The article I mentioned in The Christian Century can now be read online. Click through to read it, then come back here and leave a comment if you’d like to discuss it or comment on it!
Did the historical Jesus exist? Historical study can only say “probably,” …
But you’re a crackpot if you think otherwise.
This seems to be the message of the article, which apparently was only edited for punctuation and grammar.
Oddly, no evidence is proffered for the existence of Jesus but the argument from authority. The article also fails to interact with scholarship dating to the 18th century that has doubted the existence of the historical Jesus, fails to mention Bruno Bauer, the Dutch Radicals and other scholars who up to this day doubt the existence of a historical Jesus. One would never guess, reading this article, that there was anyone who doubted the existence of a historical Jesus before the advent of the internet.
Dr. Robert Price, Dr. Richard Carrier and Dr. Hermann Detering have apparently been removed from the list of historians and religious scholars. Plenty of educated people, (Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers and others) have decided that Jesus is a mythical character, yet you would never know it from reading this article.
Yet if the article is correct, the slam dunk end to the discussion should be a presentation of the evidence for the known facts about the historical Jesus. I wonder why the editors removed that section?
I, myself, haven’t run into any Jesus mythicists myself. Though, have seen the Horace/Jesus connection used several times.
I don’t think your point was about being a crackpot if you don’t think Jesus existed (as alluded to above) but rather, as you wrote:
“It is easy—and to a certain extent appropriate—to dismiss mythicists and their pseudohistorical methods and claims. But there is a lesson to be learned from them. All people are prone to being deceived—and to deceiving themselves.”
It isn’t that they are “crackpots” for not believing in ANY Jesus, but that they seem so hard to work at it – deceiving themselves – and one must ask: why?
And the same can/should be asked of me, or anyone – if it’s so easy to deceive ourselves, how do we know we aren’t…or why are we?
Horace and Jesus? Never seen that one myself. Horace was a Roman poet and I doubt much he was ever mistaken for Jesus.
My spelling was off: horus, though I have seen it’s spelled Horace as well, heck either way they aren’t the same! LOL
One of the poignant ironies about mythicism is its popularity among
those who style themselves as freethinkers. Such individuals usually
have no trouble criticizing apologists for young Earth creationism or
other fringe viewpoints, spotting their weak arguments and taking them
to task for rejecting mainstream science. Yet mythicists adopt many of
the same weak modes of argumentation that they otherwise criticize.
Indeed. Neil Godrey in one of his Vridar blog entries tells us what mythicists need. Is it to do the legwork to build the best and strongest case possible for mythicism? No. It is to have a “competent, knowledgeable and intelligent historicist to challenge them”.
I’m sure most mythicists would correctly identify the shifting of the onus of proof should any other fringe theorist say that what their fringe theory needed was a knowledgeable member of the mainstream to challenge them. Has the best and strongest case for mythicism been presented? I think mythicists themselves would agree that the research into the best and strongest case for mythicism still has to be done. But somehow the onus is on the mainstream.
Mythicists need to get together to build the best and strongest case for mythicism that they can. Then the mainstream will be able to engage it. Otherwise, which version of mythicism should be engaged?
@beallen0417:disqus Hi, I think Chris meant “Horus/Christ”. Horus was an Egyptian god. Leading mythicist Acharya S suggests the following parallels between Horus and Christ:
* Horus was born on “December 25th” (winter solstice) in a
manger. * He was of royal descent, and his mother was the “virgin
Isis-Mery.” * Horus’s birth was announced by a star in the East and attended by three “wise
men.” * At age 12, he was a child teacher in the Temple, and at 30, he was
baptized. * Horus was baptized by “Anup the Baptizer,” who was
decapitated. * The Egyptian god had 12 companions, helpers or disciples. * Horus performed miracles, exorcised demons and raised Osiris from the
dead. * The god walked on water. * Horus was “crucified” between two “thieves.” * He (or Osiris) was buried for three days in a tomb and
resurrected. * Horus/Osiris was also the “Way, the Truth, the Life,” “Messiah,” the “Son of
Man,” the “Good Shepherd,” the “Lamb of God,” the “Word made flesh,” the “Word of Truth,”
etc. * Horus’s personal epithet was “Iusa,” the “ever-becoming son” of the Father. He
was called “Holy Child,” as well as “the Anointed One,” while Osiris was the KRST.
As you can see, there are many uncanny similarities between Horus and
Dr Robert Price is quoted on the same weblink above as stating:
“I find myself in full agreement with Acharya S/D.M. Murdock: ‘we assert that
Christianity constitutes Gnosticism historicized and Judaized, likewise representing a synthesis of
Egyptian, Jewish and Greek religion and mythology, among others [including Buddhism, via King
Asoka’s missionaries] from around the “known world”‘ (p. 278). ‘Christianity is largely the product
of Egyptian religion being Judaized and historicized’ (p. 482).”
What Acharya S needs is a knoweldgeable historian to challenge
* Horus was born on “December 25th” (winter solstice) in a manger.
* He was of royal descent, and his mother was the “virgin Isis-Mery.”
* Horus’s birth was announced by a star in the East and attended by three “wise men.”
* At age 12, he was a child teacher in the Temple, and at 30, he was baptized.
* Horus was baptized by “Anup the Baptizer,” who was decapitated.
* The Egyptian god had 12 companions, helpers or disciples.
* Horus performed miracles, exorcised demons and raised Osiris from the dead.
* The god walked on water.
* Horus was “crucified” between two “thieves.”
* He (or Osiris) was buried for three days in a tomb and resurrected.
