12 Reasons Why Jesus Is a Legend

12 Reasons Why Jesus Is a Legend August 5, 2015

Apologist C. S. Lewis is famous for his Liar, Lunatic, or Lord trilemma—Jesus must be either a liar (he knew that his claims of deity were false), a lunatic (his nutty claims are explained by his being crazy), or he was who he said he was, the Lord.

But, of course, this ignores the bin into which we put similar claims—Legend. (For more background, read “C. S. Lewis Gets it Wrong: Liar, Lunatic, Lord … or Legend?”)

Let’s consider 12 possible Christian rebuttals to the legend hypothesis.

Jesus legend

1. “Legend” isn’t the consensus view among scholars. You ridicule Creationists for rejecting the scientific consensus, but you’re guilty of the same error here.

Who are these scholars? Are they Christian theologians as well? If so, could they be (dare I say it?) biased? Historians filter supernatural explanations out of history, labeling supernatural claims myth or legend.

Consider the consensus response of Muslim scholars to the gospel story. They reject the resurrection, and yet they have no bias against supernatural explanations and they’re experienced with ancient documents. If Christian scholars accept the gospel story but Muslim scholars don’t, then it looks like religious scholars can shoehorn data to fit their religious worldview. My conclusion: the consensus of religious scholars is quite different from a scientific consensus.

2. Jesus claimed to be God. The tomb was empty. The disciples believed they’d met the risen Lord. These facts can’t be simply dismissed.

The story says that Jesus claimed to be God. The story says that the tomb was empty. The story says that Merlin could change his shape. The story says that Grendel was a big, scary monster. We must go beyond the stories to figure out the actual history.

The empty tomb, the risen Jesus, the martyred disciples, and so on are part of the story. The entire story is suspect—the New Testament isn’t even internally consistent on whether Jesus remained on earth for one day or forty days—so Christians can’t use one part of the story (crucifixion plus empty tomb) to support another (resurrection).

And beyond the earliest days of the religion, early Christians were believers because they’d been converted, not because they were witnesses to supernatural events, just like today. The 9/11 hijackers believed in Paradise for martyrs, but that doesn’t mean that that’s true. We have no good reason to imagine that eyewitnesses wrote the gospels rather than someone simply documenting the Jesus story as it had developed within their church community.

3. Arguments explaining away the resurrection have all failed. These claim that Jesus “swooned” and wasn’t killed by the crucifixion, the women mistakenly went to the wrong tomb, the disciples stole the body, and the “risen Jesus” was just a hallucination. These are universally rejected by scholars.

Christians love these arguments because they’re easily knocked down, but I don’t use them and I don’t know of any modern atheist who uses them either. These arguments assume that the empty tomb is history; I say that it’s just a story.

4. The Jesus story is corroborated by non-Christian historians.

Josephus (born about 7 years after the death of Jesus), Pliny (31 years), Suetonius (39 years), and others said little more than “there are people called Christians who worship a man called Jesus,” and sometimes a lot less than this. These are natural claims and do nothing to support the Bible’s supernatural claims. It’s not like we actually have good evidence, like a video recording or an objective article from the Jerusalem Times written immediately after each miracle.

5. You don’t think much of the evidence of the gospel story, but you must admit that it’s something. It’s more evidence than you have. You have no case without positive evidence of your own. For a scientific issue, you provide a scientific argument, but you’re in the domain of history now, and you must play by its rules. You have an alternate explanation of the gospel story? Then provide your historical evidence.

I don’t have contemporary evidence that refutes the claim that George Washington could fly. Must I provide evidence of contemporaries reporting Washington not flying before you’ll reject that claim? Couldn’t I simply refute such a claim by pointing to likelier explanations of the facts? (More.)

We will never have first-century documentation by someone who can verify that Jesus never walk on water (and how trustworthy would such a document be anyway?). So what does that mean—that the gospels must therefore be historically accurate? No—the plausible natural explanation always trumps the supernatural.

The Christian claim is: Nothing explains the facts better than an all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent god creating the universe and sending Jesus to spread his message. This is about as remarkable a claim as could be stated, and yet it is tossed out lightly. Christians seem to imagine that “God did it” is as plausible as the natural explanation that stories grow with the retelling.

The Christian has the burden of proof, and it’s an enormous burden given this enormous claim.

Continue with Part 2.

If [Christianity] offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, 
I should feel we were making it up. 
But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. 
It has just that queer twist about it that real things have.
— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 11/29/12.)

Image credit: aka Tman, flickr, CC

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  • Alicia

    I come at it from the perspective of “The plays of Shakespeare were either written by Shakespeare, or by someone else of that name.”
    Religions have founders. It makes more sense to hypothesize that this religion was in fact founded by a guy named Jesus, who did in fact wander around Galilee making a nuisance of himself, and was in fact executed by the Romans, than to come up with some other reason for a religion started for some other reason to come up with him as their foundation myth.
    An executed criminal who made predictions that had completely failed to come true would be a malpractice as a marketing scheme, unless you were hemmed in by the reality that that really was who’d founded your religion.
    Sure, you can come up with stories as to why someone would have made up the Jesus dude. But all of them completely fail Occam’s razor compared to “there *was* a Jesus dude.” Given that Paul (on the evidence of his letters) seems completely oblivious to a Jesus who did things, he certainly is not a candidate for having made up the gospel stories.
    That a large number of the stories *about* him are clearly legendary does not alter that the most obvious explanation for the total narrative is that there are some historical events at the core of the stories.
    As someone said, “if we did not have evidence of [Jesus/ George Washington/ Martin Luther], we would have to posit their existence on the grounds that major events are inspired by human individuals.” That the US won a war of independence with Britain is evidence enough that there was a Washington-ish figure floating around somewhere keeping an army together. That Christianity started is enough evidence that someone started the religion.

    • busterggi

      So was Mormonism was founded by an angel named Moroni as the story says?

      How about a tax cheat like L. Ron Hubbard, he could never create a religion, right?

      Surely there is a historical Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan, Lone Ranger, etc or there wouldn’t be stories about them either.

      • Alicia

        No, but I think we can posit a Joseph Smith, based on the existence of Mormonism.
        And the existence of Scientology does imply the existence of an L Ron Hubbard, tax cheat or otherwise.
        The existence of an L Ron Hubbard or a Joseph Smith don’t prove that either religion was founded on anything other than narcism and crack smoking, but as a general rule new cults are founded by human beings and don’t just coagulate out of the ether.
        I’m not aware of any religions claiming that they began their life as cults founded by Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan, or the Lone Ranger, so they are irrelevant to the present discussion.

        • adam

          “but as a general rule new cults are founded by human beings and don’t just coagulate out of the ether.”

          Christianity doesnt need to be, it like Judaism and Islam is based on OT writings.

          It appears that Paul is the creator of christianity and it appears he created Jesus out of the OT, as Paul never met Jesus.

        • Alicia

          As I said in my original comment, the letters of Paul evince no interest whatsoever in the actions of a human Jesus. He is not a candidate for coming up with the stories.
          Please note that Islam also did not come out of the ether. It was founded by a guy named Mohammed.

        • adam

          “As I said in my original comment, the letters of Paul evince no interest whatsoever in the actions of a human Jesus.”

          Of course not, but it was Paul who created Paul’s ‘god’ apparently out of the OT.
          And Paul’s ‘god’ is a LOT more popular than the ‘god’ of Jesus’s words.

          “Please note that Islam also did not come out of the ether. It was founded by a guy named Mohammed.”

          No Islam didnt come out of the either, it came out of the OT, all followers of the ‘god’ of Abraham.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          OK, so who is hte Joseph Smith of Christianity? Who is the L Ron Hubbard of Christianity? Is it Jesus, or is it Saul/Paul?

        • Greg G.

          Cephas/Peter would be the Joseph Smith of Christianity. Saul/Paul would be the Brigham Young.

        • Alicia

          Jesus is the Joseph Smith. Paul is Brigham Young. Based on a few minutes skim of Wikipedia it looks like some guy named Oliver Cowdery is best analogy for Peter. He was Joseph Smith’s right hand man, but was eventually marginalized and the church remade in Young’s image.

        • Greg G.

          That could be but Moroni would be Jesus.

        • wtfwjtd

          That’s actually a better analogy than I had in mind. If one wants to discuss an actual founder of Christianity, it has to be either Cephas or Paul. Jesus was just a stooge, a fall guy, who was part of a story or narrative. These two guys are the real players when it comes to the founding of Christianity. And since Paul’s “easy” version of Christianity eventually won the day, he gets my vote as being the most historically significant of the two.

        • Kodie

          Someone could be the author of a cult without an actual leader. I have no background, but I thought earlier that a person could have attracted cult members on behalf of his leader who didn’t really exist. If messiah claims at the time were common, it would be just as easy to make up a character that this cult was about, only to market it, of course he was more amazing than any other. I don’t discount a real person could convince others to follow him himself, and have enough charisma to delude them. But the thing is, none of these messiah claims stuck, and I don’t know what exactly they were lacking – magical stunts, charisma, dedicated followers with a head for marketing, or what. Think how we hear about Jesus now – a story of a guy who was born in a manger to a virgin, and grew up to be really popular and had kind stories to share, and a bunch of other shit I don’t really know too much about, then, he took his execution like the savior he claimed to be and promised to save everyone on earth, and also come back soon. Couldn’t the first Jesus have been a story about that guy like you heard about? Plenty of people buy that story now, so it probably wouldn’t have been too difficult to sell that story then. Sure, someone did create this cult, but all the details you hear about now are details that seem quite filled in from someone else later.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          We have outstanding evidence that they participated in life and in the founding of their religions. We have pretty darn good evidence of multiple authors writing the new testament and the writings and writings/other evidence of early church leaders. We have zero evidence that some of the founders of their religions that they wrote about (Meroni, Jesus, etc) were actually the founders or even existent. Occam’s razor is not always correct, but I think it would be a less presumptuous bet that characters with heavey fantasy fiction motifs making up a lot of what we “know” about them and no evidence outside of that should be assumed to be legendary until such a time until evidence leads in a more meaningful direction.

      • MNb

        Angels are supernatural, the character of Jesus as described by Alicia was not. So that’s a false analogy.
        LR Hubbard was a human of flesh and blood, just like the Jesus described by Alicia. This example actually supports her standpoint.

        • Alicia

          Thanks!

    • Without Malice

      I’m sorry, but your premise does not hold water. The fact that Christianity started is no more evidence for the existence of a “real” Jesus – in contrast to a mythical figure that embodies the beliefs of the cult – than the existence of Judaism is proof of the existence of an Abraham or Moses, which are both most probably mythical figures. And except for is prediction about the soon coming of the kingdom of god, Jesus made no predictions that failed to come true and in fact made hardly any predictions other than that failed prophecy. So no one was following him because of any predictions that he made. No one even mentions the four gospels that came to be in the NT until well into the 2nd century, probably for the good reason that they did not exist until then. The fact that the gospels contain not one fact about the life of this God made flesh (in spite of the fact that his own mother and the rest of his family lived for decades after his demise) except for his one year of preaching shows conclusively that they were not written by anyone who knew a damn thing about him except for what they themselves may have been told through stories being spread by who knows who.

      • MNb

        It does. It was not usage during Antiquity to invent legendary near contemporary characters. When the stories about Abraham and Moses were written down these stories were set in an imaginary past. That’s not the case with Jesus.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Define imaginary past. I have read plenty of Christian “history” pieces with scewed retelling and quotes taken out of context and full of sometimes invisible ellipses. Eighty percent could be true, but the entire life of Jesus could be the twenty percent that’s 100% historical fiction.

        • Greg G.

          But what if they were reading a centuries old allegory about the nation of Israel written as if the nation was a person and read it as a mystery that had been hidden for long ages?

          Then decades later, another author writes an allegory, possibly with intentionally irony, about that allegorical person existing as a contemporary with those who had read about him as a hidden mystery?

        • Alicia

          And what if pigs fly.
          As I said, we’re dealing with probabilities.

        • Greg G.

          A man was important enough that his death caused literate people to look for scriptural reasons to explain his crucifixion at a time in history when people were crucified often. But he wasn’t so big that these literate people would write about him. Yet illiterate people couldn’t stop talking about his life except to think up legends about him while people who lived hundreds of miles away were interested only in his death but not his life for a generation so Paul never had to write about that person except for every third verse. But what ended up in the gospels is what we should use to date every document yet not a single fact about the crucified person is verifiable.

          The Minimal Jesus hypothesis forces a person to believe all of this simultaneously. That is just highly unlikely.

      • Alicia

        Abraham and Moses are lost to the sands of time. Abraham exists on the same mythical plain as do Noah and Krishna. Moses might be based on a historical figure, I neither know nor care.
        But Moses is not claimed to have founded a cult that is documented to have existed shortly afterwards (the Tacitus passage isn’t something that later Christians would make up, for example).

        The prediction of the coming kingdom of god is the basis of the cult, and is most of what Paul talks about in his letters, and everyone talks about in Acts. If you’re going to say ‘no one was following him because’ of that prediction, I’m curious what you think was motivating people to join the cult. And yet that prediction has *still* not come true.

        If you would like to believe that the gospels were not written until the late second century I’m sure I can’t stop you, but I will continue to base my time lines on the best available evidence, which is that the synoptic gospels were written in the final decades of the first century, and John shortlyafter wards.

        And I’m not sure what bible you’ve read, but the ones I’ve read do include birth narratives and a story about his childhood. They are, of course, completely legendary, but you can’t claim they aren’t there.

        It seems that you are faulting the gospels, which obey the rules of certain formula literature of their time (much like all modern romantic comedies have the same basic story line), for obeying their literary formulas. They are not intended to mimic modern biographical technique and beginning with infancy and continuing in an orderly fashion throughout their life span. They are intended to prove to the reader that the dead prophet the writer believes in is in fact God.

        The fact that only the interesting parts of his life got passed on and written down hardly seems like damning evidence that he didn’t exist at all.

        • Greg G.

          Remember that Tacitus was writing after at least some of the gospels were written which said that Pilate was in the story. Tacitus wouldn’t know what Christians believed before the destruction of Jerusalem. If Tacitus had been inclined to look at 80 year old scrolls from Jerusalem, he probably could have found many that said a Jesus was crucified but none that said “Christus” or “Chrestus”.

          Paul had little interest in the Jesus he only knew from centuries-old documents. He believed the scriptures said a Messiah was coming, just like the Pharisees believed. He seems to think that the fact that he and others were seeing “hidden messages” in the scripture was a revelation to that generation that the Messiah was coming to that generation. That is what would have interested people. He also interpreted the verses quoted in Galatians 3:6-14 as a message that people were saved by the crucifixion that seemed to be described in Isaiah 53.

          The “circumcision faction”, as Paul called them, were also spreading a similar message outside of Judea.

          So the Jesus hypothesis is not necessary.

        • Without Malice

          Sorry Alicia, but despite what you may have been told by biblical “scholars” no one mentions the gospels until well into the second century and there is NO evidence that they were in existence before then. Luke uses both material from the writings of Josephus (not in wide circulation until the 2nd century) the early second century legends about the fate of Judas in his writings, which means they could not have been written before then. The earliest mention of Mark and Matthew (about 130 CE) makes mention of facts about the works that show they are not the Mark and Mathew that we now possess. The earliest mention of Luke is late second century. If you want to believe these works were around for nearly a hundred years before they were being quoted, be my guest. And you’re absolutely wrong that stories containing only the “interesting” parts of his life are not damning evidence that he did not exist. That’s exactly what they are. All this oral history stuff is bogus as hell. Look at the letters of Paul and add to that the fact that the people of that age were exchanging letters and documents by the literal millions. Yet no one even bothered to make notes confirming these so-called oral traditions. You make it sound like folks back then were nothing short of Neanderthals.

        • Alicia

          So the facts that Luke and Matthew have many indications that they were written to address communities in crisis after the fall of Jerusalem is meaningless?
          The fact that Matthew makes absolutely no sense unless it is written to a community of Jewish Christians, who had been eliminated from the equation by your posited date, is meaningless?
          The fact that the first records of the fate of Judas outside the gospels don’t appear until any given date is completely irrelevant to the date of the gospels. It was a small community, operating mostly below the radar. Documentation is spotty.
          I’m reminded of a comment by linguist John MacWorter, who complains that people want him to be able to produce detailed documentation about slavery in the Caribbean in the first half of the 16th century. There is enough documentation to prove that it happened, but there simply is not documentation of details. People weren’t writing down details, but that doesn’t mean details weren’t happening.
          Also, it is generally acknowledged that the gospels were not written by the people whose names they carry. Assuming you are correct that the early documentary evidence is not consistent with the currently known gospels (it’s possible), then there is no reason there could not have been multiple pseudonymous pieces claiming to be written by the same person.
          Stories containing only the interesting parts are equally plausible as evidence of the normal mythologizing your cults founder process, and of making shit up. Just like recent fossil evidence of a snake with legs is equally plausible evidence of evolution or of the biblical creation story.
          Choosing which of those interpretations is more likely has to be done based on other things known about, for example, the society at the time and it’s narrative norms and about the usual pattern for founding of new cults.
          My reading of the total evidence is that snakes with legs prove evolution, and mythologized stories about Jesus prove that there was a Jesus to mythologize.

        • Without Malice

          “The fact that Matthew makes absolutely no sense unless it is written to a community of Jewish Christians, who had been eliminated from the equation by your posited date, is meaningless?” You’re so far off base on this, Alicia that you’re wandering around in deep center field. There would have been just as much reason to write a gospel from a Jewish/Christian perspective in the second century as the first century. At the time of the supposed life of Jesus half the Jews of the world lived outside of Palestine and they were the main group the Christians sought to convert well into the fourth century when they still had about equal numbers, with the population of Jews in the Roman empire numbering one in every ten persons and making up a quarter of the population of Alexandria, Egypt before the Christians gain power and began to force them to convert or be driven out.

        • Alicia

          There were a large number of Jews outside of Palestine, yes. But after the Bar Kochba rebellion of the 130’s, Christianity and Judaism were largely separate entities, and people had to choose their allegiance. By that time, Christianity had become (numerically) a gentile religion.
          You were promoting an origin for the gospels in the mid and late second century. Given that Mark clearly has to come first (since it is a source for Matthew), it needs to be written when the turf warfare between Christian Judaism and Pharaseeic Judaism (proto-Rabbini Judaism) was at a fever pitch, which is the later decades of the first century.

      • Greg G.

        In Mark and John, Jesus did prophesy that Peter would deny him. When Jesus was in court, being slapped around and ordered to prophesy, Peter was fulfilling the prophecy. But nobody could have been in both places to know that the two events were simultaneous so the story is made up. That Mark and John have the two scenes and events intercalated to make the point indicates that John got the story from Mark.

        • Alicia

          And personally I’m not going to bet my life on any of those specific stories having occurred.
          I consider “in accordance with the scripture” to be basically code for “I just made this story up as a way to prove that Jesus was God.”
          I’m sure that Jesus did genuinely do/ experience some things that could be taken as proof of fulfillment of some verse in the OT. There are a lot of verses, and I’m sure any one of us has fulfilled a few over the course of our lives. But on average, I generally assume any story framed that way is a legendary addition.

        • Greg G.

          I think 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 might be a synopsis for the beginning of Christianity. The “in accordance with the scripture” is probably meant more like “according to the scriptures” as found in some translations. Cephas, the twelve, the five hundred, James, and Paul were getting their information from the scriptures so their beliefs were what the read so all they knew were “according to the scriptures.”

        • Alicia

          If someone is depicted as believing something in accordance with the scriptures, sure. But more commonly it is used to describe some occurrence or action of Jesus.
          Oh, and on that topic: Yes, I’m sure Jesus did do some things with the specific idea of fulfilling scripture. Coming into Jerusalem on a donkey, for example. But that’s only a drop in the bucket compared to the number of times it is used.

        • Greg G.

          I am referring to what appears to be the origins of Christianity with that. Any uses of “according to the scriptures” would be legend.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      I come at it from the perspective of “The plays of Shakespeare were
      either written by Shakespeare, or by someone else of that name.”

      Okey dokey. Let’s apply that to the writings of Jesus H. Christ.

      Oops I’m sorry, he didn’t actually write anything.

      Next.

      • Alicia

        This is a two step replacement analogy. Let me walk you through it, since it seems to be too much of a stretch for you to follow.
        You not only replace “Shakespeare” with “Jesus,” you also replace “wrote the plays of Shakespeare that bear his name” with “founded the religion that bears his name.”
        See how that works?

    • Rudy R

      But doesn’t it seem amazing that none of the Jewish historians living in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus not once chronicled Jesus’ exploits?

    • Religions have founders. It makes more sense to hypothesize that this religion was in fact founded by a guy named Jesus…

      That’s the starting point of the proponents of the Christ Myth Theory. This is the obvious null hypothesis that they must overturn. I find that they make a compelling case, but that’s not something that I advance here. Maybe if I study up on it I’ll have a stronger opinion one way or another.

      you can come up with stories as to why someone would have made up the Jesus dude

      This certainly isn’t what I’m saying. Those who advance a legend might be thinking that they’re passing along the truth.

      Given that Paul (on the evidence of his letters) seems completely oblivious to a Jesus who did things, he certainly is not a candidate for having made up the gospel stories.

      From nothing, to Paul’s letters, to Mark a few decades later—is that surprising? Again, no one is “making up” anything.

      That a large number of the stories *about* him are clearly legendary does not alter that the most obvious explanation for the total narrative is that there are some historical events at the core of the stories.

      Then we agree. “The gospels are legendary” is very different from “there was no Jesus.” I’m saying the former, not the latter.

      • Alicia

        I think my comment was intended back up that implicit assumption in your post, and to preempt the commenters who I knew (based on previous experiences on Patheos Atheist) would be popping out of the woodwork to promote the “Jesus is nothing but myth” viewpoint that I find so fantastically absurd.
        And as you can see, they did indeed show up, in force.

        • I’m not well read enough on the subject of the Christ Myth Theory to have a useful opinion. But you have a strong opinion–why so? And you’re not alone among atheists here. Can you summarize where you think it fails?

        • Alicia

          Mmm! Well now that’s an interesting question, isn’t it? Why I’m bothering here when I’m able to walk away from other arguments.

          I’ve been thinking about it since I saw this earlier, and the best way I can think of to say it is that I find historical illiteracy offensive, and I find magical thinking masquerading as cold logic even more offensive. (Magical thinking as fun storytelling I am unconditionally in favor of).

          As I mention somewhere here, I got my bachelors in sociology/political science, with a concentration in social movement theory. When someone says that it is impossible for a social movement to have [behaved according to every known law of social movement behavior] that makes me seriously twitch.

          I’ve done a lot of reading on the cultures of the time (back when I was a believer), and when someone suggests that it is impossible that someone would have [behaved the way everyone behaved back then], it makes me twitch.

          And just generally, when someone makes a point on the theory that this one scholar who completely disagrees with every other scholar knows better than everyone else in the world, that makes me very dubious. Yes, sometimes paradigms need to be broken, but 90some% of the time, an outlier is simply incorrect.

          “Jesus was just a myth” pushes all those buttons, hard.

          I think the first post in this thread summarizes my thinking on the issue reasonably well, as far as the specific data points that particularly don’t work for mythologizers.

          But to widen the focus beyond those specific issues:
          Scholars of comparative religion know a lot about how cults and splinter sects occur. We’ve got that down.
          Scholars of Greco-Roman culture and of colonialism can predict with reasonably accuracy the cultural backdrop of the early Christians. We’ve got that down.

          Given a dead messiah, it can easily be predicted that one of a short list if things will occur (basically, the movement disperses or the movement remains coherent).

          If it remains coherent, other things will predictably follow. The followers will double down on their beliefs, and they will begin the process of divinizing their dead leader. There is a good chance that their doubling-down process will involve trying to seek new converts.

          Given a movement starting in Roman-occupied Palestine, it will predictably be spread in one of the following short list of ways.

          As the movement grows, there will be conflicts between various leaders about the direction that the cult should go. Eventually one of them will win and the others will be marginalized.

          The development of Christianity as it is seen in the documentary evidence is *entirely* explicable through this extremely normal and predictable processes.

          These developmental trends are as well established as the process of biological evolution. For these mythologizing atheists to say that Christianity should have developed in some other way irks me the same way as creationism does.

          Could god have come down in a cloud and invented specifically the naked mole rat, while all other species developed through evolution? Sure, I guess. But why should I take you seriously if you’re going to argue that?

          It shows ignorance, arrogance, and wishful thinking. That it’s done by people pretending to the pure-cold logic of strong atheism is just one of those things that leaves me scraping my jaw off the floor.

          And shaking my head at the whole “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” of *a subset of* strong atheists, who seem to resist indefensible irrational (or judgmental) beliefs held for religious reasons only to embrace with equal fervor indefensible irrational (or judgmental) beliefs held for… some other reason.

        • I find historical illiteracy offensive

          Me, too, to a point. I wonder how high your bar is. Richard Carrier and Robert Price are CM proponents who are not historically illiterate.

          When someone says that it is impossible for a social movement to have [behaved according to every known law of social movement behavior] that makes me seriously twitch.

          Is that what CM proponents say? I doubt that “impossible” is a word they’d use.

          sometimes paradigms need to be broken, but 90some% of the time, an outlier is simply incorrect.

          My assumption as well.

          I think the first post in this thread summarizes my thinking on the issue reasonably well, as far as the specific data points that particularly don’t work for mythologizers.

          I’ve been out of town for the past few weeks and haven’t kept up with all the comments. I might’ve missed some relevant information.

          The followers will double down on their beliefs, and they will begin the process of divinizing their dead leader.

          Yes, we have examples of this. To hypothesize that Christianity is just one more is reasonable. But not all religious movements have a flesh-and-blood founder.

          The development of Christianity as it is seen in the documentary evidence is *entirely* explicable through this extremely normal and predictable processes.

          Agreed. And your task is to show that this explains the facts better than CM. What I hear you doing is emphasizing that the null hypothesis (Christianity’s founder was a real person) is plausible. Yes, it is. What I haven’t seen is your summary of the arguments of CM to show that they do a poorer job.

          Could god have come down in a cloud and invented specifically the naked mole rat, while all other species developed through evolution? Sure, I guess. But why should I take you seriously if you’re going to argue that?

          I agree with this example. Now show that CM is analogous.

          Have you read the arguments for CM?

          And shaking my head at the whole “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” of *a subset of* strong atheists, who seem to resist indefensible irrational (or judgmental) beliefs held for religious reasons only to embrace with equal fervor indefensible irrational (or judgmental) beliefs held for… some other reason.

          Indefensible? Irrational? What are you talking about?

        • Alicia

          I’m trying to withdraw from this comment thread on the grounds that it’s a waste of time and emotional energy, but because you’re the host I feel like responding is the polite thing.
          1) “Impossible.” That has certainly been the implication of some of the writers here. Or at least “highly improbable.” Whereas it seems like “highly probably” is more in order.
          2) I said the first comment on “this thread.” This one right here. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2015/08/12-reasons-why-jesus-is-a-legend/#comment-2182907917

          3) No, not all religions have a flesh and blood founder. But I’m not aware of any that claim to have had a flesh and blood founder, have a written literature putting that founder in the recent-historic (as opposed to mythic) past, and yet do not have a flesh and blood founder. I’ve challenged the other commenters to show me one and so far they have failed.
          4) Do you demand that evolutionists prove the evolution of each organism that is challenged by creationists, or do you accept that the general principles of evolution apply equally to all species? Do you demand that they respond persuasively to each charge on a Gish Gallop? Especially when the arguer is not in fact a practicing evolutionary biologist but instead a 40 year old biology major now working in another field?
          Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. My assertion is that Christianity is an ordinary religion that developed through the ordinary pathways. The burden of proof is on them to show that their story line is plausible. I have pointed out the Ptolemaic improbability of a few of the assertions in various comments I’ve made here. If you’ve got the time to waste, you could track them down.
          5) “Analogous:” See point 3. They are arguing that Christianity does not follow the known laws of evolution of cult development.
          6) I read some CM stuff years ago, and a couple weeks ago read on Amazon the introduction to one or another of the books that was recommended.
          It followed the basic argumentation structure of creationism: “I don’t actually understand evolutionary biology, but I find this little thing over here doesn’t fit with my poor understanding of it, so I’m going to say that proves that this organism couldn’t have evolved.” If an evolutionary biologist says, “Um, that thing is actually exactly what would be predicted by the known ‘laws’ of evolution,” then the creationist finds some way to ignore that or finds another feature to question.
          I was saying “Oh for crying out fucking loud” at pretty much every paragraph, so I figured the introduction was all I was responsible for putting myself through.
          7) “Indefensible and irrational.” I calls ’em like I sees ’em. The hard-JM atheists are denying the rational and natural explanation for a social phenomenon and insisting instead on Rube Goldberg processes never observed in nature, and which violate multiple observed predictable human behavior patterns.

        • Pofarmer

          The problem here I see is that you aren’t actually interacting with the arguments being presented.

        • 1) “Impossible.” That has certainly been the implication of some of the writers here. Or at least “highly improbable.” Whereas it seems like “highly probably” is more in order.

          I agree that “It is impossible for Christianity to have sprung from an actual human founder named Jesus” is a poor argument. I’d be amazed if that was advanced here.

          3) No, not all religions have a flesh and blood founder. But I’m not aware of any that claim to have had a flesh and blood founder, have a written literature putting that founder in the recent-historic (as opposed to mythic) past, and yet do not have a flesh and blood founder.

          You’re aware of Euhemerism? Does it speak to this question?

          do you accept that the general principles of evolution apply equally to all species?

          Of course, but my challenge remains: show that evolution/Creationism is analogous.

          My assertion is that Christianity is an ordinary religion that developed through the ordinary pathways. The burden of proof is on them to show that their story line is plausible.

          Agreed, and CM proponents Carrier and Price say that they’ve done so. They’ve hit the ball over the net. Your turn.

          They are arguing that Christianity does not follow the known laws of evolution of cult development.

          Huh? We know of religions that come from a real person and those that didn’t. Two categories. Which one does Christianity fit into? We agree that the null hypothesis says that it’s in “real person.”

          Evolution has no equivalent 2 bins. Stuff evolved: that’s it.

          I read some CM stuff years ago, and a couple weeks ago read on Amazon the introduction to one or another of the books that was recommended.

          I’ve probably read no more about this than you do. Nevertheless, the CM proponents claim to have shouldered the necessary burden of proof. You’re awfully confident for not having read their arguments.

          It followed the basic argumentation structure of creationism: “I don’t actually understand evolutionary biology, but I find this little thing over here doesn’t fit with my poor understanding of it, so I’m going to say that proves that this organism couldn’t have evolved.”

          And the well-educated historians who advance CM are similar in what way?

          7) “Indefensible and irrational.” I calls ’em like I sees ’em.

          And I encourage you to do so. But if you want to sway opinion, you ought to show us why you calls ‘em in this way.

        • Alicia

          I’m aware of Euhemerism. I am not aware of any other occasion where it has occurred in the way that the strong JM people allege that it occurred in the case of Jesus.

          The differences between the evolutionary patterns of religions founded by individuals in historic times and religious that bubbled up from the the collective unconscious in prehistoric times are different in details but both equally known and explicable, in the same what the the evolutionary patterns of plants and animals are different in details but both equally known and explicable.

          These people are advocating a method of development that is inconsistent with any observed evolutionary event. The burden of proof is on them.

          As I’ve mentioned, my current field is nutrition. Please proceed to your nearest bookstore or public library and observe the many completely incompatible nutritional theories promulgated by people with the word “MD” after their name. The fact that someone with qualifications got a book full of face-palm howlers published does not impress me. I’ve given several examples of why it doesn’t work, and I’m not an expert in this field, so I’m not holding myself responsible for disproving every point in this Gish Gallop, even if you are.

        • I’m aware of Euhemerism. I am not aware of any other occasion where it has occurred in the way that the strong JM people allege that it occurred in the case of Jesus.

          Strong vs. weak Christ Mythicism—what’s that? And who goes into each camp?

          Tell me more about Euhemerism and its applicability. Where has it happened, and how is this different from what the Christ Mythicists need to carry the argument?

          The differences between the evolutionary patterns of religions founded by individuals in historic times and religious that bubbled up from the the collective unconscious in prehistoric times are different in details but both equally known and explicable, in the same what the the evolutionary patterns of plants and animals are different in details but both equally known and explicable.

          Collective unconscious? Like in Jung? That sounds like a discredited hypothesis to me.

          These people are advocating a method of development that is inconsistent with any observed evolutionary event. The burden of proof is on them.

          We’ve been over this. They understand the burden, and they accept that it is theirs to bear. They have now claimed to do so. Your critique of their claims? Ball’s in your court.

          The fact that someone with qualifications got a book full of face-palm howlers published does not impress me.

          You’re saying that someone with credentials can say stupid shit. I agree. And, yet again, the ball’s in your court to show that this is the case with Carrier and Price.

          Look, if you are simply skeptical, that’s great. If you want to throw into the mix ideas from your expertise, that’s great. What I’m scratching my head at is your conclusion. You”re very convinced that Christ Mythicism is bullshit, and yet you don’t understand the arguments that are made for it. Sounds to me like you need to tone down your certainty.

        • Alicia

          1) Strong vs Weak. I don’t really know, but some of the people who are arguing the JM position here periodically turn around and say that actually they aren’t saying that Jesus was just a myth. I find this mystifying, but there do seem to be softer and harder core advocates of the position.
          2) Euhemerism as it is described on the wikipedia page does not go according to the outline that the JM people say, for the reason that I’ve cited several times here. There is no historical evidence of a religion that is founded by someone writing a work of magical-realism fiction set in the recent historical past with the purpose of founding a religion. That is what the hardest core JM thesis being argued here is arguing. No one here has been able to cite another example, including those who are major groupies of JM “scholars,” so I’m assuming that those scholars also do not cite other examples.
          3) “Collective unconcious.” Whatever. I can’t remember the proper terminology to distinguish religions with historical origins (like Christianity, Buddhism, or Mormonism) from religions like Hinduism, Judaism, or any of the various Native American religious, whose origins are lost to the sands of time. My point is, expecting them to play by the same rules is just as silly as expecting animals to develop photosynthesis or plants to develop the ability to move around.

        • Alicia

          As I’ve mentioned, I’m not currently a practicing scholar of comparative religion, so I’m not holding myself responsible for knowing the official responses for every point on the JM Gish Gallop.

          Nor am I holding myself responsible for stopping my life for the next however many weeks to read all the major writings in JM theory and the rebuttals thereto.
          This is a discussion section between casual amateurs, as I’ve understood it.

          The specific points that I HAVE rebutted have by and large not turned out well for the JM crew. By my lights. I’m sure they would differ.

          Since you are accusing me of having not made specific rebuttals, I’ll take some random samples of the arguments that have occurred elsewhere on this blog and summarize them for you. I’m sure I’ll miss some, because there’s been a lot of discussion. I repeat my invitation to read the comments section here, with particular attention to my and MNb’s comments, which have been rebutting specific claims of the JM side for a couple days.

          1) As I mentioned, the “show me one single time in history when mythology has worked that way” has yielded nothing.

          2) My comment that Paul can’t reasonably have written the gospels because he shows no evidence of being interested in a historical Jesus has occasionally been rebutted by saying James did it, or the hive mind did it. Well, ok. maybe, but other people are still waving around Paul, and either way the point goes back to 1), above.

          3) My point that no sane marketer would come up with a crucified savior, which was clearly providing a barrier to evangelism as early as the Pauline gospels, has mostly been ignored. One person offered that once Paul had started telling that story he had to keep up up. I rebutted that it was an entirely predictable problem, and got some kind of thing about why crucifixion was good for Paul’s theology of something something, but if you’re going to cook up a theology and story line from whole cloth, why in god’s name saddle yourself with something that awkward?

          No, I don’t think “the criterion of embarrassment” is the final word in general, but when it’s something that was that much of a problem that quickly, I think it is a valid critique. I have gotten no rebuttal that even comes close to being the extraordinary evidence that this extraordinary claim requires.

          An aside) I’m also deeply perplexed at why “Well. four gospels, a pile of epistles, and basic historical logic say there was a Jesus dude” is inadmissible proof of a historical Jesus, but “Acts 26 explains it all” is admissible proof that there wasn’t. Admittedly, that was one arguer and I shouldn’t tar everyone with that brush, but I’ve got to say, there has been a large amount of that basic argumentation style, which has not inspired confidence in the claims made.

          What other claims have been made? Let’s see.
          4) That the gospels are well larded with “in accordance with the scriptures” stories. That is proof that the gospels are not historically reliable factual documents (which I haven’t argued), but I don’t see how to disprove the complete non sequitur of “the gospels have some theologically motivated embellishments, therefore the entire gospels are a work of fiction,” other than to point out that it is a complete non sequitur.

          5) There is no contemporary documentation of the events. My and other’s pointing out that people weren’t as into documenting things then as we are now, and that the events of the gospels are almost certainly wild exaggerations of actual events, so that the actual events would not be expected to have appeared in the public record, and that Christianity remained a microscopically small movement for quite a while, so that we wouldn’t necessarily expect people like Philo (dead in 50) to have heard of it. These empirical facts about the nature of ancient societies and cult development have been brushed aside and the original assertions repeated.

          6) The gospels and acts feature various literary tropes common at the time. This is treated as if it were a point proving that the gospels are works of fiction. My (and other’s) point that it only proves the uninteresting fact they were written to meet the literary standards of their time have been brushed aside, and the original assertions repeated.

          7) The poverty of the historical data has been brought up as if it were relevant. According to someone on another blog, whose field it is, we’ve actually got astronomically better historical documentation (more, sooner) on Jesus than we do on Alexander. This is like acquitting someone on an embezzlement charge because there is no DNA evidence. It’s like saying X didn’t evolve because it evolved in a setting inconducive to fossilization. History about the first century is done differently than history done about the 19th century. Historians don’t expect the same level of documentation, but they are still well able to make do and make informed conclusions about what most likely occurred. Those rebuttals, also, have been brushed aside and the original assertion repeated.

          8) That Christianity has things in common with other cults that arose in the same social settings has been offered as proof that Christianity was derived from them. In fact, it only proves that both settings (occupied Palestine, Roman Empire) have (identifiable and predictable, by the way) features making them prone to the development of cults, and that cults arising out of similar social settings will tend to have certain characteristics in common. Although I imagine you can see it coming, those rebuttals have been brushed aside and the original assertions repeated. A few have stopped citing Mithraism after it was pointed out that generally speaking causes need to occur *before* effects, but that’s it.

          So those are the sorts of evidences that have been cited, and those are the sorts of rebuttal experiences I’ve had. Do you have any more appreciation for my lack of respect for their argumentation style?

          The assertion that Christianity developed in a different way than all other named-founder, historical-setting-founding religions is an extraordinary claim. As such, it requires extraordinary evidence. That has not been provided, and I am highly dubious that it ever will be.

        • primenumbers
        • Pofarmer

          8). Nonononononono. Arrggghhhh. This one is just so goddamn fucking stupid. If this is the caliber if the historical discourse you are reading, it’s no wonder you don’t understand the ideas being advanced. That is, just, bad.

        • Pofarmer
        • Nor am I holding myself responsible for stopping my life for the next however many weeks to read all the major writings in JM theory and the rebuttals thereto.

          Totally understandable. Given that, my suggestion is that you make clear the bounds of what you’re saying. In particular, that you’re not saying that you understand the Christ Myth theory enough to pass judgment on it. Adding to the conversation from your expertise is helpful; it’s just not helpful to get overextended.

          3) My point that no sane marketer would come up with a crucified savior, which was clearly providing a barrier to evangelism as early as the Pauline gospels, has mostly been ignored.

          Not by me. I responded already.

          if you’re going to cook up a theology and story line from whole cloth, why in god’s name saddle yourself with something that awkward?

          No one’s proposing that Christianity was just written down as a hoax or deliberate fiction, right?

          No, I don’t think “the criterion of embarrassment” is the final word in general, but when it’s something that was that much of a problem that quickly, I think it is a valid critique.

          Christianity thrived. Not much of a problem.

          I see religion creation as an evolutionary process. Society keeps the ones that work. Even if we imagined the properties of religions to be acquired randomly, society would still keep the ones with the properties that best fit their needs. It’s not the case that no religion with dumb properties would be created; it’s that such a religion wouldn’t thrive.

          An aside) I’m also deeply perplexed at why “Well. four gospels, a pile of epistles, and basic historical logic say there was a Jesus dude” is inadmissible proof of a historical Jesus

          It’s evidence; it’s not proof.

          “the gospels have some theologically motivated embellishments, therefore the entire gospels are a work of fiction”

          I’ve never seen such an argument. Are you sure someone here made precisely that?

          You’re talking to me while you’re shouting at someone else. I didn’t follow the conversation(s) you had with others, but I’m mostly interested just in your responses to the points that I make.

          we’ve actually got astronomically better historical documentation (more, sooner) on Jesus than we do on Alexander

          Historians are no friend of the gospels. There are supernatural claims in both stories. Historians scrub them out of the Alexander story, so I think they’d do the same for the gospels.

          So those are the sorts of evidences that have been cited, and those are the sorts of rebuttal experiences I’ve had. Do you have any more appreciation for my lack of respect for their argumentation style?

          OK. Again, I wasn’t watching those conversations. If you say you’re frustrated, you’re frustrated, but I’m more focused in our conversation.

          The assertion that Christianity developed in a different way than all other named-founder, historical-setting-founding religions is an extraordinary claim. As such, it requires extraordinary evidence. That has not been provided, and I am highly dubious that it ever will be.

          And here’s the problem. How can you say it hasn’t been provided when you haven’t read the experts in the field? If you say that time is in short supply, I understand and commiserate. The obvious conclusion: don’t draw a conclusion on an argument you haven’t studied.

          This reminds me of conversations I’ve had with Creationists. My antagonist and I would both be amateurs, and we’re debating a topic in which there are experts. Sure, we can have the conversation, and it might be informative. But if we’re not going to bring in the ideas of the experts, the conversation isn’t worth much.

        • Alicia

          1) I haven’t seen your explanation of why no one would make up the crucifixion, no. I would be happy to read it. Yes, the Christians managed to make it work, but if you were at liberty to make up a myth from whole cloth, you wouldn’t choose it.
          2) Yes, people are absolutely making the argument here that the gospels are a work of pure fiction. That is the thesis that I’m arguing against. Were people not making that argument, I wouldn’t be wasting my time arguing with them.
          3) Yes. Historians reject the use of the gospels as sources to substantiate supernatural claims, but they do not reject them as sources of information about early Christianity altogether.
          4) I’m figuring that if the people who claim to have read zillions of books about the JM hypothesis would know the valid counter arguments to these arguments if there were any.
          5) That’s what I’m saying. These commenters and I are amateurs arguing about something for which there *are* experts. They’re historians and scholars of comparative religion, not biologists, but there are experts. I’m arguing for the mainstream side, the one that has 90% of the evidence on it’s side; they are arguing for the side making extremely marginal claims.
          6) You and I actually completely agree on this issue. Your post (there was click bait from this post) “Ok, smart guy, you tell us what happened” is precisely the argument I’m making.
          I’m saying that Christianity was started when a Jesus guy did and said some stuff in Galilee, was killed in Jerusalem, and his followers continued the movement, added some miracles and “in fulfillment of the scriptures” stories, and got tangled up with Greek philosophy. This is an extreeeemely minimalist argument, and I don’t feel out of order in being confident about it.
          Your blog has become host to a bunch of commenters who are strenuously opposed to that commonsense story line. I’m arguing with them, not you. My impatience is with them, not you. You asked why I was being so hot and bothered, and I responded by enumerating what arguments made me hot and bothered. I didn’t say that they were your arguments, as it isn’t you I’m arguing with. It’s the commenters on your blog.
          If you aren’t paying enough attention to this comment section to see that there are people making the claim that Jesus is a completely fictional creation, then why on earth are you pecking at me about how I’m arguing?

        • Ignorant Amos

          I haven’t seen your explanation of why no one would make up the crucifixion, no. I would be happy to read it. Yes, the Christians managed to make it work, but if you were at liberty to make up a myth from whole cloth, you wouldn’t choose it.

          Why? It was practically a necessity. Christianity fails without it and the poor old Judas character gets a lot of bad press in my view. Something that is being addressed since the discovery of the lost Gospel of Judas.

          Over the ages many philosophers have contemplated the idea that Judas was required to have carried out his actions in order for Jesus to have died on the cross and hence fulfill theological obligations. The Gospel of Judas, however, asserts clearly that Judas’ action was in obedience to a direct command of Jesus himself.

          The Gospel of Judas states that Jesus told Judas “You shall be cursed for generations” and then added, “You will come to rule over them” and “You will exceed all of them, for you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.”

          It’s not as if the crucifixion motif was unknown in antiquity.

          It has always been presumed that death, and especially death by crucifixion, involved the highest state of suffering possible to be endured by mortals. Hence, the Gods must suffer in this way as an example of courage and fortitude, and to show themselves willing to undergo all the affliction and misery incident to the lot, and unavoidable to the lives of their devoted worshipers. They must not only be equal, but superior to their subjects in this respect. Hence, they would not merely die, but choose, or at least uncomplainingly submit to the most ignoble and ignominious mode of suffering death that could be devised, and that was crucifixion. This gave the highest finishing touch to the drama.And thus the legend of the crucifixion became the crowning chapter, the aggrandising episode in the history of their lives. It was presumed that nothing less than a God could endure such excruciating tortures without complaining.

          http://actualfreedom.com.au/library/links/16-saviours-2.htm#sixteen

          Plenty of other cults believed some repugnant stuff too

          Richard Carrier spends a chapter on the subject in his book, Not the Impossible Faith.

          First, the early Christians were in a significantly
          different social position than those who most looked down on the form of Christ’s death, and we know they had credible reasons not to share the elite view when it came to Jesus.

          Second, among some Jews there was a certain expectation that the Messiah had to be humiliated as part of God’s plan to secure his triumph, and these Jews would not find a crucified messiah repugnant—to the contrary, it would be exactly what they were looking for. The first point becomes clear when we read the early teachings in Paul and Acts, and compare them with the teachings of the Essene community at Qumran. Like the Qumran community, the early Christians appear to have come from a disgruntled poor and middle class who had grown disgusted with the fundamental injustices in their society and government, especially social and economic inequities
          (as evidenced by the Christian desire, attested in Paul
          and Acts, to eliminate those very inequities within the
          Church itself, e.g. Galatians 3:28, Acts 4:32-35, etc.), but also the execution of righteous men. The fate of John the Baptist is a case in point: executed by the state, yet still held in high esteem by a great many Jews. Many even expected God might raise John from the dead before the general resurrection
          of Israel.
          “Not the Impossible Faith”, Chapter One,p24, R. Carrier.

          http://vk.com/doc-24340930_38696631?dl=3e95e1fe83777c447c

        • Ignorant Amos

          Yes, people are absolutely making the argument here that the gospels are a work of pure fiction. That is the thesis that I’m arguing against.

          People here are arguing that the story can be just as easily explained, and much of it far better, as a work of complete fiction. A minimal historical Jesus is not only superfluous to the tale, but raises way too many unexplainable phenomena. Richard Carrier, an expert scholar, makes the claim in his peer reviewed book published by a very reputable publishing house, “On the Historicity of Jesus”, and he uses Bayes Theorem to do it, which to date as far as I know, has not been rebutted in any reasonable manner.

          The assumption that Jesus existed as a historical person has occasionally been questioned in the course of the last hundred years or so, but any doubts that have been raised have usually been put to rest in favor of imagining a blend of the historical, the mythical and the theological in the surviving records of Jesus.

          Carrier re-examines the whole question and finds compelling reasons to suspect the more daring assumption is correct. He lays out extensive research on the evidence for Jesus and the origins of Christianity and poses the key questions that must now be answered if the historicity of Jesus is to survive as a dominant paradigm.

          Carrier contrasts the most credible reconstruction of a historical Jesus with the most credible theory of Christian origins if a historical Jesus did not exist. Such a theory would posit that the Jesus figure was originally conceived of as a celestial being known only through private revelations and hidden messages in scripture; then stories placing this being in earth history were crafted to communicate the claims of the gospel allegorically; such stories eventually came to be believed or promoted in the struggle for control of the Christian churches that survived the tribulations of the first century.

          Carrier finds the latter theory more credible than has been previously imagined. He explains why it offers a better explanation for all the disparate evidence surviving from the first two centuries of the Christian era. He argues that we need a more careful and robust theory of cultural syncretism between Jewish theology and politics of the second-temple period and the most popular features of pagan religion and philosophy of the time.

          For anyone intent on defending a historical Jesus, this is the book to challenge.

          http://www.sheffieldphoenix.com/showbook.asp?bkid=264

        • Ignorant Amos

          Yes. Historians reject the use of the gospels as sources to substantiate supernatural claims, but they do not reject them as sources of information about early Christianity altogether.

          Which ones? What sort of information?

          I’m figuring that if the people who claim to have read zillions of books about the JM hypothesis would know the valid counter arguments to these arguments if there were any.

          There are cranks on both sides of the debate. Countering a crank claim is just that. Bart Ehrman wrote what was supposed to be the definitive put down of JM theory to date. I was looking forward to it at the time in the hope that it would kill the argument once and for all. It failed miserably. Ehrman is supposed to be one of the leading scholars in the field.

        • 1) I haven’t seen your explanation of why no one would make up the crucifixion, no.

          The trick about the Criterion of Embarrassment is that you have to make sure that the thing really was embarrassing. If you want to maximize the high (Jesus conquers death), you might also want to maximize the low (humiliating and painful death).

          But remember that the Christ Myth theory just argues that there was no actual man behind the Jesus story. The crucifixion doesn’t have to be made up. If there were some false but well-known legend that was evolving, it might be impossible to shed some unwanted baggage. Remember the Babylonian exile. How humiliating is it to admit that your god got his clock cleaned by some other god? But … what if we said that Yahweh actually wanted the exile to punish the Israelites for their sins? Embarrassing defeat turns into victory.

          Yes, people are absolutely making the argument here that the gospels are a work of pure fiction.

          What about Carrier, Price, and other experts?

          I’m arguing for the mainstream side, the one that has 90% of the evidence on it’s side; they are arguing for the side making extremely marginal claims.

          Oops—more bold statements without evidence. You’re arguing for the mainstream side—that’s it. You don’t know about the evidence on the other side because you haven’t read the books.

          This is an extreeeemely minimalist argument, and I don’t feel out of order in being confident about it.

          … despite not having read the other side of the argument.

          Your blog has become host to a bunch of commenters who are strenuously opposed to that commonsense story line.

          Some are; some aren’t.

          If you aren’t paying enough attention to this comment section to see that there are people making the claim that Jesus is a completely fictional creation, then why on earth are you pecking at me about how I’m arguing?

          I’m just pointing out your really, really obvious Achilles heel.

          For you to come here and share your ideas is great. Critique others’ comments. You say that those who have read the books should be able to rebut your points—that’s a good point. The burden of proof is on the Christ Mythicists—we both agree. But you’re having a hard time acknowledging that you don’t understand the theory well enough to have a strong conclusion.

        • Ignorant Amos

          That’s what I’m saying. These commenters and I are amateurs arguing about something for which there *are* experts.

          Yet you claim to be ignorant of the current argument though…as you readily admit.

          They’re historians and scholars of comparative religion, not biologists, but there are experts. I’m arguing for the mainstream side, the one that has 90% of the evidence on it’s side; they are arguing for the side making extremely marginal claims.

