Fallible Memories and the Development of Legend

Fallible Memories and the Development of Legend August 31, 2018

A few years ago, a writer colleague told me an amazing personal story about the fallibility of memory. He was in high school some 40 years earlier, and one day the creek behind his school flooded after heavy rain. He and some classmates jumped in and rode the river downstream.

Unfortunately, a hidden branch caught his collar and pulled him under the rushing water, and he wasn’t able to disentangle himself. It might have been a sad day for our hero but for a nearby girl who was able to yank him free.

Decades later, an anthology of stories from those days was put together and the female classmate wrote the story of the impromptu trip down the river and the fortunate rescue, but in her version, he saved her!

There’s a big difference between a vivid memory and an accurate one. This fact is too often forgotten when apologists argue that the gospel story made it intact through 40 years of oral history. If you saw a man raised from the dead, they say, wouldn’t you remember that with crystal clarify?

You might indeed have a vivid or even a confident memory of something, but we can’t be sure it was accurate. Let’s look at other examples of overconfident but imperfect memories.

Example 2: Challenger memory experiment (1992)

The day after the Challenger space shuttle exploded in 1986, a professor ask 106 freshmen students to fill out a questionnaire with details of their perception of the event—where they were, what they were doing, when it happened, and so on. Two and a half years later, he re-surveyed many of those students with the same questionnaire, also asking how confident they were with each of their answers.

Taking the original set of answers as correct, the accuracy of the answers scored 42%, but the students’ average confidence in the accuracy was 83%. Here again, these vivid memories weren’t especially accurate.

(I certainly remember what I was doing when I heard the news of the explosion. Well, at least I think I do. . . .)

Once the questionnaires were answered, the professor showed the students their original answers, but many stuck with their current answers. One student even declared, “That’s my handwriting, but that’s not what happened.”

This challenges the popular flashbulb memory model that “high emotional arousal, in conjunction with surprise, stress, and significance, will produce a vivid, accurate memory of the moment someone learns of an event.”

Example 3: What Jennifer saw

Jennifer Thompson was raped one July night in 1984. She took careful mental notes of the characteristics of her attacker and felt confident when she picked Ronald Cotton out of a lineup. On little more than her testimony, Cotton was convicted.

After more than ten years in prison, DNA evidence cleared Cotton. Thompson had been wrong. Eyewitness testimony is simply not especially reliable.

Thompson and Cotton have reconciled, have written a book together about forgiveness and the unreliability of memory, and have made presentations together.

(I’ve also written about the search for Miss Ames and what it reveals about confident memories here.)

Other examples

People’s stories are unreliable for lots of reasons including poor memory and self-delusion.

  • Hundreds of “heroes” who claim to have won the Medal of Honor actually haven’t, and a Library of Congress project to document veterans’ personal war stories is full of errors, including false military rank and false claims of being a prisoner of war.
  • During the 1980 presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan repeatedly told a story about a heroic World War II bomber pilot that actually came from the 1944 film, “A Wing and a Prayer,” and Hillary Clinton’s account of a frightening 1996 landing in Bosnia under enemy fire (when First Lady) wasn’t the way others remembered it.
  • You’d think that records and memories of U.S. nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific in the 1940s and 50s would be trustworthy, but a project to document this history has run into biased accounts and incorrect memories.
  • Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011, but there are already competing accounts about how it happened.
  • The problem of unreliable memories used as courtroom evidence has prompted a reevaluation of how they should best be used.

We’re all familiar with these kinds of problems. We all likely remember times when our own vivid memories have crashed into embarrassing and incontrovertible facts. Researchers have identified many specific memory errors including source confusion (the problem in the floating-down-the-river story above or with Reagan’s confusion about the film), suggestibility (accepting others’ erroneous versions), bias (changing the past to make it more like today or to heighten the differences), transience (forgetting over time), false memories (false histories implanted as memories), and more.

You can write a gospel, too!

Commenter Richard S. Russell proposed a challenge to simulate the difficulty of being the author of a gospel 40 years after the Resurrection. Think about an important event from our society 40 years ago that would be easy to fact check—say the U.S. presidential election of 1972. Who were the candidates, and who won the party nominations? What were the major issues, what were the party platforms, and what was each candidate’s position? What major gaffes or successes did each side have? What current events affected the election? Feel free to consult your friends but use memories only and no media or written sources.

Take your time and write it all down in order. Now compare it to what really happened. How well did you do?

This thought experiment only begins to highlight the difficulty because even though you didn’t consult authoritative sources such as news stories or encyclopedia articles, we brush up against those sources continually. We hear dozens of incidental clues each year about Johnson or Nixon or Vietnam, and these help keep our memories from straying. Gospel authors would’ve had no such help.

Christians like to claim that the gospels are eyewitness testimony, but what use is that claim? In the first place, there are few clues that the gospels were written by eyewitnesses (more here and here), and in the second, eyewitness testimony is unreliable. The argument for historical reliability of the New Testament is built on sand.

If you’re a black Christian,
you have a real short memory.
— Chris Rock

.

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 11/12/14.)

Image via Kurtis Garbutt, CC license

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  • Bob Jase

    Eyewitness testimony is too subject to mis-remembering, confabulation and just plain lying (for multiple reasons) to be trusted. Be skeptical of everything you read or think you remember.

    Where was I when the Challenger exploded? Probable asleep because I was working nights at the time.

    Where was I when 911 happened? Driving down to West Haven fo a conference that quickly got cancelled shortly after I arrived. What was the conference about? Damned if I can recall.

    When JFK was shot – I was in school. All the students were sent home without being told why. I expect having a bunch of crazy happy kids running home to celebrate a short school day was unappreciated by those folks waiting at home for them by many of us, including me, went home to empty apartments.

    • Anne Fenwick

      I think it’s easier for many people to remember stuff about 911 than Challenger, because while Challenger might have shocked us, 911 made an immediate difference in that the plans of people who were quite unconnected to the event itself got changed. Just as your conference was cancelled, we ended up with guests for a few extra days because all the international flights were cancelled. But at the time itself, we had been diverted to a pub’s television by strangers who recognized our guest’s American accents. Despite knowing the area quite well, my husband and I agree that we have no idea which pub we went in to. We were in shock of course.

  • epicurus

    Bart Ehrman’s book “Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior” is a good read on this topic of memory.

    • Pofarmer

      Which commits the fallacy of assuming the consequent right off the bat.

  • Grimlock

    First off, this is a fun section from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:

    The story of Fred and George’s flight to freedom was retold so often over the next few days that Harry could tell it would soon become the stuff of Hogwarts legend: within a week, even those who had been eye-witnesses were half convinced they had seen the twins dive-bomb Umbridge on their brooms and pelt her with Dungbombs before zooming out of the doors.

    Taking the original set of answers as correct, the accuracy of the answers scored 42%, but the students’ average confidence in the accuracy was 83%.

    Quick point. I think that using these two different percentage measures are slightly misleading. The first is something that can be measured accurately, but the second one is – I assume – a measure of how confident the subjects were, using their own percentage-measures. And last I checked, humans are notoriously bad at assessing probabilities and using them properly. For instance, if we have four likely outcomes, and we give some probability to each of them, the sum of the percentages is likely to be more than 100 %.

    (Though this doesn’t really impact the main point, about how a high confidence is misleading.)

    Think about an important event from our society 40 years ago that would be easy to fact check—say the U.S. presidential election of 1972. Who were the candidates, and who won the party nominations? What were the major issues, what were the party platforms, and what was each candidate’s position? What major gaffes or successes did each side have? What current events affected the election? Feel free to consult your friends but use memories only and no media or written sources.

    I like this challenge! However, I suspect that a Christian might leap on how it’s not quite the same as the stories in the gospels, with the important difference being that while this is an important event, it’s not (probably) something that was important to the ones performing the challenge.

    Indeed, a Christian might use this to defend any minor historical errors in the gospels as simply a lapse in memory, but that the important parts are accurate.

    There are at least two ways to respond to this. One would be to point out, as you did when talking about the study about the Challenger explosion, that the importance of an event doesn’t seem to matter that much. Another would be to modify the challenge to be about a somewhat public event that was important to you, and that you experienced first-hand. Ideally 40 years ago, though for some of us it’s going to be tricky to go quite that far back.

  • Jim Jones

    Ronald Reagan remembers helping free the people in places like Buchenwald.

    The closest he got was developing film of the events while working in Hollywood.

    > the gospel story made it intact through 40 years of oral history.

    40? Anything from 100 to 400 years.

    • ThaneOfDrones

      Almost Everything We Know About the Earliest Copies of the New Testament Is Wrong

      The tale of this manuscript is told and dismantled in the recently released God’s Library (Yale, 2018), a tour de force from Brent Nongbri, a renowned expert on early Christian manuscripts. ..
      “With Christian manuscripts,” he (Nongbri) added, “there is a temptation to try to restrict a date to the early end of the range because we all would love to have artifacts that bring us closer in time to Jesus and his
      earliest followers. But for reasons I outline in the book, pretending that we can be so precise doesn’t really own up to all the complexities of how we assign dates to manuscripts.”

  • eric

    The disjoint between the unreliability of eyewitness testimony and our self-confidence in our own memories is a serious problem. But it’s a problem mostly for the justice system. IMO a much bigger problem for theology is when it contradicts the known laws of physics. Consider: if the gospels were fully consistent in their depictions of events, would that in any way make you believe someone (or many people) rose from the dead? The fallibility of the eyewitness testimony is not the sticking point in these stories.

  • Ctharrot

    Funny coincidence. I recently asked Triggerman1976 about the account of the miraculous preservation of Delphi given by Herodotus in Book VIII of the Histories, and it’s a perfect example of the speed with which legend can form.

    Here’s how Herodotus describes the event only three or four decades after it purportedly happened around 480 BCE:

    * * *

    Now when the Delphians heard what danger they were in, great fear fell on them. In their terror they consulted the oracle concerning the holy treasures, and inquired if they should bury them in the ground, or carry them away to some other country. The god [Apollo], in reply, bade them leave the treasures untouched- “He was able,” he said, “without help to protect his own.” So the Delphians, when they received this answer, began to think about saving themselves. And first of all they sent their women and children across the gulf into Achaea; after which the greater number of them climbed up into the tops of Parnassus, and placed their goods for safety in the Corycian cave; while some effected their escape to Amphissa in Locris. In this way all the Delphians quitted the city, except sixty men, and the Prophet.