* Horus/Osiris was also the “Way, the Truth, the Life,” “Messiah,” the “Son of Man,” the “Good Shepherd,” the “Lamb of God,” the “Word made flesh,” the “Word of Truth,” etc.
* Horus’s personal epithet was “Iusa,” the “ever-becoming son” of the Father. He was called “Holy Child,” as well as “the Anointed One,” while Osiris was the KRST.
As you can see, there are many uncanny similarities between Horus and Christ!
“I find myself in full agreement with Acharya S/D.M. Murdock: ‘we assert that Christianity constitutes Gnosticism historicized and Judaized, likewise representing a synthesis of Egyptian, Jewish and Greek religion and mythology, among others [including Buddhism, via King Asoka’s missionaries] from around the “known world”‘ (p. 278). ‘Christianity is largely the product of Egyptian religion being Judaized and historicized’ (p. 482).”
Obviously, what Acharya S needs is a knoweldgeable historian to challenge her.
G – yes that was what I was speaking of, thanks!
However, I might remind your list is not accurate. It has been refuted as a faulty list. That also, was what I was alluding to. People spreading this list around, despite that it has been killed as wrong.
Two minutes of digging you can find this out…
I guess if you are looking for a challenge to the list I would look here: http://www.philvaz.com/apologetics/HORUS.htm
All anyone needs, Don, is the clear evidence that shows the existence of Jesus as a historical fact. It’s simple enough, but it’s odd how few historicists consider it a necessary step. Dr. McGrath’s article doesn’t even touch on it.
Creationists pretend there isn’t evidence for evolution. “Just show us clear evidence” is what they say. It is so funny to see the two in parallel here on separate but simultaneous threads, mirroring one another with neither side noticing the irony…
Clear evidence for evolution:
Organisms reproduce, they vary genetically, this variation interacts with the environment to create non-random natural selection which changes the characteristics of descendants over time.
See how simple that is? Where is that part of your work?
James, could you clear something up for me? You refer to mythicism as a fringe view, which would be defined as a view that is unconventional or not part of the mainstream view. What mainstream view did you have in mind? Because it would seem to me that the majority of people where Jesus plays no part in their life, probably do not think he existed either. So by default, these people would think that Christians believe in a mythical or fabricated Jesus. Not even counting Mythicism, there would be many people from among the following groups who do not believe Jesus existed, these would be, atheists, all non-Christian religions, and the many people who simply do not care about God or religion. All these millions of people also reject the scholarly consensus concerning Jesus. The only difference is that most of these people do not take the time to explain why they do not think he existed. So is Buddhism a fringe view?
I’m not defending their beliefs, I’m just curious as to why you single them out, when there are literally millions of people who speak against the existence of Jesus. I know you will say that you think they are crackpots, not because of their beliefs, but because of their ridiculous arguments against established scholarly consensus. Well wouldn’t a Buddhist’s arguments equally go against established scholarly consensus concerning Jesus also?
Howard, who are these millions who think that Jesus didn’t exist? I was talking about the consensus of historians and scholars, at least in the first instance, but I would not say that popular opinion globally considered is mythicist!
James, like I said, Buddhists for example, they number into the millions. How many Buddhist do you think believe Jesus existed? How many do you think even care if he existed? Buddhists have their own religion apart from Jesus, so my point was simply that your historical and scholarly consensus would be just as meaningless to a Buddhist as it is to a mythicist. So again, does that make Buddhism a fringe view?
For those who may be new, @beallen0417:disqus has had these questions answered time and time again and keeps asking as though those conversations had never occurred. That’s why I’ve given up trying to interact with him. Others are obviously free to do so, if they think it worthwhile. Take a look at the long history of past blogging here about the historical Jesus and mythicism, if you’re interested in all the evidence that mythicist like Evan/beallen say doesn’t exist.
This seems a strange line of thought, Howard. How is what people who have never considered an issue think relevant? Most Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Jews (to name the different religions I’ve interacted with most) assume Jesus existed as a historical figure, in my experience.
That’s exactly the point, you hit the nail on the head. You are constantly criticizing people, and mythicist for believing in things without first considering (and accepting) scholarly consensus. Why is it okay in this instance?
Just as I think there is a difference between ancient people who had no other information viewing the world in a certain way, and people today who have better scientific information deliberately maintaining an outmoded view, I likewise think that there is a difference between people who hold a particular view never having given an issue any thought or having encountered other arguments or evidence, and those who claim to be interested in a scholarly historical approach who ignore and/or misconstrue what scholars and historians have to say.But it remains the case that most people I have met, whether in India, Israel, the UK, the United States or any of the other places I have been, tend to assume that Jesus existed. And so it still seems to me that you are making assumptions about what others assume that may not be correct.
James, I’m not making assumptions about anyone, I am merely trying to get you to see my point, it doesn’t matter what group they belong to, but there certainly are many people who do not believe Jesus really existed who are not termed mythicists. And my situation is just the opposite, I have met many people who do not believe Jesus ever existed. So my question was, is it merely the fact that mythicist do not believe Jesus existed, or is it because they openly oppose the scholarly consensus with, in your view, ridiculous arguments, that you call them crackpots?
Comparing the consensus views of biologists and biblical scholars is not really very defensible since biologists don’t have a vested interest in any particular account of how living things develop while biblical scholars are, by and large, lobbyists for the divine, which is to say, agents of some sort of Christianity and individuals with a serious career investment in the historical existence of Jesus. There’s no comparison between biblical scholars and evolutionary biologists when it comes to evidence either—one can only doubt the antiquity of the earth and the fact of evolution by raising doubts as to the ability of human beings to know anything whatsoever while there really isn’t enough reliable evidence of doings in first century Palestine to come to any firm conclusions one way or the other about an ancient faith healer.
