Historical Jesus: The Role Playing Game (Jonathan Tweet Debates Richard Carrier)

I recently made the (virtual) acquaintance of the famous game designer Jonathan Tweet, who has been involved in authoring a number of Dungeons and Dragons volumes and books for other RPGs. Jonathan also published his first children’s book recently, Grandmother Fish, introducing children to evolution. I plan on blogging about that soon – and getting my copy signed by Jonathan in person at Gen Con.

But it turns out that our interests overlap on more than gaming and evolution. There is an upcoming debate in Seattle between Jonathan Tweet and Richard Carrier, about mythicism and the historical Jesus! The title of the event is “What Should Atheists Conclude about the Existence of Jesus?” and it will be held at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center (4408 Delridge Way SW, Seattle, Washington 98106) on Friday, August 11th at 7pm.  You can find the outline of Jonathan’s presentation on his blog.

I also discovered that there is a game that allows you to take on the role of Jesus. It is called A.D. 30 and it is by Victory Point Games. Here’s the description from their website:

Tom Decker’s A.D. 30: Jesus’ Journey to Jerusalem is a very reverent solitaire game that takes you, as the player, along the travels of Jesus, from His baptism in the River Jordan to His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Along the way, you will make decisions which will affect the outcome of His journeys and teachings. Thirteen possible alternate outcomes are included, not to imply that other outcomes were in fact possible, but to build a strategy game that includes challenges with the possibility of success and failure as the player of the game. Achieving the Major Victory (the historical outcome) will demonstrate the extraordinary set of circumstances that took place and were necessary to achieve the birth of Christianity.

The events that take place often cause the political and religious leaders of the area (represented by Caiaphas, Herod Antipas, and Pontius Pilate) to take notice and become increasingly concerned. In game terms, this is shown by moving those Leader markers along a track on the game board, advancing them from their start spaces one step at a time until they reach the final space on that track (“Arrest in Jerusalem”), at which point they attempt to arrest Jesus.

You get the chance to react to these movements with several choices each game turn. The goal is to assemble all twelve Apostles, maintain a high level of piety, and enter into Jerusalem. Additionally, when trying to reconstruct the beginnings of Christianity historically, it is imperative that Judas betrays Jesus in Jerusalem. Events tend to push Jesus towards Jerusalem, but try to avoid entering too early before all the important pieces are in place!

That game, intersecting with a game designer debating Richard Carrier about the historical Jesus, provided the inspiration for the title of this post. Of related interest see “The VALUE Project: Games and Archaeology at Leiden University.” I was also delighted to see that the American Academy of Religion has released a draft of guidelines for the evaluation of digital scholarship, and that “games” is included on the list of possibilities.

Finally, I had my attention drawn to Hirst Arts Molds, which has resources for replicating ancient buildings, which can be useful for historical reenactment gaming as well as other purposes.

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  • John MacDonald

    As a secular person, I initially took an interest in Christianity because I wanted to consider the Noble Lie theory of Christian origins. I think I’ve explored that avenue as far as I can go, so I really don’t have any reason to discuss religion any further. The more I explore religion, the more bizarre and foreign it seems to me. Religious people seem just plain weird to me, and I’m happy that none of my close friends or family believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster or whatever other superstition is the flavor of the month.

    The one thing I take away from the question of the relationship between Christianity and the Greeks is that the resurrection stories about Jesus may have begun as Noble Lies by some who were trying to make the world a better place. I tried to outline my understanding of the Noble Lie theory of Christian origins, along with the reader comment section, here: http://palpatinesway.blogspot.ca/. It may have all been a lie, or it could have just been a bunch of different people hallucinating Jesus, but there is really no reason to choose one theory over the other. It’s just something we will never know.

    I’m glad that I will no longer be discussing religion, or associating with anyone who does. I now think that secular people who discuss God with religious people unwittingly lend credibility to ridiculous ancient superstitions.

    What a waste of time! lol

    • Eli Odell Jackson

      You sound like a fool.

      You have removed Christianity from its Jewish context, in doing so you err.
      Your fashionable atheism is both unlivable and itself ‘the flavor of the month’.

