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.

"I did not make them, and found no clear attribution online. Sorry."

For Valentine’s Day
"Did you make these up, or do you know who did? I’m looking for permission ..."

For Valentine’s Day
"I hope to blog more about that topic soon - ASOR had an interesting article ..."

On My Way to Boston for ..."
"Thanks so much! This was indeed an attempt to take notes while in the session. ..."

Liquid Scripture at #AARSBL17

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • 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

            A couple of things to skewer your faith with here… I need to go back a bit to where I left off last night. You said, “I consider the entire primeval history (Genesis 1-11) figurative, see here [reference]…” The problem with that, as I see it, is JESUS BELIEVED IT and used it theologically! If it’s figurative, his theology is just as figurative, no? I can’t use Aesop’s fables as evidence that there really was a boy who cried wolf when “the accepted scholarly opinion” is that Aesop was writing fables!

            Paul, too, uses Genesis to justify telling women to “zip it” in church, “for Adam was formed first, and then Eve… And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman who was deceived and fell into transgression.…” As I see it, if you buy parts of the Bible, you’re stuck with the whole thing.

            This leads to another point in your favor, that is, thinking that Genesis is figurative, although you’re really being too kind. It is RIDICULOUS in the truest spirit of the root word ‘ridicule.’ Here’s Eve with no knowledge of good and evil, and the snake deceives her. How can she be held accountable for her actions? How can she be punished for being beguiled when she had no knowledge of beguilement? This conundrum officially makes “Adam and Eve” a stupid story. But Genesis stays stupid at least through Chapter 30 with the BEYOND-ridiculous story of Jacob and Uncle Laban. Jacob gets his livestock to produce patterns on their hides by throwing patterned sticks in their watering troughs. He doesn’t even pray for the miracle… it just happens. In total, I believe there are 103 references to Genesis in the New Testament (according to Creation dot com.) To invalidate 11 chapters of Genesis will probably have a profound effect on weakening whatever strength of argument the N.T. has.

            Exodus continues the stupid with God punishing the generic “pharaoh” after HE, GOD, hardens Pharaoh’s heart. Talk about a rigged game! But that isn’t all. One of the plagues kills off Egyptian livestock, but just a few verses later Pharaoh chases the Israelites with an army of (presumably) horse-drawn chariots. Leviticus, Numbers, and Doodoo-ronomy continue the stuck-on-stupid motif that characterizes the Old Testament.

            The New Testament’s square trailer hitch is is not really well adapted to pulling Old Testament luggage, but hopefully I can find some time to elaborate on that further.

          • Korus Destroyus

            Jesus believed that Genesis 1-11 was literal? I’ll ask for a couple of references here, and I think there’s strong evidence for a non-literal interpretation (see reference I previously gave). How would you address that evidence? Anyways, there’s no doubt more research is needed on Genesis 1-11 and what it really meant for the New Testament authors. Christian academia is a recent development (it was seriously established in the 1930’s if I’m not mistaken) and it’s advancing vigorously quickly. There are already many good answers to a lot of this stuff but I think a detailed analysis on the entire thing Old and New Testaments (a really big book) is needed to come to a verdict.

            “Here’s Eve with no knowledge of good and evil, and the snake deceives her. How can she be held accountable for her actions?”

            This is an easy one to answer. If you want any hope on challenging Genesis, challenge it’s literalism rather than its meaning, because you’re not going to make any footwork there. God, the creator, the Father of Adam and Eve creates them in a perfect world. He gives them everything. He gives the lonely man a women so he doesn’t feel by himself and so he can be comforted, both through human love and socially and with a wife. There is no disease in the Garden of Eden, no death, nothing, and Adam and Eve live in perfect harmony with themselves and the rest of nature and creation. Human sin isn’t even a thing, and God has given all of this to them, God, as their Father. They know this perfectly well, and they love and trust Him. And out of everything God gives them, He only tells them to do one thing. Don’t eat from the tree. If you really love me, trust me, and follow me, then listen to me and don’t eat from the tree for no other reason than that you love me. And they do it anyways, they fall, because they were convinced by satan that if they eat the tree they could be like God. That’s why they are held accountable for their actions.

            “But Genesis stays stupid at least through Chapter 30 with the BEYOND-ridiculous story of Jacob and Uncle Laban. Jacob gets his livestock to produce patterns on their hides by throwing patterned sticks in their watering troughs. He doesn’t even pray for the miracle… it just happens.”