          The problem with the figures is that many scholars just accept the consensus and go with the flow. Others take the affirmative position because their place depends on it. As Thomas Brodie was to discover to his cost.

          His 2012 book Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery caused controversy when 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.

          Following the publication of the book 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.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_L._Brodie

          But there are quite a few scholars willing to declare sympathy for the mythicist hypothesis.

          http://vridar.org/whos-who-among-mythicists-and-mythicist-agnostics/

        • Ignorant Amos

          I’m saying that Christianity was started when a Jesus guy did and said some stuff in Galilee, was killed in Jerusalem, and his followers continued the movement, added some miracles and “in fulfillment of the scriptures” stories, and got tangled up with Greek philosophy.

          This guy is unknown to the earliest Christian writing though. That guy doesn’t pitch up until around 70 CE and possibly later. There is no need to posit a guy called Jesus doing some stuff in Galilee and then getting killed in Jerusalem for Paul’s Christianity to work and that’s why he doesn’t. Paul get’s all his info from dreams, allegedly, and scripture. Even when it would be prudent to quote gospel Jesus in his letters, had Paul known of such a guy, he doesn’t do it. Why?

          It is the gospels that need this guy for things to start get going. One argument for such is to counter Docetism. Hence the doubting Thomas pericope. The fact that Docetic movements existed at all should raise flags for a real historical Jesus guy if the evidence he was real was so strong.

          This is an extreeeemely minimalist argument, and I don’t feel out of order in being confident about it.

          It is your level of confidence that is surprising. Did you ever hear of General Ned Ludd and the Luddites? Folk just need to believe some stuff is real, not that it actually is real. Inventing fictional characters as a means to influence is nothing unusual. Joseph Smith had people eating out of the palm of his hand within weeks of finishing his book, the nonsense of Mormonism. He was a known fraudster. He had folk so convinced they would swear to all sorts of things.

          Although Smith had previously refused to show the plates to anyone, he told Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer that they would be allowed to see them. These men, known collectively as the Three Witnesses—along with a later group of Eight Witnesses composed of male members of the Whitmer and Smith families—signed statements testifying that they had seen the golden plates; the eight witnesses also said they had actually handled the plates. According to Smith, the angel Moroni took back the plates once Smith finished using them.

          Do you think Smith had golden plates with glyphs on that he got from, and gave back to, an angel? Or did he get his inspiration other from fiction?

          Paul doesn’t get his knowledge of Jesus from any fellow human being, or so he says. The gospel writers are continuing a meme with embellishment, giving the guy an historical setting is one of those embellishments.

        • Pofarmer

          For not being an expert, you are certainly presenting yourself as one here. The idea of Jesus as myth has a looonnnggg history in biblical criticism, at least back into the 1700’s.

        • Ignorant Amos

          You’re aware of Euhemerism? Does it speak to this question?

          A lot of folk that think they are aware of it, are not. Richard Carrier had to explain it in detail for some.

          http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/8161

        • That’s helpful. It seems to respond to some of what Alicia asked for.

        • MNb

          To use your own words: JM is not where the evidence points. As I summarized elsewhere:
          1. It’s a fact that Marcus mentions Jesus.
          2. It’s a fact that the Q-document (in case you’re going to repeat Pope Gregory G’s blunder: defined as everything Mattheus and Lucas have in common but haven’t copied from Marcus) mentions him.
          3. It’s a fact that Acts mentions him.
          4. It’s a fact that Flavius Josephus mentions him.
          5. It’s a fact that Polycarpus of Smyrna claims to be the pupil of John the Apostle and apostles without a messias make very little sense.
          6. It’s a fact that the Gospels attribute some statements to Jesus which were already proven wrong when they were written down; especially the end time prophecies.
          7. It’s a fact that the Gospels contain some more weird stuff: “father, why has thou forsaken me”.

          JMs have to explain that all (and more; the list is not complete) away. It does so by means of special pleading. Moreover several JMs – specifically Earl Doherty and our very own Pope Gregory G – use theology to back up their views. I don’t know about you, but I have as little use for atheist theology as for other versions.

        • Alicia

          You forgot references by Lucien, Pliny, and Tacitus. As far as I know they are not disputed, as is the Josephus reference.

        • MNb

          No, I didn’t forget them. I deliberately omitted them because their independence can be questioned. They seem to have received their information from christian communities, which likely possessed some proto Gospels. They are useful sources as soon as we concluded a historical Jesus, but not before. JM doesn’t have any problem addressing them (though some JMs even manage to ruin this).

        • TheNuszAbides

          funny, she upvoted you before her “you forgot…” but was curiously unimpressed with your omission-by-rigor.

        • Pofarmer

          All Lucien, Pliny, and Tacitus tell us is that there were Christians at the time they were writing.

        • Pofarmer

          1,) Who cares? He’s writing religious hagiography.
          2.) The Q document has varying degrees of support. A theory that seems to come and go is that the Author of Luke had a copy of Matthew that he copied and changed, which seems as reasonable as they both had a single lost document.
          3) Acts? Really?
          4) The Flavius Josephus passages are probably complete interpolations, at least that is the way the pendulem is currently swinging.
          5) Paul called himself an apostle, and never met Jesus. Polycarpus saying he was the student of an apostle, even if he really was , doesn’t tell us anything.
          6) I got nuthin.
          5) “Father, why has thou forsaken me.” Who was there to hear it? All of the disciples had supposedly fled at this point. Remember, the author of Mark, from where this comes, had an adoptionist viewpoint. Jesus became the “Son of God” at his Baptism, and he would have to have been “fully human” to have died on the cross, therefore God would have had to have disowned him at that time. It’s a literary device to finish the story.

        • The Testimonium Flavianum in Josephus does mention Jesus, but that’s known to be an interpolation. But that’s a quibble; the consensus view may be that the other references are all in the original.

          I’m sure we agree that the hypothesis that Christianity came out of the life of a real guy in 1st-century Palestine is the null hypothesis. There’s nothing supernatural or even surprising about this hypothesis.

          The Christ Myth theorists must shoulder the burden of proof. You say that they don’t. I say that I don’t know–I haven’t read their stuff well enough to defend or even understand that position.

        • primenumbers

          “viewpoint that I find so fantastically absurd.” – on the contrary what is absurd is to be highly confident about ancient historical events for which we lack primary sources. At least both JM and JH are reasonably hypothesis for the starting point of the Christian religion, whereas if you want a hypothesis that is fantastically absurd, it’s the “Jesus really is the son of God” one.

        • Alicia

          I have been guessing that JM means “Jesus as Myth” or something like that. What is JH?
          And I have not argued that Jesus really was the son of God. I’ve only argued that he was a human whose followers founded a religion.

        • primenumbers

          JM= Jesus as Myth hypothesis,

          JH = Jesus as Historical hypothesis.

          We could throw in JD for Jesus as Deity hypothesis, but as I noted, that’s the most absurd of the bunch, and the other two I think we really have to be agnostic on due to lack of primary sources.

          I was really just objecting to your use of “fantastically absurd” for JM, which is funny when it’s actually quite a reasonable hypothesis as compared to JD (which must be the most commonly supported J hypothesis there is).

          To suggest JM is absurd is to basically say you have great confidence in that it’s wrong. To have such a great confidence of such an ancient historical issue for which we lack primary sources, and what sources we do have are from anonymous sources or from someone who explicitly tells us he gets all his info from scripture is to place way too much confidence upon what we have to go on.

        • Alicia

          I disbelieve in JM because I believe in the universal validity of proven historical processes. It’s the humanities version of believing in the scientific method.
          And deciding that JD is dumb does not make JM or JH a toss up.

        • primenumbers

          You’re stating that, but not making an argument to demonstrate it.

      • Pofarmer

        Fwiw, the founder of Christiainty, in my mind at least, certainly seems to be Paul, not Jesus.

      • MNb

        “I’m saying the former, not the latter.”
        Yes. It took me a while to get this, but that’s indeed how I read your articles.

  • busterggi

    “Well, he cleaned up the country,
    the old Gallilean country,
    he made divine order prevail
    and none can deny thus,
    the legend of Jesus,
    forever will live on the trail.”

    • Sophia Sadek

      I had to wipe the dust from my brow after reading that.

  • James

    Regarding point one, apologists like to pretend that history is a science – it isn’t. It is a humanity. And most historians are very quick to point out how limited we are in our ability to know the past. Sure, historians do use certain scientific principals to learn about the past, but the past itself can never be observed, tested, experimented upon etc which is the hallmark of science. These historical principals evangelists quickly forget when they speak of Jesus.

    Historians are limited by their sources, sources that are often not contemporary, are biased, often separated by geography or culture, etc. Take Nero, Cleopatra, Caligula, etc – everything that we know about them were written by their political enemies. Nearly everything that we know about Augustus, conversely, was written by his political allies. Imagine how our views of George W Bush and Obama would be colored if our only source was Karl Rove and his ilk, or conversely an Occupy activist. Historians attempt to correct for such biases, whereas evangelists go whole hog in taking their preferred sources at its word and only applying skeptical scrutiny to competing religious claims or competing interpretations of their own religion’s historical claims.

    • MNb

      “apologists like to pretend that history is a science – it isn’t.”
      It is. Historical hypotheses are falsifiable and do get falsified and confirmed by empirical evidence – for instance by archeological findings. Why do we conclude that Moses is nothing but a legend? Because Israel Finkelstein dug the entire Sinai and found exactly nothing.
      What’s more – exactly because it’s a science it can’t be used to “prove” christianity. The synonym for the scientific method is methodological naturalism. History being a science hence can’t accept supernatural explanations. At best – but even that is doubtful – history as a science can say “we don’t evaluate supernatural claims”.
      Finally history as a science must be consistent with other branches of science. Exactly that is why historians at face values conclude that “Jesus walking on water” was a legend.

      • James

        As I said, historians do use scientific principals. But as a discipline, it’s a humanity, not a science, or at best a “social science.” There’s a right way to practice music theory too, but that doesn’t make music theory a science; we’re simply using different definitions of “science” here. Perhaps I should say “history is not a natural science?” History has no means to meet the burden of proof required for a supernatural claim, just as science cannot test a claim that is unfalsifiable. Historians are limited by their sources. We cannot reconstruct the past in a vacuum; unlike the natural sciences. What we can do is make judgements regarding what is possible – which as you said, rules out walking on water, etc. Apologists equivocate faith claims that have a historical basis (i.e. the story) with history itself (i.e. the actual facts).

        Apologists like to pretend that history is a settle fact; that, for example, the “fact” of an empty tomb proves resurrection. I like to point out to them that I’ve found empty tombs, and emptied a few myself, no resurrection required (I was raised by an archaeologist). It never seems to occur to them that grave robbing was quite common in the ancient middle east – such rampant grave robbing being the bane of archaeology. The explanation could have been as simple of thieves wanting to rob the fresh grave of a presumed rich man. Very often in ancient grave robbing, the whole corpse was stolen. And in any case, the empty tomb is far from being a fact; there’s good reason to think it is a later elaboration made by proto-orthodox Christians to combat the claims of the early docetists, for example.

        • MNb

          “There’s a right way to practice music theory too.”
          Musicology is also a science.

          “Perhaps I should say “history is not a natural science?”
          Equalling science with natural science is rather prejudiced. It assumes that methodological naturalism only can be applied to physics, chemistry and biology. That’s obviously wrong.

          “History has no means to meet the burden of proof required for a supernatural claim.”
          So what? History does not investigate that. It only investigates what supernatural claims meant for the people who believed them. I cannot help wondering how many books on history you have read. This is an excellent one:

          http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/secondary/BURLAT/home.html

          Good luck finding even one investigation whether a supernatural claim is true.

          “Historians are limited by their sources. ”
          So are cosmologists and astrophysicists. Hence according to you cosmology and astrophysics aren’t science either. If you’re consistent, which I doubt.
          Sorry, after reading this nonsense I did not care to read any further, with one exception:

          “the empty tomb is far from being a fact”
          Also totally irrelevant for the question if history is a science or not. Whether time before the Big Bang is a meaningful concept or not is far from being a fact as well. Some physicists think so; others don’t.

          You didn’t address what I wrote: history formulates hypotheses which can be falsified or confirmed. That’s science.
          Your attitude towards this matter is hardly better than the attitude of creationists: you bring up irrelevant stuff to give the impression that you’re right, you use the word science in an ambiguous meaning, you evade the keypoints of your opponent and you don’t think your arguments through consistently.

          Fyi: I’m a teacher math and physics.

    • Professor_Tertius

      James said: “And most historians are very quick to point out how limited we are in our ability to know the past. Sure, historians do use certain scientific principals [sic] to learn about the past, but the past itself can never be observed, tested, experimented upon etc which is the hallmark of science.”

      While I have some sympathy for what you are saying, you are deprecating peer-reviewed scholarship and entire academic disciplines much like Young Earth Creationists do! In fact, you err almost identically to Ken Ham & Co. when they fallaciously claim that “experimented upon…is the hallmark of science.” That sounds much like their false dichotomies of operational science versus historical science.

      Just as geologic strata and fossils allow us to OBSERVE THE PAST, so do the various kinds of evidence which historians compile.

      Yes, fundamentalist apologists spew all sorts of nonsense and often go well beyond the evidence. But your dismissal of the scholarship of thousands of historians at the world’s top universities (many of them atheist and without any sort of religious agenda) is little different from the ways in which fundamentalists reject the conclusions of academics simply because of conflicts with their personal beliefs. Many anti-theists outside of the academy ignore the historical Jesus scholarship, and they cling to the Jesus Mythicism of over a century ago—even though scholars of nearly every stripe debunked it long ago.

  • Aram McLean

    I’m lately inclined to the view (though nothing is proven of course) that the basis of Jesus was a man who was a de facto Essene leader taking over from John the Baptist who’d been imprisoned. I think the character of Jesus truly did believe the End Times were upon him, and when he went to the Garden of Gethsemane he honestly thought it was the big moment. Instead he was arrested and may or may not have been put to death for, among other things, rampaging through the temple and encouraging social disorder against the Romans. I say may not have been put to death as it’s interesting to note that Barabbas’ first name was Jesus and Barabbas is Aramaic for Son of the Father.

    These seem to me to be the brass tacks of the tale, with many, many mythical elements being added on from there. But seeing as how stories and legends concerning the Jesus character were already common knowledge the original writers had to work around the more known ones and come up with a hybrid narrative of sorts to better create the illusion of its alleged truth.

    Of course by the time of the Gospel of John the Christians had obviously gone full Hellenization, but I’m thinking they never expected the four gospels most believers now think of as canon would end up side by side in a book with a whole bunch of people tirelessly trying to square them.

    • Greg G.

      I say may not have been put to death as it’s interesting to note that Barabbas’ first name was Jesus and Barabbas is Aramaic for Son of the Father.

      Mark uses some Latin words and some Aramaic words, but it is only the latter foreign words that he explains.

      In Mark 10:46-52, Bartimaeus is introduced as the son of Timaeus, a Greek name, so the Greek readers learn that “bar” means “son of”. Timaeus of Locri is portrayed as a Greek Pythagorean philosopher in Plato’s Timaeus, where discusses the “Soul of the Universe”. In Mark 14:36, Jesus prays “Abba, Father” to teach his readers that “Abba” means “father”. This phrase is used in Galatians 4:6 and Romans 8:15. When the readers are introduced to Barabbas in Mark 15:7, they should recognize the scapegoat scenario of two men called “Son of the Father”. The scapegoat can be found in Leviticus 16:5-22.

      The mocking of Jesus by the soldiers in Mark 15:15-20 is based on Flaccus, VI by Philo Judaeus where Philo describes how Carabbas was mocked. Barabbas appears right before the mocking of the soldiers, which makes it apparent that the name “Barabbas” was based on the name “Carabbas”.

      These seem to me to be the brass tacks of the tale, with no doubt many mythical elements being added on from there. But seeing as how stories and legends concerning the Jesus character were already common knowledge the original writers had to work around the more known ones and come up with a hybrid narrative of sorts to better create the illusion of its alleged truth.

      Actually, Mark is put together this way all the way through. He didn’t seem to have any “common knowledge”. He invented it using the Greek art of mimesis and the literature of the day. The other three gospels used Mark as their basis.

      • Aram McLean

        I get the impression you’re absolutely intent on the basis of Jesus being pure legend.

        • Alicia

          Yes, that is my understanding of his position.

        • Aram McLean

          Somewhat ironic.

        • Greg G.

          I think the evidence points that way. The extra-biblical evidence is too late and the biblical evidence looks like it was made up using methods the ancients used to write fiction.

        • Aram McLean

          That’s like saying none of the events in Bernard Cornwell’s novels can be true because he writes historical fiction stories in the same way we write fiction. I do think a large part of the gospels is legend, inspired by ancient and more recent (at the time) pagan rituals, especially of the Essenes and Mithraism. But I see no reason to write off the core of the new religion having been very loosely based on the yellings of a particular apocalyptic preacher, of which there were many in the area.

        • Greg G.

          The gospels are not the core of the religion. They came after the destruction of Jerusalem while the core was established before that happened. It seems to me that the epistle writers would have more interest in a recent Jesus and include some early oral traditions or yellings instead of references to scripture whenever they talk about a Jesus who is not just sitting in heaven.

        • Alicia

          Paul the epistle writer was writing to trouble shoot issues at churches he had founded. They had already been taught whatever it was he taught them in person. He only mentioned in the letters the part that was relevant to his point.
          And the other epistles are generally agreed to be much later. Into the second century.
          Or are you going to argue that, while biblical scholarship of the last 150 years has gotten their dates wrong too, just the opposite direction of the gospels?

        • Greg G.

          But with all that troubleshooting, all the things those churches had problems with, they never had a question about Jesus the person? He wrote at least 24,000 words, almost a third more than any gospel. He mentioned Jesus once every three verses and by “Jesus” and/or “Christ” about every five verses. But Paul never felt like giving any information about him.

          I see the Pastorals and 2 Peter dated to the second century but not the others. The dating is based on the assumption that the Gospels are reliable which we both agree are full of accrued legend so dating the epistles from information in the gospels is problematic. I think the Epistle of James is a response to Galatians so I would tend to date it earlier than 90AD, probably to Paul’s time.

        • Aram McLean

          Yes, maybe it was all made-up. Maybe not. A cursory look at what the Essenes believed in comparison to their fellow Jews comes across as uncannily Christian-like in its basics. The stealing of pagan rituals later, like Mithras’ being washed pure in the blood of the Primeval Bull, fills out the rest. Along with the passage of time.
          And to the main point, could there have been an actual apocalyptic messianic Essene leader at the very core of it? Sure there could.
          Has he been all but lost in the mess of later leaders usurping his ‘message’ to their own purposes by, for example, trying to stuff in all the prophecies of the OT to turn some guy they likely never met into a god? Most certainly he was. Does it matter? Not at all.

        • Greg G.

          That could be. Paul isn’t all that big on blood, just the death. John, however, makes Jesus out to be like the Passover lamb, where the blood played a part in saving those with blood on their doors. Paul makes a mention of that but the Passover lamb is not a sin offering, so I don’t think it makes sense. Just early Christians trying to make it make sense.

        • Aram McLean

          To somewhat conclude, I think Christianity sprung from a variety of factors over its first century and a half. But it seems likely it originated to some degree from one of the messianic apocalyptic Jewish sects of the time, and possibly the Essenes. This makes even more sense when you consider the word messiah is kristos in Greek, the lingua franca of the Romans in the area at the time, which would explain them being called Christians in the first place. Was the character of Jesus as portrayed in the Bible real? No. Was he based on someone who did live, preach and die? Very possibly. Could he have been completely invented out of whole cloth? Also possible.
          My point in posting my original comment was that I find the idea intriguing, especially the more you learn about what the Essenes actually believed.

        • Alicia

          As I mentioned elsewhere, I find the similarities with the Essenes very non-compelling.
          But I also want to mention that the issue of “Christianity sprung from a variety of factors” conflates two points.
          Point one) There was a guy, who happened to be named Jesus, who said some stuff in Galilee, was killed in Jerusalem, and attracted a cult that survived after his death.
          Point two) Various sociological factors combined to make this guys cult survive, while others failed.
          Identifying the factors in point two does not destroy point one.

        • Aram McLean

          I find the similarities very compelling. Otherwise I agree with you.

        • Aram McLean

          To back up my statement about the Essenes with actual facts, even a cursory look at the Wikipedia page on them shows astonishing similarities. I’m not sure why you’re so against it?
          This write-up does a good job showing the similarities between Jesus and the Essenes, and goes into the supposed differences as well.
          http://www.askwhy.co.uk/christianity/0180JesusEssene.php

        • Alicia

          That link pretty much accorded with my memory. Both of them are apocalyptic Jewish renewal movements, of which there were many during the centuries before and afterwards, but other than that they are entirely dissimilar.
          Not that all of the differences they listed were really accurate (at least about Jesus, who I know more about), but the total weight of the evidence is that they wouldn’t have given each other the time of day.
          Another interesting thing about the Essenes is that the documentary sources we have are somewhat divergent (which we would expect), but also that people want the Qumran sect to have been the Essenes and use their sources as supporting evidence for Essene activity, but the cult at Qumran seems to be in several significant ways to be incompatible with the historical reports of Essenes in Josephus et al. The only thing I remember is that the writings talk about them marrying, and Qumran are male celibates.

        • Aram McLean

          There is no way you read that link with any comprehension before replying. It’s all good. Your brain knows what it wants. I wish you a pleasant evening. It’s lovely here in Hamburg. Record-breaking highs, cool winds. The earth may be about to molt, but hey, we can still enjoy how pleasant it is the now. Have a good one.

        • Alicia

          Ah, Hamburg. I spent New Years there with a friend during my year at Tübingen.
          And I didn’t see that it went on for pages. I read the bullet points. Which confirmed my recollection of the significant reading on the topic that I did in one of my past lives.
          As I said, I would quibble with several of the asserted differences, but given that the only similarities that they cited were “they are both apocalyptic Jewish renewal cults,” and given that that is *known to be* not an exclusive club, saying that they are therefore meaningfully identical is meaningless.

    • Alicia

      “I’m thinking they never expected the four gospels most believers now think of as canon would end up side by side in a book with a whole bunch of people tirelessly trying to square them.”
      Precisely.

    • Paul D.

      The Garden of Gethsemane scene is problematic for a number of reasons. One is that much of the action happens with no one but Jesus and the omniscient narrator present. Another is that it rather closely resembles the story of the Egyptian prophet who, according to Josephus, also led his followers to the Mount of Olives and had an armed confrontation with the Roman soldiers sent by the procurator to arrest them. This happened in the mid-50s and provides a plausible source of the story in Mark, which is apparently unknown to Paul or any of the earlier epistle writers.

      (Mind you, I think it’s been suggested before that the Egyptian prophet was the actual historical Jesus.)

      • Greg G.

        There is this also:

        Acts 21:38
        Are you not the Egyptian, (Antiquities of the Jews 20.8.6) then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins (Antiquities of the Jews 20.8.5, sicarii description – Antiquities of the Jews 20.8.10) out into the wilderness?” (also Antiquities of the Jews 20.8.6 but not the Egyptian)

      • Aram McLean

        I don’t mean the finished product. I just mean it could well be that the man’s followers knew he was heading into the Garden to wait for the end. The Romans grabbed him instead. And the oral tradition carried on from there filled in the rest, eventually written down as the sweating blood story we know today. When I say Jesus I don’t mean the literal Jesus of the Bible. I mean a religious leader who honestly believed the End Times were imminent and preached accordingly. Like Jesus saying not to make a stink, for example, give the man your coat etc, makes way more sense when you think of it as a leader not wanting to make too many waves as his group preps for the world’s end. But of course plenty of other typical pagan rituals of the time were added to Christianity over the many decades that followed.

        • Greg G.

          I mean a religious leader who honestly believed the End Times were imminent and preached accordingly.

          Like Paul?

          1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
          15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.

          1 Corinthians 7:8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am.

          Paul didn’t see any point in getting married and raising a family because he thought the Messiah was coming soon.

        • Aram McLean

          Oh sure, Paul fits the bill as well. Or hey, maybe it was all based on Apollonius of Tyana from the get-go. My point isn’t that one or the other is right. I’m not trying to win some debate. The simple fact is we cannot know, no matter how much our confirmation bias promises us our favourite theory is the best. My very basic point is that the idea of ‘Jesus’ having been a leader of the break-away Judaist sect of Essenes makes sense as the beginning of Christianity, like in regards to their utter obsession with baptism and personal cleanliness, with later tweaks from typical pagan sects of the time, especially Mithaism and Sol Invictus, evolving the new cult of Christianity towards the tens of thousands of different religious outlooks we know and love today.
          Yes, there are plenty of other theories. I find them interesting as well.

        • Alicia

          Dunking is a constant in all strains of Judaism. The Essenes were weirdos in different enough ways from how Jesus was a weirdo that making Jesus into an Essene seems like a significant stretch.

        • Aram McLean

          And yet all the Christians got totally excited to read about the Teacher of Righteousness in the Dead Sea Scrolls who sounded so much like Jesus they thought it was more proof of his existence. Alas, it was a leader of the Essenes who predated Jesus by a hundred years.
          I think the mistake people are making here is assuming it’s all or nothing. Rather I’m saying you can easily imagine the beginnings of Christianity having sprung from Essene end time doctrines.

        • Greg G.

          Luke borrowed from Josephus a lot so I don’t take this too seriously but compare Acts 4:32-37 with Josephus’ Jewish War 2.8.3. I am fairly certain that Josephus is referring to the Essenes in that but my notes don’t specify. The pericope set up in Acts 5 by this description is so implausible that it seems like Luke was writing fiction.

          Ac 4:32 The multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul. Not one of them claimed that anything of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. Ac 4:33 With great power, the apostles gave their testimony of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Great grace was on them all. Ac 4:34 For neither was there among them any who lacked, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, Ac 4:35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet, and distribution was made to each, according as anyone had need. Ac 4:36 Joses, who by the apostles was also called Barnabas (which is, being interpreted, Son of Encouragement), a Levite, a man of Cyprus by race, Ac 4:37 having a field, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

          3. These men are despisers of riches, and so very communicative as raises our admiration. Nor is there any one to be found among them who hath more than another; for it is a law among them, that those who come to them must let what they have be common to the whole order, – insomuch that among them all there is no appearance of poverty, or excess of riches, but every one’s possessions are intermingled with every other’s possessions; and so there is, as it were, one patrimony among all the brethren. They think that oil is a defilement; and if any one of them be anointed without his own approbation, it is wiped off his body; for they think to be sweaty is a good thing, as they do also to be clothed in white garments. They also have stewards appointed to take care of their common affairs, who every one of them have no separate business for any, but what is for the uses of them all.

      • Alicia

        One thing I pointed out compared it to the execution of some rebel leader in the 20th century. Officially there were no witnesses other than various regime personnel, but the story of how it went down quickly stabilized into a coherent narrative.
        Whether the narrative was correct, who knows, but people did *feel* that they knew.

    • by the time of the Gospel of John the Christians had obviously gone full Hellenization, but I’m thinking they never expected the four gospels most believers now think of as canon would end up side by side in a book with a whole bunch of people tirelessly trying to square them.

      I see each of the gospels as “the gospel according to we Christians here in city X.” That they were lumped together is a curious counterexample to Christians’ usual approach of fragmenting into new sects.

      • Aram McLean

        That also makes sense. I suppose it was becoming official that had the powers that be trying to square the circle. Still, one can see the evolving nature of the religion based on how late the book was written.
        I don’t know that Jesus was a real person or not (despite some people here being utterly convinced that he’s a legend), but I also don’t see Christianity as being invented from the ground up. It’s obviously an extension of apocalyptic Judaism, Mithraism, and other typical pagan tropes of the time. Barely a new religion at all, only seems that way now since they destroyed so much of the competition. Justin Martyr would be pleased.

        • I’m sure that every proponent of the Christ Myth Theory will agree that Christianity came from that environment, full of ideas that were adapted to the new religion.

        • Aram McLean

          Fair enough. The more I read about it the less likely it seems that Jesus was any one man. But I still think there was someone/s preaching the basic ideas which spun Judaism off into this new direction. And the myth of Jesus may have been created later in an effort to square these mismatched oral traditions around perhaps several different messianic street preachers of the earlier time. I guess for me it’s mostly odd how rigidly determined proponents of the myth theory come across, but I suppose that could just be the downside of emotionless prose.

        • I still think there was someone/s preaching the basic ideas which spun Judaism off into this new direction

          Like Paul?

        • Aram McLean

          Sure, Paul makes sense. And especially considering Tarsus being a major centre of Mithraism and Magna Mater. (The latter could explain his obsession with genitals.) But I still get the impression that he’s riffing off of something he heard from ‘across the sea’, especially notable being how similar the Essenes end-time beliefs were to certain Judaist-sprung aspects of Christianity.
          Though I admit things aren’t looking good for Jesus by the minute, it’s still seems highly possible that Paul stole his basic ideas from the street-screaming of someone else who actually did live. I suppose we’ve all but gotten rid of Jesus by this point, but I still can’t shake the feeling that someone inspired Paul originally, however inconsequential they may have immediately become. I take this stance in small part based on how reading the Qur’an you can totally feel Mohammed making shit up, whereas with Paul it’s more a transferring of information from another source. But of course I realize this could just mean Paul was much smarter than Mohammed, an easy feat I admit.

        • Ignorant Amos

          The more I read about it the less likely it seems that Jesus was any one man.

          Keep reading!

        • Aram McLean

          Oh, I’ve read the theories in every direction. It’s interesting stuff. But what I’m realizing from this comment section is that most people seem to get stuck on one outcome or the other. There’s a lot of conjecture flying around, which is fine but not proof. Personally I’m not in it to find the ‘right answer’, as barring some new discoveries it seems unlikely we can ever know for sure.
          I’m fine with that. Which makes for a lame debate, I’ll grant you. But keeps me from missing out on engaging in the full story of history in the minuscule way we can experience it. History, after all, is nothing but tiny scraps that can be pieced together in any number of ways. No point shutting down other possibilities over some illusion concerning the ‘right answer’.
          Have a good one.

        • Ignorant Amos

          (despite some people here being utterly convinced that he’s a legend)

          Not even Richard Carrier would make that assertion. But the preponderance of evidence in support of a myth is more convincing to some, than the visible lack for the historical. It is all about probabilities not possibilities.

        • Aram McLean

          Fair enough. It just seems to me based on the meagre evidence available that probabilities and possibilities are damn near synonyms in this context.

        • Alicia

          Mithraism as a social factor in the Greco-Roman world seems to post-date Christianity, so it doesn’t make sense to say that Christianity is based on Mithraism. You can argue that both took off by appealing to similar psychological neeeds that were current in that place/time, but not that one cause the other.

        • Aram McLean

          On the other hand, there are strong arguments that Mithraism came from the Persian worship of Mitra. Either way, based on the evidence it’s almost certain Mithraism as the Romans did it predated Christianity by at least 100 years.

  • MNb

    In addition, especially to @4, the empty tomb:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/hallq/2012/08/why-craigs-case-for-the-resurrection-is-dishonest/

    @5: History is science and has to play by scientific rules. That’s for instance why no historian of Antiquity thinks Archimedes set Roman ships on fire by using mirrors.

  • Without Malice

    I always like to ask myself: what would we know about Jesus if he had been a real person? Well, since his mother and brothers and sisters outlived him by decades according to Christian “legend”, what we should know is . . . well, just about everything he ever did in his life. Yet we do not know the date of his birth or the date of his death, we know nothing of what he was like as a child (how could Mary have not supplied that information), or as a young adult or any wisdom he may have imparted before he started preaching. If all we knew of Abe Lincoln or George Washington were stories about their last year of life which weren’t even reported at the time of their happening we would do well to be skeptical of their existence. And we should rightly be skeptical of the existence of the supposed Jesus of Nazareth.

    • MNb

      “what we should know is . . . well, just about everything he ever did in his life. ”
      No. Papyrus was extremely expensive and “just about everything he ever did in his life” was not important enough to get copied over and over again.

      • adam

        Even the Egyptian ‘gods’ put their names and stories in stone.

        • Alicia

          Well, their followers did.

        • Greg G.

          So did Pilate.

      • I love the “papyrus was expensive” argument. Yahweh is the omnipotent and omniscient ruler of the universe, and no feat is beyond him – but don’t expect him to miracle up some papyrus or the money for it; that shit’s expensive.

        • Ron

          “He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money!”~George Carlin

        • Greg G.

          I heard a story on the radio about Willie Nelson and Roger Miller when they were getting started in show business. They were driving across Texas together and saw a beautiful sunset. Miller said, “Imagine what God could do if he had money.”

        • Greg G.

          But even from a secular standpoint, Paul says there were 514 people who are said to have seen Jesus but none of them could spare a sheet of parchment to record such a fantastic event. Or maybe it was just another legend.

        • Alicia

          Um. That argument doesn’t affect the argument that Jesus was an executed criminal who managed to get a cult to build up around him, which is what I, MNb, and various others are arguing here.

      • Pofarmer

        But, then, where are the stories later? After all, “James the brother of the Lord” was one of the heads of the Church in Jerusalem, and surely all of his extended family wasn’t killed with the fall if Jerusalem? But we get crickets. We “know” his geneology back to Adam, but going forward? Nada.

    • Alicia

      Why would someone bother writing down and retaining such uninteresting information?

      • David Munson

        You mean such mundane things like virgin births and the wholesale slaughter of little boys?

        • Alicia

          Oh, I understand clearly why someone would make up juicy stories about virgin births and wholesale slaughter of little boys.
          I just don’t know why the birth date of this particular peasant would have been recorded when recording the birth dates of peasants was not something it would occur to anyone to do.
          The gospels aren’t intended to be modern biographies. They follow different narrative rules.

        • adam

          “I just don’t know why the birth date of this particular peasant would have been recorded when recording the birth dates of peasants was not something it would occur to anyone to do. ”

          This ‘particular peasant’ is supposed to be ‘All-Mighty God’
          not just some peasant who shows up in his early thirties doing magic tricks for support.

        • Alicia

          He was made almighty god in legends formed after his death. You’re asking his peasant mother to recall something other than “Yeah, it was spring sometime. After Passover, I think it was. I remember going walking with him when he had colic, and the X was in bloom, although I can’t swear that wasn’t one of the others,” which appears to be what the average illiterate peasant mother remembers about their child’s birth date.
          But mostly, you’re asking people then to have the same priorities for biographical precision and thoroughness that you have. They didn’t. That isn’t how they rolled.

        • adam

          “But mostly, you’re asking people then to have the same priorities for biographical precision and thoroughness that you have”

          Certainly for claims of divinity of an all-powerful ‘god’ creature.

          For the thousands of ordinary human Jesus’s around at the time, no.

        • Greg G.

          So if nobody bothered to write down anything about Jesus, all the gospel writers would have to go on was some epistles by Paul and some others and they don’t say anything about Jesus that isn’t in the scriptures. So the gospels were written in complete ignorance of a real Jesus. They didn’t need there to be a real Jesus. Mark seems to be an allegory anyway, but the other three gospels used Mark as a basis. They were written decades after the events were supposed to have transpired and after Jerusalem had been devastated.

          The gospels didn’t need a real Jesus to create legends around.

          The epistles’ only concern is the importance of the crucifixion, which they derive from the scriptures. The only details about it can be found in the scriptures. So all they needed to believe was that somebody named Jesus was crucified sometime.

          So the gospels seem to be all legend and the epistles seem to be all legend.

        • Alicia

          It does not seem to occur to you that written sources can come from somewhere other than previously written sources.
          I would like to introduce you to a concept called “oral tradition,” which is how most information gets transferred in a minimally literate society such as Roman occupied Palestine.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oral_tradition

          The people writing the gospels wrote them based on stories about Jesus circulating among his groupies.

        • Greg G.

          I would like to introduce you to a concept called “making up stories”, too. As Robert M. Price has point out, if there was a reason to repeat a story, there was a reason to make it up.

          Which stories in Mark do you think are based on oral transmission and not written sources? I have a plausible source for nearly every passage.

        • Alicia

          I don’t know which stories in Mark came from what source, and I don’t care, and I strongly believe that anyone who said they could determine exactly which stories came from where deserves to be ridiculed.
          And if you review my comments here, I am clear that I do think that many of the stories in the oral tradition used to write the gospel stories were made up. Oral tradition tends to gather good stories.
          I don’t understand your mania for proving that the gospel stories were made up by the writers who were writing with this or that written source open on their desks. The legendariness of the oral tradition accumulated between the time of the events and the time of the writing.
          Many of them were cribbed off legend-agrandizing tropes circulating in the culture at the time. As we would expect.

        • Greg G.

          I started with New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash by Robert M. Price and these are some of his sources just for Mark that you would ridicule.

          1. Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative. New York: Basic Books, 1981.

          2. John Bowman, The Gospel of Mark: The New Christian Jewish Passover Haggadah. Studia Post-Biblica 8. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1965

          4. John Dominic Crossan, The Cross That Spoke: The Origins of the Passion Narrative (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1988.

          5. J. Duncan M. Derrett, The Making of Mark: The Scriptural Bases of the Earliest Gospel. Volumes 1 and 2. Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire: P. Drinkwater, 1985

          8. Randel Helms, Gospel Fictions. Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1989.

          10. Dennis R. MacDonald, The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000

          11. Dale Miller and Patricia Miller. The Gospel of Mark as Midrash on Earlier Jewish and New Testament Literature. Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity 21. Lewiston/Queenston/Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press

          15. Rikki E. Watts, Isaiah’s New Exodus and Mark. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe 88. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997

          They all worked independently of one another but when they are combined nearly the whole gospel is accounted for. Add Mark’s Use of the Gospel of Thomas (Part 1) by Stevan Davies.

          The Minimal Jesus as a reason for the lack of contemporary evidence for Jesus cuts him off from the gospels. But that doesn’t explain why none of the epistles say anything about him. If Paul was writing twenty years after, he should have to remind the churches about Jesus’ life in one or two letters since he has to remind them of so many other things. Those letters should have been the most valuable.

          When you realize that the gospels are completely fictional as far as Jesus goes, you should stop reading the gospels back into the epistles. Then you don’t need gospel Jesus to explain the epistles.

        • Alicia

          Mark cribbed his gospel off of John Dominic Crossan?
          I thought you were arguing for a 2nd century authorship of Mark, not a 20th century.
          And anyone arguing that the gospel of Mark is cribbed of the clearly later and gnostic tinged gospel of Thomas, yes, deserves to be ridiculed.

        • Greg G.

          Ha ha. Those are the scholars who have identified Mark’s sources for certain passages.

          I think the Gospel of Thomas was a work in progress while the Gnostics were using it. There is evidence of modifications. Saying 30 in the Greek manuscripts is more like Saying 77 in the Coptic where Saying 30 is an abbreviated version. It is as if a copyist forgot to finish it somewhere along the line and a later copyist added the whole saying. But when people have shown the similarities between almost every passage in a gospel and an earlier source the author may have had access to and the ones that remain correspond to Gospel of Thomas sayings, it is unlikely that the compiler of Thomas would have picked just those passages. The Gnostics were around for a long time. Their fourth century edition of the Gospel of Thomas probably wasn’t what was available in the first and second century. It’s like the Gospel of John from the fourth century was not the same as the 2nd century edition. Psalms have been rearranged. The Masoretic Jeremiah is arranged differently than the Septuagint version.

          If there was no real Jesus, a Euhemerization of a Gnostic Jesus would make sense.

        • adam

          “I don’t understand your mania for proving that the gospel stories were
          made up by the writers who were writing with this or that written source
          open on their desks. ”

          I think from reading him, it is just an honest search for the truth. I can certainly appreciate that.

          For me it is also telling.
          Fabricated stories lend themselves to fabricated gods.
          Gods are a source of POWER, fabricated stories read like propaganda to support the political power structure of the gods.

        • adam

          “Storytelling is the conveying of events in words, and images, often by improvisation or embellishment.”
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storytelling

        • Alicia

          Do you have a point?
          If it is that oral tradition is not fully reliable and that it tends to expand stories, then yes. That is my point as well.

        • adam

          Just backing you up.

          Story tellers tell stories to be remembered.
          Exaggeration is one of the tools story tellers used to both remember the story and have their audience remember it.

          I took a memory class at one point we had to memorize a 100 digit number, we did that by telling a greatly exaggerated story using a code for the ten digits.

        • MNb

          Add that the authors of the Gospels pursued their own agendas and did not mind at all to add their own touches (to say it friendly) and we can be sure of two things: it’s impossible to decide which teachings came from Jesus himself and the guy was relatively unimportant for the content of even early christianity.
          Bonus: that annoys the heck out of many christians – more than denying his historicity.

        • MNb

          “So if nobody bothered …..”
          Nice non-sequitur thanks to you conveniently neglecting the most usual method to pass on information: the oral tradition.

          “The gospels didn’t need a real Jesus to create legends around.”
          No, but Jesus would be the only near contemporary fictional character for several millennia with such legends attached. Compare the hero of the Song of Roland with the historical Roland of Brittanny.

        • Greg G.

          The Greeks often wrote tales based on other tales, too. Even the Romans did. The Aeneid is a Latin story based on Homer but emphasizing Roman ideals. The whole New Testament is in Greek. The Gospel of Mark is the kind of story a Greek writer would write. You shouldn’t ignore that.

          We have many religions based on gods that never existed. Why couldn’t there be a religion that is based on a person who never existed?

        • Alicia

          Sure. There could be. And there might be unicorns.
          I’m dealing in probabilities.

        • Greg G.

          I do, too. But it is more likely that the early proto-Christians were talking about someone they thought lived so long ago that they had no reason to ask about the details because the scripture only told them:

          Isaiah 53:5 (NRSV)
          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 53:9 (NRSV)
          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.

          which is basically all Paul had to say about him.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Heck, we even debate whether some entire religions ever existed. Take that godess that the word Easter may have been derived from. Today people in Europe still have festivals based around that godess. Said godess and the entire historical cult that worshiped her may have just been a literary creation like Atlantis.

        • Alicia

          The structure of myths for Gods like [Easter Chick] are fundamentally different in structure and other features from the structure of myths based on human actors.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          This argument does not necessitate that the human actor was a real person(s). For example, you and other people in this comment section are creating a person from the New Testament writings. Currently, we don’t have any evidence of people we could posit as canditates for the basis of Jesus.

        • Without Malice

          All John needed for his gospel were the writings of Philo which he fleshed out and historicized. His Jesus has no relation to the Jesus of the synoptic gospels.

        • Greg G.

          John 6 follows Mark 6 point for point on the Feeding of the 5000, the Walking on Water, and the Visit to Gennasaret. The trial of Jesus intercalated with Peter’s Denial is quite obviously taken from Mark. Mark got the Mocking by the Soldiers from Philo’s account of the abuse of Carabbas and John seems to have used Mark. There’s at least a dozen passages John took from Mark but he changed the wording more than Matthew and Luke did.

        • Without Malice

          This particular peasant’s mother was around a good 20 years after her son vanished into the heavens. And the Jews usually knew the birthdates of their children. It’s not like they were so ignorant they couldn’t get their dates right. Their whole religion revolved around the calendar year.

        • Alicia

          I think that might be true of Rabbinic Judaism, but I don’t know that it was true of late second temple Judaism.
          And that still ignores the “you are asking them to care about what you care about.”
          The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.

        • Without Malice

          There were a multitude of different Jewish sects in the 1st century. Many of them wanted nothing to do with the temple or its corrupt priests.

        • Alicia

          “Late Second Temple Judaism” was meant to refer to a time period, not a single movement.
          I don’t know that the high calender consciousness penetrated into the peasant strata before the fall of the second temple and the triumph of Rabbinic Judaism.
          It might have, but Rabbinic Judaism was a fairly sharp contrast to most of the Judaisms that were available on the marketplace of ideas while the Temple was still standing, and all evidence (in the Mishna etc) is that the peasant class took a century or three to really get on board with the new dispensation.

        • MNb

          After her son vanished his mother had precious few reasons to contradict the divine claims his fans made and plenty to confirm them. One reason she did not care about was satisfying your curiosity.

        • Without Malice

          How the hell would you know what she cared about?

        • MNb

          At the earliest that particular son of a carpenter was supposed to be “All-Mighty God” by his followers from the moment on he got them – ie when he showed up in his early thirties and possibly later. Those magic tricks are nice touches added later.

        • David Munson

          According to legend this particular peasant’s birth was attended by angels – certainly that warrants being written at the time.

        • Alicia

          Precisely. According to *legend.*
          Were it true that the human being Jesus, the one who wandered around Galilee making a nuisance of himself and eventually got himself killed, had been born of a virgin and had his birth attended by angels with trumpets, I imagine that would have been recorded.
          I understand the virgin birth and angel visitation to be post-death accretions, and as such I do not expect them to be documented.

      • adam

        “Why would someone bother writing down and retaining such uninteresting information?”

        What would be uninteresting about the ‘creator of the universe’?

        Why did NOT ONE contemporary source list ANY of his ‘god’ like powers?

        • Alicia

          If there *were* any contemporary sources that had been written about an executed criminal rabble rouser nobody whose followers were not taking a hint and dispersing after his execution like they were supposed to, they would not have included those features because his legend had not yet acquired those features.

        • adam

          Paul didnt need any of that, all he needed to do was take the OT and use it’s legendary stories to create a Jesus of his own.

        • Z-Bird

          Man, he looks rough for a 12 year old. Times were really tough back then.

        • adam

          No, his mom lost all their early family photos…

      • Jack Baynes

        Once Jesus claimed to be the son of god, died and was ressurrected, wouldn’t people be rushing to Mary, Joseph and Jesus’s siblings asking for all the stories?

        • James

          You’re assuming that such claims were widely known circa 33 CE; they weren’t. You’re also mistakenly assuming that ancient people were much more incredulous than they were. Faith healers, for example, were a dime a dozen.

        • Jack Baynes

          Supposedly 500 people saw Jesus after he was resurrected. None of them wanted to learn anything about Jesus?

        • adam

          Nothing in the news either:

          and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.
          Matthew 27:52

        • Alicia

          I don’t expect fictional stories to appear in the newspaper years before they are made up.
          If there were newspapers at the time, which there were not.

        • adam

          “If there were newspapers at the time, which there were not.”

          But there certainly were historians, record keepers and ‘newsmen’ of the time.

          “I don’t expect fictional stories to appear in the newspaper years before they are made up. ”

          Me either….

        • Alicia

          What side are you arguing on?
          You seem to be trying to refute me, and my position is that Jesus was a historical figure but a lot of the stories about him are legends made up by his followers.

        • adam

          Not trying to refute you, just clarify some points in agreement.

          Personally, I dont think Jesus was a single historical figure (probably more of a composite).

          It seems that Paul’s Jesus was certainly a different character than Marks.

        • Alicia

          If you think that Jesus was not a single historical figure, then we are not in agreement.
          Paul’s Jesus *was* different from Mark’s. Paul smoked crack.
          Please compare biographies of Lincoln written at different places in the US over the course of a few years. They will differ *wildly.* That isn’t proof that Lincoln did not exist.

        • adam

          “If you think that Jesus was not a single historical figure, then we are not in agreement. ”

          No problem

          Jesus (Hebrew Yesua) is just a variation of Joshua
          Jesus was something like the 6th most popular name in those days. Kind of like Bob

          One of these could have easily been crucified and misidentified with another who was not.

          -Did you hear that Jesus was crucified and died last week.

          –No way, I just saw him yesterday turning water into wine, he must have the magic of the gods in him.

          Which Jesus in what tomb, etc.

          The ‘legend’ could easily be a composite of Jesuses, Jesi?

          “Please compare biographies of Lincoln written at different places in the US over the course of a few years. They will differ *wildly.* That isn’t proof that Lincoln did not exist.”

          Of course Abraham Lincoln exists:
          Currently there are 3 people in the U.S. named Abraham Lincoln.
          http://howmanyofme.com/people/Abraham_Lincoln/

          If I took a biography of one of these 3 Lincolns, or ALL 3

          and wrote them using President Lincoln’s bios as ‘prophecy’ potential, I could create quite a tale.

          He is reborn in a Trinity in the United States, further proof of his divine nature.

          I could put in the story how one of the modern ALs had to travel to Gettyburg for a census (or some excuse)

          I could follow the lineage of another modern AL all the way back to Hodgenville, KY to show how they are related ‘spiritually’ by birthplace. etc, etc, etc

        • Alicia

          You could do that. But it would be in complete violation of Occam’s razor.

        • adam

          It doesnt seem all that different from the Jesus story…..

          You have a set of stories that paints him as different people all tied back to a Jewish messiah that even the Jews dont recognize.

          But that is how stories are created, from the IMAGINATIONS of men, Stories told to entertain, to inform and even to subjugate.

          It is how legends and myths are created, by making the old relevant again. The problem of mythology is when it can no longer make the changes needed to remain relevant and actually becomes a dangerous liability.

        • Alicia

          It seems to me a much simpler explanation to say that there was one person who founded this religion and who people read their own hopes and dreams into, as they did with Lincoln (or Obama, for that matter), than to say that the religion was founded by three people named Jesus, or whatever it is that you are saying.
          We know how mytholization happens, we know how one person can be seen in different ways by different audiences. Do we have any other case of three people being combined into one? Especially that quickly?

        • Greg G.

          Many religions are based on imaginary gods. If you allow that a religion could be based on an imaginary man, you don’t need excuses to explain why nobody talked about him as a person for decades but then everybody started to talk about him so much they had to make up stuff to say about him.

        • Alicia

          Yes, but they follow very different mythological patterns, documentary patterns, and cult life cycle patters than Christianity does.

        • Greg G.

          How do we know they have different documentary patterns from only what is preserved?

          Do we know the cult life patterns of Mithras? It was a mystery religion like other versions of Christianity. Justin Martyr says the Mithras cult stole rituals from the Christians though Plutarch says that some rituals from the mid-first century BC continue “to this day” which would have been the late first century.

          Was Christianity that much different than other Messianic Jewish sects of the day? The distinguishing characteristics between them may have been the excuse the had for thinking the Messiah would be there any day now.

        • Kodie

          If it was just one guy who was of a common type, what exactly set him apart? Why would people elaborate and exaggerate his feats and status and stuff later? To me, it’s actually a simpler explanation to take a type of guy and add these features to make an attractive cult later. I mean, if we’re talking this didn’t take off for another few decades or centuries, making up a story about a guy like that who existed in a time long enough ago that nobody could check… I mean if I told you a story from 100 years ago, I think there were records, but if I did my homework, the details of the person alive would be accurate to the time period, and of course nobody famous that would have been in the papers, well I don’t expect you to believe this guy was magical, but if everyone claimed to be the messiah because it was a fad at the time, make up a messiah guy with a common name who wasn’t famous and he did some different stuff that “proves” he was the messiah because I said so. I have a little bit of a harder time believing any one real guy claiming messiah at the time had enough of a draw for people to plant legends on him particularly, decades later.

        • Alicia

          But the story your posited marketer made up flunks marketing 101. Executed Gods don’t make great rallying causes. Wouldn’t it be better to have him escape death somehow? Wouldn’t it be better for him to have made lots of accurate predictions? The standard way in that time and place to make your work of fiction look authentic was to set it in a long ago time and have it make lots of accurate precitions about present events. All Jesus can come up with is some cryptic comments about the fall of the Temple (in documents written about him after the fall of the Temple).
          And introducing this hypothetical marketing genius is introducing an extraeous actor, which is the definition of a violation of occam’s razor.
          It is the nature of cults surrounding charismatic leaders to remain small and under the radar for a while before getting enough followers to be noticed.
          People who want the Jesus cult to have followed a different developmental pattern from all other named-founder cults are the ones who are making counter-probable claims, and extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

        • Executed Gods don’t make great rallying causes. Wouldn’t it be better to have him escape death somehow?