      The Way of Jesus Christ of Nazareth however is as timeless as any doctrine or teaching that has ever existed.

      • Sophotroph

        Timeless eh? Which of the 45,000 Christianities (and growing) is the Way of Jesus Christ of Nazareth?

        I’ll bet, by massive coincidence, it’s the exact sect you belong to! What do I win?

      • Rusty Writer
        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Why on earth would you link to a site like that? Have you no capacity to discern between scholarship and the fringe pseudoscholarship one finds so easily on the internet?

          • Jim Olsson

            You’ve obviously never visited the site… I’ve been linking to it for months. Humphreys is not a PhD himself, but he meticulously researches and collates all the relevant data, for whatever topic, from numerous authoritative sources at his disposal. I’ve watched some of his youtube debates and seen that he can hold his own. I should ask you the same question you asked Rusty Writer. Why would you defend a (set of) book(s) like the Bible… there’s certainly no scholarship in it, just anonymous testimony that may be tainted by any number of later redactors. The Bible has so many OBVIOUS open avenues of attack as far as its credibility… the last verses of Mark in our bibles do not appear in the earliest manuscripts; the pericope adulterae; the two divergent genealogies of Joseph; the Pauline epistles not “aware” of any of Jesus’ miracles, or virgin birth, or parables, etc. Carrier can lecture for over an hour on the single subject of the book of Acts being out of synch with the end of the Gospels. Why does Mark refer to Lake Tiberias as ‘the Sea of Galilee?” Why, for being such a sage, does no one live like Jesus preached… oh, maybe because you CAN’T live in a modern society taking no thought for the morrow… you CAN’T give thieves more than they want ad infinitum… you SHOULDN’T let someone assaulting you to assault your ‘other cheek,’ etc.?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            I have most certainly visited the site, and am familar with the kinds of pseudoscience and pseudohistory that flourish when people think that a denialist who “meticulously researches and collates” to weave an alternative narrative to mainstream science or history. Only someone who doesn’t know the primary sources in depth and detail could think that when Carrier drones on and on as he is prone to, he remains consistent with the relevant data. And it is absolutely ridiculous for you to think that the kinds of historical problems that have been highlighted for centuries by mainstream scholarship are somehow points in favor of mythicism!

            You seem to still not have read the extensive treatment of mythicism on this blog over the past decade. :-(

      • Jim Olsson

        re: “The Way of Jesus Christ of Nazareth however is as timeless as any doctrine or teaching that has ever existed…”
        Let’s hope not! Straight and narrow will be traveled by few, and wide and crooked by the many… who will burn forever?! Yeah, whoever wrote that trite bit of nonsense can stick it and rotate it. It was that sort of thinking which emboldened the “Holy Church” to burn people alive. They said, “Look, if you’re going to burn for eternity, God can’t fault us for getting you off to an early start.” Holding that as your “sacred” religion is an abomination.

  • Brandon Roberts

    the evidence is very unreliable however we don’t have that many reliable records from that point in time (as far as i’m aware but i could be wrong)

    • Korus Destroyus

      No, the evidence is undebatable.

      • Sophotroph

        Well, that’s for sure. You can’t debate zero evidence.

        • Korus Destroyus

          Mythicism is a fringe theory in the eyes of professional historians, since Jesus is the most well documented Jew of the entire first century by a long shot. It would be impossible to name a single figure of ancient history that had four biographies written about them within a century of their death that didn’t exist. Jesus existed, as the undebatable evidence has long established. The only other position is the fringe sidelined voodoo conspiracy of mythicism that … simply ignores all the data.

          • Rusty Writer

            There is as much evidence for the Easter bunny as for Jesus.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            You have been misinformed, gullibly accepting online pseudohistorical claims while ignoring mainstream secular historians’ work, in a manner that is the mirror image of science denialism by Christian fundamentalists. This round up of some of the past discussion of the subject here on this blog may be useful to you, since there is no point in repeating here things that have been said countless times already: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2011/05/mythicism-round-up.html

          • Korus Destroyus

            I needn’t repeat myself — Jesus is the most well attested person of the first century and mythicists are considered to be, in some sense, stupid by historians.

