Richard Carrier’s Decisive Argument Against Mythicism?

A commenter named Stuart wrote the following:

Although mythicism has survived attacks from Ehrman and Casey its days may be numbered. A decisive argument against mythicism has been made by a scholar whose competence certainly can’t be questioned. This scholar is Richard Carrier. In his essay “The Spiritual Body of Christ and the Legend of the Empty Tomb” Carrier shows that the first Christians believed that the body of Jesus remained in the tomb and that Jesus was given a new body. This is Carrier’s “two body” theory of the resurrection. Carrier makes a clear distinction between the physical, corruptible body that Jesus had on earth and the new spiritual body that Jesus was given. It is clear that this distinction could not apply if Jesus had only ever lived in a celestial realm. Carrier says:

“So the earliest Christians would have believed that Christ had really been raised, and raised bodily, even as his earthly body continued to rot in the tomb.”

Referring to the ideas of Philo he says: “And since heaven was celestial anyone who lived there had to be celestial too, leaving behind all earthly substance.”

Turning to Paul’s idea of the resurrection he says: “Paul goes out of his way to deny continuity, emphasizing instead how different the resurrected body will be.” According to Carrier, “Paul emphasizes that our resurrection will fundamentally resemble [Christ's]. So what Paul says about our resurrection body applies equally to Christ’s.”

Carrier goes on to explain why the Corinthians had doubts about the resurrection: “However, if the corpse of Jesus remained on earth, it is easy to see how some might come to believe that his resurrection was peculiar.”

I wonder what made Carrier change his mind about all of this.

One could accuse Carrier of having become a Christian apologist, based on the above evidence.

Think about it. Just when he formulates what is a cogent and potentially persuasive objection to a physical resurrection of Jesus, based on historical reasoning, he jettisons it and starts advocating instead a fringe theory that makes himself and those associated look like gullible kooks. Could it be that he has realized the truth of Christianity, and is now trying to distract from his earlier arguments and undermine the atheist cause?

I am of course being completely tongue in cheek when I write the above. It is about as plausible as Carrier’s application of the label “Christian apologist” onto me. Of course, if he means by that “liberal Christian apologist, someone whose stance involves embracing the results of historical, scientific, and other scholarly inquiry” then I am of course guilty as charged. And I would indeed encourage him to embrace the latter as well.

But in the following I am being completely serious. Since Carrier now disagrees with the stance he once held, which is along the same lines as the views of people like Bart Ehrman and Maurice Casey, I would love to see him debunk his own earlier writings with the dismissiveness and insults that he typically offers in such cases. I mean, why should he spare an author that treatment, just because the author is himself?

  • ncovington89

    I suspect Richard would argue that his position on the early resurrection belief is consistent with mythicism, even though the two seem to conflict. He could do this by arguing that Jesus was believed to have a humanoid-body when he incarnated into the lower heavens (consistent with “he took the form of a slave” in Philippians 2) and that when Jesus died and was buried in the lower heavens, his soul switched bodies from the humanoid body to the more divine body. What do you think about this, James?

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

      He actually says as much. But I am not persuaded. In theory, one can use his reasoning to say that anything could have taken place in the celestial realm. Even if that is so in theory, should we really insist that texts are speaking about celestial realities when they do not say as much, and when they can be understood just as well if not indeed more straightforwardly in terms of the reference being to historical human matters?

      The mythicists could easily deal with the problem of the sudden change, on their view, from a supposedly celestial Jesus in Paul to a historical one in the Gospels, by insisting that all the people and events in the Gospels are celestial and so that distinction does not exist. But I think they realize on some level the cost of taking it that far. An “explanation” that can be made to fit any evidence isn’t an explanation at all.

      • ncovington89

        Supposing that everything in the gospels “took place in a spiritual realm” would be directly contradicted by what the texts say (they place Jesus in historical locations all the time) and would also be pretty implausible: Pontius Pilate was not a celestial being, so he couldn’t have put Jesus to death in the celestial realm. So that’s not an option. However, is it equally unreasonable to think that a death, burial and resurrection, were believed to have taken place in a celestial realm? Carrier’s views may indeed have problems, but I don’t think this is one of them.

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

          According to ancient Jewish beliefs, everything had its celestial equivalent or Doppelganger. And so this would not actually be the slightest problem. It would involve reading the Gospels in a way that seems quite unnatural, but sometimes what seems natural to us did not seem to to ancient people, let us remember. My objection to the above reading I proposed, like my objection to the mythicist way of reading Paul, is not because it is unnatural to modern readers, but because I think it fits the evidence poorly, and certainly much less well than the understanding of the texts accepted by mainstream historians and scholars.

          • ncovington89

            “According to ancient Jewish beliefs, everything had its celestial equivalent or Doppelganger.”

            I think under the myth theory the earthly counterpart to Jesus is the Jewish animal sacrafices.

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

              That isn’t the sort of thing that I was referring to – I meant the idea articulated in texts like Daniel, Prayer of Joseph, and the Similitudes of Enoch, that not only institutions but persons had celestial counterparts (see also the discussion of “their angels” in the Gospels).

              But even Hebrews discusses Jesus being from the wrong tribe and thus needing to be high priest on a different basis than the Levitical priesthood, and entering the heavens. A mythicist reading of Hebrews ignores inconvenient evidence, just as a mythicist reading of other texts does.

    • stuart32

      You would need to read the essay to get the whole picture, but a key point was that in Carrier’s opinion the Corinthians *knew* that the body was still in the tomb and that was what so disturbed them.

      • ncovington89

        I’ve read the essay before. I think Carrier would probably say that Jesus’ body *might* have been in the tomb. Carrier has elsewhere said that Jesus may have been buried in the ground (assuming that he was a historical figure). Either one of those are possible if Jesus was a historical figure. If Jesus was mythical or spiritual, then obviously the early Christians were free to make up whatever they wanted about the resurrection, and it is certainly possible that a “two body” resurrection was believed in prior to the emergence of Christianity by other Jews. In fact, Carrier pretty much argues that it was believed in before the emergence of Christianity.

        • stuart32

          The trouble is that a pattern seems to be emerging. Carrier has also argued that the body was temporarily stored in the tomb (following Lowder), and then moved. He has argued that the body might have been stolen. He has defended the “swoon theory” as a possibility. In this essay he argued that the body didn’t need to have disappeared because of the two body theory. His latest theory is that Jesus never existed.

          • ncovington89

            Carrier argues that all those are plausible possibilities (if Jesus existed). He also argues Jesus didn’t exist. There’s nothing wrong with that.

            • stuart32

              Remember that Carrier was the one who accused James of being a Christian apologist. Does that mean that James has an agenda while Carrier is an impartial seeker of truth?

              But to return to the original point, does Carrier still think that for Paul our resurrection will fundamentally resemble Christ’s? If so this rules out the idea of a purely celestial Jesus.

              • ncovington89

                I don’t think it does: if Carrier argues Jesus incarnated in the lower heavens in a humanoid body but rose in a more angelic-type body, Carrier could argue the same was believed to happen to everyone at the end of time.

                • stuart32

                  Would he also argue that this is a more probable interpretation of the evidence? And does he still think that anyone who finds it less probable is an idiot?

            • Matthew Jenkins

              What do you mean “if” Jesus existed? There are no “if’s” about Jesus existence by historians and scholars. The evidence is overwhelming and established.

              • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                It doesn’t overwhelm me. I place the probability of his existence somewhere North of 50%, but I can see how a non-historicist can plausibly explain all the evidence.

                • Matthew Jenkins

                  I don’t see how the proability would be slightly over 50%. I’m assuming you are using Baye’s Theorem and applying it wrongly….or your taking Carrier’s ideas since he uses that formula incorrectly.

                  Also, Bayes Theorem is not the best method to use in a case like proving the existence of Jesus of Nazareth. Bayes Theorem is not used too often by historians simply because the majority of values applied in BT are speculative.

                  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                    Bayes Theorem is not used too often by historians simply because the majority of values applied in BT are speculative.

                    -BT is a way of organizing speculation. Organized speculation is better than disorganized speculation.

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      Point? Speculative knowledge is forming an opinion on incomplete information.

                      The problem is that Carrier is actually putting confidence in an opinion that is formed on incomplete speculative information…..and he’s passing it off as though it were a “Fact”.

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      All of our information is incomplete; some is simply less incomplete than others.

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      That’s not true. All our information is complete. We have enough documentary evidence to confirm Jesus of Nazareth’s existence.

                      If Jesus’s existence were put in a court of law, the Jury would unaninmously vote yes that he did exist.

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      All our information is complete.

                      -No, it isn’t. We have not a single contemporary witness of Jesus’s life.

                      If Jesus’s existence were put in a court of law, the Jury would unaninmously vote yes that he did exist.

                      -I, meanwhile, think the jury would be hung (if the non-historicist lawyer was skilled).

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

                      Is “contemporary” the right word? Surely Paul counts as such, does he not? It is not uncommon for people to only be written about after they have died, and so presumably contemporary means someone who lived when they did and was well poised to know something about them, rather than someone who wrote contemporaneously with the person being alive?

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      By “witness of Jesus’s life” I mean someone who had seen Jesus when he was alive. “Contemporary” was a redundancy on my part.

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      the 4 Gospels are drawn from first hand sources. Luke drew from first hand accounts of Jesus followers. The writer of Matthew wrote for Matthew, and Matthew was disciple of Jesus.

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      “the 4 Gospels are drawn from first hand sources.”
                      -What is claimed without a shred of evidence can be dismissed without a shred of evidence.

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

                      -Luke 1

                      Robert J. Karris “Luke alone of the evangelists introduces his work with a finely crafted, periodic Greek sentence

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding
                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      Your citation is Neil Godfrey. Neil Godfrey is not a biblical scholar or historian of antiquity but a blogger.

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      Argument from authority is not an argument. Listen to people’s arguments, do not look at their status as authority figures.

                    • Matt Brown

                      You have a misunderstanding of how argument from authority works. Argument from authority is when someone says “This person has a Phd., therefore, what they say must be true”.

                      That’s not the argument here. Citing a blogger who has no training or credentials in the field of NT studies or ancient history, is not qualified to speak on the Historial Jesus. Ignoring what biblical scholars and historians say, and taking someone’s blogpost off the internet, which their argument is extremely faulty and untrue is untrustworthy.

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      Citing a blogger who has no training or credentials in the field of NT studies or ancient history, is not qualified to speak on the Historial Jesus.

                      -”This person does not have a Ph.D., therefore, what they say must not be true”. Same sort of reasoning.

                      Godfrey’s argument relies on those of Ph.D. scholars and is neither “faulty” nor “untrue”.

                    • Matt Brown

                      “This person does not have a Ph.D., therefore, what they say must not be true”. Same sort of reasoning.”

                      That’s not my argument. My argument is that someone who has a Phd in the historical Jesus studies, is much more qualified to speak on his existence than a blogger off the internet.

                      If lay people start being the judge of something they’re not qualified in than shoot, almost anything people blogg on the internet could be true right?

                      “Godfrey’s argument relies on those of Ph.D. scholars and is neither “faulty” nor “untrue”

                      I don’t know any Historian or Scholar other than Carrier, Price, and Brodie who thinks Jesus was a myth.

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      1. Define “thinks Jesus was a myth” and state whether you think Godfrey does so.
                      2. When I was speaking of Godfrey’s argument, I was speaking of his argument regarding Luke’s introduction in the particular post I linked to.

                      My argument is that someone who has a Phd in the historical Jesus studies, is much more qualified to speak on his existence than a blogger off the internet.

                      -Perhaps, perhaps not. If you said “has a >50% prior probability of being better qualified”, I would have agreed with you. I don’t think all Ph.Ds are automatically more qualified to speak regarding their respective subject areas than unqualified bloggers.

                      almost anything people blogg on the internet could be true right?

                      -Yes, but “could be true” and “is true” are different things.

                    • Matt Brown

                      1. I’m not sure what there is to define about the statement “Jesus was a myth” Either Jesus existed or he didn’t. If you don’t believe Jesus existed, then your a mythicist. Judging by Godfrey’s arguments on McGrath’s post, he seems to be a mythicist or a doubter about Jesus.

                      “Perhaps, perhaps not. If you said “has a >50% prior probability of being better qualified”, I would have agreed with you. I don’t think all Ph.Ds are automatically more qualified to speak regarding their respective subject areas than unqualified bloggers.”

                      THey are if they’re relevant to the discussion. Claiming that someone who has no credentials in biblical studies, and yet blogs about Jesus being a myth ,when in fact that’s not the case is intellectually dishonest. I would rather trust a qualified expert’s statement or opinion on the facts, than a blogger who isn’t trained in the history.

                      “Yes, but “could be true” and “is true” are different things.”

                      Point? Your argument is that we should trust someone whose not an expert on a subject vs. qualified experts who have written extensively(secular and religious) and have come to the conclusion that: Jesus was a real figure.

                      If we go by that logic, then anything anyone writes is true because appealing to an authority figure who is relevant on the subject at hand is considered a fallacy(when it’s not).

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      If we go by that logic, then anything anyone writes is true because appealing to an authority figure who is relevant on the subject at hand is considered a fallacy(when it’s not).

                      -Appeal not to authority. Appeal to the evidence.

                    • Matt Brown

                      I do appeal to evidence. However, appealing to a relevant scholar on the evidence is not comitting the “Appeal to authority”.

                      Appeal to authority fallacy example: “Richard Dawkins has a Phd in biology and so his view on Jesus must be correct.”

                      Non-Fallacious Appeal to Authority: “James McGrath, a NT scholar, agrees that Jesus of Nazareth existed, based on the hardcore evidence available.

                      Notice the difference? Richard Dawkins is an authority, but not in the field of Ancient history. James McGrath is, therefore, it would be fallacious to cite RD as an authority figure when talking about Jesus of Nazareth. Similarly; it would be fallacious to cite JM’s view on Evolution or the age of the earth.

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      You can’t be serious. I can tell your using Richard Carrier’s arguements..

                      How do you know Pontius Pilate existed?

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      I am using Carrier’s arguments. I have found him to be a generally competent, though very opinionated, scholar. We have the Pilate inscription.

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      Ahhh, but that’s the only archaeological evidence we have for Pilate We have inscriptions for Jesus as well. We don’t have any records, coins, or other artifacts from Pilate’s day.

                      According to your logic and Carrier’s Pilate must have not existed as well since the only contemporary documentation for him is after he existed.

                      Smh… the same tactics used by young earthers(God bless them but they’re wrong). When they say “You weren’t there to observe the earth 4.5 billion years ago” We don’t have to be there because we have radiometric dating..

                      Jesus mythicists are no different.

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      “We have inscriptions for Jesus as well.”
                      -Which are nothing like contemporary.
                      “We don’t have any records, coins, or other artifacts from Pilate’s day.”
                      -Seriously?!
                      “According to your logic and Carrier’s Pilate must have not existed as well since the only contemporary documentation for him is after he existed.”
                      -[Triple facepalm]. Don’t you get it?! That inscription is contemporary documentation. If we had such documentation for Jesus, there would be no dispute about his existence.

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      That’s the only line of evidence for Pilate we have. The point I’m making is that archaelogical inscriptions aren’t the only line of evidence for someone. That inscritption alone is not enough to confirm Pontius Pilate’s existence. One would need documentation or other archaoelogical findings to confirm his existence.

                      Ahh, but, the only documentation for Pontius Pilate is after his existence. The only documenation for Alexander the Great is 400 years after his existence. We don’t have any contemporary sources for Socrates, other than his two students.

                      Mythicists create bigger holes than they can fill. Their arguements are just as bad, if not worse, than Young-earth creationism.

                      Mythicism= Psuedohistory

                      There is no dispute about Jesus of Nazareth’s existence, that’s why Carrier is writing a book against the consensus.

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      We have inscriptions for Jesus as well.”
                      -Which are nothing like contemporary.”

                      They’re in the first Century. Peter’s house hello?

                      “Don’t you get it?! That inscription iscontemporary documentation. If we had such documentation for Jesus, there would be no dispute about his existence.”

                      There is no dispute about Jesus’s existence. That’s why Carrier’s writing a book against the consensus.

                      The point is that there are tons of examples of people throughout history who were written about after the fact. Alexander the Great, Pontius Pilate, Tiberius, Socrates,etc.

                      If your going to deny that Jesus existed, then you must deny that these people existed as well since they’re documented after the fact.

                      Mythicism=Psuedohistory

                      You can believe that Jesus was a myth, but please don’t call that scholarship or history because it’s not.

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      They’re in the first Century. Peter’s house hello?

                      -[citation needed]

                      There is no dispute about Jesus’s existence.

                      -Denying the debate does not end it. The fact Jesus historicism is a consensus position does not mean there can be no debate about it. There have been many consensus positions refuted by later scholarship.

                      The point is that there are tons of examples of people throughout history who were written about after the fact. Alexander the Great, Pontius Pilate, Tiberius, Socrates,etc.

                      -All these people (except Socrates) were written about during the fact as well.

                      If your going to deny that Jesus existed, then you must deny that these people existed as well since they’re documented after the fact.

                      -Are you trying to be that thick? This is nonsense.

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      Peter’s house: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-sites-places/biblical-archaeology-sites/the-house-of-peter-the-home-of-jesus-in-capernaum/

                      -”Denying the debate does not end it. The fact Jesus historicism is a consensus position does not mean there can be no debate about it. ”

                      In order for there to be a dispute, over 50% of Historians and Scholars would have to disagree, but that’s not the case. Over 99% agree that Jesus existed. There’s no reason at all to deny that Jesus existed. Just like there’s no reason to deny the earth being 4.5 billion years old.

                      “There have been many consensus positions refuted by later scholarship.”

                      Yeah… but that was back when they didn’t have good historical methods and lacked technology to help verify someone’s existence. You can’t use consensus in the past, to doubt the consensus in the present.

                      The consensus thought that the earth was flat and wrong in the past. Today, the consensus is the complete opposite. Does that mean we should doubt today’s consensus when we have the right methods and technology to help us have such a high certainty and knowledge of the past? No, we shouldn’t.

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      In order for there to be a dispute, over 50% of Historians and Scholars would have to disagree, but that’s not the case.

                      -Nonsense. Probably less than 5% of Israeli archaeologists were involved in the Late Bronze-Early Iron chronology debates of the 1990s-today, but everyone seems to have been affected by them in some way. At present, the debate on the historicity of Jesus is mostly non-academic, has not affected every scholar in some way, and less than three dozen relevant Ph.D. scholars have been involved. But there’s little preventing it from growing in the scholarly world. Richard Carrier’s latest book is sure to at least double its size in the academic world in fifteen years.

                      You can’t use consensus in the past, to doubt the consensus in the present.

                      -So, at what point in history did the consensus become infallible? Give me a specific date.

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      “Nonsense. Probably less than 5% of Israeli archaeologists were involved in the Late Bronze-Early Iron chronology debates of the 1990s-today, but everyone seems to have been affected by them in some way.”

                      Affected in what way?

                      “At present, the debate on the historicity of Jesus is mostly non-academic, has not affected every scholar in some way, and less than three dozen relevant Ph.D. scholars have been involved. But there’s little preventing it from growing in the scholarly world. Richard Carrier’s latest book is sure to at least double its size in the academic world in fifteen years.”

                      There are not dozens of scholars who debate the existence of Jesus. Do historians and scholars debate who Jesus was? Yes. Do they debate his existence? No. There’s a difference between the historical Jesus and the existence of the Historical Jesus. Richard Carrier’s book is not going to change anybody’s opinion in fifteen years. This is just internet hype from a historian who supports psuedohistory. His book is probably not going to be much different than Thomas Brodie’s book. Did his book change the consesnus? No. Will Carrier’s book change the consensus? No and I’m sure of this Why? Because Mythicism as I have said over and over again is psuedo-history. It’s false and disproven. No amount of evidence that we have for Jesus will convince Richard Carrier.

                      “So, at what point in history did the consensus become infallible? Give me a specific date”

                      I didn’t say that the consensus was infallible, your putting words in my mouth. I said that using the consensus in the past to doubt the consensus in the present is fallacious simply due to the increase in historical methodologies and scientific technology that can give us an extremely accurate representation of the past.

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      There are not dozens of scholars who debate the existence of Jesus.

                      I didn’t say “debate among each other”.

                      His book is probably not going to be much different than Thomas Brodie’s book.

                      -Very, very unlikely. Brodie’s book was a memoir that didn’t really attempt to make a strong case against the HJ. Carrier’s book will obviously be different. And he’s a better publicist than Brodie by miles.

                      It’s false and disproven.

                      -It may be false, but it sure as hell isn’t disproven. You are repeating claims without backing them again.

                      No amount of evidence that we have for Jesus will convince Richard Carrier.

                      -One thing in Paul’s letters that suggests Paul believed Jesus was observable by other humans before his death would convince R. Carrier.

                      No and I’m sure of this

                      -And I am, too. But this is because the NT scholar community is so much more religious than the OT scholar community, which includes many secular Jews.

                      I didn’t say that the consensus was infallible, your putting words in my mouth.

                      -I don’t think I am, but finding the relevant comment would be difficult due to the difficulty of loading an entire Disqus thread.

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      “I didn’t say “debate among each other”

                      Then what are you saying?

                      “One thing in Paul’s letters that suggests Paul believed Jesus was observable by other humans before his death would convince R. Carrier”

                      We have tons of references to Jesus in Paul’s letters. One example is when Paul met with James the brother of Jesus. Of course, Carrier denies that and comes up with some whacky unprovable assumption and says “Well Paul didn’t really mean James the brother of the Lord..what he really meant was a supposed secret cult that called themselves the Brothers of the Lord”…smh. Typical mythicist Tactic by Carrier. Having to twist the evidence and come up with some unprovable ad-hoc approach.

                      “Very, very unlikely. Brodie’s book was a memoir that didn’t really attempt to make a strong case against the HJ. Carrier’s book will obviously be different. And he’s a better publicist than Brodie by miles.”

                      Will it be different? yes. Will it convince 99% of ancient historians and scholars? Absolutely No. Carrier is so self-absorbed and prideful. Whenever the consensus disagrees with him, he has to bully them and call them names on his blog…smh. He decided to purse a career in psuedo-history instead of actual history.

                      “And I am, too. But this is because the NT scholar community is so much more religious than the OT scholar community, which includes many secular Jews.”

                      Oh give me a break! This isn’t just NT scholars abut ancient historians, secular and non-secular. It doesn’t matter if they’re religious or non-religious because almost any ancient historian or scholar will tell you the same thing: Jesus of Nazareth surley existed.

                      “-It may be false, but it sure as hell isn’t disproven. You are repeating claims without backing them again.”

                      Disprove: to prove to be false. (Ex: The Christ Myth Theory collapsed in the early to mid 20th century). http://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/disprove

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      “All these people (except Socrates) were written about duringthe fact as well.”

                      No they weren’t. Alexander the Great was written about 400 years after he existed by Plutarch and arrian. Pontius Pilate wasn’t written about till decades after he existed by Josephus and Tacitus and many other documents. In fact, almost any time a historian wrote about Pontius Pilate, they almost always mentioned his connection with the crucifixion of Jesus.

                      We have contemporary evidence. The Gospels draw upon first hand accounts. The entire NT is our contemporary source. Paul’s epistles, Acts, etc.

                      But that’s who mythicists are trying to deny. They deny hard evidence when placed in front of them like Carrier.

                      My point is that mythicists are creating a double-standard here. If your going to deny that Jesus existed, then you must deny that any other historical or ancient figure in antiquity existd as well.

                      Your putting so much confidence in a historian who espouses a conspiracy theory that’s based upon no evidence, who uses the same tactics as a Ken Ham or Kent Hovind by trying to say that our historical methods are unreliable, and that his method of math (Bayes Theorem) is the only reliable method that works.

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      “Alexander the Great was written about 400 years after he existed by Plutarch and arrian.”
                      -Bullcrap. Didn’t you hear that contemporary inscriptions do count as contemporary writings?
                      “The entire NT is our contemporary source. Paul’s epistles, Acts, etc.”
                      -No part of the NT was written before a decade and a half after Jesus’s supposed death. That ain’t contemporary.
                      “If your going to deny that Jesus existed, then you must deny that any other historical or ancient figure in antiquity existd as well.”
                      -Bullcrap. Repeating falsehoods does not make them true.
                      “a conspiracy theory that’s based upon no evidence”
                      1. It’s not a conspiracy theory.
                      2. It is based on evidence: the silence of Paul on anything that would place Jesus in Palestine or visible to humans before his death.

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

                      On the one hand, it is surely ludicrous to suggest that Jesus is or should be better attested by tangible or textual evidence than the emperors and kings who were able to mint coins and erect monuments.

                      On the other hand, there is an issue with Paul’s letters as testimony only if one ignores that they indicate his contact with the Christian movement first as a persecutor and then as an adherent well before he wrote is first NT letter, and only if one finds clever but ultimately less likely interpretations of his reference to Jesus having been descended from David, having been born of a woman like all human beings, having had a brother whom Paul met, having eaten with his disciples, been betrayed, been crucified, and been buried.

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      On the one hand, it is surely ludicrous to suggest that Jesus is or should be better attested by tangible or textual evidence than the emperors and kings who were able to mint coins and erect monuments.

                      -And I firmly agree.

                      they indicate his contact with the Christian movement first as a persecutor and then as an adherent well before he wrote is first NT letter,

                      -They do, but absence of evidence of a historical Jesus can never become evidence.

                      only if one finds clever but ultimately less likely interpretations

                      -I agree with you here. However, I think the clearest evidence of a historical Jesus will always be the Gospels. There are no ambiguities about Jesus knowing people on Earth before his death there!

                      having eaten with his disciples

                      -I don’t think the text says that. If it did, it would be powerful evidence that Paul thought of Jesus as a historical figure.

