Was Jesus Worth Following?

Were the teachings of Jesus really as morally incredible as his followers claim?

Not so much, says Peter Brietbart, producer of the terrific-looking new short film Madman or Something Worse.

I’ll sometimes hear Christians quote Mahatma Gandhi: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I don’t know if Gandhi ever actually said that, but there’s a sense that even though some Christians are jerks, Jesus was a great role model.

Brietbart argues against that, though. He goes after the popular beliefs attributed to Jesus and gets people to think twice about them:

Should you always love your neighbor?

Can someone truly forgive you for your sins?

Is it right to preach about the afterlife when there’s no evidence it exists?

Jesus of Nazareth was an awful moral philosopher. He compares badly to such modern greats such as Mill, Rawls or Ross and also to historical thinkers such as Aristotle, Diogenes or Plato. His moral contributions are not original, and his original contributions are not moral.

Moderate Christians love to say they’re “followers of Christ” and not parrots of the Religious Right, but maybe that not a huge step up.

The entire video is about 15 minutes long and definitely worth checking out:

Part 1:

Part 2:



  • Defiantnonbeliever

    Is there a text transcript? I can’t load videos.

  • Rich Wilson

    Personal anal nitpick- I wish people would use “Mohandas” (his name) rather than “Mahatma” (his unofficial title). Although I realize that then you’d get a ton of ‘corrections’.

  • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Tom is Money

    That was the best thing my eyes have ever seen on this subject. Clicking the hell out of the Like button on this one.

  • dj

    Very good. I don’t agree with every point, and tend to prefer when people leave out things that could be easily argued against, such as his 3rd point suggesting we shouldn’t love everyone, but still he brings up a lot of good points otherwise. I have to say, I’m guilty of this in a way, agreeing that Jesus may have been a good teacher, even ahead of his time, but that our mistake is in stopping with the forward progress of a man who lived 2000 years ago. We can do better. We have done better. But this does a really good job of analyzing the supposed best of his teachings. They really aren’t that wise, and yes, a real god would have offered better. Probably should have left out that suggestion about the antibiotics though, lol. Good stuff, I’m sharing.

  • Silent Service

    WOW! The truth is always harsh but oh so liberating. I think it would have been more effective though if Peter hadn’t invoked Godwin’s law right off the bat.

  • Anonymous

    Very fine work. I predict it will cause much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

  • Ollie

    Scholars tend to agree that many of the supernatural stuff were later additions to the Gospels. So when people say that they like Jesus, they mean “Jesus in the sense that the Jefferson Bible” portrays him.

    True, that portrayal may well be fiction, so one might say that they like the Jesus character.

  • http://www.alise-write.com Alise

    Recognizing human dignity, even in bad people is immoral? I’m sorry, I just can’t get behind that. And loving your neighbor pretty much is what should motivate you to NOT allow atrocities like the Holocaust to occur. When we see every person as someone worthy of love, how can we then allow them to be brutalized?

    And I would question that “turn the other cheek” is unique to Jesus. One could easily point to similar thoughts from Confucius about digging two graves if seeking revenge. Certainly the idea of allowing the universe or god or karma or whatever to right wrongs is one that is fairly prevalent through history.

  • Anonymous

    Ollie

    So when people say that they like Jesus, they mean “Jesus in the sense that the Jefferson Bible” portrays him.

    How do you know?

  • Ben

    @Alise-
    Recognizing human dignity and loving an immoral person or even an evil person are not the same things. I oppose torturing people like Charles Manson but asking me to “love” him IS immoral.

  • http://thomaswhitley.com Thomas Whitley

    I think it is good to cause people to question the images that have of Jesus (and of others) that they have simply accepted from someone else. It is also good to work against championing a 2,000 year old culture, which so often happens within the church.

    That said, here are a few thoughts I had as I watched:

    1. There is very good scholarship being produced that actually argues that Jesus (and his father Joseph) would have been a stone mason, not a carpenter. The word typically translated as “carpenter” is “tekton,” which generally means a worker and can include wood-working or stone-working. Further, basing the translation of the term off archaeology and what we know from (extra-Biblical) historical sources, a stone mason makes the most sense. There was a massive building project going on in Sepphoris around the time that Jesus would have been growing up and it was only ~3 miles from Nazareth. It makes logical, archaeological, and historical sense that Jesus would have seen his “dad” working with stone and would have learned that trade, not wood working skills. Moreover, this would account for the abundance of stone metaphors and the relative lack of wood metaphors attributed to Jesus throughout the New Testament. (NB: At the beginning of Part 2 he does call him a “Palestinian blacksmith,” but why not use that terminology consistently?)

    2. Why exactly does saying that someone’s moral teaching isn’t original to him/her negate that person’s morality? Surely, my morality is not lessened by following the teachings of Gandhi, MLK Jr., Confucius, etc. simply because I didn’t come up with the same teachings on my own or produce original moral tenets.

    3. Brietbart argues on behalf of just war theory, which is ironic to me considering the Christian roots of this theory. Also, why does he choose to leave out Gandhi and MLK Jr’s examples of pacifism where they did practice a version of “turn the other cheek”? True pacifists (as I believe Gandhi was) would maintain that there is some good inside of everyone (how else could he hold out hope that change was possible if he didn’t?). The just war theory is a more common moral guide for people, but it is still a moral guide among others.

    4. He states at the outset that he is judging Jesus as a human, but then wants to make that point that if he was God, then he committed a heinous moral act by not teaching 1st century people about antibiotics and that if he was God his death meant nothing because he wasn’t really dying anyway. If you’re judging him as a human then these points are frivolous and take away from the stated argument.

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    Is he on Twitter now?

  • Nathan

    This guy has no idea what he is talking about in terms of Christianity. All of his accusations have simple answers to them and as a Christian I can say his understanding of the bible is pretty weak by the evidence of his sad misunderstanding of some of the verses that he quotes. Although he may sound very convincing because he has a nice camera crew and a cool accent, his arguments hold no water and a first year bible college student could refute every one of those arguments.

  • http://www.thesecretlifeofadivorcee@blogspot.com Lara Lakin

    Jesus – if you’re there… strike me down for not believing…

    ….
    ….
    ….
    I’m still here!

  • http://spencertroxell.blogspot.com Spencer Troxell

    Thank you for posting this. This post inspired me to write the following short piece entitled ‘Christians Need To Stop Underestimating Themselves’:

    http://spencertroxell.blogspot.com/2011/06/christians-need-to-stop-underestimating.html

    My mind has been going to this place with increasing frequency lately. It’s a convention to give it to christians that ‘Jesus was a great guy!’ and to opine with them about how poorly most christians live up to his standard. Personally, I think christians underestimate themselves, and overestimate how great jesus was considerably.

  • Reformed Holyroller

    This is fantastic. I love the points made about his ‘self-sacrifice’. It’s easy to die if you know your going to wake up like the Avatar, new body and new world. Fantastic work, I am so happy to see more and more young people talking about these things!