          • Jim Olsson

            ARGH! The gospels are NOT biographies… they’re cameo sketches of someone who may or may not have existed in history. There are essentially two gospels. Matthew is a retelling of Mark, and Luke is the Josephus-ized version of Mark. John comes in from another angle which starts off as pure Gnosticism… In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God… yeah, that logos bit is pure Gnosticism. Josephus quotes are assuredly bogus, and Tacitus is a non sequitur… Even if Tacitus mentions Christus, or what have you, he’s decades after the fact, has no first-hand knowledge, and adds nothing to the discussion… and all that is ONLY IF his quote is genuine and not a later concoction as the Josephus quotes most assuredly are. Origen, who quotes Josephus extensively, NEVER came across the Jesus quotes in books 18 and 20 of Josephus. Yes, the claim is made that Jesus is the most attested figure of the first century, but it’s one hell of a hollow claim.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            You might want to inform yourself about what Gnosticism is…

          • Jim Olsson

            Perhaps “pure gnostic influence…” would have been more succinct.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            But no more accurate.

          • Korus Destroyus

            The Gospels are biographies. In specific, they fall under the genre of ancient biography for a whole field of reasons that have convinced the overwhelming majority of historians. It can be said beyond a reasonable doubt that the Gospels either are ancient biographies or share multitudes of similarities with works classified as ancient biography. Sorry, “cameo sketches” aren’t a genre. Moreover, it’s not that Jesus “may or may not have existed”, historians closed this one a century ago if I’m not mistaken — Jesus existed. I’d highly recommend reading Bart Ehrman’s volume, Did Jesus Exist? It’s the first of Ehrman’s books I decided to read, and I finished the entire thing in less than half a week.

            Now, you aren’t a scholar. Neither am I, to be fair, but I’m a bit widely read on scholarship and I’ve published a professional historical article on the worlds most widely read historical encyclopedia, and so I can sniff out some of your (rather amateur) mistakes. For example, you say something strange — “Matthew is a retelling of Mark”. Huh? Matthew had many sources, of which Mark was one. Matthew has a lot of material from Mark, but there are also significant portions of Matthew that decidely do not come from Mark. Your claim that Luke is a Josephus-ized version of Mark falls under a similar problem — significant parts of Luke are derived from Mark, but even more significant parts of Luke have absolutely no relationship with Mark. Matthew and Luke both had many sources at their disposal, both written and oral, of which Mark’s Gospel was one. Luke also predates Josephus, and so that part of your comment is a rather oddball.

            However, your blatant lack of familiarity of the ancient sources starts getting even worse. You say the Josephus quotes are “assuredly bogus”. However, that’s flat out false. Only the quote in Book 18 is debated (most scholars think it is partially authentic, another problem mythicists need to dance around) and the quotation in Book 20 isn’t even disputed. You claim that Origen never quotes the Jesus quote from Book 20 … except he does. Three times. See Contra Celsum I.4, Contra Celsum II:13 and Commentarium in evangelium Matthaei X.17. In the second of these citations I gave you, Origen writes “Josephus says” and then gives the quotation from Book 20 of Antiquities of the Jews.

            I don’t think I even need to address your nonsensical statements on Tacitus. Tacitus writes about events as early as the 10’s AD, and no one questions the validity of those — but of course Jesus is far too early. This is simply grasping at straws. Jesus remains the most well-attested figure of the entire first century.