          He could’ve jumped down from the cross like a superhero, or he could’ve actually died and then came back to show that he was unkillable. The latter sounds pretty cool.

          the story your posited marketer made up flunks marketing 101.

          Is anyone saying that Christianity was made up, like a hoax or fiction? You’re stuck with some constants.

          Consider the Israelites getting beaten and taken into captivity in Babylon. What more proof do you need that your god is either not that great or indeed totally fictional? But the OT spins that as a positive: Yahweh used the bad guys to punish Israel … and the supernatural claims are maintained, even strengthened.

        • adam

          Hundreds of years is not that quickly.

          The simpler explanation is that this messiah was created whole cloth from OT stories by people yearning for special favors from the ‘god’s’.

          Christianity wasnt founded by any Jesus, no Jesus wrote anything down or had it scribed like Joseph Smith or Mohammed. It was a set of old stories that were rewritten in a modern content as if they were new.

          No magic claims about Lincoln (or even Obama) for that matter.

        • MNb

          “he simpler explanation is that this messiah was created”
          Creating a fictional messiah was simpler than picking one from the many that were around? That requires some twisted logic.

          “No magic claims about Lincoln (or even Obama) for that matter.”
          No. Magic claims have been out of vogue since a while, though the RCC stubbornly clinges to them. Magic claims about other historical characters from 500- 3500 years ago however …. Pythagoras and Appolonius of Tyana being two examples. Also note

          http://www.ejma.uni-bonn.de/about/egyptian-and-jewish-magic-in-antiquity

          … or the witch hunts from the 16th and 17th Century, which were totally about magic claims.
          How come you JM’s like ad hoc arguments as much as the average creationist does?

        • adam

          “”the simpler explanation is that this messiah was created”
          Creating a fictional messiah was simpler than picking one from the many that were around? That requires some twisted logic.”

          No, not at all, when you have apocalyptic people who want favors from a god in an old book, You bring THAT god to life in the current environment.

          “How come you JM’s like ad hoc arguments as much as the average creationist does?”

          Because we are talking about STORIES and MYTHS that are just as ad hoc.

        • Greg G.

          The Messiah idea was already created. There were many claiming to be it. I think they picked one out of the scriptures – the allegory for Israel – the Suffering Servant. That one had an advantage over all the other Messiah claimants. It was found in their scriptures.

        • Kodie

          I sometimes think if there were so many, how did one particular rise above everyone else and attract the legends and myths around him, while everyone else was forgotten? Could have been one exceptional person, or could have been his crew were exceptionally organized to the task. It would be something if there were one guy we could all point to and say “him” because there weren’t a lot of other types of the same guy around at the time. Being that there were, either someone managed to get the press as it were without being noted during or directly after his lifetime by anyone who knew him, or someone had an idea related to a contemporary trend and gave the people what they wanted.

        • Without Malice

          You have to remember, Kodie, that even in the letters of Paul – the earliest Christian writings – there are warnings about those who preach a different Jesus. It’s clear there were different and competing sects all pushing their own savior myth and that some of these sects did not believe in a Jesus that had a fleshly existence but believed in a heavenly figure along the lines of the logos figure found in the writings of Philo whom some thought of as God’s first created being who was second to only God and was used by God to created the heavens and earth.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Or the celestial guy doing all sorts of stuff up in the various heavenly levels found in the Ascension of Isaiah.

        • Alicia

          Think how many apocalyptic preachers the country has had over the course of just your life span. Then think how many managed to attract sustained folllowings.
          Extrapolate those numbers to first century Palestine.
          Et voila.

        • Kodie

          I don’t find it too twisted to think, if there were so many common messiah claims around, to make up a prototype to beat them all. I’m not married to the idea, but I don’t find it difficult to understand either.

        • Pofarmer

          What makes you say Paul smoked crack?

        • Alicia

          That he says he got his information about Jesus from a hallucination.
          Also his writings display no interest in the past, only in the future end times.

        • Greg G.

          Paul’s Jesus managed to get himself crucified for the good of everyone but he has no interest in how that came to be. His Jesus is just hanging out in heaven waiting for his cue to come back, raise the dead, and transform everyone in the twinkling of an eye.

          Mark’s sidekicks are Peter, James, and John, the same three that Paul discussed in Galatians and have similar traits. Peter ate with the Gentiles until certain Jews came to town and Mark has him saying he will not deny Jesus but does. The three are said to be pillars in Galatians 2:6 and identified in Galatians 2:9 but Paul shows disdain for their position. James and John in Mark ask to be at Jesus’ side when he comes in glory. I wish I could remember who said that Mark’s Jesus is more like Paul.

        • Without Malice

          Or the two earthquakes or the darkness over all the world for three hours.

        • adam

          Reminds me of this:

        • Pofarmer

          Thought it was six hours.

        • Alicia

          A) That story is part of the legendary accretion.
          B) His birth date? His first words? What he ate for breakfast growing up?
          Who the hell cares about that stuff, when you’ve just been told that someone was resurrected and the kingdom of god is at hand?
          When in the history of hysterias have the participants stopped to get the full biographical details of their savior? They want the juicy parts of the story. The parts that prove they are right to shake off their ordinary lives and prepare for paradise.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          When in the history of hysterias have the participants stopped to get the full biographical details of their savior?

          Let’s meet at Graceland and discuss it.

        • Alicia

          On the one hand, Touché.
          On the other hand, I don’t know anyone who is selling all their possessions and waiting to be raptured by him.
          Human beings appear to have more than one groupie paradigm we are capable of running.

        • Charlie Johnson

          The fact that forged gospels well into the Middle Ages filled in lots of Jesus’ childhood and family life proves that some people were interested in knowing more. In fact, that sort of filling-in has a basis in Jewish midrash. Greco-Roman biographies were selective but were usually a little fuller than what the canonical Gospels give.

        • MNb

          No. That proves that those people were interested in pushing their own agendas – something that applies to every single Bible book.

        • Alicia

          And most other books before or since, frankly!

        • James

          The key word here is “supposedly.” The earliest gospel was written circa 75 CE; Jesus supposedly died circa 33 CE. Forty years, more or less, is plenty of the time for the story to change and grow. The gospels weren’t written by eyewitnesses; hearsay tends to be unreliable. Also, using the gospels to prove the gospels is circular reasoning. Who says that 500 people saw Jesus? The gospels. Why are the gospels supposedly reliable? Because the gospels say 500 people witnessed it.

        • Jack Baynes

          I’m not using the Bible to prove itself. I’m using the Bible to refute itself. If the Bible is all true, like Christians believe, there would be followers beating down Mary’s door for details

        • MNb

          Because one part is wrong everything is wrong? That’s quite a non-sequitur.

        • Greg G.

          He would only have to prove one part to be not true to prove that it is not the case that “the Bible is all true, like Christians believe”.

        • Greg G.

          There doesn’t seem to be much hearsay in Mark. It seems to come from the literature of the day, including Greek and Hebrew writings, and some Christian writings. Perhaps Mark 4 is based on the Gospel of Thomas of the day, but it was Gnostic.

        • Paul D.

          “Who says that 500 people saw Jesus? The gospels.”

          Actually, not the Gospels, but Paul does, referring to some tradition no one else in the New Testament seems to know anything about.

        • TheNuszAbides

          The gospels weren’t written by eyewitnesses; hearsay tends to be unreliable.

          as does the eyewitness testimony of puny mortals. 😉

        • Greg G.

          He appeared to 514 people and none of them had an extra piece of parchment.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          … and none of them had an extra piece of parchment.

          Hey, parchment was valuable stuff back then, before the invention of toilet paper.

        • Without Malice

          Yes, that would be Luke’s account, where he stayed around for 40 days explaining to them “everything” about the kingdom of God. Yet as soon as he’s gone they start arguing over things like circumcision and dietary laws. The story’s about as phony as one can get.

        • MNb

          Supposed by whom? Not by historians. Are you suddenly accepting apologist claims?

        • Jack Baynes

          That would be the premise of this thread of discussion, wouldn’t it? What if Jesus were real.

        • Without Malice

          We’re talking about a church that supposedly spread like wildfire. Are we supposed to believe that none of these new converts said, “Tell me more about this Jesus”? That’s highly unlikely. They would have wanted to know everything about the wonder working God/man.

        • MNb

          Supposed by whom? Not by historians. Are you suddenly accepting fundie claims?

        • katiehippie

          And they all had tape recorders to take it down word for word. What was the literacy rate then? How do they know they were talking to the right people and not scammers? How do they know it’s a story of a story that Bob’s mother’s best friend’s cousin heard down at the market?

      • Without Malice

        How could anything about a being who was God made flesh be uninteresting? Every word he spoke and every deed he did would have been filled with meaning.

        • MNb

          Do you think people 2000 years had the same interests as you? Are you the standard for entire mankind?

        • Z-Bird

          This is the LITERAL FUCKING GOD, creator of EVERYTHING, made manifest as a being of flesh and blood. YES, humans would be fascinated by everything he did! And don’t pull the ‘oh, people today are so shallow and obsessive over famous peoples lives’ B.S., celebrity culture has been a part of human civilization probably since its founding. At the very least, Gladiators were massive celeberties in the Roman Empire, and Japan had some of the first celebrity gossip mags that we know of.

          People have changed, but they haven’t changed THAT much.

        • Alicia

          That he was “the literal fucking god, creator of everything, made manifest as a being of flesh and blood” is a pretty late addition to the legend. By the time that shows up, everyone who knew him is long dead.

      • Otto

        Jesus (according to many Christians) was responsible for the entire universe coming into existence…how could anything he did not be interesting?

        People who are big fans of celebrities (rock stars, athletes, movie stars, etc.) want to know every detail of their lives. They find even the most mundane information fascinating.

        • MNb

          According to many christians today.
          According to proto-christians back then? There is no reason to think so.
          You’ll never get it when you apply 21st Century assumptions to a vastly different time, place and culture. Then you’ll only fall for a false dilemma very similar to CSL’s one.

        • Otto

          Well you make a valid point, who knows what they would have found interesting, but it sure seems like if someone thought a person was a god one would think they would want to know as much about them as possible and the details of their life here. Do I know that with certainty…no, but I think it is a reasonable assumption.

        • Alicia

          The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.
          I forget who said it, but it works.
          Compare the gospels with other works in that genre at the time and they start to look pretty normal.

        • TheNuszAbides

          it’s one potentially useful avenue to help an indoctrinated mind to pry itself open, sure; but i see what the others are getting at – it isn’t rigorous and might even be disingenuous (not that the softer-minded targets would notice, but at that point one is technically stooping to the manipulative level of theological thought-leaders – and of course we can go around and around as to whether particular ends justify particular means, rhetorical or otherwise).

    • Nemo

      Even with figures whom we can all agree existed, there is still a large amount of skepticism regarding some of the more fantastic claims that get made about them. There’s even skepticism regarding the mundane claims. Socrates, for example, almost certainly existed, but there is considerable scholastic doubt as to whether he said and believed the things that Plato says he did.

      Compare this to how evangelicals insist we need to read the Bible.

      • Kodie

        I think it’s a perfect waste of an education to learn in school to believe in myths. I think we learned in school about Socrates and the hemlock, I recall even doing a play about Christopher Columbus, Plymouth Rock, and prairie shit. I would also credit learning about mythology in school (not necessarily labeled mythology) for drawing me a neat diagram to arrive at atheism, but that’s what the religious conservatives are afraid of sending their children to public school for. Maybe they say it is about evolution, which contradicts their beliefs, but I’d have to say exposure to mythology was a key element. I actually don’t remember learning too much in science about evolution, maybe it’s different these days, but a lot of my science education went toward an annual trip to the planetarium where we’d learn about constellations and mythology mostly, not science.

        • MR

          They served a purpose once, myths. They gave everyone common ground, familiar stories, shared morality tales. Connections. Love personified in Venus, the God of War, Goldilocks, chopping down cherry trees and Honest Abe…. Along came television and we no longer needed the old standby tales and heroes when new ones could be invented, produced and mass distributed overnight and everyone’s talking about the Beaver and Superman and Jack Bauer. We grew up when they were still clinging to the old ways and we were forced to learn about Zeus and Paul Revere and now no one cares about those old stories. Spiderman is our new moral compass, the Rock our hero. Who needs Jesus? He’s not cool anyway.

      • Alicia

        And also compare this with how the mythologising atheists on this comment section want us to read the bible, where they want us to dismiss out of hand the possibility that there is a person underlying the myth.
        If I recall, isn’t Plato the only surviving evidence we have of the existance of Socrates? And yet we all accept that there was someone who did some approximation of the things listed?
        And yet with Jesus we have multiple pieces of documentary evidence and somehow he’s probably still completely imaginary.

        • Nemo

          I’m pretty sure there are other sources besides just Plato. Aristophanes, for one, wrote a play about Socrates. Aristophanes, in case you are wondering, was basically the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert of his time, and often poked fun at popular figures. In any case, nobody accepts the supernatural claims that were made about Socrates by his followers. Nobody believes that a divine prophet deemed him the wisest man of all time.

        • Pofarmer

          “And yet with Jesus we have multiple pieces of documentary evidence”

          Well, that’s certainly news. Besides the NT?

        • TheNuszAbides

          want us to dismiss out of hand the possibility

          liar. why so insistent to overstate the puny minority speculation that is so easily crushed by mainstream evidence?

  • Sakura Craigie

    I remember having a conversation with an Indian friend a few years ago. She asked me to explain the basic beliefs of Christianity to her, because she came from a Hindu family, had only left India a few years previous to this conversation, and didn’t really know much about it. She also didn’t want to risk asking an actual Christian because she knew that would end up in an annoying conversion attempt, so she decided it was safest to ask an atheist, me. Anyhoo, I started with the Christmas story, birth of Jesus, star in the East etc, then a bit about him being the supposed fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy about a Jewish messiah, and finally the crucifixion/resurection story. By the time I finished, my friend was not sure whether to laugh or be outraged. She went on to point out to me the parallels between pretty much all of the most important parts of the Jesus story, and the legend of Krishna, one of the gods of the Hindu trinity. Yes, the Hindu’s did the trinity thing first too. So, according to my friend, Christians stole all their shit from India and she wants a public apology LOL.

    • Alicia

      There are only a limited number of aggrandizing plot lines available to the human psyche. Inevitably, we recycle them over and over again.

      • curtcameron

        The Jesus story is just like that I Love Lucy episode where Lucy wants to be in Ricky’s show.

      • Greg G.

        That was the case for early 60s westerns. There was a writers strike so Warner Brothers exchanged scripts between different shows. I had noticed the exact same plots in some of the shows during a phase I went through a couple of years ago watching them on a cable station. It made sense then when I read about the strike. I also had noticed a writer named W. Hermanos but didn’t make the connection until then. The name is Spanish for “W. Brothers”.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      … and she wants a public apology LOL.

      Yeah, that’ll happen right after Disney apologises for ripping off Kimba the White Lion

      • Atrus

        I’d say Disney would apologize for ripping of Kimba long before the Christians would apologize to the Hindu’s for stealing their legends… more likely the Christians would demand the Hindu’s apologize for stealing it from them despite Hinduism being much much older

        • Greg G.

          An early Christian apologist claimed that Christianity was like other religions because the devil had preconfigured those religions to look like Christianity.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          And I rationalized that crap in the deaththrows of my faith. I mean, the universe only LOOKS billions of years old because Jesus wanted it to be created that way, right?!!?

        • katiehippie

          The devil is looking smarter every day. No wonder he left heaven.

        • Scott_In_OH

          Justin Martyr, I believe, talking about the Eucharist and comparing it with a rite from Mithraism.

    • Jack Baynes

      That just PROVES Christianity is true. Even people who were never exposed to Christianity know that the central parts are true.

  • Sophia Sadek

    Ancient philosophers made the argument that Zeus was a legendary prince who had been placed in the Greek pantheon by a process of apotheosis. If it can happen to a warrior like Zeus, why can’t it happen to a feisty rabbi like Jesus?

    • Charlie Johnson

      Sure. Augustine and other church fathers argued this (euhemerism) about pagan gods.

      • Greg G.

        Someone linked me to a recent Richard Carrier blog post that said what you describe is deification. Euhemerization is when a god is written as a person.

        • Charlie Johnson

          On the right track but not quite. Deification or apotheosis is the act of declaring a known person to be a god. For example, the Roman Empire was in the habit of officially deifying Emperors and sometimes even members of their families. It got kind of ridiculous after a while, which is why Seneca wrote his satire of the practice, Apocolocyntosis.

          Euhemerism is the idea that (at least some people’s) gods were actually people whose tales were embellished over time. Deification operates within a religious structure, whereas euhemerism is a form of demythologizing. So Augustine in City of God uses euhemerism to deny the reality of Greco-Roman gods, completely unaware of the idea that people might use the same argument against Jesus.

        • Greg G.

          Euhemerism is the idea that (at least some people’s) gods were actually people whose tales were embellished over time.

          Carrier argues that is the opposite of Euhemerization.

          From Euhemerization Means Doing What Euhemerus Did:

          Obviously the word “euhemerize” means doing what Euhemerus did. That’s what the word means. Even just in its grammar (the -ize suffix in Greek and English means “to do like,” hence “to do like Euhemerus did”). But also in how it originated and why. Euhemerus took celestial (ahistorical) gods (Zeus and Uranus) and then turned them into historical men. Not the other way around. Therefore, anyone who does that is doing what Euhemerus did. They are therefore euhemerizing a god. Just as Euhemerus “euhemerized” Zeus and Uranus. [my bolding, Carrier’s links]

        • Charlie Johnson

          Carrier is using terms in a very idiosyncratic sense, but I think a harmonization is possible. Both apotheosis and euhemerization have to do with people becoming gods, but the difference is severe. From the perspective of apotheosis, gods are real, and people can really become them, even if there are doubts about whether a particular individual really made it (cf. Apocolocyntosis).

          Euhemerization is a demythologizing program. It explains that the gods aren’t actually gods at all. Rather, they were just heroic people whose exploits were embellished over time. They become gods only in the sense of popular belief. That’s why Augustine is a euhemerizer. He doesn’t believe the Greco-Roman gods are real. He (usually) doesn’t even think they’re demons. He thinks people made them up based on kernels of true stories.

          Now, what Carrier is getting at is that euhemerization can ironically result in postulating a person who may not have really existed to serve as the basis for a well-known god. Thus, a human is fabricated to explain the fabrication of a god. And on that score he’s certainly correct. But this isn’t always the case, since many euhemerizers don’t postulate particular individuals. It’s enough for them to propose that some person in the past had traits capable of being embellished into a godlike persona. Augustine, again, doesn’t try to name the people who became the Greco-Roman gods.

        • Greg G.

          Awww, if Augustine was doing the exact opposite of Euhemer, it oughta be called “augustinerization.”

        • Without Malice

          I can think of a lot of things Augustine should be called. None of them good.

      • Sophia Sadek

        Augustine got his start as a student of Pagan philosophy before dropping out to become a Manichean. Many of the other prominent early Church leaders were drop-outs from higher education as well.

    • Sieben Stern

      yeah but to be true you still need evidence. you can philosophize all you want but that doesn’t make it a fact.

      • Sophia Sadek

        There was evidence for a prince named Zeus. There is evidence for a rabbi named Yeshua. The process of apotheosis is well understood.

        • Sieben Stern

          care to enlighten me about the yeshua evidence?

        • Sophia Sadek

          Sure, the evidence is questionable since it comes to us through his students, but the same could be said for the evidence of a prince named Zeus.

  • InDogITrust

    Argh- the empty tomb argument. That one is so lame it always startles me when someone trots it out. It’s hard for me to believe anyone considers that “proof.”

    • Atrus

      The empty tomb argues on the assumption that there was even a tomb in the first place. If Jesus was considered a criminal it’d be more likely he’d be tossed into a hole in the ground just like any other criminal the Roman’s executed rather than a fancy tomb

      • Kevin R. Cross

        The Romans weren’t over-fanatical about the disposal of corpses. In certain cases they mandated the specific elimination of a criminal’s body (traitors tended to get that), but generally if they killed somebody and the family or friends wanted the remains that was fine. If nobody claimed it, into the mass grave.

        • James

          True, but crucifixion was specifically the Roman punishment for sedition and treason, and the desecration of the corpse was a fundamental component of the punishment. Crucifixion was not simply a barbaric form of execution – it was intended to humiliate the victim, to terrorize bystanders, and to leave a rotting, carrion-animal devoured corpse as a visible reminder to anyone watching not to mess with Rome.

        • Nemo

          What James said. Keep in mind that after the body was left to rot on the cross (as was standard procedure), it would have been unrecognizable. I once pointed this out to someone on WND (lol). They defended the notion of Jesus being interred in a tomb immediately as the Gospels require by arguing that the Roman authorities were afraid his followers might riot. Yeah, seriously. The Gospel accounts go out of their way to argue that it was Jesus’s enemies who were rioting, and his followers didn’t even register to the Romans.

        • James

          Excellent points – From what we know of his biography from sources such as Josephus, Pilate also wasn’t the sort of Roman to care what the Jews did. He was quite the bloodthirsty tyrant. To imagine him worrying about Jesus’ followers rioting, and appeasing them, is absurd – but this is what passes for historical criticism from our fundamentalist friends.

    • Sieben Stern

      I love mark 16:8 on the empty tomb “and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

      SO how did the gospel writer know to write it down! XD I chuckle so hard!

      • primenumbers

        Yeah, the answer is right there! It’s a made up story. It’s just like how the author of a novel can write authoritatively on un-witnessed events or what is going on in a character’s head. The difference is that in a novel you don’t need a disclaimer to say “this is just a story folks”.

      • RichardSRussell

        Start by asking a fundie how anyone knew that Charles Foster Kane’s last word was “rosebud”. No witnesses. No recording devices. No time travel. Once they agree that it was a continuity error, pull this one out and ask what the difference is.

        • Greg G.

          How did Mark know that Jesus opened his prayer in Gethsemane with “Abba, Father”?

        • James

          It was written by an all-knowing deity, silly 😉 Or more likely the same way J K Rowling always knows what Harry is thinking.

        • Ron

          Psst!! Little known fact: Jesus was a huge Abba fan. He loved them so much he made “Take a Chance On Me” his ministry’s theme song.

        • wtfwjtd

          “When you’re all alone, and it really hurts…”

        • Alicia

          If they knew that he always started all his prayers that way (which I don’t know for a fact that they would have known), it would have been a pretty fair guess.

        • Greg G.

          I think a better guess is that Mark took it from Galatians 4:6, Romans 8:15, or both. Paul doesn’t say it came from Jesus, he says it comes from the Holy Spirit.

          Mark would have found it useful to teach his readers that “Abba” means “Father”, That followed his explanation of “Bartimaeus” meaning “son of Timaeus”. Then when Barabbas is introduced, the readers know there are two known as “son of the Father”. The allusion is to Leviticus 16:5-22, about the scapegoat where one is given the sins of Israel, killed and the blood is splashed onto the other goat that is freed into the wilderness to take the sin away.

          Mark may have intentionally tipped his hand by following the Barabbas story with the mocking of Jesus by the soldiers. The mocking is remarkably like the mocking in Flaccus, VI by Philo, where the person mocked is named Carabbas.

      • lorasinger

        Much like the description of Jesus words as he prayed in the garden while ALONE.
        .
        Every word of the gospels was written almost two generations later and not by eye witnesses, people who documented the end result of a telephone game. It’s all legend and not a line of it was reliable in the beginning and with the Christian interpolations like adding the last 12 verses in Mark and the forgery of Matthew 28:19 -it’s even more unreliable today.

    • primenumbers

      The explanation of stories about an empty tomb is that someone wrote stories about an empty tomb!

    • TheNuszAbides

      to me it stresses the importance of every human student being drilled early in rhetoric, distinctions of abstraction and symbolism. i pretty much ‘get it’ when even a lot of academics turn up their noses at the very concept of someone’s money/time/thought-processes being ‘wasted’ on a professional philosopher or semiotician, even if it’s just a matter of snobbery or the frustrating notion that society only has ‘room’ for x-quantity of q-professionals. but it’s increasingly obvious that too many humans can live their entire lives blithely dismissing/overlooking/avoiding any illumination or questioning of Revealed Wisdom(TM) and other calcified “map=territory” brainfarts.

  • Hi Bob. You say you don’t use the hallucination argument because it’s weak. In fact, the only first-hand account we have – Paul’s – of an encounter with the supposed risen Jesus is just that, an hallucination or vision (1 Corinthians 15.45). Paul even suggests others’ experience of the risen Christ are just like his own. This makes a very strong case for the resurrection being no more than disturbances within the minds of the traumatised: see http://rejectingjesus.com/2013/10/01/christians-favourite-delusions-5-the-resurrection-is-well-attested/

    • primenumbers

      Not only that but Paul also tells us where he gets his Jesus information from: explicitly not from any man, but from scripture and revelation.

      • James

        Yep. The same source as Muhammad. And yet apologists tell us one revelation is valid and the other isn’t when neither presents the least bit of tangible evidence to support their extraordinary claims.

        • primenumbers

          Thus the “outsider test for faith” as popularized by John Loftus.

      • Alicia

        Which is why I don’t go to Paul for my historical information.

        • Pofarmer

          What does that even mean?

        • Alicia

          It means that if someone tells me they aren’t interested in establishing the facts about their new religion, or the events that occurred, because they know everything they need to know from fact-free sources, I’m not going to read their stuff trying to establish facts.

    • Paul’s single encounter could be explained naturally with a vision or hallucination. Not so all the disciples. That’s why I don’t want to be bound by any element of the gospel story as guaranteed history.

      • I’m not so sure multiple disciples having hallucinations is so unlikely. Lying about having a vision is also not particularly unlikely, in an attempt to gain authority within the early church over a rival.

        Peter: “Hey James, Jesus just appeared to me. He said I’m right about everything.”

        James: “Yeah? Well he appeared to me too, and he says I’m right about everything!”

        P: “Well he appeared to all my followers too!”

        J: “And he appeared to mine!”

        Paul: “Hey, he appeared to me too! And he says fuck you both, we’re doing things Paul’s way now.”

        And that’s how you get the creed in 1 Corinthians 15.

      • Alicia

        I don’t lose sleep over the resurection, personally, as far as what actually happened.
        If forced to make bets, though, I go with grief, guilt, and fear causing some genuine halucinations or dreams or what have you in some of the disciples, and then other disciples either lying about seeing visions to keep up with the Jones or else their subconscious obligingly providing them with a suitable dream.
        Certainly the various reports are fundamentally incompatible with one another, so it makes sense that they are combining unrelated events.
        And from 6:30 to 7:00 on the third Tuesday of every month, I figure maybe he was just a really good ghost.

  • John Hodges

    I have never been a Christian in any serious way, though I grew up attending my father’s church; I have no emotional baggage about xtianity one way or the other. Certainly I agree that the supernatural elements in the Jesus story are the stuff of legend. But I don’t feel any need to deny the existence of a historical Jesus (nor a historical Nicholas or a historical Vlad Tepes, even though there are legendary stories about them.)

    As an atheist I spent some years reading philosophy
    to gain an understanding of the secular foundations of ethics, and
    reached an understanding that satisfied me. (for those interested, see http://atheistnexus.org/profiles/blogs/atheist-foundations-of-ethics … Then I heard a Christian declare that the Absolute Truth about ethics
    was the teachings of Jesus. So I asked “What DOES Jesus teach about
    ethics?” I went through the four Gospels and collected everything Jesus
    is reported to have said about what his followers should DO. I found
    that there actually IS an underlying logic to it. The Jesus of the first
    three (“synoptic”) gospels believed that the world was ending soon,
    certainly within the lifetime of those hearing him speak, Judgment Day
    was coming when everyone would be sorted into the saved and the damned,
    and sent to Heaven or a fiery Hell respectively. Very few would be
    saved; almost everyone would be going to Hell. He told his followers to
    take drastic measures to rack up as much credit as they could in the
    limited time remaining, and AFTER they had done all that he commanded,
    they should count themselves as unworthy servants and hope that Yahveh
    would be gracious. Jesus commanded his followers to follow the entire
    Law of Moses down to the last Iota (punctuation mark), except for the
    dietary laws. He told them to sell everything they owned and distribute
    the money to the poor, to practice strict nonviolent pacifism, to
    abstain from all sin even in their thoughts, even to the point of
    self-castration to avoid thoughts of lust, which were spiritually
    equivalent to adultery. He told them not to judge others, that was not
    their job, Judgment Day was coming soon enough, focus on purifying their
    own character, doing good works, and spreading the news.

    The fourth gospel, of “John”, was written more than 70 years after
    the time of Jesus, and it is starkly different from the others. His
    warnings of Judgment Day, and his instructions of what to do to prepare
    for it, have all been deleted. There is no mention of Hell, no mention
    of helping the poor, no mention of following the Law. According to
    “John”, one can be saved by “believing in Jesus” and taking Communion.
    Modern Christianity has chosen to ignore Matthew, Mark, and Luke and
    place all their faith in John.

    Chapter and verse on all this at http://atheistnexus.org/profiles/blogs/the-ethics-of-jesus

    • Greg G.

      I found that there actually IS an underlying logic to it. The Jesus of the first three (“synoptic”) gospels believed that the world was ending soon, certainly within the lifetime of those hearing him speak, Judgment Day was coming when everyone would be sorted into the saved and the damned, and sent to Heaven or a fiery Hell respectively. Very few would be saved; almost everyone would be going to Hell. He told his followers to take drastic measures to rack up as much credit as they could in the limited time remaining…

      When I read “take drastic measures to rack up as much credit,” I thought the “underlying logic” was to run up as much financial debt as possible as it would not have to be repaid in the new kingdom. Then I tried to think of verses that actually said that but couldn’t so I interpreted the credit to be good deeds. But then the advice to sell everything and give to the poor would probably lead to debt. Now, I am perplexed. Which is it?

      • Philmonomer

        But then the advice to sell everything and give to the poor would probably lead to debt.

        I’m sure there’s a ton of literature out there on this–but I think the disciples were to rely on the goodwill of others (essentially, beggars). I don’t think they were going into debt.

        But I’d be curious about the economics of the ANE at this time. I don’t really know how it worked.

        Hector Avalos’s (spelling?) book is geared to the “Bad Jesus.” One of his arguments is that Jesus’ call to have these men leave their families almost certainly left their families impoverished.

        http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2015/07/dr-robert-myles-and-bad-jesus.html

    • RichardSRussell

      John Hodges! Now there’s a name I’ve not heard in a long, long time (he said, imitating Old Ben Kenobi). Author of a few quotations from the SecHum listserv that I’m still using all these years later:

      “Divine revelation is a game anyone can play, and thousands have.”

      “If the authority of government comes from God, how could there be any limits on it?”

      “Purpose is ours to choose.

      “There is a natural ‘default’ purpose, which we may choose if we like. We all have parents, as did they, back to the beginning of life. Every one of our ancestors had children. Health is the ability to survive; the goal favored by natural selection is ‘promote the health of your family.’ We are all members of Darwin’s family, all kin from the beginning of life.

      “The Good is that which leads to health, The Right is that which leads to peace. If you want to maintain peaceful and cooperative relations with your neighbors, don’t kill, steal, lie, or break agreements. As Shakespeare wrote, ‘It needs no ghost, Milord, come from the grave, to tell us this.’ If you value anything, value other humans, for they are the only help you will have in times of trouble.

      “Meaning is the story we choose to join. Instead of seeking a ticket to Heaven by being obedient on Earth, we can gain meaning by seeking to make this Earth a better place, for ourselves and our posterity.

      “This wondrous Universe is more than enough. We have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

      “Do justice, love mercy, and be irreverent.”

      Hi, John!

      • Greg G.

        You do a terrific Ben Kenobi imitation. I heard it in my head as I was reading it before I got to the name.

    • Kodie

      Modern Christians might have it. If the world is ending, selling your belongings and donating the proceeds to the poor is ridiculous. Castration is not even as ridiculous. Donating to the poor is ordinarily a fine thing, but … the world it is ending. Who will buy your things and what for?

      • TheNuszAbides

        finally, a purpose in the Divine Scheme for atheists!

    • Alicia

      As far as the “strict nonviolent pacifism,” you may enjoy Powers that Be, by Walter Wink (Christian, but not traditional), who inteprets those passages in light of various features of law and culture of the time as recommending some rather creative nonviolent direct action.
      We know that civil disobedience was practiced by Jews in the first century in response to various Bright Ideas of the Romans, so it isn’t impossible.

  • Nemo

    In response to #1: since when does “legend” require that Jesus not exist at all? I have no problem believing that a guy named Yeshua (common name at the time) was a radical preacher (Palestine was full of them) at the time of the alleged Gospels before being crucified (Romans loved to crucify people). What compels skepticism is not the claim above, but the notion that there was magic involved.

    • Kodie

      I also have no issue with an actual living human that may have been Jesus. I do wonder what set someone apart if there were so many others. I think it also helps (me) to know there were others making similar claims. I can think of actual people, like, say, high school, I like to use this story I made up entirely. Some guy at school died horrifically shortly after high school. He wasn’t nice to everyone, he was kind of a dick, but if you say anything, you’re kind of a horrible person because he died and you can only say nice things about him. Whenever someone popular in the community dies, don’t people like to show up at a memorial service and say things that aren’t true about that person, a little embellishment, put them in the very best light. I also had the idea that maybe even in Jesus’s day, “walking on water” was something you just say. His feats are taken literally as miracles, but like the story of Button Soup or Stone Soup depending on where you grew up I guess, anyone can feed a multitude when there is nothing to feed them. It was a fucking potluck. If someone said you could walk on water, it didn’t literally happen, it’s just always been an idiom to describe someone tremendous. Sometimes, I think this Jesus thing just got out of hand. Someone said some aggrandizing things about this cherished member of the community who was executed, and didn’t mean to be taken literally. Jesus cursed a fig tree? Not because he was constipated and could have used a fig right that day, but it never bore fruit again… maybe something was wrong with that tree. Maybe Jesus took a piss on that tree. There just aren’t enough details.

      • lorasinger

        Suggest you read:
        The Mythmaker (H. MacCoby)
        Christ’s Ventriloquists (Zuesse)
        Almost anything by Robert Eisenman or Bart Ehrman. There is a benefit to these two in that they aren’t preachers, bent on furthering their religion. They are biblical historians. PERIOD.

    • since when does “legend” require that Jesus not exist at all?

      It doesn’t. I didn’t say that it does.

      • Nemo

        I know you didn’t. But the apologists do. That way, by “proving” that Jesus really did exist beyond any doubt (dubious to begin with), they can “disprove” the Legend explanation.

  • Rudy R

    Christians like to highlight that there is extra-Biblical history to prove Jesus existed, in terms of historians such as Tacitus, Pliny, Josephus, etc, but they fail to note any contemporary historians during the life of Jesus. How could the Jewish historians living in Jerusalem fail to document Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem?

    • primenumbers

      Or the kicking out of the money changers at the temple.

      • lorasinger

        If that occurred at all because it’s illogical that he would have kicked them out. People travelled a long distance to the temple to make the customary sacrifices and it wasn’t possible to bring suitable animals and expect them to make the trip in perfect shape. The so-called money lenders brought suitable animals and sold them right at the temple to the travellers. It doesn’t add up.

        • Greg G.

          Also, the travelers from foreign countries might need some money changed to the local currency to buy a dove or a lamb. The temple probably didn’t want coins with Caesar’s picture on them.

        • lorasinger

          Exactly.

        • primenumbers

          Given the size and scale and security at the temple, it was impossible for him alone to kick them out. He’d have needed an army and yes, that certainly would have made the contemporary historical record had it actually occurred.

        • lorasinger

          Exactly. It doesn’t sound authentic. With a city bulging with Roman soldiers on a high holiday, to have this occur without an immediate arrest defies belief. I think this is a fabrication to present a scenario for a reason, mainly a later arrest in the garden where this man – witnessed entering the city by supposedly hundreds of people – needed to be identified by Judas by a kiss?
          .
          In addition, there was no custom of freeing a prisoner at Passover on the part of either the Romans or the Jews and that too is a fabrication.
          .

        • Greg G.

          I think it is part of Mark’s story where Jesus curses a fig tree, then throws a temple tantrum. Later, the disciples find the tree withered. Mark expected his readers to make the connection between the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. The withered tree and the tantrum are fictional to make the allegory of Mark.

        • lorasinger

          Fabrication. Historians have taken note that it was off season for the fig to be producing anyway. Whoever wrote it likely never stepped foot in Israel and didn’t know much about things like that.
          .
          It the same as the “last supper” where Jesus, supposedly a Torah upholding Jew asks his apostles to drink his blood in memory of him. Obviously, the Pauline convert isn’t aware that in the Torah, Jews are forbidden to drink blood of any kind, and Jesus would never ask for that. What is interesting is that drinking of the blood of the god was common in pagan lore. BIG blooper!

        • wtfwjtd

          More evidence that Mark was writing a deliberate work of fiction.

        • lorasinger

          He’s documenting legend. Not one of the anonymous gospel authors, writing after 70 AD, were eye witnesses nor were they likely Jews either since some of their writings go directly against what was common practice in Judaism.

        • Greg G.

          Mark 11:13 specifically says it was not the season for figs.

          Justin Martyr says the Mithras cult stole the communion ritual from the Christians while Plutarch says the Mithras cult was popular among the pirates of Cilicia when Pompey was there in the mid first century BC and their practices continue to “this day”, being the late first century AD. Plutarch doesn’t specify the details of those rituals but Paul says he went to Cilicia. There could be a connection there.

        • lorasinger

          I’ve read that Tarsus (Paul’s home town) was a centre for Mithraism and possibly he patterned his new religion on that. It would have been entirely acceptable to his gentile pagan converts who were already familiar with men gods. The communion ritual is strictly pagan, not Jewish, and there is further evidence that Mithraism came first in that many of the RCC churches are built on the foundations of old Mithraic ruins. The church lies again.
          .
          There is one added thing. Paul had been sent from the Herodian house in Rome to quell rebellions and was not successful. How much better to infiltrate and change the course of a movement that opposed the Romans into one of a different kingdom – that on the other side, one that would substitute freedom on this side to a promise of freedom on the other. The Jews didn’t buy it but the gentiles did and so a new religion was born.

        • Greg G.

          Cilicia was the principal city of Tarsus. Paul says in Galatians 1 that he went there. I suspect that is why Luke called him Saul of Tarsus in Acts.

        • Pofarmer

          So, if Saul lived in Tarsus, how was he a Pharisee?

        • Greg G.

          He was a Pharisee before he was a Christian and went to Cilicia in Tarsus after becoming a Christian. Acts is the only place where is called “Saul” and “Saul of Tarsus”. Acts is unreliable.

        • lorasinger

          Exactly. Which brings us to another problem. Paul evidently had two names – Saul and Paul, one Jewish, one Greek. And he said he was born a Roman citizen. Jews could not have Roman citizenship until 212 AD. No true Jew of that time would give their child a Roman name and that leaves only the Herodians, a race of wannabe Jews, actually Idumean converts – not really Jews and not accepted as Jews. Herod was one of them and Paul calls one of them, Herodian, “my kinsman”. Perhaps he is exactly as the Ebionites said, a Greek convert or of the Herodian House.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Certainly raises questions.

          A native of Tarsus, the capital city in the Roman province of Cilicia,[Acts 22:3] Paul wrote that he was “a Hebrew born of Hebrews”, a Pharisee,[Philippians 3:5] and one who advanced in Judaism beyond many of his peers.

          According to the Book of Acts, he inherited Roman citizenship from his father. As a Roman citizen, he also bore the Latin name of “Paul” —in biblical Greek: Παῦλος (Paulos),[21] and in Latin: Paulus.[Acts 16:37] [22:25-28] It was quite usual for the Jews of that time to have two names, one Hebrew, the other Latin or Greek.

          If Paul’s father was a not a native of Tarsus, but a Roman Hebrew, a case could be made, but like many of these things there is no evidence, therefore it is pure conjecture.

          Before 212, for the most part only inhabitants of Italia held full Roman citizenship. Colonies of Romans established in other provinces, Romans (or their descendants) living in provinces, the inhabitants of various cities throughout the Empire, and small numbers of local nobles (such as kings of client countries) held full citizenship also. Provincials, on the other hand, were usually non-citizens, although some held the Latin Right.

          The Book of Acts indicates that Paul was a Roman citizen by birth, more affirmatively describing his father as such, but some scholars have taken issue with the evidence presented by the text.

          The Book of Acts, like the rest of the NT, is a lot of fanciful nonsense written and redacted well after the time of Paul.

        • lorasinger

          Suggest a thorough reading of :

          http://www.sullivan-county.com/id2/paul_problem.htm

          …….
          This includes:

          Paul the Apostle and Salvation Thru Faith
          James, Paul, and the Dead Sea Scrolls by John Oller
          The Theology of Paul
          Review of Hyam Maccoby’s Paul and Hellenism by John Mann
          Paul’s Bungling Attempt At Sounding Pharisaic by Hyam Maccoby
          Hyam Maccoby was mostly right
          The Problem of Paul Introduction
          The Problem of Paul 1
          The Problem of Paul 2
          Jesus and the Jewish Resistance Introduction
          Jesus and the Jewish Resistance: The Messiah
          Jesus and the Jewish Resistance: The Pharisee’s
          Jesus and the Jewish Resistance: The King of the Jews
          Jesus and the Jewish Resistance: The Day of the Lord

        • Alicia

          The evidence suggests that Mithraism did not become a major factor until after Paul had shuffled off stage left.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mithraic_mysteries#Beginnings_of_Roman_Mithraism

        • Pofarmer

          They were competing at the same time and in the same places.

        • Alicia

          Sure. And were both popular at the same time because they both appealed to the same Zeitgeist.
          But saying that a document that all evidence indicates originates in the 80s or 90s was based on a completely different religion that was in an equally embryonic and unknown state at the time is silly.
          Oh. I forgot. The mythologizers are convinced that the gospels were written on the way to the council where they were cannonized.

        • Pofarmer

          You seem to be arguing against things no one here is making.

        • TheNuszAbides

          maybe she genuinely doesn’t have the time to read up on alternative theories, but she sure seems eager to conflate, and be dismissive of, people playing with reinterpretations of ideas that she claims to have never been particularly invested in in the first place …

        • lorasinger

          Mithraism was based on a form of Zoroastrianism that Roman soldiers brought home with them. For a couple of hundred years, Mithraism and Christianity existed side by side in Rome until Christianity was made the state religion in 385 AD and wiped out Mithraism. In fact many of the Catholic churches are built on the ruins of Mithraic temples. Mithraism pre-dated Christianity but they were so similar that
          the early church fathers complained that the devil had copied Christianity IN ADVANCE. Clement I at the turn of the 1st century writes that Paul went off to the furthest reaches west (Spain in those days) where he preached for a time and then died. At that time, Christianity was in its babyhood but as it grew, it destroyed its rivals, even other Christian bodies of thought. You are right, in the second and third centuries it thrived and Christianity copied it but ended up destroying it.

        • MNb

          If you look long and hard enough you can read everything and anything, even that the ancestors of the Dutch (ie the Batavi) were involved in the crucifixion of Jesus. So what?

          http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/mithras/display.php?page=mithras_and_christianity

          “There is no evidence of direct influence in either direction between the cult of Mithras and early Christianity.5 Rather such similarities as exist are attributed to the common environment in which both arose.”

          Correlation does not imply causation. Have we found another fallacy JMs have in common with creationists?

        • Greg G.

          JM? Is that Justin Martyr? He said the Mithras cult stole at least one ritual from the Christians.

          Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 66:
          For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body; “and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood; “and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.

        • MNb

          “JM? Is that Justin Martyr?”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          Is your belief system slowly making you as stupid as the average creationist? Not capable of recognizing anymore that the sentence “… Justin Martyrs have in common ….” doesn’t make any sense? Apparently, given that you think it relevant to add an extensive quote nobody is interested in. I thought you were smarter than that, but perhaps I was wrong.
          You are a JM – a fan of Jesus Mythology.

        • Greg G.

          Ha ha ha! you have tried to push people’s buttons to get them angry. It seems I have turned the tables on you. You usually pick up on jokes like that.

        • lorasinger

          Mithra was born of a God and a mortal woman, Semele. He died for mankind and was resurrected. Same vein of thought. The words allegedly spoken by Jesus during the last supper (in John) are identical to the words of Mithra found on an inscription in Mithraic ruins under a Christian church.
          …………………

          What Jews believe and have always believed based on the eternal covenant (Torah):

          One Person cannot die for the sins of another.

          A blood sacrifice is not required for forgiveness of sins.

          The messiah is to be fully human and is to prove himself by his actions.

          God hates human sacrifices.

          People are born pure and without original sin.

          God is one and indivisible.

          God does not become human and humans do not become God.
          ………………….
          OR:

          PAGAN MYTHOLOGY:

          Dionysus was a God man, born of a virgin mother, in a stable. He traveled about with his
          followers, preaching and performing miracles, including turning water into wine. Eventually, he incurred the wrath of the religious authorities, who were appalled that he referred to himself as the son of god. He allowed himself to be arrested and tried for blasphemy- a willing self-sacrifice. He was found guilty and executed, only to rise from the grave three days later.
          .
          Other pagan men gods have variations of the above but generally the main thread remains the same.
          .
          Your pick.

        • Pofarmer

          There is an OT passage, heck if I can remember it, where if says that wine is “the blood of grapes.” Kind of an aha moment.

        • lorasinger

          Consider this:

          Inscription to Pagan Mithras – “He who will not eat of my body and drink of my blood, so that he will be made one with me and I with him, the same shall not know salvation.” —
          and:

          John 6:53–56
          – Then Jesus said unto them,
          Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and
          drink his blood, ye have no life in you. 54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh
          my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my
          flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He that eateth my flesh,
          and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.

        • Maybe “He washes his garments in wine, And his robes in the blood of grapes” from Genesis 49:10-12?

        • Ignorant Amos

          Ritual meals are found in other Hellenistic mystery cult traditions. Mithraism was one such cult that he could well have came into contact with growing up in Tarsus.

          [T]he historian Plutarch says that in 67 BC the pirates of Cilicia (a province on the south eastern coast of Asia Minor) were practicing “secret rites” of Mithras.

          Somewhat anachronistically….

          Early Christian apologists noted similarities between Mithraic and Christian rituals, but nonetheless took an extremely negative view of Mithraism: they interpreted Mithraic rituals as evil copies of Christian ones.

          The Christian’s view of this rival religion is extremely negative, because they regarded it as a demonic mockery of their own faith.

          Had to be demonic in order to be able to retcon the traditions back into the history prior to Christ.

          https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=0soI8HZXT3gC&oi=fnd&pg=PA1306&dq=eucharist+mithraism&ots=f2cnS3JcjX&sig=z2GjLfXkWfApV2Oo1pKDIPeU9VQ#v=onepage&q=eucharist%20mithraism&f=false

          Some good advice here though…

          In general, in studying Mithras, and the other Greco-oriental mystery cults, it is good practice to steer clear of all information provided by Christian writers: they are not ‘sources’, they are violent apologists, and one does best not to believe a word they say, however tempting it is to supplement our ignorance with such stuff.

        • Pofarmer

          Not only that, supposedly he had been teaching at the Temple. The pharisees should have known who he was.

        • lorasinger

          The temple priests were Sadducees. The Pharisees were the intellectuals/law. And yes, such a magic man would certainly not go unnoticed, considering the “crowds” that gathered around him supposedly.

        • Without Malice

          Amen. The courtyard was several football fields in size.

        • Alicia

          Or, he could have gone and made a rather modest nuisance of himself and then left before the cops could get there, and the story could have grown with the retelling.

        • Pofarmer

          Maybe he was a wedding singer?

        • primenumbers

          Tall stories can grow from small events, but they can also grow from nothing. There’s really no way to tell other than from independent evidence, for which we have none. All we can do therefore is take the story at face value and compare it to reality and reject it as fiction.

        • Alicia

          I’m not going to argue that he did any specific thing at the temple, or even that he went there at all. My point is that the argument “If he’d done what the bible said the actions would be recorded” has more than one counter argument.

        • primenumbers

          Sure, there’s plenty of different things that could have happened that would lead to the evidence we have, which is that many years later a story as we have it appears in the gospel. Those different things could all lead to the very same evidence we have today.

          If we look at a number of different hypothesis it might help clarify:

          1) J did exactly as described with the events at the temple
          2) J went to the temple as a very small scale trouble maker and the story grew in the telling
          3) J didn’t go to the temple and the story was made up
          4) There’s no historical J and the story was made up

          We can reject 1) because of the lack of contemporary historical account of the event as I argue above. As for 2-4 we cannot tell looking at the story which of them would lead up to it. The story is compatible with either of those hypothesis.

          Now we need to start looking at more of the evidence we have to see if any of that can help. If we can see a theological need to invent the story, that could be reason enough for its inclusion, but that doesn’t rule out 2), leaving all hypothesis compatible. Maybe it adds a touch of weight to 3 and 4, but it’s hardly conclusive.

          So at the end of a very simple analysis we can reject 1) and have no real explanatory benefit for 2,3 or 4, with perhaps the ability to make a case for 3&4 over 2 if we worked really hard.

    • MNb

      Because they didn’t think him very special or important – just another rural fool.
      I suppose you think Diogenes of Sinope was a legend as well – no contemporary sources either. Or more likely you’re pulling off an ad hoc argument.

      • Otto

        I am fine with the argument that he wasn’t special or important…but the Bible claims otherwise and the Christians can’t have it both ways. Either he was well known as the Bible claims and yet no on took notice or he wasn’t well known and the Bible is in error.

        • lorasinger

          The story grew not in Israel but in Rome when Paul split with the apostles in about 59 AD, based on the same theme as other god men stories, a god man coming from a God/virgin “union”, who dies for mankind and resurrects – time and time again with Horus, Attis, Mithra, Dionysus. Its central figure differed in that it borrowed on the legends building around a fully human messianic candidate who was executed by Romans. Paul started the ball rolling and his followers built on it.

          Same process as Santa Clause is a story built on a centuries old monk.

        • Otto

          My gut feeling is that Jesus is pure legend and myth. There just doesn’t seem to be any “there” there. Regardless the Bible contradicts the facts and cannot be trusted as a historical document regarding Jesus. Which leaves virtually nothing to support his historicity.

        • Greg G.

          That doesn’t stop people from coming up with the Minimal Jesus Hypothesis so they can believe he existed anyway.

        • Otto

          Yeah…if there was a Jesus but the Bible can’t be trusted to represent pretty much anything about him…WTF is the point…?

        • lorasinger

          Exactly. And those that followed Paul and eventually became the Catholic church then proceeded to brand the followers (Ebionites) of James and Cephas (Peter) to be heretics, while they, in fact, were the pagan heretics themselves. All the Ebionite writings were destroyed by Paul’s Christians and what we have about them comes from the Criticisms of the Early Church Fathers and now from the dead sea scrolls.