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

                      If 1 Corinthians 11 doesn’t count, I would be interested to know why. It is also worth noting that the slightly later Gospels show no sign of borrowing the last supper from Paul’s letter, nor do they show any indication that they are radically reinterpreting it, transforming a celestial event into a terrestrial one.

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      I don’t see where the relevant part of 1 Corinthians 11 mentions Jesus eating with his disciples. What would signs that the Gospels used 1 Cor 11 look like? I currently strongly suspect that both Mark and Luke used 1 Cor 11.

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

                      If you were treating Luke as earlier than Mark, then I could perhaps see that. But Mark is actually less like 1 Corinthians 11 than Luke’s version.

                      You are welcome to offer an alternative view of whom the meal depicted in 1 Corinthians 11 was with. It isn’t explicitly stated. But it seems to me at precisely this point mythicists have taken the scholarly concern not to read later sources back into earlier ones, and turned it into the bizarre idea that you ought to try to prevent sources from converging even when they seem to clearly do so.

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      I suspect Luke used both 1 Corinthians and Mark to write his version of the last supper. Luke 22:19-20 contains features unique to 1 Corinthians and itself, though Luke 22:16-18 are based on Mark. So, as it appears to me that Luke used 1 Corinthians, it also appears to me that Mark could have used it as well.

                      Matthew’s version follows Mark.

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

                      It is the similarities between Matthew and Mark that leads you to the latter conclusion, and the similarities between 1 Corinthians 11 and Luke that lead to the first. But what is your argument for Mark having used 1 Corinthians?

                    • stuart32

                      Do you agree with Richard Carrier in thinking that as far as the early Christians were concerned the body of Jesus remained in the grave? If so how do you interpret this? There seem to be two possibilities: either there was an actual body in an actual grave, or the inventors of the myth chose to deliberately saddle themselves with a very unconvincing story. Which do you think is more probable?
                      Another interesting question arises: at the moment Richard Carrier is waiting crouched in the blocks for the publication of his book. What he doesn’t realise is that he has a ball and chain attached to his ankle. What will happen when the starting pistol is fired?

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      Right, I was just saying that the evidence for Jesus is on par with anyone else in the ancient world.

                      It seems like Enopoletus Harding doesn’t also realize how good the evidence is when you consider the fact that Jesus was a Jewish preacher from a tiny poor village, whose ministry only lasted for probably about 3 years, and the fact that he didn’t hold any political office or some high-status in Israel..one should not expect to have sources or docuemnts about him till after his existence via (contemporary and second-hand sources from his followers)

                      In fact… that’s what happened. It wasn’t untill the end of his ministry did people start to hear or know about him. For example, In Luke 23, you see Jesus stand before Herod, and Herod himself mentions that he had heard about Jesus by the then.

                      “When Herod saw Jesus, he was delighted, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time. He had heard a lot about Jesus and was hoping to see him perform a miracle.”- Luke 23:6-12

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      “Didn’t you hear that contemporary inscriptions do count as contemporary writings?”

                      There are very little inscriptions about ATG. The main sources that wrote about Alexander the Great were 400 years later.. They count as contemporary. They draw on primary sources that don’t exist anymore and were written about hundreds of years after the fact. And yet no historian or scholars denies that Alexander the Great existed.

                      We have just as much documentation for Jesus as we do these historical figures. In fact more documentation within a shorter amount of time than almost anyone else. My point still stands.. you can deny Jesus, but your going to have deny Alexander the Great, Tiberius, Socrates, Pontius Pilate,etc…. For most of these men were written decades after their existence and have scant inscriptions about them.

                      “No part of the NT was written before a decade and a half after Jesus’s supposed death. That ain’t contemporary.”

                      *Facepalm* Your using the same tactics as a young-earth creationist. I said that the New Testament authors, mainly the 4 gospels draw upon first hand eyewitnesses and oral tradition. That counts as contemporary. Your right they were writen after the fact, and the fact that they were written within decades and not centuries is gold for historians and scholars. Why? Because there was extremely little time for legend to develop and take over the core historical data.

                      “Repeating falsehoods does not make them true.”

                      What have I said that was false? Your the one making the claim that Jesus was a myth despite the overwhelming evidence. And then passing off mythcism as if it were true when it’s false and disproven 100 years ago.

                      1. Well you believe that the gospel writers got together and made up Jesus to pass off as a myth…
                      2. It’s not based on evidence. Simply borrowing from Richard Carrier’s unpublished blog junk as evidence is very dubious.

                      And What are you talking about? Paul spoke a lot about Jesus of Nazareth. He affirms his existence, his death, burial, and resurrection.Are you really this ignorant? Maybe you should read his epistles that have been established by historians and scholars instead of Carrier’s stupid blog.

                      There’s a reason why 99% of historians and scholars don’t espouse mythicism…and that’s simply because it’s not true. Mythicsim is like young-earth creationinsm.

                    • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

                      It is based on evidence: the silence of Paul on anything that would place Jesus in Palestine or visible to humans before his death.

                      There are numerous instances where Paul alludes (or, being charitable, might be alluding) to the life or words of a historical Jesus in his letters, so an argument from silence based on the notion that Paul doesn’t think of Jesus as a human being (and that therefore it’s reasonable to think that Jesus wasn’t a human being) fails pretty dismally.

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      Paul does allude to Jesus’s life. He does not allude to anything that would indicate Jesus was observable in any way, shape, or form by any humans during his life. Paul also alludes to Jesus’s words, but he never indicates they were revealed to anyone before Jesus’s supposed death. Assumptions about what Paul wrote should be carefully scrutinized.

                    • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

                      It’s Paul’s allusion to Jesus words and deeds that sinks the myther argument from silence. If Paul quotes bits of Jesus tradition, then the argument that Paul didn’t know that Jesus existed is obviously flawed. You can say “ah…. but he didn’t say x, y, z” of course, but at that stage you’re doing something rather more like apologetics than history.

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      No serious person has ever argued that Paul didn’t think that Jesus existed and continues to exist. Paul talks about Jesus and his death all the time! It’s the question of how Paul construed Jesus as existing before his death that matters and is relevant to the question of whether Jesus actually existed or, like Apollo or Jupiter, was simply thought to exist. Also, your use of the slur “myther” shows either your impoliteness, your ignorance, or both.

                    • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

                      No serious person has ever argued that Paul didn’t think that Jesus existed and continues to exist.

                      As should be clear from my first comment, I’m referring to existence as a human being.

                      Also, your use of the slur “myther” shows either your impoliteness, your ignorance, or both.

                      One of the things I find tiresome about engaging with mythicists and their sympathisers is that they are so quick to take umbrage at other people’s remarks, but perfectly happy to be rude themselves – or do you think that accusing somebody of being impolite or ignorant constitutes civil discourse?

                      In any case, didn’t Neil Godfrey urge mythicists to embrace the myther label?

                      http://vridar.org/2009/04/30/a-spectrum-of-jesus-mythicists-and-mythers/

                      Or, like the N-bomb, is the term only offensive when used by people outside the group?

                      Furthermore, a cursory look at your own blog shows that you are quite happy to label views that reject the “consensus” or “official” position on JFK’s assassination, 9/11, Oklahoma, and the WTC bombing as “conspiracy-mongering”.

                      http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/my-conclusions/

                      Now, I don’t subscribe to any of these views myself, but the “conspiracy-mongering” tag is quite obviously prejudicial, and I’m sure people who subscribe to these theories would view the term as derogatory.

                      So which does that make you, impolite or ignorant? Or have I missed something and is a Mr E. Harding now the official arbiter of whether a given theory may or may not be derided?

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      How does pointing to Paul’s mentions of Jesus’s words or deeds show that he thought of him as a human being? I don’t understand your point.

                      In any case, didn’t Neil Godfrey urge mythicists to embrace the myther label?

                      -This was obviously a bit of humor on his part.

                      cursory look

                      -Is this another term for “completely, utterly, reading what I wrote back-asswards”? ‘Cause that’s what you did here. I facepalm once, I facepalm again, and I facepalm one more time. Read the post again. And not “cursorily”.

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

                      Alexander the Great had contemporary biographers. The surviving sources date from 400 years later, but they cite the writings of Alexander’s contemporaries.

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

                      And surely we all know that, since Jesus mythicists deny the ability of people to remember things and pass on information accurately for a decade, Alexander mythicists would find it that much easier to dispute whether we really know that such sources existed, and whether they were transmitted faithfully for centuries even if they did. The only real difference is that there aren’t that many people around today with a deep desire to deny the existence of Alexander.

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

                      I am aware that you surely know that, but I’m not sure that we all surely do.

                      As for me, when my earliest extant source for Alexander the Great tells me that he is relying on contemporary biographers of Alexander, I take that as some evidence that information about a historical person was remembered and passed on. I may need to consider the possibility of invention or falsehood, but it is at least some evidence.

                      On the other hand, when my earliest extant source for Jesus tells me that he is relying on divine revelation, supernatural appearances, and centuries-old holy writings, I do not think that I can take that as any evidence that information about a historical person was remembered and passed on. I can consider the possibility that this occurred, but I cannot say that he has given me any evidence that it did. Moreover, I may even need to ask whether he hasn’t given me some evidence that the opposite is the case.

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

                      You surely know that I surely know that we have been over this before. :-) Paul persecuted the group associated with Jesus before he became an adherent of that group and claimed revelations from Jesus in an attempt at oneupmanship in relation to other apostles.

                      Wouldn’t it be easier if you just posted a link to where you have said things before and added “Repeat this comment thread”? It seems it would save us both a significant amount of time. :-)

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

                      We have been over this before and yet, you continue to equate doubting the existence of Jesus with denying the existence of someone like Alexander the Great in order to make people who do the former look foolish if not psychologically unbalanced. In this case, you did so even though all I had done was correct what is a very misleading apologetic argument of which William Lane Craig is very fond. As long as you are going to do that, I am going to point how the evidence for the existence of Jesus is different, and I think more problematic, than the evidence for someone like Alexander the great. I will try to be as civil as I can, and I don’t plan to do so with any great frequency, but when you direct such comments to me, I think I am justified in revisiting the issue.

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

                      You are either misremembering or misrepresenting my point. The point about Alexander is that, if a mythicist approach to history/denialism could deny his existence, then there is something wrong with that approach, inherently, no matter to whom it happens to be applied.

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

                      I think I understood that to be your point, but my point is that your point is wrong in that a logically consistent approach might lead to greater skepticism about the existence of Jesus than about the existence of Alexander because there are logical differences between the available evidence in each case. The factors that might cause one to be uncertain about the existence of Jesus are not there with respect to Alexander.

                    • stuart32

                      Vinny, It seems to me that the mythicist argument is self defeating. Let’s accept the two claims for the moment: Paul gets everything from revelation and Paul says nothing about Jesus’ earthly life. There is no problem here for historicism. If Paul is only concerned with what can be known through revelation then it is no surprise that he doesn’t talk about Jesus’ earthly life. In fact, it would be a big problem if he did talk about Jesus’ earthly life, because he has already told us that his information comes from revelation.

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

                      Stuart,

                      I can think of reasons why Paul doesn’t give me any information about Jesus’ existence, but that doesn’t change the fact that he doesn’t give me any information about Jesus’ existence. I cannot think of any other person for which our earliest source only claims to be relying on supernaturally obtained information. I don’t think this proves mythicism true, but I think it makes Jesus’ a unique situation. Moreover, historians reason by analogy, and it is necessarily going to be very difficult to find analogous situations by which to reason about a historical Jesus. A reasonable hypothesis about why the evidence is problematic still leaves evidence that is problematic.

                    • stuart32

                      If Mark’s Gospel had been written fifty years after the time when Paul was writing then you might have something. But it was written less than ten years after Paul’s last letter. So the priority of Paul just can’t carry the weight of the mythicist argument. Also, I notice that Richard Carrier completely failed to address the real point that was raised by Maurice Casey about Aramaic sources predating Mark. From the mythicist point of view there simply shouldn’t have been any stories predating Mark. The argument is that Paul’s silence supposedly shows there weren’t any stories because they hadn’t been invented yet. But this can’t be the case if there are sources predating Mark.

                      So all we have is the slightly odd fact that Paul says hardly anything about Jesus’ life. It seems to me that this is no more than a curiosity.

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

                      To my view, the argument based on Paul’s silence doesn’t require that there were no earlier stories, just that Paul either did not know them or that they were not a part of his understanding. I’m not sure what Carrier’s argument would be.

                      Although Mark is generally dated within a decade or so of Paul based on internal evidence, I don’t think that we find unambiguous external references to any of the gospels until well into the 2nd century. Moreover, late in the 1st century we find letters like 1 Clement in which the author still seems to have little understanding of a historical Jesus. One possibility that suggests to me is that people started inventing stories about the life of the earthly Jesus fairly early, but that it took many years for them to circulate and gain widespread acceptance.

                    • stuart32

                      OK, so the situation now is that there were plenty of stories about Jesus that Paul could have told, but there are two different explanations of why he didn’t. Paul wasn’t interested in the stories either because they were legendary or because the only thing that mattered to Paul was Jesus’ death and resurrection. So it seems that the myth theory is equally dependent on speculation about the reasons for Paul’s silence.

                      Also, it seems that there are two completely different mythicist scenarios. Either people were telling stories about Jesus’ earthly life for a hundred years before they gained widespread acceptance; or Mark invented the historical Jesus and the idea took off like a rocket. I’m still waiting for a coherent a myth theory that satisfactorily explains the evidence and does so better than the theory that an actual Jesus existed.

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

                      I think the situation is that we have about 75 pieces from a 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle and that some of those pieces fit together into nice clumps but there are many possibilities for what the spaces between the clumps might look like. To pick any one of those possibilities and declare it to be most likely requires quite a bit of conjecture. By the same token, to pick any one of those possibilities and declare it to be impossible requires some conjecture as well.

                      Both sides love to set up these either/or scenarios in which the other side’s position looks ridiculous. I don’t buy it regardless of who does it. I have yet to encounter any reconstruction that is free of inconsistencies or which satisfactorily explains all the data..

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      Yes, that’s the same thing with Jesus. The Gospel writers may have written 5-60 years later, but they draw upon first hand eyewitnesses via oral tradition and source material. That is what mythicists are trying to deny. The same kind of process that happened with most if not all ancient figures from Jesus day.

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

                      That any of the Gospels were written as soon as 5 years later or even much less than 30 years later is a position that is in the extreme minority. The position that any of the gospels draw on first hand eyewitnesses is not as extreme a minority, but is nonetheless I suspect still a distinct minority.

                      Unlikely the earliest extant biographies of Alexander, none of the gospels writers tell us who their sources were or how those sources may have come to know what they knew. The author of Luke claims to be relying on information that was “handed down” by eyewitnesses, but never tells us who they were. Moreover, since we can see that he relies heavily on Mark who doesn’t make any claims about his sources, I think there is plenty of room for doubt.

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      You can believe that Jesus was a myth, but please don’t call that scholarship or history because it’s not.

                      -That’s not established scholarship, but it may be the case.

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      I highly doubt it since it’s false and was disproven 100 years ago.

            • Matt Brown

              But you’re still misunderstanding stuart’s point. Carrier is trying to argue contradictory things at once: That early Christians believed Jesus’ body was buried in a tomb and that Jesus was a myth.

              • ncovington89

                On the contrary, you haven’t understood *my* point: Carrier’s theory is that the early Christians believed Jesus had taken on a human-like body in the lower heavens. It was conceptually possible for the Christians to believe that this body was buried in the heavenly sphere as well.

                • Matt Brown

                  That doesn’t make any sense. Are you suggesting that we shouldn’t interpret the text as saying that there was a real historical Jesus, whom Christians thought was the Son of God, and was crucified uner Roman rule and then buried, and his body was missing from a tomb, but instead was a mythical figure that lived in a mythicial world? That seems to be extremely problematic.

                  • ncovington89

                    Carrier argues that the gospels are symbolic / allegorical literature. But, you’re thinking, isn’t the most straight-forward reading of the gospels that they are trying to recount the life of a first-century Jewish man? That’s a reasonable intuition to have about the text. On the other hand, there are numerous gospel that appear to be history at first but on closer inspection are unmistakably mythical. I document 3 examples of this in the gospel of Mark here: http://aigbusted.blogspot.com/2012/01/gospels-tell-you-so-what.html

                    Scholars have documented even more symbolism than just what I mention, too. For example, it seems almost certain to me that Jesus hints in Mark 8:17-21 that the loaves and fish he multiplied are symbolic, which indicates that the whole story is fictitious.

                    • Matt Brown

                      But Yours and Carrier’s argument is a non-sequitir. Pointing to certain things in the text as evidence does not make the entire gospel itself allegorica nor symoblic. And almost all historians agree that the gospels are biographies and not sybolic/allegorical. There is just too much informatin in the gospels that trump the idea that the Gospel writers intended for this to be “myth”.

                    • ncovington89

                      Oh no, if you find multiple examples of events that on the surface look like history but turn out to be myth, that gives you credible suspicion that the other stories might be more of the same. It doesn’t absolutely mean they are, but it does make it quite possible. And the question of whether the other stories are myths is a discussion that scholars need to have. It could turn out wrong. It could turn out right.

                    • Matt Brown

                      But there are plenty examples of ancient documents that contain supernatural elements, and yet historians can recover the core historical facts of that figure behind the story. So again, the argument is a non-sequitir.

                      ‘Could Have’ is not enough in Academia.

                    • ncovington89

                      “But there are plenty examples of ancient documents that contain supernatural elements,”

                      The issue isn’t that the gospels ‘contain supernatural elements.’ The issue is that the gospels reported stories that look (at first) like history but on close inspection turn out to be myth. I’d be mighty interested if you could find a document that historians consider reliable but that tells stories that are clearly fiction and which the writer does not explicitly tell us are fictional.

                      ‘Could Have’ is not enough in academia? I agree, but that’s a problem historicists have to face too. The discovery that so many gospel stories are symbolic fiction certainly doesn’t mean the rest of the stuff in there is true. It’d be like if a witness was a called to a court room stand and caught lying several times. Would you conclude that the rest of that witness’ testimony was true? No, not without independent confirmation of some sort. After the guy gets caught lying, we are left with two plausible possibilities: that the rest of his story is a lie, or that the rest of his story is true. Either one is a credible possibility. Same thing goes for the gospels. And if historicists aim to establish historicity beyond reasonable doubt, they have to bear the burden of showing that the latter possibility is beyond reasonable doubt. Likewise, if Rick wants to establish mythicism, he has to show the gospels are full-blown symbolism beyond a reasonable doubt. Notice that the standard I have for each side is the same: no double standards here.

                      Until one side or the other makes a formidable case that the other cannot answer, we cannot decide this debate.

                    • Matt Brown

                      “The issue isn’t that the gospels ‘contain supernatural elements.’ The issue is that the gospels reported stories that look (at first) like history but on close inspection turn out to be myth. I’d be mighty interested if you could find a document that historians consider reliable but that tells stories that are clearly fiction and which the writer does not explicitly tell us are fictional.”

                      But this is a misrepresentation of what historians think of the gospels because of the evidence. Your argument is like that of Creationists in order to answer the evidence. God created the earth in 6000 years with an apperance of age, but that entails that God can decieve people(which he can’t). Mythicists have to deny the evidence and use the excuse like Creationists use, that the stories appear to be history, but are really supposed “myth”, but that doesn’t make any sense at all…

                      “‘Could Have’ is not enough in academia? I agree, but that’s a problem historicists have to face too.”

                      That’s not a problem that historicitists face at all.That’s only something that mythicists face since that’s one of their only arguments against the existence of Jesus.

                      “The discovery that so many gospel stories are symbolic fiction certainly doesn’t mean the rest of the stuff in there is true. It’d be like if a witness was a called to a court room stand and caught lying several times. Would you conclude that the rest of that witness’ testimony was true? No, not without independent confirmation of some sort. After the guy gets caught lying, we are left with two plausible possibilities: that the rest of his story is a lie, or that the rest of his story is true. Either one is a credible possibility. Same thing goes for the gospels. And if historicists aim to establish historicity beyond reasonable doubt, they have to bear the burden of showing that the latter possibility is beyond reasonable doubt. Likewise, if Rick wants to establish mythicism, he has to show the gospels are full-blown symbolism beyond a reasonable doubt. Notice that the standard I have for each side is the same: no double standards here.”

                      But you’re still maintaining a non-sequitir. Just because there might be some symbolic stories and or parables of Jesus, that isn’t proof that the gospel authors are dishonest or lying as a whole. Suetonius, Live of the Caesars, is a fictional piece of writing that contains a historical core to it about Augustus According to your logic, we must doubt that Augustus didn’t exist because Suetonius said some things about him that were fictional. What your argument at best shows is that the gospel writerse got some things wrong about Jesus, but that doesn’t show that Jesus never existed.

                      “Until one side or the other makes a formidable case that the other cannot answer, we cannot decide this debate.”

                      There isn’t a debate. Virtually no historian or scholar thinks Jesus was a myth.

                    • ncovington89

                      “Mythicists have to deny the evidence and use the excuse like
                      Creationists use, that the stories appear to be history, but are really
                      supposed ‘myth’.”

                      Here is the standard I use: “We take appearances at face-value unless there is sufficient evidence to prove the appearances are an illusion.” So, for example, the sun *appears* to move through the sky, but we do not believe it does because we have sufficient evidence proving that the earth is actually doing the moving. Creationists don’t meet the principle I have stated because they have never accumulated sufficient evidence to prove that radiometric dating, plate tectonics, and various geological evidence is illusory. Applying this standard to the current debate, there is sufficient evidence to overturn the appearance of historicity for at least some of the Jesus stories. Example: There are multiple reasons to think that the Barabbas narrative is something that did not happen, and moreover, the story coincidentally communicates a theological motif (Jesus died for remission of sins, just like an animal sacrafice in Jewish theology) which is independently voiced by other Christians (“Christ is our passover lamb” in Galatians 5, and similar sentiments are echoed in the book of Hebrews, among other places). Again, read the link I provided earlier to see details and more examples of myth in the gospels. I’m not going to spoon feed this to you.

                      http://aigbusted.blogspot.com/2012/01/gospels-tell-you-so-what.html

                      “That’s only something that mythicists face since that’s one of their only arguments against the existence of Jesus.”

                      The gospels are one of the only arguments historicists have, so it’s important for them too. Either the gospels count in favor of historicity (which needs to be argued for) or they don’t, in which case historicism has to be argued on other grounds.

                    • Matt Brown

                      So you choose your own standard instead of the critical historical method, and use that to determine the existence of Jesus?

                    • ncovington89

                      “So you choose your own standard…”
                      No, I use logic and induction, which are both verifiable methods of obtaining the truth.

                      “instead of the critical historical method”
                      Any method of inference must conform itself to logic and induction or it is unreliable. If “the critical historical method” (what is this method? Who has explained exactly what this is?) conforms to this, it conforms to the method I follow. If it doesn’t, it is false, and a statement that contradicts logic is 100% false, the protestations of a billion experts wouldn’t be enough to bring the probability of it up even one iota.

                      Nice to know that you aren’t able to address the points I have brought up, and are seeking refuge in the great castle of “the historical critical method” (whatever that is) instead of answering my points with facts and reason.

                    • Matt Brown

                      I ask this because you’re claiming that your arguments are sufficient and supported by the evidence, when in fact they’re not. Why doubt what mainstream scholars and historians, who are secular for example say about the evidence?

                    • ncovington89

                      “you’re claiming that your arguments are sufficient and supported by the evidence…”

                      That the gospels are filled with symbolic fiction is not in doubt. There is abundant evidence to support this conclusion, and in fact, many if not most scholars (secular and religious) acknowledge this to be the case (again, I have supported this assertion in the link I gave earlier, you cannot understand my position if you don’t at least try to understand it).

                      It is true, however, that most scholars would not call the gospels *entirely* fictional, which is one of several reasons that I do not go to the point of saying the gospels are definitely full-blown fiction. There must some inference that starts with a text and then moves to a real occurrence in the past, and the inference must be a sound one. Most scholars think they can do this via the argument from embarrassment, multiple attestation, etc. while I am very unsure of whether those inferences are sound. I think Richard Carrier’s book “proving history” gives plenty of examples and argument to show that the current consensus has a lot of explaining to do on that point (he isn’t alone, by the way, even new testament scholars often doubt the methods they use and have even written books like Carrier’s arguing that current methods need to be revised or discarded).

                      I’m not a new testament scholar or historian. I leave open the possibility that someone will develop a good argument from the gospel sources to the conclusion of a real event. I am, however, unsure that this will happen.

                    • Matt Brown

                      “That the gospels are filled with symbolic fiction is not in doubt. There is abundant evidence to support this conclusion, and in fact, many if not most scholars (secular and religious) acknowledge this to be the case (again, I have supported this assertion in the link I gave earlier, you cannot understand my position if you don’t at least try to understand it).”

                      That’s not what I meant. I meant your claim that these supposed symoblic prove Jesus was a myth is not what scholars or historians think.

                      ” Most scholars think they can do this via the argument from embarrassment, multiple attestation, etc. while I am very unsure of whether those inferences are sound. I think Richard Carrier’s book “proving history” gives plenty of examples and argument to show that the current consensus has a lot of explaining to do on that point (he isn’t alone, by the way, even new testament scholars often doubt the methods they use and have even written books like Carrier’s arguing that current methods need to be revised or discarded).”

