Is This a Powerful New Apologetic Argument?

Is This a Powerful New Apologetic Argument? December 14, 2017

Jesus 1

I’m always looking for an innovative new argument for Christian claims, and “Jesus Christ: Greater Than You Knew, Too Great Not To Be True” by Tom Gilson didn’t disappoint. It didn’t disappoint because I expected it to be unpersuasive.

And my quest continues . . .

While we’re here, however, let’s take a look at Gilson’s argument. The key point, as you might guess from the title, is that Jesus is perfect—too perfect to be merely literature or legend. He illustrates this with three questions.

1. Who are the most powerful characters in all of human history and imagination?

He proposes Andrew Carnegie, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, and Superman. A few additional names come to mind, so I’ll add John Connor from the Terminator movies, the Watchmen (comics heroes), Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.

Gilson wants to add Jesus to this list, but let’s consider this. He would say that Jesus was God and therefore the creator of everything. Let’s ignore the fact that the Trinity was an invention centuries after the gospels and consider what God supposedly created. In Genesis 1, God shapes Play-Doh to make the water-dome world of the Sumerians. The stars are insignificant in this story and their creation gets a single word in the original, though science tells us that the entire universe is 1027 times more massive than the earth.

The actual universe is impressive, but God’s art project is minor by comparison. We can add Jesus/God, but remember the tiny “universe” he’s credited with creating.

2. Who are the most self-sacrificial, other-oriented, giving, and caring persons?

Gilson suggests Mother Teresa and Sir Galahad. (He clearly views Teresa as the saint that many Christians imagine rather than the controversial figure who celebrated suffering when she could have healed disease.)

We don’t need fiction or mythology to find self-sacrifice. The internet is full of stories of actual heroes who put themselves in danger to rescue strangers from drowning or from burning buildings. There are military personnel who died to save their comrades. A famous example within Christian circles is Maximilian Kolbe, a friar imprisoned in Auschwitz who volunteered to die in the place of a stranger.

About the unsung heroism in everyday life, author Peggy Noonan said,

The bravest things we do in our lives are usually known only to ourselves. No one throws ticker tape on the man who chose to be faithful to his wife, on the lawyer who didn’t take the drug money, or the daughter who held her tongue again and again.

Taking the noble or self-sacrificing path is a big deal for most people because we have a choice. Gilson, of course, wants to add Jesus to this list, but his sacrifice isn’t as substantial as Gilson wants to imagine. Jesus didn’t experience any agonizing choice; he simply knew the right path and took it. His sacrifice was a painful weekend—frankly, not that big a deal.

3. Who belongs on both lists?

Gilson proposes Gandalf and Superman for this category but imagines Jesus standing alone, unrivaled in both history and fiction as “a character of unparalleled power and self-sacrifice, with no mar or imperfection of any sort.”

But there are other contenders. Obi-wan Kenobi from Star Wars sacrificed himself for the benefit of Luke and the rebel cause—and this was the old-fashioned, died-and-stayed-dead kind of sacrifice. Neo from The Matrix trilogy sacrificed his life to save the city of Zion. Shiva is a Hindu god who drank poison to protect the universe.

My choice for this category is Prometheus, the god who brought fire to mankind. He was punished by being chained to a rock and having an eagle eat his liver each day, only to have it regrow overnight for the agonizing process to repeat. (And Christians think that Jesus had it rough.)

What did Jesus do?

Jesus gave us salvation, a solution to a problem he invented, while Prometheus gave us fire, something that’s actually objectively useful.

If we separate Jesus from the rest of the Trinity and look at just what the New Testament tells us, Jesus didn’t do much. He killed a fig tree. He cured some lepers. He raised Lazarus. Sure, Jesus cured by magic, and that’s pretty cool, but he did less good in his healing ministry than a single modern doctor does. He didn’t eliminate smallpox, for example, but modern medicine did.

Of course, the New Testament is where we see the doctrine of hell, though I’m not sure that’s much to celebrate.

Gilson scratches his head trying to figure out the skeptical alternative to the Christian interpretation. We have a story that was transmitted orally for decades as it moved from Jewish culture into a new Greek culture (which already had examples of dying-and-rising gods, virgin birth, and other elements found in the gospel story), and you can’t see how legend could explain this? What’s left unexplained? It’s like Gilson has never heard of any new religion developing.

He marvels at the power of the gospel story, but why is that surprising? It was polished through retellings for decades before being written, and then reinterpreted for centuries as church fathers haggled over points of doctrine. Even now, Christians can’t agree on what the Bible says, the essential doctrine of the Trinity isn’t understood but taken as a “mystery,” and new denominations spring up at a rate of two per day.

The problem with Gilson’s apologetic

Gilson is a Jesus fanboy, and he has an inflated view of the contribution of Jesus. He tells us that any other literary or historical sacrifice “[pales] beside the sacrifice of Christ.” He was “a character of moral excellence beyond any other in all history or human imagination.” No competing story gets the “crucial aspect of Jesus’ character—his perfect power and perfect goodness—exactly right, without flaw.”

I think we’ve found the problem. Was Jesus that great? Not if you read the gospels.

  • Jesus didn’t stop slavery, didn’t reject polygamy, and didn’t denounce God’s genocide in the Old Testament. Gilson acknowledges without rebuttal that Jesus did nothing to address the social ills that we reject today.
  • Jesus wanted faith without evidence, as in the Doubting Thomas story (“blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed”).
  • Jesus said that his mission was only to the “lost sheep of Israel” and cautioned his disciples to avoid wasting time with those who couldn’t appreciate the message (remember “don’t cast your pearls before swine”?).
  • Jesus predicted the end in the lifetime of his hearers: “This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (keep in mind that “these things” includes the stars falling from the sky).
  • Jesus demanded single-minded devotion (“those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples”).
  • Jesus demanded faith instead of planning for the future (“take no thought for the morrow”; “do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear”).

It may be that Jesus towers over all other figures from history and fiction in Gilson’s mind, but the gospel story itself shows him to be a not-especially-perfect deity. The Jesus story is nicely explained as legendary development.

A thorough knowledge of the bible 
is worth about as much 
as a thorough knowledge of Harry Potter.
— JT Eberhard

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 5/7/14.)

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  • Grimlock

    That guy needs to read more fantasy.

    • And mythology. For him to miss Prometheus, an obvious parallel with Jesus, was bad. And there are lots more in other kinds of mythology–for example, the raven in Northwest lore brought the sun to humans.

      • TheBookOfDavid

        Speaking of Prometheus, seems like Gilson neglected to RTFM his own holy book for similar examples. Turns out there was this serpent in the Eden story who received a divine smackdown for the crime of correcting God’s deceptive order and teaching the first humans how to achieve self awareness.

        • Great point. The serpent in the Garden was very much a Prometheus.

        • Susan

          The serpent in the Garden was very much a Prometheus.

          Don’t forget poor Coyote.

        • Bob Jase

          Oh what hasn’t that Roadrunner done to him?

      • Christmas with Mike

        Odin sacrificed an eye and 9 days of agony (hung from a tree and impaled, nonetheless) to bring mankind the knowledge of runes. Written language is almost as precious as fire to human development.

  • MesKalamDug

    I think it’s cheating to use all four gospels. It is clear that all Matthew and Luke know about Jesus’ biography they got from Mark. It is IMO legitimate to ignore John completely as biography but
    I think there are a few genuine memories (which are too trivial to matter) in John.

  • I have to argue with
    “A thorough knowledge of the bible
    is worth about as much
    as a thorough knowledge of Harry Potter.
    — JT Eberhard”

    I think there is more knowledge in Harry Potter than there is in the bible or at least a coherent story through out all of the books.

    • Good point. There’s probably a lot more useful moral lessons and examples in Harry Potter than the Bible, too.

      • Foxglove

        And in “The Lord of the Rings” as well. I remember, e.g., having a discussion/argument with my son as to who was the better man–Boromir or Faramir.

        For me this is one mark of good literature: it gives you something to sink your teeth into. That’s because it’s teaching you about people. And whenever you’re learning about people, all sorts of questions are going to arise in your mind. A well-rounded education in the humanities is going to contribute greatly to your moral education.

        • Lark62

          My vote goes to Aragorn. Generations of prophecy. A sword reforged. Yet when the hobbits are lost in the forest, he doesn’t pursue his grand destiny. He looks for his friends. He tells Gimli “if all we can do is starve with them, that’s what we will do.”

          Top that Jesus and your lousy weekend.

          (Sorry kid was using phone. Had to delete and repost as me.)

        • Foxglove

          Of them all I have to admit Sam is my hero. The way he was so brave in facing Shelob because of his love for Frodo–it still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. (OK, I’m an old softie.) But I’ve just had some idiot Christian telling me I need to look in the Scripture to learn about love. Ha! Tolkien knew a bit about it. He could certainly write it.

        • Len

          And he had the strength of character to actually give up the ring of his own free will.

        • Michael Neville

          Faramir, he was tempted like Boromir but didn’t give into it. But neither of them was better than their third brother Jaromir:

        • Foxglove

          Hmm. Funny how I missed that character completely. I suppose I’ll have to re-read, yet again. That’s OK, I won’t mind.

        • b s
        • Michael Neville

          Sorry, I don’t follow hockey so I have absolutely no idea of who that guy is or what he’s supposed to represent.

        • Kodie

          His name is Jaromir Jagr. I don’t follow hockey but I can right click image search.

        • b s

          Jaromir Jagr. #2 career points behind Gretzky.

        • Michael Murray

          Ring, One I have, Rule them it will.

        • Bryant Belknap

          Oh, my Sith, I hate you so much right now.

        • Pofarmer

          A well-rounded education in the humanities is going to contribute greatly to your moral education.

          Tell that to the typical Trump voter, I dare you.

        • Foxglove


          Foxglove: A well-rounded education in the humanities is going to contribute greatly to your moral education.

          Trump voter: Liberal bullshit!

          See? No problem.

        • Pofarmer

          Ah, I see you have experience.

        • Foxglove

          I think we all do at this point, don’t we?

      • My thoughts exactly.

      • Illithid

        Harry Potter lesson #1: when something dangerous happens, if you’re eleven years old, go tell a grownup!

        • That seems to be a common issue with British young-adult books. The kids get into serious trouble–of the someone-could-die sort–and they push through, determined to resolve the issue themselves. I wonder if American readers found that more of an obstacle than British readers.

        • Illithid

          I was mostly joking; it’s a plot device to get the protagonists into danger so interesting story stuff can happen. I remember similar things in the Heinlein juveniles, though he usually had a decent excuse for why the kids couldn’t get help. Might not occur to children. I read H.P. as an adult, so it’s hard to say how I’d have reacted as a tween. My son didn’t seem to notice it.

          “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality” (a fanfic) had some fun snark on the topic. I’m too lazy to find and link the specific chapter, but the kids see some indication of the Basilisk or something and immediately go get Dumbledore.
          “Imagine if we’d just charged ahead on our own”
          “Yes, who knows what might have happened”

        • But in general they DO try to go to see Dumbledore (who is never there) or McGonagall (who dismisses their concerns). I think we’ve all been there, which is why they are so popular. Okay, so my concern wasn’t a dangerous dark wizard trying to kill me, but how often as a child did you have real concerns that were ignored by adults? Or that adults refused to intervene in situations like bullying?

        • Good point, but you’d think that after Harry saves the world a time or two, the wizarding community would rally around him and give him a little more support.

          But then it wouldn’t be a good story, I imagine.

        • The reader knows he saved the world. The public, however, was fed a steady diet of fake news. As the last few books were coming out, especially the very last one, I was critical of how quickly the wizarding world slid into fascism, but now as I’m watching it happen in my own country I realize that she was right. It can happen that quickly and that easily and many people will believe lies.

      • Steven Watson

        Have you read ‘Jesus Potter, Harry Christ’? Rowling’s is just the latest retelling of (barf)’The Greatest STORY Ever Told'(barf). Inanna would like it back.

    • Jim Jones

      There are far fewer errors and contradictions.

      • TheNuszAbides

        and no need for “allegory” hand-waving.

    • Without Malice

      Not only that, we actually know who wrote them.

  • Mopsy Pontner

    I like the photo of fantasy-jesus too. It goes well with the subject.

  • TheBookOfDavid

    Looks like you remembered the Betteridge rule of headlines today. The tl;dr version is: I could be misremembering my Christian apologetics, but this looks like a warmed over Ontological argument, only more clumsy than the original Anselm.

    • Michael Neville

      I was thinking ontological argument as well.

      Imagine the perfect $10 million. One aspect of its perfection would be sitting in my bank account. I look at my bank account and there’s no $10 million there, so the perfect $10 million doesn’t exist.

  • Joe

    1. Who are the most powerful characters in all of human history and imagination?

    What about SuperGod? He was just an everyday mild-mannered omni-God, until one day he was bitten by the God of Radiation and developed powers way beyond those of your average omnipotent God.

    • TheBookOfDavid

      Oh sure, SuperGod is okay. Not exactly Bicycle RepairGod, though.

      • Joe

        Luckily those are from different franchises so they’ll never have to face off against each other.

        • Is that like National League and American League? Maybe they can have a World Series.

        • Joe

          I was thinking more “Marvel vs DC Comics”

      • TheNuszAbides

        I think I know where I can find him. Look! Over there!

    • Jim Jones

      And Eric, the Magic Penguin.

    • Otto

      Like the ability to turn one sandwich into lots of sandwiches…

      • Joe

        Also, SuperGod goes one better than regular gods by existing where the others do not.

        • Pofarmer

          Hey, that would be a neat trick.

        • RoverSerton

          That is some God you got there! Seeing is believing. (Your God’s move)

      • Len

        And there’s an extra prize if you find the slice of bread containing his image.

    • JP415

      . . . and then he was defeated by UltraGod.

  • Cynthia

    I was just left thinking “he doesn’t know much beyond his Bible, does he?”

    Want a story of sacrifice? Read up on Janusz Korczak. He dedicated his life to children, fought for their rights and established progressive orphanages in Poland. When everyone in his Jewish orphanage in the Warsaw ghetto faced deportation to a death camp during the Holocaust, people offered to save him because of his fame. He turned down the chance to save himself since it would have meant abandoning the orphans, and he chose to stay with them and comfort them even though it meant being killed in a gas chamber in Treblinka. But hey, maybe they don’t teach Christian apologists about secular Jews who do heroic things.

  • eric

    Wait, where in the post is the logic that takes us from ‘incomparable to literary figure’ to ‘ergo must have been real’?

    This seems vaguely related to the ontological argument (only worse, because it’s more vague), in that he’s trying to argue reality from some set of superlative descriptors. As with the ontological argument, this runs into problems because we can apply similar superlatives to other subjects, and yet Christians refuse to follow their own logic in those cases. For the classic argument, “a perfect unicorn” should be just as ontologically real as ‘a perfect God’, but theologians reject the former while accepting the latter. For Gilson’s argument, it is simple enough to make up a story with similar superlatives applied to the main character and ask if this means that character must be real too. “Once upon a time there was a person, Fred. Fred did everything Jesus did, but also spoke out against slavery.” If the perfection of the described character of Jesus logically implies Jesus is real, then Fred must be real too.

    • Terry Long

      Life of Brian?

    • Excellent!

      I wasn’t too keen on Jesus, but this Fred guy sounds pretty compelling. Where can I send my money?

      • eric

        American Red Cross, World Wildlife Foundation, places like that. Everyone working in a major charity secretly worships Fred, so sending your money to them eventually makes its way to His hands.

    • Rudy R

      and yet Christians refuse to follow their own logic in those cases.

      This is what John Loftus has been arguing for years, in his “Outsider Test of Faith” book, challenging Christians to subject their own religion to the same scrutiny they do of other religions.

    • RichardSRussell

      Credit where it’s due. At least he’s acknowledging that the only sensible comparisons are to other fictitious characters.

  • Jim Jones

    Nils Bohlin, the Swedish engineer and inventor responsible for the three-point lap and shoulder seatbelt–considered one of the most important innovations in automobile safety–was born on July 17, 1920 in Härnösand, Sweden.

    “The man who saved a million lives”.

    Jesus? Not really any.

    • Great point. And Norman Borlaug saved perhaps one billion lives because of improved strains of wheat, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize.

      • Rudy R

        I think Jim Jones is really onto something with mere mortals saving more lost souls then Jesus. Let us not forget Jonas Salk, who prevented untold suffering by inventing the prevention of polio, contrary to the suffering-endorser Mother Teresa.

        • Or Louis Pasteur, with the germ theory of disease. Yes, I had overlooked that entire category of health/food/safety innovation.

          And let’s not be too harsh on Saint Teresa. Don’t forget that she diverted hundreds of millions of dollars, given to help patients, to the church in Rome. So what if a little deception was involved? It helped spread the Word, and isn’t that what it’s really all about?

      • epeeist

        My favourite example is Joseph Bazalgette, who saved London from the great stink and eliminated cholera epidemics in the city.

        • MR

          I think he’s my favorite for the name alone.

        • Lark62

          One can’t beat Thomas Crapper, inventor of the toilet.

        • Greg G.

