12 Reasons Why Jesus Is a Legend (3 of 3)

12 Reasons Why Jesus Is a Legend (3 of 3) August 10, 2015

C. S. Lewis made the claim that Jesus had to be a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord, though he overlooked the obvious category, a legend. Let’s continue the list of twelve possible Christian rebuttals to the legend hypothesis.

You may want to read the introductory post and part 1 of this list.

Jesus legend

9. The gospels were written by (or perhaps were one step removed from) eyewitnesses. And don’t you think that the sight of something as remarkable as the risen Christ would be seared almost flawlessly into someone’s memory? That memory wouldn’t fade in a few decades.

This is a poor analogy. In the first place, we start with the fact that we have the gospel story and work backwards to find the most plausible explanation; we don’t start with the assumption that Jesus rose from the dead and sift facts to support it.

We have no good reason to imagine that the gospels were written by eyewitnesses. The legends behind this claim are flimsy.

As for the accuracy of memory, I might give you an enthusiastic and detailed account of my wedding day and then my wife might give you a different account (“No, it was your Uncle Jim, not my Uncle Ralph, who spilled the punch”). There’s a big difference between confidence and accuracy. We’ve probably all been embarrassed after confidently stating a recollection only to discover later that we were wrong. (More on the fallibility of memory here and here.)

Besides, you will declare any supernatural event in my wedding story to be a false recollection! (“No, really—we ran out of wine but some guy made some out of water and saved the day.”) Why give a pass to a story from 2000 years ago that you would reject if it happened yesterday?

10. You underestimate the memory skills of the ancients. They were trained for this. Think of Homer and other poets who flawlessly retold the Iliad from memory.

Was flawless repeatability even the goal for these poets or would they adapt the tale to the audience? (I’ve written more on that here.)

More importantly, there’s no evidence that early Christians were cautioned to avoid repeating the gospel until they could repeat the entire thing perfectly. If the point of the Jesus story is that the Messiah has come, who cares about the details? For passing along the gospel story in the early decades before it was written, the gossip fence is a better analogy than Homer.

11. If Jesus rose from the dead and the apostles witnessed and faithfully passed on the story, they did the best that they could. What more could you expect? It was preserved in short order with writing, the most advanced technology they had. Don’t criticize first-century Christians for not having cameras.

Let’s accept that the documentation we have of the Jesus story is pretty good, considering. How does that help provide adequate evidence to support Christianity’s enormous claim? I care nothing for the fact that providing adequate evidence is really hard—without it, the atheist isn’t justified in accepting the claim. In fact, neither is the Christian.

No Christian lets the believer from another religion get away with insufficient evidence, and rightly so. Christianity must meet the same burden.

12. You’re biased against the supernatural.

And you’re not? If you heard of miracles attributed to Ganesh (a Hindu god) or Hachiman (Shinto) or Sumatinatha (Jain), would you accept that as readily as who won Sunday’s football game?

The facts that we start with are the text of the gospels and the historians’ evaluation of the quality of that evidence. We must find the best explanation for this. We don’t start with a Christian presupposition. That the gospels are legend is quite plausible given how we see stories evolve in our own experience.

What’s the likelihood that Odysseus met a Cyclops, Beowulf killed Grendel, or Jesus returned from the dead? Pretty much zero. The gospel story is as absurd as the moon being made of green cheese.

Men … think in herds;
it will be seen that they go mad in herds,
while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.
— Charles Mackay,
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841)

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 12/1/12.)

Image credit: Wonderlane, flickr, CC

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  • MNb

    The analogy of Homeros shows actually exactly the opposite of what the apologist wants to argue. Homeros wrote the stories down around 800 BCE; the Trojan war is often set 400 years earlier. If anything archeological evidence shows that the stories may have a historical core indeed, but that it’s buried in legend. How come? Four centuries of oral tradition. And of course no christian accepts the supernatural elements, like the Greek goddesses quarrelling who of them is the most beautiful.

    • wtfwjtd

      Mankind, it seems, loves tall tales, whether it be a king battling a cyclops, a god-man walking on water, or a giant Sasquatch lurking in the woods, always just behind a screen of trees. It’s also interesting, as diverse and pervasive across cultures as these fantastical tales are, that nearly always, there is a grain of truth hidden somewhere at the stories’ core. People love a great story, and will start embellishing a mundane tale almost immediately in pursuit of something that they find more exciting. But still, that grain of truth nearly always remains.

      • Brian

        That really depends on what you qualify as a grain of truth, and if you mean it in a meaningful sense.

        • TheNuszAbides

          this! as far as i [admittedly, a dilettante academically] can see, the stand-out common elements across mythologies are (a) references to real-world geography, (b) ethnic exceptionalism, and (c) epic variants of Great Man theory punctuated with the “in some ways, gods are just like us” trope; beyond that (okay, not really ‘beyond’ (b)) it’s just one more method of pushing emotional buttons on behalf of the social order, with an occupational appeal for whatever mindsets are encouraged or tolerated within it.

        • There are important differences between the academic understanding of “myth” and “legend” (in particular, myths have more of a god focus than legends, and legends are more precisely placed in history), but I think this works.

          (Just an aside.)

        • TheNuszAbides

          oops, yes. there goes my fuzzy filter again!

      • TheNuszAbides

        there’s a grain of truth at the core of the most outlandish conspiracy narratives, too. i think it’s more human than it is fascinating. 😉

  • katiehippie

    I would say that the religious are biased toward lots of supernatural things. My anecdote is a woman I met who goes to church every Sunday and believes her house has a ghost cat that jumps on her bed. I would have liked to see how high my eyebrows were raised up when she was telling me this.

    • Brian

      There are lots of supernatural claims they’re biased toward, indeed, if they’re congruous with things they already believe. They’re also biased against lots of supernatural claims if they’re incongruous with things they believe.

      Ghost sightings might be generally considered as being congruous, but the stories of supernatural deeds attributed to pagan sources, or to Shiva, would be things they’re likely primed to be against.

    • Karen the rock whisperer

      I have a ghost cat who jumps on my bed. Oh, I know Odetta is compost now, and it really is my imagination. But strange notions seem very real in the dark of the night. If I didn’t have some distrust of my own brain, I might actually believe in Odetta-ghost-cat. And I certainly don’t believe in deities.

  • Kermit Freehand

    My Southern Baptist relatives would have no trouble accepting supernatural claims from other cultures. They would simply interpret the miracle from Ganesh as a feat performed by a demon. The other gods are all real; but they are really fallen angels. (Just ask Pat Robertson.) These stories would be claimed as evidential affirmation of their religious beliefs. (“And that poor Indian fellow who talked to this elephant headed demon? He’s still a Heathen Hindu to this very day!”)

    • MNb

      Same question for you. Do they accept the story of Orpheus crossing the Hadis, descending into the underworld and meeting his beloved Eurydice as historical?

  • King Dave

    Great three part article Bob:
    The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence
    It is safe to say the so called legend of Jesus is unlike most other legends. The gospels are a bit more profound than pop culture show like Finding Bigfoot, and Ancient Aliens, who I understand have a large atheist fan base? There are approximately 2 billion Christians at this moment and 250,000 regular viewers of Finding Bigfoot. In otherwords, very few people are still true believers of Zeus.

    Many legends are based on a spec of truth.

    It is interesting to note also some legends scoffed at by academia, turn out to be true. Take for example the Giants Squid, a sea monster. The Giant Squid was a legend, a myth, a lie, until it wasn’t.
    The writting of the New Testament isn’t as far from the supposed Jesus events as capitalized and dramatized in your article. Paul’s letters and their authenticity is generally undisputed and their origins are around 50 Ad. Paul acknowledges the existence of Christians, as they are by definition followers of someone they believed to be a prophet in the flesh rather than legendary.

    The concensus for the first gospel is 70Ad. Due to undisputed Christian persecution by the Romans, it seems probable this would have been a good time for any witnesses to have their testimony written, before it was too late.

    As for Matthew being written outside of Jerusalem, this makes sense as Jerusalem was destroyed just prior, as well as many Christians lives, these factors causing a refugee crisis. A crisis we still see today driven by religious persecution in Syria, and Africa. While today in Islamic nations, Christians are routinely beheaded, crucified or both, along with Muslim apostates, heretics and unbelievers. An analogy, the mice didn’t go to the cat, the cat came to them. Many of those victims refuse to convert to Islam in order to spare their lives, however so do.

    The entire topic is speculative and inconclusive either way.

    • Greg G.

      Barely half of the letters attributed to Paul are thought to be authentic. The Pastorals are generally thought to be second century forgeries. Ephesians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians are doubtful. Some reserve judgement on Philemon because there is so little to go on.

      Christian persecution is also disputed. Trajan’s response to Pliny about what to do about Christians in court shows they weren’t very interested in punishing them. There was apparently a law that anticipated Pascal’s Wager taken to its logical conclusion: a person had to honor all gods but the Christians refused.

      • busterggi

        If Christian ‘persecution’ today in the US is considered then why think ‘persecution’ two thousand years ago was any worse? Anytime a Christian today is disagreed with they scream persecution.

        • Greg G.

          I know! One Christian said he was being persecuted because we disagreed about me feeding him to a lion. We still do that, right? Or maybe he was complaining about gay marriage. It was hard to tell.

      • King Dave

        “Barely half of the letters attributed to Paul are thought to be authentic.” – Greg

        Yes, I have read Paul’s Wikipedia page as well. However you left out that many of the Paul letters in dispute is not a question of authenticity but who actually wrote them. The consensus is that they were dictated by Paul to scribes and or first hand accounts from Paul followers with his authority.

        Again, my argument is not that Jesus was a prophet but merely the Biblical account of his life is based on a person fitting the criteria enough to fool perhaps credulous citizens.

        Paul’s convincing circumstantial evidence of the existence of Christians as late as 15 years after Jesus’ supposed death is pretty good evidence suggesting there was at least someone fitting the story’s description. To what extent is unknown. Could be a lot, or very little.

        Add to this the Roman Historian Tacitus’ confirmation of a sizeable Christian population in 60Ad Jerusalem, plus his confirmation of the persecution of Christians by nero at that time, and that makes for an obstacle only the most strident Jesus Mythers could overcome to the envy of climate change deniers everywhere.

        This established far before Christianity became the offical religion of Rome. Many atheists claim Christianity was invented to control the population, but reliably never mentioning how or why. Take Islam, a religion in direct conflict with every form of government beyond Sharia, Islamic law.

        These are reasons why most scholars and historians agree that Jesus isn’t a complete fabrication.
        I realize my contrary comments on this atheist blog will be as unpopular as science on a creationists blog…

        • Greg G.

          Some allow that Ephesians and Colossians were written by a scribe of Paul. I am open to that. But the Pastorals and 2 Thessalonians are clearly forged 2 Thessalonians falls because it appears to be designed to evade second century forgery detection techniques. There some passages in 1 Corinthians that are probably interpolations from the Pastoralists.

          Paul doesn’t really say there was a recent Jesus. You have to read the gospels into Paul to get that.

          The only parts of the gospels you can take as being about a historical Jesus is what you assume is true. I have been looking closely and it all looks fictional.

          Yes, there were Christians in the first century. It is a question of what they believed. Tacitus may have known what the post-gospel Christians believed but he wouldn’t know what they believed in Nero’s time. Christian belief was diverse in Tacitus’ time.

          Did you see the vigorous debate we had recently? Some accept that Jesus was real and some don’t. We are often told that there are reasons that historians and scholars think there was a Jesus but nobody can identify them.

        • King Dave

          Tacitus acknowledges the existence of Christians around 60AD. This would be 20 years prior the the first written gospel. It is also merely 27 years after the reported death of the so called Christ.
          You seem to be suggesting Greg G, that the author of the gospel of Matthew in 80AD, despite believing Christians already in existence, was still able to concoct an entire whole cloth fabrication of Jesus, fooling every Christian that we are confident were there, and could potentially refute any inaccurate claims?
          To answer that, one must conclude the author was unable to do that, and simply used the story in existence and future texts were embellished from there.

          I understand no one is certain what these 1st century Christians believed, but the Jesus Mythers have to invent a scenario to dispute their uncertain beliefs with even less supporting evidence, if that is even possible.

          It was quite possibly that Jesus was influenced by previous prophets such as Osiris and others Egyptian deities rather than the authors of the gospels simply borrowing from them.
          A lot of legends are dismissed entirely because of these reasons, has not been the case with the bible when it come to Jesus being based on a real person. To dismiss all possibilities in order to conclude ones hypotheses is bias and disingenuous.

          It is interesting that the earliest fragments of the gospels are very accurate to the King James version of today.

          Everything certainly points to Jesus being slightly more than legendary.

          This comment is also to everyone who has responded to my original post. I am sorry if I missed some questions, and others I don’t feel the need to change anyones opinion.
          Thanks, and also advance.

        • Otto

          There are Jesus Myth scholars who have presented a very plausible argument and it deals directly with the Pauline letters etc. I would point to Robert Price, Richard Carrier and a few others. They have done their homework, whether people agree with their arguments or not.

          They don’t argue that Jesus was definitely a myth…just that there isn’t any corroborating evidence to show he was based on a real person.

          And they don’t buy into the idea that Christianity was a Roman invention…I think that is far fetched.

        • Greg G.

          Tacitus acknowledges the existence of Christians around 60AD. This would be 20 years prior the the first written gospel. It is also merely 27 years after the reported death of the so called Christ.

          You seem to be suggesting Greg G, that the author of the gospel of Matthew in 80AD, despite believing Christians already in existence, was still able to concoct an entire whole cloth fabrication of Jesus, fooling every Christian that we are confident were there, and could potentially refute any inaccurate claims?

          “Christ” is Greek for “Messiah” which is Hebrew for “anointed one”, which is some one with an oily head which was considered a royal thing. There were sects of Jews that were expecting the Messiah at least as far back as the Hasmonean era in the 2nd century BC. Like most any other Rature-expecting Christian, they thought the Messiah would come during their generation. Some go as far as Harold Camping. I think the proto-Christians were Camping-like who were hoping for the Messiah to come in their generation. Instead of cherry-picking numbers to add up like Camping, they read the Suffering Servant songs in Isaiah as having hidden messages about a real person. The Suffering Servant songs are allegorical about the nation of Israel but it is told as if it was a person who suffered, died for sins of the people, and other verses suggested he was resurrected. 1 Corinthians 15:5 seems to suggest Cephas was the first to see this allegorical person as a kernel of truth about a real person that was hidden in the scriptures. Since the mystery was revealed to their generation, they thought it followed, in their logic, that the Messiah would come in their lifetimes.

          Paul read the verses that mention “the nations” and concluded that it meant the Messiah would take all believers and not just the circumcized. Paul seems to have come up with the crucifixion idea on his own because the non-Pauline epistles don’t say much about it. I think Hebrews has “crucify” once and “cross” once.

          Paul explains the crucifixion in Galatians 3:6-14. He had spent the previous two chapters making himself out to be a humble servant and spoke of James and Cephas with sarcasm and disdain. It weems pretty obvious that his rhetorical question at the beginning of Galatians 3 about who had bewitched them was James and Cephas, who had argued against the crucifixion.

          They saw their Jesus character in their ancient scriptures the same way modern people see a Jesus scripture in the gospels.

          So the proto-Christians were on the scene. The name doesn’t refer to the person they thought died in or before Isaiah’s time, but the Messiah he was to come. So the name “Christians” wouldn’t apply to a Jesus who lived if they didn’t think he was the Christ then. It would only be used for when he came in glory.

          The term “Christian” doesn’t appear in Christian literature until the early second century, so Tacitus might be mis-applying the word to the “Chrestus” people, or he may have got it right. But how would he be able to work out exactly what they believed? The Christians in the 60s would have been OT and epistle reading Christians expecting the Messiah to bring the new kingdom at any time, but not the gospel reading Christians of Tacitus’ time.

          Mark seems to have written his story as an allegory, putting the Suffering Servant allegorical character in a new light in the early first century. Some think there is a kernel of truth in it just like the proto-Christians thought was in Isaiah.

          Those who date Matthew before 90 AD, seem to do it for theological reasons rather than historical reasons. I think Matthew was written no earlier than the mid-90s because the nativity story seems to rely on Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews II and XVII, which are thought to have come out around the mid-90s. If Matthew could be shown to be earlier, then I think one would have to make AJ earlier. Matthew would not have invented Jesus whole cloth because he stole 90% of Mark, about half of that verbatim. The changes and omissions look to be theological alterations, not for historical corrections.

          To answer that, one must conclude the author was unable to do that, and simply used the story in existence and future texts were embellished from there.

          No, Mark used a chiastic structure to model the story on Greek literature using the Greek art of mimesis and artfully blending Hebrew scripture into it while basing it on Paul’s letters, mostly Galatians, where Paul mentions Cephas, James and John who were the main characters in Mark’s gospel after Jesus. Cephas, or Peter as Mark called him, was portrayed in Galatians as caving in to authority. Mark has him talking big to Jesus but caving in even to a slave girl and denying Jesus. Paul calls the three”esteemed pillars” and James and John ask Jesus to sit on either hand when he comes in glory in Mark. Mark exaggerates Paul’s characterization of them. If they had a “faction”, they were organized, which would imply that they were educated, not the illiterate fisherman Mark makes them them. Jesus travels around the Sea of Galilee much like Odysseus in The Odyssey traveled around the Mediterranean, much like Paul, according to his letters.

          New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash by Robert M. Price combines the work of several scholars who have identified probable sources for Mark’s material. The scholars eached worked independently but when set side-by-side, there is not much left that could be from “oral traditions”.

          I understand no one is certain what these 1st century Christians believed, but the Jesus Mythers have to invent a scenario to dispute their uncertain beliefs with even less supporting evidence, if that is even possible.

          Not really. One only has to start reading the early epistles for what they say without reading the gospels into them. When you see that the gospels are based on other sources, it is easier to not take them seriously.

          It was quite possibly that Jesus was influenced by previous prophets such as Osiris and others Egyptian deities rather than the authors of the gospels simply borrowing from them.

          The early epistles don’t support anything like that. John may have taken an Osiris story that was transliterated to Hebrew and then transliterated to Greek for the Lazarus story. The proto-Christians might have been influenced by Philo in Alexandria in Egypt but his ideas seem to come from the Greeks.

          A lot of legends are dismissed entirely because of these reasons, has not been the case with the bible when it come to Jesus being based on a real person. To dismiss all possibilities in order to conclude ones hypotheses is bias and disingenuous.

          I think two thousand years of making excuses to belive in a historical Jesus for theological reasons has left a big impression in the field. I think reading the gospels into the epistles is bias and disingenuous.

          It is interesting that the earliest fragments of the gospels are very accurate to the King James version of today.

          I don’t know what you mean. Did the translators of the fragments just make it sound like the KJV so people would recognize them more easily? The KJV isn’t a very good translation.

          Everything certainly points to Jesus being slightly more than legendary.

          Yes, except for the extra-biblical evidence that is too late and seems to be influenced directly or indirectly by the gospels. Oh, and the gospels themselves where the stories are influenced by the greatest fictional tales of all-time, but not influenced oral traditions about a first century person. Which leaves only the epistles where everything they say about Jesus is either about a sky god or the information comes from centuries old scripture. So there is absolutely nothing that points to Jesus.

        • MNb

          “Tacitus acknowledges the existence of Christians around 60AD.”
          Tacitus was born in 56 CE, so that would be quite an achievement.
          He wrote his Annals, in which the christians were mentioned, in 116 CE. That’s not a problem; the problem is that he apparently got his information from local christian communities, who in oral or written form very likely had access to the Gospels. That means he’s not an independent source and cannot be used to decide between a historical and mythological Jesus.

        • King Dave

          I agree Tacitus is not reliable in providing Jesus was real rather than imagined as there are few historians proir to Roman influence on Christianity.
          I would rather hear you explain why Tacitus didn’t claim Jesus was a myth or these Christians were fallowing a myth or even a false prophet. Why vertically no historian doubts the validity of the Christian beliefs that their prophet was of flesh.
          These early claims of Jesus mythology are non existent outside of the bible.
          Why is that in your opinion?

        • adam

          “I agree Tacitus is not reliable in providing Jesus was real rather than imagined”

          Then why DISHONESTLY presenting Tacitus as a demonstrate then?

          “”Tacitus acknowledges the existence of Christians around 60AD.”
          “Tacitus was born in 56 CE, so that would be quite an achievement.”

          “as there are few historians proir to Roman influence on Christianity. ”

          Sorry, but this looks like another dishonest attempt

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1c4ef347bfeac030b9eea052af06ad679411c098f99990006fdec013bc884d3f.jpg

        • Otto

          Contemporary historical accounts of Jesus are also non existent outside of the Bible. Later historical accounts deal with the fact that there are Christians but do not deal with a historical person. That is an odd quandary for a historicist. There is nothing that I know of historically that can tie the NT accounts of Jesus to any real person.

        • Greg G.

          I would rather hear you explain why Tacitus didn’t claim Jesus was a myth or these Christians were fallowing a myth or even a false prophet. Why vertically no historian doubts the validity of the Christian beliefs that their prophet was of flesh.

          Tacitus calls it a “a most mischievous superstition.”

          Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.

          How would Tacitus know? We wouldn’t expect him to go through 80 year old scrolls about everyone Pilate executed to rule out that he never crucified anybody named Christ.

          These early claims of Jesus mythology are non existent outside of the bible.

          There are indications in the Bible that the authors were responding to that claim:

          2 Peter 1:16 (NRSV)16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.

          John 21:24 (NRSV)24 This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true.

          Celsus was an early opponent of Christianity. Origen wrote Contra Celsus to refute him.

          Minucius Felix, a second or third century Christian, in Octavius, defended against the idea that they worshiped a crucified person:

          For in that you attribute to our religion the worship of a criminal and his cross, you wander far from the neighbourhood of the truth, in thinking either that a criminal deserved, or that an earthly being was able, to be believed God.”

          Also, remember that there will be a bias toward positive writings about Christianity as it was the church that preserved the writings we have recieved. We have Contra Celsus but not Celsus’ own writing, for example.

        • Pofarmer

          One of Celsius complaints was that Christians for modifying their holy book in response to criticism.

        • King Dave

          Thanks for the info. I am going to read up on the valuable information you provided and adjust my arguments in the future. I also did say “virtually” no historians, although auto typing put “vertically.”
          I does not appear Tacitus is dismissing Jesus of flesh.

          But I want to make it clear I would agree with Tacitus that the Christian beliefs are superstitious.
          ***But that’s clearly different than suggesting Jesus was fictitious and not of flesh.***
          I not positive but I believe most that Jews in the first centurty reject ed Jesus as a Messiah, but not that he is fictional just a false prophet. Muslims also reject Jesus as the son of god, but not as a prophet of flesh.
          My thesis does not required me to believe Jesus was a god, a prophet or a miracle worker, but simply the gospels are based on a single man. The inconsistencies can be arguably explained by different personal experiences between different clans.
          Any thoughts on this post?

        • Otto

          If the Jews accept Jesus as a Prophet why didn’t any Jewish historian take notice of him when he was supposedly alive? Or any historian? Or anybody who could write?

          I just don’t see where any writing about Jesus can be tied to some flesh and blood person. Maybe a person existed but the Bible is so obviously off base I am not sure it is even fair to say there is a connection since none seems to exist except as pure speculation.

        • MR

          not that he is fictional just a false prophet.

          Whom do you consider a true prophet?

        • Greg G.

          Warren Buffett. Oh, you said “prophet”, not “profit”. Never mind.

        • Greg G.

          Tacitus was born after the middle of the first century. Most, if not all, of Paul’s epistles were already written by then. Jerusalem was destroyed before he likely would have developed an interest in distant religions. By the time he was ready to investigate anything like that, a person who was dead for decades would only come from rumors, writings, rumors about writings, or writings about rumors. Tacitus normally cites his sources but doesn’t say how he knows about Christian beliefs. All Tacitus seems to know comes from Christians who read the gospels.

          Where does the Jewish literature mention Jesus? I think there are some second century writings that think Jesus was a first century BC person. The second century Jews wouldn’t have any more information about a first century Jesus than anybody else.

          The Muslims are way too late to know about Jesus. Their evidence is the same as everybody else’s.

          My thoughts are that you should first consider the evidence that the Jesus story was made up. If it looks like it was totally made up, then consider whether there is any evidence to refute it.

          Read the early epistles and see what they actually say about an earthly Jesus. Paul’s Sources about Jesus is a post that shows everything Paul said in his least disputed epistles about an earthly Jesus, cites the verse, and gives some Old Testament verses where Paul may have got the information. Some are verses Paul quotes. You can do the same with every other early epistle (which excludes the Pastorals and 2 Peter).

          Then see New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash by Robert M. Price to see where the basis of the gospels comes from.

          That shows that everything we think we know about Jesus comes from material that was actually about someone else, some of whom were also fictional characters.

        • Pofarmer

          “as there are few historians proir to Roman influence on Christianity.” Unfortunately also wrong. I’m reminded of a Reagan quote I’m going to butcher. It’s not that our Christian friends are wrong, it’s just that they know things that aren’t so.

        • “The trouble with our Liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.” –

        • Ignorant Amos

          Tacitus recorded that the group that bore the brunt of Nero’s condemnation were the Christians and he details all sorts of diabolical punishments visited upon the culprits by Nero in reprisal for starting the fire. Or did he? Was the Neronian punishment for Christian arsonists a later interpolation?

          Here’s just one of the problems with Tacitus’ account…

          For the next 300 years, no Christian commentator makes any reference to Nero’s slaughter of the Roman Christians for setting the Great Fire. Not just to Tacitus’ account of such an event, but to the event itself as something known in Christian tradition. That it would not be known is impossible. That it would not be referred to in any connection is almost equally impossible. Christians in those early centuries were fixated on the fact and history of their martyrdom. A great literature of martyrology was produced in that time, even if a lot of it was fiction or exaggeration. Eusebius (the pre-eminent church historian!) can refer to the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul at the hands of Nero, but he fails to include the array of Christian residents of Rome and makes no link of anything to the Great Fire.

          The record in Roman historians is also curiously silent.

          Cassius Dio at the beginning of the third century has an account of the Fire, but puts the responsibility on Nero, with no mention of Christians or their ghastly persecution.

          Suetonius, in his Life of Nero, details the Great Fire (ch.38) with not a word about the Christians or their responsibility for it, nor about their infamous punishment. Earlier, in chapter 16, amid a list of measures taken by Nero to curb such problems as improper eating in public establishments, chariot drivers who cheated and robbed ordinary citizens, and pantomimic actors who had to be expelled from Rome, Suetonius makes this cryptic statement:

          Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition.

          No word on what that punishment was, or the reason for it. (Actually, the final phrase sounds like the reason.) If it was meant to refer to the fire, why was that point not included in his later description of the fire? If this line is authentic (though it would stand out like a sore thumb from its context if it referred to the Tacitus scene), it would seem Suetonius knew no more about an event of Neronian persecution than Christian writers did. Also, it is curious that he did not draw on Tacitus (a common practice among ancient historians), from his Annals recently published, yet another nail in the coffin of authenticity for the famous passage.

          When a Christian account of the fire and persecution first appears around the year 400 in the writings of Sulpicius Severus, we find a definite literary connection with the extant account in Tacitus, though we cannot be sure in which direction the dependency lies. And Severus does not include in that common material the reference to Christ as executed by Pilate, though this he could have cut as unnecessary for his readers. Yet Severus does not identify his information as coming from Tacitus or indeed any other source.

          Was he drawing on a description of the persecution previously interpolated into the Annals (post-Eusebius) by either a Christian or even a Roman scribe, reflecting the phenomenon known from the later 2nd century on (as in Tertullian) of “blaming the Christians” for every misfortune that befell society?

          Or did he create the description of the Neronian persecution himself, on which basis a later interpolation into Tacitus was made, along with the reference to Christ himself as a victim under Pilate? (In that case, “Christ” as a name instead of “Jesus” would have been perfectly natural for a Christian scribe.)

          Earl Docherty spends 25 pages in his book “Jesus: neither God nor man: the case for a mythical Jesus”
          outlining the problems with the account by Tacitus in his “Annals”.

        • adam

          “Tacitus acknowledges the existence of Christians around 60AD.”

          THIS Tacitus?

          Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus (/ˈtæsɨtəs/; Classical Latin: [ˈtakɪtʊs]; c. AD 56 – after 117)
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacitus

          Not likely………….

        • wtfwjtd

          Hi Dave, thanks for your posts. Just as a clarification, you do realize that Bob isn’t claiming that Jesus is a mythical figure, only that his story is a heavily embellished legend, right? IOW, he’s claiming that the legendary Jesus character was a historical figure whose life and times have been highly embellished. This is different from mythical Jesus, who is believed to never have existed at all.

        • King Dave

          You are welcome. I enjoy Bob’s blog immensely, and he was kind enough in the past to answer inquiries from me on this topic. I actually believed that this latest 3 part post may have been inspired by our debates in the recent Josephus article. If it was, I do take some exception to being labeled as a Christian apologist, as I have very little info on their arguments other than watching them get destroyed by the late Christopher Hitchens in televised debates.

          However some of his 12 points were incredibly similar to mine, and in my opinion not thoroughly refuted.

          One in particular is why would someone in that time frame willingly be persecuted for an uncorroborated beliefs, if not based on emulation? It is strongly believed the idea of martyrdom had it’s popular origins with 1st century Christianity. Excluding homicide bombers, even today’s Martyrs, don’t go seeking their death, they are hunted.
          Of course the gospels can be rejected entirely based on zero evidence, just like life on other planets, but I see no harm in speculation.

          It is unknown how much or how little of the gospel is true. I doubt we will ever know. But in my case, it seems less convincing that Jesus was a complete myth.

        • MNb

          “why would someone in that time frame willingly be persecuted for an uncorroborated beliefs, if not based on emulation?”
          Why don’t you ask an SSer fighting at the eastern front? He will answer that his belief in racial superiority is totally corroborated. The martyrs probably would have given a similar answer.

          I don’t think Jesus was a complete myth. I do think all the supernatural stuff is myth plus some of the natural stuff as well.

        • King Dave

          “Why don’t you ask an SSer fighting at the eastern front? He will answer that his belief in racial superiority is totally corroborated” – MNb

          The SS were not considered Martyrs, so that is a poor example.

          “I don’t think Jesus was a complete myth.” – MNb

          I didn’t say or imply you did. But it’s nice to see someone on my side, especially on this blog.

          “I do think all the supernatural stuff is myth plus some of the natural stuff as well.” – MNb

          Of course I agree on that as I suspect most reasonable people do as well, but to be a True Jesus myther you must not think for yourself.
          In my opinion some atheists have replaced religion with orthodox atheism. Many others simply replace religion with orthodox politics.

          I have no political, or religious affiliation. My grievence with religion are philosophical and my concerns are for human rights.

        • Greg G.

          The SS were not considered Martyrs, so that is a poor example.

          If the German bomb builders had made a different decision on which path to pursue in the quest for the A-bomb, the SSers might be considered martyrs and Hitler a hero, today. To the victor go the spoils.

        • James

          Another example is Horst Wessel – whom the Nazi’s totally made into a martyr, complete with martyr’s tomb. Martyrdom is in the eye of the beholder, a point that xtian apologists so frequently forget; to non-believers, any alleged martyr is just another fanatic or poor deluded soul dying for an unworthy cause. Speaking of the Nazi’s, how about the Jehovah’s Witnesses who were killed? They could have saved themselves had they merely paid lip service to the Nazi cause, as most other Germans did – and orthodox xtians don’t consider them to be martyrs, at least not in any religious sense.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horst_Wessel

        • MNb

          The German soldiers – including the SSers – who died in battle were totally considered martyrs. The letters the widows and mothers received makes that totally clear. Thanks for confirming my analogy.

          “I didn’t say or imply you did.”
          I didn’t say or imply that you said or implied I did. I just reacted to

          “it seems less convincing that Jesus was a complete myth”
          Apparently you are another christian with long toes.

          “In my opinion some atheists have replaced religion with orthodox atheism.”
          Your opinion doesn’t make much sense. Orthodox atheism is as incoherent a term as dry water. The folks you’re talking about are Jesus Mythologists. There is even a christian clergyman who is one.

          http://www.trouw.nl/tr/nl/5091/Religie/article/detail/3843578/2015/02/03/Jezus-heeft-nooit-bestaan.dhtml

        • wtfwjtd

          Dave, I assume that you are wanting to use your martyrdom argument in defense of historical Jesus? I see where you are going, but I think there are better arguments that can be deployed. If you are interested, I’d be happy to share one or two, but it might take a little “back and forth” for me to show where I’m headed.

          “It is unknown how much or how little of the gospel is true.”

          For this point, I’m not interested in the actual contents of the stories themselves, just the likelihood of whether its main character was historical or mythical.

        • King Dave

          Please share them in a long post. I am having a little trouble navigating and responding to other on disqus, as I exclusively use an android. I am aware martyrdom is not exclusive to Christianity, but it certainly has it’s popular origins directly from 1st century Christianity. There is really no noticeable or obvious advantage for a peasant to be also considered a pagan, heretic or blasphemer in 1st century Jerusalem, an area known for religious hostility and violence. That would be suicidal in other words. To draw an equivalency with Islamic suicide bombers who’s deaths are considered Martyrs by their peers is a totally inaccurate use of the term, those people are suicidal homicide bombers and nothing else. Suicide is an action Islam forbids but seems to stop no one. Thus the use of the term “martyr” to justify their actions. Martyrs are not those seeking their own death, and the Koran is based on the Bible for its ideas.
          This Christians origins of Martyrdom is simply one reason to suggest Jesus was based on actual events rather than a fabrication.
          There are many more reasons as I have expressed in length and can continue to elaborate upon.

          I am still planning to respond to others who left me interesting comments, challenges and questions…

        • adam

          “Suicide is an action Islam forbids but seems to stop no one.”

          So how is this different for christian martyrs?