You might want to stop by one of the threads on this blog where the creationists lurk. Because they’ll describe in great detail the vested interested that biologists have in one particular account of how living things develop.
There isn’t an equivalent in the certainty of the conclusions of consensus scholarship (as the vast majority of biblical scholars freely admit in my experience). But the arguments, argument style and ideas about the motivations and conspiracies behind the academic hegemony are pretty much identical. And they’ll accuse mythicists of having exactly the kind of weak-ass arguments as you think they have.
I was pretty skeptical of the comparison myself, as an atheist who’s expended a lot of energy with creationist nonsense. But time and again I find it uncanny.
I’m not a mythicist; and if I had to guess, I’d guess that there probably was a living man named Jesus at some point. I don’t have to guess, however, since the existence or non existence of somebody named Jesus is rather beside the point to me. What’s interesting from a historical point of view is what people later made out of this human ink blot. Anyhow, if you’re going to start crediting people who insist that Jesus was an incarnate god that rose from the dead, you might as well sign on with Marcion as Paul and conclude that he was really an alien deity from outer space. One impossible construction is as good as another.
I’m well aware that Creationists, who all seem to suffer from delusions of reference, think that the biologists have ulterior motives for promoting evolutionary theories, motives that have something to do with attacking their religion. The Creationists are simply wrong. What would really hurt their feelings if they ever recognized what was going on is discovering that scientists aren’t hostile to their way of thinking, but simply indifferent to it except to the extent that no one can completely ignore the political power of superstition.
James Harrison, I am not convinced that even those outside Biblical studies in the fields of Jewish and Greco-Roman history would so willingly follow Biblical studies as mythicists sometimes claim. The existence of a historical Jesus is no more beyond doubt than the existence of a historical John the Baptist – but it remains the case that historians consistently conclude that these figures more likely existed than not.
Howard, of the Buddhists you have spoken to about this, how many of them expressed doubt about the historicity of Jesus?
The existence of a historical Jesus is no more beyond doubt than the
existence of a historical John the Baptist – but it remains the case
that historians consistently conclude that these figures more likely
existed than not.
James, are you able or willing to tell us if and where the “historians” you speak of actually consider the very question of the existence of John the Baptist, and in this context assess the evidence, and from this evidence draw the “consistent conclusions” that John the Baptist, let’s say, “more likely existed than not”? Please understand. I am not saying your claim is false. What I am asking of you is evidence, citations, to support your assertion.
I have a second question. According to what methodology (or methodologies) do these historians you speak of conclude that the evidence supports the conclusion that John the Baptist “more likely existed than not”?
If it is not pushing things too far, can I request an answer that is completely void of sarcasm, parody, insult or equivocation?
12 and a half
i am really looking forward to hearing more about this, Personally I have never had an opportunity to engage half a Buddhist in conversation…
Well he was half Buddhist, half mythicist… 🙂
“I am merely trying to get you to see my point”
He sees your point perfectly well, and thinks it’s nonsense. And I agree with him.
You apparently do not see it, because it is a perfectly valid point. James didn’t see it either, that’s why I gave up on it. You are just too obsessed to see simple logic.
“You apparently do not see it, because it is a perfectly valid point.”
No it’s not, it makes no sense whatsoever. That’s why you’re getting nowhere with it. It’s a perfectly valid point only in your mind.
“James didn’t see it either”
Of course he did. He just thought it was nonsense. Which it was.
“that’s why I gave up on it.”
No matter how many times you explain nonsense it remains nonsense.
“You are just too obsessed to see simple logic.”
LOL. Dream on.
Wow! Got anything besides your opinion? Come on now, you can admit your mistake can’t you? Be a man!
@beallen0417:disqus All anyone needs, Don, is the clear evidence that shows the existence of Jesus as a historical fact. It’s simple enough, but it’s odd how few historicists consider it a necessary step.
Not so odd at all, I think. You are viewing it from the fringe. But think about it from the viewpoint of the mainstream. It’s not a necessary step because it is considered a settled question.
And you can see why it is thought to be a settled question. Take Tacitus’ reference to Christ being crucified, for example, writing around 110 CE. This provides support for a historical person. This is support for the idea, and is in itself alone to indicate that there probably was a historical person called Christ who was crucified under Pilate.
The question of the reference in Tacitus has been looked into. The earliest copy we have is from the 11th Century. It’s passed through numerous Christian hands. It’s probably hearsay that Tacitus is repeating rather than something he investigated for himself. But at the end of the day, it is generally considered as authentic.
Now, some mythicists would disagree. The earliest copy is too late; Christians may have interpolated it; no early reference to the passage; it’s just hearsay, so not much importance can be given to it. But, rightly or wrongly, most scholars agree that the reference is genuine. And if they think it is genuine, then the notion of historicisty is, rightly or wrongly, a settled question.
You can repeat the steps with the following:
* The Gospels were thought from the earliest times to be biographical, written within 50-80 years of the events being portrayed.
* Paul arguably writes about a man called Jesus Christ who was crucified in Paul’s near past.
* Josephus appears to refer to Jesus Christ at least once that sets the life of Christ around the same time as the Gospels.
Again, I know mythicists would disagree with all of the above, but that’s not my point. My point is that IF these are all considered valid, then the question of a historical Jesus is settled. IF the above are true, would it be necessary to take the step to show that the result is that the best explanation was that there was a historical Jesus? No, I don’t think so.
