Links for a Snow Day

Adam Kotsko offers a repost of the most original explanation ever as to why Jesus hasn’t come back yet.

Religion Nerd has a post on the increasingly widespread phenomenon of imprecatory prayers.

Joel Watts asks if the Taliban is more Biblical than supposed Biblical literalists among Christians.

Scot McKnight shares an encouraging Facebook update from Egypt.

Steven Douglas shares a quote from George MacDonald about penal substitution.

Via John Byron, a video of our mutual friend Loren Stuckenbruck talking about the Dead Sea Scrolls and their connection to the Essenes.

Or if you are looking for something less serious in a video, then via Jesus Needs New PR, here’s pick-up lines from the Song of Solomon:

And Marc Cortez shares something new in the realm of YouTube videos – interactive, “choose your own adventure” videos. Are they the future?

Tom Verenna shares some pdfs from Richard Carrier, which illustrate his application of Bayes Theorem to the subject of the historical Jesus.

Diglotting continues reviewing Maurice Casey’s recent book on the historical Jesus.

BioBlog offers some thoughts on attitudes towards teaching evolution in US public school science classrooms.

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  • Joel Watts link – "File this under biblical literalism and just how far are you willing to go?" Exactly. Leviticus was written by priests, based upon their oral tradition, for their own benefit. A historical document that can be used to study the ancient Hebrews' customs. The extent to which God was involved is questionable, considering it's conflict with the NT, and even some old testament material, Jer 7:6,22, Hosea 6:6,8:12-13, Amos 5:21-22 etc etc… All the right wing conservative literalists (Christian and Moslim) who may hate Obamacare so much, need to at least provide a little free lamb's blood for the poor to grace their right ear, thumb, and big toe, instead of medicare visits, Lev 14:25.

  • Thanks for the link to Carriers papers. His 12 axioms of historical research should be tattooed to the brains of mythacist. In particular this quote from it,"Hence the burden of proof here clearly falls on the mythicists, despite their repeated attempts to deny this." It simply does your argument no good to blandly cite super controversial ideas as if they are not, or to ignore consensus because you think all the scholars but the ones you like are under the thumb of Christians and Zionist.

  • Yes, Mike. I would hope his further comment in the same axiom would be foremost in the minds of most historicists:… there is enough reason to conclude that the consensus is not reliable in this case and therefore cannot be appealed to as evidence of a conclusion.It simply does no good to repeatedly assert the consensus without interacting with the details of the case. It's a good thing biologists don't do this.

  • Neither do historians, Evan. And Mike's point was presumably that the one actual historian among mythicists knows this and emphasized as much. Carrier is persuaded that the uncertainty and subjectivity of the discipline of history can be improved upon, and if he can offer improved meeds, I am sure that will be welcome. But he is not making the bogus assertions you do about the problem being with Jesus research over against historical study more generally. Presumably rather than take heed of Richard Carrier's advice, mythicists will turn on him the way creationists turn on any of their own who do not tow the party line about evolution being "a theory in crisis."Perhaps you should actually interact with Carrier on his blog, Evan. If even a mythicist with a degree in story cannot get you to understand the actual state of affairs in the discipline of history, presumably no one else will either.

  • Dr. McGrath, I'm happy enough interacting with you, Mike and others here. Dr. Carrier has a book coming out, and I've read all of his published work and don't see a lot to argue with.You, on the other hand … make assertions that it is eisegesis to read "Paul" as talking about anything other than a historical meal in 1 Cor 11:23-26 while you have admitted your own eisegesis in this case, since you believe he was lying when he said he received it from the Lord, while you think he received it from someone else.That is introducing your own ideas into the text … the definition of eisegesis. Yet you seem to think this is not even worth mention, and completely ignore it when it is pointed out to you.In addition, you fail to address the salient criticism that if Paul got the tradition from someone else, which you believe, then there is still only one witness to the tradition, and Paul can't be used as a bolster to the historicity of the narrative. I'd be happy to agree that a prima facie case can be made for a historical Jesus. I have never disagreed with that statement on this blog or any other.A prima facie case can be made for a historical King Arthur or Robin Hood.If you agree that Jesus is in that crowd … we're done here. But you seem to insist that the evidence is so overwhelming in your favor that anyone who accepts the possibility that Carrier's hypothesis is the correct one is a kook, a nut-job and a crackpot for ignoring it.So I'm happy to point out places where your rhetoric and evidence don't match your claims.