    When the barbarian assailants drew near and were in sight of the place, the Prophet, who was named Aceratus, beheld, in front of the temple, a portion of the sacred armour, which it was not lawful for any mortal hand to touch, lying upon the ground, removed from the inner shrine where it was wont to hang. Then went he and told the prodigy to the Delphians who had remained behind. Meanwhile the enemy pressed forward briskly, and had reached the shrine of Minerva Pronaia, when they were overtaken by other prodigies still more wonderful than the first. Truly it was marvel enough, when warlike harness was seen lying outside the temple, removed there by no power but its own; what followed, however, exceeded in strangeness all prodigies that had ever before been seen. The barbarians had just reached in their advance the chapel of Minerva Pronaia, when a storm of thunder burst suddenly over their heads- at the same time two crags split off from Mount Parnassus, and rolled down upon them with a loud noise, crushing vast numbers beneath their weight- while from the temple of Minerva there went up the war-cry and the shout of victory.

    All these things together struck terror into the barbarians, who forthwith turned and fled. The Delphians, seeing this, came down from their hiding-places, and smote them with a great slaughter, from which such as escaped fled straight into Boeotia. These men, on their return, declared (as I am told) that besides the marvels mentioned above, they witnessed also other supernatural sights. Two armed warriors, they said, of a stature more than human, pursued after their flying ranks, pressing them close and slaying them.

    * * *

    Either a wonderous fiction developed quickly enough within a few decades to be recounted as factual by Herodotus, or the gods actually did intervene and smite the Persians. I know which option my money’s on.

  • Lark62

    Human memories are totally unreliable.

    If humans were created by an all powerful deity, it would know that.

    Then the time came for the deity to come to earth and get all sacrificed and declare that only those who accepted said sacrifice would escape eternal torture. Ok. And it arranged it so that what is supposedly the most important event in all of history went pretty much unnoticed by everyone. Ok. And the only evidence for this most important event in all of history is hand-me-down stories written decades after the fact.

    What a fucking screw up.

    • Grimlock

      Human memories are totally unreliable.

      I’m just gonna take this and run with it. Totally off-topic, but here goes. (Sorry.)

      Y’all know Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism, right? The appeal that it’s implausible that our cognitive faculties are reliable if the evolved through unguided natural selection. But that argument, besides its other flaws, seem to rely on a premise that our cognitive faculties are in fact reliable. So how about a counter-argument?

      1. If the Christian God exists, he would bestow upon us reliable cognitive faculties.
      2. Our cognitive faculties ain’t reliable.
      3. The Christian God doesn’t exist.

      Awww…

      (Okay, in full seriousness, I expect that (2) is somewhat more nuanced in at least some of the versions of the EAAN, e.g. by only appealing to our metaphysical intuitions or some such. But I don’t see why a similar counter-argument, though more nuanced, couldn’t be constructed in those cases as well.)

    • Rudy R

      Ye of little faith!

  • Ficino

    I’ve been thinking about I Cor 15:5. My thoughts have I’m sure been anticipated many times. Paul says that the risen Jesus “was seen/appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.” Then to others, last to himself, i.e. Paul.

    So, assuming Jesus was in fact crucified, let’s say Peter has a vision and is convinced that Jesus is risen, whether spiritually or bodily. In great excitement, and with pride at being the leader, he tells others. They get into the mindset. Then other disciples in the inner circle report that they, too, have “seen” the risen Jesus. Paul does not tell us that Jesus appeared to The Twelve all at once.

    So it seems believable that when the leaders all convinced themselves and each other that they’d had authenticating visions – and let’s assume they did have visions – then the rest would follow. There isn’t need to suppose that they were lying. They could really believe this.

    Well over a generation later, the Sunday morning narratives had taken form, but details continued to be added after the narrative got its first exposure. E.g. Matthew’s many additions, Luke’s different ones.

    Does this thin scenario give enough to neutralize the “they wouldn’t die for what they knew was a lie” argument?

    • Pofarmer

      All right, let’s deal with this. First let’s pick some nits. By equating Peter with Cephas you are reading the Gosples into the Episltes. By the writing of Paul, there is no connection between the two, so quit doing it. Lol.

      Next, let’s see what Paul says here.

      15 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

      3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve. 6 After
      that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters
      at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have
      fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

      9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

      A couple of Arguments. First of all, Paul, never, ever, anywhere else, mentions either the Twelve, or the 500. Truth Surge, on the You Tube series “Excavating the Empty tomb” makes an excellent argument that this passage is interpolated, and probably originally read like this.

      5 and that he appeared to Cephas,[b]7 Then he appeared to James, 8 and
      last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

      This is in line with all of the rest of Paul’s writings. There are scholarly arguments available if you desire to look them up.

      O.k. Next, how does Paul say he came to know Jesus?

      11For I certify to you, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not devised by man. 12I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

      He says that Jesus was “revealed” to him in the scriptures. He then says that he “appeared” to Cephas and James in the same way. In other words, they found Jesus by reading the Hebrew Scriptures, which would have been quite common.

      Jesus never appeared to “The Twelve” Paul doesn’t know anything about “The Twelve.”

      Cephas and James probably either died in the sacking of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. or before. At any rate, their sect of Christianity died out. There isn’t any actual indication of how Paul died, other than rumors in Acts. He may have well simply died of old age. Ditto the other apostles, there isn’t any actual record of them ever, ya know, existing. There is much more evidence for them being characters in a yarn.

      Does this thin scenario give enough to neutralize the “they wouldn’t die for what they knew was a lie” argument?

      It’s a stupid argument in the first place. People die for lies all the time. Often it begins with “Hold my beer and watch this.” But, seriously, people die for false beliefs, especially religious beliefs constantly, because, if you’re an atheist, you might very well believe that “all” religious beliefs are false. Christians certainly believe all them other guys beliefs are false, but they have, throughout history, been willing to die for those beliefs. It’s a bankrupt argument from the start. Would people die for their beliefs if they believed the found their Christ that was going to give them eternal life in the scriptures? Hell yes they would.

      • Greg G.

        Ehrman wrote a paper that questioned whether Cephas and Peter were the same person but later recanted. I think they are the same person but I am also open to the possibility that Cephas is a short form of Caiaphas or a misspelling by Paul. I am open to the possibility that the James who was killed by Ananus in Antiquities 20 may well be the James in Galatians and 1 Corinthians even though I think the “brother of Jesus, the one called Christ” is an interpolation by Eusebius copied from Origen.

        This guy has an interesting argument for the Twelve:

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

        I was so astounded, I stopped reading. I should finish to see what his main point was about 1 Peter and Hebrews.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, if you think the Gospels are fiction, and Paul actually met the leaders of the Jerusalem Church, then it’s really not possible for Cephas and Peter to be the same person. Lol.

        • Greg G.

          Caiaphas, Cephas, and Peter all mean “rock”. Peter is only used by Paul in Galatians, Paul’s most sarcastic writing, so he may have used the moniker sarcastically. Maybe it is a penis joke. It wouldn’t be the only one in Galatians – see Galatians 5:12.

        • Pofarmer

          Ok. I wasn’t aware that Paul had ever used “Peter” at all. I thought it was always Cephas. At any rate, your other does make a fairly compelling case. And his case about the 12 and the 500 seems reasonable as well, but, it certainly opens u a whole bunch of awkward questions.

      • Ficino

        For the sake of economy, my speculations employed some assumptions that most Christians make. E.g. many will stop listening when you say that “then to the Twelve” is interpolated.

        I think it’s important to frame the old Who Moved the Stone argument as “die for what they knew was a lie” and not simply as “die for a lie.” As a recent convert, I found it convincing when Frank Morison argued that the disciples in the leadership would not have preached what they knew was a lie and later undergo torture and death for it, even though later converts, who weren’t in the know, would have believed the story of the resurrection and died for that belief. Now I don’t find that argument convincing, for reasons we’re discussing. But I think the “what they knew” piece should remain when we formulate that argument and then attack it.

        • Pofarmer

          ETA: ὤφθη, “appeared/was seen” in the LXX and NT generally denotes a
          vision. There are a good number of instances. I don’t see reason to
          suppose that this verb in I Cor 15 refers to revelation in the form of
          scripture’s becoming understood rather than to revelation in the form of
          a vision.

          I don’t see why Jesus couldn’t have been “revealed” to them in the scriptures and then they had visions of him. This happens, quite literally, all the time and in pretty much all religions.

          As a recent convert, I found it convincing when Frank Morison argued
          that the disciples in the leadership would not have preached what they
          knew was a lie

          It appears that there being disciples is a lie itself. Would Frank Morrison die for it? Does he know but not let on? It’s very hard to get into somebody elses head. If there was a Jesus, and he died, could the disciples have convinced themselves that he’d raised from the dead via ecstatic visions? Certainly they could have, I don’t see anything all that remarkable about the claim, actually. If there were apostles running around, and they were preaching a risen Christ in the vein of Horus, would they have died for their beliefs? I think certainly many would have. Could the disciples have went around preaching Jesus teachings, knowing that he was dead and in a grave and still died for those teachings? I think certainly some would have, although there’s no evidence that this actually happened. Hell, the supernatural bits could have been added by Mark, but this doesn’t really fit with Paul. It’s kind of an open ended argument and open to attack from all sides. Plus it’s completely speculative and non grounded.

        • Ficino

          “I don’t see why Jesus couldn’t have been “revealed” to them in the scriptures and then they had visions of him.”

          No one is arguing that they did not apply OT verses to Jesus. It’s obvious that they did, big time. It sounds, though, as though you are arguing that the first cultists, whoever they were, did not have visions of a risen Jesus as a kick-start to their activities of spreading the cult. I’m not prepared to accept that ὤφθη does not generally denote a vision, and if it’s admitted that it does generally denote a vision, then there seems insufficient reason to maintain that it does not denote visions in I Cor 15:5-6. I can’t prove that the passage is not interpolated – or that the entire epistle isn’t pseudonymous – but usually w/ ancient texts the burden of proof is on the person who holds that a passage is interpolated or that a work is a later forgery.

          Still, mythicists might be right. I’m just not persuaded that they are. My little comment above was written on the assumption that there was a historical itinerant rabbi of messianic pretensions who was crucified and whose followers claimed they’d seen him risen from the dead. That seems a safe but not necessarily secure assumption.

          And it doesn’t seem problematic to suppose that there was an interval between jesus’ death and the first vision (let’s say it was Cephas’), during which some heavy “searching of the scriptures” went on.

        • Pofarmer

          It sounds, though, as though you are arguing that the first cultists,
          whoever they were, did not have visions of a risen Jesus as a kick-start
          to their activities of spreading the cult.

          I think the kick start of the cult was Priests finding Jesus Revealed in the Scriptures. Remember, there was lot’s of messianic expectation, and had been for at least a century. That they then had visions about their new messiah would not be surprising. All of the Book of Revelations, after all, is basically a vision. I think it was pretty much a thing at the time.