          “This Christians origins of Martyrdom is simply one reason to suggest Jesus was based on actual events rather than a fabrication. ”

          Since the origin of martyrdom is NOT christian in origin is simply ANOTHER reason to suggest that Jesus was based on a fabrication rather than actual events.

          “Originally the cause was invariably religious, or at least articulated in religious terms. An Athenian jury ordered that Socrates (469–399 B.C.E.), the Western world’s first recorded martyr, die by poison (the hemlock cup) when he refused to give up his dangerously public insistence that all men and women possessed souls, which knew the difference between good and evil, and were obliged to question historic and religious authority so as to discover the truth for themselves.

          Read more: http://www.deathreference.com/Ke-Ma/Martyrs.html#ixzz3icSbDvdu

        • King Dave

          I am aware of prior examples of martyrdom. However it is bkondingly obvious Christians were not influenced by Socrates, and either are today’s so called Islamic Martyrs. They are exclusively influenced by the gospels accounts.
          Do you honestly believe today’s Islamic martyrdom is in direct reference to Socrates and doesn’t not have it’s origins in Christianity?
          If you do, I would be interested in your rational.
          The only thing I can imagine you are doing, is asserting that anyone who goes to their death based on their convictions is a martyr. That’s may be true, but not worthy in it’s religious context.

        • adam

          “However it is bkondingly obvious Christians were not influenced by Socrates”

          Not obvious

          “and either are today’s so called Islamic Martyrs. ”

          they are all influenced by Socrate’s martrydom.

        • King Dave

          I would also add that martyrdom was abundant in first century Christianity centuries before the Romans injected their influence on Christianity. I submit the gospel of Matthew written in 80ad. It is safe to say, this text isn’t pro Roman.

        • adam

          “I would also add that martyrdom was abundant in first century Christianity centuries before the Romans injected their influence on Christianity.”

          reference needed: as it appears the the accounts of christian martyrdom have been GREATLY exaggerated.

          “I submit the gospel of Matthew written in 80ad. It is safe to say, this text isn’t pro Roman.”

          Why would it need to be pro Roman to demonstrate that Socrates was an earlier martyr?

          Do you think the christians at the time were unaware of Socrates?

        • King Dave

          I am simply acknowleding that Socrates would have been known to the educated Romans who were in control of Jerusalem as well as known Jewish Judiciary and nobility at that time, and could plausibly have influenced early Christians about martyrdom. But seems less likely to be accepted or even of interest to the predominate peasant and illiterate population who were clearly not pro roman rule.
          So the gospels don’t appear to be written as purely a fictitious concocted dismissal of Jewish religious law, to benefit the roman empire. A true Jesus myther would have to believe that.

        • Greg G.

          You don’t need to look outside of Isaiah 53 and Galatians 3 to get the gospel model to get the crucifixion model.

          The martyr legends of the early Christians seem to have developed in the second century among the literate Christians. If they were trying to establish an apostolic tradition for their sect, tying themselves to a martyr would be a good idea. They would be competing for the most noble death. But some sects apparently adopted the same apostles and imagined completely different deaths for him.

        • MR

          Look at the vast amounts of wealth and sacrifice people are willing to pour into simple belief in a supposed saint or martyr. Venetian merchants, 800 years after his supposed martyrdom stole what they believed were the bones of St. Mark from Alexandria and took them back to Venice. There’s simply no guarantee that those bones are Mark’s, yet look at the wealth that has been lavished on St. Mark’s Basilica and the flocks of people that still visit it.

          But that’s nothing. Legend has it that St. James was transported to Spain in a stone ship, a stone ship! and that his remains were then lost for hundreds of years before a shepherd rediscovered them with the help of a star, a star! Look at all the money spent on the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the tens of thousands of pilgrims who trek on foot to pay homage to a legend of a legend of a….

          Truth be damned. All you need is belief to form a following, a cult, a religion….

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          The stone ship thing may not be all that implausible considering we used concrete ships in WWI, but I don’t know enough about that technology and its history to make any claims with certainty.

        • MR

          I’d be willing to entertain the idea, but the Jacobean myths are principally based in medieval legend with emphasis on the miraculous and echos of biblical stories. Knights in shining armor (anachronistically incorrect) transporting a body in a stone ship, white horses rising from the sea dressed in shells, stars guiding the way, half eaten roosters coming to life after maidens have hidden silver chalices a la the story of Rachel, David and Goliath figures…. Emphasis is on the miraculous claims, not on “but, it could happen!”

        • Ignorant Amos

          I’d be willing to entertain the idea…

          About as willing as I am of entertaining the idea of an actual big enough boat being built some 3,000 years ago that housed at least two examples of every species on the planet with all the logistics in place to endure a 6 month voyage on an earth covering ocean.

        • MR

          Right? And I meant to say something to the effect that we have zero examples of a stone ship. And what would be the need? The whole point of the myth is the impossibility of the feat. Fantastic stories to beguile the masses.

          I had a conversation with someone a couple days ago who started in about the theory that the pyramids could have been giant generators. Now this was a college-educated guy going on about the Nile and water flow and a beam of light shooting out of the top a la the Luxor. Really? Really!? “What evidence is there for that? Have you seen pictures of the top of the pyramid!?” “Well, but they could have had the technology….” “Is there evidence they had the technology?” “Well…, we don’t know that they didn’t…”

          Oh. my. God. It was exactly like the conversations that go on here.

        • Ignorant Amos

          I’ve been to Giza…generator’s? Really? College educated? Thank feck am thick as a brick.

          Too much ‘Total Recall’ methinks. After all, pyramids found there too.

          http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/26/mars-pyramid-nasa-curiosity-rover-video_n_7665080.html

        • Ignorant Amos

          The Stone Ship is not a real on the water boat.

          Scholars have suggested both that the stone ship developed out of the desire to equip the dead with everything he had in life, and alternatively that it was specifically associated with the journey to Hel.

          I think it more likely the idea for the stone ship of the story was an adapted, or misinterpreted myth. Building a stone ship would be possible, but totally impractical, even if the technology was available at the time. The fact that there is not a single example of a stone ship is telling.

          Ferrocement, not so much concrete in the modern sense as such, is a far easier material to work with and not remotely compatible with stone.

          It is used to form relatively thin, hard, strong forms in many shapes for such applications as hulls for boats, shell roofs, and water tanks.

          Ferrocement, is a more practical medium to work in than stone, especially when metal or wood is at such a high premium and running out. But it still has its pitfalls, especially when applying to large sized objects. Having worked a lot with concrete in the past I can vouch for how particular one must be when working with concrete. I can’t imagine how much more meticulous one must be when applying the technology to ship building. But then necessity is the mother of invention as they say.

          Concrete ships are ships built of steel and ferrocement (reinforced concrete) instead of more traditional materials, such as steel or wood. The advantage of ferrocement construction is that materials are cheap and readily available, while the disadvantages are that construction labor costs are high, as are operating costs. (Ferrocement ships require thick hulls, which means extra mass to push and less space for cargo.) During the late 19th century, there were concrete river barges in Europe, and during both World War I and World War II, steel shortages led the US military to order the construction of small fleets of ocean-going concrete ships, the largest of which was the SS Selma. Few concrete ships were completed in time to see wartime service during World War I, but during 1944 and 1945, concrete ships and barges were used to support U.S. and British invasions in Europe and the Pacific. Since the late 1930s, there have also been ferrocement pleasure boats.

          Modern technology makes such boat building easy and cheap, but not practical for ship sized craft. Stone ship building is just as ridiculous an idea today as it would have been in the past though, even with all the technology we have at hand. It is all about displacement at the end of the day.

          Modern hobbyists also build ferrocement boats (ferroboats), as their construction methods do not require special tools, and the materials are comparatively cheap.

        • Ignorant Amos
        • King Dave

          I provided links to Tacitus in another post here, which confirms better than not the Roman persecution of a Christians found in abundance in 60Ad. He confirms Nero’s persecution of Christians. Paul suggests this as well. Although Tacitus historical writtings were after the gospel of Matthew, the reference a time prior to their appearance. One whould have to believe Tacitus a liar which I am not willing to do, as I don’t see an advantage or reason for him to do so. He clearly would know what was happing in his early youth and better to interpret his experience later in life.
          The concept of martyrdom in it’s Christian form, if you prefer, has it’s origins in the gospel of Matthew with the death of Christ and his refusal to deny his maker. Inspiring to many, honorable and perhaps commendable.

          ***We have seen recently Islamic militants giving abducted Christians a chance to reject their faith and save their lives. Many chose to die with their faith intact.
          There is your definition of Martyrdom.****
          It appears many readers on this blog underestimate the power of faith, perhaps jealousy but certainly callously.

        • Greg G.

          He clearly would know what was happing in his early youth and better to interpret his experience later in life.

          He would not understand the religious beliefs of one group unless he got the information as an adult.

          The concept of martyrdom in it’s Christian form, if you prefer, has it’s origins in the gospel of Matthew with the death of Christ and his refusal to deny his maker. Inspiring to many, honorable and perhaps commendable.

          Why do you keep referring to Matthew? Matthew copied Mark, leaving out less than 10% and rewording about half of what was kept. Matthew’s changes to Mark were for theological reasons,

          ***We have seen recently Islamic militants giving abducted Christians a chance to reject their faith and save their lives. Many chose to die with their faith intact.
          There is your definition of Martyrdom.****
          It appears many readers on this blog underestimate the power of faith, perhaps jealousy but certainly callously.

          I do not consider giving up one’s life over religion to be commendable thing. Yes, it shows the power of faith but as a reason to reject it. The 9/11 hijackers operated on religious faith, too. It is a horrible thing to infect your mind with.

        • King Dave

          The concensus is that Mark was written first, although there are plenty of scholars who believe Matthew was written first. Honestly I can’t state conclusively which fragments came first at this point. It’s not as important for my thesis.
          But You seem to be definitive about your conclusion that Mark was first. I find that a bit strange because you have been arguing most everything about Christianity is a myth, lie, fabrication and so on..
          Is there sources that you are using to prove conclusively which text came first other than consensus opinion and are willing to share?

          Either way, I hope you are not using ambiguity or mistakes and or errors on my part as proof of your thesis.
          I am not infallible or claiming to be a biblical expert, but I feel I am as knowledgeable as any on this blog.

          So it appears you must have set the standard for supporting evidence very low for your claims, and very high for opposing view points.
          I personally wish Christianity and especially Islam would be proven a complete myth as their demise would save millions of lives. The accumulative deaths in history and at present from Islamic and Christian schisms, especially today in the middle east I submit as proof.
          But I am not willing to do this dishonestly in order to achieve a worthwhile ambition.

          I probably should have elaborated on my martyrdom analogy as I expected some criticism.
          I could have used your Nazi SS martyrdom example a bit differently than you and your peers.
          The Nazis that were executed for dereliction of duty because of their refusal to murder Jews in concentration camps, perhaps on their religious convictions. This applies to any soldiers executed for refusal to kill on religious grounds.
          Do you find that commendable?
          I will state proudly and conclusively, I Do.

        • Greg G.

          Most scholars who say Matthew was first seem to favor tradition. Long ago, it was thought that Mark was an abridged version of Matthew.

          Mark has one person healed, Matthew likes to make it two. Mark has spit miracles that take time, Matthew makes them instantaneous.

          Mark opens with Jesus being adopted by God when he is baptized. Matthew has Jesus being divine from before birth. Mark says John baptism is for remission of sins, Matthew has John hesitate to baptize Jesus and only does it for show. The other gospels follow suit buy obscuring whether John actually did the baptism.

          Mark has a naked boy run away from Gethsemane during Jesus’ arrest, probably an allusion to:

          Amos 2:16 (NRSV)
          16 and those who are stout of heart among the mighty
            shall flee away naked in that day,
          says the Lord.

          Matthew eliminates him.

          Mark 10:11-12 follows 1 Corinthians 7:10-12 on divorce very closely, as if that was a source. But Paul was writing to Gentiles where the law allowed women to divorce. It would make no sense to the disciples in that setting and Matthew recognized it and dropped the part about women divorcing.

          Mark makes a point with cursing of the fig tree, the temple tantrum, and later, the sight of the withered tree, which implies the destruction of the temple. Jesus gets mad at tree, Jesus get mad at temple, tree withers, and Mark’s readers would understand with a mental image similar to what we get at the mention of 9/11. Matthew blew all that away by making the tree start withering immediately.

          Those changes can be accounted for if Matthew was doing it for theological reasons. They make less sense for Mark to change Matthew.

          Actions are informed by beliefs. Incorrect beliefs tend to lead to incorrect actions that have consequences. We should all hold ourselves responsible for trying to eliminate false beliefs and seeking true beliefs.

          I don’t care much whether Jesus existed or not. It is an academic question that I took an interest in a few years ago. I just go where the evidence leads me.

          Morality and religious morality are two different things that often conflict. When they conflict, it is because religious morality is not moral. Some follow religious morals by killing innocent people with a suicide bomb. Morality comes from reason and empathy. Religion might borrow those to look good but religion is not necessary for that morality. Religion even helps separate who to be moral with and who can be denied a wedding cake or marriage license plus who can be blown up.

          Catholicism led the way for centuries on pogroms against the Jews. They had prayers denouncing Jews during regular services until about 50 years ago. When the Protestants split off, they took that with them. See some of Martin Luther’s quotes on Jews.

          Hitler rose to power by fanning those religious hatreds against the Jews. If some soldier was killed for not executing Jews, it was because his secular morality won out over his religious morals. I find it commendable when someone overcomes his religious morals when they conflict with morality.

        • Pofarmer

          Anywhere to find those Catholic prayers?

        • Otto

          Way ahead of me Pofarmer…I would like that as well.

          Greg?

        • Pofarmer

          Otto, weren’t you a staunch anti Mythicist? You seem to be softening.

        • Otto

          No…must have me mixed up with someone else. I used to figure there had to be someone behind the story but that was when I still ‘believed’. After I let go of Christianity all bets were off and I started from scratch.

          I would say at this point I am agnostic on the question but I find the Myth argument by Carrier, Price, etc to be very plausible and to me it makes more sense of what we know currently than historicity does.

        • Pofarmer

          Ok. What gets me are the atheists hypothesis is ridiculous. Ad if it’s equivalent to be leaving some dude was the Son of the living God.

        • Otto

          MNb…he accused me (and all Mythicists) of being just like a Creationist by denying a historical Jesus.

          I don’t deny any evidence. I just don’t see any.

        • wtfwjtd

          I like how Stewart in Big Bang Theory put it:
          “Calling a tomato a vegetable is wrong. Calling a tomato a suspension bridge is more wrong”.

          Related: claiming the earth is a sphere is wrong, but it’s not nearly as wrong as claiming the earth is flat.

          Calling Jesus a myth may be wrong, but it’s not nearly as wrong as calling him the Son of God.
          I think clearly that there are degrees of wrongness.

        • King Dave

          Great comment, once again thank you for doing the research I am often too lazy to try an accomplish on my android.
          I have read Martin Luther’s comments on Jews that I find very appalling. I am not sure if most Christians or only Catholics held contempt for the Jews in blaming them for the death of their Christ. Mel Gibson and his movie The Passion of Christ has been accused of re- fanning these ancient grievences for the Jews.
          I really like your personal imput on morality in addition to your clear understanding of this topic.
          **Would dropping a bomb on Hitler while he was at a loaded elementary school in 1936 be morally justifiable by secular standards?**

          During the Rwandan genocide, the world stood by as it happened. In 100 days, 1 million where hacked to death as the UN stood idly by. And during this time there was only American in Rwanda attempting to save lives, and orphans. He is credited in saving some lives during the fastest genocide in history. His name is Carl Wilkens, and he did this because of his Christian faith. Again, he was the only American.

          http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/ghosts/interviews/wilkens.html

        • His name is Carl Wilkens, and he did this because of his Christian faith.

          He wouldn’t have done it if he’d not been a Christian? Only because he was a Christian did he realize right and wrong in this instance? If a Christian worldview is necessary for someone to get it, you’re wasting your time trying to explain it to non-Christians.

          If a Christian does a good thing, that’s great, but I suspect that it was primarily his humanity that informed that decision.

        • MR

          I guess KD could never imagine himself doing such an honorable thing since he claims not to be a Christian.

        • TheNuszAbides

          perhaps a degree of humility more honest than those who only manage to ‘humble’ themselves before Mr. Make-Believe Projection.

        • MR

          Honesty isn’t exactly what I was thinking. I don’t think I was buying into KD’s claims not to be a Christian.

        • TheNuszAbides

          ah yes. well, a curious way to ‘lie for jesus’, but i guess i don’t put anything below/past us wacky humans – even ones with internet access. 😀

        • Greg G.

          **Would dropping a bomb on Hitler while he was at a loaded elementary school in 1936 be morally justifiable by secular standards?**

          The case can only be made in retrospect but we don’t get that perspective when we need it.

          During the Rwandan genocide, the world stood by as it happened. In 100 days, 1 million where hacked to death as the UN stood idly by. And during this time there was only American in Rwanda attempting to save lives, and orphans. He is credited in saving some lives during the fastest genocide in history. His name is Carl Wilkens, and he did this because of his Christian faith. Again, he was the only American.

          There are many paths to morality. I respect his moral decision. His decision was based on empathy. Religious morality can overlap with morality. Religious morality can also embrace immorality. Morality and immorality are exclusive by definition. Religious morality and immorality are not exclusive. That is the distinguishing characteristic between morality and religious morality.

          A person can do a moral act and credit religious morality. A person can do an immoral act and credit religious morality, fully convinced they are doing the moral thing.

          Religion is not the only thing that can produce a moral code that embraces immorality. Bigotry, for instance, can do the same, with or without religion.

          So you can come up with lots of examples of good things done by religious people who credit their religion. But are they doing it as a religious chore or because they care about the good they do? Couldn’t they do that good without doing it for religious purposes?

          But the flip side is that people do horrible things because of faith, thinking they are being absolutely moral.

          A person trying to be moral using reason and empathy can do something immoral out of ignorance or having been deceived. Faith is another way of using deception to make the immoral seem moral.

        • King Dave

           “Couldn’t they do that good without doing it for religious purposes?” – Greg G

          One would thing so, but in the particular case I mentioned, no other American did anthing considered moral by your definition. They were motivated to do absolutely nothing. So his extraordinary act I see as only deserving of praise.

          Rwanda was repeated is Sudan a decade later.

          Morality may not be able to be defined in philosophical terms. As we do not know the consequences of our actions in advance, only predict them. Procreation and self preservation is the goal with sapient life forms. This explains why people often resort to cannibalism in desperation. Cooperation furthers mutual goals.

        • MR

          “no other Christians did anything either.”

          FTFY

        • What fraction of the U.S. Congress is Christian? They didn’t do much in Rwanda. So this “Christianity makes you do good stuff” idea isn’t looking so good anymore.

        • MR

          Not to mention all the non-Christians who do good things and go out of their way to help others. It’s a very odd thing, especially for someone who professes to be a non-Christian, to say that someone only does good because of Christianity.

        • Kodie

          Some people go out of their way, but I think for the most part, morality goes by the local standard. If everyone else is shouting about something, it’s ok, and if nobody else is shouting about it, you better shut up or they’ll just target you, and you have to have really thick skin for that, and people don’t really have the time or the nerve to go it alone. Sometimes, they’ll even do the bare minimum just because everyone will think they’re a dick if they do nothing, but often the bare minimum might as well be nothing, because nothing can be done, or some token appearance, a useless gift, show up in public with your emotions to declare yourself part of the community and not some solitary monster.

          Morality on the individual social level, meaning eye to eye with someone is a different standard than when you are a level or two detached from an event. If you are on a subway in the back of the train and an old person gets on, you let someone near the front make a move and give up their seat. If the person ahead of you in line at the grocery store drops all the change out of their wallet while they’re paying, you stoop to help them pick it up. You don’t sprint from the back of the line to help, and if a quarter rolls by you, maybe you even pick it up and keep it if no one’s looking.

          What’s really weird is how I live in a major city and know almost none of my neighbors by name. The closer you have to live, the more distance you keep. In rural spread out areas, everyone knows everyone and their intimate business, and checks on each other because they’ll get called out and ostracized if they don’t.

          A major political catastrophe across the world doesn’t mean anything to us here unless you know someone who has a relative in the military serving in that place. If they are not serving in that place, you care a lot less. Morality is not just what’s right and wrong, it’s certainly not objective, it’s socially whatever is standard in your local community and the main people you associate with. On a higher level, is like, do you wish to prevent gay people from getting married, or do you wish to prevent women from getting adequate health care? You’re not likely to be the last holdout in your community, you’re going to change your mind about what’s right and wrong when they do.

        • MR

          What’s really weird is how I live in a major city and know almost none of my neighbors by name. The closer you have to live, the more distance you keep. In rural spread out areas, everyone knows everyone and their intimate business….

          Interesting observation. I’d like to get a scientist’s take on that. I can see how tribalism would work that way in small communities, but then another dynamic seems to take over in larger communities.

          I live in a nice neighborhood in a metropolis and check in on my elderly neighbors from time to time, but I only wave to the overly gregarious guy across the street and have no idea what the names of any of my other neighbors are. I lived for a time in a small town in the mid-west, and we knew what was going on far and wide and even in the neighboring towns!

        • Kodie

          I have lived in the same building almost 10 years, and only one person, I think, has lived here longer, and that’s the person’s name I know.. and all about her dog, despite the fact that I don’t care all that much. I know 3 other people’s names ’cause they told me, and 2 of them are married and have a kid and I see them walking in and out and she’s 5 now (I got caught up in her most recent birthday party traffic), and I never asked her name, even though she was born here and I met her parents before they were pregnant, they live next door and they got locked out once and asked me to call a locksmith. I know 4 other people’s names because 2 are on the mailbox for upstairs, and 2 have regular screaming slamming domestic grievances. My general policy since I’ve lived out of my parents’ house is that I don’t want to get too close to anyone who knows whenever I’m home. I knew a couple in my first apartment, and it’s not nice like having Joey and Chandler across the hall. It’s like Kramer only he’s not your friend, you made a quick introduction to be polite since they were standing near your car, and now they walk in when the door’s open and head for the fridge. This literally happened.

          Anyway, a couple weeks ago, she stopped me, the woman with the dog, surprisingly, as I was getting in my car outside the grocery store. That’s some suburban “small world” shit happening – I never see anyone I know at the grocery store. I said “Wow,” like everyone from my street doesn’t shop at the same store, “I never see any people from our building out in the rest of the world.” And she laughed and said, “me neither!” I see a lot of the same people again and again, but nobody I know.

        • MR

          You made me realize, talking about the grocery store, that I often see people there who used to work at my company (about 5 miles away), but I’ve never anyone who actually works at my company. Weird.

        • Kodie

          Do you say hi or do you pretend you don’t recognize them? I tend to be on a friendlier basis with shop owners, the guy up the street, a couple of the managers and cashiers I always see at my grocery store, and once I had settled on a place to get Chinese, that guy was probably my best friend in the city until he went back to China (without warning me!). I don’t live in a great area for Chinese food, most of the take-outs make you sick just walking in the place, and like, a dollar more expensive. My guy used to give me free soup, whatever they were eating, and sometimes it was weird and I didn’t eat it, but he was cool and always generous and the food was decent, the place was clean, and it was on the way home when I used to work downtown. The new owners won’t even take my order when I’m standing at the counter, so I walked out.

        • MR

          Oh, I always stop and say ‘hi’ to ex-coworkers… “What have you been up to…!” yadda yadda…. But, if I were to see someone like that at a restaurant…, somehow, that’s different and I wouldn’t be as likely to greet them. Probably because they’re more likely to be with other people at a restaurant than a grocery store and that somehow feels like an intrusion. “Oh, is this the little lady? Oh, no? Oh, well…, my goodness, look at the time….” I dunno, it just seems like more opportunity for an awkward moment than just a quick one on one, “What’s up!”

          Now the waiters and waitresses, and the post office staff, and the barristas and the gal in the bookstore who’s always traveling somewhere…, all the people that I’ve dealt with for years and who get to know me, the ones like you say, the ones who learn your name and prepare your stuff the way you like it without you having to ask them, or have your order waiting for you before you get to the counter, and who needle you in a playful manner, or ask about your cat…, they, in a sense, are my ‘neighbors.’ I’ve even thought about throwing a party and inviting a bunch of them over. Maybe one day.

        • Greg G.

          I blame air conditioning and automobiles. Everybody used to sit on the porch and people walked by.

        • Kodie

          Now we have choices!

        • TheNuszAbides

          if you’re unfamiliar with it, Dunbar’s Number is a very interesting theoretical component to this. been meaning to check out his forays into primatology, since i’ve enjoyed hearing Frans de Waal’s books

        • MR

          Ah, yes, thanks for reminding me of that. Maybe most people are tapped out by all their Facebook friends and don’t have room for the neighbors. 😉

        • King Dave

          Bob, you seem to now be suggesting that beliefs DO NOT motivate decision making.

          Christianity absolutely inspires Christians to do good deeds, and unfortunately inspires Christians do bad things as well.
          In practically every city in the US there is a Christian homeless and battered women’s shelter which continues to be a refuge for so many. Clearly mocking these Christians and those in not a sign of moral superiority.

          Christianity has also motivated people to commit atrocities.

          The claim religion only motivates people to do bad things is simply ignorant.

        • Bob, you seem to now be suggesting that beliefs DO NOT motivate decision making.

          No, I’m just trying to make sense of what you’re saying.

          The claim religion only motivates people to do bad things is simply ignorant.

          Not my claim.

        • Kodie

          The point is that people getting their motivation from their imaginary friend are not basing their morality on the humans around them. If people think they wouldn’t or couldn’t be charitable without a god, then they just might not actually be decent people. If the only reason people care about the homeless and battered is because they believe there’s a god, then they’re not acting on behalf of those people, i.e., moral, but feel instead that it is their obligation to do “god’s” work because he ain’t doing shit himself. The point is once you base your morality outside of humanity and what your imaginary friend desires to see from you, you can be motivated against your fellow humans, because you are starting in the wrong place. Plenty of Christians interpret broadly that those people deserve their conditions so it would be wrong to help them.

          I mean, what’s the issue here? Can’t these people just look at other people and help them because they’re people? Why do they need to get the orders from someone else? Why do they need to beam that signal up to a satellite in space to get the return transmission whether they should be helping other people who can’t help themselves? They are mistaken about the source of their morality in the first place, and if you’re mistaken about the source, you can be motivated and manipulated to do horrible things believing they are good things. Religion can also be used to justify judging other people and denying them care or giving them the wrong kind of care – because beliefs in the source of morality are wrong.

        • MR

          People make moral judgments subconsciously based on their own level of empathy, internalized social norms, etc., and then attribute those judgments to their preferred God after the fact. Edit to add: Christianity is just shared social norms. A facade overlying what is simply ‘human’ morality…, an outdated facade, because those social norms are changing.

        • King Dave

          “I mean, what’s the issue here? Can’t these people just look at other people and help them because they’re people?” – Kodie
          Why are you assuming they are not?

          If religion can inspire violence, why are can’t it inspire acts of kindness?

          I suspect the religious motivations do not matter to the millions of children waiting for food donations in Africa.

          Christianity preaches helping the the poor and the helpless. I am not a Christian but I can praise the good along with condemning the bad.

          BTW, It was an atheist who shot dead three Muslims in North Carolina. He definitely hated all things religion and perhaps all people religious.

          Similarly it was Bigotry that caused the genocide in Rwanda.

        • Kodie

          Christianity preaches whatever it wants – it’s in the bible. That’s what’s wrong with this system. If people wanted to help others, why do they need to make up any other reason? You ignored the point in favor of your own stupid point.

        • King Dave

          “You ignored the point in favor of your own stupid point.” – Kodie

          Good bye

        • Kodie

          You were pretty rude to ignore it, and I was patient with you explaining it. Proves Christianity is stuffed full of itself over this morality point.

        • TheNuszAbides

          If the only reason people care about the homeless and battered is because they believe there’s a god, then they’re not acting on behalf of those people, i.e., moral, but feel instead that it is their obligation to do “god’s” work because he ain’t doing shit himself.

          another one for the quote bank! maybe not as elegant as some celebrity philosophy snob would put it …

          EDIT: plenty of philosophy snobs who lack celebrity *cough*notlookinginamirror*ahem*

        • Kodie

          The thing I notice about your story is that, in general, people are hesitant to get involved. I don’t remember the graphic horror of this story touching hearts, but then you get some guy shoot up 26 people including a classroom of young kids, locally, people get riled up. Wouldn’t it seem obvious to get riled up for a million people? But does anyone actually do something to get involved, in either case? They wring their hands and vent to the internet, maybe because it was close by, they could go buy teddy bears and put them at the site of the shooting, for children who are dead. I don’t mean to be cold but they’re not going to need teddy bears now, or candles, or notes, or t-shirts. So, morally, what is the reaction? Grief and maybe some comfort to their relatives that so many people care, but how many acted so something like this would not happen in the future? The debate about mental illness, gun control, school safety, etc., but who is actually doing something about horrific immoral acts? The only actual thing you can do is write a letter, or motivate others to write letters. And when it comes down to it, people can’t be bothered to do more than weep and get on with their lives, and we all know what happens when people do the “protest” thing – it gets put on the news as “look at these assholes holding up the morning commute! Don’t these dirty hippies know some of us actually have to get to work?”

          I mean, what are Americans all supposed to do about a million people halfway across the world, if someone in their backyard, they buy a token memento for the kids who are no longer around to play with toys, and are made to be ashamed of organizing a legal protest something that’s actually important? Writing a letter is so detached, and so they feel like hopping on a plane to go to some foreign country with a dangerous government vigilante style? It’s not like you can call the US cops and report there’s a crime in Africa, you better come quick before they kill more.

        • Ignorant Amos

          The fuckwit American religious assholes involvement in Uganda in murdering gays as a capital punishment for the crime of being, well gay, springs ta mind.

          In December, the Ugandan parliament finally passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and last month President Yoweri Museveni signed it into law. The death penalty provision was removed, but the law includes life sentences for homosexual “repeat offenders” and criminalizes advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ Ugandans.

          Uganda has deservedly received widespread attention, but it’s not the only country with a culture war that carries the fingerprints of U.S. campaigners. Nigeria has passed a bill almost identical to Uganda’s, and Cameroon and Zambia are enthusiastically imprisoning LGBTQ people.

          http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-kaoma-uganda-gays-american-ministers-20140323-story.html

          There are some real wankers about Kodie, please excuse my obstreperous-ism….it is 2.33 in the AM and I’m three sheets ta the wind.

        • King Dave

          Many people lack the courage to report child abuse if it’s from their friends or family. Many people walk by attacks on the street and ignore pleads for help for fear of getting hurt. I don’t hesitate to report child abuse, because it benefits the abused.
          But you are right, why cry about it later?
          That’s just a sign of guilt and conscience clearing.

        • TheNuszAbides

          the internet venting is a preferable choice to some degree, considering [e.g.] improvising on the street is tainted by (a) proselytizers historically making improvisation* on the street look bad, (b) your point about cityfolk correlation of higher proximity and lower community, (c) uninformed stigma around mental illness, etc.

          *or just Good-Book-parroting

        • Greg G.

          But was it his religious morality vs the religious morality of the Catholic Church, as Pofarmer and adam pointed out?

        • Pofarmer

          Uhm, the Rwandan genocide was in many ways a religious conflict. There was an episode of Top Gear recently featured a trip through Rwanda. What got me was all the children going to school in religious school uniform. Rwanda was and is chock full of religion. By the way, there were Catholics convicted of war crime in that conflict. So you can take your Christian morality and politely shove it. We need to demote you to knave.

        • adam

          Oh you mean these guys as well

          “Church authorities contributed to the spread of racist theories mainly through the schools and seminaries over which they exercised control. The elite who ruled the country after independence trained in these schools. According to Church historian Paul Rutayisire, the stereotypes used by the Hutu-dominated Rwandan government to dehumanise Tutsis, were also spread by some influential clergymen, bishops and priests, before and after the genocide. The Catholic Church and colonial powers worked together in organizing racist political groups like the Party for the Emancipation of the Hutu (Parmehutu).
          http://www.newsfromafrica.org/articles/art_10231.html

        • Pofarmer

          Yep.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Yip…for every good egg you can fill a basket with rotten ones.

          http://www.refworld.org/docid/49b92b279.html

        • MR

          Wow, not just Catholics, but Catholic priests!

        • Ignorant Amos

          Aye….the epitome of the highest morality no less….NOT!

        • Ignorant Amos

          Nothing like a bit of RCC cover-up and sanctuary….where have ya seen that before I wonder.

          But for the Roman Catholic church there is more at stake than the future of a single cleric. Father Wenceslas is just one member of the clergy at the heart of a struggle over where to pin moral responsibility for the genocide.
          The Vatican paints the church as a victim not only of the mass killings – because priests and nuns were among the those slaughtered – but of persecution by Rwanda’s present government, which has jailed members of the clergy and accused the church leadership of having blood on its hands.

          http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/07/rwanda-genocide-20-years-priests-catholic-church

          Arbiters of the moral high ground? …I’ve shit’em.

        • King Dave

          The Rwandan genocide was exclusively a case of ethnic cleansing.
          From the human rights council.

          http://www.unitedhumanrights.org/genocide/genocide_in_rwanda.htm

          The incitement for violence was preached from Christian churches and Christian owned raido stations because they were the only public meeting and broadcasting options available.

          Do you honestly think the Rwandan genocide was solely about spreading the word of Christ? I believe you do.

          You are clearly rejecting religion as motivation to do good, while simultaneously claiming religion motivates to do bad. That’s impossible, complete nonsense, ignorant and absurd and you seem quite proud it.
          Try again?

        • Ignorant Amos

          The Rwandan genocide was exclusively a case of ethnic cleansing.

          I don’t think Pofarmer’s comment about being a religious conflict was meant in the way you have understood it. Nevertheless, denying religious involvement is just silly pants.