    It’s no surprise the above biblical student and believe is not convinced. The indoctrinated brain is shown in church studies, over and over again, how no non-believer can understand the bible because you ‘have to read it with humility’ to truly understand it. Christianity is a disease that can only be self-cured, I’m afraid. If they can let go of the crippling fear of the devil and hell and for once question what they believe, then there is hope for them. It took me nearly 4 years of intensive prayer and study to finally accept there is no god.

  • Jim Baerg

    Nathan: “All of his accusations have simple answers to them”

    Example please. I realize a blog commment is too small for a thorough rebuttal, but giving a simple answer to one or 2 of his accusations would greatly increase the credibility of your statement.

  • bloomc

    @Nathan
    I am totally with you on this. Part of me was laughing at all the arrogance the entire time I was watching this, another part of me was incredibly frightened that so many people really believe what he is saying to be true. However, please try to be more respectful whenever you address people on these issues. What you are saying may be true, but if we are hateful or bitter, than that just feeds their fire even more, and then we become hypocrites. The love of the Lord is our strength, so we must do our best to show it in all we do and say.

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewFinden

    @reformedholyroller – to assert that if someone is not convinced of this guy’s argument it must be that they are ‘indoctrinated’ is a case of fallacious begging the question.
    I too found his arguments to be full of strawmen, bad logic and rhetoric – ultimately, it’s a seriously flawed endeavour to assess somebody’s words while ignoring the context they spoke them in (and worse, imposing your own definitions on what was meant by them).
    I’ll leave a link to my blogged response when I get it up.

  • grung0r

    @nathan:

    All of his accusations have simple answers to them and as a Christian I can say his understanding of the bible is pretty weak by the evidence of his sad misunderstanding of some of the verses that he quotes

    Ahhhh, The good old Christian argument from ease of refutation. “This argument is so simple to refute, I’m not going to bother, other then to write long diatribes on how it’s really super easy it is to answer every assertion made, which I would do, except for the fact it’s so super easy it’s not even worth my time”.

    It’s a really great argument, because you can simultaneously belittle the opposing sides arguments without getting bogged down by silly little things like ‘facts’ and ‘logic.

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewFinden

    @grung0r – trust me, the whole “so easy I won’t bother” is NOT the sole domain of Christians..

  • grung0r

    Andrew:

    You’re right. I should have said “Christian favorite”.

  • Kevin

    Truth suffers from too much observation.

    Jesus’ teachings suffer from too much observation also.

  • Atom Jack

    The whole “Yeshua ben Joseph” thing is fiction. The reality is that this person did not exist. The picking and choosing of various scripts from papyri to make a buy-bull has been documented before. The KJV is even stupider. To find that the thing began its existence decades after a putative christ doesn’t really mean that much to me. You have to get down to a realization that this is a party line handed down from people with an agenda. It’s all about control. You religious can go ahead and crow about it like you are “right”, but you DON’T KNOW what happens when you die, and the atheists don’t either. Making stuff up doesn’t help. Turn your noses up somewhere else. And get a more moral education than your old musty book allegedly written by a bunch of bronze-age goat-herders.

  • Not a Fan

    So personally, I do not believe in Atheist.
    If they did exist though, I believe that most likely their understanding of all things regarding love and morality, as well as their superior intellect, would far exceed that of any deity, much more so any “follower” of that deity. Or at least many of them would think so.
    But again, I personally do not believe Atheist exist.

  • CB

    Sentiment: right on. Execution: a little maudlin and shaky for my taste. The ideas were interesting, and the animation was lovely, but the serious tone and music made it come off as more…manipulative than it needed to be. It also seems not to properly get into the mind of the blindly faithful.

    For example, with the third moral objection: The director finds it immoral to preach the fantasy of eternal life because people then live their lives operating under a total lie (which I agree is truly reprehensible). But you can’t argue to a Christian that Jesus is immoral for being a charlatan, because they still think that the magic tonic will make their hair grow someday!

  • d’Armond

    Wow, so much fuss over stuff that was never said by someone who never existed.

  • Stephen P

    I only have time now to look at the first couple of minutes, but I have to say that his opening reference to Jesus living in “bronze-age palestine” was a poor start. People who think that the whole bible was written in the bronze age really need to do some background reading.

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewFinden

    @Atom Jack & @d’Armond – I’m afraid the evidence says otherwise, as do the overwhelming majority of historians – even those who reject the miracles. Sorry.

  • grung0r

    Andrew:

    Adding an argument from authority to your argument from ease of refutation does not make it any more compelling, or reasonable.

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewFinden

    @grung0r – I made no argument from ease of refutation. Look it up – wrong guy. And argument from authority is only fallacious when you claim the authority cannot be wrong. I made no such claim – the overwhelming consensus of experts might be wrong, but that more than a simple, unevidence claim is needed to demonstrate that – especially when the scholarly view is based on the extant textual and historical evidence. That is, if the evidence AND the scholars agree that an itinerant preacher called Jesus was put to death by the Romans in C1st Palestine, sorry, but I’m not just going to accept an unsupported claim that he never existed (see http://thinkingdoesnthurt.blogspot.com/2011/05/problem-of-historical-jesus.html )

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewFinden

    Here’s my blow by blow commentary on this film: http://www.thingsfindothinks.com/2011/07/was-jesus-a-good-moral-teacher/

    Overall, the film’s a pretty poor effort.

  • grung0r

    Andrew:

    An argument from authority is one in which you use the beliefs of others(in authority)as evidence of why your claim is correct. It does not matter how many people in whatever field state this or that. If their arguments are so good, then why not make them?

    That is, if the evidence AND the scholars agree that an itinerant preacher called Jesus was put to death by the Romans in C1st Palestine, sorry, but I’m not just going to accept an unsupported claim that he never existed

    What is the evidence, if you don’t mind me asking? All I’ve ever heard when I ask this question is Josephus, Josephus, Josephus, oh and “Alexander the great doesn’t have any contemporary sources either!” Please,if you have ANY extra-biblical evidence(Or a reason why gospels, written 50+ years after the fact, and filled with magic and fictional constructs should count as history) for this person, I would love to hear it.

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewFinden

    @grung0r – follow the link I posted. It’s written by an Atheist: http://thinkingdoesnthurt.blogspot.com/2011/05/problem-of-historical-jesus.html
    I’m not going to go off on a tangent of why historians treat the NT documents they way they do other ancient texts (i.e. put them to the same criteria etc.) and find a reliable historical core (e.g. you present a false dichotomy of ‘it must have no meta-physical claims to be history’ – good luck with texts regarding most ancient rulers in that case!)
    And btw, arguments from authority are not always fallacious – which is the point. Expert opinion carries weight, otherwise, what’s the point of having trained professionals? If I say I should take a certain medication because my doctor says to – that’s argument from authority, but it’s not fallacious. An argument from authority is only fallacious when it is claimed the authority cannot be wrong. I made no such claim, and my appeal is thus, not a fallacious argument, but simply pointing to the weight of expert opinion as a justification for holding a position (why not just show their argument? perhaps because they take tomes, and this is a fairly off-hand comment on a blog post). If they are wrong, then show how.