That’s where the mythicists come in. They can show that the passage in Tacitus is (for example) an interpolation. That the Gospels were thought to be fiction. That Paul doesn’t refer to a man who was recently crucified. But they need to overturn modern scholarship to do so. And to do that, they need to engage modern scholarship (not just quote-mine scholars, which is NOT engaging scholars). They can’t ask modern scholarship to engage the fringe. They need to build the best and strongest case for mythicism possible. Isn’t that something you would ask any other fringe theorist to do?
Beallen, if those four points (on Tacitus and the three points following) are valid, would you agree that these are enough to establish that there was probably a historical Jesus? IF they are considered as settled questions, would historicists need to take the necessary step beyond those four points to establish that there was probably a historical Jesus?
If your answer is “no”, then what more should modern scholars need to do, IF those four points above are settled questions?
Post of the Month!
No, I wouldn’t Don. What is needed to establish Jesus is the same thing that is needed to establish William Tell, Juan Diego, King Arthur or Robin Hood — that which we don’t have in any of these cases — contemporary attestation. Non-Swiss people who don’t believe there was a historical William Tell don’t have articles that are written in major Christian publications ascribing “fringe views” to them. Non-Mexicans who don’t believe in the historicity of Juan Diego don’t have to face opprobrium and contumely from US professors. Even UK citizens mostly doubt the existence of Robin Hood, but get a bit touchy if you doubt the historicity of King Arthur. The level of evidence varies from case to case, but they all lack contemporary attestation.
However, even fictional characters can be multiply attested by contemporaries, as Benjamin Creme’s Maitreya and Sherlock Holmes attest to. So what is needed is a sober, contemporary historical source that doesn’t appear to have been tampered with by Christians, and even then, the estimate can only reach probability, not certainty.
Historians accepted Josephus’ story of Masada for millennia until the archaeology could be done. Now they think he was writing fiction.
So the simple question isn’t what modern scholars need to do, since scholars aren’t allowed to changes facts. It’s why is doubt in this one instance considered such a crazy position by Christians? And I think the answer is pretty easy to figure out.
What should creationists do to prove creationism would be an analogous question — and the answer would be to change the basic facts available, an impossible task.
@beallen0417:disqus : No, I wouldn’t Don. What is needed to establish Jesus is the same thing that is needed to establish William Tell, Juan Diego, King Arthur or Robin Hood — that which we don’t have in any of these cases — contemporary attestation.
So, even if the following were considered as settled questions by mainstream scholarship:
1. Tacitus referred to Christ being crucified under Pilate
2. The Gospels were thought from the earliest times to be biographical, written within 50-80 years of the events being portrayed.
3. Paul arguably writes about a man called Jesus Christ who was crucified in Paul’s near past.
4. Josephus appears to refer to Jesus Christ at least once that sets the life of Christ around the same time as the Gospels.
then that still shouldn’t be enough for mainstream scholars to conclude that there probably was a historical Jesus? And what is needed to conclude that there was probably a historical Jesus is contemporary attestation?
I wonder if you are not confusing two things here: the existence of a historical Jesus, and what we can reasonably know about a historical Jesus. Because it seems to me that the four points above should be enough to reasonably conclude that there probably was a historical Jesus, even if we can’t say much about him with any confidence (which is my position).
@beallen0417:disqus : However, even fictional characters can be multiply attested by contemporaries, as Benjamin Creme’s Maitreya and Sherlock Holmes attest to. So what is needed is a sober, contemporary historical source that doesn’t appear to have been tampered with by Christians, and even then, the estimate can only reach probability, not certainty.
I see. So in the absence of a sober contemporary historical source, modern scholars should not look at the evidence and come to a conclusion, one way or the other? Is mythicism/ahistoricity ruled out as well, or should it be considered the default in the case that there is no sober contemporary historical source?
@beallen0417:disqus : So the simple question isn’t what modern scholars need to do, since scholars aren’t allowed to changes facts. It’s why is doubt in this one instance considered such a crazy position by Christians? And I think the answer is pretty easy to figure out.
Fringe theorists do it all the time, by (1) providing strange non-mainstream interpretations of data, (2) routinely accuse the mainstream of hopeless bias, and (3) set the bar for what they will accept as evidence very high indeed.
What would be the best way for fringe theorists like creationists to change the mainstream mind, in your opinion?
Don, do you think the stories we have about Juan Diego adequately attest his existence?
@beallen0417:disqus I don’t know anything about the issues around Juan Diego, I’m sorry.
OK Don, he’s attested one century after his purported existence in two independent attestations. Is that adequate evidence to support his existence in your opinion?
Don, if you persist in trying to get through to @beallen0417:disqus I wish you good luck. Masada’s a great analogy, if you are inclined to explore it. There is a difference between the historicity of individual stories told about a place and the historicity of the place. Masada exists – I’ve been there. No one is claiming that all stories told about Masada, or Jesus, are factual. But some clearly are. But some will never accept that, no matter how much evidence is presented – nor how often the difference of genre to their favorite comic books is patiently explained to them. And they will even use analogies that cast doubt on their own stance, without ever seeming to grasp that this is so.
The key difference is that we have contemporaneous archeological evidence for Masada — which proves Josephus to have been primarily writing fiction. It tells a different story and its existence is indisputable.
We have no such evidence for Jesus.
Moreover, it is the mainstream scholarly position since Bultmann that the gospels are works of theological fiction. Scholars like McDonald, Mack, Ehrman and LM White all agree on this fact.
Thus, the burden is on the claimant for the historical Jesus to show what non-fictional sources there are for the historical Jesus. Where are those sources?
“But some will never accept that, no matter how much evidence is presented” strikes me as a rather odd thing to say about mythicists because it seems to suggest there is more evidence out there that the historicist might present but for the futility of the endeavor. I think this is one of the ways that the analogy between mythicists and creationists falls short. Most of the creationists I have encountered seem to be unfamiliar with much of the evidence upon which biologists based their conclusions. Mythicists, on the other hand, are usually pretty well versed in the evidence that the historicists cite.
