldjo

          I don’t have an edit link
          it’s annoying
          I wish I had one
          I just tried Google Chrome, but that didn’t help

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            Maybe you have to register with Disqus.  Your name shows on the e-mail alerts as “Macdonaldjo (unregistered).”

          • Claude

            John: do you sign in as a Guest?

            I do, and I don’t have access to the edit function.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

            If you have facebook, you should be able to log in with that and edit your posts. 

            • http://www.facebook.com/JohnMacDonald76 John Macdonald

              Okay, I just signed in through Facebook

            • http://www.facebook.com/JohnMacDonald76 John Macdonald

              NOW I CAN EDIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

              Thanks man

  • Claude

    Perhaps a Guest has to register with the site first before being able to access the edit function.

    I post as a Guest and don’t have the option to edit.

  • Claude

    Sorry for the double post: there was an uncharacteristic delay before my first post appeared, so I assumed it had been lost.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnMacDonald76 John Macdonald

    This is kind of neat. 

    When Ehrman reconstructs Josephus on page 61, he has, in part, “At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man … And up until this very day the tribe of Christians,  named after him, has not died out.”

    But Ehrman could be wrong here because why would Josephus says a tribe of “Christians” were named after “Jesus?”  That makes no sense.  There should be no connection in Josephus’ mind between the Word “Jesus” and the word “Christian.”  The word “Christian” is named after “Christ.” And Christ shouldn’t be here in Josephus.   So there may be good reason to argue the last line is an interpolation.

  • Brettongarcia

    Of course, the whole idea of a “parable” was fairly well known – to a tiny, literate, educated elite, even in ancient times; to Greeks especially.  But did the average good Jew of  Jesus’ time, quite know what a “parable” was?  If so, then why did both Jesus and Paul have to show  them?

    Could it all have originated with a fictional story, midrash, or parable?  The common scenario is not a “magical event.”  What is supposed is that 1) someone wrote an extensive midrashic/fictional parable on “Jesus”; that the author himself likely knew was made up.  But … 2) that parable was handed on to others, who did not know its origins.  And were not told of them by the original author (who may have died in the interval in any case).  So that?  The made-up story was simply … accepted as real history.  (Rather as, some scholars suppose, the Deuteronomical “historical” material “discovered” one day in a Jewish temple).

    In dramatic contrast to the usual magical/miraculous accounts of Christianity, no magic supernatural power is required here:  only the power of human ignorance.  

    Neil himself apparently is not defending the notion that “Mark” is fictional?  While I myself chose to concentrate not on Mark, but on Q material; accepting for the sake of conventionality, the “dual source hypothesis.”

    But for that matter, would the Gospel of Mark, even, be immune to the “misconstrued fiction” hypothesis?  Keep in mind that, even if we here accept the very conservative and restrictive chronologies, Mark is thought to be written as late as 60 AD; and supporting references to it occur one, two, and three generations AFTER that.  So there is every little if any early (30-80 AD) verification of even Mark, and/or the events it narrated. 

    So chronologically? It could have all been made up as early as say 10 AD, and as late as say 90 AD. 

    And that’s significant:  because right in the middle is a watershed moment:  70 AD.  When Jerusalem is burned to the ground, and the very heart of early Christianity destroyed, or dispersed.   So that?  After 70AD?  All bets are off; anyone could say anything about a given Jewish/Christian text … and there would be far fewer texts and people, to contradict it.    And at that point?  Any text whatsoever, could be presented as factual, and the opposition to it would not be very effective.

    No magic is required here; just teh power of human ignorance and superstition.  Of which there has alwasy been plenty.

    Is there evidence of a “CONTINUOUS” tradition between Christianity and Judaism?  What about the moments of momentous discontinuity?  When the Jewish temple 1) killed Jesus.  Then 2) with Roman help, killed perhaps Peter and James?  And then the moment of discontinuity, when 3) Rome destroyed all of Jerusalem?  And then 4) the centuries, when Christiantiy existed as an illegal underground movement (secret conspiracy, some might even say).  Far from public scrutiny or continuity with Judaism? 

    • http://www.facebook.com/JohnMacDonald76 John Macdonald

      Why, when the book was handed over, were the people who received it not told it was fiction?

      • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

        It is not hard to imagine that some people weren’t told.   Why are authors always trying to pass of works of fiction as memoirs?  Because they sell better.  I don’t think it would have taken someone who understood the story as parable and allegory very long to figure out that it made a more effective evangelistic tool if it was represented as being what really happened.  If that someone thought that the story inspired the right kind of faith, they would have seen it as a pious fiction in support of a greater good.

        I’m not claiming that we can know that’s what happened, but I don’t think there is anything inconsistent there with what we know of human nature.

        • http://www.facebook.com/JohnMacDonald76 John Macdonald

          So the most reasonable framing of the mythicist position is to claim a pious fraud?

          Ok

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

          Yep Vinny, but usually there is some irritating guy who comes along and points out that it’s a fraud. The problem with such a view is that even Christianity’s early critics seem to work on the basis that there was such a person as Jesus.

          I wouldn’t claim it was impossible that somebody would invent such a story, there are all sorts of things I wouldn’t say are impossible – that Edward deVere wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare for example, can’t be shown to be impossible. However, there’s something very big required to move me from the “not quite impossible” to ” this seems a plausible explanation”. That big thing is evidence.

          • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

             Paul,

            I think it’s hard to make any blanket statements about the Christianity’s early critics because the church was never all that keen on preserving their writings.

            I would also note that there was rarely any shortage of people denouncing Joseph Smith as a fraud.  While some people may have been convinced, the ones who stayed only grew more fervent and determined in their beliefs.   I haven’t read the Mormon version of all the disputes, but I have a hunch that it might not give me a terribly accurate picture of what the critics were actually saying.

            I am doubtful that mythicism can ever be much more than an intriguing possibility, but none of the slam dunk refutations has struck me as as slammy or as dunky as they purport to be.

            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

              Vinny,

              If ancient critics had raised questions about the historicity of Jesus, I think it would be reasonable that a Christian would have sought to refute such claims, rather than ignore them. We can’t be 100% on that of course, but we have early Christians responding to some potentially serious challenges to Christian belief, and therefore giving us an insight to the views of Christianity’s ancient critics. For example, Justin Martyr refers to the view that Jesus’ body may have been stolen an explanation for the empty tomb. 

              But for me it’s not about being slammy or even dunky.  I’ve said I’ve laid out what I would say is the evidence to support the historicist view, which people may wish to quibble with. I’d be more interested to know what evidence mythicists can cite to support their own views and see how quibbly I can be with that!

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      Brettongarcia, you said

      “It could have all been made up as early as say 10 AD, and as late as say 90 AD.”  

      If “whole masses of people” believed the literary fiction that Jesus was historical before 50 AD (when Paul began to write the letters we have), why do mythicists put such great importance on Paul preaching a non-historical Jesus, since by that time “whole masses of people,” presumably Paul included, would have believed in a historical Jesus?  Doesn’t this mean that the conversion from fictitious to historical must have occurred after Paul (which would mean after the mid-60′s)?

    • Claude

      I’m having a hard time following your rhetoric. So you think a fictive sayings story by someone written sometime eventually developed into a narrative that emerged anywhere from 10-90 AD about a crucified Messiah? Mike Gantt readily identified the challenge Paul presents to this theory.

      Why do you think the fall of Jerusalem would diminish the number of Christian texts, which appear to have been written outside of Palestine and were not concentrated in Jerusalem? By 70 A.D. Christianity has been exported all over the Mediterranean.

  • Brettongarcia

    Gantt:

    [ERRATA:  of course, scratch 10 AD or BC to 90 AD.  More useful dates?  Propose a few.  In addition?  Though at times I'll speak to the "dual source," for more practical purposes, of simplicity of explication, I'll assume ONE original source? - BG]

    Of course, my remarks now are QUITE tenative; as I said earlier.  And?  Indeed, some modifcations will indeed have to be made.

    Yes; I might tentatively agree that mid-60′s would be a better date.

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      Brettongarcia,

      But since, according to Mythicism, Paul and his churches believed in a celestial and not a historical Jesus, wouldn’t any attempt to preach a historical Jesus after the mid-60′s have been contradictory to that?  And that being the case, how could a later letter like 2 Peter speak positively of Paul’s letters?

      • http://www.facebook.com/JohnMacDonald76 John Macdonald

        I think I know what happened Mike.  Paul way preaching a celestial Jesus, and then there was a massive earthquake, and everyone in the church fell into a hole created by the earthquake, and hit their heads, and got amnesia, and forgot about the celestial Jesus.  Then, they re-read the religious texts, misunderstood them to be talking about a earthly human Jesus, and that’s how the historical Jesus got started.

        Your going to have to do better than that to make the mythicist position sound absurd

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    Might be John.  I haven’t read enough mythicism to know.  However, even if there were a historical Jesus, I would think it a good bet that some of the stories that came to be told about him were the product of pious fraud.

    • http://www.facebook.com/JohnMacDonald76 John Macdonald

      Why, do you think the author of Mark read Plato’s Republic and was a fan?

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    John,

    I’m not sure I get the question, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the reason.

    I guess that part of my thinking is shaped by the internet apologists I encounter who make really outlandish claims about how all the scholars agree about how much evidence we have for various facts about Jesus and his followers.  I know from my discussions with more circumspect Christians that there are plenty of Bible believers who know that these apologists are overstating the case.  Nevertheless, I’ve rarely if ever seen the circumspect Christians trying to reign in the exaggerators.  I can only surmise that they don’t want to do anything to interfere with someone who is winning souls.

    So my guess is that in the early days of Christianity there were also people who had no qualms about making up stories in service of the greater good.   It is also my guess that there were people who recognized the stories as inventions but who didn’t try to correct them because they saw that they were effective in making converts.  My guesses are simply based on my observations of human nature.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnMacDonald76 John Macdonald

    Well, along with Dr. McGrath’s deconstruction of Earl Doherty, Bart Ehrman’s book, the two blogs here on Ehrman’s book with their comments, and this blog here on Carrier with its comments, that pretty much takes care of the Christ Myth Theory.

    Goodbye Jesus mythicism, it was fun while it lasted http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lt6PVVr4B04&feature=bf_prev&list=PL213F899A77C9C262

    I think maybe I’ll try my hand at Sudoku

  • Brettongarcia

    How much “hard” data, proof, does Historicism have?  

    It is of course, hard to find hard historical data – as even Historicists admit.  Even their own work is HIGHLY speculative.  Carrier and others rightly pointed out, that if you start applying statistical probability models to the likelihood of tHeir models, their own probability is exgtremely low.

    As Vinny notes, cultures are complex.  So How exact is Historicism?  As a cultural analyist, I know that you can’t really predict say, the rise of a new movie genre, or a particular movie, say, given general knowledge of history and historical trends.  Nor can you even graph its likelihood with much acccuracy.   So why do historicists pretend to?   Can YOU predict what the next Hollywood blockbuster plot will be?   And graph that with certainty, from cultural and historical trends?  Likewise, the appearance of “Jesus” could not be similarly graphed … or verified, by Historicists. 

    Even Mac, notes a wealth of material on “midrash”ic readings; it however would not seem much of a stretch to suppose that an extended misrash or parable woulc be develolped.  Those who want to can find relevant literature.

    In the meantime?   It is strange that historicists demand great exactitude from others, but when he comes to themselves?  No facts are really necessary; just “faith.”  Indeed, to faith, facts are the enemy.  No problems here?

    And so they conclude, the likelihood of a dying God, who walks on water and makes moutnains move, is far more probable that … somebody just getting confused about an acient story?  Can we compare relative probabilities here?  Guess who wins, by a factor of a million?  can you guess?

    WHEN would a probable error, moment of fictionalization occurred?    Here I have noted over and over, I AM speculating. 

    Gantt”:  making suppositions, when doing History, is risky.  You suggest that if a Celestial Christ existed first in Paul, how could the people accept a detailed account of Jesus later?  Simple:  people heard the first vague account … and then wanted more detail.  By the way?  Conventional dating puts Paul before the more detailed Gospels; you objection would also  be to the mass of conventional scholarship.

    Claud:  Why would 70 AD change things?  The importance is that by that time, Christianity had indeed spread far – especially pauline Christianity, directed at Gentiles all over the Roman empire.  So taht?  In effect a vague Pauline account was already prevailing … when suddenly the closest competition to that – in Jerusalem – was totally destroyed.  Thus the Pauline account would prevail.  over the Historical account.  Then?  The redactors were free to introduce any “factual”  ACCOUNT THEY WANTED.  Most contradictory witness, having been eliminated.  And only the nonspecific pauline account, to reconcile to.

    John Mac?  Your questions were already answered earlier.   Of course, we cannot exactly KNOW the exact events.  But it is extremely easy to imagine any number of quite plausible, everyday human events, that could make this happen. The supposition is that a work of “parable” or misrash/fiction was created.  Greeks and others of teh time, were unclear even what “fiction” was; (as scholars note).  Then after the author died?  When others found the book in a jar somewhere, and read it?  The author was not there to explain its exact status.  And?  Therefore the fictional midrash … was taken literally, as fact.

    You never heard of any religious person, say, taking parables and metaphors, literally?  That seems incredibly impossible to you?  Compared to just accepting that there really was a superman walking on water, and making bread appear out of thin air?

    Let’s COMPARE PROBABILITIES here. 

     

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      Brettongarcia, you said:

      “Gantt”: 
      making suppositions, when doing History, is risky.  You suggest that if a
      Celestial Christ existed first in Paul, how could the people accept a detailed
      account of Jesus later?  Simple:  people heard the first vague account
      … and then wanted more detail.  By the way?  Conventional dating
      puts Paul before the more detailed Gospels; you objection would also  be
      to the mass of conventional scholarship.”

      I don’t accept the mythicist notion that Paul preached only a celestial Christ.  Rather, he preached that the earthly Christ had been crucified and then raised from the dead on the third day (1 Cor 15:1ff).  Therefore, when any of those who looked to Paul for instruction subsequently encountered the gospels, they were encountering narratives that dovetailed nicely with what they’d been taught by Paul.  Moreover, the “words of the Lord” they’d been given by Paul were repeated, and of course greatly supplemented, in the gospels.  It’s only on mythicism that contradiction and conflict regarding the Jesus story arise in such a scenario.

      I appreciate your being responsive to the request to outline the mythicist hypothesis.  I think your working on it helped you to see that it is unrealistic at the most fundamental level.  I say this because you seemed to be distancing yourself from a commitment to it by the caveats you supplied along with it.  I commend you for that.

      Thanks for engaging with me. 

    • John76

       
       
      Didn’t you read my post? I said the Christ Myth Theory has been refuted. How can that statement be wrong? I always believe I’m right, so I always must be right. And anyway, I said I’m not doing this religion blogging thing any more. I’m doing Sudoku. I have no idea where to put this 6.

       

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

        Come on John, I can’t believe for a second that you find sudoku as much fun as mythicist-baiting.

        • John76

          Debating with Neil Godfrey is like repeatedly pushing a smaller kid down at school when you were a kid.  Sure, it’s easy and fun, but eventually you want more of a challenge.

          By the way, did you like the way I called “interpolation” on that Josephus passage:

          When Ehrman reconstructs Josephus on page 61 of “Did Jesus Exist”, he takes out the word “messiah” as an interpolation and keeps, in part, “At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man … And up until this very day the tribe of Christians, named after him, has not died out.”

          Why would Josephus say a tribe of “Christians” were named after “Jesus?” That makes no sense. There should be no connection in Josephus’ mind between the Word “Jesus” and the word “Christian.” The word “Christian” is named after “Christ.” And “Christ” shouldn’t be here in Josephus. So there is compelling reason to argue the last line is an interpolation. Christians are named after Christ, not Jesus.

          Stay cool brother,

           John Andrew MacDonald

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

            That’s a good point. Even before we had Agapius’ version of the Testimonium Flavianum, some suspected that, rather than “He was the Christ” being an interpolation in its entirety, the original may have read “He was called/said to be Christ” or something along those lines. The later mention of James as the “brother of Jesus called Christ” would also fit well with this.

            • John76

              James caught it.

              Take care Dr. McGrath

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

      BG – I take it the first part of your post was in reply to my comment?

      I would say that the historicist view – that there was a historical Jesus, around whose person the Christian religion developed is supported by:

      1) The view of the gospel writers that Jesus had a historical existence.
      2) The view of other canonical writers the Jesus had a historical existence.
      3) The view of other early Christian writers that Jesus had a historical existence.
      4) The view of non-Christians, writing about or attacking Christianiy that Jesus had a historical existence. 

      I would also say that the historicist case could also draw support by looking at other faiths that have their origins in a historical founder: e.g. Islam, Sikhism, Babism, the Baha’i faith, the Rastafari movement. 

      For me, these provide good examples of other instances where theological claims and/or miraculous events are attached to a historical figure, sometimes within that person’s own lifetime. So to an extent, they show that the kind of thing that happened that historicists say happened in the case of Jesus is certainly possible, as it has happened to other historical figures.

      Now I’m sure you might quibble able about this or that detail, but that, in a nutshell, would be the evidence I would cite to support my perspective. 

      How about the evidence for yours?

    • Claude

      Brettongarcia:

      Thank you for your response (especially since my question was badly expressed). However, I’m a bit dense and am now more confused. You’re saying there was a historical record in Jerusalem concerning Jesus that got destroyed in the war that might have challenged a mythical tradition that survived in Paul’s theology? So yours is not an argument for a mythical Jesus but one skeptical of the historical value of the gospels?

  • Brettongarcia

    1) How many faiths had a non-fictional source?  Therefore Zeus exists?  And all the hundreds of other gods, of Greek and Roman mythology?  And then …

    2) Our assertion here is that the Bible in effect, is fiction.  If the Bible is fiction, then it doesn’t matter how many times IT ITSELF says the things in it are real.  If you are talking to a liar, do you just ask him if he is lying … and then accept the answer?

    3) Historians almost universally admit there is very little, perhaps no, independent support for the historical existence of Jesus, outside the Gospels.  Josephus’ reference, to followers of Jesus, may be an interpolation.  Or I say, more carefully read, it does not necessarily endorse the view that Jesus was a real person:  if he reported of the Romans, “they were followers of Zeus,” does that imply that Zeus is real? 

    4) What is teh evidence that the Historical Jesus did not exist?  The whole of Science says that nobody walks on water, or makes bread appear out of thin air.

    5) Therefore?  The probablity that jesus was real?  might calculate out to say, less than 1%?

    6) How much evidence do I need to present, to best THAT record?  All I need to say is that it is easy to imagine a dozen common, everyday scenarios, that would beat THAT probability, by a factor of at least 10.

    7) And indeed, I’ve outlined here, one very common, simple, plausible scenario, that would explain the Jesus myth. From common, easy-to-understand, everyday human frailties, mistakes.

    What more do I NEED to do? 

    It would indeed be nice, if I could build a time-machine, and we could go back in time and actually SEE the evidence.  But unfortunately?  What happened was so long ago, lost in the mists of time; about all we can do for now, is offer RELATIVE PROBABILITIES.  But?  The probability of a mostly- or even wholly-invented jesus, is about, say, a) fifty times what the “Miracle”-working Christ was; b) about 16 times more than the “spiritual Christ.”  and c) about three times what the probability is, of even the very, very minimal, all-too-human Jesus, of Historicists.

    I am sorry I cannot offer better odds. 

    But to be sure, to those who despair?  We might say that, to be sure, even if Christ did not exist, to be sure, parts of his moral and ethical system, retain some value.  Sometimes, there is even a degree of truth, even in myths.  Even in fiction.

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      Brettongarcia,

      I don’t want to start a whole new dialogue thread, but do hope you’ll allow me to make a brief comment on a point that has nothing to do with mythicism.  

      Several times you’ve mentioned the miracle accounts in the Scriptures as problematic for you.  If you are convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that there can be no God then your rejection of miracles is at least in some sense reasonable.  However, if it’s possible that there is a God at all then aren’t miracles ipso facto possible?

      This is just  question for you to think about.  I am not seeking an answer from you.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

      BG – If your best evidence for Jesus non-existence is that people don’t do miraculous things then OK – can I also strike the following out of history:

      Muhammad (miraculous trip to Jerusalem on Buraq)?
      Charles II (could cure scrofula by touch)?
      The 14th Dalai Lama (reincarnated Bodhisattva)?

      Please let me know.

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

    Presumably you are also a Peter mythicist, Bretton Garcia, since Matthew makes up a story about him waing on water? And a Paul mythicist, since Acts attributes to him a variety of miracles, the number of which increases exponentially in still late tales about him?

    Please keep in mind that in our earliest sources we are not dealing with a god. We are dealing with a person who is said to have been born of a woman, born under the Jewish Law and thus Jewish, with the ordinary Jewish name Joshua, purportedly descended from David according to the flesh, who as crucified and was buried. Comparisons to Zeus are not particularly helpful.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    Paul,

    We have insight into the views of Christianity’s critics in the mid to late 2nd Century, but I don’t know that anyone could have challenged Jesus’ existence at that point.  If there had been a way to mount a mythicist argument at that point, I agree that its reasonable to think we might find a response from Christians.  However, we don’t have much indication of what outside critics were saying in the 1st Century or how they were met.  What we have records of are only the internal disputes.

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      VinnyJH,

      I don’t want to derail your discussion with Paul, but could you digress a moment for me and let me ask you why you don’t think anyone could have challenged Jesus’ existence in the mid to late 2nd Century?  That is, what was the obstacle to anyone asserting a mythicist argument at that time?  

      • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

        I think the problem would be that the only source the critics would have in the second century would be the stories that the Christians themselves told.  There would be no independent sources by which to establish that no such person existed.  In the 1st Century, there would have been people who had lived in Galilee or Jerusalem at the relevant times who could have said that they never heard of anyone like that.

        I suppose that there might have still been someone who had some knowledge of the mystery cult that Paul belonged to who might have been able to argue for a mythicist origin for Christianity, but I think that the information needed to challenge Jesus’ existence might easily have disappeared before Christianity grew to the point that it attracted outside critics.

        • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

          How would the disappearance of “the information needed to challenge Jesus’ existence” between the 1st Century and the 2nd keep someone from saying, “I don’t believe Jesus really lived,” when it doesn’t keep anyone in the 21st Century from saying it?

    • Claude

      In The Jesus Puzzle, Doherty mentions Ignatius’s epistle to the Trallians, warning of the docetist heresy (c. 105-115), to support his theory that a formerly spiritual Jesus was becoming historicized at that time. Ironically, Doherty doesn’t mention that even the authenticity of the epistles consider to be authentic are still contested as much later forgeries.

      9:1  Be ye deaf therefore, when any man speaketh to you apart from Jesus Christ, who was of the race of David, who was the Son of Mary, who was truly born and ate and drank, was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate, was truly crucified and died in the sight of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the earth;
       9:2  who moreover was truly raised from the dead, His Father having raised Him, who in the like fashion will so raise us also who believe on Him — His Father, I say, will raise us — in Christ Jesus, apart from whom we have not true life.

      This translation is from earlychristianwritings.com.

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

        Doherty is pretty conservative overall in his dating of documents and as a rule sticks with the conventional wisdom and explains his reasons. I don’t have The Jesus Puzzle with me at the moment but here is what he writes in the revised version of that book:

        Ignatius’ letters are traditionally dated in the first or second decade of the second century. While that dating has been called into question (as part of a more radical dating of the Gospels to the mid-second century) I regard it as defensible, even if the letters are pseudonymous.
        • Claude

          Neil: OK. That passage may appear elsewhere in The Jesus Puzzle but not in connection with the epistle to the Trallians.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

      Vinny, I agree in as much as we can’t be completely sure what everybody who criticised Christianity may or may not have said. 

      Nonetheless, as far as we can tell the earliest non-Christian witnesses seem to have viewed Jesus as a historical figure, and I hope you’ll agree that this poses more of a challenge for the mythicist view than for historicists. 

      Again it comes back to my question of how and why should we think that the mythicist case offers a better fit with the evidence than the mainstream position?

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

        If I may add a comment of my own (not speaking for Vinny) there is nothing certain about the earliest non-Christian sources at all. And from what Pliny says in his letter to Trajan it may even be understood that the Christ being worshiped as the Christian god was not at all a historical figure: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2012/04/23/5-earl-dohertys-response-to-bart-ehrmans-case-against-mythicism-a-roman-trio/

        The current fashion to find some authentic core in Josephus should be understood not as a fact but as a relatively recent intellectual fashion of interpretation: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2010/01/16/what-they-used-to-say-about-josephus-as-evidence-for-jesus/

        There is no new evidence. It is entirely a matter that it is now considered okay to hypothesize that Josephus said something after all. This is hardly bed-rock fact. Add to this the fact that Josephus is writing 60 years after the supposed Jesus and historians tell us that information appearing 20 years late should be suspect.

        • John MacDonald

          Good, you’re consistently being polite over 2 posts.  Keep it up, and I’m sure Dr. McGrath will start exchanging ideas with you again soon.

          Dr. McGrath:

          Top 10 Bible Verses about Forgiveness
          #1 Because we are sinners we should forgive others
          Matthew 6:14-15 NIV
          For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
          #2 Be ready to forgive over and over again
          Matthew 18: 21-22 NIV
          Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? “Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
          #3 Confess and God will forgive you for your sins
          1 John 1:9 NIV
          If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
          #4 Love will lead to forgiving others
          Numbers 14:19-20 NIV
          In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.” The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked.”
          #5 Priority when it comes to forgiving others
          Matthew 5:23-24 NIV
          “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
          #6 Forgive others rather than judge others
          John 8:7 NIV
          When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
          #7 A remarkable example of forgiveness
          Acts 7:59-60 NIV
          While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
          #8 Jesus is our Model
          Luke 23:33-34 NIV
          When they came to a place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
          #9 Jesus’ command to us
          Luke 17:3-4 NIV
          So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says , ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
          #10 How to treat enemies
          Romans 12:20 NIV
          On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
          We are blessed to have God’s word to guide our lives and our actions. Let us go forth and live by His words about forgiveness.

          Try tot learn to get along James and Neil, you might be surprised what you can learn from one another if you are out to explore a position rather than just defend one.

          Peace

          • John MacDonald

            “to learn” my bad spelling lol

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

            Try tot learn to get along James and Neil, you might be surprised what
            you can learn from one another if you are out to explore a position
            rather than just defend one.

            I am quite willing to discuss things with you, too, John, but only if you stop being a jerk and are seriously interested in a discussion. I took time to answer a question of yours fully and you responded that my points were “not persuasive” or words to that effect. I pointed out that that is not an argument and asked if you could present an argument to justify why they were not persuasive with the result that you and James shared insulting comments about me. Charming types you lot are.

            Oh yes, and I have tried and striven repeatedly to engage James in reasonable and civil discourse, and have banned any insulting or abusive remarks about him on my own blog from commenters. But when all my efforts have met with accusations of dishonesty and insanity then I am entitled to call a spade a spade from time to time. And yes, I will have a little joke from time to time about his childish refusal to address me directly whenever he decides to break his own rule that I should be ignored and step in to address me.

            Oh yes, the reason McGrath calls me insane is because I persisted in asking him to actually respond without equivocation or insults. It was too much for him so he chose to declare me insane instead.

            • John MacDonald

              I said I was done with this, but I had a free minute so I thought I’d respond.  The best explanation for why there is midrash in the New Testament is clearly not, as Rober M. Price claims, that the authors of the New Testament just started rewriting stories in the Old Testament for no reason.  Clearly, what was going on is that the authors of the New Testament were taking oral traditions about Jesus and incorporating them into the synagogue in the light of the Passover and the messianic expectations of the prophets, etc. before the gospels were written. 

              • John MacDonald

                They were shaping the oral traditions about Jesus in light of the passover, etc.

              • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                 C’mon John.  Do you really think that Price is arguing that they did it for no reason?  I don’t know exactly how Price might phrase it, but I would say that they searched the scriptures in order to understand the revelations and visions that some of them claimed to be having.   I tend to think that you are right that it was probably a process that was going on before the gospels were written rather than something their authors invented.

