Bill O’Reilly’s Next Book: Killing Jesus

After writing bestsellers Killing Lincoln (riddled with all sorts of inaccuracies) and Killing Kennedy, Bill O’Reilly has announced his next book:

O’Reilly announced the news Wednesday night at the end of his Fox News show, The O’Reilly Factor, saying “We’ve uncovered some interesting things about the execution of Jesus of Nazareth and how it all ties into Roman power.”

He offered no details, but told viewers, “I think you’re going to like it.”

One Huffington Post commenter can already envision the final product: “On page 432 Bill relates that Jesus shouldn’t have gone to the theater that night.”

(Interestingly enough, a frequent FOX News Channel guest, Stephen Mansfield, has a book coming out in May with the exact same title. This should be fun.)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Claude

    “We’ve uncovered some interesting things about the execution of Jesus of Nazareth and how it all ties into Roman power.”

    This just in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mitortilla Jaime Villalva

    They haven’t even uncovered any evidence Jesus actually existed.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

      it’s sort of the elephant in the room, isn’t it?

      off topic: omg, don’t tase me for this, but i just left a positive comment over at one of the evangelical blogs on patheos. written by a Patrick Henry college dood.

      for those who don’t know, Patrick Henry is the premiere college for homeschool fundamentalists. more PH grads work for republican politicians than practically any other college. it’s pretty much evil.

      but i found myself agreeing with some of the commenters after being drawn into the discussion noticing it as a recommended post on the patheos front page.

      i was Skeptical of your choice to move over to patheos at first, Hemant. but now i approve. i’ve read quite a few very interesting posts by believers here, as well as the atheist channel stuff. i invited them to come by, so get ready. ;-)

    • Claude

      Here we go. The scholarly consensus supports an historical Jesus.

      • SphericalBunny

        The real question tho, is does the scholarly consensus support a historical Jesus because of the evidence, or just *because*…?

        • David Starner

          Few historical figures have the recorded evidence that Jesus have. You can practically talk about the historical King Arthur and get less disbelief, much less the historic Xenophon or something.

          Something happened in 1st century CE Palestine to start a new religion. Sources tell us that it was the existence of a teacher named Jesus. I find it very hard to find any other answer that’s more plausible.

          Being skeptical doesn’t mean be skeptical about things you don’t want to be true, like a Creationist is. It means just as much that you should be skeptical about the things you would like to be true.

          • Glasofruix

            And by sources, you mean the Wholly Babble, right? Sorry, but that doesn’t make Jebus any more real…

            • Anon

              No actually, not the Bible. I study medieval history, which occasionally crosses over into the classical world and my study of history was partially the reason I became an atheist in the first place.

              But there is evidence that in the 1st century CE there was some guy named Jesus, wandering around the general area and quite possibly teaching people some form of religion.

              I do not think he was the son of any kind of god and I think parts of what he taught were bullshit but he did exist.

              • LionKraze

                There where probably several guys “guy named Jesus, wandering around the general area and quite possibly teaching people some form of religion.”

              • Erp

                Well to be exact one has to include the New Testament writings since they are the major chunk of the earliest evidence (recognizing as with all writings that the authors have biases). However there is other evidence supporting a Jesus who taught and was killed around 30CE and whose followers started a new Jewish sect that evolved into a new religion. Any proposed theory that includes Jesus not existing has to explain the start of Christianity.

                • Pureone

                  Are you saying religions cannot start around mythical beings?

                • Greg G.

                  Any proposed theory that includes Jesus not existing has to explain the start of Christianity.

                  There are clear prophecies that David’s seed would always be on the throne. The Bible excuses this failure on the people not following the Law. They then followed the Law given in their Scriptures but noticed that God had not restored the throne as they were subjugated by foreign powers. They began to find “hidden prophecies” by taking verses out-of-context to come up with a Messiah theology.
                  After several generations had come and gone, some began to find more out-of-context verses that s”prophecied” of a suffering Messiah. They may have applied that to some of Philo’s Logos figure.
                  Most of the writings on this are found in the New Testament Epistles. Notice that those letters never mention Jesus as a teacher, a healer, nor as an actual first century person. They only tell of the crucifixion but without details. Jesus seems to have only been revealed to early 1st century Christians through the Scriptures.
                  The destruction of Jerusalem would have seemed quite ominous. A midrash that blamed the destruction on the rejection of Jesus would be very interesting to first century superstitious minds. Even if this story was conveyed in terms of a metaphor of an early first century person, many would seize that as an actual history.
                  The Book of Mark is the example I have in mind. The syllogism of Jesus cursing the fig tree, the Temple tantrum, and the disciples noticing the withered tree later implies the withering of the Temple. The next chapter tells the Parable of the Evil Tenants and directs it at the Jews. (Matthew changes it to only the Pharisees.) Both passages are drawn from the first few verses of Isaiah 5 and the tenants correspond to the suitors in the Odyssey.
                  I can’t decide whether Mark wrote the Jesus character as a metaphor or if he actually believed, but he certainly knew he was writing a fictionalized account by drawing on the Old Testament, Homer’s Odyssey, Plato, Galatians and other Epistles, and maybe even the Q document from memory. The other gospels caught the Greek references from Mark tried to blur them.
                  This explanation better accounts for the diversity of Christianities in the early second century than the traditional explanation. They were all trying to interpret vague, out-of-context verses of ancient Scripture and not the teachings of a first century teacher.