  • grung0r

    If I say I should take a certain medication because my doctor says to – that’s argument from authority, but it’s not fallacious

    It is neither. It’s in fact not an argument at all, unless you have multiple personality disorder. Now, if you said I should take a medication because your doctor says so, then that is an argument from authority, and it is fallacious. In discourse, why can trust whomever we like as authorities on whatever topics we choose, but no one else is under obligation to trust the same authorities we do. Instead, we must make an actual argument(you are certainly free to parrot your chosen authority if you like), but that the people that you trust think this or that and totally would agree with everything you say is irrelevant, and always fallacious as evidence.

    you present a false dichotomy of ‘it must have no meta-physical claims to be history’ – good luck with texts regarding most ancient rulers in that case!

    Absurd, I claimed no such thing. To use Alexander the Great again, he claimed to be the Son of Ra(or maybe it was Achilles, I’m not sure) amongst other supernatural claims, and like Jesus, there is no contemporary historical source attesting to his existence. The difference is, of course, that Alexander is tied into history. The history of Greece, Macedonia, Eygpt and Rome make no sense without him and his doings. the same is true for any of the other rulers you(failed to) mention. This is simply not true of Jesus. If Jesus were mythical, history as we know it would be the exact same.

    I’m not going to go off on a tangent of why historians treat the NT documents they way they do other ancient texts

    What a shocker.

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewFinden

    @grung0r – you really need to realise that appeals to authority are not always fallacious. I don’t need to be an expert in every field. It is sufficient for me to say that the consensus of science is that evolution happens. Can I defend it? no, I’m not a scientist, so as a layperson, the consensus of scholarship has weight. Those who would challenge the prevailing consensus bear the burden. Remember I was responding to someone who simply made the unsupported claim that Jesus never existed – the person making the claim bears the burden. It is perfectly legitimate for me to respond that the consensus of scholarship and the evidence thereof begs to differ. If someone posted an unsupported assertion that ‘evolution is not true’ it would suffice to point to the overwhelming consensus of biologists that evolution is indeed true and that they have more than sufficient evidence for accepting such.

    “This is simply not true of Jesus.”
    It is indeed true of him. You cannot explain the rapid and unlikely rise of the early Christian movement (i.e. before Constatine) without an historical Jesus. Again, see the link I provided. See also this recent archaeological evidence which rebuts the suggestion that they were late developments: http://www.thingsfindothinks.com/2011/06/dr-peter-williams-explores-new-evidence-for-gospel-reliability/
    Quite simply, there are early, multiple, independent textual attestation, both canonical and non-canonical (some from hostile sources), there is no competing account, it is not implausible that a would-be messiah was executed by the Romans. To deny his existence (and on what basis but prejudice?) you have to also consequently deny the existence of at least one of his siblings from whom we have further attestation. You then have to explain how a movement could begin with such unanimity despite its wide and rapid spread. You have to explain how ideas which were foreign to the prevailing greek idea and which radically reinterpret the prevailing Jewish views of the time. You have to explain how the message could be so publicly proclaimed in Jerusalem where the events were said to have taken place and not have any of the religious leaders who wished to quell the movement point out that the guy never existed (rather, the extant reference to Jewish anti-Christian polemic corroborates the empty tomb). You’ve got to explain why the accounts, if they are pure invention contain so many ‘embarrassing’ details.

    Now why is it again that you don’t think Jesus ever existed? Because you don’t like the talk of miracles?

    If YOU are the one making the claim that Jesus never existed, a claim that runs contrary to the position of mainstream history, the burden is on you discredit the multiple attestations, and give plausible explanations for everything else that followed. In my opinion, the textual evidence alone is numerous enough that any attempt to discredit it all simply smacks of an agenda and prejudice.

    Surely it would be easier to just accept that an itinerant Jewish teacher was crucified by the Romans in 30AD?

    Now, what does that have to do with the flawed video in the OP?

  • d’Armond

    I don’t say there was no historical Jesus because I don’t like miracles. I say he didn’t exist because there’s no evidence he existed. Believers make the claim the existed and provide evidence, and I have reviewed and rejected that evidence.

    @Andrew, I have followed and examined the links you provided. In the first, an atheist blogger reviews a book by Bart Ehrman that presents a scholarly analysis of the origin and historicity of the Bible. Ehrman concludes that the Bible is not inspired or divine (no duh). He also concludes that almost nothing can be said about the life of Jesus, but still presents the premise of an historical Jesus as fact. Considering that Ehrman was a Catholic altar boy, attended a fundamentalist bible college and is a professor of New Testament studies, I don’t find this surprising (his job kind of depends upon his point of view, doesn’t it?).

    I reject the bible as a historical source. This is not the same thing as saying that there’s nothing in the bible that resembles history. I would characterize it as historical fiction. So, how do we separate actual history from the fiction? Typically with external, contemporary evidence. In this category this is nothing. For example, all of the references cited on the Wikipedia page listed from your first link point to authors who were writing long after the supposed time of Jesus’ alleged lifetime (and many of them were obviously forged). So again, no evidence.

    The sum of the argument from your atheist blogger is that the bible should be accepted as history, short of the miracle claims. That’s just not good enough.

    The 2nd link you provide is for a research fellow at the Tyndale House, a Christian residential community near Cambridge University, who presents “new evidence” that the gospels were based on eyewitness sources. What is this new evidence? He compared the usage of names, cities, and details used in 4+1 Gospels Matthews, Mark, John, Luke + Acts compared to Gnostic Gospel Mary, Thomas, Judas, and Philip. Wow. So there is actually no new evidence, just another claim from someone (with an agenda) reviewing texts that were written long after the lifetime of who he is trying to justify. This is what passes for scholarly from apologists, but for those of us who value, you know, actual evidence, it’s amusingly insufficient.

    Do you have one piece of reliable evidence, one substantiated claim, even one archaeological find that supports the claim that Jesus was a real person? I’m not asking to be snarky. I’ve read tons of stuff on both sides, and the proponents of an historical Jesus, when they’re not being dishonest, can only point to things that either were not contemporary to Jesus’ lifetime, or to things that don’t actually bear on whether he existed. Those of us who doubt the historical existence of Jesus are just asking for evidence, any evidence, that would support that claim, and there doesn’t seem to be any at all.

  • http://shamelesslyatheist.wordpress.com/ Randy Tyson

    @andrew – You are correct that appeals to authority are not necessarily fallaceous. But neither are arguments from ignorance or any other logical fallacy. In any of these cases, if reliance only on any logical fallacy is made, the claimant can only be correct by accident, for which that person will get no congratulations from me. That’s not much of an argument, Andrew. Logical fallacies mean that the argument itself is fallaceous even though the conclusion drawn may or may not be correct, and thus can not be used as a form of validation.

    There’s also a hidden logical fallacy in your statement, known as special pleading. An argument from authority can not be used to validate any claim. No exceptions. Yet here you are saying that there are exceptions, which exceptions just happen to be the ones in favor of the claim. This is unsatisfactory to say the least.