                • John MacDonald

                  That’s why R. Joseph Hoffmann gave Earl Doherty’s book such a bad review.  The reasons Price and Doherty give for why there is Midrash in the New Testament has absolutely no basis in what we know about the Jews of that time.  Ask Neil Godfrey yourself.  Ask him why he thinks the New Testament writers were rewriting the Old Testament.  Judge for yourself how absurd his answer is. 

                  Anyway, take it easy dude.

                  • John MacDonald

                    “ha” should be “have” lol

                    • John MacDonald

                      OMG    I meant to say “has” should be “have”   I’m probably going to hell for my sins against spelling.

      • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

        Paul,

        Well I certainly agree that it cannot pose a greater challenge for the historicists than the mythicists, but whether it poses a significant challenge to mythicism is another question.   I don’t think we have any indication of anyone attempting to make logical  arguments against Christian belief until well into the 2nd Century.  Prior to that Christianity seems to have been generally ignored and on the few occasions when it drew unfavorable attention, it was either persecuted or repressed.

        For me the issue is not which theory offers a better fit with the evidence, but whether either theory fits the evidence so well and whether the evidence is sufficient that the other can be dismissed with confidence.   I continue to think that we have too few pieces of the puzzle to do much more than speculate.

  • Brettongarcia

    All:

    Out of respect for Gantt’s request that we refrain from discussing miracles, I will not do so.  :  )

    Anyway, I’m tired of talking.  And would be happy to yield the floor for a while to Vinny.  Who I think has an excellent, even awesome grasp of the basic ideas proposed here.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    It wouldn’t stop anyone from saying that.  It might stop anyone from making a strong enough argument to compel a response from the Christian apologists of the day, which is how we would know that someone said it.  If we wouldn’t expect to have any evidence of someone making the claim, we cannot infer from the lack of evidence that no one did.

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      VinnyJH,

      “Whole masses of people” read a fictional literary account as historical and “we wouldn’t expect” anyone to challenge this?

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

         Mike, do you know anything about Ned Ludd or William Tell? Have you stopped to think why or how ancient peoples came to really believe that their myths were really true?

        • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

          Neil, I know that mythicists are frustrated that modern scholarship won’t put Jesus of Nazareth into the same category as Ludd and Tell.  And to a point, I can understand their frustration since many modern scholars have sought to strip Jesus Christ of much of His glory (His resurrection, His miracles, etc.).  “Why not finish the job you’ve started?” cry the mythicists.  But modern scholars are, at the end of the day, scholars, and they have to have scholarly justification for the positions they take.  Given the bent of liberal scholarship it’s clear that many of them would reject the historicity of Jesus if the evidence would allow them.  This ought to tell mythicists something.  That it doesn’t says that something besides scholarly interests is driving the mythicist agenda.

          Beyond all this, we know that skepticism is not an invention of modernity.  Plenty of people were pooh-poohing the resurrection of Christ in the first and second century.  Mythicists want us to believe that those people were completely gullible about the historicity of someone whose resurrection from the dead they rejected out of hand.  The mythicist position on this is just not a reasonable one.  

          Ned Ludd and William Tell are not figures from antiquity.  They come much closer to our time.  And they reveal that just as skepticism has a presence in all ages, so also does gullibility.  The key to leading a reasonable life is to walk between these two extremes, for the man who will believe nothing and the man who will believe anything actually end up in the same predicament: unable to tell truth from falsehood.   

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

            Mike Gantt, can you point me to any study that deals with the questions of Ned Ludd and/or William Tell and that demonstrates their relevance or irrelevance to the creation of Jesus Christ as a figure of worship?

            I know of relationships that can and should be made. But do any “believers” ever consider either of these?

            • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

              I can’t speak for all “believers.”  Speaking for myself, references to the two figures  simply highlight their lack of the sort of historical evidence we have for Jesus of Nazareth.

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

                McGrath would be proud of your evasive reply. But would you care to be specific with detail to support your assertion?

                • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                  Neil,

                  You were the one who brought up Ned Ludd and William Tell.  If you want to press a claim that they give us reason to believe Jesus of Nazareth never lived it’s up to you to make that case.  You shouldn’t ask me to do it for you.

            • Paul R

              Neil, I’ve posted on another thread why I don’t see that Tell or King Arthur offer convincing parallels for the kind of collective amnesia that mythicists require. I would add Ludd in to that category. From the little research I’ve done, he seems more like a deliberate nobody, like the P O’Neill used by the IRA.

              On the same thread, I also asked why we shouldn’t consider Jesus as a historical figure who had miraculous/theological claims attached?  Muhammad, the Bab, Baha’u’llah, Guru Nanak, and Haile Selasse would seems to offer good examples of such a process, and I’m sure we can all think of others too.

              Curiously enough, nobody replied to me.

      • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

        Did I say that Mike?  Did I say anything even remotely like that? 

        “Whole masses of people” did eventually come to believe that the stories were historical, but at the time that the process began, it would have been a small obscure cult in a polytheistic Roman Empire which would be unlikely to have attracted much interest from outsiders.

        • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

          I think it was Brettongarcia who said “whole masses of people.”  It’s not always easy to discern where you guys agree and disagree.

          But even given your scenario, it doesn’t strike you as odd that antagonistic outsiders, whatever the size of the believing group, chose to reject the resurrection but never the historical figure to whom it supposedly happened?

           

          • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

            Not in the least.  When someone tells me a story about a man sticking his head into a hat with magic seer stones to translate golden plates that no one else could see which were given to him by an angel, I can recognize the absurdity of the story without ever questioning that the man himself existed.

            • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

              Then why are you doing it now?

              • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                I am a naturally inquisitive person.  Having been raised to believe that the supernatural tales in the New Testament were true, I have always been curious about the origins of the stories.   The more I looked at the evidence, the less I saw that looked historically secure.

                • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                  I’m amazed that you think that hardly anyone in the first or second century was naturally inquisitive like you – that they accepted or rejected the resurrection but swallowed hook, line, and sinker that Jesus had actually existed in their midst.

                  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                     Hook, line, and sinker?  Let’s drop the hyperbole, shall we?  There is nothing odd about a man existing.  There is nothing that strains credulity about a man existing.  If someone claims to have seen a ghost, it doesn’t take any gullibility on my part to accept that there actually was a person who died.

                    I’m sure their were some inquisitive people, but the earlier we go, the fewer there would have been because fewer people were exposed to Christianity.  Moreover, we cannot reasonably expect to know what questions were raised until there were enough inquisitive people to leave a mark in the historical record.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      I think that you’d agree that the message of Christ has always had a polarizing effect – creating supporters and opponents simultaneously.  Given that you are “a naturally inquisitive person” I am surprised that you are not more curious about why mythicism did not arise as one of the arguments against Christianity until modern times.  In other words, what’s the good reason for why this dog has taken so long to bark?

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                      Mike,

                      There was a substantial period of time during which people risked being burned at the stake for bringing up those kind of ideas.  That might have had a deterrent effect.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      That still leaves a lot of time before Constantine.

  • Gakuseidon

    Ehrman has responded to Carrier’s comments on the statue of Priapus here:
    http://ehrmanblog.org/acharya-s-richard-carrier-and-a-cocky-peter-or-a-cock-and-bull-story/

  • steven

    EHRMAN
    What Carrier wants us to know is that in fact this statue does exist and that it is in the Vatican. It does not take much research to dig out this juicy bit of museum lore. Acharya S herself gives the references in her footnotes. And yes, they are both right. The statue does appear to exist.

    CARR
     If it took so little research, and Acharya gave the reference herself to see that there really was the statue pictured in her book , why in the name of all that is good did Ehrman begin to think that Acharya had drawn the picture of the statue herself?

    How could he have thought that when it too so little research to see that the statue ‘does appear’ (ahem) to exist?

    How?

    You can see Ehrman’s thought processes here. I can see them and outline them, but I can’t grasp the internal logic from one thought to the next.

    Let me roughly map out Ehrman’s thoughts here…

    Here is a picture of a statue.

    It does exist – look Acharya gives the reference herself.

    This statue does exist , so she must have drawn the picture herself. There is no other explanation.

    Must put that in my book…..

  • Brettongarcia

    Steve?  It’s risky, and a bit of a “straw man” argument, when you don’t quite see the thought process of others, to project hypothetical simplicities on them.  What it they’re just … really smart?  Or making a really obscure point?   Or maybe we need to understand the context of what they are saying, to sort it out.  To just say “they’re dumb,” is often a little too easy. 

    In this case, probably what the confusion is, is that there is indeed a statue in teh Vatican; one  that has been taken variously as “Peter,” but then also “Priapus.”  So?  Someone says 1) “it is Peter.”  OR others say 2) “a status of Peter that is really priapus” ?  Then someone says 3) “it never was Peter, so no such statue existed, as a ‘Statue of Peter that was really Priapus’”?  What you are looking at here, is likely a complex example of the kind of semantic confusions that arise in evaluating historians’ remarks.

    Neil:  thanks IMMENSELY for YOUR help AND GUIDANCE!  Likely, you’re the real expert here.  Is that your very good website? 

    I’m under the impression you’re an Ozzie, with some special expertise in texts?  Greetings and gratitude to the land down under.

    • steven

      You mean Ehrman looked at the statue, did the research, saw that the statue existed, and thought’ Yep, she drew it herself.’?

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

        Ehrman is quickly forced to go back and actually read those footnotes in Acharya’s book. Wheh! There’s an out! He did at least include those words “of Peter” in there! So technically he can prove his case with a laywer’s cavil.

        Unfortunately, there is still the possibility the other side will address the full context and clear intent of the passage — that is, that Ehrman was clearly leading his fans (Ehrman himself calls his “followers” his “fans”) to believe that the statue (that is here being identified as a symbol of St Peter) does not exist and is entirely a fabrication of Murdoch’s: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/richard-carriers-on-bart-ehrmans-did-jesus-exist/#comment-27829

        As Steven points out, Ehrman’s innuendo is the clearest evidence of what Ehrman intended his readers to think (what he himself thought) — and that his defence is nothing but pettifogging.

        Ehrman was very quick to reply to my emails asking him to confirm whether he read all of the books himself, including “Jesus Neither God Nor Man” — but at the same time I asked him to cite his sources for assertions that mythicists argued things I had never read any mythicist arguing before, for his blatant misquotation of Doherty (and yes, Ehrman assures us he read the revised edition of Doherty’s book so there is no excuse for his misquotation), and for blatant assertions that Doherty writes what he simply does not write at all.

        Now those are questions of straight out fact — no room for the word-quibbles over the Peter-cock issue — but Ehrman simply was too busy to reply to those questions that were sent at the same time as the ones he did respond to.

        I now see that he says he will respond to such criticisms only to those who pay to join his blog.

        • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

          Ah, the statue kerfuffle.  Carrier’s screed against Ehrman’s book was a mountain range of such molehills.

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

      Brettongarcia, are you referring to the Vridar blog and vridar.info webpage? I am only a very well read layman (though with a very good education from the University of Queensland behind me) and am only interested in sharing ideas I read from the scholarly works in biblical studies that all too rarely make it into the wider public awareness. (My personal library is online at http://www.librarything.com/catalog/neilgodfrey and I am in the most fortunate position of being a metadata specialist with access to a wide range of online academic journals.

      My background is similar to Dr McGrath’s. I was also once a “creationist” etc etc etc and all the baggage that goes with that. The difference between McGrath and myself is that McGrath, like so many others I encountered on my journey, came to a point where he stopped questioning, while for me there were no limits to what was on the table for the taking.

      I had a pretty hellish teen year period in some ways, and I gather McGrath did, too. He found Jesus then and has stuck with him ever since. I found God, too, but there came a time for me to resume my questioning and move on. Here I am today.

      I do like to get to the bottom of things and assume nothing. Nothing. Sadly I have discovered when I attempt to discuss issues with others who have not gone quite that far that they can get quite irate, even call me insane, if I ask them for a “logical or evidence based reason” underpinning one of their claims or assumptions.

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

        And yes, I’m an Ozzie. I return the greetings with compliments.

        • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

          Count me among the Americans who have been to Oz and loved it, and who knows the Ozzies and loves them.  

          How wonderful that the Internet allows us a degree of interaction that prior generations could not enjoy.  That it tempers our respective accents probably helps the communication, too. 

  • Brettongarcia

    Neil:

    I apologise for my extremely rude countrymen. 

    Unfortunately, since the advent of right-wing shout radio and TV, this loud, crass, bullying (albeit frank?) genre has taken over the internet. 

    But to be sure?  By now – having been in politics for many years – it doesn’t bother me too much; I just think of it as the basic convention/genre of the next. 

    Though the raw egotistical emotionality of it,  does often get in the way of clear, dispassionate thinking. 

    • Claude

      Please–don’t apologize for me. And let’s get something straight about who the “experts” are. Since you’re in politics you’re no doubt familiar with Max Weber’s observation that “Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards.” Scholars are the experts. Actual scholars–not under qualified obsessives with a theory working in a bubble. Scholars undergo years of education and review to enter a profession with low pay and few opportunities. The best ones devote their lives to the strong and slow boring of hard boards. These are the people you dismissed as hacks pandering to a nation of believers because they do not confirm your views.

      Neil Godfrey congratulates himself on being an atheist, having “moved on.” As an agnostic/atheist myself I see no grounds for self-congratulation. So you don’t believe in God. Big deal! It’s outrageous to accuse Prof. McGrath of having “stopped questioning” because he remains a Christian.

      Yet more confirmation that many ardent mythicists are recovering fundamentalists. 

  • Brettongarcia

    Mike:

    Please cite here and now, the historical evidence we have for Jesus.

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      Brettongarcia,

      I thought Paul Regnier at http://bit.ly/I8FKoZ did a pretty job of that.  I don’t think you’ve responded to this, have you?

    • Claude

      Please cite here and now, the historical evidence we have for Jesus.

      Why don’t you read Ehrman’s book?

  • Brettongarcia

    Mike:

    Please add names and especially, dates.  Because the date turns out to be rather important.   Finding any EARLY even remote verification, turns out to be difficult/impossible.

    By the way?  Neil’s immediate point here I believe, was that there are many figures that, as we now know, were taken as “real” and “historical”; but that turn out not to have been real at all.

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      Brettongarcia,

      If I gave you sworn affidavits of at least a half a dozen men that Jesus not only lived but was crucified and raised from the dead according to promises in the Hebrew Bible you still wouldn’t believe me.

      • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

        So a dying and rising God is promised in the Hebrew Bible? 

        • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

          This is not what the apostles claimed.  Rather they claimed that the messiah was to suffer and rise again from the dead.  They did not present the risen Jesus as God; rather, they presented him as the messiah – a fellow Jew, but a unique one.  And they used the testimony of the Hebrew Bible to substantiate that claim.

          • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

            Mike,

            Fair enough.  Regardless of what the apostles initially understood, do you think that the Hebrew Bible actually promised that the messiah would suffer and rise from the dead?  Did the Hebrew Bible promise that the messiah would be in some way divine or a divinity?

            • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

              The Hebrew Bible made its prophecies about its messiah in enigmatic, riddle-like  manner.  There were multiple prophecies that were very difficult to reconcile.  This accounts for the varying expectations regarding messiah in the time of Jesus.  

              These many and varying promises, of course, included no explicit extended statement that messiah would be crucified and raised from the dead.  If they had, Jesus’ opponents would never have wanted him crucified lest it confirm his messianic identity to the crowds.  

              It was only when Jesus was actually raised from the dead and presented himself to his disciples that the riddle made sense.  Passages like Ps 110 called for the messiah to be the descendant of David and yet also David’s lord.  In the wake of the resurrection, the disciples could see that Jesus was a descendant of David according to the flesh and David’s lord by virtue of the resurrection.  Hence Paul’s recitation of an early creed to this effect in Romans 1:3-4, evidence that the belief preceded him.  Psalm 118 had spoken of “the stone which the builders rejected” becoming “the chief corner stone.”  Huh?  How can that be?  Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection was the answer to this riddle which had been written hundreds of years before.  And thus so many of the “suffering” prophecies and “glory” prophecies of messiah could be reconciled through the actual experience of Jesus.

              The Hebrew Bible also included promises that depicted messiah as a heavenly rather than an earthly figure – such as Daniel 7:13.  Again, this seeming contradiction between an earthly messiah and heavenly messiah was revealed to be a riddle answered in the life of Jesus of Nazareth – an earthly figure before his death and a heavenly figure afterward.

              The apostles spoke of this enigmatic, riddle-like aspect as “mysteries” now revealed through the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ (as in Romans 16:25-27).  Thus a biblical mystery is very much like a whodunnit novel – no one can figure it out ahead of time, but once it’s revealed the answer is obvious.  Similarly, biblical mysteries are like riddles in that an answer seems impossible until it’s revealed and then it seems obvious.  Moreover, there is only one right answer.  

              • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                 Thank you for the clarification Mike. 

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath
    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Dr McGrath, Can you tell me the name of this logical fallacy?

      Person A mentions the name of Ned Ludd along with others as a case-study to demonstrate that people CAN come to believe mythical or fictional persons had a real historical existence. Nothing more. Just that simple point.

      Person B says that Person A’s point is invalid because Ned Ludd is not comparable to Jesus Christ or belief in him — yet whether or not there is any similarity in process is the question yet to be decided.

      What is that fallacy called when someone rejects an argument as not true because it does not agree with their own argument? That is, when someone refuses to allow anyone to raise a contrary argument and ridicules their efforts to do so, thus avoiding any need to bother with a genuine exchange?

      What is that fallacy called?

      (Oh, is Arthur Droge really a professor of Early Christianity and is he a crank for suggesting we cannot know if the same thing happened with Jesus as happened with Ned Ludd? http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/1026 Or is that just a lying rumour?)

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

        Neil, can you tell me the name of this logical fallacy?

        Person A cites the examples of Muhammad, the Bab, Baha’u’llah, Guru Nanak, and Haile Selasse as persons who seem to have had a definite historical existence but who are nonetheless had miraculous and/or theogical claims attached to them. Person A asks whether these could give us good parallels for the origins of Christianity.

        Persons B, C, D, and E (who are all mythicists) make no attempt to show why Jesus should not be thought of in the same way of any of these historical figures and simply ignore the point.

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

          Well if you say I am person B I will tell you I have answered that argument a million times– even in this thread here, I believe. I will do so again: no-one that I know of argues that because mythical trappings are assigned to a person that there is somehow an a priori reason for thinking they are mythical persons. That’s nonsense. No mythicist I know argues that.

          I myself have pointed out many, many times that Alexander and Hadrian and many others are clearly historical because of the very certain evidence we have for them as historical persons quite apart from the fact that they were said to be compared with or even identified with Dionysus or Hercules etc.

          The argument is that there is no evidence for Jesus that is apart from the myths about him. That is not the case with, say, Haile Selasse.

          By the way, there are mainstream scholars of Islam who have opened up the question of the historicity of Muhammad. So be careful who you use in your analogies.

          So once again no-one responds to specific points or to a logical fallacy when it is pointed out — only the same old.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

            Neil – on your point:

            “no-one that I know of argues that because mythical trappings are assigned to a person that there is somehow an a priori reason for thinking they are mythical persons”

            Apologies. When BG wrote

            “What is teh [sic] evidence that the Historical Jesus did not exist?  The whole of Science says that nobody walks on water, or makes bread appear out of thin air.”

            I thought that he was arguing precisely that. I must have misunderstood. 

            Anyway, please note that I *didn’t* ask whether there was better evidence for the existence of Haile Selasse than Jesus. I should think there is better evidence for the existence of Haile Selasse than *any* figure in the ancient world, given that he died well within living memory. 

            No, what I asked was whether the examples of Muhammad, the Bab, Baha’u’llah, Guru Nanak, and Haile Selasse offered a better model for the orgins of Christianity – i.e. a person who had a definite historical existence had miraculous and/or theogical claims attached to them – than the mythicist alternative?

            (Actually, I’m not sure *what* the mythicist alternative model is, because such partial accounts as have been offered seemed confused, contradictory, or outright nonsense, but hey-ho that’s a problem for mythicists, not for me.)

            So nobody has answered my original point. BG mumbled something about Hercules, and then seemed to think that there must be better examples, and then you answered a question that I hadn’t actually asked, but nobody actually answered it. 

            PS: What’s the “pretending to refute an opponents position but actually addressing a different point entirely” fallacy called?

            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

              PPS: On Ned Ludd, I have posted here why I don’t see why a parallel with Jesus. If you can offer me some reason why I should do, then please do explain. I don’t think that “not getting it” quite counts as a logical fallacy. 

              And yes, thank you, I am perfectly aware that some people think that Muhammad did not exist (I’m not sure I would categorise it as a mainstream view). For the record, I’m also aware that some people think that William Shakespeare did not write the plays attributed to him, and that some people think the moon landings were just a hoax. 

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

                 You are unaware of the difference between legitimate scholarly questions and idle speculation and conspiracy theory. The question of Shakespearean authorship has been in the past one that was raised by serious and mainstream literary scholars. The debate was addressed professionally without ridicule or insult.

                You do not read carefully. I did not say Muhammad’s non-existence was a mainstream view. I said it was seriously argued by respected mainstream scholars.

                As for Ned Ludd — the reason he is brought in is to respond to what is often the historicist scepticism over whether it is at all plausible for a complext myth to form so quickly so that people believe wrongly believe in a very recent historical person. The answer to that scepticism is that we know from history that it is indeed very possible and does happen.

                Being possible does not mean it happened. But the facts of history should be pointed out to those who simply scoff at the very thought that something similar could have happened in the case of Jesus. Remember Arthur Droge.

                • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier


                  Being possible does not mean it happened.”

                  Nope, but since nobody has offered a remotely coherent alternative, I’ll stick with the possible, thank you. 

                • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

                  Neil you said “there are mainstream scholars of Islam who have opened up the question of the historicity of Muhammad.” and  “Muhammad is arguably, according to some mainstream scholars, a very similar model as the Christ myth.”
                  So who are these mainstream scholars so I can take a look at them? 

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

               

              No, what I asked was whether the examples of Muhammad, the Bab,
              Baha’u’llah, Guru Nanak, and Haile Selasse offered a better model for
              the orgins of Christianity – i.e. a person who had a definite historical
              existence had miraculous and/or theogical claims attached to them –
              than the mythicist alternative?

              Muhammad is arguably, according to some mainstream scholars, a very similar model as the Christ myth. A few historians have begun to have doubts he existed for the same reasons mythicists doubt Jesus’ existence.

              And no, the others are not comparable models. The Jesus model has to explain why one crucified as a criminal came and who attracted only a very small following in his own day came to be worshiped very quickly after his death as the creator of the universe within a Jewish context — with Jews symbolically eating his flesh.

              As for the point of BG, yes, I agree, you did misunderstand.

              • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

                Neil, 

                Firstly who are these mainstream scholars of Islam who dismiss Muhammad as mythical? Could you give me some names please? Now I’ve heard of Sven Kalisch and Acharya S just plain seems to have it in for all religious figures (what is she smoking?), but then is she a mainstream scholar of Islam? Anyway, I’d be interested to know who else you’ve got.

                Secondly, why do you again seem to be allowing theological beliefs about Jesus to rule against his historicity? Why does it matter what Christians think about Jesus? I thought you said mythicists didn’t do that kind of stuff? So I’m just going to have to dismiss as irrelevant your assertion that Jesus “came to be worshiped very quickly after his death as the creator of the universe within a Jewish context — with Jews symbolically eating his flesh.”

                Which seems to leave us as a “problem” for my model the fact that Jesus was executed. I’m not entirely clear on why this is a problem, but anyway the Bab was executed as a criminal, and yes we have a highly mythologised account of his death, but he still existed right? And we still have Baha’is and Azalis today right?

                Which still leaves us with that nagging question of why we shouldn’t consider that the best explanation for the origins of Christianity is a historical Jesus, just as we have a historical Muhammad, Guru Nanak, Baha’u’llah etc? As you seem to offer neither evidence against this model nor an alternative explanation of your own, my paradigm will remain firmly unshifted. 

                PS: Just so that I can’t be accused of avoiding the question, I would say that the reason that Christian beliefs about Jesus developed the way you somewhat simplisticly outlined starts, perhaps, with the belief in Jesus’ ressurection and progresses from there – it’s a gap of nearly 300 years between Jesus death and Nicea don’t forget. 

  • steven

    I posted a comment on Bart Ehrman’s blog asking why anybody would research and find out the statue existed, just as depicted in Acharya’s book and then insinuate that she had drawn it herself.

    The post has not made it through moderation….

    There are several reasons why this should be.

    • Claude

      steven–

      What do you make of Jonathan Burke’s post on that Cock ‘n Bull thread?

      • steven

        Err, Ehrman has already done all that research (because he is a scholar and checked), but somehow forgot to tell us these facts until now……

        The facts that he obviously knew and which Burke was simply repeating…..

        Almost as though Bart had never checked for himself. 

        If Bart knew that stuff already why did he not say so?

        EHRMAN
        ‘  It does not take much research to dig out this juicy bit of museum lore. Acharya S herself gives the references in her footnotes. And yes, they are both right. The statue does appear to exist. ‘

        CARR
        Indeed. Ehrman points out how little research was needed to find out that the statue existed. That Carrier must have thought he was so clever finding out that the statue existed, but Ehrman points out how little research was needed (to find out Bart had not done very much).

        But ,as only a little research (according to Bart) is needed to find out that the statue existed, what for the love of God was Bart thinking off when he insinuated Acharya drew it herself?

        • Claude

          Fair point–Ehrman should have dropped the insinuation. But really, this quibble is what bothers you in the face of the overwhelming evidence that Acharya S is a crank? It’s trivial.

          • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

             Claude,

            I don’t think it is trivial.  I don’t simply want to know that Acharya S is a crank.  I want to know why she is a crank and how she reaches her cranky conclusions.  That way if I run across someone citing her as an authority, I will be better equipped to identify the substantive problems with the argument.  This is what I have always gotten from Ehrman’s other books and why I find Did Jesus Exist? so disappointing.

          • steven

            Acharya S is a crank. Agreed.

            Ehrman had an open goal to aim at.

            Does it bother you that he managed to shoot into his own net? 

            To the extent that even somebody like Acharya can complain about her treatment?

            It does not inspire confidence in Bart.

            • Claude

              You’re right, Ehrman gave Acharya S ammo, but I don’t know that it’s as bad as an own goal. More like an unforced error.

              What about the voluminous work that testifies to Ehrman’s credibility? Your confidence is shaken because Ehrman, who obviously disdains pseudo-scholars who makes things up, suggested that a pseudo-scholar made something up? Plus, as Ehrman noted on his blog, this statue business is the single item objected to by mythicists in Ehrman’s litany of nonsense offered by Acharya S.

              By the way, I think it’s a shame that Carrier has dissuaded Ehrman admirers from reading Did Jesus Exist? (and flogging his own book in the process!).

  • Brettongarcia

    Mike:  I think I’m about to give up with you.  The latest?  You cite with approval, Paul R’s claim that we know that Jesus exists, because the Bible/Gospels say so.  But?  That’s begging the question.  Here, we are now asking whether the gospels themselves are reliable.    With their account of Jesus.  To cite the Bible, when the BIBLE ITSELF IS IN question, is circular; you are assuming, what needs to be proven.

    Please learn some formal logic.

    It would be useful to YOU if you enumerated a list of your reasons supporting the Historical Jesus; if you did, you would find that probably all of them have been cited from the literature, and addressed here and in other scholarship by critics - who answered them.

    Mike?  If I gave you sworn affidavits from one hundred people, that Jesus was really made out of cream cheese, would you believe it?

    Steven:  everyone is now crowing,that “scholars” are now firmly “proving” that Jesus existed; and citing Ehrman.  Are you forgetting that just last year, he was proving the opposite?  And next year, probably, the opposite again?  And believe me:  if you could only hear from the hundreds of PhD’s I’ve heard from in private, that don’t believe, but don’t want to get crucified in public for it?