          I’m not prepared to accept that ὤφθη does not generally denote a vision

          Ok. I’m fine with that.

          and if it’s admitted that it does generally denote a vision, then there
          seems insufficient reason to maintain that it does not denote visions
          in I Cor 15:5-6.

          I don’t think it particularly matters either way. Paul says that Jesus was revealed to him in the scriptures, and that he wasn’t taught it by any man. He then says in the passage in question, that he had a vision of Jesus in the same way that the others had visions of Jesus. So there’s nothing to say they ever actually new Jesus either.

          My little comment above was written on the assumption that there was a
          historical itinerant rabbi of messianic pretensions who was crucified
          and whose followers claimed they’d seen him risen from the dead. That
          seems a safe but not necessarily secure assumption.

          Sure, but the problem is, if the cult had included the Priests of the Temple, and the 500 or so Priests on the Day of Atonement, someone, somewhere, would have made mention of it, and it certainly would have been preserved, but it wasn’t , so it wasn’t. It’s just another empty claim. Like the triumphal entry, etc.

          And it doesn’t seem problematic to suppose that there was an interval
          between jesus’ death and the first vision (let’s say it was Cephas’),
          during which some heavy “searching of the scriptures” went on.
          ETA so maybe what we’re saying is compatible.

          Yes, I don’t think they would have to be mutually exclusive.

        • Ignorant Amos

          My little comment above was written on the assumption that there was a historical itinerant rabbi of messianic pretensions who was crucified and whose followers claimed they’d seen him risen from the dead. That seems a safe but not necessarily secure assumption.

          But fail record or recollect anything biographical or earthly about him?

          It’s not until the decades later gospels that Jesus does things on earth…including the miracles. These are erroneously read back into the Pauline corpus.

          Paul knows nothing of it, even when name dropping and pointing to something Jesus supposedly said or done, would copper fasten his instructions to the churches. What better than the example of the head buck cat himself, yet not a sausage. Strange, no?

      • Ficino

        I started to listen to the Excavating the Emtpy Tomb series, and then I saw it’s over 16 parts! Must put on hold.

        • Pofarmer

          It’s really long. I listened to it over a spring and a fall planting and harvesting.

      • David Koresh, just a few years ago, died, having claimed he was the returned Jesus. When the Feds show up, all he had to do was surrender.

        The Branch Davidians still exist, and last I read their leader was a survivor of the compound fire, still a believer after all these years! (Maybe all the more convinced!)

      • Ignorant Amos

        It also assumes they knew it was a lie. People die all the time for lies they believe to be truthful. A difference with a huge distinction.

        How many soldiers died for the lie that Saddam had huge stockpiles of WMD’s hidden and was within a beagle’s gowl of developing nukes…that’s a lie folk believed wasn’t a lie…and paid for it dearly.

        • Pofarmer

          Maybe we can agree it’s just a generally horrible argument.

    • Otto

      >>>”Does this thin scenario give enough to neutralize the “they wouldn’t die for what they knew was a lie” argument?”

      Sure those Christians may have been killed…but where is the evidence that if they renounced their beliefs they would have been spared? That part seem to just be assumed.

      • Ficino

        Yes, agree.

      • epicurus

        Yes, I can certainly picture a scenario where they are picked up for being one of the leaders of the movement and then executed just because they are considered a ring leader with no opportunity to claim or deny anything. If Peter was ever actually in Rome and got killed there under Nero, all that may have been needed was to establish he was Peter. Then he just got taken away and executed. No investigation into his beliefs, no grand speeches.

        • Otto

          I think it was Richard Carrier who made the point that the crime they committed was unlawful assemblies, specific religious beliefs were not illegal but gathering in groups without the consent of the gov’t was.

        • epicurus

          If the Nero story is true, he was also going after Christians in Rome as scapegoats for the fire. Although outside of a few church legends, possibly started when different cities were vying for church power, there is no evidence Peter was ever in Rome.

        • epicurus

          Yes, and if each little area had its own ruler, who knows what reasons they would come up with to kill someone. I doubt every person killed or punished was reported to whatever Roman governor hundreds of miles away.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Indeed. Pliny wrote a letter to his chum the Emperor Trajan asking what he should be doing about these gatherings of a group called Christians.

          Pliny the Younger, the Roman governor of Bithynia et Pontus (now in modern Turkey) wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan around 112 AD and asked for counsel on dealing with Christians. The letter (Epistulae X.96) details an account of how Pliny conducted trials of suspected Christians who appeared before him as a result of anonymous accusations and asks for the Emperor’s guidance on how they should be treated.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Also, not tipping ones hat to the other Pagan gods was also frowned upon.

        • Otto

          I agree, but did they kill people for it?

        • Ignorant Amos
        • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

          I remember the end of Braveheart, where they were demanding Wallace admit his guilt (or whatever it was they wanted him to say) in exchange not for his life, but just death as an end to his torture.

    • Greg G.

      Some of them died multiple times for a lie:

      Simon the Zealot
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_the_Zealot
      One tradition states that he traveled in the Middle East and Africa. Christian Ethiopians claim that he was crucified in Samaria, while Justus Lipsius writes that he was sawn in half at Suanir, Persia. However, Moses of Chorene writes that he was martyred at Weriosphora in Caucasian Iberia. Tradition also claims he died peacefully at Edessa. Another tradition says he visited Britain— In his 2nd mission to Britain, he arrived during 1st year of Boadicean War 60 AD. He was crucified May 10, 61AD by the Roman Catus Decianus, at Caistor, modern-day Lincolnshire, Britain

      Maybe being bisected wasn’t fatal. That would account for two other martyrbations.

      Bartholomew
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bartholomew_the_Apostle
      He is said to have been martyred in Albanopolis in Armenia. According to one account, he was beheaded, but a more popular tradition holds that he was flayed alive and crucified, head downward.

      Philip the Apostle
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_the_Apostle
      According to this account, through a miraculous healing and his preaching Philip converted the wife of the proconsul of the city. This enraged the proconsul, and he had Philip, Bartholomew, and Mariamne all tortured. Philip and Bartholomew were then crucified upside-down, and Philip preached from his cross. As a result of Philip’s preaching the crowd released Bartholomew from his cross, but Philip insisted that they not release him, and Philip died on the cross. Another legend is that he was martyred by beheading in the city of Hierapolis.

    • Bones

      Also remember Paul had to try prove himself to others so no doubt there is some embellishment there.

      He was not an original disciple and the others didnt like him in the least.

  • Anthrotheist

    Maybe my understanding is out of date by now, but I thought I had learned at some point that memories are not like some sort of image printed on the brain which is read by our mind as we recall events. Instead, the memory is part of the recollection process and thus it is affected by our recollection. Meaning that every time we recall a memory we don’t just read it, we actually read it and rewrite it anew. In the process we make new connections to it (making it more fresh in our mind but also potentially connecting it to things that objectively were unrelated to the recalled events). If this is true it would mean that the most significant events, the ones that we recall often and discuss at length with others, are actually the least likely to be ‘our’ memory of the event and more likely to be an amalgamation of narratives homogenized among our peers.

    • eric

      It’s constructed, yes. You keep bits and pieces and put them together as needed. So your memory of a past vacation may include bits of lots of different vacations. And your memory of a lasagna meal last year might incorporate many lasagna meals from various times. You say “lasagna meal” and your memory goes searching for the bits that might be relevant.

      Not sure how that helps explain the gospels though. Truly singular events tend to maintain their ‘core’ – you did really did go to Disneyworld in 2010, even if the characters you met are an amalgamation of various trips. But more importantly, amagamation/construction is qualitatively different from lying or erroneous perception. [Edit: like Ctharrot above…] I tend to think miracle claims / reported observations of miracles tend to fall into one of the latter two categories rather than the former.

      • Greg G.

        How about dreams and waking dreams? I have had waking dreams that I needed empirical evidence to convince myself they were just dreams. One explanation for alien abductions stories is waking dreams when the dreamer thinks they are wide awake and paralyzed. This also accounts for stories of deceased people coming to someone’s bed and talking with them.

        When I was around 12, I was feeling sad but didn’t know why. Then a kid rode by the house on his bicycle and I was shocked to see him alive. Then I remembered the dream I had where he had been hit by a car on that same bike and I had gone to his funeral. Then the sadness was dispelled.

        • Otto

          Sleep paralysis….I used to suffer from it when I was about 9-10. I was convinced that I could hear someone walking down the hall when I knew everyone was in bed, among other things that I thought were happening. I was scared to death but I couldn’t move, I would try and yell but I couldn’t. I never told anyone about it, then when I am about 35 I am watching some show about alien abductions and sleep paralysis was presented as a possible explanation, and I finally knew what it was I experienced.

        • Greg G.

          I had them for about 20 years until my mid-30s so I was familiar with them but the last one taught me that I was more asleep than awake. I thought I was awake but couldn’t move so I was just trying to move a finger or something, just experimenting with the phenomenon. Then an intruder came through the back door and I was struggling to wake up. The intruder was in the room when I was able to turn my head and I threw my blanket at the intruder, but it fell to the floor. I searched the house but it wasn’t until I noticed the back door was still closed that I was able to work out the the intruder was part of the dream.

        • Tommy

          I’ve had sleep paralysis many times. Ever feel yourself actually going to sleep? It’s like you’re ‘retreating into your head’ and you hear a low rumbling buzz in your ears and you start to lose sensation of your limbs. You hear the sound of your own rhythmic breathing. It is… unsettling.

      • Anthrotheist

        My point in relation to revelation was mostly, “an amalgamation of narratives homogenized among our peers.” Up to a century after any actual (though debatable) historical reality of Christ, the authors of any scriptures were more likely to regale tales that reflect a group-think consensus more-so than an individual memorable account. The fact that the group is almost certainly influenced by larger cultural traditions (such as virgin births and resurrections) is particularly significant in reference to the reliability of Christian authors as uniquely original in their narration.

    • Recall of memories, if I understand correctly, requires the same functionality as imagination. You are literally imagining events in your past, and there are lots of gaps in even the simplest memory, so you must fill in the gaps with (hopefully) logical threads to even tell the story. The more gaps, the more fiction. And what’s worse is that when the true part of the memory doesn’t quite make sense according to the gap-filled parts, you may modify the part that was real before saving it back in your memory to be recalled later.

  • Ctharrot

    Well, I agree that eyewitness testimony is not nearly as reliable as we like to think, but by my reckoning, detailed miracle stories are probably less a function of flimsy memory than of robust creativity, perhaps exacerbated by the Telephone Game. Humans misapprehend and make stuff up. We exaggerate and elaborate. We’re storytellers, yarnspinners, and bullshitters. And with all due respect to Agent Mulder, we want to believe.