          When the Roman Catholic missionaries came to Rwanda in the late 1880s, they contributed to the “Hamitic” theory of race origins, which taught that the Tutsi were a superior race. The Church has been considered to have played a significant role in fomenting racial divisions between Hutu and Tutsi, in part because they found more willing converts among the majority Hutu.

          Timothy Longman has provided the most detailed discussion of the role of religion in the Rwandan genocide in Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda, published in 2010. Longman argues that both Catholic and Protestant churches helped to make the genocide possible by giving moral sanction to the killing. Churches had longed played ethnic politics themselves, favoring the Tutsi during the colonial period then switching allegiance to the Hutu after 1959, sending a message that ethnic discrimination was consistent with church teaching. The church leaders had also long had close ties with the political leaders, and after the genocide began, the church leaders called on the population to support the new interim government, the very government supporting the genocide.

          Though religious factors were not prominent, in its 1999 report Human Rights Watch faulted a number of religious authorities in Rwanda, including Roman Catholic, Anglican, and other Protestants for failing to condemn the genocide – though that accusation was belied over time.

          Do you honestly think the Rwandan genocide was solely about spreading the word of Christ? I believe you do.

          No, I don’t believe he does.

          You are clearly rejecting religion as motivation to do good, while simultaneously claiming religion motivates to do bad.

          Nope nothing as asinine as that, but there’s irony for ya…and there is also the problem right there. Are these people you are “cocking and crowing” about, just doing good because of their religion? Don’t you think that is a sad indictment of those folk doing good? Browny points for God? And then there is the issue of religion motivating bad. Are you honestly going to assert that vast amounts of human suffering over our history cannot be laid at the feet of religion?

          That’s impossible, complete nonsense, ignorant and absurd and you seem quite proud it.

          What’s complete nonsense, ignorant and absurd is you bringing up the example of one American Christian doing all that he can as an example of religiously motivated good when it is pure bollocks. Christians of different nationalities died trying to protect the natives during that genocide, while other Christians were complicit in the murder of others. Your example is a poor one by any standards.

          In the aftermath of this horrific bloodbath, Rwanda’s Christian churches have faced extensive criticism. Many journalists, scholars, human rights activists, politicians, and even some church personnel have accused the churches not simply of failing effectively to oppose the genocide but of active complicity in the violence. According to a report by a World Council of Churches team that visited Rwanda in August 1994, “In every conversation we had with the government and church people alike, the point was brought home to us that the church itself stands tainted, not by passive indifference, but by errors of commission as well.” My own research in Rwanda in 1992-93 and 1995-96 confirms these conclusions. According to my findings, church personnel and institutions were actively involved in the program of resistance to popular pressures for political reform that culminated in the 1994 genocide, and numerous priests, pastors, nuns, brothers, catechists, and Catholic and Protestant lay leaders supported, participated in, or helped to organize the killings.

          http://faculty.vassar.edu/tilongma/Church&Genocide.html

          Try again?

          Hmmmmm!

        • King Dave

          Many believe 9 11 was an inside job. Others believe president Bush bombed Iraq to spread the word of Christ. In fact many Muslims refer to US involvement in the Middle East as a crusade. Still others believe the moon landings were fake. All can provide “proof” of these assertions, but they are rejected by mainstream academia and anyone not polluted with their own idealism.

          It is universally accepted that Rwanda was a case of ethnic cleansing. The majority population cleansing the minority.

          *Perhaps you are unaware but most all Tutsi victims were Christians as well*

          However judging from your previous comments, I am sure you will be able to somehow over look this, excuse it or come up with yet another double standard or questionable source.

          But you aren’t entirely incorrect about religion being a majority factor in the case of genocide. In Sudan, Arab Muslims exterminated black Africans almost exclusively because of Islam. Racism being another.

          My grievence with religion are philosophical and my concerns are for human rights. If You want to blame Christianity for Rwanda that’s quite a stretch and intellectually dishonest but it’s your prerogative. However you do come off in my opinion as merely being bigoted towards Christians as people.

        • Kodie

          You’re so blind you’re not willing to see religion is the worst thing for human rights. Look at the bigger picture – if their justification for anything they do comes from their obedience or adoration of an imaginary figurehead, then they are mistaken, and in cases some religious person does any actual charity, it’s an unnecessary addition. Or it should be. Most of it leads to justified unkindness and defensiveness of their precious held beliefs, i.e. “persecution” because religion entitles them to be dicks to everyone else. You are being that way now.

        • MNb

          Excellent job ignoring everything IA brought up and demonstrating that Kodie was right.

        • MR

          Broken thinking and disingenuous.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Am sure King Dave has a point….am just lost as to what tae feck it is, that’s all.

        • MNb

          You’re not the only one.
          So I assume that his point that that American christian in Rwanda was a very good guy. I don’t have any problem conceding this and don’t think anyone has.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i don’t doubt he values human rights; he’s just demonstrating a lot of lazy reading/thinking.

        • King Dave

          I am not a Christian, I don’t believe in the supernatural. And of course there are Christians who do charitable work simply for the reward of heaven. Islamic militants blow themselves in crowds of unbelievers to get virgins in Heaven. That’s not me, I can’t answer for thise people.

          But It is possible that Muslims, Christians and Atheists do charitable work simply to benefit those in need.
          If anyone does not agree with that, I really don’t know what there is left for me to say.

          But attacking the one Christian aid worker in Rwanda trying to do some good, during the fastest genocide in history is a poor way of demonstrating one’s moral claims of superiority don’t you agree?
          Carl Wilkens does not flaunt his Christianity, or credit Christianity as his motivation as far as I am aware. I am genuinely impressed and inspired by the humanitarian work of his, not his Christian beliefs.

          Everyone should watch the PBS award winning documentary on Rwanda. It is not about Carl Wilkens and I can pretty much guarantee you will cry, and no longer feel the need to belittle his efforts or my statements about Rwanda.

          https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VJAuyIRfYIM
          Please watch and get back to me. This will tell you everything everyone should know about Rwanda and how terrible humans can treat others on a massive scale.

          I never ignore a serious question, I am here to defend my statements. If I make a mistake, I apologize and correct it. It only makes me better.

          So if I have missed something, please restate it, and I will reply.

        • adam

          “But attacking the one Christian aid worker in Rwanda ”

          I missed this, who attacked him?

        • King Dave

          Yeah, I would deny it too if I were you.

        • Pofarmer

          Dave, your reading comprehension sucks.

        • MR

          He’s not here for reading comprehension, silly.

        • MNb

          Someone is suffering from long toes here and it’s not Adam.

        • adam

          Yeah, I would deny being a ”christian’ too if I were you….

        • Ignorant Amos

          Fixated a wee bit….just a guess mate.

        • adam

          Sounds like someone is fixated on christian persecution complex, I dont even remember mentioning Carl’s name, moreless ‘attacking’ Carl.

        • Ignorant Amos

          You are struggling with this…I can tell.

          Carl was a decent guy. Was he decent because he is religious? Some folk who were religious were not decent, that’s a fact. So what does religion bring to the decent guy group? Let it go for fuck sake. If all the Christians played at being proper Christian, things might have been much better.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Indeed…just takes one…but whatever.

        • adam

          ” In fact many Muslims refer to US involvement in the Middle East as a crusade.”

          I wonder why?

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=br_70Kbdpow

          ” If You want to blame Christianity for Rwanda that’s quite a stretch and intellectually dishonest but it’s your prerogative.”
          Who’s blaming Christianity?
          We are just demonstrated that CHRISTIANS spreading THEIR christianity certainly CONTRIBUTED to the genocide, and that contribution could easily be enough to be responsible..

          From above, you apparently missed:

          “When the Roman Catholic missionaries came to Rwanda in the late 1880s, they contributed to the “Hamitic” theory of race origins, which taught that the Tutsi were a superior race. The Church has been considered to have played a significant role in fomenting racial divisions between Hutu and Tutsi, in part because they found more willing converts among the majority Hutu.

          Timothy Longman has provided the most detailed discussion of the role of religion in the Rwandan genocide in Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda, published in
          2010. Longman argues that both Catholic and Protestant churches helped to make the genocide possible by giving moral sanction to the killing. Churches had longed played ethnic politics themselves, favoring the Tutsi during the colonial period then switching allegiance to the Hutu
          after 1959, sending a message that ethnic discrimination was consistent with church teaching. The church leaders had also long had close ties with the political leaders, and after the genocide began, the church leaders called on the population to support the new interim government,
          the very government supporting the genocide.”

          Ignorant Amos

          King Dave

          10 hours ago

        • Ignorant Amos

          you are talking shite….the Troubles in Ulster is just another example which people label political but is religious….two factions of Christianity murdering each other…..silly pants

        • MNb

          Imo this is a false dichotomy. Whenever three people or more experience a belief together and start to organize themselves religions becomes political, almost by definition.
          Politics is about pursuing interests, distributing means and gaining power. Name me one religion that doesn’t even one of these three things.
          The same applies for chess clubs btw.

        • Ignorant Amos

          That’s neither here nor there. The problem here is that the two factions are the one religion, Christian. Like the Tutsi’s and the Hutu are essentially the same ethnicity, just from different sides of the river so to speak. A bit like the caste system in India. The Irish issue was all political until about 400 years ago. Today it is about indoctrinated hatred by one group of Christian against another…Protestant against Catholic. There are Catholics that are pro-union, but that is of no consolation when it comes to the indiscriminate violence being met out by the crazies. Heck, even Protestants have murdered Protestants and Catholics have murdered Catholics in the case of mistaking identity of one for the other.

          Take the example of the Shankill Butchers.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shankill_Butchers

          I grew up in this environment. The leader of the butchers, Lenny Murphy, was a neighbour living on the same street.

        • TheNuszAbides

          damn, you’ve caught me without my ready-quote from Iain Banks’ The Bridge to wit “er, what’s the difference between politics and religion?” 😉

          (of course it requires a fuzzy take on both – Venn diagram time! – but it’s coming from someone who’s just had both concepts briefly explained to them for the first time)

        • Ignorant Amos

          Many believe 9 11 was an inside job. Others believe president Bush bombed Iraq to spread the word of Christ. In fact many Muslims refer to US involvement in the Middle East as a crusade. Still others believe the moon landings were fake. All can provide “proof” of these assertions, but they are rejected by mainstream academia and anyone not polluted with their own idealism.

          All can be shown to be bollocks…are you a conspiracy fruit cake?

          It is universally accepted that Rwanda was a case of ethnic cleansing. The majority population cleansing the minority.

          *Perhaps you are unaware but most all Tutsi victims were Christians as well*

          Who gives a fuck? Who did most of the murdering?

          However judging from your previous comments, I am sure you will be able to somehow over look this, excuse it or come up with yet another double standard or questionable source.

          At least I’m aware that I’m an ignorant cunt. There is no accounting for asininity.

          But you aren’t entirely incorrect about religion being a majority factor in the case of genocide. In Sudan, Arab Muslims exterminated black Africans almost exclusively because of Islam. Racism being another.

          Clever dick….not so much.

          My grievence with religion are philosophical and my concerns are for human rights. If You want to blame Christianity for Rwanda that’s quite a stretch and intellectually dishonest but it’s your prerogative. However you do come off in my opinion as merely being bigoted towards Christians as people.

          Just as well I don”t give a fiddlers then, nor blame Christianity for ought. You brought the crap up, I just slammed it. You are an idiot, that is not my fault. Try better analogies or anecdotes. You are doing your side no favours…which is my side more or less. Sad really. That’s if you are trying to be sincere.

        • TheNuszAbides

          might wanna just chop the last two paragraphs off – the very last is still just quoting him so your responses to both/either are lost if they ever happened 😉

        • Ignorant Amos

          Cheers…a missed the “>” off the last html tags which hides everything written subsequent.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Not that it makes any more sense now it’s fixed…I must have been pissed at the time of writing.

        • TheNuszAbides

          eh, i thought i was following it until that point – maybe i need a few pints to read properly?

        • King Dave

          One more question in regards to the gospels.
          How do you account for the inconsistencies in the gospels if they are merely the product of plagiarization?

          I have stated a plausible explanation that they may indeed had their origins from different personal viewpoints. I do not see a reason to believe these inconsistencies are meant to lead me to such a conclusion, as most atheists use them to reject any legitimacy of the gospels.

        • Greg G.

          It is not just atheists who see the inconsistencies as a reason to reject the gospels as reliable history.

          I agree that different viewpoints explain the inconsistencies but they seem to be more theological than personal views.

          Mark wrote an allegory with allusions to OT passages. He had no basic story line to follow so he used some themes from Homer. He moved the person to the first century.

          Matthew took the allusions as prophecies that were written about a person who was coming to the time of the apostles. Matthew seems to have reworded the Epistle of James to put them in Jesus’ mouth. James arguments would have been stronger if he could have appealed to Jesus quotes but he never claims that Jesus said any of it. The evidence is the strong correlation between Matthew and James seen at The Sermon on the Mount Site: James and the Sermon on the Mount by Robert I. Kirby, though Kirby goes no where near that idea.

          If Matthew used James, then Luke had to have used Matthew because of the similarities in the wording. The common source excuse does not work for that. Luke mostly follows Mark’s sequence of events from chapter 3 to near the end of chapter 9 (except fior the Matthean material) where the central section follows Deuteronomy (C.F. Evans, “The Central Section of St. Luke’s Gospel.” In D.E. Nineham (ed.), Studies in the Gospels: Essays in Memory of R.H. Lightfoot. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1967, pp. 37-53) with things added from Mark and Matthew as they relate to the topic. In chapter 18, it’s back to Mark.

          John borrows from Mark but not the same way Matthew and Luke did. There seems to be some contact between Matthew and John but it is hard to tell who used whom. Luke seems to have known John but rejected much of that Gospel, especially the Lazarus story (Luke 16:31 “He said to him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead.’ ”). John’s theology seems to have gone back to Philo with the opening references to Logos. It may be a response to Gnosticism. The crucifixion in the Synoptics is like the scapegoat of Leviticus 16 whereas John’s crucifixion is more like the Passover lamb, as in Exodus 12. That is major as the scapegoat is a sin ritual and the Passover is not.

        • adam

          “How do you account for the inconsistencies in the gospels if they are merely the product of plagiarization?”

          Take an oral tale and modify for different audiences with different cultural backgrounds.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Take any written tale and modify for different audiences with different cultural backgrounds and at different times.

          The Universal Sherlock Holmes(1995) by Ronald B. DeWaal lists over 25,000 Holmes-related productions and products.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adaptations_of_Sherlock_Holmes

        • adam

          thanks
          I would have never known that Sherlock met Batman.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Adam…..I’m an ex-service man….advice: always keep yer back to the wall….no matter how genuine you think we all are, we are not….shocking a know, and I don’t always follow my own advice….but it is sound. One day it will catch me out.

        • adam

          ” as most atheists use them to reject any legitimacy of the gospels.”

          I cant speak for MOST atheist like YOU apparently can.

          But for me the different accounts are no reason to reject any legitimacy of the gospels, the supernatural MAGIC is enough for me with the absent ‘god’.

          The whole idea of the original sin and Jesus being the scapegoat (and yet original sin is still doing it’s thing as if NOTHING has changed) is enough for me to dismiss the legitimacy of the bible itself.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Yer man is starting to crumble a bit….insincerity?…troll bastard?….perhaps Devils advocate?

        • MR

          Insincerity/troll bastard. Not DA. I never bought it from the beginning.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Not DA. I never bought it from the beginning.

          I’m not as sharp as the rest of youse though…also, the benefit of the doubt and everything.

        • MNb

          Worse. He’s boring.

        • TheNuszAbides

          It is a horrible thing to infect your mind with.

          i agree insofar as it’s essentially doubling down (or calling a bluff, depending on perspective) over asinine afterlife claims. the thing is, what actually happens to people who renounce their faith in those moments? comfy slavery?

        • MR

          It appears many readers on this blog underestimate the power of faith, perhaps jealousy but certainly callously.

          We don’t underestimate the power of faith, we just understand that it is a form of self delusion. And we certainly don’t underestimate the power of self delusion.

        • adam

          “So the gospels don’t appear to be written as purely a fictitious concocted dismissal of Jewish religious law, to benefit the roman empire.”

          No, they appear to written as PROPAGANDA for political power of those who OPPOSED the roman empire.

          ” But seems less likely to be accepted or even of interest to the predominate peasant and illiterate population who were clearly not pro roman rule.”

          What does roman rule have to do with oral stories about Socrates, who was Greek?

          Do you think there were no Greek stories at the time?

        • King Dave

          “No, they appear to written as PROPAGANDA for political power of those who OPPOSED the roman empire.” – adam

          How are you now claiming to know what 1st century Christians believed and who wrote the first gospel and to know why?
          Please provide sources for your thesis.
          It’s seems you are all over the board and merely supporting your hypotheses with random aspersions.
          Your conspiracy theories rival those of the moon landing deniers.

        • MR

          How are you? You spend an awful lot of time defending something you can’t know.

        • Kodie

          It’s not our fault Christianity sounds made up.

        • adam

          “How are you now claiming to know what 1st century Christians believed and who wrote the first gospel and to know why?”

          You mean like YOU claim YOU know that it is based on MAGIC from some invisible being?

          LIke YOU CLAIM you know they didnt know about Socrates

          Cults and religions are based on tribalism,
          They DIVIDE groups for political power.
          They create propaganda to solidify an ENEMY (enemies) of the group to have a focus to raise power.

          It still works that way today.
          No MAGIC needed.

        • King Dave

          “You mean like YOU claim YOU know that it is based on MAGIC from some invisible being?” – adam

          That’s an odd response. I am merely speculating using the only information available on the topic.
          That’s not MAGIC but simply using good judgment.
          Why is that concept inconceivable with you?

          I am not endorsing the supernatural claims of the bible, just reiterating the vast majority and concensus opinion that Jesus was based on nothing more than an *** ordinary human being ***, and not a complete fabrication. That’s been my one argument all along.
          What part of that do you not understand?
          Why don’t you instead express your opinion on why Christianity is a complete myth rather than desperately trying to one up me?
          I am sure it will be more interesting than anything you’ve written so far, and make for a more constructive conversation.

        • adam

          Cults and religions are based on tribalism,
          They DIVIDE groups for political power.
          They create propaganda to solidify an ENEMY (enemies) of the group to have a focus to raise power.

          It still works that way today.
          No MAGIC needed.

        • King Dave

          If 1st-century Christianity was invented for political, economic and social power, it was a complete failure. Unless one believes being fed to the lions for two hundred years a success!
          I call it a cataclysmic failure. At least up until the Roman Empire made Christianity their official State religion. After that the fall of the Roman Empire began on schedule.
          Islamic law is completely incompatible with any other form of rule and imposes Sharia by the sword. Islam has been successfully in conquest to your points in the short term, but a total failure on human rights, equality, prosperity, militarily, socially and economically where oil cannot be drawn from directly below their territories.
          At the bottom of the GDP list, you will find in addition to African nations, countries ruled by Islamic law. These Islamic nations are plagued with endless violent schisms and sectarian conflicts that have been redrawing the map and changing the ruling authority for millennia. We will also find religious ruled nations are the most violent nations on earth. However South and Central America are in the mix as well, however they are not ruled by religion

          This brings us to one of the most powerful economic nation on Earth today. The USA.. It is not a Christian nation but a godless secular democracy. The highest GDP’s of the world are generally democratic.

          https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_per_capita
          This comment effectively negates your very common and popular assertions.
          I would absolutely love someone to attempt to dispute anything I said in this post.

          Good luck.

        • adam

          “If 1st-century Christianity was invented for political, economic and social power, it was a complete failure. ”

          “At least up until the Roman Empire made Christianity their official State religion.”

          Make up your mind, failure or not.
          You say NOT then give an example that proves my point.

          Cults and religions are based on tribalism,
          They DIVIDE groups for political power.
          They create propaganda to solidify an ENEMY (enemies) of the group to have a focus to raise power.

          It still works that way today.

          Sometimes it is successful – like the KKK WAS,

          No MAGIC needed.

          ” Islam has been successfully in conquest to your points in the short term, but a total failure on human rights, equality,”

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/89b30c81ba4b21746aae19b2cdf6c2b6a33e8eedc318be2f48029f4e390f292a.jpg You mean EXACTLY like christianity has historically been?

          You DO understand that Islam worships the VERY SAME ‘God’ of Abraham that ‘Christians’ do and get almost all their bad shit from the OT writings JUST like Christianity.

          Frankly the ONLY difference I see is how honest are its ‘believers’ in what it’s ‘god’ says to do.

        • At
          the bottom of the GDP list, you will find in addition to African nations, countries
          ruled by Islamic law

          Poor social conditions encourage religion. That’s why it’s stronger in the U.S. than in northern Europe.

        • King Dave

          Social conditions that can arguably be traced to who is in power. Another words religious militancy is not the results of violence, oppression and poverty, but their cause.

          Militant Islam gives us a real time example of this, and most people accuse them of living in the Biblical era.

          So this helps to conclude that 1st-century Christians didn’t fabricate all aspects of their faith in an attempt at a social, economic or political power grab. Especially knowing pretty confidentiality their lives would be in so much danger.

          Now Islam is all about conquest and had a600 years after Christianity to refine religion as a totalitarian system. Where as Christianity is more compatible with secularism. “Give to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s.”

        • MR

          Social conditions that can arguably be traced to who is in power.

          Social conditions can be caused by any number of things that have nothing to do with who is in power.

        • MR

          Militant Islam gives us a real time example of this, and most people accuse them of living in the Biblical era.

          Can you provide statistics on this?

        • MR

          So this helps to conclude

          Er…, no, it doesn’t. You’re just stating what you want to believe. Show your work.

        • Social conditions that can arguably be traced to who is in power.

          Whatever. Poor social conditions encourage religion in that society.

          Militant Islam gives us a real time example of this, and most people accuse them of living in the Biblical era.

          A literal reading of the Koran and the Old Testament take you to about the same place.

          So this helps to conclude that 1st-century Christians didn’t fabricate all aspects of their faith

          Who says they were fabricated? They grew as legends.

          Where as Christianity is more compatible with secularism. “Give to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s.”

          Thank you, Renaissance. Wouldn’t it be nice if Islam had one?

        • King Dave

          “A literal reading of the Koran and the Old Testament take you to about the same place.” – Bob Seidensticker

          True, I do know exactly what the OT says as does anyone who cares to read it.
          So why then are Christians and Jews not regularly stoning adulterers, blasphemers and apostates today?
          Almost Identical Islamic crimes and punishments that are on the books and enforced in Saudi Arabia.
          https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_Saudi_Arabia
          13 Islamic nations still have the death penalty for atheists.
          http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4417994
          If one is going to claim the Christian reformation is responsible, that would be arguable. Nothing of this reformation distances Christianity from Old Testament’s laws, and in fact the New Testament endorses it as you must be aware .
          http://www.evilbible.com/do_not_ignore_ot.htm

          I would love to hear your answer, but it really can be adequately explained that the Koran puts far more emphasis on conquest and not much of anything on the idea of peaceful coexistence.

          This question is more directed towards adam’s claim about the origins of religion being power, wealth ect, forgive me if I am wrong but you seem to be endorsing it when you chimed in:

          One can’t suggest with any merit that religion was created to seek power, control, wealth, influence ect, and then when that religious state fails, as often the case in Islam, then claim their failure is do to social conditions, poverty, but least of all religion.
          Excusing Islam is the PC narrative that doesn’t fly in reality.
          And yes a renaissance is needed in Islam. I don’t think it will get there unless Muslims become more open to criticism.

          “Whatever. Poor social conditions encourage religion in that society.” – Bob Seidensticker

          “Religion encourages poor social conditions that in society” – Me
          Your very blog suggests I am correct

        • So why then are Christians and Jews not regularly stoning adulterers, blasphemers and apostates today?

          Because their religions have been neutered by modernity.

          Nothing of this reformation distances Christianity from Old Testament’s laws, and in fact the New Testament endorses it as you must be aware .

          Yeah, I know. Modern Christianity has an odd cafeteria approach to the OT, picking and choosing what works today.

          I would love to hear your answer, but it really can be adequately explained that the Koran puts far more emphasis on conquest and not much of anything on the idea of peaceful coexistence.

          It really can be adequately explained by Christianity (or Europe) going through a Renaissance. Islam hasn’t.

          For more on that, consider the Islamic Golden Age. Islam adapts with time, just like Christianity.

          One can’t suggest with any merit that religion was created to seek power, control, wealth, influence ect, and then when that religious state fails, as often the case in Islam, then claim their failure is do to social conditions, poverty, but least of all religion.

          I don’t know what this addresses. Nothing that I wrote, it seems to me.

          Excusing Islam is the PC narrative that doesn’t fly in reality.

          I’m delighted to demand that Islam face up to crimes done in its name.

          “Whatever. Poor social conditions encourage religion in that society.” – Bob Seidensticker

          “Religion encourages poor social conditions that in society” – Me

          The cause and effect that I suggest comes from researcher Gregory Paul.

          And your claim?

        • TheNuszAbides

          Modern Christianity has an odd cafeteria approach to the OT, picking and choosing what works today.

          fixed. 🙂

        • Greg G.

          So why then are Christians and Jews not regularly stoning adulterers, blasphemers and apostates today?

          The Greeks and Romans limited the use of the OT penalties. The so-called Judeo-Christian morality owes a lot to Greco-Roman morality. The Muslims came along and started taking the OT seriously again.

        • TheNuszAbides

          so-called Judeo-Christian

          only in recent weeks was it finally brought to my attention what a canard that term is; it slipped by me in my unquestioning days of course, but it never occurred to me that there was more behind its coinage than a nod to some sort of continuity. but if it were really about continuity, wouldn’t it be more like Zoroastro-Judeo-Christian? hmm, not so elegant anymore …

        • Greg G.

          According to the gospels, the Jews needed to run executions by the Romans. A famous story in Josephus where Ananus has James killed when the new Procurator was en route got him relieved as high priest. The Romans enjoyed blood sports and did public torture and executions but they apparently couldn’t stomach the Hebrew justice system.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Although Ares was viewed primarily as a destructive and destabilizing force, Mars represented military power as a way to secure peace …

          seems legit. not so compatible with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s sensibilities …

        • MR

          Akkado-Judeo-Zoroastro-Greco-Romano-Christian

        • adam

          “One can’t suggest with any merit that religion was created to seek
          power, control, wealth, influence ect, and then when that religious
          state fails, as often the case in Islam, then claim their failure is
          do to social conditions, poverty, but least of all religion. ”

          Why?
          Power structures fail all the time, almost always due to economic reasons.

        • Pofarmer

          “Especially knowing pretty confidentiality their lives would be in so much danger.”

          You really gotta stop this stupidity. I am pretty sure Richard Carrier has a good section on this in “Not the Impossible Faith”. Pagans were generally pretty accepting of other religions as long as you respected their pet deity too.

        • MR

          The motives of the people who initiate something have no bearing on what actually follows.

        • MR

          The USA.. It is not a Christian nation but a godless secular democracy.

          Are not Christians part of the USA?

        • Pofarmer

          The whole being fed to lions thing? Did. Not. Happen.

        • wtfwjtd

          Your reply reminded me of that hilarious Yosemite Sam and Bugs Bunny episode where Sam has been ordered by the emperor to find a victim to be fed to the lions for the day’s entertainment, or he’ll be the victim.
          “What’s up doc? Roman legion convention or something?”

          “No, it ain’t no Roman legion convention. I need a victim!”

          (Narrows eyes)–then commands soldiers nearby:
          ” Say, get that rabbit!”
          lol!

        • wtfwjtd
        • Pofarmer

          “So the gospels don’t appear to be written as purely a fictitious concocted dismissal of Jewish religious law, to benefit the roman empire. A true Jesus myther would have to believe that.”

          No. You really need to listen to the arguments instead of making up your own-bad- ones.

        • King Dave

          “reference needed:” – adam

          Sure, but you now seem to be suggesting that Roman persecution of 1st century Christians is a myth or a lie or in dispute? That there was no such thing as 1st century Christians.

          Believe what you what but here are some links as requested.

          “Christian missionaries, as well as the people that they converted to Christianity, have been the target of persecution, many times to the point of being martyred for their faith.” –
          https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians

          “Paul ( c. 5 – c. 67) (his Roman name, his Jewish name being Saul), was dedicated to the persecutionof the early disciples of Jesus in the area ofJerusalem.”
          “Fourteen of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament have traditionally been attributed to Paul. Seven of the epistles are undisputed by scholars as being authentic, with varying degrees of argument about the remainder.” – https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_of_Tarsus

          “The Roman historian and senator Tacitus referred to Christ, his execution by Pontius Pilate, and the existence of early Christians in Rome in one page of his final work, Annals(written ca. AD 116)”
          “The passage is one of the earliest non-Christian references to the origins of Christianity, the execution of Christ described in the Canonical gospels, and the presence and persecution of Christians in 1st-century Rome.” – https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacitus_on_Christ

          If Tacitus is insufficient or Paul or Nero, and any links found in the above pages to effectively prove persecution of Christians to you, nothing will. And I can’t be bothered to try.

          Most all Christian victims of this persecution was because of their faith, which makes them martyrs by definition.

          If you believe all this is still a myth, so be it, but therefore we don’t have grounds to continue this conversation.

        • Pofarmer

          One thing that’s interesting about Tacitus, is that the “annals” were supposedly written in 116 A.D. in this case, they would be relating events that supposedly happened 60 years before.

        • adam

          “Sure, but you now seem to be suggesting that Roman persecution of 1st century Christians is a myth or a lie or in dispute?”

          I am certainly suggesting that christian persecution has been distorted at best.

          Sorry, but Paul is already an unreliable witness.

          “”I would also add that martyrdom was abundant in first century Christianity centuries before the Romans injected their influence on Christianity.””

          Still dont see where you’ve demonstrated your claim.

        • Pofarmer

          There was a long history of martyrdom in Judaism. Stories from Pontius Pilate indicate so many Jews showing up for some offense that they finally told them to go away and sent them home. You should check out Candida Moss work.

        • MR

          And martyrdom certainly doesn’t have to be based on a truth, simple belief is sufficient. The vast majority of Christian martyrs could not have known with any certainty whether Jesus existed or not.

        • wtfwjtd

          All right, sounds good Dave. I won’t comment on the martyrdom thing, it looks like you have plenty of other folks who will engage you on that.

          I want to start off by asking you to think about the Palestine of 2,000 years ago. A cross roads of cultures, a hotbed of religious zealotry, of all types. This climate, it seems, bred lots of religious claims, and in fact we are informed by those who are experts in this field that there were literally dozens of men who claimed to be a “messiah” and that the end of the world was coming soon. Sure, there are those who get mad when you say there were lots of guys claiming this, but they are emotionally involved, and want to believe that their boy was the only one. But historians say otherwise– there were lots of messiah claimants, and others claiming equally nutty stuff.
          Are you with me so far? Does this sound like a fair basis to proceed from?

        • King Dave

          Does this sound like a fair basis to proceed from?” – wtfwjtd

          Yeah.
          “…. experts in this field that there were literally dozens of men who claimed to be a “messiah” and that the end of the world was coming soon…” – wtfwjtd

          I am not as familiar with those people’s claims or can imagine what corroborating evidence is available on the topic. If you have some links, I would appreciate it, and look into it as it would be genuinely very interesting to me.

          However I can assume with confidence that there were many viable candidates available for future Christians as to appoint the title of Christ. One obvious reason is the number of crucifixions, and executions of blasphemers and heretics that still go one on in great numbers to this day, without the fanfare.

          It is also quite possible that the conflicting stories in the gospels can be adequately but arguably explained by the multiple candidate theory, but certainly different personal experiences as well. Perhaps these different group’s experience were with a single candidate as the story goes.

          In my opinion that is certainly more of a reasonable conclusion as opposed to so many fanatics at tje time were haphazardly bouncing around from preacher to preacher willing to put their difficult lives on the line chasing a mythical messiah..
          These are obstacles not adequately adressed by the proponents of the Jesus Myth, and the point they start to distance themselves from that myth.

        • wtfwjtd

          Thanks Dave. I’m not trying to play a “gotcha” game with you, I want to think of this as more of a thought experiment to show why I feel the way I do than anything.
          So…let’s just pick one of the messiah claimants, a name is not important. Let’s just call him, arbitrarily, Messiah #57, or M57 for short. Well, it just so happens, I’ve found a great story about this guy, in fact, it’s a rather fabulous story. It tells about his exploits, claims he has followers, and contains some…rather fantastic and dubious claims too. We won’t get into that right now. But, the fact is, I do have a story, and various writers and even historians near the time have confirmed that there indeed people who claim to be followers of M57. Now, there are plenty of people that will rightly claim, that M57 is no different than all of the other nut jobs running around making similar claims, and I have to admit…they likely have a point. But…this story line is very familiar; in fact, those who are experts in ancient studies and other fields that tell us that this is a standard story line that has played out many, many times in human history, and in fact is the most common way that religions and many other movements are started.

          How does this sound so far?

        • King Dave

          Sorry it took so long, I am with you so please continue.
          However I can already state that completely fabricating a religion based on your hypothetical scenarios are not as simple as you seem to be implying. Otherwise we would have far more religions still in existence and the ancient Greek Gods probably wouldn’t be considered myths today if it was so easy.

        • MR

          Religions are like corporations, they appear then merge with, swallow or defeat their competitors. Nothing special about that.

        • Otto

          Christianity does not need to be completely fabricated though. It is built on Judaism, I would compare it to how Mormonism was constructed out of Christianity.

        • TheNuszAbides

          ikr? you know a high-handed dismissal of JM is coming from someone not thinking straight if they (along with a dash of gratuitous credentialism, a few times that i’ve seen) characterize the position as though the supposed myth is “from nothing”, “whole-cloth” etc.

        • adam

          “Otherwise we would have far more religions still in existence and the ancient Greek Gods probably wouldn’t be considered myths today if it was so easy.”

          No because it is so easy that the Greek Gods were replaced. It is more about POLITICAL POWER than religion anyway.

        • MR

          Religions have been fabricated from faked golden plates and reincarnated souls from other planets. A legendary figurehead pales in comparison.