    Mike:  regarding a messiah that is killed and resurrected, being found in the Hebrew Bible?  You yourself said a) it is remote, hidden. While i would add b) in fact, finding it is the same kind of gestalt exercise as seeing Jesus in a Rorschach Blot, or a holy taco, or a piece of toast.  Even c) more remote is the idea that “God” – as Jesus was soon seen – would somehow “die” for us; God is normally “eternal” in the OT.  The d) ” stone the builders rejected” has several different meanings; Peter was called a “rock” for example

    Mike? Mike? You’re just seeing what you feel you HAVE to see.

    • Claude

      if you could only hear from the hundreds of PhD’s I’ve heard from in private, that don’t believe, but don’t want to get crucified in public for it?

      Wow! You must be an academic. Perhaps I owe you an apology. Where do you teach?

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      Brettongarcia, 

      It is okay with me if you give up on me.

    • Paul R

      BG – I didn’t actually say that “Jesus exists, because the Bible/Gospels say so”

      What I actually said was that a historical Jesus by far the most likely hypothesis for the origins of Christianity given:

      1) The view of the gospel writers that Jesus had a historical existence.2) The view of other canonical writers the Jesus had a historical existence.3) The view of other early Christian writers that Jesus had a historical existence.4) The view of non-Christians, writing about or attacking Christianiy that Jesus had a historical existence. 

      As well as the many parallels of other faiths that have their origins in a historical founder: e.g. Islam, Sikhism, Babism, the Baha’i faith, the Rastafari movement, in which a historical figure has miraculous powers/theological importance attached to them, which suggest that such a hypothesis is perfectly reasonable.

      Just thought I would clarify that.

  • Brettongarcia

    Steven?  I may be mischaracterizing your views.  Probably the reason is that … I’m not presently attacking Erhman, for his moment of Historicism.  And read any attack on him as being a little misconcieved.

    Because?  Ehrman 1) was once a very good Mythicist. and 2) scholarship is shooting down his lapse into Historicism.  So that 3) I expect he will return to Mythicism soon.

    And?  4) I’m not following this VERY minor controversy. 

    I think we will indeed find many mistakes in his lapse into an indefensible position; i.e. Historicism.  But that he will soon see the light, and return to the fold.

    To spend too much time attacking him NOW therefore, attacking him too virulently, may be shortsighted.  He’s been a friend in the past, and likely will be one again.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    Unfortunately, for the time before Constantine, the data is far from sufficient to determine all the dogs that did or didn’t bark.  Moreover, making this particular dog bark loud enough that we would have heard about it so many centuries later wouldn’t have been an easy task.

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      It had just as much opportunity to be heard as all the other barks against Christ. That it wasn’t, if you’ll think more inquisitively about it, will eventually tell you something.

      • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

        Mike,

        You asked me for my reasons and I gave them to you.  If you don’t like them, make a counter argument, but don’t waste my time with “Would so.”

        • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

          VinnyJH, 

          If that’s the way you perceive my response, you’d probably misunderstand anything further I said, too.

          • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

            In 1969, the Roman Catholic Church removed a number of feast days from the church calendar because it decided that the evidence for a number of saints existence was insufficient to establish that they anything more than just legends.  What kind of advances in historical scholarship and methodology do you think it took before the Church decided to reject the historicity of characters who had always been accepted as real?

            If your argument is that we should expect to have evidence of an argument against Jesus existence being made in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, show me some evidence of a similar argument at a similar point in time being made against other characters whose existence historians now question.  Maybe there is some evidence that I don’t know about it.  There is a lot that I don’t know. If there is, I think it would make your argument stronger.   If there is not, then I don’t see any reason to think that the absence of evidence that people argued against Jesus’ existence in the 2nd and 3rd centuries is terribly significant.

            • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

              I am ignorant of the RCC’s decisions about its saints and therefore have no basis for seeing how it might or might not apply to the historicity of Jesus.

              I don’t need to show you “evidence of a similar argument at a similar point in time being made against other character whose existence historians now question” because I don’t believe Jesus is similar to such a character.  

              The New Testament is a dossier of 27 different documents written by different people at different times in different places for different readers – all testifying to a historicity which you deny.  Further, they testify of much opposition to their protagonist.  If Jesus were truly mythical, then the argument for mythicism would have been far easier to make then than now for the same reason that the argument against the historicity of a 21st century myth would be far easier to make in this century or the next than it will be 2,000 years from now.  On the other hand, if Jesus were truly historical, then the argument for mythicism would have been far harder to make then than it is now for the same reason that it would be far harder to declare as mythical someone who is truly historical in this century or the next than it will be 2,000 years from now.

              Thus, it should tell you something that the argument for mythicism was not made by those for whom it would have been easiest to make if it were actually true.  And we know that Jesus’ opponents had great motivation in the 1st-3rd centuries to use any argument against His movement that they thought would stop it.  It is only the distance of time that allows such speculation to run unchecked today.

              • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                I don’t need to show you “evidence of a similar argument at a similar
                point in time being made against other character whose existence
                historians now question” because I don’t believe Jesus is similar to
                such a character.

                What you really mean Mike is that you don’t personally need any evidence of anything because your theology drives your conclusions.  As for me, I reason by analogy.

                I would like better evidence that the argument wasn’t made.  All you have given me is an argument from silence which you have failed to develop.

                I would like evidence that the argument was easy to make.  Examples of the argument being made elsewhere would be useful.

                I don’t think there is much evidence that anyone used arguments against Christianity in the 1st century.  They used repression and persecution.  Arguments didn’t start until the religion had grown more influential.  I can’t imagine why anyone would have thought at that point that the bare assertion “There was no Jesus” would have constituted an argument that would have stopped anyone. 

                • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                  VinnyJH,

                  You assume that my theology drives my conclusions, but do you have any way of knowing whether that’s really true?  And, by the way, have you examined yourself to be sure you’re not guilty of that which you accuse?

                  You say that you reason by analogy.  I gave you an analogy for why it’s easier to argue against a lie of historicity as you live closer to the time in question just as it’s easier to argue against a lie of myth closer to the time in question – and vice versa.  Yet even though you like analogy, you act as if I hadn’t given it.

                  If you don’t think there is evidence that arguments were used against Christianity in the first century then I’d have to question whether you’ve ever read the gospels or the book of Acts.  Sure, there was repression and persecution, but there were plenty of arguments, too.

                  If A tells B Jesus was raised from the dead, and then C convincingly argues to B that the whole story is made up, how is that any less effective than arguing that only half the story was made up?

                  When I was 27 years old, if someone had convinced me that Jesus never lived I probably never would have read the New Testament.  Being open minded on the subject, however, I read the New Testament.  Once I became convinced that Jesus really lived (which the documents themselves convinced me of) it was no problem to believe that He was raised from the dead.  Hey – maybe there’s the underlying rationale for mythicism:  the fear that belief in His resurrection is never far away as long as belief in his historicity remains.  

                  Yes, mythicism is at its root an anti-christ movement.  It is anti-historical as well for it is not intent on finding out what happened, it is only intent on overturning what history does think happened.  

  • Brettongarcia

    Mike is challenging Mythicism, the idea that Christianity was a fraud, by asking this:  if Christianity was made up, wouldn’t there have been lots of people in the time of Jesus and after that, objecting?  Objecting tht what Christianity was saying, was simply not true?  Where ARE those objectors, Mike asks.

    Mike?  Suppose we accept the Gospel accounts, just for the moment, for purposes of argument?  

    Then note the following events, narrated in the Bible itself.   Which in fact documents dozens, hundreds of violent objectors to Christ and Chrsitianity, as a fraud.

    1) There were many, virulent critics of Christianity. Many of the thousands of Jews around Jesus, immediately perceived him to be a fraud; and so they had him arrested, and crucified.  Wasn’t this a bit critical, Mike?

    2) Were there any other objections to early Christianity, even from eyewittnesses to Jesus himself?  Next, after arresting and crucifying Jesus himself,  the Gospels tell us that the Jews and Romans, were so critical of him, of the ideas he taught, they were so convinced they were false ideas … that the people in Jerusalem, and the Romans, arrested and killed Peter. 

    3) Then James. 

    The Bible to be sure, presents Christ as real at times, in the Gospels.  But other times less real, in Paul.  And in both cases?  If you are going to accept the gospels, shouldn’t you also note all the objections? 

    First to be sure, not to his existence, but certainly to the verity of his claims.

    4) Then?  What about later on?  What about accounts that would even deny his substantial existence?  First there is Paul, who asserts jesus is real … but in effect, in a very thin, metaphorical/spiritual way only. While what is more?  Paul criticizes other “gospels”; perhaps those that presented Jesus as more substantial?

    5) Next? Then? WHAT about evidence OUTSIDE THE GOSPELS?  After 70 AD, the Romans were so critical of the verity of the ideas of Chrsitianity, it was so sure that it was false, that they soon made that religion illegal.  Substantially denying the reality of Christ.

    6) While fews if any non-Christians noted his real existence for  90 years or so (see arguments on Josephus, “Chrestus,” etc.).  While they meanwhile continued to be so sure of the falsity of Christianity, that they systematically killed one Christian after another as a liar and deceiver and traitor.

    7) While Gnositics, docetists, others, soon denied/criticized precisely ….the material reality of Jesus.

    And on and on.

    I’m sorry you didn’t notice any critics or criticism of Christianity, Mike. 

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      Brettongarcia, 

      You have completely misunderstood my point, but in doing so have provided a valuable service to all nonetheless.

      I completely agree with the characterization you have provided here of the opposition which the Christ message produced from the beginning.  Then, as now, His message is a polarizing one.  What’s odd is that among all this opposition we do not find claims that Jesus never existed.  Even the docetist claim you mentioned was not that there wasn’t a historical Jesus but that the historical Jesus wasn’t flesh and blood as we are.  

      What mythicists today need to do (besides come up with a coherent hypothesis to explain their view) is ask themselves why their form of opposition to Christ is of such recent vintage.  Were the Greeks and Romans just not smart enough to figure out that all they had to do was say, “Hey, that guy never lived at all, much less did all that stuff you guys are saying.”

  • Brettongarcia

    To be sure, at first these criticisms were not always phrased not as objections to the very idea that Christ existed as a substantial human person.  Many saw him as “real,” but nevertheless said he was utterly false.   But then too?  Many ALSO even explicitly described him as essentially unreal, spiritual, and not physical.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

    BG - In the UK (and I’m sure the US), you might well find yourself being roundly criticised (maybe even locked up in Guantanamo) if you prouldy claimed to be a follower of Osama Bin Laden. Does this mean that Bin Laden is not a historical figure? Er…. nope.

    The idea that the illegality of or hostility towards Christianity has any relevance to the historicity of Jesus is patently absurd.  I do hope you’ll reconsider your argument.

  • Brettongarcia

    Paul:

    But of course 1) that WOULD be testimony that Bin Laden was ‘false” in some way.  And that is significant:  contemporaries, who were allegedly “witnesses” to the realities of Christ … were however, even as eyewitnesses, violently declaring him to be a false leaders.

     While?

    2) Note that here, in addition to MASSIVE criticisms of Christ in the Bible itself, then I noted?  Implied criticisms of his materiality, in Paul. 

    But especially, NEXT?  3) Explicit criticisms of his – explicitly, pointedly, precisely – the material, physical reality of Christ.  In Gnosticism, docetism, and so forth.

    Hello?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

      BG – That the Roman authorities were largely hostile to early Christianity is hardly a ground breaking revelation. What you wrote was:

      “After 70 AD, the Romans were so critical of the verity of the ideas of Chrsitianity, it was so sure that it was false, that they soon made that religion illegal.  Substantially denying the reality of Christ.”

      As I said the legal status or Roman view of Christianity has no bearing on the question of the historicity of Jesus. To suggest that it does is silly. 

  • Claude

    Thus far Brettongarcia prefers to remain “silent” as to by what authority he suggests that the scholarly consensus Ehrman describes is in fact not a scholarly consensus at all, but the effects of a tyranny that forces closet mythicists into conformity with historicist orthodoxy. Brettongarcia describes himself as the confessor of hundreds of PhDs who are torn between intellectual integrity and the totalitarianism of the academy. Why do they turn to you, sir?

    Setting aside for a moment that New Testament debunker and agnostic/atheist Bart Ehrman flourishes in the Bible Belt and that tenured professors must commit far more egregious offenses than embracing discredited or dubious theories in order to get fired, and even taking into account the vast swathes of the republic that are bastions of Christian conservatism, I would like more than innuendo to go on to be convinced that some adjunct at Rutgers is afraid of coming out as a mythicist.

  • Brettongarcia

    To be sure, attacks on the truth of Christ,  the many attacks that said he was a false Messiah, a liar, a false magician, were not attacks on his very physical/historical reality.  But?  They seemed worth mentioning; specifically because defenders of the faith often assert that “eyewitness” are important in proving the overall truth of Chrsitianity; whereas here I am noting hundreds of eyewitnesses, specifically, attacking Christ as false.

    That to be sure however, is not directly relevant, and is only a general introduction, to our specific point, the one specific aspect of Christ and his truth, that we are addressing here:   the question of the MATERIALITY, PHYSICALITY, OR HISTORICALITY of CHrist.

    Here?  Suddenly we are being defensively told that to object to the material, physicality of Chrsit, is NOT the same as objecting to the “historical” Chrsit.  And yet?  That is a false distinction.  Note taht until now, whenever we spoke of an “HISTORICAL,” it was assumed that we were talking about a phsyical being; an actual, observable, MATERIAL entity.

    But now suddenly?  Or when confronted with obvious objections?  Suddenly … the rules are changed.  Now “Historical” does NOT mean a real, phsyical, material being at all.

    It’s clear to me y0u are cornered; and 1) are now changing the rules quickly.  While 2) in any case, your emergecy bailout positiion, just won’t hold water, either.   To do that, you’ll have to “twist” and bend the definition of “historical” until it does not at all match what we started out with.

    You are now asserting that we don’t really need a real, physical, fleshly human Jesus at all – as originally claimed.  But you can have an “historical” Jesus, that was thought of as just a “phantasm” (in docetism), a “SPIRIT” OR “ghost” Even entirely without there being any physical Jesus before?!  Or after either.

    Docetism and Gnosticism, by teh way, are often dated as beginning in effect, even in the time narrated in the NT itself.  Many scholars might see the de-emphasis on material things, the “flesh” the “world,” the emphasis on “spirit,” in Jesus’ gospel advocacies of such things; his emphasis on ‘spirit,”  etc.. Especially some find this anti-materialism in John (1 John 4.1-3; 2 John 7).   As well as in Paul’s writings, of course; though this trend was often opposed. 

    Read the history of Docetism carefully; there’s not doubt it didn’t see Jesus as participating in phsyical material reality at all, often.  While scholars see clear signs of this view emerging, even in the gospels.  So that, if you accept the Gospels?  And accept them as testimony of early Christianity?  Then?  You must accept that there were MANY people asserting over and over, that there was no material Christ.  And if we think of the Gospels as after Paul, and contrived? Then we see that the “material” aspect was heretically added, to an originally (in paul) quite spiritual, dematerializing concept of Christ. 

    Next?  You and James are repeated it over and over:  just because a figure is later mytholigised, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t SOME real physical person starting off the myth.  But?  Then you need to show what evidence you have for that original real person.  Whereas?  You have shown none.  You have asserted that the Gospels speak of Jesus as real; but you have not shown the Gospels themselves are not false.  So that whatever they say, has no evidential weight.

    And now?  Now we are finding tht EVEN IF you accept the NT as true?  Then even then, the New Testament itself, begins to challenge the physicality of Jesus; and therefore, his “Historicality,” in any realistic sense; in the sense you have been speaking about it for a week or so.

    While now?  Now we even find biblical passages attacking the very notion that there was any physical person, before the “ghost” or spirit. And that Christ himself was never physical; and therefore not “Historical” in the very sense you first asserted; and the only defensible, non-sophistical sense.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

      BG – was that last post addressed to me?

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      So, if mythicists and docetists are kindred spirits, wouldn’t this mean mythicists are Christian heretics as opposed to atheists?

      Actually, that would make some sense when you consider that mythicists are fixated on Christ –  a condition that would not be expected on atheism.

  • Brettongarcia

    Spelling sins, I hope, can be forgiven.

  • Brettongarcia

    Paul:  to be sure, the alleged distinction between  1) a physical Jesus, and 2) an historical one, has been mentioned before.  By coming up only “now,” I do not mean for the first time every chronologically, but rather, at this point in the argument.  (Which to some extent is being repeated here, from an earlier iteration).  Though for some?  The changing of the rules for “historical,” will be noticed only at this point in time.

    Speaking of historical:  how reliable and historical, are the Gospels?  Many of us are arguing that 1) the writings of Paul, in the 50′s, are before the gospels, written in the 60′s AD.  Therefore?  The writings of Paul are more likely, the most accurate, to the first intention of early Christianity.  While they describe a spiritual, more than phsyical, Jesus.  so many feel the Gospels are not too accurate; coming so late after the events they pretend to narrate.

    2) But?  MAC?  In addition another major argument against the Gospels advanced here and elswhere, is that they could be almost entirely invented; out of the “Midrash” tradition in Judaism.  In midrashim, rabbis often felt allowed to stretch out quite a bit, and write almost any kind of commentary on scripture; including made-up parables, or made-up stories. 

    This midrashic tradition is extremely significant; it means that Jewish writings, even holy writings, were never quite nearly as strict, as everyone thinks; there was an avenue for outright invention; or (morally illustrative) fiction.

    And?  If Jewish tradition allowed fiction?  There is the possiblity that the New testament was fiction; in a way allowed largely by Jewish tradition; as a sort of collection of midrashic parables say.

    Mac now asserts that however, there is no such very great freedom in Midrashim; they were always at least 1) constrained to match the Old Testament; and 2) to conform to real events around at the time; events of a real Jesus.  But?  What proof is there of this constraint?  There is every indication that parables could be from almost wholly invented – non-historical – material.   While?  Under the influence of Roman occupation, the notion of inventing a semi- or un-historical moral ideal figure – Jesus – might easily occur to writers of Midrashim.  Especially those influenced by say, the hihgly hellenized Philo; given to using “real” or made-up stories as the arbitrary basis for an allegoricizing, spiritual message.  Indeed, the “reality” behind a parable tale, whether the event actually happened or not, is recognized as irrelevant bysome, by this time.

    So that?  The religious core is rejecting the idea that phsyical – or historical reality – is important.  Precisely during this timeframe. And it is more and more willing to make up storieswith NO historical reality; as long as they make a “spiritual” point.

    • John MacDonald

      Price and Doherty are crazy. There really isn’t a question that midrash in the New Testament is the result of Oral traditions about Jesus being shaped in the synagogue. References to the synagogue appears appears 11 times in Mark, 9 times in Mattthew, sixteen times in Luke, and five times in John (The Christian movement was expelled from the synagogue around 88CE, which is probably why the references drop off in John. And there is a heavy lining of Midrash in the gospels. Mark says “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ ; as it is written in the prophets.” Mark immediately interprets John the Baptist as a forerunner of the Messiah (a la Elijah in II Kings 1:8). Mark then clothes John similar to Elijah (Mark 1:6. II Kings 1:8.) He then says John ate locusts and wild honey,the food of the wildernes in which Elijah lived (and so on and so on). So Robert M Price is pretty reliable on content in this article: http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/art_midrash1.htm, He just explains how it happened incorrectly.

      Only in the synagogue did people ever hear scriptures read, taught, discussed, or expounded. The vast majority of first century people could not read. So people didn`t own bibles. The Jews had access to their sacred stories in the synagogue. The memory of the historical Jesus would have been recalled, restated, and passed on only in the synagogue. And the gospel stories are also shaped in terms of Jewish liturgy. The crucifixion is shaped against the passover. The transfiguration echoes Hanukkah. Many things are reminiscent of Rosh Hashanah.

      So as it says in Acts, they would read from the Torah, then from the former prophets (Joshua through Kings), and finally from the latter prohets (Isaiah through Malachi). At that point the synagogue leader would ask if anyone would like to bring any message or experience that might illumine the readings. So followers of Jesus would then recall their memories of him which that Sabbath elicited. This is where all the midrash is coming from. This is what Paul does in Acts (13:16b-41). They went through this process for about forty years before the gospels were written.

      The explanation Price and Doherty give for why there is Midrash in the New Testament is just stupid.

      • John MacDonald

        there should be a closing bracket after “John”

      • Claude

        That is interesting. Brettongarcia got me wondering how many narratives produced in Jerusalem about Jesus hadn’t leaked out into the empire before 70 AD.

        Also, the mythicist emphasis on Paul’s spiritual Jesus. Ex-Pharisee Paul frequently invokes the name Jesus Christ, or Jesus Messiah. Did Pharisees entertain the option that the Messiah would be a spiritual being? And if Paul didn’t persecute Jesus followers for their conviction that a crucified preacher was the Messiah, what did he persecute them over? And how did he persecute them? Would he even have had the authority under the Romans to preside over executions or extradite Christians from other countries to Jerusalem as described in Acts? Or by “persecute” could he mean harangue or denounce?

  • Brettongarcia

    Whereas?  I feel that traditional Christianity - by not being truly reflective of its roots, but only blindly accepting – has always been the movement we were warned about,  following a “false Christ”; a false idea of Jesus.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    If A tells B Jesus was raised from the dead, and then C convincingly
    argues to B that the whole story is made up, how is that any less
    effective than arguing that only half the story was made up?

    I think that it is very difficult to prove that someone never existed.  According to family lore, my great-grandfather fought in the Union Army and was imprisoned at Andersonville.  In the last few years, my sister and I have tried to verify this without success.  We are unable to resolve the question of the existence of Pvt. John Canavan even though we obviously had a great-grandfather.  

    If someone living in Rome in 95 AD heard the story of an itinerant preacher who rose from the dead 60 years earlier after being put to death as a troublemaker in Jerusalem, how we would he go about establishing that no such troublemaker had ever existed?  If he were convinced that the story was ridiculous because people don’t rise from the dead, why would he bother trying to prove his non-existence?

    If he could convincingly argue that the troublemaker never existed, that would certainly be effective, it’s figuring out how he would convincingly make such an argument that is the problem.  That’s where your theory falls apart.  Your inability to see that is what leads me to believe that your theology is driving your conclusions rather than critical thinking.

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      VinnyJH,

      “I think that it is very difficult to prove that someone never existed.”

      That’s not stopping the Doherty, Carrier, and company.

      “According to family lore, my great-grandfather fought in the Union Army and was imprisoned at Andersonville.  In the last few years, my sister and I have tried to verify this without success.  We are unable to resolve the question of the existence of Pvt. John Canavan even though we obviously had a great-grandfather.”

      Are you even listening to yourself?  You just demonstrated that historicity of an individual is not dependent on proof of certain events in his life. 

      “If someone living in Rome in 95 AD heard the story of an itinerant preacher who rose from the dead 60 years earlier after being put to death as a troublemaker in Jerusalem, how we would he go about establishing that no such troublemaker had ever existed?”

      If no people in the preceding generation made the claim of mythicism it would indeed be hard for him to do so.  The easiest time to make the mythicist case was 33-80 AD.  Further to the point, someone in Rome 95 AD would be closer to the sources that Earl Doherty or Richard Carrier.  If the 95 AD Roman had no reason to question Jesus’ historicity how could 21st-century mythicists have more?

      “If he were convinced that the story was ridiculous because people don’t rise from the dead, why would he bother trying to prove his non-existence?”

      Isn’t this a question you should ask yourself and the mythicists?

      “If he could convincingly argue that the troublemaker never existed, that would certainly be effective, it’s figuring out how he would convincingly make such an argument that is the problem.”

      If the argument for mythicism and against historicity was not made in the generation of Jesus and His disciples it would indeed be hard to mount one from scratch in a later generation.  It’s obvious that the import of this point still escapes you.

      There is only one reason that the opponents of the Christ movement would not have made the mythicist argument in the movement’s earliest years – because they wanted to be believed and not hooted out of town. It wouldn’t stop the Christ movement to promulgate an argument that even wavering believers and seekers wouldn’t swallow.

  • John MacDonald

    That’s the primary reason The Christ Myth Theory is false.  Their interpretaion of how the New Testament Writers were rewriting The Old Testament as Haggadic Midrash is simply incorrect.

    Anyway, it’s been fun guys.  Stay cool.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eR7-AUmiNcA&feature=BFa&list=PL213F899A77C9C262

  • Brettongarcia

    Mac:   your assertion that the influence of the limitations of the Midrashic tradition, takes “Midrash” far too literally and narrowly.

    Your notion that midrashic influence – beyond the literal midrashim themselves – would have been rigidly limited to already-acknowledged invention/recitation by Jesus himself, in the Temple, fixes far too narrowly on literal Midrash, and certain narrow historical perspectives regarding strictest Tradition. 

    Particularly where does your perspective fail?  With the advent of Philo, and his WRITINGS, increasingly available outside the immediate context of the Synagogue?  And with PHilo and othes writing increasingly in GReek, and not Hebrew?  The whole sense of a widening narrationand participation in religious speculations – akin to Midrash, influenced by the Midrash tradition proper - was rapidly increasing.

    And particularly of course?  With the Destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD, there could be no narration in The Temple proper and central, in the Jerusalem area.  So that? 

     Opportunities for a non- temple-oriented Midrashic-ic influence, were increasing constantly in the time of Jesus.

    These would not be Midrashim in the narrow, literal sense of the term; but the larger, allegorical/metaphorical sense.  Which indeed, Philo was encouraging in precisely this timeframe.

    That’s why the Historicist account of Christianity is just false:  it takes ideas far too specifically and narrowly, situating them only in the Jewish community and synagogue.  As it fails to see larger cultural patterns, cross-cultural interchanges between Greeks and Romans especially.  Over and above the Old Testament distaste for such things, were the NT allowances, and simple cultural pressures, from Roman occupation.  And the inceasing widening of “midrashic” tendencies, into the broader, increasingly Greco-Jewish culture.

  • Brettongarcia

    Correction:   “Your assertion of the limitations of the Midrashic tradition…”

    “Jesus himself, or his followers”

    Etc.

  • Brettongarcia

    Though in any case?  Mac’s objection seems not to be THAT the NT was a midrashic re-reading, but HOW it happens.  Which is a small matter. 

    It might well be that for some time early Christians met in the temple and narrated tales of Christ.  Though that seems somewhat likely, since the temple priests had just ordered Christ executed as a heretic.  It is possible that then those stories were collected as the foundation for the NT.  But in that case?  Indeed, Midrashim WOULD have been the basis for Chrsitianity.  even in Mac’s account.

    Furthermore though, I am noting severe problems with Mac’s far too literal and synagogue-centered theory.

    • John MacDonald

      From the years 51-64, we have available to us Paul alone.  He relates very little of what Jesus actually said or did.  If the tradition grew between the earliest gospel, Mark, and the latest gospel, John, in ways that we can now document, then how much did it grow and change between the end of Jesus’ life and the first gospel?  We know the story was filtered through the synagogue because there is an imprint of the synagogue left on the gospels, as I explained. 

  • Brettongarcia

    UNlikely

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    I’m sorry Mike, but you have reached your limit of straw men and non sequiturs for this comment thread.  I’m sure we will play again though. 

  • John MacDonald

    To me, the challenge isn’t being presented here to bible scholars by the Christ Myth Theory.  That theory is so flawed it’s laughable.  Rather, it is a methodological question of hermeneutics.  At the 2011 SBL Annual Meeting in San Francisco, there were two parallel sessions (Nov. 20) highlighting Jewish involvement in Jesus scholarship: book discussions were on “The Jewish Jesus: Revelation, Reflection, Reclamation (Purdue University Press)” and perspectives on “The Jewish Annotated New Testament (Oxford University Press).”There is a heavy focus on the use of midrash by the New Testament writers in these two books.  Dr. Alan Avery Peck, one of the contributors to the Jewish Annotated New Testament, saysThat Robert M. Price is, for the most part, correct in the instances of midrash he is finding, and that the Jewish Annotated New Testament takes the discussion forward in a fruitful way.  Editor Amy-Jill Levine says (as Bart Ehrman does too in “Did Jesus Exist”), for example, Matthew’s Jesus infancy story recapitulates the story of Moses.