                      But Richard Carrier isn’t correct. It may be true that scholars question some things about some of these methods, but it’s certainly wrong to claim that scholars say they need to be discarded or revised. Every historical method has its limitations, and the reason for that is because we’re human. But pointing to limitations as evidence that we should cast doubt on the existence of a historical figure is a non-sequtir and fallacious. If we’re going to deny that Jesus existed then we’re also going to deny that almost everybody else from that time period didn’t exist as well.

                      “I’m not a new testament scholar or historian. I leave open the possibility that someone will develop a good argument from the gospel sources to the conclusion of a real event. I am, however, unsure that this will happen.”

                      Historians and scholars have already done this over and over again. Scholars like Bart Ehrman and Maurice Casey have already written books that represent mainstream academia on the historical Jesus. It seems that no amount of evidence however is good enough for mythicists(Like Carrier).

                    • ncovington89

                      “I meant your claim that these supposed symoblic prove Jesus was a myth is not what scholars or historians think.”

                      I have never said Jesus was proven to be a myth. In fact, I think the exact opposite: that the historicity of Jesus is an uncertain matter requiring further examination.

                      “But Richard Carrier isn’t correct. It may be true that scholars question some things about some of these methods, but it’s certainly wrong to claim that scholars say they need to be discarded or revised.”

                      “Richard Carrier isn’t correct…” Simply asserting he is wrong is not good enough. His book has some pretty strong arguments to substantiate that he *is* correct on many new testament criteria are bogus. This doesn’t mean merely that the criteria have “limits,” his arguments establish full-stop that the criteria don’t seem to be able to track the truth. Mark Goodacre, a widely respected scholar, gives some arguments on why the criterion of embarrassment isn’t as great as many people think it is:

                      http://ntweblog.blogspot.com/2012/05/criticizing-criterion-of-embarrassment.html

                      Plenty of deep problems exist with the other criteria, too.

                      “Historians and scholars have already done this over and over again.”

                      No, they haven’t. I’ve read several of Bart Ehrman’s books and he uses the same flawed criteria I’ve just talked about, and no other scholar has anything better.

                      Now, none of what I have just said establishes that mythicism is true. It may be false. However, some type of standard has to be met that doesn’t involve using bogus criteria, unreliable evidence, non-sequitors, and so on.

                    • Matt Brown

                      “I have never said Jesus was proven to be a myth. In fact, I think the exact opposite: that the historicity of Jesus is an uncertain matter requiring further examination.”

                      The existence of Jesus had been further examined using critical methodology and has been found overwhelmingly true. Why doubt?

                      “Richard Carrier isn’t correct…” Simply asserting he is wrong is not good enough. His book has some pretty strong arguments to substantiate that he *is* correct on many new testament criteria are bogus. This doesn’t mean merely that the criteria have “limits,” his arguments establish full-stop that the criteria don’t seem to be able to track the truth.

                      It’s funny how you say that I’m asserting something, but then you assert that Carrier is correct because his book says so. Carrier is absolutely wrong. Every method has limitations, but that’s not proof that Jesus was a myth or that we are uncertain of his existence. His argument is bogus because the same method that historians use for ancient historical figures are the same methods used in establishing Jesus’ existence.

                      “Mark Goodacre, a widely respected scholar, gives some arguments on why the criterion of embarrassment isn’t as great as many people think it is”

                      But Mark Goodacre doesn’t think that the Criterion of Embarrasment is bogus, he’s simply talking about it’s limitations.

                      “Plenty of deep problems exist with the other criteria, too.”

                      No, there aren’t deep problems at all.

                      “Historians and scholars have already done this over and over again.”

                      “No, they haven’t. I’ve read several of Bart Ehrman’s books and he uses the same flawed criteria I’ve just talked about, and no other scholar has anything better.”

                      So when Bart Ehrman is reflecting the consensus of biblical NT scholars and historians of classics, is it your assertion that they are using supposed “flawed” criteria? According to who? I didn’t know you were an historian who judges criteria simply by the click of a mouse or by the push of a button. Please, enlighten me more on what kind of criteria scholars should use.

                      “Now, none of what I have just said establishes that mythicism is true. It may be false.”

                      It most certainly is false.

                      “However, some type of standard has to be met that doesn’t involve using bogus criteria, unreliable evidence, non-sequitors, and so on.”

                      What makes it bogus? Just because one psuedo-scholar thinks so doesn’t mean it is so. By your standard, we must also claim that a multitude of other historical figures didn’t exist because historians and scholars use the same methods and criteria in establishing their existence.

                      This is my problem with Jesus doubters and or “mythicists”. They typically sit back on their computers and whiz away on the internet, typing whatever they feel like because they think they’re some sort-of expert when it comes to Biblical studies. However, when you ask them for the solution to these so-called “problematic” methods or conclusions, they say something similar to what you said.

                    • ncovington89

                      “The existence of Jesus had been further examined using critical methodology and has been found overwhelmingly true.”

                      I disagree, I don’t think the methodology is critical at all, as I’ve been trying to say for quite a while now.

                      “It’s funny how you say that I’m asserting something, but then you assert that Carrier is correct because his book says so.”

                      No, Carrier is not correct because “his book says so” he’s correct because he’s established his position with a number of good reasons. Clearly I can’t reproduce all of those arguments in a comment, so you will have to summon the courage to read it and decide for yourself.

                      “His argument is bogus because the same method that historians use for ancient historical figures are the same methods used in establishing Jesus’ existence.”

                      We have no eyewitness accounts about Jesus as we often do with other historical figures (i.e. Socrates). We do not typically see blatant symbolic fiction in allegedly historical works. Most history also does not require working purely with unreliable sources with no reliable ones to confirm key data. So no, they are not the same thing.

                      “But Mark Goodacre doesn’t think that the Criterion of Embarrasment is bogus, he’s simply talking about it’s limitations.”

                      You keep hiding behind the castle that these criteria aren’t invalid, they just have “limits.” Let me quote Goodacre on this point:

                      “If a later evangelist was really ‘embarrassed’ by material he found in an earlier account, he simply omitted it.”

                      Goodacre establishes this with the Blind Man of Bethsaida. In other words, he is saying the gospels often did omit material they found embarassing, which leads me to ask: if the gospel writers could omit material they didn’t like, and even make up material they wanted (i.e. the birth narratives, as is widely admitted and thoroughly established with sound logic and historical) then what good is the criterion in the first place? How do we *know* that the application of this criterion will have a tendency to yield the truth of what happened? And it isn’t just Goodacre who has doubts about these criteria. Dennis McDonald, in an essay published in the book “Sources of the Jesus Tradition” discusses how many of the criteria are problematic and cites especially John P. Meier for many of the points against these criteria. Now, “MacDonald and Meier said so” doesn’t make it true, but the reasons they give for their position are good ones and very substantial, just read MacDonald and see what you think.

                      “So when Bart Ehrman is reflecting the consensus of biblical NT scholars and historians of classics, is it your assertion that they are using supposed ‘flawed’ criteria? According to who?”

                      According to reason, for one thing. However, I’m not the only one who has noticed problems with these criteria. Mark Goodacre, Dennis MacDonald, John P. Meier and many others (i.e. Stanley Porter) have raised troubling questions about the validity of these criteria, in addition to the more exhaustive examination given by Carrier.

                      “I didn’t know you were an historian who judges criteria simply by the click of a mouse or by the push of a button.”

                      I don’t. I judge them by their logical validity.

                      “Please, enlighten me more on what kind of criteria scholars should use.”

                      Well, for one thing it must be a criteria that we can show will track the truth. For another thing, digging out specific events and sayings from the life of Jesus and judging them as “true” seems to presuppose a general reliability and intent to communicate literal truth on the part of the gospel authors, when in fact both of those presuppositions are questionable.

                      “What makes it bogus? Just because one psuedo-scholar thinks so doesn’t mean it is so.”

                      Carrier has a PhD in ancient history, and, more importantly, actually demonstrates his points via well-established fact and logical inference therefrom.

                      “By your standard, we must also claim that a multitude of other historical figures didn’t exist because historians and scholars use the same methods and criteria in establishing their existence.”

                      BS. With Julius Caesar, we don’t know for a fact that lots of emperors were made up, whereas in Jesus’ case we know a good many sons-of-god and celestial figures were made up. In the case of Julius Caesar, there are zero examples of events being reported as history that are actually symbolic fiction. We have Caesar’s own writings, and writings of contemporaries. We also have no reason to doubt the general reliability of the sources we have (i.e. we don’t have any examples of outrageous falsehoods, whereas the gospels do have that, like how Mark invented the sea of galilee out of thin air, for evidence of this see Dennis MacDonald, “Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark”).

                      Here are some questions I have for you:

                      1. How do you verify the accuracy of the criteria used by New Testament scholars?

                      2. How many gospel stories / sayings must be proven to be fabrications before you give up on trusting them as unreliable sources? I ask b/c if you were on a jury and it was shown that a witness was lying during, say, half their testimony, you probably would not just assume that the rest of what they had to say was true. I think a similar problem attends the gospels: we can prove a large fraction of the stories are symbolic fiction, we can prove that many events (darkness at Jesus death, the mass resurrection mentioned in Matthew’s gospel, the birth narratives, “fulfillments” of OT prophecy that mistranslate or take out of context the OT scripture, and not to mention the miraculous stories that we may doubt if we see no contemporary evidence of miracles) in the gospels are fictitious. Is there any way to meet the burden of proof for you or do you insist on making an a priori assumption that the gospels are reliable which you refuse to abandon unless and until someone proves every last trace of it is false?

                    • Matt Brown

                      I disagree, I don’t think the methodology is critical at all, as I’ve been
                      trying to say for quite a while now.”

                      Well
                      you’re wrong.

                      “It’s
                      funny how you say that I’m asserting something, but then you assert that
                      Carrier is correct because his book says so.”

                      No,
                      Carrier is not correct because “his book says so” he’s correct
                      because he’s established his position with a number of good reasons. Clearly I
                      can’t reproduce all of those arguments in a comment, so you will have to summon
                      the courage to read it and decide for yourself.

                      “His
                      argument is bogus because the same method that historians use for ancient
                      historical figures are the same methods used in establishing Jesus’
                      existence.”

                      We
                      have no eyewitness accounts about Jesus as we often do with other historical
                      figures (i.e. Socrates). We do not typically see blatant symbolic fiction in
                      allegedly historical works. Most history also does not require working purely
                      with unreliable sources with no reliable ones to confirm key data. So no, they
                      are not the same thing.

                      “But
                      Mark Goodacre doesn’t think that the Criterion of Embarrasment is bogus, he’s
                      simply talking about it’s limitations.”

                      “You
                      keep hiding behind the castle that these criteria aren’t invalid, they just
                      have “limits.” Let me quote Goodacre on this point:

                      “If
                      a later evangelist was really ‘embarrassed’ by material he found in an earlier
                      account, he simply omitted it.”

                      Goodacre
                      establishes this with the Blind Man of Bethsaida. In other words, he is saying
                      the gospels often did omit material they found embarassing, which leads me to
                      ask: if the gospel writers could omit material they didn’t like, and even make
                      up material they wanted (i.e. the birth narratives, as is widely admitted and
                      thoroughly established with sound logic and historical) then what good is the
                      criterion in the first place? How do we *know* that the application of this
                      criterion will have a tendency to yield the truth of what happened? And it
                      isn’t just Goodacre who has doubts about these criteria. Dennis McDonald, in an
                      essay published in the book “Sources of the Jesus Tradition”
                      discusses how many of the criteria are problematic and cites especially John P.
                      Meier for many of the points against these criteria. Now, “MacDonald and
                      Meier said so” doesn’t make it true, but the reasons they give for their
                      position are good ones and very substantial, just read MacDonald and see what
                      you think.”

                      “So
                      when Bart Ehrman is reflecting the consensus of biblical NT scholars and
                      historians of classics, is it your assertion that they are using supposed
                      ‘flawed’ criteria? According to who?”

                      According
                      to reason, for one thing. However, I’m not the only one who has noticed
                      problems with these criteria. Mark Goodacre, Dennis MacDonald, John P. Meier
                      and many others (i.e. Stanley Porter) have raised troubling questions about the
                      validity of these criteria, in addition to the more exhaustive examination
                      given by Carrier.”

                      I’m
                      not hiding behind anything. The scholars are simply pointing out limitations,
                      but you simply can’t use limitations as proof that someone didn’t exist. The
                      Criterion of embarrassment didn’t always work like that. A gospel writer doesn’t
                      always omit some things they didn’t like. The Crucifixion is a great example of
                      this. The Crucifixion was an embarrassment to the early church because a
                      Crucified messiah was a contradiction in terms. The Messiah was supposed to be
                      like King David and overthrow Israel’s enemies and establish a new kingdom on
                      earth. Jesus’ crucifixion made him look like a criminal accursed by God. Dr.McGrath has a good blog post on this http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2014/01/is-the-criterion-of-embarrassment-an-embarrassment.html

                      “I
                      don’t. I judge them by their logical validity.”

                      I
                      don’t think you do, you seem to deny material and come to absurd conclusions.

                      “Please,
                      enlighten me more on what kind of criteria scholars should use.”

                      “Well,
                      for one thing it must be a criteria that we can show will track the truth. For
                      another thing, digging out specific events and sayings from the life of Jesus
                      and judging them as “true” seems to presuppose a general reliability
                      and intent to communicate literal truth on the part of the gospel authors, when
                      in fact both of those presuppositions are questionable.”

                      That’s
                      not how historians and scholars judge a text as true or false. They don’t just
                      pick a random saying and say “Hey, Jesus probably said this because we feel
                      like he did”. Historians and scholars painstakingly pick sayings that most
                      likely represent what Jesus might have said based on reliability of the
                      sources, date of the sources, and probability.

                      “Carrier
                      has a PhD in ancient history, and, more importantly, actually demonstrates his
                      points via well-established fact and logical inference therefrom.”

                      That
                      doesn’t mean he’s right. Especially when you consider he’s taking a fringe
                      viewpoint that isn’t based on evidence but unjustified assumptions.

                      “By
                      your standard, we must also claim that a multitude of other historical figures
                      didn’t exist because historians and scholars use the same methods and criteria
                      in establishing their existence.”

                      ““BS.
                      With Julius Caesar, we don’t know for a fact that lots of emperors were made
                      up, whereas in Jesus’ case we know a good many sons-of-god and celestial
                      figures were made up. In the case of Julius Caesar, there are zero examples of
                      events being reported as history that are actually symbolic fiction. We have
                      Caesar’s own writings, and writings of contemporaries. We also have no reason
                      to doubt the general reliability of the sources we have.””

                      What
                      do you mean “BS?” The same methods that are used for Jesus are used for almost
                      anybody else. Source Criticism, Textual Criticism, Archaeology, Oral tradition,
                      etc. Are you suggesting that historians of ancient history and NT scholars are
                      using different methods when they aren’t?

                      “(i.e.
                      we don’t have any examples of outrageous falsehoods, whereas the gospels do
                      have that, like how Mark invented the sea of galilee out of thin air, for
                      evidence of this see Dennis MacDonald, “Homeric Epics and the Gospel of
                      Mark”).”

                      Also,
                      it’s funny how you cite Julius Caesar when I didn’t even mention him. And that’s
                      I can cite you Pontius Pilate or
                      Josephus. We don’t have any contemporary records for either one of them, or at
                      least very little, and there is a good example with Augustus where there are
                      myths and legends about him but that doesn’t mean he didn’t exist. Dr. Crook
                      Destroys Carrier’s argument that you’re making here at
                      54:16https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgmHqjblsPw Also, the Sea of galilee wasn’t
                      made out of thin air. It was another word for the Lake of Tiberius.

                      Here
                      are some questions I have for you:

                      “1.
                      How do you verify the accuracy of the criteria used by New Testament scholars?”

                      I verify it based on the data it yields.

                      2.
                      “How many gospel stories / sayings must be proven to be fabrications before you
                      give up on trusting them as unreliable sources? I ask b/c if you were on a jury
                      and it was shown that a witness was lying during, say, half their testimony,
                      you probably would not just assume that the rest of what they had to say was
                      true. I think a similar problem attends the gospels: we can prove a large
                      fraction of the stories are symbolic fiction, we can prove that many events
                      (darkness at Jesus death, the mass resurrection mentioned in Matthew’s gospel,
                      the birth narratives, “fulfillments” of OT prophecy that mistranslate
                      or take out of context the OT scripture, and not to mention the miraculous
                      stories that we may doubt if we see no contemporary evidence of miracles) in the
                      gospels are fictitious. Is there any way to meet the burden of proof for you or
                      do you insist on making an a priori assumption that the gospels are reliable
                      which you refuse to abandon unless and until someone proves every last trace of
                      it is false?”

                      Your
                      question is misplaced. It has nothing to
                      do with the amount of miracles and supposed fabrications in a text. You can’t
                      dismiss a text just because it contains one or the other or both. You have to
                      judge it based on a number of criteria. One main criteria is the genre of the
                      text. The Gospels are not the genre of myth and fantasy as you like to think,
                      but rather, they are a genre of history and they are biographies of Jesus.
                      There are many other ancient texts that contain supernatural events, and yet
                      historians can recover a figure from them.

                    • ncovington89

                      By the way, if it helps you understand my position any better I should say that I think there is a little evidence for the historical Jesus. For example, I think Paul’s comment in Galatians about James being “the brother of the Lord” counts as evidence for an historical Jesus. While it is *possible* (and perhaps even a bit more plausible than most historicists admit) that Paul didn’t mean James was a *literal* brother of Jesus, this seems to be the most likely and most face-value reading of the text.

                      On the other hand, there are also things that point to a mythical Jesus. For example, Robert M. Price discusses some of the evidence pointing to a mythical Jesus here:
                      http://youtu.be/ik7GRQ9hoVY?t=17m20s

                      (Price cites references to back up what he says in “The Historical Jesus: Five Views”).

                      Now the evidence Price examines does seem hard to explain unless Jesus was a myth, and so it counts as evidence for a mythical Jesus. Historicists may reply that it is *possible* to explain the data another way, but possibilities count for nothing, as you and I both agree. What matters is whether the data can be explained more plausibly by mythicism or historicism, and on this point, mythicism gets a point added to its scoreboard.

                      There is evidence pointing both ways, and so the only option we have to figure out the truth is to carefully look at the evidence and figure out which theory has the strongest support or explains the most facts.

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

                      What evidence seems to you to be better explained in mythicist terms? I’m not aware of any. The point at which your video link begins, it is talking about much later sources’ inaccuracies about when Jesus lived, as though that were not simply the kind of inaccuracy that one often finds in much later sources – just as later art sometimes depicts the Jewish temple as though it looked like the Dome of the Rock. I presume that such nonsensical mythicist claims are not what you were referring to. So which evidence does in fact seem to you to better fit mythicism?

                    • ncovington89

                      Here’s the evidence: some Christians apparently thought Jesus was executed by Herod, others thought he had lived under Alexander Jannaeus, etc. If Jesus was a myth, we can easily explain this as a first mythical Jesus who was later historicized multiple times by multiple people who came up with different results.

                      If Jesus was historical, how in the world did this happen? The jewish temple / dome of the rock doesn’t even seem like a good comparison. A better comparison is this: do you know of any real historical figures which have had this kind of dramatic confusion surround there life? I.e. did anyone believe Julius Caesar had lived 100 years before our main sources say he did? Does this apply to any other historical figure?

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

                      Even for world leaders like emperors, we do get incorrect dates. Hence the difficulties in piecing together the chronologies of any historical works written well after the fact. Take a look at any empire’s history, and you will find that issues of dating have to be taken into account, in particular in late sources.

                      The case in point seems to involve the introduction of Jesus into an already-existing tradition that originally didn’t mention him. Compare Bavli with the equivalent tradition in Yerushalmi. See Herford’s Christianity in Talmud and Midrash for more details. Then let me know if you think this evidence indicates what mythicists claim it does.

                      http://books.google.com/books?id=v2uXn-8ZB-oC&pg=PA52&lpg=PA52&dq=alexander+jannaeus+talmud+jesus&source=bl&ots=9sk8gaEueX&sig=HeVcQd0X6DwoobtcOJj4QNhFTKI&hl=en&sa=X&ei=2iGGU7TDPIOnyASaooG4CA&ved=0CGEQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=alexander%20jannaeus%20talmud%20jesus&f=false

                    • ncovington89

                      What about Epiphanius’ mention of Jesus and the chronology being off? Or the gospel of Peter ascribing the death of Jesus to Herod? It seems very peculiar for the main details and even the date to have been a matter of uncertainty from fairly early on in the church’s history.

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

                      That’s not the only thing that Epiphanius gets wrong. If he were someone that is typically reliable, it would be a different matter. But given the lack of any sort of standard calendar and date-keeping system, such errors are common, and not unknown even in works by those who are trying hard to be reliable and accurate.

                      The issue in the Gospel of Peter, as in Luke, is the unlikelihood that Herod Antipas was involved at all, given that there is no mention of it in Mark or Matthew. But how would that impact the date?

                    • ncovington89

                      “The issue in the Gospel of Peter, as in Luke, is the unlikelihood that
                      Herod Antipas was involved at all, given that there is no mention of it
                      in Mark or Matthew.”

                      I don’t think you’re grasping the issue: the question is not whether Epiphanius and the gospel of Peter had the right dates, the question is why there were wildly different alternative stories at all. If the Jesus story was originally set in a heavenly realm, as the mythicists think, then it makes a lot of sense that different people would anchor Jesus to history in different times and places. On the other hand, if this was a reliably transmitted story that began with real historical details, it is much harder to account for this. Now the lack of a standard calendar might make it hard for people back then to know things about matters that had happened decades or centuries ago, but why would these people have had to guess at the major details of the story (who killed Jesus: Herod, Pilate, Jannaeus) unless those details weren’t passed along in the first place. If those details weren’t passed on in the first place, why not? Remember, the sort of thing we are talking about is very much a central part of the plot, so it seems unlikely that it was just forgotten. On the other hand, if the original Jesus stories that circulated lacked details about who killed Jesus and why (as mythicists hold) the confusion on this matter makes much more sense.

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

                      If the question is why the Gospel of Peter rewrote its source material in the way that it did, one obvious answer is its place on the trajectory of shifting blame away from the Roman authorities and onto the Jews for the death of Jesus.

                      It isn’t as though one can read these works as though their authors did not have access to some or all of the New Testament works – although I’ve made the case that the Gospel of Peter may have known some independent traditions, such as the missing ending of Mark. But in those instances where authors are rewriting earlier authors, we need to ask the same questions that we ask when one NT author rewrites an earlier one: “Why?” In some cases, we may have reason to think that the answer is knowledge of independent tradition, but I am very skeptical that Epiphanius so many centuries later had access to independent tradition, much less tradition that is likely to be more accurate than what we find in our earlier sources.

                      The fact that you said that I don’t grasp the issue makes me wonder whether you understand just how much later some of the sources you are talking about are. When mythicists drive a wedge between Paul and Mark because of a difference in date of a decade, and then cite the Talmud uncritically, it says a lot about them, and nothing about the historical Jesus.

                    • ncovington89

                      “one obvious answer is its place on the
                      trajectory of shifting blame away from the Roman authorities and onto
                      the Jews for the death of Jesus.”

                      But didn’t Mark already do this in having Pilate wash his hands?

                      “I am very skeptical that Epiphanius so many centuries later had access to independent tradition.”

                      So why did Epiphanius say that? Did he lie?

                      “much less tradition that is likely to be more accurate than what we find in our earlier sources.”

                      The question is why an alternate tradition would ever exist in the first place? Suppose that you are one of those earliest Christians. You decide to join this new religion. You are told by Paul, Peter, Timothy, Mark or somebody intimately involved in the early church that the son of God came to earth… And was killed. Naturally, wouldn’t you want to know who did it? Wouldn’t someone in that church write it down? If no one could write, would they not commit it to memory and pass it down to their children? It seems greatly implausible that a whole generation forgot all this along the way, and seems more implausible that this would happen multiple times. It seems that you are grasping for the straws of possibility that you have so warned mythicists against.

                      On the other hand, suppose that the original Christians were given a “barebones” gospel, a parable without historical details, an allegory left unexplained until the “babes in Christ” graduated into a higher levels of a mystery cult (being promised that new information would be supplied the higher they climbed)… After the diaspora, everybody scatters, and many Christians end up knowing nothing more than the minimal story they got in the beginning. What do they do? Quite naturally, they embellish, speculate, add their own details (or perhaps were initially given different allegories in different historical settings… After all, the when and where would not matter much for something like this). Mythicism makes the data more probable here.

                      “much less tradition that is likely to be more accurate than what we find in our earlier sources.”

                      I don’t think the traditions are “more accurate” I think the existence of multiple traditions is better explained by mythicism than historicism. It’s like how we find so many different endings to the gospel of mark… When the original has nothing, people naturally embellish. The same could be said if people originally got a sort of minimal gospel to begin with. And I don’t think one would expect a minimal gospel except under the mythicist hypothesis. BTW, Carrier has plenty in his book on this subject, so if you like, you need not respond to me, though I would look forward to seeing you write something on that particular section of the book.

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

                      Can you find that in Mark, as opposed to Matthew?

                      I am not sure that we need to worry too much about why someone centuries later was off target about events, any more than we have to worry about whether someone today who gets the founding fathers wrong is lying, misinformed, uninformed, confused, or some combination thereof. It shouldn’t lead anyone to say maybe the founding fathers were the way people today say, rather than the way our earliest sources say. Should it?

                    • ncovington89

                      I think you’re not really getting my point, so I’ll leave this here.

          • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

            Carrier has also argued that the body was temporarily stored in the tomb (following Lowder), and then moved. He has argued that the body might have been stolen. He has defended the “swoon theory” as a possibility.

            -Nope. He just has argued that all these ideas are more plausible than the Evangelicals’ idea of a magical/divine resurrection.

            • stuart32

              In fact, Carrier has written essays explaining in detail how each of these things could have occurred. I have no objection to this. If his criterion is that anything is more plausible than a miracle then good luck to him. The Christ myth theory can take its place alongside the swoon theory.

              • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                In fact, Carrier has written essays explaining in detail how each of these things could have occurred.

                -”Could have occurred” does not mean “likely occurred”.

            • Matthew Jenkins

              There not more plausible, for they fail to explain the evidence in a logical or coherent way… They are ad-hoc, extremely improbable, and weak.

              • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                True. They are also more probable and less weak than the resurrection story.

                • Matthew Jenkins

                  The Resurrection best explains the 4 facts. The other’s don’t actually logically explain the evidence.

                  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                    It doesn’t explain Mark 16:8. The good Matthew Ferguson has solidly refuted the “4 facts” apologetic.

                    http://adversusapologetica.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/knocking-out-the-pillars-of-the-minimal-facts-apologetic/

                    Besides, even if you can explain everything with magic dragons, that doesn’t mean they’re likely to exist.

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      Matthew Ferguson hasn’t refuted anything, other than the fact is that he makes up the “minority” of scholars who doubt some of the facts.

                      Gary Habermas took a survey of the majority of NT scholars from 1975-present today, and he found that 75% agree with the empty tomb. 95% agree with the post apperances.

                      Matthew Ferguson doesn’t affect the evidence.

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      God, you godbotherers can be boring.
                      http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/4857

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      Like I said before, Carrier would represent the “minority” of scholars when it comes to some of the facts.

                      I’ve listened to his arguements on Jesus burial/empty tomb, and quite honestly, they’re extremely “ludicrious”. He tried to argue that Mary was not really a real woman at Jesus’s tomb, but some myth based upon a real figure of the Old Testament or something like that.

                    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

                      Also, I don’t think Carrier ever denied the post appearances.

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      He doesn’t.

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

                    What about the fact that dead people stay dead? It is better attested than any of your 4 facts and the resurrection hypothesis fails to account for it.

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      Well the 4 facts trump opinion. The fact is, Jesus is not dead and he’s risen. The Burden of Proof is on the skeptic to explain a nautralist hypothesis for the 4 facts after Jesus crucifixion.

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

                      Matthew, I don’t think that it is possible to make a probabilistic case of the sort that historians make about historical events for the historicity of the resurrection. That an individual was raised from the dead into the life of the age to come has to by definition be an improbable event. And so, even if it is improbable that the inner circle of disciples stole the body and concocted a cover story, it will always be more likely that something still relatively mundane of that sort happened, than that something unprecedented in human history happened. If you figure out a way to make a case other than by historical argumentation, please do let me know. But history is about probability even when it comes to evidence for mundane events that are not inherently improbable. However unlikely it may be that the accused managed to pick a lock without leaving scratch marks, when placed alongside the alternative that the accused used teleportation, the former will always be judged more probable by comparison. And so I don’t think that one can take the modes of argument of historical study, which deal with the mundane and the natural, and hope to use them to demonstrate something supernatural.

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      I understand your viewpoint Dr.McGrath. I hope I didn’t offend you or anyone else.

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

                      I am not at all offended! I just think the point about what historical study can and cannot be expected to provide is an important one, especially in a discussion of the particular topic of whether there was a historical Jesus of Nazareth.

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      yes, indeed.

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

                      The evidence for the fact that dead people stay dead is much stronger than for any of your 4 facts. A hypothesis that explain 5 facts is necessarily better than one that only explains 4.

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      but it doesn’t explain facts

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

                      Any naturalistic explanation will best explain the 5 facts because it will be consistent with the one fact that is supported by absolutely overwhelming evidence–dead people stay dead. A swoon, a legend, a stolen body, a conspiracy, an identical twin, or a hallucination are all better explanations by far than a supernatural resurrection because they do not contradict the fact that is supported by the best evidence. All of your facts are supported almost entirely by nothing but anonymous religious propaganda based on unknown sources which are removed an unknown number of times in decades of oral tradition from people who may not even have been eyewitnesses to any of the events in question.

                      However, there is no reason to limit ourselves to 5 facts. We could add the fact that supernatural tales are overwhelmingly the product of human foibles such as superstition, ignorance, prevarication, exaggeration, wishful thinking, and gullibility. The whole point to the minimal facts approach is to limit the inquiry to a handful of cherry-picked “facts” which can be massaged to get the desired result, while ignoring the overwhelming mass of knowledge and experience that shows that supernatural events are not historically demonstrable regardless of whether one’s world view allows them as possibilities.

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      nothing is being cherry picked.

                    • stuart32

                      The origin of life is a currently unsolved problem in biology, but I think it’s safe to say that there is a natural rather than a supernatural explanation for it. So it’s not unreasonable to reject a supernatural explanation while not knowing what the natural explanation is.

                      However, it’s worth pointing out that there isn’t a known natural explanation for the resurrection. To say that hallucinations, for example, led to the belief in the resurrection does not explain it. Bereavement hallucinations are quite common but they don’t usually lead to the belief that a dead person has returned to life. So in order to explain the resurrection you would need to say what was different about these particular hallucinations. Why did hallucinations lead to the belief that a dead person had returned to life in this case when this isn’t usually what happens?

                      Of course, you can still say that there must be a natural explanation, even if you don’t know what it is.

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

                      Cognitive dissonance reduction is a plausible naturalistic explanation for the belief that Jesus returned from the dead. The disciples could not cope with the fact that the cause to which they had devoted themselves had ended in failure. Someone came up with the rationalization that the crucifixion was a necessary part of God’s plan as his anointed one must first suffer to atone for the sins of his people before he could return to liberate his people. This was eagerly embraced by the others and led to them interpreting hallucinations, dreams, or simply feelings that Jesus was present as evidence that he had returned. See Kris Komarnitsky’s Doubting the Resurrection: What Happened Inside the Black Box?

                    • stuart32

                      It’s certainly a possible explanation, but in order to be a compelling explanation it would have to say why cognitive dissonance was reduced in this particular way, in this particular case. Again, this isn’t usually what happens.

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

                      Given the problematic nature of our sources, I wouldn’t expect any particular explanation to be compelling. The best we can hope for is to lay out some possibilities.

                      Imagine trying to explain Joseph Smith’s experiences if the only available sources were writings composed by fanatic Mormons based upon stories passed along orally for decades. As it is, we have lots of contemporaneous accounts from ex-Mormons who left the fold and non-Mormons who dealt with Smith and his followers, but as far as I can tell, there is still no strong consensus among secular historians whether Smith was a pathological liar, a schizophrenic, a fraud, or a sincere religious visionary. How much less can we expect to come up with any definitive explanation of what led to the first beliefs that Jesus had risen from the dead given the gap between the events and the earliest accounts as well as the lack of outsider sources.

                      Most of the past–particularly the ancient past–is simply lost to us. We can’t be certain what happened because our sources are not sufficient to eliminate any number of plausible alternatives. Nevertheless, the only way we can reason about the past is by analogy to the way we observe things happen today. Cognitive dissonance reduction may not be what usually happens, but we have some well documented cases of its occurrence.

                    • stuart32

                      Yes, I agree that we can only speculate in the absence of further information. There does seem to me to be a flaw in the theory, though. Cognitive dissonance causes anxiety and people will believe unreasonable things to reduce the anxiety. In this case the disciples believed that Jesus’ death was part of God’s plan. This would reduce their level of anxiety. So was there enough anxiety left to motivate them to believe, in the absence of evidence, something as unreasonable as that a dead man had come back to life?

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

                      Didn’t an awful lot of people eventually come to believe that a dead man had come back to life? How many of them did so based on evidence that we would consider reasonable? I suspect that most of them did so because they wanted to believe that their own lives–however miserable they might be–had some meaning and that God would eventually vindicate them, too. The disciples would be subject to the same motivation.

                    • stuart32

                      Yes, it’s certainly true that other people were willing to believe on the basis of claims made by others and not because they had witnessed it themselves.

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      There are big problems with the hallucination/vision theories. Hallucinations happen within a person’s mind. They don’t happen to multiple groups of people. These visions you talk about; where people see their loved ones and so forth happen in one place, time, and location.

                      The apperances of Jesus happened over 40 days, on various circumstances and occasions. To various people, places, and times. As well as to skeptics.

                      Moreover, the empty tomb also refutes the possiblity of hallucinations or visions. There are no pyschology cases of hallucinations and visions where multiple people, on multiple occasions and circumstances, various locations and times, experience someone who was dead and came back to life.

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

                      But of course the consensus of scholars is only that some of the disciples had experiences that they interpreted as appearances of the risen Christ. There is no consensus concerning Jesus appearing to multiple groups of people multiple times.

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      There are 6 resurrection apperances accounts of Jesus in the NT, that 95% of historians and scholars agree are historically factual.

                      When you look at these 6 accounts, they are not at one time, one place, and one person. They are at different times, different places and circumstances, and to different people over a 40 day period.

                      Appearnce 1: Mary Magdalene(Jerusalem)
                      Apperance 2: From Emmaus to Jerusalem
                      Apperance 3: Upper Room(Jerusalem)
                      Apperance 4: Thomas(Jerusalem)Upper Room again only 8 days later
                      Apperance 5: Sea of Galilee
                      Apperance 6: Ascension(Mount Olivet)

                      Hallucinations and Visions only happen to one person at one place at one time. Moreover, the empty tomb also trumps the hallucination and vision hypothesis.

                      There is no single pyschological case that is at all analagous to the resurrection apperances recorded in the New Testament.

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

                      So now it’s 10 facts rather than just 4 facts? That’s the beauty of this kind of apologetic and also why it such a scam. You start with a vague statement about some unidentified disciples having some experience which they interpreted as an appearance of the risen Christ. Then you casually drop the “some experience which they interpreted” and just talk about particular “appearances.” It’s all just smoke and mirrors from Habermas’ secret database!

                      Unfortunately, when you start cherry picking this way you illustrate that the alleged consensus of the scholars is not a function of the quality of the evidence. The majority of those six appearances are only singly attested.

                      Out of curiosity, what is the sample size from which that 95% is supposed to be derived? I know that Habermas claims to have reviewed thousands of articles, but how many of them actually get down to assessing the historicity of individual appearances?

                      BTW, only a handful of those scholars are actually historians. Most are theologians and New Testament scholars.

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

                      What I really find fascinating is that 95% of scholars affirm the Ascension but only 75% affirm the Empty Tomb. That would mean that 1 in 5 NT scholars are confident that Jesus flew into the sky but aren’t so sure that his tomb was found empty on Easter morning.

                    • Neko

                      No way!!

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

                      I would be interested to know the source of the figure. I am skeptical, since such a detail, found only in Acts, seems underattested to justify that degree of confidence. But even if the figure is accurate, then historically speaking, it would be addressing that one or more people claimed to see Jesus exalted skyward, not that such unprecedented human spaceflight actually occurred. No one using mainstream methods of historical study could make such a claim – at least not while speaking in their capacity as a historian.

                    • Neko

                      That’s what I’d expect, so was thrown by Vinny’s uncharacteristically wild claim.

                      Thank you for your response.

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

                      Since Habermas has never made his database public, it is hard to know how he comes up with his percentages although I suspect that the problem is in sampling.. My guess would be that most of the 25% of scholars who do not affirm the empty tomb don’t bother trying to assess the historicity of specific appearance stories. If it is only the conservative scholars who engage in the practice of judging the historicity of each appearance, you may get a higher percentage of them affirming.

                    • stuart32

                      This was amusing. I think it is fairly certain that people did claim to have seen Jesus, but what we don’t know is the exact nature of the claims. Did more than one person see Jesus at the same time, for example?

                      The apparent contradiction between accepting the appearances and rejecting the empty tomb can be resolved thanks to Richard Carrier:-) We just need to postulate the two-body theory of the resurrection.

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

                      I’m always struck by Matthew 2:13 where “an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.” This suggests to me that people of the time might have recognized a wide variety of experiences as “appearances.” I have no doubt that people did claim to have encountered Jesus alive, but I can’t see any way to determine how many (or even if any) of those encounters involved a distinct visual perception while awake.

                    • http://mythicpizza.blogspot.co.uk/ Paul Regnier

                      If you read Robin Lane Fox’s Pagans and Christians (which you should, because it’s pretty damn good), he describes a number of ways that people in the ancient world could encounter the divine. Dreams were certainly one common way. I.I.R.C., there was a specific shrine of Aesclepius that people went to in the hope of getting a message in a dream.

                    • Neko

                      I have no doubt that people did claim to have encountered Jesus alive, but I can’t see any way to determine how many (or even if any) of those encounters involved a distinct visual perception while awake.

                      Makes you wonder how often people claimed to see dead men walking.

                      Update: To mention Colm Toibin’s The Testament of Mary, speaking of dreams.

  • Matthew Jenkins

    Wait I’m confused, so Carrier is no longer a mythicist?

    • stuart32

      When Carrier wrote the essay he claimed that his ideas were compatible with mythicism, but that is clearly wrong. The argument that he made clearly contradicts mythicism, even if he didn’t realise it.

      • Matthew Jenkins

        lol..so Carrier ended up disproving his own position

        • stuart32

          Exactly. And he’s now saying that we’re all idiots for noticing!

          • Matthew Jenkins

            lol…..Silly Carrier, tricks are for kids!

  • Michael Wilson

    I think the theme in Carrier’s work is “what finding is worse for Christians?” This isn’t a good start for Historians. I think it should be curiosity not partisan cheerleading that drives research.

    On the theory its self, I haven’t read carrier’s essay, but if it is based on Corinthians, I don’t get the impression that they doubted Jesus was raised. Paul starts with the premise that they all believe Jesus rose and he instead uses that to support his position that they will be raised, which seems to be their worry. I agree though that their is nothing in Paul’s teaching on Jesus’ resurrection that requires that Jesus’ body have been revived or transformed. I also don’t see any evidence that any Christians had knowledge or access to a grave of Jesus that would compete with any physical resurrection or translation theories. I suspect, in agreement with Crossan that Jesus was anonymously disposed of. The empty tomb I suspect was a later addition, created to make Jesus’ resurrection prompt and concrete. I get the impression that later Christians had problems with the notion of Jesus appearing as a vision as Paul and John of Patmos describe. They were not reassured that the resurrection was real if it could be accounted for by ghost, shades, or a personal vision. Since the women in Mark “tell no one”, we can assume that no body heard this story until after others reported the resurrection. We can forgive Paul not including some random women in his list of resurrection appearances, but I suspect that it was the writer of the Passion Gospel that created this episode, using the women because it was probably well known that the disciples did not stay the weekend in Jerusalem nor did they report “seeing” Jesus until they were in Galilee. I suspect that John’s appearance at the lake was Mark’s original and also an invention created to again solidify the objectively miraculous resurrection of Jesus. Sadly, I don’t think any account of Jesus’ first resurrection appearance has been preserved, I presume because it likely occurred as a vision while Peter was at prayer. Not an exiting narrative. I do like Mark’s end though, as it ties Jesus’ resurrection with the beginning of his ministry and really underscores the fact that the disciples had given up, they returned to their old occupation, which may have been true. I suspect that the disciples did believe that the risen Jesus actually accompanied them, even if this notion of what it means to be present doesn’t suit some of the more physically minded.

    • stuart32

      I think the main point is that Paul goes to a lot of trouble to explain how the resurrection works. If Jesus had lived, died, and been resurrected in the celestial realm then his resurrection must have been very different from the one that everyone else was expecting. It seems highly improbable that Paul wouldn’t have mentioned this. This is a genuinely strong argument from silence.

    • Matthew Jenkins

      I know this is off topic, but was Jesus’s soul the 2nd Person of the trinity since the soul has to do with Consciousness?

      • Michael Wilson

        the trinity is fairly late idea in Christianity, I’m not sure what precisely a soul is.

        • Matthew Jenkins

          Hmm… The soul is a bit of a tricky one to comprehend. From what I hear, I think the soul is some sort of meta-physical concept. It is the essence or substance of human beings. It is personhood and it would have to be immaterial.

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

        If you embrace the view known as Apollonarianism, which mainstream orthodoxy rejected as heresy, then yes. :-)

        • Matthew Jenkins

          haha, I had a feeling I was affirming some sort of heresy:))

          There were a lot of those back in the early church going on.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Carrier still accepts the two-body theory. I think he just changed his mind about the location of the the first body. I think he now places it in a lower level of heaven.
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/4664#comment-54929

    • ncovington89

      Exactly.

      • stuart32

        By the way, Carrier says that the story of the empty tomb is a late legend and not something that was claimed in Paul’s time. Why was it a late rather than an early legend? Why didn’t Paul say that the tomb was empty? Was he afraid that someone would take a rocket up to the sub-lunar realm and discover that the tomb was really still occupied?

        Surely, if the story was late it must be because enough time had to pass to allow people to forget what really happened. But according to Carrier, nothing really happened; so why not invent the empty tomb story right off the bat?

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

    Well you guys have sure lost me here. I thought anyone who had an opinion about mythicism at least knew what mythicism is. I only know of one mythicist today who argues that Jesus did not take on a real physical body when he descended to earth. Why does belief that Jesus had a physical body count against mythicism when most mythicist arguments have acknowledged this belief?

    • stuart32

      Well, it was meant to be humorous, but remember that Carrier advocates celestial mythicism and he thinks that mythicism in general will stand or fall on his work. Also, the argument that Carrier makes in the essay refutes any kind of mythicism because he thinks he can show that the Corinthians *knew* Jesus’ body was still in the tomb. This would hardly be the case if Jesus never existed.

      • Herro

        >…[Carrier] thinks he can show that the Corinthians *knew* Jesus’ body was still in the tomb.

        [Citation needed]

        • stuart32

          You can see the argument he makes if you read the essay from the point of my last quote. It’s in The Empty Tomb, kindle location 1497.

          • Herro

            Stuart, there’s nothing in there about the Corinthians *knowing* that Jesus’ body was still in the tomb.

            I think you are simply misunderstanding him.

            • stuart32

              I don’t think so. The two-body theory only makes sense on the assumption that people knew Jesus didn’t really rise from the grave. How could anyone know that about a fictional character? If Jesus had been a fictional chararcter then there would have been no need of a two-body resurrection. The theory was an expedient. According to Carrier, Paul had a lot of trouble selling it to the Corinthians. Why not invent something that they would have found more convincing, if there were no facts about a real Jesus to constrain anyone?

              • Herro

                Stuart, whether or not the two-body theory “only makes sense on the assumption that people knew Jesus didn’t really rise from the grave”, is besides the point.

                Contrary to what you claimed, Carrier never states that the Corinthians *knew* that Jesus’ body was still in the tomb. So you are misunderstanding him if you think that he made that claim.

                • stuart32

                  OK, let me rephrase it: if Carrier’s argument succeeds then he has demonstrated this.

                  “On the hypothesis that the body of Jesus remained in the grave after he was raised, Paul’s strange argument here makes complete sense.” Kindle location 1510.

                  Just ask yourself: how would anyone know that the body of a fictional person remained in the grave?

                  • Matthew Jenkins

                    Exactly! Also, the tomb of Jesus had to have been known to other people in Jerusalem. If Jesus didn’t exist, then where did they get this idea of a tomb with this man named Jesus?

                    I mean they obviously had to have seen it or known about it through means of communication.

                    For goodness Sake, Paul the apostle spent 2 weeks with James and Peter and he indirectly mentions Jesus burial in a tomb, as well as the women followers and other male disciples of Jesus saw the tomb. The Jewish Authorities and Roman authorities knew about it as well.

                    In fact, some of the early church father’s indirectly or directly mention that the Jewish authorities had been arguing about Jesus tomb being empty, and how they tried to explain it away using naturalistic hypothesis.

                    • stuart32

                      It’s funny that Carrier seems not to understand the implications of his own arguments. If Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected in a celestial realm then how could Paul have thought that our resurrection will “fundamentally resemble” Christ’s?

                      Here’s a quote from Carrier:

                      “Am I brilliant? I don’t know. I have been told so by many.”

                      Maybe he needs to stop listening to people who tell him he’s brilliant :-)

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      It seems like anybody could be a myth according to Carrier since you can turn any arguement into an ad-hoc arguement.

                      Why couldn’t George Washington be a myth since a celestial realm exists? Why not Julius Caesar or Socrates? Couldn’t anybody in the ancient world really just be myths and they all lived in a celestial realm?

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

                      The tomb had to have been known? Did Paul know about it? He denied a flesh and blood resurrection, didn’t he? What if the empty tomb was just a story? Why would anyone have had to have known about it in real life?

                    • Matthew Jenkins

                      No, Paul believed in a flesh and blood resurrection. Jews understood the term “Resurrection” to mean the body, not just the soul or spirit to be raised. That’s why Jewish burial involved burying loved ones in ossuary’s. The bones were kept until the final resurrection of all Jews. They believed that God would raise them bodily one day..probably in the end times.

                      Similarly; if Jesus had not been raised from the dead, then his bones would have been placed in an ossuary, and his tomb would have been venerated. And, if the burial/empty tomb account was fiction, then it would have been a) Impossible for the disciples to preach Christ is risen in Jerusalem since that’s where his tomb was located. b) there would be no reason to preach his resurrection if he wasn’t resurrected. Remember, that most if not all the disciples of Christ scattered at the time of his arrest and death. If Jesus had not been raised, then what made them suddenly preach his resurrection in Jerusalem? C) all our sources are fairly unanimous on Jesus burial/empty tomb. d) women were the first eyewitnesses to the event, for women’s testimony was considered worthless or unreliable in a Jewish court of law. The fact that they used women as witnesses instead of men adds credibilitly to the gospel accounts/ burial and empty tomb of Jesus.

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

                    Well you’ve still lost me. Are you saying that any character who is believed to be buried somewhere is by definition historical? Do the only ahistorical persons necessarily exist in a nonterrestrial realm?

                    • stuart32

                      I should remind you that I’m not actually trying to use Carrier’s arguments to prove that Jesus existed. The idea that Carrier has provided a decisive case against mythicism was obviously satire. However, I do think that the argument he makes in the essay can be used against mythicism. I think there are genuine issues here that he needs to address, instead of calling people idiots.

                      The question is why the two-body theory arose in the first place (I’m not saying I believe it). As I mentioned in another comment, Paul was supposedly having a lot of trouble selling the idea to the Corinthians. If you are going to invent a myth then you have the freedom to invent any details that you like. Why invent a myth of a two-body resurrection if people will find it implausible? Also, Carrier had to go to a lot of trouble to argue that a two-body resurrection was the kind of idea that could arise in that cultural setting.

                      The clear implication of Carrier’s argument (to me at least) is that the early Christians were compelled to invent the idea because people knew that Jesus hadn’t really been physically resurrected. How did they know that? Presumably, because Jesus was an actual historical person who hadn’t really walked out of the grave. So Carrier’s theory implies historicism.

              • Xor

                “If Jesus had been a fictional chararcter then there would have been no need of a two-body resurrection.”

                Why not? Him being fictional does not mean that people like Paul “really knew” that, as a myth to believe in, it’s perfectly plausible that Christians thought he existed on earth when he did not.

                • Matt Brown

                  What proof do you have that Christians believe in a “mythical” or “celestial” Jesus?

                  • Xor

                    I’m not sure what you’re asking, Moses is now overwhelmingly considered mythical but people believed in him. Carrier shows that the Gospels had a very fictional structure (some rejected ones contradicting the Jesus story entirely) and were unlikely to have been written given the life expectancy of people from the time and when they were written.

                    If you’re asking for proof of Christians explicitly saying that Jesus did not exist but is a myth then obviously that’s absurd.

                    • Matt Brown

                      Your claim is that the early Church purposefully made a figure from Scratch, and passed him off as a real figure, yet there’s no evidence of this in the gospels or ancient sources outside the NT.

                      Carrier’s argument falls flat. Pointing to supposed myths in the Gospel accounts is not proof of Jesus non-existence.

                    • Xor

                      Whether it was “purposefully” is completely irrelevant. By your logic was Moses also “passed…off as a real figure”? Both were claimed to be real, living people.

                      And yes in the case of religions, absence of evidence is generally taken to be evidence of absence since there is no way to disprove figures like Moses existed.

                    • Matt Brown

                      But you’re still maintaining something that isn’t true, and that is saying that Jesus didn’t exist, despite the overwhelming amount of evidence.

                      An absence of evidence is only evidence of absence in two cases; 1) if we expect evidence and it’s not there or 2) If we have knowledge of the evidence and it’s not there.

                      How can you argue that Jesus was a myth, when the evidence we expect to have for his existence is there, and we have knowledge of it? You can’t.

                      But what you can do is ignore evidence, and come up with your own conspiracy theories to try and explain something that is so improbable

                    • Xor

                      What’s the evidence for him then? As far as I can tell it’s either religious sources or second hand religious sources (ie not valid evidence). Indeed works by Josephus were forged and second-hand accounts themselves were unlikely to have been accurate given the life expectancy of time.

                      We know for instance that Mohammed was a historical person because we had first hand accounts from non-religious sources. Nothing like that even comes close for Jesus.

                    • Matt Brown

                      “What’s the evidence for him then? As far as I can tell it’s either religious sources or second hand religious sources (ie not valid evidence). Indeed works by Josephus were forged and second-hand accounts themselves were unlikely to have been accurate given the life expectancy of time.”