          I thought it was John Crapper.

        • Michael Neville

          The famous Crapper was Thomas, who made himself quite wealthy by manufacturing and selling various sanitary and plumbing devices.

        • Greg G.

          Yeah, but the name would have been more ironic if it was John.

        • Lark62

          Or his wife Latrina.

        • Greg G.

          Every time I wipe the oatmeal off my screen, I see “Latrina” and have to start over.

        • TheNuszAbides

          heard of him through this excellent short read:

      • Kevin K

        Paul Offit developed the rotavirus vaccine which saves millions of lives.

    • TheNuszAbides

      creationist-simpletons will never wrap their heads around the significance (or at least they’ll pretend they have a more sophisticated view of it). “without My Holy Boss, nothing would exist” (or even “without the sacrifice of the earthly manifestation of My Holy Boss, we’d be having this argument in The Lake of Fire”) is kinda the ultimate one-up.

  • Georgia Sam

    Xian apologists keep recycling the same old ideas year after year, century after century, & each time they think they’ve invented something new. They don’t even know that much about what other apologists have written in the past.

  • Otto

    If Jesus was so wonderful and wise I would expect he could come up with at least one positive philosophical, moral or ethical concept that was original to him.

    • TheBookOfDavid

      What about “Blessed are the cheesemakers”?

      • Terry Long

        Grate be the cheese upon him. Oh, wait. That’s the FSM.

        • grasshopper

          Now there’s a joke pasta its use-by date.

        • Terry Long

          I sauce what you did there.

      • Michael Neville

        That, of course, refers to all manufacturers of dairy products.

      • Otto

        That was more Brian

    • eric

      Jesus ‘original contribution’ to ethics at the time is a bit like AC/DC’s contribution to rock n ‘roll; no new chord progressions, but nevertheless the rearrangement is distinct.

      The Jews already had the golden rule; it’s stated in Leviticus 19:18. But did they elevate forgiveness and treating others kindly etc. above justice, above other parts of their law? AFAIK, nope. That change in focus was new.

      Having said all that, I fail to see how one goes from this to “must have been real”.

      • Susan

        Upvoted for the first and last points.

        This part:

        the rearrangement is distinct


        • eric

          He didn’t come up with any new moral teachings; he re-prioritized the ones they had. But the new prioritizaton was somewhat unusual for the time and place.

        • Susan

          But the new prioritizaton was somewhat unusual for the time and place.

          Again, I get your point about Jesus.

          But I don’t see it with AC/DC.


        • Lark62

          It couldn’t have been that great if his followers today despise immigrants and oppose health care for children.

      • Otto

        I don’t see the analogy…maybe if it was an AC/DC cover band.

      • Joe

        Jesus also offered a Highway to Hell for non-believers.

      • LastManOnEarth

        And like Angus he looked great in short pants.

        And like Phil Rudd he tried to hire someone to murder two people.


    • Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) had some intriguing observations, even though his followers bought him 93 Rolls-Royces (perhaps not the wisest use of money).

      • TheBookOfDavid

        Yabbut, they also bought him the first domestic biowarfare campaign since smallpox blankets, which nearly won him an election. So the expense was almost justified, spiritually speaking.

  • Without Malice

    It’s quite amazing what Christian apologists believe to be sound arguments. The very best of the teaching of Jesus – such as the golden rule – had been around for centuries or perhaps even a thousand years before the supposed Christ of god thought to rehash them as original. His teachings about divorce, about loving him more than you love your parents or wife or children, about not planning for tomorrow, etc. are down right idiotic. And just what is to be accomplished by turning your other cheek? such actions will do nothing but encourage bullying. Besides, here’s a guy that knows damn well he’ll be up and running in about 36 hours after being laid to rest, yet he cries like a baby in the garden when he contemplates his own death. Some hero.

  • Rudy R

    A thorough knowledge of the bible is worth about as much as a thorough knowledge of Harry Potter… J.T. Eberhard

    I like your relevant quotes at the end of your postings. This one is especially germane to the subject matter. I, for one, have never read the Bible from front to back, because like Mein Kampf, it’s just a bunch of non-sensical, non-logical, and largely non-historical ramblings. Reading the first 20 pages of Hitler’s diatribe gave me all the insights I needed to know of his political ideology and antisemitism, without having to read the remaining 700 pages.

    • Doubting Thomas

      I’ve done the same with the Bible, the Koran, and the Book of Mormon. It only takes a small taste to get the overall flavor of the nonsense. And I’m not sure I am either able or willing to torture myself to read them in their entirety.

      • Pofarmer

        Why? Honestly, why do it? There’s so much actual good stuff out there to read and do.

        • Greg G.

          I’m reading Josephus’ Wars of the Jews. I started out looking at parts of Book 1 and 2 but ended up reading the later books through. I am going to start over and pay more attention to the dates and geography.

        • Doubting Thomas

          I wanted to see what the other side had, which is why I’ve read more books by apologists than atheists. The other side sucks, in case you were wondering.

        • Pofarmer

          I took a little different tack. I’m in the Bible belt, after all. I never read much apologetics, really didn’t care. Was a functional atheist through most of my 20’s. When I started doubting, I figured, let’s look at this like I’d pick a corn hybrid, or a chemical, let’s look at the other guys data, let’s look at independent research, etc, etc, etc. That led me to Bart Ehrman. That led me to Randal Helms. That led me to Christopher Hitchens. It led me to Remsberg, and White, and others. Before I knew it, the whole thing just collapsed.

        • Doubting Thomas

          I’m also a Bible Belt native. I went to church growing up, but it never really took. In college, some teammates pulled a sneaky religion “intervention” on me and I decided I’d better figure out what I actually believed. It was about this time my aunt bought “A Case for a Creator” for me. I was a bio major and my belief in evolution needed to be balanced by the other side. This was my first introduction to the dishonest, lying, bullshit common in apologetics. After that, I watched a few debates and it was over for any semblance of religious belief I had left.

        • MR

          Similar reaction here to Case for Christ. That and The Truth Project seminars. The person who told me about both was trying to bring me back in the fold, something I was actively seeking myself, but inadvertently ended up fracturing my faith. Something the apologists here manage to continue to do every day. The dishonest, lying bullshit doesn’t stop. Occasionally we get an honest and sincere Christian, but they don’t usually stick around long. Can I ask about the religious intervention? What went on there?

        • Doubting Thomas

          It’s less interesting than it sounds. I was a wide eyed freshman still getting accustomed to the world of college athletics. A couple of the upperclassmen on the team invited me over for dinner one night, which was odd considering they didn’t invite my roommate/teammate as well.

          Once I got there, the questioning began. What did I believe? How did the universe come about? What did I think about Jesus? And on and on.

          My answers were admittedly pathetic. I just knew I didn’t believe in the whole Christianity shtick. After that, I decided to do some studying to be better informed on those topics. And, as we’ve seen, knowledge can be fatal to religious beliefs. It certainly was for me.

        • MR

          It’s interesting that they took that step. Did they follow up with you?

        • Doubting Thomas

          I actually roomed with one of them for a year. It’s just that when I had answers for his questions and also some not-so-easy questions about his beliefs, the religious talks quickly came to an end.

        • MR

          Did you ever keep track of how his faith panned out?

        • Doubting Thomas

          I’m pretty sure he’s still very religious. The last time I saw him was over a year ago, and the subject never came up. His wife posts stuff of a religious nature every now and then on fb.

        • adam

          “The dishonest, lying bullshit doesn’t stop.”

          But that is God’s “LOVE”, MR

    • Thanks; I’m glad you like the quotes.

      I’ve not read the whole Bible, either. I would like to, but that’s mostly so I can say that I have. Some Christians are under the hilarious delusion that some magical force will turn your brain into Christian mush if you read it.

      • Kevin K

        I’ve done it. It’s honestly and really not “all that”. It takes a force of will to get through it. You’d think Yahweh’s divinely inspired messengers could be inspired to write better prose. (Some of the poetry in Psalm and Ecclesiastes excepted).

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          The only reason that one can read the Bible and not find it inspiring is because Satan convinces us it’s boring.

        • Max Doubt

          “The only reason that one can read the Bible and not find it inspiring is because Satan convinces us it’s boring.”

          Yes, and he’s doing a damned fine job of it, too. 🙂

          I’ve always been a bit baffled when even non-believers say stuff like, “Yeah, sure, their bible may not be true, but it’s a wonderful piece of literature”. Nonsense. It’s a ratty tatty conglomeration of various styles, glaring contradictions, shitty chronology, no texture, no flow, no consistency, even within most of the sub-parts when taken as an anthology.

          Obviously the test can’t be performed, but I’d conjecture that if the Christian bible didn’t have such deep cultural roots, if people were exposed to it without a preconceived notion that it’s imbued with some kind of importance, hardly anybody would find it compelling enough to read it all the way through. I think the underlying reason atheists might say it’s good literature is to throw the believers a bone, to meet them part way – even though they haven’t earned their part.

        • MNb

          “a wonderful piece of literature”
          Or the variation “it tells us so much about human nature and human condition.”
          Baked air. Already as a child, when I still felt attracted to christianity, I noticed that Ancient Greek mythology (the Olympian gods etc.) are a way more accurate description.

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          Some of the Bible may have started out as halfway decent mythological story telling, but it’s been edited to hell and back over so many generations by so many people with so many wildly disparate agendas, most of the little bits that may have been good have been distorted beyond recognition. Any other little bits that may be good are really more the result of random chance than through any actual intent.

          I may not be the world’s most widely read person (I am admittedly very, very far from being so), but whenever someone tells me the Bible is great literature, I know that I can ignore every word they say after that, because the Bible is anything but.

        • Kevin K

          The first few chapters of Genesis is a collection of sorta-cute “just so” campfire stories. Like Aesop’s fables. Daddy, tell me why we have to wear clothing and work in the fields while the goats don’t…”

        • “Daddy, why are the Moabites such bastards?”
          “Oh, didn’t I tell you that story? It’s because they’re the result of a coupling between Lot and one of his daughters.”

        • MR

          …if people were exposed to it without a preconceived notion that it’s imbued with some kind of importance, hardly anybody would find it compelling enough to read it all the way through

          Hardly anybody, Christians included, find it compelling enough to read all the way through as it is.

        • It a rough go even for people who really believe. Back when I was a teenager there were lots of “Read the Bible Through in a Year” type plan. (Huge mistake on their part because I was raised evangelical and by the time I was done it was clear that the whole inerrancy doctrine was a crock.) The worst part is near the beginning with all the begats. If yo can get through that it gets a little better. And then there’s Isaiah. What hallucinogenic plants was he ingesting. It’s interesting at least in a WTF kind of way. No, not good literature. Influential as Christianity dominated a lot of the world for a long time, but not because of its literary merit.

        • Greg G.

          I did something like that in my late teens. They also had us memorizing verses and meditating on selected verses. I think that was to prevent anyone from thinking to much about the daily readings.

        • Kevin K

          Says someone who obviously hasn’t made it as far as Numbers.

        • Greg G.

          Church Lady: Well, isn’t that special? Why does Numbers seem boring? Could it be… I don’t know… SATAN?

        • Pofarmer

          I started it when I was in Junior high and I don’t think I made it all the way through Genesis.

      • I have. Twice. (The whole thing that is. Other passages many more times.) It’s not unlike a lot of ancient literature. Long and dry with the few good parts (Samson is an interesting character, for example) being far too short and lacking in detail. It’s not exactly a page-turner, that’s for sure.

        • Pofarmer

          I’ve read the whole New Testament. I have no desire whatsoever to read through the old.

  • blogcom

    Renee Girard, post modernist philosopher, anthropologist and all round academic was persuaded of the validity of Christianity through many years of study of ancient myths and legends in literature. His theory of mimetic desire where people take their cues on thinking and behavior from others fed into the theory of scapegoating. Its true that scapegoating has been a feature throughout human history- for example where a king of an ancient tribe ‘sacrificed himself’ for the good of his people just one example out of many.
    Girard posited that Jesus Christ’s one time sacrifice for humanity eliminated the need for the practice of scapegoating which was essentially about human sacrifice.
    It also reduced the innate hold of mimetic desire over humanity replacing it with the more difficult but possible choice of freewill.

    • Doubting Thomas

      Girard posited that Jesus Christ’s one time sacrifice for humanity
      eliminated the need for the practice of scapegoating which was
      essentially about human sacrifice.

      He should have realized that scapegoating is a horrible, immoral, and nonfunctional practice and that the thing that eliminates scapegoating is people becoming less ignorant.

    • Nick G

      I don’t know if René Girard described himself as an “all round academic”, but if he did, he was a fraud with a hypertrophied ego. Otherwise, he was just a run-of-the-mill intellectual obsessive, convinced without justification that he’d found “the key to all mythologies”.

      It also reduced the innate hold of mimetic desire over humanity
      replacing it with the more difficult but possible choice of freewill.

      I know of no evidence of any significant change in human behaviour following Jesus’s “one time sacrifce for humanity” – a doctrine at once deeply repulsive and absurdly silly. Christians today appear on the whole to behave neither better nor worse than adherents of others religions or of none.

      • blogcom

        The theory of mimetic desire is telling as it categorizes humans on the same level as great apes based as it is on the premise of monkey see monkey do- some might say its an evolutionary thing others that its due to a corruption where man fell into carnality betraying his original design but in any event scripture calls unregenerate humans beings brutes which is pretty close to animalistic.
        Exercising freewill through Jesus Christ is the road less travelled as opposed to the broad road that leads to destruction.

        • JP415


        • adam

          “Exercising freewill through Jesus Christ”


        • al kimeea

          you say you’re traveling the proper road, as do Hindus, or Muslims, or Aztecs…, n

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          And I’m sure that out of the thousands of Christian denominations, blogcom belongs to the one that follows what Jesus wants more closely than all of the others.

        • al kimeea

          Plus ca change…

        • Joe

          Exercising freewill through Jesus Christ is the road less travelled as opposed to the broad road that leads to destruction.

          Don’t all roads lead to destruction?

      • epeeist

        Otherwise, he was just a run-of-the-mill intellectual obsessive,
        convinced without justification that he’d found “the key to all

        “For every problem there is a solution that is simple, elegant and wrong”

        H.L. Mencken I seem to recall.

        • Michael Neville

          There are several versions of Mencken’s quote. The most popular appears to be: “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

        • Greg G.

          It’s like the project management principle: Good, fast, cheap. Pick any two.

    • I’ve read that the story of the sacrifice of Isaac had the same purpose. It was popular at a time when child sacrifice was practiced by the Hebrews, and this was supposed to back them away from it. The Isaac story has vague clues (like Abraham walking back alone) that the original story was indeed totally about obedience, and Isaac was killed.

      • blogcom

        Bob you’re incorrect- human sacrifice was never practiced by the Jews it was strictly forbidden- it existed amongst apostate Jews who committed idolatry worshipping pagan gods like Moloch who apparently demanded the sacrifice of babies.

        • “So I gave them other statutes that were not good and laws through which they could not live; I defiled them through their gifts—the sacrifice of every firstborn—that I might fill them with horror so they would know that I am Jehovah” (Ez. 20:25–6).

          I expand on this here:

        • blogcom

          This refers to the story of the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt when God sent plagues to convince Pharaoh to give the Israelites their freedom ending with the Angel of Death killing the first born children of the Egyptians.

        • You’re saying that Ezekiel 20 refers to God’s punishment of the Egyptians? It doesn’t. It’s clearly aimed at Israel.

        • Herald Newman

          I’m seriously calling into question your ability to read and comprehend. Ez 20 is clearly talking about the children of Israel, not the Egyptians.

        • al kimeea

          bad historical fantasy, regardless

        • Joe

          ending with the Angel of Death killing the first born children of the Egyptians.

          Child sacrifice is bad, killing them to make a point is perfectly fine.

        • I had a look at the Ezekiel passage and while it does indeed reference the Exodus its primarily about the idolatry of the Jews and their flirtation with pagan practices and gods also its a prophetic parable referring to the coming judgement of the nations via the scattered 12 tribes of Israel throughout the world. .

        • Kevin K

          Um…actually…there’s plenty of evidence that the Jews did practice it…altars to the moon were made for just that purpose. And the Jews “back then” weren’t so monotheistic as you appear to be. Yahweh only asked that he be the primary god — he never claims to be the only god extant until much much later in the mythologies.

        • Lark62

          Exodus 34. This is the only list in the bibble called the 10 commandments.

          Read verses 19 and 20. The first thing born of any womb dies. There are exactly two exceptions. 1. For donkeys, something else can be killed. 2. For sons, something else must be killed.

          Tell me what happens when a woman’s first born child is female.

        • Greg G.

          1. For donkeys, something else can be killed.

          The priests hated horse meat and donkey meat was worse.

    • al kimeea

      but, those who worship Yahweh killed the Jebus… Godwin

    • David Cromie

      Had Girard really studied ancient myths and legends properly, he would have noticed that the so-called ‘bible’ is a syncretic mash-mash of some of those legends, myths, and ancient folklore, and no more to be believed as true than the Epic of Gilgamesh, or the Egyptian myth of Osiris, for example.