        • lorasinger

          I don’t think that the bible or actually the NT is reliable for anything but a book of fairytales. It’s not Jewish in nature. Their messiah was to be a man and he wasn’t supposed to die and to boot, they had a whole raft of them throughout history – David and Solomon were messiahs. Your feeling that he is legend even before the writing of the NT books is entirely possible. It seems that Paul whose writings came before the gospels, came up with the idea of something more in the nature of a god rather than just a man. The gospels just follow through on his idea. And you are right – There were a number of historians contemporary to his alleged time but no one wrote anything. I believe it was Philo who had a niece in Jerusalem and who went there often, who also had a strong interest in afterlife and one would think that if something had actually happened, he would have noted it and certainly the later church would never have lost it as it did other writings that opposed Christianity. I tend to go with the Ebionites who according to Eisenman were the likely inheritors of the teaching of the so-called Jerusalem Christians, led by James, the brother of Jesus. James appeared several times in the writings of Josephus.

        • Greg G.

          Paul is very sarcastic toward Cephas, James, and John in Galatians. He doesn’t say the James is Jesus’ brother, he says James is “the Lord’s brother” and that is ambiguous. He may have been sarcastically calling James the brother of God because he thought himself so important that he could send people to Antioch the way God sent Paul on missions to places like Antioch.

        • Erp

          Paul also uses the term brothers of the Lord elsewhere such as 1 Corinthians 9:5 “Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas” to justify what he wants. It is much more likely he is using it in Galations to distinguish this James from other James’ important in the movement in Jerusalem (and the NT does mention other James’).

        • lorasinger

          The church believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary and so it would have been embarrassing to find that Jesus had brothers and sisters too.

        • Greg G.

          Paul is justifying the financial support that the Corinthians have been giving him as if someone has questioned it. He is saying that he is a better deal because he doesn’t travel with a wife, like those others who think they are so high and mighty that they must be brothers of the Lord. I suspect he means those who suggested reducing or eliminating their support of Paul.

        • wtfwjtd

          2 Cor 2:17:”Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity…”

        • Greg G.

          That’s another good point.

        • wtfwjtd

          No doubt about it, Paul is being accused of financial malfeasance, and this likely was undercutting his authority with the Corinthians. Along that line, I also found this line of thought from Paul to be interesting:

          1 Cor 4:1:”This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.”

          1 Cor 4:16:” In Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16Therefore I urge you to imitate me.”

          1 Cor 11:1 “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

          That last line is particularly telling; Paul is telling them that they should directly follow him and not Christ. Why? Well, it seems like only “servants of Christ” have the “secret knowledge” that makes following Christ even possible. This would seem to exclude any earthly examples, and is a direct contradiction to the “Jesus as teacher” meme.

        • Greg G.

          Right! He is not saying “follow the example of Cephas and James because they actually knew Jesus in person”.

          Keep ’em coming. I am taking notes.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yes, that’s what I was thinking, yours is a better way of phrasing it. And apparently, Apollos and Timothy were two of his trusted lieutenants; he mentions Cephas at least a couple of times (1C 1:12; 3:22;9:5; et al), but never in a familiar way, it always seems to be acknowledging a rival. It’s interesting, too, that in 1 C 15:5 he mentions that Christ “appeared to” Peter, and the name “Cephas” is not used here. It makes me wonder if there is some significance to this, or if it’s maybe evidence of this passage being a later addition. Or, maybe it’s a mis-translation.

        • Greg G.

          Here’s a little about that:

          https://beliefmap.org/encyclopedia/peter/peter-is-cephas/

          I wondered about that a few years ago and asked Richard Carrier about it in a blog comment. He said that it is such an unusual name that it is unlikely that they were different people. A few weeks later, I was thumbing through an Ehrman book and saw where he talked about that. His answer was very much like Carrier’s. I had read that Ehrman book about five years earlier, so I think that passage triggered the idea but I didn’t recollect seeing it before consciously.

          I came across this article while researching “the twelve”:

          Paul’s Cephas is Caiphas – Author of 1Peter and Hebrews by A.A.M. van der Hoeven

          He thinks that Jesus named Simon “Cephas” after Joseph Caiaphas. With Ehrman and Carrier both saying that it would have been a rare name, I sometimes wonder if Paul’s Cephas wasn’t Caiaphas himself and “the twelve” weren’t the temple officials that van der Hoeven described. I wonder who James and John might have been. James might have been the brother of Jesus Damneus.

          So instead of being responsible for Jesus’ demise as in three of the gospels, Caiaphas may have been the inventor of Jesus according to 1 Corinthians 15:5. It is just too ironic to believe.

        • Ron

          People peddling the word of God for profit? Mon Dieu! C’est impossible! That could never happen.

        • Kodie

          Ingenious. Putting the pawns to work peddling the word of god for nothing but that good feeling you get when you’ve saved another one and brought them to church.

        • TheNuszAbides

          how could you forget Sacre Bleu!?

        • lorasinger

          According to Zuesse (Christ’s Ventriloquists) it seems that is the reason circumcision along with everything that it was enjoined (The Law/Torah/eternal covenant between God and Jews) was done away with. Adult males understandably were loathe to undergo circumcision as the rite of conversion and to speed things up, Paul did away with the above and invented the “New covenant”. More converts meant more money coming in and, in fact, some of that money went to finance the much poorer group under James. There is a verse and I’m not sure where, where Paul tries to justify taking money for his preaching.
          .

          “Now Concerning the Collection”
          1 Corinthians 16:1-2
          http://www.bible.ca/ef/expository-1-corinthians-16-1-2.htm

        • wtfwjtd

          You are probably thinking of 1 Cor 9:14 which states: “In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.”
          That whole chapter is a rant on the rights of apostles, and how they deserve financial support from their congregations; see also 2 Cor 8-10 for a similar sales pitch.

          And yes, getting the tip of your penis chopped off to demonstrate your commitment to the new faith probably went over like a lead balloon. Hence, Paul’s “easy” version of Christianity that did away with following Jewish law, as personified in 1 Cor 7:14:”Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts.”
          No wonder Paul’s version won the day.

        • lorasinger

          And James and apostles were called the “circumcised party”. This was the commandment:

          9Again God said to Abraham: And thou therefore shalt keep my covenant, and thy seed after thee in their generations. 10This is my covenant which you shall observe, between me and you, and thy seed after thee: All the male kind of you shall be circumcised: 11And you shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, that it may be for a h sign of the covenant between me and you. 12An infant of eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations: he that is born in the house, as well as the bought servant shall be circumcised, and whosoever is not of your stock: 13And my covenant shall be in your flesh for a perpetual covenant. 14The male, whose dash of his foreskin shall not be circumcised, that soul shall be destroyed out of his people: because he hath broken my covenant.

          .
          Now how Paul endeavoured to say that he followed Jesus who said he followed Torah makes one wonder just how devious his tongue must have been – to say essentially the direct opposite and claim it is the same.

        • wtfwjtd

          Paul made a distinction between the “old covenant” (2 Cor 3:14) and his “new covenant” (2 Cor 3:6).
          Just how or why this old covenant is removed whenever someone turns to Jesus, who said that heaven and earth would pass away before the law (old covenant) would, takes some real mental gymnastics.
          And just what does the new covenant consist of? Pretty much whatever Paul says it does. He claims that apostles like him have been given secret knowledge, and are the dispensers of this new covenant. How convenient.

        • lorasinger

          I wonder how many Christians are aware that Paul said to his new Christian converts that if they tried living under The Law (old covenant), they would be cutting themselves off from Jesus Christ.
          .
          Galations 5:4, “Those of you who try to be put right in God’s view by obeying the Law have cut yourselves off from Christ. You are outside God’s grace.”
          .
          And yes, the Jesus that Paul claimed to follow said that The Law stood to the end of time.
          .
          The new covenant consisted of substituting the death of Jesus for The Law, that faith trumped works and charity. You can see this personified by the very devout in the bible belt where a fetus must be saved but the family that can’t afford him can go to hades without any social support. All you have to do is buleeve.

        • wtfwjtd

          It’s always amazing how “god” just happens to reflect the cultural tastes and desires of his current crop of followers. Almost like…man created god, or something.

        • lorasinger

          Nah! Dya think????

        • Greg G.

          It is interesting to note that “adelph-” is the Greek root of the words for “brother”. In the gospels, it is used about half the time for biological siblings and half in the religious sense. In the epistles, it is used 192 times and 187 of those are in the religious sense. In Romans 16:15, it refers to a biological sister. In 1 John 3:12, it is used twice in regard to Cain and Abel. I think it is used in the biological sense in Galatians 1:18 and 1 Corinthians 9:5 but sarcastically.

        • lorasinger

          “Adelphos” means “from the same womb”.

        • Greg G.

          It is also used extensively in the figurative sense.

        • lorasinger

          That’s true. What is swept under the rug is that they were two distinct factions. The group under James, Jesus brother, were the true followers of Jesus. They were true to the Law/Torah with circumcision being the outward sign of their eternal covenant with God.
          .
          Paul’s group, apostles to the gentiles, were under a new covenant and none of the above applied to them. Paul had been called back to explain his heretical doctrine and for teaching his converts to turn their backs of The Law of Moses, denied it and was exposed by Asian Jews. He admits to being a hated Roman citizen. That marked his split with James and the Jerusalem “Christians”. Never having met Jesus, nor studying under the apostles, he was free to concoct whatever he wanted to his gentile converts.
          .
          He repeatedly made the point that his doctrine was more authentic because he got it “directly from Jesus” which most likely was his imagination because as a Roman, he likely let Roman man god myths creep into this story too. There is no indication that Paul was ever an apostle and he was quite bitter about not being the head honcho.

        • Greg G.

          My proposition is that James may or may not have had a brother named “Jesus” but he was not “the Lord’s brother”. That idea came from early Christians missing Paul’s sarcasm. The Messiah the proto-Christians were anticipating was the Suffering Servant, who they read as a hidden mystery. There were other Messianic Jewish sects and each probably had their own justification for thinking the Messiah would come during their generation just like Christians have for 2000 years. This particular group read the allegory of the nation of Israel written as a person, but thought that there was a real person hidden in the allegory. That is why there are so many quotes and allusions to Isaiah 53 in the epistles. The fact that this idea came to their generation was the proof they needed to justify their hope that the Messiah would come while they lived.

          I think Paul didn’t like that there was a hierarchy in the Jerusalem faction. He seemed to prefer equality as in Galatians 3:28. He makes a big deal about being sent by God and not by human authority in Galatians 1:1 while noting that people were sent to places by James in Galatians 2:12. When Paul asks, “Who has bewitched you?” in Galatians 3:1, he knows it was James and Cephas, which is why he makes himself out to be a humble servant of God and tries to discredit those two, along with John, in the first two chapters. But Paul was also a hypocrite. He says he sent Timothy to Thessalonica in 1 Thessalonians 3:2. If Paul had been in charge, he would probably have considered it God’s will.

        • wtfwjtd

          I Cor 4:17:”For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord.”

          I Cor 16:12: “But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren…”

          What, Paul, a hypocrite? Nah…

          Hey Greg, while reading in Corinthians the other day I ran across this: (2 Cor 3: 13-16):”(We) are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. 14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.”

          And then we have Mark 15:37-38:”And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last. 38 And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”

          You think it’s possible that Mark got his idea for this passage from Paul?

        • Greg G.

          Thanks for those other examples of Paul being a travel director.

          That is an interesting possibility. I think Mark used Romans, Galatians, and 1 Corinthians a lot with some of Philippians and 1 Thessalonians. These are some 2 Corinthians possibilities.

          Mark 13:13 & 2 Corinthians 11:23-26
          Mark 3:21 & 2 Corinthians 5:13
          Mark 9:33-37 & 2 Corinthians 10:1-18

          It would be easier to make the case if Mark and Paul used the same word for veil. Mark uses the same word that the Septuagint uses in Exodus 26:31-37 to describe and proscribe the curtain in the temple. Paul uses the same word the Septuagint uses for Moses’ veil in Exodus 34:33. The Hebrew words used in Exodus for the two are different words, as well.

          Somewhere, I got the idea that Zechariah 14:4 may be related where Mount of Olives is torn apart. Josephus says the temple curtain was displayed in Rome but doesn’t say anything about it being torn.

          But 2 Corinthians still might have given Mark the idea to write of the tear. I’ll see what else I can find.

        • wtfwjtd

          From what I understand, this veil-tearing would have been a HUGE deal, and would have been considered a desecration of the temple on par with, or even worse than, sacrificing a pig on the altar. So it wasn’t a minor or idle claim, and one would think that it would have caused quite a stir if it actually happened.

        • Greg G.

          Oh, come on, nobody would be talking about that. They would have been talking about all those dead people who crawled out of their graves and were wandering around Jerusalem! That would have allowed the priests to put up the spare curtain and save themselves the embarrassment.

        • Otto

          They couldn’t see the dead people…it was dark.

        • Greg G.

          Thank you for that. Now I will have to leave the light on when I go to bed tonight.

        • lorasinger

          Except, like all the miracles in the bible, there is not one shred of evidence from Jews or biblical historians that it actually happened, any more than the hundreds of dead saints that came popping out of their graves during the crucifixion and went marching off to town sightseeing.

        • Ron

          Apologists like Michael Licona and WLC now argue the passage in Matthew 27 should be interpreted as “apocalyptic imagery” rather than literal history.

          From Licona’s interview in Southeastern Theological Review (Summer 2012, 71–98, PDF, p. 4):

          Many evangelical scholars interpret the celestial phenomena in Acts 2 and Matthew 24 as apocalyptic symbols with no corresponding literal events involving those celestial bodies. I became persuaded that the raised saints in Matthew 27 belonged to the same genre.

          And from Craig’s Q&A article Qualms about the Resurrection of Jesus:

          Suppose Matthew didn’t mean for this to be taken literally? Suppose it’s just part of the apocalyptic imagery typical of Jewish apocalyptic writings, a way of portraying how age-shifting Jesus’ death was? Then our problem is that we’re taking literary imagery in an inappropriate, literalistic way, and the problem is not with Matthew but with us.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=3SNuhjRZZI4#t=382 (queued at 6:22)

        • lorasinger

          True. They exaggerated ages to make themselves appear wise and wrote about events without being familiar with laws and traditions in Israel because they were gentile converts who wrote a pretty fantastic story based on pagan beliefs without ever having set foot in the country most likely. Yes, the problem is ourselves, because we believe that a legend is for real.
          .

          This is a piece I’ve posted before but, as always, it illustrates the problems when apologists are believed to be historians rather than the spin doctors they are:
          .
          “Perhaps if professors of earliest Christian history at accredited colleges and universities were barred from ever serving in a church’s pay, and preachers in church-run institutions were barred from ever teaching earliest Christian history outside of a church-financed setting, there would be a difference between preachers and teachers, but that’s not the case now: These two fields are essentially one, and calling its practitioners “historians” is to insult the historical profession. Any historian who accepts such people as being historians has a very low opinion of his field, and it as a corruption. . McDonald, James (2009-11-01).

        • wtfwjtd

          IIRC, Licona was fired for even suggesting that passage wasn’t literal history.

        • Greg G.

          I knew he was fired for not accepting that the Bible was not 100% true but I didn’t know exactly what passage he questioned. Jeffrey Jay Lowder confirms that:

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2011/11/08/christian-nt-scholar-and-apologist-michael-licona-loses-job-after-questioning-matthew-27/

          If you think that really happened, you’ll believe anything, but if you question it, where do you stop? If one believes that, they have a long way to go before they have to worry about stopping.

        • wtfwjtd

          Nice find!

        • primenumbers

          That’s important to note as many studying this area are also under strict statements of faith and are contractually obliged to come up with answers only so far as their answers don’t contradict that statement of faith.

        • Alicia

          Which would be of much greater significance, argument wise, if you were to follow CS Lewis’s abysmal example and base your argments on the assumption that the gospels are an accurate historical account.
          If you accept the much more probable theory that the gospels are highly embroidered accounts of a historical event, in which someone took a perfectly ordinary execution of what they believed to be an exceptional individual and added all the bells and whistles they believed the occassion should by rights have had, then the problem evaporates.
          Jesus was executed on a perfectly ordinary day, in a perfectly ordinary day, and some amount of time later his cheerleaders embellished the story.
          As the cheerleaders of felled heroes always do and always will do.

        • Pofarmer

          Unfortunatley, though, that’s not particularly consistent with the way the story grew.

        • Alicia

          I have a bachelors in social movement theory from a (left wing, for what it’s worth) liberal arts college, and a masters in theology from a (left wing, for what it’s worth) seminary, and I’ve done copious readings from left wing and moderate scholarly writers on early Christianity.
          I’m telling you, Christianity follows a thoroughly conventional growth pattern.

        • Pofarmer

          Sure it does. I’m not talking about the movement. I’m taking about the story of Jesus. The Pauline epistles quote Jesus only once, the last supper scene, which is probably one part of a much longer interpolation into Pauls letter. Other than that, Paul knows nothing about an Earthly Jesus. No mother, no family, no geneology, no sayings, no works, no nothing. The other Epistles, such as James and Judas, do the the exact same thing, no mention of an Earthly Jesus words or deeds at all. In fact, you don’t get any kind of references to a walking around Jesus until the 4 canonical Gospels, and then the later non- genuine Pauline letters and the Gospel of Peter which are already loaded with apologetics.

        • Alicia

          The early epistles are written to communities that were educated in person, trouble shooting problems they had. They were not intended to educate.

        • Pofarmer

          They were making theological arguments. Why not quote the guy who started the movement?

        • wtfwjtd

          Not only that, but why would Paul make statements in direct contradiction to the guy who supposedly started the movement? Jesus supposedly said in the gospels that the law would be with us ’til the end of the world, whereas Paul said his “new covenant” replaced the law.
          It sounds to me like the guy who started the movement was Paul.

        • wtfwjtd

          “If you accept the much more probable theory that the gospels are highly embroidered accounts of a historical event…”

          The historical event, presumably, being the execution of one of dozens of apocalyptic rabble-rousers named “Jesus” in first century Palestine?
          That is certainly plausible. More to the point, when one realizes that Jesus is a stooge or bit player, just a character in a story, the whole thing begins to make a lot more sense. It’s easy to highly embellish the story line surrounding a story character, and that was more or less my point in noting this (highly unlikely)event. It doesn’t really matter whether or not that character is (very) loosely based on an actual historical person in order to figure out that the rest of the story is fiction.

        • Greg G.

          It could be that the gospels are nothing but embroidery.

          The selling point of the claim is the Messiah was coming during that generation. A story derived from scripture about a person who was crucified for sin a long time ago would work better than a recent crucifixion.

        • lorasinger

          In Jewish terms, the suffering servant is Israel. In Isaiah, no name is mentioned – just “servant” and in that same chapter, there are numerous phrases such as “You are my servant” and “Israel, my firstborn son”. There is no mention of Jesus or of any “man god” in the OT. Men gods do not exist in Judaism – only in Roman paganism.

          Keep in mind that to Jews, a messiah was simply a leader/anointed king – not a God and there are many messiahs/kings in Jewish history. For a man to be a successful messianic candidate, he had to fulfil prophecies during his lifetime such as bringing world peace, throwing out oppressors, rebuilding the temple if it was to be rebuilt, and a number of other prophecies. Certainly in time, there were a number of such would-be messiahs: Ben Kochbar, the Magician, and others.
          .
          Paul considered himself superior to the apostles and more than once, complained that he wasn’t regarded more highly than he was. In history, he was regarded by the Ebionites (later followers of James and the apostles) to be a liar and heretic.

        • MNb

          “Which leaves virtually nothing to support his historicity.”
          Well, if you reject the scientific method you can’t be helped, just like creationists can’t. They have their gut feelings too.

        • Otto

          What part of the scientific method did I reject with that statement? What part of the Scientific method did you use to conclude he was real?

        • Ignorant Amos

          Well, if you reject the scientific method you can’t be helped,…

          The scientific method and biblical scholars make very strange bedfellows indeed. The idea is strewn with all sorts of difficulties.

          Hector Avalos highlights a few in this two part presentation.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BP5LdELd_0o

        • MNb

          Actually a bishop – this one:

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

        • Alicia

          Good lord, and you people think I am too confident in my claims!

        • MNb

          “but the Bible claims otherwise and the Christians can’t have it both ways”

          I am hardly interested in christians having it both ways – their belief system doesn’t make sense anyway. What I think foolish is atheists wanting to have it both ways. An atheist – and especially a JM – using “the Bible claims …..” as an argument for anything? Well, thanks for showing the inherent innconsistency of that method.

          “… he wasn’t well known and the Bible is in error.”
          What do you think my choice is?

          http://www.livius.org/articles/theory/maximalists-and-minimalists/

          There is no external confirmation that Jesus was considered an important character during his lifetime. He wasn’t unique. He was just another rural fool, who unfortunately got crucified because he became a nuisance, especially after entering Jerusalem.
          Then Paulus stepped in, who made much more of this character than at least the apostles (especially Petrus) intended, as described by Acts.
          Of course there are JM’s who also think that Paulus was a fraud.

          http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/paul.htm

          He just consistently uses JM methodology – the same one reflected by Rudy R’s comment above. It’s build on the same type of skepticism creationists use regarding Evolution Theory. Like I wrote I think that utterly foolish and that includes our very own Greg G.

        • Otto

          There is no external confirmation that Jesus was considered an important character during his lifetime. He wasn’t unique. He was just another rural fool, who unfortunately got crucified because he became a nuisance.

          There is no external confirmation that Jesus ever existed period. That doesn’t mean he didn’t exist necessarily but there is nothing to corroborate the claims made by the Bible. The Bible can’t be trusted as a historical document.

          Take away the Bible and there is absolutely no reason to conclude he was “just another rural fool, who unfortunately got crucified because he became a nuisance”. That is the point many JMs make – not that Jesus didn’t exist but that there is little if any acceptable evidence to conclude he did.

        • lorasinger

          There is a parallel Jewish story that is entirely possible, Otto. Romans were occupying Israel and the people were waiting for a fully human messiah/king/leader to come and toss the Romans out. That messiah had to prove he was who he said he was by doing all those things in his lifetime. If it was looking like he WAS the messiah, all of the Jews would back him and instead of little rebellions, the Romans would have been tossed right out completely. If Jesus looked like he was inspiring enough people, he became a threat to the Romans. Now Romans only stepped in for cases of treason and sedition and crucifixion was the punishment. To Romans, a charge of sedition and execution solved their problems. To the Jews, it meant that because he died before proving himself, he was a false messiah. End of story. Jesus and the crucifixion was taken by gentiles and woven into another pagan god man story, never mind that their story was contradicting most Jewish laws and traditions that the real Jesus followed. In the end, the second story is the one that made it into the bible.

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, but is there any evidence to indicate that’s what happened?

        • Otto

          You beat me to it Pofarmer…

        • lorasinger

          Not a shred except for what I’ve listed below, but if, in fact, there had to be a kernel of truth within the legend, that is the only way it could have happened, taking into account the conditions and beliefs of the jews of those days – if you, like me, don’t believe the supernatural elements of the biblical story and realize that virgin births, sacrificial men gods and human sacrifice are entirely Greco Roman legend/myth.
          .
          Also, Bart Ehrman, Robert Eisenman and his work on the DSS and Hyam MacCoby wrote along those lines as well. The Ebionites also mirror that thinking. All this was suppressed by the church and a great deal of material was lost but biblical scholars independent of the church are making their findings public much to the church’s dismay. Unfortunately preachers were accepted as historians rather than the spin doctors that they were.

        • Greg G.

          there had to be a kernel of truth within the legend, that is the only way it could have happened

          But that doesn’t explain why the epistles only refer to him in terms of Old Testament quotes and allusions. I think the verses they refer to were the basis of their Messiah figure. They weren’t reading the verses as prophecy, they read them as history. A first century person has no advantage over a person from five centuries before, even an imaginary person. They were no longer expecting a Jewish Caesar, they were expecting a god to bring a supernatural kingdom, as Paul described in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, 1 Corinthians 15:51-54, and Philippians 3:20-21 and the basic elements can be found in Isaiah 26:19-21a, Daniel 7:11a, 13a; 12:2, and Isaiah 25:8a, each mostly following that order.

          The Minimal Jesus had to be big enough to attract the attention of the Romans but small enough to not attract the attention of both known and unknown authors, who we would likely know if they had written about Jesus because that writers material would have been saved and discussed. The Minimal Jesus hypothesis skids off the rails when it tries to explain why Paul mentions Jesus about every third verse but fails to mention the person as recent history on Earth. There is more of the same from every other epistle, including the pseudo-Paul authors, until 1 Timothy and 2 Peter start mentioning things from the gospels.

        • lorasinger

          Take a rational approach in that magic and superstitious stories do not actually occur in real life. There is nothing to write about at this point. Move along in time as the story grows based on one man’s imaginings, then “document” the legends 60-80 years later from memories of what someone told you and see if we can’t create a tall tale just as fascinating.

        • Greg G.

          We agree about how the later writings could come to be. But those writings that come decades after Paul wrote could accrue from fictional person just as well. But Paul was writing soon after it was supposed to have happened. He doesn’t write about recent events involving Jesus though he writes about him a lot. Paul also writes about people he knew personally who were supposed to have known Jesus but writes as if he doesn’t think they did.

          It is like Lt. Kije, the move. The music is by Prokofiev.

        • lorasinger

          What I find interesting is Paul’s writing that says of Jesus “He was born of woman, under the law” – meaning entirely normally, with no miracles attached, into a normal situation like any other kid.

        • Greg G.

          Paul probably got that information from:

          Descended from David
          Romans 1:3, Romans 15:12; Galatians 4:4
          2 Samuel 7:12, Isaiah 11:10

          Made of woman
          Galatians 4:4
          Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 49:1, Isaiah 49:5

          There is also

          Declared Son of God
          Romans 1:4
          Psalm 2:7

          which goes along with Mark where Jesus wasn’t special until he got baptized, then it was like he was the One Millionth customer to get baptized while the other gospels have him divine from before birth and the other gospels back away from baptism. Matthew has John ask and Jsus says it is just for show. Luke and John are not clear that John actually did the baptism.

        • lorasinger

          Again, the writings in the gospels were by anonymous followers of Paul and most likely gentiles who weren’t entirely familiar with Jewish belief – the beliefs of Jesus himself as a Torah upholding Jew. In fact nothing in the OT is about Jesus or any man god and that would be clear to you if you had a Jewish rabbi explain the verses as they were meant to be. Judaism has absolutely no concept of a magic god man. Their messiah was to be a warrior/king like David and Solomon – not a god.
          .
          Secondly, the baptism of the Christians that you are familiar with isn’t what “baptism” was in the time of Jesus or even now. It was called a Mikvah and could be done even several times a day – before entering the temple, after sex, after childbirth and so on. This is how Josephus in the first century describes it.
          .
          For immersion in water, it was clear to him (John the Baptist), could not be used for the forgiveness of sins, but as a sanctification of the body, and only if the soul was already thoroughly purified by right actions. Josephus A Baptism of Purification -Antiquities 18.5.2 116-119
          .
          Paul WROTE Romans and Galatians.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Not much of a “Jesus of Nazareth” to be found in the cults second century Christian apologists either.

          I think I have commented on this before, but it does no harm to put it out there again.

          What do we find as Christianity enters its second 100 years? In fact, we find more of the same. Those who have studied the apologists have tended to make some surprising observations. They note how little continuity these writers show with earlier traditions. Their ideas often have nothing in common with those of the New Testament epistles and even the Gospels. There is no dependence on Paul. Moreover, such writers seem not to move in ecclesiastical circles. Even Justin, though he worked in Rome, has nothing to say about bishops and church organizations. And almost all of them before the year 180 (Justin being the major exception) are silent on the Gospels and the figure of Jesus contained in them. In fact, one could say that they pointedly ignore any historical figure at all.

          This astonishing state of affairs, taken with the fact that the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles show no sign of surfacing in any other Christian writers until the middle of the second century, supports the conclusion that the figure of Jesus of Nazareth was a development in Christian thought which came to life only in the Gospels and gradually, throughout the course of the second century, imposed itself on the movement as a whole.

          The Octavius of Minucius Felix is quite revealing.

          [T]he first Latin apologist, Minucius Felix, wrote a dialogue between a Christian and a heathen, entitled Octavius. It too presents a Christianity without an historical Jesus, and in fact contains some startling features in this regard.

          Basically he poo-poo’s as slanderous a number of accusations he places into the mouth of Caecilius, representing general pagan opinion, enumerates: everything from debauchery to the devouring of infants, to Christian secrecy and hopes for the world’s fiery destruction.

          The list goes like this….

          “This abominable congregation should be rooted out . . . a religion of lust and fornication. They reverence the head of an ass . . . even the genitals of their priests . . . . 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 . . . . Also, during initiations they slay and dismember an infant and drink its blood . . . at their ritual feasts they indulge in shameless copulation.”

          Very bizarre indeed for someone supposed to be Christian apologist, given that death on the cross is something central to Christianity.

          http://www.jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/century2.htm

          Then there is the Docetic cults of Christianity.

          Some of the earliest groups of Christians were docetist but after the rise of Cappadocian and Pauline Christianity they were forcibly silenced and mostly eradicated. They believed that Jesus was a purely spiritual projection, sent by God to inform and lead. Joseph didn’t impregnate Mary because Jesus didn’t come from any physical seed; Mary conceived him to fulfil prophecy. Jesus couldn’t have been physical because the physical world was fallen, imperfect and separate from god – in this docetist and gnostic Christians agreed. The reason Jesus didn’t write anything himself or baptise anyone (John 4:1-2) is because he was a phantasm and could not. St Paul wrote that the Son came “in the likeness of flesh” (Romans 8:3).

          If a real flesh and blood guy, as depicted in the gospels, having been executed by the Romans for sedition, regardless of the miracle claims, how could such groups exist?

          Docetism was popular enough amongst Christians that multiple authors and Church Fathers wrote arguments against them. The author of the Gospel of John specifically went out of its way to awkwardly state that “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:1,14). Other anonymous letters and texts which accepted the Gospel of John were later named after John and the resulting literature called Johannine texts. 1 John 4:2-3 says that you can only be godly if you confess that Jesus was physical – docetists, says 1 John, are of the antichrist. Another Christian wrote against docetism in the name of John, and also said that docetists were ungodly. Despite being a forgery, the letter became known as the Second Epistle of John (2 John) and was also canonized in the New Testament, no doubt because the Cappadocian/Nicene Christians found it so useful to back up their belief in a physical fully-God and fully-Human Jesus.

          A Jesus of the gospels wasn’t that obvious even at the time. A time when if a Jesus of Nazareth had walked among us, it would have been far easier to to debunk Docetic belief.

          http://www.vexen.co.uk/religion/docetism.html

        • Greg G.

          2nd century? I must be going the wrong way. I’ve been reading Philo.

          Those are some good points.

          I think that part of Romans 8:3 and a similar line in Philippians 2:7 come from aline in a Suffering Servant song:

          Isaiah 49:5and now the Lord says,    who formed me in the womb to be his servant…

        • Greg G.

          Thanks for that link at the bottom. I like the menu:

              “Historical Forms of Christianity
              Overview and Commentary” by Vexen Crabtree (2003)
              “2nd Century BCE+: Mithraism and Christianity” by Vexen Crabtree (2002)
              “1st Century: The Ebionites
              Jewish Christianity – the OT laws must be upheld” by Vexen Crabtree (2012)
              “1st-7th Century: Gnosticism
              The inferior OT god is subverted by the True God” by Vexen Crabtree (2013)
              “1st-14th Century: Adoptionism
              Jesus was only human until his baptism” by Vexen Crabtree (2011)
              “1st-7th Century: Docetism
              Christ only appeared human but was divine” by Vexen Crabtree (2012)
              “2nd-8th Century: Arianism
              The Father is Greater than the Son” by Vexen Crabtree (2008)
              “2nd-5th Century: Marcionites
              Jesus came to overthrow fake God of the OT” by Vexen Crabtree (2006)
              “4th Century: The rise of modern Christianity
              Cappadocian, Nicene, Pauline and Trinitarian Christianity” by Vexen Crabtree (2008)

        • Alicia

          The Docetists don’t show up until after all the eyewitnesses are dead. They are a Greek version of Christianity, and they arise for the very simple reason that in Greek philosophy Gods were supposed to be pure and incoruptable. An executed God didn’t compute, so they came up with a way to have their cake and eat it too.
          The fact that the docetists believed Jesus was a spirit don’t prove that Jesus was a spirit any more than that orthodox Christians believe he was resurected mean he was resurected. Damn I miss spell check.
          And that passage about the “wretched wood” sounds like it is the complaint of the non-Christian that our apologist is arguing against.
          Which, by the way, is one of the best arguments against the pure-mythology position. An crucified savior is not a story line that any sane 1st century greek marketer would include as the foundation myth of his new religion for any reason other than that it was unavoidably true.

        • Pofarmer

          Gods beating death, or coming back from it, was not an unusual theme. And, not only that, Jesus is coming back, ALL POWERFUL, to kick some ass and start a new kingdom. At least that seems to be the Jesus of Paul and Mark.

        • Greg G.

          The marketing was the coming Messiah. A centuries old crucifixion would be easier to market than a recent one.

          Galatians 3:1 (NIV)You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.

          How would a crucifixion be portrayed to people who didn’t see it a decade or two later? The best way would be to use scripture but that would work better if the crucifixion happened centuries earlier.

          Paul explains how he knows about the crucifixion in Galatians 3:6-14, by quoting scripture. If Jesus died for sin, he had to be cursed. If he was cursed, he had to have been crucified. I think Paul was bamboozling his audience.

          But who made the Galatians question it? Who bewitched them? Since Paul spent the first half chapter of Galatians presenting himself as a humble servant of God and the next chapter and a half deriding James and Cephas with disdain, he probably meant them.

          If Cephas and James were telling the Galatians that Paul was wrong about Jesus being crucified and Paul only knows about the crucifixion from centuries old texts, the Minimal Jesus Hypothesis is in shambles.

        • Greg G.

          My previous post got me to checking. I’m using the word search on the KJV on blueletterbible.com for “crucify, crucifying, crucified, crucifies, crucifixion, and cross. Hebrews has “crucify” once and “cross” once.
          in all the non-Pauline epistles.

          1 Peter 2:24 uses the Greek word “xylon” that is sometimes translated as “cross” and sometimes as “tree” it is the same Greek word that Paul uses in Galatians 3:13 where he quoting Deuteronomy 21:23, using “xylon“, the word in the Septuagint. The Greek word can mean tree, wood, or cross though the word in the Hebrew text is for tree.

          So Paul may have been the only one saying Jesus was crucified early on.

          PS: I noticed that the other epistles are big on the resurrection though.

        • wtfwjtd

          That’s an interesting point. If one preaches about “Christ crucified”, naturally the skeptical among the crowd would ask to meet him. But Paul seems to assume that everyone knows that Jesus is inaccessible to the masses, and now lives somewhere that we can’t go and talk to him. Except, of course, Paul talks to Jesus via revelation, hence his special place in the hierarchy.

        • Pofarmer

          Which is why it’s also convenient Jesus goes to “be with his Father” or whatever as quickly as possible without anybody noticing.

        • wtfwjtd

          As a Christian, that part of the story always bugged me. Why not hang around awhile and do some good, as well as verify the story? Even as a believer that part of the story didn’t make any sense to me.

        • TheNuszAbides

          c’mon, do you know how much gold the average Annunaki Avatar Battery consumes per day of use?

        • wtfwjtd

          “The Minimal Jesus hypothesis skids off the rails when it tries to explain why Paul mentions Jesus about every third verse but fails to mention the person as recent history on Earth. ”

          So, are you saying that Jesus was so minimal, that not only did contemporary writers miss him, but even his followers seemed to have missed him too? That does seem to be a valid and noteworthy point.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Ah, but you can’t prove that’s what didn’t happen 🙂

        • Pofarmer

          Tick, tick, eye twitch.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          ADGCDGHDCBHGDFHHGDVJBGDNHXGA!

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          The biggest offense on MNb’s part is that his “Jesus” sounds just as much made of whole cloth as any plausible character in historical fiction. Some of those characters are based on real people (Karakorum Blake (sp?) from Mitchener’s ‘Hawaii’, for example), but the characters are no less mondern mythology.

        • Otto

          True…but there is nothing to even connect the myth to the man in Jesus’ case. Of course that doesn’t mean there is no man to connect to the myth, just no connection. That is why I don’t understand MNb comparing me to a creationist….creationists deny overwhelming evidence that contradicts their position. I am not denying any evidence that I am aware of and if some were presented I would change my mind…unlike creationists.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          That’s pretty much my position, too.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          This feels like arguing Last Thursdayism. It’s possible everything just began the way everything looks right now on the Thursday of last week, but we have no arguments of any significance for such an event that are worth putting on the table. We know of a civilization that had permanent dwellings built in 1 CE Israel, but we can’t provide any significant evidence and arguments that would plausibly reconstruct the life(s) of one of the common people (or multiple individuals) that would give us a personal basis for the Jesus myth. In order to make the fewest unsubstantiated assumptions, I think assuming Jesus as a wholly legendary character is a solid assumption until and if we find better evidence to alter what I feel is the more falsifiable position.

        • Alicia

          This requires us to believe that Christianity followed a completely different historical trajectory from all comparable sects/cults.
          I find this to be pretty much the opposite of the obvious thing to assume.
          Seems like the obvious thing to assume about Chrisitanity is that it started and grew the way all other sects/cults start/grow. A hair-on-fire individual shows up, makes extreme claims, gets followers. Followers make even more extreme claims on behalf of hair-on-fire individual, more followers are attracted, and now you’ve got yourself a nice little religion.
          We’ve observed it happening again and again, we have records of it happening in additional cases, and the records we have of Christianity are entirely consistent with it having follwed this time-honored pattern.
          Anyone who wants to claim that Christianity is different from all other comparable cults is making (wait for it) an extraordinary claim. And you know what extraordinary claims need? Extraordinary evidence.

        • Pofarmer

          “This requires us to believe that Christianity followed a completely different historical trajectory from all comparable sects/cults. ”

          So you would argue that Romulus and Dionysis et. Al. Were real?

          If you actually read the documents we have, which are, unfortunately, the bible. You apparently have three hair in fire individuals preaching a risen savior type. They would be Cephas, James, and then Paul. This is also roughly analogous to Joseph Smith or Muhamed, unless you believe they really did talk to Angels.

        • Alicia

          Joseph Smith cooked up a religion, which was spread and popularized by others. Had he been killed as efficiently as Jesus was, the parallels would likely be even more clear.
          And as I’ve pointed out in other comments, the fact that different people see someone in different ways does not at all preclude them being one person. Think Lincoln biographies written in the north or south, before, during, and after the Civil Rights movement.
          Heck, think of the different Obamas seen by the right or left. The left thinks he’s an ineffectual milquetoast in the pocket of wall street, the right thinks he’s a socialist bully.
          And I said all *comparible* cults. There are very different narrative structures for cults based on historical figures versus based on primordial gods. A good introduction to comparitive religion text book will clear that up for you.

        • Pofarmer

          Joseph Smith dodn’t need the Angel Moroni to be real, just as Paul didn’t need Jesus to be real. I think it’s a simple category error of who’s what. We know, for instance, that Paul most likely existed, although we really know little about his life, as well. Evidence for Jesus is so scarce as to be non-existant, and if you take the possible late datins of the Gospels into account(early datings are a fairly recent pheonomenon) we don’t have any biographical information from barely within 100 years. This, to me, speaks of a clearly fictional work, that didn’t need a real charachter any more than J.K. Rowling did, or Paul for that matter.

        • Pofarmer

          Also, Joseph Smith cooked up a religion that was entirely fictional. What about L. Ron. Hubbard. Are you going to argue for a historical Xenu? It’s also interesting that some of the Early Church fathers believed in such things as an historical Hercules. Is it really that hard a concept that stories can be written about someone who never existed, anchored in real places? Is it too hard a concept that the Greeks did this, literally, all the time. Is it too hard a concept that the Gospels are Greek literature composed in Greek using common Greek forms?

        • Alicia

          Of course the gospels are greek literature composed in greek using common greek forms. That’s what I’ve been saying all along. They are products of their time, and hagiography did not require factual accuracy.
          Joseph Smith said crazy things and started a religion.
          L Ron Hubbard said crazy things and started a religion.
          Jesus said crazy things and started a religion.
          The fact that what they said was crazy has no bearing on whether they were historical individuals.

        • Greg G.

          How do you know that Jesus said crazy things?

        • MNb

          He was a messias claimant. That’s crazy enough, though not where he lived.
          How do we know he was a messias claimant?
          Multiple attestation – three independent sources in the Bible, two outside.

        • lorasinger

          A messianic claimant to the Jews would have been a man who felt that he was the warrior/king of prophecy. Nothing crazy about that. The next step would have been for him, during his lifetime, to cast out oppressors, bring world peace, bring back the diaspora and a number of believable tasks. No magic required.

        • Alicia

          No, no. That would have been an actual Messiah.
          A messiah claimant is someone who says they will do all of those things and fails and/or gets killed for trying.
          MNb and I are arguing that Jesus was a messiah claimant, not an actual messiah.
          And if you think that no magic is required to bring world peace and cast out oppressors, then you are a lot more optimistic about the world than I am.

        • lorasinger

          I do understand the two points of view but this is confusing anyway. There is the claimant who has not yet proved himself by his actions, an accepted messiah like David and Solomon, and the messiah who comes at the end of times. Jesus was a failed messianic claimant who died before he could prove himself. The end times messiah has not shown himself yet. Personally, I think Netanyahu is aiming for the job.
          ……………….
          I don’t know if this helps but it’s from MessiahTruth, a Jewish site for Jews:

          “The noun moshiach (translated as messiah) annotatively means “annointed one;” it does
          not, however, imply “savior.”
          .
          In Judaic texts, the term messiah was used for all kings, high priests, certain warriors, but never eschatological figures. In the Tanach, moshiach is used 38 times: two patriarchs, six high priests, once for Cyrus, 29 Israelite kings such as Saul
          and David. Not once is the word moshiach used in reference to the awaited Messiah. Even in the apocalyptic book of Daniel, the only time moshiach is mentioned is in connection to a murdered high priest. The Dead Sea Scrolls, the Pseudepigrapha, and Apocrypha never mention the Messiah.”

          .

          Amongst the most basic missions that the Messiah will accomplish during his lifetime (Isaiah 42:4) are to:

          Oversee the rebuilding of Jerusalem, including the Third Temple, in the event that it has not yet been rebuilt(Michah 4:1 and Ezekiel 40-45)

          Gather the Jewish people from all over the world and bring them home to the Land of Israel (Isaiah
          11:12; 27:12-13)

          Influence every individual of every nation to abandon and be ashamed of their former beliefs (or non-beliefs) and acknowledge and serve only the One True God of Israel(Isaiah 11:9-10; 40:5 and Zephaniah 3:9)

          Bring about global peace throughout the world(Isaiah 2:4; 11:5-9 and Michah 4:3-4).
          .
          If he does not do it or dies before doing it, he is considered a false messiah as Jesus would have been.

        • Greg G.

          The Minimal Jesus Hypothesis doesn’t need Jesus to make the claim. It is supposed to be his traumatized followers after his death that come up with that. That would just be another accrued myth.

        • Alicia

          Well, he’s got to make some kind of claim about something or he wouldn’t have followers.
          What does the Minimal Jesus Hypothesis (TM) posit, that he was running a house painting business, and that after his untimely demise they decided to make a messiah out of him?

        • Greg G.

          OK. If he existed, he must have made some claims.

          We have no evidence what those claims would be. The earliest writers weren’t interested in what he said. There is no way to discern made up attributions from a real claim by the time anything like that was written.

          The historical method would require we evaluate those documents by asking these questions:

          Let’s try the Gospel of Mark.

          Who?
          Who wrote the document? The name is less important than how the person has the information contained in the document.

          Author unknown. The information is similar to information in the Hebrew scriptures, Greek literature, and the writings of Paul.

          What?
          What type of literary document is it?

          It could be an allegory.

          Why?
          What was the purpose of the author for writing?

          The writing could be a performance piece. It is written with a chiastic format.

          When?
          When was the document written relative to the events described?

          At least forty years after the setting of the writing.

          Where?
          Where was the document written with respect to the political, philosophical, and social environments?

          The author writes in rough Greek. When an Aramaic word is used, it is usually explained for the reader. When a Latin word is used, it is not explained. It was probably written for a Roman audience.

          Contemporary reception?
          Was the document rejected or accepted by the contemporary audience?

          Some other authors began to use it near the end of the first century. Matthew used 90% of it, about half verbatim and the alterations were for theological reasons. John selected bits and pieces and rephrased those bits but rejected most of it. Luke follows Mark chapters 1 through 9 closely in chapters 3 through 9 and picks up Mark 10 on from Luke 18 on. Both Luke and John follow Mark chapter 6 then jump to Mark 8 (Luke does it in mid-sentence), as if early Christians may have ripped out Mark 7.

          How?
          How was the document preserved to the present time? What was the chain of possession? Is there a paper trail for the document?

          Mark was passed down by believers who made many copies. There are a few questionable passages that may have come from the early copies and the last twelve verses appear to have been added.

        • Greg G.

          Mark took information from Paul so it is not independent. Paul got his information from the Old Testament. Q is a hypothesis.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard are the story tellers, not the object. Paul was the story teller, Jesus was the object.

          Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard wrote about their crazy things themselves….what did Jesus write?

        • Alicia

          That Paul was the storyteller and Jesus the object is *your* thesis.
          That Jesus was the storyteller and the coming apocalypse the object is mine (and the mainstream theory). In that case, Peter is more like some guy named Oliver Cowdery that I’d never heard of until I started arguing with you people, and Paul is more like Brigham Young.
          That their followers make different claims about JS versus JC does not change the basic facts of the case.
          Jesus did not write. That is correct. He lived in a time when literacy was fairly unusual, so he spoke. Are we going to rule that all popular preachers before the advent of wide spread literacy are figments of their listeners imaginations?

        • Pofarmer

          I think you need to look a little closer into some of the apocrypha that was rejected later on. We have sayings Gospels. We have an infancy Gospel, we have a Gospel of Mary, and yet none of those survived any early scrutiny. If there was an Earthly Jesus who taught anything, we absolutely do not know what it was, because everything he is said to have taught is easily attributable to someone else. But we know what Paul was teaching. That a savior was going to come to Earth and kick some butt. That seems to be the earliest teachings of Christianity. There is nothing that Paul writes that requires an Earthly Jesus. The later Gospels aren’t even properly anchored in time. You are trying to sort out this teency little bit of historicity but you can’t even say reliably what that might be.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Sherlock Holmes really lived in 221B Baker Street and invented the Holmesian deduction method of crime detection didn’t ya know?

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherlock_Holmes#Influence

        • primenumbers

          “Also, Joseph Smith cooked up a religion that was entirely fictional. ” – and also which piggybacked on and was inspired by scripture – just like how Paul tells us he got his Jesus information.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Ever heard of General Ned Ludd and his following Luddites?

        • Greg G.

          Don’t those hair-on-fire individuals get followers by talking about an imaginary being?

          Is the cult of Heracles a comparable cult? Mithras? All of the Gnostic and Docetic Christian cults? Those cults/religions don’t need a person to have started them.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          As someone else has said in the comments, Paul is a good bet. Overall, we just don’t have enough evidence to say who, if anyone, Jesus was based on. Saying that Jesus is based on someone is not falsifiable. Saying that as far as we know, he’s a legendary character is falsifiable (we just need candidates to make the statement false. How do we make the other statement false when we have no idea about who that someone was so that we could determine the probability that that isn’t the correct person(s)?).

        • Greg G.

          Paul can’t stop writing about Jesus. He mentions him by some combination of “Jesus” and “Christ” every five verses and about every third verse if you count pronouns and the ambiguous “Lord”. Yet Paul never writes about Jesus as recent. Everything he says about Jesus is found in the Old Testament. That would be a remarkable feat if he knew any first or second hand knowledge of Jesus. That’s 300 to 500 times without tipping his hand about recent information.

          Historians give us the Minimal Jesus Hypothesis which is admitting there is no real evidence that Jesus existed but allows one to believe it anyway.

        • MNb

          “That would be a remarkable feat if he knew any first or second hand knowledge of Jesus.”
          Paulus did not write for you. Nice example of special pleading by you.

          “Historians give us the Minimal Jesus Hypothesis which is admitting there is no real evidence that Jesus existed.”

          Ah – just like fossils are no real evidence for intermediate species, I suppose.
          Fact is that Marcus mentions Jesus of Nazareth.
          Fact is that the Q Document mentions him.
          Fact is that Acts mentions him.
          Fact is that Flavius Josephus mentions him.
          Fact is that Polycarpus of Smyrna claims to be a pupil of John the Apostle and that apostles without a messias make precious little sense.
          Fact is that the Gospels attributes a few statements to Jesus which do not make any sense for a fictional character.

          JM’s like you have to explain that all (and more – the list is not complete) away by means of special pleading. Still you have the guts to accuse historians – you know, pros, not amateurs like you – of this. What’s more, JM’s (I’m not sure if it was you or Pofarmer) refer to Earl Doherty as an inspiration, a man whose argument for more than 95% consists of theology. You yourself – you possibly as an ex-christian don’t even recognize it – rely on atheist theology to bring your point home, an activity you otherwise totally dismiss. You do this every time you refer to the Gospels and explain what those quotes mean. You’re addicted to it as much as you were in your christians days and just like then never ask yourself what you actually show but your predetermined conclusion. Sorry Pope Gregorius G, I won’t buy atheist theology any more than I buy other versions.
          Plus you hardly ever apply your method to other historical characters. When someone mentions Alexander the Great you go “but we have archeological evidence”. Yeah, that’s the point. If we as a thought experiment neglect that archeological evidence your method would predict that Alexander the Great was a fictional character. Hence your method is the summum of special pleading. You only apply it when it suits you. You’re still a True Believer – you only believe something else now.

        • Greg G.

          Have you been keeping up with Alicia? She freely admits that anything in the gospels may be accrued mythology.

          Mark is way too late to be of value history and anything and everything may be a fictional story. Do you have a passage you think is not fictional?
          Q is imaginary and would probably be too late to be anything but accrued myth.
          Acts is way too late to not be full of accrued myth. My favorite is people being healed when Peter’s shadow passes over them.
          The writings of Josephus mention Jesus but it has been put to bed that one is a forgery and the other most likely an interpolated margin note.
          The writing of Polycarp shows no evidence that his claim is factual. It only dhows that he knew the gospels and most epistles.
          The gospels were written by different people with different agendas. If the sayings don’t make sense if he was fictional, they don’t make sense if he was real.

          Please present the Jesus quotes you know for a fact are real Jesus quotes.

          You are making terrible arguments for a historical Jesus. If historians are certain that Jesus existed, there must be some good evidence. It shouldn’t be that hard to present it.

        • Alicia

          Um. If you think I’m closer to you than to MNb then you have been seriously misreading either my comments or his (please forgive me if I have misunderstood your gender, MNb).
          Both of us are firm that Jesus was an actual historical person who preformed no supernatural feats, and that the gospels are heavily legendized accounts of true events. I think we both agree that it is impossible to tell from this distance exactly what happened, but we are both (by my reading) equally firm that something did.
          Your opinion seems to be that because some things are magical, that the entire thing is fictional.
          Please see my comment, below, to clarify where I think you go wrong.
          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2015/08/12-reasons-why-jesus-is-a-legend/#comment-2181172674

        • Greg G.

          I understand both of your viewpoints and his. He is very intelligent but you know much more than he does on this subject.

          Your opinion seems to be that because some things are magical, that the entire thing is fictional.