          • Jim Olsson

            OK, biography in the loosest sense of the word if you insist. Where was Jesus when he was 9-years old? We know he went to Egypt as a baby when Herod the Great threatened his death, and we know he’s in the temple at Jerusalem when he’s 12, but what is he doing as a teen ager or when he’s 20 or 25??? They say he was a carpenter. What projects did he work on? What were his trade specialties if any? Tell me some interesting facts about his siblings… how many did he have in total? Tell me about his home life once Joseph and Mary returned from Egypt. Who schooled him? These are the things that constitute a biography. I’m reading Mark Twain’s biography presently, so I have some idea how they’re structured. Last year I immersed myself in a new biography of the Wright brothers.. very entertaining and very well written.
            Now, conveniently, Luke can tell me everyone in Jesus’ family all the way back to Adam, but no one knows of the little miracle worker’s life and times as he was growing up… no one thought to grab a pencil and start jotting stuff down even after angels prophesied his miraculous birth, and wise men bearing gifts appeared out of nowhere, and a celestial light parked over and Mary and Joseph’s abode. Hmmm… I guess they weren’t duly impressed enough by all that to keep such a record. Strange, huh? Even the vaunted Q document can’t be found, though we have tons of pseudepigrahic narratives being produced in the day.
            I mentioned Luke’s genealogy of Jesus human Pop, Joseph. Have you ever given thought to when this bogus genealogy was even started? Adam couldn’t have started it unless he invented papyrus and ink and had a reason to, but Adam had no idea that he was going to father a Savior of the world. There are something like 10 recorded generations of people with VERY long lives between Adam and Noah, but who was keeping track of the babies and generations? In what language? Ok, so then the flood comes. Did Noah have scrolls on board with names of all the aunts and uncles who were being consumed by the deluge? He’s a 500-year-old man who’s just built a wooden boat larger than a football field in length and width, he’s just loaded two of every type of animal on board including dinosaurs according to your run-of-the-mill creationists. So, who started it? Abraham? Is there any evidence that he could read and write? Oh, that’s right… there’s no evidence for him at all, he’s just a legend! Moses might have started it, except it appears he is just a warmed-over version of Sargon of Akkad. But anyway, are we really to believe that every Hebrew/Israelite/Jewish boy was keeping a genealogy through war, pestilence, occupation, deluges, captivities, wars and more wars, etc. in hopes that they would father the messiah? The gang that couldn’t even hold on to their ark of the covenant kept the genealogies going… right up to the point that mean old Herod burned them all (Eusebius, Church History) but miraculously Jesus’ two divergent genealogies of the same man were saved! Of course, we don’t even know if Jesus saw them, or know how the fell into the hands of Matt and Luke all those decades later… after Jerusalem had once again been torched in 70 AD.
            OK, I’m impressed with your knowledge of the sources and should familiarize myself with primary sources more than I have, and freely admit I was wrong about Origen, though unintentionally so. Tacitus, was born 20 something years after Jesus dies, then we must allow him some growing-up time, some time to get educated, etc. So, lets say Tacitus turned 22 about the year 80… about the time that Luke is thought to have been written. I usually hear 70 for Mark, possibly 75 for Matthew, 80 for Luke, and 90’s or 100’s for John. But by the year 80, if Tacitus was even writing anything this early, it isn’t like he was an eye witness to Jesus or very many of his martyred followers. Paul’s death is usually dated in 64, I believe. So, yeah, funny Paul mentions so little of what the later gospel writers have to say.
            You can go on believing this Holey mishmash if you like, but every aspect of it is more far fetched than whatever preceded it. Mark calls an ordinary lake a sea. He never mentions any of the four principal cities on that “sea.” Nazareth appears nowhere in the literature of the day… except the holly bibble! The Christ-mythicist views on the “virgin” birth prophecy being hijacked out of context from the Old Testament is much more believable than Matthew’s tall tale. Matthew mentions the zombified remains of people walking around when Christ is crucified, but the other authors apparently decided that that was jumping the shark, so to speak. The evidence against the historicity of a great number of characters is decidedly in favor of the “rationalists.” Demons driving a flock of pigs off a cliff… uh huh, sure. After the talking snake and the scold of a donkey, and the sun standing still, and Moses’ staff swallowing the Pharaoh’s staff after they had turned into a vipers, and horns leveling a city, and a woman being turned into a pillar of Morton salt, why not?! Zombies it is!
            I realize there’s too much to respond to here as I’m doing a stream-of-consciousness rant against this silliness, but after your long informative answer, wanted to respond as best I can after a long day at the factory.

          • Korus Destroyus

            You’re still being dishonest.

            “OK, biography in the loosest sense of the word if you insist.”