                • Claude

                  Why is this theory more plausible than an apocalyptic prophet who got himself executed by the Roman authorities and to whom legend accrued over time?

                  Paul does refer to a human who lived and died on Earth.

                • Glasofruix

                  Because it actually makes some sense. Also, no roman records of a super prophet messiah king of the jews were found, and Zeus knows those people had boners over records.

                • Greg G.

                  Why is this theory more plausible than an apocalyptic prophet who got himself executed by the Roman authorities and to whom legend accrued over time?

                  Because the Epistles start with the legend and the apocalyptic prophet stuff comes much later.

                  Josephus lists all 18 of the High Priests of the Temple from Herod’s time to the destruction of the Temple. Four of them were named Jesus so it was probably a very common name. So there were probably any number of itinerant preachers named Jesus who got crucified. It’s just that neither the Epistles or the Gospels are about any of them.

                  Paul does refer to a human who lived and died on Earth.

                  Cite?

                  Paul does refer to many humans who lived and died on Earth in the first century but the Jesus character isn’t one of them.

                • Claude

                  Well, though they don’t date Jesus:

                  Gal 4:4-5

                  But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

                  Rom 5:15

                  But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.

                  1Cor 11:23 (you might contest this one as an interpolation)

                  For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, This is my body which is for you. Do this is remembrance of me. Etc.

                  2Cor 13:4

                  For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God.

                  That is all I have time for now!

                • Greg G.

                  The only clear prophecy from the Old Testament is the failed one about David’s line always being on the throne. The others are taken out of context. That’s all they knew about Jesus. Different evangelists had different interpretations of different verses and none of them had a fully worked-out story. They would always have to revise with the next revelation or new idea about a passage.

                  Gal 4:4 is usually mentioned by Christian as the fulfilling of Gen 3:15 but it may be the Isaiah 7:14 passage, too. If the scriptures suggested Jesus was born of a woman, they believed it whether it made sense. If you look at Gal 4:3, it talks about being under slavery to “elemental spiritual forces” (NIV). So the “time had fully come” seems to be during some prehistory, like when Hera’s breast milk squirted across the night sky to create the Milky Way.

                  I don’t see how Rom 5:15 supports your contention. Read Paul’s argument and look at Rom 5:20. The law came to increase sin but the as sin increased, so did the grace. That makes more sense if the crucifixion and stuff had already occurred.

                  1 Cor 11:23 comes from Psalm 41:9. The communion stuff probably comes from a Mithras ritual via Paul. Justin says the Mithras cult borrowed the ritual of communion from the Christians. But Plutarch wrote a biography of Pompey, who lived in the 1st century BC, in the mid-first century AD that said that the Mithras rituals of the pirates of Cicilia were still practiced to “this day”. Cicilia was a major city in Tarsus. Recall that Paul was from Tarsus.

                  2 Cor 13:4 – Doesn’t help your case. Yes, they took parts of the great and powerful Messiah prophecy with some of Philo’s Logos philosophy and sprinkled in some verses on suffering to create their own version of the Messiah who was crucified long ago but was coming back soon.
                  Paul insists he got all his information from the Lord – nothing like the Acts versions – as if he began to see verses in a new way, instead their overt meanings. In 1 Cor 15, he speaks as if it was revealed to everybody else the same way and not as if they saw a recently resurrected zombie, like the typical Christian interpretation. The only difference he emphasizes is that his was last. He argues that his revelation is comparable to the other apostles when there would be quite a qualitative difference if he thought they had actually walked with Jesus as a real person. He even debates Peter as he relates in Galatians 2.
                  Mark seems to have taken Paul’s side of that debate and put it in Jesus’ mouth in Mark 7. The argument in Galatians 2 wouldn’t make much sense if Jesus had actually abolished the food laws (7:19) in front of the apostles.

                • Claude

                  My “case”; as I protested earlier, I haven’t got the expertise to make a case for historical Jesus. With that in mind:

                  2Cor 13:4

                  Yes, they took parts of the great and powerful Messiah prophecy with some of Philo’s Logos philosophy and sprinkled in some verses on suffering to create their own version of the Messiah who was crucified long ago but was coming back soon.