                      You can’t discredit religious sources because they’re “religious” if what they’re saying is true. The Gospel accounts are verifiable by the historical method.

                      Only one of Josephus’ works are forged, but most scholars don’t think the entire thing was forged. The first passage that mention Jesus may have been interpolated, but it has a historical core that mentions his crucifixion and existence, as well as him being the founder of Christianity. The second passage is authentic and not forged, and it mentions James(Jesus’ half brother) being put to death.

                      A good book to read is Bart Ehrman(Secular Agnostic) “Did Jesus exist” which refutes the Christ myth THeory

                      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SB6EZzJ7m1c

                    • Xor

                      Saying the Gospels have validity is like saying the NT has validity, we can’t just separate all the miracle and unrealistic parts from the “historical” ones.

                      If by “first passage” you mean the forged one then yeah. Carrier argues that the second passage was a footnote added later by Christians which was common during the time and makes more sense given the context of it. What’s more, there were about a dozen Roman historians who lived during time and not one mentioned him.

                      To Ehrman’s point about no documents, we do, in fact, have documents for many historical persons (which he has been criticized for).

                    • Matt Brown

                      “Saying the Gospels have validity is like saying the NT has validity, we can’t just separate all the miracle and unrealistic parts from the “historical” ones.”

                      That’s not true. There are plenty of ancient texts that contain the supernatural, and yet historians can sift through and find the core historical facts. Most scholars agree that the gospel accounts are ‘biographies’.

                      “If by “first passage” you mean the forged one then yeah.”

                      So you agree that even though parts of it are forged, the historical core that can be recovered is that Josephus does mention Jesus’ crucifixion by Pontius Pilate and him being the founder of Christianity?

                      “Carrier argues that the second passage was a footnote added later by Christians which was common during the time and makes more sense given the context of it. What’s more, there were about a dozen Roman historians who lived during time and not one mentioned him.”

                      Carrier is lying to you because that’s not what virtually any scholar or historian has concluded about the second passage which says “James the brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ”. The context clearly shows that Josephus refers to the stoning of “James the brother of Jesus” by order Ananus ben Ananus, a Herodian-era High Priest.

                      “What’s more, there were about a dozen Roman historians who lived during time and not one mentioned him. To Ehrman’s point about no documents, we do, in fact, have documents for many historical persons (which he has been criticized for).”

                      But Ehrman isn’t incorrect. We don’t have any written records for Pontius Pilate during his day(Other than the Pilate Stone) nor do we have any written records for Josephus during his day. We don’t have any written records for Socrates(Other than his contemporaries). Stating that because historians who lived during the days of Jesus didn’t write about him as evidence of his non-existence is a non-sequitir(It doesn’t follow). That’s not proof that Jesus didn’t exist. What makes you think that a bunch of historians would write about someone from a backwater town? People didn’t know about him till after his crucifixion.

                    • Xor

                      Scholars sift through the actual evidence from things like archeology, if we used the other standard then we would have “historical” evidence of Jews living in ancient Egypt.

                      I’m saying the one part that actually mentioned it was forged, which even Jesus historians agree is true.

                      It was published in a peer-reviewed journal and agreed on by others so it’s a bit of a far cry to say he was “lying.” What’s more it makes more sense because Jesus Christ was not mentioned anywhere else in that work, which means it’s hundreds of pages and then suddenly “oh and he was related to Jesus Christ” and then any mention of him is dropped.

                      The Pilate Stone and contemporary (ie first-hand) accounts obviously count as evidence and as far as I can tell none of these exist for Christ.

                      Are you really asking why a religious sect would make up a spiritual leader? By that logic why would Jews make up Moses or any religion make up anyone for that matter.

                    • Matt Brown

                      “Scholars sift through the actual evidence from things like archeology, if we used the other standard then we would have “historical” evidence of Jews living in ancient Egypt.”

                      Archaeology is one method of determing a historical event true; however, it’s not the only way that historians determine if something is true. They also use the historical method. When you apply the historical method to the gospels, it is verifiable and reliable enought to tell us certain things. One of those things would be that Jesus existed.

                      “I’m saying the one part that actually mentioned it was forged, which even Jesus historians agree is true.”

                      But they don’t think the entire first passage is forged. They think that parts of it were interpolated. It’s fallacious to argue that the entire first passage from Josephus is forged, when historians are able to recover historical datum or a historical core that mentions Jesus execution under Pontius Pilate, and him being the founder of Christianity.

                      “It was published in a peer-reviewed journal and agreed on by others so it’s a bit of a far cry to say he was “lying.” What’s more it makes more sense because Jesus Christ was not mentioned anywhere else in that work, which means it’s hundreds of pages and then suddenly “oh and he was related to Jesus Christ” and then any mention of him is dropped.”

                      That doesn’t mean anything. The majority view is that Josephus Passage is interpolated, but has a historical core to it. Carrier’s view is an extreme view, and is not widely held because of the evidence against it.

                      The passage is a mention of Jesus’ brother James, execution by the Jewish ruling councils. In fact, Jesus is mentioned twice in Josephus works, so I don’t know how your argument has any bearing or weight to support it.

                      “The Pilate Stone and contemporary (ie first-hand) accounts obviously count as evidence and as far as I can tell none of these exist for Christ.”

                      But we have oral tradition, which goes back to the eyewitnesses in Jesus’ day, therefore, it’s contemporary. As well as Paul’s epistles, Josephus, Thallus, etc.

                      “Are you really asking why a religious sect would make up a spiritual leader? By that logic why would Jews make up Moses or any religion make up anyone for that matter.”

                      Given the Messianic expectations by Jews, the Messiah was supposed to overthrow Israel’s enemies and establish a new kingdom on earth. A crucified messiah was a contradiction in terms.

                    • Xor

                      I’m not sure if you have the right historical method because the one historians use would not only rely on second-hand religious sources because of their unreliability. Again, Jews in exodus is a perfect example of what would count as a “historical” event.

                      Are you really saying there’s a distinction between the “real” part where Josephus mentioned Jesus and then all the praise parts are fabricated? The entire passage is universally agreed to be a forgery and not even historicists use it.

                      For there to be a “historical core” you have to actually prove the “core” of Jesus existing, otherwise the argument is tautological. And Jesus son of Damneus, not Christ, is mentioned. If you assume the passage to be real that is the only time Christ is mentioned.

                      Paul was born in 5 CE, Thallus never mentioned anyone by name (and if he did there wouldn’t be a debate right now), and again, the two Josephus passages are considered to be forgeries or interpolations.

                      The point is both were claimed to be real magical deities, the meaning behind their godliness is irrelevant.

                      We have first-hand, non-religious evidence of people like Socrates, Pontius Pilate and Mohammed, as of yet, we have none for Jesus.

                    • Matt Brown

                      “I’m not sure if you have the right historical method because the one historians use would not only rely on second-hand religious sources because of their unreliability. Again, Jews in exodus is a perfect example of what would count as a “historical” event.”

                      Wrong. Historians and scholars use the same method for Jesus, that they do for anyone else in ancient history. You can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater just because we’re dealing with religious texts. There are plenty of examples in ancient history where ancient texts contain “the supernatural”, and yet, historians have been able to recover a historical datum.

                      “Are you really saying there’s a distinction between the “real” part where Josephus mentioned Jesus and then all the praise parts are fabricated? The entire passage is universally agreed to be a forgery and not even historicists use it.”

                      That’s incorrect and not what historians and scholars think. Scholars think that the first mention of Jesus by Josephus had an authentic core or nucleus, but was later edited by a Christian hand.

                      “that Josephus made some reference to Jesus, which has been retouched by a Christian hand. This is the view argued by Meier as by most scholars today particularly since S. Pines…” The Jesus Legend GA Wells

                      the vast majority have considered it to be authentic”. Meir (ISBN 978-0-8254-3260-6 pages 108-109) agrees with Feldman that few have questioned the authenticity of the James passage. Setzer (ISBN 0-8006-2680-X pages 108-109) also states that few have questioned its authenticity.

                      “For there to be a “historical core” you have to actually prove the “core” of Jesus existing, otherwise the argument is tautological. And Jesus son of Damneus, not Christ, is mentioned. If you assume the passage to be real that is the only time Christ is mentioned.”

                      Wrong again. Scholars are ablet to obtain the “historical core” despite the interpolations. I don’t think you know how scholarship works in historical studies

                      .Robert E Van. Voorst ” the overwhelming majority of scholars consider both the reference to “the brother of Jesus called Christ” and the entire passage that includes it as authentic.”

                      The context has nothing to do with Damneus, Carrier’s arguments go right out the window of scholarship.

                      This is the context of the passage

                      “Origen notes with favour that Josephus seeks the cause of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in the assassination of James the Just but gravely adds that Josephus ought to have stated that the calamity happened because the Jews killed Christ.”Mizugaki, page 335

                      “Paul was born in 5 CE,”

                      So what? Paul was alive to meet Jesus’ brother James, the disciples, and other leaders of the early church; therefore, he counts as a contemporary of Jesus.

                      “Thallus never mentioned anyone by name (and if he did there wouldn’t be a debate right now),”

                      Africanus cites Thallus work, and his reference to the eclipse during the reign of Tiberius(when Jesus was crucified). You can also look at Phlegon, who mentions an eclipse during the reign of tiberius.

                      “and again, the two Josephus passages are considered to be forgeries or interpolations.”

                      Wrong again. The second passage is authentic and there is near unanimous agreement on it by scholars and historians.

                      Thallus never mentioned anyone by name (and if he did there wouldn’t be a debate right now), and again, the two Josephus passages are considered to be forgeries or interpolations.

                      “We have first-hand, non-religious evidence of people like Socrates, Pontius Pilate and Mohammed, as of yet, we have none for Jesus.”

                      That’s incorrect as well, we have first-hand accounts via oral tradition.

                    • Xor

                      So then what are these first-hand, non-religious accounts of Jesus like the ones which exist for Mohammed, Socrates etc? On a similar note, what exactly do you mean by “oral tradition”?

                      I guess I should mention, history is not something like climate change where there are clear numbers and the consensus is obvious. Often times it’s using the
                      right methods and assumptions. For instance in the 1970s, there was a consensus that Moses was also a historical person based on poor assumptions. It’s also changing, especially recently in peer-reviewed religious journals because of better methods and assumptions.

                      In the case of two forged/interpolated passages,
                      it’s tautological to argue that: “These passages were edited but originally mentioned Jesus, thus proving his existence. And how do we know they mentioned him? Because he existed.” You have to prove the original existence first, which goes back to the first question.

                      Your do realize Carrier’s “out the window of scholarship” argument is published in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal right? And what makes more sense: Damneus, who was mentioned throughout, is then mentioned again, or that suddenly Christ is introduced?

                      Contemporary – “living or occurring at the same time.” But that aside, there’s also better evidence that James the Just was a “brother” of Christ in the same way that all Christians from the time were “brothers” of Christ (Paul’s being the only passage used to justify him being biologically related).

                      Description of an eclipse is not evidence of Jesus. If it actually mentioned Jesus then no one would be arguing right now.

                    • Matt Brown

                      “So then what are these first-hand, non-religious accounts of Jesus like the ones which exist for Mohammed, Socrates etc? On a similar note, what exactly do you mean by “oral tradition”?”

                      We don’t have any historians who wrote about Socrates, all we have are his contemporaries, and yet you agree he existed. The same is w/Jesus. The contemporary evidence we have for Jesus, are the Gospel accounts via oral tradition. Oral tradition was a method used in ancient history, where people would record something via word of mouth instead of writing it down. The gospel writers recieved what had been handed down from the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life. We also have Paul’s epistles which mention some things about Jesus;therefore, we have contemporary evidence. What you have to understand is that The existence of historical figures is established by the analysis of later references to them, rather than by contemporary relics and remnants. Arguing from ignorance is fallacious and dubious.

                    • Xor

                      Actually Xenophon (one of three contemporaries for Socrates) was a historian but that’s beside the point.

                      We don’t know enough about the Gospels to know they were from “oral tradition,” all we actually know are second hand accounts by people like Paul who explicitly said he saw Jesus in a “vision,” aka a hallucination. And even if they were, this is ancient hearsay from extremely religious people.

                      For comparison here are the sources for questioned people:

                      Socrates: Plato, Aristophanes, and Xenophon were all contemporaries who wrote about him, were all non-religious in the sense that they didn’t espouse religious dogma and nothing about Socrates is related to their religions.

                      Mohammed: Cited by name in a contemporary, non-religious, government document which records him as a warring prophet in a place others said he was in.

                      Jesus: no contemporary records at all and only evidence are second-hand accounts from a religious sect predicated on his existence.

                      You can argue this is an adequate standard but by this standard you can have “historical” evidence for any deity that has ever existed.

                    • Matt Brown

                      *Note* I accidently deleted my entire response the first time, so I’m sorry if I took so long to respond. Here is my rebuttal to your argument.

                      “So then what are these first-hand, non-religious accounts of Jesus like the ones which exist for Mohammed, Socrates etc? On a similar note, what exactly do you mean by “oral tradition”?”

                      We don’t have any historians who wrote about Socrates, all we have are his contemporaries, and yet you agree he existed. The same is w/Jesus. The contemporary evidence we have for Jesus, are the Gospel accounts via oral tradition. Oral tradition was a method used in ancient history, where people would record something via word of mouth instead of writing it down. The gospel writers recieved what had been handed down from the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life. We also have Paul’s epistles which mention some things about Jesus;therefore, we have contemporary evidence. What you have to understand is that The existence of historical figures is established by the analysis of later references to them, rather than by contemporary relics and remnants. Arguing from ignorance is fallacious and dubious.

                      “I guess I should mention, history is not something like climate change where there are clear numbers and the consensus is obvious. Often times it’s using the
                      right methods and assumptions. For instance in the 1970s, there was a consensus that Moses was also a historical person based on poor assumptions. It’s also changing, especially recently in peer-reviewed religious journals because of better methods and assumptions.”

                      You can’t use a consensus from the past to trump a consensus from the present. Especially when we have advanced technology and methodology in the field of historical studies.

                      In the case of two forged/interpolated passages,
                      it’s tautological to argue that: “These passages were edited but originally mentioned Jesus, thus proving his existence. And how do we know they mentioned him? Because he existed.” You have to prove the original existence first, which goes back to the first question.

                      It’s not tautological. Tautology, means arguing in a circle. I am not arguing in a circle. Josephus’ first passage had orginally an authentic core or nucleus, describing Jesus crucifixion and him being the founder of Christianity;howerver, a christian hand touched it or it is thought to be somewhat interpolated. Your also incorrect about the second passage. The second passage is not forged but authentic.

                      “Your do realize Carrier’s “out the window of scholarship” argument is published in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal right? And what makes more sense: Damneus, who was mentioned throughout, is then mentioned again, or that suddenly Christ is introduced?”

                      That doesn’t mean he’s right. Not everything that passes peer-review is correct. And, Damneus is not in that context. It’s obvious that James is being mentioned, and Josephus says that he’s Jesus’ brother, who ends up getting killed by the Jewish council. James was an early leader and the church, and we know he died a marytr’s death.

                      Contemporary – “living or occurring at the same time.” But that aside, there’s also better evidence that James the Just was a “brother” of Christ in the same way that all Christians from the time were “brothers” of Christ (Paul’s being the only passage used to justify him being biologically related).

                      I already explained earlier we do have “contemporary” evidence. Are we really to believe that what the gospels tell us, as well as Josephus about James is that he was a “friend” or “spirtual” brother rather than a biological brother? That’s extremely problematic and dubious. There is no evidence to suggest this.

                      “Description of an eclipse is not evidence of Jesus. If it actually mentioned Jesus then no one would be arguing right now.”

                      An eclipse happened during Jesus’ crucifixion. The eclipse was mentioned at the same time during Jesus’ crucifixion(the sources say during the reing of Tiberius). The gospels tell us this.

                    • Xor

                      For the sake of time I’ll re-post my original reply and then separate it from extra material:

                      [Original with edits]:

                      Actually Xenophon (one of three contemporaries for Socrates) was a historian but that’s beside the point.

                      We don’t know enough about the Gospels to know they were from “oral tradition,” all we actually know are second hand accounts by people like Paul who explicitly said he saw Jesus in a “vision,” aka a hallucination. And even if they were (which again, we don’t know) this would ancient hearsay from dogmatists.

                      For comparison here are the sources for questioned people:

                      Socrates: Plato, Aristophanes, and Xenophon were all contemporaries who wrote about him, were all non-religious in the sense that they didn’t espouse religious dogma and nothing about Socrates is related to their religions.

                      Mohammed: Cited by name in a contemporary,
                      non-religious, government document which records him as a warring prophet in a place others said he was in.

                      Jesus: no contemporary records at all and only evidence are second-hand accounts from a religious sect predicated on his existence.

                      [Extra]

                      I’m using a false old consensus to show that the current one can be false as well, not the other way around. In the 1970s there was a consensus around a “historical” Moses which proved false and it seems the same is true for Jesus.

                      Yes it is tautological, it assumes that historical core = legitimate passages = historical core. Unless you prove the “core” independently (which again we can’t do because there are no contemporary sources) then you’re using it to prove itself.

                      Unless it’s academically disproved it is generally considered right if its published (or a viable alternative anyway). The same applies for the “brother” issue.

                      It still doesn’t mention Jesus. Again, this goes back to the “historicity” of events mentioned in the bible, some of which existed (like Pontius Pilate as a person) and some did not (like the Jews in Exodus). Without definitive proof our standards become loose enough for anything.

                    • Matt Brown

                      “We don’t know enough about the Gospels to know they were from “oral tradition,” all we actually know are second hand accounts by people like Paul who explicitly said he saw Jesus in a “vision,” aka a hallucination. And even if they were (which again, we don’t know) this would ancient hearsay from dogmatists.”

                      That’s simply not true. We know enough about Oral tradition, and how it works. Oral Tradition was not like the game of telephone. Oral Tradition was a highly practice skill that used memory instead of words. That is in fact how people who couldn’t read or write communicated what they had witnessed. That is exactly the case in the gospels. It’s reliable enough to tell us that there was a historical Jesus.

                      “I’m using a false old consensus to show that the current one can be false as well, not the other way around. In the 1970s there was a consensus around a “historical” Moses which proved false and it seems the same is true for Jesus.”

                      Right, and you can’t do that because the consensus today is far different than it was back then. Our technology and methods have improved.

                      Yes it is tautological, it assumes that historical core = legitimate passages = historical core. Unless you prove the “core” independently (which again we can’t do because there are no contemporary sources) then you’re using it to prove itself.

                      “Unless it’s academically disproved it is generally considered right if its published (or a viable alternative anyway). The same applies for the “brother” issue.”

                      Mythicism was disproven 100 years ago, and Carrier’s arguments are basically just washed up arguments that have been “tweaked” by pointing to supposed parallels in the gospels and other ancient documents. Just because something passes peer-review, it doesn’t make it right. Creationists have been able to pass peer-review, but that doesn’t mean that the earth is 6000 years old. A consensus is a reflection of the evidence. When you have virtually all historians agreeing in peer reviewed and popular articles vs. just one historian, that ought to tell you something about the evidence. Even Carrier himself said that mythicism won’t be good unless it can convince the consensus.

                      “It still doesn’t mention Jesus. Again, this goes back to the “historicity” of events mentioned in the bible, some of which existed (like Pontius Pilate as a person) and some did not (like the Jews in Exodus). Without definitive proof our standards become loose enough for anything.”

                      Jews did exist in Egypt and the Exodus like Moses, is still disputed. Either way, the evidence for Jesus is overwhelming.

                      “Yes it is tautological, it assumes that historical core = legitimate passages = historical core. Unless you prove the “core” independently (which again we can’t do because there are no contemporary sources) then you’re using it to prove itself.”

                      It’s not tautological. This argument is based on a faulty pre-supposition. There are tons of historical figures that we don’t have any contemporary records from their day. You don’t understand how ancient history works. Historians can recover a core-historical figure despite supernatural or mythical events. The historical core is independent because it’s part of an independt source; mainly Josephus and Tacitus. Josephus and Tacitus wrote independently of the Gospels, therefore, their written records are independent evidence that corroborates Jesus existence and his crucifixion under Pontius Pilate.

                    • Xor

                      Where’s the evidence that the Gospels specifically, were based on oral tradition? All we know is that certain Gospels were written by people like Paul who openly said his insights were from “visions.”

                      Again, you’re missing the point. Technology didn’t prove or disprove either Moses or Jesus and is thus irrelevant here. The point is faulty assumptions are what changed the consensus around the “historical” Moses and that’s happening again now for Jesus.

                      “Creationists have been able to pass peer-review, but that doesn’t mean that the earth is 6000 years old.”

                      I’m sorry, what? No, not a single peer-reviewed scientific journal has passed a study arguing the world is 6,000 years old.

                      And apparently that would make you the only person in the world to know that the Journal of Early Christian Studies passed a fraudulent study by Carrier and you should probably let them know ASAP.

                      Jews as mass Egyptian slaves per Exodus is not at all “disputed”, it’s overwhelmingly considered false.

                      Not if it’s a religious deity they can’t. You need first-hand accounts or else by that standard we have a “historical” Moses, Mithra etc. because those were also claimed to be real people, including by second-hand accounts.

                      You do realize Tacitus was relying on his contemporary, later Roman Christians for his sources right? It’s not like he “independently” interviewed a second generation of non-Christians, who confirmed how their non-Christian parents saw Jesus. (The question of Josephus goes back to Carrier and peer-review).

                    • Matt Brown

                      “Where’s the evidence that the Gospels specifically, were based on oral tradition? All we know is that certain Gospels were written by people like Paul who openly said his insights were from “visions.”

                      The Gospels were written by Paul??? I’m puzzled at your assertion. The Gospels are based off anonomous tradition that came from the eyewitnesses of Jesus(i.e. his disciples). Paul’s epistles contain very important historical details that he claims are not from him. Claims that are off-the-cuff and point to Jesus’ teachings. He also gets info from Jesus’ brother “James”.

                      “Again, you’re missing the point. Technology didn’t prove or disprove either Moses or Jesus and is thus irrelevant here. The point is faulty assumptions are what changed the consensus around the “historical” Moses and that’s happening again now for Jesus.”

                      I don’t believe I am. The point is that historical methods and ways of getting to evidence was still developing. Using that from the past as a way to trump the consensus now is in no way sensical. And no, historians aren’t changing their mind about Jesus of Nazareth’s existence.

                      “I’m sorry, what? No, not a single peer-reviewed scientific journal has passed a study arguing the world is 6,000 years old.”

                      You’re attacking a straw-man. I didn’t say that Creationists have published peer-reviewed work on the earth being 6000 years old. I said that Creationists have been able to publish in peer-reviewed articles(very few like mythicists). In fact, here’s the link to one example:

                      http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/creationist-paper-published-in-peer-reviewed-biology-journal-ud-author-cited-origins-2012-conference/

                      “And apparently that would make you the only person in the world to know that the Journal of Early Christian Studies passed a fraudulent study by Carrier and you should probably let them know ASAP.”

                      Is it your assertion that everything that passes peer-review is automatically “correct”?

                      “Jews as mass Egyptian slaves per Exodus is not at all “disputed”, it’s overwhelmingly considered false.”

                      Historians still dispute how or if the Exodus happened. Some thing that it may have been small wanderings over time out of Egypt.

                      “Not if it’s a religious deity they can’t. You need first-hand accounts or else by that standard we have a “historical” Moses, Mithra etc. because those were also claimed to be real people, including by second-hand accounts.”

                      You can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. The claim you’re making would at best show that the Historical Jesus was believed to be human and divine at the same time or human but was later divinized(I 100% disagree with this but you get the point). Mythicists, however, typically want to ignore and twist the conclusion by stating that Jesus started out as a “Cosmo-Mythic Christ” who was later “Historicized” but that is extremely problematic and doesn’t fit the Pauline Gospel and non-biblical evidence.

                      “You do realize Tacitus was relying on his contemporary, later Roman Christians for his sources right? It’s not like he “independently” interviewed a second generation of non-Christians, who confirmed how their non-Christian parents saw Jesus.”

                      What evidence do you have to show this? This is simply false and misleading. Tacitus was very hostile towards Christians and he would always mention if he was writing on “hearsay”. The text in his Annals show a hostile attitude and don’t contain “hearsay”. Also, Tacitus was a Roman Historian who was part of an inner circle group in Rome. He must have had some sort of access to Roman Records.

                      ” (The question of Josephus goes back to Carrier and peer-review).”

                      It doesn’t mean that Carrier is right. You shouldn’t ignore the overwhelming consenus about the two of Josephus’ passages and the evidence that historians can recover from it, which shows that Josephus mentions Jesus’ existnece. Him being the founder of a movement(Christianity). His crucifixion under Pontius Pilate. And his brother James.

                    • Xor

                      Aside from how “certain Gospels were written by people like Paul” obviously does NOT mean “The Gospels were written by Paul???” You have yet to cite any actual evidence that they were from “eyewitness accounts”. Paul openly said his Gospel was based on visions, not reports from others.

                      I never said anything “trumps” anything, the point was historical consensuses are not definitive because of improving assumptions.

                      Then the analogy is completely moot. You compared the mythicist position itself to creationism (ie that’s supposed to be fringe). In this case, some creationist published an article unrelated to the age of the earth. Carrier did not do that, he directly presented an alternative and got it published. For your logic to work, this would be like if a creationist published a study arguing the earth is 6,000 years old in a scientific journal.