        • wtfwjtd

          No problem Dave, bear with me, I’m almost there. In fact, I just stated why I think that there is wide scholarly agreement on why Jesus is likely a historical figure. Did you catch it?
          Let me summarize:
          1)Causes or religions nearly always have a founder; 2)founders have followers; 3)followers write things down. Sure, there are variations on these themes, but it’s basic psychology 101, and you’ll find wide agreement with these principals across a wide variety of academic disciplines. Surely, there are exceptions, but it takes evidence to assert an exception, and not merely the absence of evidence. If the basic paradigm is in place, there is no reason to assume that such a religion or cause under examination is any different than the vast number that has followed this pattern, unless there is compelling evidence to do so.
          Are you still with me here?

        • King Dave

          I am with you, please continue.

          Also, I am not as familiar with ancient religions as much as I like to be, but as for Islam, Christianity and Judaism to me seem to have their origins based on actual people. But as I stated in my original post that many legends are based on a speck of truth, so I agree with you.
          Take the kraken a legendary sea monster, probably in actuality a giant Squid. And as I posted, the giant squid was at one point generally dismissed as a myth until a carcass washed up on land and not through an attempt to uncover the truth.

        • wtfwjtd

          In this case, it’s reasonable to assume the religion in question (Christianity) was started by a real person, because this is the way most religions are started. Psychologists and historians inform us that we are not being anachronistic to assert this, and it’s a concept that holds over lots of people over many different time periods.

          Now consider some of the claims of Christians: The founder Jesus was a god-man, who was rock-star famous, and then wasn’t able to be killed by the local authorities because he had special magical powers. Skeptics naturally note the absolute lack of any record outside the gospels to confirm this, period, and because of this utter lack of evidence these outrageous claims can be summarily dismissed, and it’s now rightly assumed that their prophet Jesus was just one of many very ordinary messiah claimants.

          Well, great! We can reasonably assume that Jesus was just an ordinary guy, who lived and died in Palestine. There’s no evidence for him having lived at all, so we can now declare that he didn’t even exist right? Hold on, not so fast….

          No evidence of his existence is great evidence to show the stories about him are false. However, in order to make the claim that he never existed, this very (lack of) evidence now works against us…can we really correctly assume that there would be any evidence at all to support the existence of a nobody in the first century? No, we cannot; hence we cannot reasonably claim that this person never existed at all, based on this lack of evidence. In order to reasonably make the claim that we know for certain that a nobody didn’t exist, we are going to need evidence to show that. Good luck…

          OTOH, I still have a story about a man, who had followers, who wrote stuff down about him and their doings. And there are other sources near the time and area that confirm the existence of at least some of these people. Isn’t it reasonable to assume that their group had a real live founder? As I’ve stated, the scholarly community says yes, and unless there is compelling evidence to the contrary there is no compelling reason to think otherwise.

          That’s my summation of why I accept that there probably was a historical Jesus. Here’s a comment by MNb that really stuck in my mind a few days ago:

          “The evidence for a historical Jesus can be summed up in less than 20 sentences. Attempts to make JM work routinely take a few hundreds of pages. Richard Carrier: 700+. Robert Price: 250+. Earl Doherty: 800+. So much for an easy and simple explanation. Or perhaps those books are mainly filled with family gossip?”

          Simple explanations don’t sell books, but usually are what we eventually return to.

        • Otto

          “Or perhaps those books are mainly filled with family gossip?”

          Much of the pages of the books are used to refute claims and assumptions that Christians have taken as truth. That has to be done before they can then use the rest of the pages to argue their case.

          “OTOH, I still have a story about a man, who had followers, who wrote stuff down about him and their doings.”

          You have a story about people who wrote stuff down about Jesus? Where? Nowhere in the story does it say people wrote stuff down about him that I am aware of. Where are those writings?

        • wtfwjtd

          “You have a story about people who wrote stuff down about Jesus? ”

          The book of Mark is a story about Jesus, for starters. True, the author is anonymous, but we still have the story. We accept anonymous work to fill in other characters of ancient history, and there’s no compelling reason not to in this case.
          We also have the writings of Paul. Once again, he doesn’t give us any details about the life of Jesus, but he does write about his Jesus–a lot. He is connected to a Jerusalem group that are also followers of Jesus, and we have to connect the two groups somehow. Both groups seem to follow the same Jesus, he seems to be the connection.

        • Otto

          Mark is a story about a guy named Jesus. I don’t see any connection to a person in history. My question would be what parts of Mark should be taken as historical and why?

          Paul is the closest person writing about Jesus to the time he was supposedly alive and yet Paul does not report on anything Jesus taught during his ministry, any actions he did or anything at all that can be tied to a flesh and blood person. Paul strictly writes about a Jesus tied to the OT and/or Paul’s personal revelation. Since that is the case can’t we throw out Paul as being connected historically? His Jesus seems to be a spirit. Both groups do seem to follow the same Jesus, and neither group reports on anything flesh and blood.

          A plausible option is that the spiritual Jesus was later ‘humanized’ in the Gospels and there is precedence for mythology being humanized by the ancients.

          I am not convinced that this is what happened, but it does fit with what we know. Robert Price, Carrier and others at one time thought the idea of Jesus as myth was ridiculous. Their work in the area has at least lead them to the possibility he is. Carrier deals in probabilities and he puts the odds of a flesh and blood Jesus at 1 in 3 at best.
          None of it proves Jesus was not historical but the question is not as clear cut as it has been made out to be.

        • wtfwjtd

          “Since that is the case can’t we throw out Paul as being connected historically?”

          There are a couple of reasons I’m not quite comfortable with doing this. As we both agree, he says nothing about Jesus’s actual life on earth. However, there is more than one way to view this, as I’ve explained elsewhere. I believe there’s a high probability that Jesus may have already become a legend by the time Paul was preaching, and Paul tells the Corinthians that he “resolved to know nothing while we were with you, except Jesus and him crucified.” Sounds like maybe some of the flock were possibly asking some uncomfortable questions, and Paul was trying to shut them up simply by repeating his core message.
          Plus, just the fact that Paul and a group of guys in Jerusalem were following a Jesus character, needs an explanation. An actual man is the simplest one, and that’s really what the case for historicity rests on.
          I agree about scholars such as Price and Carrier. I appreciate the fact that their work allows us to confidently dismiss the resurrection as a hoax, the miracle stories are fake, and that there’s virtually no history retained in the gospels or other NT writings. We can confidently assert, beyond reasonable doubt, that story of Jesus is a legend. And they have shown that there is plausibility in the idea that he may be myth as well.

        • adam

          ” I believe there’s a high probability that Jesus may have already become a legend by the time Paul was preaching”

          In light of Ehrman’s statement this seem highly improbable… https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1c4ef347bfeac030b9eea052af06ad679411c098f99990006fdec013bc884d3f.jpg

        • wtfwjtd

          Since we agree that Jesus was a nobody, we wouldn’t expect to find such evidence.

        • adam

          If he were already a legend we WOULD expect to find evidence of the LEGEND in that time frame.

        • Greg G.

          Superman is a story but it doesn’t imply that Clark Kent is a kernel of truth.

          Paul says he visited them in Jerusalem and apparently they didn’t care what he did with the Gentiles. But he says he also preached to the circumcised. Many of Paul’s letters reflect some disputes with the other apostles. Paul infers that Jesus was crucified, the Galatians dispute would indicate that the Jerusalem group taught otherwise. Perhaps they both agree that Jesus died, as Isaiah 53 says about the Suffering Servant.

        • wtfwjtd

          Didn’t Paul say it took him something like 3 years after his conversion before he visited Jerusalem? I think he said this to “get acquainted” with Cephus. How odd.

        • Pofarmer

          Yep, that sounds right. And he doesn’t visit the tomb, doesn’t go to the site of the crucifixion, doesn’t look up Jesus Mother Mary. Odd.

        • I like the avatar!

        • wtfwjtd

          Thanks! Your post inspired me to dig out a stamp that we got at Skepticon a few years ago. We’ve gotten some good laughs with this, and it is kinda fun when you spend this to see people’s reaction or if they even notice. I don’t think of this as “defacing” currency, I’m just “fixing” it to be the way it should be, before these zealots ruined it in 1954 by putting their religious crap on it.
          I know, my few bucks worth of fixed money is a drop in the bucket, but they say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

        • Greg G.

          If only we could make the bill buy as much merchandise as it did in 1954. The older I get, the stronger I get. When I was young, I couldn’t carry $30 worth of groceries with one hand.

        • wtfwjtd

          I know what you mean. My late father used to restore old soda ware and vending machines, I was amazed at what a dime or nickel would buy back in the 1950’s. Now all of our coins are tokens and practically worthless.

        • I find it a bit empowering. Conservatives have shanghaied religion to carry out their evil deeds? Not with my money.

        • wtfwjtd

          And it’s a good way of turning the tables–if Christians think it’s OK to put crap about their god on my money, then surely they have no reason to object to me flouting my atheism on their money, right? Funny how it seems to be just fine one way, but in reverse it’s deemed “offensive” or “persecution”. What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander.

        • Greg G.

          One good piece of evidence with some context is all you need to prove existence. It is much harder to prove non-existence so a more exhaustive explanation is required. It requires a debunking of every claim of evidence in Jesus’ favor just to get to a neutral state.

          One can then show that every passage in the early epistles that seem to be about an earthly Jesus has information from the OT, often a quotation. See my old post here: Paul’s Sources about Jesus

          Then see New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash by Robert M. Price to see that the gospels are about other people and fictional characters but attributed to Jesus.

          If everything we think we can know about Jesus isn’t even about Jesus, why think there was one? It is better evidence that he was made up.

          I didn’t see MNb’s post but I saw Alicia comment on it and I gave a one page explanation.

          PS: Here:

          https://disqus.com/home/discussion/crossexamined/12_reasons_why_jesus_is_a_legend/#comment-2182269765

        • wtfwjtd

          “It is much harder to prove non-existence so a more exhaustive explanation is required. ”

          No doubt about it. That’s what I was trying to show by pointing out the dozens of messiahs running around in the first century Palestine. It’s easy to show that their message was flawed, simply because their dire predictions as a group died with them. Jesus fits into this group; we can confidently assert that his message and story are embellished legend for the same reason. But making the claim that he didn’t exist is much harder, and would be on the level of saying that we have evidence that messiah #48 was a myth, or #74, #88 or #95 or whichever random one you wish to pick. Jesus was a nobody, just like these anonymous guys were, and so we would not expect to find any evidence whatsoever of their existence (or non-existence?) save that we know they existed collectively.
          In the case of Jesus, we have a reported group of followers, who say that he is their boy. It seems more reasonable to assume that they picked one of these numerous messiah claimants running around–they had plenty to choose from, after all–than to just make one up. This is a pattern that follows basic psychology, and we’ve got numerous examples from the historical record. It’s certainly plausible that they just made up their leader, but not probable. Unless and until we have good reasons to assume that they made one up, sticking with the basic model is the default position.
          If Carrier, Price, and others can convince their colleagues that there’s good reason to reject the standard paradigm of how most religions are started, and show that Christianity is indeed a special or exceptional case, I would be delighted.

        • Pofarmer

          How would Cephas, James, and Paul making Jesus up, be any different than Hindu’s making Krishna up? Or L. Ron Hubbard making, well, lotsa shit, but Xenu up, or Joseph Smith making Moroni up(yeah, a little different) or making Ned Ludd up, or making Dionysis, or Osiris or Thor or Odin up? I mean, there’s a pretty long track record of making up Gods. The Bible is chock full of made up figures and stories.

        • wtfwjtd

          Or, how’s it any different than the Jews making up their god? Oh, I get it, mankind likes to invent deities. But, as we know, the stories about Jesus weren’t stagnant, they evolved over time. Paul’s Jesus was ethereal, he gives no details of his life as a man at all. We’ve shown how Paul as a Roman does Roman stuff; a common Roman belief at the time was that of a man becoming a god. But he wasn’t translated to Godhood until he died. Maybe Jesus was a legend by the Paul’s day–he knew the stories, but was embarrassed by them, and stuck to preaching “Christ crucified” as his central message. Paul himself says something like this in Corinthians. Jesus didn’t become a god to Paul until that event, and if he was embarrassed by the tall tales of Jesus the man, why dwell on them?

        • Otto

          I think the question is why make the assumption Paul was writing about a real person? Your premise is plausible but there is nothing to back it up.

        • wtfwjtd

          The prime reason I would make that assumption is to tie Paul in with the group. the assumption of an actual man gives them a common denominator. But Paul’s interest in Jesus seems to be after he became a god.

        • Otto

          But it would be just as plausible that both groups were talking about a spiritual Jesus that had be ‘revealed’ through OT scripture. Neither Paul nor the group in Jerusalem talked about a flesh and blood Jesus. The common connection could also be scripture which would fit the evidence we have.

        • Kodie

          I like the idea they were all talking about some guy they heard about, just like modern Christians, and nobody had actually met Jesus personally, but assumed the person they were talking to had. Myths start in funny ways, and if you have a bunch of these guys running around, word on the street about any number of them could be conflated and “become” some non-real guy. It’s the same power of suggestion used to spread religion today. Take one person who believes they have a personal relationship with Jesus and have them talking to someone who is, shall we say, interested. Oh, you know him? What’s he like? Tell me more about these experiences of prayer and how you get to know you really know that guy, so I can too.

        • MR

          Another thing is that the concept of a flesh and blood savior had already existed for hundreds of years before anyone ever said Jesus existed. Everyone is already expecting a real person to come along at some point. If Jesus was invented, he certainly wasn’t invented out of whole cloth. It’s not like some guy appeared out of nowhere with a brand new religion and it’s obvious that a live person must have begun this new religion. It’s just a morph of the old religion, and the idea of a flesh and blood person coming along was on everyone’s mind already.

          Everyone’s waiting for “the savior” to come along and someone says, hey, what if he already came and died like that Osiris guy and is now ruling from the afterworld? And someone from that group tells someone else, hey, Joshua thinks the messiah already came and died and resurrected like that Osiris guy…, and that person goes and tells someone else, hey, Simon tells me that some guy named Joshua was the messiah who came and died, and that guys, like, I heard something similar! I wonder if it was that Copperfield dude who everyone says can turn wine into water, and it just starts to feed on itself….

          I mean, there are all kinds of scenarios that could play out and you don’t need an actual person to jump start it, you already have this prototype of a flesh and blood savior in everyone’s head that everyone is expecting to come along at any moment. You just need the spark of a rumor, you don’t need an actual person. The idea is already there and all you need is to retroactively invent a person, whether intentionally or not.

          Look at the crazy stuff based on nothing people will believe today given the opportunity. And how much more gullible people from two thousand years ago must have been.

        • TheNuszAbides

          And how much more gullible people from two thousand years ago must have been.

          i’m not entirely on board with this conceit. yes, the accumulation of written records and technological advancements and some measurable spread of various types of literacy have arguably net-positive influences in this regard, but charlatans and cheerleaders of all sorts have the same access and marinate in the same ‘advanced’ cultural trappings. i’m wary of positing that a sort of ‘mental evolution’ is so distinct that [e.g.] “who falls for [this shit] in 2015?” is healthy rhetoric. each individual still needs to be introduced to language, rhetoric and the rest of it, all over again, every time.

          Look at the crazy stuff based on nothing people will believe today given the opportunity.

          i think that’s more than enough to go by. (runs off to watch The Matrix again and fantasize about downloading instant knowledge/skill training)

        • wtfwjtd

          Considering the history of these kinds of things, apparently historians (and others) wouldn’t say “just as plausible”…but “plausible. ” I think that’s the main job of Carrier and Price, to convince their colleagues and other experts on this stuff and show that it is just as plausible.
          And, it’s too bad that we don’t know more of what the group in Jerusalem preached. What we do know is that they and Paul were bitter rivals, who seemed to be following the same Christ.

        • Otto

          I think that is exactly what Carrier, etc. are doing. Hector Alveros, a respected Biblical scholar, recently came out as an agnostic as to the question of historicity. I am going to hear him speak later this month.

          I would recommend reading David Fitzgerald’s “Nailed, Ten Christian Myths that show Jesus never existed at all”. He summarizes the argument in a very easy to read short book.

          Fitzgerald is also working on a book that addresses why the majority of scholars have been slow to even consider the question of historicity despite some very good arguments. He argues that it has little to do with evidence and much more to do with politics, religious affiliation and peer pressure than the rejection of the argument itself. I have heard he has interviewed a number of scholars that actually agree with the Myth argument but fear coming out publicly because of the backlash and losing their jobs.

        • wtfwjtd

          I’ve watched a few videos of Dr Alveros, I’d love to hear him in person! That ought to be a treat.

          I’ve read Dr. Fitzgerald’s book, I’ve got it on my Kindle in fact. I think it’s a great read, and I think he makes a great case for Jesus being legendary. But that last step from legend to myth is a big one, and I don’t believe his book quite has enough to go all the way there.
          That is a valid point about the politics, I’ve heard similar things. It will be interesting to see if these guys can make some headway with their academic peers.
          BTW, if you ever get a chance to hear Dr. Fitzgerald, do it! He gave a great talk and Bible lesson at Skepticon a few years ago, my wife and I enjoyed it immensely.

        • Otto

          I would love to hear David Fitzgerald…I had a chance 2 years ago and I couldn’t make it work.

          I would agree that the step from legend to myth is a big one, I just think the case is close to being made. If there was a real person but the Gospels do not even come close to reflecting who that person is/was, is it still fair to say it is based on a historical person? There just doesn’t seem to be anything in the Gospels that can be tied to anything historically…but you are right, it still doesn’t prove it is not. There just doesn’t seem to be any ‘there’ there.

          It reminds me of when movies do that, they say ‘based on a real story’ but then when we look into it almost none of it really happened.

        • wtfwjtd

          I totally agree, and if that case is made I will be delighted! There seems to be a near total lack of historical substance to the gospels, and on this point there is widespread scholarly and academic agreement. That’s why it’s the angle I prefer to work when dealing with apologists.

        • Otto

          Oh I agree about the dealing with apologists, I don’t tend to argue the myth angle. I find historicity to be a very interesting question but it is not one I take up to argue my point other than to show the Gospels do not reflect what we know historically.

        • wtfwjtd

          I spent the better part of four decades believing this crap, I admit to having a fascination for seeing it deconstructed. One of these days, I’ll let it go, but my personality is the type to obsess about things until I get them sorted out in my head. I imagine I’ll get there eventually, and like you I find the question to be a very interesting one.

        • Otto

          Hmmm, we sound a lot alike. Better part of 4 decades for me too. I am not sure I will ever get there completely though.

          You raised Catholic too?

        • wtfwjtd

          No, protestant, specifically Nazarene. Think Baptists who have doubled down. Yeah, it was nutty stuff! To us Catholics were cultists who were going to burn in hell, lol! Funny, because now it all just looks pretty much like the same bizzarre stuff to me.

        • Otto

          Yeah…Catholics thought the same of you guys. I used to Defend Catholicism because I thought it was a more reasonable version…now I think it is just as fundy as any other….except many of their Parishioners are pretty luke warm.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yes, that’s no surprise, tribalism seems to be part and parcel of most religions. I remember those who looked down their noses at Catholicism when the priests molesting boys scandals broke. Thing is, I could look around me and find plenty of the same type of misdeeds within the protestant ranks. Love of Jesus does indeed blind people to some pretty awful stuff that’s right in front of them sometimes.

        • Otto

          The abuse scandal made me question Catholicism…then I looked around and realized I was just picking what I liked and that is not a path to what is actually true. I then listened to the atheist position just to check it out…it was all over very shortly…lol

        • wtfwjtd

          Once you make the decision to go where the evidence leads, and own it, it’s all over with very shortly.

        • TheNuszAbides

          “morality binds and blinds.” IMO Haidt’s The Righteous Mind should get heavy play in colleges and even high schools.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i definitely scratch my head a bit over middle-aged converts to Catholicism. i hardly think it’s a coincidence that the anecdotal sample i’m thinking of have a lot of overlap in being relatively conservative, like to think of themselves as erudite (which of course they are compared to whatever huge fraction of the planet, for what that’s worth) … people who already have abundant elitist inclinations, sucked in by vaunted ~tradition~ and bottomless catalogs of theological convolutions.

        • Greg G.

          Fitzgerald’s Nailed was great. I didn’t read it for a long time because I figured I had heard most of it but he makes some good points.

          I saw a video where he and Neil Godfrey were interviewed simultaneously recently.

          Christ Myth Theory Interview with David Fitzgerald and Neil Godfrey

        • Otto

          Oh…I will check that out. I saw one recently with Carrier, Fitzgerald and Price I liked.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPZ39rqaIZ0

        • TheNuszAbides

          i just caught that recently too. love Price’s delivery of “The Island of the Cannibals!”

        • TheNuszAbides

          thanks for that, i’d kind of been wanting to hear Godfrey’s voice. (personal problem?)

        • Greg G.

          I wonder if that is his real name. It is either a great name for an atheist or a great pun – “Kneel God-free”.

        • TheNuszAbides

          “now then, Colonel – Batguano …”

        • adam

          ” What we do know is that they and Paul were bitter rivals, who seemed to be following the same Christ.”

          Which would be odd if it were based off the same person, but makes sense if they are creating it out of their interpretation of the OT. (which is obviously different that the Jewish view of the SAME ‘messiah’ from the SAME OT source)

        • wtfwjtd

          Not really. I’ve seen plenty of churches with bitter rivalries, religion seems to bring out the worst in people. Everyone seems to have their own interpretation of things.

        • adam

          ” Everyone seems to have their own interpretation of things.”

          So in essence these churches dont even worship the same Jesi? (but their interpretation of what they WANT Jesus to be?)

        • wtfwjtd

          It does sound that way, doesn’t it? Like Bob has said many times, the Bible is the Christian’s sock puppet, and they make it say pretty much whatever they want it to say.

        • adam

          It is kind of the fundamental problem with Revealed ReligionsTM

          But it IS what makes them popular.

          Kind of like the do it yourself bear stuffing stores, make ‘god’ however you like, just call him Jesus.

        • Kodie

          I haven’t been following the lengthy detailed discussion about the biblical scholarship on the subject, but does the Jesus in the bible sound like only one person, or does it sound like a scattering of details and anecdotes that could have been more than one person? I heard the part about the fad for maniacal rabbis at the time claiming messiah, all caught up there. I can imagine some real stuff happened and people heard things but nobody kept track if they were still talking about that one guy or a different guy now.

          There is nothing at all about the idea that there were many messiah claims at the time that makes it more likely to be a real guy for me. And yet, real guys do exist who are lost to history, so there is nothing preventing him from being real either. If there were so many, how did one set apart? The whole idea of there being so many means you can take a likely character of the time as your protagonist and make him so much better. Hell, maybe your first messiah claim didn’t take off, get to work and regroup – you can sell a guy who’s the messiah if he’s “already dead”. Bartles and Jaymes, lol. I remember in college, when wine coolers were “new”, and some guy was all shit, they’re not real guys who make this stuff? Thinking back on it, I wonder how two old guy grass roots wine cooler partners was appealing to college students. I also wonder why we didn’t just drink wine, but we never did.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYdWHK6AA6E

        • wtfwjtd

          “The whole idea of there being so many means you can take a likely character of the time as your protagonist and make him so much better.”

          I kinda have a theory about this–I’m just pulling this out of my ass, mind you–maybe there was this group that was headed up by Peter, James, John, and a few others, who had done their “research” of OT scriptures, and were convinced that their kick-Roman-ass messiah was going to be here just any minute. They ran into this Jesus fellow, became convinced he was The One, and started promoting him. But dammit, he gets killed by the Romans as common criminal, now we are stuck with this kick-ass messiah who’s deader than a door nail. What to do now? Time to “re-interpret” the scriptures and re-tool the message. Along comes a dude named Paul, who thinks this messiah stuff is great, and has his own “visions” about his Lord and Savior and off he goes. He gets rid of all the Judaism crap and tries to make the religion more appealing; after all, who wants to get their genitals sliced up for Jesus? Being the slick marketer that he is, he does away with that and replaces it with his own “easy” version of Christianity that says all you need to do is keep God’s commands, the ones he “speaks” to you. Easy-peasy. He gets more popular than those other guys, gets a lucky break or two and his version eventually wins out.

          “does it sound like a scattering of details and anecdotes that could have been more than one person?”

          I’ve often wondered this myself, and with all these messiah claimants running around it certainly is possible. But that’s one reason I don’t argue against historicity much; with this smorgasbord of messiahs to pick from, surely they could find one kook in the bunch that fit the bill, rather than just make one up. But, it is possible to go either way, people do unpredictable things in the name of religion all the time.

          I remember those B&J commercials, IIRC they just found those dudes somewhere and put them in their commercials. Kinda funny.

        • Kodie

          The power of suggestion works pretty easily. If the pot was boiling over for a messiah to show up, then goddammit he was gonna show up somehow. If you start talking about “the one” I can see how some would shut the door in your face, but others would add to the hype, where the gospels were putting stories together of what they heard. And were the gospels his personal friends? Were they friends with each other? I have no idea! There’s this idea going around, someone ought to be writing this shit down. I love just winging speculations. I had written this idea before of a guy who could not get famous with his cult, so he invented a leader, so he was not really the leader but he was. Posing as the absent leader’s second in command, he could get a lot more shit done, he just didn’t have the poise and the mania to attract a following of his own self. The absent leader could perform such feats to behold, but #2, well, they might ask him to perform stunts and prove he is the real messiah. It is kind of messed up they would believe stories about a guy they never met, but billions of Christians today do. Anyway, he was coming back to town to meet you all and got detained by some Roman soldiers. Sorry! And this guy was crazy, he rented a tomb and everything to stage the emptiness of it.

          Anyway, if you take apart the story where Jesus made some inspirational speeches and storytime, aside from the miracles, having fits, and claiming to be the son of god* like a weirdo, he did say some cool learning stuff, well anyway, someone did.

          *According to many Christmas carols, Jesus was famous as soon as he was born. How did that part of the story get to the main part of the story? Who was there and recalled the star, the wise men, the manger? Did Jesus tell his buds the legend of his birth? Did he know he was Jesus at the time he was a baby and recall the events going on around him? Yes yes, the animals in the stable all knelt to me as soon as I was born. Or was the messiah story built in? This story of a baby that was born in certain conditions, so they were expecting him in his adulthood to show up and preach his wisdom. Why was Jesus 30? Why wasn’t he some brilliantly mad 6-year-old?

        • wtfwjtd

          I think your theory about the #2 being the #1 has been done, on more than one occasion. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise, really. Or, I’ve seen a few Wizard-of-Oz schemes too, everyone keeps looking for the Great Wizard but they can never find him, and we eventually discover that he’s not even there.
          Yes, the gospels are part of an evolving Jesus story. To Paul, Jesus became god when he was crucified; to Mark, Jesus became god when he was baptized; to Luke and Matthew, he became god when he was born; to John, he was always god. So mash all this crap together, and viola! you have the Jesus story, with all of its sayings and miracles and contradictions and other clap trap. And yes, there were a few “gospels” about Jesus the petulant 6-year-old. In these stories his father asked him to quit striking people dead because it was pissing off the villagers and no one wanted to be around them. These were rejected from the canon and the only gospels that were kept were the least ridiculous and embarrassing, I think.

        • TheNuszAbides

          haven’t been following the lengthy detailed discussion about the biblical scholarship on the subject,

          Otto’s embedded video of Carrier/Price/Fitzgerald upthread is a good deal, not-so-dry, potentially fun thing to run in the background, if you operate that way.

        • Wouldn’t it be more odd if it were not based on a real person? Why would these two rival groups revere the same legendary founder?

        • adam

          No, not if they are both based on misinterpretation of the OT.
          That is apparently where Paul got his idea of Jesus

          Let’s see what the OT has already spawned –
          Judaism
          Christianity
          Islam

          And the literally tens if not hundreds of thousands of incompatible subsects of each.

          The proper name Jesus /ˈdʒiːzəs/ used in the English language originates from the Latin form of the Greek name Ἰησοῦς (Iēsous), a rendition of the Hebrew Yeshua (ישוע), also having the variants Joshua or Jeshua.[1][2]

          There was already a Jesus hero in the OT

          A leader of Israel who led them to victory.

          Joshua

          He was one of the twelve spies of Israel sent by Moses to explore the land of Canaan. (Numbers 13:1-16)
          After the death of Moses, he led the Israelite tribes in the conquest
          of Canaan, and allocated the land to the tribes. According to Biblical chronology, Joshua lived between 1355-1245 BCE,[4] or sometime in the late Bronze Age.

          So this was obviously not John’s Jesus, as John’s Jesus appears to be Israel itself.

          But Joshua could have been the Jesus that Paul opposed.

        • And they misunderstood the OT in such a similar way to each other that they not only chose the same name for their Messiah, but came up with the same myths about him, by coincidence, completely separately from each other? And then recognized each other as following the same person? That doesn’t strike me as particularly plausible.

        • adam

          Not if they wanted or believed that the Jesus of the OT (Joshua) was the embodiment of their ‘messiah’.
          If the synoptics had this (and if the synoptics are all based on one of the 3 versions) as their base and called it their ‘savior’ or ‘messiah’., John looks at this and OT and says no, it is not a person but a SPIRIT who will lead us.

          After all these were Jews who AGAIN wanted Israel to have a leader to make them again a force in the world and the OT Jesus had already defeated the Cannanites and made Israel a POWER.

          Jesus in its format was a very popular name at the time, I think there are something like 100 tombs of Jesus in the area.
          Multiple Jesi explain the STORY of the resurrectiion much better than an actual resurrection.

          Perhaps there was a criminal Jesus who was crucified.
          Perhaps another Jesus was a magician
          Perhaps another was an itinerant apocalyptic and their three storied got mixed.

          But I think the OT story makes more sense in the context of the time and apocalyptic nature of the stories.

          And yes, I am winging this.

        • If the synoptics had this (and if the synoptics are all based on one of
          the 3 versions) as their base and called it their ‘savior’ or
          ‘messiah’., John looks at this and OT and says no, it is not a person
          but a SPIRIT who will lead us.

          And by coincidence, the Jesus of the synoptics corresponds to the details of Paul’s legendary Jesus? Or is Mark copying Paul’s ideas; in which case, why do the Jewish-Christians then use this Pauline work as a basis for their own myths, despite rejecting Paul? Why does John express his supposed rejection of Jesus as a person by writing a very long story in which Jesus is a person? Why does Paul claim to be following the same person as James and Cephas are following?

          A single original sect with a single original founder, and multiple rival claims to leadership after that original founder died leading to splits in the sect, explains what we see in the Bible quite well. It also follows the same trajectory as Islam and Mormonism did, which makes it plausible that it could have happened in Christianity too.

          Multiple Jesi explain the STORY of the resurrectiion much better than an actual resurrection.

          If so, then why does the post-resurrection Jesus do so little and hang around for so little time? If the resurrection story is a result of the merge of two separate Jesus characters, then shouldn’t the second one be doing a bit more than popping up a couple of times just to let people know he’s around, and then disappearing?

        • adam

          “And by coincidence, the Jesus of the synoptics corresponds to the details of Paul’s legendary Jesus?”

          Like Christmas and Easter became christian holidays?
          Cooption

          “Or is Mark copying Paul’s ideas; in which case, why do the Jewish-Christians then use this Pauline work as a basis for their own myths, despite rejecting Paul?”

          Because Paul is using the same language from the same OT that they are using, they are looking at the same set of stories but drawing different conclusions?

          ” Why does Paul claim to be following the same person as James and Cephas are following?”

          Because he understands that none of them every met the OT Jesus(Joshua) except through the language of the OT?

          ” which makes it plausible that it could have happened in Christianity too.”

          Of course.

          “If so, then why does the post-resurrection Jesus do so little and hang around for so little time?”
          Because post-resurrection Jesus was the magician who either got exposed or had to move on to find more paying customers?
          Even if it was the apocalyptic Jesus, after a while people just ignored the “The End is Near” sign and rant?

          Perhaps the post-resurrected Jesus was just another of the many Jesi that traveled to that area and traveled on?

          Obviously none of these Jesi were important enough to make the news of the day.

          We can speculate endlessly on what is missing from the Jesus tale.

          For someone purported to be of such importance that NOTHING was recorded by any one outside basically 2 mythic (mythic involving magic) stories (the synoptic and John’s) reads more like fiction to me, fiction based on Greek and Roman mythology that was alive at the time blended with the mythology of the Torah, throw in some Buddhism and you have a much kinder and gentler Jesus/Joshua/Jehovah coming to bring those who were oppressed into power over their oppressors. And certainly all these things were available to writers and story tellers of the time.

          And fiction told to different audiences with differing education/knowledge and different cultural aspects
          It explains the different versions of the synoptic and the difference in writing styles. Evolved and adapted for 4 different audiences.
          It also explains the reason to put these 4 stories together, to unite their followers for political power.

        • Like Christmas and Easter became christian holidays?
          Cooption

          Isn’t it simpler to assume that Paul’s ideas were co-opted from the people whom he acknowledged as preceding him?

          Because post-resurrection Jesus was the magician who either got exposed or had to move on to find more paying customers?
          Even if it was the apocalyptic Jesus, after a while people just ignored the “The End is Near” sign and rant?

          Then where are the stories of magic and apocalyptic preaching that aren’t just tiny details in the story of Jesus coming back to life? Jesus doesn’t actually do that much after the resurrection; just hanging around existing is impressive enough for the story, given the circumstances. He does basically nothing; certainly not enough to be worth writing down if it was done outside of the context of a resurrection. So the idea that it traces back to some impressive character completely separate from pre-crucifixion Jesus seems implausible; it’s all just filler, to show that Jesus is back. It’s nothing more than something to throw onto the end of Mark to make the resurrection a bit more explicit.