  • RichardSRussell

    I don’t understand the Judeo-Christian obsession with sacrifices. Isn’t that something that the backward tribes surrounding the ancient Israelites engaged in to placate their false gods? Why would an all-powerful being need sacrifices anyway? I mean, if you could just create a nice steak dinner with all the trimmings out of nothing, any time you wanted, what’s the big deal about getting to sniff the pungent aroma of a burning ox?

    Besides, with respect to the Jesus myth, how big a sacrifice can it be if you get to take it back a day and a half later?

    • Herald Newman

      Why would an all-powerful being need sacrifices anyway?

      I don’t understand it either, but I’ve been told that (according to some Christians) there has to be consequences to sin.

      • adam
        • al kimeea

          and to excuse raping children

      • Lark62

        Yep. Touch a woman during her lady time and something has got to die.

        Do you expect an all powerful, all knowing, all loving deity to overlook stuff like that?

        • Herald Newman

          Don’t recall death being the penalty for touching a woman who’s bleeding, rather they become ritually unclean and must be cleansed. See Leviticus 15:19-33

        • Lev. 15:28-30: “When the woman’s bleeding stops, she must count off seven days. Then she will be ceremonially clean. 29 On the eighth day she must bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons and present them to the priest at the entrance of the Tabernacle. 30 The priest will offer one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. Through this process, the priest will purify her before the LORD for the ceremonial impurity caused by her bleeding.”

          Yes, something has to die.

        • Herald Newman

          Fair enough. I had understood the comment to be referring to human sacrifice. EDIT: Although, this isn’t about touching a woman while on her period, it’s about a woman being ritually clean after her period, which is different from the statement at hand. For anyone else touching a woman on her period you just need to wash yourself, and it doesn’t appear to involve a blood sacrifice.

        • Kevin K

          Mmm. Roast pigeon. Two every month for every woman? Holy crap, the priests of that time must have been Fat Albert fat. Not just fat, but fatty fat fat fat.

        • JSloan

          Did turtledoves and pigeons go extinct in Palistine?

        • MR

          That’s a steady paycheck right there. Tax the monthly visit. Smart priests.

        • Bob Jase

          Why does an omniscient god creat things that it’ll hate?

        • Herald Newman

          Maybe God is a masochist?

        • Pofarmer

          That’s a good question.

        • Greg G.

          Sounds like my cooking.

    • Lark62

      Blood sacrifice to appease a pissed off deity is stupid. And that is the central message of christianity.

      The self appointed spokesmen for invisible deities invented blood sacrifice to make sure they would have good things to eat.

      • L AJ

        It gets even better because he kills HIMSELF to appease HIMSELF. You don’t get much more narcissistic than that.

        • al kimeea

          POTUS anyone? 😉

    • you just don’t understand how mojo works.

    • Chuck Johnson

      Oh it ain’t no mystery
      If it’s politics or history
      The thing you gotta know is,
      Everything is show biz !

  • Bob Jase

    Dammit, you must not be a comics fan or you’d know that several characters are at least as powerful as Jesus, there’s the Spectre, the Living Tribunal, Infinity, Mr. Justice, etc.

    isn’t this just a re-heated version of the onotlogical arguement?

    • Several have said that, though I don’t even know if this argument even gets off the ground. In the Ontological Argument, we define an all-powerful “God” into existence. That’s crazy talk, but at least it’s an argument (of sorts).

      In this argument, we’re supposed to find Jesus as the ultimate in both power and giving in all history and literature … but so what? So therefore he must exist?

      I think the flaws in each argument are distinct.

      • al kimeea

        that slavery isn’t explicitly verboten is only indicative of Jebus powerfully giving orders, not peace, love and eternal grooviness

        • Kevin K

          Yes, the whole “many stripes” passage is particularly damning, isn’t it? (Luke 12:47).

  • St. Anselm recapitulated (again). Still stupid after all these (900+) years.

  • Kevin K

    If Jesus were god, and therefore blessed with the power of omniscience, he should have said “plague is transmitted by the fucking FLEAS.”

    • al kimeea

      Plagues were a crack that lessened the influence of VatiCorp

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      also, “THIS is how to make soap! USE EEEET!”

      • Shan

        The recipe and use of soap before the modern theory of germs would substantially prove a religion’s bonafides to me, as well as mean more of them survived to the modern day.

        • Shan

          Oh! I remember that! That’s where the idea came from!

          It’s still a fantastic question, though. The simplest means to save and preserve lives and prove a sort of “holy aura” via hygiene and health, and no mention anywhere in the bible, though there’s instructions on how to cure your house of leprosy, if you need it.

        • Pofarmer

          Doesn’t the cure involve killing doves or turtles or something?

        • Greg G.

          Yes it was birds. It was similar to the Yom Kippur ritual which involved lambs or goats for removing the sins of the nation. One animal was killed and its blood was put on the other which was released into the wilderness. The blood was supposed to be some magic conduit to carry the bad away.

    • Lark62

      Jeebus could have mentioned CPR and the Heimlich maneuver. Instead he scolded his disciples for washing their hands.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    R.C. Sproul is dead.

  • JP415

    Gilson’s argument reminds me of the old Islamic claim that the Quran was so eloquent that it could not have been written by a human being. That claim has two immediate problems:

    1. Non-believers don’t find the Quran particularly compelling. Some, like Thomas Carlyle, found it tedious. Clearly, aesthetic judgments depend on culture.
    2. Who’s to say what the human mind is capable of? The human imagination is limitless, and great writers like Shakespeare or Homer or Dante can conjure elaborate imaginary worlds from their own minds. Just because I didn’t imagine a particular literary theme doesn’t mean that nobody else was capable of imagining it.

    Gilson’s argument suffers from similar flaws, as Seidensticker demonstrates in his post. It seems that many apologists deliberately underestimate human creativity. For instance, a Christian once told me that the Gospels couldn’t have been fictional because historical fiction hadn’t been invented in the first century A.D. Many historians would disagree with that claim, but even assuming that it’s true for the sake of argument, it’s still mind-bogglingly dumb. Humans invent new genres all the time, and genres are often invented independently of each other in different cultures. In this case, the Christian was being willfully naive.

    Along the same lines, C.S. Lewis made another dumb argument to the effect that the Gospels couldn’t have been legendary because they didn’t resemble the kinds of legends that he was familiar with: “Now as a literary historian, I am perfectly convinced that whatever else the Gospels are, they are not legends. I have read a great deal of legend (myth) and I am quite clear that they are not the same sort of thing.” (C.S. Lewis, “What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?”, published in 1950.) He seems to be implying that if a story is original, then it must be true. Again, this is just too dumb for words — even a grade school kid can see through that kind of “logic.”

    I’ve heard many arguments for Christianity, but the literary arguments are of the absolute lowest quality, since they just rely on someone’s subjective emotional response to a story.

    • Kevin K

      The Epic of Gilgamesh pre-dates the “gospel” stories by … what … 1000 years? That’s historical fiction — Gilgamesh was written to be a real person having real adventures. The Labors of Hercules as well — he was as “real” a god-human as Jesus and he pre-dates that character by at least 500 years or thereabouts.

      And, frankly, have you actually read the “gospels”? Unless you’re invested in that tale as being about the one-and-only Santa Claus son of Yahweh, it doesn’t invoke any special emotional response. What emotional response am I supposed to glean from that story(ies) that isn’t done better elsewhere (again, Labors of Hercules)?

      You’re quite right. The quality of this argument is crap.

    • For instance, a Christian once told me that the Gospels couldn’t have been fictional because historical fiction hadn’t been invented in the first century A.D.

      And yet they’ll quickly say that the noncanonical gospels are something besides history. Fan fiction? Legend? Literature? But certainly not history.

      Besides, Euripides, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and others wrote Greek plays 5 centuries before the gospels.

      Along the same lines, C.S. Lewis made another dumb argument to the effect that the Gospels couldn’t have been legendary because they didn’t resemble the kinds of legends that he was familiar with: “Now as a literary historian, I am perfectly convinced that whatever else the Gospels are, they are not legends. I have read a great deal of legend (myth) and I am quite clear that they are not the same sort of thing.” He seems to be implying that if a story is original, then it must be true. Again, this is just too dumb for words — even a grade school kid can see through that kind of “logic.”

      It’s like Lewis is some sort of demi-god who can’t be criticized.

      • JP415

        Well, old Clive read a lot of legends. Who am I to argue?

        • Michael Neville

          Clive Staples was an expert on one particular medieval work, Roman de la Rose, a piece of soft porn popular with the 14th and 15th Century nobility. He studied other medieval and renaissance stories and, while he could claim to have studied legends, he specialized in one particular genre written for a small audience. Lewis once told Tolkien that he would not reread Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf because it was too savage for his taste. So Lewis’ legendary knowledge of legends was possibly not as great as it appears.

      • Which means Lewis didn’t know that many legends popular in that era or he’d find plenty of parallels and likely borrowings.

        BTW, this happens ALL THE TIME. People know the greatest hits of literature and then assign originality to something that is actually typical of its era or that has dozens of precedents that are not in the standard canon. It’s frustrating to read (and incredibly common) to anyone who actually bothered to look at the also-rans of any genre.

    • David Cromie

      Had Lewis never encountered the Epic of Gilgamesh?

      • Michael Neville

        That’s mythology, not legend. Totally different. You can tell by…

        Hey look over there! SHINY!

        • Greg G.

          As I was saying… SQUIRREL!

        • srh1965

          Hi, Dug.

        • David Cromie

          Your point is? Is that why those syncretising writers of the so-called ‘bible’ were so pleased to use it as one of the legends they found useful at the time?

    • I’ve heard that argument about a number of Composers (J.S. Bach and sometimes Mozart) whose works are transcendent. But yeah the Quran is tedious and dull. I know sometimes works lose something in translation, but there’s now way it could be THAT much better in the original.

      • JP415

        The whole thing reminds me of the theory that the pyramids were built by extraterrestrials. A lot of woo-pushers underestimate human ingenuity.

        • Michael Neville

          How the Easter Islanders moved their large statues from the quarry to the coast was a mystery until Thor Heyerdahl asked the natives and they showed him.

        • We are no more intelligent than our ancestors. We have better tools and an inheritance of scientific knowledge, but we aren’t any smarter. Egypt in that era was where the money was. If you were the smart guy who was good at figuring out how to build things you went there, just like engineers flocked to NASA in the mid-20th century. It was the place to be if you had the smarts. Also, it’s not like they built the great pyramids in the first attempt to build something big. There are many similar structures in the area, some not quite so structurally sound. Imagine that. They learned from doing. We didn’t need ancient aliens. Just money and resources and the most imaginative minds of the time. Just like with every great achievement.

        • Greg G.

          Nuh-uh. The aliens just had to learn to adjust for Earth’s gravity. NASA stands for National Association of Space Aliens. If space aliens didn’t visit Earth, where did Velcro come from?

          I hear black helicopters. Forget I told you that.

        • TheNuszAbides

          you can’t just expose and expect us to over it.

    • MNb

      Mwah, for the same reason (“someone’s subjective emotional response”) I think the Fine Tuning Argument is even of a lower quality. It compares to a fly landing on the White House, remarking how cosy and neat it is and concluding that it must have been spefically designed as a landing place for flies. In addition to this appeal to emotion it begs the question: the FTA assumes a purpose to “demonstrate” that our Universe has a purpose. Oh – almost forgot: it also practises statistics with n = 1 (and hopes nobody notices).

  • Ctharrot

    1. Propose standards based on attributes of preferred deity/demigod.
    2. Conclude that preferred deity/demigod exists because he/she/it best meets those standards.
    3. Checkmate, atheists!

    Hard to argue with that.

    • Max Doubt

      “1. Propose standards based on attributes of preferred deity/demigod.
      2. Conclude that preferred deity/demigod exists because he/she/it best meets those standards.
      3. Checkmate, atheists!”

      And it’s not just believers who use this dishonest tactic. There’s a tone troll who drops by here occasionally, mostly to chastise others for not playing along with his sixth grade Sunday school kid sensibilities. He uses this same method to support pretty much every argument he tries to make. He spent a couple weeks claiming he could prove the gods of the Christians, Jews, and Muslims don’t exist. He defined the god(s) in such a way that they were vulnerable to his “proof”, claimed his “proof” demonstrated their non-existence, and proceeded to crow about his alleged victory. Possibly the worst part is their despicable dishonesty in defending the untenable positions and the abject willful ignorance they use as a shield when their failures are laid at their feet.

  • Kevin K

    This is argument from consequences all the way down. And frankly, comparing this fictional character with other fictional characters doesn’t kick the can down the road at all.

    Try demonstrating that any of the non-miracle events happened. Try finding a contemporaneous eyewitness who wrote about Jesus in any form (no, Josephus wasn’t contemporaneous — let’s not plow that ground again). Start from validating his actual existence with credible sources.

    • MR

      …comparing this fictional character with other fictional characters doesn’t kick the can down the road at all.

      Yeah, it seemed to be a weird riff on the ontological argument.

      • D Rieder

        That was my immediate thought….the “I can think of something so it must be true” line of reasoning.

    • Greg G.

      (no, Josephus wasn’t contemporaneous — let’s not plow that ground again)

      Nor authentic.

      • Kevin K

        True, but that’s the second hurdle. The first is “contemporaneous”.

  • Kevin K

    As to the main question … Is This a Powerful New Apologetic Argument?

    Give him credit for trying. I’ve been looking for years for “powerful new apologetic” arguments. Because all of the others are so darned tiresome. PRATTs.

    But at the end of the day … no. This didn’t make me think. Instead, it made me wince. I usually do that when I’m embarrassed for someone.

  • Facebook User

    Is Jesus only respected because his followers are not really followers for they know little about him or is it that they are happy to idolise a bad model of holiness? There is an egotism in saying that your god is the best or the perfect one and that you are in a position to assess for you are so smart and good. To say your God is perfect is you indirectly boasting about yourself.

    It is odd how Catholics who hate Protestants claim to love Jesus when for all they know the Protestants might be right that he set up their religion and theology. If Jesus was a Protestant or would look on the Protestants as his true followers in doctrine what then?

    If you are in a position to judge Jesus as the perfect role model then you must be even more perfect for you are claiming to be in a position to judge. The humility of Christianity is really arrogant self-aggrandizement. The God you adore can be seen in the mirror.

    These are the things you have to ignore by calling mysteries if you want to believe in Jesus.

    His rioting in the Temple.

    His telling a woman that her daughter was the same as a dog.

    His telling a vulnerable frightened woman that she deserved to be stoned to death.

    His threat that anybody who does not believe will be damned as if you can control what you believe that much!

    His not repudiating the violence of his God in the Old Testament.
    And much much more.

    Scam artists in religion usually give you very general teachings such as love others and be fair but never tell you what to do in a more specific and helpful way. Jesus was the same. He would have known people needed proper guidance not vague stuff that puts them at the mercy of self-appointed and often malevolent moral experts. Jesus acted like a politician who hides behind fancy statements and who says nothing to show he really knows what he is talking about. There was nothing original in Jesus’ ethical teaching. The notion that morality is not just about visible actions but about what is in the heart and head as well is not new other though many say it is. Buddhism stresses purity inside as well as outside. Incredibly in the first gospel, Mark, Jesus shows markedly little interest if any in ethics. That is the main reason that when the gospel has Jesus objecting to being called good teacher he meant that he was nothing special morally.

    Finally, Christianity excuses things such as hate at times by saying human nature is weak and hate is not a sin then. There are enough loopholes to mean the faith is nothing special. But do not forget that the loopholes would apply to Jesus as a man as well. Thus they are complete hypocrites by pretending that they know that Jesus was all-loving.

    • Ed Senter

      “when the gospel has Jesus objecting to being called good teacher he meant that he was nothing special morally.”

      Or, since only God is good, if you are going to recognize me as good, recognize that I am God.

      • Otto

        “Or, since only God is good in my head, if you are going to recognize me as good, recognize that I am God.”


  • Joe Monte

    I don’t believe the Jesus portrayed in the Bible was a particularly nice person nor do I find his arguments compelling. Furthermore, I do not consider his legacy very enviable either. There are a lot of people out there that claim to have a “heart on for Jesus” who also happen to be terrible people!
    (I’m lookin’ at you, Roy Moore!)

  • Derek King

    Sounds like Jesus was an obsessive control freak, which I knew but not to this extent.

    “Jesus gave us salvation, a solution to a problem he invented.”

    Succinct and brilliant. An aha moment after thousands of words by me trying to say just that.

    Thank you.

  • David Cromie

    Gilson’s real failure is that there is no contemporary, 1st cent CE, evidence, whether written or archaeological, that any man-god named JC ever existed, and he has not provided this missing evidence.

    • alfie0077

      HOORAY FOR YOU…Prayer #1 for the guy in the sky. (The Christmas prayer)
      Here is a paper put out for scientific review.