    Recently I was reading about St. Martin of Tours, who reportedly performed all manner of very specific miracles–raising the dead, healing the lame, casting out demons, etc.–according to his devoted student and biographer, Sulpicius Severus. This wasn’t an eyewitness sharing a mistaken impression decades after an event. It was fawning fiction and, along with other miracle-laden medieval hagiographies, it was taken seriously by believers for centuries (and even by some today).

    • Liz

      Yeah, I’ve heard that in my former church. Someone would stand up and share a testimony about this amazing thing God did, and I’d be thinking, I was there and that wasn’t exactly how it went down. Things got exaggerated and probably exaggerated again when it was passed on in the next context, and if someone wrote an autobiography in a decade’s time it would be full of incredible stories that never happened.

      • Otto
        • Liz

          Great post! I was taught to prepare my testimony in a very similar way. And Armin Navabi’s point about testimony being unprovable is actually seen as a bonus among people at my former church. There’s one guy in particular who is really opposed to book learning in preachers; he’s constantly going on about how the gospel doesn’t need theologians to present it, just normal people. He always says that testimonies are brilliant because it’s your own experience so no one can argue with it. In his mind “I’ve experienced it so I KNOW” always trumps rational debate or logic or evidence.

        • Otto

          >>>”he’s constantly going on about how the gospel doesn’t need theologians to present it, just normal people.”

          I would have to ask him if he believes in the Holy Trinity, or that Jesus was fully man AND fully God, or any of the other beliefs about Jesus that are taken for granted in most every US Christian church but that were fought over bitterly by Christians over 1500 years ago that were ultimately decided by theologians.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          If ‘book learning’ is a problem, then how can the guy believe the ‘bible’?

      • epeeist

        Someone would stand up and share a testimony about this amazing thing
        God did, and I’d be thinking, I was there and that wasn’t exactly how it
        went down.

        Time to bring out one of my stories again (which I guarantee is utterly and absolutely accurate).

        When I was quite young I used to go to night school classes, after these were over I used to go home on the bus (a number 44 from outside the art gallery in Leeds, told you it was accurate). One cold February night I was at the bus stop and the guy in front of me collapsed. While other people looked after him I ran to the phone box (this was before the days of mobile phones) to call an ambulance. By the time I got back there was quite a crowd all trying to tell a policeman who had arrived what had happened. This included me assaulting him and running off or him been hit by the wing mirror of the approaching bus.

        It took a while to convince the policeman that a) these stories weren’t true and b) the vast majority of the crowd hadn’t even been at the bus stop when the man collapsed.

        Needless to say I have been sceptical about uncorroborated “eye-witness” testimony ever since.

    • Greg G.

      Shortly after I read your post, I came across another mention of Sulpicius Severus. The Tacitus quote about Chriestians is almost verbatim in Severus’ writings within a bunch of myths which throws doubt on the Tacitus quote, but an article I read said his writing style was classical, without digressions, and he included quotes seamlessly, so he may well have quoted the Tacitus passage.

  • Bones

    Apparently the well hidden first century copy of Mark proclaimed by Daniel Wallace isn’t first century……

    https://ischristianitytrue.wordpress.com/2017/12/07/first-century-manuscript-mummy-masks-hobby-lobby-the-museum-of-the-bible-and-waiting/

    • D.M.S.

      The question is “ WHO “ is doing the telling.
      Pro or con, for or against our Lord Jesus Christ?

      • Greg G.

        Here is Wallace’s account:
        First-Century Mark Fragment Update
        https://danielbwallace.com/2018/05/23/first-century-mark-fragment-update/?fb_action_ids=10214937501763394&fb_action_types=news.publishes

        In 2012 in a debate with Bart Ehrman, Wallace dropped the bombshell that he had information that a first century copy of Mark had been discovered. It finally came out a couple of months that it was not a first century manuscript. Because of the six year brouhaha, nobody cares whether it is the earliest copy of Mark.

        It has nothing to do with Jesus. It is biblical scholar drama.

        • D.M.S.

          I could care less about mankinds ( satans )
          attempts to discredit scripture.
          Mathew 10:22. Is my life.

        • Otto
        • D.M.S.

          Print it or forget it. I won’t look at your rubbish that you want me to view.

        • Otto
        • D.M.S.

          Like I said rubbish.
          While Satan is patting you on the back saying good job minion.

        • Tommy

          While Satan is patting you on the back saying good job minion.

          Jealous?

        • Otto

          Grow up

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          We don’t believe in ‘satan’, either.

          How about some evidence?

        • Matt. 10:22: “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

          God damn–you’re not only a moron but a pretentious one. No one hates you because of Jesus, but a few of us are starting to hate you because you’re an asshole.

          No, it’s not because we’re convicted by the Holy Spirit; no, it’s not because the truth of your arguments are nagging at our souls. It’s because you are here only to be a Dick for Jesus.

        • D.M.S.

          Your blasphemy of our Lord says everything about you.

        • Why should that interest me? You don’t give a shit about all the other gods. Shouldn’t you be afraid of going to their hells? If not, why should I be concerned with the demands of Christianity?

        • D.M.S.

          That’s because there are NO other gods.
          God the Father, God the Son and the HolySpirit is the ONLY GOD in the universe and beyond.

        • Tommy

          There’s only one god – God the Imaginary Being.

        • Hilarious! Your three gods are the ONLY GOD. Yep, got it. Makes total sense.

        • D.M.S.

          It does to the real word.
          Most of this world doesn’t understand, because they live in the world.
          1 John 2:15-17.

        • Tommy

          What should we do with you?
          Proverbs 26:4-5

        • D.M.S.

          Except the folly in this concept is you.
          You’re presenting scripture that you actually don’t understand.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Really?

          Demonstrate that.

        • D.M.S.

          He’s reading scripture, it pertains to the Godless.
          Are there any Godless people here?

        • Tommy

          I understand you’re a fool.

        • Explain it to us.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          So you’re claiming that consensus reality isn’t real?

          You’ve been listening to Rudy “Truth isn’t Truth” Giuliani?

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          I don’t see ANY ‘god’s.

          How about some evidence?

        • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

          What blasphemy?

        • D.M.S.

          2 words, starts with a G and ends with a t. That blasphemy.

        • Tommy

          Get bent.

        • D.M.S.

          Those two word are not there.

        • Tommy

          No really. Get bent.

        • Greg G.

          I think he meant “God”. He can’t count and he can’t spell.

        • epeeist

          Blasphemy is a victimless crime.

        • Greg G.

          How is calling you “pretentious” blasphemy? Are you a god?

        • D.M.S.

          You stated our Lords name in vain…………….G-d…D-mn is blasphemy.
          The world is so used to saying that blasphemy that they don’t notice it as such.

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          “You stated our Lords name in vain….G-d…D-mn is blasphemy.”

          Awwwwww… poor little god needs you to defend him. Now I am sad for this sensitive little god of yours.

          Tell your god to come speak to us personally if he has a problem with us, or he can go fuck himself.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          I’d say “fuck your god” except that there’s no evidence that it exists.

        • Greg G.

          I didn’t say it. Besides, there is no such thing as blasphemy.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Ya think that’s blasphemy…you’re gonna love this….

          Ergo God Maximally Enjoys Getting Gangbanged

          https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/4932

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          How can one blaspheme that which apparently doesn’t exist?

        • Greg G.

          You don’t understand the conversation. It is not complicated but you cannot work out what it is about. You are making Christianity look really stupid. The internet is big. You should go somewhere else.

        • D.M.S.

          Laugh at me to your hearts content. I won’t budge from your ridicule of me.
          The internet is minuscule compared to God/Jesus.

        • What does baby Jesus think when he sees you here prancing around and being a dick? Shouldn’t you be a little more concerned about how you present yourself as a Christian?

        • D.M.S.

          Lol, you don’t get it do you.
          You live and breath for Satan your master.
          And I know it.
          You’re just to blind to realize that fact.

        • Tommy

          You mad, bro?

        • D.M.S.

          No. Just accurate.

        • Tommy

          LOL.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          In what way?

        • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

          I don’t care much for Satan.The Bible doesn’t portray him as murderous as it does God, but still not a great guy.
          Luckily, we have no reason to think either exists.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Uh, nope.

          That’s PURE projection.

          This ‘satan’ would have to exist outside your head first.

        • Doubting Thomas

          I appreciate you posting here. It gives me a chance to play my favorite game: Highly Religious or Mentally Ill?

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Really?

          Then demonstrate this ‘god’ is real?

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          So you’re going to trust this ‘scripture’ rather than your *lying eyes*?

          …Typical….

      • Pofarmer

        Actually, no, it doesn’t. No one thinks it’s a first century fragment and haven’t for years.

        • D.M.S.

          I have no idea what you’re talking about…

        • Pofarmer

          Of course you don’t.

        • D.M.S.

          I guess that shows me, lol.
          Enlighten me moron or are you scared of me..

        • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

          I thought you were talking about the fake 1st century Mark manuscript.

      • Bones

        What the hell is that about.

        You need to go back on your dating sites.

        • D.M.S.

          Nowhere in Exodus 21 that you recited did it reference the mothers life comes before the child’s life.
          Just because you’re an agnostic doesn’t mean that you’re that blind.

        • Bones

          Exodus 21 makes it clear that the death of a foetus is a fine payable to the father whereas the death of the mother is life for life.

          Ffs read it.

        • D.M.S.

          That’s NOT how I read it.
          Exodus 21:23. But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life.
          That includes the baby.
          Not a foetis like your sick minds think. All of you like making babies to be not human.
          God knows better.

        • Tommy

          That’s NOT how I read it.

          Why should anyone care how YOU read it?

        • D.M.S.

          Oh’ opinions only count if they’re yours.
          Is the fake news, CNN a sponsor here.

        • Tommy

          Speaking of fake news, there’s this troll on this comment section talking about some fairytale beings like “Satan” and “God” and he keeps quoting from the Big Book of Fake News. He/She goes by the name D.M.S. You should ignore everything this person says because they’re full of it.

        • epeeist

          Is the fake news, CNN a sponsor here.

          No, the BBC is the real sponsor.

        • Greg G.

          If your church is telling you not to think too much outside of the Bible while laying guilt on you when they pass the collection plate, you should really start thinking outside the church and the Bible.

        • D.M.S.

          I was an atheist until my late twenties, when I became a Christian.
          I’m not going back to that delusional world ever again.

        • Bones

          You must’ve been a particularly stupid atheist as well then.

        • Bones

          Do you even know what a miscarriage is?

          Its the death of a foetus which was a fine.

          Why was the offender required to pay a fine then?

          That is how that verse was interpreted by Jews. They even had laws based on it.

          Oh and how Judaism viewed foetuses…..

          The Fetus in Jewish Law
          Does a fetus have the same legal status as a person?