          For someone purported to be of such importance that NOTHING was recorded by any one outside basically 2 mythic (mythic involving magic) stories
          (the synoptic and John’s) reads more like fiction to me…

          Even if we accept the (likely exaggerated) claims of the Gospels, was Jesus popular enough to be worth writing down? This was a time when you could claim to be a messiah, gather tens of thousands of followers, and threaten an attack on Jerusalem, and still only be known to posterity as “some Egyptian guy”. Getting a few hundred or even a few thousand people to notice you, most of them in a shitty area like Galilee, isn’t going to be good enough to get any attention from secular writers.

          And fiction told to different audiences with differing education/knowledge and different cultural aspects
          It explains the different versions of the synoptic and the difference in writing styles. Evolved and adapted for 4 different audiences.

          It also explains the reason to put these 4 stories together, to unite their followers for political power.

          All this is at least equally well explained by divisions and differences of outlook within the same cult, leading to different people writing versions of the cult’s story to agree more closely with their own beliefs.

        • Greg G.

          Isn’t it simpler to assume that Paul’s ideas were co-opted from the people whom he acknowledged as preceding him?

          Mark has Jesus repeating things from Paul’s epistles while making the disciples look like stooges.

          Even if we accept the (likely exaggerated) claims of the Gospels, was Jesus popular enough to be worth writing down?

          I think he was already written down, or rather, that is what the apostles thought when they read about him in the allegories of the OT.

        • adam

          “Isn’t it simpler to assume that Paul’s ideas were co-opted from the people whom he acknowledged as preceding him?”

          Depends on how reliable Paul is as documentarian vs a story teller.

          Paul is telling some pretty tale tales.

          “Jesus doesn’t actually do that much after the resurrection; just hanging
          around existing is impressive enough for the story, given the
          circumstances. He does basically nothing; certainly not enough to be
          worth writing down if it was done outside of the context of a
          resurrection.”

          Not if the legend was already formed,
          And not if people at the time actually believed that this Jesus was ‘god’.

          I.e. If Paul just took the story from your Jesus and started selling it (that was his business correct? selling his story? Is that how he earned a living?)

          If your Jesus was a nobody, why else would Paul make a ‘god’ out of him? When he already had a deliverer in the OT Jesus spelled Joshua?

          “Getting a few hundred or even a few thousand people to notice you, most
          of them in a shitty area like Galilee, isn’t going to be good enough to
          get any attention from secular writers.”

          And yet more mundane people were documented.

          “All this is at least equally well explained by divisions and differences
          of outlook within the same cult, leading to different people writing
          versions of the cult’s story to agree more closely with their own
          beliefs.”

          I respectfully disagree.
          Again the absence of any record of any of this occurring during the time frame of the story make this more suspicious in my mind.

          Here you have claims of the One True GodTM and whats missing is any body at the time even noticing…

        • Depends on how reliable Paul is as documentarian vs a story teller.

          Paul is telling some pretty tale tales.

          I don’t think he’s all that reliable; but he’s unlikely to be capable of independently inventing a story already believed by another group, and even if he could, he would then be unlikely to acknowledge the other group as co-religionists preceding him.

          Not if the legend was already formed,
          And not if people at the time actually believed that this Jesus was ‘god’.

          I.e.
          If Paul just took the story from your Jesus and started selling it (that was his business correct? selling his story? Is that how he earned a living?)

          That’s essentially what I’m saying happened; that he took the story, with the added detail that the people he took it from were Peter and James. Since he says they believed the story before he did, then that seems like the simplest explanation. What I find implausible is that the story was independently invented twice, or that James copied the story from Paul.

          If your Jesus was a nobody, why else would Paul make a ‘god’ out of him?
          When he already had a deliverer in the OT Jesus spelled Joshua?

          Because Jesus was already believed to be at least a prophet, and possibly something more. All he had to do was take that story and ramp up the Christology a little.

          And yet more mundane people were documented.

          But not consistently. Reaching a level of fame that’s plausible for Jesus would still be far from enough to guarantee documentation, or even make it likely. There could have been (and probably were) dozens of Messiah claimants with the same level of success within their own lifetimes as Jesus had, without being documented. That’s why I brought up The Egyptian for comparison; he was apparently far more notorious in his own day than Jesus was, and yet we don’t even know his name.

          Here you have claims of the One True GodTM and whats missing is any body at the time even noticing…

          Which is odd if he really was God. Not so odd if he was just one more sect leader among many.

        • adam

          “but he’s unlikely to be capable of independently inventing a story already believed by another group, and even if he could, he would then be unlikely to acknowledge the other group as co-religionists preceding him.”

          Judaism was obviously fracturing, trade and travel were bringing goods and stories,

          Certainly they all were reading the Torah (was there a separate OT at the time?), and like today, cherry picked what parts they liked, Added in their style for their audiences.
          Much in the same fashion there are tens of thousands of different incompatible christian sects.

          The stories were only gathered later, and who knows how many dismissed or what other variant existed?

          “What I find implausible is that the story was independently invented twice, or that James copied the story from Paul.”

          I find it implausible that the story was invented twice.
          But James did not have to copy.
          James’ version of the OT Messiah is not Paul’s version of the ‘same’ OT.

          Wasnt that the source of their disagreement?

          ” Reaching a level of fame that’s plausible for Jesus would still be far from enough to guarantee documentation, or even make it likely. ”

          Of course.

          “Which is odd if he really was God. Not so odd if he was just one more sect leader among many.”

          Agreed.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Here you have claims of the One True GodTM and whats missing is any body at the time even noticing…

          counterpoint: fast-forward to post-printing-press … how many outlandish claims of how many ‘prophets’ from the Burned-Over District that spawned Joseph Smith are documented? how many are missing? (not that i am actually suggesting this as a worthwhile rabbit-hole in the bigger picture!)

        • Greg G.

          In Galatians 1, Paul says he visited Cephas for two weeks and met James. It would be strange if none of that came up in conversation.

          Apparently they said it would be OK if Paul preached to the Gentiles. The circumcisers probably had no intention of doing that. But Paul talks about preaching to Jews. The Jerusalem group may have discredited him because of that.

        • Then Paul would just be basing his own ideas about Jesus on the ideas of Cephas and James. In which case, why would it be as odd as Adam thinks it is for those ideas to be based on a historical figure? Dispensing with the historical figure wouldn’t help in explaining the differences between Paul’s and James’ opinions.

        • Greg G.

          It could be that they got some of their ideas from Philo’s Logos, then found support in the Old Testament scriptures. Philo got the Logos from the Greeks but thought the Greeks got their ideas from Moses. Carrier says that Philo spoke of the Logos regarding a chapter in Zechariah that happened to have the name Jesus. Some get confused that Philo used the name but he only discussed the chapter where the name was used. I know that Zechariah 3 and 6 mention Joshua, which is spelled the same as Jesus in the Septuagint and the New Testament. That could be where they got the name.

          I don’t know that the Jerusalem bunch thought that Jesus was crucified. If they were getting their ideas from Isaiah 53, it would only be that the person suffered and died. Paul comes up with the crucifixion as a method of death.

        • I don’t know that the Jerusalem bunch thought that Jesus was crucified.

          It would certainly be mentioned in the anti-heretical works if they didn’t, and as far as I know it isn’t. In any case, they presumably believed in the crucifixion by the time they started using their variant of Matthew’s Gospel. It doesn’t seem likely to me that they would acquire that belief by copying it from Paul.

        • Greg G.

          Galatians 3:1
          You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified!

          Someone has apparently convinced the Galatians that Jesus was not crucified. Paul goes on to explain his reasoning that he was crucified in Galatians 3:6-14. Paul spent the previous two chapters making himself out to be a humble evangelist and ridiculing James and Cephas so the answer to his rhetorical question, “Who has bewitched you?” was apparently them.

          In chapter 9 of Minucius Felix’s Octavius, Caecilius, the pagan, says Christians have group sex, worship the head of an ass or the genitals of their priests, and they eat babies, as well as:

          “And some say that the objects of their worship include a man who suffered death as a criminal, as well as the wretched wood of his cross; these are fitting altars for such depraved people, and they worship what they deserve.”

          Minucius Felix is a Christian but includes the basis of Christianity amid absurd charges. His character, Octavius, says pagans have similar beliefs but ridicules them. He says:

          “Therefore neither are gods made from dead people, since a god cannot die; nor of people that are born, since everything which is born dies.”

          In chapter 29:

          “These, and such as these infamous things, we are not at liberty even to hear; it is even disgraceful with any more words to defend ourselves from such charges. For you pretend that those things are done by chaste and modest persons, which we should not believe to be done at all, unless you proved that they were true concerning yourselves. For in that you attribute to our religion the worship of a criminal and his cross, you wander far from the neighbourhood of the truth, in thinking either that a criminal deserved, or that an earthly being was able, to be believed God.

          Felix’s Octavius clearly states that Christians did not worship a crucified Christ. He scoffs at the notion.

          The dating of this is uncertain. There is a relationship between Felix and Tertullian but it is uncertain who wrote first. Scholars favor that Felix came after Tertullian.

        • Someone has apparently convinced the Galatians that Jesus was not crucified.

          That’s far from clear; it looks to me like the dispute is over the role of Jewish law, and the crucifixion of Christ is being used by Paul as a justification for abandoning the Law. In 3:6-14, Paul is not defending the crucifixion, he is using the crucifixion as an axiom in his defence of his opinion about the Law. The reply from the other side can be seen in the Epistle of James, which opposes Paul’s position on the Law, rather than opposing his belief in the crucifixion. Paul’s statement in Gal 3:1 would serve the purpose of emphasising that the Galatians share Paul’s belief in the crucifixion, and therefore they should also share his belief about the Law, since (in Paul’s eyes) the position of the Law is derived from the belief in the crucifixion.

          Felix’s Octavius clearly states that Christians did not worship a crucified Christ. He scoffs at the notion.

          He states that they do not worship a crucified criminal, or a cross. Both statements could be made by Christians today; they do not consider Christ a criminal, and worship of a cross would be idolatry. The rejection of worship of an Earthly being isn’t quite orthodox since Chalcedon, but fits in easily enough with what we already know about early Christianity, without having to posit a denial of the crucifixion. It is possible that Felix does not believe in the crucifixion, but the wording is ambiguous, and without some firmer confirmation of the existence of such a Christian sect, I’m reluctant to assume that’s what he means.

        • Greg G.

          Also in Galatians 3:1, Paul says, “It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified!” He doesn’t meant that the Galatians saw Jesus crucified. Galatians 3:6-14 is a re-enactment of that demonstration.

          It is possible that Felix does not believe in the crucifixion, but the wording is ambiguous, and without some firmer confirmation of the existence of such a Christian sect, I’m reluctant to assume that’s what he means.

          Go back a bit where it says:

          “Therefore neither are gods made from dead people, since a god cannot die; nor of people that are born, since everything which is born dies.”

          If Jesus was born, he dies, and cannot be a god. If Jesus was crucified, he cannot be a god.

        • Also in Galatians 3:1, Paul says, “It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified!” He doesn’t meant that the Galatians saw Jesus crucified. Galatians 3:6-14 is a re-enactment of that demonstration.

          He presumably means that he showed the Galatians that Jesus was crucified, which I think you would agree with. I think it’s unclear whether he did this by simply asserting it, or by demonstrating its likelihood from OT passages, but either is plausible to me. But 3:6-14 doesn’t seem to be a repeat of that. He goes on and on about the Law, and only mentions the crucifixion in relation to it freeing us from the Law (3:13). The response in James’ Epistle shows that the Law is the point at issue. If the crucifixion is the point at issue, why are they both going on and on about the Law, and barely mentioning the crucifixion?

          Go back a bit where it says:

          “Therefore neither are gods made from dead people, since a god cannot die; nor of people that are born, since everything which is born dies.”

          If Jesus was born, he dies, and cannot be a god. If Jesus was crucified, he cannot be a god.

          So Felix is a Docetist. Why posit a new sect when we already have one that fits?

        • Greg G.

          6 Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,”
          Gen. 15:6

          7 so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham.

          8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.”
          Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18

          9 For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.

          10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.”
          Deut. 27:26

          11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for “The one who is righteous will live by faith.”
          Hab. 2:4

          12 But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.”
          Lev. 18:5

          13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”—
          Deut. 21:23
          Jesus becomes a curse by being hung on a cross? (The Hebrew word means “tree” but Paul uses the word in the Septuagint that can mean “tree”, “wood”, or “cross”. So he is using equivocation here to get to the crucifixion on a cross.)

          14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

          The formulation Paul is demonstrating is that the crucifixion is necessary to fulfill the requirements. If Jesus isn’t hung on wood, he isn’t the curse.

          James responds to Galatians point by point, then doubles back and does the last part of Galatians twice. He begins at James 2:8-10 by refuting Paul’s paraphrase of Rabbi Hillel in Galatians 5:14 even though James agrees that it is a good start. Then where Paul gives a faith example, James gives a works example.

          But James never mentions the crucifixion. Even when James talks about the endurace of the followers, he uses the example of Job, not Jesus on the cross. 1 Peter 2:24 uses Jesus as an example making a similar point, but he is using Isaiah 53 quotes.

        • The formulation Paul is demonstrating is that the crucifixion is necessary to fulfill the requirements.

          The requirements, in this case, being that Christians should be free from the Law. But followers or sympathizers of James would not agree that this is really a requirement. So the argument that you think Paul is making here doesn’t make any sense. He would be trying to convince them of the crucifixion by saying it’s implied by a belief which they reject.

          Also, doesn’t it seem a little odd to start with the proposition that Christ was cursed, and then use that to establish other things? If everyone accepted that Christ was crucified, then Paul can establish that Christ was cursed, and explain that this redeems Christians from the law, contrary to the James faction’s opinion that Christians should obey the law. (The Epistle of James then replies, giving reasons why Christians are in fact bound by the Law.)

          The argument you think he’s making goes “I think we can all agree that Christ is cursed. I know very well that we don’t all agree that we’re all free from the Law, but fuck you, we’re going with that anyway. Now from these two obviously acceptable positions, we can demonstrate that Christ was crucified.” I think that Paul was crazy, but not crazy enough to make an argument like that.

          But James never mentions the crucifixion.

          That’s kind of the problem. James is a rebuttal to Paul. If Paul’s writing is a defence of the crucifixion, then why does the rebuttal to it never even hint at a rejection of the crucifixion?

          Galatians and James form a conversation in which Paul uses the crucifixion to assert freedom from the law, then makes further arguments establishing freedom from the law, and James replies with arguments against freedom from the law. You seem to have taken the part of that argument related to the crucifixion, reversed it so that it takes freedom from the law as a postulate despite the obvious controversy of that position, and just ignored the remainder of the Paul-James conversation.

        • Greg G.

          I think that Paul was crazy, but not crazy enough to make an argument like that.

          I’ve seen worse from William Lane Craig. I am not saying Paul is making a good argument. I pointed out the equivocation. I think he started with Isaiah 53:

          Isaiah 53:55 But he was wounded for our transgressions,    crushed for our iniquities;upon him was the punishment that made us whole,    and by his bruises we are healed.

          Isaiah 53:88 By a perversion of justice he was taken away.    Who could have imagined his future?For he was cut off from the land of the living,    stricken for the transgression of my people.

          Isaiah 53:1010 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.When you make his life an offering for sin,    he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.

          Isaiah 53:1111     Out of his anguish he shall see light;he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.    The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,    and he shall bear their iniquities.

          Isaiah 53:1212 Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;because he poured out himself to death,    and was numbered with the transgressors;yet he bore the sin of many,    and made intercession for the transgressors.

          Paul seems to have then read the other verses and had an idea (he might call it a revelation) that the Deuteronomy verses could be extrapolted to crucifixion.

          James would not have needed to refute the crucifixion again. Paul tells us somebody persuaded the Galatians that the crucifixion didn’t happen and gives us some heavy implications that it was James and Cephas.

          Below is my construction of the Epistle of James as a response to Galatians, a la Disqus response format:

          James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:Greetings.My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; , for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.Let the believer who is lowly boast in being raised up, and the rich in being brought low, because the rich will disappear like a flower in the field. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the field; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. It is the same way with the rich; in the midst of a busy life, they will wither away.Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my beloved.Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures. (James 1:1-18)

          You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? (Galatians 3:1-2)

          You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:19-27)

          And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those leaders contributed nothing to me. (Galatians 2:6)

          My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? (James 2:1-7)

          For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. (Galatians 5:13-15)

          You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For the one who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:8-13)

          Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing?—if it really was for nothing. Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?(Galatians 2:3-5)

          What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? (James 2:14-20)

          Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:6-14)

          Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:21-24)

          Tell me, you who desire to be subject to the law, will you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and the other by a free woman. One, the child of the slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise. Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the other woman corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free, and she is our mother. For it is written,

          “Rejoice, you childless one, you who bear no children,

              burst into song and shout, you who endure no birth pangs;

          for the children of the desolate woman are more numerous

              than the children of the one who is married.” (Isaiah 54:1)

          Now you, my friends, are children of the promise, like Isaac. But just as at that time the child who was born according to the flesh persecuted the child who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. But what does the scripture say? “Drive out the slave and her child; for the child of the slave will not share the inheritance with the child of the free woman.” (Genesis 21:10) So then, friends, we are children, not of the slave but of the free woman. (Galatians 4:21-31)

          Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. (James 2:25-26)

          Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth? Such persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. I am confident about you in the Lord that you will not think otherwise. But whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty. But my friends, why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves! (Galatians 5:2-12)

          Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh. (James 3:1-12)

          Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. (Galatians 5:16-18)

          Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. (James 3:13-18)

          Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

          Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says,

          “God opposes the proud,    but gives grace to the humble.” (Proverbs 3:34)

          Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:1-10)

          By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:22-26)

          Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-12)

          Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. (Galatians 6:6-10)

          Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)

          It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! (Galatians 6:12-15)

          Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you. (James 5:1-6)

          Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.Above all, my beloved, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “Yes” be yes and your “No” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. (James 5:7-12)

          Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. (James 5:13-18)

          My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads. (Galatians 6:1-5)

          My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)

        • James would not have needed to refute the crucifixion again.

          So despite finding it unnecessary to refute what is apparently the point of Paul’s letter, he decides to address that letter anyway, and because he’s bored of talking about the major cause of division between him and the group he hates, he decides to spend the whole letter writing about a comparatively minor matter.

          Why is this more plausible than the idea that they are both writing extensively about their opposing position on Jewish law, and largely neglecting the crucifixion, because it is Jewish law that is the source of their disagreement?

          Paul tells us somebody persuaded the Galatians that the crucifixion
          didn’t happen and gives us some heavy implications that it was James and
          Cephas.

          Paul doesn’t actually tell us that. He emphasises the crucifixion, but that does not necessarily imply that his readers do not believe in the crucifixion, and Paul never directly says that any of the Galatians have stopped believing in the crucifixion; it’s something you’re inferring from the text, incorrectly in my opinion.

          There is no need for implications about Cephas and James, since Paul states explicitly the nature of his disagreement with them in Galatians 2 (particularly 2:12). It is about matters of Jewish law (circumcision and eating with gentiles).

          Emphasising the crucifixion in this context is a natural rhetorical move, since according to Paul, it was the crucifixion that allows Christians to be redeemed from the Law (Gal 3:13). Since the Galatians share Paul’s belief in the crucifixion (as he is emphasising in 3:1), Paul thinks they should understand that this frees them from obedience to the Law, and they should stop adhering to the Law.

          Paul’s references to the crucifixion are in relation to his position on Jewish law. He makes these references in the context of his argument with James and the “circumcision party”, which he explicitly says is an argument about the Law. He makes further arguments justifying freedom from the law, complains about his opponents obeying the Law (4:10), and refers to them as “you who desire to be under law” (4:21). His opponent, James (or the pseudonymous author) responds by justifying obedience to the Law.

          So how can you say that this argument is about anything other than Jewish Law?

        • Greg G.

          So Felix is a Docetist. Why posit a new sect when we already have one that fits?

          How do we know James and Cephas weren’t Docetist or Gnostic?

        • I’d judge James by his later followers. Obviously that assumes that their sect really was founded by James and staying close to his ideas, as they claimed. I think they probably were, since their adherence to Jewish law and rejection of Paul follows naturally from the split we see in Galatians, and a separate origin would mean that the sect of James died out only to be quickly replaced by another sect with similar beliefs, which also coincidentally revered James, without any continuity between the two groups; and that seems unlikely.

          It’s harder to tell with Cephas. However even the Docetists claimed that Jesus appeared to have lived and been crucified, even if that appearance was illusory. There isn’t an outright denial of a historical figure, just the claim that the historical figure wasn’t what he appeared to be. It’s easier to explain this as the end result of multiple exaggerations of stories about a human figure; otherwise it’s hard to see why Docetists would bother asserting that Christ convincingly appeared to be human, and it would mean that claims about Christ became diminished rather than exaggerated over time.

        • wtfwjtd

          Say Greg, I know we’ve talked about this before, but, can you remind me of where you think Paul came up with his idea of a crucified savior?

        • Greg G.

          Right there in Galatians 3:6-14. Check the NIV for the footnotes to the OT verses being quoted.

        • wtfwjtd

          Ok, thanks.

        • wtfwjtd

          That also reminds me, I had another quick question…in 2 Cor 3:17 Paul tells us this: “17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

          And in Gal 1:19 Paul says this:”19 But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.”

          Am I to conclude that James is the brother of a spirit? Or can I logically conclude that James is a spirit like his brother the Lord?

        • Greg G.

          I think it means that James is liberty.

        • Greg G.

          Paul says in Galatians that he didn’t get his gospel from a human. It is apparent that all he knows about Jesus came from scripture. (Paul’s Sources about Jesus – an old comment of mine.)

          He claims in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 that Cephas came up with it “according to the scriptures” first. Paul uses the same word for “appeared to” for each case in that passage including his own. He apparently doesn’t think their “appeared to” was any different than his own.

          In a couple of places in 2 Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:4-6; 2 Corinthians 12:11) he says his knowledge is not inferior to the “super-apostles”. If Paul never knew the first century Jesus and he doesn’t think the other apostles know any more than he does, then he probably knows they didn’t meet any first century Jesus either.

        • Paul says in Galatians that he didn’t get his gospel from a human. It is apparent that all he knows about Jesus came from scripture.

          He also says in Galatians that there were apostles before him, presumably including Cephas and James (due to their mention in the 1 Corinthians appearances list). So at least some of what Paul believed must have come from those before him, otherwise there’s no reason for Paul to consider himself part of the same group.

          That doesn’t require him to have received instruction from them after converting; his beliefs could have been based on his knowledge of the group acquired while persecuting them, which would form the basis of whatever visions or revelations he was having. Hence he could claim that he received his Gospel directly from God, rather than a man, even though his beliefs were ultimately based on ideas that James and Peter had before him.

          He claims in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 that Cephas came up with it “according to the scriptures” first. Paul uses the same word for “appeared to” for each case in that passage including his own. He apparently doesn’t
          think their “appeared to” was any different than his own.

          I agree that Paul doesn’t differentiate between post-resurrection appearances, and that there is no reason to suppose the appearances to Peter and James were any different from the one to Paul. But that doesn’t tell us that appearances of Jesus before his death were of the same type; Paul doesn’t mention those interactions. However he does say that Jesus died and was buried before being raised (v. 3-4). That implies that Paul believed in a historical fleshly figure, especially in light of Paul’s conception of the resurrection later in that chapter, in which a spiritual post-resurrection body is preceded by a fleshly, earthly body.

          In a couple of places in 2 Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:4-6; 2 Corinthians 12:11) he says his knowledge is not inferior to the “super-apostles”.

          Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? It’s no surprise that Paul wants to be seen as equal to the other apostles. The fact that he feels the need to emphatically point it out a couple of times suggests that not everyone agrees that Paul is just as good as any other apostle.

        • Greg G.

          Paul never says anything about Jesus in his epistles that cannot be found in the OT. That would be hard to do if he got information about Jesus any other way. That holds for all the early epistles. It looks like he did not have any information passed to him that was not from the OT.

          What Paul says in verses 3 and 4 comes from Isaiah 53 and Hosea 6.

          If Paul said he knows as much as the other apostles, he would look quite foolish unless the other apostles forgot to mention that they actually knew Jesus. Either that or they forgot to mention it to him.

        • The same objection can be made to the assumption that Paul was not writing about a real person. All we can do with the scant evidence remaining is come up with plausible assumptions, and try to decide which assumptions are more plausible than others.

        • Pofarmer

          In that case would you do what would do with Ghandi? Accentuate positive characteristics and ignore the negati

        • Greg G.

          Paul’s Jesus was ethereal, he gives no details of his life as a man at all.

          He does, but being a descendant of David, being born of a woman, getting crucified, etc. are all derived from scripture.

          Can’t a religion come from literature? Examples: L. Ron Hubbard, modern Wicca, and modern Satanism. Even if they weren’t taken seriously at the start, someone with their hair-on-fire could find some gullible enough to take it fully seriously, like some Heaven’s Gate cult. It is irrelevent whether there was a real Jesus when Protestantism split from Catholicism and that had a lot to do with the literature.

        • wtfwjtd

          “Can’t a religion come from literature?”

          Apparently it can, and has happened before. Is a religion about which we know little of its origins actually likely to have originated this way? That’s the big question.

        • adam

          “Is a religion about which we know little of its origins actually likely to have originated this way? ”

          Perhaps more so, perhaps that is WHY we know so little of its origins. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1c4ef347bfeac030b9eea https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c6346dd36d131331e23bd4d4d8776af7302244bbd92808d6148a58652899c87a.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1c4ef347bfeac030b9eea052af06ad679411c098f99990006fdec013bc884d3f.jpg 052af06ad679411c098f99990006fdec013bc884d3f.jpg

        • MR

          Perhaps more so, perhaps that is WHY we know so little of its origins.

          Excellent point.

        • Greg G.

          When there is so much that is from literature and none from an actual person, I would say yes, it is likely to have originated from the literature. It would be difficult to keep every scrap of information about a real person out of it.

        • wtfwjtd

          “It would be difficult to keep every scrap of information about a real person out of it.”

          I feel that’s a conclusion that’s not warranted by what we are likely to have available. We both agree that Jesus was a nobody, and hence we wouldn’t expect to have much if anything in the way of verifiable detail from his life.
          This is where some claim that ‘criterion of embarrassment’ thing comes in, for sifting through the gospels for real details, but frankly I’m kinda lukewarm about that. When you can show similarities to past stories that match up too well to be mere coincidence, I don’t feel this CoE can really tell us much. This isn’t just me talking, thus saith people like Price and Ehrman, and probably others.

        • Pofarmer

          But if we have this nobody Jesus , who wrote nothing, started no churches, had a few mostly illiterate followers, never shows up in the historical record outside of what those followers or even followers of those followers wrote long after his death, didn’t particularly matter if this Jesus existed or not. Arguably it was his followers who created the religion advanced the theology , built the church’s wrote the text recruited the following. Hey Jesus this minimal is really immaterial.

        • wtfwjtd

          “Hey Jesus this minimal is really immaterial.”

          You’re absolutely right about that, and the title of Price’s book says it all–“The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man.” He seems to get smaller all the time. Will he disappear completely? Maybe, maybe not. But as you say, there reaches a point where it really doesn’t make much practical difference one way or the other.

        • Pofarmer

          So lets all have a beer.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i think the primary value of serious JM work is in showing the integrity of the counterpoint and the weaknesses of mainstream scholar-consensus; i agree the significance of either being a ‘winning side’ is best left to the dustbin of doctrinal hairsplitting.

        • TheNuszAbides

          it would’ve been nice of Alicia to provide a single citation related to her scholarly dictum that the JM concept flies in the face of How Religions Start. or does that eventually happen? (still slogging a month behind …) i certainly haven’t seen support for the assertion that puts this layman’s doubts to rest.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, I sort of know where she’s coming from, but there is always that one special case.

        • TheNuszAbides

          aye, i’m still keeping “first time for everything” in mind.

        • Greg G.

          There may have been many Messiah claimants and prophets on street corners but the early epistles aren’t about any of them. They are focused on Jesus in heaven and his coming in glory. What little they say about Jesus as a person comes from the OT, not from a reference to recent history. The epistles do not mention a teacher or a preacher. The Jesus of the epistles doesn’t even seem to be a composite of first century characters.

          When I say early epistles, it doesn’t matter who wrote them as they are all using OT information about their “leader”, they are using the same pool of information and it doesn’t come from recent history. Just in Paul’s “authentic” letters, he uses “Jesus”, “Christ” or both together over 300 times in about 1500 verses. It seems unlikely that so much could be written about someone without giving away some recent knowledge about him in those letters.

          Paul uses scripture to argue that Jesus was crucified but it seems even that is disputed in Galatians. Even Minucius Felix doesn’t accept that Jesus was crucified and this seems to be a third century belief. So early on and and a century or two later, there was no evidence, reliable testimony, or historical record of the crucifixion.

          It seems to me that the Jesus character could be created out of thin air than with all the baggage of a real person.

        • wtfwjtd

          “There may have been many Messiah claimants and prophets on street corners but the early epistles aren’t about any of them. ”

          The epistles do warn against following these “false christs”, so apparently this was a problem for Paul and his buddies. Paul seems intent on showing how his Jesus squares with OT literature, with his focus being on his central, culminating event: the crucifixion.
          The idea of a messiah being created out of thin air is possible, but with such a smorgasbord of live “messiahs” to choose from it doesn’t seem likely to be the first choice.

        • Otto

          Except this Messiah wasn’t created out of thin air. It was created out of reading the OT and ascribing its prophecies to fit a Messiah. If none of the real people could fit the prophecies it would be reasonable to think the Gospel writers created such a person to fit the mold of the OT Messiah. That jives very well with what we see written in Gospels and how they were obviously written to try and shoehorn the story to the prophecies,

        • wtfwjtd

          “Except this Messiah wasn’t created out of thin air. ”

          No, he wasn’t. What we seem to be seeing, is an evolving messiah story, as discussed by Robert Price in his “Incredible Shrinking Son of Man.” Paul’s Jesus was ethereal, without place or time, who became god upon his death. Mark’s Jesus became god when he was baptized, Matthew and Luke’s Jesus became god at birth, and finally, John’s Jesus was always that way.

          “If none of the real people could fit the prophecies it would be reasonable to think the Gospel writers created such a person to fit the mold of the OT Messiah.”

          It seems to me that the gospel writers may have been re-tooling the original message. Getting killed as a common criminal seems to be a rather humiliating end for your messiah king-prophet; even Paul with his “we preach Christ, and only him crucified” seems to be reflecting some of this. Why not re-write the entire story, years after the fact, and make it seem like that was part of the plan of your guy all along? This way, you can make humiliating defeat seem like victory. The story you concoct is totally fabricated, but you can show how your boy fulfilled scripture all along, and how it was supposed to be this way! Even though the story is made up, it’s still retains the original character as its focal point. Who’s going to know the difference?

        • adam

          “Getting killed as a common criminal seems to be a rather humiliating end for your messiah king-prophet”

          Not when you are writing for a ‘common’ audience and the ‘crime’ is to revolt against the oppressors of the commoners.

          THIS is what appeals MOST to those who are impoverished and oppressed.

          “Even though the story is made up, it’s still retains the original character as its focal point. ”

          And if the original character is the nation of Israel as the ‘Suffering Servant” anthrapomorphically applied and not an individual?

        • Lark62

          Example – the pregnant lady riding a donkey to take part in a census that never happened, and even then censuses counted people where they were not where their ancestors lived. But because of this ludicrous, jury rigged story jesus of nazareth (which didn’t exist in 30 CE) was born in Bethlehem. It’s a miracle.

        • adam

          “The idea of a messiah being created out of thin air is possible, but
          with such a smorgasbord of live “messiahs” to choose from it doesn’t
          seem likely to be the first choice.”

          Yet the idea that they had QUOTES from this Man-god a generation or more after it’s supposed ‘death’ points to fabrication.

        • wtfwjtd

          “Yet the idea that they had QUOTES from this Man-god a generation or more after it’s supposed ‘death’ points to fabrication.”
          It seems to point to fabrication of the quotes, yes, but not necessarily the character they are attributed to.

        • adam

          “It seems to point to fabrication of the quotes, yes, but not necessarily the character they are attributed to.”

          When you fabricate quotes you ARE necessarily creating THAT character out of the imagination.

        • wtfwjtd

          I would respectfully disagree. For example, we see Christians all the time fabricating quotes for Geo Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other known figures, in an effort to advance their agenda the the United States is a “Christian” nation. I doubt anyone would seriously argue that this is sufficient evidence to call into question the existence of these individuals.

        • adam

          But we dont see christians all the time fabricating ALL the quotes from Washington, etc.

          We have actual quotes from them, in their own writings.

          When you HAVE to create (-if) all the quotes of Jesus then you are just creating Jesus, in the same fashion Stan Lee creates Spiderman.

          And while there is no evidence that Spiderman is NOT based on a real Peter Parker, lacking such, Stan Lee doing all his ‘talking’ is pretty good evidence that it is not and that Stan is just creating them out of his imagination and the stuff he knows already.

        • wtfwjtd

          “When you HAVE to create (-if) all the quotes of Jesus then you are just creating Jesus, in the same fashion Stan Lee creates Spiderman.”

          That is something to consider, I would agree.

        • Kodie

          I think the difference is (a) was there a real guy Jesus Christ who said a bunch of stuff and got a lot of guys to join his own cult, who happened to embellish the tales later, or (b) was there a type of guy like Jesus Christ who was one of any number of other guys just like him, so when these stories started to surface, they sounded like it could be a real guy but he’s dead. Peter Parker got bitten by a radioactive spider, but I don’t have to go that far. Was there an inspirational real person? I don’t think there are any authors of fiction who don’t study human character. When I was in middle school, I could hardly read any work of fiction without “casting” it with other kids at school. So, any work of fiction will have a protagonist, let’s set him up in a real place and give him an everyday guy name, some kind of job, some plot arcs and twists, a cool adventure, and then the po-po comes to take him away before you can go ask him yourself. The time when they wheeled that rock away and found the tomb was empty was the funniest part. Bet you didn’t expect that.