            What objection is this nonsensical statement exactly making? Chapters 12-50 are not only logical, they’re totally historical as well. The moment the 12th chapter starts, you find yourself with the story of an ancient Middle Eastern man living in his village when he gets a revelation to drop everything he has, leave Ur, his home (a place that existed in the time of Abraham) and travel to an unknown land (Canaan). ‘Abraham’ was also a name in that time period, interestingly, and the types of migration Abraham did in that time was common to his period. When the first jot of the 12th chapter begins, we begin with a vigorously realistic narrative that can be physically grounded into understood history. You’re doing a terrible job, and your arguments against Exodus are so weak as to not merit a response. Anyways, weren’t we talking about the Gospels and that they’re biographies? I guess you conceded that one and that Genesis is the next point of discussion. In light of my comments here, what happens to your arguments?

          • Jim Olsson

            “Jesus believed that Genesis 1-11 was literal? I’ll ask for a couple of references here…”

            Really. On the one hand you want the Bible to be the Word of God, but on the other you’re unwilling to accept that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Your contention must be that when Jesus was inspiring Moses to write what he did that he was writing in parables. That’s interesting. You’re a sucker for listening to scholars, I’m surprised you don’t place more faith in all the PhD’s wandering the halls at the Kolbe Center or at Creation Ministries International. This page makes a cogent* argument for the literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11: https://creation.com/genesis-new-testament

            * (insofar as anything in Christianity can be considered ‘cogent thought’)

            “…they do it anyways, they fall, because they were convinced by Satan that if they eat [from] the tree they could be like God. That’s why they are held accountable for their actions.”

            That gibberish is wholly insufficient. Until Eve eats from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil she can have no understanding of the gravity and consequences implicit with disobedience. Had the story been that they had regularly dined on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and THEN God told them not to partake from some other tree, NOW with full understanding of the wrongness of disobedience she consumes fruit from the other tree, THEN we’d have a story worth telling. But the headline of the day in 4004 BC was this: “Woman With No Understanding of Sin, Sins Anyway.”

            ” Christian academia is a recent development (it was seriously established in the 1930’s if I’m not mistaken)”

            You are indeed correct. All the early church fathers, popes, cardinals, bishops, saints, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas à Kempis, Wesley, Knox, Spinoza, Zwingli, Hume, Kant, etc. were just philosophical/theological hacks and bumpkins… not really people we’d consider academics.

            You ask, “What objection is this nonsensical statement exactly making?”

            The significance of the story of Uncle Laban screwing Jabob out of his prized striped and polka-dotted cattle, and, especially the method Jacob determines to correct the situation is utterly and completely laughable. It makes the most farfetched stories of Zeus, Thor, and Zalmoxis seem reasonable!

            “…your arguments against Exodus are so weak as to not merit a response.”

            OK, I’ll buy that. How about the arguments of archaeologist William Dever who is Professor Emeritus at University of Arizona, or better yet, Israeli archaeologist/professors Ze’ev Herzog and Israel Finkelstein from the University of Tel Aviv? If they said Exodus was bogus, would you believe them? They state the case so much better than me!

            “Anyways, weren’t we talking about the Gospels and that they’re biographies?” <–(How about just 'Anyway'?)

            Yes we are, and the simple point that I'm making which you're failing to grasp is that Jesus is ultimately the author of Genesis. Jesus is the Word purportedly made manifest through Moses, but which we know now is actually four or five authors of a later date… pardon me if I appeal to another PhD-level author Dr. Steven DeMattei who hosts contradictionsinthebible.com — an excellent site to help resolve the Bible's many apparent contradictions. At least a few of the principal webpages' there have menu bars where you can read about the Yahwist author, the Elohist, the Deuteronomist, and the Priestly writers. Some later editor apparently collects manuscripts from these various authors and writes the amalgamated Book of Genesis.

            SUMMARY:

            If Genesis is fable, then Jesus and the New Testament authors who promote this fable as fact, are fakes. They are not prophets, not inspired writers, not Sons of God, not God himself, nor any combination of the above. Genesis reads like fables read, in fact, much of the New Testament reads like fables read. I was reading the account of the Last Supper earlier, and the Gospel writer is telling me that "The evening meal was underway, and the devil had already put into the heart of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus." If I am an author writing about Richard Nixon, how would I know whether or not the devil tempted him to cover up the bugging of the DNC headquarters? If I was convinced that the devil made him do it, how could I be certain when he had tempted him… after breakfast? before lunch? during a phone call to Spiro Agnew? Only if I'm writing fiction would I be able to make such an assertion.