                      And yes, unless it is proven false, peer-reviewed studies are considered valid. If you think it’s literally akin to a scientific journal publishing creationism you ought to let them know.

                      No they don’t, unless we find evidence for mass Jewish slavery in Egypt the case is closed for the Exodus account.

                      When it comes to deities we do actually “throw out the baby,” when there isn’t enough evidence. By your standard is it OK to have something like a “historical” Mithra?

                      It comes from a certain Columbia PhD by the name of Richard Carrier, who points out that Tacitus’s mistakes and details likely came from Christians during the time (and I never said “hearsay” in the context of Tacitus so I’m not sure why you’re quoting it).

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

                      So Paul ended up with the same basic proclamation as other apostles as a result of visions? I had no idea that you believed in miracles of this sort! Me, I am far more skeptically-minded and thus look for a more mundane explanation.

                      That something is a peer-reviewed publication does not make it correct. It just means it is following the basic rules for a given scholarly discipline.

                    • Xor

                      Hmm I’m pretty sure putting “visions” in quotation marks along with my comparison to hallucinations in other comments was a hint that maybe Paul’s account wasn’t reputable.

                      Right so then you should let the Journal of Early Christian Studies know that they apparently published a fraudulent article because peer-reviewed articles have an assumption of accuracy until they’re disproved.

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

                      Someone has badly misinformed you about the nature of peer review. A peer-reviewed publication is a scholar making a case for a new idea. That new proposal will be evaluated by the scholarly community. If it persuades the majority and becomes the consensus, then you can presume that it is correct. Not before then.

                    • Xor

                      Then you’re misinformed for what counts as “correct,” in history the better evidence and assumptions are what count, not consensus.

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

                      You are either misunderstanding me or being deliberately difficult. Everyone who published work, with perhaps a small number of exceptions, is persuaded that their evidence and arguments are persuasive. But it is up to the scholarly community to evaluate those claims. Clearly the many contradictory claims in peer-reviewed publications cannot all be correct.

                    • Matt Brown

                      “Aside from how “certain Gospels were written by people like Paul” obviously does NOT mean “The Gospels were written by Paul???” You have yet to cite any actual evidence that they were from “eyewitness accounts”. Paul openly said his Gospel was based on visions, not reports from others.”

                      What? Paul didn’t write the Gospels. Paul wrote his epistles. The Gospels as I said earlier are based off unknown traditions that had developed from Jesus’ disciples. Also, Paul mentions several times that he is receiving data that is not from him. He met with James, Jesus’ brother and other early church members(like Peter). This is a saw in the mythicist branch. It totally cuts through the idea that some things Paul was recieving(The Last supper, Jesus was born under a woman, Jesus had a brother.etc.) were not from him but from early eyewitnesses.

                      “I never said anything “trumps” anything, the point was historical consensuses are not definitive because of improving assumptions.”

                      Really? Did you or did you not just repeatedly quote the supposed consensus on Moses from the past to try and argue against the consensus today?

                      “Then the analogy is completely moot. You compared the mythicist position itself to creationism (ie that’s supposed to be fringe). In this case, some creationist published an article unrelated to the age of the earth. Carrier did not do that, he directly presented an alternative and got it published. For your logic to work, this would be like if a creationist published a study arguing the earth is 6,000 years old in a scientific journal.And yes, unless it is proven false, peer-reviewed studies are considered valid. If you think it’s literally akin to a scientific journal publishing creationism you ought to let them know.”

                      The analogy is not “moot”. Mythicism was disproven 100 years ago by reputable scholars and historians. It is not held by virtually any scholar or historian today. Mythicism is psuedoscholarship since it’s not supported and it is a dead theory in current scholarship. So yes, it is a fringe idea.

                      The point I was making about the Creationist analogy to Carrier’s book, was to show you that not everything that passes peer-review is “correct”. If it was, then you would have to agree that the Creationist article that was published in a secular science journal was correct. Peer-review is not evidence that an academic is correct. Peer-review simply means an academic is approaching a topic or issue in a scholarly manner. There are plenty of examples of peer-reviewed works that are wrong(Like Carrier’s).

                      “No they don’t, unless we find evidence for mass Jewish slavery in Egypt the case is closed for the Exodus account.”

                      That is most certainly incorrect and the Exodus, like Moses, is still disputed.

                      “When it comes to deities we do actually “throw out the baby,” when there isn’t enough evidence. By your standard is it OK to have something like a “historical” Mithra?”

                      So we should throw out facts and evidence that prove Jesus’ existence despite some things about Jesus that might or might not be true?

                      “It comes from a certain Columbia PhD by the name of Richard Carrier, who points out that Tacitus’s mistakes and details likely came from Christians during the time (and I never said “hearsay” in the context of Tacitus so I’m not”

                      Oh so because Richard Carrier has a PhD, that makes him correct? I guess Dr. Todd Wood’s Peer-reviewed article on “Using Creation Science to demonstrate evolution” must be correct then since he has a PhD, and his work is peer-reviewed. And Tacitus doesn’t make any mistakes in the passage about Christ, other than spelling which doesn’t disprove Jesus’ existence.

                    • Xor

                      Sure technically Galatians is not a Gospel but it’s worth looking into. In it, Paul explicitly said “I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” That is, he hallucinated the evidence, not from being told it by anyone else.

                      Again, the “brother” issue goes back to whether you trust peer-reviewed papers (which evidentally you don’t).

                      The issue is how you think I’m interpreting it. You think that I’m using an old consensus to “trump” the new one, which implies that at some point in the past there was a consensus that Jesus was a myth (something that never happened). What I am saying is that historical consensuses are not set in stone nor necessarily accurate, what matters are the actual assumptions and evidence.

                      Did you not read what I said? The creationist bio article did not have anything to with creationism (let me repeat: it passed peer-review because it was not about creationism). That’s why Carrier’s article is not comparable because it did directly challenge it while there’s no scientific article arguing the earth is 6,000 years old.

                      Correctness is based on the evidence and assumptions, being published means it’s viable for being correct (and given the other interpretations it’s clearly the best one).

                      I’m pretty sure even McGrath would agree that no one seriously argues for the Exodus account.

                      You don’t throw out evidence, you throw out the status of it being historical. Again, what makes Jesus different than Mithra, Krishna etc. in this regard?

                      Yes Tacitus makes numerous mistakes in his account which we know of now. And unless all those articles and sources have been disproved (see my other comment on why the creationism one is not relevant here) then we do trust them.

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

                      If you think that Paul hallucinated all his knowledge about Christianity, having previously persecuted adherents of the movement without knowing anything about it, then I would suggest that there is a simpler and more plausible way to account for the evidence.

                    • Xor

                      We don’t have verifiable evidence of any “previous adherents,” Paul’s generation are the earliest Christians we know of.

                      So yes it’s perfectly plausible that a handful of figures hallucinated everything and made a religion based on it: Paul as a perfect case and point.

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

                      Do you have any evidence that people came to believe that the awaited Davidic anointed one had arrived as a result of hallucinations?

                    • Xor

                      Are you asking for evidence that 1). beleivers of Judaism, or 2). believers of David were hallucinating or both?

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

                      No, I am asking the question I asked, as I asked it. I indicated once before that if English is not your first language, to please let me know. But perhaps the issue is simply that you know so very little about ancient Judaism and the origins of Christianity?

                    • Xor

                      Well I can’t answer an illogical question because multiple non-Christian religions believe in different Davidic saviors.

                      If you’re asking about evidence that JESUS was hallucinated by followers, then yes we do have evidence here:

                      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1032067/

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

                      Which non-Christian religions believe in “different Davidic saviors”? Presumably your list will begin with Judaism, but I am wondering how it will continue.

                      People have dreams and hallucinations about figures both real and mythical. Why do you prefer to discuss generalities rather than the specific relevant evidence?

                    • Xor

                      For one Islam sees Solomon as a Davidic prophet and there’s fringe religious leaders claiming to be Davidic heirs like James Jezreel.

                      Did you miss the link to the peer-reviewed medical study? I don’t think if a doctor told you you’re showing signs of epilepsy, your response would also be “People have dreams and hallucinations about figures both real and mythical.”

                    • Matt Brown

                      But Islam didn’t exist until 600 years after Christ, and it’s not relevant to the question Dr.McGrath is asking you.

                      The question that Dr. McGrath is asking you is: What sort of Jewish sect before Christ, believed in a non-davidic Messiah who would be Crucified?

                    • Xor

                      I didn’t see a “before” in the original question it just asked for non-Christian religions.

                    • Matt Brown

                      But that’s what Dr.McGrath meant. Your claims that Monetheistic Jews made up a crucified messiah, when Jewish expectations were that the Messiah was supposed to be a king-like figure(Like King David), who was supposed to overthrow Israel’s enemies and establish God’s kingdom here on earth. Jesus crucifixion made him out to be a “criminal” in the eyes of Jews.

                    • Xor

                      I can’t read someone’s mind to know what they “really meant,” all the comment asked for was non-Christian examples of Davidic heirs (of which there are at least 3). There was nothing about it being pre-Christian or whether it had to be “king-like.”

                      Can someone respond to how Paul very likely had epilepsy?

                    • Matt Brown

                      I can’t read other people’s mind either, but I can sure read their statements. The point is that you can’t cite any pre-Christain heirs who thought of a crucified messiah because there wasn’t any idea of a crucified messiah.

                    • Matt Brown

                      Sure technically Galatians is not a Gospel but it’s worth looking into. In it, Paul explicitly said “I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” That is, he hallucinated the evidence, not from being told it by anyone else.”

                      Galations isn’t a gospel. I am again puzzled at your assertion as you don’t seem to know the differnce between Paul’s Epistles and the Gospels. Paul wrote his epistles, he did not write the Gospels. And you took that quote out of context(Like many mythicists do). Paul is saying that the spirtual teachings by which he is preaching is not from any man, but from God. Jesus is both God and man. However, there are some things that Paul admits that he gets from James and the early eyewitnesses via oral tradition that prove that Jesus was a real figure.

                      Again, the “brother” issue goes back to whether you trust peer-reviewed papers (which evidentally you don’t).

                      I do trust peer-reviewed papers, but not everything that is peer-reviewed is correct. Peer-review simply means a scholar is approaching something seriously, it doesn’t mean that they are automatically correct.

                      If you have a consensus of scholars who publish on the same topic vs. one scholar that ought to tell you something about the evidence.

                      “The issue is how you think I’m interpreting it. You think that I’m using an old consensus to “trump” the new one, which implies that at some point in the past there was a consensus that Jesus was a myth (something that never happened). What I am saying is that historical consensuses are not set in stone nor necessarily accurate, what matters are the actual assumptions and evidence.”

                      I’m assuming you haven’t studied the history of scholarship regarding the historical Jesus. The consensus in the past during the 19th and 20th century was that Jesus was a myth, but that was later turned during the mid 21st century when scholars found no evidence to support that view. The Christ myth Theory is a dead theory in scholarship today.

                      “Did you not read what I said? The creationist bio article did not have anything to with creationism (let me repeat: it passed peer-review because it was not about creationism). That’s why Carrier’s article is not comparable because it did directly challenge it while there’s no scientific article arguing the earth is 6,000 years old.”

                      That is incorrect. I guranteed you didn’t even look at the article yourself. The whole article was about Creationism being applied to a specific species of dinosaurs and reptiles http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1420-9101.2010.02208.x/abstract

                      *Some more examples of peer reviewed non-evolutionist articles http://sententias.org/2012/02/15/id-papers/

                      The point that I’m trying to get you to see; however, is that just because his article was peer-reviewed it doesn’t mean it’s automatically “correct”. Now you would have to agree with me or otherwise you would be going against your earlier comments where you mention that becuase Carrier’s book passes peer-review, he is therefore correct.

                      “Correctness is based on the evidence and assumptions, being published means it’s viable for being correct (and given the other interpretations it’s clearly the best one).”

                      No. Being published means that the academic is approaching a topic in a scholarly mannor. It doesn’t mean however that their argument is correct or the best one.

                      “I’m pretty sure even McGrath would agree that no one seriously argues for the Exodus account.”

                      I’m pretty sure he would say that people still dispute it, but that’s irrelevant to the question of Jesus’ existence.

                      “You don’t throw out evidence, you throw out the status of it being historical. Again, what makes Jesus different than Mithra, Krishna etc. in this regard?”

                      Huh? That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. You throw out historical evidence and decieve others in believing something that isn’t true?

                      Jesus existed. Mithra and Krish didn’t exist:that’s the difference.

                      “Yes Tacitus makes numerous mistakes in his account which we know of now. And unless all those articles and sources have been disproved (see my other comment on why the creationism one is not relevant here) then we do trust them. ”

                      And what are the “supposed” mistakes that Tacitus makes regarding Jesus’ existence?

                    • Xor

                      Yes that’s exactly what I said when I wrote that “Galatians
                      is NOT a Gospel.” And no Paul was referring to “the gospel which was preached by me,” ie the gospel account of Jesus’s life. It’s kind of hard to argue that the “gospel” which he was “not receive[d]…from any man, nor was [he] taught it” but from a “revelation,” came from other people.

                      Paul was considered to be an epileptic and many of his
                      accounts of “visions” are similar to those of epileptic hallucinations.

                      Well unless you can disprove it, it’s just your assertion
                      that the peer-review study is wrong.

                      It’s a bit of a stretch to call a few European scholars a “consensus” (especially over hundreds of years). The historical Moses however was a false consensus in the sense that it was a fringe position to question it until the 1970s.

                      In my defense I did look for the original in the link and
                      couldn’t find it and thus assumed since it was bio had nothing to do with it but was written by someone who was a creationist. It’s unfair to include those articles for being “creationist” just because they discuss it or are just papers actually unrelated to evolution etc. but written by creationists. As far as I can tell not one of those articles actually tries to directly prove a creationist claim.

                      I’m not saying it’s magically correct because it passes but
                      that unless it is disproved later that it is currently still correct. Right now no one has disproved Carrier’s studies.

                      Did you misread where it says “You DON’T throw out
                      evidence” (caps added)? The status changes, not the evidence.

                      Right now, Jesus has the same level of evidence as Krishna or Mithra because none of them have verifiable first-hand accounts the way people like Muhammad do.

                      For one, Tacitus says that “the populace” of Rome called Jesus followers “Christians” even though the term either did not exist or at best was not used outside of early centers until many decades later (ie Tacitus’s time). Similarly, he said that Pilate was a “procurator” even though our archeological evidence shows his title was a prefect.

                      Tacitus was obviously basing his account on Christians from the time who were saying many of the same things.

                    • Matt Brown

                      “Yes that’s exactly what I said when I wrote that “Galatians
                      is NOT a Gospel.” And no Paul was referring to “the gospel which was preached by me,” ie the gospel account of Jesus’s life. It’s kind of hard to argue that the “gospel” which he was “not receive[d]…from any man, nor was [he] taught it” but from a “revelation,” came from other people. Paul was considered to be an epileptic and many of his

                      accounts of “visions” are similar to those of epileptic hallucinations.”

                      Paul wasn’t hallucinating, nor was he an epileptic. There are some things in Paul’s epistles that he says that are Disinteresting to his message. He mentions that Jesus and James were related to each other as earthly flesh and blood brothers. He mentions Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.

                      “Well unless you can disprove it, it’s just your assertion
                      that the peer-review study is wrong.”

                      Carrier’s arguments have already been disproved a long time ago. Mythicism is nothing new, and Carrier’s arguments are simply washed up and added to. but with the same tactics that were refuted in the past by scholars.

                      “It’s a bit of a stretch to call a few European scholars a “consensus” (especially over hundreds of years). The historical Moses however was a false consensus in the sense that it was a fringe position to question it until the 1970s.”

                      This isn’t the consensus of a “few” scholars. This is the consensus of virtually every scholar and historian in existence around the world today.

                      “In my defense I did look for the original in the link and
                      couldn’t find it and thus assumed since it was bio had nothing to do with it but was written by someone who was a creationist. It’s unfair to include those articles for being “creationist” just because they discuss it or are just papers actually unrelated to evolution etc. but written by creationists. As far as I can tell not one of those articles actually tries to directly prove a creationist claim. I’m not saying it’s magically correct because it passes but
                      that unless it is disproved later that it is currently still correct. Right now no one has disproved Carrier’s studies.”

                      But you’re misunderstanding the point of that article I sent you. The point was not whether Creationism is true or what is being discussed(Creationism is being discussed by that article by a Creationist). The point of that article was to show your naive assertion that just because something is peer-reviewed, it is automatically true or correct, when in reality, not everything that passes peer-review is correct.

                      “I’m not saying it’s magically correct because it passes but
                      that unless it is disproved later that it is currently still correct. Right now no one has disproved Carrier’s studies.”

                      That’s false. Mythicism was disproven 100 years ago by reputable scholars. Carrier’s arguments are nothing new. His arguments are false and dead in mainstream scholarship

                      “Right now, Jesus has the same level of evidence as Krishna or Mithra because none of them have verifiable first-hand accounts the way people like Muhammad do.”

                      That’s not true and misleading. The evidence for Jesus of Nazareth is simply overwhelming and amazing. I don’t know why you keep pressing on the issue of their not being any first-hand written documents when there are billions of people during Jesus’ time that don’t have that for them either.

                      “For one, Tacitus says that “the populace” of Rome called Jesus followers “Christians” even though the term either did not exist or at best was not used outside of early centers until many decades later (ie Tacitus’s time). Similarly, he said that Pilate was a “procurator” even though our archeological evidence shows his title was a prefect.”

                      The term Christians was used before Tacitus existed. And, that’s not proof that Tacitus is wrong about Jesus. Just because he calls Pilate a “Procurator” and not a prefect is a non-sequitir. There is still dispute about why Tacitus called him a procurator. However, it doesn’t mean that Jesus never existed or that he was never crucified(because he was crucified).

                      “Tacitus was obviously basing his account on Christians from the time who were saying many of the same things.”

                      What evidence do you have to prove that claim?

                      “Did you misread where it says “You DON’T throw out
                      evidence” (caps added)? The status changes, not the evidence.”

                      Well, the status won’t change because the evidence for Jesus is simply overwhelming.

                    • Xor

                      Yes he was considered epileptic, See for instance:

                      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1032067/

                      If we take the “brethren” message literaly, then Jesus had four brothers and at least two unknown sisters (Matthew:13:55-56). Not only is this interpretation rejected by virtually every denomination but it was common to call followers “brethren.”

                      Did Carrier actually cite these “disproven a 100 years ago” studies? Unless we’re fanatics, making a similar argument does not immediately prove someone wrong, it’s the evidence and assumptions that matter.

                      There were maybe a handful of mythicists at any given time during the 19th and 20th century. I don’t think I need to use math to show that a few is smaller than a majority.

                      All you showed was that creationists got published, it doesn’t show WHAT they published. Again, their studies (if they don’t actually try to show the world is 6,000 years old) are probably correct (especially for ones unrelated to anything to any creationist topic). The fact that the authors happen to be creationists doesn’t automatically discredit their work, it’s the work that matters.

                      Because those “billions” of people didn’t claim to be deities while Jesus, Krishna, Mithra etc. did.

                      If you’re OK without using first-hand evidence then we have to accept those other “historical” deities.

                      Sure it was “used” but only within specific Christian communities hundreds of miles away (something even McGrath would agree with). Paul did not even reach Rome until 51 CE, do you really think that within about a decade of any Christians living in the city, most people would be using the phrase?

                      The point is to show that Tacitus was using contemporary Christian sources by the mistakes he made. Not calling Pilate by his proper title is a mistake and it’s the same one Christians from the time made.

                    • Matt Brown

                      “Yes he was considered epileptic, See for instance:

                      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm

                      “If we take the “brethren” message literaly, then Jesus had four brothers and at least two unknown sisters (Matthew:13:55-56). Not only is this interpretation rejected by virtually every denomination but it was common to call followers “brethren.”

                      Huh? Since when did Paul refer to Jesus being a ‘brethern’? He says explicitly in his epistles that Jesus is James’ brother. Also, since when do denominations determine what scholars and historians think? I don’t know where you get the idea that denominations denied the fact that Jesus had siblings

                      “Did Carrier actually cite these “disproven a 100 years ago” studies? Unless we’re fanatics, making a similar argument does not immediately prove someone wrong, it’s the evidence and assumptions that matter.”

                      What do you mean? I’m simply saying that Carrier’s arguments are nothing new, but are arguments that biblical scholars and historians have refuted a long time ago. Carrier is simply re-hashing something that is disproven and adding some stuff to them that are false.

                      “There were maybe a handful of mythicists at any given time during the 19th and 20th century. I don’t think I need to use math to show that a few is smaller than a majority.”

                      That’s not true. Mythicism was the dominant view in academia during this time period, but it simply declined rapidly during the development of methodology during the early-mid 21st century.

                      “All you showed was that creationists got published, it doesn’t show WHAT they published. Again, their studies (if they don’t actually try to show the world is 6,000 years old) are probably correct (especially for ones unrelated to anything to any creationist topic). The fact that the authors happen to be creationists doesn’t automatically discredit their work, it’s the work that matters.”

                      Perhaps you missed the point of that analogy. The purpose of the analogy was to refute your assumption that everything that passes peer-review is automatically true.

                      “Because those “billions” of people didn’t claim to be deities while Jesus, Krishna, Mithra etc. did.”

                      And…. So what? Just because Jesus did claim to be God, does not disprove his existence. How could Jesus claim to be God if he didn’t exist?

                      “If you’re OK without using first-hand evidence then we have to accept those other “historical” deities.”

                      I don’t think you know how ancient history works. There are tons of historical figures who don’t have written records from their day. Alexander the Great is just one example.

                      “Sure it was “used” but only within specific Christian communities hundreds of miles away (something even McGrath would agree with). Paul did not even reach Rome until 51 CE, do you really think that within about a decade of any Christians living in the city, most people would be using the phrase?”

                      It was used before Tacitus existed,which is something you just admitted.

                      “The point is to show that Tacitus was using contemporary Christian sources by the mistakes he made. Not calling Pilate by his proper title is a mistake and it’s the same one Christians from the time made.”

                      Again, please cite me your evidence that Tacitus borrowed from Christian sources. You merely keep asserting that he did without evidence to show he did.

                      As Christopher Hitchens said ” That which can be asserted without evidence, can also be dismissed.”

                    • Xor

                      “Since when did Paul refer to Jesus being a ‘brethern’?”

                      It wasn’t just Paul but Jesus was expliclity called “the first born among many brethren” (Romans 8:29) But that aside, what about the other passage? I don’t think it’s plausible that Jesus had (at least) six biological brothers and sisters in addition to it being a metaphore.

                      I’m saying you need to show the disproof of his arguments specifically.

                      Doing a cursory search pulls up maybe 7 names for a 200 year period. Are you really saying those few people outnumbered the rest?

                      Yeah and the analogy didn’t prove that, all it showed is that people with fringe points of view get published in some way. For you to prove your point, (which I am interested in seeing) you have to find a study that passed scientific peer-review and actually tries to show something absurd, like the earth only being a few thousand years old.

                      Exactly, and so were Mithra and Krishna, are they historical people then?

                      It was used but NOT IN THE CITY OF ROME during 64 CE (to repeat: Tacitus claimed the Roman city population called them Christians which would not have been the case).

                      I already said it was from Carrier, these mistakes, like the Roman population calling them Christians or not calling Pilate by his proper title were from Christian sources.

                    • Matt Brown

                      “It wasn’t just Paul but Jesus was expliclity called “the first born among many brethren” (Romans 8:29) But that aside, what about the other passage? I don’t think it’s plausible that Jesus had (at least) six biological brothers and sisters in addition to it being a metaphore.”

                      Romans 8:29 has to do with God’s foreknowledge and Man’s Free Will. It then mentions that Jesus is the firstborn among many ‘brethren’. In this context, it’s very obvious that Paul means a spirtual relationship rather than a biolgical. However, this is not evidence that Paul’s other use of “brothers” or “brother” is meant to be spirtual. Nor the same thing in the Gospels. Both Paul’s epistles and the 4 gospels give a family tree and genealogy of Jesus. It’s extremely problematic to say that these are just “metaphores” when we are told that this is Jesus’ family.

                      “I’m saying you need to show the disproof of his arguments specifically.”

                      His arguments have already been disproved a long time ago. Parallels are not proof that Jesus was a myth. Most of what Carrier is projecting is that which biblical scholars and historians of ancient history have long refuted in the past.

                      “Doing a cursory search pulls up maybe 7 names for a 200 year period. Are you really saying those few people outnumbered the rest?”

                      Well then your search must be incomplete because there weren’t 7 scholars over 200 years. The 7 scholars you pulled up, were probably well known leaders in biblical studies, howerver, that doesn’t mean that they were the only scholars.

                      “Yeah and the analogy didn’t prove that, all it showed is that people with fringe points of view get published in some way.”

                      Yes, exactly! Like Richard Carrier. Now your getting it:)

                      “For you to prove your point, (which I am interested in seeing) you have to find a study that passed scientific peer-review and actually tries to show something absurd, like the earth only being a few thousand years old.”

                      No, I simply had to prove that there are peer-reviewed articels that are wrong, and represent fringe view points, and I did, to which you agreed.

                      “Exactly, and so were Mithra and Krishna, are they historical people then?”

                      What? Are you suggesting that the historical setting and backdrop of the New Testament is in a celestial realm? When in fact they take place in Israel, and represent a figure that actually existed and lived and walked like you and I.

                      “It was used but NOT IN THE CITY OF ROME during 64 CE (to repeat: Tacitus claimed the Roman city population called them Christians which would not have been the case).”