  • I don't think Richard Carrier is a crackpot. He has a viewpoint that differs from the wider scholarly consensus and recognizes the way scholarship works, that the onus is on him to make his case and present his arguments. You, on the other hand, seem to know that his arguments are stronger even before Richard has found a publisher for his book. can you see the difference. It might be argued that all interpretation is eisegesis. But historians have good reasons to prefer tentatively allowing works from the same time period to illuminate one another, rather than speculatively emphasizing what individual texts could mean in the absence of historical context and constraints. Do you, or do you not, acknowledge that there are important differences in the amount of time that passed between when any possible historical Robin Hood might have lived and our earliest references to him, as well as differences in the genre and kinds of sources of information we have in these cases? Simply pointing out similarities without acknowledging differences is apologetics, not scholarship.

  • Dr. McGrath, if all interpretation is eisegesis, you are a master of interpretation. As for your Robin Hood question, I eagerly take it up.The third crusade is dated to 1192 and Richard Coeur de Lion lived until 1199. If we assume the first literary references to be Piers Plowman, then 1362 is our earliest, 170 years later. Do you feel that 170 years is too long to trust anything historical can be preserved?If so, what happens between 40 and 170 years that changes things so drastically? Whatever your explanation is, though, we need not leave it with Robin Hood. Other characters will do just as well.John Frum, still worshiped today, was first seen in 1930 in Vanuatu. We have both textual and testimony evidence of his existence that originates almost immediately. Is he a historical figure, and can we pronounce anyone a crackpot who doubts his historicity?We have stories about Edward Ludlam (Ned Ludd) from within twenty years of their reported occurrence. Paul Bunyan's stories were written in 1910, less than 100 years after his supposed life.So I ask you, what differentiates Jesus from these characters?It's nice to see that you don't consider Dr. Carrier a crackpot. It appears you reserve your snide remarks for Dr. Price, Dr. Detering, Arthur Drews, Bruno Bauer, Dr. Van Manen and other scholars who disagree with you on the historicity of Jesus.

  • Evan, I think it would make a wonderful scholarly monograph if someone were to investigate thoroughly the similarities and differences between these cases. few people have researched two, never mind three, of them so thoroughly as to be able to discuss them all in an equally well-informed manner. I certainly would not be comfortable claiming any sort of expertise about either Medieval England or cargo cults, never mind these specific individuals.But what research I have done, minimal as it is, suggests that historians in general do not claim to have proven that the invention of Robin Hood or John Frum is clearly more probable than that the legends grew from some actual historical person. The latter is considered a live option, not at all excluded by the relevant evidence. If you know of scholarly works that claim otherwise, let me know – preferably works that in the process also give a sense of what the consensus is.Are you aware how much time passed between the most likely dates for Jesus' crucifixion and Paul's contact with the Christian movement? The amount of time that has passed is by no means the only relevant factor, but it is important that our earliest source was well poised to know something about this movement and it's central figurre, from a hostile vantage point rather than a sympathetic one no less, so close to the events. And his references to Jesus' life, however minimal, a substantially more than our earliest references to Robin Hood give us.All this to say that, just as historians seriously entertain the possibility that there could be a stoical Robin Hood who gave rise in some way to the later legends, historians take even more seriously the evidence for Jesus, which is more substantial and closer in time. It doesn't provide absolute certainty, but no one other than apologists for Christianity ever suggested that it did, and that isn't what we are discussing here.In short, if your view of Jesus resembled the view of Robin Hood that historians seem to have, it would constitute something other than mythicism, and we might be able to have meaningful conversations about how to best make sense of the evidence we have.

  • Dr. McGrath,As an aside, what on earth would be stoic about a guy who had "Merry Men"?But hewing to the point, my view of Jesus is that he is a literary creation, or myth, like Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, Abraham, Joseph, King Arthur, Daniel, Popeye, Romulus, Lycurgus or Ned Ludd. Any ordinary person can understand what that means.You, if you have read and digested DF Strauss, also believe that almost everything we "know" about Jesus is also mythical. You don't believe he walked on water, found coins in the mouths of fish, withered trees at his command, raised the dead, was born of a virgin, or any other miraculous thing, which is the bulk of what is written about him. You just can't give up the last bit, for reasons I can't quite figure out.Again, Hobsbawm clearly states that Robin Hood cannot be described as a historical figure. Someone who cannot be described as a historical figure — Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, Ned Ludd, King Arthur, Romulus, Lycurgus, Clark Kent — even if they were based on a real person (which at least two of the above were without question, see if you can guess which two) is a literary creation or myth. If you think there was a Jesus in the same way there was a Robin Hood … then you have joined with the cooks and crackpots and we are done.