            So, the New Testament rests on the veracity of the Old Testament. It seems to me that the Kolbe Center, the CMI folks, the Young-Earth Creationists, and anyone else who's wholly convinced Genesis is absolutely true in it minutest details, are the only respectable debaters from the Judeo-Christian side.

            BTW, what I'm really here to defend is the notion that Jesus never existed as a person. The actual biography vs. biographical sketch argument was just an offshoot of that central issue. There is no single smoking- gun argument which proves it, just an arsenal of still-warm barrels which suggest it.

          • Korus Destroyus

            “Really. On the one hand you want the Bible to be the Word of God, but on the other you’re unwilling to accept that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Your contention must be that when Jesus was inspiring Moses to write what he did that he was writing in parables. That’s interesting. You’re a sucker for listening to scholars, I’m surprised you don’t place more faith in all the PhD’s wandering the halls at the Kolbe Center or at Creation Ministries International. This page makes a cogent* argument for the literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11: https://creation.com/genesi…”

            God help me, you’re a really annoying twat. Dealing with you is a serious bother if you’re going to throw a temper tantrum when I ask you “can I get some references to Jesus accepting a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11?” The link isn’t very convincing either to someone who wants to argue Genesis 1-11 is literal. As I said before, this question would require a book-length discussion to seriously hammer at, and for all practical purposes, neither you and I are even remotely literate on the literature on Genesis.

            “That gibberish is wholly insufficient. Until Eve eats from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil she can have no understanding of the gravity and consequences implicit with disobedience.”

            If you seriously want to waste my time with your emotional insults, it’s best not to have a conversation with you at all until you can cough up a bit of respect for someone willing to take the time to correct your misunderstandings. Go re-read my previous explanation. Eve doesn’t know what good is or evil is, but she does know God is her absolute authority and that she should not disobey Him. Indeed, Eve’s awareness of this is clearly demonstrated when Satan first tries to get her to eat from the tree;

            Genesis 3:2-3: The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’”

            In my understanding, you took yourself to a very simplistic and naive understanding of Genesis 2 so as to think that Eve wholly understood absolutely nothing about authority, obedience, etc, etc, when in reality she simply didn’t know the actual essence of good and evil and clearly, as we can see from Genesis 3:2-3, did understand that God was an authority and that He should be obeyed. Furthermore, Eve at from the fruit because Satan told her and Adam that they could be “like gods” if they did so, thus, Eve had a desire to become more than she was, to have more then what God gave her, which was everything she would really ever need. She wanted to transcend God because of her pride, just like Satan does. Also — I think we need to be more careful about what it means to not know “good and evil” in the Book of Genesis and its symbolism.

            Sidepoint: I noted serious Christian academia started in the 1930’s and then you cite some non-academic Christians like some popes, but also some academic Christians. But I didn’t say Christian academics didn’t exist, I meant Christian academia which is different. I don’t have time to fully explain this one so read more here:
            http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-revolution-in-anglo-american-philosophy

            This link only explains the renaissence of Christianity in philosophy in specific, which began in the 60’s or 70’s, but I’d say I can track Christian academia itself to the 30’s when it comes to ancient history and the Bible.

            “OK, I’ll buy that. How about the arguments of archaeologist William Dever who is Professor Emeritus at University of Arizona, or better yet, Israeli archaeologist/professors Ze’ev Herzog and Israel Finkelstein from the University of Tel Aviv? If they said Exodus was bogus, would you believe them? They state the case so much better than me!”

            Definitely, those people are definitely worth discussing. Yet the majority of egyptologists still think the exodus happened and Dever and Finkelstein’s hypotheses aren’t the only ones around. If you want to read through a very good historical case for the exodus that will surely change around your views and convince you that the Hebrews were once in Egypt as slaves and migrated to Israel in an exodus, which is a totally historical and non-supernatural claim, then you have two great links to read (the second one is a study).
            https://mosaicmagazine.com/essay/2015/03/was-there-an-exodus/
            https://www.bibleinterp.com/PDFs/Noonan.pdf