                      This is an extremely ignorant claim that is disproven by the evidence. The idea that a group was called Christians is mentioned before Tacitus existed in the New Testament and Paul’s epistles.

                      “I already said it was from Carrier, these mistakes, like the Roman population calling them Christians or not calling Pilate by his proper title were from Christian sources.”

                      But you still didn’t answer my question that I asked. My question was: What evidence is there to show that Tacitus got his source from Christians? You merely assert that but never show it to be true.

                      Also, calling Tacitus usage of Pilate an error is dubious since there are theories that reconcile it, and it isn’t proof that Jesus never existed since Tacitus’ account corroborates the Gospel accounts on Jesus existence, Crucifixion, and founder/leader of Christianity.

                    • Xor

                      Whoa there, where does the NT outline Jesus’s family tree? That’s a pretty expliclit claim that I’ve haven’t even heard from historicists.

                      The Journal of Early Christian Studies didn’t publish an article on “parallelism,” it was an interpretation of the Josephus text, unless you can actually show a rebuttal, your opinion doesn’t disprove the article.

                      As the one making the claim (as far as I can tell the only person making the claim) it’s on you to prove that a majority of scholars were mythicists.

                      No, only a fanatic would disqualify someone’s work because of their beliefs. Unless you can actually disprove the work itself (the article, not the author), it stands.

                      If you want, lets take a very physical example: ancient Greek Hellenistic religion. Many Greek scholars thought that demigods or gods who visited in human form existed.

                      Were these gods and demigods, who lacked first-hand accounts, historical?

                      Not in the city of Rome they weren’t (in case the missed the two comments prior, they were not called that in Rome). Paul didn’t even reach it until 51 CE making it extremely unlikely that it would catch on. You can even ask McGrath when most city Romans started calling Jesus followers Christians.

                      Because Christians were making the same mistakes and he repeated them. If he did an “independent” report he wouldn’t have made these mistakes.

                      I’m not sure how you can reconcile a complete contradiction but it does show that he opted for the Christian accounts when someone in his position would have access to the physical facts.

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

                      LOL. You clearly have never read Matthew or Luke. Their genealogies may not provide reliable information of any sort, but your first question suggests you don’t even know they exist. And of course, Paul towards the beginning of his letter to the Romans indicates how early it was taken for granted that Jesus was a descendant of David’s. Again, claims of noble ancestry often turn out to be false – that isn’t the point. The point is that these early Christians thought that they were talking about the anointed one descended from David, not a purely celestial figure.

                    • Xor

                      You’re mixing up “celestial” with “unhistorical,” followers like Paul very well did think that Jesus was a real, physical person but got that idea through hallucinations long after any ability to actually see him.

                      Unless we have a first-hand account disproving that than the latter clearly makes more sense.

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

                      You have no evidence that Paul knew of Jesus only from hallucinations. Indeed, he states unambiguously that before he had his own experience, others who had been disciples of Jesus according to the Gospels had experiences of seeing him raised from the dead, indicating unambiguously that this refers to their believing they saw alive again someone whom they had previously encountered alive and who subsequently died.

                      Since you are deliberately wasting my time, as indicated by your refusal to answer direct questions and repeating the same thing over and over in trollish fashion while ignoring what is said to you in response, I think we’ll end your time on this blog here. I’ll gladly rescind the ban if you contact me privately and give me some reason to think that your behavior will improve.

                    • Matt Brown

                      Hmmm, so Paul and everyone else in the Gospels and extra-biblical sources hallucinated a real phyical Jesus? That seems extremely problematic. Hallucinations happen within a person’s mind. They don’t happen to multiple people

                    • Matt Brown

                      “Whoa there, where does the NT outline Jesus’s family tree? That’s a pretty expliclit claim that I’ve haven’t even heard from historicists.”

                      Matthew and Luke both Trace Jesus’ lineage.

                      “The Journal of Early Christian Studies didn’t publish an article on “parallelism,” it was an interpretation of the Josephus text, unless you can actually show a rebuttal, your opinion doesn’t disprove the article.”

                      What? How is this in anway related to the point I raised? I’m not talking about Josephus….Why are you trying to divert the conversation? Unless you misunderstood the point I raised about Parallels in a story.

                      “As the one making the claim (as far as I can tell the only person making the claim) it’s on you to prove that a majority of scholars were mythicists.”

                      I already did and cited you evidence. You can read about Biblical critiscism in the 19th and 20th century. That’s when historians and scholars began to doubt his existence. Bruno Bauer was a scholar who set the stage for mythicism during his time by developing a three-fold argument for mythicism. But then historians realized how absurd the idea of Jesus being a myth was, and so the consensus went in the complete opposite direction where it is today. The majority is that Jesus certainly existed.

                      “No, only a fanatic would disqualify someone’s work because of their beliefs. Unless you can actually disprove the work itself (the article, not the author), it stands.”

                      So what your saying is that Historians and Scholars who have disproven the Christ myth Theory are “fanatics” becaue they disagree with a psuedoscholar who thinks his view is correct, when it has in fact been refuted over and over again?

                      “If you want, lets take a very physical example: ancient Greek Hellenistic religion. Many Greek scholars thought that demigods or gods who visited in human form existed. Were these gods and demigods, who lacked first-hand accounts, historical? Not in the city of Rome they weren’t (in case the missed the two comments prior, they were not called that in Rome). ”

                      I’m sorry but this is misleading. Are you trying to deny the abundant accounts we have for Jesus and instead substitute false Gods that never existed as being real?

                      “Paul didn’t even reach it until 51 CE making it extremely unlikely that it would catch on. You can even ask McGrath when most city Romans started calling Jesus followers Christians.”

                      What’s your point? This would still prove that early followers of Jesus were called “Christians”, so Tacitus is right.

                      “Because Christians were making the same mistakes and he repeated them. If he did an “independent” report he wouldn’t have made these mistakes.”

                      That’s an extreme leap to say that Tacitus, a well-known and reliable historian simply just wrote what he heard off Christians and passed it off as history, when in fact he despised Christians

                      “I’m not sure how you can reconcile a complete contradiction but it does show that he opted for the Christian accounts when someone in his position would have access to the physical facts.”

                      What contradiction are you talking about? Why do you keep claiming he got his information from Christians? This is extremely dubious and doesn’t fit the evidence.

                    • Xor

                      Vague descriptions of his early life don’t count as a “family tree,” in Matt 12:49-50 Jesus says that anyone who beleives in god becomes a member Jesus’s family. Likewise Peter in Acts 1:15-16 says in a gathering of 120 people that they are all “brethren,” (along with all the other citations.) The term is a metaphore.

                      We were talking about the specific article in the Journal of Early Christianity Studies, and your response was it was wrong because it was based on supposed mythicist studies debunked a century ago. You would clearly be the person who lost track in this case.

                      Yes and “beginning to doubt existence” and citing a single person does not prove it was a consensus.

                      I literally said the exact opposite… for creationists or whoever, you are assuming their beleifs = their published work which is not the case. You have to show a fraudlent creationist ARTICLE that passed peer-review for your analogy to work.

                      We don’t have abudendt first-hand accounts for Jesus just like we don’t for the Greek gods or demigods.

                      Therefore, are Greek gods or demigods historical?

                      No it wouldn’t because Tacitus explicitly said they were called Christians by the ROMAN POPULACE aka most Roman city people.

                      Really? So if most Christians made the mistake of calling Pilate the wrong title and instead of just looking at the evidence, Tacitus made the same mistake, is shows he didn’t rely on Christian sources?

                    • Matt Brown

                      “Vague descriptions of his early life don’t count as a “family tree,” in Matt 12:49-50 Jesus says that anyone who beleives in god becomes a member Jesus’s family. Likewise Peter in Acts 1:15-16 says in a gathering of 120 people that they are all “brethren,” (along with all the other citations.) The term is a metaphore.”

                      These aren’t “vague” descriptions in Jesus’ life. You clearly misquote different usages of the word and in different context. The point is that there are several places in the NT where the term “brother” is meant to be biological and not spirtual, something that mythicists typically deny.

                      “We were talking about the specific article in the Journal of Early Christianity Studies, and your response was it was wrong because it was based on supposed mythicist studies debunked a century ago. You would clearly be the person who lost track in this case.”

                      And how have I lost track in this case when Carrier’s arguments are nothing new to historians and scholars?

                      “Yes and “beginning to doubt existence” and citing a single person does not prove it was a consensus.”

                      You can read the literature on the Christ myth Theory which mentions the viewpoint by mainstream scholars at that time.

                      “I literally said the exact opposite… for creationists or whoever, you are assuming their beleifs = their published work which is not the case. You have to show a fraudlent creationist ARTICLE that passed peer-review for your analogy to work.”

                      I’m sorry but all I had to do was show an example of someone who takes a non-mainstream, which is disproven by scientists and show it how it passed peer-review in order to refute your silly notion earlier that all peer-reviewed work is correct, which you later agreed with me that all peer-reviewed work is not correct.

                      “We don’t have abudendt first-hand accounts for Jesus just like we don’t for the Greek gods or demigods.”

                      And we don’t have abundant written accounts of anybody else during Jesus’ time period or before. What’s your point? We have oral tradition which goes back to Jesus’ day and Paul’s epistles.

                      “Therefore, are Greek gods or demigods historical?”

                      No

                      “No it wouldn’t because Tacitus explicitly said they were called Christians by the ROMAN POPULACE aka most Roman city people.”

                      Okay and how is this wrong when that’s what they were called from the middle to late 1st century?

                      “Really? So if most Christians made the mistake of calling Pilate the wrong title and instead of just looking at the evidence, Tacitus made the same mistake, is shows he didn’t rely on Christian sources?”

                      Again, you keep citing that Tacitus borrowed stuff from Christians, but you don’t show evidence whatsoever to prove it.

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

                      You still seem not to grasp that most people in the pre-modern era espoused some sort of “religious dogma.” You are also ignoring the fact that the earliest Christians were making specific claims that make little or no sense apart from a historical Jesus. They were claiming that a man named Joshua from Nazareth who had been crucified was the long-awaited heir to the Davidic throne who would restore that dynasty.

                    • Xor

                      So what were Plato, Aristophanes, and Xenophon’s religious dogmas? Or the religious dogma of the government document that recorded Mohammed?

                      What you seem to be ignoring is that there were, in fact, about a dozen contemporary, non-”dogmatic” Roman historians who could have recorded Jesus and yet did not.

                      Are you saying it doesn’t make sense for there to be a religious movement around someone unless they existed? (“Joshua” is just an English translation of the Latin name Jesus, they’re the same person).

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

                      OK, if you are not going to take this conversation seriously, then please stop wasting my time with jokes. Joshua is an English translation of Jesus?!?!

                      Why would Roman historians record the existence of Jesus any more than of John the Baptist, or the Teacher of Righteousness, or Honi the Circle-Drawer, or Hillel?

                    • Xor

                      The Greek “Ιησους” translates to either Joshua or Jesus in English what was the point of saying “Joshua” of Nazareth?

                      But that aside, why wouldn’t it make sense for religious followers to want someone as a deitific leader unless that person existed?

                      That’s my point, if we used the “historical” evidence of the Gospels etc. then Jesus and his followers were not insignificant to the Roman establishment. The argument is that he would have been recorded like Mohammed was.

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

                      It doesn’t “translate” from English, nor vice versa even. This is a name we are talking about. In ancient Greek, the Hebrew name Joshua was consistently rendered as Ιησους. It is an ordinary human name, not an angelic or divine one.

                      When Christian sources mention Muhammad, why do you suddenly trust them? What is your reasoning for concluding that they most likely got Muhammad’s historicity correct but Jesus’ wrong?

                      You seem to be talking about a face value reading of the Gospels. A historical approach does not make it seem as though the Romans ought to have taken an interest in Jesus – apart from Pilate’s concern to avoid a commotion at Passover.

                      Can you please provide an actual case for your stance?

                    • Xor

                      I’m asking what the significance of using the name “Joshua” is or why it’s relevant for Christians wanting a leader not making sense.

                      Muhammad being mentioned by other religions actually strengthens his case, it’s when a prophet is cited by their own religion that problems arise. For him we have a first hand account by Sebeos and what appears to be a Byzantine historical appendix that mentions him by name in a battle he supposedly was in (neither source is questioned).

                      Like you said there was the angry crowd at Passover, but even the significance of being crucified would have been recorded given its implications (ie that it was basically used for treason). Even historicist views vary from Pilate actually having recorded it (absurdly unlikely) to it being fabricated by the Church.

                      The point is both ends point to it being a significant event, it’s hard to argue for Jesus as a fringe figure based on the “historical” Gospels.

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

                      Rendering the name as “Jesus” in English obscures for many unfamiliar with the topic that the figure we are discussing had a common name.

                      You are surely aware that, using the same methods as Jesus-denialists use, there are people who argue that there was no historical Muhammad, either?

                      What on earth do you mean by the “historical Gospels” and where on earth are you getting your mistaken ideas about crucifixion?

                    • http://www.chuckshingledecker.com/ Chuck Shingledecker

                      Try as I might, I have NEVER understood the mythicist claim/question about Roman historians not writing about Jesus being evidence that Jesus didn’t exist. Why on earth would a Roman historian, citizen of Rome, and probably connected to the government and wealthy elite write about some obscur, roaming Jewish preacher who was crucified by the government?

                      Have you heard of pastor John Remos? No? Wow! Now that’s shocking! Why haven’t you heard of him? He’s very well known in Douglas County Wisconsin!

                      That’s the argument mythicists are making when they ask “why didn’t historians alive at the same time write about Jesus?” It’s an absurd criteria. If you haven’t heard of pastor John Remos, with all of our modern technology, record keeping, and proliferation of information, what makes you think someone in Rome or even in Judea would write about another dime a dozen Jewishj prophet? Romans wouldn’t have cared unless he had some sort of army

                    • Xor

                      Well for one crucifixions weren’t just given out all the time. A better analogy would be if the obscure Wisconsin preacher was executed for treason (which is roughly what crucifixions were). In the supposed circumstances of Jesus’s, it was also very odd being passover etc. which would also be noteworthy.

                      Even historicist literature ranges from Jesus’s crucifixion actually being recorded (obviously false) to it being fabricated by the Church, all suggest that it would have been a significant event.

                      But more importantly, it’s one argument, a more glaring issue is the complete lack of first hand accounts which do not exist for any other historical religious person.

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

                      This comment is full of misinformation. No one “gives out” crucifixions, but if you have read ANYTHING about the history of this period, then you will know that executions using this method were common. And if you think that we had first-hand accounts for most historical religious people, then I can only assume that you consider Hillel and Gamaliel, John the Baptist, Honi the Circle-Drawer and Hanina ben Dosa, and the various revolutionary religious figures mentioned by Josephus and by Acts, to all be ahistorical, to say nothing of figures outside of Judaism in the ancient world?

                    • Xor

                      See my reply to Shingledecker for frequency. As far as we know, crucifixions were “common” in response to the frequency of uprisings, which is not an ordinary crime.

                      Since first-hand means they would have to been old enough to witness him only Hillel might count, although I’m not aware of him mentioning Jesus.

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

                      Your reference to Hillel seems to indicate that you are not understanding what I am talking about.

                      You might want to do some reading about crucifixion. Here’s one convenient place to start: http://books.google.com/books?id=UDEPFqTiQhUC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

                    • http://www.chuckshingledecker.com/ Chuck Shingledecker

                      Crucifixions weren’t just death sentences for treason. Wherever did you get such an idea? And you think they weren’t common? Okay, this isn’t even a serious conversation.

                      As far as records and this being a significant event. Again, are you serious??? the idea thst Pilate would have actually written, “and today I crucified some dude named Jesus, along with Bob and Tom” is just stupid. If anything would have been recorded at all Pilate would have written: “and today I crucified seven Jews!”

                      we have almost no such records from any roman official for the death of ANYONE or for any other official act or the state. It would not be accurate to compare the local Wisconsin preacher being put to desth for treason, unless the local county official was allowed to carry it out. You seek to think Pilate had to file official paperwork, send it to Rome, to be archived, and bring in the scribes to out it into the history books. Thst didn’t even happen in THIS country until very recently. Never happened in the old west when local sherrifs and mayors could hang criminals. What makes you think it happened in Rome despite there being no such evidence that it happened –ever!

                      You’re asking for a criteria that you ask for no other historical question at the time.

                    • http://www.chuckshingledecker.com/ Chuck Shingledecker

                      And autocorrect failed this time. Wow! And I can’t edit in mobile for some reason.

                    • Xor

                      I never said it was exactly the same, it’s an analogy for the severity of the crime.

                      Am I missing some literature on the frequency of crucifixions? Some of the only archeological and record evidence we have of crucifixions was during Jewish uprisings aka times of mass rebellion comparable to the logic behind mass repression. We know they were “frequent” only in sense of being proportional to the frequency of rebellion.

                      Even in the Acts of Peter and Paul (which, don’t get me wrong, is not at all a reliable evidence) Pilate supposedly did the “stupid” thing of literally “filing paperwork” saying he killed some guy named Jesus. Ehrman from what I can tell makes a similar argument about Tacitus citing a genuine Roman report. This is, of course, an absurd argument, and if any records were mentioned they were obvious forgeries by later Christians.

                      But it shows something else: there would be no point in forging records if no one would believe they were true. Rome did keep extensive legal records as did other societies (and by the way, the old west did in fact keep track of their executions, Here’s Colorado’s based on court records: http://pdweb.coloradodefenders.us/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=152&Itemid=108).

                      But more importantly this is ONE argument, (and probably the weakest) for the mythicist case. The complete lack of first hand accounts is unique for any religious figure considered historical.

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

                      No, it isn’t, and I have even provided you with examples. It seems as though your opinion is impervious to the evidence with which up until now you have been poorly acquainted.

                    • Xor

                      There are other religious figures considered historical with no first-hand accounts?

                      For your other comments:

                      To convince me that he was plausible it would take a first-hand account from a Christian writing about him not done for the purposes of dogma (like a letter or personal account). The only actual contemporary you’ve mentioned is Hillel who has not written anything about Christ as far as I can tell.

                      To convince me that he was definitely historical it would take a first-hand account of someone with a different religion (like Sebeos for Muhammad).

                      I’m not aware of any Muhammad mythicists since he passed both criteria and no one has questioned them? The only other historical debate might be over Buddha who was also clearly mythical.

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

                      There are also Muhammad mythicists, and it is far from certain that there was no historical Siddhartha Gautama behind the later legends. What leads you to conclude that Sebeos and others like him had first-hand information? It is no harder to dismiss such information than it is to dismiss Paul, who had met Jesus’ brother.

                      How on earth is it relevant whether Hillel wrote about Christ? Hillel did not write anything that we know of. Most historians consider him to have been a historical figure, even though we do not have first-hand accounts about him.

                      http://jameshannam.proboards.com/thread/1110/muhammad-mythicism?page=1

                    • Xor

                      I’d say it’s far from certain that he existed given an almost complete lack of any evidence whatsoever (which is why there’s no consensus for historicity as far as I can tell).

                      Seboes with his description WAS the first-hand account, and Spencer’s attempts to cast doubt on it is pretty bad by historical standards (plus the dating is indisputable).

                      I was under the impression that you cited Hillel as a first-hand contempary of Jesus in the other comment?

                      But again, there’s a huge difference between evidence for a religious deity and their followers and a historical scholar. No one from the time made a distinction between the “real” Jesus and Jesus as a religious deity, we have to a priori assume that it requires different evidence.

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

                      I am not talking about a “religious deity” (as opposed to an areligious one?!). I am talking about the historical figure of Jesus.

                      I take it English is not your native language? What is it? If I know it, perhaps that will facilitate communication.

                    • Xor

                      Then you’re a priori assuming that a deity has the same standard as a normal historical person.

                      For instance, how do we know that Moses most likely didn’t exist? He meets all the same qualifications as Jesus (lack of first hand accounts, “historical” basis etc.) and yet the consensus around him changed after the 70s.

                      “I take it English is not your native language? What is it? If I know it, perhaps that will facilitate communication.”

                      ??? I’d stick with the difference between the consensus for Moses vs. Jesus so this conversion doesn’t become a waste of time.

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

                      We do not know that Moses did not exist, even though there are many centuries between when he is supposed to have lived and the first written stories about him. It remains unlikely that the Israelites would invent a hero with an Egyptian name, and so some think there is a historical core to it all. What is clear is that there was never a historical Exodus of the sort described in the Bible. That some slaves may have escaped from Egyptian control at some point, and the rest developed over centuries as legend, remains a possibility.

                      In our earliest sources, Jesus is not a deity.

                      What conversion are you talking about?

                    • Xor

                      Sure we can’t “prove a negative” as Randi would say, technically we can’t disprove Moses just as we can’t disprove the Exodus account. It’s just unlikely that both existed and as far the evidence goes, the same applies for Jesus.

                      We have earlier sources than the Gospels?

                      It’s a grammar mistake for “conversation”.

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

                      We can disprove the Exodus account. We have enough evidence from all possible periods during which the Exodus could have occurred to tell that the Egyptian economy and military were not decimated the way they would have been if the Exodus had occurred as depicted.

                      Paul’s letters are earlier than the Gospels. And in the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus is not a deity. Whether he is in John is debatable, but there he is depicted as having been conscious of pre-existing in heaven, something absent from the earlier Gospels. Haven’t you read them?

                    • Xor

                      In the literal sense of devastation we disproved it, but in the “historical” sense of mass Jewish slavery being real (and the other parts being added to the account) we have not.

                      Jesus performs miracles in the Synoptic Gospels so yes he is clearly a deity.

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

                      So you think that Jews thought that all of the prophets of ancient Israel, and and contemporary figures like Josephus and Honi and Hanina, were deities? I think the evidence is clearly against that claim, but by all means make a case for this very odd view of yours.

                    • Xor

                      Did Josephus, Honi and Hanina perform miracles? I’m not sure what you’re arguing but having magical powers and being the literal embodiment of god are pretty good indicators of being a deity.

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

                      Yes of course they are reported to have done so in the stories about them. Even if you are unfamiliar with the rabbinic sources, surely Josephus’ account of his own prophetic ability must be known to you. If you are not even rudimentarily acquainted with the literature of this period, then how can you hope to draw accurate conclusions about it?!

                    • Xor

                      Prophecy isn’t necessarily a “power,” it could just be the prophet receiving the vision from god. Things like walking on water, healing the sick etc. are clearly powers.

                      But more importantly, claiming to be either a god or the embodiment of god is clearly the mark of a deity. Unless you can find another historical figure who claimed to be either a or the god (without first-hand accounts) then It seems like a good standard.

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

                      So you view Israelite prophets like Elijah and Elisha as deities, not to mention Peter and Paul as depicted in Acts? I think you need to familiarize yourself more with that literature and the religions that produced it.

                      The historical Jesus never claimed to be God. Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels never makes such a claim. Even in the Gospel of John, Jesus calls the Father “the only true God,” although since that Gospel’s words attributed to Jesus are irrelevant to the historical Jesus for the most part, that is neither here nor there. Where are you getting the notion that the earliest sources depict Jesus as a deity?!

                    • Xor

                      Are you actually saying Elijah and Elisha are historical persons?

                      And no in the synoptic gospels they mention that Jesus was resurrected, meaning he is clearly a deific figure. It’s not like the synoptic gospels just assumed Jesus was “more magic” than other prophets, he was himself a deity.

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

                      Please stop twisting the Synoptic Gospels to claim they say something they do not. Jesus purportedly raised people from the dead. Did they become gods? Or if Jesus was believed to have been raised in the resurrection of the end of time, then you are saying that all people were expected to become divine. Maybe so, but stop pretending that these sources depict Jesus as though he were something other than a human being imbued with divine power and authority.

                      The issue is not whether Elijah and Elisha were ever historical figures. We have no way to determine that, given the evidence available. The issue is that Jesus is depicted as a similar sort of figure in the Gospels, and yet you insist on divinizing him as though you have absolutely no knowledge of Jewish thought and literature. It is extremely frustrating.

                    • Xor

                      Saying Jesus is not thought to be a deity in the Synoptic Gospels is completely absurd: The christian god is called his “Father” throughout the gospels and Jesus has supernatural powers beyond any prophet.

                      Then the comparison fails because Elijah and Elisha were not embodiments of god nor were their supernatural abilities even remotley comparable to what Jesus did (resurrecting himself, walking on water etc.).

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

                      This is utter nonsense. Where does Jesus “resurrect himself”?! Jesus is depicted as superior to earlir prophets, who parted seas and rivers while he merely walks across them. But show me any one passage in Matthew, Mark, or Luke, which depicts Jesus as the embodiment of God, other than in the sense that prophets were thought to be, i.e. possessed or filled with God’s Spirit.

                      But first, do what I asked you to in response to your other comment, to show that you are not just being deliberately difficult and merely pretending to be uncomprehending of early Christian literature for the trollish motive of wasting my time.

                    • Matt Brown

                      You just proved a negative.

                    • http://www.chuckshingledecker.com/ Chuck Shingledecker

                      “Rome did keep extensive legal records”

                      ***Are legal records the same thing as records of crucifixion?

                      For argument’s sake I will cede your point. I stand corrected.

                      Now, can you direct me to a link (or a book or journal) in which I can read the words of Roman procurator/governor or other official(s) who ordered the death penalty via crucifixion where the criminal’s name and crime were recorded?

                      Tacitus (I think?) tells us that outside of the city of Rome permanent crosses were erected for execution of criminals, slaves, etc. Clearly, a man who lived in the Roman Empire has better knowledge of the the world than we do. Crucifixions happened on a regular enough basis that someone decided there should be permanent crosses erected.