  • Evan, that's why genre and reception history are important. What evidence do you have for anyone reading the Gospels for entertainment value in the centuries after their composition?

  • Dr. McGrath, I absolutely agree that genre and reception history are important. I have pointed out to you that scholars are not unanimously in support of Reverend Professor Burridge's theory that the gospels are Greco-Roman biographies and pointed you to Dr. McDonald's work as a counterpoint. But you seem to think that if one scholar agrees with you, your work is done. Michael Vines has argued that Mark is in fact a historical novel. Dr. James McGrath, of Butler University regards the Acts of Thomas to be a historical novel, so I think it is hardly beyond the pale to suggest such a thing for other early Christian works. What evidence do you have separate from the text itself that the Golden Ass was read for entertainment value? Augustine seemed to regard Apuleius as a philosopher, and may have seen the Golden Ass as a philosophical tract. (As an aside, reading Augustine on Apuleius after reading Earl Doherty is quite interesting.) Do you have any evidence that Chaereas and Callirhoe was read for entertainment value separate from the text itself?Did you have any evidence, separate from the text itself, that the Acts of Thomas was a historical novel before pronouncing it so?We need not wonder if the plotlines of the Gospel are good story telling. Recent history and the experience of two millenia have certainly proven it to be so.

  • I'm not sure I follow how you are trying to make a case for mythicism in what you wrote, Evan. Are you assuming that a historical novel cannot have as it's main character a historical individual, about whom it tells fictional tales?

  • A historical novel can do many things … one example of a historical novel would be Gore Vidal's Empire, where the main character is fictional but she interacts with many figures from history within that fiction. Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind is a novel where fictional characters deal with an actual historical event. Gore Vidal's Lincoln is a fictional tale about a real historical character. Huckleberry Finn is simply set in a historically plausible setting.I think that once you admit you are dealing with fiction, the burden is on the person arguing for any partial historicity of the fiction to establish it. This is easy enough to do for 19th and 20th century characters, and can be done even for characters as far back as the 5th century BCE. Yet for ancient texts we generally don't have the luxury of news reports or photographs. This doesn't mean we are out of luck in judging the character of those texts though, as you have shown so amply in your work on the Acts of Thomas.If we came across a text we could genuinely date from the 13th century that described Charles de Saracen, a previously unknown illegitimate half brother of Richard the Lionhearted born on the crusades who got on a winged horse and flew to the moon and back, we would naturally be skeptical. Our skepticism would not just be regarding the story of this bastard's lunar sojourn, but of the very existence of the previously unknown to history Charles, especially if there were no mention of Charles in other literature. If we had multiple texts that mentioned Charles, but all regarded the central fact of his life his winged journey to the moon — again, I feel this would add nothing to the argument for his historicity. Perhaps you differ with me on this and this may be a meaningful area to pursue dialogue.As for me making a case for mythicism, I'm not. Do you have any evidence that the Golden Ass was read primarily for pleasure? Do you have any evidence that Chariton's work was?I'm not "trying to make a case" here, others have done that. I'm asking you to make your case for historicity. This should be easy for you, as you seem to think it's as basic as biology. Ask me to make a case for evolution, and I can loose floodgates of data. Creationists, on the other hand, love to ridicule and mock the biologists with sloganeering and love to claim "missing links" that need to be discovered to prove the case of evolution. You also seem to want missing links.