    But here is where the problem of hermeneutical methodology comes in.  Does this mean (1) the author of Matthew started with facts about Jesus and then added material to make it resemble the account of Moses, or (2) The author of Matthew started with the account in the Old Testament about Moses and rewrote it using Jesus as the central character?I emailed the other editor of “The Jewish Annotated New Testament,” Dr. Marc Brettler, and asked the following question: “Dr. Amy-Jill Levine says Matthew’s Jesus infancy story recapitulates the story of Moses. Does this mean (1) the author of Matthew started with facts about Jesus and then added material to make it resemble the account of Moses, or (2) The author of Matthew started with the account in the Old Testament about Moses and then rewrote it using Jesus as the central character?” Dr. Brettler kindly emailed me back his response and said “You are asking a hard and sophisticated question. Your two possibilities represent two poles of possibility, with lots of room in between. I don’t know that we have enough information to answer that specific question—sorry.”     

    The issue of “Midrash and the New Testament” seems to pose a bit of a problem when we are trying to get information about the historical Jesus.  Dr. Marc Brettler says that “Midrash” as a genre of writing in the New Testament presents an interesting problem. There are two poles of interpretation, with a lot of room in between. On one end, we could argue that in a midrash narrative like Matthew’s Jesus infancy account the gospel writer started with information about the historical Jesus and then added some material to make it seem like the story about Moses from the Old Testament. On the other end, we could say that the gospel writer simply wanted to rewrite a story from the old Testament and apply it to his times, in which case there is no reason to think there is any reliable information about the historical Jesus at all in the midrash narrative. And there is a lot of room between these two poles. Dr. Brettler says that when we present the problem in this way, it becomes a hard and sophisticated problem to try to determine what part of the midrash narrative (if any) presents information about the historical Jesus. This is the problem that comes up when the issue of “Midrash” is introduced as a New Testament genre.

    The question is: What criteria or method do we use to determine which part of the “Midrash” narrative is giving us information about the historical Jesus? Can we assume that any part of the “Midrash” narrative is representing the historical Jesus? If the midrash narrative says that Jesus did “such and such,” does this mean the historical Jesus actually did it, or was this characterization of Jesus just the author’s way of rewriting the Old Testament story (and the historical Jesus never did it)? Even if a part of the narrative is actually representing the historical Jesus, how could we know that? This is why “Midrash” as a literary genre seems to make reconstructing the historical Jesus more problematic in my eyes. It looks like one big mess.

  • Brettongarcia

    John MacDonald (of Leeds?) asks:  why would NT writers be re-writing OT stories?   Or better said here:  why would they be writing a new story, with constant OT references?

    My hypothesis is this:  the great, painful conflict and problem in Jerusalem in the time of “Jesus,” would have been between 1) Roman occupiers, and 2) local Jewish culture.   (Cf. the Bible’s “Hellenizers” vs. the “Judaizers”).  At times this conflict would have been severe, even deadly.  Though?  After centuries of failed rebellions, and increasing cross-cultural influences?  Finally, I suggest, someone wanted to see if they could RECONCILE the two. (As Philo tried in Alexandria, etc.).

    So what would be a good vehicle to do THAT?  To find a medium of reconciliation between these severely conflicting – even often at war - cultures?  A good idea, would be say …. a Hellenistic re-writing or version of the Old Testament. 

    Or rather, a new, rather Greek story.  A rather Greek story … with however constant OT references – as its justification, its authorization, as being consistent with the OT and Jewish tradition.  One that would not presume to assert openly that this is a tale of God himself come to earth; but say, a “Son” of God.  Linked, if not identical.  Or a Jewish story … with subtle Greek undertones. So as to be acceptable to both.

    “Jesus” therefore, and the NT, I hypothesize here, was the convenient fiction, that served as the hybri, that could, if used properly, at last reconcile two warring cultures.

    As applied to this specific purpose?  Christianity was at first only marginally effective; though perhaps Jewish collaborators with Roman overlords found it somewhat useful, for many centuries Christianity continued to conflict with the Roman empire often (if not completely). 

     But in any case?  Though its immediate purpose was not achieved totally?  The NT was however at last, a massive on-paper reunion, of two great cultures; Jewish and Greco-Roman.  and?  This bringing together of two great cultures … created a powerfully compelling and effective,broadbased ethical/religious vision.  One that could soon serve, close to the core of Civilization, as one of its main values. And that would continue to serve for 2,000 years.

    • John MacDonald

      lol

    • John MacDonald

      By the time the gospels came to be written, the memory of Jesus had already been imprinted through the Jewish scriptures; indeed, Jesus had already come to be understood as the fulfillment of the Jewish scriptures.  There are references to these scriptures in almost every account of the four gospels.  The writer assume their readers are familiar with Hebrew scripture, since they make no effort to explain such references.

      • John MacDonald

        “writers” lol bad spelling

  • Brettongarcia

    MacDonald?  I’m not sure I get your last point.  But I’ll try.

    It seems thought that you admit first of all, that the best scholars he could find, said that at best, it could not be determined by them whether 1) people were starting with a real story of Jesus, and adding OT material.  Or 2) taking OT material, and fitting in a “Jesus.” 

    So? Both possiblities are open, as viable hypothesis.  So far as scholars are concerned.

    Did the story of Jesus already exist event before Jesus appeared?  Implied in “Jewish scriptures”?   You mean the OT?  The Jews of Jesus’ day would have known lots about the OT references.  So?  Yes, the Old Testament was before the New.  And was available as a source for it.  But of course?  The Old Testament, Jewish scriptures, were written way BEFORE the birth of Jesus.  Therefore?  They did not contain a very clear “memory” of him.  Many say they called for something like him.  But others say that Jesus did not match all the qualities that the Old Testament required, in a real savior:  like setting up a full real perfect “kingdom” here on this material earth.

    There was a series of ideas in the OT, for an ideal return of god to earth.  But?  Jesus did not quite meet or fulfil all the called for qualities.  So not all of what Jesus did, was already in the OT

    While indeed?  Much new material seems to have been added in the NT.

    So?  It didn’t all come  from the OT.  IF the OT scriptures are the first source, they cannot be the only one.

    • John MacDonald

      No, the old testament didn’t predict jesus.  The new testament writers treated it like it did.  They wrote the New Testament to make it seem like the old testament predicted Jesus.  They often do this by taking old testament passages completely out of context, or sometimes they just make a mistake becausue the septuagint translation doesn’t match the hebrew.  I don’t know off hand any conservative scholars that would make the severely implausible argument that the old testament predicted jesus, but i suppose there could be a few out there

      different strokes for different folks, lol

      • John MacDonald

        “because”

      • John MacDonald

        Like you see websites like this sometimes but the proposal is so ludicrous on so many levels the it makes the Christ Myth Theory seem intelligent: http://www.gotquestions.org/Old-Testament-Christ.html

        • John MacDonald

          added an extra “the” lol

        • John MacDonald

          I mean, on one level it makes sense.  Like the girl on the website says: 

          Likely the clearest Prophecy about Jesus is the entire 53rd chapter of Isaiah.
          Isaiah 53:3-7 is especially unmistakable: “He was despised and
          rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from
          whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he
          took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken
          by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our
          transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought
          us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have
          gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him
          the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his
          mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her
          shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

          The only thing is, Isaiah wasn’t making a prophesy aboout Jesus.  Mark did a haggadic midrash on Isaiah.  So, Mark depicts Jesus as one who is despised and rejected, a man of sorrow acquainted with grief.  He then describes Jesus as wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.  The Servant in Isaiah, like Jesus in Mark, is silent before his accusers.  In Isaiah  it says of the servant with his stripes we are healed, which Mark turned into the story of the scourging of Jesus.  This is, in part, where atonement theology comes from, but it would be silly to say II Isaiah was taking about atonement.  The servant is numbered among the transgressors in Isaiah, so Jesus is crucified between two thieves.   The Isaiah servant  would make his grave with the rich, So Jesus is buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a person of means.

          I talked a little earlier how the crucifixion is also a haggadic midrash on Psalm 22, so you get the general idea. 

          • John MacDonald

            “about” lol

          • Claude

            Such great lit.

            Maybe I should play some Handel.

            • John MacDonald

              I’m the man

              • Claude

                Wow, I just read R. Joseph Hoffmann’s withering critique of Carrier & Co. Ouch ouch ouch.

                But to be fair, the “new atheists” do use footnotes.

                • John MacDonald

                  Hoffmann isn’t stupid.  Doherty, Price, et al are arguing Christianity started off as a vague myth, and they filled in the details by rewriting the old testament.  Under what absurd theory of history did the people of that period behave like that?

                • John MacDonald

                  Sorry, that was somewhat unclear.  This is what I meant to say:

                  R. Joseph Hoffmann isn’t stupid. Doherty, Price, etc.  are arguing Christianity started off as a vague myth, and then they filled in the details by rewriting the old testament. Under what absurd theory of history would the people of that period do something like that?

                • John MacDonald

                  Sorry, that was somewhat unclear.  This is what I meant to say:

                  R. Joseph Hoffmann isn’t stupid. Doherty, Price, etc.  are arguing Christianity started off as a vague myth, and then they filled in the details by rewriting the old testament. Under what absurd theory of history would the people of that period do something like that?

                  • Claude

                    I’m still thinking.

                    I still wonder what mythicists think is the reason Paul persecuted the early followers of Jesus. They obviously made enough of an impression on him that he experienced an epiphany. It could not have been just their table manners.

                    • John MacDonald

                      Ask Dr McGrath.  He’s the expert around these parts.

                      As for me, I think it’s time for a whole lot of relaxing followed by a whole lot of doing nothing.

                      Remember man, it doesn’t matter who wins the argument, it matters who has the cuter girlfriend.

                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLexgOxsZu0&feature=BFa&list=PL213F899A77C9C262

                      Take it easy,

                      John Andrew MacDonald

                    • Claude

                      Good night!

                  • Claude

                    By the way, I certainly don’t think Hoffmann is stupid–quite the contrary. I was being sarcastic.

                    But you knew that.

                  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                    John,

                    I would ask a different question.  Under what absurd theory of history can we be certain of the existence of a 1st century itinerant preacher in an obscure corner of Judea who went unnoticed during his life by all but a small group of illiterate peasants? Under what understanding of the ancient world does such a person leave sufficient mark in the historical record?  

                    Jesus enters the historical record because a man who didn’t know him claims that he returned from the dead as a supernatural being in order to usher in the end times.   Nothing would have ever been written about him but for the fact that he was believed to have returned from the dead to initiate the coming kingdom of God. 

                    That just doesn’t seem to be the kind of person about whose existence a historian can really be certain.  We can speculate about how an actual person might have played a role in giving rise to these stories, but I can’t see how we can ever establish that an actual person would be required for them arise.

                    I don’t know for sure, but this is what keeps me agnostic.

                    • John MacDonald

                      We can never know for certain.  That’s true.  The important thing is I posted one really cool comment:

                       
                       
                      Likely the clearest Prophecy about Jesus is the entire 53rd chapter of Isaiah. Isaiah 53:3-7 is especially unmistakable: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

                      The only thing is, Isaiah wasn’t making a prophesy aboout Jesus. Mark did a haggadic midrash on Isaiah. So, Mark depicts Jesus as one who is despised and rejected, a man of sorrow acquainted with grief. He then describes Jesus as wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. The Servant in Isaiah, like Jesus in Mark, is silent before his accusers. In Isaiah it says of the servant with his stripes we are healed, which Mark turned into the story of the scourging of Jesus. This is, in part, where atonement theology comes from, but it would be silly to say II Isaiah was talking about atonement. The servant is numbered among the transgressors in Isaiah, so Jesus is crucified between two thieves. The Isaiah servant would make his grave with the rich, So Jesus is buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a person of means.

                      TAKE THAT TOGETHER WITH:

                       

                      The substructure for the
                      crucifixion in chapter 15 is, as all recognize, Psalm 22, from which derive all
                      the major details, including the implicit piercing of hands and feet (Mark
                      24//Psalm 22:16b), the dividing of his garments and casting lots for them (Mark
                      15:24//Psalm 22:18), the “wagging heads” of the mockers (Mark 15:20//Psalm
                      22:7), and of course the cry of dereliction, “My God, my God, why have you
                      forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34//Psalm 22:1). Matthew adds another quote, “He trusts
                      in God. Let God deliver him now if he desires him” (Matthew 27:43//Psalm 22:8),
                      as well as a strong allusion (“for he said, ‘I am the son of God’” 27:43b) to
                      Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-20, which underlies the whole story anyway (Miller, p.
                      362), “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man because he is inconvenient to us
                      and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law and accuses
                      us of sins against our training. He professes to have knowledge of God, and
                      calls himself a child of the Lord. He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;
                      the very sight of him is a burden to us because his manner of life is unlike
                      that of others, and his ways are strange. We are considered by him as something
                      base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous
                      happy, and boasts that God is his father. Let us see if his words are true, and
                      let us test what will happen at the end of his life: for if the righteous man is
                      God’s son he will help him and will deliver him from the hand of his
                      adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture that we may find out how
                      gentle he is and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful
                      death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”

                      As for other details, Crossan (p.
                      198) points out that the darkness at noon comes from Amos 8:9, while the vinegar
                      and gall come from Psalm 69:21. It is remarkable that Mark does anything but
                      call attention to the scriptural basis for the crucifixion account. There is
                      nothing said of scripture being fulfilled here. It is all simply presented as
                      the events of Jesus’ execution. It is we who must ferret out the real sources of
                      the story. This is quite different, e.g., in John, where explicit scripture
                      citations are given, e.g., for Jesus’ legs not being broken to hasten his death
                      (John 19:36), either Exodus 12:10, Numbers 9:12, or Psalm 34:19-20 (Crossan, p.
                      168).

                      Whence did Mark derive the tearing
                      asunder of the Temple veil, from top to bottom (Mark 15:38)? Perhaps from the
                      death of Hector in the Iliad (MacDonald, pp. 144-145). Hector dies
                      forsaken by Zeus. The women of Troy watched from afar off (as the Galilean women
                      do in Mark 15:40), and the whole of Troy mourned as if their city had already
                      been destroyed “from top to bottom,” just as the ripping of the veil seems to be
                      a portent of Jerusalem’s eventual doom.

                      AND WE HAVE ONE PRETTY COMPREHENSIVE HAGGADIC MIDRASH ON THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST IN THE GOSPEL OF MARK

                      stay cool man,

                      John

                    • John MacDonald

                      “about” not “aboout” 

                      my spelling, lol

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                       I agree without reservation:  That is the important thing.

                    • Claude

                      Vinny, you don’t think a person who was believed to have ushered in the end of time is a credible candidate to enter the historical record?! Although it is a bit of an irony.

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                       Claude,

                      The problem I see is that determining whether the end times have in fact been ushered in is beyond the scope of historical methodology, and but for the belief that he had done this, no stories about Jesus would have been preserved.

                      Supernatural tales often arise around people who are believed to be historical, such as Alexander the Great.  As far as I can see, however, the person is always originally noticed by his contemporaries and first becomes part of the historical record as a result of events that are subject to historical investigation.   The myths and legends about Alexander were the product of his record of military accomplishments, not the other way around.

                      If you take away the supernatural stories surrounding Alexander the Great, there is still every reason to think that he would have left a discernible mark in the historical record.  If you take away the supernatural stories surrounding Jesus of Nazareth, there is little reason to think that he would have noticed or remembered at all.  When you try to scrape away the supernatural stories surrounding Jesus, you are also scraping away the cause of the natural stories.   That puts him in a unique category when it comes to historiography.

                    • Claude

                      I can’t agree with any of this. You initially contended that Jesus was an unlikely figure to enter the historical record, because if Paul had not been convinced that Jesus was the Messiah who rose from the dead we would never have heard of him. Why would Jesus’s reputation as a cosmic figure disqualify him from his appearance in the historical record simply because he was obscure? It seems to have been a fluke that a creative zealot like Paul was inspired by the early followers of Jesus, who themselves were in thrall to a charismatic. Especially since Paul had no intention of writing history, since he thought history was at an end. And don’t all kinds of unlikely things enter the historical record?

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                       Claude,

                      I don’t think that very many people enter the historical record as a result of their supernatural activities after their death. 

                      Might Jesus of Nazareth have left a discernible mark in the historical record even if early Christians hadn’t come to believe in those supernatural activities?  I suppose it’s possible, but based on our knowledge of ancient people who did leave a mark, I think that we could reasonably assess the probability as fairly low.  Can we determine that Jesus did leave a mark that was independent of the supernatural  in the same way that we can determine that Alexander the Great (or anyone else to whom supernatural activities were attributed) left a mark independent of the supernatural?  Of that, I have my doubts.

                    • Claude

                      Perhaps I was unclear. I said that because Jesus was believed to be supernatural was not a reason to disqualify his appearance in the record simply because he was obscure (unlike Alexander with his mighty exploits). I did not mean that a Jesus who was not thought to be supernatural was likely to become a historical figure.

                      Why is the hypothetical about Jesus’s early followers not believing in a supernatural Jesus germane? They did believe he was their Messiah resurrected from the dead, and that, presumably, is why Paul converted and wrote about him.
                      Why would you discard the evidence that exists to argue a hypothetical alternative that contradicts the evidence?

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      VinnyJH, 

                      See – you know how to be certain when you want to.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Three days before Super Bowl III quarterback Joe Namath predicted that the New York Jets, heavy underdogs at the time, would win the game against the Baltimore Colts.  When the Jets won the game, sportswriters reported in midrashic form that the outcome was just what Namath had in mind when he made his comments.

                      Looking back on the historical record years some two thousand years later, some people speculated that there had never been a “Joe Namath” while others speculated that either Namath’s prediction or else some aspects of the game had been fictionalized in order to make it look like a prediction had actually been made and fulfilled.

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

                      Looking back on the historical record years some two thousand years later, some people speculated that there had never been a “Joe Namath” while others speculated that either Namath’s prediction or else some aspects of the game had been fictionalized in order to make it look like a prediction had actually been made and fulfilled.

                      Mike, do you understand what a conversation, an argument, a debate is? It is different sides listening to each other and responding to what they hear.

                      You must have read enough comments and posts to know exactly what “mythicists” would say in response to your assertion here. Why not try to anticipate their response, or simply recall it, and respond to their argument instead of simply repeating your own over and over?

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Neil,

                      I requested (and John MacDonald, if I have the name right, did as well) – several times – that you provide a succinct mythicist hypothesis for how and when a mythical Jesus became historical.  At least Brettongarcia made an attempt to respond, but I never saw a response from you.  Until you are willing to tell me what it is that mythicists believe about exactly how this caper was pulled off (as opposed to just saying, “Well, it could have happened”) then you have no right to expect me to know what mythicists think about the most important aspect of the question they raise.

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

                      I did not bother to respond because it was a digression from the thread and point of the discussion, and John is not worth responding to anyway since he’s only interested in ridicule and debunking.

                      I am not interested in arguing for any hypothesis for how or when a Jesus became historical. The question interests me but is not what I am interested in discussing in this forum.

                      My interests in this forum are exactly what I have been addressing. Nothing more and nothing less. But you have come to a point, once again, where you do not wish to continue your argument. This point always comes when you are asked for a reason or evidence to support your assertions or case.

                      Quick. What question did we ask Neil way back 60 comments ago? Drag that out again  and let’s see if we can duck for cover behind that!

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Neil,

                      My request for a succinct summary of the mythicist argument is born of intellectual curiosity.  I respect mythicists as fellow humans enough to ask, “Please tell me what you think about this subject you have raised.”  

                      I’ve tried reading mythicists and their arguments.  I’ve tried reading Doherty, Price, Carrier, you, and others.  I find such reading very frustrating because no one ever seems to get to the point.  There’s a lot of attacking historicity and there’s a lot of complaining that mythicists are misunderstood and misrepresented.  There’s also a lot of vague “Well, this could have happened and that could have happened.”  I’ve yet to read a mythicist who wasn’t prolix.  Their arguments are either meandering or circuitous – I can’t tell which because I can’t find the end of them.

                      If you are “not interested in arguing for any hypothesis for how or when a Jesus became historical,” then so be it.  But the subject of this post is Mythicist reaction to Ehrman.  If you consider the mythicist hypothesis off topic then I don’t know what would be on topic – unless it would be more complaining that mythicists are misunderstood and misrepresented.  

                      Surely mythicists will at some point understand that they are frustrating people who genuinely want to understand their argument without having to become a convert first.

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

                       I think what is needed is a rule. No-one can respond to another’s point unless they first attempt to sum up that person’s argument to which they are responding — and then ask for clarification and correction. Only when they can accurately repeat the other’s argument should they be qualified to respond to it.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Then please give us the mythicist argument.  Just to repeat over and over that Jesus didn’t exist is not an argument.

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

                       I have never presented (let alone repeated over and over) “Jesus didn’t exist” as an argument. I thought you were trying to argue a case for Jesus being historical and I was engaging with the logic of your argument. Suddenly there comes a point in the dialogue where you stop defending your argument and ask me to present an argument for something else entirely! That’s not exactly the way the game should be played.

                      I believe in evolution but I understand very little about biology and DNA and genetics. I have read a fair bit but I could never get up and explain the details of how evolution may be happening according to current theories. But that does not stop me from believing in evolution — simply because I can see the clear and abundant evidence for it in the fossil record. It speaks for itself. I don’t have to explain how it actually happened or how I know when things happened. That’s another set of questions for another day and another setting.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Bart Ehrman wrote a 368-page book establishing the historical case for Jesus, and it is reaction to that book that is the subject of the post.  Although I’m happy to give my own case for believing in Jesus at any time and in any place, this comment thread doesn’t seem to be the place for that.  I think Ehrman has done an adequate job of demonstrating the historicity of Jesus, and in a way that works for believers in Jesus like me but also for skeptics about Jesus like Ehrman and Crossan. 

                      All I’ve heard from mythicists in this thread of over 300 comments is nitpicking of Ehrman’s arguments and RodneyDangerfield complaints about getting no respect.  I think you’ve got people here who would give a serious hearing to the mythicist argument if anyone was willing to make one in a coherent and succinct fashion.      

                      Since you’re unwilling to make one, don’t be surprised if the mythicist position continues to be misunderstood and the legitimacy you seek continues to elude you.

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

                      Mike, here is what I asked:

                      By what means do you decide that any of the Gospel stories and Acts are true? Just because they “ring true”? How do you decide if what you read in Josephus is true or false or indeterminable? Ditto for Tacitus or Livy. Or the Gospels-Acts? How do you decide if it’s “true” or not?

                      Would you like to respond to this?

                      It seems this question has so seriously troubled you that have no wish or ability to answer it.

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

                       I once asked Dr McGrath this question or something very close and he responded, “By careful analysis”. I hope you can be more specific.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Neil,

                      I’ll answer with respect to the Gospels and Acts, but I’ve only read excerpts of the others.

                      In retrospect, I’d say that my initial reading of these documents involved comparing them to all the other literature I’d read in my life up to that point (age  28) – histories, novels, mythologies, comic books, newspapers, magazines, letters, grocery lists, baseball stat books, IT programming manuals, restaurant menus, graffiti, etc.  I was a college grad and had loved reading since I was a child, so you can roughly guess the breadth and depth of my reading experience.  

                      The Gospels and Acts struck me as history, and history of the best sort.  That is, I was less conscious of the literary form and more conscious of the protagonist and events being described.  Whoever wrote those stories was either lying or telling the truth.  I discarded the possibility of someone lying because a mind dark enough to write a lie about such a light is a contradiction in terms.

                      Subsequently, I read many books – pro and con – about the trustworthiness of those documents.  I have continued to do so (I’m now age 60) – most recently reading Ehrman’s book and, as I mentioned, also attempting some of the writings of mythicists.  In all that subsequent reading, I have found no reason to change my initial perception.  On the contrary, I have only found reinforcement of my first impression (whether it has come from the strength of pro arguments or the weakness of anti arguments).

                      I know, of course, that historians do not uniformly stand with me in saying that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world.  Nonetheless, they cannot deny the historicity of the individual who led to my belief, because that would require them to deny the tenets of their own academic discipline.  No matter how great their antipathy toward Jesus and the faith spawned in his name, they will not do that.  Otherwise, they’d be mythicists and thereby cease to be historians.

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

                       Thank you for your honest answer, Mike. I have only one quibble. Why would it be a denial of the tenets of academic discipline to reject your reasons for accepting the Gospels-Acts as historical. Do you really think that historians accept the historicity of Julius Caesar and Socrates and the rest simply because the evidence we have about them strikes them as “the evidence of the best sort” and that whoever wrote about them was either lying or telling the truth?

                      Is that what you really believe is the true academic method for assessing the historicity of persons in the record?

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Neil, your question sounds silly.  Of course I didn’t think that when I was describing to you how I formed my initial impressions of the reliability of the Gospels and Acts that I was simultaneously describing the  tenets of historical discipline.  Can there really be any doubt in your mind about this?

                      But that a man-on-the-street method and the academic method result in the same conclusion about at least one essential aspect of the story ought to give you pause. 

                    • John MacDonald

                      Neil.  Here is the heart of your argument and the Christ Myth Theory:  http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/art_midrash1.htm.  The great bible scholar, Dr. Alan Avery Peck, Kraft-Hiatt Professor in Judaic Studies and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at College of the Holy Cross says, for the most part, that the examples argued for in this article are indeed correct.   I would tend to agree with him.  Dr. Robert M Price has done a fine job.  But what does this have to do with whether Jesus existed or not?  That was Ehrman’s question, and you still haven’t answered it. 

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      VinnyJH,

                      The only thing you seem certain about is that certainty is uncalled for.

                • John MacDonald

                  Hi Claude.  Here is a link to the post by Dr. R Joseph Hoffmann you mentioned if anyone else of this form would like to read it.  This is an excellen and comprehensive response to Richard Carrier.  Some of the comments are excellent too.

                  http://rjosephhoffmann.wordpress.com/2012/04/23/mythtic-pizza-and-cold-cocked-scholars/

                  • John MacDonald

                    “excellent”

                  • Claude

                    Hi John Mac. Yes, that might be one of the most devastating smackdowns I’ve ever read.  I see there are a lot more comments up now. Oh boy.

                  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

                    Cracking article, and our Neil even gets a namecheck:

                    “the provocative ignorance of Myers, Jerry Coyne, Neil Godfrey, and Richard Carrier et al.”

          • John MacDonald

            “talking” not “taking”

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            John MacDonald,

            You have been duped by Spong and Price to think that “midrash” is synonymous with “made-up.”  In fact, midrash is simply an interpretative method.  To suggest that its presence is mutually exclusive with historicity is to, either intentionally or unintentionally, misrepresent its meaning.

            Mark would not have known to use Is 53 and Ps 22 unless Jesus had first risen from the dead and given a midrash to Peter and the rest about how His crucifixion and resurrection was fulfillment of prophecy.  This is the point Luke was making in Luke 24:25-27, 31-32, 44-48.  

            To suggest that Jesus was crucified but not raised from the dead, and that his apostles in their grief figured out this interpretation on their own (including the many other Hebrew Bible passages they saw fulfilled in Jesus) is to suggest something as preposterous as mythicism.  That is, you’re suggesting that a ragtag bunch of Galilean fishermen, carpenters, and tax collectors along with a Pharisee from Tarsus conspired, wittingly or unwittingly, to invent and promulgate a message and inaugurate a movement of people around that message that is currently numbered at above 2 billion and growing.

            Until someone can explain how that ragtag bunch had means, motive, and opportunity to hatch and spawn such an interpretation among their fellow Jews without it having been demonstrated and explained to them by the protagonist you have on your hands a theory every bit as silly as mythicism.

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

              Until someone can explain how that ragtag bunch had means, motive, and opportunity to hatch and spawn such an interpretation among their fellow Jews without it having been demonstrated and explained to them by the
              protagonist you have on your hands a theory every bit as silly as mythicism.

              So a story about a miraculous event, something impossible unless God was making it happen, is true because it is only possible of God made it happen?

              Maybe, just maybe, the story about ragtag fishermen doing all of that is just all made up? Why on earth would anyone stop to think for a moment it might be true? It’s just a story. It’s an etiology. That’s what etiologies are like.

              • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                Neil,

                If you suggest that the story about the ragtag group is also made up you’ve just doubled down on your bet.  That is, you’ve simply moved the locus of conspiracy to another group and now you have to explain how they thought it all up and got all sorts of people to believe it, and even got lots of very skeptical people to believe half of it.  Maybe Dan Brown will pay you a finders fee for this plot of a new book he could write.  

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

                   I’ve “just done” nothing. You simply haven’t listened to the argument from the beginning.

                  By what means do you decide that any of the Gospel stories and Acts are true? Just because they “ring true”? How do you decide if what you read in Josephus is true or false or indeterminable? Ditto for Tacitus or Livy. Or the Gospels-Acts? How do you decide if it’s “true” or not?

            • John MacDonald

              Hi Mike.

              As I said before,
               
              An argument can reasonably be made on textual grounds that a fictional haggadic midrash on Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 is the basis for the passion narrative. All Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians about the crucifixion is just one line: “Jesus died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.”

              Paul may have recorded no narrative details of that event because there were no narrative details at the time he was writing. That is quite possible, because Mark tells us that when Jesus was arrested ALL the disciples “took flight and fled (14:50).” There is no reason for Mark to recount the embarrassing abandonment if it were not true. This would mean Jesus in all probability died alone, without any eyewitnesses. This would, of course, have made the details of the crucifixion impossible to record, since no one witnessed the event.

              The story also seems fictional because of us being told what Jesus said from the cross, but also what Jesus and the high priest said to each other, and what Jesus and the crowd said to each other (who would have been around to record these conversations?).

              I might be wrong, but that’s the way I read it

              • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

                John – crucifixion was intended to be a very public death, so I’m sure there would have been witnesses. 

                Although Mark tells us that the disciples ran away, he does also say that there were women who watched from a distance.  So it’s not possible (though by no means definite) that the accounts of Jesus death are in part based on the memories of those who witnessed it. 

                • John MacDonald

                  Hi Paul,

                  Of course this is an important because it has to do with what we can know about the historical Jesus

                  I still like the way I read it.  The passion is just too blatantly derived from Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 on all major points.

                  Here is (possibly) how the haggadic midrash is constructed again.  Please read it carefully:

                  Mark depicts Jesus, following the model prented in Isaiah, as one who is despised and rejected, a man of sorrow acquainted with grief. He then describes Jesus as wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. The Servant in Isaiah, like Jesus in Mark, is silent before his accusers. In Isaiah it says of the servant with his stripes we are healed, which Mark turned into the story of the scourging of Jesus. This is, in part, where atonement theology comes from, but it would be silly to say II Isaiah was talking about atonement. The servant is numbered among the transgressors in Isaiah, so Jesus is crucified between two thieves. The Isaiah servant would make his grave with the rich, So Jesus is buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a person of means. The substructure for the crucifixion in chapter 15 is, as all recognize, Psalm 22, from which derive all the major details, including the implicit piercing of hands and feet (Mark 24//Psalm 22:16b), the dividing of his garments and casting lots for them (Mark 15:24//Psalm 22:18), the “wagging heads” of the mockers (Mark 15:20//Psalm 22:7), and of course the cry of dereliction, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34//Psalm 22:1). Matthew adds another quote, “He trusts in God. Let God deliver him now if he desires him” (Matthew 27:43//Psalm 22:8), as well as a strong allusion (“for he said, ‘I am the son of God’” 27:43b) to Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-20, which underlies the whole story anyway (Miller, p. 362), “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law and accuses us of sins against our training. He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life: for if the righteous man is God’s son he will help him and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture that we may find out how gentle he is and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”  As for other details, Crossan (p. 198) points out that the darkness at noon comes from Amos 8:9, while the vinegar and gall come from Psalm 69:21. It is remarkable that Mark does anything but call attention to the scriptural basis for the crucifixion account. There is nothing said of scripture being fulfilled here. It is all simply presented as the events of Jesus’ execution. It is we who must ferret out the real sources of the story. This is quite different, e.g., in John, where explicit scripture citations are given, e.g., for Jesus’ legs not being broken to hasten his death (John 19:36), either Exodus 12:10, Numbers 9:12, or Psalm 34:19-20 (Crossan, p. 168).  Whence did Mark derive the tearing asunder of the Temple veil, from top to bottom (Mark 15:38)? Perhaps from the death of Hector in the Iliad (MacDonald, pp. 144-145). Hector dies forsaken by Zeus. The women of Troy watched from afar off (as the Galilean women do in Mark 15:40), and the whole of Troy mourned as if their city had already been destroyed “from top to bottom,” just as the ripping of the veil seems to be a portent of Jerusalem’s eventual doom.

                  I think it would be very difficult to pick particular event in this narrative and try to argue it is history as opposed to fiction.

                  But that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.

                  • John MacDonald

                    “an inportant question”  sorry, lol, missed a word

                  • John MacDonald

                    “a particular event”

                    sorry, lol

                  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                    John,

                    You’ve done a very good job of detailing all the ways in which Mark uses the Scriptures in giving his account of Jesus and his crucifixion.  What I’m wondering is why you assume that Mark invented the Jesus story based on what he had read in the Hebrew Bible.  Do you not consider it possible that Mark witnessed (or was reporting what others witnessed of) Jesus’ crucifixion, and it happened to match what the Scriptures said would happen to messiah?

                    • John MacDonald

                      Hi Mike,

                      No, I do not consider that possible.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Well, John, if you don’t consider that possible there’s no need in my answering your other questions.  

                      May I just ask on what basis you consider it impossible?  That is, for what reason do you believe it impossible for God to have promised that things would go a certain way for a certain individual hundreds of years in advance – and then things actually went that way for that individual?

                    • John MacDonald

                      I don’t know.  It just seems silly to me.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      That being the case, you’re going to have a hard time ever relating to first-century Jewish ethos, which will, of course, inhibit your properly understanding literary artifacts of that time and those people.  Such a belief was fundamental not just to Jesus and those who believed him, but also to most of the Jews who opposed him.

                    • John MacDonald

                      Here’s a thought.  We both agree Mark’s passion reflects Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53

                      You said I’ve done a very good job of detailing all the ways in which Mark uses the Scriptures in giving his account of Jesus and his crucifixion. 

                      We disagree about what this means.

                      You say Old Testament scripture predicted Mark’s passion story.

                      I say that is completely impossible.

                      Would you like to ask Dr McGrath whether he thinks there is any way you can be right?

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      That’s fine by me.  However, I expect him to land closer to your skepticism than to my belief.  For this reason, I hope you’ll also ask God.  (Don’t worry: only He will know if you actually do; none of your friends need find out.)

                    • John MacDonald

                      Sounds good Mike.  You ask Dr. McGrath.  You know him better than I do.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      You give me too much credit.  Nevertheless, I think he reads the comments, so perhaps he’ll see your question and weigh in.

                    • John MacDonald

                      I agree buddy.  Let’s wait.

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

                      Replying to the question about prophecy and psalms in the passion narrative, I think that the answer is “both/and” rather than “either/or.” I suspect that if the texts in question had had nothing in them that made them seem relevant to making sense of the crucifixion of Jesus, they would not have been turned to. But once they were turned to, they probably offered not only an interpretative framework but probably contributed some details to the passion narrative. 

                      This is more the case with Psalm 22 and Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-20. Isaiah 53 actually has relatively few specific details, and so it largely contributes the idea that someone’s suffering can be beneficial to others.

                    • John MacDonald

                      Primarily, Mark is not interested in origins, education and inner development of Jesus, but narrates the history of the fulfillment of the divine promises from his perspective. In this focus Mark resembles a historical biography like Suetonius’s Lives of Caesars.  This in turn puts into question the historicity of any story in Mark by virtue of the principles of form criticism. It doesn’t imply mythicism, of course.

                    • John MacDonald

                      And I guess the other point is, as I said earlier, Midrash” as a genre of writing in the New Testament presents an interesting problem. There are two poles of interpretation, with a lot of room in between. On one end, we could argue that in a midrash narrative like Matthew’s Jesus infancy account the gospel writer started with information about the historical Jesus and then added some material to make it seem like the story about Moses from the Old Testament. On the other end, we could say that the gospel writer simply wanted to rewrite a story from the old Testament and apply it to his times because he didn’t know any details about the birth of Jesus, in which case there is no reason to think there is any reliable information about the historical Jesus at all in the midrash narrative. And there is a lot of room between these two poles. When we present the problem in this way, it becomes a hard and sophisticated problem to try to determine what part of the midrash narrative (if any) presents information about the historical Jesus. This is the problem that comes up when the issue of “Midrash” is introduced as a New Testament genre. The question is: What criteria or method do we use to determine which part of the “Midrash” narrative is giving us information about the historical Jesus? Can we assume that any part of the “Midrash” narrative is representing the historical Jesus? If the midrash narrative says that Jesus did “such and such,” does this mean the historical Jesus actually did it, or was this characterization of Jesus just the author’s way of rewriting the Old Testament story (and the historical Jesus never did it)?  If Jesus says something in the gospels, did he really say, it or was it just invented like Herodotus used to do.  John Dominic Crossan, in “The Power of Parable,” shows many of Jesus’ speeches were probably creatively invented by the gospel writers.  Even if a part of the narrative is actually representing the historical Jesus, how could we know that? 

                    • John MacDonald

                      I mean, think about it.  If God wanted to do something, why would it be predicted, and then have it happen 500 years later.  Why wouldn’t God just Do it at the time, instead of having to wait 500 years?

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Because God wouldn’t do something the same way you or I would do it means the idea is silly?

                  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

                    Interesting stuff John. I wouldn’t claim that we can neatly put an asterisk by the historical bits from the passion narrative (or anything else for that matter), I was just pointing out that there were probably witnesses to Jesus’ death. 

                    I don’t have time to post a proper reply (off for a swim now) but I’ll do so later. Just one thing for now – Mark’s account doesn’t actually say that Joseph is a man of means, or that Jesus was buried in Joseph’s tomb.

                    • John MacDonald

                      Have a good swim buddy

              • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                John,

                I would add to Paul Regnier’s points that there were some converts with high social status (e.g. Joseph of Arimathea, and the priests mentioned in Acts 6:7) such that eyewitness testimony from Jesus’ trial is quite plausible, if not expected.  Mark himself reports of a Roman centurion who makes a confession of faith at the crucifixion as he observes how Jesus handled it.  

                And Paul’s point about crucifixion being a “public hanging” deserves to be emphasized.  The Romans wanted to be sure lots of people saw these executions as they were intended to send a message.  To suggest that “no one witnessed the event” is a very unnatural conjecture.

                More fundamentally, the flaw in your argument is that it suggests Jews were lying about the messiah.  “Fictional haggadic midrash” in your scenario is just a euphemism.  You can call Mark’s quotes of, and allusions to, Scripture throughout his gospel midrash or not, but whatever you call them, Mark was testifying to his readers that “This person I’m describing to you is the messiah of Israel.”  Therefore, on your scenario you have to have a reason Mark lied about this and an explanation for how he got fellow Jews to accept it – whether they regarded it as fictional or not.  And how they got other Jews and eventually Gentiles to accept it. 

                The hundred years before and after Jesus of Nazareth were times of intense messianic, apocalyptic, and eschatological hope.  No one was looking for a fictional messiah.  No one would have entertained a midrash about a fictional messiah.  And therefore no one would have dared give one.  There were plenty of false messiahs in those days, but no fictional ones need apply.

                • John MacDonald

                  Hi Mike.  Well, consider an analogy.

                  Would you say there is any historical core  in Matthew’s infancy narrative where he presents Jesus as the new Moses?

                  On the whole Matthew seems to
                  have borrowed the birth story of Jesus from Josephus’ retelling of the nativity
                  of Moses. Whereas Exodus had Pharaoh institute the systematic murder of Hebrew
                  infants simply to prevent a strong Hebrew fifth column in case of future
                  invasion, Josephus makes the planned pogrom a weapon aimed right at Moses, who
                  in Josephus becomes a promised messiah in his own right. Amram and Jochabed,
                  expecting baby Moses, are alarmed. What should they do? Abort the pregnancy? God
                  speaks in a dream to reassure them. “One of those sacred scribes, who are very
                  sagacious in foretelling future events truly, told the king that about this time
                  there would a child be borne to the Israelites, who, if he were reared, would
                  bring the Egyptian dominion low, and would raise the Israelites; that he would
                  excel all men in virtue, and obtain a glory that would be remembered through the
                  ages. Which was so feared by the king that, according to this man’s opinion, he
                  commanded that they should cast every male child into the river, and destroy
                  it… A man, whose name was Amram, … was very uneasy at it, his wife being
                  then with child, and he knew not what to do… Accordingly God had mercy on him,
                  and was moved by his supplication. He stood by him in his sleep, and exhorted
                  him not to despair of his future favours… ‘For that child, out of dread for
                  whose nativity the Egyptians have doomed the Israelites’ children to
                  destruction, shall be this child of thine… he shall deliver the Hebrew nation
                  from the distress they are under from the Egyptians. His memory shall be famous
                  whole the world lasts.’” (Antiquities, II, IX, 2-3)

                  It is evident that Matthew has had
                  merely to change a few names. Herod the Great takes the role of the baby-killing
                  Pharaoh, and he is warned by his own scribes (along with the Magi) of the
                  impending birth of a savior, whereupon he resolves to kill every child he has to
                  in order to eliminate the child of promise. Joseph takes the place of Amram,
                  though the precise cause of his unease is different. Mary takes the place of
                  Jochabed. A dream from God steels Joseph, like Amram, in his resolve to go
                  through with things.

                  The rest of Matthew’s birth story is
                  woven from a series of formulaic scripture quotations. He makes Isaiah 7:14 LXX
                  refer to the miraculous virginal conception of Jesus. It is likely that he has
                  in this case found a scripture passage to provide a pedigree for a widespread
                  hagiographical mytheme, the divine paternity of the hero, which had already
                  passed into the Christian tradition, unless of course this is the very door
                  through which it passed.

                  It is revealing that Matthew’s Magi
                  learn from scribal exegesis of Micah 5:2 that the messiah must be born in
                  Bethlehem. This is the same way Matthew “knew” Jesus was born there–it had to
                  be!

                  The flight of the Holy Family into
                  Egypt comes equally from exegesis, this time of Hosea 11:1, which allows Matthew
                  to draw a parallel between his character Joseph and the Genesis patriarch
                  Joseph, who also went to Egypt. Matthew also seems here to want to foreshadow
                  the death and resurrection of Jesus. Note that Isaiah 52:9-10 makes the exodus
                  from Egypt into a historical replay of God’s primordial victory over the sea
                  dragon Rahab, equating Egypt with Rahab. Matthew also knew that Jonah was
                  swallowed by a sea monster at God’s behest, and he saw this as a prefiguration
                  of Jesus’ descent into the tomb (Matthew 12:40). The flight into Egypt has the
                  child Jesus already going down into Rahab, the belly of the sea
                  beast.

                  The closest Matthew can come, via
                  punning exegesis, to providing a prooftext for Jesus having become known as “the
                  Nazarene” would seem to be Judges 13:7, “The boy shall be a Nazirite to God from
                  birth.” He knew Jesus must be born in Bethlehem yet was called “Jesus of
                  Nazareth,” so he cobbled together a story whereby Jesus was born in Mary and
                  Joseph’s home in Bethlehem, only to relocate in Nazareth (after Egypt) to avoid
                  the wrath of Archelaus (Matthew 2:22-23). Luke, on the other hand, working with
                  the same two assumptions, contrived to have Mary and Joseph live in Nazareth but
                  to be in Bethlehem for the census when the time came for Jesus to be born. In
                  both cases, exegesis has produced narrative.

                  So tell me, what part of this is historical in any way?

        • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

          John MacDonald,

          What you read at the link is generally representative of conservative biblical scholarship on this subject.

      • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

        John MacDonald,

        The claim of the apostles and the claim of the New Testament documents is that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the Hebrew Bible (aka Old Testament) promises of Messiah.  To suggest that Jesus was not the messiah but that his apostles re-wrote his life in order to make it look like he was is to take a page from the mythicists’ playbook.    

        If Jesus is not fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies then a third of the world is professing allegiance to a lie.

  • John MacDonald

    Speaking of the Jewish Jesus and Midrash, here is an excellent little new book on the topic: The Jewish Gospels by Daniel Boyarin: http://www.amazon.com/The-Jewish-Gospels-Daniel-Boyarin/dp/1595584684/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335223677&sr=8-1  As an added bonus, Dr Boyarin makes (in my opinion) a very plausible argument that Jesus kept koser, despite the way the gospels usually interpret the “clean foods” passages.  I think this book will nicely compliment Dr. James Tabor’s upcoming book that makes (again, in my opinion) the highly plausible argument that there were serious disagreements between the message Jesus, James, and Peter preached on the one hand, and the message Paul preached on the other:  http://jamestabor.com/2011/09/11/paul-and-jesus-how-the-apostle-transformed-christianity/ The brilliant and creative Dr. Tabor has high hopes for this book to stay in the game for the long run.

    Wow, I came back to respond to one of Neil’s comments and I’ve posted like seven times.  I must like to hear myself talk. lol

  • Brettongarcia

    Paul:   the  1) first question is, how MUCH of what they said is miraculous.  Remember, in early Christ studies, we just don’t have much hard info.  We’re allowing percentages and probabilities.

    Second?  2) Just as there are figures we now acknowledge as (partially) historical, that were alleged to do supernatural things, there are also counterexamples – as Neil is noting.  Of allegedly real figures … that turn out to have been fiction.  Carrier (?) uses in a related context,  the example of Hercules.  Though better examles might be found

    So?  At best we have a stalemate here.  Though?  3) Of course, to the degree there are miracles, to that degree the figure is probably not real.

    John Mac:  So indeed, as many scholars confirm, lots of the NT could be/likely is, just material borrowed from the OT, in some midrashic way. 

    So how much original/real material is there in the Jesus story, subtracting a) OT rewrites, and b) miracles?  Subtracting that, we’re getting down to a smaller and smaller potential “real historical” Jesus.  And THEN?  We’re emphasizing here c) consider all the amount of material from Greco-Roman classic culture and myth, that seems to be there? 

    And?  After subracting THAT … there is essentially, NOTHING left.

    “Jesus” is just the COMPOSITE,or intersection, of :  1) midrashic extensions of the OT; along with 2) false folk tales of miracles, combined with 3) bits of Greco-Roman culture and myth.

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

      One might add a principle here that Dr McGrath wants us always to keep in mind: Just because an explanation is possible does not mean it is necessarily probable.

      Just because everything about Jesus can be reduced to myth and midrash and it was possible that there was also a real person doing all those things that inspired the myths and midrash, it does not necessarily follow that there was a real person for whom we have no independent evidence really doing all those things that were also described in mythical and midrashic ways.

      In fact there is a simpler explanation. Why invent historical persons behind the myths if there is no external evidence for their existence? Just because it is possible does not mean it is the best or simplest explanation.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

      Paul:   the  1) first question is, how MUCH of what they said is miraculous.  Remember, in early Christ studies, we just don’t have much hard info.  We’re allowing percentages and probabilities.

      Second?  2) Just as there are figures we now acknowledge as (partially) historical, that were alleged to do supernatural things, there are also counterexamples – as Neil is noting.  Of allegedly real figures … that turn out to have been fiction.  Carrier (?) uses in a related context,  the example of Hercules.  Though better examles might be found”

      BG – as I’ve posted to Neil, you seem to have misunderstood or misrepresented my point. 

      I’ll make it really plain. We *know* that there are are some religions that trace their origins to a historical founder – e.g. Islam, the Baha’i Faiths, Sikhism, and the Rastari Faith. These religions tend to present a mythologised view of their founders, but their founders nonetheless had a historical existence. 

      Do you think that these religions could offer a good model for understanding how and why Christianity emerged? If not, why?

  • Brettongarcia

    Paul and McGrath?

    You two are saying, rightly, that there are many semi-mythical figures today, who were said to work unlikely miracles.  But who still, were founded in some original factual person. 

    That’s true in fact.  And among the best examples of that, is McGrath’s example of Santa Claus; based it seems on a slight exaggeration of it seems, a real historical figure, St. Nickolas.

    But should we then feel justified in saying, that such figures are “real”?

    Paul?  Aren’t you and McGrath trying to tell us there IS a Santa Claus?

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

      Bretton Garcia, It is one of the major contributions of historical study of Jesus to have distinguished between the “Jesus of history” and the “Christ of faith” which is akin to a discussion of the historical Nicholas of Myra and Santa Claus. Others may hold them closer together, whether successfully or not, but the distinction and the gulf between them is one of the major results of the quest for the historical Jesus.

      Thus far, mythicists have brought in as analogies figures who were historical, figures who may have been historical, figures about whom historians are uncertain, and figures who are likely not to be historical but who do not have comparably early sources as in the case of Jesus, never mind a very early one that mentions having met the brother of a figure he says was born, Jewish, descended from David, a man, crucified, and buried. None of the analogies justifies the attempt of Doherty or Murdock to twist the sources to mean something they don’t, that Jesus was initially envisaged as a purely celestial figure. That is an attempt to ignore some of what Paul and others say and then fill the silences real and imagined with things that fit poorly with the evidence they choose to ignore.

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

         Dr McGrath, this is Bwian posting, not Neil, so please kindly answer.

        How do we know that Nicholas of Myra existed? What is your evidence for this?

        Once you answer this question I think you might have some common ground to talk to one you once thought insane. Give it a go. Answer, please.

        Thankyou.
        Bwian.

      • Brettongarcia

        Dr. McGrath and All:

        How reliable is the chain of texts that we have, leading back as it is asserted, to Jesus himself?  Most scholars suggest that simply due to problems with scribal copying, and various editing motivations, the means of communication was never entirely reliable.

        Then too?  If we are tying to assess the accuracy of the information we have of the past, we should look at the totality fo what is claimed.  Including in this case of Jesus, promises of miracles.  If we find lots of such promises, we shoudl not ignore them; since according to science, such unreliable evidence reflects badly, on the whole, from a scientific point of view.  ( By the way:  it is still useful to mention problems with miracles, for those many readers who still believe in them.  That is another reason why I mention them).

        Miracles to be sure are considered off the table by Historicists; but while that seems reasonable in part, it has the effect of making their material look far more reliable than it is; by having taken out of consideration… its most implausble element, and context.  For that reason among others?  it is good to now adn then remind them of the most damning evidence against the whole story, overall.

        Then finally, how about Historicists’ demands that Mythicists meet an extremely high standard of proof?  Regarding proof of deriving Christianity from myths?  I notice that Historicists insist that to prove a Mythical source for Jesus, we must come up with EXACTLY AND PRECISELY say, a “dying god, who is crucified and comes back to life,” or some such.  But here I suggest that we don’t need ALL that.  In this case, if we see two earlier, major elements of this, we might assume that theycould easily be put together, to form the “composite” myth of Jesus.   

        For example?  I suggested that the two major elements of the Jesus as god dying and being resurrected story.  Are 1) the Hero myth; espeically, the Hero Dying for His Country.  The Martyr.  These are major myths, in thousands of cultures; including that of Rome, Greece, and the Jewish Maccabean Revolt.  And to this major element?  2) To get to the full dying-hero resurrected myth, all we have to do is add the idea of Resurrection; another major myth of the day, specifically among the Pharisees.  Among whom Paul numbered himself explicitly.    Add the two?  And you get  “Hero Dying for his Country … but then coming to life.”

        So Mythicists don’t have to come up with an exact and precise analogy to Jesus, to prove previous mythical sources.  To come up with the basic idea of the crucifixion and resurrection?  The extremely common ideas of a HERO DYING FOR HIS COUNTRY, and then added to the idea of COMING TO LIFE,  is close enough for Mythicists to match the low standards set for an Historical Jesus say.  All we have to do is put together two major, common myth of the time.  Which is a very common kind of thing.  (While McGrath suggests we do not further need to come up with the idea of a “God” dying; James admitting Jesus was not seen as a God, at first.  Though then too, God himself does not die even in Christianity).

        Could myths have been assembled in this way, and nobody objecting at the time?   It wouldn’t even have to be done in secret.  Conside:  all Paul had to do to convince everyone that Jesus was resurrected, was to say he had a “vision” of a resurrected  hero martyr son of God … and that was all the evidence most Christians required.  No material Jesus needed.  no proofs. 

        So could legends and myths have been intermixed, and even created wholesale, in this era?  Indeed, they could have been.  What are we looking at overall in 70 BC – 150 ACE,  would suggest that first, regarding the reliblity of the means of communication:  there is room for … solid manipulation of texts, addition and loss of information, and for outright invention.  We are looking at rather chaotic and unreliable means of communiation.  Then consider what is considered “proof” in this era:  we arelooking at people relying on “visions” as proofs. 

        So when we look at the larger picture?  There was indeed, plenty of room for the wholesale invention of “Jesus.”  Or his construction, assembly, from a number of major cultural traditions.  All made possible, by lack of reliable communications, and verification or disconfirmation of rumors, data, stories, in these confused ancient times.

        In particular?  The notion of a murdered hero coming back to life, is easy to come up with.  Just from the simple combination of two major myths of this era.  (Not to mention dozens of this exact motiff, in other legends).

        Could Jesus have been invented, just in the imagination of one or two people?  Sure.  In fact, Paul seemed to have felt that a mere “vision” was all he himself needed, to fully believe in a resurrected hero.  Without phsyical evidence.

        And as the details were filled in?  There was more than enough slack in the means of information transmission/communication, to tweak the details.

      • John MacDonald

        This assume that during the oral period the stories about Jesus wern’t undergoing significant transformations, like they were, say, between the gospel of Mark and the gospel of John.

        • John MacDonald

          “weren’t” lol

        • John MacDonald

          “assumes” sorry, bad spelling

  • steven

    IS it true that behind his Paywall, Bart said he gets his graduate students to check the sources he references in his scholarly works, but in his popular writings, he does all the fact-checking himself?

    That would explain the strange reference in ‘Did Jesus Exist?’ to Pliny’s Letter number 10.

    Bart didn’t get one of his students to check out what he had written, as he would do for a scholarly work.

    • Claude

      steven, here is what Ehrman wrote about his TAs and >i>Did Jesus Exist?:

      I use [research assistant] summaries to decide which books / articles I can scan quickly, which I can read around in (some chapters more fully than others), and which I need to read slowly and carefully, taking full notes on them….

      I did not need to have my RAs summarize any of the mythicists’ writings to help me decide which ones I needed to read.  I needed to read all of them.  And so I did.  It was a long and painful process, let me tell you!   Much of this is not pleasure reading, and some of it is so bad that it made for a miserable few months.  But I did the reading and took notes on just about everything.   And my RAs had nothing to do with it.

      Hope this helps.

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

         Claude, so if Ehrman is telling the truth, and I am sure he is, how is it that he misquoted Doherty from the book of his that he read, and said Doherty argued several points he blatantly did not. In fact, how is it that Doherty made the same points Ehrman himself made in earlier books of his, but that now suddenly Ehrman said those points are not true! Is Ehrman arguing against himself? Is Ehrman incapable of reading what both he and Doherty have written? Ehrman is a very honest man, i am absolutetly sure, and no less honest than Dr McGrath himself when it comes to evaluating books by mythicists. So how is it that both gentlemen are on record as saying that Doherty argues what any reader can see he does not argue, and saying that Doherty does not say what any reader can see he does?

        This is most strange, is it not, among honest men?

        • Claude

          Neil, could you be more specific? Or perhaps just point me to the relevant section on your blog.

          Thanks.

  • Brettongarcia

    Mike:

    Thanks for noting my many outlines, different accounts, of how it could all have happened, above. 

    Can we give Mike an EXACT and factual and specific account of precisely how it happened?  In fact, neither we nor the Historicists, have enough data to do that.  Since we are looking so far back into history, with very little data, it will have to be quite general and speculative.

     But?  It is easy to come up with any number of plausible hypotheses, that are far, far more plausible than a magic person appearing out of the sky, and making things appear out of thin air.  The following scenario for example - or one version of it or anothe –  often has been presented as a fair hypothetical reconstruction of what might plausibly have happened.  A construction that is far, far more plausible, note, than the miraculous idea.  OR even than the  historicism account.