    Oh, and this-

    You then have to explain how a movement could begin with such unanimity despite its wide and rapid spread.

    made me do a spit-take with my morning coffee! It certainly made for a good laugh. Modern Christianity is FAR more homogeneous than early Christianity. Was Jesus a god? Was he a man? Was he adopted by God? Did the Holy Spirit leave Jesus as he died on the cross? Was there one god, two gods, or 365? This is what you call unanimity?!?!? Oh, my! And I haven’t even touched upon the Gnostics yet!

    I personally have no problem with the concept that a carpenter (or, as you claim is a possibility, a stone mason) that went around supplying rabbinical teachings and began making claims to messiahship for which he was executed by the Romans. These are hardly extraordinary claims. But the Jesus of the Bible? Please.

    You cite “Jewish anti-Christian polemics” as verification of the empty tomb when these were simply recounting the claims Christians were making (this also applies to the unforged relevant parts of Josephus’ account). It is in no way, shape or form evidence for the empty tomb. “Christians say…” is not a validation of what Christians claim. You’ve fallen for the “availability cascade”, which is a self-reinforcing cycle wherein if enough people say something it must be true, even if the source is totally uncredible. And I find the output of any “telephone game” a very uncredible source.

    In addition to what d’Armond ably says, even if we had eyewitness testimony for such extraordinary claims, would this be sufficient? I. Don’t. Think. SO!!! Eyewitness testimony is the most easily impugned of all types of evidence and is often insufficient for far more mundane claims tried in criminal courts. We can actually speak to those who claim to have been abducted by aliens, but presumably you do not accept their stories.

    If you disregard these claims (let alone the claims to eyewitness testimony as validation of many other religions) and accept the writings of people living in a barbarous, sheepherding, tribal and very, VERY superstitious society, on what basis do you make the distinction? It looks like another case of special pleading to me….

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewFinden

    @d’Armond – I’m really not interested in any kind of discussion where evidence is demanded and then, what is considered evidence by serious scholars is not considered but dismissed as ‘apolgetics’ (that’s ad hominem btw -and you do realize that Ehrman is an atheist, right? or didn’t Wikipedia tell you that?) and then the demand for evidence repeated as if you haven’t actually seen any. (You also seem to have no idea about what constitutes acceptable time frames for documents of antiquity or you’re goal-shifting). If you don’t find the evidence for the existence of an historical Jesus sufficient, good for you. I’m not interested in trying to discuss something with someone who is simply shifting the goal-posts.

    (why is it only people with an anti-theist agenda who seem to claim that Jesus never existed?)
    @Randy Tyson – you’ll note that I wasn’t actually making any claim except that a poster’s position was at odds with mainstream scholarship, which is factually true. I was making a response to the claim that Jesus never existed – which the claimant did not back up. The burden lies on the claimant. It is a fact that such a view is at odds with mainstream scholarship. That is NOT a claim that mainstream scholarship is unable to be mistaken, but simply pointing to the fact that the person claiming non-existence and no evidence is very much at odds with what those who actually study the area say.

    In regards to the Gnostics, they were later. In fact, as Williams shows in the link I provided, the Gnostics were clearly much more removed from the time and place than the gospels. In any case, the claim that Jesus was crucified (and resurrected, but that’s not our issue at this point) is there in the earliest references and there is NO evidence that this was a progressive development. But as you say – you’re not suggesting that Jesus didn’t exist, which is the issue I am responding to. Those who say there is no evidence that he even existed are either ignorant of how ancient historians work, or shifting the goal-posts.

    In regards to the extant reference to Jewish polemic – it is Jewish apologetics: they are trying to account for the empty tomb by saying that the disciples stole the body. They could just have easily said that this supposed Jesus never existed, instead, they admit that he did, and that his tomb was empty.
    ” “Christians say…” is not a validation of what Christians claim.” – of course not, but it IS external attestation to the man’s existence if it says “Christians stole the guy’s body”.

    “I find the output of any “telephone game” a very uncredible source.” – the gospels are nothing like ‘telephone’ (http://www.thingsfindothinks.com/2010/11/telephone/)

    ” even if we had eyewitness testimony for such extraordinary claims, would this be sufficient? I. Don’t. Think. SO!!! ”

    I don’t buy Hume’s axiom and argument that testimony is never sufficient for accepting ‘extraordinary’(a very subjective term) claims. The fault was pointed out in his day – that by his reasoning a pacific tribe would be justified in refusing to believe europeans that water could freeze, and even if their chief went himself, the tribe would be justified in not believing until each had seen it themselves. They would, of course, have been quite in error!

    “barbarous, sheepherding, tribal and very, VERY superstitious society”
    That’s quite a strawman. Wright has showed that neither the predominant Greek or Jewish views of the time allowed for the claims the disciples make. A C1st Jew would have been just as likely to laugh at the claim of Jesus’ resurrection as a modern sceptic. Nor were they shepherds, tribal nor barbarous.

    But I don’t simply accept the claims because they are alleged to be eyewitness – the point is to use normal historical methodology of argument to best explanation. That is, what is the best explanation of the known historical data (and there are about 12 things which scholars, even those who reject the miracles, agree most likely happened. Any explanation needs to properly account for these – though of course, that is well beyond the scope of a blog comment!) – which explanation has the most scope, power and least reliance on ad hoc. I happen to think that the earliest explanation given does that. You may disagree, but I’m yet to see any kind of naturalistic explanation that has more scope, power and less reliance on ad hoc. That’s my position, and if that goes against naturalist presuppositions, then ok. My point in this thread is NOT to argue for the resurrection (you brought up the ‘extraordinary claims’) but was to point to the fact that mainstream history accepts, because of the sufficient textual evidence and historical impact, that Jesus was an itinerant preacher put to death under Pontius Pilate (who, incidently, was also considered for some time to have no external corroboration, only for some to turn up in the 60s). To argue that Jesus never existed involves far too much ad hoc, especially when it comes to accounting for the early, rapid and unlikely growth of the Christian movement. I really don’t see how accepting an historical Jesus is any kind of threat to atheists or anti-theists.
    It wasn’t me who said he was a stone-mason btw.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    At this point, it almost feels like atheists should just ignore Jesus. Whether he was or wasn’t a historical figure is completely irrelevant. It matters to Christians, but it shouldn’t matter to atheists. Getting into the minutiae of his alleged existence and alleged miracles is missing the entire point. If we take Jesus seriously (historically or morally), it just feeds into Christians’ perceptions of his importance.

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewFinden

    @Anna – it seems a very dangerous view to take that anyone who has influenced previous generations should not be taken seriously and just ignored because you don’t accept those views. Should Aristotle be similarly ignored?

  • d’Armond

    “For every expert, there is an equal but opposite expert.” -Clarke’s fourth law of prediction.

    @Andrew, you assert there are 12 things that most scholars agree happened, implying this provides direct evidence for the existence of Jesus. Give me one and the evidence for it so I can review. I’m not asking for the sum total of bible scholarship, just give me one example of something you find credible and convincing and why, so we can examine it.