          No, that is not even close. My position is that we can determine the sources of the writings in greater detail than many would like to admit. Those details show that the stories were invented. We don’t even have to reject the magical parts. We can identify a similar miracle from Elijah, Elisha, or Moses and surmise that Mark based the Jesus miracle on the OT passage. Randel Helms shows those in Gospel Fictions.

          We can do similar things with the more plausible events. Mark 2:23-28 is about a debate between Jesus and some Pharisees. It is based on 1 Samuel 9 but it is obvious that the characters have no idea about the back story in 1 Samuel. That argument would not have gone down that way. The Pharisees would have embarrassed Jesus. Jesus didn’t even know that David was lying about having companions.

          It is not hard to find the OT references Paul uses to talk about Jesus. Mostly, the footnotes and crossreference on the NIV at biblegateway.com will point to the quoted verse or a plausible verse.

          It is not the lack of evidence for Jesus that leads me to think he never existed, it is the positive evidence that everything in the New Testament him is made up and everything outside the Bible is influenced by it.

        • Alicia

          The people who wrote the gospels (and/or the oral traditionists they got their information from) forced the events of the historical Jesus’ life to match up with events in the OT, and invented additional stories to tack on to the existing stories, so that they could show that their messiah was fulfilling prophesies. This is one of those standard and predictable things I mention in that comment.
          I’m not clear what you think started the Christian movement off, if it wasn’t Jesus.
          Some guy named Saul woke up one morning feeling unfulfilled and so he decided change his name and establish a religion based on the most unmarketable messiah ever?
          So he wrote a bunch of epistles about something else and then tricked various people into writing four gospels and the acts of the apostles about the guy that he invented out of whole cloth but couldn’t see fit to mention in his letters, plus a bunch of other followers? Who I suppose he cooked up one night when he couldn’t sleep?
          That is somehow a more likely explanation to you, than that there was an actual false-messiah named Jesus and an entirely predictable process happened to turn his followers into the religion we all know today?

        • lorasinger

          How about if the real human Jesus was just a preacher from the Essenes (the purest of the pure) who was just trying to whip Hellenized Jews back into orthodox Jewish religion and nothing more. After his death, his brother James took over the group (written at length about by Josephus) and it was at this point, 30 years or so later that Paul entered the picture, had an epileptic fit and converted on the spot. James sided with the Jews that were in rebellion to the Romans but Paul was sent to quell rebellion but wasn’t having much luck so he did a turn about, joined James group but turned the story around so that the kingdom was on the other side rather than freedom from Romans on this one. The key is then James. Find James and you find Jesus. James was an embarrassment to the church in later years since Mary was a perpetual virgin so there could be no brothers and the RCC squelched James importance altogether.

        • Alicia

          Well, I guess you could do that. It completely violates Occam’s razor and doesn’t fit 80% of the available data, but you could do it.
          Oh, and I don’t think Jesus or the earliest Christians *were* trying to start a new religion. That was later.

        • lorasinger

          Eisenman and Butz are working that angle based on the dead sea scrolls. No, Jesus wasn’t trying to start a new religion. He was trying to bring Jews back to their religion because they were losing it because of outside influences.

        • Pofarmer

          And, that’s an interesting angle because there is so much that we’ve lost.

        • Alicia

          As far as I know, all mainstream scholarship would agree that Jesus was not trying to start a new religion.

        • lorasinger

          I didn’t say he was trying to start a religion. The Essenes considered themselves to be the epitome of Jewish holiness, right dead set on the true path. There were also many Jews who were being Hellenized and losing their faith. An Essene preacher then would be whipping them back in line as Jews.

          I’m sorry if I’m confusing you. I’m working on the premise of a Jesus or someone else, a fully human male who was the inspiration for the Jesus of the bible that Paul and his followers concocted. The first would have existed as a Jew in a Jewish world, a not particularly noteworthy Essene preacher (or messianic candidate). The second one was the god of Paul’s invention, the one in the bible.. The two in fact, bear little or no relationship to each other.
          .
          Romans interfered in Jewish legal affairs only in cases of sedition and treason and the punishment was crucifixion. I tend to think of Jesus as a messianic candidate who was a threat to Rome for the reason that a charge of sedition would have given him exactly that kind of punishment.

        • Alicia

          If you want to argue that the gospels get the general flow of the thing roughly rightish and that Paul is smoking crack, then you and I are absolutely on the same side. But I’ve had the impression you were arguing against the general plot line of the gospels as well. [General plot line: guy wanders around Galilee making a nuisance of himself, and telling people how to run their lives, goes to Jerusalem, gets killed]

        • lorasinger

          Yup, that’s the general plot line of the bible story because it’s a story about a mythical man god, Paul’s Jesus. You can’t argue with that any more than you can argue with the plot lines of “Robin Hood”. But the inspirations for both of them are probably nothing like the stories.

        • Pofarmer

          “Some guy named Saul woke up one morning feeling unfulfilled and so he
          decided change his name and establish a religion based on the most
          unmarketable messiah ever?
          So he wrote a bunch of epistles about
          something else and then tricked various people into writing four gospels
          and the acts of the apostles about the guy that he invented out of
          whole cloth but couldn’t see fit to mention in his letters, plus a bunch
          of other followers? Who I suppose he cooked up one night when he
          couldn’t sleep?”

          Holy, holy, holy shit. You can READ what Paul says about how the religion got started. There was a small group in Jerusalem lead by Cephas and James that were preaching a different religion. What exactly they were preaching, we don’t know, but we do know, from Acts, that the religion Paul was preaching was that a Messiah was going to come down from heaven and kick some worldly ass, any day now.

          Now, can we at least agree about that?

        • Alicia

          Yes. Paul was preaching that the Jesus who Peter and James had been associates of and that he had some kind of wonky spiritualist understanding of would be returning to kick some worldly ass.
          Aside: Were you there on the comment section when I told a story about someone I knew who was converted in the kind of mystical experience that is reported for Paul? She was just as weird as him. Very airy-fairy, very uninterested in educating herself about the religion she had converted to, because she knew everything she needed to know through direct revelation. I understood Paul a lot better after knowing her.
          And that summary was intended to try to understand how the “Paul invented it all in accordance with OT prophesies” school of thought thinks things are supposed to happen. I find myself utterly mystified at the Ptolemaic epicycles that are needed to maintain the mythologist point of view.

        • Pofarmer

          “Paul was preaching that the Jesus who Peter and James had been associates of”

          Show me where Paul argues that.

          “And that summary was intended to try to understand how the “Paul invented it all in accordance with OT prophesies” school of thought thinks things are supposed to happen. I find myself utterly mystified at the Ptolemaic epicycles that are needed to maintain the mythologist point of view.”

          Weren’t you the one arguing historical context? The Jews were considered by the Romans to be religious nuts. Paul was supposedly a Pharisee, he would have been intimately familiar with scripture. Even today, it’s very common to see religious types re imagining scriptural passages and “prophesies.” Harold Camping (cough, cough) Heavens Gate. Captain Cassidy on Patheos could probably name off DOZENS.

        • Alicia

          I didn’t say that Paul argued it. The totality of the evidence argues it, and I’m more interested in the totality of the evidence than the word of a hallucination-converted guy who didn’t bother to educate himself in the faith he was evangelizing for.

        • lorasinger

          Alicia, the faith that Paul was preaching wasn’t the one he claimed to have converted to. Do you recall that he was called back at Antioch in about 59 AD to explain heretical teachings. He was teaching his converts to “turn their backs on Moses”. That entailed ceasing circumcision but then with it also the old covenant and the law too because they are bound together. Paul’s new religion was entirely invented by Paul, nothing like the Judaism of James and Peter.

        • Pofarmer

          I asked where Paul argued it. The only way the “totality of the evidence” argues it is if you read the Gospels back into the Epistles. Why not let Paul speak for himself?

        • wtfwjtd

          “Paul was preaching that the Jesus who Peter and James had been associates of and that he had some kind of wonky spiritualist understanding of would be returning to kick some worldly ass. ”

          You’re going to have to do better than that, Alicia. Paul claimed to know as much about Jesus as Peter, James, and any other “super-apostle”, and he never spoke of the “return” of Jesus, only the coming of Jesus. Big difference.

        • Alicia

          1) Are you reading it in Greek or English? What do you know about the precise connotations of that word in other Greek sources? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and “they translate it with a word sort of suggestive of my preferred thesis” doesn’t qualify.
          2) I just told you I think Paul is full of it, so the fact that he says he isn’t full of it isn’t going to pull much weight with me.
          3) And either way, you’re following MNb’s creationist strategy of picking one fact that sort of supports your thesis and ignoring the acres of evidence that does not.

        • wtfwjtd

          That’s your answer? Just wave it away because I’m not a scholar in ancient Greek, with a charge of “creationist”! to boot?
          Your boundless confidence on the flimsiest of evidence is, frankly, amazing. We’re talking ancient history here, and dealing in probabilities, not certainties. I’m not sure what “thesis” you are accusing me of supporting, perhaps that there are other ways of interpreting the meager evidence we have concerning the subject at hand, perhaps?

        • Alicia

          The “thesis” that I’m accusing you of supporting is that there is a realistic probability that Christianity did not form the way all other religions form. Which is a very good parallelism to creationism.
          And I’d say my claims have been quite admirably limited: There was a Jesus dude, he did stuff, he got killed, his followers founded a religion that survives today. Those are not extreme claims. Those are the claims of all responsible historians.
          Were I claiming that I knew which words of Jesus were genuine, or that he had been resurrected, those would be unreasonable claims to be confident of.
          What I’m confident of is that the laws of history cannot be conveniently cast aside any more than the laws of evolution or gravity.
          Certainly they can’t be cast aside because someone used a word that you don’t care for the translation of, or because any of the other alleged difficulties I’ve seen highlighted.
          For someone who knows history of religion and social movements, your counter arguments are no more compelling than any of the points in a Gish Gallop.

        • lorasinger

          Jesus leadership, after his death, went on to James, his brother (about whom Josephus writes) and after James death in around 70 AD when the temple fell, the Jerusalem “Christians” faded away into obscurity. What remained of them became known as Ebionites and Nazarenes. Paul’s Christianity won out, declared the Ebionites as heretics and destroyed their writings. The Ebionites were essentially still the same – believing Jesus was a man, revering James but they declared Paul was a liar and his religion was called “the lying religion”. This comes from the Criticisms of the Early Church Fathers.
          .
          Based on the dead sea scrolls, Eisenman thinks the Ebionites, the Essenes and the Quamran community are one and the same.

        • Alicia

          So in this comment you say that leadership went to James after Jesus death. In the comment you made twenty minutes previously, you describe Jesus as a fictional figure in the pattern of Robin Hood.
          Which of those would you like to disavow? Since you seem to be accepting James as a historical figure, and historical figures do not inherit their leadership from fictional characters.

        • lorasinger

          I think I already wrote that the man, Jesus or whatever the name, that was the inspiration for the bible story would be a fully human Jew in a Jewish world. Whatever he was, he was fully human.
          .
          The second version of Jesus, that in the bible, is a fictional man god invented by Paul and his followers. This second story is built partially on the first. I say partially because of the strong Greco Roman mythology that runs through it, similar to other men gods of that time.
          .
          Imagine being a Greek writing about a man in Israel using what little you know of Jewish customs but basing a great deal of your story on what was familiar to you in Greece. Same result. You would be satisfied that it as accurate but to Jew, you would likely be way off course. A Jew would know immediately what was authentic and what had be added.
          .
          By the writings of Josephus and the descriptions given in the Criticisms of the early church fathers, it seems that James was the leader of the Jewish “Christians” right up until the fall of the temple in 70 AD which puts him right in Paul’s time frame. Additional information from the Ebionites also establishes a James, the brother of Jesus, as having existed. That James existed there is no doubt and by extension then, so did Jesus the man – not a god, but a fully human male.

        • Alicia

          So… Your point is that Christianity as it became is unrelated to what Jesus the man had in mind?
          In that case you would be squarely within the Historical Jesus school. Plenty of people who are into the historical Jesus think that what Paul and the Greek gentiles did to his religion is a travesty.
          And yet you seem to be arguing for some hypothesis within the “JM” school of thinking. Or at least are arguing very vigorously against my very minimal “Jesus was a dude. He said some stuff. He got killed. His movement eventually developed into Christianity” point of view.
          Is this some kind of definitional issue? Where you don’t like one of the words involved in that description and want to replace it with something that to me means the same thing but to you means something radically different?

        • lorasinger

          Sorry. Didn’t mean to be confusing. Let’s see if I can clarify (or further confuse):
          The Jesus who was the inspiration for the biblical Jesus could have been:
          1) A legend – not any living person at all.
          2.)A fully human male who was a messianic candidate since all the other pieces (like a sedition charge and crucifixion) point to this. Historians also write in passing about a James, a brother of Jesus and this makes me think that such a man might have existed sans miracles.
          3) A fully human Essene preacher and Zealot, interested only in bringing back the Hellenized Jews to Judaism, still with a brother James known as “James the Righteous” whose death is described and associated with the fall of the temple.
          .
          The problem is that there was nothing contemporary to his time that is written.
          .
          The Jesus of the bible is strictly Paul’s and his followers invention that builds on a few things that might have been the truth and adds a whole lot of fantasy that doesn’t jibe either with Jews laws, beliefs, traditions or history. Like the Tarzan story, there is an Africa, a jungle, lions and tigers and apes but Tarzan is an American fabrication of life in Africa which most likely isn’t accurate to start with.
          .
          The importance of James in the picture has been minimized by the church in order to maintain the perpetual virginity of Mary fallacy. Whatever James was, Jesus is in the same vein.
          I hope that helps.

        • Pofarmer

          So, what was Jesus religion?

        • Alicia

          He was Jewish.

        • Pofarmer

          What else?

        • Alicia

          Nothing else. He was a perfectly ordinary Jew of his time, making claims that were entirely common to the Judaism of his time.

        • Pofarmer

          So ya got nothing?

        • Alicia

          Um. When have I ever claimed that Jesus was anything other than a Jew?
          He was a dude who made trouble in Galilee, attracted followers there, got killed in Jerusalem, his followers stayed together after his death, told elaborate stories about him, and managed to (after a few addititonal twists and turns) found the world’s biggest religion.
          That is the story line that I’ve been repeating again and again in this comment section.
          I don’t see anywhere in that story line that I claim he was ever anything other than a Jew.
          I’m not sure who you are arguing against with this line of attack, but it sure isn’t me.

        • Greg G.

          You are taking the gospels for granted. You cannot know which parts are added legend and which are not. You cannot know of any of the gospels hold any truth. The only one of those facts that the epistles support is that he was killed, but not the in Jerusalem part.

        • Pofarmer

          Why is its hard to get people to let the authors speak for themselves? Let Paul speak for Paul, not someone who wrote 30 years later in a different country, with no knowledge of any actual man, existing or not. Lets’s take the earliest information we’ve got, and see what it says. Then lets take the later information and see what it says. Let’s throw oit the obvious late apologetics for what they are. Let’s look at the archaeology and see what that tells us. What’s there, what’s missing that we would expect to be there. What are the sources? How reliable are they? How do they compare to other sources from the day? Let’s look at it with fresh eyes, new information, new scholarship. Why do even purported atheists find it so threatening to even talk about? It’s almost mesmerizing.

        • Alicia

          I won’t choose that hill to die on, but I do think it’s most probable that he died in Jerusalem.
          But then I’m interested in probabilities, not “well, it coulda happened that way.”
          And every single probability points to there being a factual core to the gospels, to which magical features are added.

        • Greg G.

          Have you taken a look at New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash by Robert M. Price, yet? Have you ever wondered why there are two mass feedings in Mark? Price references Gospel Fictions by Randel Helms and The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark by Dennis R. MacDonald to explain it:

          18. Multiplication of Loaves and Fish (6:30-44; 8:1-10)

          As all acknowledge, the basis for both the miraculous feeding stories in Mark’s gospel is the story of Elisha multiplying the twenty barley loaves for a hundred men in 2 Kings 4:42-44. There is in all three stories the initial assessment of how much food is available, the prophetic command to divide it among a hopelessly large number, the skeptical objection, puzzled obedience, and the astonishing climax in which not only all are fed, but they had leftovers as well! As Helms notes (p. 76), John has gone back to the source to add a detail. He has made the servant (paidarion) of Elisha into a boy (paidarion) whose five barley loaves Jesus uses to feed the crowd (John 6:9).

          But there are more elaborate details in Mark’s stories which do not come from 2 Kings. They come from the Odyssey 3:34-38, 63-68; 4:30, 36, 51, 53-58, 65-68 (MacDonald, pp. 89-90). The reason Mark has two feeding miracles is to emulate Homer, who has Odysseus’ son Telemachus attend two feasts, and Mark has borrowed details from both. For the first feast, Telemachus and the disguised Athena sail to Pylos where King Nestor is presiding at a feast in honor of Poseidon. It is a sailors’ feast, so only men are present. Four thousand, five hundred of them are seated in nine units of five hundred each. Everyone ate to satiety and there were leftovers. In Mark’s first feast story, Jesus and his men also sail to the site of the meal. They encounter a group of five thousand men, andreV, males (no explanation is offered for this, a simple vestige of Homer). Jesus has them sit in discrete groups. After the Elisha-style miracle, everyone eats and is filled, and leftovers are gathered.

          Homer’s second feast witnesses Telemachus going overland to Sparta, just as in Mark’s second episode, Jesus and the disciples walk to Galilee, where he meets the crowd of four thousand. This time, in both stories, there is no restriction to males. A servant of King Menelaus bids him send Telemachus and his companion away unfed, but the king will not, just as a disciple urges Jesus to send away the hapless crowd, and he will not. Everyone sits down to eat, in both cases, and in neither is there any mention of the elaborate arrangement of the diners as in the first feast scene. All are filled; leftovers are gathered. Mark has seemingly cast Jesus as Telemachus in both stories until the hero arrives at the banquet scene, whereupon he switches roles, having Jesus take the place of the hosts, Nestor and Menelaus.

        • Ignorant Amos

          And every single probability points to there being a factual core to the gospels, to which magical features are added.

          Nope, it really doesn’t. If it were as simple as you are making it out to be, there would be no argument. It would be moot.

          Of course, if you knew the arguments then that might make a difference. You have mentioned more than once your academic credentials…please use them.

        • TheNuszAbides

          apparently her [current] field is nutrition. i can [very much!] sympathize if she hasn’t made a stable career directly related to the degrees she’s mentioned, but it does seem awfully odd that she wants to paint JM as utterly legless, reiterates emphasis on probability yet (so far that i’ve seen) gives absolutely no acknowledgement of (e.g.) Carrier’s rigorous-if-[some-say-]’unorthodox’ application of Bayesian principles? (predictable follow-up might be “well i’m not a mathematician so can’t comment” … actually i’m curious as to specific objections over his Bayesian approach, because so far all i’ve heard is that it can only possibly be formal and is therefore [somehow?] inapplicable in an analysis of historical events/claims. i forget who his maths consultant was, but he has definitely named them when explaining that he ‘checked his work’.)

        • TheNuszAbides

          of course, it’s somewhat refreshing when she finally gets around to asking questions that aren’t obviously patronizing.

        • wtfwjtd

          Gosh Alicia, you sure are confusing. In the following link, you said this:
          “It makes more sense to hypothesize that this religion was in fact founded by a guy named Jesus…”

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2015/08/12-reasons-why-jesus-is-a-legend/#comment-2181172674

          Now, you are telling me this:
          “There was a Jesus dude, he did stuff, he got killed, his followers founded a religion…”

          Which Alicia do you want a response to? And which one is the real Alicia?
          I’ll make my position clear: I completely agree with the statement that the followers of Jesus founded a religion. How’s that?

        • Alicia

          Do you believe that Jesus was a historical person when he gathered those followers, and that the movement had continuity with the one he founded?

        • wtfwjtd

          I’ll take this as two parts. First: “Do you believe that Jesus was a historical person…”

          That’s the scholarly consensus, and for purposes of discussion I accept this. Unlike you though, I don’t think he “founded” anything.

          “…and that the movement had continuity with the one he founded?”

          I’ll repeat what I sad above: The followers of Jesus founded a religion. Whether it had continuity with anything that Jesus ever said or did, I have no idea, since I have no idea what this historical Jesus may or may not have actually said or did.

        • Greg G.

          Saul is a fiction from Acts where Luke was trying to make parallels between Peter and Paul. There was Simon Peter so Luke made a Saul Paul.

          Some Messianic Jews, those that thought a Messiah was coming, had an idea that there was a real person written into the allegories in the OT. Paul called them hidden mysteries. If they were explicit, they would not have been secret. Everybody wanted the Messiah to come while they were alive. Paul at least thought the mere revelation during his generation was the indication that the Messiah would come during that generation.

          Paul thought that the Messiah was coming soon and wanted to tell everybody before it was too late. He never expected there to be gospels written because he expected the Messiah to bring the new kingdom.

          I think that is more likely because it matches up with what Paul writes.

        • Alicia

          Oh, and “if historians are certain that Jesus existed, there must be some good evidence” is [drum roll] a fundamental misunderstanding of how history works. The kind of evidence that ancient history works in is the kind of evidence that MNb and I have been giving you.
          If you want to see how responsible historians argue, you could read some of their books. MNb has given you a variety of good titles. Here’s one more.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_P._Meier

        • Greg G.

          I am aware of Meier. He said about the Mark 2:23-28 passage that the Pharisees popping up in a grainfield sounds like a Broadway musical.

          The Criterion of Embarrassment is just trying too hard to generate reasons to believe. If the story was being made up as they went along, they wouldn’t anticipate what would embarrass later believers. Mark had Jesus baptized for remission of sins, not knowing that next generation of believers would have Jesus divine from before birth.

        • Alicia

          What about the crucifixion? That was already causing problems in the Pauline epistles.
          I agree that the criterion of embarrassment can be taken much too far, but I don’t think it’s completely worthless.
          On the occasions when we can prove with reasonable certainty that it really would have been (or was) embarrassing at the time, I think its defensible.

        • Pofarmer

          Once Paul was preaching the crucifiction, he was stuck. We don’t really know what the Jerusalem gang was preaching.

        • lorasinger

          The Jerusalem “gang” were called the circumcised party – Jews the same as the others but with the difference being that they believed that Jesus was the fully human leader/king of Jewish prophecy, like David and Saul.

        • Alicia

          It seems like it would have been predicable that it would cause problems. Not something you would pick out of your hat when you were trying to cook up a new cult and then be shocked to discover wasn’t selling as well as you thought it would.
          What is your vision for the relationship between Paul and the “Jerusalem gang”? You think they are preaching different things that somehow join up later? Or what?

        • wtfwjtd

          “What is your vision for the relationship between Paul and the “Jerusalem gang”?”

          Acrimony, bitterness, and division, for starters. Paul makes this crystal-clear in both Corinthians and Galatians. Hardly the kind of stuff you would expect to see if they were all buddy-buddy and in complete agreement about their ol’ pal Jesus.

        • Alicia

          Good lord, when have I ever implied that they were in complete agreement? As I said in a comment that you just responded to, I think Paul was a nut, and I’m sure he gave James and Peter nothing but heart burn.
          Fights for predominance are part of the normal life cycle of new cult.

        • Alicia

          But my question was, how did they both coincidentally come up with the idea of preaching a messiah who eventually was decided to be the same guy, who was named Jesus and crucified?
          Did each group independently wake up one morning feeling unfulfilled, and came up with messiahs that were later combined, or did Paul get converted and then spontaneously go against their spiffy idea to invent a messiah to promulgate, or what?

        • wtfwjtd

          “But my question was, how did they both coincidentally come up with the idea of preaching a messiah who eventually was decided to be the same guy, who was named Jesus and crucified?”

          That’s a great question; if I could definitely answer it, and back my answer with evidence, the debate would (mostly) be over. The problem, of course, is the lack of evidence. At the end of the day, I don’t think we are really that far apart on this–the devil, as they say, is in a few details. You’ve made it clear that Jesus is the central figure in the story, and founded a new religion. His followers then spread it, it got really big, amen, the end.
          I personally don’t think Jesus was important to early Christianity. As I’ve stated, I think he’s just a character in a story that’s been heavily embellished, to say the least. This doesn’t mean I don’t think there was never a historical Jesus, necessarily. It is the consensus, after all, and I accept that. But, I just happen to personally think the evidence is ambiguous enough to allow for other plausible explanations.
          As for inventing a messiah, that was actually quite a common thing, from what I understand. As it is, the version of Christianity that finally emerged as the dominant one was a fusion of many different groups, each with their own ideas about Jesus.

        • Pofarmer

          “You think they are preaching different things that somehow join up later? Or what?”

          They are obviously preaching different things or there wouldn’t have been the disputes Paul documents.

        • Greg G.

          A later group may have been embarrassed by the position of their predecessors. That’s not the predecessor’s fault. Even Origen was declared a heretic. Religions evolve.

          The crucifixion played a role in Paul’s theology as spelled out in Galatians 3. I don’t see much about that in the other writings until the gospels. The others think Jesus lived, suffered and died for sins, then got resurrected so he could come back as the Messiah. Much of it is in Isaiah 53.

        • lorasinger

          Josephus has written that baptism was not used for remission of sins, only to ritually cleanse the body after the mind was pure with right actions.

        • Greg G.

          I didn’t ask for perfect evidence. He has given poor evidence. If historists are willing to insist Jesus existed based on not good evidence, that could be a problem. I think opinions and beliefs should be held with no more confidence than the strength of the evidence. Since we cannot rule out solipsism absolutely, we can never have absolute certainty but I think it is clumsy and unnecessary to qualify every statement with every doubt we might have. I don’t mind overstating a proposition for the sake of debate.

        • TheNuszAbides

          I don’t mind overstating a proposition for the sake of debate.

          and she apparently doesn’t mind overstating anyone else’s proposition for the sake of … i don’t even know what. (Alicia to Kodie: ” … how the mythologising atheists on this comment section want us to read the bible, where they want us to dismiss out of hand the possibility that there is a person underlying the myth.”)

    • Erp

      How many Jewish historian living in Jerusalem at that time left anything about anything? Exactly zero. Philo is the closest and he lived in Egypt. What do we know about Pilate who was certainly a much more important person than an executed Jewish carpenter’s son? A few inscriptions and small bits from Philo and Josephus (Josephus writing later) and the gospels.

      Most people were not literate at that time and of those who were literate very little of what they wrote has survived. The consensus of historians of that time period (Christian and non-Christian) is that Jesus existed but did not make any big splash (no physical resurrection either of Jesus or anyone else, no darkness, no ripping of the veil, no angels, no magi). He was executed and some of his followers refused to think that he was truly dead so reinterpreted events according to their scriptures (sometimes seriously distorting those scriptures). Christianity was a small split movement (another legend were stories of large numbers of converts) with no serious power for a couple of centuries though it seems to have provided a useful scapegoat at times since they refused to participate in the civic cult (bit like the Jehovah’s Witnesses refusing to pledge). It is not surprising we don’t hear much about them from non-Christian writers in the early days.

      • Otto

        Actually this is wrong, there were people in and around the area that reported on people like Jesus. They reported on other claimed Messiahs at the time as place. The only reason to think that Jesus might have been a real person that was executed is the Bible, and the Bible gets the story so obviously wrong it can’t be trusted on anything except those things that can be independently corroborated, and nothing about Jesus can be, The Bible claims Jesus was pretty famous throughout Syria, he rode into Jerusalem as a rock star and was very publicly executed. Obviously those stories are hugely exaggerated, if they are true at all, and there is nothing to independently verify even the most basic information.

        • Erp

          Give some citations please for those people who were reporting and whose reports have survived? I don’t doubt that people wrote letters etc. but any letters or documents from Roman ruled Palestine (or just about anywhere in the Roman empire) have not survived. Paul’s letters are an exception just as Pliny’s letters from somewhat later. The one sort of exception is Egypt where the intellectual ferment, importance to the Empire (which meant a lot more bureaucratic paperwork) plus desert like climate have allowed a small portion of documents to survive.

          Note Jesus was publicly executed along with two others (assuming that part is the Bible is correct) and Pilate wasn’t exactly know for his mercy. Executions weren’t uncommon in that time and place. And people exaggerate as you say but usually there is something at the core.

        • primenumbers

          “And people exaggerate as you say but usually there is something at the core” – that inference can be valid for normal reporting. Even in the most biased news stories of today, there’s usually something behind the story that got twisted around to suit the narrative of that media outlet.

          However, the inference doesn’t hold the other way around in that if we read a religious story, no matter how exaggerated there doesn’t have to be any core historical truth at all, even if you pull out all that is mystical, magical and mythical, what is left can be just as invented as the bits you removed.

        • lorasinger

          There is a very good article that is an excerpt from a book by H. MacCoby called “The problem of Paul”. This position has lately been supported by Eisenman and others since the discovery of the dead sea scrolls. It’s worth a good read and can be found on the internet.

        • Otto

          Justus of Tiberias and Philo of Alexandria would be two examples, both lived at the same time as Jesus and reported on the area and yet not a word from either.

          It is interesting that you mention Pilate wasn’t known for his mercy and yet the Bible reports that he let a known murderer and enemy of the gov’t go. So basically again the Bible cannot be trusted to report on actual known historical figures. I want to know why anything the Bible says that cannot be independently verified should be trusted at all including its claim that Jesus was executed or even existed as a person that even somewhat resembles what was written in the Gospels?

        • busterggi

          “Pilate wasn’t known for his mercy and yet the Bible reports that he let a known murderer and enemy of the gov’t go. ”

          And accoding to some of the earliest copies of the gospels that person was Jesus Barabas, aka Jesus the son of the father, which suggests that at least some early Christians believed Jesus was not executed at all.

        • Greg G.

          PS: If a first century writer that is unknown to us would have written about Jesus the early Christian writers would have mentioned it and the scribes would have copied and dispersed it, so there is a good chance he or she would be famous today.

          This John Remsberg’s list of first century writers who didn’t mention Jesus.

          1. PHILO

          Philo Judaeus, also called Philo of Alexandria (born 15–10 bc, Alexandria—died ad 45–50, Alexandria), Greek-speaking Jewish philosopher, the most important representative of Hellenistic Judaism. His writings provide the clearest view of this development of Judaism in the Diaspora. As the first to attempt to synthesize revealed faith and philosophic reason, he occupies a unique position in the history of philosophy. He is also regarded by Christians as a forerunner of Christian theology.

          2. JUSTUS

          Justus of Tiberias was a Jewish author and historian living in the second half of the 1st century AD. Little is known about his life, except as told by his political and literary enemy Josephus Flavius.

          3. PLUTARCH

          Plutarch or Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia.He was born to a prominent family in Chaeronea,Boeotia, a town about twenty miles east of Delphi.

          Plutarch of Chaeronea wrote many works on history and philosophy in Rome and Boetia in about 90-120 CE.

          4. PLINY THE ELDER

          Pliny the Elder, Gaius Plinius Secundus (23-79 AD), Roman savant and author of the celebrated Natural History, an encyclopaedic work of uneven accuracy that was an authority on scientific matters up to the Middle Ages.

          Gaius Plinius Secundus wrote a large Natural History in Rome c.80CE.

          5. Seneca the Elder

          Lucius or Marcus Annaeus Seneca, known as Seneca the Elder (54 BCE – 39 CE) was a Roman rhetorician and writer. He was father to the more famous Seneca the Younger who had the identical name, Lucius Annaeus Seneca.

          6. Seneca the Younger

          Lucius Annaeus Seneca (often known simply as Seneca; ca. 4 BC – AD 65) was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was the tutor and later, an advisor to emperor Nero. While he was later forced to commit suicide for alleged complicity in the Pisonian conspiracy to assassinate Nero, the last of the Julio-Claudian emperors, he may have been innocent. His father was Seneca the Elder and his elder brother was Lucius Junius Gallio Annaeanus.

          10. JUVENAL

          Decimus Junius Juvenalis (born 55–60? ce, Aquinum, Italy—died probably in or after 127), was the most powerful of all Roman satiric poets. Many of his phrases and epigrams have entered common parlance—for example, “bread and circuses” and “who will guard the guards themselves?”. His verse established a model for the satire of indignation, in contrast to the less harsh satire of ridicule of Horace. Little is known about his life except that during much of it he was desperately poor. A tradition tells that as a youth he was banished from court for satirizing an imperial favorite; later his work reveals a deep hatred for the Emperor Domitian. He is known chiefly for his 16 satires, which contain a vivid representation of life in Rome under the empire. They were probably written in the years between A.D. 100 and A.D. 128. The biting tone of his diatribes has seldom been equaled. From the stern point of view of the older Roman standards he powerfully denounces the lax and luxurious society, the brutal tyranny, the affectations and immorality of women, and the criminal excesses of Romans as he saw them, especially in his earlier years. The rhetorical form of his verse is finished, exact, and epigrammatic, furnishing many sayings that have become familiar through quotation.

          11. MARTIAL

          Martial, Latin in full Marcus Valerius Martialis (born Mar. 1, ad 38–41, Bilbilis, Hispania [Spain]—died c. 103), Roman poet who brought the Latin epigram to perfection and provided in it a picture of Roman society during the early empire that is remarkable both for its completeness and for its accurate portrayal of human foibles.

          Martial wrote a large body of poems about all sorts of things. He mentions many people, places, stories and issues – major and minor, within and without Rome

          12. PETRONIUS

          Gaius Petronius Arbiter, original name Titus Petronius Niger (died ad 66), reputed author of the Satyricon, a literary portrait of Roman society of the 1st century ad.

          Petronius mentions all sorts of people and events in this large work, including :

          * a CRUCIFIXION !

          * a scene where guards are posted to stop a corpse being stolen,

          * a tomb scene of someone mistaking a person for a supernatural vision,

          gods such as Bacchus and Ceres,

          writers such as Sophocles and Euripides and Epicurus,

          books such as the Iliad,

          Romans such as Cato and Pompey,

          people such as Hannibal, and the Governor of Ephesus,

          female charioteers, slaves, merchants, Arabs, lawyers

          baths, shipwrecks, meals…

          14. EPICTETUS

          Epictetus was born ad 55, probably at Hierapolis, Phrygia [now Pamukkale, Turkey]—died c. 135, Nicopolis, Epirus [Greece]). He was a Greek philosopher associated with the Stoics, remembered for the religious tone of his teachings, which commended him to numerous early Christian thinkers.

          17. PERSIUS

          Persius, in full Aulus Persius Flaccus (Volterra, 34–62), was a Roman poet and satirist of Etruscan origin. In his works, poems and satires, he shows a stoic wisdom and a strong criticism for the abuses of his contemporaries. His works, which became very popular in the Middle Ages, were published after his death by his friend and mentor the stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Cornutus.

          18. DIO CHRYSOSTOM

          Dion Chrysostom, Greek Dion Chrysostomos (“Golden-Mouthed”), Latin Dio Chrysostomus, also called Dio Prusaeus, Dio of Prusa, or Dio Cocceianus (born c. ad 40, Prusa, Bithynia—died c. 120), Greek rhetorician and philosopher who won fame in Rome and throughout the empire for his writings and speeches.

          Another list of authors from the early centuries AD is:

          Albinus (2nd century Greek philosopher)
          Appian/Appion (Roman historian, born about 95 AD, only wrote a history of Roman conquests)
          Apollodorus (Greek mythologist and historian, lived from about 180-120 BC)
          Apollonius (there are many historical people by this name, most of whom are pre-Christian. The one mythicists seem to be talking about is either a grammarian/linguist who lived in the late first century AD. or the Greek philosopher, Appolonius of Tyana, from around the same era, but we have no writings by him)
          Arrian (Greco-Roman historian, born 86 AD, but only wrote about Alexander the Great)
          Aulus Gellius (Roman lawyer, born about 125 AD, wrote on legal matters only)
          Aulus Perseus (Roman poet and satirist, lived 34-62 AD)
          Columella (Roman agriculturalist, lived 4-70 AD)
          Damis (Greek biogropher of Appolonius of Tyana, lived in the late first century, but we no longer have any of his writings)
          Dio Chrysostom (Greek orator, lived 40-120 AD)
          Dion Prusaeus (another name for Dio Chysostom, the guy just above)
          Epictetus (Born 55 AD. Greek teacher of self-help/advice, but wrote nothing – his teachings were written by a disciple)
          Favorinus (2nd century AD philosopher, we have only fragments of his writings)
          Florus Lucius (historian, born 70 AD. Wrote exclusively about dates prior to Jesus)
          Geminus (astronomer/mathematician, lived in the 1st century BC)
          Hephaestion (Greek grammarian, lived 356-324 BC)
          Hermogones (there are several people by this name, none historians. Mythicists are probably referring to either Hermogenes of Tarsus, a late 2nd century rhetorician or a 2nd century painter who wrote nothing)
          Hero of Alexandria (Greek mathematician and engineer, lived 10-70 AD)
          Hierocles (2nd century Stoic philosopher, we have only fragments of his writings)
          Josephus (1st century historian, but did mention Jesus at least once, perhaps twice – see here)
          Justus of Tiberius (historian, contemporary of Josephus. We have only fragments of his writings, so we have no idea if he wrote about Jesus or not)
          Juvenal (1st-2nd century poet and satirist)
          Lucanus (Roman poet, lived 39-65 AD)
          Lucian (satirist, born 125 AD. He did mention that Christians worshipped a man who was crucified, though he never mentioned Christ or Jesus by name)
          Lucius Florus (same guy as “Florus Lucius”, above)
          Lysias (speech writer, lived 445-380 B.C.)
          Martial (late 1st-century poet/satirist)
          Maximus of Tyre (2nd century philosopher)
          Musonius Rufus (1st century philosopher)
          Paterculus (historian, but published no later than 30 A.D., when Jesus’ ministry was just beginning. Only wrote a history of Rome, so he would have had no cause to mention Jesus)
          Pausanias (2nd century traveler/geographer, wrote exclusively about Greece)
          Petronius (Roman novelist, lived 27-66 AD)
          Phaedrus (Roman writer of fables, lived 15 BC-50 AD)
          Philo Judaeus (Greek Jewish philosopher, lived 20BC-50 AD)
          Phlegon (historian, born 80 AD. Apparently did write of Jesus. See here).
          Pliny the Elder (primarily a writer on science and morality issues, and the only text in which he would likely have mentioned Jesus, “History of His Times”, is mostly lost)
          Pliny the Younger (historian, but did write about Jesus in his letter to Emperor Trajan in 112 A.D. See here)
          Plutarch (Historian, born 46 AD. Being Greco-Roman himself, wrote primarily of Greeks and Romans. He may have had cause to mention Jesus, but we have only about half of what he wrote, so we don’t really know if he did or not).
          Pomponius Mela (Roman geographer, died around 45 AD)
          Ptolomy (astronomer/mathematician, born 90 AD)
          Quintillian (Roman rhetorician, lived 35-100 AD)
          Quintus Curtius (historian, but his only surviving work is a biography of Alexander the Great)
          Rufus Cartius (alternate name for Quintus Curtius, the guy just above)
          Seneca (Roman philosopher and dramatist, lived 4 BC-65 AD)
          Silius Italicus (Roman poet, lived 28-103 AD)
          Statius Caelicius (Roman poet, lived 220-166 BC)
          Suetonius (historian, but probably wrote about Jesus in “Lives of the Twelve Caesars” See here)
          Tacitus (historian, but wrote about Jesus in “annals”, around 116 A.D. See here)
          Theon of Smyrna (Greek philosopher and mathematician, lived in the late 1st and early 2nd centuries)
          Valerius Flaccus (Roman poet, died 90 AD)
          Valerius Maximus (Latin rhetorician, 20 BC-50 AD)

        • Erp

          The statement was
          “Actually this is wrong, there were people in and around the area that
          reported on people like Jesus. They reported on other claimed Messiahs
          at the time as place.”

          So how many on the list were in Palestine circa 30CE?

          Surely you can find a handful of examples in this list? Or perhaps two?

          Christianity was an obscure sect for at least the first couple of hundred years of its existence (Pliny the Younger who was a governor in Anatolia knew very little about Christians before there was some trouble in his province in the early 2nd century) so most people were as likely to write about them as people nowadays write about Jehovah’s Witnesses (other than Jehovah’s Witnesses). However even given that have you looked at the list and noted people on it died before Jesus was even born (e.g., Statius Caelicius (Roman poet, lived 220-166 BC)) much less had a following (assuming he was active around 30CE); personally I disbelieve in precognition which is the only way these people could have reported about Jesus. Several of them seem to have made references to Christianity as even the list admits (e.g., Pliny the Younger) though they lived well after Jesus’s life. And the list admits that many of the works of these people are lost possibly well before Christians got into power (in the days before printing presses and of low literacy the number of copies of any given work would be low).

          As for the statement that if any writer had written about Jesus it would be publicized. We know this isn’t true. Consider the disappearance of the gnostic gospels until they were dug up; they were deliberately suppressed. Christians in power only copied stuff that they agreed with. Then consider how a Roman pagan writer would have written about an executed rebel, if they had written.

        • Greg G.

          I must say that I did a poor job of vetting. I Googled for Remsberg’s list and saw that one had dates (the second list). However, that version was on an apologist’s site.

          Remsberg had Statius, not Statius Caecilius, who would be Publius Papinius Statius (c. 45, in Naples – c. 96 AD, in Naples). Remsberg didn’t have dates so he left room for confusion and the apologist may have taken advantage.

          List of early writers who could have mentioned Jesus gives an evaluation of the list. He concludes that Philo should have mentioned Jesus, He lists three that probably should have written about Jesus and 31 who could have written about Jesus. He list 20 who should not be expected to have written about Jesus.

          I would add the early epistle writers to the list. They mention Jesus a lot but not as a first century person. They write in adulation about Jesus in heaven or in quotes and allusions to then centuries old writings. They seem to be speaking about a different Jesus, not the first century Jesus of the gospels.

        • Erp

          First the list of early writers pared down

          Philo (c. 25 BCE – c. 50 CE) – I agree he is the most likely; however, he was an Alexandrian Jew best known perhaps for being the leader of an embassy to Caligula to persuade him not to put a statue in the Temple (40CE). He did write about Pilate (not favorably) in a letter to Caligula so might have included an execution of Jesus in his list of what Pilate did assuming he heard about it. But Jesus wasn’t that important except in the eyes of the early Christians (and add in he was executed for rebellion [king of the Jews] so perhaps best not to mention him by name when you are trying to persuade the emperor you are loyal). Maybe Philo includes him in the list of “his frequent executions of untried prisoners” (none of whom he names). This is the only place he mentions Pilate. Most of his work that survives was philosophy.

          Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC – 65 CE) – seems to have written about Jewish customs (he didn’t like them) but not too much on individual Jews. Admittedly all we have of him is scraps. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13421-seneca-lucius-annaeus

          Plutarch (c. 45 CE-120 CE) – was writing well after Jesus’s death and even after the destruction of the Temple. In his known works he never mentions Pilate and seems to have had confused ideas about Jews in general. He mostly writes about their customs (such as not eating swine flesh) not individuals.

          Quoting:
          “Justus of Tiberias wrote a History of Jewish Kings in Galilee in late 1st century.
          Photius read Justus in the 8th century and noted that he did not mention anything: “He (Justus of Tiberias) makes not one mention of Jesus, of what happened to him, or of the wonderful works that he did.” ”

          We don’t have Justus’ original works so can only go by the quote by what Photius many centuries later said. However Photius as a Christian would have considered Jesus a “Jewish King” and would have considered all the miracles in the New Testament to be fact. Justus would not have considered Jesus a king and the miracles are legend. Justus might have written about Herod Antipas who was ruler of Galilee and is mentioned in the New Testament (had John the Baptist executed and the Gospel of Luke alone has him briefly holding Jesus before sending him back to Pilate [a story I suspect is legend]). I don’t think Jesus’s interactions with Herod Antipas were sufficient for Justus to have mentioned him (and for all we know Justus may have concentrated on the earlier fully independent kings). Justus by the way was a contemporary of Josephus so was writing several decades after Jesus’s death.

          Now if one wants New Testament to be completely historical right down to darkness at noon and earthquakes then the lack of literary evidence is a problem. If one considers much to be accretion to a core story of a minor Jewish teacher executed by Pilate and his followers starting a small religion, then the lack of literary evidence outside of writings by members of that small religion is not a problem.

          I know some are trying to explain away Paul writing about James, the Lord’s brother, and other mentions of the Lord’s brothers as satirical or later additions but that sounds to me like special pleadings. Paul is trying to justify his position by showing he was connected to the Jerusalem group (he also takes the Jerusalem group some funds he has raised, 1 Corinthians 16).

        • Greg G.

          But you can’t know that Jesus was a Jewish teacher. You can’t know that Jesus was a religious figure if Jesus was so minor and the epistles don’t talk about him. The whole idea that Jesus was so minor, nobody would write about him but was so fantastic, his followers would start a religion around him is special pleading.

          If you notice how much the early epistles refer to Jesus, up to once for every three verses, but don’t say anything about an earthly Jesus except information that can be found in scripture, the Jesus from revelation from reading scripture doesn’t need special pleading.

          I am the one who argues that “James, the Lord’s brother” is sarcasm.

          Galatians 5:11-12 (NRSV)
          11 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. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!

          That is major sarcasm directed at the circumcision faction.

          Galatians 2:11-12 (NRSV)
          11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; 12 for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction.

          So the sarcasm is directed at James as the leader of the circumcision faction.

          Galatians 2:6 (NRSV)
          6 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 2:9 (NRSV)
          and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.

          Paul expresses disdain toward James, Cephas, and John.

          Galatians 1:1 (NRSV)
          1 Paul an apostle—sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—

          Nowhere else does Paul open a letter by saying who did not send him. Remember that he did mention the two men who were sent by James? That would be the best explanation for putting that line in the opening. So if James sends people on missions the way the Lord sends Paul, he is implying that James must be equal to the Lord, or “the Lord’s brother”.

          So Paul expresses sarcasm at James twice and disdain once.

        • MNb

          “he whole idea that Jesus was so minor, nobody would write about him but was so fantastic, his followers would start a religion around him is special pleading.”
          Like all the other people nobody wrote about, you mean? Plus of course two independent sources (Marcus and Q Document) actually did write a lot about Jesus. Oh, all made up you said? Well, the same applies to Socrates. Plato and Xenophon totally contradict each other, so one of the two made the character totally up.
          You are the one who is guilty of special pleading; there is no similar case of a fictional near contemporary character supposed to be at the root of a religion during entire Antiquity. You have no shred of evidence who invented the character, where and why. All you have is the creationist tactic “the historical Jesus is wrong because X, Y, Z hence myth”. You are not even capable of designing a proper test to decide between the two options. You went at great length to show that everything attributed to Jesus is a reference to the OT, but didn’t care to show how that disproves a historical Jesus. You just proclaimed it, like the creationist “recognizes” design and proclaims a designer.
          It’s hard to shake off the bad habits of your former religion, so it seems.

        • Alicia

          Since we’re on the same side for this one, I’d be curious for your response to the comment I just wrote to Bob.
          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2015/08/12-reasons-why-jesus-is-a-legend/#comment-2181172674

        • MNb

          Your view is largely the same as mine. The difference is that I don’t take anything very seriously on internet and JMs are much less fun to me than creationists. Lately Pope Gregorius G makes a strong effort to descend to their level though, so perhaps I’ll become a bit more active.

          My story is a bit weird. When I first met the JM hypothesis I was thrilled. But it were JM heroes Earl Doherty and Kenneth Humphreys who put me off. The first is fond of theology, something I have zero use for and the second basically is a conspiracy thinker. Next step is that I began to notice how many fallacies JMs have in common with creationists. Finally I saw how JMs use the same method as creationists as formulated by the Sensuous Curmudgeon:

          1. Select a conclusion which you hope is true.
          2. Find one piece of evidence that possibly might fit.
          3. Ignore all other evidence.
          4. That’s it.

          https://sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/icr-creation-science-proves-the-bible-is-true/

          Granted, JMs usually find more than one piece of evidence, but still they never ask themselves how that evidence fits a historical Jesus with many legends attached to.

          But of course JM still might be correct even if its fans are a bunch of goofs. So I started to collect the actual evidence. That was surprisingly hard, because on internet christians are the most fanatical ones and they like their own fallacies, like “the Bible contains some accurate information (duh) hence the Resurrection totally happened.”

          What tipped the balance for me was Polycarpus of Smyrna. There are two independent sources that say that he claimed to be the pupil of John the Apostle. What sense do apostles make without a messias claimant?
          The second one was the famous quote “Father, why has thou forsaken me.” It doesn’t make sense to attribute this to a fictional character. However for a historical Jesus it totally makes sense. When hanging at the cross he started to recite the Psalms. Now compare Psalm 22. Of course this simple hypothesis is only possible assuming a historical Jesus. JM has nothing comparable.
          Granted, JM might still be the correct explanation. It’s just unlikely – about as unlikely as the US government causing 9/11.

        • Alicia

          Well, the creationists manage to assemble a pretty decent collection of “facts” for their thesis as well.
          And yeah. To me Occam’s Razor settles this one in seconds flat.

        • Pofarmer

          Now, that’s an interesting use of Occams Razor. ” A wondering Jew who left no other trace in history had followers who started an offshoot of Judaism.” The other flip would be “A group of Jewish preachers made up a suffering servant Messiah based on their holy books and started a new offshoot of Judaism.” I don’t see where one has a huge advantage over the other one.

        • Alicia

          One of them fits in with established known historical patterns. The other one does not.
          It’s like ignoring all of the evidence of natural selection and the existence of the larger cetacean family, and insisting that specifically porpoises evolved through Lamarckian evolution.
          No one has offered an additional examples of a single time this has been known to happen, that a person (or group of people) make up a story about a lightly-mythologized human being who they put in the recent past, and base their new religion on them. Not one single additional example has been provided.

        • Pofarmer

          So, once again, you are going to argue for an Historical Romulus, Hercules, Moroni?, and Vishnu?

        • MNb

          Ah – the false analogy, another favourite creationist tactic.
          Can you show me more than one independent source for those characters? Can you show me what embarrassing things those characters said? Like prophecies that already were unfulfilled when the first accounts were written down? Like “Father why has thou forsaken me”?
          Atheists should not dare to doubt dogmas issued by Pope Gregorius G and Cardinal Pofarmer, I suppose.

        • Pofarmer

          “Like “Father why has thou forsaken me?””

          I already answered that one, and it comes from none other than Bart Ehrman. That phrase put a neat end cap on Marks adoptionist theology, plus, it came from the psalms.

        • Alicia

          Isn’t it the middle of the night for you?
          Go to bed and leave these people to their ignorance. They will remain in it, at any rate.

        • Alicia

          Were they lightly-mythologized human beings? Were they put in the recent past? No, they were not.
          Hercules was adopted from the Etruscans, so he shows up on the historical stage pre-mythologized. I have no opinions as to whether he is based on a historical person (although I don’t know why he couldn’t be), but we don’t have any evidence of how long before the first recording of the myth he was supposed to have lived.
          Romulus is put into a fairly ancient past, in the first recordings we know, and is heavily mythologized.
          Moroni isn’t even human, and to the extent that he is (a very dead Israelite, according to Wikipedia) he certainly is not of the recent past.
          Vishnu is heavily mythologized, and I think also is first recorded as living in a mythic past, not recent past.
          So. Do you have any examples that actually are parallel to Jesus?