Oh Moses, you still don’t get it JM. It’s possible that Jesus never existed. Your belief in Jesus is not possible. Having you trying to make fun of the belief of Mythicists doesn’t suit you. Leave it to those who don’t believe that god sacrificed himself to himself, conquering death by dying, in order to end his eternal Law.
Joe Wallack, I do not believe that God sacrificed himself to himself to save us from himself, and have been critical on this blog of such ideas. That weird bit of Christian theology has nothing to do with the historical Jesus, which is a historical matter about which historians agree even if they are critical of various points of Christian dogma, doctrine and mythology.
As always, @beallen0417:disqus is invited to consult all my previous posts on the subject, instead of pretending they aren’t there. Who knows, if he is ever willing to do that, perhaps it will be possible for us to communicate and have intelligent conversation. But that can’t work as long as he keeps responding with “la la la I can’t hear you you haven’t addressed this before there’s no evidence la la la” in a fashion that parallels what creationists are simultaneously doing on another thread on this very blog.
There’s no previous post where you presented primary evidence for the existence of Jesus of Nazareth that is analogous to the existence of Masada. None at all.
Apparently @beallen0417:disqus thinks that the same approach works for ancient people and for fortresses that are still around today. See why it is so hard to take these people and their views seriously?
Don; Beallen, in a desperate attempt to make this look relevant, does not discuss why some scholars doubt Diego, namely earlier material contradicts the later attestations and contemporary documents that could be expected to mention Diego don’t. There is no source earlier than Paul that discusses Christianity, and that is not surprising. There is no early source that contradicts the idea that Jesus existed in human history, none. It is only in the last couple of hundred years that this idea has come up.
Beallen, it is crackpot to think people should accept possible positions as true when there is virtually no evidence to support the position. None of us think it is impossible that Jesus is a myth, but it would be foolish to try and interpret the data of the first century from that position as it is a weakly supported position and it frequently demands unusual interpretation of facts for it to be true.
Mike this argument makes no sense. What early source contradicts the existence of Juan Diego?
BeAllen, what evidence do the people who argue Diego is a fiction present when they make their case? Do you understand the case? Tell us about it.
@facebook-1355591760:disqus Don; Beallen, in a desperate attempt to make this look relevant, does not discuss why some scholars doubt Diego…
True, all he has given is that Diego is attested one century after his purported existence in two independent attestations, which is what I am working from. So currently the evidence FOR historicity is stronger than the evidence AGAINST historicity, as I’m sure he will admit. That just leaves “Is the evidence from those two independent attestations strong enough to conclude Diego probably existed rather than being agnostic about his existence?”.
One century isn’t an inordinate length of time, so I think, in the absence of further information, we can conclude that the explanation for the attestations (all things being equal) is that there probably was a Diego to inspire them. If Beallen disagrees, I would be interested to understand why.
Don, there is no contemporary attestation of Juan Diego. The first attestation happens one century after he lived. There is also no contemporary attestation of Paul Bunyan. The first attestation of Paul Bunyan happens a short 70-90 years after he is purported to have lived. Does this give us a case for the historical Paul Bunyan (all things being equal)?
@beallen0417:disqus The first attestation of Paul Bunyan happens a short 70-90 years after
he is purported to have lived. Does this give us a case for the
historical Paul Bunyan (all things being equal)?
Beallen, given that information, and all things being equal, yes it does work towards the case for a historical Paul Bunyan. Do you agree? Do you agree that, all things being equal, it does NOT work towards the case of ahistoricity?
No, it doesn’t work toward a case for a historical Paul Bunyan. It works only to establish a story about a Paul Bunyan that existed at the time it first shows up. Stories are made up all the time. The existence of a story isn’t primary evidence at all.
The contemporaneous story of Sherlock Holmes isn’t evidence for a historical Sherlock Holmes, even though Joseph Bell really existed. The story of William Tell isn’t evidence for a historical William Tell. The story of Scarlett O’Hara isn’t evidence of a historical Scarlett O’Hara.
If we adopt a position of credulousness, we lose the ability to critically evaluate stories we are told.
I doubt you believe in Mary of Medjugorje even though we have contemporaneous, multiply attested living witnesses with good physical descriptions and daily encounters. The story of Mary of Medjugorje as we have it invites disbelief, as does the story of Jesus.
@beallen0417:disqus No, it doesn’t work toward a case for a historical Paul Bunyan. It works only to establish a story about a Paul Bunyan that existed at the time it first shows up. Stories are made up all the time. The existence of a story isn’t primary evidence at all.
Story? I thought you said his existence was attested. Is “story” synonymous with “attestation”? You asked “The first attestation of Paul Bunyan happens a short 70-90 years after he is purported to have lived. Does this give us a case for the historical Paul Bunyan (all things being equal)?”
I responded that, given that information, and all things being equal, it works towards the case for a historical Paul Bunyan, and that it does NOT work towards the case of ahistoricity.
Let’s say we have attestation (not a story!) for someone who lived 70-90 years earlier. At that point, all things being equal, which is stronger: the case for that person’s historicity, or the case for their ahistoricity?
@beallen0417:disqus The contemporaneous story of Sherlock Holmes isn’t evidence for a historical Sherlock Holmes
Beallen, I think you have forgotten that I started by responding to your comment of needing “clear evidence that shows the existence of Jesus as a historical fact. It’s simple enough, but it’s odd how few historicists consider it a necessary step”.