  • Evan, I have said from the beginning that history and biology are very different. What is similar is the way you constantly say "But couldn't someone have…?" and "But what if…?" which resembles in form and content the responses of creationists. And it is ironic that you would mention missing links, since historians have long been studying our "fossils" from earliest Christianity and tracing it's evolution, while mythicists keep suggesting scenarios in which each separate work is an unrelated creation, more or less ex nihilo.We are not talking about a previously unknown figure, but one who we have had sources about for a long time and from fairly early.As for fiction, part of the problem is that mythicists keep comparing the Gospels to modern literary types that are not the same as ones from the time and place in history that the Gospels were produced. Not surprisingly, even relatively similar genres from the largely non-literate Greco-Roman world differ significantly from their most similar modern counterparts. The two best candidates for the genre of the Gospels are Greco-Roman bioi and Greco-Roman novels. The former regularly include legend as well as history, while the latter tend to be fictionalized accounts about a central character who was a historical individual. Neither genre makes it likely that Jesus did not exist.But all of this is beside the point in your case, I suspect, because you have failed to recognize your own stance on this. You keep saying that biologists produce extensive evidence when creationists question them, while mainstream historical scholars don't do the same for mythicists. Anyone who has followed the discussions of this subject on this blog will know that you claim is an obvious lie or at least evidence of the extent of your delusion. On the one hand, biologists present extensive evidence and creationists walk away from the discussion unconvinced and claiming victory, saying that no decisive evidence was pentad to them – just as you do. On the other hand, I have apparently wasted a great many hours not only discussing relevant sources, historical context, genre, and much else, but also showing time and again where you were ill-informed or simply wrong about details. And so I don't see how anyone who knows anything about this subject could fail to see the similarity between your stance and that of a creationist. And the only thing that makes it worth continuing to engage your comments is because I know from experience that, when scientists let creationists have the last word in discussions online, those who happen across them later may wrongly think that the creationists "won".I really wish that the time you spent commenting here would be spent reading mainstream historical scholarship instead. But I think it is safe to assume that that won't happen. Although you have shown yourself poorly informed about matters of method, texts, evidence and genre, you continue pressing ahead because you are not interested either in learning about this scholarly discipline or getting as close to the truth as it's methods enable us to. You seem to care only about proving at all costs that Jesus did not exist, and refuse to let any evidence, or the fact that you have to depict all historians who've written on the subject as liars or incompetents in order to continue to believe that you are right, stand in your way. You may not see the resemblance between yourself and a creationist. But I assure you that others see it, and that instead of allowing that to trouble you, you will simply do what creationists do: return to an Internet gathering of like-minded people and reassure yourselves that you are wise while everyone else is stupid.

  • I asked for exactly what you asked me for, and what I gave you, evidence with links to current scholarship and facts.And the only thing that makes it worth continuing to engage your comments is because I know from experience that, when scientists let creationists have the last word in discussions online, those who happen across them later may wrongly think that the creationists "won".Another thing that makes people think that is when pointed questions can't be answered that are identical to the ones that person raised.Is there evidence that Chariton was read for entertainment?Is there evidence that Apuleius was read for entertainment?Rather than give me evidence, what I got was three paragraphs of ad hominem and argument from authority. If a biologist did that in response to a direct request for evidence, I would suspect he didn't have much of a case.Thanks for proving my point.

  • I tried to focus on one of the issues you raised in detail rather than trying to address all of them and risk superficiality.For future reference, if I ever fail to provide detailed evidence for something right away, it only proves that I am growing weary of being asked to do your homework for you.How could anyone who reads even the Prelude of Apuleius' Metamorphoses have difficulty identifying the genre, assuming they are familiar with ancient Greek and Latin genre? I don't think there is evidence for anyone other than Augustine being confused about this point. :)We do have some minimal evidence regarding the reception history of Apuleius' works and other Greek and Latin fiction. But what is more important is that we have substantial evidence regarding the reception history of early Christian literature. On the difficulties involved in sifting through works and assessing their historical value, there is a lot that is useful in the book Ancient Fiction. The book illustrates well an important point. Identifying the genre of a piece of literature is only part of the picture. Ancient novels range from being based on actual people and events to their merely being tossed in to add a sense of historical realism – and with inevitable anachronisms. Correlation with other information external to the work is therefore also crucial. And that is presumably why mythicists take such great pains to drive a wedge between the Gospels and anything that can confirm details in it. In contrast, historians find that, while some details and stories are almost certainly fictional, some details can be confirmed adequately so as to render their historicity probable. The real question at the heart of the matter is why you think your amateur judgment based on a superficial acquaintance with relevant ancient texts and history is superior to that of all professional historians who have written on this subject (apart from Richard Carrier). Until you are willing to answer that question, I don't see that there is any point in discussing other details, since in the past when I have pointed you to relevant sources of information and shown where you were misinformed about important details, you have vanished for a while and then simply come back and ignored those points, changed the subject, and pretended like there is no problem.