                  Who’s this “they”? And why would “they” do this? Acts is a piece of theological propaganda designed to narratively reconcile the Jerusalem and Pauline churches. There is indeed a great deal of inconsistency between Acts and the epistles. But since Acts was far off in the future when Paul was writing his letters it’s not relevant to Paul’s references to Jesus as a man.

                  1Cor 15: I wondered if you might claim verses 3-7 as an interpolation. At any rate, I don’t read ancient Greek, so I can’t comment on Paul’s tone. But as a prelude to Paul’s discourse on the resurrection (if Christ had not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain) not sure why Paul would want to elaborate on the witness of his competitors in Jerusalem.

                  The communion stuff probably comes from a Mithras ritual via Paul. Hmm. It’s complicated. Over to you R. Joseph Hoffmann.

                  I mentioned Rom 5:15 because of Paul’s apposition between the fall by a man and redemption through a man. The operative word is man. I don’t understand your point here. Yes, the crucifixion had already occurred. ?

                  Gal 4:4

                  If you look at Gal 4:3, it talks about being under slavery to “elemental spiritual forces” (NIV)

                  Demons and other cosmic forces of sin, presumably? The reference is situated in a history from Abraham to the present. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian [the law] (Gal 3:25). There was a time when we were slaves to sin and so under the law, but now faith has come for in Christ Jesus you are all sons through faith. It doesn’t sound like Paul is referring to a prehistorical event.

                • Greg G.

                  Good morning, Claude. We do agree on a lot of things. I think the funniest verse from Acts is 26:14 where Jesus says in Hebrew “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (KJV) The “kick against the pricks” seems to be a Greek cliche that goes back to Euripides’ Bacchae. We use cliches from Shakespeare all the time without thinking about the origin and it seems that Luke did it with that cliche. So we have Luke quoting Paul quoting Jesus quoting Euripides quoting Dionysus, a Greek god.

                  I am an ex-Christian since the mid-70′s. I’ve always had a curiousity about how our society came to be so I’ve read about ancient history. This led me back to the Bible six or seven years ago when I began to read Ehrman, Burton Mack, and Randal Helms, among others including some apologists, which led to Robert M. Price and Richard Carrier more recently. I had accepted that Jesus was probably historical until less than a year ago after but I had no ax to grind either way. It’s simply an academic question.

                  Ehrman’s book Did Jesus Exist brought the evidence for Jesus, real and imagined, together. A lot of it is grasping at straws.

                  But I enjoy a good conversation on the matter with lots of challenges and exchanges of ideas. TruthSurge on YouTube did an entertaining series called Excavating the Empty Tomb on this subject. I challenged him on many things and we had some good debates in comments and personal exchanges.

                  There were many schools of thought in Jerusalem, Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Essenes, for example. Those are the major ones. Some sects had been reading Scripture with ideas of a coming Messiah. The “they” I was referring to would be a subsect that also read the verses about suffering as prophecy and believed the Messiah had already done the sacrifice but would be coming in Power soon. It was the fact that it had recently been “revealed” to them that led them to think it was iminent.

                  Some think that 1 Cor 15 may be interpolated and some think the order may have been rearranged by the early Catholic Church to put Peter first. If it was an interpolation after the Gospels and Acts came out, I would expect to see some qualitative difference between Paul’s vision and the others. But the same word is used for each. This suggests to me that Paul didn’t see that the revelation to the others came in a manner different from his, which was “according to the scriptures”, not that it was a personal visitation. That meme comes from a TruthSurge video but I confirmed it with the concordance on blueletterbible.com. Paul seems to have faced some skepticism since he was an outsider to the Jerusalem crowd. He is often justifying himself in his letters.

                  In Rom 5:13, Paul argues that sin didn’t count because there was no law. In verse 20, the trespass increased after the law was installed, but the grace also increased. How could grace increase simultaneously if the righteous act (from verse 18) hadn’t already occurred?

                  Galatians 3 is interesting. Paul quotes lots of Old Testament scripture but it seems like a good place to bring up a reference to recent events related to “hanging on a pole” if had actually happened. It would have made his argument much stronger. Verse 1 says “Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.” Portrayed? Didn’t he know of any actual eye-witnesses he could bring up?

                  This chapter makes me think the letter may be a response to the Epistle of James, particularly in the first five verses. Both letters happen to quote Lev 19:18 “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

                  Galatians 3:23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed.

                  It’s the coming of the faith that frees them from the law. They couldn’t have the faith until it was revealed.

                  Verse 24 in the NIV has “until Christ came” which would support your contention but many other versions have it as “lead us to Christ”. I like the NIV with the footnotes but some of their translations come from their theology.