    If you were to write a story about the life of someone who died before, say, 1940, but were able to provide no contemporary evidence for this person (no photos or paintings, no birth or death certificate, no news stories, no references in the writings of others, or any other kind of actual evidence at all), what would be the basis for me accepting your claim that this person existed? Furthermore, how could you claim to quote the exact words spoken by this person if there were no accounts of them from that time? And furthermore, if you claim that this person did certain things that were historically significant but were not recorded by any of the myriad of historians or reporters writing at that time, or for which there are no other records, then I would have a substantial reason for doubting your claim. You are, by the way, the one making the positive claim and failing to defend it; I am simply requesting your evidence, which you have not yet provided (other than to mindlessly repeat that “serious scholars” are in agreement, which is obviously not true).

    I have responded generally by explaining why I reject evidence such as the bible itself because it is historical fiction, because you have not provided any specific evidence that I can respond to. For example, are you depending on Josephus? He lived around 37-100 CE and wrote the Antiquities around 94 CE. Even if he had written what is claimed (which he didn’t), it would not constitute evidence. Continuing to assert what most bible scholars believe is not itself convincing.

    *My* evidence is that there is no contemporary evidence. This is significant because, if there had been a person who did the things claimed for Jesus (and not even including the miracles and such, just the basic details of the ministry), we would expect to know about it from other sources, such as the writings of Seneca the Younger & Older, Gallio, Justus of Tiberias, Philo, and on and on. It’s interesting to read what these contemporary historians wrote about Jesus: not a single word. In this case, absence of evidence is evidence of absence. There is not a single piece of evidence until the 2nd century.

    Ehrman does not describe himself as an atheist, but as an agnostic. But that’s not relevant to whether I accept his arguments. I admit, I have not read his book, just the summary of his conclusions that the bible was, you know, written by people. His topic was the history of the bible, not on the historicity of Jesus, so it’s not really pertinent.

    I am amused that you think I’m “anti-theist.” I’m not pushing any agenda against individuals. Calling me names because I ask for evidence does not strengthen your position. If the scholarship that supports your view is so sound, then what is the basis for it? I don’t care what Peter Williams or any other modern scholar wrote, so much as I’m interested in what the original historical source is. If there is no original historical source that can be reasonably claimed, if it really just comes down to the bible itself and to the gospels etc., then there really is no evidence, regardless of how many modern biblical scholars you find who claim the contrary.

    To tie this back to the OP and to respond to @Anna’s criticism, eventually I don’t actually care whether Jesus was a real person. However I’m not going to sit down and shut up just because someone asserts that “most scholars agree” (as if that were a sound argument) something that is actually quite controversial. Peter Brietbart presents Jesus as if he were a real person, and I think his film has more impact that way (particularly for a Christian audience); if he were to talk about Jesus as a fictional character, the main points would be lost in an argument about historicity. Ultimately what matters is what people do *today*, and not whether someone from 2000 years ago was real or fictional. But when people cite with certitude things that were supposedly said and done by that person and use that as a basis for causing continued, sustained and significant harm and hardship to others in the name of sacred beliefs, then I find moral value in contesting the basis of those claims.

  • grung0r

    andrew:

    who, incidently, was also considered for some time to have no external corroboration, only for some to turn up in the 60s

    Pontius Pilate’s historicity is well attested to, and has been well before the 60′s. Josephus and Philo(who was his contemporary) both mention him, a fact well known before 1961. What the Wikipedia article that you scanned was suggesting is that the Pilate character in the Bible is mythical, something that a stone inscription saying he was the prefect of Judea does nothing to counter.

    Clearly, this was just a misunderstanding on your part. But misunderstandings are yet another reason why arguments from authority are fallacious. When you appeal to “scholars”(a job title that only seems to come up during Mythical Jesus discussions for some reason), you may have misunderstood their position, the consensus, or the nature of that consensus(this in addtion to the fact that the concesus of experts could still be very, very wrong). You will agree, I expect, that many Christians will make this EXACT same argument, using the same words even(“All Historical scholars agree that Jesus existed”) to mean the son a deity who was born from virgin, who did some impressive magic tricks, gave the sermon on the mount, and was then crucified to atone for the mistakes a rib woman who ate the wrong piece of fruit, and then floated up to a magical place in the sky to judge us for all eternity. Now, I say that isn’t what they(scholars) mean at all. You probably agree. But how can we judge who’s right? How is it any different from yelling on a children on a playground arguing about who’s dad could beat up who’s dad? It isn’t. Authorities supposed agreements with you aren’t evidence, except of your own hubris.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Andrew,

    @Anna – it seems a very dangerous view to take that anyone who has influenced previous generations should not be taken seriously and just ignored because you don’t accept those views. Should Aristotle be similarly ignored?

    I’m not sure how you got that from my comments. No one is saying that we should ignore the socio-political significance of the Jesus character. Indeed, it would be impossible to be a well-educated person without knowing something about the history of all world religions, including the one that is most prevalent in Western culture.

    I’m simply saying that getting into a debate over whether Jesus was a real person or a moral person is completely beside the point. It’s irrelevant. Granted, some atheists may find the discussion interesting. But Jesus has no more to do with atheism than Muhammad or Buddha. I think that when atheists get into a debate on the minutiae of the Bible or of biblical characters, it feeds into the Christian sense of self-importance. It lends false legitimacy to their position. That’s something I’m not interested in. Much like creationism, I don’t think it’s worth engaging in the “debate.” I’m perfectly willing to dismiss Jesus as irrelevant, whether he was real or not.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    d’Armond,

    To tie this back to the OP and to respond to @Anna’s criticism, eventually I don’t actually care whether Jesus was a real person. However I’m not going to sit down and shut up just because someone asserts that “most scholars agree” (as if that were a sound argument) something that is actually quite controversial.

    True enough. I don’t want to dissuade people from tackling the subject, but many evangelicals live for this kind of thing. It gives them an opportunity to go on at length about Jesus, feeding into their sense that he is of ultimate importance. Wouldn’t it be great if every time a Christian mentioned Jesus, secular people just said he was irrelevant and changed the subject? It’s like creationism. If no one took it seriously, maybe it would just go away. I realize society isn’t quite there yet, but perhaps someday we won’t even think Christianity’s assertions are worth responding to.

  • grung0r

    Anna:

    I think that when atheists get into a debate on the minutiae of the Bible or of biblical characters, it feeds into the Christian sense of self-importance. It lends false legitimacy to their position. That’s something I’m not interested in.

    Jesus’ historicity is an important discussion, not because of his actual existence is important or not(who really cares if there was a nutball preacher in first century Palestine who got executed for this or that? no one, be them atheist or christian), but because of the consensus of “scholars” that Andrew points out. The fact of the matter is, there is simply no reason to believe that this person existed in any meaningful sense, and allowing the idea that he did(and how “obvious” it is) to go unchallenged is seriously damaging to intellectual endeavor. If you want to see kind of thing this sort of thinking produces, look no further than Palin, Sarah. Her bizarre account of Paul revere was “true” to her, because as an evangelical christian, history to her is nothing more than a framework on which one builds myths to support her authoritarian and theocratic beliefs, just like the bible. If you don’t want that kind of thing to continue, you’d better start caring, or at the very least stop telling others what fights they should pick.