        • Pofarmer

          Apallonius of Tyana is the most obvious one, although not identicle. But isn’t that the point? We have a Godhead figure here just a little different from everybody elses. We have no biographical works. He doesn’t exactly fit the Greek hero stereotype. There are no works attributed to him. No town claimed him, etc, etc.

        • Alicia

          Two hours have passed. I’m still waiting.

        • Pofarmer

          Waiting for what?

        • Alicia

          For other examples of a religion that developed from someone making up a lightly mythologized human that they place in the recent past.
          I’m not aware of it ever having occurred, which is a big part of why I think the suggestion that Christianity could have occurred that way is so absurd. You offered some heavily mythologized people who were read into a mythic past, which I said was not relevant, and asked for additional examples.
          If you can’t come up with even one additional time that this has occurred, that seems like some pretty hard core special pleading!

        • Pofarmer

          “For other examples of a religion that developed from someone making up a lightly mythologized human that they place in the recent past. ”

          As far as I know, it’s typically called fiction. Ever read the Percy Jackson series?

        • Alicia

          I love the Percy Jackson series!
          However, I am not aware that anyone (least of all the author) has used the books to start a church.
          The argument is that someone was able to found a church based on a work of magical-realism fiction that they had set in the recent past.
          I’m looking for a case in which that has ever occurred before.

        • Pofarmer

          People wanted George Lucas to start a church based on the Force.

          “The argument is that someone was able to found a church based on a work of magical-realism fiction that they had set in the recent past. ”

          That’s actually not the argument at all. The argument is that Cephas and James were preaching a risen Messiah/coming Messiah who was going to be super powerful and kick some Roman ass. Paul had a “vision” and basically joined the same cult. The trial scene before Herod Grippa tells us what Paul was preaching. A savior coming down to Earth at the end times to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven. Pauls Jesus is indeterminate in time. There are no towns, no year, no rulers, and mainly a lot of talk about Christ coming to Earth in glory, etc, etc. At some point after Jerusalem had been destroyed, and far away, possibly Rome, the author of Mark Euhumerized Pauls Christ charachter and gave him a story, based on the same “prophecies” that Paul was preaching “from the scriptures”. Nearly every event in Mark has an OT parAllel, as has been shown by Randal Helms. The ones that don’t, have Parallels with Homer. There’s almost no room for a “Real” Jesus. The Authors of Matthew and Luke added the birth story, and the Author of john worked in Philo’s philosophy of Logos. Keep in mind, that this was ongoing over between 50 and 100 years, not instantly.

        • Pofarmer

          Ya know, it’s interesting, but on thinking about it more, the Bible is full of just this kind of charachter. A mythologized human set in the indeterminite past. Adam and Eve. Abraham. Moses. Noah. Job. All of these are accepted fictional charachters. Granted they weren’t worshipped, but, it certainly seems to establish a pattern.

        • Alicia

          People put in a mythic past are a dime a dozen. People put in the recent past are unheard of. Jesus is placed in the recent past. Known historical figures in living memory are named.

        • Pofarmer
        • Alicia

          I see no evidence that that writing was used to start a religious cult.
          The claim by the hard JM is (or has been presented here by various people to be) that Paul or some other person came up with a myth based on OT prophesy and Greek novel tropes, 1) made the main character be a mostly ordinary person who preformed some mostly-modest miracles and was then resurrected, 2) wrote it set in the recent past, and 3) used it to found a religion that caught on reasonably well (call it several thousand followers and lasts at least a century).
          I’ve asked for another case in history that meets all those criteria and I’ve been offered lots of things that do one or two of them.

        • Pofarmer

          Alicia. What does the evidence show us? Bart Ehrman says that we should read the Gospels seperately, in order, to get a feel for their independent stories and theology. However, in the case of Historical Jesus, he goes right back and reads the Gospels back into the Epistles, even though they are clearly seperate. So, what does the earliest evidence show us? Heck, use the Didache which is considered older than Paul. Use apocrypha if you want to. What does the earliest writing tell is about early Christian beliefs and a waking around Jesus.

        • Pofarmer

          Why do we need another identicle case? Are the starts of Scientology or Mormonism or Jainism or Buddhism identicle? Can’t we just work with what we have?

        • Alicia

          If the JM crew is going to argue that this is a reasonable thing to have happened, and given the large number of religions to have arising in time, they would be able to show that it had happened before. Saying that all other religions follow one set of rules but Christianity did something completely different is special pleading.

        • Kodie

          The thing is human nature is not bound by too many rules as to what’s plausible. Nobody is asking you to demonstrate a junkyard full of garbage assembling itself into a school bus without any intervention. Could a guy get swept up in his own mania? Sure. Could someone else embellish a rumor about a guy like that, and take off with it? Also, can happen. And I know it’s really interesting to some people, but what’s the difference? Why does it mean so much to you that you have to compare JM to creationism? Where is the crockoduck in this approach? Who has said anything as ridiculous as “why are there still monkeys”? If Jesus did live or didn’t live, I don’t think it changes the direction of the wind.

        • primenumbers

          Scientology came about under unique circumstances of a science-fiction author claiming that if you wanted to make money, invent a religion, which he then did. Does the unique nature of it’s birth mean we get to say it didn’t happen as there was no other parallel religious birth before it?

          Every different religion came about differently. Often with some common themes, but there are some religions that are quite bizarrely different to others. Really, in the grand scheme of things, Christianity is not unique enough in it’s presentation for your argument to work, and similarly as each religion is different we’d expect them all to have different births.

          As you note there are patterns we can see looking back in how various religions come about, but that doesn’t tie the births of religions to only those patterns we can see. In the case of Christianity, we don’t have enough documentation of it’s birth to really know, and the only primary source we have for the earliest Christianity is Paul, and doesn’t speak of an earthly Jesus, or much on how the Jesus belief came about, only that he gets all his information on Jesus from reading scripture. If we’re to take Paul at his work there, he’s telling us where the idea of Jesus came from – interpreting OT scripture.

        • Alicia

          There are people who study this. They have studied the beginnings of hundreds of religions. They follow predictable paths. It is not the case that each religion is sui generis, and that therefore making claims that a religion occurred this way instead of that way can just be asserted.
          The story of scientology is a standard con-man story line. He was rather unusually successful, but it still fits into a known model.
          The conventional story of the founding of Christianity (there was a guy named Jesus, he attracted followers, was killed, and his followers remained together and make miraculous claims about him and a religion took off) fits in perfectly with the patterns identified by these scholars as recurring again and again.
          The JM story line (story lines, because each proponent seems to have a different pet theory) are not consistent with the observed patterns. The behaviors that JM proposes are not behaviors that are observed in any of the hundreds of religions that scholars of comparative religion have observed and documented.
          As far as I’m aware. Which is why I was inviting people who claim to have read every JM book ever written to provide counter examples. I figured if there were other examples of humans behaving in the ways that JM theory requires that humans behave, then the JM theorists would include a chapter or two on them in their books, to show that their claims were not so far fetched.
          Given that none of the self-proclaimed “read all the right books” JM enthusiasts have offered me any other exceptions to the observed patterns, I have concluded that I was correct, and that the JM story line is not within the range of human behaviors observed and documented by the people who are experts in this field.

        • primenumbers

          You’re not making the case though because as has been pointed out to you, each and every religion developed differently. I think if you can show me a science-fiction author saying he was going to invent a religion for the money and then doing so before the birth of Scientology I’ll then believe Scientology came about that way.

          Your argument that because to you JM doesn’t follow a known pattern of religious birth therefore it isn’t have that religion was born doesn’t make sense. There are no physical laws that have been proven incontrovertible over lifetimes of experimentation to guide the birth of religions, and there’s nothing in our knowledge of human behaviour and psychology that JM contradicts. Each and every religion is a product of its time and unique circumstances.

          You know, if you tried you could fit the JM and JH stories of Christianity into your supposed patterns. JM is just a combination of two you’re familiar with – 1st stage: invention of Jesus based on inspired interpretive reading of OT scripture and then later a 2nd stage that Jesus historicized. You’ve seen both of those stages before but what it seems you’re objecting to is the “small” timescale between the two, or that the historicization is into too recent a history. Neither of those stages are without precedent.

          If you’re going to want people to engage with your argument you’re going to have to demonstrate it’s a good one. What other religious birth hypotheses does it correctly discriminate on? Are there any uncontroversially true religious birth stories that your argument would report as false? How tightly or loosely do you define “pattern”, do you take account of religions that follow multiple patterns sequentially or in more complex structures. At what point do you call a religion “born” and later into a “growth” phase when religious ideas are still being formed? For example Christianity took a long while to be born, so do we call it born at the crucifixion, or at Paul, or at the gospels, or at the Nicene Creed? Given many religious births are shrouded in history and their “official” pattern may not adequately describe what occurred, how large is your sample size, and how worldly representative is it? For religions in recent history where birth stories are accurately known we have Mormonism, Scientology, we know about how the Millerites, 7th day Adventisits and Jehovah’s Witnesses got going too. You certainly shouldn’t “seed” your list with JH theory as that is exactly what is under dispute and it should be compared alongside JM.

          The reason there’s no chapter in JM books addressing your argument is that it’s not presented in a form that can be adequately addressed.

        • Pofarmer

          Fwiw, I think Dennis R. MacDonald may adress Alicia’s concerns, but I haven’t read enough of him to be sure.

        • primenumbers

          I’ve not read his works at all. Is there a good place to start?

        • Pofarmer

          I’ve really only read what Richard Carrier has written about him, and some of what Greg G. has excerpted. He is also mentioned pretty prominently in the youtube series “Excavating the empty tomb”.

        • Greg G.

          The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark. I’m not sure where it addresses Alicia’s concerns.

          I had read Randel Helms’ Gospel Fictions several years ago. Then I read MacDonald’s book a year and a half ago and just happened to grab Gospel Fictions from the shelf to reread when I put MacDonald’s book up. Helms addresses the miracles in Mark by pointing out the similarities to the OT miracles of Moses, Elijah, and Elisha but when he attributes other parts to “oral traditions”, it began to sound like “Homeric epics”.

          Review of The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark by Richard Carrier is very in-depth, so it might be a good start.

          MacDonald states that he tried to include every possibility of Mark borrowing from Homer and says some of it may not be. But the more obvious ones makes those that seem questionable more likely.

          Still, I think he missed the name of the Cyclops, “Polyphemus”, as “Legion”. He does connect the passages but the “poly” made me think of “for we are many”. Sure enough, “many” comes from “polys”. Then I found that “Polyphemus” translates to “famous” because it literally mans “many talk about”, which you understand from the English words “polygon” and “blasphemy”.

          Then I checked out “Legion” or “Legio“, which meant “many soldiers”. It meant specific numbers through Roman history but the number was changed from time to time. Then I noticed the Greek word “lego” in the verse that is translated as “said” and it was immediately before “Legio” in the texts of Mark we have today. Spaces between words weren’t invented then so it would read “LEGOLEGIO”, a bilingual pun meaning “Polyphemus”. To those who learned to read with The Odyssey, I expect that would have jumped out at them, as Mark intended. It would be as obvious as John Goodman’s eyepatch in O Brother! Where Art Thou? that he was the Cyclops.

        • Greg G.

          I’m not sure what she sees in Christianity that rules it out from other religions’ developments. It was an offshoot of Judaism. Christianity is over 40,000 different denominations. One adherent (Paul) had a different denomination. The next generation had a new take on it with modifications that Alicia admits are added legends. There were lots of denominations of Christianity by the second century and they were consolidated a couple of centuries later into the one that survived.

          The only part we have a disagreement about is the beginning. The Jews used midrash to develop new ideas from the scripture and one, possibly Cephas, if we believe Paul, came up with a Camping-like reason to think the Messiah was coming. Temple-based Judaism died out with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Two branches remained standing: Rabbinical Judaism and the Christianity spread by Paul, his letters likely had a lot to do with it. Both were outside of Jerusalem and diverse but consolidated later.

          The initial split doesn’t seem to be any different than the constant denominational divides we see happening about every week in Christianity.

        • Ignorant Amos
        • Pofarmer

          Why do you continue to inject strawman arguments?

        • Alicia

          It’s not a straw man argument. I’m calling your bluff. If your scenario is so reasonable then, given the hundreds of documented religions out there, it would have happened more than once.
          Either show me the data or admit you are practicing magical thinking.

        • Kodie

          “Magical thinking” is a bit much, don’t you think? Creating fiction is within the normal boundaries of human behavior. You think tradition is natural law and can never be broken without magic. Please.

        • Alicia

          Writing fiction is very much within the normal boundaries of human behavior.
          Writing semi-realistic (no talking animals etc etc, as above) fiction and putting it in the recent historical past and founding a religion on it is not.
          I absolutely do not believe that tradition is natural law.
          I DO believe that historians have developed a solid foundation on which human behavior can be predicted with reasonable accuracy, parallel to the predictive and explanatory power of evolutionary theory, and if you want to say that you’ve found an exception, you need to back it up with huge evidence, not just say “well, it coulda happened.”

        • Kodie

          You need to stop calling it “magical thinking” and getting hysterically “offended by historical illiteracy.” A solid foundation on which human behavior can be predicted need only be upset by one example. I don’t know if this is the example, but you seem really uptight about being right. To me, you are using fancy words to equate tradition with evolution and then blowing your stack whenever someone says anything else.

        • Greg G.

          Many religions have imaginary gods. The proto-Christians had a man from centuries ago who died, got resurrected, went to heaven, ruled as a god, and was coming back as the Messiah. The important part for them was the ruling as a God and coming back as the Messiah. The back story was just a minor point that was in the scripture.

        • primenumbers

          “If the JM crew is going to argue that this is a reasonable thing to have happened, and given the large number of religions to have arising in time, they would be able to show that it had happened before” – ah, the old “nothing new can happen for the first time” argument eh? Think about that for a minute will you…..

        • Pofarmer

          Let’s think about the when’s and who’s of the Gospel of Mark. Let’s put Jesus death at 30 CE. Good so far? Now, the range of Dates for the Gospel if Mark is an earliest at about 65 CE to around the beginning of the second century. Lets just say 80 CE, or ten years after the fall of Jerusalem. Now, where was Mark written? Well, guesses range from Rome to Antioch in Syria, but internal evidence suggests the author of Mark wasn’t familiar with the geography of Palestine. Who was Mark written for? The evidence suggests a Gentile audience. Are we good so far?

        • Alicia

          The way I remember it, yes, generally. Syria/Antioch more than Rome.
          Reasonable people can disagree about whether it was written soon before or after the Jewish War, but the consensus is probably 75-80.
          I await with bated breath to see how you prove that a text written in 75/80 about events in 30/35 is not set in the recent/historical past.

        • Pofarmer

          So, you have a story written about events that happened at least several hundred miles away, before the cities had been destroyed, at least a Generation before the author was alive? What is so unusual about this as fiction?

        • Pofarmer

          If Mark were written is Syria, or Rome, etc, would the “historical figures” be known to them? Would the target audience have known about Pilate or Herod?

        • Alicia

          If in Syria, Herod would certainly be known.
          But it is in “recent past” time, not mythic time.
          Comparative religion demonstrates that purely mythical figures are put into mythic time, when someone is trying to start a religion.

        • Alicia

          Oh, I see my response to this last night disappeared.
          Romulus is a heavily mythologized story set in a mythic past.
          Hercules is an Etruscan myth, and we can’t read etruscan, so we don’t know how the myth originated. Personally I would guess there was a human involved, but because we don’t have the early stuff, it isn’t a parallel to the Jesus.
          Moroni (not Mormon, so all I can go on here is Wikipedia) is an angel who was last alive in a mythic past.
          Vishnu, so far as I’m aware, is first recorded as highly mythologized and in a mythic past.
          I’m looking for A) a moderately successful religion (a thousand followers for a hundred years, say) based on a B) fictional story of C) a lightly mythologized human being D) set in recent historic times.
          Sorry that I seemed to have not responded to your concern.

        • Pofarmer

          “I’m looking for A) a moderately successful religion (a thousand followers for a hundred years, say) based on a B) fictional story of C) a lightly mythologized human being D) set in recent historic times.
          Sorry that I seemed to have not responded to your concern.”

          Uhm, what is your basis for lightly mythologized? He was made the son of
          God, raised people from the dead, rose from the dead himself from whence he shall come again to kick some ass. that seems more than lightly mythologized.

        • Alicia

          Here are the kind of features of you find in what I’m terming a highly mythologized storyline:
          Mother earth has sex with the sky god.
          A god’s tears or semen fall on the ground, and from that sprout human beings, or the culture’s staple crop.
          Flying.
          Talking animals.
          Shape shifting.
          People are eaten by animals or giants and live to tell the tale.
          In depth conversations with deities.
          A woman is made from a man’s rib.
          A disembodied penis leaps out of a fire and impregnates someone.
          The Jesus story line is positively realistic when compared with the kind of story lines we see in founding-lost-to-history religions. He’s a basically ordinary person who someone has sprinkled some miraculous features on to.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Cargo Cults and John Frum?

        • Ned Ludd might be another example of a possibly fictionalized leader, though that’s not about religion.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Of course. Ned Ludd had a band of followers called Luddites. Whether they believed he was a real historical person has less to do with what they knew.They could not have known he was real from evidence, because he wasn’t. They, or some at least, believed he was real and a movement grew around this belief. That the movement was not a religious movement is academic. Fictional folk/entities can be believed as real by easy going gullible types all the time.

          Myth and the truth. Colonel ‘H’ Jones was decorated with the highest order for bravery for his actions during the Falklands Campaign. But was he shot in the back by his own men for being a bit of a loose canon?Just Google the variety of eyewitness accounts of what happened for an example of history fucking it up. I can add that my account of what happened as relayed at the time, bears no resemblance to the common place account of events. That was 33 years ago. That was a major event. Memories of lesser notable events are equally confused depending on who tells the yarn…even though the yarn is based on real events.

          https://www.google.co.uk/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=colonel+h+jones+controversy

        • TheNuszAbides

          did any of the actual cultists write anything down?

        • Ignorant Amos

          Like the early Christian cult’s, most of them died out fairly quickly.

          The John Frum cult/religion began within living memory. That no one knows anyone that knew or met John Frum, matters not a jot. No evidence for a guy called John Frum, nadda, nil, nothin’, zilch, zip, zero…but he must have been real because he has a following and nobody would be gullible enough to follow a yarn, story, myth, made up person….would they?

          So, as for written scripture, no need yet…it”s early day’s in the cult’s history. The oral tradition will suffice for the time being. There are a number of external near contemporary sources a la Paulinesque letters.

          http://www.damninteresting.com/john-frum-and-the-cargo-cults/

          http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2014/05/cargo-cults-john-frum-america/

          http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199766567/obo-9780199766567-0108.xml

          But no one is quite sure who-tae-fuck he was…or even where and when.

        • TheNuszAbides

          No evidence for a guy called John Frum

          aha – that’s the connection i wasn’t making. a little knowledge, etc. 😉

        • Hercules is an Etruscan myth

          Hercules was euhemerized. Tacitus treated him as a figure from history: “whether it be that Hercules ever visited these parts, or that to his renowned name we are wont to ascribe whatever is grand and glorious everywhere” (Germania).

          Josephus said: “these men were auxiliaries to Hercules, when he fought against Libya and Antaeus; and that Hercules married Aphra’s daughter, and of her he begat a son, Diodorus; and that Sophon was his son, from whom that barbarous people called Sophacians were denominated.”

        • primenumbers

          We have no reason to believe that those who made up the deity-Jesus were those that later put the character into near-history. Indeed, as Paul knows nothing of an earthly Jesus, yet the much later gospel writers know “everything” about a “historical Jesus” (to the extent of reporting on events they claim there were no witnesses to, or that the witnesses told nobody) we can see that a separation between the inventor(s) and the historicizers must have been the case.

        • Kodie

          Whatever it was probably got out of hand.

        • Pofarmer

          Lol.

        • Greg G.

          1. Select a conclusion which you hope is true.
          2. Find one piece of evidence that possibly might fit.
          3. Ignore all other evidence.
          4. That’s it.

          That is exactly the opposite of what happened to me. I accepted that Jesus had existed but saw how the evidence didn’t fit so well. I don’t ignore evidence, I show it is explained just as easily with no Jesus.

          You should be able to show that Polycarp had some information about Jesus that doesn’t come from the New Testament. Otherwise, the two sources look gullible.

        • MNb

          “I show it is explained just as easily with no Jesus.

          You should be able to show that Polycarp had some information about Jesus that doesn’t come from the New Testament.”

          Thanks for showing with your second sentence that you exactly follow the creationist procedure – this time by adding a strawman and using a double standard.
          The evidence is not that Polycarpus had information about Jesus that didn’t come from the Gospels, the evidence is that he claimed to be the pupil of John the Apostle and that apostles without a messias don’t make any sense. You have neatly applied step 3 to that evidence.
          You should be able to provide information that shows who, where and why a fictional Jesus was created. Otherwise you’re guilty of a double standard. Like all creationists.

        • Pofarmer

          Paul considered himself an Apostle and never met Jesus, by his own admission.

        • MNb

          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          I never wrote anything about Paulus meeting or not meeting that particular messias. I wrote that apostles – plural – without a messias don’t make sense. In other words: it doesn’t make sense to call yourself an apostle if you don’t follow a messias. Perhaps it would if there were only one, but that’s not the case. We have Paulus following Jesus and we have John the Apostle following Jesus. That makes two independent sources, silly. That’s what I’m talking about. If you want to debunk Polycarpus you have to provide evidence that either he wasn’t a pupil of John the Apostle or that John didn’t follow a Jesus of flesh and blood. I wish you good luck, but won’t hold my breath. Of course you already have shown recently that you like wild speculations when entering such territory, but that’s only similar with Jonathan Sarfati calculating that Noah’s Ark totally could pull it off.
          Like the average creationist you’re so blinded that you’re incapable of understanding the simplest things that contradict your predetermined conclusion.
          But thanks for giving the opportunity to addres your blunder regarding Occam’s Razor. I quote:

          “I don’t see where one has a huge advantage over the other one.”
          The evidence for a historical Jesus can be summed up in less than 20 sentences. Attempts to make JM work routinely take a few hundres 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?

        • primenumbers

          “I wrote that apostles – plural – without a messias don’t make sense. ” – but that’s exactly why @oldnewatheist:disqus example of Paul is useful here. Paul didn’t follow an earthly Jesus. He never met an earthly Jesus and not only that, he never got his Jesus information from any other place than reading scripture as he explicitly tells us.

        • MNb

          “Paul didn’t follow an earthly Jesus. He never met an earthly Jesus.”
          The first doesn’t logically follow from the second. Hence you’re pulling off a circular argument: Paulus didn’t follow an earthly Jesus because Jesus wasn’t historical hence Paulus didn’t follow an earthly Jesus.
          As easily I can say that Paulus did follow an earthly Jesus, just like every scientologist born after 1986 follows an earthly LR Hubbard.
          Plus – again exactly like a creationist – you’re missing the point. It’s called cumulative evidence. One fossil doesn’t confirm Evolution Theory. It’s the amount of fossils that does. That’s why creationists like to nitpick on one individual fossil, then say that their criticism applies to every single fossil and in the end conclude that fossils aren’t evidence for Evolution Theory.
          Just like many fossils are independent we have several independent pieces of evidence for the historicity of Jesus. Nitpicking on one says exactly zilch about the others. To validate their favourite theory JMs have to explain every single piece of evidence away. That has to be done in a consistent way – or better: they have to provide evidence for it. JMs never do, just like creationists aren’t capable of consistently explaining the total amount of fossils away.
          Let’s do some simple probability calculation. Let me be generous – and in the meantime show that Pope Gregorius G is the gullible one, not me – and grant only 20% reliability for the five independent sources I listed. Ie every single source has a chance of 80% of being dismissed. JMs have to dismiss every single source; Jesus is historical if even one source appears to be correct indeed.
          The result is that JM has a probability of 0,8^5 equals about 1/3 to be correct. I think I’ll bet on the probability of 2/3, ie a historical Jesus. No, that’s not proof of a historical Jesus (before you pull off that strawman). It shows what JMs are up against and they totally ignore that, including you.

        • primenumbers

          “The first doesn’t logically follow from the second. Hence you’re pulling off a circular argument: Paulus didn’t follow an earthly Jesus because Jesus wasn’t historical hence Paulus didn’t follow an earthly Jesus.” – it’s not an argument, it’s a sequential statement of two facts. We know Paul never met an earthly Jesus because he tells us he only saw Jesus in visions. We know Paul didn’t follow an earthly Jesus because he never met him, and to boot, he can give us no information about an earthly Jesus. Instead, he tells us all his information comes from his reading of scripture and not from any man.

          Yes we must look at the whole picture. We lack any primary sources so we must start with agnosticism, and look carefully at all the evidence. The weight for historicity is small because we lack primary sources, and what sources we do have are Paul’s letters (which tell us nothing of an earthly Jesus, and have a Jesus that can be read equally validly as historical or mythical) and the gospel accounts, anonymous and so full of obvious myth and non-historical events that we can see them equally as stories made up upon a very minimal historical Jesus character or a Jesus conjured up from reading too much scripture coupled with sleep deprivation and dehydration.

          What we’re left with, if we’re really honest, is agnosticism on the issue and certainly not confidence either way. Sure, you can pick individual passages from Paul and interpret them to indicate historicity or mythicism, and other people can interpret those passages in the exact opposite way. There’s little room to be objective here because we lack primary sources.

        • Alicia

          Even the species for which we have no fossil evidence, we nonetheless assume that they arose through normal evolutionary processes. In the same way, we can assume that a spottily documented religion arose through the same historical processes as all other religions.
          Disproving that assumption requires some [cough] extraordinary evidence.

        • Greg G.

          A belief in a Jesus from 500 years earlier works just as well. A person from 500 years ago can be a legend. It doesn’t matter whether he existed. We have fossil evidence for that one in the epistles that discuss him in scriptural terms instead of first century references.

        • primenumbers

          Yes, we can assume that Christianity came about through invention by humans just like every other religion. But in this case we’re talking specific details. Just as without those fossils we cannot know the specific details of how that animal evolved, with Christianity we cannot know precisely which people invented what aspects of it.

        • Greg G.

          The first doesn’t logically follow from the second. Hence you’re pulling off a circular argument: Paulus didn’t follow an earthly Jesus because Jesus wasn’t historical hence Paulus didn’t follow an earthly Jesus.

          Creationist logic yourself. You have mischaracterized the argument. Paul says he came late to the party. He never met Jesus. Therefore he didn’t follow an earthly Jesus. You are usually sharper than this. Somebody must have got your goat.

        • lorasinger

          Except that John the apostle didn’t write the John gospel. Again, this was an anonymous, Pauline follower writing 80 years after the fact and not an eye witness nor an apostle. Hearsay.
          .
          An apostle was one of the 12. When Judas died, he was replaced by Matthias. He was entirely self-appointed.

        • Pofarmer

          Soooo, if Paul could be an Apostle without meeting Jesus, John couldn’t have been an apostle without meeting Jesus? Paul actually states that Cephas and James know aboit Jesus the same way he does “revelations through the scriptures” why would it be any different for John?

        • Greg G.

          Irenaeus said he heard Polycarp when he was young. Supposed he heard Polycarp make the claim. Was Polycarp telling the truth? How did Tertullian know that? We have a method to verify the claim. If Polycarp had first hand information from being John’s disciple, he should be able to straighten out the discrepancies in the gospels from what John had told him. His letter to the Philippians seems to endorse each of them. The letter is said to have been in Irenaeus’ possession.

          Second, I don’t dispute that John existed or that he was a pillar in the early Christian community, per Paul in Galatians. Polycarp may have been John’s disciple but that doesn’t tell us that Jesus existed.

          I have provided the evidence from Paul’s writings regarding who started it. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 says Cephas was the first, then he got twelve others, perhaps some temple officials known as the twelve, per van der Hoeven. Then another 500 and then James. Paul came on board later. There were sects in Judaism that looked for a Messiah to come. Cephas’ group read the Suffering Servant allegory as a literal person who suffered and died for sins, got resurrected, and would return as the Messiah. I think Paul added the crucifixion bit.

        • lorasinger

          Re: Cephas’ group read the Suffering Servant allegory as a literal person who suffered and died for sins,
          ……….
          Not likely. Cephas was Peter. Peter did not head up the group. James did. All of them remained practicing Jews and as Jews would believe Torah which states that every person must atone for their own sins. Vicarious atonement by a human is unknown in Judaism. As well, Jews do not believe in original sin.

          They were Jews who upheld Torah and would have interpreted it just as all Jews do. The suffering servant is Israel.

        • Greg G.

          Paul says Cephas was the first to see the Suffering Servant as a person who lived, suffered, died and was resurrected. and gives the whole order in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, using a couple of Isaiah 53 allusions at the beginning. That was at least seventeen years earlier. Paul gives the impression that Cephas was intimidated by James’ authority in Galatians 2. I don’t meant to say that Cephas was the leader of the sect, just the first to have that one insight. Maybe he was the high priest at the time for all we know but things can change in 17 years in group dynamics.

        • lorasinger

          I got the impression that Peter (Cephas) spent a great deal of time tip toeing around, trying not to get either Paul or James riled up. I think he was something of a wimp. James was his immediate boss (circumcised party) but he spent time with Paul too. For a good read based on Acts and Galatians primarily and researched in the manner of a lawyer preparing a case for court, read:
          Christ’s Ventriloquists (Zuesse).

        • Greg G.

          In Galatians 2, Paul calls Cephas, James, and John “esteemed pillars” and “esteemed leaders”, but with disdain.

          Mark picks up on that. Of the twelve disciples, only five are mentioned after they are named in chapter 3. Peter’s brother, Andrew is mentioned once and Judas plays one significant role.

          Mark portrays Peter as a wishy-washy fool who promises to stand up for Jesus but chickens out, the way Paul portrays him eating with the Gentiles until some men who don’t follow the rule of “what happens in Antioch, stays in Antioch”.

          For the other two esteemed leaders (Paul says he doesn’t care about their position), Mark 10:35-45 portrays them as wanting a similar position in glory.

          Paul tells us the his knowledge is not inferior to the “super-apostles'” knowledge. He seems to think they got their knowledge the same way he did, and since his knowledge from revelation seems to come from the scriptures, Cephas and James must have got theirs from scripture as well. So when Mark portrays them as illiterate fishermen, he is being facetious.

          Luke seems to have written Acts to make Peter and Paul be parallel stories. Peter has his named changed so Paul had his name changed, for example. Luke writes lots of parallel passages where a story about a Jew is balanced with a similar story about a Gentile. A story with a male has a counterpart with a female. This is a list of the male-female balance. Let me know if I missed any.

          Prophetic announcement of conception by Gabriel
          ◾Zechariah
          Luke 1:5-25
          ◾Mary
          Luke 1:26-38

          ◾Prophetic announcement of Jesus’ birth
          ◾Simeon
          Luke 2:25-35
          ◾Anna
          Luke 2:36-38

          ◾Raising from the dead
          ◾Widow’s son
          Luke 7:11-17
          ◾Jairus’ daughter
          Luke 8:49-56; Mark 5:23

          ◾Teaching the disciples
          ◾Mary and Martha
          Luke 10:38-42
          ◾Male disciples
          Luke 11:1-13; Matthew 6:9-15

          ◾Healing on the Sabbath
          ◾Crippled woman
          Luke 13:10-17
          ◾Man with dropsy
          Luke 14:1-4

          ◾Finding the lost
          ◾Shepherd and sheep
          Luke 15:3-7; Matthew 18:12-14
          ◾Woman and coin
          Luke 15:8-10

          ◾Parable on prayer
          ◾Persistent widow
          Luke 18:1-8
          ◾Tax collector
          Luke 18:9-14

          ◾At the tomb
          ◾Women
          Luke 24:1-10
          ◾Peter
          Luke 24:11-12

          ◾Deception
          ◾Ananias
          Acts 5:1-6
          ◾Sapphira
          Acts 5:7-11

          ◾Raising from the dead
          ◾Tabitha
          Acts 9:32-43
          ◾Eutychus
          Acts 20:7-12

          ◾Prophets
          ◾Agabus
          Acts 11:27-30
          ◾Philip’s daughters
          Acts 21:8-9

          ◾Powerful pagans
          ◾Simon
          Acts 8:9-25
          ◾Girl with spirit
          Acts 16:16-21

          ◾Conversion at Philippi
          ◾Lydia
          Acts 16:11-15
          ◾Jailer
          Acts 16:22-40

          Luke also uses stories from Josephus’ autobiography for passages. The whole arrest of Paul and his trip to Rome in Acts 23 to Acts 28 seems to come from Josephus’ Antiquities 20.8 and Vida 3.

          PS: Tried to move the mouse cursor to put in the period just above and hit Post my mistake.

          So, it is hard to take Acts seriously.

        • lorasinger

          Keep in mind that Josephus wrote at the end of the first century while Luke wrote in the 60-70’s. I think the two versions, although describing the same event, are most likely written separately.
          …….
          When breaking of “food rules” is discussed, it isn’t quite as simple as that. Food rules are only part of following Torah which also includes all of Moses laws under the eternal covenant signified by circumcision. That was the essence of what made a Jew, a Jew. By breaking the food rules, one also was disobeying The Law.
          .
          You will recall that Paul was called in to explain the heresy that he had been teaching his converts to turn their backs on The Law. That would include food rules and circumcision.

          .
          Paul has always been angry that he is not really part of the inner circle under James’ thumb.
          .
          His accusation against Peter is a way of telling him that he’s not so hot, one of the inner circle of James, acting just like Paul and his own converts – not a fancy, shmancy Jew at all.
          .
          Your theory of balancing is interesting and bears looking into.

        • Greg G.

          Those who date the gospels early tend to do it for religious reasons. Luke copied Mark and Mark was written after the destruction of Jerusalem so Luke was written later than that. Most think Luke was written in the 90’s. The overwhelming number of correspondences between Luke and Josephus show a connection but the details show that Josephus was original. Steve Mason has argued this. I think Luke also knew the Gospel of John. The last line of the “Lazarus and the Rich Man” pericope seems to be a complete rejection of John’s Lazarus resurrection. Luke seems to have moved parts of John’s Lazarus story into passages that John borrowed from Mark.

          Paul says that Peter ate with the Gentiles then stopped when the Jews came from James. Paul said he called him out on it. Paul argued that those food laws were no longer valid. Mark seems to have used that passage in Galatians for Mark 7:1-19 with Jesus taking Paul’s place and the Pharisees playing Peter.

          The story about Paul being called to Jerusalem is in Acts. Luke only seems to infer things from Paul’s writings and adds in some drama.

          But why would Paul vent his anger in a letter to the Galatians? He seems to be angry that someone was trying to discredit his theology. However he got word that it was happening probably included who said it. That is why he was directing sarcasm at them and telling stories to show them in a bad light.

          I came across this verse where Paul indicates he was born a Jew:

          Galatians 2:15
          We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners;

        • lorasinger

          Josephus writes that Saulos was sent from the Herodian House in Rome to quell rebellions. The Herodians were Idumean converts who were never accepted by the Jews – kind of wannabe Jews. For this reason even Herod himself was hated. The Idumeans/Herodians practiced Jewish customs and considered themselves Jews and so Paul too would consider himself to be a Jew but Roman thinking would be at his core.

          …………..

          I really wish you would read “Christ’s Ventriloquists” (E. Zuesse). It analyses Galatians and Acts in minute detail and combines it with other scholarly writings. There are a lot of nuances that come out, much more so than from simply reading them carefully.

          ……….

          If you read the letters to the seven churches under Revelation in the Jewish encyclopedia, there is a lot of information about the background of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. This is an excerpt of the commentary on Revelation:

          The first part (i. 4-iii. 22) contains a vision by John, who
          is told by Jesus to send a letter to the seven angels of the seven churches in
          Asia (founded by Paul and his associates), rebuking them for the libertinism
          that has taken hold of many “who
          pass as Jews, but show by their blasphemy and licentiousness that they are of
          the synagogue of Satan” (ii. 9, iii. 9, Greek). These seven
          churches were those of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamus, Thyatira, Sardis,
          Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Owing to
          their heathen associations many of their members had lapsed into pagan or
          semipagan views and practises, under the influence of heretic leaders. Of these one is singled out by the name
          of Nicolaites (ii. 6, 15; comp. Acts vi. 5), called also Balaam (ii. 14,
          =”Nicolaos”), because, like Balaam, he seduced the people to
          idolatry and fornication by his false prophecies and witchcraft (Num. xxv. 1;
          xxxi. 8, 16). Another singled out was a woman, probably a prophetess, called
          Jezebel (ii. 20) on account of her idolatrous practises (I Kings xviii. 19,
          xxi. 25). Evidently the seed sown by
          Paul and his associates, who in their antinomian Gnosticism boasted of having
          penetrated “the deep things of God” (I Cor. ii. 10), had borne evil
          fruit, so that the seer of Patmoscalls these heretics “false apostles and
          liars” (ii. 2), and their teachings “the depths of
          Satan” (ii. 24).

          How much local cults, as that of Esculapius in Pergamos
          (“Satan’s seat”; ii. 13), had to do with these heresies it is
          difficult to say; certain it is that many were “polluted” by pagan
          practises (ii. 13, 26; iii. 4). All
          the more severely does the seer condemn the Pauline teaching as “the
          teaching of Balaam” (comp. II Peter ii. 15; Jude 11; Sanh. 106b;
          Giṭ. 57a; see Balaam).……………………………

          .

          According to Numbers 31:16 and Revelation 2:14, Balaam
          returned to King Balak and informed the king on how to get the Israelites to
          curse themselves by enticing them with prostitutes and unclean food sacrificed to idols.
          result (Numbers 31:16). Revelation also states that Balaam (Paul?) “taught
          Balak (Rome?) to cast a stumbling block
          before the children of Israel”.
          ..
          As a footnote: A second-century Christian writer — Papias of Hierapolis — affirms that there were indeed two persons by the name of John in the early church: one the apostle, and another an elder at Ephesus, who received the visions on Patmos.

        • Greg G.

          Josephus writes that Saulos was sent from the Herodian House in Rome to quell rebellions.

          I have seen that passage in Josephus. I wonder if Luke did to get the name “Saul” for Paul.

        • lorasinger

          It ties in with Jewish custom too. I’ve read on another site that no true Jew would give his child other than a Jewish name – certainly not a Roman name. A Herodian would be the only kind that could do that – not being true Jews and being connected with Rome. Saul was a Roman name while Paul is a Jewish name. He could claim to be Jewish and yet change his name easily. As a Herodian he would have citizenship as well if his family was well placed. I believe that in the bible, he also greets someone as “Herodian, my kinsman”.

        • Greg G.

          Saul was a Roman name while Paul is a Jewish name.

          Are you sure? David’s predecessor was Saul. Isn’t that Jewish?

          I saw an argument recently where the name “Herodian” was discussed while a third person was pointing out that the name used was “Herodion” and the different meanings. I just skimmed it and I may have the names reversed.

          I was investigating that very phrase. It seems there are various translations. It could be anything from a cousin to a fellow countryman. I didn’t make any conclusion and dropped it.

        • lorasinger

          Sorry I got it turned around. This is an excerpt:

          Roman citizenship from birth means Saul had to be given a Roman name from birth. 17
          It turns out that Paul is a Roman name. 18

          How did Paul happen to have a Roman birth name if he was truly Jewish? It cannot happen. A true Jewish family would not give their child a Roman name or even accept Roman citizenship from birth. This would represent defilement. Thus, Paul had to be from birth a non-Jew. However, his parents also named him Saul, which is a Jewish name. Thus, his parents
          aspired to be Jewish. This fits perfectly the Herodians. They would be non-Jews and Roman citizens, but they would also aspire to be Jewish.

          Thus, in the Judea of that era, only Herodians
          would have a child with both a Roman and Hebrew name (Paul Saul) who would have Roman citizenship from birth (Acts 22:28)
          and who would greet a “kinsman” (i.e., a relative) named Herodion. (Romans 16:11.) It thus is not a coincidence that Saul in Acts is a collaborator of the High Priest appointed by Herod. Nor is it insignificant that Saulus in Josephus is likewise a collaborator of the High Priest in precisely the time-frame of Saul-Paul prior to becoming a Christian. This then leads us to the unequivocal statement in Josephus that Saulus is a member of the Royal family of Herod Antipas.
          ………..
          These are the explanatory references:
          17. “When a foreigner received the right of citizenship, he took a new name.” The nomen “had to be nomen of the person, always a Roman citizen, to whom he owed his citizenship.” Harold W. Johnston, The Private Life of the Romans (Revised by Mary Johnston) (Scott, Foresman and Company: 1932) ch. 2.
          18. Most Christians assume that Jesus changed Saul’s name to Paul in the same way Jesus changed Simon’s to Peter. However, there is no mention of this in the three accounts of Paul’s vision in Acts chs. 9, 22, and 26. In the middle of Acts, Luke starts referring to Saul as Paul, with no explanation. Nor does Paul explain in any of his letters why he uses the name Paul. It turns out that Paul is a Roman name. Saul is a Hebrew name. There is an apocryphal account that Paul took his name from a Roman official Paulus whom he converted. Yet, to be a citizen from birth, one must have a Roman name from birth. Paulus must have been it.

        • Alicia

          I think if it were genuinely impossible for Paul to have been a Jewish Roman citizen, someone would have noticed that by now.
          Given that mainstream scholarship doesn’t seem to be concerned about it, I’ll go ahead and figure they’ve done their homework.
          I feel like I used to know how it worked, but for right now I’ll trust them, like I trust other experts to understand things I don’t.

        • lorasinger

          Had he been a real Jew, he would have to have waited until 212 AD to get a full Roman citizenship.

        • Erp

          And the evidence for this is? Especially given that we know of Jews with Roman citizenship. Note that manumitted slaves of Roman citizens (though this was tightened under the Empire) became Roman Citizens so Paul’s father or grandfather could have been a freed slave of a Roman Citizen.

          See for instance

          The Jews in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt: The Struggle for Equal Rights by Aryeh Kasher
          which describes Jews who were Roman citizens in Egypt.

        • Alicia

          Thanks. I knew there’d be such a resource, but couldn’t motivate myself to find it.

        • lorasinger
        • Erp

          And its sources are? And who is the writer? Judging by the associated picture and the info about the Church he belongs to he is Erik Divietro who “has an undergraduate degree from a Bible college and holds a master’s degree in church leadership”. Aryeh Kasher on the other hand was professor at Tel Aviv University and has a Ph.D. in Jewish Studies from the same university; his area of interest was Second Temple Judaism.

        • Greg G.

          Luke tries to make Paul out to be a Roman citizen in Acts. I don’t think Paul ever said that. He does say he was a Jew and studied to be a Pharisee in Galatians. I suspect Luke inferred that Paul studied under Gamaliel from Galatians 1:14, about his study, and Galatians 5:14:

          Galatians 5:14 (NRSV)14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

          which looks like the quote from Rabbi Hillel, Gamaliel’s ancestor.

          The Acts 21:38 quote looks to be invented by combining elements from bits about three different people mentioned by Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews 20.8.5, 6, & 10.

          The most reliable parts of Acts is where it completely agrees with Josephus. The least reliable parts are where Luke has ripped off Josephus and applied the Josephus information to someone else.

        • lorasinger

          This is from the Jewish Encyclopedia – Is he in agreement with this?
          .
          In default of the right of Greek citizenship,
          the Jews fell back upon their right of Roman citizenship, which carried with
          it, even in Greek cities, numerous advantages. Altogether, in Roman cities they
          fared much better. From the time of Cicero there had been in Rome a compact
          group of Jewish citizens and electors. These were, no doubt, ancient slaves,
          enfranchised by one of those solemn ceremonials which conferred upon them the
          rights of citizenship in its plenitude (Philo, “Legatio ad Caium,” §
          23; Cicero, “Pro Flacco,” 28; the λιβερτινοι of Jerusalem [Acts vi.
          9] belong doubtless to the same category). In the same period there were in
          Ephesus, Sardis, and throughout Asia Minor, a considerable number of Jews who
          possessed the rights of Roman citizenship. By what means they obtained it is
          not known (“Ant.” xiv. 10, §§ 13, 14, 16-19). In Tarsus, Paul was
          both a Roman citizen and a citizen of the town (Acts xvi. 37-39). In Jerusalem,
          in 66 C.E., there were Jews who were Roman knights (“B. J.” ii. 14, §
          9). The number of Jews admitted into Rome during the first two centuries of the
          empire can not be estimated; but it must have been considerable in view of the
          number of Jewish slaves that passed through Roman hands as the result of the
          three great insurrections. Still, the Jew who had become a Roman citizen does
          not appear to have possessed the “jus honorum,” unless, indeed, he
          abjured, like Tiberius Alexander, nephew of Philo, his national customs; and
          the same thing held good of a Roman who embraced the Jewish faith. The law was
          not modified in this respect except by the constitution of Severus and
          Caracalla, which imposed upon the Jews certain contributions in forced labor
          (“necessitates”) of a kind and degree compatible with their creed.
          From this time on the idea of local citizenship became greatly eclipsed by the
          wider conception of a Roman nationality—somewhat corresponding to a citizenship
          of the empire (Ulpian, L. 3, Dig. L. 2, § 3). Not long after this Caracalla’s constitution
          made its appearance, which, for financial reasons, forced Roman citizenship
          upon all the subjects of the empire (L. 17, Dig. i. 5). By virtue of ,
          the Jews obtained thereafter without difficulty the “jus honorum,”
          and the exercise of all civil rights, “connubium, commercium, testamenti
          factio,” and even the guardianship of non-Jews (Modestin, L. 15, § 6, Dig.
          xxvii. 1). Nevertheless, as formerly they had been privileged
          “peregrini,” they were now in certain respects privileged “cives”:
          they had all the rights of citizens, but they exercised only those which did
          not conflict with their religious liberties. This may be inferred especially
          from the text already cited, according to which Alexander Severus
          “confirmed the privileges of the Jews.” Among these privileges there
          was for some time, besides the exemption from military service, relief from
          service, more burdensome than honorary, to the curia
          ….
          So, does he believe Paul had full citizenship or the limited one afforded to progeny of slaves and others?
          .
          Personally, I go with the Ebionites version of Paul’s being “the great liar”, a Greek convert who fell in love with the high priests daughter but was spurned and went off to invent his own religion, claiming to be a Benjamite 500 years after the tribal systems were destroyed by the numerous diasporas and were no longer in use. He’s the author of the greatest con job ever pulled on mankind.

        • lorasinger

          Keep in mind that the victor gets to write the history and Pauline Christianity won big time, declaring all opposing thought as heretics and killing them. Ebionites, for instance, say Paul was a Greek convert. They called him “The great liar” and his religion “the lying religion”. Their works were all destroyed and all we have left is in the Criticisms of the Early Church fathers.
          .
          The letter to the seven churches in Revelation (all of them founded by Paul) is castigated for turning to paganism. Paul’s name isn’t mentioned but there is a reference to Balaam who was a prophet for hire and the inference that Rome is involved.

        • Greg G.

          Leviticus 16:5-22 is the ritual of the scapegoat. Much of the regular sacrificing of animals were sin atonements.

          Isaiah 53:3-12 (NRSV)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.

          The passage was written as an allegory. Most observant Jews would see it that way. That does not mean that some wouldn’t see “the revelation of the mystery” (Romans 16:25) or “the mystery hidden for ages” (Ephesians 3:9) in the above passage. The hope for the coming Messiah distinguished some sects of Jews from all the others. Seeing the Suffering Servant passages differently would distinguish the sect Cephas was in from the other sects who expected a Messiah.

        • lorasinger

          Animal sacrifice was done only for inadvertent sin. Deliberate sin was atoned by repentance, compensation and prayer. Human sacrifice was forbidden. Torah states that every person must atone for his own sins.

          ……………

          In Isaiah 53, which is NOT a prophetic passage, look for just WHO the suffering servant is. Is Jesus mentioned? Is any man god mentioned? it is the suffering servant who is mentioned throughout:
          .
          44:21. Remember these, O Jacob and Israel ; for you are my servant; I have formed you;
          you are my servant; O Israel , you shall not be forgotten by me.

          48:20 …The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob.

          49:3 …You are my servant, O Israel , in whom I will be glorified.
          …………..

          “for the transgression of my people, was he stricken.”

          This is mistranslated in two places.

          We translate it as:

          “from the sins of my people, were they stricken.”

          The prefix: Mi-means “from” as in “from the sins”, not “for”. The prefix for “for” would be: “Lih,” therefore it is not saying “for” the sins of my people, but more accurately “from” the sins of my people. This is part of the kings’recognizing that the treatment that their people have extended to the Jews have been sins.
          .
          It continues: Nega Lamo. They translate this as “he was stricken” (or more literally “was the blow to him,”). We translate it as “they were stricken” (or
          literally “was the blow to them.”)
          .
          The critical factor is that the word LAMO means “to them”, not “to him”. If Isaiah wanted to say to him he would’ve said “lo” not, “lamo”.
          ………………
          As in many other places, a great deal of editing and interpolation has taken place in order to put a Christian slant on the verses. The Jews still have the original translations and it is only when they are compared that Christians ever learn about it.

        • Greg G.

          The New Testament authors appear to have used the Septuagint most of the time.

          I know that the Suffering Servant is an allegory for the nation of Israel. I expect that the proto-Christians did, too. But it seems that they also thought there were hidden messages within it that told of an actual person.

          Practically every group who expected the Messiah, has come up with reasons to believe they would see it. It has been going on at least since Maccabean times to the present. They were apparently willing to read that into Isaiah. That is why Isaiah is the most quoted book in Paul’s letters and maybe the whole New Testament. Every verse in Isaiah 53 is quoted in full or in part somewhere in the New Testament. The last three verses of chapter 52 go with it and two of those are used, too.

          There were periods when the Hebrews didn’t think human sacrifice was the worst thing imaginable. The Isaac sacrifice story shows signs of redaction involving the ram and Abraham still comes down the mountain alone. The general who promised to sacrifice the first thing to greet him if God gave him victory seems to have been expected to keep his promise.

          The whole concept of a sacrifice of Jesus absolving sins shouldn’t make sense to anyone but it does. It may have made sense to some Jews in the first century, too.

        • lorasinger

          What you call “proto-Christians” are the Jewish Christians who followed Jesus. These were fully practicing Jews who were exactly the same as the others but they believed that Jesus was the fully human messiah of Jewish prophecy. They differed in no other way.
          ,,,
          The new testament authors are all anonymous but it’s pretty evident that some of them or all of them weren’t Jews or were Hellenized Jews, no longer familiar with their own religion, so they would use the Septuagint instead of the Hebrew Torah. The initial translation by the 72 Jewish scholars for Ptolemy consisted of only the first five books of the Tanakh. Isaiah and Psalms weren’t translated at the same time. Evidently they had been translated by Christian scholars later and the Hebrew versions weren’t used.
          .
          The Abraham story is a lesson in obedience, not of sacrifice. Isaac was never meant to be sacrificed and evidently God wanted to see how far Abraham was willing to go, otherwise there wouldn’t have been a perfect sacrificial animal caught in the thicket close by (against all odds).
          .
          No, the idea of one being dying for the sins of others is not a Jewish concept. Torah states that every person must atone for his own sins and no one else can do it for him. Human sacrifice is forbidden.

        • Greg G.

          The Documentary Hypothesis says the Bible is a redaction of different writings. The lore is thought to have diverged when Israel and Judah was split but was forced together when refugees escaped the Assyrians. One group apparently favored Isaac more than the other and had him killed off by Abraham. The priests merged the texts. That is why there are so many doublets in back to back verses with different names for God.