                • Greg G.

                  About the James vs. Galatians aside: I am up in the air on which may be a response to the other. The Lev 19:18 quote in James may be where he agrees with Paul before going into their differences. I would have to outline their arguments.

                • Claude

                  Wow! Thank you for your generous response. I didn’t know about nthe quote chain in Acts 26:14; that is great!

                  We do have things in common. I’m a lapsed Catholic who has been atheist/agnostic most of my life. Though I have a sentimental attachment to Christianity, I have no serious investment in whether Jesus existed or not. However, I do have biases in favor of a historical Jesus.

                  1) The story is not as good if Jesus never lived. Would it matter if The Last Temptation of Christ itself was a vision (it is, of a sort, but bear with me), and the last temptation a vision within a vision? Yeah! The story would lose its pathos and become just another symbolic drama in the pantheon.

                  2) I have a high respect for scholarship. Sometimes I’ll read stuff meant for other NT scholars, and it’s mind-boggling. Just having to negotiate the ancient languages and the massive legacy of Biblical scholarship requires a daunting level of expertise. For me the process is strictly through a glass darkly. The scholars, with a few exceptions like Price and Carrier, assert a historical Jesus.

                  3) Occam’s Razor. A mythicist Jesus doesn’t seem as plausible as an historical Jesus. It was a messianic age, the Romans didn’t tolerate challenges to imperial authority and Pilate was known for his cruelty. It’s not hard to accept that a darkly apocalyptic preacher like the Markan Jesus existed and got himself crucified.

                  Paul was a Pharisee who believed in resurrection and who claimed to have persecuted the early followers of Jesus. (Some speculate that Paul made this up to dramatize his message.) Why would he have done this? The conventional explanation is that it was because Jesus’s followers claimed that a crucified man was the Messiah. Then there’s the argument that some Jewish sects expected a Messiah like the suffering servant presaged in Isaiah 53, so it might not have been appalling to Paul after all. If the Lord’s Supper was practiced that may have been anathema to Paul. Or maybe it was for political reasons.

                  At any rate, what explains Paul’s amazing missionary activities? Would his vision have had as much force if it hadn’t been associated with a recent historical event, the crucifixion? After all (we disagree on this), Paul does allude several times to the humanity of Jesus the Messiah.

                  You cite Gal 3:1 (this time I’ll use Lattimore, which I suspect is a better translation than the RSV):

                  NIV: Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.

                  Lattimore: O foolish Galatians, who bewitched you, before whose eyes Christ was displayed on the cross?

                  Big difference! Knowing the first thing about ancient Greek (I don’t) would be helpful here.

                  I did go back and read Rom 5 and think your reading is subtle. Especially since Paul writes in 5:9 that all the more then, being justified now by his blood, shall we be saved from the anger to come. Of course it’s impossible not to read back the Gospels, but this does sound proximate in time to a graphic event.

                  I will stop here, not only because I’ve gone on too long but because I think you need a more worthy adversary! I’ve enjoyed the exchange a lot and hope somebody who knows more about what they’re talking about will take over.

              • Gus Snarp

                I don’t study the field, but from what I’ve read of some who do, there’s no independent evidence corroborating the existence of Jesus. Certainly there are no Roman records. There are also serious accuracy issues with the Biblical texts in terms of contradicting what’s known of Roman history. But I’m no expert. Frankly, I don’t think it’s all that important, but I think scholars need to be honest about what evidence exists. At least some of those arguing for a historical Jesus are not honest about the evidence.

                • Claude

                  Who are these scholars who are not being honest about the evidence?

                • Gus Snarp
                • Claude

                  I’m familiar with Carrier. Thank you, though!

                • Mario Strada

                  For me the fact that there are no contemporary Roman Sources sort of pulls me toward Jesus being a fabrication or an exaggeration perpetrated by Paul?Saul. I am actually Roman, meaning I was born and studied in Rome. I know first hand how meticulous the Roman were. Kind of like the Nazis. They loved to keep records. Either Jesus was a paradigm changer, in which case at least Pilate would have recorded his dealings with him somewhere or he wasn’t that important.

                  I don’t have a problem conceding he could have existed, but the fact we have more corroboration about far less important individuals is sure strange.

                  I also love to listen to Bart Ehrman and I am aware he scoffs at those that negate the historical Jesus, but it always seems forced to me. Something he has to say in order to be taken seriously as a scholar.