      Please be aware that indoctrination and education are the opposite of each other.
      This paper falls under education, NOT indoctrination .
      Please lorddy, eliminate all knowledge of Astronomy, trigonometry, and plane geometry.
      Please bring back the ‘science’ of Camel Navigation!
      By using Camel Navigation, three fools wandering around in the middle of a desert with some Camels were able to find a kid in a barn full of goats by using three stars! Just to make things really interesting, the mommie of the boy was a virgin! (no mammal has ever done asexual reproduction).
      To this very day, no means of celestial navigation other than
      Camel Navigation has been able to find any place or person on earth by using the naked eye!.
      GPS can now be used, but think of all the expense of the electronics, the satellites, and even so, GPS can never find a virgin mommie.
      With three sciences, it is easily proven that three fools
      wandering around in the desert could never find any location on earth, well except for the ‘miracle’ of Camel navigation!
      This can be proven by just the use of these three sciences even if the world was flat.
      1. In Geometry, it is necessary to have an angle which is somewhat greater than zero to find any place accurately.
      (The closest star to earth is 4 light years away.). The length of the legs are used in Plane Geometry to find places and lengths. Thus by use of Astronomy and Geometry, it can be proven that it is not possible to find any location on earth using any number of stars by use of the naked eye.
      2. In Trigonometry it can be shown that the same things are true, and thus by use of Trigonometry, it is impossible to find any place on earth by using three points (stars). Again, the angles are not usable because of the long legs of the triangle. The solution is impossible in Trigonometry.
      3. Since the earth is round, not flat, it would be necessary to have at least four points (stars) to locate any point in a three dimensional area.
      Thus by use of Trigonometry, it is provable that the three fools wandering around in the desert couldr not find a kid in a barn full of goats.
      4. Two thousand years have gone by, and the very first
      method of locating any point on earth was by way of GPS. Thus, time has shown that the sciences of Trigonometry, Geometry, and Astronomy have been correct all along.
      5. Bonus: Earth rotates at 1,050 MPH. The stars are ‘fixed’ in relation to the earth.
      Try to find a kid in a barn full of goats when the barn you have is going 1,050 MPH. It is impossible, even by three fools wandering around in the desert using Camel Navigation to find a kid in a barn full of goats.
      Thus, there are at least four different proven mathematical methods plus actual empirical history
      which show conclusively that the myth of the jysusssus and the three fools wandering around is completely false.
      If the myth of the three fools using Camel Navigation is wrong, and it is impossible to find the kid then there was no jyususssus!
      Please bring back Camel navigation, it is cheaper than all those GPS satellites and the electronics. Besides that, GPS cannot find any virgin mommies.
      Al Finnell

  • MystiqueLady

    He didn’t mention Harry Potter — and to me Harry Potter is a much more powerful and convincing person than Jesus. (Harry Potter is also a more developed character having personal flaws and weaknesses).

    • Jesus was perfect. For him to choose the best moral option was like water flowing downhill rather than up.

      Harry Potter, on the other hand, could’ve chosen the most difficult option or the most fun or the one that would give him most prestige. He didn’t have the clairvoyance to even know which was the morally best route, let alone the inability to choose anything but.

  • RichardSRussell

    Bob labels this approach “new”, but really it’s just another variation on the old apologist tune “I wish it were true, therefore it is true.”

  • M. Reid

    Wait, flogging and crucifixion is “a painful weekend”? Even if Jesus wasn’t the son of God, as I think, he was the son of *somebody*. (Most likely source of the Christian myth in my mind is an itinerant preacher, killed for stirring up trouble.) Describing the torture and execution of even a trouble-making rabbi as “a painful weekend” is callously dismissive.

    • adam
      • M. Reid

        Or, there was a historical figure to whom other stories of miracle workers and traveling preachers were attributed – Yeshua not being an uncommon name, and wandering Messianic preachers not being uncommon figures, in 1st century Judea. The historicity of Jesus is not a hill upon which I’m prepared to die, but it seems to me that a real figure, if nothing more than a name, is the most economical source for the Jesus myth.

        • Greg G.

          I was reading Josephus’ Jewish Wars last night about how the Romans really didn’t want to destroy Jerusalem but all the leaders of the different factions kept telling the Jews that the Messiah would come any time. Even the temple priests were holding out. I never realized how widespread the belief in the Messiah coming to their generation was until then. I had thought it was mainly a Christian thing.

          Bu the early epistles are not so different than the beliefs of the Jerusalem hold-outs. They believed that the Messiah would come during their generation. You can see how Paul used the first person plural when speaking of those who would be alive at the coming of the Lord and the third person plural for those who were dead. The early epistles only speak of Jesus in terms of OT passages, not as a recent first century person.

          I think the Christian faction may have believed Jesus had come during Isaiah’s time because they were reading the Suffering Servant as a “long hidden mystery” and that the fact that it was being revealed to their generation meant that the Messiah would come during their generation. The coming Messiah seems to go back to Maccabean times with the writing of Daniel. Isaiah 53 has the servant humbly being killed for sins. Zechariah 3 finds Jesus (that’s how Joshua is spelled in the Septuagint) in dirty clothes before God, getting cleaned up, ruling God’s house, in charge of the courts, and the removal of guilt from the land. The 22 verses in those two chapters seem to sum up Christianity.

          So there is no need to have a real Jesus in the first century that is never mentioned in the early epistles. The gospels don’t ring true when it is apparent how many Jews fervently believed that the Messiah was about to come, so fervently that they risked their lives against the Romans, and lost.

          Galatians tells us that some rejected Paul’s idea that Jesus had been crucified. They seem to on board with the died, buried and rose in three days (Isaiah 53:5, 9, and Hosea 6:2) but not that he died of crucifixion.

        • MNb

          “the Romans really didn’t want to destroy Jerusalem”
          It was common practice during Antiquity (and even much later – in the second half of the 16th Century Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma applied the same principle against the Dutch rebels) that a city was left intact if it surrendered without resistance. The more resistance the worse the looting after conquest. The only exception in Roman History is Carthago. Not destroying Jerusalem after a siege of three, four years would have been widely understood as a sign of weakness.
          A large part of the jewish population was simply stubborn. Many (not all) christians took that over. We can admire their attitude or look down on it, but the root of the conflict was always basically the refusal of jews and christians to worship (ie a step further than believe in) Roman gods, from Emperor Augustus on specifically the Roman Emperor. If you read Roman sources on this topic you will see that the prosecutors simply didn’t understand this stubbornness.
          Josephus’ agenda was to please the Roman authorities. So he tried to explain this stubbornness in terms acceptable for them.

        • Greg G.

          Not destroying Jerusalem after a siege of three, four years would have been widely understood as a sign of weakness.

          The Romans started in 66AD with the surrounding area including Galilee and finished with Jerusalem. The siege began just before Passover, which I think is set by the first full moon after the spring equinox and the siege was over by the end of August so it was only 5 months or so.

          In Jewish Wars 6.6.3, near the end of the siege, some of the remaining people offered to leave the city to Titus and go off into the wilderness with their families. Titus became indignant that the defeated would dictate such terms that he rescinded the offer of those who surrendered and said they could survive as best they could under the rules of war, so he was not showing weakness.

          I agree that Josephus was aggrandizing his benefactors. Josephus says that when it was reported to Titus that the temple was on fire, he ran to it and tried to get the Romans to put it out.

          But some stories ring true. He tells of the famine in the city where people were eating shoes. Soldiers were rushing into houses to see if there was any food several times a day. It reminds me of a story of Romania that I read almost thirty years ago where the trees around a city were stripped of bark for food. The next section is about a woman named Mary with a suckling infant dealing with that. One day they came in and she had half her son left. That may have been an urban legend from Leviticus 26:29 (“You will eat the flesh of your sons”) and 2 Kings 6:29 (“So we cooked my son and ate him”). Josephus said that when the Romans heard of that, some pitied the Jews and others loathed them all.

          Jewish Wars 6.5.2 [~285-287]
          A false prophet was the occasion of these people’s destruction, who had made a public proclamation in the city that very day, that God commanded them to get upon the temple, and that there they should receive miraculous signs of their deliverance. Now there was then a great number of false prophets suborned by the tyrants to impose on the people, who denounced this to them, that they should wait for deliverance from God; and this was in order to keep them from deserting, and that they might be buoyed up above fear and care by such hopes. Now a man that is in adversity does easily comply with such promises; for when such a seducer makes him believe that he shall be delivered from those miseries which oppress him, then it is that the patient is full of hopes of such his deliverance.

          The next section is long and describes many signs such as comets and a cow giving birth to a goat in the temple that Josephus thinks the Jews had read incorrectly.

          In Jewish Wars 6.5.4 §312-313, he says, “But now, what did the most elevate them in undertaking this war, was an ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings, how, ‘about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth.’ The Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular, and many of the wise men were thereby deceived in their determination.”

          That idea may come from Testament of Judah 24:1–6, which relies on Numbers 24:17-19, Joel 2:28-29, and Isaiah 11:1-5, or maybe it comes directly from those verses.

          That rings truer to me as it seems to me that false hope is a greater motivation for someone reduced to eating old shoes than real stubborness.

        • MNb

          ” it was only 5 months or so”
          That’s why I never should rely on my memory. Still I make this mistake over and over again.

        • Greg G.

          It’s hard to remember to not rely on your memory.

        • Kevin K

          I’ve always felt that Paul was writing to established Messianic communes that had sprung up well before any of the accepted chronologies you might care to work out for the “gospel” character Jesus.

        • Greg G.

          I’ve always felt that Paul was writing to established Messianic communes

          That is interesting. I have long thought that, too, but I don’t recall reading it anywhere. Did I read your mind?

        • Kevin K

          Ha! Perhaps. Of course, there’s no way at this point in the proceedings to prove that — but if you could definitively show when the Corinthian or Galatian communities were established, that might prove very interesting.

        • M. Reid

          Those are valid arguments. And I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to find that no historical Jesus ever lived. But Mark was written within living memory of the story it records, and Paul knew men who claimed to have known Jesus.

          If you accept the ahistoricy argument, you have to accept that the Gospelists – well, Mark, mainly, then Matthew and Luke – created the character ex nihilo, and attributed to him all these stories and details; traveling around Capernaum, the wedding at Cana, open air preaching, scourging the moneylenders. Public events, that people might remember. And Mark et. al. might have done just that. It just seems more reasonable to me, given the Messianic fervor of the time and the commonality of wandering preachers, to envision Mark remembering, or having heard tell of, Jesus, and thinking to himself, “I remember a guy who attacked the moneychangers in the Temple. Must have been Jesus. And that preacher who got in a boat to preach to the folks on the banks of the Sea of Galilee? That must have been Jesus, too.” Et cetera, etc cetera.

          Notice I’m not talking about the miracles, because I think we all agree those are fables. I’m speaking of actions that were public, but not necessarily unusual or significant enough to be included in what scanty records survive from that time – a wedding, a sermon, a trial and execution for sedition. I suspect that these things happened, probably to different people, and the vague memories – “Remember that guy who said the Temple would be destroyed, and rebuilt in three days?” – got assimilated to the composite character of Jesus of the Gospels.

          This is just a hypothesis, and I don’t know how it could ever be proved; it’s just my gut feeling about how stories form.

        • adam

          ” Paul knew men who claimed to have known Jesus.”

          And Paul said he knew Jesus through writings, and said the same about the others.

          “If you accept the ahistoricy argument, you have to accept that the
          Gospelists – well, Mark, mainly, then Matthew and Luke – created the
          character ex nihilo,”

          No, Paul claimed he knew Jesus from the OT writings.

          “it’s just my gut feeling about how stories form. ”

          Then you should really understand that many stories form from old stories retold into a different culture.

          I.e.”“I love history, so while the psychological basis of ‘Star Wars’ is
          mythological, the political and social bases are historical,” (George) Lucas told
          the Boston Globe in a 2005 interview. In fact, the filmmaker is such a
          history buff that he collaborated in the publication of the 2013 book
          “Star Wars and History,” which was edited by history professors Nancy R.
          Reagin and Janice Liedl. ”

        • M. Reid

          “Then you should really understand that many stories form from old stories retold into a different culture.”

          Yes, but those stories are usually set “once upon a time”, or “when the ancestors walked the earth”, or “in the Dreamtime”. Not usually “forty years ago, in a city that many of us know”.

          I’ll admit that I’m splitting hairs, and that you are all correct in pointing out that the stories of Jesus derive from the Messiah mythology of early Judaism, that was exacerbated by the Roman occupation of Palestine. But why then, if Jesus never actually existed, did Paul, James, and the early Christian community, decide that the Suffering Servant/Messiah must have lived and died ca. 33 CE? If they were writing pure fiction, or reifying a mythological figure, what made them place him then, as opposed to “not here yet”, or “in the days of Judas Maccabeus”? And if the Tanakh says that the Messiah must come from Bethlehem, why create the whole “going to Bethlehem for a census, which is how Jesus was born in the city of David, even though he grew up in Nazareth” story, instead of just having him be from Bethlehem?

        • Pofarmer

          Not usually “forty years ago, in a city that many of us know”.

          Really? It was quite common for say, the feats of Hurcules to be set in a time not so long ago and a town “Just over there.” In other words, it was common for Roman Gods to be put into current events.

          But why then, if Jesus never actually existed, did Paul, James, and the
          early Christian community, decide that the Suffering Servant/Messiah
          must have lived and died ca. 33 CE?

          They didn’t. Try to find a place in the epistles where there is a date laid to anything. And I’ll up you one. If the crucifixion and resurrection were a nearby occurrence when Paul visited Jerusalem, why didn’t he go there? Tomb veneration was widely practiced at this time and place and was certainly not unheard of. You know where Paul went? The Temple. You know where he didn’t go? ANYWHERE that would have had to do with an Earthly Jesus.

          If they were writing pure fiction, or reifying a mythological figure,
          what made them place him then, as opposed to “not here yet”, or “in the
          days of Judas Maccabeus”?

          Once again, it doesn’t appear that they did. The Gospel writers did that later, probably actually mid 2nd Century according to the best evidence.

          And if the Tanakh says that the Messiah must come from Bethlehem, why
          create the whole “going to Bethlehem for a census, which is how Jesus
          was born in the city of David, even though he grew up in Nazareth”
          story, instead of just having him be from Bethlehem?

          Because there were competing prophecies and the author of Matthew was all about fulfilling prophecies. There was a prophecy about “He shall be a Nazorean” which the author apparently didn’t know was a religious sect, and not a place, and there was another prophecy that he should be from the town of David, which was Bethlehem. The Census and all the walking is just a convenient plot device to get them there.

        • Greg G.

          Not usually “forty years ago, in a city that many of us know”.

          But it starts by describing a guy the way Elijah was described who gave some guy a bath and a booming voice from the sky was heard.

          But why then, if Jesus never actually existed, did Paul, James, and the early Christian community, decide that the Suffering Servant/Messiah must have lived and died ca. 33 CE?

          Paul and James didn’t. They only understood Jesus from OT scripture and would never have imagined anyone thinking Jesus was a first century person. Mark made that up. The other gospels used Mark in different ways and tried to fix it.

          If they were writing pure fiction, or reifying a mythological figure, what made them place him then, as opposed to “not here yet”, or “in the days of Judas Maccabeus”?

          Mark knew of Galatians, where Paul mentions James, John, and Peter, who become Jesus’ main sidekicks. Rather than pure fiction, it is more like fairy tales, which were about the upper class of the day. I think Mark was like Mark Twain and the gospel was like A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. The time shift was in the opposite direction but he seems to have been a very skilled writer so what is described as poor Greek may have been intentional, like the accents Twain used in the Tom Sawyer books, for example.

          And if the Tanakh says that the Messiah must come from Bethlehem, why create the whole “going to Bethlehem for a census, which is how Jesus was born in the city of David, even though he grew up in Nazareth” story, instead of just having him be from Bethlehem?

          Mark never considered that. He didn’t have a birth narrative. He has Jesus coming from Galilee to Jerusalem, much like the Romans did. I think Matthew and Luke knew the Gospel of John and mostly rejected it, but John 7:40-43 presents a conundrum where the people questioning how the Messiah could be from Galilee when the scriptures say he would be from Bethlehem. So Matthew came up with a genealogy and a birth narrative.

          Matthew’s genealogy makes a big deal out of the three sets of 14 generations from Abraham to Jesus. The first set follows the OT genealogies perfectly from Abraham to David in 14 generations. However Matthew omitted 4 names for the second set, and the third set has only 13 names unless the Exile counts as a generation.

          Matthew’s birth narrative is based on Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews account of Moses’ birth. Josephus got the story from Exodus but added a dream warning to Moses’ father which becomes the warnings to Joseph. That part accounts for the baby killing. Antiquities of the Jews 17 has King Herod having his family killed for fear they would replace him as king. It also mentions that the Pharisees were thought to have the power of prophecy which may have become the wise men. Josephus also describes the temple ritual items, gold, frankincense, and myrrh in another book. They are described in the OT but Matthew mentions them in the order that Josephus describes them, not the order they are discussed in the Bible. He has them living in Bethlehem, going to Egypt, then returning to Galilee.