    Around the time the Jesus myth appeared, It seems that 1) there were in the air of Jerusalem, many traditions and rumors of lords and so forth, rumors and hopes for son of the Lord, who would save Israel from Roman occupation, and set up a Jwish “kingdom”; a) Jewish ideas.  In addition to these rumors and legends, there were many other b) Greco-Roman, Platonic ideas, about how to be a good moral person; what the universe was like.  But 2)these various ideas seemed to conflict.  And so there were many contemorary confusions about what to believe.  So that?    3) One day or another, someone began trying to put together some parables, midrashim, about a fictionally ideal rolemodel figure.   To outline a consistent morality; to try to put togehter all the pieces.  And that model  was called “Jesus.”  (Rather like the way The  Drew Brothers ?were invented; or Tom Swift stories;etc.).

    Soon 4) the author briefly began to circulate these stories about an ideal role model person, without giving much background on them; probably as Midrash stories more or less.   But?  Then the author was called away early on; just leaving the stories themselves, with no remembered background story behind them.  Rather  like?  The Deuteronomic books, found in the temple, according to the Bible itself (q.v).   Rather like the Biblical account of the “discovery” one day of new holy books in the temple, no one quite knew their exact origin; but they took them as holy, as the word of God.

    The public did not really have any clear memory of where these texts came from; they had just been passed on quickly by an author, without much explanation.  But the stories seemed compelling; and the stories seemed to be holy, about an ideal figure that combined the best qualities of the Jewish but also Hellenistic moral traditions. And so?  This fictional work, A parable, midrash, fiction work of to-most unknown origin, about a fictional “Jesus,” was widely read (cf. “Q”?) And was soon taken as being authentic History, of a real holy man/son of the lord God.

    This is one simple, plausible reconstruction, of what might easily have happened. 

    Is the the for sure, exact precise story of how it really happened?  In fact, no one – including the Historicists – really knows enough about this timeframe, to tell us in a provable way, exactly what happened; all we can do in fact is give plausible scenarios.

    How likely or possible are such hypotheses?  Note that it could all easily have happened; this or something like it.  And before you reject it consider that indeed, this kind of speculation seems far, far better, more realistic, infinitely more likely and plausible, than than the conventional religious account; which itself seems radically unlikely.  Because?  The religious account relies on dozens of magical/miraculous events that are not consistent with what we and science actually see in the world around us.

    Is this particular example actually, precisely, what happened?  We can’t be sure.  But?  Once you’ve seen just how easily A jESUS SSTORY COULD have happened?  And then when you compare the plausibility of this kind of hypothesis, to just how unlike the magical/miraculous account is?  When you notice just how more believable such an account is, than believing that an invisible guy made things appear out of thin air by magic/miracle events that we never see in real life?

    Once you see how many much more likely possiblities there are, you might finally many decide that there is just no need to fully believe the magical/miraculous account any more; there being any number of far, far more likely explanations for it all.

    This is just one, of dozens of plausible reconstructions.  One that is rather more plausible than the traditional magical accounts; or even than the Historicist model.

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      Brettongarcia, you said:

      “It is easy to come up with any number of plausible hypotheses, that are far, far more plausible than a magic person appearing out of the sky, and making things appear out of thin air.”

      When you say this, you reveal that you are just too skeptical about the resurrection (and perhaps any miracle) to believe an account about Jesus that includes it.  You should just say that and be done with it.  All the rest is just bluster.  

      It’s becoming more and more apparent that there is no there there in mythicism.  Deep down I think Neil knows this and it explains why he and others want to shift the burden of proof to the “historicists” (as they’ve chosen to describe rational people).  It also explains why Neil has been unwilling to put forth a summary defense for mythicism.  At least you had the chutzpah to put your bluster on the table.

  • Claude

    I am struck by the willful disregard demonstrated here day in and day out of the case for the historical Jesus. Each and every day a plaintive request for “proof” of a historical Jesus is made, as if no one had ever written an entire book explaining that historians can have no proof of the matter but only arrive at probabilities suggested by painstaking analysis of the record. Brettongarcia’s refusal to discriminate between an historical and legendary Jesus cannot be attributed to ignorance. It can only be ideological.

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

      Claude, what probability does McGrath or Ehrman or any historicist give for Jesus being historical short of 99.999%?

      I have been through this discussion with McGrath before and he is very willing to say it is quite reasonable to doubt the historicity of Jesus, etc etc etc UNTIL you try to pin him down on exactly what he means by that.

      Sure we only have probabilities about whether he was a healer, etc, but the bottom line of reality is that McGrath will not allow for any doubts whatever that Jesus existed on the part of anyone who has seen the evidence.

      Ask him. You challenge him and push him on this till he is without any ambiguity in his replies and see what I mean.

      Don’t naively take people at what they seem to be saying. Push them to be clear, black and white. You will never succeed with James if you try to do this with him,  I venture.

      • Claude

        Neil,

        So McGrath says it’s reasonable to be skeptical but ultimately incorrect to insist that Jesus was a myth? Isn’t that precisely what one would expect of someone who allows for intellectual inquiry but supports the scholarly consensus? I’ve been reading McGrath elsewhere, and he doesn’t strike me as the evasive type.

        As a layman I do often find the bits of evidence supporting historicism ambiguous and tenuous. To take one example, what did Paul mean when he said “James, the brother of the Lord?”. I don’t know. 2000 years later in English it sounds like Paul was saying James was Jesus’s brother. But I don’t read Greek, and I haven’t studied the epistles and their cultural context for decades. I can’t imagine how the phrase might sound to me if I was intimately familiar with Paul’s rhetoric and that of other 1st century Hellenized Jews in their own language. So in addition to my own uninformed impressions, I must rely on scholars and trust those who seem to me most credible.

        As an aside, I read that a fusillade is being mounted against Richard Carrier, and there is going to be carnage. It is very sad; he seems to be a talented person who made things difficult for himself out of hubris. 

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

          Hi Claude, you say McGrath doesn’t sound to you like the evasive type. If you had entered earlier and witnessed the discussions we and others had about mythicism you would know just how evasive he is. He finally tired of that — being evasive does take a lot of effort — and simply declared me insane for expecting from him direct, unequivocal and evidence based answers. His favourite tactic was to avoid answering long enough so that by the time the conversation had gone on long enough he would suddenly announce he answered the question “way back” and “often” but that all of a sudden he realized I was simply refusing to acknowledge it — and no, he wouldn’t tell me the comment where he answered the question, and no, he would not repeat his answer. That’s how it went. Repeatedly.

          I posted one illustration of his avoidance technique at: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/jesus-agnosticism-believing-vs-knowing/#comment-27253  As you can see from subsequent comments he later said the very opposite of what he appeared to be wanting us to believe in the first place. He plays word-games.

          • Claude

            Hi Neil, I have to go but will read your link when time allows. Thank you.

      • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

        You don’t have to push Ehrman.  He says it’s “beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt” based on the reference in Galatians to James being the brother of Jesus.  Of course this is what he said about the textual integrity of Galatians in his 2oo8 debate with Dan Wallace:

        Can we trust that the copies of Galatians we have are the original copies.  No.  We don’t know.  How could we possibly know?  Our earliest copy of Galatians is p46 which dates from the year 200.  Paul wrote this letter in the 50’s.  The first copy that we have is 150 years later.  Changes were made all along the line before this first copy was made.  How can we possibly know that in fact it is exactly as Paul wrote it.  Is it possible that somebody along the line inserted a verse?  Yes.  Is it possible that someone took out a verse?  Yes.  Is it possible that somebody changed a lot of the words?  Yes.  Is it possible that the later copies were made from one of the worst of the early copies?  Yes.  It’s possible.  We don’t know.

        • Claude

          I have a vague recollection of Ehrman arguing that the passage concerning James is the sort of offhand information that historians tend to think is historically reliable. I guess that would mean regardless of the uncertainty surrounding Galatians.

          • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

            Claude,

            I understand that argument, but I don’t see how that overcomes the uncertainty created by our lack of evidence for the first 150 years of transmission.  Had Paul not specified which James he met on that first visit to Jerusalem, isn’t “the brother of the Lord” exactly the kind of helpful information a copyist might have written in the margin to clear up any confusion and a subsequent copyist might have inserted in the text?  If we can be sure Paul wrote it, it may be reasonable to think that it is historically reliable, but I don’t think that helps us to be any more sure that Paul wrote it. 

            I don’t see how our certainty about any fact we derive from a single text can be any greater than our certainty about the accuracy of that text’s transmission.

            • Claude

              That’s a good point, and one that Ehrman doesn’t appear to address in DJE (I wish he had used his graduate students to put together an index). Does Ehrman not discuss this issue in Misquoting Jesus? I can’t remember and don’t own a copy.

              • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                Ehrman made some general remarks in Misquoting Jesus about the period between the autographs and the earliest extant manuscripts, but most of the book focused on the manuscript tradition that we have.  I think his remarks at the 2008 debate are consistent with what he said in Misquoting Jesus and maybe even implied by what he says there, but they definitely go beyond what he writes in the book.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    Claude,

    I don’t follow your question exactly, but I would say that the earliest evidence is that Paul and some others had some sort of supernatural vision/revelation of the risen Christ.  It doesn’t mean that there was no historical Jesus of Nazareth, but the historical record starts with the visions and revelations.  A couple decades later, stories about an earthly Jesus of Nazareth are written.  Would these stories have been transmitted and recorded but for the fact that they served the propagation of belief in the risen Christ who ushered in the end times?  I don’t think they would have been, or at the very least, I don’t think that there is any way to have any confidence that they would have been.  

    Therefore, I do not think that it is possible to establish a cause of the stories about the earthly Jesus of Nazareth that is independent of the stories about the supernatural Christ.  I think this makes Jesus of Nazareth different from any other person in the ancient world about whose existence we are confident.  For any other person about whom supernatural tales were told, I think we can identify with at least some confidence  a cause for him being remembered that is independent of the supernatural tales themselves.  This does not prove Jesus’ non-existence, but I think it makes the application of historical methodology a good bit trickier and a good bit more speculative.

    • Claude

      Vinny,

      (My post just above wasn’t directed at you; some confusion may arise there.)

      You wrote: It doesn’t mean that there was no historical Jesus of Nazareth, but the historical record starts with the visions and revelations.

      But Paul also mentions an earthly Jesus Messiah. Not often, but several times. Of course these mentions are glossed over or resolved in favor of a mythical Jesus by mythicists.

      Would these stories have been transmitted and recorded but for the fact that they served the propagation of belief in the risen Christ who ushered in the end times?

      I completely agree with you about this! But nobody has to establish that Jesus in fact ushered in the end times to argue that position.

      As for your last paragraph, historians insist that they have more evidence for the existence of Jesus than a great many other persons from antiquity who are agreed to have existed. I don’t think Jesus requires any special pleading here, only because he was thought to have been unlike other men.

      But your point is well taken concerning the difficulty of reconciling Ehrman’s skepticism about the reliability of the manuscripts with the confidence of his exegesis. You should email him about that! 

      • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

        Claude,

        Too late!  I wasn’t sure that was directed to me as it did seem a little snarky for as cordial an exchange as we have been having.

        I did raise the point on Ehrman’s Facebook page, but he hasn’t said anything about his 2008 remarks.  Unlike some skeptics, my policy is not to simply repeat questions when I don’t get a response I like.  I prefer to wait until another point in time, perhaps in another discussion, when I think the question is again relevant to see whether I can get a response then.

  • Claude

    So some mythicists think Paul cooked up the resurrection and successfully marketed the idea hither and yon.

    Why then had he “persecuted and assailed the church of God”?

    This better be good.

    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

       Claude,

      Assuming that is directed to me, I can only explain what I think and why. 

      Paul tells me next to nothing about why he persecuted the Church of God
      and since I have no independent records of what the church believed
      prior to Paul, I don’t see how any hypothesis would be anything more
      than speculation.

      Paul’s assertion that he persecuted the church of God has been shaped by
      twenty years of preaching his gospel so I have to at least consider the
      possibility that he is making the assertion because he has found “I was
      the church’s worst enemy” an effective evangelistic tool.  I can’t know
      for sure, but it increases my uncertainty about something about which I
      never had much certainty in the first place.

      I wish I had something good for you on this one, but I don’t.

      • Claude

        Right, Paul’s story might have just been a good marketing tactic.

        So that leads to the question of how cynical Paul may have been. The comparison is sometimes made between Paul and Joseph Smith, a con man who eventually started believing his own fabrications.

        I don’t get the impression from Paul’s letters that he was either cynical or a con man, but perhaps I’m gullible.

        • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

           Claude,

          Of course the best con men are the ones who give the impression of sincerity.

          I would think that the historian has to take into account the possibility that Paul had a Joseph Smith type personality whether that means fraud, pathological liar, or lunatic, I’m not sure.  We might assess the probability as small, but I don’t think we could assess it as trivial.

          However, even if we take Paul as reasonably sincere, every time he tells his story for the purpose of winning converts, it will be shaped in part by the reaction he got the last time he told it.  Over two decades, that’s a lot of shaping.  Moreover, even a sincere person is going to be tempted to be inventive now and again.

          If an essentially mythical figure did come to be historicized (and I emphasize the if), it makes much more sense to me that it happened through an oral process of people finding that the addition of what they saw as harmless historical details made the story more effective at communicating what they saw as the more significant theological message rather than someone sitting down and composing the whole thing as an allegory or parable.

          • Claude

            Well, I think Paul was telling the truth about persecuting the early followers of Jesus, because he was a zealot. I think he even describes himself as such, and clearly, he was zealous. I think it was this intense engagement with the first Christians that provoked his intense visions. If Paul didn’t associate the Jesus who was revealed to him with the Jesus embraced by the “church of God,” why identify with them at all? Wasn’t the whole crucifixion thing rather inconvenient for a divinely revealed Messiah?

            • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

              That Paul was really a zealot who was opposed to Christians prior to his conversion seems like a pretty reasonable conclusion to me, but the fact he never tells us why he was opposed to them or exactly what he did to oppose them leaves open a number of possibilities.   One that seems quite plausible to me is that Paul was opposed to messianic cults in general and not simply one relatively insignificant cult that happened to be claiming that their leader had returned from the dead and made appearances to certain of its members.  Maybe as a Roman citizen, he was just pissed of at their disruption of the social order.  If that were so, he may well have just lumped them all together without really understanding the distinctive beliefs of each group.   After his vision/revelation, it would be natural to associate it with that one particular group and over time it would be natural to shape the story of his opposition into opposition to that one particular group.

              • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                VinnyJH,

                This is the second time today I have heard you say that Paul “never tells us why he was opposed” to Jesus followers or “exactly what he did to oppose them.”  I passed the first time because I didn’t want to be disruptive to the dialogue you and Claude were having but I can’t let it pass a second time.  

                The book of Acts reports Paul saying that he wanted to do “many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9-11).  That passage goes on to report his saying that he locked up the followers in prison, punished them in the synagogues, pursued them into foreign cities, tried to force them to blaspheme, and even supported the death sentence for believers.  This alludes to the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7, which account explicitly reports Paul’s support for that action.  So much for Paul never telling “what he did to oppose them.”

                As for “why he was opposed” see Galatians 1:23 wherein he said that after conversion his reputation preceded him throughout the churches of Judea as the man who was “preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”  Therefore, if you want to know what so upset Paul about Jesus followers then you have to look no farther than the gospel he preached.  There are, of course, too many chapters and verses detailing this for me to quote you chapter and verse.  The gospel we know him to love is the same gospel he used to hate.

                I can relate because I, too, love that same gospel that I once hated myself.

                • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                  The Book of Acts tells us why its author thought Paul persecuted the church long after the fact.  He might be right, but it’s not the same thing as Paul telling us why he did it.

                  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                    VinnyJH,

                    Neither is it the same thing as having no idea why Paul persecuted believers.

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                       Non sequitur and straw man.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      VinnyJH,

                      It’s just your tendency to express doubt at any piece of evidence that contradicts the position you want to take.

                      We do have the author of Acts reporting what Paul said.  You can doubt his report, and certainly you are.  But that’s not the same thing as there being no report.  And it’s quite possible that someone else might not share your doubt about it.

              • Claude

                Vinny, was Paul a Roman citizen? I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think Paul ever says so. Luke says Paul was a Roman citizen, but Luke was fanciful.

                • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                  Claude,

                  I don’t know whether he was or not.  I was just trying to think of an example of a reason why he might have have been seeking to repress messianic cults in general as opposed to being specifically directed against one particular cult.

                  One thing I think history shows us is that the perpetrators of religious persecutions often have only the vaguest idea of what their victims actually believe.  The Romans thought that Christians practiced incest and cannibalism.  Pogroms were stirred up with allegations of infanticide against the Jews.  Might it not even be possible that Paul’s persecution was founded on misunderstandings which became part of his theology when he believed that they were confirmed by his vision and revelation? 

                  Just a thought.

  • Brettongarcia

    Neil has nothing to worry about;  Hoffman’s piece is just a rant.  Hoffmann just reviles lots of mythicist positions … without saying why, or dealing with evidence.  Though he says the next two installments will be – will have to be in fact – better, with real expert opinion finally offered, with evidence.

    By the way? Ironically?  John Mac’s devil’s advocacy of an element of Mythicism was by far, the most effective contribution on the whole site.

    By the way?   In brief response to Paul’s admittedly persistent inquiry:   sure, it seems that there is sometimes a real person behind all the myths.   Particularly in the case of religion.  Paul asking the essential Historicist question:  whether Christianity might be the same sort of thing:  couldn’t there be a modest real guy, Jesus, behind all the hype?And indeed, wouldn’t it be more likely that Chrsitianity started from at least some modest basis in reality, SOME real person?  Rather than ex nihilo?

      But 1) the first persistent answer offered here on this blog?  Has been that it seems like in the case of Christ, what we see is almost ALL miracles, and Supernatural/Metaphysical grandiosity, and not much room for any other – substantial or even normal - reality. 

    COuld there be a normal guy behind all that?  It almost seems impossible, or in any case irrelevant.  The “Christ” of popular imagination is so totally a product of highly pumped up rhetoric, that if there’s nothing special down there … then if we would be more justified in saying that “Christ ” did not exist, than saying that he did.

    Or if there’s that little left, why keep looking?  The Historical Jesus gets smaller… and smaller ….. and smaller…..   Until?  We see not so much the “Son of God,” as the “Son of Man.”  And then stop looking for more.  (My own “personal eschatology” as it has been called by theologians).

    Then too though?  2) Still, asks Paul, isn’t it more likely in any case, that there was at least SOME KIND of real guy down there?  I might suggest that there were … actually five or ten of them.  I’m currently looking at the hypothesis that Jesus is based on a conflation/composite of many Jewish revolutionary leaders, various “sons” of the local Jewish “Lord”s or “gods.”  Sons vying to become the Lord, the Christ, the people’s God.  But then failing; though dying heroically, as a martyr for the truth.   

    But if there are say a half dozen real roots to the Christ story? Or even a sort of collective humanity ?  It wouldn’t be quite accurate to say that there was “one” real source.

  • Claude

    Mike Gantt, I appreciate your courtesy very much (and apologize that I myself haven’t extended the same), and I can’t speak for Vinny, of course, but I would not consider your input an intrusion.

    I’m aware of the episode in Acts but am skeptical of it. Would a guy like Paul have been granted these police powers under Roman rule?

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      Jewish had power to discipline their own people.  It was not unlimited, and for this reason the Jews had to engage the Romans to get Jesus killed.

      Paul himself testifies of being on the receiving end of such Jewish punishment after he was converted (2 Cor 11:24).  

      • Claude

        Mike, Luke has Paul say “And this I did in Jerusalem, and with authority granted me by the high priests  I confined many of the saints in prison, and when they were killed I cast my vote for it…”

        If the Roman-occupied Jews didn’t have the authority to execute prisoners, why would Paul get a vote?

        Luke came up with some great scenes, but he’s an unreliable narrator. 

        • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

          The stoning of Stephen was a spontaneous vigilante action.  We’re not told what, if anything, the Romans subsequently said or did about it.

          Paul would get a vote against Jesus followers in the same way that members of the Sanhedrin got a vote against Jesus.

          I don’t share your disdain for Luke as a narrator, nor do I know whom you are measuring him against.

          • Claude

            I’m measuring Luke against Paul.

            • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

              Claude,

              Paul didn’t narrate history.  How then do you compare the two as narrators of history?  

              And how is it you regard Luke as “fanciful”?  I regard Luke and all the gospel writers as cryptic rather than fanciful.  

              • Claude

                I see what you mean, but I trust Paul more about Paul than Luke about Paul. And their respective version of events differs significantly.

                I think Luke is fanciful in the sense that I think he embellishes and invents things, and not for theological reasons, necessarily (that I can detect), but artistic ones.

                For example, he has three versions of Paul’s Road to Damascus. In all three Paul sees a flash of light and is thrown to the ground, and Jesus speaks to him. But Luke can’t quite decide what to do with Paul’s traveling companions. Should they all collapse? Or just Paul? Should they see the light? Should they hear what Jesus is saying to Paul? He tries out different scenarios but ultimately the various versions aren’t reconciled.

                These are minor details, but what they suggest to me, delightfully, is that Luke is basically a fiction writer. That’s also why I think he was capable of exaggerating Paul’s police powers as an agent of the high priests, thereby giving the Romans a pass on persecution of the early Christians.

                And I don’t think Paul ever describes his revelation as taking place on a road to Damascus. Does he?

                • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                  Claude,

                  In Gal 1:15-17 Paul mentions Damascus in a way that would have made sense to those who knew his story – which those folks would have.

                  • Claude

                    Mike, again, I see what you’re saying, but Paul’s mention is kind of ambiguous.

                    What I take from Luke’s Road to Damascus is that Paul indeed had an epiphany, but the rest is a wonderful invention. 

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Claude,

                      May I ask what is your faith position toward Jesus Christ?

                    • Claude

                      Of course. I lapsed from Catholicism decades ago, and have been agnostic/atheist ever since.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Claude,

                      Thanks.  I was Catholic as a child, lapsed into an agnostic as a teen and remained so until age 27 when I came to faith in Christ by reading the Bible for the first time.

                      I’m fascinated that you show interest in this subject given that you are an agnostic/atheist.  When I was an agnostic I had no interest in discussions of this kind.  In fact, they repulsed me.  Except I probably would have liked it when someone was giving it to the Jesus supporters.  Still, I probably wouldn’t have stayed around long enough to hear it.

                      Again, thanks.

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                       When I was an agnostic I had no interest in discussions of this kind.

                      That would suggest to me that you never thought about why you were an agnostic and that you never tested your thinking.  As a result, when you read the Bible for yourself, you were not prepared to think critically about what you found therein.

                      I too was raised Catholic, but drifted into agnosticism in high school.  When I was a senior in high school I began going to a Bible study and I embraced what at the time I called “fundamentalism,” but which today would probably be labeled “evangelicalism.”  However, when I read books like Evidence that Demands a Verdict, I realized how weak the apologetic arguments really were and I moved on after a couple years.   I was always interested in discussing the subject though.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      “As a result, when you
                      read the Bible for yourself, you were not prepared to think critically about
                      what you found therein.”

                      On the contrary, I sought to find – and expected to find – “evidence that would undermine the verdict.”  

                    • Claude

                      Mike, in the past year for various reasons that I won’t bore you with I decided to settle down to a study of the New Testament. It has been a pretty erratic process, and this whole mythicism controversy has been a major distraction. But I’ve learned a lot from everyone here and appreciate it very much.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Claude,

                      I hope you will continue to study the New Testament, and that as much as possible, you’ll let its documents speak for themselves rather than merely let yourself hear what they say through the filter of others.

                    • Claude

                      Mike, I’ll keep that in mind! Thanks.

                    • John MacDonald

                      As the great John Dominic Crossan also points out in his amazing new book,  the “Power of Parable,” Acts 22:25-29 calims Paul to be a Roman citizen.  But Paul himself admits  in 2 Corinthians 11:25 that he was “three times beaten with rods,” a Roman punishment forbidden to be used on Roman Citizens.  Dr. Barrie Wilson, in “How Jesus Became Christian,” also builds an interesting case why Acts is unreliable compared to the Pauline epistles.  Wlson also points out difficulties with Paul’s own account.  Paul said he was persecuting Christians, then immediately stopped and became a Christian.  Why did his fellow persecutors not prosecute Paul for desertion?

                      http://www.barriewilson.com/pdf/Taking-Paul-at-His-Word.pdf

                    • John MacDonald

                      “claims”

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      John,

                      I’m struck by how differently you and I view the writers in question.  Crossan writes for fame and fortune, gets called great, and his book gets called amazing.  Luke writes at the risk of his life and gets called fanciful and unreliable.

                      You seem to give the benefit of the doubt to something Crossan says in passing (his reference to beating with rods was parenthetical and not even footnoted), while Luke’s writing seems suspect at almost every turn.

                      Crossan writes two thousand years removed from the scene, while by all accounts Luke is much, much closer than that.

                      May I ask what it is that accounts for this great discrepancy of trust you are willing to place in each writer, and why Crossan seems so much more worthy of trust to you?  (I’m actually curious; this is not a rhetorical question).

                    • John MacDonald

                      Hi Mike.

                      Crossan is, in part, a form critic.  I think he is a good one.  That’s generally the way I read the bible too.  You seem to read the bible more like completely reliable historical biography.  We just have different approaches. 

                      John

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Yes, we have different approaches.  I tend to read the Bible’s content as discrete documents, reading each document as a generally reliable representation of the the respective author’s original work.  I don’t read the words indiscriminately or uncritically, but neither do I quickly or easily assume the writer is wrong about something.  This is all the more true when you consider the blood lost by those who spread the message about Jesus.  In golf the rule is “play the ball as it lies.”  That’s what I try to do with the text.

                      I suspect that if you read Crossan’s work through the eyes of a form critic, you might miss much of what Crossan himself was saying.  Form criticism invites speculation and introduces all sorts of ideas into the text, some of which may never have entered the writer’s mind.  If you pick up the ball from a divot and set it up on a tuft of grass before you whack it, the ball will go much farther.  But that kind of golf’s not really cricket.

                    • John MacDonald

                      Well, in “The Power of Parable” Crossan dismisses as unhistorical many of the recorded speeches recorded in the New Testament based on form.

                    • John MacDonald

                      sorry, I said “recorded” twice. lol

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Yes, that’s my point.  By reading the NT through that form-critic’s eyes you are deprived of much that the authors were trying to tell you.  That’s fine if you think the form-critic is worthy of more trust that the NT writer.  I just couldn’t come to that conclusion.  That Crossan makes a career out of writing while the NT writers risk their lives by the same endeavor is not the only reason I vote this way with my trust, but it’s a good starting point.

                    • John MacDonald

                      That’s why I’m hoping Dr. McGrath will give his opinion on the question we asked him earlier.  It would be interesting to know his perspective on things.

                    • Claude

                      John Mac, that was an interesting essay  (“Coke v. Pepsi”!) you linked to. It appears to have incorporated some mythicist tenets like the influence of mystery cults and Paul’s autonomous spiritual Christ. I was aware that Luke sought to make nice between Paul and Jerusalem, and Barrie Wilson makes the disparities between the two very clear. (He dates Acts kind of late, doesn’t he?) Paul always did seem radical.

                      Thank you. And you’ve been so enthusiastic about Crossan’s new book that I may have to break my book-buying moratorium.

                    • John MacDonald

                      Crossan is the greatest New Testament scholar of our generation, in my opinion.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      What causes you to regard him so?

                    • John MacDonald

                      He’s the one I’ve learned the most from.

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                      I used to like Crossan before I found Ehrman, but I have only read popular works by either.  Leaving aside his latest book, I always feel like I know how Ehrman is getting to his conclusion from the evidence he cites even if I disagree with that conclusion.  With Crossan, it sometimes seems to me as if his conclusions come out of left field and I’m not sure whether there is something he’s not telling me.