            • Edward La Guardia

              I don’t know what any of those things are you just said. As I always tell mumblers: use your words…..there you go ;)

          • Gus Snarp

            Wait, historical scholars believe in a historical King Arthur? I was not aware of that, I always assumed it was considered a myth…

            But even if some do, that’s a poor example of how “few historical figures have the recorded evidence that Jesus [has]…”

            Define “few”. Also, define “historical”. We have far more recorded evidence of a huge number of historical figures than we have of Jesus (or Arthur). For example, we have far better recorded evidence of the existence of Pilate than of Jesus. We also have to consider each individual in terms of what evidence there should be. Jesus existed at a time when there were several contemporary cultures that might have marked his existence, but none did. There was no one else to write about Arthur.

            • Greg G.

              Jesus existed at a time when there were several contemporary cultures that might have marked his existence, but none did.

              There is no reason to exclude the epistle writers who were alive in the early first century. They were motivated to write about Jesus and they do, but only as someone who preceded the Flintstones. They never mention the ministry or teachings of a first century Jesus.

              If the late first century writers were so eager to write about a first century Jesus they had no direct knowledge of, why didn’t the early first century writers give any thing at all?

          • J. Sanders

            The problem, as I see it, is not that there is no evidence for a Jesus or an Arthur, it’s that there is evidence for multiple historical (and supernatural) figures who had similar characteristics and did similar deeds during the target time periods. The more I read, the more I became convinced that both were created from half-remembered tales by pre-literate peoples.

        • fentwin

          But do any sources support the god-child miracle working, water walking, dead raising, fig tree condemning, demon pig making character?

          • Claude

            Ha! From what I understand: Historical Jesus was an early 1st century Jewish messianic claimant who was crucified under Pontius Pilate. The rest is a matter of contention…

            But my understanding is quite limited.

            • Greg G.

              Why don’t the Epistles that were written before the destruction of Jerusalem support that hypothesis? They only mention a crucified Jesus but don’t associate it to Pilate nor give any other details.

              • Claude

                Why would they, necessarily?

                • Greg G.

                  If there was a person dynamic and charismatic enough that many religions could arise from him but the earliest writers can’t cite a single detail of his life seems pretty incredible. It seems silly to ask why they wouldn’t.
                  It’s more consistent with a bunch who wrote about a mythical person doing one thing while a generation or two later took it as literal and invented details.

                • Claude

                  Let’s set aside the deutero and pastorals for a moment and concentrate on Paul. He had never met Jesus, claimed his authority from revelation, was convinced the end was near and believed he had a mission to save the world. Why would he go into a bunch of biographical detail about the guy in letters that had specific objectives when the important thing for Paul was Jesus as the first fruit of the resurrection that would come any day?

                • Greg G.

                  Paul’s letters comprise a substantial portion of the New Testament without referencing Jesus as a recently existing person. Many of his arguments would have been stronger if he simply cited Jesus as a source. If he wanted to save the world, why would he not emphasize that Jesus was a real person?
                  The other epistle authors are supposed to be companions of Jesus. Why do they use there own reasoning to make points instead of quoting Jesus? Why don’t they increase their credibility by claiming they were taught by Jesus? They should have been able to present many things they received directly from the living Jesus. But they don’t.
                  The simplest explanation is that there was no first century Jesus and the epistle writers knew it and never claimed that there was. The first century Jesus was imagined much later.

        • fentwin

          sry, meant to reply to Claude :)

        • Todd Jennings

          “However there is other evidence supporting a Jesus who taught and was
          killed around 30CE and whose followers started a new Jewish sect that
          evolved into a new religion.”

          Such as? Actual contemporary evidence, not nth-hand accounts from decades later.

      • Baby_Raptor

        The Christian (Read: biased) scholarly consensus supports *a* historical Jesus. The secular one can barely find proof anyone named Jesus ever existed, muchless that he was crucified in a huge public event, claimed to be the ruler of the Jews, ETC

        • Claude

          But it’s not the “Christian scholarly consensus.” There are a lot of Christians in NT studies, but by no means are all NT scholars Christians. Just off the top of my head, R. Joseph Hoffmann, Maurice Casey and Bart Ehrman are not Christians. If the academy at large contests historical Jesus, I’m not aware of it. (What do you mean by the “secular one”?)

          • Claude

            How could I forget Amy Jill Levine. She’s Jewish.

          • Greg G.

            I’ve read a dozen of Ehrman’s books and will read more but it was his last book on the subject of the historicity of Jesus where he brought all the actual evidence and the imagined evidence of Jesus together that convinced me that Jesus never existed. All the evidence combined is very thin enough to question that existence but the biblical evidence itself indicates that it is not based on an actual person.

        • Greg G.

          The secular one can barely find proof anyone named Jesus ever existed

          I saw Jesus and his brothers, Felipe and Matty, playing baseball back in the 60′s.

          Josephus mentions people named Jesus back in the first century. It seems to have been a common name.

          I agree with you that biblical claims are not about any of them, though.

      • Greg G.