          So Luke has reasons to reject Matthew’s genealogy for the errors. He comes up with 77 generations beginning with God as #1, following the Septuagint genealogies as far as they go, and supplementing with some names that are similar to Josephus’ genealogy. It ends with Jesus at #77. Both genealogies have Joseph at #76. Joseph was never mentioned in Mark but was named as Jesus father in John while Mark names Mary as Jesus’ mother but John mentions her but never gives her name. John does name four women in his gospel and three of them are named Mary, including the sister of Jesus’ mother, while the other one is Martha who has a sister named Mary.

          Luke has a birth narrative that doesn’t have violence against babies while allowing Jesus to escape. He contrives a way to get the Galileans to Bethlehem using the first event described in Book 18 of Antiquities of the Jews.

          Luke relied heavily on Josephus. The story of Jesus teaching in the temple at age 12 has a counterpart of in Josephus’ autobiography where he used to impress the scholars at the temple when he was 14.

        • adam

          “Yes, but those stories are usually set “once upon a time”, or “when the ancestors walked the earth”, or “in the Dreamtime”.”

          NO, you should actually read some of these old stories.

 “But why then, if Jesus never actually existed, did Paul, James, and the
          early Christian community, decide that the Suffering Servant/Messiah
          must have lived and died ca. 33 CE? ”

          They were Jews expecting the Messiah from Isaiah

          That is what they were WISHING FOR

          “If they were writing pure fiction, or reifying a mythological figure,
          what made them place him then, as opposed to “not here yet”, or “in the
          days of Judas Maccabeus”?”

          If they were just updating stories already being told, you know like Isaiah into their time and culture. Much the way Star Wars is the same type of mythology retold so that this generation can identify.

          “And if the Tanakh says that the Messiah must come from Bethlehem, why
          create the whole “going to Bethlehem for a census, which is how Jesus
          was born in the city of David, even though he grew up in Nazareth”
          story, instead of just having him be from Bethlehem?”

          You have to create the whole going to Bethlehem to tie the story Jesus with the story of Joshua.

          Understand what the Messiah really was and you will understand why Jesus wasnt the Messiah but was shoehorned into the position.

        • Greg G.

          This is just a hypothesis, and I don’t know how it could ever be proved; it’s just my gut feeling about how stories form.

          That is exactly what I used to think.

          Paul tells us that he did not get his knowledge from human sources. He says he got it from the Lord, but he also equates scripture as being what the Lord says. We can verify that by noticing that everything he tells us about Jesus can be found in the Old Testament. But Paul insists that his knowledge is not inferior to the knowledge of the “super-apostles.” He also tells us that he spent a half a month with Peter and met James. If they had spent time with Jesus, surely that would have come up in conversation and would make his claim of his knowledge being as good as theirs ridiculous.

          The gospel authors would not have to create anything ex nihilo as the character was read into the Old Testament writers by some of the Messianic Jews, probably Hellenistic Messianic Jews who favored the Septuagint, from the Suffering Servant in Isaiah, particularly chapter 53, and from Zechariah 3, along with the other OT prophets. Zechariah 3 tells about a Joshua but the Septuagint spells it “Jesus” exactly as it is spelled throughout the New Testament. The Messianic Jews imagined a Messiah from the OT, such as the promise of David’s throne enduring forever yet being empty while they were ruled by foreign powers. They hoped a Messiah would deliver them and hoped it would be during their lifetimes. Paul was clearly doing that, too.

          Mark seems to have used Josephus’ Jewish Wars as a source and it has Vespasian and Titus starting out in Galilee and ending up in Jerusalem. Josephus describes Capharnaum but it is spelled the same as Mark spelled Capernaum but with a different slope of a critical mark on the “u”. Mark 6:3 list Jesus’ brothers and all four can be found at the end of Jewish Wars 6.2.6 with a 13 word sequence in the Greek.


          Mark 3:7-8 (NRSV)7 Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; 8 hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon.

          Jewish Wars 2.3.1 §43Wherefore an immense multitude ran together, out of Galilee, and Idumea, and Jericho, and Perea, that was beyond Jordan; but the people that naturally belonged to Judea itself were above the rest, both in number, and in the alacrity of the men.

          Tyre and Sidon are mentioned together in Jewish Wars 1.18.5 §361-363.

          Much of Mark’s geography is accounted for right there.

          Many other characters in Mark seem to be taken from the second war combatants fathers.

          Mark also used the Homeric epics, usually blending in some OT passages, using Greek mimesis and/or Hebrew midrash. New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash [LINK] by Robert M. Price identifies the sources for Mark as determined by several other scholars, and they account for about 90% of them.

          The Water into Wine trick is in John 2 but no other gospel. Much of the language appears in 1 Kings 17:8-24 where Elijah give a widow an unlimited supply of oil but the water into wine sounds like a Greek story of Dionysus.

          There were probably lots of Jesus’s running around the area, some of them might have been itinerant preachers and some might have been killed by Pilate, but the New Testament is not about them. The fact that there is no contemporary evidence for Jesus is one thing, but the evidence that Jesus was made up is what convinces me that there was no actual first century Jesus of the Epistles and Gospels.

        • Joe

          Public events, that people might remember.

          Did Christians speak out when a new Gospel was released that had events different from the others? Surely someone would remember that no dead people were seen walking the streets after Jesus was crucified? Why didn’t they speak out.

          The defense from silence is not one I feel holds any weight, as my example above demonstrates.

        • Greg G.

          Probably half the people of Judea and Galilee were dead from the war by the time the gospels were written. Nobody knew everybody so nobody could say for certain whether a given person existed forty of fifty years earlier.

        • Pofarmer

          Have you ever read Randal Helms, “The Gospel Fictions.”? Nearly every story told about Jesus can clearly be shown to come from the OT and OT prophecies. What remains can easily come from Greek mythology. We’re talking religious zealots writing literature. They would have known their source material, and would have trained in Greek. There isn’t a single story that requires a physical Jesus to have existed. Indeed, the Jesus Seminar, found that maybe 16% of the things attributed to Jesus could possibly be historical, but none of those were credible due to lack of any confirming evidence.

          But Mark was written within living memory of the story it records,

          Gone With The Wind was written within living memory of the Civil war, so what? Mark was most likely in it’s current form after 125 A.D. at the earliest. That’s the first time it’s ever attributed anywhere in the literature. It’s only through apologists masquerading as scholars that it’s gotten pushed forward.

          and Paul knew men who claimed to have known Jesus.

          Paul never claims this.

        • Greg G.

          I read Gospel Fictions a long time ago. A few years ago, I read MacDonald’s The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark. Shortly after that, I read Gospel Fictions, again. All the places where Helms allows oral traditions in the gaps seemed to be something explained by MacDonald. It was enlightening.

        • Pofarmer

          Yep. As Robert Price points out, there simply isn’t anything left that requires a “genuine” story.

        • adam

          And yet Paul claimed not have met Jesus at all, claiming his “knowledge” from the OT writings. And claimed he got his ‘knowledge’ the very same way the other ‘disciples’ did.


        • M. Reid

          Like I said, I’m not prepared to die on this Calvary, so to speak. And it’s clear that Paul took whatever the Jesus movement was and transformed it into the belief system that we know as “Christianity”. But he did know people – James, Peter – who claimed to know the original JC. He was only one degree removed.

        • Greg G.

          James and Peter do not make a claim to have known JC. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 is “according to the scriptures”, which would be Isaiah 53:5 & 9 and Hosea 6:2 and comes from Paul. I think the Epistle of James was written by the James that Paul refers to in Galatians but he only says he is a servant of the “Lord Jesus Christ”, not that he ever met him. He only mentions Jesus twice in the whole Epistle, though his arguments would have been stronger if he had been able to say, “Jesus said” in it. The Sermon on the Mount and other speeches in Matthew cover an amazing number of topics that are in the Epistle of James. It’s like Matthew was borrowing ideas from James to attribute to Jesus.

        • adam

          ” who claimed to know the original JC”

          And yet Paul claimed they got everything they know about Jesus from the same place Paul did.

          Again, NOTHING contemporary to the time Jesus was SUPPOSED to exist, but a derivative of existing mythology.


        • Joe

          Could they (James and Peter) be lying? Paul wouldn’t be the only person of faith to be tricked by hucksters.

          Remember the Catholic Church deny Jesus had any brothers. So who was James, really?

        • Greg G.

          I don’t think James or Peter ever claimed to know Jesus. 1 Corinthians 15 says those things are “according to the scriptures” and Paul uses the same word for “appeared to” for himself that he used for the others, so Paul thinks their “appeared to” is the same as his… from reading the scriptures.

        • Pofarmer

          Cephas and James are said to be “Apostles” and, Indeed, it’s never said anywhere that they interacted directly with Jesus except for that little line in Galatians where it’s implied. And if they HAD interacted directly with Jesus, they could have shut Paul right down, you would think.

        • Greg G.

          I think “brother of the Lord” is Paul’s sarcastic term for people using their human authority instead of the Lord’s authority. In Galatians, Paul is ranting about that in the opening, that he is sent by the Lord’s authority, not human authority. He notes in Gal 2:12 that James sends others to places while noting that they are from the “circumcision faction”. He really shows how sarcastic he is over circumcision in Gal 5:11-12 where he wishes they would just emasculate themselves.

          In 1 Corinthians 9:5, he mentions “the Lord’s brothers” and brings up that they are using human authority in 1 Cor 9:8.

        • Pofarmer

          The idea of “Brothers and Sisters of the Lord” also shows up in Philippians. I’m not saying he’s not using it rather sarcastically in places, but it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility that it was a common title that got confused and coopted in a passage or two. A simple scribal interpolation is all it takes.

        • Greg G.

          A few years ago, I checked every use of the Greek root “adelph-” in the New Testament. In the Gospels and Acts, it was about half and half between literal siblings and figurative religious brothers. In the Epistles, there were 192 uses and 187 were the figurative religious sense. One was for a greeting in Romans for someone’s literal sister. Two were in 1 John, referring to Cain and Abel, so it was about siblings but not actual people. That leaves Galatians 1:18 and 1 Corinthians 9:5, where Paul seems to be very sarcastic as they apparently were causing issues for him, they seem to have questioned his stipend or financial support in Corinth and his very message in Galatia.

        • Pofarmer

          So help me out here. When Paul went to Jerusalem were they having “Issues?” I recall reading some stuff at Vridar that indicated that they were, and that Paul essentially lost and was sent out into the hinterlands.

        • Greg G.

          That could be the case but I think the shit hit the fan sometime before his Galatians letter. He gives an account of a disagreement with Peter in Galatians 2. He spends the first two chapters discrediting them. He calls them “pillars” but throws the disdain at them, saying it made do difference to him and God didn’t show partiality. At the beginning of Galatians 3, he asks who had bewitched them, and starts talking about how it was demonstrated that Jesus was crucified and he explains it using scriptures. Note that he could have just said that they could ask Peter and James but he doesn’t, he uses OT verses and screwball logic to prove it. I think that shows that Peter and/or James had told them that Jesus was not crucified. He doesn’t talk about anybody else except for the mention of John once. Paul associates them with being circumcisers and even near the end of the letter in Gal 6:12 he says they want circumcision but not the persecution of the cross:

          Galatians 6:1212 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised — only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.

          So I think they believed Isaiah 53 about the Suffering Servant dying for sins and being buried and Hosea 6:2 about the rising on the third day, but it was only Paul who read into the story that Jesus had been crucified to become a curse without sin to be analogous in some way to humans who were cursed for being under the law.

          I think I recently showed some passages in Galatians that seem to have responses in James, and a few of James responses have counter-responses in Romans. But Paul also seems to have accepted some of the things James said in Romans.

        • Pofarmer

          So who was James, really?

          Probably a “brother of the Lord” just like tons of others. And Cephas was the Head Priest of the Group. That’s why he doesn’t get the title “brother”. He’s the head cheese.

        • Joe

          “Bro of the lord”.

        • M. Reid

          “Jesus’ Homie”

        • Pofarmer

          . But he did know people – James, Peter – who claimed to know the original JC.


        • adam
        • Pofarmer

          That’s basically-nothing. This is the historical Jesus which we can know nothing about, which ain’t much different than the mythical Jesus. We don’t have any corroborative evidence for Jesus. Frankly, we don’t have any corroborative evidence for the Disciples. Ditto for Mary, or any part of Jesus supposed family. It all just evaporates. This is much more indicative of a work of fiction than some sort of historical tome.

        • adam
        • M. Reid

          We have just as much evidence for the existence of a historical Jesus as we do for a historical Pontius Pilate, Or Boudicca, or Kenneth MacAlpin, both of whom are considered to be real people.

        • Joe

          We have physical evidence for Pilate (a single inscription commissioned by him), and Boudicca (battlefields where she supposedly fought, though some evidence for battles is missing, or their size exaggerated).Not sure who Kenneth Macalpin was.

          What do we have comparable for Jesus?

        • MNb

          Or for Diogenes of Sinope?

        • Joe

          What about him?

        • MNb

          I’m asking you.
          Are you suddenly refusing to apply your own method? Doesn’t spell any good for its reliability – it becomes special pleading.
          But just like with creationists I’m all for second chances.
          What do we have comparable for Diogenes of Sinope?

        • Joe

          Nothing except anecdotes. So, I would not wager my house on Diogenes being a real person and not “plot device” to convey the teachings of a group of philosophers called “Cynics”. Both are possible, but the character seems plausible enough (he was not reputed to have magic powers).

          But for you, he was 100% real though, right?

        • adam

          ” He became notorious for his philosophical stunts such as carrying a
          lamp during the day, claiming to be looking for an honest man. He
          criticized and embarrassed Plato, disputed his interpretation of Socrates
          and sabotaged his lectures, sometimes distracting attendees by bringing
          food and eating during the discussions. Diogenes was also noted for
          having publicly mocked Alexander the Great.[5][6][7]”

          Sounds like good story telling.

        • Well, there are the contemporary coins and busts with his likeness, and the historical records of his travels. Oh–and a couple of dozen cities named after him.

          Wait … hold on. No, I’m thinking about Alexander.

          Yeah–we got nothing comparable for Jesus “God Man” Christ.

        • Joe

          There’s a similar argument raging over on the Friendly Atheist blog site. One poster claimed that asking for such evidence as coinage, statuary etc. for Jesus was an “impossible standard.”

        • “Oh, come on! This was 2000 years ago! Whaddya want–video evidence or better??”

          “Uh, yeah, pretty much. You’re the one making the mother of all claims. You need to support it with evidence that proportionately impressive.”

        • Joe

          Video evidence would be nice, a single written note would be better. How can someone so inspirational not inspire a single painting, inscription or statue until about 100 years later? Odd.

        • MNb

          No evidence (“as ….. etc.”) hence no historical Jesus is a non-sequitur, comparable with no evidence (“as ….. etc.”) hence no historical Diogenes of Sinope and with evidence (as fossils for transitional species) hence no evolution.

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, we actually do have better evidence for Pontius Pilate, quite a lot better, in fact. Ditto for Boudica. We have records of her engaging in battles with the Romans from the opposing side. Which is kind of a big deal. We also have multiple independent sources for her, for what I can gather quickly. Good Lord. There’s actually a line straight back from Queen Elisabeth to Kenneth MacAlpin. In other words, WE HAVE HIS FAMILY HISTORY. All of which is missing for Jesus even shortly after his supposed death. No. The evidence for Jesus is much more akin to the evidence for Rhett Butler.

        • MNb

          “records of her”
          But suddenly it isn’t “kind of a big deal” that they were written several decades after these battles by non-witnesses, many hundreds of kms away? And how about WE HAVE HER FAMILY HISTORY you apparently think so important that you think it necessary to use capitals.
          This looks like special pleading, it smells like special pleading, hence …..
          But of course someone like you, who such an expert that he calls a vague written source archeological evidence when it suits him always will a “kind of ” explantion of some sorts.

        • Pofarmer

          “Most of the sources for Boudica’s time comes from Tacitus. His father-in-law, Agricola, was a military tribune under Suetonius Paulinus, which almost certainly gave Tacitus an eyewitness source for Boudica’s revolt.”

          Somebody led the revolt against the Romans, at least. And I never mentioned archaelogical evidence here. I don’t know where that came from. If you can’t see how fundamentally different his examples are than Jesus, then that seems to be your problem in this instance, not mine.

        • MNb

          “And I never mentioned archaelogical evidence here.”
          Thanks for admitting that you are apply special pleading. Not that I’m surprised.
          The same for Tacitus. When he writes something you like: “almost certainly”. When he writes something you don’t like “nope, we must reject it”.
          Thanks for confirming that your methodology is unreliable and hence your conclusions lack credibility.

        • Pofarmer

          Cmon, MNb. I know this is like a Matador’s flag for you. We’re talking about 4 specific cases that the poster M. Reid brought up. In this case, for Tacitus, we know who his source was. In the case of the Christian mentions in Tacitus, we also know who his likely sources were. There is even some speculation that the Tacitus letter talking about Christians isn’t genuine, and that isn’t from any “mythicists”. But, once again, it seems like you can’t look impartially at the quality of the evidence that we have. I’ll maintain that the “evidence” for the historical Jesus is exactly like the evidence for the historical Rhett Butler(or Hercules, or Mithras, or Dionysus, or Horus, or Romulus, or Moroni, etc, etc.) until it is shown to be otherwise.