            It’s a very compelling case. Anyways, you get into the documentary hypothesis. I’m not necessarily sure if I accept it, the case for the theory is much, much more compelling to me now then say two months ago, but I think a specific point can be made here, and that is this. The Pentateuch doesn’t claim Moses is its author, in fact if we take the Pentateuch’s word then Moses is not its author at all. That link right there is the most important one you’ll get your hands on from this comment. Moses wrote the torah, which more or less some form of Deuteronomy (not the exact one we have) which I do think he wrote and that the torah of Moses served as a baseline for the composition of our Deuteronomy, if not the rest of the Pentateuch (wherever that came from). Anyways this is another part of biblical scholarship that is uncertain for me, but I just simply think you have read very little scholarship (certainly you are not on any shortage of internet posts) and come to too grand conclusions. You go on to say the only respectable defenders of Christianity are some form of young-earthers. I guess I’ll just let this comment stand on its own and it’ll collapse under its own weight.

            “BTW, what I’m really here to defend is the notion that Jesus never existed as a person. The actual biography vs. biographical sketch argument was just an offshoot of that central issue. There is no single smoking- gun argument which proves it, just an arsenal of still-warm barrels which suggest it.”

            And a terribly unsuccessful offshoot as I have shown. If Jesus didn’t exist, Christianity couldn’t even have emerged — we have sources for Jesus, the pre-Pauline creeds, that date to within a few years if not months of the crucifixion of Jesus (such as 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, Romans 10:9, Phillipians 2:6-11 etc), and we even have Aramaic traditions in the Gospels. That is to say, we have traditions about Jesus that originated in the early 30’s in an Aramaic speaking community in Palestine. That’s the smoking gun right there, and I have several other smoking guns which have convinced pretty much every serious scholar to ever live that has discussed the issue of Jesus’ existence.

          • Jim Olsson

            Work / commute hours are a bi*ch… I really am trying to get to your links but haven’t been able to do so yet.

          • Jim Olsson

            BTW, here’s a video you might like 😉 http://oyc.yale.edu/religious-studies/rlst-152/lecture-6

          • Korus Destroyus

            As for this video right here, I’m not sure but I think that lecturer is Dale Martin. Dale I think is a bit misleading, he says that the Gospels aren’t “modern biographies”. Do you know who agrees with that? Richard Burrdige, the man who single handedly convinced academia that the Gospels fall under the genre of ancient biography. The genre of ancient biography is different from the modern understanding of what a biography is, in the sense that ancients were more free in how they used their sources and their use of literary compositional devices. In a nutshell, they aren’t as rigorous. I don’t think Martin is trying to trick anyone, but he’s definitely not addressing what needs to be addressed if he’s trying to address that the Gospels are ancient biographies.

          • Jim Olsson

            >>> “Do you know who agrees with that? Richard Burrdige [sic], the man who single handedly convinced academia that the Gospels fall under the genre of ancient biography. <<<

            Well, it sounds like the bulk of academia was very unconvinced that the Gospels qualified as bios until Burridge came along. Apparently Burridge had to draw a distinction between modern and ancient biographies. I am a person of the modern world and recognized at once that the Gospels were not biographies according to my understanding of what is commonly contained in biographies. I would say the same thing if Plato were writing about Socrates, or any historian were writing about any subject in such a sketchy manner. That Burridge feels compelled to define what constitutes an ancient biography vs. a modern one is fine by me.

          • Korus Destroyus

            “Well, it sounds like the bulk of academia was very unconvinced that the Gospels qualified as bios until Burridge came along. Apparently Burridge had to draw a distinction between modern and ancient biographies. I am a person of the modern world and recognized at once that the Gospels were not biographies according to my understanding of what is commonly contained in biographies. I would say the same thing if Plato were writing about Socrates, or any historian were writing about any subject in such a sketchy manner. That Burridge feels compelled to define what constitutes an ancient biography vs. a modern one is fine by me.”

            Err, OK. But that’s what all scholars have been doing since the guidelines for composing a biography today aren’t the same as they were back then. Anyways, all scholars make the distinction between ancient biography and modern biography (otherwise no ancient work would qualify as a biography). So, the Gospels are Graeco-Roman biographies.

            Anyways I’ll wait to see when you can get to the rest of my comment.

          • Jim Olsson

            FYI… I listened to the Wikipedia article on James K. Polk on the way to work today (I commute 58 miles.) Out of curiosity I dumped the text into word… I think it said 11,459 words. According to http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/NT-Statistics-Greek.htm the book of Mark has 11,304… just sayin’ 😉

  • 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.