  • Claude

    In addition: I’ve often encountered this notion that as the more fantastic elements of the Jesus story are stripped away, the man diminishes to the point of being negligible. That’s not my impression. Assuming he existed, he must have been a remarkable person. Of course, if he showed up at my place advising me to pop out my eye and get ready for the kingdom, I’d probably tell him to get off my lawn.

    I  haven’t read Ehrman’s book on Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet but that’s next.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    Mike,

    Since I didn’t say there was no report, that’s a straw man and a non sequitur.  Of course it’s possible that people don’t share my doubts.  Why would you even waste time pointing that out?

    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

       You see Mike, I could have written “We don’t know why Paul persecuted the Christians” and I think that most people would have known that I was referring to the fact that Paul doesn’t explain it in his letters.  However, I know that if I were to write that, someone would to pop in with “What about Acts?  What about Acts?”  So I write “Paul doesn’t tell us why he persecuted Christians” because I think that makes it even clearer that I am talking about what Paul says in his letters.  It doesn’t help though because I still have to deal with someone jumping in with “What about Acts?  What about Acts?”  It’s really tiresome and it’s why I’m not inclined to waste any more time answering your questions if I don’t find them relevant to some point that I am actually trying to make.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate your generally courteous and cordial approach, because I do.

      • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

        I thought the Galatians reference was even more revealing, yet you’ve not said a word about it.  

        • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

          Mike,

          I’m sorry, but I don’t have the foggiest notion why you find that so revealing.  All I see there is Paul saying that he was an opponent of Christianity.  It doesn’t tell me why Paul, who didn’t believe what the Christians were saying, viewed them as such a threat that they needed to be repressed.

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            VinnyJH,

            I don’t know why you wouldn’t find that revealing.  Just consider Paul’s post-conversion victim’s experience and you can, mirror-like, perceive his pre-conversion victimizer’s experience.  Post-conversion Paul adopted the message of the twelve which was implied that the governing authorities in Judea were murderers…of the messiah.  Belief in this message would destabilize the status quo authority structure.  Persecution emanated, as it always does, from the fear of loss.  Loss power, loss of prestige, loss of position.  Paul, as an up-and-coming ambitious Pharisee (Gal 1:14) would have been just the sort of enforcer that the authorities sought and would reward.  

            The forces that sought to kill Jesus, are the same forces that subsequently motivated Paul to support the killing of Stephen, and the same forces that subsequently sought to kill Paul.  

            Paul has made it crystal clear why he was persecuting Jesus followers.  In his letters.

            • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

              You don’t know that Mike.  You’re just reading in what you want to see.

              When Nero persecuted the Christians it had nothing to do with what they believed.  He did it because he needed a scapegoat on an unrelated matter.  You are correct that he feared the loss of power, prestige, and position, but that really doesn’t tell you much.  The people who instigated Paul’s persecution of the Christians could also have had reasons that had little or nothing to do with what the Christians actually believed.  Maybe they just needed to convince the Roman rulers that they were on the job in order to retain their power, prestige, and position, and the Christians made a convenient target.

              • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                VinnyJH,

                I won’t spend any more time trying to convince you this point.  For me, however, I go away from the discussion continuing to marvel at how much is being communicated when Paul says, “They kept hearing, ‘He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy’.”

                • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                  Mike,

                  Go read the Mormon interpretation of the tribulations that they underwent in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois.  In their minds, all the problems arose because non-believers were threatened by the purity and truth of the Mormon faith.  The fact that you interpret the persecution of the early Christians that way really doesn’t mean squat to me.   Although I haven’t done a thorough survey of the topic, I suspect that the victims of religious persecution almost always interpret it that way.

                  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                    VinnyJH,

                    You mention Joseph Smith a lot.  Smith is much more like Muhammad than he is Jesus.  But then it’s hard to find any human being who is like Jesus.

                    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

                      Mike,

                      By George I think he’s got it! 

                      That is the problem.  In order to reason by analogy about history, you need known cases that are like the unknown cases in some relevant way.  Unfortunately, with Jesus you have an unknown case that is different from any other historical person or situation in key aspects.  When we try to reason about ancient kings or ancient battles, we have known cases from which we can generalize.  This give us some empirical basis for assessing the kinds of evidence that are likely to support particular inferences.   With Jesus, there are few if any precedents to which to draw analogies.  As a result, every scholar is left largely to his own intuition when it comes to what is most likely.

                      I use analogies to Mormonism because their is no other religion of comparable size whose origins are so well documented.  I wish  I had an example of a religion that was closer in time and place to Christianity, but the data just isn’t there.  So when it comes to a precedent for the kinds of things that might happen during the formation of a new religion, Mormonism is all I’ve got to work with.  (BTW, when comparing Christianity and Mormonism, Smith corresponds with Paul and Jesus corresponds with Moroni.)

                      I know you think that I am some hyper-skeptic who is committed to doubting everything, but I’m not.  I’m just someone who finds it hard to see the useful precedents or analogies that would enable a historian to say that one particular scenario is more likely than another.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      VinnyJH,

                      Thanks for the response.  It was enlightening.

                      One difference between us is that I don’t see Jesus as founding the church that we see today.  Rather, I think He was about something that the church today largely misses.  Oh, they have a lot of facts right about Jesus, but they part company with Him when they urge people to become churchgoers.  He didn’t come so that worship gatherings might be moved from Saturday to Sunday.

                      If it’s precedents for Jesus you’re seeking, the Hebrew Bible is full of them.  Therein, however, is an irony.  Jesus embodied such a variety of these Old Testament models that He became unprecedented by virtue of the richness of the resulting composite.  This doesn’t render analogies any the less useful, but one does have to avoid using any one of them as sufficient or even dominant.

                      If religion is your interest, you’ll be driven to models like Mormonism.  (Although, as I’ve said, as soon as you invoke Mormonism, that ought to call Islam to mind because it’s so easy to find parallels between the two that you don’t find with the first-century Jesus movement.)  Rather than religion, my interest is truth.  Religious examples therefore hold no interest for me.

                      Jesus came to make known truth, not to establish a religion.  To understand Jesus one cannot divorce Him from His Jewish context.  You do seem to me to apply excessive doubt where He and His message are concerned.  By contrast, I have found Him quite worthy of trust.  I hope you will, too, and this is why I hope you will, if you can’t set aside some of your doubts about Him, at least apply an equal amount of doubt to those who seek to erase Him or His  message from our minds.

                      Again, thanks for opening up. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathan-Burke/553845995 Jonathan Burke

    I spent some time going through Dorothy Murdock’s references. I noted
    at once that her research method involves random searches through
    Google Books; in fact she even embeds the links to the books in
    question, so you can see clearly the search terms she used, proving that
    she was punching words into Google Books and hitting the search button
    hoping to get lucky.

    A number of these works are available on Google Books only in
    limited, or even snippet view, so it’s clear Murdock doesn’t own them,
    hasn’t read them, and is simply searching for key words in Google Books
    for any references related to the subject at hand. I would suggest this
    is not standard academic research procedure, even though Carrier appears
    to approve.

    One reference Murdock did not cite is Panzanelli & Scholosser,
    ‘Ephemeral bodies: wax sculpture and the human figure’ (2008). This book
    refers explicitly to the ‘notorious “Vatican Bronze”‘ (p. 121), and the
    image shown is the very image cited by Murdock (p. 122), yet when we
    turn to the page on which the statue is described we find the image
    which Murdock claims is hidden in the ‘Vatican Treasury’ is in fact, ‘a
    phallic monument in the Gabinetto Segreto, Museo Archeologico Nazionale
    Napoli, supposedly recovered at Pompeii/Herculaneum’ (p. 122). Not only
    is there no reference to Peter, but we finally find that the the image
    is not hidden in the ‘Vatican Treasury’, but is in the Gabinetto Segreto
    in Naples, the collection of sexual and erotic artifacts found in
    Pompeii.

    This is even more interesting since Pompeii was only excavated in the
    late 18th century, so 17th century sources such as ‘Romanum Museum’
    (1692), couldn’t possible be referring to the same artifact. So all
    those later works relying on the 17th sources as evidence for this
    artifact are wrong, and all those later works relying on 18th and 19th
    century sources claiming this is kept in the Vatican are also wrong.
    Naturally any sources claiming this has anything whatever to do with
    Peter, are also wrong; please note that despite all Murdock’s sources,
    she didn’t provide any which made such a connection.

    So Ehrman was right; ‘There is no penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock
    in the Vatican, or anywhere else’. Firstly there is no penis-nosed
    statue of Peter the cock either in the Vatican or anywhere else, and
    secondly the only penis-nosed statue to which Murdock does refer isn’t
    of Peter, and isn’t in the Vatican. She was wrong on both counts.

    I went through all of Murdock’s references, and was interested by
    what I found. The original claim can be traced to basically two sources
    from 200-300 years ago, none of the sources cited makes the same claim
    she does, virtually all of the sources disagree on various points, and
    the only modern scholarly sources she quotes as referring to it,
    actually treat the ‘Vatican’ story cautiously as hearsay. Details
    follow.

    ______________________________

    * The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects: cites a 19th
    century edition of the 18th century work of Knight, who makes reference to ‘the celebrated bronze in
    the Vatican’; Knight says absolutely nothing about it being anything to
    do with Peter

    * A Dictionary of Sexual Language and Imagery: cites Fuchs,
    ‘Gescichte der Erotischen Kunst’ (1908); another work from over 100
    years ago (you’ll be seeing a pattern soon), and this source says
    nothing about the figure being anything to do with Peter

    * Fuchs, ‘Gescichte der Erotischen Kunst’ (1908): still no modern
    independent scholarly witnesses, and Murdock’s link doesn’t even go to
    the page to which she refers (nor does she quote the text of the book)

    * Privatisierung der Triebe? (1994): finally a modern scholarly
    source, but unfortunately it’s not an independent witness; instead we
    have a reference to an 18th century engraving, the source of which is
    not identified (and this source says nothing about the figure being
    anything to do with Peter)

    * The Secret Middle Ages: another modern scholarly source, but wait,
    it refers with due caution to the ‘notorious Albani bronze said to be
    held in the Vatican Museum’; alas, no evidence here (and this source
    says nothing about the figure being anything to do with Peter)

    * Public Characters of 1803-1804: yes, another work from 200 years
    ago, and it cites an 17th century source, so again we have no
    independent verification here (and this source says nothing about the
    figure being anything to do with Peter); Murdock appears unaware that
    the text she quotes actually originally appeared in several earlier
    works published in the 1760s

    * Romanum Museum: this is the 17th century work cited previously; no
    reference whatever to Peter, of course, and no reference to it being
    kept in the ‘secret Vatican Treasury’ (perhaps Murdock thought that
    ‘Romanum Museum’ was a reference to the Vatican treasury?)

    * The Miscellaneous Works of the Late Reverend and Learned Conyers
    Middleton: another 18th century work, no source cited for the image, no
    reference to the Vatican, no reference to Peter

    * The Image of Priapus: yet another work relying on the 17th century
    source ‘Romanum Museum’, and another reference to Knight’s work, but no
    reference to Peter or the Vatican

    * Sex and Sex Worship (Phallic Worship): A Scientific Treatise on
    Sex: here’s the first actual photo we have (in a book published in
    1922), and yet it isn’t the bronze image Murdock has been talking about,
    though she still claims this is ‘a photograph of what appears to be the
    original bronze statue (or at least its twin)’; the book itself says
    this is a depiction of Priapus (nothing to do with Peter), was found ‘in
    an ancient Greek temple’, and of course says nothing about it being in
    the Vatican

    * Studies in Iconography: claims ‘This object was published under
    papal and royal authority, exhibited for a time in the seventeenth and
    eighteenth centuries, and is now said to be held inaccessible in the
    secret collections of the Vatican’; note again the scholarly caution
    over the unsourced and unsubstantiated claim

    • chazpres

      Nice work Jonathan! I think your excellent post contains exactly what Ehrman’s DJE  is sorely lacking: clear and detailed refutations. It doesn’t help that Ehrman gives Murdock and Mythacists an out with an off-the-cuff comment that he thinks the Peter/cock illustration in her book was drawn by Murdock herself. Murdock and her mythicist fanbots focus on Bart’s lackadaisical comment while ignoring the important issue: her outrageous and utterly unsubstantiated claim that the bronze cock was in any way associated with Peter or Christianity.  Nevermind hidden in the Vatican!  

    • Claude

      Jonathan Burke, I read this post on Bart Ehrman’s site. Wow, well done and thank you!

    • Mia

      Jonathan Burke, the problem here is that it appears you read Acharya’s blog about as well as Bart Ehrman read her books (he didn’t). For those of us who actually read her book (and her blog) it’s clear that she never claimed that the statue itself was a symbol of Paul, she said that the cock i.e. ROOSTER was a symbol of Paul and biblical scripture and scholarship backs that up. But, since many here are just drooling over each other to pile on more animosity than anything else, you never made any effort to actually read what she wrote because none of you had any intentions of being objective or honest. Her book was clear enough but her blog makes it categorically clear:

      “Note that I do not say here or elsewhere that the bronze sculpture itself is a symbol of St. Peter, but only the cock or rooster, as in the story of Matthew 26:34, etc., in which Peter denies Christ three times before the cock crows. In several places elsewhere in my book I provide the citation for the cock/rooster being a symbol of St. Peter.”

      So, your entire premise is false and therefore, you fail. Your argument that she only performed word searches fails too because even if that were true it’s still far more than Bart Errorman did – he didn’t do any search at all; all he did was have a knee-jerk reaction.

      So, the fact remains that Acharya didn’t make it up and the cock/rooster most certainly is related to the apostle Paul. It’s absolutely hilarious that nobody else posting here was smart enough to figure this out – it took me about 2 minutes to prove you wrong. Not that it took much beyond simply reading what she wrote rather than jumping to false assumptions.

      St. Peter being symbolized by the cock/rooster as a Christian Symbol:

      * Religious Information, Meaning and Definition of Cock Christian Symbol
      * Cock Christian and Religious symbolism with Bible References
      * Symbolism and early religious meaning in art of the Cock Christian Symbol
      * Significance and representations of the Cock Christian Symbolism

      http://www.catholic-saints.info/catholic-symbols/cock-christian-symbol.htm

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

        Anything can apparently be a symbol of anything, as long as one doesn’t require evidence or even a particularly direct link in drawing threads of alleged symbolic connections.

      • HuskerDru

        Uh, so are you arguing the cock is a symbol of Paul or of Peter…or, perhaps, that they are the same man? :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathan-Burke/553845995 Jonathan Burke

    Thank you Claude and chazpres. Remember Murdock’s original statement:

    * ‘Bronze sculpture hidden in the Vatican treasury of the Cock, symbol of St. Peter.’

    According to the new story from Murdock and her follower, her originally statement actually means this:

    * ‘Bronze sculpture (never hidden in the Vatican treasury), of the Cock, but not a symbol of St. Peter’.

    The new spin from Murdock’s followers seems to be that Murdock never claimed it IS a symbol of Peter and never claimed it IS in the Vatican. So according to Murdock it’s a statute representing Peter which isn’t of Peter, and it’s held in the secret Vatican treasury while not being in the Vatican at all.

    What was amusing was that on Murdock’s own forum one of her followers attempted to claim that she hadn’t simply been using Google Books as a resource, and that she could certainly have owned all those books and read them, and used Google Books simply for the benefit of her readers. This attempt at helpful apologetic was promptly destroyed by Murdock herself, who acknowledged that she had actually used Google Books in exactly the way I described, a method of ‘research’ which she defended hotly.

    Murdock’s follower quoted Chausse (who does not say that the statue was in the Vatican), and Knight (who is the source on which later writers rely when claiming the statue was in the Vatican), whilst apparently failing to realise that Knight contradicts Murdock’s claim that the statue was hidden in the ‘secret treasury’ of the Vatican. On the contrary, Knight claims it was displayed publicly in the Vatican Palace.

    Murdock’s follower even acknowledges ‘Mr. Burke was correct when he wrote “the image is not hidden in the ‘Vatican Treasury’ “, because it IS in the Gabinetto, while in Knight’s day it WAS in the Vatican Palace, and it was not HIDDEN, it was on PUBLIC display’. So Murdock’s own follower destroys Murdock’s original claim that this is a ‘Bronze sculpture hidden in the Vatican treasury’.

    Unfortunately, Knight seems to be the only source we have for the statue ever being in any part of the Vatican (subsequent writers citing him), and since he made the claim in order to defend his publication of Priapic images (‘The original, from which it is taken, is an antique bronze, preserved in the Vatican palace, where it has been publicily exhibited
    for near a century, without corrupting any one’s morals or religion,
    that I have heard of’),  his claim clearly involved a good deal of self-interest, so it’s probably unsurprising that he’s the earliest source subsequent writers cite. It is certainly unsurprising that a couple of the modern sources cited by Murdock treat Knight’s claim with caution.

    In the quotation I provided from Panzanelli & Scholosser was careful
    to quote them exactly, saying that the bronze in question (and another
    bronze they cite from Knight), was ‘supposedly recovered at
    Pompeii/Herculaneum’, indicating their own caution about the original
    source of each statue. I nevertheless believe that the case for this origin is good, given that the statues in question ended up in the Gabinetto Segreto, since it is a collection of items excavated from Pompeii and Herculaneum; a case would have to be made that this item was found elsewhere but later placed in the Gabinetto Segreto for some reason. The fact that it’s in the Gabinetto Segreto is prima facie evidence that it was excavated from Pompeii or Herculaneum.

    Murdock’s follower opposes this on the grounds that they believe it’s incredibly unlikely that there could be more than once such copy of either statue (which is a reasonable argument on the face of it). However, Murdock herself acknowledges this is possible, which her own follower appears not to have realised. Citing ‘Sex and Sex Worship (Phallic Worship): A Scientific Treatise on Sex’ (1922), Murdock shows what she says is ‘a photograph of what appears to be the
    original bronze statue (or at least its twin)’.

    Regardless, even if this point is incorrect, the fact remains that I have disproved Murdock’s original claim, which was this:

    * ‘Bronze sculpture hidden in the Vatican treasury of the Cock, symbol of St. Peter.’

    Murdock has retreated on both these claims. She now says she never claimed this statue is a ‘symbol of St. Peter’, and has stopped claiming the sculpture is ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’, which is progress. But it shows you really have to follow up these people and pin them down with proper research, or they’ll try to get away with anything.

    Additionally, Murdock’s own follower has not only acknowledged ‘ ‘Mr. Burke was correct when he wrote “the image is not hidden in the ‘Vatican Treasury”, but has also acknowledged that Knight himself says the complete opposite of Murdock’s claim; Knight says the sculpture was displayed publicly in the Vatican Palace for over a century, whereas Murdock claimed it is ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’, and continued to defend this claim that it is ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’ in her initial response to Ehrman.

    Curiously, Murdock’s follower asks ‘Did Mr. Burke even bother to check Chausse’s Museum Romanum?’. Of course I did., I even cited it in my original post, a fact which Murdock’s follower appears to have overlooked; I made the point that Chausse’s description of the bronze makes no reference to Peter or to the Vatican. Chausse’s work contains the plates from which Knight made his own representation of two bronzes, though his representation of them differs slightly from that of Chausse.

    • Claude

      Jonathan, I salute you! You’ve done a heck of a job of investigative reporting. It seems the only parts Murdock got right in that sentence were “in,” “the” and “of.”

      Doubtless Prof. Ehrman is grateful to you, since people have been giving him a hard time over this on his blog.

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

         Is this the blog one has to pay to enter?

        • Claude

          Neil, Yes!

  • Brettongarcia

    Mike?

    Luke was writing 2,000 years ago; before photography, science, education, and reliable communication.  Could he have gotten some things wrong? 

    Are people with roughly the equivalent of a 4th grade education entirely, absolutely reliable?  And are they as good as their promises?

  • Brettongarcia

    Mike?

    How much did they know, and when did they know it?

    How much do we know about the early Christians, and especially how much did Paul know about Jesus, say?  Or related to this:  What specifically was it about the Christians, that Paul early on knew and wanted to attack?  Did Paul know a lot about Christians, when he began to attack them?   (And for that matter:   How much did the churches know, relative to what they themsevles would believe ten years later, in the gospels, 55 AD vs. 65 AD?).  Do you believe that Paul knew a lot about Christians, and yet still wanted to attack them?

    How much did Paul know therefore?  And from what sources?

    1) Paul said he had gotten his gospel ‘from no man.” 

    And 2) the letters of Paul, have a notoriously vague account of Christ;  

    3) A vague account of Christ, derived mostly from a bare “vision.”  And a barebones notion he had been crucified, and rose.  Not much else, scholars agree.

     And?  4) Your favorite quote from Gal. 1.23, which seems to suggest that Paul had a vast body of knowledge, corresponding to the churches?  Does not actually have Paul, the canonical disciple speaking, but merely repeats hearsay of the crowds:  “I was still not known by sight to the churches of Christ in Judea; they only heard it said, ‘He who once persecuted us is not preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’”

    Read your Bible carefully, Mike.  And one day you will be released from any number of illusions, and false ideas about God.  Here, in  Gal. for example, a) the Bible and God were telling us that Paul is not entirely endorsing the view of the churches;  and b) he is reporting what they say as their subjective statement; not his own.

    Paul In Gal. 1.23. is reporting what others say about him; not speaking for himself.  And he does not confirm that what others are saying, is right.

    Read more closely:  Paul is merely repeating heresay; and is not validating its accuracy.

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      “Read your Bible carefully, Mike.  And one day you will be released from any number of illusions, and false ideas about God.”

      What are the true ideas about God – the key ones anyway?

  • Brettongarcia

    “Now” preaching

    If we do look at the text as it is, as it lies?  THen  we begin to notice all kinds of interesting qualifiers in it. 

    Things that we thought were simple, firm statements and endorsements … turn out to have some unexpected qualifiers on them.

  • Brettongarcia

    Crossan is on Facebook, if anyone is interested

  • Brettongarcia

    So that?  The NT could be in part, a midrashic re-write of the OT.

  • Claude

    On his public forum, Bart Ehrman has posted a classy, devastating and even moving rebuttal to Richard Carrier’s review of Did Jesus Exist?.

    And this before the R. Joseph Hoffmann squad opens fire;  I wonder if Carrier will ever recover from the scandal.

    Sad sad sad.

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

      Here’s the link to Ehrman’s piece on his blog that you mentioned:  http://ehrmanblog.org/fuller-reply-to-richard-carrier/ 

      • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

        I posted the following comment on Erhman’s blog, which is awaiting moderation:

        Dr. Ehrman,

        Let me suggest an analogy:

        I think I know from your popular works that Papias refers to writings composed by Matthew and Mark, but that he does not quote from them, does not make it clear that he has seen them, and does not describe them in a way that allows us to identify them as canonical Matthew and canonical Mark.

        Thus it might be accurate to say that no one before Irenaeus in 180 AD identifies the authors of the canonical gospels as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Nevertheless, it is very helpful to me to know about Papias because every conservative Christian apologist is going to cite him as proof of the traditional authorship of the gospels and I’m not going to be able to evaluate their arguments without knowing about Papias.

        I don’t think that Did Jesus Exist? is as helpful:

        If I am trying to evaluate an article by a mythicist, it would be helpful for me to know that Acharya is misinterpreting a statue that exists rather than inventing one from whole cloth. It would be helpful for me to know that there are sources that place Jesus several decades earlier, but that there is no evidence of that belief in Paul’s time. It would be helpful for me to know that there were extensive records kept in some parts of the Roman Empire, but not in Palestine. These are the kind of nuances that I think I usually find in your books.

        Even though I have never read any of your scholarly works, I believe that the precision with which you make your case in your popular works has equipped me well to think about and discuss the issues these books address. This has been confirmed by many discussions in the blogosphere. I think, however, that you have been less precise in Did Jesus Exist? and that its readers will not be so well equipped to think about and discuss mythicism.

        I think that your response has successfully defused much of the concern I felt after reading Carrier’s review, but not quite all of it. Thank you for efforts and for making this information available to me without additional charge.

  • Claude

    Sorry for the untimely intrusion on the midrash discussion!

  • Brettongarcia

    Floor’s open as far as I’m concerned.  Though perhaps justf jumping to a partial “it’s midrash” is considered hasty in more cautious scholarly circles, seeking tenure. About all academic scholars seem willing to do, is point to extensive “borrowings” and “influences,” that are very suggestive of wholesle borrowing in fact.

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      At the very least, I hope that James’ comment will put an end to the erroneous assumption that the presence of midrash equates to the absence of history.

      As I’ve said, midrash is an interpretive method.  History is a separate matter.  To suggest that Mark’s (or any of the other gospel writers’) use of midrash is an ipso facto indication of fiction is a gross misuse of the term midrash.

      Whether one is a professor or not, and whether one has tenure or not, has nothing to do with any of this.

      • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

         Mike,

        I am not aware of any intelligent person who has made that assumption.  The issue for me is whether there is any demonstrably valid method of separating the history from the midrash or is everyone just left to his own subjective hunches?  If there is no such method, can we validly reach any stronger conclusion than there might be history there?

  • Brettongarcia

    Mike:  In fact, here’s the confusion:  the NT borrows heavily from the OT.  So you 1) might (or might not) say there is History here, in that the NT is quoting the OT.  And its “history.”

    But here’s the problem:  Much of the NT is not presenting itself as just a rewrite of the older histories in the OT; it is presenting itself as an account – a “history” – of more modern events, with Jesus.  But?  If it is really just re-presenting ancient things, then its claim to be narrating more recent events – of “Jesus” – are false.

  • John MacDonald

    One last point. Dr Ehrman says in many cases Dr. Robert M Price is suggesting cases of midrash that are far from obvious. I think the real problem is how do you prove a possible case of midrash is in fact historical and not midrash. There would be no way to make such an argument.

    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      John MacDonald, VinnyJH, and Brettongarcia,

      If it is possible for Bible prophecy to be fulfilled and if the authors of the Gospels and Acts are honest men, then it is possible to take these accounts in their entirety as historical.  On the other hand, if you believe either of these two things is not possible you will indeed be relegated to having to decide sentence by sentence what is historical, or you will choose someone else to do it for you, whether that be a Crossan, a Price, an Ehrman, a Doherty, or a McGrath.  Obviously, the results can vary considerably. 

      • John MacDonald

        Hi Mike.  I’m sorry, but you are wrong.  Matthew’s Nativity is clearly based on Josephus, not the account in the Old Testament.  There is no possible way you could be right.  Look for yourself:

        C. The Gospel of
        Matthew

        1. The Nativity of
        Jesus

        On the whole Matthew borrowed the birth story of Jesus from Josephus’ retelling of the nativity
        of Moses. Whereas Exodus had Pharaoh institute the systematic murder of Hebrew
        infants simply to prevent a strong Hebrew fifth column in case of future
        invasion, Josephus makes the planned pogrom a weapon aimed right at Moses, who
        in Josephus becomes a promised messiah in his own right. Amram and Jochabed,
        expecting baby Moses, are alarmed. What should they do? Abort the pregnancy? God
        speaks in a dream to reassure them. “One of those sacred scribes, who are very
        sagacious in foretelling future events truly, told the king that about this time
        there would a child be borne to the Israelites, who, if he were reared, would
        bring the Egyptian dominion low, and would raise the Israelites; that he would
        excel all men in virtue, and obtain a glory that would be remembered through the
        ages. Which was so feared by the king that, according to this man’s opinion, he
        commanded that they should cast every male child into the river, and destroy
        it… A man, whose name was Amram, … was very uneasy at it, his wife being
        then with child, and he knew not what to do… Accordingly God had mercy on him,
        and was moved by his supplication. He stood by him in his sleep, and exhorted
        him not to despair of his future favours… ‘For that child, out of dread for
        whose nativity the Egyptians have doomed the Israelites’ children to
        destruction, shall be this child of thine… he shall deliver the Hebrew nation
        from the distress they are under from the Egyptians. His memory shall be famous
        whole the world lasts.’” (Antiquities, II, IX, 2-3)

        It is evident that Matthew has had
        merely to change a few names. Herod the Great takes the role of the baby-killing
        Pharaoh, and he is warned by his own scribes (along with the Magi) of the
        impending birth of a savior, whereupon he resolves to kill every child he has to
        in order to eliminate the child of promise. Joseph takes the place of Amram,
        though the precise cause of his unease is different. Mary takes the place of
        Jochabed. A dream from God steels Joseph, like Amram, in his resolve to go
        through with things.