You are still looking at it from a fringe perspective. I am asking you to look at it from a mainstream perspective. From a mainstream perspective, for example, Paul arguably refers to a man who was crucified in Paul’s near past. (Yes, I know mythicists disagree, but that’s not the point, as I continue to point out. We are looking at it from a mainstream perspective.)
If an author arguably lived within 20-30 years of the events to which he writes about, and one of those events was a man being crucified, then how much weight would you put on that event actually occurring, all things being equal?
@beallen0417:disqus OK Don, he’s attested one century after his purported existence in two independent attestations. Is that adequate evidence to support his existence in your opinion?
Meaning of “attest”:
1 : to affirm to be true or genuine; specifically : to authenticate by signing as a witness b : to authenticate officially
2: to establish or verify the usage of
3: to be proof of
Meaning of “attestion”:
The act of attesting; testimony; witness; a solemn or official declaration, verbal or written, in support of a fact; evidence
Given only the information you have provided, then I would say that the evidence FOR existence is greater than the evidence AGAINST existence. Is it adequate to support the bare fact of his existence? In my opinion, yes, it supports a probable existence. My grandmother was able to tell me about things that happened a century ago, so it isn’t that far removed from living memory.
What is your opinion?
I’m still trying to figure out how this is analogous to mythicism. Perhaps one of you will want to ask Evan how many people think that the sources in question wrote about Diego in a way that sounds like he was a historical figure, but really meant that he lived and died in the angelic realm upon the firmament?
Nothing stops you from asking me yourself, Dr. McGrath … this odd dance you do is sort of bizarre.
For those who may be interested, I’ve tried to interact with beallen before, and yet he keeps repeating the same arguments again and again as if those discussions never took place. And so I have stopped interacting with him directly as a way to stop wasting my time repeating the same discussions over and over. It is indeed a strange dance, and I regret that his creationist-style tactics have made it necessary.
Don, would you agree with this statement?
“The heart of Christianity is a myth … The old myth of the Dying God … comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history… We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate.”
@beallen0417:disqus Don, would you agree with this statement?
“The heart of
Christianity is a myth … The old myth of the Dying God … comes down
from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history… We
pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to
a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius
Not really, and I am a big CS Lewis fan. I do think the Jesus story is a myth (i.e. a story with a meaning, and one that is little concerned with historical details), and the Gospels recount that myth. But I don’t see it connected with the myth of the Dying God. IIUC the support for the old “Dying and Rising Gods” myths in ancient beliefs is not as strong as once thought.
Beallen, you are starting to jump from topic to topic, which to me indicates you haven’t thought through your beliefs in any depth. Can I ask you to find a topic and stick to it please?
Don, it’s good to hear that you can agree that Jesus’ story is a myth. I feel like I’ve accomplished something. If you agree that the story is a myth, what drives you to try to prove that it isn’t?
I do recall you jumping pretty heavily from topic to topic on your ridiculous mythical Caesar thread, but two wrongs don’t make a right, so I apologize for asking an additional question that wasn’t directly related to the OP. However I still believe that if the best the credulous historical Jesus proponent can say is that Jesus “probably” existed and that most historical Jesus proponents agree that the story as we have it is a myth, the field of battle already belongs to the mythicist.
Beallen, please refer to this fine post by Evan at vridar to refreash your memeory on Juan Diego. Note this particularly,
“Frays Alonso Montufar and Francisco Bustamante – There was a controversy in Mexico City in 1556 over the cult that had developed in Tepeyac with Fray Bustamante petitioning the King of Spain to have Alonso Montufar, the current archbishop, defrocked and put under charges for promoting the worship of idols. He referred to the cult of Guadalupe as something that was “invented yesterday” and claimed the tilma had been painted by an Indian named Marco. Of interest is that Montufar never defended himself by describing the story of Juan Diego, even though Fray Zumarraga was his direct predecessor.”So nearly 100 years before anyone ever mentioned Juan Diego someone claims an Indian named Marco is credited with making the image that Juan Diego is credited with. So who made the image, Marco or Diego? This certainly giives us reason to doubt, and really we should perfer the earlier mention.
I encourage everyone to read the full post and see that the case against Diego does not simply rest on a lack of contemporary mentions just like Paul Bunyan, but that we have no contemporary mentions in cases where we shopuld have them plus we also have an attestation to another individual being the creator of the art work.
No one here believes that two independent attestations proves historicity when a third earlier attestation contridicts the report, and so you case does not undermine multiple attestation.
There is no mention of the non-existence of Juan Diego in any of the reports. This is exactly analogous to Jesus. Certainly the supernatural story of the appearance of the virgin must be discounted, but there is no evidence that states he absolutely did not exist. There is simply silence where we would expect a mention. Yet there certainly must have been a peasant in Tepeyac in the 1530s. This unknown, un-named peasant that we know nothing about must have been the “historical core” of the Juan Diego story. The oral tradition about this peasant became embellished so that by 100 years later, it carried mythical accretions that obscure the original story of a guy who walked home one day.
The situation parallels exactly that of Paul Bunyan. Certainly the height reported for Paul Bunyan we can discount, as we do the height of Jesus from the Gospel of Peter, but that there was a lumberjack in the 1840s seems very likely. This lumberjack must have been the “historical core” of Paul Bunyan. The oral tradition about this lumberjack became embellished so that 70 years later it carried mythical accretions that obscure the story of a tall, fast-working normal lumberjack.
And following the standard, mainstream approach to Jesus allows you to do this dance for any mythical figure you like.