                      You seem to be arguing that crucifixion was extremely rare, and only happened during — or in accordance with — large scale rebellions. This is a new claim to me. Can you point us to a specific source telling us this?

                      For argument’s sake, I will go along with your claim that crucifixions only (or mostly) took place during large scale rebellions. Since the Romans kept such immaculate records, shouldn’t we have dozens of Roman accounts of the names and the numbers of these crucified people during these rebellions, or at least the leaders of these rebellions? Do we have such records?

                      The “Crucified Man” discovered in 1968 doesn’t seem to have been part of any rebellion. Though I suppose he could have been. Do we have the name of that fellow?

                      BTW, I am quite familiar with the Christ Myth Theory. I’ve written about it and accept it as a working hypothesis. I’m just not convinced for all the reasons Professor McGrath (and others) have stated time and again. And I’ve grown increasingly skeptical of it as even a legitimate hypothesis. Many mythicists tend to hold the H.J. to a HIGHER standard of historical criteria than they would some other historical figure for whom we have no direct first hand evidence.

                      Case in point: as far as I know (and feel free to correct me) we have NO official records written by Pilate for crucifixion, for arrests, for picking his nose, or for anything else he did as a Roman official. And yet, a criteria that mythicists believe debunks the existence of Jesus is that we have no record from Pilate that he crucified Jesus.

                      As I said starting out this conversation — I’m confused by some of these mythicist arguments. Very confused.

                    • Xor

                      I was making a point about record keeping in general but yes you’re right in the sense that we don’t have direct evidence of crucifixions outside of the 1968 man (as far as I’m aware) and second-hand accounts of Jesus.

                      I suppose the explicit hypothesis that crucifixions were rare is more my idea (which is not published) and is based on 1968 man (who was from the time of a Jewish uprising and probably killed for it) and a Josephus passage about someone who only got flogged for heresy. It would seem odd for it to be used on an ordinary crime and thus it would likely be recorded.

                      Well I’m not sure about other historical figures, but when you have a religious figure with no first-hand accounts (and the earliest second-hand accounts are from their followers) then it becomes a huge problem.

                      My standard is that religious figures need a non-dogmatic (ie for the purpose of spreading religion) first-account by followers to be plausible and a first-hand account by non-followers to be likely.

                    • arcseconds

                      It’s difficult to know what Plato actually believed, but has Socrates at various points argue for or sometimes even simply assert the immortality of the soul, reincarnation, a reality that lies beyond the here-and-now, and a mystical experience of that reality.

                      There’s a reason why Plato and (neo)platonism was basically taken on wholesale by Christianity with a bit of rebranding and called ‘theology’.

                      Also, the account of Socrates given by Plato is not without its incredible aspects. He’s famously described as having some kind of tutelary spirit that advises him. The Oracle at Delphi describes him as the wisest man in Athens. He also apparently can’t get drunk, doesn’t need to sleep, and is known to have stood for hours and hours on end, just sleeping.

                      If using a figure to promote otherworldly metaphysics with moral import, and ascribing superhuman abilities to that figure, is enough to get the testimony struck from the record, you really ought to discount Plato.

                    • Xor

                      Sure but Socrates was also described by two other contemporaries who didn’t seem to even be at Plato’s level of religion and there’s a huge qualitative difference between evidence for deities and historical people.

                      For one, if Socrates’s contemporaries had religions they didn’t revolve around Socrates existing. Plus Greek polytheism itself seemed to be less dogmatic, as Greek followers could openly question aspects of the myths without violent responses.

                      For Jesus, all we have are second-hand accounts by dogmatic people.

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

                      Socrates is mentioned by two of his disciples, and according to mythicist reasoning, disciples of an individual cannot be trusted to tell you accurately whether the individual they followed existed or not. He is also mentioned as a character in a play, which according to mythicist reasoning, reinforces his status as a fictional character.

                      You still seem not to know anything about Greek religion. Or Socrates. Or early Christianity. So given your lack of detailed familiarity with the relevant primary source material and secondary literature, why do you hold such dogmatic views about the subject? I thought you didn’t approve of people being dogmatic and poorly-informed…

                    • Xor

                      Aristophanes was not a “disciple” of Socrates, nor is it relevant since their religions did not revolve around him nor does anyone makes such an absurd claim. It’s whether we have contemporary first hand accounts.

                      My background is in comparative religions and I have said I am open to the idea of Jesus being historical, my standard for proving it is just higher.

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

                      Aristophanes is obviously the person I was referring to having written about Socrates in a play, and Socrates and Xenophon the disciples who wrote about him.

                      Paul was a contemporary of Jesus, and mentions having consulted with Jesus’ brother James as well as with Cephas, and so it is not a question of having a higher standard of evidence, it is a question of applying an appropriate standard and being sufficiently well acquainted with the primary source material to know whether you are doing that or not.

                    • Xor

                      Paul was born in 5 CE so he is not a contemporary and he explicitly said that he learned about Jesus in a “vision.” The issue of whether James was a “brother” is at best disputed, every Christian was called a “brother” of Christ, it’s from a vague passage that some infer that James was Jesus’s literal brother.

                      If you’re dealing with deities you need a higher standard, the reason we don’t have a historical Mithra is not just because no one believes it anymore, it’s because there’s no evidence for the historical existence.

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

                      So I am not a contemporary of Barack Obama’s because I was born later than he was? That is not how most people use the term.

                      Where are Christians in general referred to as “brothers OF Christ” rather than brothers IN Christ? And if that were so, then how does referring to James as “the Lord’s brother” distinguish him from other Jameses in the early Christian movement? You claim that the clear meaning of the text is “disputed” but it is only disputed by mythicists who seem not to have thought through the issues and evidence.

                      Where does Paul say he only learned about Jesus in a vision? Are you saying that he had visions that led him to persecute Christians, and that the Christians (although not called that yet) did not know of Jesus either? What is your evidence for these outlandish claims?

                    • Xor

                      Actually my bad yes he is a contemporary but he unfortunately expliclity says Jesus appeared to him in a “vision,” it’s not like Sebeos recounting how he literally met Muhammad.

                      It’s in Galatians, he says that the “gospel” was revealed to him not by men or teaching but by the “revelation” of Jesus. Likewise in his conversion in Acts he describes what seem like epileptic hallucinations.

                      See:
                      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1032067/

                      The phrase is actually “brother(s) of the lord” not Christ. That’s why it’s thought to be an honorific title since all were called “brethern” to the lord. In fact, even most Christian denominations agree with this based on the idea of Mary’s ever-virginity.

                      Were there other mentioned Jameses in early Christianity? As far as I can tell it’s not often used as evidence by historicists in general.

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

                      Where does Sebeos say that he met Muhammad?

                      Where is “brothers of the Lord” used as an honorific title, and if it indicated Christians in general then how did it distinguish this Jacob from others?

                      How can you possibly hope to accurately interpret the evidence when you clearly know so little about the relevant texts?!

                    • Xor

                      Sebeos quotes him directly in Histories and was a witness to the contemporary events he describes, that’s about the best standard we have.

                      What does Jacob have to do with this?

                      The logic goes like this: all Christians were called “brethren” to the lord, and thus identified as such (as agreed on by virtually all denominations). The burden is on you to show that there were apparently special cases where they were biological brothers.

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

                      What does Jacob have to do with our discussion of Jacob, the Lord’s brother? I don’t understand the question.

                      You have yet to address the specifics of the evidence. Where is the evidence that “brothers OF the Lord” was a generic designation for Christians? If it had that meaning, then how do you explain the use of the phrase to distinguish some Christians from others?

                      Why do you refuse to actually discuss the evidence?

                      I have discussed this topic here before more than once:

                      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/04/james-the-brother-of-the-lord-and-mythicism.html

                      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2013/11/james-the-lords-brother.html

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

                      You do realize it’s a bit confusing to throw in the Anglicized version of James the Just when there is another “Jacob” in Christianity?

                      In Romans Jesus is “the first born among many brethren” and the term “brethren” was used to refer to all Christians. In Mathews he also is said to have “sisters.” (Matthew:13:55-56)

                      Either Jesus had four biological brothers (James, Joses, Simon, and Judas) and at least two unknown biological sisters, or it’s just an honorific title.

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

                      It isn’t confusing unless you are so superficially acquainted with the topic that you do not know what the underlying Greek text actually says.

                      So you are suggesting that once someone uses “brothers” metaphorically they become incapable of referring to literal siblings? Why do you refuse to address the evidence suggesting that the phrase “brothers of the Lord” denoted precisely that? And why does Jesus having four brothers and two sisters seem unlikely to you?!

                    • Xor

                      Again, my background is in comparative religion which covers a very broad swath and has overlapping figures in different religions so it is in fact difficult to keep track of very specific details. For instance I don’t expect Abrahamic scholars to know the translations of eastern religious figures.

                      I’m saying we have no way of knowing the difference but we do know that “brethren” was used to refer to Christians in general. Likewise, virtually all denominations reject the idea that Jesus had biological siblings. Does this disprove that Jesus had (at least) six biological brothers and sisters? No, but the evidence is stronger in the other direction.

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

                      You are poorly informed about what Christian denominations say in the present, but more astonishing is your notion that what Christian denominations say in the present has any bearing on the ancient historical evidence.

                      You have yet to either present an argument for your interpretation or address my points. How on earth can you have the audacity to claim that the evidence is stronger in your favor? Merely asserting that is at best meaningless and at worst, in light of your repeated refusal to deal with the actual evidence, dishonest in the extreme.

                    • Xor

                      It’s well known that “brethren” was a term among Christians and there’s nothing to indicate that the Gospels was specifically indicating biological brothers and sisters.

                      I don’t think I need to argue how “Christians commonly called each brothers EXCEPT for at least six biological siblings” makes less sense than it if it was all metaphorical.

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

                      You just keep saying the same thing without addressing the issue, having already appealed to the later Catholic notion of the perpetual virginity of Mary as though that had any bearing on the meaning of these texts. Why do you refuse to discuss the specific points of evidence I mentioned? I assume the reason is that you have no answers to offer, at least not convincing ones.

                      But let’s try one more time to get you to actually discuss the relevant evidence. In the story you allude to, Jesus goes to Nazareth, apparently for the first time since he began his public activity. In that circumstance, how would it be more plausible for the local villagers to be saying that there were disciples of Jesus present in the village, than that they were referring to his family, especially given that his father and mother are also mentioned in that context?

                    • Xor

                      My NT citations don’t count as evidence?

                      Romans showed that all baptized Christians were spiritually “adopted” (8:15-29) and became the “sons” of god (9:26) much like the “brethren” mentioned earlier (did Jesus literally adopt a family in Nazareth?). It’s so common that even the Oxford dictionary defines brethren as:
                      “Fellow Christians or members of a male religious order”

                      http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/brethren

                      Again, it’s absurd to to claim that the context was Jesus literally adopting a family and at other parts that he had 6+ biological siblings.

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

                      Your last remark makes no sense. I take it you have done no research into family sizes in this time period or any other?

                      I will ask again: when are “spiritual brethren” referred to as “brothers OF the Lord” rather than “brothers IN the Lord,” and how was the designation supposed to distinguish “James the brother of the Lord” from other Christians?

                      Why won’t you at least try to answer these questions?!

                    • Xor

                      The size isn’t as important as the fact that Jesus had siblings at all, but even using that evidence, a study by Zorn puts the best estimate of ancient Israeli families at 4-5.5, and Jesus’s alleged biological of family of (at least) 8 is almost twice that figure.

                      Both of the phrases brothers “in the lord” and “of the lord” are not used more than twice and, as far as I can tell, both refer to people out of the six, making it a pointless standard, if you think they mean something different.

                      We do know however from Matthew 12:49-50 that “If anyone does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother.” and that in Acts 1:15-16 that a gathering of 120 people were all called “Brethren” by Peter. It would be absurd to argue that Jesus had 120+ Brethren or that all his followers would literally become his siblings, it’s always used as a metaphor.

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

                      That figure is obviously offering an average. In our time the average might be lower, but you still encounter families with eight children. But be that as it may, your insistence on appealing to church dogma as though it were a valid objection to historical conclusions is utter garbage. If you wish to adhere to church dogma, you are obviously free to do so, but then you simply must stop pretending that you are doing critical historical research.

                      I keep pointing out to you that the phrase “brother(s) of the Lord” is used to distinguish certain individuals from other Christians. How about this: address this actual point of evidence, or be banned from the blog. Perhaps now you will stop wasting my time by simply stating over and over what everyone knows, that Christians called one another “brothers,” and discuss the actual point? Otherwise, I have no choice but to conclude that you are a troll deliberately wasting my time, as I can think of no other explanation why you would keep going around in circles without addressing this point for so many days.

                    • Xor

                      Sure it’s possible it’s just very unlikely. The majority of Church interpretations is one peice of evidence as is the Oxford definition.

                      Did you not read what I wrote? You’re evidence is meaningless because each time “in the lord” or “of the lord” is used it refers to THE SAME PEOPLE. If you’re trying to show that these mean different things it doesn’t show that.

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

                      You didn’t provide actual evidence. You merely asserted that they are the same. Philemon 1:16 uses brother IN the Lord metaphorically. It is not in reference to James and the other brothers of the Lord.

                      You also assert that church dogma has a bearing on historical questions.

                      I don’t think you are taking this seriously. I will give you one more chance. Answer this question, with no grammatical errors and other things that often make your comments barely comprehensable, do not try to change the topic or distract by talking about generalities. If you do that, I will not ban you.

                      Here is the question: In Matthew 12:47-49, who is it referring to in v47 as Jesus’ mother and brothers, given that Jesus goes on to declare his disciples his true mother and brothers in v49?

                    • Matt Browwwwn

                      Argument by assertion? You mean like when Paul claims several times that Jesus was crucified. Had a brother named James. Was buried and then resurrected. Writes on the teacing of divorce and the Last Supper. Or did you miss this when reading Paul’s epistles?

                      I’m not sure why I must name a single angle who was not mythological. I can name you several figures that were thought of as God. The Gentiles thought Paul was God and worshiped him and barnabas as Gods. Therefore, acording to your argument, Paul couldn’t have existed because he was believed to have been sent from Pagan gods.

                      A terrible standard? In what what way? The purpose of me citing Jesus’ family members was to disprove your notion that Jesus is a celestial mythical being who was later turned human. From what historians know, celestial beings don’t have real biological family members. And why do you cite Moses? How can you compare the evidence for Jesus to Moses? Moses is still disputed by archaeologists and Old Testament scholars today. Your analogies aren’t very supportive of your case.

                      Either you don’t know what historians think about the Gospels or, you do know but choose to resort to what Carrier thinks about them. The Gospels are on the genre of history. They are written with the purpose of telling about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They are not intended to be read as folklore or mythological tales like Plutarch’s description of Romulus. Plutarch’s Romulus, is not a historical genre of text. It was for the purpose of storytelling and not history. Modern scholarship approaches the various known stories of Romulus and Remus as cumulative elaborations and later interpretations of Roman foundation myths. Historians know that Plutarch’s account of Romulus is a myth because of the narratives and historical evidence against how Rome was founded.

                      Again, you’re showing your ignorance to historical texts. There are plenty of historical documents that contain supernatural elements but historians can recover core historical materials. Historians can recover core historical material, despite there being supernatural elements in them. Mythicists, like yourself, ignore the historical datum contained in the gospels and point to supernatural elements as though these somehow disprove Jesus existence.

                      Also, Ehrman doesn’t support the mythicist argument or position. His position is incorrect on what Paul thought of Jesus, but that misses the bigger picture that Ehrman and all historians/scholars agree upon. And that is that Paul talks about a historical Jesus in his epistles, yes, he’s mostly focused on supernatural elements. But there’s too much historical evidence for a real flesh and blood human being named Jesus that can not be denied except by mythicists such as yourself. The text does not show that Jesus was first a celestial myth and then divine.

                    • arcseconds

                      Socratic dialogues were a literary form of the day; Plato and Xenophon were not the only people to have written them. And the form of these dialogues is to use the character of Socrates to articulate your own arguments. They are not vehicles to tell people about the historical Socrates, so there is a sense in which they are fiction.

                      The Socrates that appears in Xenophon is not all that much like the one that appears in Plato, and Aristophanes’s Socrates is clearly a parody figure, not just of Socrates but of all philosophers and sophists.

                      So we’ve got three people, all of whom are writing essentially fictional accounts. The accounts don’t agree, and aren’t attempting to be histories anyway.

                      Plus we have others we know wrote dialogues about Socrates who clearly couldn’t have known him, even if he did exists.

                      So what makes you so confident that Socrates existed, rather than being a stock figure like Harlequin or Sherlock Holmes?

                    • Xor

                      They were contemporary semi-fictional accounts yes, but what would be the purpose of creating a non-religious character? Plato also criticized Aristophanes’s play for helping to reach the guilty verdict at Socrates’s trial, which would be completely absurd if he was fictional.

                      But more to the point, these accounts are better evidence than Jesus and are not of a deitific figure for a religion based on him.

                      My overall argument is that we need at least some kind of first-hand contemporary account (ie someone was alive to the see the person and wrote about them) to count a deity as historical. Otherwise dozens of Greek gods are all arguably just as “historical” as Christ.

                    • arcseconds

                      ‘What woudl be the purpose of creating a non-religious character?’

                      I’m starting to be inclined towards James’s interpretation. This surely has to be a joke of some sort. Are you supposing, for example, that Philo in Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion is a real person? Or do you see this as a religious character?

                      There are countless reasons why someone might want to do this. An obvious reason for inventing Socrates would be to have a character in order to present the art of reasoning and dialogue in a concrete manner, which is presumably why Philo exists. People concoct fictional ancestors for themselves to prove their lineage all the time, etc.

                      Works of fiction frequently exist as unreliable but somewhat factual narratives in the works of fiction themselves. Holmes is constantly complaining about how Watson presents him in the stories that are ostensibly written by Watson, just to name an obvious example, and The Night of the Living Dead exists as an innaccurate but based on fact film within Return of the Living Dead. You may think this is absurd, but it certainly happens.

                      And with Plato’s love of embedded narrative and other such narrative tricks, I would not put this past him.

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

                      Sorry, this doesn’t make sense either linguistically or logically. Historians set aside accounts of miracles and religious interpretations in otherwise useful documents all the time.

                      I can assure you that Ehrman has never, ever, denied that we have “documents” for some historical figures. As it happens, we have documents about Jesus, which are not entirely trustworthy, but neither are they complete fabrications. And it makes as much sense to set aside Christian sources about Jesus as it does to set aside Plato as a source about Socrates because he was the latter’s disciple.

                    • Xor

                      Absolutely it makes sense and that’s what scholars do, if we took the other approach then we would have “historical” evidence of Jews in ancient Egypt since that was not a miracle. Instead, we only use what we can verify through archeology and other non-religious evidence.

                      He did say that right in the video and has been criticized by other scholars for saying that in the book.

                      Then what are these non-religious (preferably first-hand account) documents? We have them for someone like Mohammed which is why he can be verified but not for Jesus.

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

                      There were Jews in Egypt – Philo of Alexandria is a particularly famous one. Presumably you meant to refer to Israelites or Hebrews and were referring to the Exodus? The archaeological evidence against the historicity of that event is well known, although even so it is not impossible that some proto-Israelites experienced enslavement to the Egyptians, especially as that was possible in Canaan (part of the Egyptian empire) and not just in Egypt proper. But we rightly expect peoples and nations to leave tangible evidence, while recognizing that it is unrealistic to expect every individual to leave such evidence, whether it be Hillel or Josephus or Jesus or Socrates.

                    • Xor

                      Yes I’m strictly speaking about the Israelites (not Canaanites or Hyskos) as described by Exodus which by the other standard would support their existence.

                      The difference is we do have first-hand, non-religious evidence of people like Socrates, Pontius Pilate and Mohammed, but none for Jesus.

                      Probably the best evidence for non-existence is the high number of forgeries which in addition to the Josephus passage includes “Jesus’s letter” to Abgar. As far as I can tell no other religion attempted to do that which casts doubt on the historicity.

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

                      You must not have read authors like Plato, if you consider them “non-religious.” Dismissing Christian sources makes as much sense as dismissing Plato because he was a disciple of Socrates. One needs to take bias into account, not dismiss everything that is biased, because all human sources have bias of some sort.

                      You also seem not to realize just how many things we have that are forged about figures that are clearly historical. Forgeries indicate interest and importance, they do not indicate that we should dismiss the sources which are not forgeries.

                    • beau_quilter

                      Are you keeping up your blog moderation while traveling in Israel, James?!
                      Impressive!

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

                      I tried to do so. Moderation usually isn’t necessary. I saw that a troll left a few comments but regular commenters dealt with it in your usual admirable fashion. Thanks for making my life so easy!

                    • Matt Brown

                      Hello Dr.McGrath, I hate to bother you while on your trip, but I was wondering if you know how to respond to this argument that Harry made from Debunking Christianity’s website.

                      Stated: “That’s far from what scholars and historians hold. Tacitus wrote about Christ in his annals. Annals mean a record of events, year by year. Tacitus wasn’t citing a tradition that he heard about, he was writing off first-hand knowledge. The context is describing the fire that Nero had started
                      and then he blamed on the Christians. You’ve twisted what Tacitus said with the apostles creed; when in fact the apostles creed has nothing to do with what Tacitus said.”

                      Reply:
                      A. It would have been impossible for Tacitus (56 CE – ca 118 CE) to have had any firsthand knowledge of a Historical Jesus since Jesus would have already been dead for at least 23 years before Tacitus was born (assuming the latest date of April 33 CE for the crucifixion).

                      B. The fire in Rome happened on June 19, 64 which would have made Tacitus only 8 years old at the time. At such an age, Tacitus would have likely been much too young to have recorded anything (if he was literate at that age) especially for a child living in Gaul.

                      C. The distance from Gaul (setting Paris as the central city) to Jerusalem is about 3,695 miles. How could Tacitus, who was only 8 years old at the time, have any firsthand knowledge of either the Christians in Roman Palestine or even the fire in Rome over 700 miles away?

                      D. Tacitus published his first work (Agricola) in 98 CE and his Annals around 114 or 115 or 59 years after the fire in Nero’s Rome and 82 years after the death of the so-called Historical Jesus. Thus, the information about “Christus” (a hapax legomenon) suffering under Pilate shows a confessional belief and not any historical event he knew about. If Jesus is the Christus meant here, then we would expect the Latin “Iesum Christum”. However, Tacitus is likely simply repeating an established tradition as we learn nothing more than that which is not already stated by Josephus and forms the basis for the Apostles Creed: “ . . . passus sub Pontio Pilato, crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus, . . . “(suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried;).”

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

                      Sorry I couldn’t reply sooner. It does not seem that Tacitus had first-hand knowledge. The question is whether he was well-poised to know about things that happened far from where he was and/or before he was born. That someone writes after an individual’s death does not make them automatically untrustworthy, except in the thinking of Jesus mythicists.

                    • Matt Brown

                      Good point! thanks for the response, and I hope you’re having a great time in Israel:)

                    • Xor

                      Socrates is mentioned by two other secular people from his lifetime (not including Plato) making a total of three. Jesus had zero.

                      But let’s say it was equal and both didn’t have any other sources, there’s a huge qualitative difference between a secular philosopher who has nothing to gain by faking a character and a persecuted religion which relies on the existence of a deity. For the latter, their entire belief structure is predicated on Jesus’s existence (as Jews have with Moses etc.).

                      Sure but what other religion has even one forged source that was widely accepted as evidence for centuries?

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

                      I don’t think you are using “secular” in its normal sense. Who are these secular sources and what do you mean by calling them “secular”? Surely you are not pretending that they were not profoundly religious, are you? And who are these Christians who were supposedly persecuted without Jesus and then invented him in order to make matters worse for themselves?

                      I don’t think you are familiar with the relevant primary literature, or have thought through implications of your assertions.

                    • Xor

                      They were Plato, Aristophanes, and Xenophon and they may have privately believed in the Greek religion but were not religious in the sense of promoting religious dogma (not that it was relevant for whether Socrates existed as a person). In contrast for Jesus, there were no first-hand accounts and not one cited second-hand account is non-religious (in the sense of not being for the purpose of promoting religion).

                      I am familiar and my arguments are based precisely on their implications. Again, I’m trying to prevent something like being able to cite the Exodus of the Israelites as “historical.”

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

                      The Exodus is an example where we have extensive evidence against the biblical account. The siege of Jerusalem is an example where we have adequate extrabiblical evidence. The case of Jesus is not like either. Historians need to decide each question based on the evidence.

                      Your reference to people having “believed privately” suggests to me that you are inadequately acquainted with ancient religion.

                    • Xor

                      Sure and I’m saying the only thing we can rely on is verifiable extra-biblical evidence.

                      You seem to be assuming that all ancient religions were like the dogmatic Abrahamic ones, which is not at all the case (the Greek and Roman religions as examples).

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

                      The Moabite stone confirms the existence of Omri. It mentions the god Chemosh. Does that make it automatically untrustworthy? If so, why?

                    • Xor

                      From what I gather the Moabite stone isn’t the only evidence we have of Omri, probably more significant are various buildings named after him which would make sense given his status as king.

                      Christ is probably unique among religious figures still considered historical, for his lack of sources. If the dissolution of the “historical” consensus for Moses after the 1970s is any indication, it isn’t going to last for Christ.

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

                      You seem not to understand the differences between the two figures and the evidence for them. What would it take to persuade you to read something written by an actual historian or other historically-trained scholar on this subject, in the hope that you might begin to understand this topic about which you have such strong opinions and so little accurate information?

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