        The rest of Matthew’s birth story is
        woven from a series of formulaic scripture quotations. He makes Isaiah 7:14 LXX
        refer to the miraculous virginal conception of Jesus. It is likely that he has
        in this case found a scripture passage to provide a pedigree for a widespread
        hagiographical mytheme, the divine paternity of the hero, which had already
        passed into the Christian tradition, unless of course this is the very door
        through which it passed.

        It is revealing that Matthew’s Magi
        learn from scribal exegesis of Micah 5:2 that the messiah must be born in
        Bethlehem. This is the same way Matthew “knew” Jesus was born there–it had to
        be!

        The flight of the Holy Family into
        Egypt comes equally from exegesis, this time of Hosea 11:1, which allows Matthew
        to draw a parallel between his character Joseph and the Genesis patriarch
        Joseph, who also went to Egypt. Matthew also seems here to want to foreshadow
        the death and resurrection of Jesus. Note that Isaiah 52:9-10 makes the exodus
        from Egypt into a historical replay of God’s primordial victory over the sea
        dragon Rahab, equating Egypt with Rahab. Matthew also knew that Jonah was
        swallowed by a sea monster at God’s behest, and he saw this as a prefiguration
        of Jesus’ descent into the tomb (Matthew 12:40). The flight into Egypt has the
        child Jesus already going down into Rahab, the belly of the sea
        beast.

        The closest Matthew can come, via
        punning exegesis, to providing a prooftext for Jesus having become known as “the
        Nazarene” would seem to be Judges 13:7, “The boy shall be a Nazirite to God from
        birth.” He knew Jesus must be born in Bethlehem yet was called “Jesus of
        Nazareth,” so he cobbled together a story whereby Jesus was born in Mary and
        Joseph’s home in Bethlehem, only to relocate in Nazareth (after Egypt) to avoid
        the wrath of Archelaus (Matthew 2:22-23). Luke, on the other hand, working with
        the same two assumptions, contrived to have Mary and Joseph live in Nazareth but
        to be in Bethlehem for the census when the time came for Jesus to be born. In
        both cases, exegesis has produced narrative.

        I’m sorry but you are wrong,

        John Andrew MacDonald

        • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

          John,

          The scenario you propose is plausible if you deem Matthew to be a dishonest man.  I don’t.

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

            Mike, personally I don’t think the issue is Matthew’s honesty or dishonesty, but that is the way some in our post-Enlightenment setting view the matter. Matthew claims that there are three groups of 14 names in his genealogy, but in order to get 14 in the second group he has to omit names from the line of kings he draws on in Chronicles, and in the third he ends up ine short. I don’t think this is honesty or dishonesty, or mathematical ineptitude or precision. The number 14 is the value of David’s name when you add up the numeric value of the letters in it, and David’s name is the 14th in Matthew’s genealogy. It seems to me that Matthew is exploring the symbolism of numbers in a manner that other ancient Jews did, rather than being honest or dishonest or anything else.

            Might the problem be that we assume that the only reason people would ever tell any kind of story about a historical figure is either to provide factual information about that person or tell lies about that person? Perhaps ancient authors viewed things differently.

            • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

              James, I agree with you that ancient writers don’t always seem to write the way we write, and therefore I agree with you that some of what they write is not easily understood by us – leaving us to infer things about certain problematic details, as you did above.

              However, a gospel is a testimony about the most sacred of matters to a first-century Jew.  The writer is bearing witness to the messiah of Israel and the God of Israel.  He is sacrificing his own integrity, breaking one of the ten commandments, and inviting the worst kind of curses upon himself if he conveys as historical a Jesus who is not.

              Therefore, to take such minor points as the one you mention and suggest that then-prevailing literary conventions completely override timeless understandings about truth and falsehood is to ignore the context in which the document was written as well as those timeless understandings.  It is also to, unnecessarily and inappropriately, open a door of skepticism about the entirety of the text which mythicists have walked through – and thus felt betrayed when you finally shut it on them.  Meanwhile, the fence-sitters like VinnyJH and John are left pleading for some clear-cut method by which they can know when the door should be open and when it should be shut.  We shouldn’t deal with camels the way we deal with gnats.  Just as you defended Ehrman when others wanted to use possible discrepancies on secondary or tertiary issues to discredit the fundamental point of his book, I want to do the same for those who wrote the Gospels and Acts.  An author either deserves or does not deserve the benefit of the doubt.  I don’t see how anyone legitimately withholds it from these guys.  

              In sum: Sure, ancient literary conventions and thought patterns come into play, but that doesn’t throw out the window what have on our hands, which is solemn testimony from Jews claiming that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the messianic promises of the Hebrew Bible – a claim which is completely dependent on the sanity and honesty of those giving the testimony.  We can accept or reject this claim, but we should not act as if it doesn’t exist.

  • Brettongarcia

    Mike:  so honest men promise you “all” the miracles, “whatsoever” you “ask” for, and “greather things than these”?  And that promise is simply, honestly true?

    • Mdgantt

      The honest men didn’t make the promise. They simply bore witness to the One who did. And, yes, I believe Him.

  • Brettongarcia

    So?  Just ask for a huge physical miracle, stipulating “right now,” and see what happens/enjoy.

  • Claude

    I was interested to read Prof. McGrath’s response, because it seems to me that stagecraft was a respectable means of conveying what the Gospels writers believed were essential truths.

    I don’t think the Road to Damascus ever happened quite like Luke portrayed, but I certainly don’t consider him to have been “dishonest.”

    • John MacDonald

      Hi Claude:

      Here’s another point you may find kind of neat.  The biggest problem critics have with Paul story of his conversion is that he was going after Christians, then he had his conversion experience, then he became Christian.  But the former people he was working for never went after him for joining the Christians, which would have been the policy at the time.  This book, “Operation Messiah,” makes the argument that Paul lie about his conversion experience: http://www.amazon.com/Operation-Messiah-Roman-Intelligence-Christianity/dp/0853037027/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335450798&sr=8-1 It was all a conspiracy to start a new religiom that would control the people really well.

      It is historically posible.  Plato in the Republic advocates the “noble lie,” deceiving the people so the rulers can get them to behave properly.  “The noble lie” is a reference to Euripides’ Baccahe where someone says even though Dionysus isn’t a God, pretent that he is because it would be better for the people.  That may be the reason behind the reference to Dionysus in this midrash from the gospel of John:

      The Gospel of
      John2. Water into Wine
      (2:1-11)
      Though the central feature of
      this miracle story, the transformation of one liquid into another, no doubt
      comes from the lore of Dionysus, the basic outline of the story owes much to the
      story of Elijah in 1 Kings 17:8-24 LXX (Helms, p. 86). The widow of Zarephath,
      whose son has just died, upbraids the prophet: “What have I to do with you, O
      man of God?” (Ti emoi kai soi,
      17:18). John has transferred this brusque address to
      the mouth of Jesus, rebuking his mother (2:4, Ti emoi kai soi,
      gunai). Jesus and Elijah both tell people in need of
      provisions to take empty pitchers (udria in 1 Kings 17:12, udriai in John 2:6-7), from which sustenance miraculously emerges. And
      just as this feat causes the woman to declare her faith in Elijah (“I know that
      you are a man of God,” v. 24), so does Jesus’ wine miracle cause his disciples
      to put their faith in him (v. 11).
      But whether Paul was being honest about his conversion experience is anyone’s guess.  Comes down to an act of faith I guess.  Anyway, I thought you might find that kind of neat.

      John Andrew MacDonaldI

      • John MacDonald

        “Paul’s” sorry, bad spelling. lol

      • John MacDonald

        “pretend” more bad spelling. lol

      • John MacDonald

        “lied” I am so sorry with all this bad spelling

      • John MacDonald

        “religion” please forgive me for my spelling

      • Claude

        John Mac, thanks for this–yeah, it’s interesting! I should have made clear that I wasn’t skeptical of Paul’s insistence that he had received a revelation from Jesus, but only of its theatrical depiction in Luke’s story. No doubt acres of trees have been devoted to explaining the origins of this scene, none of which I’ve read.

        That midrash you cited is the the type of thing that would go right over my head. I read Richmond Lattimore’s translation, which has few footnotes. (Of John 2:1-11 his only comment, in brief, is that there is no good English equivalent for the vocative of gyne and so he has Jesus address his mother as “madam.”) That is quite the provocative theory about Paul spying for the Romans! Wow. But to the point about why the authorities didn’t go after Paul following his conversion, my question is, what was Paul doing in Arabia for three years? Maybe the author of that book proposes that Paul entered something like Langley.

        • John MacDonald

          Yes, it’s neat.  All the contradictions in the bibe were supposed to be a clue that something was wrong with it and make us investigate further

          • John MacDonald

            “bible,” sorry, bad spelling, lol

  • spinkham

    Wow, that’s a lot of comments.

    I must admit, I’m having a hard time understanding why people care so much about this particular issue.  Why should I care about the distinction between one of many  itenerant apocalyptic preachers dressed up as a god-man and a god-man created out of whole cloth?  That seems to me to be by far the *least* interesting question in Jesus studies.

    I’m only really interested if there is any good evidence he was in fact a god-man.

    There debate behind the debate over whether the historical methods used in Jesus studies are sound ones seems academically interesting, but I’m really not sure why it’s such a popular issue with such strong feelings by laypeople.  Am I missing something?

    • John MacDonald

      It’s kind of hard to say stuff about the historical Jesus

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

    John,

    That does rather beg the question of why, if somebody was inventing a religion as part of a conspiracy to control the people, they would include a clue into the gospel of John that would tell those very people exactly what they’d done? Wouldn’t that be kind of dumb?

    • John MacDonald

      Hi Paul

      Because ancient Rome was like Hell on earth, and they wanted to force the people to behave themselves.

      John Andrew MacDonald.

      • John MacDonald

        The theory is that by the time we decoded the riddle of the New Testament, thousands of years of Christianity would have brainwashed people into living like decent human beings.

  • Brettongarcia

    Unless? It’s a lot like the Santa Claus myth:  as soon as you’re old enough to be responsible, you should be able to read the fine print, see through it, and move on.

    Some even suggest that the St. Nick/Santa story, is a variation on the hidden core of Christianity.

    A clue to the way out was left; because you DO want your kids to grow up ONE “day” after all.

    Interesting theory.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

      BG – If you’re trying to control the people, surely it’s really important that at *no* point they find out that it’s all a big lie? I’m no expert in the literature of communist North Korea, but I suspect it’s not riddled with clues that show that Juche is a load of guff and they’d all be better off under capitalism.

      John, I can’t really be bothered to argue against a far-fetched and wholly speculative thesis that I rather suspect that you don’t for a moment believe yourself.

      Suffice to say that should the Roman authorities have felt the need for greater control of the populace, I doubt that they would have decided that the best way to achieve it would have been to get an obscure Jewish tentmaker who seems to have been an unimpressive public speaker to propagate a ficitious religion based on an executed Jewish criminal. Or at least, it would have been the mother of all brainstorming sessions that came up with that as an idea!

      If you have any actual evidence that this was in fact the case, then of course, I’d be delighted to hear it. Other than that, I’ll park it in my mind with the moon landing hoax theories and  leave you to it.

      • John MacDonald

        The Romans respected the Jewish religion because of its great antiquity.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681367580 Paul Regnier

          “If you have any actual evidence that this was in fact the case, then of course, I’d be delighted to hear it. Other than that, I’ll park it in my mind with the moon landing hoax theories and  leave you to it”

          Anyway fella, don’t think I resort to sporting excuses just to get away from you but I’m off for a run. Have a good one.

          • John MacDonald

            Well, as I said, all the contradictions in the bibe were supposed to be a clue that something was wrong with it, and make us want to investigate further.

  • Claude

    I hereby apologize for grammatical mistakes such as the one in my post above, typos, misspellings, clumsy expressions that may undermine what I mean but since I don’t have the Edit button so I’m stuck with them, and remarks from ignorance, once and for all!

  • Claude

    As an aside, I should expand on what I wrote about Lattimore: he does offer that in theater gyne> could be used as a term of respect when addressing important ladies. I fear I made it sound like Lattimore was being arbitrary, when, of course, he was not.

  • John MacDonald

    I mean think about it.  The people who put the bible together read it.  Would they really think it was inspired by God with all those contradictions?

    • Claude

      As a person who lacks the imagination to come up with an idea as fabulous as Paul being a secret agent man for the Romans, I must say I admire this theory’s sheer novelistic flair. After all, Christianity did become an instrument of empire eventually, so why not entertain it as as a ruthless state enterprise from the beginning. It would make a good mini-series.

      But to attempt to answer your question, I think they may have thought that, although inspired by God, the testimonies that would become scripture were written by men and therefore approximations of divine truth. I don’t see how they could get around all those contradictions otherwise.

      • John MacDonald

        The problem with your argument is they were writing midrash

        (I hope I get to play myself in the mini series)

        • Claude

          I guess I was thinking of canon formation, not what the gospel writers thought about their own enterprise. Is that what you mean?

          • John MacDonald

            Who really knows for sure how the canon formed?

            • Claude

              I thought you were wondering why the texts that ultimately formed the NT and contained so many discrepancies and enigmas would come to be regarded as divinely-inspired scripture.

              I guess I didn’t get your question at all. 

              • John MacDonald

                I’m not saying the conspiracy theory is true, I’m just playing Devil’s advocate and trying to defend it.  One question I have about the theory that Paul was a Roman spy, as I pointed out in an earlier post, is that John Dominic Crossan has shown in his book “The Power of Parable” that Paul wasn’t a Roman citizen.

                • John MacDonald

                  unless you could be a Roman spy without being a Roman citizen.

              • Claude

                Of course I did not think you subscribed to the 007 theory. If you’re interested in whether a non-Roman citizen could have been a Roman spy then you will just have to get that book! At the very least it promises to be chock-full of information on 1st century Roman intelligence.

                Meanwhile what what did Crossan say about Paul not being a Roman citizen?

                • John MacDonald

                  Paul just reports being beaten in a certain way that they would never beat a Roman citizen.

                  • Claude

                    Right, you did say that earlier. I thought maybe Crossan elaborated.

                    So what was Paul doing in Arabia for three years? Besides training in counterinsurgency techniques, I mean.

                    • John MacDonald

                      What am I, a bible expert? Figure it out yourself!

                      lol

                    • Claude

                      John Mac, I thought you knew this stuff!

                      Brettongarcia, Right, I’m aware of what everybody knows, on this point, anyway.I imagine Hellenized Jews experienced a range of sentiments toward their imperial overlords, especially in Jerusalem. It is one thing to be accommodationist and quite another to be a sympathizer. Furthermore, what was the posture of the Pharisees toward the ruling elite? Though if Paul was a spy, we can’t believe him when he wrote that he was a Pharisee. All bets are off!

                    • John MacDonald

                      Claude said: “Furthermore, what was the posture of the Pharisees toward the ruling elite? Though if Paul was a spy, we can’t believe him when he wrote that he was a Pharisee. All bets are off!”

                      Don’t you just hate me?  I just run around making a mess of everything!  One time the entire crucifixion is midrash, the next St. Paul is a the center of a conspiracy theory. 

                      lol

                      I think I read too much Derrida and Postmodern Philosophy in university.  The more you analyze things the less you know about them.

                      lol

                    • Claude

                      John Mac-: Ha! All I wanted was to read the NT with a little help from Bart Ehrman, and now this.

                      I have enjoyed it so much, but I must get off the internet before I become a raving lunatic.

                      Good day!

                    • John MacDonald

                      stay cool man

                    • John MacDonald

                      “at” sorry, my spelling again.

  • Brettongarcia

    What if in fact, Paul, if not literally a Roman citizen as the Bible reports, was a Hellenized Jew - and at least therefore, a Roman sympathizer? Trying to get Greeks (like Stephen) and their ideas, into the temples?  Trying to get the Hebrew Bible translated into Greek (The Septuagint).  Then re-writing the OT as a Greek tragedy, in Greek?

    • Claude

      Brettongarcia, why would being a Hellenized Jew necessarily mean a person was a Roman sympathizer?

  • Brettongarcia

    As a deliberate act of cultural hegemony, cultural imperialism, cultural subordination?

  • Brettongarcia

    As everyone knows, Romans reverred and copied the Greeks; their scholars often wrote in Greek.   Their very gods were Greek gods, with different names.  Therefore?  We speak of “Greco-Roman” culture. 

    And Paul?  In this scenario he is a sinister, evil Roman spy, infiltrator, and … saboteur!   HIs mission is to first persecute all potential Jewish revolutionary movements, that would want to overthrow the Roman overlords, and set up a Jewish “kingdom,” governed by Jews and their idea of God. 

    But in the process of persecuting all possible enemies of Rome? In the name of getting the Jews to be obedient servants of the emperor and Rome?    he suddenly has a blinding flash of insight:  why doesn’t he just teach them all … how good it is to be a martyr for the people; a “suffering servant”?  Obey the Jewish lord – Herod say.  Who is already a Jew … collaborating with the Roman overlords.Or? Be some other kind of long “suffering servant”….  Obedient, passive, peaceful.

    Blinded by this insight, Paul begins preaching a new kind of ideal, to pacify the otherwise resistent/rebellious population:  the obedient, suffering servant.

    • John MacDonald

      Paul certainly did want to make the world a better place

      (by any means necessary?)

  • Brettongarcia

    FORMAL DISAVOWAL OF SERIOUSNESS  in these last specific, highly speculative/funny matters – Brettongarcia 

    But as a matter of fact?  Paul IS playing every side:  he tells us to “be all things to all people”; and then claims to be a “Roman,” then a “Pharisee”; then any enemy of the Christians; then their greatest friend.

    Kina makes you wonder.  A triple agent?  A quadruple agent?  Impossible to say who’s side he is really on.

    Looks like a player to me!  Could he be stretching the truth now and then? 

    HOw accomodating was he?  The Romans saved him several times from the Jews, it seems….  Maybe he was greatful?    Herod jr., the Jewish king of the time, was a collaborator with Pilate and the Roman occupiers…. 

    Was Paul really working for … Herod?  And/or the Romans?  (And the Nazis, by way of time travel).

    Again, I do not seriously advance this kind of theory.  I’m just having some fun here.

    Fun to play with scenarios now and then through, to exercise your imagination.

    • John MacDonald

      The bible is the only academic textbook I know of that gets funnier every time you read it.

  • Brettongarcia

    Paul writes a cover story; midrash.  He and his stenographer leave in some mistakes; but most people don’t notice or believe them for 2,000 years. 

    Except for a few smart people that begin to ask questions:  Paul and his buddies recruit the smart ones into the Roman SS, the Jesuits etc..  Or to teach in Theology Departments.  Or if they’re not smart enough to do that , they can serve as Pope, in Rome.

    • John MacDonald

      lol

    • John MacDonald

      Brettongarcia:

      I just wanted to repost this with all the spelling mistakes.  It’s too funny to be so messy.  I added a few lines.

      The biggest problem critics have with Paul’s story of his conversion is that he was going after Christians, then he had his conversion experience, then he became Christian. But the former people he was working for never went after him for joining the Christians, which would have been the policy at the time. This book, “Operation Messiah,” makes the argument that Paul lied about his conversion experience: http://www.amazon.com/Operatio… It was all a conspiracy to start a new religiom that would control the people really well, bring good manners to the empire.

      It is historically possible. Plato in the Republic advocates the “noble lie,” deceiving the people so the rulers can get them to behave properly. “The noble lie” is a reference to Euripides’ Baccahe where someone says even though Dionysus isn’t a God, pretend that he is because it would be better for the people. That may be the reason behind the reference to Dionysus in this midrash from the gospel of John:
      The Gospel of John2. Water into Wine (2:1-11)Though the central feature of this miracle story, the transformation of one liquid into another, no doubt comes from the lore of Dionysus, the basic outline of the story owes much to the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 17:8-24 LXX (Helms, p. 86). The widow of Zarephath, whose son has just died, upbraids the prophet: “What have I to do with you, O man of God?” (Ti emoi kai soi, 17:18). John has transferred this brusque address to the mouth of Jesus, rebuking his mother (2:4, Ti emoi kai soi, gunai). Jesus and Elijah both tell people in need of provisions to take empty pitchers (udria in 1 Kings 17:12, udriai in John 2:6-7), from which sustenance miraculously emerges. And just as this feat causes the woman to declare her faith in Elijah (“I know that you are a man of God,” v. 24), so does Jesus’ wine miracle cause his disciples to put their faith in him (v. 11).
      But whether Paul was being honest about his conversion experience is anyone’s guess. Comes down to an act of faith I guess.   

      John Andrew MacDonald

      • John MacDonald

        “without”

        The plain fact is I can’t spell 

      • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

        John, 

        I was going to write a parody of this…but you’ve left me nowhere to go.

        • John MacDonald

          I know, I thought it was pretty funny when I though it up. lol

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            Paul took his life seriously.  I hope you will one day as well.

            • John MacDonald

              Hi Mike

              I’m not completely to blame.  This was Nietzsce’s argument.  At the end of Ecce Homo, his last words are “Have I been understood, Dionysus Versus the Crucified?”  I wrote a short story about it once.  Here is the link if you or anyone else are bored some time and want something that is not that bad of a read.  There is a little swearing in it, so if that offends you I apologize.  http://www.caseagainstfaith.com/the-eternal-return.html
              Please don’t think I meant to offend you.  If I did I’m sorry.

              John Andrew MacDonald (I don’t remember exactly what’s in the story, it’s from 2009, based on one I wrote back in university – around 2002)

              • John MacDonald

                “nietzsche”, bad spelling -lol

              • John MacDonald

                In my view, in terms of form criticism, this story is the most plausible way to defend the Christ Myth Theory.

              • Claude

                John Mac, thank you for the link. I’ve been reading your story. It’s long, so I haven’t finished but have bookmarked it, both as a resource and to find out what happens next. I can see how all this would drive a man to drink.

                So Luke cribbed the Road to Damascus from Maccabees. (One of the zillion things “everybody knows” that I don’t know.) I admire Luke’s modern adaptation, but the original is pretty good, too!

                Brettongarcia wrote: But finally even many of the dozens of even slighly paranoid theories of early Christianity are interesting to exerise your imagination.

                I agree completely. Although now I feel incapable of having an unmediated experience of Paul’s letters since in the back of my head I will be looking for giveaways of his traitorous career in espionage.

                • John MacDonald

                  as long as I’m causing problems then i’m happy

                  i don’t believe anything i argue, there’s just no way to argue against me

                  its the first principle of the postmodern form critical approach to textual

                  deconstruction

                  role:  devil’s advocate, that’s all

                  Stay cool my friend

                  John Andrew MacDonald

                • John MacDonald

                  so do I get a PhD in sarcasm? lol

                  • Claude

                    John Mac: Do you mean your story? I haven’t got to the sarcastic part yet.

                    But it’s true you’re a troublemaker, because now I want to read Operation Messiah! No, really.

                    • John MacDonald

                      most of the story is autobiographical, i just used my middle name.  yeah.  never read “Operation Messiah”   I bought it once but only glanced at it.  seemed too ridiculous.  it would be neat to try and see them paint a conspiracy theory over sacred scripture -  there are some fun stuff here: http://rjosephhoffmann.wordpress.com/2012/04/23/mythtic-pizza-and-cold-cocked-scholars/

                      of course there would be no way for you to know which part is historical memory lol

                    • John MacDonald

                      actually, I guess there would be no way to tell it’s autobiographical because i might be lying to you (always the teacher, or not) lol – you’d have to have read the whole story to get that one, lol

                    • Claude

                      Just don’t ruin the ending!

                    • John MacDonald

                      the butler did it

                    • John MacDonald

                      And the word was there with God, and the word was God

                       (Greek τὸ κατὰ Ἰωάννην εὐαγγέλιον),

                    • John MacDonald

                      On the meaning of the word God, see Theos, in Heidegger’s Tragic Greeks by John Andrew MacDonald :  http://books.google.ca/books/about/Heidegger_s_Tragic_Greeks_the_Relation_B.html?id=uloBRAAACAAJ&redir_esc=y

                    • John MacDonald

                      Heidegger’s Tragic Greeks by John Andrew MacDonald
                      Copyright Brock University
                      St. Catharines,
                      Ontario
                      Canada
                      2002

                    • John MacDonald

                      Nota Bene:

                      There might be something inherently interesting in the concept of Fundamental Boredom.

                      cf. Martin Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Solitude, and Finitude:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Fundamental-Concepts-Metaphysics-Finitude/dp/0253214297/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335625614&sr=8-1

                    • John MacDonald

                      Please note that Heidegger is advanced and difficult Reading.  He often puts hundreds of pages between the clarification of concepts.  It’s not for beginners.

                      John

                    • John MacDonald

                      Also cf. Acharya S (Acharay meaning teacher), The Christ Conspiracy: The Greates Story Ever Sold.  http://www.amazon.com/The-Christ-Conspiracy-Greatest-Story/dp/0932813747/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335627578&sr=8-1

                      Review by John MacDonald
                      Elementary school teacher
                      Halton District School Board,
                      Burlington Ontario (c.f. the birthplace of Kristen French and Lesley Mahaffey)

                      For another other review by me, see:

                      Getting Beyond I like the Book (Critical Literacy)

                      http://professionallyspeaking.oct.ca/june_2004/reviews.asp

                      Written in response to Dr. Bart Ehrman: Did Jesus Exist?”

                      Notes:

                      D.M. Murdock, also known by her pen name, “Acharya S,” is the author of several books on comparative religion and mythology, including “The Christ Conspiracy,” “Suns of God,” “Who Was Jesus?” and “Christ in Egypt.” She is also the author of “The Gospel According to Acharya S,” which seeks to answer some long-held questions concerning the nature of God, religion and humankind’s place in the world.
                      Murdock is an alumna of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, where she studied Classics, Greek Civilization. She has lived in Greece and is also an alumna of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Greece. Acharya has excavated at Corinth, Greece, where tradition has St. Paul addressing the Corinthians, as well as at a Paleo-Indian site in the U.S. She speaks, reads and/or writes to varying degrees English, French, Spanish, ancient and modern Greek, Latin, German and other languages.
                      Acharya/Murdock has several websites, including TruthBeKnown.com, StellarHousePublishing.com, TBKNews.blogspot.com and FreethoughtNation.com.

                    • John MacDonald

                      sorry about “Acharay,”  Bad spelling, lol

      • John MacDonald

        spelled “religion” wrong

        this is the last time I’m fixing a spelling mistake – people can just think of me as not that smart lol

  • John MacDonald
  • Brettongarcia

    John Mac:

    The “White Lie” theory of religion is widely known and respected; though I was not aware of the exact historical provenance; thanks.

    The argument that Paul was a conscious deceiver of Christians doesn’t seem entirely convincing even to me, as of yet. 

    The particular theory that his being beaten by Romans, means he wasn’t a Roman, does not seem ironclad to me:  don’t Romans EVER beat Romans?  Especially when they are dealing with a Hellenized Jew who may be speaking Greek with a funny accent?   Specially out in the provinces? Who might not really even be a Roman?  People today radically overestimate how neatly things were known and done, 2,000 years ago, among the yokels.  

    IN any case, surely Paul did not seem to have a very fixed identity.  While his “legalisms,” his rationalizations, are notorious.

    Crossan is good; but there are probably literally a thousand anyonymous scholars that are as good perhaps, once you start to look through the literature.   So I listen to him with respect, but am not immediately convinced.

    But finally even many of the dozens of even slighly paranoid theories of early Christianity are interesting to exerise your imagination.

    I do feel that there were many subtle mistakes in the Bible, that were at first inadvertently then deliberately left in.  Even more interesting, are the very deliberate polysemic subtexts. Double and triple meanings, etc..  That sometimes suggest our holiest men were not quite as good or holy, as others insisted.  As in say, Mat. 16.23.

    I think what we find is that the Bible is much less fixed, its meaning has not yet been as fully understood, as many ordinary churchgoers think.


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