I laughed out loud when reading a recent post by Neil Godfrey. Most of it was neither laughable nor surprising. He discusses how we know people in the ancient world existed, with his usual shtick depicting historical Jesus scholars as confused bumblers. Nothing surprising, or interesting, except perhaps for his acknowledgment that historians in most fields do not feel the need to constantly revisit the question of a figure’s existence once it has been demonstrated to the satisfaction of the experts.
What made me laugh out loud was a chart he inserted at the end.
Not that the concept was bad, or that making charts cannot be helpful. Indeed, such a table could have been useful if it had been filled in to reflect the actual state of the evidence as scholars and historians understand it.
But the way Godfrey fills in the table is arbitrary, and reminds me of how fundamentalist Christians make charts to show how their own tradition has all the “right” answers while all the “cults” are wrong (here’s a slide show with an example of that sort of thing).
The reason historians think Jesus existed is because they would fill in the chart differently than he does, because the evidence is different than he claims it is.
So here is the chart as it appeared on the blog Vridar, with the boxes emptied of the content Godfrey inserted. How would you fill in the boxes?
(Green – primary evidence exists so historicity certain)
|Name appears in non-fiction literature confirmed by primary evidence||Name appears in non-fiction literature confirmed by independent literary sources||Verifiable and creditable author / provenance of non-fiction literature.|
Thus can be reasonably confident the author’s sources are likely traced to time of the person/events.
|Genre supports historicity|
|Alexander the Great|
|Publius Vinicius the Stammerer|
|Honi the Circle Drawer|
|Bernice (daughter of Herod Agrippa I)|
|Tiro (Cicero’s slave)|