In fact, of course, many mythical figures have provably historical cores. Clark Kent was based on Harold Lloyd, and therefore is the historical Superman. Of course we discount supernatural birth and Kryptonite weaknesses, but Superman, using the criteria we use in Historical Jesus studies, was an actor who changed his persona when he took off his glasses. The oral tradition about Harold Lloyd changed within his lifetime so that by the time it showed up on radio and in comic books, it carried mythical accretions that obscure the story of a normal silent film comic actor and director.
Evan, the controversy is not, where any Mexican peasants in the 1500’s named Juan Diego, but is instead, was the image of the Virgin first presented by a peasant named Juan Diego. You have provided no evidence that any particular Juan Diego of the 1500’s was intended as the source of the image of the Virgin.
Also Harold Lloyd is not, based on your information, the “historical” Superman. Instead feature of the fictional Super Man is based on a mannerism of Lloyd. Superman is not an attempt to portray Lloyd. And if Christianity is not inspired by a preacher known as Jesus who was crucified in the first century, then Christianity’s Jesus is a fiction no matter how many people were named Jesus back then.
Michael, so the controversy is not, were there any Jewish peasants in the first century named Jesus, but is instead, was the man who was born of a holy Ghost and died but lived again named Jesus? You have provided no evidence that there was such a man. We discount the story of Juan Diego on its face. But somehow we don’t that of Jesus.
Why is not Harold Lloyd:Superman = Historical Jesus:Gospel Jesus? Would any historical peasant named Jesus who happened to be crucified then be the “historical Jesus”? This would be the equivalent of any historical peasant named Juan Diego walking past Tepeyac once on his way home.
—the man who was born of a holy Ghost and died but lived again named Jesus? You have provided no evidence that there was such a man. We discount the story of Juan Diego on its face. But somehow we don’t that of Jesus—
I never said there was such man. Beallen have you ever attempted honesty in a conversation? You look rather stupid when you only address what you would like a dialogue partner to say rather than what they did say.
“we discount” who is we, more people you have invented to chat with? No one discounted it on its face, read Evan’s article again, it was challenged with careful examination of the evidence.
There are discussions of John the Baptist’s existence in plenty of places Meier’s <A Marginal Jew comes to mind as one example off the top of my head.
But since you put historians in scare quotes, I assume you were looking for an example from a “historian” like Earl Doherty, and in that area there are others who may be better poised to help you than I am.
And since you insist on adopting a stance that is adversarial just as you insist on promoting pseudoscholarly nonsense, I see no reason to agree to forego sarcasm, nor to refrain from lampooning mythicism’s numerous blunders and gaffes when it seems appropriate and the opportunity arises.
I explicitly asked for the names of historians to which you were referring and you cited me one. Thankyou.
But you failed to respond to my second question. Are you able to answer that at all?
I don’t see any particular reason to do your research for you when you are in such a foul mood. Perhaps when your personality swings back towards its nicer pole, as it seems to do from time to time…
I’m sorry James, it is a simple question. You are quite entitled to say that there is no methodology involved underlying how biblical scholars decide on this or that person in Josephus being historical. Is that your answer?
Why this nastiness and mood/mind reading? Why not simply answer a simple question without acrimony or scoffing?
Why not simply ask a question without acrimony or scoffing? Why ask questions in the antagonistic fashion that you do and then complain when someone finds your behavior objectionable, and project on them the very things that characterize your own comments?
Is this approach a ploy, or do you really not realize how you come across?
Well James any acrimony or scoffing is entirely in your own head. My question was straightfoward without any adjectivals or innuendo at all.
Here it is again, no acrimony, no scoffing:
I have a second question. According to
what methodology (or methodologies) do these historians you speak of
conclude that the evidence supports the conclusion that John the Baptist
“more likely existed than not”?
If it is not pushing things too far, can I request an answer that is completely void of sarcasm, parody, insult or equivocation?
I have a second question. According to
what methodology (or methodologies) do these historians you speak of
conclude that the evidence supports the conclusion that John the Baptist
“more likely existed than not”?
You have replied to me that I have no right to expect an answer that is void of sarcasm or ridicule. So I have to concede defeat on that one.
The reason I asked is because I have never encountered a discussion of methodology by which scholars determine the historicity of this or that person mentioned by Josephus. This semes odd given that historians acknowledge that Josephus is a mix of fact and fiction. I have only encountered ad hoc rationales for this or that person’s or event’s historicity.
Would you agree that historians do approach this question on an ad hoc basis and have no methodology underpinning their conclusions? Or is there reading I should know about addressing this?
Presumably your scare quotes were entirely in my head…
I was quoting your use of the word historian and made that quite explicit with the following words. What’s your problem with that? I was asking you to give me names of the “historians” you think of as “historians”. You know I don’t always agree with you that theologians who call themselves historians are necessarily real historians.
We can surely disagree on what constitutes a historian and I can, for the sake of argument, accept your definition of historian and indicate this by reference to your terminology in quotations.
You cited a priest by way of an answer and I must take your word for it, since the only work of his I have handy is his volume 1 of Marginal Jew and I see very little discussion respecting JB’s historicity in it.
You are free to offer an explanation of how, from a mythicist standpoint, Josephus probably meant that John the Baptist was a purely celestial figure. He was sent to the celestial Macherus by the action of Herod’s suspicious temper, influencing events in the spirit world…
Very funny. I ask for methodology so you retort with silliness. Why not simply admit there is no methodology if there is none? Why this childishness?
But surely you do know of the arguments questioning the historicity, don’t you?
Know of them? I referred to them.
Are you suggesting that anyone who is a priest cannot also be a historian, or work in a field using the tools of historical inquiry?