            No, ancient biography in the strictest sense of the word. This is hardly a point of dispute among actual historians — in fact, only a few of the fundamentalist Christians are the ones who still reject the ‘ancient biography’ genre classification of the Gospels in the academy. Everyone else has moved on since Richard Burridge proved that the Gospels were ancient biographies in the 1990’s. You then go on a rant about the fact that we know only a bit of Jesus in His early years before His ministry begun, which of course, is irrelevant to classifying the Gospels as ancient biographies. And even more interesting, this enormous error on your part regarding what an ancient biography demonstrates that you aren’t even a position to question the consensus.

            “no one thought to grab a pencil and start jotting stuff down even after angels prophesied his miraculous birth, and wise men bearing gifts appeared out of nowhere, and a celestial light parked over and Mary and Joseph’s abode. Hmmm…”

            Hmm… Maybe because pencils didn’t exist then, LOL. Furthermore, you seem to know almost amazingly little about the ancient conditions if you think someone could just have pulled out a writing utensil and jotted down things about Jesus. In the ancient world, in the time of Jesus, people were extraordinarily poor. Houses were usually built of rocks and a few other materials. The literacy rate was about 5-10%, and in fact, the literacy rate was 3% in ancient Israel, the native land of Christ. Jesus grew up in Nazareth, an obscure fishing town with a population of only a few hundred people — there was probably very, very few people at all literate in Nazareth, close to zero, since only wealthy aristocrats could afford an education. Others would grow up working at an early age and work with their hands (explaining why Jesus was a carpenter). In other words, the ‘opportunity to document Jesus’ childhood’ … simply didn’t exist. And if it did, it would still be almost irrelevant. God help me, if I was Mark I wouldn’t even have considered writing about Jesus’ childhood, I would get right into the ministry. I don’t want to waste my time having to explain this to you, it’s evident you simply don’t know the conditions of the ancient world, and virtually nothing about ancient Israel in specific.

            This comment is already getting long so I’ll just make a few more points before responding. I can go into detail about some of the issues you raise in a later response of mine. Here are a few ending notes;

            -there exists onomastic evidence for both the existence of Abraham and Moses
            -I consider the entire primeval history (Genesis 1-11) figurative, see here for some of the reasons why
            -Tacitus records things that happened decades before Jesus, interesting that mythicists don’t question that but of course he was too late for Jesus
            -Paul doesn’t mention as much as Gospel authors write because he’s writing letters to early churches about the problems they’re facing, not a biography (although he does mention a good amount of things about Jesus, including mentioning his disciples, sometimes by name, and some of the specific things Jesus said)

          • Jim Olsson

            First, let me thank both you and Prof. McGrath for engaging me in this conversation… I really do appreciate the time you’ve both taken to formulate thoughtful replies. I’m happy you’re content with the view that you’re reading a biography, but I will settle for biographical sketch. I get a hazy inkling of the man, Jesus, but these gospels are hardly as long as a Wikipedia article. Furthermore, they are anonymous. You can have faith that they were written by whose name has been added, but they are anonymous. I can tell you who wrote my Twain and Wright Bros. biographies.

            Of course I was being facetious when I used the word pencil, but you get my drift. When an angelic ambassador from the creator of the universe visits you saying you’re going to have an immaculate birth, and then an angel appears to your husband and tells him not to fret… and then the stars rearrange themselves to signify the coming of your baby… maybe you owe it to humanity to record your baby’s progress and your Son’s word as he communes with His father in heaven.

            Now one of the best software programs out there is Google Earth… It has a crude flight simulator in it, but one of my sources of enjoyment is “flying” over various points on the globe. One of my recent flights has been over Nazareth to see the lay of the land. Everyone there will be amused to find out that it was a fishing village back in the day as it is several miles from the Sea of Galilee! I forgive you the mistake as I had the gaffe about Origen and Josephus, and I thank you for the correction. The reason I was flying over Nazareth is because in antiquity, according to the Bible, there was a synagogue there and the rabbis were going to throw Jesus off of a mountain. Ken Humphreys, the mythicist in chief, has pointed out that the modern city of Nazareth is not only not on a mountain, but in a valley! Another point to be made then, is that the rabbis in the synagogue would have had “a pencil and paper” to record the prodigy Jesus’ life and times despite the low literacy rate. Also, modern Nazareth is built over low lying rock-cut tombs which were purportedly very expensive. This could undermine your thought that the village was poor. Who knows… Humphreys contends it wasn’t there at all.