          An unborn fetus in Jewish law is not considered a person (Heb. nefesh, lit. “soul”) until it has been born. The fetus is regarded as a part of the mother’s body and not a separate being until it begins to egress from the womb during parturition (childbirth). In fact, until forty days after conception, the fertilized egg is considered as “mere fluid.” These facts form the basis for the Jewish legal view on abortion. Biblical, talmudic, and rabbinic support for these statements will now be presented.

          Intentional abortion is not mentioned directly in the Bible, but a case of accidental abortion is discussed in Exodus 21:22‑23, where Scripture states: “When men fight and one of them pushes a pregnant woman and a miscarriage results, but no other misfortune ensues, the one responsible shall be fined as the woman’s husband may exact from him, the payment to be based on judges’ reckoning. But if other misfortune ensues, the penalty shall be life for life.”

          The famous medieval biblical commentator Solomon ben Isaac, known as Rashi, interprets “no other misfortune” to mean no fatal injury to the woman following her miscarriage. In that case, the attacker pays only financial compensation for having unintentionally caused the miscarriage, no differently than if he had accidentally injured the woman elsewhere on her body. Most other Jewish Bible commentators, including Moses Nachmanides (Ramban), Abraham Ibn Ezra, Meir Leib ben Yechiel Michael (Malbim), Baruch Malawi Epstein (Torah Temimah), Samson Raphael Hirsch, Joseph Hertz, and others, agree with Rashi’s interpretation. We can thus conclude that when the mother is otherwise unharmed following trauma to her abdomen during which the fetus is lost, the only rabbinic concern is to have the one responsible pay damages to the woman and her husband for the loss of the fetus. None of the rabbis raise the possibility of involuntary manslaughter being involved because the unborn fetus is not legally a person and, therefore, there is no question of murder involved when a fetus is aborted.

          Based upon this biblical statement. Moses Maimonides asserts as follows: “If one assaults a woman, even unintentionally, and her child is born prematurely, he must pay the value of the child to the husband and the compensation for injury and pain to the woman.” Maimonides continues with statements regarding how these compensations are computed. A similar declaration is found in Joseph Karo’s legal code Shulkhan Aruch. No concern is expressed by either Maimonides or Karo regarding the status of the miscarried fetus. It is part of the mother and belongs jointly to her and her husband, and thus damages must be paid for its premature death. However, the one who was responsible is not culpable for murder, since the unborn fetus is not considered a person.

          Murder in Jewish law is based upon Exodus 21:12, where it is written: “He that smiteth a man so that he dieth shall surely be put to death.” The word “man” is interpreted by the sages to mean a man but not a fetus. Thus, the destruction of an unborn fetus is not considered murder.

          Another pertinent scriptural passage is Leviticus 24:17, where it states: “And he that smiteth any person mortally shall surely be put to death.” However, an unborn fetus is not considered a person or nefesh and, therefore, its destruction does not incur the death penalty.

          Turning to talmudic sources, the Mishnah asserts the following: “If a woman is having difficulty in giving birth [and her life is in danger], one cuts up the fetus within her womb and extracts it limb by limb, because her life takes precedence over that of the fetus. But if the greater part was already born, one may not touch it, for one may not set aside one person’s life for that of another.”

          Rabbi Yom Tov Lippman Heller, known as Tosafot Yom Tov, in his commentary on this passage in the Mishnah, explains that the fetus is not considered a nefesh until it has egressed into the air of the world and, therefore, one is permitted to destroy it to save the mother’s life. Similar reasoning is found in Rashi’s commentary on the talmudic discussion of this mishnaic passage, where Rashi states that as long as the child has not come out into the world, it is not called a living being, i.e., nefesh. Once the head of the child has come out, the child may not be harmed because it is considered as fully born, and one life may not be taken to save another.

          The Mishnah elsewhere states: “If a pregnant woman is taken out to be executed, one does not wait for her to give birth; but if her pains of parturition have already begun [lit. she has already sat on the birth stool], one waits for her until she gives birth.” One does not delay the execution of the mother in order to save the life of the fetus because the fetus is not yet a person (Heb. nefesh), and judgments in Judaism must be promptly implemented. The Talmud also explains that the embryo is part of the mother’s body and has no identity of its own, since it is dependent for its life upon the body of the woman. However, as soon as it starts to move from the womb, it is considered an autonomous being (nefesh) and thus unaffected by the mother’s state. This concept of the embryo being considered part of the mother and not a separate being recurs throughout the Talmud and rabbinic writings.

          https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-fetus-in-jewish-law/amp/

          Apparently God and the Jews had sick minds according to you…..

        • D.M.S.

          Lolololololololololol you have no concept of what you’re talking about.
          God:Jesus is in this equation mister.
          You look at everything without God/Jesus.
          I don’t.
          God/Jesus has everything to do with this conversation.

        • Bones

          So you have a sulk and throw the toys around when confronted with what the Bible says.

          Cant say I’m surprised.

        • Ignorant Amos

          He’s quite simply a lying fuckwit religious idiot.

        • Greg G.

          A few hundred years ago, people started looking at everything without trying to fit God into it. Science and technology has grown by leaps and bounds ever since. If you think that is a bad thing, then sell your computer, give the money to the poor, and treat your next disease with leeches.

        • D.M.S.

          When your so-called advanced science and technology can predict when a volcano is going to erupt, a tornado is going to form and where it’s going, an earthquake is going to happen. I might start believing in science and technology, but I doubt it.
          I’ll give you a perfect example.
          Scripture states that a bat is a bird.
          Mankinds science will NEVER have the right to change that truth.
          I don’t care about warm blooded or cold blooded animals or even mammals for that mattter. It’s just another manmade concept that all of us are supposed to believe because mankind says so. Lol.
          And guess what there’s millions of people like me that believe the same way I do about your so-called science and tech.
          How does your science and tech play out about the nation of Israel becoming a nation again after almost 2000 years?
          A fluke….lol.
          Goodbye to your so-called intelligence of mankind.

        • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

          When your so-called advanced science and technology can predict when a volcano is going to erupt, a tornado is going to form and where it’s going, an earthquake is going to happen. I might start believing in science and technology, but I doubt it.

          Can your God do that for you?
          Nope.

          Can your God give you the power to show off your blind-faith to atheists all over the world?
          Nope.
          But advanced science and technology did.

        • D.M.S.

          The only thing that your advanced science and technology did for me is show me how truly ignorant it really is.

        • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

          So, no you’re God can’t.

          Funny how you expect science and technology to do things God can’t, but ignore the things science has done for you that is out of your religion’s grasp.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Then what are you doing on the Internet?

          Take a look at its history….it’s FLOODED with atheists who developed the computers, the protocols, and the languages that make the wonders happen.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          You’re just an ungrateful, hypocritical wretch.

          Otherwise, you’d just be standing on a soapbox in Speakers’ Corner railing at the rubes.

          Give thanks for what’s REAL, not what your superstitious angst compels you to parrot.

        • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

          interesting.

          what “science and technology” did for me is confirm over and over again how “truly ignorant” i am (and everybody else) and that knowledge is not easy to obtain. i admire the honesty of science in this respect. it showcases the limitations of *human* knowledge and understanding. in this sense it is actually a bit wiser than you seem to be. this is also a lesson you could have learned from (a quote attributed to) socrates: “i know that i know nothing.” better (wikipedia):

          “I seem, then, in just this little thing to be wiser than this man at any
          rate, that what I do not know I do not think I know either.”

          or

          “So now I do not know what virtue is; perhaps you knew before you
          contacted me, but now you are certainly like one who does not know.”

          or

          “I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.”

        • epeeist

          When your so-called advanced science and technology

          when a volcano is going to erupt,

          Prediction of volcanic eruptions

          a tornado is going to form and where it’s going

          Tornado forecasting

          an earthquake is going to happen

          Earthquake forecasting

          I might start believing in science and technology, but I doubt it.

          Says the person writing a message on computer and having it distributed to other computers all around the world.

          I don’t care about warm blooded or cold blooded animals or even mammals for that mattter.

          A Bertrand Russell quotation comes to mind:

          The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.

        • D.M.S.

          Your natural technology is 100% manure.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Reality has a strong liberal bias.

          That’s not REALITY’s fault…it’s YOUR KIND’s fault.

        • epeeist

          Your natural technology is 100% manure.

          Well your informative, fact-filled, superbly argued one-liner obviously beats decades of research and development by top scientists and technologists.

          To go back to computers, their foundation is in quantum mechanics first put forward by Max Planck (Nobel prize in physics), developed by people like Werner Heisenberg and Paul Dirac (Nobel prizes in physics), development of the technology that gave us computers based on QM was done by people like William Shockley (Nobel prize in physics) and Brian Josephson (Nobel prize in physics).

          Your criticism of the work these people did is based upon what precisely?

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Why didn’t your ‘god’ even give humanity the recipe for *soap* and knowledge of how to sanitize things?

          I mean, that’s dead stone axe simple stuff.

        • When your so-called advanced science and technology can predict when a volcano is going to erupt, a tornado is going to form and where it’s going, an earthquake is going to happen. I might start believing in science and technology, but I doubt it.

          I doubt you’ll believe in it, too. We already have science and technology able to cure cancer, eliminate smallpox from the world, and go to the moon. People are the ones who improve crop yields and take care of people during famines, plagues, and disasters. God doesn’t do anything. Maybe he’s napping?

          Scripture states that a bat is a bird.
          Mankinds science will NEVER have the right to change that truth.

          OK, now you’re just messin’ with me. You sound like a Poe.

        • Greg G.

          Also in this subthread:

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2018/08/fallible-memories-and-the-development-of-legend-2/#comment-4075518813

          It’s time that idiot to go. He is begging to be shown the door.

        • Done. I had Bruno do it, gently. Or not gently.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Fuck that gently nonsense…kicked out with a good toe up the feckin’ arse.

        • D.M.S.

          Yes, Satans programs. We Christians know all about them, satans still trying and succeeding with ALLof you.

        • Greg G.

          You are invited to our next barbecue. Remember that it is BYOB. You get to cook your own steak, too, but you have to light it the way Elijah did, by praying to the Lord to light it. It worked for him. I will cook my steak using modern technology.

        • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

          Satan has apparently even corrupted this guy name D.M.S. and tricked him into using Satan’s programs to access the internet.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          I can’t even see any evidence that this ‘jesus’ existed that’s reputable.

        • Bones

          I mean its ridiculous.

          Jews and God had no modern concept of embryology or conception.

          They sure as hell didnt see an embryo as a human.

        • D.M.S.

          The creator of the entire world and every creature on it.
          Knows nothing of embryology.
          You are completely hilarious, Bones.