          So those stories are older than Judaism.

        • lorasinger

          Absolutely.
          .
          Read “Fabrication of Faith” (R. Hagenston).
          .
          The book above is just a thin one you can get at Amazon and is an excellent read. You can see a summary of it at Amazon.

        • Pofarmer

          Ain’t no way there was 500 followers in Jerusalem in the Early forst century.

        • Greg G.

          If Cephas stood up on his soapbox before a crowd of a few hundred people and stated his case and nobody through rotten vegetables at him, then they must have agreed whole-heartedly.

        • lorasinger

          provide information that shows who, where and why a fictional Jesus was created.

          ………….
          I suggest this long and very interesting read and it is explained by biblical scholars:
          http://www.sullivan-county.com/id2/paul_problem.htm

        • Alicia

          [And next time we’re discussing evolution I’m sure you can find lots of lovely creationist websites to send us to.]
          I read a couple pages. I didn’t see anything providing a concise and sensible explanation about how and why Paul would have cooked up that story and sold it to the world.
          As MNb said, if this thesis were in obedience to Occam’s Razor, the whole thing would be explicable in one screen.

        • Greg G.

          Cephas was in a sect that expected the Messiah. He read the Suffering Servant allegory as if it was about a real person who suffered, died and got resurrected, much like Isaiah 53 says. He convinced the twelve, the 500, James, and Paul eventually. The Messiah would have to be a descendant of David but precede Isaiah, the oldest prophet.

          Paul thought it included the Gentiles and made it his mission to tell them before the Messiah came. Paul wrote letters that were copied and passed around. Paul thought the crucifixion was important. The others seem to have not accepted that idea.

          After the destruction of Jerusalem, the person who wrote the Gospel of Mark combined those letters with Hebrew scripture and Greek literature to write an allegory as if the Suffering Servant had lived in the first century.

          Other writers thought Mark was a historical document and made their own writings based on it.

          That should be about a screen. The rest is history. By the time Mark wrote, nobody would have been able to verify events in war-torn Jerusalem.

          I can give pages of justifications of those claims.

        • lorasinger

          Occam’s Razor is a principle, not a law. It does not say that the simplest explanation is ALWAYS the right one. If a more complicated explanation better applies, then use it.

        • lorasinger

          As you said, you read “a couple of pages”. So you didn’t notice:
          ##Jesus and the Jewish Resistance Introduction
          ##Jesus and the Jewish Resistance – The Messiah
          ##Jesus and the Jewish Resistance – The Pharisees
          ##Jesus and the Jewish Resistance – The King of the Jews
          ##Jesus and the Jewish Resistance – The Day of the Lord
          ##Paul the Apostle and Salvation Thru Faith
          ##James, Paul, and the Dead Sea Scrolls by John Oller
          ##The Theology of Paul
          ##Review of Hyam Maccoby’s Paul and Hellenism by John Mann
          ##Paul’s Bungling Attempt At Sounding Pharisaic by Hyam Maccoby
          ##Hyam Maccoby was mostly right
          ##The Problem of Paul Introduction
          ##The Problem of Paul 1
          ##The Problem of Paul 2

        • Greg G.

          Where can I see the Q document? It was hypothesized to maintain the idea that Matthew and Luke didn’t copy off each other. The Farrar-Goulder Hypothesis holds that Luke copied from Matthew. Mark Goodacre is the leading proponent of the idea today.

          R. J. Hoffman is a staunch anti-mythicist and he says in The Historically Inconvenient Jesus

          I don’t know too many New Testament scholars who would argue that the gospels are good history, and some (me among them) who would say that for the most part the gospels are totally useless as history. The gospels were written as propaganda by a religious cult. That impugns them as history, even at a time—the last decades of the first great Roman imperial century—when history wasn’t especially committed to recording what really happened in a dispassionate and disinterested way.

          Given that there is (a) no reason to trust the gospels; (b) no external testimony to the existence of Jesus (I’ve never thought that the so-called “pagan” reports were worth considering in detail; at most they can be considered evidence of the cult, not a founder); (c) no independent Christian source that is not tainted by the missionary objectives of the cult and (d) no Jewish account that has not been invented or tainted by Christian interpolators, what is the purpose of holding out for an historical Jesus?

          But in my view there is no convincing argument that establishes that priority, and the disconnect between the two literary strands, gospel and epistle, is so sharp that it is impossible to conclude that a figment invented by Paul could have served as the literary model for the Jesus of a gospel like Mark’s.

          It is not enough to show that Mark wrote independently, you have to show that he knew something about a real Jesus. If he did, why does every story look like he was combining parts from Greek literature with Old Testament verses?

          You are the one who is guilty of special pleading; there is no similar case of a fictional near contemporary character supposed to be at the root of a religion during entire Antiquity.

          The Jesus character I propose would have been over seven hundred years in the past. But why limit the question to Antiquity where we have limited information? Look at Mormonism. Their Jesus was 1800 years in the past.

          You have no shred of evidence who invented the character, where and why. All you have is the creationist tactic “the historical Jesus is wrong because X, Y, Z hence myth”.

          1 Corinthians 15:3-8 tells us a little, that it may have started with Cephas, and the “according to the scripture” indicates it was done through scripture. The fact that the Gospel of Mark has all the indications of being written by mimesis is evidence. I do not say that Jesus was made up because of the lack of evidence for Jesus. It is the evidence that shows that Paul got all his information from the scriptures and Mark got his information from Paul and the Greek literature that shows Jesus was made up.

          You went at great length to show that everything attributed to Jesus is a reference to the OT, but didn’t care to show how that disproves a historical Jesus.

          I counted how many times the authors mentioned Jesus and how many times they appear to use independent information. They talk about Jesus a lot and zero percent appears to be independent knowledge directly from a person with first hand knowledge. Paul talks about Jesus about 500 times in Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, and 1 Thessalonians without a hint that he knew a real person. He also says he knows as much as the “super-apostles” which says he doesn’t think they knew a real Jesus.

          The other epistles only mention Jesus in OT terms, too.

          You just proclaimed it, like the creationist “recognizes” design and proclaims a designer.
          It’s hard to shake off the bad habits of your former religion, so it seems.

          Your argument is that the Minimal Jesus Hypothesis can’t be disproven therefore Jesus existed. That is equivalent to the “You can’t disprove God, therefore he exists” and “you can’t prove God didn’t create the earth in 6 days with the appearance of age, therefore creationism” argument.

          The current Minimal Jesus Hypothesis relies on Jesus being crucified which makes the followers create a religion around it. But the other epistles are not big on the crucifixion. I did a quick search on variations of the word “crucify” and “cross” for the non-Pauline epistles. There were two, one of each in Hebrews. I remembered that 1 Peter 2:24 mentions “cross” in some translations and “tree” in others.

          In Galatians 3, it seems that Paul is doing some troubleshooting, as Alicia says, because someone bewitched the Galatians into doubting the crucifiction. Paul asks rhetorically who it was, but after spending a chapter and a half discrediting James and Cephas, it was probably them and he points a lot of sarcasm at James. Paul goes on to demonstrate to ghe Galatians how he figures Jesus was crucified in Galatians 3:6-14 and quotes several OT verses. It comes down to Jesus became a curse and those who hang on a cross (a possible meaning for the word in the Septuagint that Paul favored but it is tree in the Hebrew text). It seems that Paul may have been the main proponent of the crucifiction in the early Christian community.

          You’ll need to invent a new cause for them to galvanize around. Then you can worry about why the crucifixion meme won out.

        • MNb

          “Where can I see the Q document?”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          In the Bible of course. The Q document by definition is everything Mattheus and Lucas have in common but did not take over from Marcus. That’s enough to postulate an independent source besides Marcus. That stuff had to come from somewhere, you know – and not from Marcus. By definition.
          Hey – why not ask a scholar, someone who studied the issue?

          http://mainzerbeobachter.com/2014/06/11/nog-een-keer-q/

          “De tekst is inderdaad nooit gezien, maar er is ook nog nooit iemand die een tektonische plaat, een quark, de evolutie, de wet van vraag en aanbod, Napoleon of zwarte materie zag.”

          “The text indeed never has been seen, but there is nobody either who ever saw a tectonic plate, a quark, evolution, the Law of Supply and Demand, Napoleon or Dark Matter saw.”

          But I already know how fond you are of special pleading.

        • Greg G.

          I know what Q is supposed to be. Somebody had to write it. How do you know it wasn’t Matthew?

          Luke copying Matthew answers many questions. Look up Mark Goodacre. Don’t worry, he’s not a mythicist.

        • Pofarmer

          It seems you’re going a little overboard here. First off, Q is a hypothetical document, and the author if Mark is actually unknown.

          “there is no similar case of a fictional near contemporary character supposed to be at the root of a religion during entire Antiquity”

          I think this is plainly false. It was quite common for Greek Authors to put their heros in contemporary settings in the near past. I believe Matthew Ferguson has written about it. And, besides, there is nothing besides the 4 Gospels that puts Jesus in a time frame, at all, and they were writte anywhere from 30-100 years after the events had supposedly taken place. Historicizing a charachter on this sort of way wouldn’t have been unusual for a Greek writer at all.

        • Greg G.

          MNb should know that a historian would want to know who the author is, what his sources are, the genre of the writing, the purpose of the writing. He ignores all that and says I am like a creationist.

        • Alicia

          A historian would *want* to know, yes. But they would accept that you can’t always get what you want, in history. You have to guess and extrapolate. Which they have done, in the case of Mark. The author is guessed to be in a narrow range of demographics, and the genre and purpose are also postulated within a narrow range of values.
          And you *are* like a creationist. The rules by which religions develop are every bit as known and predictable as the rules by which species develop, and you are claiming that you know better and this one case doesn’t follow those known rules. If that isn’t creationism, I don’t know what is.

        • Greg G.

          It is the historists that bend over backwards to make Jesus historical.

          I propose that the proto-Christians were a sect of Messianic Jews who thought they had a good reason to think the Messiah was coming soon. The read the Suffering Servant as a real person and decided he was resurrected which meant others could be resurrected. We know there were Messianic Jews in the early first century so we have a model for it’s origin. One guy with his hair on fire spread his own slightly different version and utilized the Roman Postal Service which was a novel approach. That left documents for the next generation to try to understand, after Jerusalem and the other sects were destroyed. One writer wrote an allegory putting the Suffering Servant in first century Judea but with the miracle working abilities of Elijah and Elisha.

          We pretty much agree what happened after that.

        • Alicia

          Wow. Just Wow.
          You admit that there were messiahs all over the place, but you think that it is more logical that someone made up a religion *about* them than that one of them attracted a movement that outlasted him, in spite of the fact that the latter has been observed to happen many times, and the first… Well, there’s scientology, I guess.
          And still with your fixation on literacy. The only way a religion can get founded is apparently if someone writes something. I don’t understand how someone can misunderstand history that thoroughly, or be so ignorant of the basic facts, or whatever it is. Societies where literacy rates are vanishingly small have a different relationship with the written word than we do. They have a different relationship with history than we do.
          I’m going to try to stop responding with you, because I’m losing my grip on my cooth.

        • Greg G.

          A Messianic Jew expects the coming of a Messiah, not necessarily that they have one already.

          And still with your fixation on literacy. The only way a religion can get founded is apparently if someone writes something. I don’t understand how someone can misunderstand history that thoroughly, or be so ignorant of the basic facts, or whatever it is. Societies where literacy rates are vanishingly small have a different relationship with the written word than we do. They have a different relationship with history than we do.
          I’m going to try to stop responding with you, because I’m losing my grip on my cooth.

          Paul took advantage of the mail system. He wrote to groups where at least one person could read. Letters would have been read to the group. People made copies of the letters and sent them to other groups with a literate person. This is just basic information about how Paul worked. It is not unique to the Jesus debate.

          I give you the benefit of the doubt that you are losing track of the claims of each individual you are conversing with. But what I am saying is rather simple.

        • Pofarmer

          Unfortunately, through literacy is the only record we have. Paul says Cephas and James “knew” Jesus the same way he does, by “revelation through the scriptures.” That’s pretty much it. Read the Epistles of James and Jude, believed Earlier than the Gospels, and you don’t have a mention of an earthly Jesus either. The evidence we have, says that, much as Greg G says, we have a religion that started with a savior coming to kick some ass who had been resurected sometime in the indeterminite past. For fun, read the book of Revelation with an eye to ancient astrology and you’ll see it also supports this point. Until the Gospels, we don’t have any real mention of an Earthly Jesus, and also remember the Early dating of the Gospels is a fairly recent thing. They were originally thought to have been written beginning much closer to the start of the second century. To get an idea on dating of all this, you can go to earlychristianwritings.com. You can literally see the progression of ideas in the dates of the writings. All these books weren’t written at the same time. Read the “Didache” which is at least as early as the writings if Paul. No real mention of an Earthly Jesus. Don’t lose your cool, actually interact with what is being presented.

        • lorasinger

          The proto-Christian messianic Jews, after the fall of the temple in 70 AD went on to be called Ebionites and Nazarenes with a belief in a human Jesus, just as before. They can’t be lumped in with Paul’s man god believing Christians.

        • primenumbers

          “But they would accept that you can’t always get what you want, in history” – that is true, especially for ancient studies with a paucity of sources and even more so when there are no primary sources. That is why in this case if you’re not starting from a healthy agnosticism and are sure to not be over-confident with your “guesses” and “extrapolations”, you’re probably not doing good history.

        • primenumbers
        • Greg G.

          Thanks for the link. It’s a great article.

        • Cozmo the Magician

          Considering the number of people who to this day still think Elvis is alive and well, the legend of Jesus makes about as much sense.

        • TheNuszAbides

          is Carrier absolutely barking up the wrong tree by applying Bayesian brouhaha? i’ve heard it’s a novel application (which seems obvious), even nonsensical (which seems like it would require at least some grasp of probability maths, of which mine is minuscule), but haven’t actually heard more than a phrase (“purely formal”) as to why.

        • That’s an interesting question. Bayes is certainly being applied on the Christian side of the issue (more here).

        • TheNuszAbides

          thanks; i’ll check out ‘How Likely the Jesus Miracle Stories?’ too. of course i’ve had the following bookmarked for months, possibly years at this point, and still haven’t followed up:
          http://www.yudkowsky.net/rational/bayes

          http://lesswrong.com/lw/2b0/bayes_theorem_illustrated_my_way/

          but i already know that your delivery tends to be more accessible than that of the lesswrong denizens in general (possible exception being, er, whoever does slatestarcodex).

        • If you’re looking for an intro to Bayes’ theorem, may I suggest this post of mine. It’s a short, illustrated introduction.

          For me, the formulae are not intuitive, but the visual approach makes it easy to understand.

        • TheNuszAbides

          your post was the first thing i mentioned 😉
          but yes, in the last couple years of classes i realized how much visual aids complement/supplement my ~personal learning style~ (all the rage in certain prep circles, i guess) and glancing over the lesswrong entry i suspected i would need both drawn-out text and pictures before the concept will ‘gel’ for me.

        • MNb

          The problem with Bayesian probability calculation is “garbage in, garbage out”. And it’s very hard to determine if the input is garbage or not – with the caveat that I haven’t checked Carrier’s analysis myself. But even if I had I doubt if I would use the word “absolutely” – that’s rather silly when discussing probabilties.

        • TheNuszAbides

          sorry, that’s a slip of the florid Brit prose i grew up absorbing. usually the same tone if you ever see me use [e.g.] ‘utterly’, ‘ridiculously’ or ‘perfectly’. (though naturally, ‘ridiculously’ is easiest to get away with.)

        • TheNuszAbides

          Carrier’s on record that he had a maths prof consultant to ostensibly keep himself honest, but since i only first heard of Bayesian analysis (at least by name) a couple-few years ago and still haven’t properly learned it, i figured it would be worth looking out for an Actual Maths-Person(TM)’s assessment or second/third opinion. makes sense that GIGO applies – which reminded me of a somewhat apt spin i stumbled over when looking up the history of GIGO (on wiki-p):

          Garbage in, gospel out is a more recent expansion of the acronym. It is a sardonic comment on the tendency to put excessive trust in “computerised” data, and on the propensity for individuals to blindly accept what the computer says. Since the data entered into the computer is then processed by the computer, people who do not understand the processes in question, tend to believe the data they see …

        • Ignorant Amos

          I know some are trying to explain away Paul writing about James, the Lord’s brother, and other mentions of the Lord’s brothers as satirical or later additions but that sounds to me like special pleadings.

          The term “brother” appears throughout Paul’s letters meaning nothing more than “fellow Christians”: 1 Corinthians 1:1, Colossians 1:1. 1 Corinthians 15:6, 1 Corinthians 6:5-6.

          “Brothers in the Lord”, as in Philippians 1:14, suggests that this is the meaning of James as the brother of the Lord.

          James seems to have been the head of a Jerusalem community, bearing witness to a spiritual Christ, who called itself “brethren of/in the Lord”

          The phrase is alway “of the Lord” and never “of Jesus”, and there is always the possibility that Lord refers to God.”

          “Brother” was also a designation for initiates in Greek mystery cults.

          1 Corinthians 9:5 refers to both brothers of the Lord and to a sister wife. While many commentators assume the brothers refer to male siblings of Jesus, the word for sister is always said to refer to a female member of the sect.

          Ephesians 6:21 and Hebrews 2:11-12 speak of “brother” being linked with Jesus in a spiritual sense — as spiritual brothers of Jesus.

          http://vridar.org/2011/05/18/jesus-life-in-eclipse-reviewing-chapter-6-of-dohertys-jesus-neither-god-nor-man/

        • Pofarmer

          Damn you and your actual, like, sources and things. D;o)

        • lorasinger

          http://www.tbm.org/didmary.htm

          John 2:12: “After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and
          His disciples; and they did not stay there many days.” Notice it makes a distinction between His brothers and disciples (which would be brethren). In Mt. 13:55 and Mk.6:2-3 it says, “is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and the Brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon.”

          The word adelphos means literally, the sharing of the womb. I quote to you Strongs:

          adephos (ad-el-fos’); from 1 (as a connective particle) and delphus (the womb); a brother (literally or figuratively) near or remote [much like 1]: KJV– brother.

          So the word adelphos comes from the word womb. This clearly places his brothers and sisters as coming from the same womb that Jesus came from.

          Fortunately we have another word in the Greek for relatives. Luke 1:36 says:

          Even Elizabeth your RELATIVE is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month.

          The Greek word “relative” sometimes translated cousin is the word suggenes. Strongs defines it as the following:

          suggenes (soong-ghen-ace’); a relative (by blood); by extension, a fellow countryman: KJV– cousin, kin (-sfolk, -sman).

        • Greg G.

          “Adelphos” is one particular variation. The “os” can be replaced to make it refer to a sister, make it a possessive form, or plural. I think there were about eight or nine variations in the epistles. The root “adelph-” was used 192 times in the epistles and 187 were in the figurative sense. I don’t recall the numbers in the gospels but it was about 50-50 between literal brothers and figurative religious brothers.

          I am not trained in Koine Greek but I have picked up a few simple tricks.

        • lorasinger

          figurative siblings – from the same womb? It would be expected that suggenes (countryman, kinsfolk)would apply more accurately.

        • Greg G.

          Yes, figurative, not literal. Look at how it is used in the gospels. Otherwise, Mrs. Duggar looks relatively childless.

        • lorasinger

          There is a very good discussion, taking into account several different views, including the Catholic view as well as the Helvidian view, right here.

          http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2007/11/the-brothers-and-sisters-of-je

        • lorasinger

          The Duggars are literal siblings, Greg. I’m not understanding what you mean.

        • Greg G.

          Here is a great resource:

          http://biblehub.com/greek/adelphos_80.htm

          It shows all the usages of “adelphos“. The right column shows the totals for other forms of the word. The arrows to either side of the word at the top of the frame gives every Greek word used in the New Testament in alphabetical order so it is easy to compare a root with its various suffixes.

          In Matthew 5:23, the word is used figuratively. In Matthew 10:2, it is used literally.

          Mrs. Duggar’s 19 children would be nothing compared that woman whose womb literally had the thousands of people who were referred to with the figurative use of “adelphos” and its cognates.

          When I scrolled down the page, I noticed that I missed one literal usage of the word in Jude 1:1. That pisses me off.

        • lorasinger

          This all makes me think of the stories about the old church fighting over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, I’m sure all the while knowing it was all nonsense, just as the story of a man-god being born of a virgin is nonsense.
          .
          The only rational way to look at it is that there was someone born quite naturally, totally human who served as inspiration for a legend wherein a wealth of superstitious belief was added that culminated in the new testament. Those writings were doctored numerous times so that today’s bible varies in over 14,000 instances from the earliest extant copies.
          .
          In short, No Victoria, there is no Santa Claus.

        • Cozmo the Magician

          1st, it was Virginia that asked about Santa, and the way the editor responded was along the lines of ‘as long as you believe, then he exists’.

        • lorasinger

          That about sums it up. He exists in the mind the same as the pink elephants do for an alcoholic with the DTs.

        • Pofarmer

          Even the Catholic Church doesn’t believe that James was Jesus literal brother, but rather a cousin-maybe. There is also the school of thought, waxing and waning, that “brother of the Lord” could refer to all “followers” of Jesus, which is how Paul actually uses it the vast, vast majority of the time, except here, we have to use it literally. And what did Paul actually write about James? Vanishingly little, and we know from Pauls writings that they got into theological squabbles. How could that be of James was actually the dudes biological brother?

        • Erp

          The Catholic Church has a great deal at stake in denying siblings because Mary’s perpetual virginity is dogma (it is also for the Orthodox church where they generally consider them half-siblings of Jesus [from an earlier marriage of Joseph]). Certainly several of the gospels had no problems attributing brothers and sisters to Jesus (and one at least depicts Jesus’s family as thinking he was mad). BTW being a relative doesn’t always mean you inherit the undisputed mantle of the founder of a religion; Joseph Smith left a son but it was the unrelated Brigham Young who took over most of the Mormons (the son and Smith’s wife founded the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints now known as the Community of Christ).

        • lorasinger

          The Jerusalem Christians under James were a sub sect of Judaism and if their number skyrocketed, they would have been noticed. Josephus wrote that he was looking into the “denominations” that existed when he was 16, in about 53 AD, and named Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. Christians were not mentioned. However, lately, Eisenman is of the opinion that, based on the dead sea scrolls, that the Jerusalem “Christians” and the Ebionites were one and the same. This, however, does not include man god believing Pauline Christians. If Paulinism sky rocketed, it didn’t do so in Israel but most likely it was in Rome where Paul went after leaving from Antioch in 59AD.

        • Greg G.

          That sounds quite plausible.

      • Ignorant Amos

        Philo is the closest and he lived in Egypt.

        Philo was also in the right place to give testimony of a messianic contender. A Jewish aristocrat and leader of the large Jewish community of Alexandria, we know that Philo spent time in Jerusalem (On Providence) where he had intimate connections with the royal house of Judaea. His brother, Alexander the “alabarch” (chief tax official), was one of the richest men in the east, in charge of collecting levies on imports into Roman Egypt. Alexander’s great wealth financed the silver and gold sheathing which adorned the doors of the Temple (Josephus, War 5.205). Alexander also loaned a fortune to Herod Agrippa I (Antiquities 18).

    • Alicia

      This is a fundamental misunderstanding of how ancient societies worked, and how ancient documents are preserved and handed down. Also, I am not aware of any “Jewish historians living in Jerusalem” at the time. Historians were exceedingly thin on the ground in the first century. Of the ones listed here, he is mentioned by all of the ones who were writing at the correct time and on the relevant issues: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_historians
      Your comment also falls for CS Lewis’s fallacy of assuming the gospels report accurately the impressiveness of Jesus’s feats. If Jesus and a handful of other rabble staged some kind of five-minute event on a donkey on the same day that several thousand other people entered Jerusalem, I certainly wouldn’t expect anyone other than his followers to have paid it any kind of attention at all.

      • lorasinger

        This is a list of historians who lived at THE VERY SAME TIME who said absolutely NOTHING about Jesus. Philo (20BC-40AD), Pliny the elder (23AD-79AD), Seneca the elder (54BC-39AD), Seneca the younger (4BC-65AD).
        .
        Especially Philo who had a keen interest in afterlife and had family living in Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion. Again, not a word.
        .
        Alicia, you’re talking about darkness for three hours (at two contradicting times), the earth opening, dead saints marching into town, a dead man disappearing from his tomb and appearing to people. And you don’t expect anyone to pay attention to it???

        • Alicia

          Philo and Seneca the Elder died when Christianity would be predicted to be too small for it to be expectable for anyone to be aware of it.
          Seneca the Younger wrote collections of Greek oratory. Pliny the Elder wrote natural history (science). The existence of silly cults were outside of their area of concern.
          And I have never argued for the reliability of the gospel miracle accounts. I have, in fact, at many points here argued that they are legendary. As such, I do not expect them to appear in the historical record.

      • Greg G.

        If Jesus and a handful of other rabble staged some kind of five-minute event on a donkey on the same day that several thousand other people entered Jerusalem, I certainly wouldn’t expect anyone other than his followers to have paid it any kind of attention at all.

        Nor would I expect people to talk about such a minor event for forty years until Mark’s gospel, either. It is more likely that Mark was alluding to 1 Kings 1:33-48 where Solomon riding a mule signified that he was the successor to David plus the Zechariah 9:9 verse.

      • Rudy R

        Much of the proof of Jesus’ existence is built on an Argument from ignorance. What can be concluded from the fact that there is no known contemporary historical writings and artifacts about Jesus? Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

  • primenumbers

    “1. “Legend” isn’t the consensus view among scholars. ” – the consensus view from historians is that Jesus is not a deity and that the miraculous aspects of his story are indeed legendary. Where there is any debate at all is to what extent the less miraculous events, stories and characters are legendary. If you appeal to historical consensus, the Christian looses.

    • Pofarmer

      And, what is Jesus known for? Founding churches? Nope. Writing great speeches? Nope. Being an aid to the procounsel? No. A well known Pharisee student who got caught up in revolutionary fervor? Not so much. It seems the main thing Jesus is known for is being worshipped.

      • Otto

        And he wasn’t known for anything at the time he supposedly lived despite the claims in the Bible that he was famous throughout Syria.

      • MNb

        Indeed – like every single messias claimant from Antiquity and afterwards. Do we recognize a pattern?

        • Pofarmer

          I dunno, at least most of the later Messiah claimants we know of because we know of their real world activities. Sayeth Sae Baba, for instance.

        • lorasinger

          Jesus is the only messianic claimant who was believed to a god in the Pagan style.
          .
          In Judaic texts, the term messiah was used for all kings, high priests, certain warriors, but never eschatological figures. In the Tanach, moshiach is used 38 times: two patriarchs, six high priests, once for Cyrus, 29 Israelite kings such as Saul and David. Not once is the word moshiach used in reference to the awaited Messiah. Even in the apocalyptic book of Daniel, the only time moshiach is mentioned is in connection to a murdered high priest. The Dead Sea Scrolls, the Pseudepigrapha, and Apocrypha never mention the Messiah.
          .
          Not one of the above was a god. There are a whole host of sacrificial men gods in Greco-Roman mythology and Jesus fits this group rather than the Jewish one.

        • MNb

          Godmen weren’t anything special during Antiquity either, as you confirm yourself:

          “There are a whole host of sacrificial men gods in Greco-Roman mythology and Jesus fits this group rather than the Jewish one.”
          And you think Judaea between 0 and 50 CE was totally unfamiliar with Greco-Roman mythology? No? Then you don’t have a point.

        • lorasinger

          Actually, I do. My point is that whether the real man existed or not isn’t that important. Torah beliefs of that time and Judaism precluded such an event. The entire concept doesn’t exist. It doesn’t matter if they “knew” about it. It wasn’t part of their belief system.
          .
          What the bible holds is sheer fabrication based on pagan roots – not Jewish ones. It has been falsely linked to Judaism itself by picking out bits and pieces and basing it very loosely on a figure picked out of history or legend. The Jewish bible has been hijacked, edited and interpolated to give it a Christian slant but Jews know better because they know their own religion. All it takes is to make yourself familiar with what Jews believe and have always believed. Its the very opposite of Christianity.

        • Alicia

          Christianity certainly was hijacked by the Greeks, starting in the writings in the bible. Hatred of the body came from the Greeks, for example.

        • lorasinger

          Isn’t hatred of the body a later event? It seems to me that Greeks put a high value on physical beauty and physique.

        • Pofarmer

          I think all that weirdness really comes into it’s own with Augustine, but Paul certainly teaches that sexuality is inherently sinful if not done right.

        • Alicia

          I think that’s a registered Jewish belief, slightly modified by his Greek acculturation and his assumption that the world is coming to and end soon and why saddle yourself with a family. But note that for people who have decided to marry, he’s opposed to anything beyond temporary celibacy.
          The sex panic and general ascetic stuff (pleasure and comfort are contaminating) comes in from the Greek.

          Judaism was and remains relatively sex positive: Celibacy is considered very undesirable, sex within marriage is mandatory, sexual pleasure for women is a husband’s duty, use of birth control (withdrawal) during the time of nursing to prevent the mother losing her milk is mandatory, etc. Compared with the long-time (and long time ignored) Christian doctrine that you shouldn’t have sex during pregnancy and nursing because the only acceptable excuse for participating in the filthy practice was to perpetuate the species, that’s kind of awesome.

          There is a puritanical streak in the Talmud, which the ultra orthodox are playing up right now (if you look at your wife’s genitals, the child will be born blind, oral sex causes muteness in the offspring), but there are also stuff in the Talmud that once you’re married no holds are barred and if you enjoy oral sex then go get busy.

      • Cozmo the Magician

        Sounds like a Kardashian, famous for being famous…

  • MNb

    Let’s see what Jesus Mythology consists of after a few days of fun with Pope Gregory G and Cardinal Pofarmer.

    1. Marcus is not evidence for a historical Jesus because …..
    2. The Q-document isn’t because there is no archeological evidence for it (a non-sequitur).
    3. Acts isn’t because Paulus never met Jesus (another non-sequitur).
    4. Flavius Josephus isn’t because some christian has tampered with the two quotes (the best one, but still a non-sequitur as text analysis suggests that there may be an original core).
    5. Polycarpus’ claim that he was the pupil of John the Apostle isn’t because accepting it makes you look gullible (so ridiculous that it’s not even a non-sequitur anymore) and because Paulus never met Jesus (so bad that it beats many a stupid creationist).
    6. The end times prophecies, which were written down when they were already shown incorrect, aren’t evidence for a historical Jesus because ….. (follows some special pleading without any evidence).
    7. “Father why has thou forsaken me” is attributed to Jesus because ….. (follows some more special pleading without any evidence).
    8. Christianity took a lot over from other religions like the Mithras cult (never mind there is no shred of evidence for most of these influences, never mind correlation does not equal causation and never mind that it doesn’t make clear how this refutes a historical Jesus).
    9. Shitloads of theology, which suddenly is totally acceptable when it serves an atheist purpose.

    There is a pattern in points 1-7 and possibly 9 too.
    It all has the form “this historical claim must be dismissed hence JM is correct.”
    That’s exactly the same as the creationist logic “this claim of Evolution Theory must be dismissed hence goddiddid.”

    There are some more similarities. One of them is the first dogma issued by Pope Gregorius G:

    a) “Do you think historians always are right? I don’t” – which means “historians sometimes are wrong hence JM is correct.” That’s exactly the same as “scientists sometimes are wrong hence goddiddid.”

    Three other Pope Gregorius G dogmas:

    b) “In the first half of the First Century there was no Jesus for proto-christians to follow and in the second half early christians could not debunk Jesus anymore.” Don’t dare to question it, because then Cardinal Pofarmer comes to the rescue – by shifting the goalposts.
    c) “Historical minimalism means admitting that there is no real evidence for a historical Jesus.” That’s as big a misrepresentation of minimalism as the way creationists “formulate” Evolution Theory. Plus it contains the No Real Evidence fallacy.
    d) “JM explains all the evidence for a historical Jesus as easily.” This one contradicts c (so much for consistency), it violates an important scientific principle (JM’s should present evidence that cannot be explained by a historical Jesus) and is irrelevant (nothing is as easy as “goddiddid”).

    e) A while ago Cardinal Pofarmer proclaimed his own dogma: “speculation without evidence is totally OK when it serves JM and when you criticize this I get pissed off.”

    I am tempted to conclude that JM is an atheist religion, designed to enable ex-christians to keep their christian thinking processes. But it’s likely that quite a few lifelong unbelievers also accept JM. So the explanation must be that atheism doesn’t stimulate critical thinking skills anymore than theism does. That seems to be confirmed by psychological research.

    That’s it for the time being as I am bored again. The point is clear – JM methodology sucks badly.

    • Erp

      On 8, borrowings from other cults. Early borrowing from the Roman cult of Mithras runs into the problem that that cult is relatively late possibly later than the early Christian religion itself and we don’t know much about it (and what we do know doesn’t seem to indicate any borrowings). Most of the cited borrowings aren’tl (http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/mithras/display.php?page=mithras_and_christianity has some info, Pearse can be abrasive but he is careful about his facts). The Persian god Mitra is older but his worship seems to have been very different from that of Mithras. Later Christianity does seem to have borrowed from surrounding religions (or readapted) but mostly iconography and places (repurpose temples).

      • lorasinger

        Re: Early borrowing from the Roman cult of Mithras runs into the problem that that cult is relatively late possibly later than the early Christian religion itself .
        …..
        One of the largest Mithraic temples built in Italy now lies under the present site of the Church of St. Clemente, near the Colosseum in Rome.

        http://tyndalearchive.com/scriptures/www.innvista.com/scriptures/compare/mithra.htm
        ………
        Wherever Christianity came from, it certainly didn’t come from Judaism.

        • primenumbers

          I’ve been to this Mithraic temple: http://www.britainexpress.com/attractions.htm?attraction=3582 which would seem to pre-date any existent Christian Church building, as do other Mithraeum.

        • Erp

          I assumed the argument was about borrowing during the formative stages of Christianity not after Christianity was accepted enough to have public buildings (pretty much the time of Constantine in the early 4th century). This Mithraic temple was initially built at about 200CE well over 150 years after Christianity started. And yes the Christians took over the sacred sites of other religions. The San Clemente Basilica btw was built in the 4th century on the site of a circa 200CE Mithraeum (again over 150 years or so after the start of Christianity).

        • primenumbers

          It’s hard to think much would be borrowed from a mystery religion unless those mysteries were well enough known to be borrowed from. We, of course, know little about the mystery religions not least as they remain mysterious and then Christianity dominated the historical record, leaving us with not too much to go on.

          I think there’s some idea though that mystery religions in general had a special meal and that perhaps that aspect was borrowed for Christianity?

          What’s great though is you can actual go and see this ancient Mithraic Temple. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museum_of_Antiquities used to have a re-creation of how the Mithraic Temple would have been like and that was quite fascinating to see too.

        • lorasinger

          Quote from Wiki (: “Mithraism was an ancient mystery religion prominent from the 1st century BCE to the 5th century CE. It was based on worship of the god Mithras and derives from the Persian and Indic god Mithra and other Zoroastrian deities.

          Mithraism apparently originated in the Eastern Mediterranean around the first or second centuries BC. It was practiced in the Roman Empire since the first century BC, and reached its apogee around the third through fourth centuries AD, when it was very popular among the Roman soldiers. Mithraism disappeared from overt practice after the Theodosian decree of AD 391 banned all pagan rites, and it apparently became extinct thereafter”

        • Erp

          There is a reason why research papers shouldn’t quote Wikipedia. And even then note the weasel word “apparently”

        • Greg G.

          If they knew what they were doing, they wouldn’t call it research. It seems pretty common in research papers to add qualifications like that, especially when the paper is breaking into unknown areas.

        • lorasinger

          You do know that the reference sources are listed at the bottom of the item, don’t you? Read some of them sometimes.

        • Erp

          I have read some of the secondary sources.

        • Greg G.

          I think that stuff was added on decades later. I think that Mark created it from Psalm 41:9 and the Isaiah 53 verse about “pouring himself out to death”. There are signs of interpolation in 1 Corinthians 10 & 11. That includes a Pastoral-like rant about women in church. The passage at 1 Corinthians 10:18-22 seems to be completed at 11:30-31.

        • lorasinger

          I’ve read that when comparing todays bible to the earliest still available copies, there are some 14,600 variables, some leading to striking mistranslation. In addition, the bible of today is riddled with errors, interpolations and forgery, i.e. the last 12 verses of Mark are an addition; Matthew 28:19 has been interpolated; Isaiah 7:14 should be “a young woman IS with child” not – a virgin will be with child”. The Jews say that in just the first five books of the Tanakh (Torah), there are at least 50 major mistranslations that lead to major errors in understanding. Not surprising about your finds at all!

        • TheNuszAbides

          The Jews say that in just the first five books of the Tanakh (Torah), there are at least 50 major mistranslations that lead to major errors in understanding.

          any particular sources? not being particularly skeptical about your assertion, but very skeptical about a written form that (to my limited understanding) requires the reader to choose (or ‘know’ or have Revealed(TM) or whatever unfalsifiable tripe) which vowels to insert where.

        • lorasinger

          It comes from MessiahTruth, a Jewish site geared for Jews. The full article reads: ”

          There are 304,805 letters (approximately 79,000 words) in the Torah. In the over 3,000 years since Moses received the original Scripture from Mt. Sinai and wrote the 13 copies (twelve of which were distributed among the Tribes),
          spelling variants have emerged on a total of nine words — with absolutely no effect on their meaning. The Christian Bible, in comparison, has over 200,000 variants and in 400 instances, the variants change the meaning of the text; 50 of these are of great significance.

      • Greg G.

        I agree with you. MNb misrepresented me. He may have confused a discussion about later Christianity with a Jesus Myth discussion.

        Offering wine and bread to gods goes back centuries in that culture:

        Jeremiah 7:18
        18 The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger.

        and

        Jeremiah 44:15-18
        15 Then all the men who were aware that their wives had been making offerings to other gods, and all the women who stood by, a great assembly, all the people who lived in Pathros in the land of Egypt, answered Jeremiah: 16 “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we are not going to listen to you. 17 Instead, we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out libations to her, just as we and our ancestors, our kings and our officials, used to do in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. We used to have plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no misfortune. 18 But from the time we stopped making offerings to the queen of heaven and pouring out libations to her, we have lacked everything and have perished by the sword and by famine.”

        • lorasinger

          Or maybe something like this:

          Inscription to Pagan Mithras – “He who will not eat of my body and drink of my blood, so that he will be made one with me and I with him, the same shall not know salvation.”

          PS: Torah forbids Jews from consuming blood and drinking the blood of a human is akin to cannibalism. It’s a no go.

        • Erp

          Citation please for the Mithras inscription. What we have is Justin Martyr, a Christian circa 150CE, claiming the followers of Mithras are imitating the Christian rites (but use water not wine). So who is imitating whom (and is Justin correct about the Mithraic mysteries)?

          And yes the body/blood bread/wine is problematic for scholars and it is very early in Christianity, Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 11 (sometime in the 50sCE), so well before Justin alluding to alleged Mithraic mysteries.

        • lorasinger

          http://www.oocities.org/nephilimnot/mithra.html (archived)

          .
          I’ve read that there was a ritual slaying of a bull and it was that blood that was consumed in Mithraic ceremonies. The bull’s blood signified or represented the blood of Mithra.

          Whoever was making up this story was basing it on pagan beliefs of drinking the blood of the god, and wasn’t aware of the law forbidding Jews to consume blood.
          ….
          Christians like to think that Mithraism imitated Christianity but what Tertullian said was that Mithraism had to be invented by the Devil because only the Devil could imitate IN ADVANCE. Mithraism was an offshoot of Zoroastrianism that soldiers coming back from wars brought back with them. It predated Christianity and lived side by side with it until Christianity was made the state religion.

        • Erp

          The link doesn’t work for me.

          I suggest you read some scholarly sources on Mithraism. I did which is why I no longer think there was much influence by Mithraism on Christianity.

          BTW if you want a listing of ancient literary sources on Mithraism see http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/mithras/literary_sources.htm

          I think you are referring De corona. 15 but there seems to be no mention of ‘in advance’ in the translations there. Tertullian btw is writing circa 200CE.

        • lorasinger

          Try this one:

          web.archive.org/web/20091026194848/geocities.com/nephilimnot/mithra.html

        • Erp

          Did you actually check out the rest of that site? I mean the title is “Essays of a Madman” by Aaron Genesis. On the first page it talks about “Events and circumstances will continuously repeat themselves in cycles. The ultimate outcome of events that has been put in motion by unseen natural cycles is ultimately governed by the actions and interactions of the players involved ,and the applications of their Free Will . Historical “coincidences” and Historical cycles are one of the greatest occasions during which a minute glimpse of the workings of these natural cycles can be observed by our cognizant minds”.

          There also seem to have been essays on ESP (and not to debunk it).

        • lorasinger

          No, I didn’t but I guess I should have. That was given at the first site as an alternate because the first site was archived. I guess it was lost when GeoCities went down so what I ‘ve saved is all there is.

          There is a pretty thorough description at:
          http://www.faculty.umb.edu/gary_zabel/Courses/Phil%20281b/Philosophy%20of%20Magic/Pythagoras,%20Empedocles,%20Plato/Mithraism.htm
          .
          (I have checked this one :-).

        • Erp

          He, Gary Zabel, a senior lecturer in Philosophy, is snapshotting Wikipedia (circa 2005). For instance his snapshot states “Mithraism was an ancient mystery religion prominent from the 1st century BCE to the 5th century CE” and the current Wikipedia article has “..from about about the 1st to 4th centuries AD” (note the outermost centuries have been dropped). We also don’t know the context of the page; could it be for the students to critique or perhaps just some notes for himself? I tried to find how he linked it into the rest of his pages but didn’t have much luck.

        • lorasinger

          This is the best, most detailed description I’ve found yet. A keeper article.

          http://mithras.webs.com/mithraismzoroastrian.htm

        • Erp

          Certainly interesting but I noted a lot of speculation in it and elsewhere on the site. I couldn’t find the author’s name but the page you linked to claimed to be from “The Religion of Zarathushtra” “by the author” and “Reproduced from the Nov.-Dec. 2003 issue of USHAO educational bulletin by Virasp Mehta, Wichita, Kansas”. A book with that name is

          The Religion of Zarathushtra
          by Irach J. S. Taraporewala
          Adyar: Theosophical Publishing, 1926

          However Irach J. S. Taraporewala seems to be long dead (1884-1956) so presumably not responsible for the overall web site. The publishing house name, Theosophical Publishing, doesn’t sound promising as a scholarly source (Theosophy was/is known for its religious creativity). Or it could be a different book.

          I recommend http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/mithras/display.php?page=main Though I don’t always agree with the conclusions, the documentation is meticulous.

        • lorasinger

          Your additional information is good. I expect that the material on the web site was taken from the book and I’d really like to read it. I did a sweep search and there are a lot of site out there, so it would take a lot of reading to search them all out.
          .

          Yes, Theosophy was tied in with Madam Blavatsky – not sure what that was but Spiritualism comes to mind – don’t know if that’s what it was.
          .
          One thing for sure, Christianity and the Jesus story do not come from Judaism. They are completely opposed in beliefs.
          .
          I read a article once and this is an excerpt from it. I don’t have the source listed because it’s old and years ago, I didn’t realize how important keeping note of the source was. Anyway, this is it:

          Like Osiris, Dionysus, Attis, MIthras and many others, Jesus was a God shaped like a man, walking, talking, eating, but still having magic God powers. Like the other Pagan godmen Jesus was a subordinate God, son of the great universal God, miraculously conceived in a mortal woman, living for a while on Earth rather than in Heaven, helping people.

          Was Jesus a xerox copy of one particular Pagan God? Was He Mithras renamed? Or Dionysus? The answer is No. Jesus was new — in the same way the first Honda Accord was a new car and the first Mountain Dew was a new soda pop. But
          the Accord wasn’t the first car, and Dew wasn’t the first soda. They were “new” versions of old ideas. So was Jesus.
          .
          Jesus was the Son of God who suffered, died, and was reborn. But He wasn’t the first Son of God who suffered, died, and was reborn. He brought salvation; but He wasn’t the God first to do that either.
          .
          His mom was a virgin; He wasn’t the first God there either. It’s the same with miracles, disciples, ascending to heaven — the list goes on and on.
          .
          Believing scholars like to bring up differences between Jesus and the earlier Pagan godmen. Mithras was born of a rock, not a virgin, so Jesus can’t be Mithras. Attis’ faithful hung his likeness on a pine tree, not on a cross, so Jesus can’t be Attis. Believing scholars are right, Jesus wasn’t Mithras, and He wasn’t Attis. Jesus was a “new” God, the same way the first Honda Accord was a new car. He was a “new” version of God, built from old ideas.
          …………………

          You wrote: ” that cult is relatively late possibly later than the early Christian religion itself .”
          .
          You are aware that Paul’s version of Christianity was first exposed at Antioch in 59 AD and his writings first mentioned outside of the bible in 70 AD. He left to return to Rome after Antioch and later died in the far reaches of the west (according to Clement I writing some 30 years later) in 68 AD. The gospels came after his writings so Christianity really didn’t get off the ground until the very late first century and early second century. By 385 AD, it became the state religion, so it’s main growth was in the second and third century. I think most people think that it started with Jesus in 32 AD, but in fact, it started with Paul after 70 AD and onward.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Coincidentally I first come across that word theosophy just recently while looking at fairy belief. I was most surprised to see there is a lodge of the Theosophical Society here in Belfast.

          Their goals seem to be pretty commendable.

          ‘The Theosophical Society is composed of students, belonging to any religion in the world or to none, who are united by their approval of the Society’s Objects, by their wish to remove religious antagonisms and to draw together men of goodwill, whatsoever their religious opinions, and by their desire to study religious truths and to share the results of their studies with others. Their bond of union is not the profession of a common belief, but a common search and aspiration for Truth. They hold that Truth should be sought by study, by reflection, by purity of life, by devotion to high ideals, and they regard Truth as a prize to be striven for, not as a dogma to be imposed by authority. They consider that belief should be the result of individual study or intuition, and not its antecedent, and should rest on knowledge, not on assertion. They extend tolerance to all, even to the intolerant, not as a privilege they bestow but as a duty they perform, and they seek to remove ignorance, not to punish it. They see every religion as an expression of the Divine Wisdom and prefer its study to its condemnation, and its practice to proselytism. Peace is their watchword, as Truth is their aim …’

        • TheNuszAbides

          wasn’t Yeats into it? can’t be all bad, then 😉 or i may be conflating with the Golden Dawn (who i figure were more or less [super]natural allies anyway).

        • Erp

          I know a bit about Theosophy partly through people like Annie Besant knowing at least a couple of my great grandparents from the 1880s on (the great grandparents stayed pretty firmly in the skeptical atheist camp). Thinking of Theosophy as Victorian/Edwardian era New Age religion might give an idea of what it was like (look up “Liberal Catholic Church” for something even a bit more unusual). Many of their goals are commendable but their scholarship tended to be poor.

          I note all your godmen are depicted as being men in the distant past. Jesus was not. There were also men who were deified; Augustus Caesar and many of the other emperors were so acclaimed by the Senate (though only a few had serious followers). Apollonius of Tyana, a contemporary of Jesus, was revered (to the point that he allegedly showed up after his death in dreams to protect his home city).

        • Greg G.

          I note all your godmen are depicted as being men in the distant past. Jesus was not. 

          Everything about Jesus as a man in the early epistles is information found in the Old Testament scriptures. Paul’s favorite sources are Isaiah, the Psalms, and Deuteronomy. It seems that Paul thought he was descended from David but was before or contemporaneous with Isaiah.

          It would have been a generation later that the gospels referred to Jesus as a first century person but Mark appears to be written as allegory.

        • Pofarmer

          This is true of Mark’s Jesus, Paul’s Jesus not so much. Maybe Mark was doing his own version of Percy Jackson putting a God in a near contemporary setting.

        • Pofarmer

          So, how do you know, say apologists aren’t messing with the dating in the article to bolster their position? That can be an issue with wiki, certainly.

        • Greg G.

          I think that is Era’s Erp’s point. Sometimes it comes down to the most recent book read by the most recent editor of the wiki. But, to your point, the author of said book might have had an agenda.

          PS: Unwanted spell correction strikes again.

        • Pofarmer

          I’ve noticed a trend among Liberty University educated and employed apologists masquerading as scholars in attempting to push the dates of the various writing as back as far as possible. They don’t seem to have anything new to go on except large doses of wishful thinking. I am sure they are working on Wikipedia entries. I am also sure that at the same time they are trying to discredit anything they need to to prop up their apologetics.

        • Greg G.

          Liberty U. is trying to reshape culture. They are training religious drones for politics and debating, too.

        • Pofarmer

          Reading this information for Jesus. How very noble.

        • lorasinger

          Yes, thank you, I would like to see that link.
          .
          Ok, if you don’t think so, then tell me where the ideas of God plus mortal woman produces sacrificial man god who dies for mankind and is resurrected. It’s not a Jewish concept and it did have to come from somewhere. I would suggest you look to Rome, specifically for Dionysus,
          Attis, and in Egypt, Horus.
          .
          I will check the “in advance”. I gave it to you as I got it but will double check.

        • TheNuszAbides

          it did have to come from somewhere.

          wait, so there isn’t a first time for everything [real]? 😉

        • lorasinger

          Not for Jews, Nus. The Jewish messiah is to be fully a human man, whose lineage by his natural father goes back to David. The original Jesus could only be a man.

        • TheNuszAbides

          It’s not a Jewish concept and it did have to come from somewhere.

          i thought “it” was [both times] referring to the story-concept itself (rather than The Main Character within the context of the narrative), and that “come from” was referring to a requirement for conceptual precedence (whether Jewish or otherwise) – i.e. that there is somehow no possibility of the concept being ‘new’ or synthetic or something.

        • lorasinger

          The man, Jesus, may have lived but could only have lived as a fully human Jewish male, not a god. As Paul said “born of woman, under the Law” – meaning as in any other scenario a child born naturally with two human parents. This would be the messianic candidate, fully human, that would be possible.


          The man god has its inspiration from other writings of Paul (that stemmed from his “visions”) and in the writings of the gospels which followed it in which Jesus is elevated to being a god and the legends around him grow. This is the Jesus born of a virgin who becomes a human sacrifice for the sins of mankind, in the same fashion as other Greco Roman men gods who also died for mankind.
          .
          There is a complicated scenario that must be grasped first before you can fully appreciate the transition of Paul from when he first joined with James and the apostles, to the time when rivalry and a dramatic splitting of his dogma from that of the apostles took place. Read: Christ’s Ventriloquists (Zuess) where Paul’s writings are thoroughly analyzed, just as a lawyer would for a court case, and tied into historical events, a great deal of information, not otherwise readily seen, is gained.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i thought all of that was iterated clearly enough already (i’ve read this entire page); what stood out was the phrase “it had to come from somewhere” and the concern underlying my admittedly cheap shot was to clarify whether that phrase was referring to the narrative itself. if instead you meant that within a given narrative the Jesus-entity, of whatever nature, had to ‘come from somewhere’, then i apologize for prompting you to repeat yourself – i think i ‘got it’ the first time/elsewhere.

          however, if “it had to come from somewhere” referred to the narrative (whichever iteration, or refinement, or traditionally-Jewish/distinctly-non-Jewish trappings, doesn’t matter for purposes of this comment), to my eye that would seem similar to Alicia’s insistence that (paraphrased, of course) “x is how human groups/minds generate religious movements historically, and the positing of an exception [i.e. JM as has thus far been represented within these threads] deserves to be mocked because [tiny minority]/[probability]”. in that context, by my “not a first time for everything?” snark, i meant:

          (1) can what paltry evidence we have of Christianity’s earliest/foggiest development not suggest an unusual or even unique variation on ‘standard practices’?
          (2) given how paltry said evidence in fact is, likewise for various older/more obscure or effectively purged religions), how is the template for How Humans Do This Stuff such a robust model that the ‘mutant’ scenario proposed by Jesus Euhemerists/Mythicists is so outrageous?