        Here we go. The scholarly consensus supports an historical Jesus.

        Maybe but the evidence doesn’t. The extra-biblical evidence, at best, tells us there were people who believed there was a 1st century Jesus but they were a generation or two too late to know.

        Nearly every passage in the Book of Mark can be traced to the literature of the day rather than to oral traditions. The other gospels retell these stories while adding other stories from 1st century literature.

        The Epistles should be the best evidence for a real Jesus but they don’t mention a ministry, a teacher, any deeds or sayings, nor even an anecdote by his supposed companions. The Epistles talk about the crucifixion a lot but give no details. The only verse in all the Epistles that might connect Jesus to the 1st century is from a letter that is considered by most scholars to be pseudepigraphal and it conflicts with at least one other verse in the same letter. The Epistle writers had disagreements but they all seem to have had a Jesus from the distant, undefinded, mythical past.

        • Blacksheep

          There is a fragmant from Mark that may be from the first century being studied now.

          • Greg G.

            Thanks, Blacksheep. I hadn’t seen that.
            It’s thought to be early because it is written back and forth. By the third century, Greek was written in one direction.
            It is the tail end of the demonaic story. (Where I wrote “1st century literature” above, I suppose it should have been “literature available in the 1st century”.) That story is drawn from the Cyclops adventure in Homer’s Odyssey. Dennis MacDonald points out that, like Odysseus, Jesus sails to a place where he meets a powerful individual. Odysseus’ men escaped from the Cyclops to the sea by clinging to the underside of sheep but earlier, some of Odysseus’ men had been turned into pigs by Circe.
            What caught my eye when I tried to verify this claim was that the Cyclops’ name was Polyphemus. Most of the Greek I know comes from math and science prefixes and suffixes so the “poly” reminded me of “for we are many”. “Polyphemus” means famous as it literally means “talked about by many”. The word “Legion” is from Latin for, roughly, “many soldiers”. It appears Mark chose it because it resembles the Greek word “lego”, which is translated as “said” immediately before the quote “My name is Legion…” The Greek word used in the verse for “many” is “polys”. It’s pretty clear that Mark wasn’t trying to be coy about the Cyclops reference. It would have been as obvious to any 1st century person literate in Greek as the John Goodman’s eyepatch in O Brother, Where Art Thou? that the character was the Cyclops. Matthew and Luke seemed to have noticed and omitted those references.

        • Claude

          I’ll quibble that Paul was of the same generation as Jesus and that what are considered his authentic letters contain numerous references to a man who had been crucified in the recent past and even to teaching found in the Gospels. Yes, the synoptics rely heavily on “midrash,” but while I’ve read a little critique of the assumed oral tradition behind Mark am unaware if that tradition is as discredited as you suggest (pardon if I’ve misunderstood you on this point).

          I should say that I’m not competent to make a case for the existence of Jesus, only to note that scholars, with few exceptions, do assert an historical Jesus.

          • Greg G.

            Which verses in Paul’s writings do you have in mind?

            1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 is often cited but unless God’s wrath is the destruction of Jerusalem, it doesn’t refer to the first century. If it does refer to that incident, it wasn’t written by Paul as he apparently died before then and he certainly wrote 1 Thessalonians before then. Most scholars say that passage is an interpolation based on other reasons. See the second paragraph under Authenticity at this link.

            Galatians 1:19 is often cited as it calls James “the brother of the Lord”. The Epistle writers called everybody and their brother “brother”. Paul uses the same form of the word for brother at least a dozen times, always as a metaphor. the Greek root “adelph-” is used about 200 times in the Epistles. I have found two times where it refers to a blood sibling. Romans 16:15 in a greeting to someone’s sister and 1 John 3:16 about Cain killing his brother. Every other time is metaphorical.

            The plural of the phrase is found in 1 Corinthians 9:5 where Paul seems to be defending his financial support and he points out that the apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas travel with there wives and that he (Paul) doesn’t have a wife. A similar list is reversed in 1 Corinthians 15 where the Twelve corresponds best with the brothers of the Lord.

            There is no reason to think “brother of the Lord” is a literal reference. In both Galatians and 1 Corinthians, Paul might be registering disgust that the Jerusalem crowd is held in higher regard than he is, so we can’t rule out that he is using “brother(s) of the Lord” sarcastically.

            The pastoral epistles are considered by most scholars to be pseudepigraphal and no earlier than the late 1st century. 1 Timothy 6:13 mentions Jesus testifying before Pilate. So there clearest first century reference is in a weak source. But consider 1 Timothy 3:16 where it says that Jesus was “seen by angels”, as opposed to have been seen by men, and “was preached”, instead of “preached”. So perhaps the original writer of 1 Timothy also thought of Jesus as a prehistorical figure and 6:13 was an interpolated margin note. 3:16 is consistent with the all the other epistles and 6:13 is not.