  • Dr. McGrath, it's nice to hear that you miss me when I'm gone. Thanks for that.Also, thanks for the wonderful link to Gaisser's book. This truly helps me understand your position and I'm grateful for that as well. It seems that Macrobius however sees some work of Apuleius as a "discussion of wisdom" that has been allegorized for younger or less educated people. Perhaps 1 Cor 3:2 is germane here. Macrobius is not making a direct reference to The Golden Ass, however, so I will assume that most of your evidence is intra-textual and indeed the prologue of a work is very telling as to its genre.A prologue such as this:"The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God"does not seem to me to be announcing a history.It is admittedly much shorter than Apuleius. But Mark in chapter four gives us the parable of the sower and has his protagonist do his work for him:"And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all [these] things are done in parables"As for an early Christian witness as to the reception of the Gospels, we have Tatian (clearly familiar with the Gospel accounts) in his Address to the Greeks XXI who states:"We do not act as fools, O Greeks, nor utter idle tales, when we announce that God was born in the form of a man. I call on you who reproach us to compare your mythical accounts (muthous)with our narrations. Athene, as they say, took the form of Deiphobus for the sake of Hector, and the unshorn Phoebus for the sake of Admetus fed the trailing-footed oxen, and the spouse of Zeus came as an old woman to Semele. But, while you treat seriously such things, how can you deride us? Your Asclepios died, and he who ravished fifty virgins in one night at Thespiae lost his life by delivering himself to the devouring flame.Prometheus, fastened to Caucasus, suffered punishment for his good deeds to men. According to you, Zeus is envious, and hides the dream from men, wishing their destruction. Wherefore, looking at your own memorials, vouchsafe us your approval, though it were only as dealing in legends (muthologountas) similar to your own."As to your statement:historians find that, while some details and stories are almost certainly fictional, some details can be confirmed adequately so as to render their historicity probable.I assume you are referring to the Sanders list here, is that correct? Your response to his arguments was, again, the argument from authority.

  • Evan, you seem not to want to have a serious conversation. Are you saying that if a narrative includes a parable, then the narrative in which the parable is recounted is itself a parable?Do you seriously expect me to repeat every detail I have discussed previously, lest you say I am engaging in an argument from authority?Scholarship could make no progress if it did what you seem to want done by me, namely never referring to a more substantial treatment of a subject elsewhere.I think this is a major part of the problem you are having understanding and accepting mainstream scholarship. History (even historical biology, which is what evolution is to a large extent) involves dealing with and coordinating many details and pieces of information. It will always be possible to say that, if you are willing to posit arbitrary assumptions, perhaps the evidence doesn't indicate what it seems to – creationists and mythicists illustrate this time and time again. Thereis no substitute for education, for being broadly familiar with the big picture. What do you think the value is of your "does not seem to me"? If something seems one way to pretty much every historian, and another way to you, I hope you would agree that the onus should be on you to explain why your less well-informed impression – essentially the mythicist equivalent of the creationist argument from incredulity – ought to count for anything at all.

  • As an addendum to the last point, does the Priene inscription in honor of Augustus' birthday seem to you like it is referring to a fictional emperor? Presumably it's language, so similar to the language used by Christians a few decades later, ought to lead to Augustus mythicism. And while it is harder to deny the existence of an emperor than that of an itinerant teacher or rogue messianic claimant, it is by no means impossible, and the tools that serve Jesus-mythicists well can be applied to just about anyone with similar results. It just requires that you want badly enough to deny the person's existence, because when it comes to history, it is always possible to come up with an alternative explanation, and if you want it to be true badly enough, you probably won't even notice it's shortcomings.

  • Dr. McGrath,"I think it would make a wonderful scholarly monograph if someone were to investigate thoroughly the similarities and differences between these cases. few people have researched two, never mind three, of them so thoroughly as to be able to discuss them all in an equally well-informed manner."I am looking for a paper to write for my McNair's Scholars summer research program. I was thinking about doing something involving folk lore and religious figures, possibly by comparing the folk lore that evolves around historically documented figures and comparing it with the tales told about less well documented figures. Your mention of the comparisons between the above mentioned legendary figures and the Jesus legends would be in the neighborhood, and if you say it hasn't been treated at length, do you think such a treatment would be valuable, and could it be done in 20-30 pages? Should I focus on only Jesus and one other or could a couple be covered in such a small space?