        • MNb

          “like a Matador’s flag for you” 🙂
          Sure. Still you must grant me some self control – I don’t always react.

        • Pofarmer


        • Pofarmer

          So here’s a for instance for Pontius Pilate. Yes, we do have archaelogical evidence for him. But, we also have Philo of Alexandria and Josephus both writing about him and his actions and about being recalled to Rome. Even the literary evidence is substantially different than that for Jesus. Once again, Boudica, is mentioned in accounts from both sides and at least some of them certainly had access to contemporaneous witnesses. I’m not sure what the history of any early accounts were, but, once again, this is simply substantially different than anything we have for Jesus. Kenneth MacAlpin? What can I say. Queen Elizabeth traces her lineage straight back to the dude. There is nothing like this for Jesus, not even in the earliest traditions. Once again, Jesus is Rhett Butler. Just because both Sherman and Butler are mentioned in “Gone with the Wind” and the Burning of Atlanta really happened, doesn’t mean that all of the characters in the story were real. That’s not special pleading, that’s just fact.

        • Joe

          There’s some sleight of hand that people use with Pilate: He is better attested than Jesus, so he likely was a real person. This real person executed Jesus. Therefore Jesus was real.

          This is based on the assumption of him executing Jesus is true, and this is mentioned in precisely one place….

        • Otto

          The Bible has Pilate as a wishy washy regional leader which does not match up with other sources as I understand it. So while Pilate was most likely a real person, the character that the Bible represents does not seem to be, which is another reason not to trust the Bible as any kind of historical source.

        • Pofarmer

          Yep. As I say. It’s exactly like saying that Rhett Butler is real because he was present at Sherman’s burning of Atlanta.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, it’s just always kind of been “assumed” at least later on that Jesus was a real person. At least after the time of the Gospel writers, whenever that was. The early Church fathers before that, seem pretty murky. Read something like “The Didiche” which is roughly contemporaneous in time between Paul and the Gospels.

          But as touching the eucharistic thanksgiving give ye thanks
          9:2 First, as regards the cup:
          9:3 We give Thee thanks, O our
          Father, for the holy vine of Thy son David, which Thou madest known unto us
          through Thy Son Jesus;
          9:4 Thine is the glory for ever and ever.
          9:5 Then
          as regards the broken bread:
          9:6 We give Thee thanks, O our Father, for the
          life and knowledge which Thou didst make known unto us through Thy Son
          9:7 Thine is the glory for ever and ever.
          9:8 As this broken bread
          was scattered upon the mountains and being gathered together became one, so may
          Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy
          9:9 for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for
          ever and ever.

          Does this sound like Dudes who believed in a physical Earthly Jesus?

          16:1 {Be watchful} for your life;
          16:2 {let your lamps not be
          quenched and your loins not ungirded, but be ye ready;
          16:3 for ye know not
          the hour in which our Lord cometh.}
          16:4 And ye shall gather yourselves
          together frequently, seeking what is fitting for your souls;
          16:5 for the
          whole time of your faith shall not profit you, if ye be not perfected at the
          last season.
          16:6 For in the last days {the false prophets} and corrupters
          shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall
          be turned into hate.
          16:7 For as lawlessness increaseth, {they shall hate one
          another and shall persecute and betray.
          16:8 And then} the world-deceiver
          {shall appear} as a son of God;
          16:9 {and shall work signs and wonders,} and
          the earth shall be delivered into his hands;
          16:10 and he shall do unholy
          things, which have never been since the world began.
          16:11 Then all created
          mankind shall come to the fire of testing, and many shall be offended and
          16:12 {but they that endure} in their faith {shall be saved} by the
          Curse Himself.
          16:13 {And then shall the signs} of the truth
          16:14 first a sign of a rift in the heaven, then a sign of a voice
          of a trumpet, and thirdly a resurrection of the dead;
          16:15 yet not of all,
          but as it was said:
          16:16 {The Lord shall come and all His saints with
          16:17 Then shall} the world {see the Lord coming upon the clouds of

          Notice they don’t say “come again” but “come”, just like Paul did.

          1:1 There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and there is a
          great difference between the two ways.
          1:2 {The way of life} is this.
          First of all, {thou shalt love the God} that made thee;
          1:4 secondly, {thy
          neighbour as thyself.}
          1:5 {And all things whatsoever thou wouldest not have
          befal thyself neither do thou unto another.}
          1:6 Now of these words the
          doctrine is this.
          1:7 {Bless them that curse you, and pray for} your enemies
          and fast for {them that persecute you;
          1:8 for what thank is it, if ye love
          them that love you? Do not even the Gentiles the same? But do ye love them that
          hate you,} and ye shall not have an enemy.
          1:9 Abstain thou from fleshly and
          bodily lusts.
          1:10 {If any man give thee a blow on thy right cheek, turn to
          him the other also,} and thou shalt be perfect;
          1:11 {if a man impress thee
          to go with him, one mile, go with him twain;
          1:12 if a man take away thy
          cloak, give him thy coat also;
          1:13 if a man take away from thee that which
          is thine own, ask it not back,} for neither art thou able.
          1:14 {To every man
          that asketh of thee give, and ask not back;}
          1:15 for the Father desireth
          that gifts be given to all from His own bounties.
          1:16 Blessed is he that
          giveth according to the commandment;
          1:17 for he is guiltless.
          1:18 Woe to
          him that receiveth;
          1:19 for, if a man receiveth having need, he is
          1:20 but he that hath no need shall give satisfaction why and
          wherefore he received;
          1:21 and being put in confinement he shall be examined
          concerning the deeds that he hath done, and {he shall not come out thence until
          he hath given back the last farthing.}
          1:22 Yea, as touching this also it is
          1:23 {Let thine alms sweat into thine hands, until thou shalt have
          learnt to whom to give.}

          Notice some things here which are attributed to Jesus in the Gospels, but here they are just listed as teachings. It’s as if the words were later put in Jesus mouth.

        • Joe

          I get mixed messages there. I actually lean more towards them BELIEVING in an earthly Jesus (who came and went at an unspecified time), even if their beliefs were unfounded.

          Either way, we’ll never know, so it becomes another area for debate, with no definite answer. If only they were better at documenting things, hey?

        • Pofarmer

          I’ll admit I’m biased. I looked at it, I think, because the Catholic Church uses it as “Proof” for their early practices, and also for the historical veracity of Jesus. But when you look at it, yeah, the practices are there. O.k., it turns out there were lot’s of bread and wine practices in that time and place. But it doesn’t really support the whole “Eat my body” angle, and you really have to read between the lines to see the Earthly guy.

        • Greg G.

          The practice of offering bread and wine to gods predates Christianity.

          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.

          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.”

          Plutarch, The Life of Pompey, Chapter 24:
          (first sentence)
          The power of the pirates had its seat in Cilicia at first, and at the outset it was venturesome and elusive; but it took on confidence and boldness during the Mithridatic war, because it lent itself to the king’s service.

          (last sentence)
          They also offered strange sacrifices of their own at Olympus, and celebrated there certain secret rites, among which those of Mithras continue to the present time, having been first instituted by them.

          The Eucharist passage in 1 Corinthians 11 appears to be part of a big interpolation. I think it came from Luke’s version who got it from Mark.

        • Pofarmer

          The Eucharist passage in 1 Corinthians 11 appears to be part of a big interpolation.

          Yep. It seems to be a later attempt to fill up a plot hole. Namely the existance of traditions that can be traced back to a walking around Palestine Jesus.

        • Greg G.

          I think maybe some poor scribe was hired to copy 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, 3 Corinthians, and 4 Corinthians but a gust of wind blew them all off the desk. Since staplers hadn’t been invented, he had to put them together as best he could. 1 Corinthians 5:9 mentions a previous letter about sexual immorality which could be 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1. 2 Corinthians 2:3-4 and 2 Corinthians 7:8-9 mention a letter or two that Paul regrets for making them sad, which could have been 2 Corinthians 10-13. 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 is the beginning of the interpolation that includes much of chapter 11, but I think it fits with 1 Corinthians 8:1-13.

          His mistake just happened to be the line of Paul’s letters that happened to get preserved for us.

        • MR

          Either way, we’ll never know, so it becomes another area for debate, with no definite answer. If only they were better at documenting things, hey?

          If only there were some omnipotent force who could provide the evidence we need…. Didn’t they have Google back then?

        • adam
        • Joe

          Those accounts have been researched by archaeologists and battle sites, with period specific artifacts, have been found.

          Numbers of participants may have been exaggerated, and some battles invented out of whole cloth, but we still have physical evidence. Let me know when we find a site containing 5000 fish skeletons and some fossilized bread.

        • Greg G.

          The earliest writings about those people are not referencing them in terms of writings from centuries earlier. The early epistles only mention Jesus in terms of what was written in the OT.

        • Joe

          Why would a person called “Yeshua”, who traveled to a few places, need to be based on a real person?

          There’s literally only a handful of attributes that weren’t invented or copied from existing literature, so why couldn’t the person simply be made up?

        • M. Reid

          Why make up a fictional character and decide to worship him? What other written fiction do we have from 1st century Palestine? Why say, “hey, nothing’s changed, the Romans are still in charge of Palestine, but the Messiah did come! But instead of kicking the Romans out and becoming king of Israel, he was crucified. But that’s okay, because that redeemed us all! Oh, and Old Testament prophecy says that the Messiah came from Bethlehem, and we have written him as coming from Nazareth. Better invent a story about a census and a manger, so we can get him born in Bethlehem!” Does that sound more like a community inventing a completely fictional character, or like one shoehorning inconvenient details about a real person into the Messiah myths?

        • Joe

          Why make up a fictional character and decide to worship him?

          Ask a Scientologist, or any other cult member.

          Does that sound more like a community inventing a completely fictional character, or like one shoehorning inconvenient details about a real person into the Messiah myths?

          Could be either. The Gospel writers weren’t the best in terms of consistency.

        • M. Reid

          “Ask a Scientologist, or any other cult member.”

          L Ron Hubbard didn’t claim Xenu was a guy who lived in L.A. sixty years ago.

        • Joe

          Would that have made his claim more or less believable?

        • adam
      • MNb

        Nice false dilemma.
        Must I spell out a third option for you?
        Jesus did remarkable things in the eyes of a handful of followers. Then Paulus showed up and turned the movement in something that appealed a wider audience. Hey! That actually is described in Acts.

        • adam

          And if you read Spiderman 1 you will see that he gets his powers from a radioactive spider.

          “Jesus did remarkable things in the eyes of a handful of followers. ”

          but no one outside his fringe cult noticed.

          Just not that remarkable for history’s sake.

        • MNb

          My compliment for carefully neglecting what I wrote – that you proposed a false dilemma.
          Also my compliment for that beautiful strawman – I never claimed that Jesus was remarkable for history’s sake. On the contrary, that area was flooded (well, I’m exaggerating a bit) with messias claimants of all sorts.

        • adam

          “My compliment for carefully neglecting what I wrote – that you proposed a false dilemma.”

          Thank you, I often sweat it – going against you.

        • Joe

          What makes you think Acts is accurate or true?

        • MNb

          What makes you think any text from Antiquity reliable? Or any other text for that matter, including for instance Neil Shubin’s book on Titaalik? Reports on climate change? If you want to be a hyperskeptic it’s fine with me – just be consistent.
          Fact remains that there was a third option.
          Fact remains that Adam keeps on neglecting it.
          Fact remains that Acts supports that third option.

        • adam

          “Fact remains that there was a third option.
          Fact remains that Adam keeps on neglecting it.”

          Perhaps neglecting it, but more dismissing it.

          What seems clear from the claims is that Jesus was the JEWISH Messiah, all the while ‘this’ Jesus doesnt meet the standards for the Jewish Messiah.
          So it appears that ‘this’ Jesus or perhaps Joshua from the OT was dovetailed between the old story and a new one.
          In EXACTLY the same say Jesus is being morphed into a cash machine by Prosperity Preachers in this day and age.
          They didnt find a NEW JESUS to be the source of worldly wealth, they MORPHED the old Jesus.

          Sounds exactly what the original christians did to Joshua to create Jesus.

        • adam
        • Joe

          What makes you think any text from Antiquity reliable?

          They aren’t. That is literally the point.

          Or any other text for that matter, including for instance Neil Shubin’s book on Titaalik?

          Don’t throw skepticism under a bus. Anything written that is possibly verifiable by people living today automatically has a better probability than unprovable magical claims written two millennia ago.

          I am a normal skeptic, nit a “hyperskeptic”, and unlike others, I’m applying my skepticism to Jesus where others seem to turn a blind eye.

    • Noah Chesnut

      The thing is if Jesus is God and is omnipotent and eternal, then even a human lifetime of extreme, unimaginable torture would be like an insignificant flash for him, making it as much of a sacrifice as a human giving up worldly pleasures for 1 second. It’s comical to consider it a “sacrifice” in any real sense of the word, which destroys this whole apologetic argument. That and it’s easy to think of fictional characters with greater character, power, and sacrifice than Jesus.

    • Greg G.

      He was beaten, then crucified for a few hours. That is relatively light punishment for all the other sons of somebody that have been crucified throughout history. It probably wasn’t as bad as the tortures of the Inquisition. It was probably worse than having your fingernails pulled out or waterboarding. Paul says he was flogged countless times, received 39 lashes from Jews five times, beaten by rod by the Gentiles 3 times, stoned and left for dead once. Jesus got off relatively easy.

      But the weekend just refers to the being dead part. From the story, it is not clear that he was in the tomb all that long after the rock was rolled into place and everybody went home, only that his body was discovered missing about 30 hours later.

    • Otto

      I think the point is that the Jesus story is held up as the ultimate sacrifice, when the suffering he dealt with does not even rank compared to the suffering others have endured. Calling it a painful weekend is an effort to counter the claim from Christians that Jesus suffered more than anyone else when in fact is does not even rank.

      • adam

        “I think the point is that the Jesus story is held up as the ultimate
        sacrifice, when the suffering he dealt with does not even rank compared
        to the suffering others have endured.”

        Jesus’s politics were about the poor, compare that to a guy whose politics are about the wealthy:

      • Even with modern pain killers, the last year or two of life today of someone dying from cancer (say) can be pretty painful. They might gladly want to trade all that for 6 hours of agony.

        • M. Reid

          I take all of y’all’s points that you were speaking of the legendary Jesus, the Jesus of the story and if he was in fact some sort of supernatural deity, that time on the cross was indeed just a blip. Although I note that most mainstream Christian traditions see Jesus as fully human as well as divine, and thus just as capable of pain as any other person. Nor am I trying to say that what he went through wasn’t also endured by the thousands of other poor bastards the Romans crucified.

          In any case, I read Gilson’s apologetic in the linked article, and it is, indeed, very weak sauce.

    • Fallulah

      As far as I can tell, the crucifixion was a fairly common punishment in those days. Jesus was surrounded by others receiving the same treatment no? So how can it be special or significant if tons of other people went through it.

      • Bob Jase

        Considering how chatty Jesus supposedly was with those being crucified alongside him it seems that crucifiction was mostly an inconvenience.

        • Greg G.

          “Hey, Peter! I can see your house from up here!”

        • al kimeea

          Always lookin on the bright side of life.

        • Greg G.

          Peter’s house was in Capernaum but Jesus could see Argentina and Japan from a mountaintop.

        • David Cromie

          Thus proving that the earth was flat! Pity he forgot to mention the scenery.

      • Aram

        The way I always heard it, it was more the intensity of the entirety of the world’s sin, before and since, entering his scrotum or whatever, that caused Jesus’ brutal suffering on the cross. But as you say, chatting conversationally away as he was, it can’t have been that bad 🙂

    • epeeist

      Wait, flogging and crucifixion is “a painful weekend”?

      Well it rather depends on whether this purported Jesus was the son of god or not doesn’t it. If he was then yes indeed, it was just a painful weekend in the existence of an eternal being. On the other hand if he was just an itinerant preacher who was being executed for sedition then it was a cruel but not uncommon punishment.

    • Joe

      If you came back to life and lived for the rest of eternity, a couple of days of torture pale into insignificance.

      • TheNuszAbides

        especially so if you were already a trinitarian entity since eternally prior to your earthly manifestation.

      • Damien Priestly

        Heck, he made the blind see again, cured lepers…JC easily could have turned off his own pain receptors for a few hours !!

    • Kevin K

      Not even that … if you believe the accounts (I don’t), then he saw Pilate in the morning, was scourged around noon-ish, and was dead well before sundown (<8 pm) — giving the characters in the fictional account time to take his body down, carry it to the suddenly volunteered MacGuffin tomb, wrap the body in fine burial linens, and have the entry way blocked with a stone(s), AND return to their homes.

    • Pofarmer

      My Great Uncle was a POW in the Phillipines. I’d say he suffered a lot more for me than Jesus did.

  • Fallulah

    Dude lost me at Mother Teresa. Eff that B!

    • That whole “let me show you how this idea is actually a historical person” seemed to have been lost on the cutting room floor.