The issue with mythicism is not about the fact that the existence of some people in history is less certain than others. The issue is with precisely the sort of thing I mentioned, the attempt by Doherty and others to argue that early Christians thought of Jesus as a purely celestial figure. If you would like to denounce such pseudoscholarly nonsense and talk instead about the degrees of probability with respect to Jesus or John the Baptist having been real historical figures, that would probably be a much more fruitful discussion.
Doctor, you appear to have forgotten that of the dozens of exchanges between us in which you have railed against me with insult and ridicule have been over the very question of probability of the historicity of Jesus according to norms of historical methodology widely understood and applicable to the likes of comparable figures such as Socrates, Cicero’s slave, an otherwise unattested philosophical rival of Seneca, Hillel, John the Baptist – that indeed historical probability and use of normative historical methods widely understood is what I have written about and addressed very, very often.
It sounds like you are misremembering or misperceiving. I have never railed against you for writing about normative historical methods. I have criticized you for pretending to be a supporter of normative historical methods while ignoring that everyone who uses those methods professionally draws the conclusion that Jesus most likely existed.
have criticized you for pretending to be a supporter of normative
historical methods while ignoring that everyone who uses those methods
professionally draws the conclusion that Jesus most likely existed.
Why this diatribe, James? Do you really believe I am pretending? On what grounds?
You know very well that the methods I have discussed most are simply NOT used by mainstream scholars in addressing the historicity of Jesus yet are used and acknowledged by historians across biblical studies and other historiographical pursuits alike. I have demonstrated this over and over and over but you respond every time with sarcasm — and now you simply deny outright I have argued what I have been arguing all along.
Why do you so blatantly make false statements like this?
If I dare ask you once again if you really know what are the methods I do discuss would I have to struggle for weeks before you finally answer? — and when you do finally answer will you demonstrate that you have no idea what I have been arguing? — and when you do finally acknowledge what I have been arguing will you merely retort with sarcasm? — as has been your habit in the past when I have tried to push you to actually address my argument.
Or will you simply say that you have addressed it many times before (but of course you will never be able to pinpoint where), or will you escape by saying that just because I wrote a lot of words does not mean I actually made an argument? All of these are your standard responses to avoid a serious discussion.
Anyone would think you have learned from creationists how to avoid letting yourself be challenged by any view that is new or unsettling to you.
Why is Neil asking James about the methodologies of other historians? Shouldn’t he ask them? I rarely see discussions of did x exist in histories, but I don’t think this means that the historian is incompetent, only that such a discussion wouldn’t be worthwhile. I could speculate on why they think person x actually existed, but that would be my opinion and so one could argue, “how do we know the historian thought that?”.
“This semes odd given that historians acknowledge that Josephus is a mix of fact and fiction.” It doesn’t seme odd to me. All my teachers told me I should be critical of all sources since most of them will include outright fiction. None the less, we are still asked to use ancient histories as sources. I think it would be a bit obtuse to argue that these sources are fiction except at the points they can be corroborated. If one wanted to argue against the factualness of an ancient report, I think the expectation is to present a reasonable argument to why the source is incorrect. It doesn’t work to simple say, “ the source is unreliable so the fact is untrue” we all know the source is unreliable and that a the assertion of a text is not proof of anything, but the text is still evidence for the fact in question, and while Neil feels this is terrible historiography, It seems to me that this is the way it’s done, that if facts don’t support the text’s assertion to be false and arguments against it would require a leap of faith to accept, then the texts assertion is evidence for whatever it is asserting. In the case of John the Baptist, we would have to believe without sufficient evidence that this is a later insertion, this is Josephus’s invention and the gospels just appropriated it for their use (or vice versa), or that that both sources are just passing along a fictional legend. But for the historian, the simplest answer is that there was such a person. Everything else is speculation.
You are not doing so, but claim to be. That is what I mean by “pretending.”
At any point at which you begin to offer serious treatment of subjects, we can have serious discussion. If your treatment continues to lack seriousness and/or academic rigor, then obviously serious discussion will not be possible.
Pretence infers a deliberate intent. I can assure you I am not pretending. If you can identify where I am not doing what I claim to be doing then you would be more professional (and simply competent) as a scholar to point out specifically where the discrepancy lies. Sweeping accusations and character attacks don’t cut it.
My treatment of methodology is certainly serious enough to have been “picked up” by a significant portion of the mainstream biblical scholarly world that deals with topics other than Jesus — though I am the one who has really “picked it up” from these mainstream scholars.
It is serious enough to be taken for granted as a tool even by historical Jesus scholars and any other historian when assessing evidence for just about any person or topic apart from Jesus and Christian origins.
So you say I am not being serious when I argue that the study of Christian origins should not claim some sort of exceptional status even though insistence on this exceptional status results in what mainstream historical Jesus scholars admit is a circular methodology?
Have any of you read Tom Harpur, retired scholar from Toronto, who later in his life, became very convinced that the Jesus story was a myth? You can read his book, “The Pagan Christ.” It’s very well written in which he writes that for 200 years the “proof” of Josephus has known to be a forgery. He also quotes Alvin Boyd Kuhn, deceased scholar of the early part of the 20th Century. Then there are the two British Scholar Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy. I think it’s time “mainstream” orthodox engage these folks.
They really need to get their act together an write rigorous scholarly cases for their views, before academics can then take what they write seriously and interact with it in a serious academic fashion. Until that is done, scholars do not have anything that they can interact with in the appropriate manner. It is like saying that scientists ought to interact with creationists when creationists aren’t doing scientific research.
As long as a group is simply trying to appeal directly to the public and bypass scholarly evaluation of their claims, the most that they can expect from scholars is that they will publicly explain why what those authors are doing isn’t scientific/historical research.