            Robert M. Price collects the works of several scholars on the origins of Mark in New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash. He expands upon this in his book The Christ-Myth Theory And Its Problems.

            • Greg G.

              After checking my notes, by my count, various forms of the root “adelph-” are used 192 times in the Epistles. The literal blood sibling references are the Romans 16:15 sister and two forms in 1 John 3:12 about Cain killing his brother.

      • Carmelita Spats
    • Blacksheep

      There is evidence that Jesus existed outside of the Bible. keep in mind that in any other field, a document as complete as the Bible with original fragments of manuscript dating back to the disciples who wrote them would be considered historical evidence, but even if we pretend that it doesn’t one can look at:

      - Tacitus, AD 64

      - Pliny the Younger, AD112

      - Josephus, First century AD

      - The Babylonian Talmud, AD 70 – 200

      - Lucian, Second century AD

      - Suetonias, AD 64

      In addition, I look at the spread of Christianity, its impact on the world, the existence of His followers, other, unrelated historical facts that are backed up by non-biblical manuscripts (dealing with Pilate, for example), and the Bible itself as strong evidence that Jesus existed.

      I get not believing that God exists or that Jesus is God – but it’s silly to say there is no evidence that he existed.

      I read this a while back – on the Battle of Hastings, which is considered to be a historical fact. yet there is no physical evidence:

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15305391

      • Gus Snarp

        But those are not first hand accounts. Nothing that dates to a time when Jesus was actually supposed to be alive.

        If the spread of Christianity, its impact on the world, the existence of his followers, and the Bible itself are evidence, then we can assume that you also believe that King Janamejaya of the Mahabharata was also a real person.

        And if the fact that some historical facts to match non-biblical sources is evidence for the rest of the accounts being correct, what do we make of the parts that contradict historical evidence?

        • Blacksheep@aol

          The same is true of many things that we consider to be historical (my link is one example) which get clearer over time as evidence is sorted out. It’s only in the past several years the physical evidence of King David’s presence in Israel was uncovered.

          Some Biblical manuscripts were written by people who were alive when Jesus was.

          …I can’t comment, I know nothing about ancient Indian history.

          • Gus Snarp

            For the record, that is not what your link says. I don’t know the historical evidence for the Battle of Hastings, but the link does not actually say there’s no physical evidence, let alone first hand documentary evidence.

            Nevertheless, Jesus may have existed. The evidence really isn’t strong either way, and I honestly don’t care all that much, but I find the debate over the evidence interesting, and I don’t think that the fact that the religion has spread, has followers, and that it’s holy book claims Jesus existed qualify as evidence. That would mean that every religion has evidence for the truth of the claims in its holy books.

            • Blacksheep

              They disagree about where the battle took place, they are looking for clues ‘from a tapestry…” etc. History is like that sometimes.

              I find the debate interesting too, like many discussions here at FA.

              I agree – one element alone is not enough, but taken together it’s enough evidence for me to conclude that he existed.

          • Greg G.

            Some Biblical manuscripts were written by people who were alive when Jesus was.

            Why don’t those manuscripts mention anything about his ministry, teachings, deeds, quotes, or even an anecdote? They certainly mention Jesus a lot but only about the crucifixion without any details or even clues that relate it to the first century.

            • Glasofruix

              Because mysterious ways’n’shit.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandy-Kokch/100000074576649 Sandy Kokch

        Instead of reading about the Battle of Hastings you should have looked up the academic challenges to those sources you quote for the supposed secondary confirmation of a historical Jesus.

        In the case of the Roman sources they are either vague, or may have been written based on earlier archival material, which would for example explain why Tacitus got Pilate’s job wrong. Other mentions are obviously based on earlier texts, or are so vague they could be one of any number of supposed Messiahs of the time (and there were many).

        The Talmudic mentions are highly questionable, and in some cases if right would have Jesus as the bastard rape baby of a Roman soldier called Pantera.

        Then there is the touchstone – Josephus. An ex-Sicarri turncoat propagandist for the Emperor Vespasian whose works have been shown to have been added to by Middle Ages Christians to supplement the brief mentions of a Jesus he did write.

        Still, as your post shows, you are also of the misconception that “the Gospel of [NAME]” means it was written by a disciple – an assertion that has been academically discredited over and over again. Add to that the proof that these documents have not only been questionably translated from language to language, but also that is is provable they have also been supplemented through history by additions penned during the Middle Ages.

        Equating the fact that the Bible and secondary sources are highly questionable and unreliable proofs of a historical Jesus with the loss through time of the exact position of a historical battlefield such as Hastings or Stirling Bridge is laughable at best, and idiocy of the highest stamp.