        • Bones

          Nope…the author of the OT ie god knew nothing about embyology nor womens anatomy. In fact conception as a fertilised egg by sperm wasnt understpod until the 17th century at least.

          No wonder you ave a hard time finding women when you kick them out of your place when they’re on their periods.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          OBJECTION, YOUR HONOR!

          Assumes ‘facts’ not in evidence!

        • JD

          Well, according to your version of your highly primitive mythology bats are birds….

        • D.M.S.

          Where does it say that mankind gets to change the course that God/Jesus created?

        • I believe he recently bragged about that very thing, declaring that the Bible trumps science.

        • D.M.S.

          What part of the sixth commandment don’t you understand.
          6. Thou shalt not murder.
          That is a person inside of a womans womb as far as God/Jesus is concerned.

        • Next, read Numbers 5 and the trial of bitter waters. The life of the fetus was unimportant compared to the rights of the man whose woman it was. No way was he going to raise some other dude’s kid.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Your ‘bible’ says that a baby isn’t considered to be alive until its survived birth by a month, and that’s just for boy babies.

        • D.M.S.

          Scripture please.
          I doubt that there’s ever been a dozen people that has memorized the whole bible in all of history.

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        Is reality FOR or AGAINST anything?

  • Eric Collier

    About 10 years ago I watched a great video on YouTube about the Roswell incident, which included a test of short-term memory using a staged “event”. 4 or 5 five people were conducted through a tour of an area adjacent to where the “debris” of the crashed flying saucer was found; there was a series of staged incidents along the tour, including the group being stopped and questioned by authority figures of some kind. After the tour they were asked to fill out a questionnaire about their recollection of the tour. Predictably, they all had different recalls about some details of the incidents. I have tried several times to find that video without success. (Pulled by YouTube!) Does anyone else recall anything about such a test, or similar tests? Please help me out.

    • Taneli Huuskonen

      I seem to remember seeing something like that.

    • fifthdentist

      I’ve seen videos from studies where multiple witnesses witness a staged robbery and then give very different statements concerning what happened and what the suspect looked like.
      Sort of the same. I believe in others the “cops” in a scenario have subtly steered witnesses toward a suspect.
      That can be done in real life from the people included in the lineup to cops pushing witnesses toward the person they want identified.

  • Bones

    Btw finding a manuscript with a dozen words on it, hardly justifies the whole book as being accurate.

  • Doubting Thomas

    The memory issue may not even apply to the gospels since we don’t even know if they were intended to be historically accurate in the first place. Writing fiction doesn’t require a good memory.

    • eric

      Given the Nag Hammadi texts (the “gnostic gospels”), we can be pretty certain at least some early Christians were doing exactly that. Jesus fan fic, as it were.

      Now, I’m not sure we should be claiming the four core gospels are ‘fan fic.’ However that might be an apt description of the Pauline epistles, since the author fully admits he never met Jesus and received his ‘guidance’ via revelation. If I wrote a story about what Steve Jobs really thought, based on a revelation I had about him, would anyone classify that as nonfiction? [Okay, some idiot would, but you get the point…]

      • epeeist

        If I wrote a story about what Steve Jobs really thought, based on a revelation I had about him, would anyone classify that as nonfiction?

        Depends on what level of woo you wound it up to.

      • Greg G.

        Paul appears to have gotten all of his information about Jesus from the Old Testament.

      • Cozmo the Magician

        I have all the inside info on Jobs. Years back I had a vivid experience where I asked my Apple ][ what Jobs really really though about many issues. My Apple ][ gave me 1st hand info. I really should write all this down while the memory is still fresh after over 30 yrs.

    • Christians get in a tizzy trying to reconcile gospel contradictions, but we don’t know whether the first generations of Christians reading those books even cared. They might not have thought of it as journalism or history. Or cared.

      • epicurus

        I wondered that about even a thousand years of medieval Christianity and monks copying – didn’t they know, didn’t they care? Didn’t they ever line the four gospels up side by side and see the discrepancies?
        I think bottom line they just didn’t care until the textual criticism of the late 19th century came along and then they had to respond.

        • Taneli Huuskonen

          Some of them did. There are very old manuscrips showing attempts to fix discrepancies.

        • epicurus

          Yes that’s true, thanks.

        • Ignorant Amos

          The problem there would be hunting all the contradicting early copies down and either making sure they were destroyed, before trying to get them new copies all in line. We witness that even slight redactions stick out like a sore thumb when earlier mss are compared to later mss.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Malcolm Gladwell did a two part look at the fallibility of memory on his podcast Revisionist History. It’s worth a listen.

  • skl

    You could say that practically all we “know” about many famous
    ancient figures is suspect, since their biographies often were written
    centuries after they lived.

    For example, Alexander the Great died in the 4th century B.C. but the oldest existing account of him was written in the 1st
    century century B.C. and the account “generally considered the most reliable”
    was from the 1st to 2nd century A.D. (per Wikipedia).

    • epicurus

      If there were severe consequences to being wrong about Alexander or any figure from history, then the bar would be set higher. Being wrong about Jesus or the Christian message can land one in Hell for eternity.

      • skl

        Then the bar should be higher for Alexander. Alexander was considered divine by himself and others.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Not really.

          We throw out the supernatural bullshit about Alexander, and have multiple independent sources about him.

        • epicurus

          What are the consequences for you and I in not believing in his divinity?

        • skl

          Better consult the Alexander historians.

        • epicurus

          I’m perfectly fine with having a high bar for all the ancients and concluding that we really can’t know very much if anything about them, in the same way we don’t really know much about Jesus.
          If a Bart Ehrman quote carries any weight with you, here’s one from a post last Feb on his blog:

          “My conservative opponents sometimes press the fact that we are well informed about the text of the New Testament in a ridiculous way – ridiculous possibly because they simply don’t know any better. They point out that with all this evidence for the New Testament, if I (crazy liberal that I am) don’t think we can know exactly what the authors of the NT wrote (in places) then I’d have to say the same thing about Plato, or Homer, or Cicero, or … or any other author! ….

          Most of my conservative opponents were trained in theological seminaries and teach in conservative evangelical settings, not in research universities, and their academic ties tend to be with scholars who work in theological fields: church history, systematic theology, and the like. They don’t work in a secular setting where the natural ties are more in the fields of classics and ancient history. Anyone who says that scholars don’t have any questions about what Plato, Homer, Cicero, or any other author actually (which words they used) is simply ignorant.

          I don’t mean that they are being willfully stupid; I just mean they (apparently) just don’t know any better. Reconstructing the words of any ancient author is massively complicated, given their problematic textual histories, and there are indeed scholars who devote their lives to the task for one author or another. It’s *much* harder to establish the text of Homer than the text of the New Testament, and no one is completely confident we have the “original” wording of the Iliad or the Odyssey. That’s true for all ancient books. (And by the way, is especially the case with the Hebrew Bible!)“

        • Kevin K

          Heh. It’s generally agreed among modern scholars that there was no such person as “Homer”. The Homeric epics are oral histories — the first crowdsourcing.

        • Greg G.

          But some in the crowd might have been named Homer.

        • Kevin K

          Ha! You think the guy named Homer tried to make a profit out of the stories? Could be …

        • Sure, Alexander was considered divine–at the time, but not now. Modern historians scrub any supernatural claim from the historical accounts of people from the past.

          You sure you want to see Jeebus get the same treatment?

        • skl

          If modern historians scrub any supernatural claim from the historical accounts of people from the past then it’s very strange how you know that Alexander was considered divine in his time.

        • Just throwing up dust because I’m getting too close to making you look foolish? Or are you actually confused?

          That supernatural stories were told about Alexander is part of history. That those stories were true isn’t.

        • skl

          Here’s what’s confusing:

          Now you’re saying modern historians do not scrub any supernatural claim from the historical accounts of people from the past.

        • Everyone else can understand the distinction between historians reporting supernatural stories (that they don’t think actually happened) and historians reporting history that has supernatural stories in it.

          I’ll just have to live with the heavy burden that you’re the sole exception, but I think I’ll manage.

        • skl

          “Everyone else can understand the distinction
          between historians reporting supernatural stories (that they don’t think
          actually happened) and historians reporting history that has supernatural stories in it.”

          Perhaps it’s like the distinction between
          scientists who don’t believe in miracles and
          scientists who do believe in miracles (i.e. are Christians).

        • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

          Do you understand the distinction between:
          Saying that Christians claimed Jesus rose from the dead
          and
          Saying that Jesus rose from the dead?

        • skl

          Yes. The latter would be said by the latter group of scientists.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Show me a group of scientists who would say ‘jesus rose from the dead’ in their *professional* capacity, rather than their personal faith, or you’ve got nothing.

        • skl

          There’s no reason for such scientists to say that.
          It would be like saying ‘jesus rose from the dead’ when
          showing someone how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

        • Pofarmer

          Rob, is that you?

        • Ignorant Amos

          They would be deluded scientists on that issue.

          Honest Christians don’t play that game….

          https://jamestabor.com/do-historians-exclude-the-supernatural/

        • Where do all your marvelous resources come from? Perhaps you’ve made a catalog of useful references on myriad topics?

        • Ignorant Amos

          I wish I had the computer competance to do that in any effective way.

          My favourites folder is full of it…the problem I have is memory recall.

          You know yerself, when searching for one thing, ya find some interesting wee gems on another topic and end up going off for hours on a tangent. I’m a hoarder and save stuff in the event it’ll be useful some time later. Of course remembering it, or where I seen it, is the problem. Keyword searches will usually get me to the place, or as near as dammit, if it hasn’t been taken down in the interim of course.

          Then there are those popular favourites that are trooped out on a regular basis…the James Tabor link is one such item. Probably bores the tits off those that have seen them many before ad nauseam of course. Those here that ken, ken. Over ten years plus engaging in forums, things start to accumulate. I just wish I had a brain that could remember all the contents of those favourites, or the contents of all those blog articles I’ve read over those years.

          Your new book will be very handy in assistance with that problem going forward.

          I tend to try and use sources that cannot be classed as bias. It’s hard for a Christian to argue when it is another Christian making the claim.

          I guess I’m a bit of an atheist Luke Breuer without the computer nous and expertise he had for cataloging and instant retrieval that he was able to perform. Say what we like about the guy, he was nifty at that Malarkey…annoying as his litany of blue links could get.

          I’ve lost ten times more than I’ve saved when changing computers over the years too. Pity, some great pieces.

        • They say that the most fragile part of a memory is where it came from.

          As for bias, I try to verify the arguments in my favor the most of all. I don’t like being embarrassed by passing along a juicy story that turns out to be crap. In fact, I just read an article giving this very bit of advice…but I’ll be damned if I can remember where I read it.