  • d’Armond

    Anna:

    If no one took it seriously, maybe it would just go away. I realize society isn’t quite there yet, but perhaps someday we won’t even think Christianity’s assertions are worth responding to.

    Now, that’s a future to aspire to. :)

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    grung0r,

    If you don’t want that kind of thing to continue, you’d better start caring, or at the very least stop telling others what fights they should pick.

    Just to be clear, my original remarks had nothing to do with you or d’Armond or Andrew. I was responding to the video. I hadn’t even read the comments yet. I understand your point of view, but I happen to disagree. I would simply prefer not to lend support to the idea that Jesus is relevant. Evangelicals have a field day with this sort of thing. You can tell that Andrew (who is normally rather quiet) is enjoying the discussion immensely. Not that I wish to shut anyone up, but I do think it feeds into their belief that even atheists find Jesus (his historicity, his morality, etc.) to be of importance.

  • grung0r

    Not that I wish to shut anyone up, but I do think it feeds into their belief that even atheists find Jesus (his historicity, his morality, etc.) to be of importance.

    I find your subscription to the “ignore them and they’ll go away” school of thought to be an incredibly myopic and ignorant way of looking at things . It seems to me that every advancement secular society has made from the enlightenment on has been by punching dogmatic, superstitious thinking in it’s stupid little face. Everything from gay rights to Heliocentrism has become the dominant view via confrontation, not cowardice. Besides, I don’t think Christians get much of a kick out of defending Jesus’ historicity. As far as I can tell, Jesus as myth is the most offensive view one can hold in their eyes, more so than atheism even(at least non-mythicist athiests think they are worshipping someone real).

  • tman

    This was an interesting video for covering one of my hunches. Was religion invented by men incapable of imagining non-existence after death. Does anyone know of good books/articles that cover this hypothesis?

  • gCman

    AndrewFinden says – July 1st, 2011 at 2:17 pm –

    it seems a very dangerous view to take that anyone who has influenced previous generations should not be taken seriously and just ignored because you don’t accept those views. Should Aristotle be similarly ignored?

    Of course the stories have been influential. No-one has provided a sound argument for the central character being largely based on a real person or real events.

    Squealing fallacy, such as ad hominem, every 5 lines does not really do your arguments any good, especially when you do the same, such as when you comment on Ehrman [possibly] being an atheist.

    It is the premises and the argument around those that is more relevant. There has yet to be a sound argument for a single Jesus Christ person. Even the sayings attributed to his character before his death suggest he was not who the rest of the Bible says he was, so there are theological grounds to reject the claims.

  • Rich Wilson

    I’m with Anna (I think). I’m not convinced that Jesus was a single person, and not zero or multiple real persons. But I don’t really care. What is important is that Jesus is very real to the vast majority of humans.

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewFinden

    @d’Armond
    ” just give me one example of something you find credible and convincing and why”

    The crucifixion. It is multiply attested, from the earliest sources, there is no competing account, the accounts contain embarrassing details, it is not implausible. Given the prevailing Jewish views, it’s highly unlikely that someone would invent a messianic figure who would appear to the reader to have been cursed by God (as crucifixion would certainly have been seen). Secondary details show accuracy.

    Your argument is basically an argument from ignorance. You claim that ‘contemporary’ evidence is required – that is, someone writing within the life-time of Jesus, but this is goal-shifting. Most ancient figures have no contemporary attestation. Further, when we’re dealing with an oral tradition, not a written one, we shouldn’t expect it. You further compound the argument from ignorance by saying we should expect writings in several contemporary authors (and why would we expect people interested in rulers and generals to write about a condemned criminal in the outskirts of the empire?) – but this is a faulty argument. We have extant around 1% of what was written in antiquity. It’s needle in haystack stuff. Even if we had a list of people crucified between 29-33AD we might not expect to find Jesus name on it. We can’t dictate what ought to turn up from antiquity and then claim that because it hasn’t the person must not have existed.

    You simply write ‘the bible’ off as historical fiction, though you give no basis for this. Surely you can understand that if you view a document differently to the way the majority of the actual field do, then you must give good reason.
    In fact, I’m not even interested in ‘the bible’ – later collation into a single volume is entirely irrelevant to the issue, what we are looking at is some of the New Testament documents – which all date before the end of the C1st, the earliest reference being within 20 years, though it most probably references a text that dates to within 2-5yrs of the crucifixion (is that contemporary enough for you? Certainly is for real historians). The attestation are all within the lifetime of possible eye-witnesses and compared to other ancient sources, positively early. Of course, you can’t even begin to talk of ‘contemporary’ without an historical Jesus from whence the term gets its meaning.
    But to repeat – what kind of literary criticism are you using that makes you conclude that the gospels are of the genre of fiction? Because they include meta-physical incidents?
    No, it is very obvious that writer like Luke are writing what they believe to have actually happened, therefore, the normal tests for historicity must be applied: are the claims multiply and independently attested? Is there a competing account? etc.

    You repeat the rhetoric that I’ve not provided any evidence when the reality is that you’re simply dismissing the evidence and then claiming to have never seen any.

    You dismissed Williams’ presentation as apologetics without bothering to actually interact with his point – which is that we know the gospels were written outside of Judea, yet, as the recent name & geography data show, show an intimate knowledge of the region. If you were to write a fictional story set in 1920′s Paris, without the help of modern data records etc, would you get the names and flora right? What’s more likely, that the story they were writing down originated in Palestine from the 30s or that they were amazingly clever researchers and writers (who were simultaneously ‘barbarous sheepherders’?

    You ask

    “If you were to write a story about the life of someone who died before, say, 1940, but were able to provide no contemporary evidence for this person (no photos or paintings, no birth or death certificate, no news stories, no references in the writings of others, or any other kind of actual evidence at all), what would be the basis for me accepting your claim that this person existed?”

    If you had five different people attesting to the person’s existence, based on having spoken with people who claimed to have known the person (i.e. a brother) then that is a sufficient basis. Further, if we were writing about someone called Jimmy Jimson, and there was a community group called Jimson’s Joggers who had began in the 40s (but lost all records in a fire, just to help the analogy along) then we have historical impact as well. Your question is, of course, loaded in assuming that testimony is not a kind of evidence, when it is, in fact, one of the most common and valuable kinds of evidence for antiquity (see Judge on this: http://www.thingsfindothinks.com/2011/06/prof-edwin-judge-testimony-a-basis-for-history/).
    We also have much more access to recent historical data, and have a totally different mindset about keeping records than in antiquity, so the comparison is always going to be fairly faulty on that account.

    You say Josephus didn’t write any reference to Jesus – false. There are two references, one is undisputed, the other was almost certainly edited, but is not a wholesale interpolation, and he almost certainly said something about Jesus. He doesn’t tell us much about him, but it is a further (if unnecesary really) attestation to Jesus’ existence. It certainly is not too late to be useful.