  • This is not going to be convincing to anyone who doesn’t already believe. That’s what’s so pathetic about apologetics. They can’t imagine that there are people who don’t really deep down already believe all their crap. This doesn’t address whether there are any gods. Or whether Jesus ever existed. Or if he actually rose from the dead (which I’ll admit would be impressive if true). Or any of the other claims. Also, if I’m going to pick a hero I’d go with one of the comic book characters. Thor or Superman. Okay Supes can be a bit dull, but he’d come in handy as a pal. I even looked a little Jimmy Olsenish when I was younger!

  • primenumbers

    Of course, if they had actual evidence they’d present it. The very fact they present arguments is because they lack the actual evidence they need to convince anyone but the already converted. And that makes sense, because apologetics is not for converting people, but for making believers feel better about their faith-based beliefs.

  • Matt Cavanaugh

    We have a story that was transmitted orally for decades as it moved from Jewish culture into a new Greek culture ….

    There’s no evidence for an oral tradition. It’s an ad hoc assumption to explain away an embarrassing gap in the orthodox timeline.

    • adam

      “There’s no evidence for an oral tradition.”

      Very, very common before writing, so there was an oral tradition at the time.

      • Matt Cavanaugh

        I don’t think you understand the meaning of the word “evidence.”

        • adam

          “I don’t think you understand the meaning of the word “evidence.””

          n. A thing or things helpful in forming a conclusion or judgment:

          n.Something indicative; an outward sign:

          “In the modern era, we take for granted that the Hebrew Bible is a
          text—written words, displayed in chapters and verse. Yet biblical
          scholar William Schniedewind, the Kershaw Chair of Ancient Eastern Mediterranean Studies at UCLA, has a different view. In How the Bible Became a Book (Cambridge University Press, 2004), he explores when and why the ancient Israelite accounts—once conveyed only orally—came to be written down and attain the status of Scripture. ”

        • Matt Cavanaugh

          You’re killing me, Smalls. One man’s opinion is not evidence.

        • adam

          Of course it is.

          But here is another

          “It’s rather clear from the way that the stories develop in the gospels
          that the Christians who are writing the gospels a generation after the death of
          Jesus are doing so from a stock of oral memory, that is, stories that had been
          passed down to probably by followers.”

        • adam
        • Matt Cavanaugh

          You’re showing that oral tradition exists, not that an oral tradition about Jesus of Nazareth existed.

        • adam

          So what, you’re not even showing that Jesus of Nazareth existed.

          You sure dont seem to understand much about oral tradition and storytelling.
          Too bad, it is a very interesting subject.

        • adam

          Why would an oral tradition exist for an IMAGINARY character, when the OT character Joshua/Jesus was already around.

          In addition, if you are going to invoke Nazareth, you need to demonstrate that Nazareth existed during the time.

          “In his histories, Josephus has a lot to say about Galilee (an area of barely 900 square miles). During the first Jewish war, in the 60s AD, Josephus led a military campaign back and forth across the tiny province. Josephus mentions 45 cities and villages of Galilee – yet Nazareth not at all.

          Josephus does, however, have something to say about Japha (Yafa, Japhia), a village just one mile to the southwest of Nazareth where he himself lived for a time (Life 52). ”

        • adam

          “We have a story that was transmitted orally for decades as it moved from Jewish culture into a new Greek culture ….”
          “There’s no evidence for an oral tradition.”

          I have provided evidence for an oral tradition.

          You seem to want to move the goalposts dishonestly AFTER I scored.

          You are a christian apologist, right?

        • Matt Cavanaugh

          Seriously, are you daft? I asserted there is no evidence for an oral tradition regarding Jesus of Nazareth.

          And you think you “scored” because you point to ‘an’ instance of oral tradition existing somewhere at some point on some subject.

        • adam

          Already demonstrated.

          Oral tradition existed everywhere even after writting was popular.

          But why would there be an oral history on an IMAGINARY character in a story?

          There were no oral histories surrounding Sherlock Holmes.

        • Matt Cavanaugh

          If this is an attempt at poe, you’re not doing so well.

        • adam

          I was going to say the same about you.

        • adam

          “I asserted there is no evidence for an oral tradition regarding Jesus of Nazareth.”


          You offered no evidence, just your baseless claim

          “And you think you “scored” because you point to ‘an’ instance of oral
          tradition existing somewhere at some point on some subject.”

          No, I provided multiple instances, demonstrated that it was common at the time and that it applied to the Bible.

          So YES, you asserted.
          And I provided evidence.

          So YES, I ‘scored’ and you have been demonstrated as the LOSER.

        • Matt Cavanaugh

          You really are a very strange little person.

        • adam


          You are the one making baseless claims that you havent supported.

          Then act childish when you are demonstrated as such.

      • Pofarmer

        Just because there were oral traditions at the time, doesn’t mean that there had to be an oral tradition before something was written down. Especially if the Author is, uhm, making it up.

      • David Cromie

        The trouble with denying an oral tradition, is that in preliterate times, as our early progenitors gathered around the campfire, they told each other traditional stories that affirmed their existence as a tribe, and anchored their place in time and space. As time went on, these stories became more elaborate as more, and exciting (feats of bravery, especially with respect to their dealings with bogey men, other tribes, or the bringing down of a particularly fierce animal, for example) detail was added, and this made them all the more memorable for the listener. Eventually, some of these legends would be committed to writing, but I suggest that if one were privy to the original story, the later written version would be significantly different in detail, time and place, and in some instances almost unrecognisable. Yet the importance to the tribe would not be diminished. Why would NT myth be any different?

        • adam

          It is interesting that one of the features of storytelling is exaggeration, it is the element of the story that makes it memorable.

        • Greg G.

          Why would NT myth be any different?

          The difference between NT myth and oral tradition is that the NT myth looks very much like the available literature of the day, not oral traditions. The early epistles look like midrash of OT passages and the gospels are a mix of midrash and mimesis of OT, Greek literature (old and new), and some of the Christian literature of the day. Maybe the spit miracles are from Vespasian propaganda about his spit miracles at the Serapis temple in Egypt.

        • adam

          But it seems obvious in the non-synoptic synoptic ‘books’ that the stories changed, probably by the story tellers themselves giving/receiving oral accounts of the available literature.

          How functionally literate were people of the day?
          Surely some could read, but I would suspect that most communicated orally.

        • Greg G.

          The Epistles were sent to groups, even multiple groups, with at least one very literate person. When they quoted scriputre, they seem to have expected the reader to recognize it as scripture as not all of it had an identifier like, “it is written.”

          I think the gospels were written for literate people. Mark even has a line that says “let the reader understand”. Mark seems to be written for Romans who were educated in the Greek language as he uses Aramaic and Latin words, usually explaining the Aramaic but never the Latin. I think that where Mark tells about “Legion, for we are many,” he has a visual bilingual pun directed at the reader. In the Textus Receptus Greek version, it can be translated “he said, ‘Legion, my name, for we are many.” The Greek word for “said” is “lego” which is immediately before the name “legio” which is Latin for “many soldiers”. Actually, it is a specific number but the number varies, but Mark emphasizes that it is many with the Greek word “polys”. By putting “many” and “speak” together, he is winking at the reader about another character in Greek literature, Polyphemus, whose name means “famous”, more literally “many speak of” is made from roots where we get “polygon” and “blasphemy”. Polyphemus is the name of the Cyclops that Odysseus met.

          AIUI, mimesis was using older literature for a new story, but was not meant to make the use obscure. It was supposed to make the reader think of the older literature.

          New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash by Robert M. Price combines the work of several scholars who have found literary sources for the gospels. What is left of Mark with the literature removed is just a mention of going from site to site, adventure to adventure. Except for the parable at the end of chapter 3 through most of 4. That could be oral traditions or from some writing quoting some then famous Cynic that was not preserved. I’ve been studying Josephus’ Jewish Wars and it looks like most of the names and places could have come from that source.

          I have slowly lost confidence that the Gospel of Mark was meant to be a serious religious document. The author may have been Marcus Twainius, in an earlier incarnation.

        • adam

          “Marcus Twainius”

          I am not finding any references, spelling?

        • Greg G.

          I am comparing the author of Mark to Mark Twain.

          “Marcus Twainius” = the Roman Mark Twain

        • adam

          LOL, even google missed that.

        • Pofarmer

          So here’s a question I have, I guess. I was reading at Vridar and someone asked about when the different books were written. Neil Godfrey responded with a map from Earl Doherty’s “The Jesus Puzzle” On it, it showed where all of the Church’s in Pauls letters were located. I never really realized that hey were all in Europe and Asia. So, how likely is it that someone from Palestine would be traipsing all over Italy and Asia? Is there any evidence that Paul was ever actually in Jerusalem or Palestine? Is this some sort of Evidence that Paul may have actually been some sort of invention of Marcion? I mean, it just seems so very unlikely, in a period where most people never made it more than 5 or 10 miles from home, that you have this person traipsing hundreds and hundreds of miles and yet there’s no other record of him anywhere other than the letters to these Church’s.

        • Greg G.

          I don’t know that there would have been a lot of people of Palestine traveling like that but I expect there would be some. There were exiles all over that revered Jerusalem so it would be exciting for them to get speakers from Jerusalem and other places, I would expect. They may have had something like a revival circuit where churches have speakers come in for a series of sermons. There used to be preachers that traveled by horseback, they still travel but only the transportation has changed. So I can see that happening a few thousand years ago. 1 Corinthians 9 suggests to me that some of the churches gave financial support to these preachers, and that some preachers would try to cut out other preachers if they could.

          I think there is a subset of the epistles attributed to Paul that appear to come from the same person. I see interactions between Galatians, the Epistle of James, and Romans. I think the gospels are dependent on the early epistles, especially those epistles. I think the gospels were written in a sequence that probably would have required each to be spread and adopted until some group or person decided to change the story. I think that would take time. There are many variations in the gospels that would have taken some time to arrive at. Then we have some late epistles referring to the most recent gospel as scripture. It does not seem reasonable to me that all of those things happened within a few years of their first mention in a surviving manuscript.

          Paul’s letters only have one datable event, a mention of King Aretas who was king for nearly half a century so that leaves a wide range of possiblities, even if we assume it was King Aretas IV, but as Steve Watson has pointed out, we can’t rule out King Aretas III, either.

          Was his name Paul or is that his name like Peter was Cephas’ name? Maybe there is literature about him under his other name. Perhaps Cephas was just how Paul thought Caiaphas was spelled. Why are there so many James? The name should be Jacob and one doesn’t have to know a lot of Greek to see that.

        • Pofarmer

          This also explains how we got the euhumerized Jesus.

    • So what’s the correct timeline? Jesus dies in 33CE and Mark was written the next day? I’ve never heard that.

      • Matt Cavanaugh

        The first mention of a gospel or gospels comes c. AD 150. The Little Apocalypse is commonly interpreted as referencing the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, but persuasive arguments have been made to link it to the far more cataclysmic suppression of the War Kochba Revolt in AD 135. This ‘oral tradition’ would thus have persisted not four decades, but a century or more.

        There is no satisfactory means to date Jesus’ crucifixion — AD 33 is merely the most popular. Reconciling Pilate’s term of office with the mentions of John the Baptist and the high priests proves elusive; any year within the range of AD 28 – 34 is possible, but none are good fits.

        Given that nothing of Pilate’s actions as described in the gospels rings true, one should be hesitant to prima facie accept that Pilate had anything to do with our Jesus’ death. Aside from Pilate, all the other historical personages mentioned were active in the late 40s – 50s. (Each of them mentioned in the histories of Josephus.) Jesus’ actions, his trial and execution, also have uncanny parallels to several other messianic figures of that period (all mentioned in Josephus), as well as James (in Josephus and also as related by Hegesippus and Hippolytus). Finally, the pericope of Joseph of Arimathea bears a striking similarity to an episode in Josephus’ War. Even the name bears close similarity to the historian’s.

        The most parsimonious explanation for all these points is: GMark is a Second Century, de novo, allegorical work, carelessly larded with First Century pseudo-historical elements cribbed primarily from the works of Josephus.

        • adam

          “There is no satisfactory means to date Jesus”


        • I’ve read support from Robert M Price for the late dating of the gospels. I’ve read support from Robert G Price for the rejection of the oral history period (that Mark was built, not from oral history, but from prior literature).

        • adam

          Interesting but apologists have no trouble defending oral tradition.


        • I see a parallel between “Jesus wasn’t historical” and “The gospels aren’t the result of oral tradition but simply were written based on literature.” The Jesus story coming from an actual, real person is easy to imagine. Perhaps it’s the default position. Similarly, the Jesus story being transmitted through a period of oral tradition is also easy to imagine. It might also be the default.

          But it’s not hard to imagine either of these defaults being overturned.

          To your video: he imagines that having something at stake might make the memory more accurate. (I doubt it. It might make it more vivid, which is very much not the same thing.) I personally heard from a friend a semi-life-or-death story that happened to him in which the story was dramatically misremembered. He also assumes the story when he imagines disciples who actually hung out with Jesus misremembering the story. (Uh, nope–we go in the opposite direction, from evidence to Jesus actually existing.)

          And then he hilariously relates how his grandchild will correct him if he reads a bedtime story wrong. (Yeah, and where’s the corrective analog in oral history? Where’s the written authority you can consult? And when two people disagree on an oral story, how do you decide who’s right??)

          It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

        • Otto

          I could certainly see a situation where there was oral traditions where Jesus was a spiritual being but then later was made into history. It could be both.

  • Mr. A

    If I am understanding this correctly, the argument is that Jesus is too perfct not to be real. If so, it’s essentially just a rehashed version of the Ontological Argument.

    • With the Ontological Argument, it’s not really obvious what the error is, and they kinda seem to have actually defined God into existence.

      With this argument, however, they don’t even have any pretense of providing evidence. They just assume Jesus. It’s hard to believe that the Ontological Argument is actually better than anything, but I think it’s better than this one.

      • MNb

        “it’s not really obvious what the error is”
        Until you see it.
        The Ontological Argument concludes an omni-everything god. That means both maximally, perfectly benevolent and maximally, perfectly malevolent. That’s incoherent.

        • Greg G.

          But it is maximally incoherent.

    • adam

      ” the argument is that Jesus is too perfct not to be real.”

      Yep, that seems to be the argument.

    • Michael Neville

      Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

      • adam

        My thoughts exactly.

    • I assume you’re saying that Jesus did reject genocide somehow, but I have no idea what your argument is.

  • Raul Miller

    I can disprove Jesus in two words…Pediatric Oncologist. As long as there’s a need for them, then a loving magical sky being being with the power to do anything non-contradictory, can be assumed to be non-existent.

    • That might be called the Stephen Fry argument. I agree–very convincing. Another: “the Holocaust.”

      • Raul Miller

        Yes, the Holocaust is another prime example. Kind of hard to believe you have a covenant with god when it idly stands by and watches millions of people be butchered. I think you have to start with more emotional types of arguments with religious folks, as they say, you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into. Thanks for the work you do here Bob, I really appreciate the site.

    • Nick G

      My favourite two-word refutation is “Guinea worm”. Of course, it’s not going to work if you happen to be debating theology with a Guinea worm.

      • And Guinea worm is about to be eradicated, no thanks to the Almighty. Kinda like smallpox and rinderpest, which were eradicated thanks to science and human effort. Hopefully, soon to be polio (I’d say “God willing,” but that would only be for humorous effect).

        They say the caduceus symbol came from the treatment for Guinea worm:

    • Max Doubt

      “I can disprove Jesus in two words…Pediatric Oncologist.”

      That may convince you your Jesus doesn’t exist. Obviously the Jesuses most Christians imagine aren’t vulnerable to the weakness you’ve attributed to yours.

      • Jane Ravenswood

        alas, those Jesuses are vulnerable to the same weakness. The Christians just invent reasons why it’s perfectly find for their god to do nothing.

        • Max Doubt

          “alas, those Jesuses are vulnerable to the same weakness.”

          If that was true, when informed that children get cancer, people who believe Jesus exists would shed their belief.

          “The Christians just invent reasons why it’s perfectly find for their god to do nothing.”

          Which is exactly saying their Jesuses aren’t vulnerable to the existence of pediatric oncologists. Children get cancer. There are doctors working to prevent and cure it. People who believe Jesuses exist are typically aware of that. Typically they still believe their Jesuses exist in spite of that awareness. Raul’s proof works to slay the Jesus Raul imagines. Obviously it doesn’t have the power to slay everyone else’s Jesuses.

        • Raul Miller

          “If that was true, when informed that children get cancer, people who believe Jesus exists would shed their belief.”

          Hmm, only if they were rational about such things; unfortunately they embrace and promote an irrationality which is impervious to logic. Really nothing to be proud of, mind you.

          “Which is exactly saying their Jesuses aren’t vulnerable to the existence of pediatric oncologists. Children get cancer. There are doctors working to prevent and cure
          it. People who believe Jesuses exist are typically aware of that. Typically they still believe their Jesuses exist in spite of that awareness. Raul’s proof
          works to slay the Jesus Raul imagines. Obviously it doesn’t have the power to slay everyone else’s Jesuses.”