          As for links that don’t work anymore, have you seen the Wayback Machine? It’s an internet archive. If you have a quote from a (now broken link) source, you can try to get a new link for it by searching here:
          https://archive.org/web/

        • Ignorant Amos

          As for bias, I try to verify the arguments in my favor the most of all. I don’t like being embarrassed by passing along a juicy story that turns out to be crap.

          Been there, done that, ate the pie, got the T-shirt…and it still happens.

          As for links that don’t work anymore, have you seen the Wayback Machine? It’s an internet archive. If you have a quote from a (now broken link) source, you can try to get a new link for it by searching here:

          Thanks for that…now I have to do is just to remember what to put into the search field.

        • Ctharrot

          To be frank (and pedantic), I’ve always slightly cringed at your use of the word “scrub” in this context, because it does have a potential connotation of censorship, rather than your obvious intended meaning. But I never bothered to quibble about the semantics, because it seemed to me only a sophist arguing in bad faith would actually get hung up on the meaning of “scrub.”

          And whadda ya know?

        • Otto

          Definition of skl: a sophist arguing in bad faith

          That is a keeper

        • Ignorant Amos

          Folk doing less arguing in bad faith have been shown the door from this blog recently…at least they were honest enough to wear their religious fuckwit badge on their sleeve. How long has that prick skl been fucking about with his imbecility here?

        • Yes, I’ve sensed that problem myself. Hopefully my posts are more carefully worded. But just to agree with you, I don’t mean censorship. I’m simply saying that “Caesar Augustus ascended bodily into heaven” is replaced by “A Roman senator claimed that he ascended into heaven.”

        • Greg G.

          Do you suppose that Roman senator was making the claim as a fact or just playing to his base?

        • Pofarmer

          Do you want to reconsider that comment? Because it’s exceptionally stupid.

        • skl

          You should ask Bob. I’m basically just re-iterating his statement.

        • You’re basically not.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Because skl IS exceptionally stupid.

        • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

          Do you know anyone who believes Alexander was divine?

        • skl

          Alexander and his worshippers in the 4th century B.C. did. But I don’t know any of them, of course. But if they have any successors in our century, we could get to know them and get an answer to your question.

        • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

          So you don’t know any? You don’t even know if there are any today?

          Then there’s no reason to place a high burden of proof on him, we’re not accepting the claims that he’s divine or performed supernatural acts.

        • skl

          “So you don’t know any? You don’t even know
          if there are any today?”

          Just because I haven’t heard of any around today doesn’t mean there aren’t any. We shouldn’t be too surprised if we were to find some today. Because anyone who claimed divinity and had worshippers, especially someone who was world-famous and damn near all powerful in his time like Alexander, should have a lot of staying power long after his time.

    • Otto

      When we are supposed to accept that Alexander the Great walked on water or was born of a virgin based on those accounts be sure to let us know.

      • skl

        I’ll let you know that Alexander was considered divine, son of a god, by himself and others.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          So what?

          WE throw the supernatural bullshit out.

        • Otto

          And do we historically have the same view? Of course not…any historian that claimed such a thing would be laughed out of their job.

        • skl

          Well, that’s what the historians of Alexander claimed.

        • Otto

          Good job with the dodge…wouldn’t want you to go against your track record of dealing with any point dishonestly.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Same with the ancient historians of Romulus….modern historians don’t play those games. Romulus is a myth.

        • Damien Priestly

          Well, They found the tomb of Alexander’s father, Phillip II of Macedonia…dated to the correct time period.

          Where is the tomb of Jesus’s mother or father? Heaven does not count as an answer !!

        • skl

          “Where is the tomb of Jesus’s mother or father?”

          Better ask the catholics.

          I think they say Mary was never buried but was taken
          upstairs after her life on earth. As to the father, I think you already know the answer to that.

        • Damien Priestly

          I was a Catholic and yes I do know the answer. If Mary existed, the young shepherd boy, or old guy who paid the brideprice — then f**ked her, producing Yeshua…likely had her buried when she died.

    • epeeist

      For example, Alexander the Great died in the 4th century B.C. but the oldest existing account of him was written in the 1st
      century century B.C.

      And of course there is no archaeological record of Alexander, no coinage, no statues, busts or paintings, no cities named after him, no records of his military conquests…

      • Discard the supernatural elements of the Alexander story, and you have precisely the empire-building genius that you read in the history books. But discard the supernatural elements of the Jesus story, and you have an uninteresting first-century teacher.

        I’d share this distinction with skl, but I doubt he’d get it.

        • epeeist

          This so-called comparison of the historicity of Alexander and Jesus based only on “biographies” (if you count the gospels as biographies) and discarding other information is one of the most absurdly stupid arguments that theists come up with (and no, I don’t believe in his protestations that he is not a believer).

        • Richard Carrier has done about 5 of these analyses of ancient people from history, explaining why we have good confidence in the basic points of their biographies. And the comparison with Jesus is, as you noted, remarkable–these other guys have coins, inscriptions, busts, cities with their name, and so on.

          Jesus, not so much. And yet the confident apologetic “But if you reject Jesus, you’ll have to throw out all of history!” continually gets vomited forth. (Maybe it’s a demon.)

        • Pofarmer

          And the funny thing is, the Jesus of the Gospels is a famous Jesus. He draws huge crowds. Has the Triumphal entry into Jerusalem as a King. He teaches in the Temple. His trial is before a huge crowd and the crowd gets to vote up or down on his death. And yet, not a peep of any of this in history, at all. So, when none of this checks out, we have to switch to the itinerant preacher nobody heard of. It doesn’t make sense.

        • To go on a slight tangent, some of the OT “prophecies” that apologists point to, when read in context, speak about a famous hero. They just don’t quote that part.

        • Greg G.

          Hey! You are not allowed to point to the context. Only apologists can do that, even when they haven’t a clue about the context.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, yeah, they’d already been fulfilled, but that was just a foreshadowing of Jesus.

        • Ignorant Amos

          It is a version of the 10/42 apologetic that even Christian apologists are shying away from the nonsense ffs…

          https://celsus.blog/2012/10/14/ten-reasons-to-reject-the-apologetic-1042-source-slogan/

          (and no, I don’t believe in his protestations that he is not a believer)

          I don’t think there is too many here, or elsewhere, buying that pig in a poke either.

    • Grimlock

      Well. Sort of.

      We have fragments of sources from within Alexander’s lifetime. Of course, the “generally reliable” sources for Alexander is reliable in large part because they could draw on earlier biographies that were still complete at the time.

      For more details, this is a neat write-up on the subject: https://celsus.blog/2013/08/24/another-case-of-apologetic-dishonesty-in-lee-strobels-the-case-for-christ/

      • skl

        “Of course, the “generally reliable” sources for
        Alexander is reliable in large part because they could draw on earlier
        biographies that were still complete at the time.”

        But the alleged earlier biographies are no longer extant, so we can’t
        know what, if anything, the “generally reliable sources” drew.

        • Pofarmer

          so we can’t

          know what, if anything, the “generally reliable sources” drew.

          We can because the tell us. They also fit with other accounts from other source not directly related to Alexander. They also fit the archaeological record.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Nobody reputable is claiming the supernatural elements are true, or censuring / threatening those who dissent.

        • Ignorant Amos

          No original writings about Jesus exist…what did the originals say?

          They might have said that Jesus was a phantom god, but those bits got left out .

          Wise ta fuck skl…you are an embarrassment.

    • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

      And of course there’s also no archaeological evidence of Roman rulers called “Caesars”, and there’s no record of the Caesar that came before Alexander the Great or the one that came after him, making him a total historical anomaly, a ruler from out of nowhere, and the only historical record of him is in one set of stories that are little more than propaganda for a particular religion. /s

      • skl

        It’s not surprising that some archaeological evidence exists
        for Alexander and other rulers who were essentially world-famous during their
        lifetimes.

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          WHOOOOOSH!

        • Thanks4AllTheFish

          Responding to ski is like trying to communicate with a random word generator.

        • epeeist

          Responding to ski is like trying to communicate with a random word generator.

          Try feeding his posts through a Markov chain generator to see if they make any more sense.

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          Except it’s not really random, because it slants heavily toward “Christian” and “stupid”.

    • Pofarmer

      This, to put it politely, is incorrect. There were contemporaneous accounts of Alexander. We know this because later historians referenced them when they wrote their own histories. We also have accounts from OTHER people at the time, including, I believe, the Babylonians, which would be considered a much better account anyway.

      • skl

        “This, to put it politely, is incorrect. There were
        contemporaneous accounts of Alexander.”

        Maybe there were. But we don’t know that because we don’t
        see them today.

        Talk is cheap. Perhaps even cheaper than writing about someone centuries after their death.

        “Apart from a few inscriptions and fragments, texts written by people who actually knew Alexander or who gathered information from men who served with Alexander were all lost.[16]
        Contemporaries who wrote accounts of his life included Alexander’s campaign historian Callisthenes; Alexander’s generals Ptolemy and Nearchus; Aristobulus, a junior officer on the campaigns; and Onesicritus, Alexander’s chief helmsman. Their works are lost, but later works based on these original sources have survived. The earliest of these is Diodorus Siculus (1st century BC), followed by Quintus Curtius Rufus (mid-to-late 1st century AD), Arrian (1st to 2nd century AD), the biographer Plutarch (1st to 2nd century AD), and finally Justin, whose work dated as late as the 4th century.[16]
        Of these, Arrian is generally considered the most reliable,
        given that he used Ptolemy and Aristobulus as his sources, closely followed by Diodorus.[16]”
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_the_Great#Historiography

      • Ignorant Amos

        And the Old Testament….the Old Testament references AtG according to Christians…hoist by their own petard methinks.

    • Ficino

      This Alexander stuff has been argued many times, and I am guessing that you know that quite well. Nothing you say bolsters the historical reliability of the gospels.

    • Joe

      Yawn.

    • You’re saying that our knowledge of famous people of ancient times is no more reliable than our knowledge of Jesus? If so, make clear that that’s your argument. Expand on it.

    • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

      Nobody pretends they can reliably relay the precise meanings of Alexander’s speeches and base their morality on them.

      • skl

        I don’t know about that. Today’s worshipers of Alexander the Great probably say they can.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Present us with such a worshipper, then.

    • Damien Priestly

      Ughh, the stupidity continues !!

      Alexander had coins minted with his own image on it. We have those coins today. They can date the coins very accurately.

      • Bones

        Actually I have one.

      • skl

        “Alexander had coins minted with his own image on it.”

        So did these gods:

        https://www.forumancientcoins.com/dougsmith/gods.html

        • Damien Priestly

          Who cares what other gods had coins !! Jesus certainly didn’t.