            I pointed out John 21:25 to Jim McG because John says all the books in the world couldn’t contain the stories about all the good things Jesus had done. The Bible really goes out of its way to list, what… one or two dozen of His amazing feats?

            I -HAVE- to get some sleep, but wanted to respond to you… thanks again for being a good sport.

            =Jim=

          • Korus Destroyus

            “these gospels are hardly as long as a Wikipedia article”

            The Gospels are incredibly longer than a Wikipedia article. And anyway, this claim is ridiculously ambiguous to begin with, since as a former Wikipedia editor I know that the lengths of different Wikipedia pages vary greatly. As for the genre of the Gospels, you said you’d settle for “biographical sketch”. But “biographical sketch” isn’t a genre, and so it cannot replace the scholarly consensus on the genre of the Gospels being an ancient biography any less than the Psalms are in the poetic genre.

            As for the Gospels being anonymous, that’s true for Matthew and John, but Mark and Luke were probably written by Mark and Luke. Even then, however, Richard Bauckham has produced a magnitudinous case arguing that the Gospels were transmitted through named, oral traditions from the original witnesses and therefore that we don’t know the specific names of some authors of the Gospels means very little. Besides, what would change if the author of John was named Matthias instead of John? What difference would that make here?

            “Of course I was being facetious when I used the word pencil, but you get my drift. When an angelic ambassador from the creator of the universe visits you saying you’re going to have an immaculate birth, and then an angel appears to your husband and tells him not to fret… and then the stars rearrange themselves to signify the coming of your baby… maybe you owe it to humanity to record your baby’s progress and your Son’s word as he communes with His father in heaven.”

            As I noted earlier, it’s been shown that about 97% of the entire population of Palestine at the time was totally illiterate. Mary and Joseph were probably both illiterate. So, how exactly would they write anything down? If Mary and Joseph wrote all that stuff down, forget about the feeding of the 5,000, that would be the real miracle. You tried to mention that the rabbis would be the ones to do the writing, but i) aristocrats were the literate ones, not rabbis, and ii) which rabbi exactly witnessed the virgin birth as recorded in the Gospels so as to write it down?

            “Ken Humphreys, the mythicist in chief, has pointed out that the modern city of Nazareth is not only not on a mountain, but in a valley!”

            Humphreys has no relevant credentials.

            “pointed out John 21:25 to Jim McG because John says all the books in the world couldn’t contain the stories about all the good things Jesus had done. The Bible really goes out of its way to list, what… one or two dozen of His amazing feats?”

            A bit over three dozen, actually. Also, John is clearly using rhetoric to say “Jesus did a LOT of miracles”.

            I’m also amazingly surprised someone like James McGrath has the time to comment here.

  • Jim Olsson

    Another Lukan imitation:

    1 Kings 17:9-24:
    1. Elijah went to Sarepta.
    2. Elijah saw a widow after approaching the city gate. Her son later becomes sick and dies.
    3. Elijah told the widow, “Give me your son.”
    4. Elijah took the corpse and cried out angrily to God.
    5. The dead son revived and cried out (LXX).
    6. “And he gave him to his mother.”
    7. The widow praised Elijah as “a man of God.”

    Luke 7:11-16:
    1. Jesus went to Nain
    2. Jesus saw a widow’s dead son after approaching the city gate being carried out on a bier.
    3. Jesus told the widow, “Do not weep.”
    4. Jesus took the corpse and spoke directly to him.
    5. The dead son sat up and began to speak.
    6. “And he gave him to his mother.”
    7. The crowd glorified God, calling Jesus “a great prophet.”