      • Greg G.

        Those AD64 dates can’t be right. Tacitus was 8 years old and Suetonias wasn’t born yet. At best, those sources tells us that there were people who believed there had been a first century Jesus but weren’t old enough to know for sure.

        That fast spread may be an illusion. It may have started much earlier before anybody began to think there was an actual first century Jesus.

        The New Testament is the best evidence that Jesus never existed. The Epistles have an important Messiah figure but no story about a person on Earth. The Messiah legend began in the second century BC or earlier. It has no sign of it starting with a real person and having the legend grow.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    and why bill is “expert” enough to write a book on jeebus is anyone’s guess.

    i’m so tired of “celebrity” authors and their bullshit tracts. read some scholarly stuff already, xtians. there’s lots of it out there.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=597605006 Mary Driftwood

      If you’re a Christian with a big enough audience, that *makes* you an expert on first century Middle Eastern history and religious practice, doncha know?

  • Donatello

    Next up in this award winning series: “Killing literature”, “Killing journalism” and “Killing brain cells.”

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    Spoiler alert: Jesus dies.

    • CelticWhisper

      Ugh, seriously? You ASSHOLE! I was almost to the end!

      Fine, but if anyone spoils Titanic or King Kong for me, we’re gonna tangle.

      • Greg G.

        Actually, he died and came back to life four times with slight variations each time. Plus, he is going to come back to Earth, again! Any day now… and has been coming back any day now for nearly 2000 years.

    • Wild Rumpus

      Wait for part two, though. He “miraculously” comes back to life. I think Tarantino is going to direct!

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    I think Colbert needs to announce Operation Killing “Killing Jesus”

    • Blacksheep

      You know that Colbert is a Christian, right? (Although he still might like that idea).

    • Blacksheep

      You know that Colbert is a Christian, right? (Although he still might like that idea).

      • Gus Snarp

        What, you think we only want to be entertained by atheists? You think we care what Colbert’s religious beliefs are? Colbert, whatever his beliefs, is very good at satirizing Bill O’Reilly and various Christian beliefs. So the point was that he probably would like that idea, not what he believes.

        • Blacksheep

          Yes, that’s half of what I said, above.

      • Raising_Rlyeh

        Yes, I am aware that he is a liberal catholic. I was making a joke. He had the colbert nation knock O’reilly’s Killing Kennedy out of the number #1 spot and it was replaced with his book. He called it operation killing killing kennedy

  • Gus Snarp

    If they’ve actually “uncovered some evidence” then that would merit a major scholarly publication in the archaeological literature, since all the known evidence has been studied for years. It would mean a new documentary source from 1st Century Rome had been found. O’Reilly might be content to put that all in a popular book, but neither of these guys is an archaeologist, so who dug up the evidence, and where are that person’s journal articles? Because I really doubt they’d be content with this book when they could set their academic discipline on fire and cement their careers with journal publications. The only other possibility is that they were given unprecedented access to Vatican archives and found things no one else ever knew existed, which seems equally unlikely.

  • Edward La Guardia

    This atheist doesn’t seem too friendly…

    • Mario Strada

      If by “friendly” you mean sucking up to the religious so they can continue to believe their fantasies and go on thinking that atheists are just in a “phase” or secretly “hate god” and eventually they will all return to the flock, you are right.

  • Gus Snarp

    Oh man, on the Amazon link for the Mansfield book of the same name, is that cover the Shroud of Turin? You know you’ve got quality scholarly, historical material when your cover image is perhaps the most widely known and obvious fraud in the troubled history of Christian relics.

  • Jesusdoppelganger

    The question of the historicity of Jesus, as interesting a question as it is, still ignores all of the assertions about his purported magical powers. Maybe someone named Jesus existed; but I’d like to see O’Reilly come up with evidence that he possessed extraordinary powers.

  • http://profiles.google.com/kimpatsu1 Tony Kehoe

    “Jesus of Nazareth”? Nazareth was merely an oasis until the 2nd century CE; the accurate claim is that if Jesus actually existed and was not an amalgam of previous people, he was a Nazarene; i.e., a member of the Nazarene sect of Judaism, as opposed to being a Macabee, etc.
    Interesting that Angry Bill doesn’t know that…

  • Anthony Magnabosco

    When I first heard the title, I thought it would be a piece on how Americans are discounting Jesus and no longer care about religion – the increasing secularization of America, if you will.

  • Phillip

    What a moronic comment….”They haven’t even uncovered any evidence that Jesus existed.” This shows the depth of your ignorance…you let your failed belief system cloud the facts. They have uncovered writings from Pontius Pilot about the trial of Jesus and information about the Apostles. But keep trying…your revisionist actions will turn up something. In the meantime, we’ll pray for you!


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