  • That sounds like a wonderful opportunity – congratulations! I'm inclined to think that it might be a lot to tackle if you had more than two people/texts. But it seems to me that perhaps the most useful approach might be to find two of the most similar texts to the Gospels from a Hellenistic or Roman Jewish context, one that we have good reason to believe is about a figure who really existed, however much "some persons or events may have been dramatized", the other one that we believe has a fictional main character, however much it may be peppered with historical details for realism. Then you could analyze whether there are any structural or stylistic characteristics that seem to distinguish the one from the other, and which if any are also found in the Gospels.

  • Evan, most of the fictional/historical people you mention aren't of much interest to the discussion since it is hard to say that that these people definitely didn't exist, but your John Frum is rather interesting. While there is likely to be some differences between south pacific islanders and first century Jews, ecstatic apocalyptic groups can be pretty far from conventional. If you were interested in making an actual contribution to history, maybe you could research the movement? I haven't found much good information on the web on them, but surely somebody has actually gone there and talked to these people. And it is less than 100 years old and primarily oral, just like Christianity! Seriously, the John Frum thing really made me consider mythicism, I'll give it more thought.

  • Dr. McGrath,I'm most interested in the Priene inscription, thanks for bringing it up. I assume your question is this:If all we had as a record of Augustus Caesar was the Priene inscription (we did not have coins, histories, inscriptions of his works, stated personal relationships between him and other major actors of history, physical descriptions, statues, evidence of the alteration of major cities to accommodate his wishes, monuments that he placed at battle sites that he was involved in, et cetera) would that be evidence enough that he was a historical figure?Is that a correct reading of your question?If so, my answer would be that it would make his existence questionable, yes. He would be like Hermodicus of Lampsacus at that point.

  • Evan, you read evidence back-wards. Since we know Augustus is real person, in no way should any language applied to him be taken in another instance as a sign of non-historicity. If some one wrote a book where Augustus flew to the moon on a Pegasus, that would not be evidence of his non-historicity. We absolutely know people said these things about historical people, so to say it is evidence of someones non-historicity is absolutely false. That you don't comprehend this is evidence you need to learn about history and not assume your opinions must be correct and start poking around for evidence to support you belief, that is what pseudo-intellectuals like N. Godfrey do. Seriously Evan, outside of of like minded ideologues, you come off looking like a real schmuck. let go of you paranoid fantasies and get in touch with reality.

  • I just took a glance at Vridar, where Evan seems not to understand my view of the Acts of Thomas, and thus asks why I view the Acts of Thomas one way and the Gospels another. I do think that the Gospels, being closer to the time of their subject matter, are more likely in principle to contain historical information that historians can use, although one cannot simply assume that details in earlier sources are historical any more than one can assume that later sources never preserve anything remotely historical. But be that as it may, if the later Acts and the Gospels are essentially the same genre, that would only be relevant to the existence of Jesus if it were already shown that the Thomas legends were not legends based on a figure who actually existed. And that is not at all what I said in my article.