        • lorasinger

          Christianity’s “earliest/foggiest” stage was Judaism which we misnomered as “Christianity”. The “unusual variation” was Paul’s remodeling of the main character of Jesus into a man god which can only be based on pagan beliefs. The gross differences were polished over by minimizing the role of the Jews and making them the ones who “misunderstood” and passing the new pagan based doctrine off falsely as what the apostles practiced.
          .
          Your final statements are confusing me. Can you turn it down a notch or two, to a more everyday level?

        • Greg G.

          Paul’s Jesus seems to have been a man who was declared the son of God by his resurrection. Paul’s interest is Jesus as Lord in heaven but is uninterested in his human life.

          Romans 1:33 the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,

          He gets the first datum from a verse like 2 Samuel 7:12 and the second is probably from Psalm 2:7.

          Psalm 2:77 I will tell of the decree of the Lord:He said to me, “You are my son;    today I have begotten you.

        • lorasinger

          Paul never met Jesus nor did he study under the apostles so it is understandable that he wrote nothing about His life. Paul did thus declare as you say but this was also 30 years or more after the earlier character’s death.
          ,
          To descend from David according to the flesh, means that he was a natural child/descendant of a male of the line of David. A child cannot gain lineage from an adopted father, however, Joseph’s line was disinherited because of Jocaniah and Mary, as the mother, could not give lineage.
          .
          Verses in the OT, when “son” is written, refers to Israel. As well, read it in context. The Jewish God is indivisible and has no children, no son. There is no concept of a sacrificial man god like Jesus.

        • Isaiah 43:10-11:

          Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me. I, even I, am the Lord, And there is no savior besides Me.

          We get the same message from Is. 45:21-22:

          There is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other.

        • lorasinger

          Excellent. Thank you for the second verse. Mind if I save it? Of course fundamentalists get around that by invoking the trinity and “Jesus IS God”.

        • Enjoy. I read it recently in an article at agnosticreview.com. I’m just sharing the love.

        • lorasinger

          From a Jewish perspective:
          .
          Hear, O Israel: The Eternal is our God, the Eternal is one. [Deuteronomy 6:4]
          .
          The reason we know this is that the word, “one,” is an adjective. Here it is describing a proper noun, which is the word, “The Eternal.” Most people forget that the word that is here translated as, “The Eternal,” is actually the holiest name for God, told to us in Exodus 3:14-15. When the word, “one” modifies a person’s name, it must mean that the person is only One, not a compound One, but rather an absolute One.

        • Greg G.

          The genealogies in Matthew and Luke are baloney. Luke made up a new one for several possible reasons, including the one you mention. Paul would not have heard of those. He only knew that Jesus came from David because he thought Jesus was the Messiah and that the scriptures implied that the Messiah would be a descendant of David.

          Paul believed the Messiah would bring a new kingdom and believers would get new bodies.

        • lorasinger

          Paul syncretized a whole new scenario by placing a Jewish character and a bit of Jewish legend in a pagan based story of gods/virgins/sacrificial men gods/resurrection. The only part of the NT that I’ve found to be valuable are Galatians and Acts which, if you know how to look, chart the splitting away of Paul from the apostles and at that point Christianity being born. The later followers of the apostles, as Ebionites, called Paul a heretic and liar and I’m inclined to agree with them.

        • Today I have begotten you”? You mean Jesus wasn’t divine from the beginning (which didn’t happen)?

        • Greg G.

          That is how Paul seems to have seen it. In Mark, it’s like Jesus was the 1000th customer of John the Baptist and won a grand prize. The other gospels have Jesus having divine roots.

        • Nice analogy!

        • Greg G.

          Thanks. Usually I have God’s voice being like the PA announcement and the dove being like descending balloons. The prize is 40 days in the desert but the winner is waited on hand and foot by animals and wild angels, or something like that.

        • I can hear the booming voice from heaven now. “Pffft! Pffft! Hey, is this thing on? … Attention, please! This is your Creator speaking.”

        • TheNuszAbides

          sorry, it seems random as to when i have the patience to draw out my own thoughts into longer, more digestible portions. (and the habit of nesting verbose distinctions or ‘unpacking’ inside every other phrase doesn’t help!)

          attempted rewording:
          1) what elements of any ‘savior narrative’ (leaving aside varying definitions of ‘messiah’ etc.) unavoidably requires any specific, particular precedent?
          2) if early-1st-century evidence in general appears inadequate for a wide variety of purposes, what is so absurd/outrageous about analyses/interpretations such as JM?

          again, these questions (esp. 2) might only be directed at Alicia’s viewpoint; i’m still hanging on my unconfirmed read on your “had to come from somewhere”.

        • lorasinger

          By “had to come from somewhere”, I meant that since the two religions are diametrically opposed, inspiration for the god man story had to come from outside Judaism.
          .
          This is what Jews believe – compare that to the basic beliefs of Christianity:

          One Person cannot die for the sins of another.

          A blood sacrifice is not required for forgiveness of sins.

          The messiah is to be fully human.

          God hates human sacrifices.

          People are born pure and without original sin.

          God is one and indivisible.

          There is The Satan, but not The Devil.

          God does not become human and humans do not become God.

        • TheNuszAbides

          thanks, perfectly sensible. but “from somewhere” could hypothetically include a whole new concept [or two], could it not? i mean, if we go out on a limb and declare (without necessarily pinpointing on a timeline) that there was a ‘first time’ in human history for the notion of monotheism, a first time for a resurrection narrative, and so on, what is it about the ‘novelty’ of generating Christianity in a mythicist context that makes the JM hypothesis so absurd/implausible?
          or is “nothing new under the sun” really that hard-and-fast a curse of human ingenuity? at least in the context of religions?

        • lorasinger

          This is the best description I’ve read:
          .
          Like Osiris, Dionysus, Attis, MIthras and many others, Jesus was a God shaped like a man, walking, talking, eating, but still having magic God powers. Like the
          other Pagan godmen Jesus was a subordinate God, son of the great universal God, miraculously conceived in a mortal woman, living for a while on Earth rather than
          in Heaven, helping people.
          .
          Was Jesus a xerox copy of one particular Pagan God? Was He Mithras renamed? Or Dionysus? The answer is No. Jesus was new — in the same way the first Honda Accord was a new car and the first Mountain Dew was a new soda pop. But the Accord wasn’t the first car, and Dew wasn’t the first soda. They were “new” versions of old ideas. So was Jesus.
          .
          Jesus was the Son of God who suffered, died, and was
          reborn. But He wasn’t the first Son of God who suffered, died, and was reborn. He brought salvation; but He wasn’t the God first to do that either. His mom was a virgin; He wasn’t the first God there either. It’s the same with miracles, disciples, ascending to heaven — the list goes on and on.
          .
          Believing scholars like to bring up differences between Jesus and the earlier Pagan godmen. Mithras was born of a rock, not a virgin, so Jesus can’t be Mithras. Attis’ faithful hung his likeness on a pine tree, not on a cross, so Jesus can’t be Attis. Believing scholars are right, Jesus wasn’t Mithras, and He wasn’t Attis. Jesus was a “new” God, the same way the first Honda Accord was a new car. He was a “new” version of God, built from old ideas.
          ………………..
          A further search in order to go even further back for the origins of the man god story will probably take you into the legends of even earlier pagans and there I have no idea where to look. At some point it was a new concept, I’m sure but the Jesus story isn’t a new concept, nor is it a Jewish concept.

        • Greg G.

          That is more like second century Christianity with accrued myths. The roots of early Christianity may come from Philo, through Jerusalem, to Paul, then evolves from Mark to Matthew and John, all put together by Luke. Matthew only hints at the virgin mother while Luke explicitly states it only in Luke 1:34. I think it is unfair of Gabriel to not react to Mary’s questioning the way he did to Zacharias’ wonder in Luke 1:18-20.

        • lorasinger

          Philo didn’t mention Jesus at all and of all of them, he was the one who should have since he had a niece in Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion, Jerusalem wasn’t a very large town, and he had an avid interest in the afterlife. Do you really think that such an event would have escaped him, had it happened at all?
          ………………….
          Celsus wrote: What Christians hold in common with the heathen (is) nothing new” and speaking of prophets in his own time, Celsus said: “These habitually claim to to be more than prophets, and say such things as ‘I am god,’ or ‘I am a son of god,’ or even ‘I am the holy spirit,’ and ‘I have come to bring life for the world is coming to an end as I speak. And the wicked will perish in the fire for their sins. I shall save you; you will yet see me, for I am coming again armed with the heavenly powers. So blessed is he that worships me now. Those who refuse, whole cities and nations, will be cast into the fiery pit… Those who hear and believe in me will be saved (from the fire).’ This sort of thing is heard all over Judea by these most trivial of prophets.”
          .
          Ammonius Saccas (175-240 AD): the teacher of Origen, maintained that Christianity and Paganism differed on no essential points.
          …………
          The early gospel writers, followers of Paul, documented legend as they heard it. None of them knew Jesus and were writing generations later. The fact that their writings are based on a man god means that they come from Paul, and not James and the apostles.

        • Greg G.

          Philo didn’t mention Jesus at all and of all of them, he was the one who should have since he had a niece in Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion, Jerusalem wasn’t a very large town, and he had an avid interest in the afterlife. Do you really think that such an event would have escaped him, had it happened at all?

          Philo did quote a “companion of Moses” saying, “Behold, a man whose name is the East!” which seems to refer to Zechariah 6:12, “Here is a man whose name is Branch.” The word translated as “East” and the word translated as “Branch” in the Septuagint is the same word in both sentences, as it means “rising” and the east is where the sun and stars rise. In Zechariah, the Lord of Hosts is referring to a man named Joshua, which is Jesus in the Septuagint. In the same writing, Philo says:

          Philo, On the Confusion of Tongues XXVIII (146)And even if there be not as yet any one who is worthy to be called a son of God, nevertheless let him labour earnestly to be adorned according to his first-born word, the eldest of his angels, as the great archangel of many names; for he is called, the authority, and the name of God, and the Word, and man according to God’s image, and he who sees Israel.

          Philo wrote a lot about the Logos in similar terms.

          So, it someone read Philo about the Logos, recognized that question from Zechariah 6, saw the name “Jesus”, read up about him in Zechariah 3:1-10, and associated the dirty clothes in Zechariah 3:3 with the beginning of a Suffering Servant in Isaiah 52:14. You would have the beginning of Christianity.

          Zechariah 3:3-43 Now Joshua was dressed with filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. 4 The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” And to him he said, “See, I have taken your guilt away from you, and I will clothe you with festal apparel.”
          Isaiah 52:13-1413 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—
          Zechariah 3:6-96 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 . 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.
          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.

          Fill in some more with Isaiah 53. There is a recipe for Christianity right down to the name. A real Jesus is unnecessary. Let Paul add the crucifixion and the gospel authors put him in the early first century with more and more pagan accoutrements.

          I’m not sure what Philo meant by a “companion of Moses”. Perhaps he meant a fellow writer of the scriptures. Perhaps Philo was referring to Moses on the mountain in Exodus 24:9-13 where one of them was named Joshua or “Jesus” in the Septuagint.

        • lorasinger

          Greg, the Septuagint translated by the 72 Hebrew scholars for the library in Alexandria consisted (as attested to by Iraneus) of only the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). This was later reworked by Christian scholars and Isaiah and Psalms were added and still called “Septuagint” but they are not a Jewish work. By reworking, I’m saying “editing and adjustments to the translation (mistranslation) to give it a Christian slant. This is when “young woman” became “virgin” and the “is with child” became “will be with child” – words added or changed and words removed. All this would have been done as the RCC was organizing, probably in the 4th century after it was legalized in Rome.

        • The “young woman” ==> “virgin” thing is important, but there are bigger fish to fry. First, point to a girl and say “That young woman (or virgin) will bear a son,” and what miraculous have you said? She’s a virgin now–duh, she hasn’t had sex yet. Then she’ll have sex, then she’ll conceive, then she’ll bear the son. Nothing supernatural here.

          Second, when you read that chapter, the whole Immanuel story is 3 lousy verses. It’s clearly a tangent in an entire chapter about not the savior who will die for the sins of mankind. In fact, the growth of the boy is simply used as a poetic clock to measure out 5 years or so.

        • lorasinger

          Right again. Rabbis say that the verb harah (“be with child”) is in the perfect tense and should be rendered “she has conceived” or “is with child” — not “will conceive.” which rules out the messianic prophecy even more.

          .
          Exactly right, by the time the boy resulting from this pregnancy is born and able to differentiate bad from good, Ahaz will win his war (which is exactly what happened in history).

        • Greg G.

          The original Septuagint was the Torah but that didn’t stop others from translating the Hebrew texts to Greek. Whatever we call the collection, Philo and the New Testament authors mostly used the Greek translation that included all the Old Testament and Apocrypha. Jews outside Judea also used it. Since Philo was a respected dignitary in Jerusalem, he was allowed to speak to Caesar on behalf of Jerusalem. Apparently the translation a person used was not a big deal befpre anybody heard of Christians.

          After the destruction of Jerusalem, the Jews had to re-establish their identity so they began to insist on the Hebrew texts and canonized them. Those Jews survived or, at least, did not lose their collective identity. The Christians who continued to use the Septuagint ended up surviving and/or maintaining their identity.

          It was Jerome’s idea in the 5th century that Christians should pay more attention to the Hebrew texts.

        • Greg G.

          Both Christianity and Judaism changed a lot after the destruction of Jerusalem. There was Pauline Christianity and some others we can infer from Paul’s complaints which evolved into Gospel Christianity after Jerusalem. The diverse sects of Jerusalem Judaism gave way to Rabbinical Judaism, which was probably even more diverse, but unified through communication and attrition. But I don’t think their roots were “diametrically opposed”.

          One Person cannot die for the sins of another.

          A blood sacrifice is not required for forgiveness of sins.

          Blood sacrifice could be a sin offering and the Cain and Abel story would suggest it was preferred. Substitution is the basis for the blood sacrifice. Leviticus 16:5-22 is a magic blood ritual where one of a pair of matching goats is killed, its blood is splashed on the other goat which is released into the wilderness, carrying away the sins of the nation. Mark modeled the Barabbas story around that. His readers learn that Bar = “son of” from the explanation of the name “Bartimaeus” and Abba = “the Father” from the opening of the prayer in Gethesemane, thus “Bar/abba/s”.

          People are born pure and without original sin.

          But the Law was difficult so that it was pretty much impossible to not do something wrong (Paul’s point) which lead to sacrifices that kept the priests well-fed.

          God is one and indivisible.

          Philo was influenced by the Greeks but insisted they were influenced by Moses. His theory had God acting through an intermediary called “Logos”. Philo was apparently well-known in Jerusalem as he traveled to Rome with dignitaries to plead with Caesar on Jerusalem’s behalf.

          There is The Satan, but not The Devil.

          I think the concept of Satan was developing within Judaism but may have been influenced by other cultures. The serpent in the Garden of Eden was not thought to be Satan but in Job, we see Satan being a minion of God, asking permission to test their bet. In 2 Samuel 24:1, the anger of the Lord incites David to take a census which makes God even angrier. In 1 Chronicles 21:1, it is Satan that incites David. Satan was evolving.

          God does not become human and humans do not become God.

          But could the Logos? That may have led to “Jerusalem Christianity” which Paul modified which turned into Gospel Christianity.

        • lorasinger

          I am giving you the points upon which Judaism rests today and since the Tanakh remains unchanged and unedited, and Jews live by its rules, I doubt that basic beliefs have changed much.
          .
          Suggest you read the material from early church fathers in their criticisms of the Ebionites since these were the later followers of James and apostles. They were the party of the circumcised – practicing Jews who believed that the fully human messiah of Jewish prophecy was Jesus. In fact, Eisenman (from information in the dead sea scrolls ) thinks that Ebionites and the Essenes were likely one and the same.
          .
          Our Christianity arose from Paul after his split from the apostles after Antioch.

        • lorasinger

          When Christians want to know about Judaism, why don’t they sit back, ask Jewish rabbis and then actually listen to them explain their own religion, rather than applying their own explanations to Jewish scriptures and challenging Jewish explanations based on Christian thinking.
          .
          What you are doing is akin to telling Shakespeare that his Hamlet is about an Italian farmer rather than a Danish prince. Ask the Jews and then listen to them if you really want to know.

        • Greg G.

          Josephus describes the three main sects of mid-first century Judaism: Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenes. They worshipped at the same temple and observed many of the saem rituals but they differed on their basic beliefs. Pharisees believed in resurrection and Sadducees did not, for example. Present day Judaism would be just another sect in the group.

        • lorasinger

          You’re right. Josephus says he was about sixteen when he investigated them all at the time, in order to choose one for himself, which puts it at about 53 AD. The Jerusalem Christians and Paul’s Christians are not mentioned. Scholars estimate a figure of 4000 in order to have gotten his notice. This is reasonable in that none of Paul’s writings had yet appeared until 70 AD and after his disagreement at Antioch in about 59AD, he set off to Rome where his teachings produced fruit and became the RCC from which the Christianity of today resulted. Present day Judaism organized itself largely after the fall of the temple in 70 AD.

        • Greg G.

          Two things I do not trust are church traditions and the Book of Acts. I think Luke may have made up Paul’s trip to Rome from Josephus.

          The Shipwrecks of Paul and Josephus – A Dozen Coincidences
          Acts 24 through Acts 28 and Vita (Life of Josephus 3)

          1. Procurator of Judea was Felix (Acts 24:2)
          2. Jewish religious leaders (Paul in Acts vs. priests in the Josephus account)
          3. Felix imprisons Jewish religious leaders (Acts 24:27)
          4. Prisoners are sent to Rome (Acts 25:10-12)
          5. The Jewish religious leaders are unjustly accused (Acts 24-26)
          6. Both sail to Rome (Acts 27:1)
          7. The trip is to undo the injustice done (Acts 25:11)
          8. The ship sinks (Acts 27:41-44)
          9. In the Adriatic Sea (Acts 27:27)
          10. Josephus and Paul become leaders (Acts 27:31-38)
          11. Everybody lives (Acts 27:44)
          12. They go through Puteoli (Acts 28:13-14)

          From Robert Gnuse, “Vita Apologetica: The Lives of Josephus and Paul in Apologetic Historiography” [JSP 13.2 (2002) 151-169]

        • lorasinger

          Interesting! It seems that Josephus’ Saulos and Paul are one and the same, in which case Paul was a Herodian (of the Idumean converts), without the training of Gamliel and without the Benjamite lineage he professed. The Ebionites were correct in calling him a liar.
          .
          Well done. Your post is neat and concise – Mind if I save it?

        • MNb

          Actually Josephus describes four. The fourth is an unnamed one that refers to an offshoot from the Pharisees and refused to pay taxes.
          Jewish War, 2.118 and Jewish Antiquities 18.3-5.

          (Source: Jona Lendering, Israel Verdeeld)

          Josephus remarkably even mentions the founder:

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

          JL assumes they are the same as the Zealots who were besieged and disappeared at Masada.

        • MNb

          “When Christians want to know about Judaism, why don’t they sit back, ask Jewish rabbis”
          That’s a good idea when you want information about judaism today, but not so much when you want info about judaism 1900-2000 years ago.

        • lorasinger

          And who should know more about their own history, MN?

        • A reasonable question, though modern lay Christians don’t know about the history of their religion. Even Christian scholars are of several minds, depending on whether they’re conservative or not.

        • lorasinger

          Absolutely true. There is always that “belief” that rears its head and interferes with rationality. It seems so simple to stick to facts about events without coloring them according to belief, especially when that belief is supported by…..nothing.

        • MNb

          Historians of Antiquity.
          Btw, is it so hard to spell my nick completely? Or is three letters too much?

        • MR

          People confuse MNb and MR enough as it is, we don’t need to throw in MN, too. ;D

        • Ignorant Amos

          MNRb..MRNb…MNbR…Mb…Rb…confused?

        • lorasinger

          Historians or preachers masquerading as historians? The difference is that historians document events without prejudice. That can’t be said for preacher/historians who tend to tweak events to give them a partisan slant.
          ..
          It’s just the way my fingers go. I touch type and it’s easier to just capitalize and type the two letters. Don’t be snarky!

        • lorasinger

          Also try this site:

          http://www.mithraism.org/cgi-bin/display.cgi?file=christ.txt&part=2&total=5

          ….

          It is often cited that
          early Christian apologists, specifically
          Justin Martyr and Tertullian, implied very specific links between Mithraic meal
          practice and Christian eucharistic practice. It is the fourth panel in the
          initiation frescoes at the Capua Vetere Mithraeum, described here, that would suggest a parallel with Justin Martyr’s words. When discussing a baptismal eucharist, Justin notes,

          And malignant spirits imitated this, and laid down that the same thing be done in the mysteries of Mithra; for you know or may learn that bread
          and a cup of water are given in the rites of initiation, and certain words are said1

          The early Church Fathers Justin Martyr and Tertullian tried to say that Mithraism copied the Lord’s Supper from Christianity, but then they were forced to say that demons had copied it since only demons could copy an event in advance of its happening! They could not say that the followers of Mithras had copied it since it was a known fact that Mithraism had included the ritual a many centuries before the birth of Jesus. The cult of Mithras has been traced to 1400 BC in Persia.

        • Erp

          The Persian cult of Mithra is old but the Roman cult of Mithras complete with bull slaying and related iconography can only be traced back to the 1st century CE. The majority of sites connected with Roman cult ofMithras are found in Italy/Germany. And the east part of the Roman empire adjacent to the Persian empire has very little which one would not expect if the full cult came from Persia.

          As for the words “The early Church Fathers Justin Martyr and Tertullian tried to say that Mithraism copied the Lord’s Supper from Christianity, but then they were
          forced to say that demons had copied it since only demons could copy an event in advance of its happening!”

          I find nothing in what Justin Martyr and Tertullian wrote to imply it was “in advance”. In their view demons did it because demons lead people astray.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Mithraism as practised by the Romans is at least contemporary with Christianity.

          The Ceasarea Maritima Mithraeum

          A mithraeum at Caesare Maritima was discovered by American and Canadian archaeologists during the excavation season 1973/1974.

          It is situated in a vaulted room originally built as
          a harbour granary and later occupied and refurbished by local Mithraists. At first it seemed to provide only a very limited amount of material and was considered rather uninteresting.
          .
          However, after careful re-examination of ceramics shards and their revised dating, it substantially
          changed our opinions on the origins of Mithraism, since the new conclusion is that this Mithraic temple was in existence by the last quarter of the 1st century C.E. at the latest, which means that the Caesarea Maritima is currently the oldest mithraeum in our records.

          http://www.academia.edu/2569952/Mithraism_in_Ancient_Syria_The_Persian_Cult_on_the_Borders_of_the_Roman_Empire

          No such Christian temple exists, 229 CE being the earliest.

          The Greek biographer Plutarch (46–127 AD) says that “secret mysteries … of Mithras” were practiced by the pirates of Cilicia, the coastal province in the southeast of Anatolia, who were active in the 1st century BC: “They likewise offered strange sacrifices; those of Olympus I mean; and they celebrated certain secret mysteries, among which those of Mithras continue to this day, being originally instituted by them.” He mentions that the pirates were especially active during the Mithridatic wars (between the Roman Republic and King Mithridates VI of Pontus) in which they supported the king. The association between Mithridates and the pirates is also mentioned by the ancient historian Appian. The 4th century commentary on Vergil by Servius says that Pompey settled some of these pirates in Calabria in southern Italy.

        • Erp

          Yes but we have Pliny reporting on suppressing Christians in 112CE and in a fashion indicating that this wasn’t something new. We also have Paul’s letters which date from the middle of the first century (unless one wants to claim the composition is much later). Direct evidence of Christianity predates direct evidence of Roman Mithraism though not by much.

          Plutarch’s information is considered by historians but they also consider how accurate it could be and how connected the two cults are (think modern day neo-pagans who take a few old names and create new religions using those names; were some Romans doing the same with Mithras). It was useful in Rome for new religions to claim antiquity so they wouldn’t be dismissed as mere superstition.

        • Greg G.

          Trajan Letter to Pliny about Christians:

          You have adopted the right course, my dearest Secundus, in investigating the charges against the Christians who were brought before you. It is not possible to lay down any general rule for all such cases. Do not go out of your way to look for them. If indeed they should be brought before you, and the crime is proved, they must be punished; with the restriction, however, that where the party denies he is a Christian, and shall make it evident that he is not, by invoking our gods, let him (notwithstanding any former suspicion) be pardoned upon his repentance. Anonymous informations ought not to be received in any sort of prosecution. It is introducing a very dangerous precedent, and is quite foreign to the spirit of our age.

          Apparently, there was something illegal about the Christians but the Romans weren’t eager to enforce it.

        • TheNuszAbides

          or at least an emperor wasn’t eager for his subjects to enforce it. interesting either way!

        • Greg G.

          Neither was Pliny or he wouldn’t have asked.

    • Greg G.

      The point is clear – JM methodology sucks badly.

      That you had to misrepresent every point makes you look bad. I am embarrassed for you. Did I hurt your feelings or something?

      1. Scholars have independently shown bits and pieces of Mark are based on other stories, not on hearsay. Most scholars would likely accept their studies, methods and conclusions on an individual basis. But when they are set side-by-side they have elimininated all of Mark. I have posted the link that shows this dozens of times:

      New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash by Robert M. Price

      You are assuming I made it up. I got it from scholars.

      2. There is no mention of a Q in the historical record. It was only hypothesized to explain why Matthew and Luke had some similarities and some differences like the genealoiges and birth narratives, as if neither was capable of writing something on their own. Mark Goodacre, Professor at Duke University’s Department of Religion and former student of Bart Ehrman, shows that where Matthew, Mark, and Luke share material, the wording in fine detail matches Matthew, not Mark. That shows Luke used Matthew which means there is no need for the Q hypothesis. I argued for Q for a while but Goodacre makes a good case.

      The Farrar-Goulder Hypothesis has no use for Q and has been around a long time.

      3. When events in Acts are compared with the accounts in Paul’s writings, there is dramatization added. That Acts borrows from Josephus for details and to model events on is very apparent when one does the comparison. Steve Mason wrote a chapter called “The Writings of Josephus: Their Significance for New Testament Study” in Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus.

      4. I have posted links to Ken Olson’s study that shows the core of the Testimonium Flavianum is like Eusebius’ writing. That post also linked to Gary Goldberg’s article that shows the core has similarities to the Emmaus Road passage in Luke. He concluded that they both used a common text, a common go-to explanation in New Testament scholarship, but a moment’s reflection who show that the text is a summary of the story of Luke which means his second option is more likely though he rejected.

      5. If Polycarp was a disciple of John, it proves John existed but is not evidence that Jesus existed.

      6. The end times prophecies were written down by Paul while he was still alive.

      7. Mark had no hearsay so he used that Psalm for the death of Jesus scene.

      8. I don’t use this argument. They may have or not. I point out that 2nd century Christians have made the counter-charge but the Mithras cult is older. Plutarch says their rituals continue from the mid-first century BC to his present day, which is after Paul and Mark wrote. If it happened, it would have been after Christianity emerged as a separate religion and is irrelevant to Jesus historicity.

      9. Theology developed. We can discuss it. So what?

      The rest is complete bullshit and it bores me.

      • Alicia

        I’ll hit a few licks on this Gish Gallop.
        1) You got it from scholars who made it up.
        2) Not all hypotheses are correct.
        3) The author of acts was a compelling storyteller who made stories better than they were (that’s what storytellers do).
        4) Historians write similarly to one another, yes.
        5) Who are you proposing John was an apostle of?
        The rest is complete bullshit and it bores me.

        • Greg G.

          MNb started the Gish Gallop. I responded.
          1. I gave you the link. Try looking at it and the scholars themselves. It is called “research”.
          2. Exactly my point, too.
          3. I agree. You just have to be careful about whether you are getting facts or “improvements”. Acts seems to be mostly improvements.
          4. Eusebius was blamed for the TF for centuries. Scholars analyzed the text and saw it was similar to Josephus in places. Olson shows that the text is similar to Eusebius, after all. More importantly, Origen never mentioned the TF. He seems to have been making an exhaustive list of examples of Christian beliefs in Josephus in Contra Celsus. He states that Josephus didn’t believe in Jesus. Eusebius ended up with Origen’s library at his disposal.
          5. John would have been an apostle of the same person Paul was. “Disciple” is only used in the gospels. The epistles only use the word “apostle”.

        • MNb

          “MNb started the Gish Gallop.”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          Your intellectual dishonesty is rapidly descending to creationist level.

          http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Gish_Gallop

          “The Gish Gallop is the debating technique of drowning an opponent in such a torrent of small arguments that the opponent cannot possibly answer or address each one in real time.”

          Yeah, Pope Gregorius G, it’s totally impossible for you to address each of the points on this page in the real time of as long as you prefer.
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          I intended to neglect this page for the same reason as Alicia – you’re boring me – but this is too good to ignore. You don’t know the difference anymore between a summary and a Gish Gallop.
          BWAHAHAHAHA!

        • Greg G.

          If you took the time, you would see that Alicia brought up the Gish Gallop term. But my post was a point-by-point response to your dishonest representation of my arguments. The Gish Gallop comment would be more appropriately applied to your post. A summary would be an honest accounting.

          You tried to present arguments that had already been knocked down. You won’t deal with the evidence. You brought up Polycarp. That was interesting but it doesn’t address the topic.

          You could try to find scholars that have tried to refute the works of the scholars that Price cites. I saw one who questioned MacDonald and MacDonald’s response. Maybe you can find some of the others if you aren’t afraid to look at the evidence. Just a suggestion.

        • Alicia

          I brought it up because it accurately described what you people were doing.

        • Greg G.

          Ok. It wasn’t clear from that particular post, though. Still, it does apply more to his post than my reply.

        • Pofarmer

          What “we people” were doing is responding directly to MnB. However, because of the vagaries of friggin disqus, that may not be apparent.

        • Alicia

          I wasn’t referring to what you were doing at that moment to MNb. I was referring to what you’ve been doing for the last several days to MNb and me both.
          You’ve been beating us over the head with easily disproven *facts,* and not acknowledging when we’ve explained why they are easily disproven facts.

        • Greg G.

          When you respond to specific points with a JHer, you have to keep clarifying everything. If you lay it out in simple terms, they want to argue details. When you give them all the details, they call it a “wall of text” or a “Gish Gallop”.

        • Pofarmer

          I thought maybe I was the only one who noticed that and was a little frustrated by it. It also seems like Alicia is going back on her theology school training. At times, it seems she’s doing more apopolgy than anything, because she’s using the same arguments. And, at the end of the day, her “historical Jesus” is just a Jew who had a small band of followers”. Well whoop dee friggin doo. A guy, we can know absolutley nothing about, but is so certainly real that those who are a mite skeptical are obviously stupid.

        • Alicia

          This actually is more about my “social movement theory” training. I’ms using some information I learned in the course of my theology training, but my impatience with your fact aversion is from my other degree.

        • Pofarmer

          The only “fact” you seem to be harping in is that mythic heros are in the mythic past. Awesome, cool, got it. Problem is, you are ignoring what Paul, and by extension Cephas and James, were actually preaching. They weren’t preaching about a Dude that was killed day before yesterday, they were preaching a messiah that was GOING to come in the near future, a “suffering servant” who had died sometime in the past and resurrected, and was gonna come back and save Israel. That’s what is signifigant. You then missunderstand the Genre of the Gospels, which is why I gave you the Mathew Ferguson links. Mark is doing fiction, and fictional charachters are often put in the near past. Apallonius of Tyana, for one had all kinds of fictional stories made up. More recemtly near religions were made up around Ned Ludd and John Frum, both fictional, and supposedly contemporary with those who were creating them. At any rate, the Christian religion is a blend of religions and ideas, it wasn’t a one off startup. It was often sold to Gentiles, and grew faster in Gentile areas than Jewish areas. Most of the new converts would have had no way to check it’s claims. Could people be fooled by a work of contemporary fiction like Mark? Ever heard of Urban legends? What about Mormonism? It grew while the founder was still alive and could be debunked, but it wasn’t. Mark is an interesting mix of OT ideas and Homeric and Greek forms, but it is clearly fiction. You yourself have admitted that if their is a kernal of “real” in it, we can’t determine where it is. Yes, Christianity is a rather unique confluence of events and ideas and genres, which is probably why it has lasted so well. Furthermore, you missunderstand what Paul said about where he got his information about Jesus. He says he got his information from “revelation” and “the scriptures”, and he says Cephas and James got their information the same way. At this point judea had been occupied for a long time, and many were looking for a Messiah. It would be common for them to br looking at their holy writings to try to figure out why he wasn’t coming, but a small group thought they found him, in the scriptures, and he WAS coming. This is why Paul always says Jesus is “coming to Earth” not “coming again”. For Paul, the Earthly Jesus (if there was one) WAS at some point in the indeterminite past. You can read it for yourself, don’t take my word for it. If you don’t like what Paul wrote, or what was directly written about him “Acts” and want to discard all that, I don’t see how I’m the “fact free” one.

        • UWIR

          I don’t know how commonly known this is, but if you hover over the name of the person being replied to, you get the beginning of the post being replied to. For instance, I am responding to Pofarmer’s post

          What “we people” were doing is responding directly to MnB. However, because of the vagaries of friggin disqus, that may not be apparent.

          At the top left of that post is the name “Pofarmer” in blue, and to the right of that is an arrow and the name “Alicia” is slightly smaller black font. When I hover over the name “Alicia”, I get her avatar, her name, and “I brought it up because it … ”

          This post has “UWIR” at the top left and “Pofarmer” to the right of that. Hovering over “Pofarmer”, I get “What “we people” were do … “

        • Greg G.

          Bob S pointed out that if you click on the time after the names, the link for that post will be entered into the address bar. You can copy and paste that easily to link to the post, even with a smart phone. With a computer and mouse, you can hover over the “Share” and the third icon is a chain link which you can right-click and select “Copy link” or whatever the browser calls it.

          The hover over the name is really handy in long subthreads.

        • MNb

          Then I apologize for a false accusation.

        • Greg G.

          I accept your apology.

        • TheNuszAbides

          if you aren’t afraid to look at the evidence

          c’mon, “if you aren’t too bored already” would be the kinder-gentler out. 😉

        • Onno Westerman

          ”Who are you proposing John was an apostle of? ”’ Actually of nobody for there was no historical Jesus so there were no 12 apostles conclusion John no apostle ! Use your brain.. and nope this is not a fallacy for there is enough evidence for a non historical Jesus. a myth Astrotheology = gospel

      • Professor_Tertius

        Yet, Robert M. Price has never been able to earn a position at any major university or graduate school. His ideas go over great among non-scholars on the Internet but he’s bombed with the AAR/SBL scholarly academy worldwide. He’s failed peer-review—much like Ken Ham and Kent Hovind.

        • I’ve not understood the problem. Outside of bible colleges, I would’ve thought that there would be positions open to a qualified scholar (especially one as engaging as Price must be in a lecture hall) regardless of their religion.

          Ehrman is the obvious example. How did he do it and gain huge respect in the process but Price can’t?

        • Professor_Tertius

          “Outside of bible colleges, I would’ve thought that there would be positions open to a qualified scholar ”

          There are. There are THOUSANDS of such positions at universities and graduate schools and prestigious colleges all over the world. But even the least prestigious small colleges paying paltry salaries are absolutely overwhelmed with PhD applicants. If you want to see a depressing sight, go to an American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting [my biggest before I retired was about 13,000 scholars but I don’t know the membership numbers today] and visit the “interview area”. That’s the big cattle call of newly minted PhDs lining up in enormous numbers for the relatively few open positions at schools all over the world. The interview sheets fill up quickly. (These are NOT the fundamentalist Bible colleges and seminaries positions. Most Fundamentalists go to the ETS meeting instead and many consider AAR/SBL an evil place where “only the liberals and atheists” go. That characterization is an extreme one, obviously, but you won’t find Dr. Albert Mohler at AAR/SBL.)

          Bart Ehrman is a solid scholar whose work is respected by many. I don’t know of anybody who considers him part of the very top tier of elite scholars (who every PhD candidate is therefore clammering to study under) but he’s earned his place in the scholarly academy. Contrast that with Robert Price and Richard Carrier: they are both at the bottom of the heap without a ghost of a chance on most prestigious faculties.

          With someone like a Robert Price, it is much like Young Earth Creationist with PhDs at the other end of the “belief spectrum” (e.g., the late Henry Morris and the late Duane Gish, Jason Lisle, Nathaniel Jeanson, Tas Walker): they all have their fan base of people online who get all excited about their “scholarship” and think them wonderful speakers and “brilliant”—but nobody in academia gives them the time of day because their “scholarship” is…. well ….frankly …..kind of silly and definitely unimpressive.

          Yes, a PhD is a start. But it can be much like the entertainment business: Lots of people with drama degrees applying for the few open positions in the industry and only the very most talented and impressive (and hitting it off with the right people who embrace them) will make a prestigious living—or even scrape by. Some will end up teaching high school or selling real estate. (There are LOTS of mediocre actors and there are LOTS of mediocre religion PhDs who will never have an impressive CV. Frankly, Robert Price is a very lucky one because he landed a paid job at a privately funded “think tank” which likes having “tabloid type” writers who attract attention. Price is a sensationalist and that no doubt got him the job. (A lot of non-scholar anti-theists think he walks on water because they hate the idea of Jesus existing and he tells them what they want to hear. The scholarly academy of universities around the world doesn’t work that way. Telling everybody how you hate Jesus and are a confirmed atheist won’t impress anybody.)

          In religious studies, the recent revival of the Jesus Mythicism that was discredited by the scholarly academy over a century ago is today’s “man bites dog” gimmick. It goes over big with the general public but it gets laughed at by the elite scholars of AAR/SBL.

          Some years ago at the AAR Annual Meeting, Robert Funk of the Jesus Seminar was approached by a PBS film crew looking for sensationalist stuff. Now, keep in mind that the late Dr. Funk was actually a master of cultivating in brilliant ways the media attention that could benefit his Westar Institute and publishing enterprises, for example. (Funk was a brilliant scholar and co-wrote the standard reference grammar of NT Koine Greek, but you probably know him for the Jesus Seminar. Obviously, Funk was no evangelical!) But when Bob Funk realized that they were looking for silly “Jesus Myth” and “Zeitgeist” nonsense, he sent them over to me—-both to get them out of his hair and as a bit of a joke on me. He got me good because I had no idea what this video crew was looking for. (And when I ran into Bob on an elevator later that day, I said, “Thanks alot, Bob” and he gave me a huge smile and chuckle.)

          Anyway, when the PBS crew told me that they wanted to film interviews with professors who had “proven that Jesus never existed”, I told them “Good luck with that. There are something like 12,000 scholars here running the gamut from atheist to agnostic to theist—and finding your interview subjects would be like finding a needle in a haystack. There are probably a few JMs (Jesus Mythers) here but the ones you’ve heard of rarely bother showing up here. These are the REAL scholars. Not the ‘National Inquirer’ staffers and potboiler authors.”

          “Ehrman is the obvious example. How did he do it and gain huge respect in the process but Price can’t?”

          Consider again the entertainment industry analogy. Why does a Bill Pullman or Jeff Daniels make a solid living in TV and movies (though not win lots of Oscars) while you rarely hear anything about comedian Fillmore P. Schultz? Ehrman vs. Price is a similar contrast, except Price got lucky by finding a monied private employer. He’s the Fillmore P. Schultz who got himself a paycheck despite himself.

        • Sounds like a tough discipline in which to make a living. Thanks for the insights.

        • Greg G.

          You bet. Dissent is limited. Step outside the lines and it’s time to print up new resumés.

        • Greg G.

          That’s an ad hominem fallacy. Besides that, if you had checked out the link, you would have found that he has collected the work of other scholars who have identified some of the sources of the gospel authors, including nearly every passage in Mark.

        • Professor_Tertius

          “That’s an ad hominem fallacy.” No. You are misusing the term much like Young Earth Creationists do. An negative evaluation of someone in terms directly related to their competence and professional history is NOT an “ad hominem fallacy” no matter how harsh or even insulting. When a scholar’s research fails to win respect from others in his field in the realm of peer-review, that’s relevant. So it isn’t an ad hominem fallacy. Disagreeing with that negative evaluation is fine–but don’t mislabel it just because you think it disrespectful or even insulting. (Usually I have to explain this to fundamentalist Christians. They label virtually any harsh critique of their heroes as an ad hominem. Are you doing the same.)

          I found your misuse of the term so common among my undergrads that I prepared a course handout to provide examples to supplement the overly concise lists of logical fallacies from the logic textbook. (A lot of mathematics and philosophy students had to take a two-semester course sequence that was cross-listed course for both departments.) Compare and constrast:

          AD HOMINEM FALLACY: “Dr. Jones is nothing but an ignorant racist with bad B.O. Obviously, his scientific “theory” XYZ deserves no consideration.”

          NOT AD HOMINEM FALLACY: “So-called Dr. Jones got his fake title from a diploma mill and flunked out of his undergrad geology major. He misuses basic science terms and plagiarizes entire paragraphs from geology journals. To no one’s surprise, his scientific “theory” XYZ is thoroughly debunked in my published paper. XYZ deserves no consideration. It would be a waste of your time.”

          Everything I wrote about Price is relevant to the topic. The fact you disagree and perhaps even found it overly harsh doesn’t make it an ad hominem fallacy.

        • Greg G.

          You did not address his argument. Your argument was directed at the man. That is what ad hominem means – “to the man”.

          I did not call it an ad hominem because I disagreed with what you said, it is true except that Wikipedia says he teaches philosophy and religion at Johnnie Colemon Theological Seminary, but that has nothing to do with his argument.

          I don’t consider what you said about him to be harsh as being rejected by a field dominated by theology is not a bad thing. Tommy Thompson’s doctoral thesis was rejected in the 70s by Joseph Ratzinger, who went on to become the pope and retired, because Thompson had concluded that Abraham and Moses were not historical, and made him unemployable in the US, but archaeology has supported his conclusions.

          Are you even familiar with his arguments?

        • Michael Neville

          Greg G. is quite correct. You don’t rebut Price’s arguments, you attack him personally. What you wrote is classical ad hominem. And then you show that you don’t understand what ad hominem actually is.

    • lorasinger

      Perhaps if professors of earliest Christian history at accredited colleges and universities were barred from ever serving in a church’s pay, and preachers in church-run institutions were barred from ever teaching earliest Christian history outside of a church-financed setting, there would be a difference between preachers and teachers, but that’s not the case now: These two fields are essentially one, and calling its practitioners “historians” is to insult the historical profession. Any historian who accepts such people as being historians has a very low opinion of his field,
      and it as a corruption. . McDonald, James (2009-11-01).

      • Greg G.

        Tommy Thompson’s thesis that Abraham and Moses didn’t exist was rejected by Joseph Ratzinger, the living ex-Pope, back in the 1970s. He finished his degree in the US but had to go to Europe to get a job because of his thesis. Archaeology vindicated him.

        Thomas Brodie waited until then end of his career to write his book about Jesus myth. His employer relieved him of teaching duties. He still is a Christian, however.

        • Alicia

          Abraham and Moses’s stories were written about the distant past. Jesus is written for the recent past.
          Thus, they are not parallel situations.

        • Greg G.

          The point is that when one writes against the scholarly consensus, one might be putting one’s job on the line, even if your point is true.

        • lorasinger

          Eisenman and MacCoby are both casualties of that thinking.

        • Onno Westerman

          Abraham and Moses nor Jesus did exist !

        • lorasinger

          Ratzinger is also the pope who said that the trinity originated with Catholicism in the fourth century in Rome.
          .
          The followers of “the way” and the Quakers also believe that Jesus was totally human and still consider themselves to be Christians.
          .
          Like God and Jesus, nobody knows if they exist or whether Abraham or Moses existed. We don’t know and it’s followers don’t know. They just believe.
          .

        • Onno Westerman

          Oh yes we know they did not exist ! Use your brain and do some study in myths !

        • lorasinger

          Certainly the “man god” didn’t exist, however, there may have been a Jewish male who was crucified for sedition, a story that ties in with Jewish expectations of a fully human leader who will cast out oppressors (Romans) who then did him in before he became more of a danger to them.
          .
          I did a year of study of myths and comparative religions. Not enough?

        • Onno Westerman

          ” that Abraham and Moses didn’t exist was rejected by Joseph Ratzinger,” well so what ? Pope is Catholic and of course he reject the non existence of Abraham and Moses but what would he know ? Pope is not a authority I would trust ! Abraham and Moses never existed nor any other biblical Character between Genesis and Revelation except a tiny few obvious ones like the Herod’s and Pilate and maybe Paul the rest is bogus and made up !

        • Greg G.

          I agree but I think Cephas, John, and James, who are mentioned in Galatians, were real but not the illiterate fishermen that Christians believe they are.

    • Alicia

      “Atheism doesn’t stimulate critical thinking skills any more than theism does.”
      Amen, brother.

      • primenumbers

        Um…. when you have to start calling people names and calling them “stupid” or like a “creationist” (as Mnb does above) , it doesn’t really do any more reasonable arguments you may possess any good at all.

        • MNb

          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          For some reason you never bring up this complaint when I give a creationist this very same treatment. You JMs can be a funny lot after all. Usually I just think you boring.
          Of course you get the same answer. The titles “pope”, “cardinal”, “stupid” and “like a creationist” are conclusions derived from what Greg G and Pofarmer write. For that reason I even quoted them. Perhaps you think atheists are superior and deserve to be treated better? Or your complaint doesn’t make sense.
          Oh and another detail – I didn’t provide arguments. I provided evidence plus the answers of Greg G and Pofarmer. Creationists have problems to see the difference as well. So thanks for confirming my conclusion “like a creationist”.

        • primenumbers

          Creationists are not (as a rule) stupid. They just happen to be wrong on the particular issue of evolution. They may be wrong on other issues too, but none of this makes them stupid. Of course, there is nothing to say a creationist cannot also be stupid, but being a creationist doesn’t necessarily make it so.

      • “Atheism doesn’t stimulate critical thinking skills any more than theism does.”

        So true.

        • Krystal

          @ Alicia @Guest … your statement and affirmation say only what is probably true of all topics of discussion. You haven’t helped your side of the cause. Atheism, on the other hand, by it’s very nature states automatically without the need for implication that the person studying that there is doubt within that person that may lead them away from religions that have been POUNDED into their heads probably since the moment they were born. What hope does a child have when centuries of indoctrination comes down on their little minds? Giving a child ALL the information and them letting them choose turned out the best for my two kids and without any help from me, they both chose to remain doubtful and realized that humans no longer need religion in order to have comfort. I’m quite proud of them. So as a counter to your statement, “Atheism” does indeed stimulate critical thinking skills, to positive outcomes.

        • lorasinger

          When you keep in mind that even during a conversion process, it is accomplished by bypassing rational thinking and reaching the emotions. Walking on water or virgin birth are impossible but the believer accepts them as actual events. A knowledge of Physics and biology will say it’s impossible.
          .
          Religious belief exists at an emotional, not a rational level in order to accept incredible events at face value.
          .
          The statement, “”Atheism doesn’t stimulate critical thinking skills any more than theism does.” is then a fallacy since theism is the acceptance, without critical thinking, of an event that is clearly impossible.

        • TheNuszAbides

          all good, except that “leaves [more] room for” is not synonymous with “stimulates”.

      • lorasinger

        Atheism TAKES critical thinking and its skills – it may or may not stimulate them farther.

      • Onno Westerman

        Oh yes it does stimulate critical thinking skills ! So I get by your reply Alicia is a ignorant Christian ?

      • adam

        “”Atheism doesn’t stimulate critical thinking skills any more than theism does.” “

        • Professor_Tertius

          Great job of meme-ing like a Young Earth Creationist.

        • adam

          How so?

        • Michael Neville

          It seems like a perfectly reasonable thing for an atheist to say to a Christian. They believe in all sorts of miracles and superstition yet they claim we’re the ones who are gullible and unthinking.

          Perhaps if you fleshed out your bumpersticker remark it would be more illuminating.

        • Greg G.

          Great job of underestimating how many Christians actually believe that and argue that it is true. They think you are silly for picking and choosing the parts of the Bible you believe.

    • Ignorant Amos

      “Father why has thou forsaken me” is attributed to Jesus because ….. (follows some more special pleading without any evidence).

      But that’s not what he said if one is only reading Luke or John.

    • Onno Westerman

      LOL nope it does not ! Do some study please and read D M Murdock books.

      • MNb

        Only if you pay for her books and send them to me I’ll waste time on someone who even got criticized by fellow JM Richard Carrier.

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

        • Onno Westerman

          I don’t have to pay anything at all because I have the pdf already of all those book . Nope you do not waste your time on her books at all . You have not even read any of her books apperently so why do you react so ignorant ? Who says Carrier is right in this ? Why do you listen to Carrier and not to those who admire D M Murdock for her wonderful work ? Besides that you can find some of her book via peer 2 peer or even newsgroups and torrent probably ! But only if you promis to read them all I will give a link where you can grab them else you have to do study yourself oh and I forgot . do work on your ignorance please ?

        • MNb

          “why do you react so ignorant”
          Because you write like a creationist. Replace in your comments “historical Jesus” with “evolution” and “DM Murdock” with some random creacrap (Dembsky, Meyer, whoever) and it’s exactly the same stuff I’ve met a gazillion times already for quite a few years. Like this:

          “oh and I forgot . do work on your ignorance please ?”
          Again spoken like a true creacrapper. Sorry pal, usually I’m willing to read free stuff – even creacrap that can be found on sites like AIG and the Discotute – if someone tells me why that should be relevant.
          But not when someone is condescending like you.

          “But only if you promis to read them all I will give a link where you can grab them”
          You almost got me. But alas –

          “else you have to do study yourself”
          Ah! Blackmail!
          My first principle: never give in to blackmail.
          In other words: now I tell you politely you can fuck off with dear Murdock.
          Unless you improve your manners.
          Yup – I also know how to practice blackmail.

  • lorasinger

    All I can say is that if the man on whom the NT is based was alive today, he would be howling over all the tall tales about “his” adventures.

  • Zachariah ​†

    This played exactly what I said, @BobSeidensticker:disqus. “The story says that Jesus claimed to be God. The story says that the tomb was empty. The story says that Merlin could change his shape. The story says that Grendel was a big, scary monster. We must go beyond the stories to figure out the actual history.” You are dismissing the evidence because of your bias. At least be honest. You can’t just be satisfied with calling Jesus a liar,(Because it doesn’t really the rest of it.) You have to say that the entire recorded history is fabricated by some unknown means, which is unregulated skepticism and not an argument. More examples: “No—the plausible natural explanation always trumps the supernatural.” — “The Christian has the burden of proof, and it’s an enormous burden given this enormous claim.”

    “29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen me and yet have believed.””
    John 20:29