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I recommend looking at my article about intertextual echoes and mythicism: http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/2014/03/mcg388024.shtml

      • Jim Olsson

        God was looking down on this planet around the year 100 BC thinking of different ways that He could spread His message, that is, His “Good News” that few will enter through the narrow gate, and many will enter through the wide gate and burn forever in torment. So, He hit upon a plan to give birth to Himself in human form by means of a virgin, and misappropriated one of His previously written verses intended for King Ahaz by having somewhat of a dunce mistranslate it. The stage was thus set for His arrival, except, right off the bat, an evil King named Herod vowed to kill Him when he was born. Fortunately, His human father with two divergent genealogies whisked Him away to Egypt where He stayed until it was safe to return. By then He had turned 12 and was brash enough to ignore Leviticus 20:9 as He disowned his family: “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” he asked the astonished crowd? In spite of His flippancy, He had a penchant for doing good works, and even though He did so many “that if all of them were written down, I suppose not even the world itself would have space for the books that would be written. ” (John 21:25) The ingrates still rejected him. It was such a shame too: In spite of all the blindness curings, broken-bone patchings, leprosy cleanings, demon oustings, and raisings from the dead that He must have performed–trillions of them–if we are to believe John’s aforementioned hyperbolic description–the crowd shouted “Give us the murdering thug Barabbas because we don’t care for this rabbi-slash-miracle-worker-slash-trouble-maker who refuses to let us die from our diverse maladies.” Maybe it was because He looked so foolish trying to ride triumphantly into Jerusalem straddling two donkeys. (We’re relatively sure He was only riding one, but that dunce of a translator struck again!) In any event, this best-attested-to person of the first century C.E. told us that He would be back after He died on the cross while some from [that] generation were still alive. Although there are only a few recalcitrant holdouts left who’ve refused to die this past couple of millennia, they can’t hold on in-perpetuity. So, Pontius Pilate and the Jewish high-court tacked poor Jeezus to the Olde Cross of Glory, and to commemorate His death, the Holy Roman Empire burned hundreds of thousands of live heretics, witches, and Protestants as sort of a 15-century screaming tribute to the Lord. Amen.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          This comment suggests that you either are not interested in the historical question or simply do not know how to make a historical argument. Neither pro-religious apologetics that some other commenters have offered, nor anti-religious mockery of this sort, has any bearing on the questions historians are asking about Jesus.

          • Jim Olsson

            One way or the other, all we are left with is circumstantial evidence for or against Jesus’ being. As a skeptic, then, it is important for me to demonstrate the absurdity of the premise for His existence. Once we can show that zealous gospel writers mistranslated and misappropriated prophecy from other parts of the bible, in this case Isaiah; once we can point out the absurdity of the things He allegedly said; once we can dispel the notion that the Gospel writers were telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; then we can make a strong case that Jesus was made up from whole cloth. The good works of Jesus have been duly recorded in one small book, and if that only represents a tiny fraction of His good works, then a small library would suffice to contain it. John 21:25 tries too hard to sell the Product. The credibility of the witness, which is the Gospels, is what’s at stake here. If the writers were willing to prevaricate here, and exaggerate there, invent this, and lie about that, then why should it come as a surprise that they’d fashion their mythical Jesus on an actual one like Jesus ben Ananias, or someone of a similar ilk. My flippant screed above encapsulates much of this thinking. I wonder, what is the threshold that you think mythicists would need to cross to satisfy you as to the legitimacy of their theory?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            I think mythicists would need to start making historical arguments, and acquaint themselves with ancient literature so as to recognize that the depiction of figures both historical and unhistorical in ways that echo familiar types and literary antecedents is all-pervasive and thus has no bearing on historicity. They should also be aware of the problems I pointed out in the article I linked to, where individuals like Thomas Brodie view the Gospels as composed in a manner that is not attested in what we know from ancient literary practices, and is based on positing very vague and strained connections in many instances. That some stories were probably created wholly to make parallels between, say, Jesus and Moses, or Josephus and Jeremiah, doesn’t mean that everything in texts about them fits that mold.

            In short, the threshold that needs to be crossed is one of taking the matter seriously, knowing the relevant ancient literary context as well as the primary sources in great detail, and using the same secular methods of historical study that are applied in the study of ancient history across the board.