        • adam

          “I don’t think there are any authors of fiction who don’t study human character”

        • while there is no evidence that Spiderman is NOT based on a real Peter Parker

          Ever notice how you never see me and Superman in the same room together?

          I’ll just put that out there for you to make of it what you will …

        • Greg G.

          Take the kraken a legendary sea monster

          Take the Cyclops. It is thought that the skeletons and skulls of small elephants were found and assembled as if they were like humans but larger. The opening in the skull for the trunk would have looked like one, big eye socket. Which goes to show that legends can come from misreading the evidence, too.

        • Pofarmer

          “Paul’s convincing circumstantial evidence of the existence of Christians as late as 15 years after Jesus’ supposed death is pretty good evidence suggesting there was at least someone fitting the story’s description.”

          Uhm, you are assuming the Gospel story is true. All we know from reading Paul, is that there was a group in Jerusalem that thought a Messiah was going to come down to Earth and kick some butt. The fact that Paul wrote about them shows te were there when Paul does, but it doesn’t in any way speak to when the group may have started, or when the ideas they might have been teaching first came about. You don’t get to read the later Gospels back into the Epistles and call that Understanding Paul.

    • Cognissive Disco Dance

      Sometimes I wish Jesus would have kept jumping down here maybe every hundred years or so, because his only one single visit gives the false impression that dying one time caused him to stay dead for all this time. He’s like the Generalissimo Francisco Franco of deities when he should be the Abe Vigoda of deities.

      • Scott_In_OH

        This is another observation that really shook my faith. Coming down one time in one isolated place with terrible technology for recording events is a ridiculous way to convey The Most Important Message Ever. Why would a powerful, loving god do things that way?

        • MNb

          Yeah – it would have been awesome if explorers had found a similar story in Amazonia or (better: and) the interior of Papua New Guinea. I’d say the core elements are the claim of being the son of God, the preaching, the torture (not a crucifixion though, that’s typically Roman) and the Resurrection.

        • Pofarmer

          Hey, if God wanted himself crucified, surely he could have taught anyone to do it.

        • Jack Baynes

          And now we’re left, trying to extrapolate from those old teachings whether we’re allowed to use birth control, or clone sheep, or issue national ID cards, or flip the lightswitch on the Sabbath.

        • Kodie

          Two stories about switches on the Sabbath – I live in a neighborhood with a sizable, visible (because they make themselves visible with their garments and accessories) population of orthodox Jews.

          1. A few years ago, I was waiting for a bus up the block and see two Jewish teen girls waiting to cross the street. I advised them to push the button to walk, because it does work, because it’s a busy main street that doesn’t stop unless a pedestrian needs to cross and presses it. (They have since changed all the lights to periodically stop traffic for about 45 seconds to allow superstitious Jews (ok, and old people who also may be Jewish or not, but live in my neighborhood in large numbers) to cross with their large families with many young children without dodging oncoming cars). Anyway, they said they can’t, and I realized it was Saturday. No, I didn’t press the button for them if that’s how they want to be.

          2. A few days ago, I was stopped at a light at a busy intersection that includes trolley trains running down the middle of the street, and see Jews on the sidewalk, a dad and two young sons, waiting to cross the street, with one of the boys pressing the button about 20 times. It was not Saturday. I think it was Tuesday but it doesn’t matter.

          It was then I wondered how orthodox Jew parents teach their children when it’s ok to press the buttons and when it’s not. These boys were about 4-6 years old and hammering on the walk button (at a crosswalk where they probably don’t actually do anything) like it was their favorite thing ever. I mean, what are the consequences for the child if they press the button on the wrong day? What ugly things must they impress upon the child before they set out to walk to temple that pressing that button that makes it safe to cross the street on the wrong day will do something bad to them?

        • Pofarmer

          Do orthodox Jews believe in Hell?

        • Pofarmer

          “Why would a powerful, loving god do things that way?”

          Mysterious ways. The Fall. Free will.

        • adam

          “Why would a powerful, loving god do things that way?”

          Sadism

    • primenumbers

      “Paul acknowledges the existence of Christians, as they are by definition followers of someone they believed to be a prophet in the flesh rather than legendary.” but Paul also tells us where his Jesus belief comes from: scripture and revelation and explicitly not from any man. And that’s a real problem for Jesus as prophet in-the-flesh and no problem at all for a legend.

      • Greg G.

        Christians have been telling themselves that since 2 Peter 1:16-17:

        16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

        Someone suspected it was a myth but they were relying on Mark and the other gospels.

        • Ron

          John 21:24 also makes me chuckle:

          “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.”

        • Greg G.

          Of course it’s true. It says so right there in the Bible.

      • Pofarmer

        And Paul also says that the other followers he knows, AKA Cephas and James, got their info the same way.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      absence of evidence is a pretty reliable indicator as evidence of absence.

      Also, re the giant squid, when we had PHYSICAL PROOF, then science reconsidered. Religion is *very* bad at providing unambiguous evidence.

      Legends are almost certainly based on a ‘speck’ or more of real occurrence. What makes them legends are the *unbelievable* aspects that are added on to enhance the story.

      And if you’ve ever seen what a game of telephone can do to a phrase in 10 minutes or less, 40 years or so (assuming Yeshua croaked at about 30) of word-of-mouth transmission when embellishment wouldn’t have been frowned upon is a near guarantee of a 90% nonsense content.

      • MNb

        “absence of evidence is a pretty reliable indicator as evidence of absence.”
        Depends on how well you have looked or could look. For instance we know almost zero names of slaves working in mines for the Romans. Evidence is absent for slave X working in time Y and mine Z. Still it’s reasonable to assume such a slave actually lived.
        At the other hand Israel Finkelstein dug the entire Sinai and found nothing that could be attributed to Moses. That’s evidence for absence indeed.

        • Pofarmer

          It also depends on if the evidence that we do possess contraindicates the claim being made.

        • MNb

          Sure, but that is irrelevant regarding the principle “absence of evidence indicates evidence of absence.”

        • josh

          That’s a ‘principle’ you only ever hear quoted in refutation, because no one actually holds it as an unqualified general rule. Absence of evidence, if true, is enough to say that believing in the unevidenced thing is unreasonable. Absence of expected evidence is evidence directly against the thing, making it increasingly untenable to even consider it a possibility. When there was a reasonable possibility beforehand, this is important. When there was no reason to entertain the possibility in the first place, this doesn’t add much.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Considering the many, and probably competing, documents that record either slavery or the fruits thereof, in the aggregate it would be reasonable to assume that slavery was taking place. So the documents that treat slavery either as a primary focus or as an aside can be treated as evidence, and any given slave can be assumed based on that evidence. 🙂

        • MNb

          “and any given slave can be assumed based on that evidence.”
          Really? On what grounds do you assume that person X was a slave in time Y and mine Z? You don’t have any evidence regarding this exact person. It’s not slavery I’m talking about – it’s a specific person whose name we don’t even know.
          But OK, another example – one creacrappers will love, because you’re on their side. According to Jerry Coyne in WEIT more than 95% of all fossils are lost forever. Ie evidence regarding specific extinct species is absent. You support the creacrapper concluding that that is evidence for those specific species being absent. That would refute Evolution Theory. And I’m not even talking the origin of life, ie abiogenesis, for which evidence is very, very absent.
          It’s that or you’ll have to accept what science proposes – it depends on how well you have looked or can look.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Nope….at least I hope not. I’m talking from the point of statistical probability as opposed to personal biography. Kind of a Boyle’s Gas Law for humanity, or Hari Seldon’s psychohistory.

          The creanuts don’t even have stats on their side.

    • Pofarmer

      “The gospels are a bit more profound than pop culture show like Finding Bigfoot”

      So what? Greeks believed in teaching moral lessons with fiction.

      “Paul’s letters and their authenticity is generally undisputed”

      Some are, some aren’t. Only 6 or 7 are generally considered genuine, and they are known to contain later additions.

      “Paul acknowledges the existence of Christians, as they are by definition
      followers of someone they believed to be a prophet in the flesh rather
      than legendary.”

      Paul never mentions anyone being a follower of a flesh and blood Jesus. The closest we get is “James, the brother of the Lord” which is ambiguous and has had a disputed meaning for a centuries.

      “Due to undisputed Christian persecution by the Romans, it seems probable
      this would have been a good time for any witnesses to have their
      testimony written, before it was too late.”

      Are you familiar with the work of Candida Moss? It looks like stories of early persecution are probably overblown.

      “As for Matthew being written outside of Jerusalem, this makes sense as
      Jerusalem was destroyed just prior, as well as many Christians lives,
      these factors causing a refugee crisis”

      Matthew is typically dated at at least 10 years after Mark. And Mark doesn’t show any signs of being a “refuge” from Jerusalem. Mark was a writer skilled in Greek composition, or at least, had an editor that was. He also wasn’t familiar with the geography of Palestine, as there are a lot of locations that are just wrong.

    • RichardSRussell

      The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence

      Depends on how well specified the problem is. For example, is there an elephant in my bathtub? I know what an elephant is, I know what and where my bathtub is, and I know what “in” means. You’d have to be a complete moron to think that absence of evidence for an elephant in my bathtub doesn’t constitute unmistakable, definitive proof of the elephant’s actual absence.

      Christian apologists only get around this by vague hand-waving when it comes to specifying the problem. Of course, they’ve become quite adept at vague hand-waving, so they’ve probably convinced themselves that they’re really onto some fundamental logical flaw here. But they’re not.

    • RichardSRussell

      The gospels are a bit more profound than pop culture

      True. And The Lord of the Rings is quite a bit more profound than the evening weather report. But profundity ≠ veracity. The weather report is verifiably true, whereas The Lord of the Rings is known to be completely imaginary.

  • Nemo

    Well, technically, some of the more hardcore believers do believe in all of those other miracle claims. They just add the caveat that Satan did it. This means that no matter how much evidence you bring against them, even if it were evidence of a supernatural power that contradicts the Bible, they would still be able to deny it.

    • MNb

      Do they believe that Orpheus crossed the Hades and descended to the underworld and found Eurydice?

      • Nemo

        [to be read in the voice of a Bible Belt fundy]

        I dunno who them people are, but sure they were real, and they were Satan tryin to turn us gay!

  • L.Long

    “the risen Christ would be seared almost flawlessly into someone’s memory?”

    Really? Only someone who thinks memory is a piece of film that cannot be changed.
    And anyone who has studied memory will tell you …the more emotional the impact the greater it changes over time. So they are wrong. Also everyone knows that with each retelling details are changed and made more impressive. And this happens almost immediately.

    • primenumbers

      Yes, it’s based on a flawed theory of memory, and a logical error that only such a fantastic act could produce such a fantastic memory whereas mundane or otherwise non-special events can lead to more fantastic memories in the re-telling. Perhaps CS was fortunate enough to never have met and dealt with a pathological liar?

  • busterggi

    One day a boy, too young to know the danger;
    Made a friend of this holy godlike creature!
    And the life they led on their desert home became a legend,
    the legend of . . .

    • Greg G.

      …Irving, the 142nd fastest gun in the West?

      • Otto

        “…he was looking for 143…’

        LOL.. Greg I haven’t heard that song in 30 years…Dr. Demento?

        • Greg G.

          Oh, yeah. I started listening in the 70s, then again when a buddy at work would tune it every Sunday in the late 90s

        • Otto

          I started in 1978, every Sunday night at 9:00.

        • Greg G.

          I was introduced to the Doctor in about July of 1975 by my roommate in tech school in the Air Force. I had bought my first boom box from the BX.

      • wtfwjtd

        Butter fingers Irving was twirlin’ his gun ’round,then
        Butter fingers Irving gunned himself down…

    • Dan Tempas

      King Kong, the cartoon of the 1970s. Remember watching it!

      • busterggi

        No damned Godzooky on this show!

  • MR

    No Christian lets the believer from another religion get away with insufficient evidence, and rightly so. Christianity must meet the same burden.

    I don’t think this can be overstated. If Christians were intellectually honest enough to consider if they would accept their own arguments as presented in favor of another religion, they would be shamed to silence.

  • Pofarmer

    If Alicia is still lurking. I have a question. How many founders of religions don’t show up anywhere in any other records or evidence from their time?

    • MNb

      “evidence from their time”

      Judaism.
      Buddhism.
      Confucianism.
      Islam.

      Now let’s enjoy the spectacle of an atheist pseudoscientist explaining these examples away …..

      • Pofarmer

        Who are you crediting with creating Judaism?

        • koseighty

          Obviously, Jude — of “Hey Jude” fame, from The Blue Album.

        • MNb

          Some unknown guy (perhaps more than one, who can tell?) living in the 10th Century BCE – during King David if you’re a maximalist or during King Salomo if you’re a minimalist.

        • Pofarmer

          But isn’t the founder supposed to be Abraham? Or maybe Moses in the more modern version?

        • MNb

          Not by me. Perhaps by you – you’re the ex-believer.

        • Pofarmer

          So, you’re good with the idea that Abraham and moses and Job and Noah are all myths?

        • MNb

          Yes. I’m even good with the idea that Jesus or anyone else is a myth. It’s arguing for a predetermined conclusion like you do I’m not good with. And I predict that you will practice that again as soon as you jump from a mythical Abraham and the rest to a mythical Jesus. The signs that you will are clear – you have by no means explained what all this has to do with your original question to Alicia, so basically you’re shifting the goal posts. My list was not meant to “prove” a historical Jesus or to “disprove” a mythical one. My list was meant to show that your “test” sucks. You conveniently neglect that like the good pseudoscientist you are.
          It gets boring fast, mainly because you unlike creationists aren’t even funny. So don’t be surprised if I won’t answer your next comment. I’m not an evangelist like Pope Gregorius G and you. Unlike you I stick to science. If you do as well, as you pretend (like all creationists pretend too) you should throw your “test” where it belongs: into the dustbin.
          Develop something better.

        • Pofarmer

          How can you accuse me of having a predetermined conclusion when your entire argument amounts to “the scholars I agree with say x”. That’s a little ironic.

        • MNb

          BWHAHAHAHA!
          Cardinal Po strikes again.

          “your entire argument amounts to “the scholars I agree with say x”
          Yeah, that’s totally, absolutely, completely my entire argument.
          Except that I don’t decide scientific problems by means of arguments.
          Except that I have summarized the evidence.
          Except that I have explained the method (you know, multiple attestation, principle of embarrassment).
          Except that I have pointed out several times why JM methodology sucks.

          Are you sure you weren’t a creationist before you deconverted? Because you totally act like one. Someone like Greg (not the pope, but our catholic friend) or creacrapper Norm from Australia could have written “your entire argument for evolution amounts to the biologists I agree with say x”. Of course your thinking is totally original (mine certainly is not, but that applies to physics as well). Or perhaps your favourite pseudoscience has rotten your skepticism so much away that you don’t understand anymore what “predetermined conclusion” means. Or perhaps you think science is a matter of opinion (your usage of the word “agree” suggests so) – like all creationists also do.

          I was wrong – you are funny indeed.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methodology
          http://mycourse.solent.ac.uk/mod/book/view.php?id=2744&chapterid=1294

          Scientists do that before drawing conclusions. You design your methods and tests in such a way that only one conclusion is possible. Hence you are arguing for a predetermined conclusion and that’s why I compare you with creationists. They do exactly the same as you and I suspect for a similar reason.

        • Pofarmer

          I wish I had more time to respond here,mbut I just-don’t. I will say this though, I don’t think that Methods like multiple attestation or criterion of embarrasement work, because they are presuposing an historical Jesus and trying to figure out what was written about him might be real. That is why Richard Carrier is trying Bayesian reasoning. I would love to set up a scientific test here, where we could lay out the competing hypothesis, sus out the evidence, and draw a conclusion, but I’m not sure how that would go in a combox discussion. I imagine it would end with you calling anyone who disagrees with your conclusions about some of the evidence stupid. But, if you’re up for it, perhaps we could start laying some ground rules. Perhaps Bob could start a new thread just for this endevour?

        • I’m just thinking aloud here, but would it make sense to have guest posts pro and con the Jesus Myth hypothesis?

        • MR

          Let. the games. begin.

          Silliness aside, I think that’s an awesome idea!

        • MNb

          Not any more than guest posts pro and con Flat Earth Theory. You will get a lot of posts pro (because fans have so much stuff to make up plus behave like evangelists) and only 20 sentences at the max con.
          Kenneth Humphreys’ dozens of articles and videos for instance doesn’t need any more than a link and two words: conspiracy theorist.

          http://www.jesusneverexisted.com

          That would be my entire contribution regarding Humphreys.

          Also expect a lot of atheist theology:

          http://www.jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/parttwo.htm

          something you claimed to have exactly zero use for. And that would be my entire contribution regarding Doherty.

          Another example: Dutch scholar Jona Lendering has written three articles (if I’m not mistaken) partly dealing with JM. This is the other side:

          http://www.freethinker.nl/forum/viewtopic.php?f=83&t=14716

          One long rambling piece after another. It that’s what you wish you should do it. I’m not going to read it, let alone comment to it all, just like I haven’t read everything written to advocate FET.

        • and that sounds like a No.

        • MR

          Schade. I’ve only got these arguments piecemeal in comboxes. Would like to see an overview.

        • Pofarmer

          I think that would be great, but I think it would quickly consume the blog if you let it. I mean, Vridar.org is basically a blog dedicated to the idea that Jesus is a myth and basically devotes itself to that. Matthew Ferguson, working on his PhD, is a historicist, but has written dozens of articles debunking the Gospel and Apologist claims about the historical Jesus. I just think that as you sifted through all the different methods and evidence, the whole thing would get very clunky. That’s why it probably took Carrier 700 pages to do it. What might be interesting, would be book reviews of relevant titles. Bart Ehrman and Richard Carrier come to mind. I guess, I think you could have some posts, but it would be a series of posts, and you would have to set some ground rules. Would certainly be interested in exploring the idea further.

        • Book reviews might be the way to go. I’ll add that to the list.

        • Pofarmer

          One relatively short book that Carrier recommends is “Nailed” by David Fitzgerald.

        • Thanks for the suggestion. I’m way behind on my book reading, but that one I’ve read.

        • Kodie

          My vote goes to no. I appreciate that some people like to debate it, but it doesn’t go anywhere and there’s no real consequence either way. For me, it is boring, but on the other hand, it is one of the chances for atheists to disagree about something. I don’t know how one could know either way and stick to a position, and I don’t think the real answer would matter if we ever arrived at it.

        • Freethought Blogs seems to be nothing but atheists disagreeing with each other (or politically correct atheists laughing at the flaws in their stupid brethren).

          But I agree with you that it doesn’t much matter either way. The main thing is that the supernatural claims of Christianity are crap, and that’s what I focus on.

        • Kodie

          I think it’s irrational to disagree about something that has no consequence either way, especially if the correct answer is unlikely to ever be discovered. Say we found Jesus’s bones, and that answered the question, so what? I do think it’s somewhat interesting about the study of human behavior, and what people would or would not likely do as a culture, but I don’t think you find a road map there of what actually happened, I mean, archaeology is cool too. But, to me, the discussions get really vicious over something that has no consequence, and I think that’s really weird!

        • adam

          “I think it’s irrational to disagree about something that has no consequence either way, especially if the correct answer is unlikely to ever be discovered.”

          1. Consider it as ‘sport’ like catch and release fishing
          2. I have learned a tremendous amount about what is MISSING in the whole Jesus story from looking at the JM point of view.
          3. It is IMPOSSIBLE to find the correct answer if nobody searches, the odds are better the more people who are searching.

        • Kodie

          I get that it’s a hobby, and interesting to see what’s discovered, but the holy shit arguments over who’s right or wrong I can do without.

        • adam

          “but the holy shit arguments over who’s right or wrong I can do without.”

          You mean like religion and politics in general?

        • Kodie

          Those have consequences that make arguing about them more rational. Whether Jesus lived or not – if you are religious, you have a huge stake in that he did live, but outside of religion, it doesn’t matter either way.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Richard Carrier points out a lot of stuff that he has found in his research that some/all of the consensus point of view doesn’t know about, chooses to ignore, wants to avoid, denies interpretation of, or just plain wishes would go away. If there is dishonesty going on among scholars or the academia, I think it important that everyone gets to hear about it.

          My confidence in Ehrman’s ability took a real dent as a result of just such shenanigans. After reading “Did Jesus Exist?” as a layperson, even I could see there was problems and sloppy research. Fortunately, and ironically, it was Carrier that restored confidence that my time spent reading his earlier work was not wasted and could be trusted.

          When individual scholars cannot speak their mind then the whole thing stinks to high heaven and the “truth” we skeptics are always open to is lost. Take Father Thomas L. Brodie as an example….

          Following the publication of the book [Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery and revelations of his belief that Jesus did not exist], The Irish Sun reported in January 2013 that Brodie had been forced to quit his teaching job and banned from lecturing while his writings were being investigated. The final judgement of the Dominican Order on the matter was published in their periodical Doctrine and Life in May–June 2014:

          Following on these deliberations the committee advised that they judged Beyond the Quest to be ‘imprudent and dangerous’ (a phrase from the Order’s own legislation). Accepting this assessment, the Provincial continued the sanctions on Tom Brodie – that he withdraw fully from ministry and from all forms of teaching, writing, or making public statements.

          Bearing in mind, Brodie endorsed the Christ myth theory and expressed that Jesus of Nazareth was not a historical figure, a belief he reports he has held since the 1970s. It appears that going public was too much and he was shelved.

        • A far more dramatic tale of public shaming is Mike Licona, who questioned one part of the NT in a large book, a heresy that wasn’t even discovered and publicly scrutinized for a year after publication. He lost his job as well. It was like a modern-day witch hunt, with his betters demanding that he recant his error.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Yes, I seen that.

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2011/11/08/christian-nt-scholar-and-apologist-michael-licona-loses-job-after-questioning-matthew-27/

          If even their own aren’t safe, what chance has a real dissenter got?

          Hector Avalos has written a book criticising the antics of the scholarship.

          Avalos criticizes his colleagues for applying a variety of flawed and specious techniques aimed at maintaining the illusion that the Bible is still relevant in today’s world. In effect, he accuses his profession of being more concerned about its self-preservation than about giving an honest account of its own findings to the general public and faith communities.~ “The End of Biblical Studies”

          Avalos is not alone on this issue either.

        • MR

          Calls to mind Galileo.

        • adam

          ” If there is dishonesty going on among scholars or the academia, I think it important that everyone gets to hear about it.”

          There is certainly enough discrepancy in the way the formation of the ‘Bible’ occurred.

        • MNb

          @2: So what? Is the Jesus character that important to you?

        • adam

          “@2: So what? Is the Jesus character that important to you?”

          Jesus character – only the damage it has done and is doing.

          But HOW the story was created and propagandized is.
          How people are manipulated into believing the story by omission or fabrication is.

          And lastly IF Jesus was real and supernatural, that WOULD change my world view.

        • MNb

          “only the damage it has done and is doing”
          Jesus has done preciously little damage if he was historical and none if he was mythical. In his name a lot of damage has been done, but for this it doesn’t matter whether he was historical or mythical; nor does your point 2 (the stuff you claim to have learned) have any relevance.

          “But HOW the story was created and propagandized is.How people are manipulated into believing the story by omission or fabrication is.”
          Again the question whether Jesus was historical or mythological has zero relevance for this point. It’s totally possible – and even common – that stories about historical characters are created and propagandized. How many examples do you want me to provide? This applies to about every single 20th Century dictator.

          “IF Jesus was real and supernatural”
          Nice contradiction. If something is real it’s not supernatural and if something is supernatural it’s not real. It’s totally possible to accept a historical but non-supernatural Jesus. So again the relevance is zero.
          You don’t make any sense, Adam. So I repeat my question:

          So what if you have learned a tremendous lot about the gaps in the Jesus story? Is the Jesus character that important to you?

        • adam

          “Jesus has done preciously little damage if he was historical and none if he was mythical.”

          Which is why I stated the ‘character’ of Jesus

          “Again the question whether Jesus was historical or mythological has zero relevance for this point..”

          Agreed, it is the process by which he was deified.

          “If something is real it’s not supernatural and if something is supernatural it’s not real. It’s totally possible to accept a historical but non-supernatural Jesus. ”

          Of course, people do, I cant see myself accepting a non-super Jesus as a god.

          “So what if you have learned a tremendous lot about the gaps in the Jesus story?”
          The process of deification.

          “Is the Jesus character that important to you?”
          Certainly not at this point with what I understand.
          But what people have done with this character and EXPECT out of this character certainly is..

        • MNb

          Still totally irrelevant for what Kodie wrote:

          “I think it’s irrational to disagree about something that has no consequence either way, especially if the correct answer is unlikely to ever be discovered.”

          A historical or mythological Jesus doesn’t make ANY difference for anything you wrote.

        • adam

          “I think it’s irrational to disagree about something that has no consequence either way, especially if the correct answer is unlikely to ever be discovered.”

          Because, it would have consequences.

          “Say we found Jesus’s bones, and that answered the question, so what?”

          I would demonstrate that he didnt bodily rise to ‘heaven’

          “Say we found a manuscript saying “I made up the Jesus character” – that wouldn’t exactly shake my worldview either.”

          It wouldnt shake my worldview either, but it would others.

        • Pofarmer

          “This applies to about every single 20th Century dictator.”

          But it DOESN’T apply to people nobody ever heard of, generally.

        • MNb

          I like being vicious now and then, but with this

          “Say we found Jesus’s bones, and that answered the question, so what?”

          I totally agree. The other way round the same:

          Say we found a manuscript saying “I made up the Jesus character” – that wouldn’t exactly shake my worldview either.

        • TheNuszAbides

          qualifier: still have a month to catch up on, this is a possibly 100% irrelevant answer but who knows how far my brain may have deteriorated by the time i catch up!

          MNb asserts the ‘con’ post would be elegantly dismissive, yet he’s posted more than one [nonidentical] comment in refutation that are each longer than twenty lines (without being inelegant). i’d certainly be interested in coherent, cohesive pieces that at least tie in apologetics or apologetic styles (in keeping with the original mission, if necessary/feasible/non-mind-numbing) to a focus on one or more J-myth proponent(s) and/or detractor(s) [EDIT: … and their case]. speaking agnostically but intriguedly(?), the way i’ve seen detractors dismiss Greg G.’s comments in particular here and elsewhere, and posts/comments by others on vridar and a few other sites i didn’t keep track of, has so far fallen into two categories: contemptuous disqualification (with no effort to reference more than credentials) and “who cares?” (one of the most useless questions ever to insert into a discussion/argument/whatever already taking place. i appreciate whether individual readers express “i don’t care”, because that’s actually owning a stance, and is presumably pertinent to whether or not you, Bob, would care to bother with such an experiment. but “who cares?” in this context is mean-spirited IMO and certainly can’t imply respect to [e.g.] either Greg G. (who doesn’t mind calling himself a crank anyway, whether ironically or no), or Carrier whose academic integrity (among others’) i have yet to see called into question.
          it’s amusing, of course, that searching for those who (a) find HJH more convincing than MJH, and yet (b) have no proverbial dog in the proverbial fight, results in a more-or-less resounding chorus of “yeah, don’t really care”…

          i suppose the least i can do to really ‘weigh in’ on the thought-aloud question is look harder for
          what’s already out there by way of myth-hypothesis refutation, since it seems obvious we don’t lack for supporters who are blatantly willing to mount cases. but from initial simple exposure to some of the ‘backlash’ against our fairly-friendly neighborhood ‘cranks’ and the homework they’ve referenced (or even actually done), i can’t deny already feeling some half-baked-in sympathy for the euhemerist/mythicist camp. (why would an overwhelming scholarly consensus “waste time” refuting these supposedly tiresome walls of text from Carrier, Price et al.? or should the question be why wouldn’t they? of course either begs the question of just how much free time the scholarly field of Narratives-o’Christ has on its hands … is there some bold new edifying direction or valuable extended/ongoing analysis these studies should be making/taking that MJH-ists are sucking valuable attention and ink and ones and zeroes away from?)

        • One of these days, perhaps I’ll get around to reading a few of the Jesus Mythicist books and will write up what I find. In the meantime, I welcome others who want to comment either way.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i for one won’t complain that you give priority to cute (and edifying!) animations on youtube pieces.

        • Ignorant Amos

          You should in deed. It helps to know both sides of a debate before siding one way or another.

        • I’m never perfectly informed about anything I blather on about here, but I try. I’ve stayed out of the Jesus Myth debate both because I don’t know enough to have an opinion and because it isn’t helpful as an argument when talking to a Christian (my primary focus).

        • Ignorant Amos

          No one is perfectly informed, hence my moniker, but I’m with you on the blathering. I know your lack of more than a passing interest as you have said so more than once before. I just don’t get the certainty with the historicists given the data and how it was acrued. Agnostic is the only rational position to take at this time. It might well be the only position ever. But I enjoy the wrestling.

        • MNb

          And how is BobS going to know both sides if he announces to go read only books that represent one side?
          I thought you were smarter than that, IA.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Sorry pal, I assumed that BobS has read a lot of the books on the the other side, if not, then by all means he should. I thought that was clear when I encouraged his suggestion that he get around to reading a few mythicist books in order to know both sides of the debate…soz.

          I’ll make a suggestion that he start with Erhman’s DJE?…it’s a doozy.

        • MNb

          “I’ll get around to reading a few of the Jesus Mythicist books”
          But not books representing the consensus?!

        • I thought that was clear. Let me rephrase: I’ll get around to reading a few books discussing any and all sides of the Jesus Mythicist topic.

        • Ignorant Amos

          aking agnostically but intriguedly(?), the way i’ve seen detractors dismiss Greg G.’s comments in particular here and elsewhere, and posts/comments by others on vridar and a few other sites i didn’t keep track of, has so far fallen into two categories: contemptuous disqualification (with no effort to reference more than credentials) and “who cares?” (one of the most useless questions ever to insert into a discussion/argument/whatever already taking place. i appreciate whether individual readers express “i don’t care”, because that’s actually owning a stance, and is presumably pertinent to whether or not you, Bob, would care to bother with such an experiment. but “who cares?” in this context is mean-spirited IMO and certainly can’t imply respect to [e.g.] either Greg G. (who doesn’t mind calling himself a crank anyway, whether ironically or no), or Carrier whose academic integrity (among others’) i have yet to see called into question.

          I hate to add to your load….but if you want to see that bullshit attitude in full flight, get yourself over to….

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2015/09/richard-carriers-dishonesty.html#comment-2255310589

          Where the academics are giving me what for on this issue.

        • TheNuszAbides

          oh hey! good (in the loosest sense) to know someone is mounting the ~noble~ effort of spelling it out in a damning headline!

          as for my load – i suppose i can forgive you; otherwise i might have to examine my priorities, and, well, fuck that.

        • Kodie

          Precisely why I don’t think this is the important question. What words are they using?

        • Ignorant Amos

          It ain’t that important to me either. A guy called Jesus, or maybe not…who gives a fuck at the end of the day? He wasn’t the punter in the NT that’s a now on certainty. But it interests me. And it is fun watching folk struggle to square a circle. That these particular folk are supposed do be able to do better is a sketch.

        • Pofarmer

          What is kinds funny, is that people like McGrath know how sketchy their evidence is compared to most other historical figures i. The same time period. Especially figures who were said to perform miracles and such. These people, like Alexander the Great and Tiberius Cesar were normally well known in their own lifetimes. But here you have this Jesus Charachter, apparently completely UNKNOWN in his own lifetime, performing miracles and rising from the dead. It absolutely screams fiction if one were somewhat circumspect about it.

        • I came across a post by James McGrath a few days ago responding to Richard Carrier. Sounds like a pretty acrimonious argument. Are you up on it?

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2015/9/richard-carriers-dishonesty.html

        • Pofarmer

          Little bit. Early on, McGrath started out with some, uhm, less than charitable reviews of Carriers OHJ, and Carrier took umbrage to them. McGrath obviously hadn’t read the book and was cherry picking. At any rate, it’s too much like reality show drama and I’ve tired of it.

        • You’re comparing Jesus to two rulers of major civilisations. Do you really expect the evidence for them to be similar, regardless of whether Jesus really existed? If, as I think, he was just one more crazy sect leader, then it is to be expected that he wouldn’t leave a large footprint on history during his own lifetime.

        • Pofarmer

          How many crazy sect leaders do we have being turned into a diety? How many well known figures from history do we have having miraculous stories being attached to them? How many more or less completely miraculous figures were created in Antiquity to prove a point or tell a story or extoll certain virtues? How many fictional charachters the Bible are used in just this way?

        • Several of each. None of that supports the idea that the post-mortem deification of a minor historical figure should result in him leaving as much evidence in his own lifetime as an emperor would.

        • Pofarmer

          But, NO evidence? How many literary figures who left NO evidence would we say “certainly” existed? Should I try to suss put the historical existence of some Zane Grey charachters?

        • There is evidence, in the form of the sects following him and the myths about him afterward, which are in several cases best explained in ways which involve the existence of a historical Jesus.

        • adam
        • Pofarmer

          Would you like to argue for an historical xenu or Moroni or Apollo?

        • No, for the same reason I would not argue for a historical Jehovah. I would, however, argue for a historical L Ron Hubbard or Joseph Smith, and I think Jesus is more analogous to them. The sudden appearance of a cult like Christianity requires a founder, and a historical Jesus is the best candidate for being that founder.

        • Pofarmer

          The main founder is actually………….Paul.

        • And Paul somehow contrived to have Peter, James and others convert to his religion before he had invented it?

        • Pofarmer

          Paul says there were two other Preachers in Jerusalem, Cephas and James. He also says that they learned of Jesus the same way he learned of Jesus, through revelations and scripture. But the main reason I said Paul, is because what we mainly have left is Pauline Christianity because the Jerusalem sects version basically died with the fall of Jerusalem.

        • I’d agree that Paul is probably more relevant than Jesus for the sect of Christianity that eventually became dominant. But that’s a separate question from whether Paul invented the Jesus character; the existence of believers before him demonstrates that he did not.