  • Mike, are you suggesting that I think Augustus didn't exist? People write books about historical characters that are fictional all the time, I made that clear when I described Gore Vidal's Lincoln. But … the only way to verify a story is with outside evidence that confirms the story. We can be quite sure that the spirit of Augustus wasn't seen flying up to heaven from his funeral pyre, even though we have reports of it. We can also be sure that Augustus was a real person. But if all we had for Augustus was that story, and the Priene inscription and we lacked all the other confirming facts, then he would not be a confirmed historical person.Dr. McGrath, I am sorry to keep responding to you and forcing you to follow my comments to keep from "losing", but you keep saying such interesting things.But be that as it may, if the later Acts and the Gospels are essentially the same genre, that would only be relevant to the existence of Jesus if it were already shown that the Thomas legends were not legends based on a figure who actually existed. And that is not at all what I said in my article.I assume you are familiar with the logical fallacy of assuming the consequent. You are trying to argue that Jesus was a real person. You then allow that Acts of Thomas and the gospels may both be historical fiction and then you put the burden of proof on someone who is saying that the historicity of Thomas and Jesus is not proven. Origen, in Against Celsus V:XXIX was quite confident that there were quite a few historical fictions being written:It is sufficient, however, to represent in the style of a historic narrative what is intended to convey a secret meaning in the garb of history, that those who have the capacity may work out for themselves all that relates to the subject.So you admit that there were historical fictions being written, and assume that there must be some truth in them. But what method do you use to find out what is true and what is not?You are I am sure aware that someone cannot prove the non-existence of a thing, correct? Otherwise I should need to disprove the existence of Romulus, Bartimeus, Lycurgus, Hercules, Robin Hood, John Frum, unicorns, Russell's teapot, the invisible dragon that lives in your garage and gnomes.Now you seem in the past to have been quite convinced by Reverend Professor Burridge's statements about the gospels being Greco-Roman biographies. Michael Vines disagrees with you and believes that they are Jewish novels. What methods could someone use to determine the genre of the Acts of Thomas that would result in them finding AoT to be a historical novel, but the gospels to be biographies? Could one also use those methods to differentiate the Gospel of Peter, the Acts of Paul, the Gospel of John, the Book of Esther and the Gospel of Mark into their respectively correct categories, from your point of view?

  • Evan, no. Learn to read. James let Evan, win. I think his self esteem needs a boost. I'm not even sure what he is talking about anymore. I don't care if your a certified moron whose wife got boinked by a pastor, there is no way someone who isn't already devoted to Mythicism is going to find his arguments persuasive.

  • I think I will indeed wait until Evan either understands or stops misrepresenting what I have written before trying again to have a conversation with him. Is that all right with you, Evan? After all, my last comment before this one pointed out what you had done, and your most recent comment, as usual, pretended that nothing of the sort had happened.

  • Actually Dr. McGrath, I'm happy to let you avoid "losing" on this, but I genuinely am at a loss as to what my misrepresentation is and it's quite an accusation to level at someone. I have no idea what I am misrepresenting and would be happy to correct it if shown.Again, what methods did you use to determine the genre of the Acts of Thomas and how could these methods be applied to other books?I also would like to clarify something of a linguistic turn that you seem recently to have taken. You mention "Jesus agnosticism" now. What is the difference, in your mind, between Jesus agnosticism, John Frum agnosticism and Romulus agnosticism?

  • I would say the positions are the same, the understanding that your not confident that an individual was a either fictional creation or representing a real person (all depictions be it a biography or photograph only represent a real person imperfectly). A position I hold for Robin Hood, Achilles, and Joshua. Testaments to their historicity are long after we should be able to recover anything of deeds of such relatively unimportant figures. However I can't be sure that a local bandit chief (as all the above men were depicted as) would not be remembered orally for 150-400 years. I can't be confidant they are fictive, nor can I be confident they existed. One may be agnostic about John Frum and Romulus. I think though, that Romulus is a poor candidate for a historical person. He fits a category like Enoch, Cain and Jacob. I doubt many 1000 year old stories involving an individual sheik survive. Do you know of any one who can tell you what adventures their 1000 year old village headman ancestors had?Jesus agnosticism by contrast only has to allow for the reasonableness of a rather unusual transformation of early Christianity and a radical new form of literature. Unusual, but not impossible. for use of the Christian story as an example of one type of folk lore evolution or anther, may prefer one explanation, but knowing that it may not be accurate for the purpose of explaining other events. In such a case the agnostic position should not make up the bulk of the evidence. For instance you may say 7 of 10 major religions are founded by mythical people but note that one of them is Christianity which may be a historic founder religion.

  • So Mike I want to be straight on something.Are you saying that Jesus, in your mind, is as likely to have existed as Robin Hood, Achilles and Joshua?I have to admit your last paragraph is a blur to me and your point is not clear. I know you tell me to read but I am trying hard and I still don't get your point.

  • sorry about the last paragraph, it is a bit of an addendum on how to treat agnostic material in research.Personally I am not a Jesus agnostic, I think the odds of Jesus being a mythical invention are very low. I think the evidence for Jesus is much stronger than many other figures in ancient history and legends such as Horatio Cocles (early roman hero), Demonax, "the Egyptian" from Josephus or Judas son of Hezekiah from the same. of, but less than many others. Less than Paul; less than Peter or Seneca.