    Ultimately your argument boils down to your rejection of the source documents (though you’ve given no reason why they shouldn’t be subjected to the normal criteria of assessment expect that you reckon they’re fiction.. I assume because they have claims of miracles?). You say you don’t care about the consensus of mainstream scholarship, but when you ignore the source document that peer reviewed historians assess, there’s something amiss, and my bet is that it is with your approach, and not theirs.

    @grung0r

    “Authorities supposed agreements with you aren’t evidence,”

    At no point did I say it was!

    My appeal to authority is NOT in this case fallacious. I am pointing to the disparity between a view presented here and the view of those who actually study the issue. Such disparity ought to give us pause to think – that is my point. And the issue is purely about the existence of Jesus. I recognise that not all historians accept the resurrection (though some eminent historians do) but that is not the issue under discussion. You’re getting hung up on my reference to the scholarly mainstream while failing recognise a) the point in my reference to it and b) that I’ve actually referred to the reasons why they treat the NT documents as historical documents.
    If I had said that ‘scholars think this, therefore it must be right’, it would be fallacious and you’d be right to criticise that. I did no say that, however.

    ” The fact of the matter is, there is simply no reason to believe that this person existed in any meaningful sense,”

    That’s not a fact – it’s your opinion, one which is highly disputed.

    ” You can tell that Andrew (who is normally rather quiet) is enjoying the discussion immensely.”

    Normally rather quiet? I’ve commented on a number of posts here.
    I’m not enjoying this – I’m finding it incredibly frustrating, and should not have let my SOIWOTI syndrome have kicked in, and ought to have realised that if someone is going around posting on internet forums that Jesus never existed, then they’re probably not really that fluent in normal historical methodology or current scholarship. That’ll learn me :D

    “It seems to me that every advancement secular society has made from the enlightenment on has been by punching dogmatic, superstitious thinking in it’s stupid little face. ”

    Heliocentricism was the prevailing Aristotelian view. Galileo’s persecution was due largely to his provocation and ego. But if you don’t consider the Christian views of Galileo, Keppler, Newton & Bacon etc. ‘dogmatic, superstitious thinking’ then good ;) btw, Have you read James Hannam’s book (The genesis of science) on how the middle ages influenced the rise of science? Worth looking at.

    Now that is all far too long (inevitable when it becomes 3vs1)and precisely why I didn’t want to get into this big tangent in the first place (now there’s a shocker!)

    Unless either of you can show good reason why the normal historical approach to the NT documents and the conclusions thereof should be discarded or simply ignored, I think that’ll do me.

  • gCman

    The crucifixion. It is multiply attested, from the earliest sources, there is no competing account, the accounts contain embarrassing details, it is not implausible. Given the prevailing Jewish views, it’s highly unlikely that someone would invent a messianic figure who would appear to the reader to have been cursed by God (as crucifixion would certainly have been seen).

    Now that is an ‘argument from ignorance’.

    Of course there were crucifixions at the time, and many would have been for the many messiahs prevalent at the time. The things that also contradict your narrative quoted here is that a) this was “God”; and b) you smuggle in concepts of plausibility, including that …

    Secondary details show accuracy.

  • gCman

    You say Josephus didn’t write any reference to Jesus – false. There are two references, one is undisputed, the other was almost certainly edited, but is not a wholesale interpolation, and he almost certainly said something about Jesus. He doesn’t tell us much about him, but it is a further (if unnecesary really) attestation to Jesus’ existence.

    Both are disputed, and the one less disputed is a passing reference when referring to his alleged brother, a brother the Catholic tradition strongly disputes.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    It seems that God should come down and manifest Himself as a human once every other generation or so. All good teachers know that repetition is important in the learning process. God, being self-taught, must not have figured that out. I guess it also never occurred to Him to actually write anything down when He did come down. Perhaps He was just too much in love with the sound of His own voice. Seems like a do-over is necessary. Then we won’t need to speculate about what God wants or the details about some one-time failed attemp to communicate those desires.

    Imagine some teacher in school mumbling something at the beginning of class as people are just entering the room. Most didn’t hear what he said or even realized he even said anything. Then a few weeks later some of the students claimed that the teacher gave out the most important information with that mumble that will determine your whole grade in the class. These students write up a whole detailed narrative about what was supposedly said (including a question and answer session that now all of a sudden supposedly happened). Many students now exclusively study from the materials provided by these other students to prepare for the final exam. Some students, though, say that the mumble was not important test material. Some others say that he didn’t actually mumble anything at all.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    grung0r,

    I find your subscription to the “ignore them and they’ll go away” school of thought to be an incredibly myopic and ignorant way of looking at things.

    You’re certainly entitled to that view. Given the state of the society we live in, perhaps you’re right. But my strategy hasn’t been tried. Your method of engagement is in widespread use, but I’m not sure how well it works. If you take creationism, it seems to have become even more entrenched over the past few decades. If the secular world simply ignored Ken Ham, for example, maybe he wouldn’t be a household name. Evangelicals want attention. They thrive on attention. If we refuse to give them attention and refuse to engage their talking points, it’s possible we could take some of the wind out of their sails.

    It’s not that the debate is not worth having, but my personal view is that Christians should be dismissed rather than encouraged. By taking Jesus seriously, we’re playing right into their hands. Of course, it’s just my opinion, but I feel that engaging Christians on their favorite topic (Jesus) does nothing other encourage them. Maybe it would be possible to have a fruitful discussion among atheists, but I’m just not hopeful that evangelicals take anything away from it other than the feeling that Jesus is of incredible importance.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Andrew,

    Normally rather quiet? I’ve commented on a number of posts here.

    Yes, but your comments are usually quite brief. The fact that you’ve gone on at such length about Jesus proves my point. Evangelicals never run out of things to say about Jesus and will take any sign of encouragement and run with it.

    I’m not enjoying this – I’m finding it incredibly frustrating

    Well, perhaps I was wrong. I’m all for making evangelicals uncomfortable, so if you find the conversation disconcerting, we must be doing something right. ;-)

    But seriously, this proves my point again. You are obviously convinced you’re right and nothing anyone says will ever sway your opinion. I think if a serious discussion is ever going to happen, it has to happen among people who have no stake in the outcome.

  • d’Armond

    Andrew:

    The crucifixion.

    You said there were 12 events that were well-attested as evidence of Jesus’ life, and the evidence you cite are the gospels? Putting aside for a moment the authorship and timing of the gospels, are you saying that there are only 12 events described there that you accept? I find your choice confusing. Is there a single, accepted reference to the crucifixion of Jesus apart from the gospels or the bible?

    The gospels and the rest of the bible do contain fiction (unless you’re an inerrantist, in which case this conversation is over). So, we have to apply sound historical methodology to separate fact from fiction. I don’t automatically assume that anything written in these sources is fiction, but I am obviously skeptical, for good reason. They are written to convince the reader of supernatural powers and impossible events; they have dubious motives. Thus it is a reasonable question to ask what is historically sound and what is fiction intended to persuade. I don’t accept that something written in the gospels is accurate just because it’s written in the gospels. I am not that gullible, and asking for evidence is not out of place.