        • Pofarmer

          Paul never met Jesus, and he doesn’t seem to think Cephas and James did either, he says they know about Jesus the same way he does, through “revelations from the scriptures” spurios mention of “James the Lord’s brother” not withstanding. Pauls Jesus charachter is his own, probably also built off the ideas if others. I’m not sure anyone is saying that Paul “invented” the charachter if Jesus any more than you could point to one person who invented the idea of Thor and Odin or Apollo or, you get the picture.

        • What little I’ve read in articles from the Christ Mythicists is that they take the null hypothesis as your position.

          Positing a real man as the founder of a religious movement (about which things were written, even if not the author himself) is hardly a surprising position. Happens all the time. Therefore, they take the burden of proof to show that the evidence actually points away from this obvious hypothesis.

        • Usually I see them make an effort to show that an alternative hypothesis is plausible, without showing that it is more plausible that the historicist position.

          For example, mythicists can come up with plausible explanations for James being called the brother of Jesus or the brother of the Lord. But why should we accept those explanations over the much simpler and more obvious hypothesis: that Jesus was a guy who had a brother?

        • Isn’t “brother of the Lord” ambiguous? I didn’t think that calling James a spiritual (not biological) brother was a leap. Unless there’s a mountain of evidence on the other side of the scale, of course.

        • It’s not ambiguous in the synoptics, where he’s more plainly called a brother of Jesus in a context which makes it clear that a literal “brother” is meant. He is actually denigrated and contrasted with spiritual “brothers” there, which makes sense in the context of a sectarian rivalry in which James was using his family relationship to Jesus as a source of authority in the church, with Mark taking a position against this.

        • adam

          It certainly is ambiguous:

          Interpretations of the phrase “brother of the Lord” vary. While some believe that James was a full brother of Jesus, others such as Catholics, Eastern Christians, and some Protestants, who hold the belief of the perpetual virginity of Mary, teach that James along with others named as “brothers” of Jesus were not the biological children of Mary, but were either Jesus’ adoptive brothers, stepbrothers (through Saint Joseph), or according to one popular theory, cousins of Jesus.[4] This theory is justified by the fact that cousins were also called “brothers” and “sisters” in Aramaic, which, like Biblical Hebrew, does not contain a word for cousin.[5] https://en.wikipedia.org wiki/James_%28brother_of_Jesus%29

        • In any case, they are clearly familial relatives in the synoptics. In that sense it is unambiguous; it might be possible to suggest that Paul’s use of the term might be symbolic, but that option is unavailable for the synoptics, in which a more literal meaning of “brother” (i.e. close male relation) is intended.

        • Ignorant Amos

          That’s right, because by the time the gospel of Mark arrived on the scene Paul’s apocalypse had not materialised and there was now a requirement for a real flesh and blood living on Earth Jesus, done for by the authorities, and set in history in order to settle any impending discord that failed prophecy brings.

        • Then why would the Gospels portray the brothers negatively, and have Jesus deny the importance of being related to him? And why does Mark contain predictions of an imminent apocalypse, if the whole reason for it being written was to avoid dealing with the failure of such predictions?

        • Kodie

          I’m going out on a limb and say having brothers is no obstacle to being fictional, especially brothers who have a different, less important, father. If Jesus said you had to leave your family, it’s a good way to demonstrate he means what he speaks without having to leave his holy mother. I haven’t been following this discussion deeply and apologize for the interlude. There are a lot of psychological themes in a younger brother of the protagonist – not as worthy, a little jealous, a little less enthusiastic for his success than his actual pals.

        • adam

          “more obvious hypothesis: that Jesus was a guy who had a brother?”

          It is only more obvious if there really was a Jesus and it is not just a retelling of an old story in a new environment.

        • adam

          And that real man is obviously Paul, the author.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Paul is the guy that is analogous in this situation. Paul is the guy that can be placed more as historical….or his source…maybe Peter. That sort of thing.

          Think Islam’s Mohamed=> Archangel Gabriel=> Allah, as in Christianity’s Paul=> Jesus=> Jehovah.

        • See my reply to Adam. Peter makes a little more sense as a founder, but in the disagreement described in Galatians, Peter acts like just another senior apostle, rather than someone with the authority of a founder.

        • adam

          “The sudden appearance of a cult like Christianity requires a founder, and a historical Jesus is the best candidate for being that founder.”

          So L. Ron and Smith are the creators of those religions while it appears Paul was the creator of christianity, it seems obvious that ‘Jesus’ founded nothing.

        • That is impossible, since Paul refers to Christians existing prior to him including Peter and James.

        • adam

          Of course, but was this Jesus of Nazareth ‘Christians’
          or Joshua (Jesus) OT “Christians” at that time?

        • Ignorant Amos

          What is the evidence supporting sects following a guy called Jesus?

          What is best explained by an historical Jesus that cannot be explained equally by a made up Jessis, if not better?

        • What is best explained by an historical Jesus that cannot be explained equally by a made up Jessis, if not better?

          The references to James as being a “brother of the Lord” (also described more plainly as a brother of Jesus by the synoptics), the links to John the Baptist including the application of the Baptist sectarian title “Nazoraean” to Jesus, the consistency across multiple rival sects of a belief in a historical crucified Jesus, and the absence of any evidence of any early Christian sect which explicitly denied that Jesus appeared on Earth.

        • Greg G.

          Twenty-first century Christians are not evidence of a twentieth century Jesus. What evidence is there that the earliest Christians believed they were following a recent person? The gospels appear to be fictional stories with tales created from the literature of the day about deeds done by characters in their ancient stories.

          Everything Paul knows about Jesus comes from the Old Testament, not from people who knew Jesus. Even the other epistles speak of Jesus in OT terms, except a couple of the late epistles repeat information from the gospels. It’s like nobody who wrote the New Testament thought to get information about Jesus from any source but the Old Testament until the Gospel of Mark was written.

          The following two passages alone give a good summation of the beliefs of the pre-gospel Christians as far as we can tell.

          Zechariah 3:6-10 (NRSV)6 Then the angel of the Lord assured Joshua, saying 7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. 8 Now listen, Joshua, high priest, you and your colleagues who sit before you! For they are an omen of things to come: I am going to bring my servant the Branch [Ἀνατολήν]. 9 For on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven facets, I will engrave its inscription, says the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the guilt of this land in a single day. 10 On that day, says the Lord of hosts, you shall invite each other to come under your vine and fig tree.”Isaiah 52:12-15 (NRSV)12 For you shall not go out in haste,    and you shall not go in flight;for the Lord will go before you,    and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.13 See, my servant shall prosper;    he shall be exalted and lifted up,    and shall be very high.14 Just as there were many who were astonished at him    —so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,    and his form beyond that of mortals—15 so he shall startle many nations;    kings shall shut their mouths because of him;for that which had not been told them they shall see,    and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.Isaiah 53:1-12 (NRSV)1 Who has believed what we have heard?    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,    and like a root out of dry ground;he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.3 He was despised and rejected by others;    a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;and as one from whom others hide their faces    he was despised, and we held him of no account.4 Surely he has borne our infirmities    and carried our diseases;yet we accounted him stricken,    struck down by God, and afflicted.5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,    crushed for our iniquities;upon him was the punishment that made us whole,    and by his bruises we are healed.6 All we like sheep have gone astray;    we have all turned to our own way,and the Lord has laid on him    the iniquity of us all.7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,    yet he did not open his mouth;like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,    so he did not open his mouth.8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away.    Who could have imagined his future?For he was cut off from the land of the living,    stricken for the transgression of my people.9 They made his grave with the wicked    and his tomb with the rich,although he had done no violence,    and there was no deceit in his mouth.10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.When you make his life an offering for sin,    he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.11     Out of his anguish he shall see light;he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.    The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,    and he shall bear their iniquities.12 Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;because he poured out himself to death,    and was numbered with the transgressors;yet he bore the sin of many,    and made intercession for the transgressors.

          Note that Isaiah 52:12-15 through Isaiah 53:12 is a continuous song so I include it all here. The following verse connects with Isaiah 53:3-5 to bring the two passages together.

          Zechariah 3:33 Now Joshua was dressed with filthy clothes as he stood before the angel.

          Keep in mind that the early Christians favored the Septuagint where the name “Joshua” is rendered “Jesus”. The Greek New Testament uses the same spelling as the Septuagint.

          Zechariah mentions Jesus again:

          Zechariah 6:11-13 (NRSV)11 Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak;  12 say to him: Thus says the Lord of hosts: Here is a man whose name is Branch: for he shall branch out in his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord.  13 It is he that shall build the temple of the Lord; he shall bear royal honor, and shall sit upon his throne and rule. There shall be a priest by his throne, with peaceful understanding between the two of them.

                🙈 🙉 🙊

        • What evidence is there that the earliest Christians believed they were following a recent person? The gospels appear to be fictional stories with tales created from the literature of the day about deeds done by characters in their ancient stories.

          However they were created, the Gospels refer explicitly to Jesus as a historical character, interacting with people and places on Earth within a narrow time period, which implies that the readers of the Gospels believed this. Paul makes references to events which he believes Jesus was involved in, and his explanation of his theory of resurrection involves the death of a flesh-and-blood body. Multiple Christian sects believed in some form of a historical Jesus (even the Docetists claimed that he appeared to be physically present on Earth); where are the early Christian sects that clearly denied some form of historical Jesus?

        • Greg G.

          However they were created, the Gospels refer explicitly to Jesus as a historical character,

          Mark’s Jesus is more allegorical than historical. See How a Fictional Jesus Gave Rise to Christianity, by R. G. Price.

          interacting with people and places on Earth within a narrow time period,

          But through interactions that are magical and not magical that follow literature from another place and time with other characters. See New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash by Robert M. Price.

          which implies that the readers of the Gospels believed this.

          Exactly. Some came to believe it after they read Mark as history and missed the allegorical nature of it.

          Paul makes references to events which he believes Jesus was involved in, and his explanation of his theory of resurrection involves the death of a flesh-and-blood body.

          Yes, but all of those events correspond to Old Testament references as if Paul thought Jesus lived during Old Testament times, not in the recent past.

          Multiple Christian sects believed in some form of a historical Jesus (even the Docetists claimed that he appeared to be physically present on Earth);

          Those are all second century groups who were apparently influenced by Mark.

          where are the early Christian sects that clearly denied some form of historical Jesus?

          Perhaps their writings are in the same place as all the second century manuscripts of the gospels.

          Why would they argue against a historical Jesus if they thought he existed hundreds of years earlier? If the early Christians only presented Jesus in the past tense through scriptures, why would they have to point out that they weren’t talking about someone who lived a few years ago?

          Are there any pre-gospel Christian sects that present Jesus as a first century person?

          There were apparently somebody who called Christianity a myth in the second century:

          2 Peter 1:16 (NRSV)16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.

          Their best proof that they “do not follow cleverly devised myths” is:

          2 Peter 1:17-18 (NRSV)17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.

          That comes from Matthew 17:5 which is from Mark 9:7 which is from Psalm 2:7 and the cloud comes from Exodus 40:34. The Transfiguration scene in Matthew 17:1-8 comes from Mark 9:2-13 which is based on Exodus 24:13-18 about Moses on a mountaintop with a six day wait.

          We should know that it was not a historical event because of the reports of long dead people appearing and voices from the sky. We can also know that it is not historical because it is based on ancient stories rather than recent events. We can know that Peter was not the actual author as the real Peter would probably not report a fake story from the Gospels as a real event.

          But if you look at the Robert M. Price piece linked to above, you will see that even the parts of Mark that seem plausible are taken from other literature, and so, they cannot be taken as historical events, either.

          Since Matthew used Mark and there is evidence that he used the the Epistle of James for Jesus’ monologues (The Sermon on the Mount Site: James and the Sermon on the Mount by Robert I. Kirby, though that is not the conclusion of the author of the web page), Luke used Mark, Matthew, Josephus, and maybe John to concoct his gospel, and John used Mark as a source plus Philo for his theology, and that second century Christian relied on the Gospels, we can hardly use them as witnesses for the existence of a first century Jesus.

        • Perhaps their writings are in the same place as all the second century manuscripts of the gospels.

          Then where are the references to them and their writings in the church fathers? Despite extensively cataloguing heresies and often making references to writings that are now lost, they happened to leave out the one sect whose existence is necessary for your theory?

          Why would they argue against a historical Jesus if they thought he existed hundreds of years earlier? If the early Christians only presented Jesus in the past tense through scriptures, why would they have to point out that they weren’t talking about someone who lived a few years ago?

          Because of their rivals claiming his recent existence by the time Matthew was written? Or had this entirely hypothetical sect already died out by then? Was Matthew secretly allegorical as well?

          Are there any pre-gospel Christian sects that present Jesus as a first century person?

          Are there any that clearly present him as something else? Does Paul claim any appearances of Jesus to people living earlier than his own generation?

          There were apparently somebody who called Christianity a myth in the second century:

          Obviously. Quite a lot of people in the second century were not Christians. It is extremely unsurprising that some of them would accuse Christianity of being a myth. This tells us nothing about Christianity’s origin.

          But if you look at the Robert M. Price piece linked to above, you will see that even the parts of Mark that seem plausible are taken from other literature, and so, they cannot be taken as historical events, either.

          I have no problem with that. There are several plausible details that I doubt are historical (e.g. the existence of James son of Zebedee, or Jesus ever living in Nazareth). It’s not simply a matter of accepting apparently plausible non-supernatural details, it’s a matter of picking the most likely explanation in each case.

          … we can hardly use them as witnesses for the existence of a first century Jesus.

          We can use them as witnesses for the beliefs of those who wrote and used those Gospels, and as a record of their legends. That gives us multiple examples of Christians of different theological persuasions believing in a recent historical Jesus, while there is no clear evidence of any early Christian denying it.

        • Greg G.

          Then where are the references to them and their writings in the church fathers? Despite extensively cataloguing heresies and often making references to writings that are now lost, they happened to leave out the one sect whose existence is necessary for your theory?

          There is the book of Hebrews in the New Testament. It aligns better with Jesus from Zechariah 3 than with gospel Jesus or minimal Jesus.

          Hebrews 5:7-10
          7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9 and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10 having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

          Hebrews 8:4
          4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law.

          Zechariah 3:1
          Then he showed me the high priest Joshua standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.

          Hebrews uses many Old Testament passages to describe him.

          Because of their rivals claiming his recent existence by the time Matthew was written? Or had this entirely hypothetical sect already died out by then? Was Matthew secretly allegorical as well?

          Matthew apparently took Mark seriously and imterpreted the allusions as prophecies. The old group was probably decimated by the destruction of Jerusalem and the death of Paul. The remnants may never have heard of Matthew.

          Are there any that clearly present him as something else? Does Paul claim any appearances of Jesus to people living earlier than his own generation?

          Paul uses the same wording for the “appearances” in 1 Corinthians 15 for the others as he does for himself, as if he didn’t think theirs was any different than his own. He never claimed Jesus appeared to him except through scripture. So he apparently thought Jesus only appeared to them in scripture. But even then, it would have been dead Jesus. You would have to read the gospel story back into it to make it a first century dead Jesus.

          We can use them as witnesses for the beliefs of those who wrote and used those Gospels, and as a record of their legends. That gives us multiple examples of Christians of different theological persuasions believing in a recent historical Jesus, while there is no clear evidence of any early Christian denying it.

          As you said, “This tells us nothing about Christianity’s origin.” But we have all but two epistles that only talk about Jesus in Old Testament terms, both in heaven and on earth, with more about him in heaven. The other two tell us nothing but things the gospels say.

        • There is the book of Hebrews in the New Testament. It aligns better with Jesus from Zechariah 3 than with gospel Jesus or minimal Jesus.

          Hebrews refers to a fleshly Jesus, descended from Judah. So you have still not provided an example of a sect that rejected a historical Jesus.

          Hebrews uses many Old Testament passages to describe him.

          What of it? I have never denied that OT passages were extensively used in the construction of myths about Jesus (in fact I have argued in favour of this happening in this thread). It is at least as easy for OT passages to be reworked and applied to a historical figure, as it is for an entirely fictional figure to be constructed (for no obvious reason) from those passages.

          Matthew apparently took Mark seriously and imterpreted the allusions as prophecies.

          As did everyone else that we have any evidence of.

          The old group was probably decimated by the destruction of Jerusalem and the death of Paul. The remnants may never have heard of Matthew.

          Yet Jewish-Christians who believed in a historical Jesus and had a low Christology survived the same destruction of Jerusalem. It’s a little odd that the one sect whose existence is necessary for your theory seemed to be so much worse at surviving than sects which claimed Jesus as a historical prophet.

          But even then, it would have been dead Jesus. You would have to read the gospel story back into it to make it a first century dead Jesus.

          Not necessarily; you just have to note that, despite Paul supposedly believing that Jesus lived in ancient times, he doesn’t mention anybody seeing him until Cephas and James, and never mentions or implies a long time period between Jesus’ death and his appearance to Cephas.

          As you said, “This tells us nothing about Christianity’s origin.”

          It tells us that there were multiple sects and writings that assumed a historical Jesus, while the existence of a sect that believed in a purely mythical, heavenly Jesus remains entirely hypothetical. Despite evidence of a wide variety of Christologies early on, the one Christology that is necessary for your theory is also the one Christology that left no evidence of anyone believing it.

        • adam

          “It tells us that there were multiple sects and writings that assumed a historical Jesus,”

          Just as multiple sects and writings assume a MAGICAL Jesus

          STILL doesnt make it true.

          And it doesnt tell us if the historical Jesus was OT or NT Joshua.

        • Greg G.

          Hebrews refers to a fleshly Jesus, descended from Judah. So you have still not provided an example of a sect that rejected a historical Jesus.

          My argument is not that Jesus of the New Testament is not based on an actual person in some way. It is that first century Jesus of the New Testament is a myth. Judah goes back to Genesis 38. Judah was the great grandson of Abraham. That doesn’t put Jesus in the first century.

          It is at least as easy for OT passages to be reworked and applied to a historical figure, as it is for an entirely fictional figure to be constructed (for no obvious reason) from those passages.

          But when it is done exclusively, it would lean toward fiction. It would be hard to eliminate all references to the real person. Once all the references to Jesus are seen to be derived from the OT, you have no historical context for a first century Jesus and the argument for a historical Jesus becomes one of incredulity – “I can’t imagine how Christianity could have come about without a historical Jesus, therefore there was a historical Jesus.”

          As did everyone else that we have any evidence of.

          Paul takes some OT passages as historical accounts, too.

          Yet Jewish-Christians who believed in a historical Jesus and had a low Christology survived the same destruction of Jerusalem. It’s a little odd that the one sect whose existence is necessary for your theory seemed to be so much worse at surviving than sects which claimed Jesus as a historical prophet.

          It seems that they were gradually adopted during the transition. Paul and James may have been the only ones whose papers were saved until Mark. All the other variations of Christianity didn’t pop into existence all at once. But we don’t have documentation of their early development either.

          Not necessarily; you just have to note that, despite Paul supposedly believing that Jesus lived in ancient times, he doesn’t mention anybody seeing him until Cephas and James, and never mentions or implies a long time period between Jesus’ death and his appearance to Cephas.

          Paul uses the word “optanomai” for “appeared to” for Cephas, the twelve, the five hundred, James, the other apostles, and for himself. Since Paul doesn’t report a physical manifestation for himself, he probably does not mean a physical manifestation. He does use the phrase “according to the scriptures” for certain things:

            “died for our sins”     Isaiah 53:5
            “he was buried”     Isaiah 53:9
            “raised on the third day”     Hosea 6:2

          Perhaps the “according to the scriptures” and the “appeared to” just mean that it appeared to them in the scriptures like a revelation.

          It tells us that there were multiple sects and writings that assumed a historical Jesus, while the existence of a sect that believed in a purely mythical, heavenly Jesus remains entirely hypothetical. Despite evidence of a wide variety of Christologies early on, the one Christology that is necessary for your theory is also the one Christology that left no evidence of anyone believing it.

          But how many of them were not debating interpretations of the gospels? They weren’t talking about a minimal Jesus, either, so you have to throw that theory out, too. If we go by the second century Christians, Jesus was divine before he was born or was adopted by God.

        • My argument is not that Jesus of the New Testament is not based on an actual person in some way. It is that first century Jesus of the New Testament is a myth.

          Then I’m wondering how much disagreement we actually have here. We both think that the NT Jesus is a mostly mythical figure who was based on an actual person. The disagreement is only over the dating of that person.

          So let’s suppose that the actual person in question was once a follower of John the Baptist, and had a brother named James. Doesn’t that rather neatly explain a few things in the New Testament? I’m not asserting that no other alternative is possible, just that those alternatives are a bit less simple and require a couple of odd coincidences. And it doesn’t preclude the possibility of that figure being extensively mythologised by later followers reading him into Old Testament passages.

          But when it is done exclusively, it would lean toward fiction. It would be hard to eliminate all references to the real person.

          That argument only works if we can be fairly sure that all references to the real person have really been eliminated. My opinions on what can be traced back to the historical figure are clear enough by now; in addition, there are passages for which their relation to a historical figure is uncertain (such as Jesus’ predictions of the imminent end of the world).

          Paul takes some OT passages as historical accounts, too.

          Which is easily explained as Paul trusting the truth of the OT writings. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine Jewish Christians trusting Pauline Christians on the existence of a historical Jesus, or vice-versa. The existence of rival sects all believing in a historical Jesus means we must either accept the implausible coincidence of Jesus being historicised multiple times, or accept that a belief in a historical Jesus by one sect was trusted by its rivals. On the other hand, if there was a historical Jesus whose followers split into factions after his death, the existence of rival groups asserting the existence of a common recent historical founder makes perfect sense.

          It seems that they were gradually adopted during the transition. Paul and James may have been the only ones whose papers were saved until Mark. All the other variations of Christianity didn’t pop into existence all at once. But we don’t have documentation of their early development either.

          We have Paul’s and James’ versions of Christianity surviving long enough to be well documented. Mythicism requires that, strangely, both of these sects historicised Jesus, with the Jewish-Christian followers of James removing his divinity completely.

          Since Paul doesn’t report a physical manifestation for himself, he probably does not mean a physical manifestation.

          I agree that this is the case for this passage. What I find odd is, if Paul believed Jesus lived centuries in the past, why does he not claim any appearances of Jesus before his own generation, or ever mention the expanse of time or any intervening events between 1 Cor 15:4 and the next verse?

          But how many of them were not debating interpretations of the gospels?

          Various different Gospels and other writings, reflecting the divergent opinions of their authors, yet consistently asserting or at least being compatible with a first-century Jesus.

          They weren’t talking about a minimal Jesus, either, so you have to throw that theory out, too. If we go by the second century Christians, Jesus was divine before he was born or was adopted by God.

          That diversity of views makes sense as a result of the splitting of Christians after Jesus’ death, with each sect separately trying to make sense of the life of their founder, and working out different theologies as a result. It’s stranger if the theology was well established from the start while the historicity of Jesus was not, that rival sects would then start diverging on theology while converging on historicity.

        • Greg G.

          PS: Apologies for a copy and paste error from a previous post to another person.

          So let’s suppose that the actual person in question was once a follower of John the Baptist, and had a brother named James. Doesn’t that rather neatly explain a few things in the New Testament? I’m not asserting that no other alternative is possible, just that those alternatives are a bit less simple and require a couple of odd coincidences. And it doesn’t preclude the possibility of that figure being extensively mythologised by later followers reading him into Old Testament passages.

          That could be but that doesn’t sound like Epistle Jesus. I think that the “Lord’s brother” in Galatians is sarcasm. Galatians 5:12 shows how great Paul’s sarcasm was toward the circumcision faction, who was apparently headed by James from Galatians 2:12. Paul seems to have egalitarian ideals and had disdain for people bossing people around as in Galatians 3:28, Galatians 2:6, 9 and especially Galatians 1:1. He is apparently saying that James sending people places is equivalent to the Lord sending people places, like he is at that level, or the brother of the Lord above.

          While the John the Baptist scenario seems plausible, he seems like an invented character by Mark. Mark typically invents characters by taking a character from another piece of literature and describing them in terms of OT passages. Legion, for example, is Polyphemus, the Cyclops from The Odyssey with added descriptions from Isaiah 65:4 and Psalm 107:10. JtB seems to be based on Oannes from Berossus’ history of Babylon described by Malachi 3:1, Isaiah 40:3-5, Leviticus 11:21, 2 Kings 1:8, and Zechariah 13:4.

          The Josephus entry on John the Baptist seems designed to refute Mark, who has a Jesus who is adopted by God and baptized for the remission of sins. The other three gospels bend over backwards to obscure that John baptized Jesus for “remission of sins” as the other gospels have Jesus being divine from the beginning of the story. The Josephus passage specifically says that John the Baptist’s baptism was not for the remission of sins. There are other problems with the passage. If it was interpolated into Josephus, it would likely have been done around the time the other gospels were written.

          Even the death of John seems to be built around the Book of Esther with the dancing, the seeking of advice on what to ask for, and Esther being the second wife of the king. The following passages should confirm it:

          Mark 6:23 (NRSV)23 And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.”Esther 5:3 (NRSV)3 The king said to her, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom.”Esther 5:6 (NRSV)6 While they were drinking wine, the king said to Esther, “What is your petition? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.”Esther 7:2 (NRSV)2 On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.”

          That argument only works if we can be fairly sure that all references to the real person have really been eliminated. My opinions on what can be traced back to the historical figure are clear enough by now; in addition, there are passages for which their relation to a historical figure is uncertain (such as Jesus’ predictions of the imminent end of the world).

          New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash by Robert M. Price covers nearly every passage. Most of the remaining is apparent redaction about Jesus and company traveling from one scene to the next. The big gap is Chapter 4 where Jesus is talking in parables which all appear in the Gospel of Thomas. I think Mark and Matthew may have taken some sayings from Thomas and that some sayings of Thomas have been taken from the Gospels.

          The eschatology of Jesus probably comes from Paul from 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, 1 Corinthians 15:51-54, and Philippians 3:20-21 which seem to come from Isaiah 26:19-21a, Daniel 7:11a, 13a; 12:2, and Isaiah 25:8a, essentially in that order for his epistles.

          Mark seems to have modeled James, John, and Peter on James, John, and Cephas in Galatians as the most important side kicks. The only other two disciples are Andrew, who is mentioned in passing once, and Judas. Jesus may be modeled on Paul as he adopts his arguments in places such as the imminent end of the world and eating practices (Paul and Peter’s argument in Galatians 2 vs Mark 7:1-23).

          Which is easily explained as Paul trusting the truth of the OT writings. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine Jewish Christians trusting Pauline Christians on the existence of a historical Jesus, or vice-versa. The existence of rival sects all believing in a historical Jesus means we must either accept the implausible coincidence of Jesus being historicised multiple times, or accept that a belief in a historical Jesus by one sect was trusted by its rivals. On the other hand, if there was a historical Jesus whose followers split into factions after his death, the existence of rival groups asserting the existence of a common recent historical founder makes perfect sense.

          But it makes more sense if Paul and the other factions were talking about a historical Jesus only known from the scriptures. People should wonder why nobody ever wrote about a recent Jesus in terms of a recent Jesus.

          We have Paul’s and James’ versions of Christianity surviving long enough to be well documented. Mythicism requires that, strangely, both of these sects historicised Jesus, with the Jewish-Christian followers of James removing his divinity completely.

          Did they? Mark put Jesus in the first century. The various sects had the writings of Paul, James, and Mark. They may have gone extinct or adopted Mark. Paul and James were from their grandparent’s generation. They had to come up with excuses for Paul saying things like “that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord” just like Christians today.

          Mark’s abrupt ending might be explaining why the Jerusalem Christians aren’t around anymore, that they were supposed to go to Galilee but never got the message.

          I agree that this is the case for this passage. What I find odd is, if Paul believed Jesus lived centuries in the past, why does he not claim any appearances of Jesus before his own generation, or ever mention the expanse of time or any intervening events between 1 Cor 15:4 and the next verse?

          Paul thought his generation would see the Lord return. The fact that the hidden messages were revealed to his generation meant it would happen during that generation.

          Romans 16:25-2725 Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.

          The author of Ephesians (either Paul or a second person who makes similar points) says

          Ephesians 3:2-52 for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, 3 and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, 4 a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. 5 In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:

          Various different Gospels and other writings, reflecting the divergent opinions of their authors, yet consistently asserting or at least being compatible with a first-century Jesus.

          But all stories of a man who performed miracles, which is not Epistle Jesus. They are all based on Gospel Jesus.

          That diversity of views makes sense as a result of the splitting of Christians after Jesus’ death, with each sect separately trying to make sense of the life of their founder, and working out different theologies as a result. It’s stranger if the theology was well established from the start while the historicity of Jesus was not, that rival sects would then start diverging on theology while converging on historicity.

          The diversity of opinions makes even better sense if there was no historical Jesus for them to be anchored on. You keep ignoring Epistle Jesus who is never described as a teacher, a preacher, or a miracle worker. His deeds are not described at all, except in terms of the Suffering Servant verses and the like. Anything beyond that makes more sense as accrued legend from playing telephone. A story-teller could not be judged by how accurate his stories were because the listeners don’t know the facts. A story-teller is judged by the story and how well he tells it.

        • Apologies for the late reply, I haven’t had the chance to do much on Disqus recently. Anyway, if you’re still interested:

          He is apparently saying that James sending people places is equivalent
          to the Lord sending people places, like he is at that level, or the
          brother of the Lord above.

          Then we have to explain the weird coincidence of James also being referred to as Jesus’ brother in the Gospel of the Hebrews, which cannot be sarcastic since GHebrews portrays James sympathetically. Also the strange coincidence of the canonical Gospels and later Christians apparently misinterpreting “brother of the Lord”, and all record of its non-literal meaning being lost. Assuming that literal brotherhood is meant makes interpretation of the available evidence much simpler.

          While the John the Baptist scenario seems plausible, he seems like an invented character by Mark.

          When we have a Baptist sectarian name being applied to Jesus, evidence of a sect independent of Christianity following John the Baptist, and evidence of baptism being a fairly widespread practice in contemporary Judaism, I find it absurd to resort to dubious parallels with Oannes to explain this story. If the reference to John the Baptist in Josephus was a Christian interpolation, then it is surprising that they did not add any mention of Jesus to the writings of Josephus until significantly later. It is also strange that the New Testament would acknowledge the existence of a sect of John the Baptist separate from Jesus, and that Mark would have Jesus wait until John’s imprisonment before beginning his ministry.

          I disagree with you a little about Thomas (I think it’s more likely to be an independent recording of a common oral tradition), but I don’t think that matters much here. The eschatology of Jesus could originate with Paul and his contemporaries, but it would also make a lot of sense if it originated with Jesus; the uncertainty here makes it difficult to assert with confidence that it cannot be traced back to the historical Jesus, which in my opinion prevents an assertion that there is no memory of the historical Jesus in the NT.

          But it makes more sense if Paul and the other factions were talking
          about a historical Jesus only known from the scriptures. People should
          wonder why nobody ever wrote about a recent Jesus in terms of a recent
          Jesus.

          Then you still have the problem of what caused rival factions to historicize in the same way. Are they conferring with each other to get their stories straight? If so, why? If Paul was widely respected by all Christians, it would make sense for them to follow his historicisation of Jesus. The fact that he had rivals who disagreed with them makes it very odd that they all found common ground on this issue.

          I’m not sure how you can claim that nobody wrote about a recent Jesus in terms of a recent Jesus, when we have several attempts to do so in the form of Gospels. Multiple attempts to create a biography of Jesus only makes sense if there is a widespread early belief in his historical existence. On the other hand, nobody ever wrote explicitly about a Jesus that would be incompatible with him not recently existing in history.

          They had to come up with excuses for Paul saying things like “that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord” just like Christians today.

          Why would the Jewish Christians care about making excuses for Paul? Why adopt Mark’s Gospel, if it diverges so far from their original beliefs? Nothing’s preventing them from producing their own, new writings, as so many early Christians did, all of them diverging on theological lines yet converging on the idea of a recent historical Jesus.

          Paul thought his generation would see the Lord return. The fact that the
          hidden messages were revealed to his generation meant it would happen
          during that generation.

          Which seems to result in Paul not giving any indication that he believed Jesus lived in the distant past. So why assume that he believed this? The passages from Romans and Ephesians imply that Jesus was not revealed in any form before Paul’s generation, which would be incompatible with his existence in the distant past.

          But all stories of a man who performed miracles, which is not Epistle Jesus. They are all based on Gospel Jesus.

          Not in the case of Thomas at least, which is a story of a teacher who doesn’t do a great deal of miracle-working.

          The diversity of opinions makes even better sense if there was no
          historical Jesus for them to be anchored on.

          Which is why the diversity exists over theological and moral matters, which generally are not anchored in the historical Jesus. Yet the sects which diverge over these matters do not diverge over the matter of Jesus’ recent existence and crucifixion. If the lack of a historical Jesus explains the theological divergence, you still have not explained the convergence in the sects’ views on Jesus’ historicity.

          You keep ignoring Epistle
          Jesus who is never described as a teacher, a preacher, or a miracle
          worker. His deeds are not described at all, except in terms of the
          Suffering Servant verses and the like.

          That’s not that surprising when the purpose of the Epistles is generally to resolve moral and theological questions, rather than to provide a comprehensive account of the life of the founder.

          Anything beyond that makes more
          sense as accrued legend from playing telephone. A story-teller could not
          be judged by how accurate his stories were because the listeners don’t
          know the facts. A story-teller is judged by the story and how well he
          tells it.

          I agree that this did happen a lot. But trying to eliminate the possibility of ever using a historical Jesus as an explanation results in weird oddities and coincidences, like sects disappearing only to soon be replaced by almost identical sects (as you seem to think happened with Jewish Christianity), or rival groups which disagreed on almost everything somehow colluding with each other on their beliefs about recent history, or Paul, Mark and others being such bad writers that they were misinterpreted in consistent ways by everyone who read them (apparently including both friends and enemies).

          Positing a historical Jesus makes all of those problems simply stop existing, without preventing us from also positing legendary development.

        • Greg G.