          Oh trust me; I understand that “Old Country Buffet Jesus” has a dish for everyone and every occasion. But playing whack-a-mole with all those conflicting attributes of JesusGod is no way to spend one’s life.

    • hermes brookover

      Brother, you hit the nail on the head with that one. well done.

  • Jack Baynes

    So Superman is real, too?

    • Michael Neville

      Of course Superman is real. You never hear or see anything about crime in Metropolis because Superman stops the criminals before they can do anything. It’s the same thing with Batman and Gotham City.

  • I don’t find his argument to be novel. It’s nonsensical and self-refuting. People’s stories of their deities are like a gas that expands to fill its container. A deity (or messiah or whatever) will magically become whatever its followers need. Gilson needs Jesus to be powerful and self-sacrificial? Hey, presto, he is…to Gilson. But these are self-contradictory qualities. Is Jesus the creator of all things as was added to the later Gospels? If he is, then what could he possibly sacrifice and to whom? If he could possibly be sacrificed then he’s not the all powerful being. What Gilson really needs is for the Gospels to be true, so he can go on believing. He needs a god so super-duper that he can create a rock too big for himself to lift, that’s fine for him. I don’t see how it has any bearing on the historicity of the texts themselves. I don’t even need to know what’s in the Gospels to know it’s BS.

  • Sam Mullins

    Foreword (meaning Forwarding and/or Furthering)_

    Perhaps reader-friendliness is enhanced by shifting this paragraph into the foreword position now. Language translators should appreciate my omitting non-cursing cuss-words within my comment this time. Surprisingly wonderful I can add more, edit, maybe even read something from God’s mystery-history channels! I’ll try revealing more thereby improver adjectives and glossary refinement. When composition-capable within this comment, answering elsewhere’s worthy points by referencing page, paragraph, sentence-lines Etc is expected among furthering re-systemisations. Perhaps¿ identifying summaries or cover pages with the expectation of replies and expoundings dialoged, will be less confusing than God’s holiest word, the Bible. Could it be possible some of God’s unfulfilled Creator-family gets their quality-control feedback expoundings via prayer-dialogue? Please do not drop out before I get back: As extremely slow handicap within all my lifetime departments; If this reading is not open-minded sober minded faith-technique adequacy, remember that religious hierarchy politically executed Jesus for his being too nonreligious of a FAITHer.

    page-1 aka pg-1_
    Ironically speaking what if Christianity knows almost nothing about Christ? According to my experimental research, religions are Satan’s most subtle tool. Especially during impressionable formative years my visiting religious pretender church was/is/ always -will-be devastating against my life, except contingency rehearsed along with standby group-attendance neighborhood package of authentic faithing-neighboring Spirit church (soon to be re-prototyped and re-activated) after a 1700 year dormancy.

    • David Cromie

      What the hell is your pretentious word salad actually about? As it stands, it is pure BS!

      • Phil Rimmer

        Its a signal to his remaining friends to get him back on the SSRIs as quickly as possible.

        • Sam Mullins

          Could you have meant to say word-garbage, instead of “word-salad” compliment about my complementings? At least I am not hypocritically hiding mind-reader cuss-word mysteries behind abbreviations. Are SSRIs identically equal to BS? Perhaps both you and David Cromie can explain what SSRIs are about?

        • Phil Rimmer

          I never uttered the phrase “word salad”.

          Both my schizophrenic friends write like you when they have skipped their meds. SSRIs are often used in conjunction with anti-psychotics. I was not being snide but suggesting (obliquely) that the others back off in their comments.

          I think salad is kinder. There appears meaning in there, but it is so tossed arround none of us can tell.

        • Sam Mullins

          Prejudiced generalizations are a waste of my comment-attention span. I am snidely insinuating both you and David have not yet commented. If you two despise sincere efforts, then compare my first comment if y’all saved a copy to my later edits.

          If honest about “appears”, perhaps you can identify the smidgen perceptible for your indicating my details lacking refinement? The article that twisted y’all into silliness is very intriguing for my entertainment. If I ever find it, perhaps that article explains everyone’s silliness damages. One heavenly faith tradition is, profit margins increase most from investing into poorest properties. It is okay for waiting until I show you predicament-prisoners how to get un-jipped away from your faked-up realities. I almost dialoged non-cursing cuss-words, but y’all continue resisting gilt-conscienced dismay, as I am not prone to enriching your big-pharma stocks.

        • Phil Rimmer

          Sorry, Sam. That doesn’t help me much.I simply don’t understand. I have Aspergers and I am rather poor at telling what other people mean sometimes.

          Do your friends understand you better? Is it newly difficult to get people to understand you?

        • Sam Mullins

          Guess we swap dodgings of questions indicative who is most trivial minded contestant. Shifting more mysterious than ever, I don’t like the article either. Somebody has to write convoluted garbage and I’m glad it was not me that time. And I think Christ deserves better than Christianity’s mis-interpretations. I think that was a disservice to my relationships with others and myself.

          I am unordinarily insane, requiring neighborly interplays in person before familiarity conveniences translatable contexts. Nevertheless my attractive qualities instantly hooks most into sentimental welcomes, being open without advanced announcement, but I like notifications for advancing planning ability. I like folks becoming nice to selves first. Distant future whenever I visit this forum again for explaining my hard-earned discoveries, I will entertain your extremely off-topic interest too. It will be on my lowest list of entertainments.

        • Phil Rimmer

          Thank you, Sam. It may be you, or it may be me, but it is starting to feel a little like tuning a radio station in.

          If it ever gets to seem too fuzzy for fun my two friends can rein it back in with those tablets. One’s a playwright. One’s a poet. They like to dance on the edge often times but they keep a friend to hand to tell them to take their meds when they get too close to that edge.

          A bientot.

        • Sam Mullins

          Whether you medicate with synthetic, homeopathic, or you are more bientot than Phil. He blames me for my skilless writing, meaningless, or message error. I can’t get any detail for dialog out of either of you. So how can I ever edit it into your satisfaction? I wanted to explain but why waste all our time in kangaroo court?

          If oxygen depletion damaged someone’s brain at birth, would I dialog questions and comparisons for understanding, or continue condescending schmooze disguisingwith charm? Are you in the habit of spamming medicine cabinet informations, or investigating doctor patient relationships?

          The Human Experience University of adversity-reality imposed by religiosities are what sickened me. Most simply cannot be fixed by chemistry, but displacing their confusion with their original business purpose feasibility instead of the faked-up niche reality they settled for. Fixing vane-futility is not my job. Poetically speaking- Getting my life re-systematized is my primary concern. My life and not your officious satisfaction out of depriving others from wellness. Are occult defined by stealthy religions? The biggest hypocrisy in my lifetime has been peer-pressurized consciousness. Biggest narcissists I’ve observed are them whom judge/condemn conditions, intentions, and methods without ever even favouring you within the boundary of your challenge.

          Enduring my first clientship withi them, ie contaminated-conversion was basicly analogous to their, or accurately generations of convoluted confusions, evidently confirmed by global societal permiation. Not only them whom are persnickety but everyone is off-balanced!! I might be crazy but that does not require stupidity. Perhaps I wanted a peek through through the facade of the consensus. Sacred-cow idolaters cannot resist opposing someone who destabilizes their sinfully religious dependence upon my compliance. My sincere pursuits hmmmm what was I about to say, oh boy yes. My sincere pursuits will not be obstructed longer by you two fine champions. You just lost the least snobbish person you will ever have failed to disagree with!!! And I mean it!

      • Sam Mullins

        If you cannot interpret any of it, how can you hint with clueless prejudice? I cannot re-edit flaws any further without your itemization.

        • David Cromie

          Is English not your first language?

        • Sam Mullins

          I do have broken communicator synapses. It is okay for prescriptions to improve your and Phil’s expression synapses, thus far you got jipped on the reading comprehension dosage. Do you preside over a mind reader cult? Because I have edited all your telepathic possibilities within my guesser-ability, unless you sober up enough to elaborate your ambiguous non-critique.

  • Tom Gilson has responded to my post. I haven’t read it yet. Here it is, FYI:

  • This somewhat more detailed criticism of Tom Gilson’s argument against the Legend hypothesis might be of interest here:

    • Thanks for the link.

    • Kevin K

      Interesting…Gilson is apparently hanging his theological hat on the concept that Jesus never used his superpowers for his own benefit…

      Got resurrection, anyone?

      Of course, one could also argue that Jesus benefited from the wine he created at the cheapskate’s wedding. And probably had a crumb of bread and a bite of fish from the loaves and fishes … why starve, after all? And certainly, calming the waters of the storm before walking on water was for his benefit as well as the foundering vessel … who wants to drown when a cross awaits!

      And raising Lazarus from the dead … what would be the point if not for Jesus to see his friend alive once again? Everyone else in the tale seems to be resigned to the fact that the man is gone.

      Methinks Gilson hasn’t thought that concept all the way through.

      • Gilson certainly hasn’t thought it through, but it’s tricky saying that Jesus benefited from his actions, since a Christian could say that those benefits were only accidental; Jesus’s intent would always have been to benefit others. This is the debate between moralists and psychological egoists. When we help others, are we really doing so just to make us feel better and thus to help ourselves, so that selflessness becomes impossible? These are the sorts of points Gilson could make.

        I think there are much more damaging criticisms of his argument, though. The notion of a character who acts as the perfect human sacrifice was indeed invented by Isaiah (the suffering servant of chapter 53), which in turn was based on the experience of the ancient Jews who suffered under various conquerors and yet clung to their faith in a God who viewed them as his favourites. Also, Jesus’s character shifts in the prophecies of his return to judge mankind and to act as the more conventional messiah, so Christians get to have it both ways. In any case, Gilson’s representation of the Legend hypothesis is just a strawman, for the reasons I go over in the article.

        • Kevin K

          “Accidental”? How does that work when you’re talking about the avatar of the omniscient, omnipotent creator of the universe?

          It doesn’t make any sense if you’re talking about Jesus-as-deity, who, as Gilson claims, had foreknowledge of everything that was going to happen to him. Which includes both the bloody execution and the resurrection. Without foreknowledge of the latter, the former makes no sense.

        • Sorry, I meant to say “incidental,” as in the benefit to Jesus would have been a biproduct but not the intended outcome of his action. The resurrection, for example, would have been meant as part of the effort to save all humanity, by giving us hope that we can conquer death if we follow Jesus. The point is that it’s possible that an action can be selfless even though it benefits the person performing the action as well as the intended target of the action. So that particular counterargument isn’t so cut and dried.

        • Greg G.

          The cursing of the fig tree didn’t benefit anybody except for allowing Jesus to blow off steam.

          Of course that is not the purpose of the vignette. Mark wrote the story in a chiastic format so Jesus gets mad at the tree, then he gets mad at the temple, and later they discovered the tree withered. It creates an analogy where Mark’s Roman readers would fill in the blank with the recollection of the destruction of the temple and the city.

        • That is indeed a notorious passage of the New Testament. It makes Jesus look petty, but as you point out, the cursing of the fig tree is likely meant to explain his actions at the temple. So a Christian could likewise say the point of the curse wasn’t so Jesus could let off steam, even if it did have that side effect. The point, rather, was to keep his followers with him even after he took extreme action against the temple. And again, the reason he needed followers was to initiate the movement that was meant to save humanity from hell (selflessness). The Christian will be able to interpret virtually any such troublesome passage as having at least this sort of double meaning, which makes this not the best counterargument against Gilson’s criticism of the Legend hypothesis. Luckily, this counterargument isn’t needed, because his argument stinks for various reasons.

        • Greg G.

          Just think how much mayhem Jesus would have caused at the temple had he not blown off some steam! 8o)

          Another cool sandwich is Peter’s denial of Jesus in the courtyard surrounding Jesus being slapped around at trial and ordered to “Prophesy!” while his prophecy is being fulfilled.

        • There are plenty of “cool sandwiches” in the New Testament that should embarrass especially the secularized Christian and the inerrantist. But this issue in Gilson’s argument is different. Gilson wants to conclude that the New Testament picture of Jesus is generally accurate, but I don’t think he has to assume inerrancy. His silly point is that Jesus is Lord because no one could have invented such an exemplary character as the one generally portrayed in the Bible. Were Jesus’s prophesy of Peter’s denial of him fulfilled, that would only support Gilson’s argument.

          I hadn’t heard that amusing phrase before, “cool sandwich.”

        • Kevin K

          Thinking that’s a distinction without a difference. And frankly, the resurrection would of necessity have to benefit Jesus as a primary purpose — again, otherwise the entire exercise is pointless.

          Without the myth of the resurrection, we all would be lighting candles to Apollo right now.

        • Kodie

          Except for the Jews.

        • Why would the resurrection otherwise have had to be pointless? I told you what the Christian purpose of it was: to serve as “part of the effort to save all humanity, by giving us hope that we can conquer death if we follow Jesus.” And then right after you say the resurrection was pointless besides its benefit to Jesus, you say that without the resurrection Christianity wouldn’t have endured. So you’re implying that the resurrection could have had the selfless purpose of saving humanity via our faith in Christianity.

          The fact that Jesus would have necessarily benefited from the resurrection doesn’t mean that that benefit was its intended purpose. The personal benefit might still have been a necessary side effect, an incidental benefit that was irrelevant to the primary purpose of Jesus’s coming to earth to save us from the punishment for our sins. Of course, none of that actually happened, so it’s all nonsense. But I’m pretty sure this would be the Christian’s best response.

        • David Cromie

          The biblical myths are constructed with the belief that humans have a special affinity for the supernatural. Thus, when the biblical myths were being concocted, people would have been ignorant, illiterate, and superstitious, but that is not universally true today. However, there are now still many religiots in the world, but their number is decreasing year on year, leaving the fundamentalists more and more isolated and angry. The Great Orange Maggot, and its henchmen, are now seen as their last great hope for a mandated theocracy, and, unfortunately, so far they are being given succour from that quarter, as more and more religiot morons come crawling out of their sewers as candidates for election, at both State and national levels.

        • The little flaw that conservative voters don’t seem to notice is that the GOP is not at all motivated to solve any problems (abortion, immigrants, teh gays, whatever). Once you solve a problem, there’s nothing to point to when you declare that the sky is falling and that as a politician, you’re the last hope to return some sanity to the world.

      • Gilson wrote a rebuttal (link below) a few weeks ago. In summary, it’s: “It’d be interesting to see how an atheist responds to my fabulous argument, but Seidensticker’s attempt ain’t it!”

        He says I don’t understand his argument. I’m sure that any blog response of mine would be met with, “Nope! Try again.” If you have the patience to read his argument, let me know if you see anything important that I’ve missed.

        • MR

          To me it reads like one of those naive, “This story left me breathless, and it should you, too!” kind of arguments. The story is unique, therefore true? M’eh. What story isn’t unique in some way, and besides, it’s not that unique. Even if it were, it’s still a huge gulf to get to being true. Once again, I’m supposed to be convinced about a story about a guy who supposedly lived 2,000 years ago but who is supposedly also still alive today, yet seems powerless to unambiguously manifest himself? Why does an all powerful Master-of-the-Fucking-Universe even need to be supported by a questionable 2,000 year old story in the first place?

        • It underwhelmed me as well.

        • Kodie

          Was Travis actually banned? I don’t remember among the flurry of quite a few indistinct (some quite distinct, though) Christians of late, which one he was. He claims to have trapped you into admitting something that sounded like objective morality, and then got perma-banned. I don’t really have a clear memory of Travis, but he manages to sound quite subdued and offer intelligent critique to Tom (within the parameters of Christianity. I mean, he cleans up nicely, sounds like exactly the kind of thoughtful Christian you’d want here, but behaved like an ass instead. I mean, most of the ones in recent memory have offered zero substance. I would have remembered someone who could put a couple paragraphs together without turning into an isolated homeschooler while mom’s off grocery shopping.

          Ok, one of ours drew out a link to a subthread here, and what an illiterate asshole Travis can be when he wants to be. What caught my eye in his first post on the comments there was that he accepts the premise and the conclusion, but Tom G, the argument sucks. Is there any other way to be a Christian, I wonder.

        • Travis @Probably_a_bot was banned 23 days ago.

          Yes, he misinterpreted something that I said so that he imagined a contradiction.

        • Kodie

          I remember that happened, but I couldn’t remember who that was. Travis at Gilson’s blog comments like a literate person, not that I agree with them. Why do they come here and act all like trolls? That’s another layer of dishonesty that I had not considered, because he not only misrepresented you, he misrepresented himself to us, and misrepresented himself to Tom Gilson with regard to how he bested you in argument. It was just his fucking imagination. He didn’t have to get banned – he seems over there like the kind of Christian you want to attract.

          Such a shame when Christians are consciously lying like that. I had hoped it was a little bit more an effect of all the dogma, and they didn’t realize they were doing it (about half the time).

        • David Cromie

          Lying for JC is a great christer tradition, don’t dare knock it!

        • Kodie

          I guess I just took it for granted that when someone acts like a doofus for Jesus, that’s the best they can do. Then he goes back to his papa and lies to his face about how it went down, I knew that would happen. I guess it doesn’t matter either way.

        • Kevin K

          I read it. Impressive it wasn’t.