    You place the writing of the gospels within a couple of years of the cruci-fiction (by which I assume you’re referring to mainly to Mark, as the others came after), but this is too early. They have to have been written after Paul’s letters, placing them after 58 CE, and more likely after the Jewish-Roman war of 66-70 (since Mark alludes to the destruction of the temple in 70 CE). But they’re probably later than that even, because other early Christian writers (e.g. Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch) make no mention of the gospels in their writings dating to 95-107 CE. Do you have any reason to place them so early?

    Most ancient figures have no contemporary attestation.

    We’re not talking about most ancient figures. We’re talking about someone who was supposedly celebrated, commanded large crowds of followers, and whose resulting fame sparked the largest spiritual movement in history. The writings of historians and record-keepers from the time took note of lesser individuals and events. I’m not asking for something extraordinary, like a photograph (anachronistic) or historical records from a time when historians did not keep records (more seriously); I’m asking for the kind of evidence one would expect from the time if the events were accurate.

    You say Josephus didn’t write any reference to Jesus – false.

    I’m not going to review the arguments against Josephus, but will point out that sound historical methodology has demonstrated the 2 references from Josephus to be (1) and interpolation and (2) not a reference to Jesus. I suspect your continual call for me to accept historical methods is merely a call for me to accept methods that demonstrate your conclusions, without analysis. This is why I asked about Josephus, and the sources for the 12 events you believe to confirm Jesus, to see if you were serious, which you are apparently not. Sorry for wasting everyone’s time, I’ll drop this thread now.

  • grung0r

    @andrew:

    My appeal to authority is NOT in this case fallacious. I am pointing to the disparity between a view presented here and the view of those who actually study the issue.

    No, you aren’t. You are appealing to what you THINK the view of the people who you THINK actually study the issue is. That you think that even one historian who believes the resurrection was a historical event is eminent belies your fallacious reasoning. Do you honestly think that anyone who isn’t a believing christian would find such a person to be an expert in separating myth from fact? What would you think about a Muslim historian who thought that Mohammad, as a historical matter, ascended to heaven on a golden chariot from the Dome of the Rock? I would wager you would find that person lacking in expertise regarding history.

    I’ll say it again: You can think whomever you want is an expert in whatever you want. You can think that all these experts are all talking about the exact same thing, and all homogeneously agree with each other and, of course, you. But no one else is under any logical obligation to accept your reports, other then as evidence of your vast and deluded ego.

    I’ve actually referred to the reasons why they treat the NT documents as historical documents.

    Yeah, I remember that. you said:
    I’m not going to go off on a tangent of why historians treat the NT documents they way they do other ancient texts and find a reliable historical core

    You also said:
    why not just show their argument? perhaps because they take tomes, and this is a fairly off-hand comment on a blog post

    Yup, your argument totally extends beyond an appeal to authority. I mean look at the the…hand waiving.

    Galileo’s persecution was due largely to his provocation and ego.

    How dare he provoke the one true church! Too bad he didn’t get a real inquisitor, that would have learned him.

    Unless either of you can show good reason why the normal historical approach to the NT documents and the conclusions thereof should be discarded or simply ignored, I think that’ll do me.

    Wow. Your dogmatic thinking truly knows no bounds, does it? Do you honestly think that The reconstruction of Jesus as historical follows the same rules as regular history? Can you name one other character in history who would disappear if you erased a single, largely(and uncontroversially)fictional source? When you remove the miracles(virgin birth, walking on water, Lazarus, resurrection and subsequent zombie uprising) and you remove the things that could not have possibly been recorded(Jesus’ birth, the temple as a child, his conversation with god in the garden of Gethsemane) and the things that make no sense(Jewish elders meeting on passover eve, Jesus making a pun in greek, Judas having to point out the rabblerouser whom was followed by multitudes, etc) without any corroborating evidence for the little that remains, what exactly is left to reconstruct? Nothing, that’s what.

  • Tim Underwood

    Very strong statement about this character, Jesus.
    I read all through these comments hoping someone would bring up Joseph Atwill and his Caesar’s Messiah hypothesis.
    What was said in this video is true but there is still the question as to who created this character. There is the other question about why this character was useful.

  • Rosita

    @AndrewFinden

    The argument that most Biblical scholars support your viewpoint is damaged by the fact that most of these scholars are attached to academic institutions that would fire them if they failed to toe the party line. That does not give them real academic freedom and puts them in the biased category. I would have more respect for the measured opinion of people who are not Christian, but I doubt that too many of them would want to spent their life investigating Christian literature. Bart Ehrman is the only candidate I can think of at the moment: a person who used to be Christian but who had the courage to give it up on discovering that the Bible and the surrounding culture and history did not support the dogma he had uncritically accepted as “true” in his uninformed years.

    The problem with the rest of your argument is that it really on testimony that is so weak that it would not be acceptable in any court of law that was interested in determining the truth of a matter.

    Jesus was an illiterate peasant and so were the men whom the bible says were his followers. None of them wrote anything down. If Jesus were indeed a god then he must have been a very stupid one. If his goal was to deliver a message to all the world and every succeeding nation then the least he could do would have been to make sure that he dictated his message to someone who had sufficient education to write it down, at least in Aramaic but preferably in Latin or Greek. The claimed post-Resurrection injunction to his disciples to preach the gospel to all the world, instead of the small crowds of illiterate Jewish people that he spent his life teaching, was not very effective. It was left to S/Paul to take up this task, after he argued with the original Jerusalem Church over the legitimacy of his heretical non-Jewish version of the message. Paul was unrealistically arrogant as he had never met Jesus the man and never mentioned anything about his earthly life or message.

    Then there is fact that the first gospel to be written began with the promise that all the important facts were presented in the account but finished with the death of Jesus. The sections detailing the story of the resurrection and its consequences was added many years later, apparently to make the book of Mark consistent with the later gospels. Ironically, the resurrection story became the central theme of the developing Christian heresy and all beliefs that failed to accept this were violently and bloodily got rid of after the Constantine decision on the contents of the new national religion.

    So now we have a composite Pauline/Roman religion that incorporates many of the features of the non-Jewish religions that co-existed in the area around that time.

    Imagine what Christianity would be like without the virgin birth, converted solstice celebrations on the 25th December, converted spring rites at Easter and the celebration of a god’s bodily resurrection from the dead and the re-institution of all of the Jewish law, instead of a few cherry-picked items like the Top Ten Commandments minus the prescribed biblical penalties for their infraction. You do know what these are, don’t you? Of do you?

  • Ijoewilandbleedsilverandblack

    As an atheist,I study the different sects of “Christianity” it amazes me the how one can blindly follow an absurdity such as a “virgin” mother giving birth to the son of “god”,was there Christians at that time…nope,it wasn’t untill 3 decades after his “resurrection”and that was by word of mouth,sheep being led by the shepherd.