          Apologies for the late reply, I haven’t had the chance to do much on Disqus recently. Anyway, if you’re still interested:

          No problem. I am traveling in Vietnam and Disqus doesn’t come through on most of the wifi connections I get. The article shows up OK but there are no comments and nothing under Recent Comments. Two Starbucks and one other coffee shop allows me access. Today, my wife, her brother, his wife, and I were in a Starbucks and I happened to see your post listed under Recent Comments not knowing it was a response to me. I tried two browsers on my phone but the page never opened. Then the wives wanted to go shopping. I didn’t get my whole hour.

          Then we have to explain the weird coincidence of James also being referred to as Jesus’ brother in the Gospel of the Hebrews, which cannot be sarcastic since GHebrews portrays James sympathetically. Also the strange coincidence of the canonical Gospels and later Christians apparently misinterpreting “brother of the Lord”, and all record of its non-literal meaning being lost. Assuming that literal brotherhood is meant makes interpretation of the available evidence much simpler.

          The Gospels of Hebrews is thought to be from the second century, about 50 years after Paul wrote Galatians and a generation after Mark was written. They don’t seem to have had much besides Paul’s letters, James, and Mark by the 90s. They would have been reading Paul like scripture, without suspecting sarcasm.

          When we have a Baptist sectarian name being applied to Jesus, evidence of a sect independent of Christianity following John the Baptist, and evidence of baptism being a fairly widespread practice in contemporary Judaism, I find it absurd to resort to dubious parallels with Oannes to explain this story. If the reference to John the Baptist in Josephus was a Christian interpolation, then it is surprising that they did not add any mention of Jesus to the writings of Josephus until significantly later. It is also strange that the New Testament would acknowledge t he existence of a sect of John the Baptist separate from Jesus, and that Mark would have Jesus wait until John’s imprisonment before beginning his ministry.

          I am not sure what I wrote. I can only see what came through email. Matthew, Luke, and John seem to hedge on Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist for the remission of sins, as stated in Mark. There seem to be second thoughts as Jesus evolved into a divine being from birth and before. Josephus conveniently refutes that by specifically saying that John’s baptism was not for remission of sins. Why would Josephus write what John’s baptism was not about?

          We know that part of Berossus from Eusebius so it was potentially available to Mark. James, Peter, John, or Pilate are people we know from Paul’s letters, Philo, and Josephus. Paul doesn’t describe them in terms of OT scripture or other sources. He tends to do it with named characters that are made up: Legion, Bartimaeus, Barabbas.

          I disagree with you a little about Thomas (I think it’s more likely to be an independent recording of a common oral tradition), but I don’t think that matters much here. The eschatology of Jesus could originate with Paul and his contemporaries, but it would also make a lot of sense if it originated with Jesus; the uncertainty here makes it difficult to assert with confidence that it cannot be traced back to the historical Jesus, which in my opinion prevents an assertion that there is no memory of the historical Jesus in the NT.

          I don’t recall what I wrote about Thomas but my thoughts have changed a bit recently. I think Mark and Matthew used Thomas as a source for some passages but not Luke while the Thomas collection may have borrowed some from them as well. I think the only saying that Thomas and Luke share independent of Mark and Matthew is Thomas 63 and Luke 12:16-21. Luke appears to draw from Ecclesiastes 2 but Luke 12:19 comes from Ecclesiastes 8:15, which indicates Luke was looking at Ecclesiastes and since it is the only similarity, Luke probably did not use Thomas. I also think Thomas 65 & 66 comes from the Parable of the Evil Tenants which Mark 12:1-12 appears to have created from Isaiah 5 and Psalm 117:22-23 (LXX). Mark and Matthew have more than three servants being sent before the son but Luke and Thomas have only the three so the Thomas collector after Luke probably took Luke’s version.

          What about Thomas 64 then? It is more like Luke 14:16-24 than Matthew 22:1-13 which would have been Luke’s source. Matthew would have been modeling the story on the Evil Tenants parable. It appears in the central section portion of Luke that follows Deuteronomy and the excuses given by the people are similar to the exceptions allowed for military service in Deuteronomy 20:5-7. Matthew 22:14 is like Thomas 23 and may have been his source or vice versa.

          That makes four consecutive Thomas sayings that are similar to gospel passages and are more like Luke than the other gospels.

          Thomas sayings may have been some oral tradition or they may have come from a gnostic-like religion. As R. M. Price has said, if a Jesus quote is worth repeating as oral tradition, it is worth making up and attributing it to Jesus.

          Then you still have the problem of what caused rival factions to historicize in the same way. Are they conferring with each other to get their stories straight? If so, why? If Paul was widely respected by all Christians, it would make sense for them to follow his historicisation of Jesus. The fact that he had rivals who disagreed with them makes it very odd that they all found common ground on this issue.

          Different groups had Mark and they interpreted it differently. Matthew, Luke, and John each used Mark as a source. They all had different interpretations. There are 40,000 denominations of Christianity today. In the early second century, they didn’t have any canonized version of writings. Some may not have had a complete collection of what was available. Some would have been influenced by other religions. All they had were writings about Jesus. They didn’t know what was real or not. A historical Jesus would be irrelevant after Mark was written.

          I’m not sure how you can claim that nobody wrote about a recent Jesus in terms of a recent Jesus, when we have several attempts to do so in the form of Gospels. Multiple attempts to create a biography of Jesus only makes sense if there is a widespread early belief in his historical existence. On the other hand, nobody ever wrote explicitly about a Jesus that would be incompatible with him not recently existing in history.

          Mark used non-Jesus sources to write stories about Jesus plus placed words from Paul into Jesus’ mouth in places. I think Mark used the early Gospel of Thomas for the end of chapter 3 through most of chapter 4. That is the closest you can get to Jesus. The other gospels relied on Mark but did not use all of the Thomas quotes. Matthew apparently adopted the Epistle of James for Jesus quotes though James never gave any indication he was quoting Jesus even though it would have strengthened his arguments. Those attempts to write biographies of Jesus had nothing to go on.

          Why would the Jewish Christians care about making excuses for Paul? Why adopt Mark’s Gospel, if it diverges so far from their original beliefs? Nothing’s preventing them from producing their own, new writings, as so many early Christians did, all of them diverging on theological lines yet converging on the idea of a recent historical Jesus.

          Remember that this was another generation separated by the destruction of Jerusalem. Judaism changed from being Temple-centric to Rabbinical. All the Christians had to go on were a few traditions, a few epistles, and the Gospel of Mark. Mark had Jesus saying what Paul had said. They were a generation that was not supposed to be there. They had to make excuses.

          Which seems to result in Paul not giving any indication that he believed Jesus lived in the distant past. So why a ssume that he believed this? The passages from Romans and Ephesians imply that Jesus was not revealed in any form before Paul’s generation, which would be incompatible with his existence in the distant past.

          Romans 16:25-26 says “the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles”. If the mystery was kept secret for long ages, then it was not kept for merely a couple of decades in the first century. The fact that they were revealed to that generation meant something to that generation.

          But all stories of a man who performed miracles, which is not Epistle Jesus. They are all based on Gospel Jesus.

          Not in the case of Thomas at least, which is a story of a teacher who doesn’t do a great deal of miracle-working.

          Epistle Jesus wasn’t a teacher, either.

          Which is why the diversity exists over theological and moral matters, which generally are not anchored in the historical Jesus. Yet the sects which diverge over these matters do not diverge over the matter of Jesus’ recent existence and crucifixion. If the lack of a historical Jesus explains the theological divergence, you still have not explained the convergence in the sects’ views on Jesus’ historicity.

          The Gospel of Mark.

          That’s not that surprising when the purpose of the Epistles is generally to resolve moral and theological questions, rather than to provide a comprehensive account of the life of the founder.

          I am not asking for a comprehensive account. There is not a single mention of a first century Jesus. There isn’t even an anecdote.

          I agree that this did happen a lot. But trying to eliminate the possibility of ever using a historical Jesus as an explanation results in weird oddities and coincidences, like sects disappearing only to soon be replaced by almost identical sects (as you seem to think happened with Jewish Christianity), or rival groups which disagreed on almost everything somehow colluding with each other on their beliefs about recent history, or Paul, Mark and others being such bad writers that they were misinterpreted in consistent ways by everyone who read them (apparently including both friends and enemies).

          Positing a historical Jesus makes all of those problems simply stop existing, without preventing us from also positing legendary development.

          What do we really know about Jewish Christianity besides what is written in Galatians and Acts? Acts is second century fiction and draws on Paul’s writings and Josephus. If a second century group modeled itself on what they thought Jesus followers were like, all they had to go on were what we have to go on.

          A first century Jesus does nothing to explain second century Christianity. All they would know about Jesus appears to come from the Gospels and the Epistles (and maybe some possible sources they didn’t think were important) and those do not add up to a historical Jesus.

        • You composed all that on your phone? You are a wizard.

        • Greg G.

          No, I did it on a laptop and emailed it to myself so I would have wherever I got Disqus.

          This post took about 8 refreshes with the recent comments loading only half the time but it never had any semblance of the Comments until it came through all at once.

        • Greg G.

          Apologies for a copy and paste error from a previous post to another person in my original reply.

        • adam

          And then you have direct ‘quotes’ from Jesus.

          This reeks of story telling, as do all the exaggerations.

        • Pofarmer

          In 2000 years will people try to figure out the historicity if Harry Potter? None of what you are saying excludes the Gospel of Mark as being historical fiction. Mark and the other Gospels are GREEK literature. It was common for,the Greeks to put their hero’s and Gods in contemporary settings in contemporary times. They believed, after all, the gods were interacting with them in real time. You’ve done nothing at all to demonstrate why the Gospel of Mark couldn’t be fiction loosely based on the risen savior of Paul and the Jerusalem pair.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i’m’a jump on the “what if” horse one more time tonight:
          i think it’s inescapable that (1) the importance is limited-at-best from a variety of perspectives, but that (2) it can be teased out in the context of deconversion scenarios. currently foremost in my mind as to Why It Could Matter, on at least a small scale, is Matt Dillahunty’s self-reported trajectory. (nutshell: the turning point was that he committed to defeating his close friend’s atheism by the use of reason.) while it’s easy enough to predict that a genuine commitment to reason in general is highly likely to sink one’s ship o’faith regardless of the specific arguments against the prospective deconvert’s prior programming, i think there is (and perhaps more depressingly, could always be) a niche among ‘Those Whose Minds Can Open’ (or Be Opened) for the specific ~mind-blower~ of big bad multiply-‘attested’ whoever-the-fuck-he-really-was Simply Not Existing as a discrete, unique Thought Leader.

          one reason i think that specifically matters is that it could be more effective in reducing xinanity to The Actual Ideas (still the rabbitholes of interpretation obviously), removing (at least partially, 1/3 of the trinity down!) the distraction of The Embodied Source Of {blahblahblah}.

          i think that angle really does have value as a wedge to open certain types of engaged minds that are ready to hold such thoughts in their head but need extra buttons pushed – surely on a case-by-case basis some buttons are more effective than others.

          on a related note i’d say a hypothetical ‘triumph of the mythicists’ would also go towards an indictment of Great Man Theory (which of course is an entirely distinct premise, no supernaturalism required).

        • Pofarmer

          Did you notice my little go round with Mark on how we “know” Pauls Jesus was crucified by the Romans, if not when? When he realized (I think) that Paul never actually says it, he went dark.

        • MNb

          “he’s posted more than one [nonidentical] comment in refutation”
          That’s the keyword.
          Refuting pseudoscience can take a lot of words indeed.
          What I wrote is that the evidence for a historical Jesus can be summarized in 20 lines, not the refutation of pseudoscientific nonsense.

        • Pofarmer

          Awesome. Lets have the 20 lines.

        • MNb

          If you did some research you would find that I have posted them twice. But now you ask so politely I still won’t, because you already dismissed it a priori just above when you rejected both multiple attestation and the principle of embarrassment (and made a foolish science rejector out of yourself, but that isn’t the first time).
          I do have a little question for you though. Pope Gregorius G and Monseigneur you have claimed that every piece of evidence pro a historical Jesus can be as easily explained on JM. Let’s test it.

          How come Marcus 15:34 has “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Why would the creator of a fictional character put these words into the mouth of said fictional character?

          On a historical a Jesus the answer is “He actually said those words”. Can you give an answer in just one short sentence?
          No? Then I call for William Occam.

        • Pofarmer

          “How come Marcus 15:34 has “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Why would the creator of a fictional character put these words into the mouth of said fictional character?”

          Because the Gospel of Mark starts out with Jesus being adopted by God at his Baptism when a voice from Heaven says “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.” It’s a literary device that completes the story.

        • MNb

          A literary device to make what point clear about the fictional Jesus? How would the story be incomplete if the words had been “My God, My God, I am so happy to meet you again soon!” or something similar?
          See? Your explanation raises more questions than it gives answers.
          Now where is William Ockham?

        • Pofarmer

          It’s part of the chiastic structure of the Gospel. Why are the lines in “Casablanca” what they are? It’s an editorial choice by the author. I can’t help ot that you don’t like the answer, but it’s one that folks as diverse as Ehrman and Carrier agree on.

        • Greg G.

          The supposed witnesses misheard it according to the story. Mark is writing as the omniscient narrator. That saying comes from Psalm 22, which coincidentally, so does several passages before that in the same chapter. The preceding chapters make allusions to Psalm 23 and 24. The story has more from Psalms than real history.

        • How come Marcus 15:34 has “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Why would the creator of a fictional character put these words into the mouth of said fictional character?

          It was lifted from Psalm 22.

        • MNb

          Yes. Which actually reinforces the hypothesis that Jesus said those words indeed – he recited the Psalms to help him endure the pain, which is based on the simple and well established fact that crucifions are painful. At the other hand it doesn’t answer the question: why would the author of Marcus put this quote from Psalm 22 in Jesus’ mouth? Why not something like “Hallelujah, Dear Father, here I come!”?

        • Kodie

          Same reason the von Trapp Family sang “Do-Re-Mi” at the Salzburg Festival. Well, anyway, if the story establishes Jesus as a man enduring pain in sacrifice for your own sins, which drives that point home more emotionally?

        • MNb

          Some version of “Hallelujah, Dear Father, here I come” and not something as confusing (and lots of theologians have been confused on this during 2000 years) as “Father, why has thou forsaken me.”
          Ah well, I get bored again. You’re very right on one thing: historical Jesus vs. mythological Jesus is irrelevant for atheism. The only reason I comment now and then is because of the silly logical fallacies used by JM’s. At one hand they make look atheism bad; at the other hand they make me laugh.
          But now it gets serious, so I lose interest.
          For the time being again these are my last words.

        • Kodie

          I don’t know why that’s confusing to you for a fictional Jesus to writhe in pain and let the audience know how much pain he’s enduring? For their salvation, they need to feel as much indirectly as possible. It’s not just words he thought to say to himself, they are the so-called recorded verbalization of all the pain he endures FOR YOU. If you were creating a fictional savior and wanted to reach those dumb people, you’d want to get to them emotionally. You don’t want them to think it’s a picnic for even the lord up there on the cross. That’s as much to say, even if Jesus were real, it is probably something he might say. I don’t get this as your protest that no fiction writer would embellish such a phrase though, just because their character has super powers and, being god, ought to be happy about it. As little as I know about the story, he was never happy about it. He realized it was fated, and he didn’t try too hard to get out of facing up, but he didn’t really like any part of that and wasn’t looking forward to it.

        • Ignorant Amos
        • At the other hand it doesn’t answer the question: why would the author of Marcus put this quote from Psalm 22 in Jesus’ mouth?

          Because the author interpreted v. 16 as a reference to crucifixion, and thought that meant he could use this Psalm to reconstruct the details he didn’t know about the crucifixion. This also explains why v. 18 is also used in the narrative; presumably you don’t think Jesus contrived to have his executioners cast lots for his clothing, in order to reference the same Psalm a second time.

        • Why would the creator of a fictional character put these words into the mouth of said fictional character?

          Fictional? The Jesus Mythicists simply say that Jesus didn’t actually exist; they don’t say that he was made up as a deliberate fiction, do they?

        • MNb

          So what? What relevance has “deliberate”? Is according to JM the Jesus character any less or any more fictional because he wasn’t made up deliberately?
          In other words: what sense does your question make?
          But if it pleases you – replace “fictional” in my comment with “mythical”. The question just gets reformulated.

          How come Marcus 15:34 has “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Why would the creators of a mythical character put that quote from Psalm 22 into the mouth of said mythical character?

          You do agree that myths/legends are made up by human beings, I may hope, so whether it’s the author of Marcus or his source, somebody put those words into the mouth of a character that according to JM is not historical. Why?
          Why not something like “Hallelujah, Dear Father, here I come!”?

          Isn’t it typical that I only get questions that are vague (literary device), evasive (deliberate or not) or shift the problem (quoting Psalms 22)?
          I still call for William Ockham – even more after three rather sorry attempts to duck the question.

          Do you also see what I mean? Addressing the silliness of JM takes a lot more effort, time and words than presenting a simple hypothesis on simple evidence, formulated in just one sentence: Jesus said those words as part of reciting the Psalms to help him endure the pain caused by his crucifixion. And that only makes sense on a historical Jesus.

        • I’m just clarifying what should be an obvious point.

          I’m making the distinction between invented and simply not historical. JM wins with either one, not just invented.

          Why would the creators of a mythical character put that quote from Psalm 22 into the mouth of said mythical character?

          You mean that it’s embarrassing for God to abandon Jesus? Not if you take an adoptionistic view, which is easy to support in Mark. The spirit came into Jesus at baptism and then left once the job was completed.

        • MNb

          “Not if you take an adoptionistic view.”
          Which introduces an extra assumption not necessary on a historical Jesus: the authors of the Gospels and the oral sources they used thought the spirit left Jesus before he died at the cross, but came back after the Resurrection.

          Not to mention that you contradict one of your own criticisms of christianity: that for an omni-everything character like Jesus a crucifixion is no big deal. So you go for adoptionism when it suits you, but when it doesn’t you criticize it.
          So much for consistency.

        • Why is that an extra assumption? Maybe you’re the one with extra assumption. You see the plain adoptionism in Mark, and then you’ve got handwave it away with some sort of excuse.

          I don’t understand your concern about consistency. The spirit of God descended into some random dude named Jesus, drove him around for a year or two, and then left when he was done with his joyride.

          If you’re saying, “Yeah, but what kind of belief is that?!” sure, I agree. But it’s no stupider than conventional Christianity or any of the competing Christianities of the time.

        • Ignorant Amos

          You need to focus on the earliest Christian texts which are the Pauline corpus. You are reading the gospels back into the earlier texts. If all there was is the earliest accounts of Jesus was the epistles, what would be your evaluation on the reality of an earth walking man/God?

          In the Pauline corpus Jesus said fuck all to anyone at his crucifixion, why?

          You cannot state what any oral tradition was used to form the Christian texts….it is speculation. What the authors plagiarised can be seen, what they invented and what they heard around the campfire cannot be discerned.

        • Kodie

          How do you think Christians of today understand the crucifixion? I don’t think you are giving enough weight to the misery and pain Jesus supposedly endures for your own salvation. Would that guy say “yippee!” I do not really care if Jesus lived or is fake, but it’s not that hard to imagine why those words would come out of a real or a fake Jesus. You are not only supposing that Jesus is real, but that he was actually crucified, and actually said the words they say he said in the bible when he was on that cross. It’s a classic tragedy. You’re supposed to cry and emotional response for what he supposedly did voluntarily. Do you not listen to Christians use Jesus’s sacrifice as a manipulating tool to get you to feel something? He was a man who went through the same emotions and pain you would if you were crucified. At that moment, he wasn’t “god”, he was a torture victim! They say he died, and that’s the ultimate sacrifice, and then we go around again, we say, yeah, but for only a couple of days. In order to be touched by the story, they have to see this man so tortured for them. Why wouldn’t a fictional Jesus say things that imparted his torture experience?

          Some over a decade ago, I was working on a summer theatre tech crew, and we watched our production during a late rehearsal, Godspell, and one of the other crew was bawling at the end when Jesus dies. It’s drama. Actually, we made fun of her because, even though everyone knows Jesus dies at the end, it snuck up on her and she was surprised. The rest of the show is so fun, you forget what it’s leading up to.

        • Ignorant Amos

          You do know that the last words of the crucified Jesus are different depending on which gospel you read, right?

          What reason do you have for the variants?

        • adam

          “What reason do you have for the variants?”

          Story telling to various audiences.

        • TheNuszAbides

          my mistake. (EDIT: no intent to mischaracterize, i hope you know.)

        • MNb

          Yes, I did know.

        • Rudy R

          It amazes me how all the naysayers of mythesism do so by a wave of the hand, simply because the majority of historical scholars side with a historical Jesus. The real relevant yard stick is, not how many scholars believe in a real Jesus, but by what method they used to make that determination. And let’s be honest here, most historians start out a priori that Jesus actually existed and then use whatever evidence they have to buttress their position. If the majority of scholars agree that Bayes Theorem is the most reliable method to determine if an event was more or less probable, then whatever scholarship that was determined by other methods should be re-examined.
          Richard Carrier has shown all his math and has challenged anyone to correct him if they can, and if they do, then he would have to reassess the probabilities. Since he is a scholar in the first order, they have to take him serious or sit in the corner silent. At this point, they have decided to sit in the corner.

        • Pofarmer

          Despite the a cusation that my outcome was predetermined I wo u ld like to p I NT out all the scholars here who are also Christians. Bart Ehrman estimates it at o7 or 98 percent. These are people who not only think Jesus is historical, but di ine. Why should I trust their work at all-any of it?

        • MNb

          Yeah. Why should you trust christian scholars? Like Galilei and Lemaitre? Let’s clear science of christians! Only unbelievers are to be trusted, because they are unbiased by definition and hence totally incapable of arguing for a predetermined conclusion.

        • Pofarmer

          You are getting dumber here with your accusations. You sound like a fundy.

        • MNb

          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          Exactly the kind of answer I get from fundie apologists on this site when they haven’t an answer anymore. I hope you feel comfortable in the company of Steele, who just a few days ago repeatedly told me I’m too dumb to understand physics.

        • MNb

          “It amazes me how all the naysayers of mythesism do so by a wave of the hand, simply because the majority of historical scholars side with a historical Jesus.”
          Who again is the one who likes to argue that laymen should accept the scientific consensus? Ah yes, our host BobS, not exactly such a naysayer.

          “The real relevant yard stick is, not how many scholars believe in a real Jesus, but by what method they used to make that determination.”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          Now if you cared to read some scholars iso atheist propaganda then you’d learn they are totally clear what methods they use. I mentioned two above.

          “And let’s be honest here, most historians start out a priori that Jesus actually existed”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          Yeah, atheists are never biased that way. JM’s are the summum of rationality. ‘Cuz atheists.

          “and then use whatever evidence they have to buttress their position.”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          Something a JM never would do. ‘Cuz atheist.

          “If the majority of scholars agree that Bayes Theorem is the most reliable method.”
          Psssst – Bayes Theorem is math. And math always depends on axioms. In the case of Bayes Theorem this means garbage in, garbage out. Here it’s extremely hard to determine if what you put in is garbage or not.
          Funny guy. You’re so zealous poisoning the well that you have poisoned your own.

        • Rudy R

          Psssst – Bayes Theorem is math. And math always depends on axioms. In the case of Bayes Theorem this means garbage in, garbage out.

          Pssst – your comment reflects ignorance in your knowledge in Bayes Theorem. Recommend you read “Proving History” and “On the Historicity of Jesus” by Richard Carrier. Carrier has invited critique of his math in On Historicity, and as far as I can tell, no one has taken him up on it. Score one for Carrier and zero for his critics.

        • Ignorant Amos

          A review of Proving History by a Bayesian… Tim Hendrix…
          http://www.scribd.com/mobile/doc/271358647/Richard-Carrier-Proving-History-Review#fullscreen

          Edit: Tim Hendrix is a pseudonym to protect the author. Religious views can turn out to be detrimental to ones wellbeing in certain circles.

        • Rudy R

          Tim Hendrix argues against the application of BT to history, not on Carrier’s math, as far as I can decipher.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Sorry…He does take exception to some of Carrier’s ideas. My point was that he is a Bayesian who doesn’t arbitrarily dismiss PH and has some positive things to say.

          Half my comment vanished only dog knows where. Using Disqus on a Nexus 7 with fat fingers perhaps. That’s why a prefer to avoid the tablet or Iphone.

          Carrier’s rebuttal of Hendrix’s review of Proving History is on his Freethought Blog, c/w a to-and-fro between Carrier and Hendrix in the comments thread on the issues they are odds about, both in detail and interpretation. Really interesting.

          http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/8192

        • Ignorant Amos

          Bayes Theorem is math. And math always depends on axioms. In the case of Bayes Theorem this means garbage in, garbage out. Here it’s extremely hard to determine if what you put in is garbage or not.

          The use of a mathematical theorem to establish reliable historical criteria can sound both threatening and misguided. However, Carrier describes and defends the theorem in layman’s terms, demonstrates that historians actually think in terms of probabilities while rarely quantifying them, shows how all other axioms and rules in historical methodology are compatible with the theorem, and then gives it a practical workout on recent studies on the historicity of Jesus … [in which] Carrier shows how the criteria for judging whether or not Jesus was a historical figure (coherence, embarrassment, multiple attestation, contextual plausibility, etc.) are replaceable by Bayes’s Theorem, which “if used correctly and honestly . . . won’t let you prove whatever you want, but only what the facts warrant.” ~College & Research Libraries Reviews, which had been published in June of 2012 (pp. 368-69).

        • MNb

          “I don’t think that Methods like multiple attestation or criterion of embarrasement work”
          OK.

          Then Diogenes of Sinope and Socrates did not exist. Saying that they are historical presupposes a historical Jesus.
          And the Phoenicians didn’t sail around Africa.

          http://www.livius.org/he-hg/herodotus/hist01.htm

          “they must have observed that they had the sun on their right. (Something that Herodotus, who was unaware of the earth’s spherical shape, was unable to believe).

          Because arguing that Herodotus embarrassed himself by not believing that these Phoenician sailors had the Sun on their right while sailing westward presupposes a historical Jesus too.
          That or you are just ridiculous.
          You won’t mind I think I didn’t read the rest of your comment anymore.

        • Pofarmer

          You realize that there is archaelogical evidence for Diogenese of Sinope, right? Socrates is rather well attested, as well, with no miracles attached. I’ll try to link to an article Mathew Ferguson did about it. He’s even an historicist.
          https://adversusapologetica.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/when-do-contemporary-sources-matter/

        • MNb

          Ah – the chance to learn something. Can you provide archaeological evidence for Diogenes of Sinope?
          If you mean this

          http://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/diogenes-of-sinope-224.php

          “This aspect of the story is certified by the archaeological evidence as several defaced coins destroyed by a big chisel stamp were found at Sinope dated the middle of the 4th century BC, and other coins of the same time period bearing the name of Hicesias as the official who created them.”
          you’d better realize that that is as much archaeological evidence for Diogenes as that Pontius Pilatus is evidence for Jesus. You being the champ of special pleading I wouldn’t be surprised if you pulled that one off.

          “Socrates is rather well attested”
          Yes, by multiple (namely two, Plato and Xenophon) sources. So much for you rejecting multiple attestation. So now the criterion has become

          “with no miracles attached”
          Does that mean that every character of Antiquity must be labeled mythical as soon as he has miracles attached? I don’t think you would maintain that.
          So thanks for confirming that you’re guilty of special pleading.
          Before I’ll read that Ferguson link try first to avoid logical fallacies, because else I’ll see it as a waste of time – just like reading Paul Nelson is.

        • Pofarmer

          Dammit. Ipad isn’t wanting me to cut and paste.

          The wiki page in Diogenese says they’ve found defaced coinage which corroborates stories of his early life.

        • Pofarmer

          “Does that mean that every character of Antiquity must be labeled mythical as soon as he has miracles attached?”

          No, but it means we strip away the miracles to learn about the person underneath. Charachters like Achilles or Hercules are nearly all miracles so we assume that they are invented charachters……….

        • Ignorant Amos

          But even Carrier states that given what we know and have to work from, the correct position must be that of agnostic. He just wants the debate. It is the historicist’s that are behaving like the creationist.

      • koseighty

        Are you saying that each of these religious traditions is “true”? And that another “true” religion should be held to the same standards as all the others?

        Or, is it more likely that religions have very human origins, across time and the globe? And that shadowy, or even unknown, origins are to be expected?

        • MNb

          When doing science I don’t have any use for the word true, with or without scare quotes.
          As I’m a materialist in the philosophical meaning of the word I think you can guess the answer to your question yourself.

    • MNb

      Po, let me explain you how science works. When there are two competing theories you design a test. When the outcome is A you reject the first theory; when the outcome is B you reject the other.
      What your question does is: when the outcome is A you reject the first theory; when the outcome is B you still stick to the other. Congratulations – you have thus confirmed that you’re a pseudoscientist, arguing for a predetermined conclusion.

      • Pofarmer

        I’m actually just collecting evidence. The whole “social theory” angle is well, a little different. Fwiw, from the information we have, I think the “Jesus was a guy who had a couple of followers” is probably the most intuitive, yes?

        • MR

          I’m actually just collecting evidence.

          I see the conversation as exploring the hypothesis. I’m not sold on the idea, but there is certainly food for thought.

        • PineCone

          Test

        • MNb

          Whatever is intuitive or not is irrelevant in science, so I don’t know what you mean. I certainly don’t conclude a historical Jesus because my intuition tells me so.
          Like I wrote elsewhere I’m fine with a mythical Jesus. Unlike some other issues (eg Galilei being a victim of the RCC, on which I was partly wrong several years ago) there is no emotional investment for me. As far as there was any it was pro JM – I freely admit that I was thrilled when I met the idea for the first time.
          Elsewhere I already provided an incomplete list of evidence regarding Jesus. JM’s don’t deny it; they use another methodology. And I think that methodology sucks. In my previous comment I explained why in your particular case.

          Regarding evidence for the origin of the other religions I mentioned I suggest you to google “historical evidence Buddha/ Confucius/ Mohammed”, like I did. As for judaism it’s a bit different because we only have the OT plus some buildings; it’s not so clear how old they are. See the diagram (because you alas can’t read Dutch) here.

          http://mainzerbeobachter.com/2015/07/27/israelische-archeologie/

          We only can say they stem from the 10th Century.
          So I only assume the same happened with other developing city-states during Antiquity: when some political system was introduced (in the case of Jerusalem a monarchy) the development of a new religion (with a priest-caste) went hand in hand.
          We know zilch about proto-judaism, ie before the kingdom of David/Salomon. The best guess is that YHWH started out as just another tribal god, because that’s how tribes go. There is nothing in the OT that contradicts this.

  • Aram McLean

    So the more I’ve read up on this, the more I have to say I’m inclined to conclude Jesus very likely was a myth. However, I suppose what gets me about this discussion (much like the heated debate of free will vs determinism) is how double-downed so many people come across on their conclusion being RIGHT (though I’m aware in many cases it could just be the nature of prose).
    Considering this and the free will topic are for all intents and purposes unknowable, it makes the discussion rather less enjoyable to feel like you’re debating the pros and cons with people who are ‘in it to win it’. I can understand why some people would come at it this way (especially ex-Christians), but for me these topics are more engaging when approached through the open mindset of smoking a bowl. There are many other topics with definite answers (eg religion is man-made crap). This is not one of them.

    • MNb

      “debating the pros and cons with people who are ‘in it to win it’.”
      ??? Since when there are pros and cons regarding scientific issues? As far as I understand the scientific method the proper response is to design some test. It baffles me that people who claim to be committed to the scientific method think that such issues can be decided by means of a debate. That’s as silly as creationists asking “if Evolution Theory is such a good theory, why don’t you enter public debates with us?” What’s the next step – going Hovind and issue a million dollar reward for anyone who can prove free will or a historical Jesus? Even that one has been done before:

      http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/rosetta-stones/wallace-8217-s-woeful-wager-how-a-founder-of-modern-biology-got-suckered-by-flat-earthers/

      Yup – Flat Earthers also debate the pros and cons eternally.

      All this applies to free will as well. It’s very simple – as soon as neuroscientists have settled on a model of the human brain we can check if there is any meaningful room left for free will. I predict so (based on probabilism), but my predictions have been wrong before.
      So frankly I don’t give a damn about pros and cons, which is one important reason I reject BobS’ proposal to devote a series of guest articles to the subject of JM. But it’s his blog of course.
      At the other hand I am ‘not in it to win it’, except if ‘winning’ means having fun by producing sarcasm and snark. That’s a game I’m very fond of and rarely lose, but obviously does nothing to settle any issue.

      • Aram McLean

        Perhaps my use of ‘pros and cons’ in this context was a bit flippant. I just meant arguing ‘this book said this’ but no ‘that book said that’, when it’s all fascinating and open to debate as far as I’m concerned.

      • TheNuszAbides

        shorter version: “yes, Aram, it’s just the nature of prose.” 😉

  • Aram McLean

    Have you ever perused this website, Bob? And if so, what did you think of it. Yeah, he’s got some out there ideas. But others are quite interesting.

    http://askwhy.co.uk/

    • No, I haven’t. Could be interesting … I wish I had more time to follow up on sites like this.

      My grounding in the basics still needs work. I hesitate to spend much time with “out there” ideas until I know what the general consensus of the scholars (such as they are) is. I’d like to start with as a foundation. I’m afraid of confusing fringe ideas for mainstream scholarship.

      • Aram McLean

        Fair enough. Definitely some ‘fringe thinking’ going on there, but as I said, some definite ‘food for thought’ as well. But certainly I get not having enough hours in the day. If you ever find the time I’d be interested to hear what you think. No worries if not.

    • TheNuszAbides

      great tidbit i got after a couple of clicks: “Hatred is the absence of culture.”

  • King Dave

    I can’t believe you guys are still commenting here. Lost my pass word, but I will check in on some newer topics soon…

    • TheNuszAbides

      better believe it.