          Alexander was a real person and because of his coins, etc, we know exactly when he lived….his Dad’s tomb confirms it too. This is more than just fragments. Nobody can question if/when Alexander lived.

          But it is perfectly reasonable to question the dates and facts around this Jesus character, who has no coins or anything else contemporaneous written down about him. Alexander and Jesus’s historicity is in two different realms…fact (Alexander) and presumption (Jesus).

        • skl

          “Who cares what other gods had coins !!”

          You should!!

          If the gods had coins with their images, then the gods
          existed!!

        • Damien Priestly

          What kind of frickin nonsense are you pedaling?

          So you would be saying — the Statue of Liberty Lady on a Silver Dollar is just as real a person as Abe Lincoln on a penny! Troll elsewhere.

        • skl

          “Alexander had coins minted with his own image on it. We
          have those coins today…

          Alexander was a real person and because of his coins…”

          .

          .

          .

          .

          “What kind of frickin nonsense are you pedaling?”

        • Damien Priestly

          Nice selective cherry picking of my commnets…coins are only one piece of the huge amount of Alexander’s contemporaneous evidence.

          But you don’t care — you are not here for facts.

        • Jim Jones

          Glycon is better supported.

    • Ctharrot

      Of course rigorous professional historians who study antiquity (or any period, really) are careful about what they claim to “know” with certainty. They acknowledge and try to account for all sorts of potential problematic factors with historical texts, such as–

      – Bias of the author,
      – Unreliability of the author for other reasons,
      – Bias of the author’s sources,
      – Unreliability of the author’s sources for other reasons,
      – Plain old human error,
      – Loss of textual fidelity via copying and translation,
      – Related issues arising from secondary vs. primary sources, and
      – Ambiguities.

      Hence the constant quest for corroboration (or impeachment) with archaeological evidence, other documents, population genetics, etc. For simple readability’s sake (especially in popular writing and K-12 student textbooks), modern works about the ancient world don’t qualify every single sentence or passage with something like “Or maybe not,” or “Possibly,” or “We could be wrong.” But the practice of ancient history is provisional and probabilistic; in legal terms, more often “preponderance of the evidence” than “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

      Even when we have work written by contemporaries (or better yet, by the actual protagonists themselves, such as Xenophon, Julius Caesar, Cicero, or Augustine), professional historians and biographers don’t simply accept 100% of the narratives uncritically. Using both intrinsic and extrinsic information, they try to judge what is most likely true, what is most likely false, and what falls along the spectrum in between.

      To take a recent example I’ve been discussing with another commenter elsewhere, the Histories of Herodotus are viewed as a roughly reliable account of the the Persian Wars and preceding events, but with a small number of problematic, fanciful passages that we don’t simply accept at face value. In Book VIII, for instance, Herodotus describes how the gods miraculously protected Delphi from plundering Persians, in accordance with the oracle’s prophecy. No professional historian writing about the Persian Wars today believes that’s literally true. Scholars generally agree that Herodotus wrote the account down, but they essentially chalk it up as a legend reflecting the religious beliefs of the culture in which it evolved–one of the countless narratives about signs, wonders, miracles, spirits, giants, and other marvels that pepper the records produced by the creative and credulous peoples of antiquity.

    • eric

      If there’s legends of Alexander breaking the laws of physics (even in front of eyewitnesses!), I wont’ believe those, either.

      So, we’re treating both historical figures equally. We don’t consider what we have to be credible evidence that either figure worked miracles. Are you happy now?

      • skl

        I don’t think that was the point of Bob’s OP nor of my comment.

        • eric

          He ends with “The argument for historical reliability of the New Testament is built on sand.” The fact that it contains miracles is directly relevant to the question of how historically reliable it is. Its pointing out one of the piles of sand. Other bits of the foundation might be rock, but at least some of them are sand.

          The Iliad might have some broad brushstrokes right, but parts of it like the ‘Judgement of Paris’ story undermines any claim that Homer wrote down history as it really occurred. Maybe the originator of that particular story was intentionally speaking myth and fable. Or maybe the author fabricated a miraculous event he then tried to pass on as actually happening (“your wife only slept with my brother because a goddess made her fall in love with him! I swear, it wasn’t our fault!”). Or maybe he told a true story about how a Trojan prince and a Mycenaean warlord fell out and, via the ‘telegraph game’ of retelling, this true story grew more fabulous over time until it was about olympian goddesses instead of real people. But however the story originated, anyone not a Hellene pantheist will agree that this event could not have happened, because those Gods aren’t real, and that therefore the Iliad is wrong in at least some – and possibly many – details.

          You, I vouch, are an “atheist” when it comes to Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena. You don’t for a minute entertain the idea that that story could have happened. And a consequence of this judgement is that you immediately accept that at least parts of the Iliad are made up stories rather than accurate histories. Well, that’s what the miracle stories do to the NT’s credibility for every non-Christian.

        • skl

          “He ends with “The argument for historical reliability of the New Testament is built on sand.” The fact that it contains miracles is directly relevant to the question of how historically reliable it is.”

          Then Bob could have just said that and skipped his much longer discourse above on fallible memories, distortion in re-telling,
          risks in writing long-after-the-fact history.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Nope.

          That’s called *supporting evidence*.

          It’s what reasonable people provide.

        • eric

          This is not difficult. Bob wrote a post about how the unreliable the New Testament is because of effects like the telegraph game. The incorporation of the miraculous is another additional effect.
          It’s not the only one, it’s not even the one Bob was most heavily focused on. But it is one, and it bears on the discussion. Anyone who wants to argue for reliability would need to address both.

        • Jim Jones

          What would the LDS be like if Joseph Smith had only created oral testimony and the first books about the miracles and visions weren’t written until 2000 . . . or even 2244?

    • Ignorant Amos

      Not the faux atheist again ffs…

      For example, Alexander the Great died in the 4th century B.C. but the oldest existing account of him was written in the 1st century century B.C. and the account “generally considered the most reliable” was from the 1st to 2nd century A.D. (per Wikipedia).

      Bullshit.

      What we have are secondary accounts of contemporary historians and acquaintances of AtG…we have no such thing for Jesus. Because no one was writing about him, because he was a character in a yarn.

      http://www.livius.org/sources/content/oriental-varia/a-contemporary-account-of-the-death-of-alexander/

      http://www.livius.org/articles/person/alexander-the-great/alexander-3.6-last-days/?

      • skl

        You better issue a correction to Wikipedia, ASAP.

        When you do, tell them where we today can look at these secondary accounts, and what the dating of the documents is.

        • Ignorant Amos

          You better issue a correction to Wikipedia, ASAP.

          Nope. Those of us with more than an amoeba sized brain realize the restrictions a Wiki page contain. While being a good go-to source initially, they are far from comprehensive.

          Let’s have a look at your comment on the matter.

          For example, Alexander the Great died in the 4th century B.C. but the oldest existing account of him was written in the 1st century century B.C. and the account “generally considered the most reliable” was from the 1st to 2nd century A.D. (per Wikipedia).

          This is the problem with quote mining…even one paragraph from a wiki page then misrepresenting it.

          Apart from a few inscriptions and fragments, texts written by people who actually knew Alexander or who gathered information from men who served with Alexander were all lost. Contemporaries who wrote accounts of his life included Alexander’s campaign historian Callisthenes; Alexander’s generals Ptolemy and Nearchus; Aristobulus, a junior officer on the campaigns; and Onesicritus, Alexander’s chief helmsman. Their works are lost, but later works based on these original sources have survived. The earliest of these is Diodorus Siculus (1st century BC), followed by Quintus Curtius Rufus (mid-to-late 1st century AD), Arrian (1st to 2nd century AD), the biographer Plutarch (1st to 2nd century AD), and finally Justin, whose work dated as late as the 4th century.[16] Of these, Arrian is generally considered the most reliable, given that he used Ptolemy and Aristobulus as his sources, closely followed by Diodorus.

          So, the oldest existing written accounts of him existing were written earlier, they are just not complete.

          The historical texts pertaining to Alexander are certainly not without their problems…and if that’s all there was, we would be justified in being skeptical of who he was, what he did, what folk believed about him, or if he was anything more than a myth than Romulus.

          But that isn’t all there is, it it?

          Despite these problems with the sources, the existence of Alexander is a reasonable belief because he has wide and independent attestation from all types of sources, and not just those of his own followers.

          Some of these sources date from his own time, and are attested archaeologically, not just from later accounts. So, we don’t just have to depend on later historians such as Plutarch and Arrian.

          For example, reliefs at the Shrine of the Bark at Luxor in Egypt mention Alexander by name, and depict him artistically during his lifetime (ca. 330-325 BCE). That would confirm his presence in Egypt mentioned by all major ancient sources.

          We also have a Mesopotamian tablet, now at the British Museum and designated as BM 36761, which mentions Alexander by name, and refers to his entry into Babylon (See Mesopotamian evidence):

          -Akkadian (BM 36761, Reverse, line 11): A-lek-sa-an-dar-ri-is LUGAL ŠÚ ana E.KI K[U4

          -English: “Alexander, the king of the world, entered Babylon”

          Of course, Alexander is also mentioned or referenced in the Bible itself (1 Maccabees 1:1-7; Daniel 8:4-8, 21).

          [1 Maccabees 1:1-7 is a 2nd – 1st century BCE account….

          1 After Alexander son of Philip, the Macedonian, who came from the land of Kittim, had defeated King Darius of the Persians and the Medes, he succeeded him as king. (He had previously become king of Greece.) 2 He fought many battles, conquered strongholds, and put to death the kings of the earth. 3 He advanced to the ends of the earth, and plundered many nations. When the earth became quiet before him, he was exalted, and his heart was lifted up. 4 He gathered a very strong army and ruled over countries, nations, and princes, and they became tributary to him. 5 After this he fell sick and perceived that he was dying. 6 So he summoned his most honored officers, who had been brought up with him from youth, and divided his kingdom among them while he was still alive. 7 And after Alexander had reigned twelve years, he died.

          https://www.biblestudytools.com/nrsa/1-maccabees/passage/?q=1-maccabees+1:1-7%5D

          The claim found in Plutarch and Arrian that Alexander conquered Babylon is paralleled by this Mesopotamian source, which is not a Greek source or dependent on a Greek source or cannot be said to have been written by a Greek follower of Alexander.

          When Egyptian and Mesopotamian sources, which are not otherwise dependent on each other, say the equivalent of “Alexander was here” during his lifetime, then it is reasonable to believe that there existed a man named Alexander who was present at those places.

          That is why it is unfair to compare Jesus to Alexander in terms of historical evidence for their existence. There is nothing outside of later Christian sources saying Jesus was anywhere in his lifetime. Nothing in the New Testament is fully contemporary with Jesus.

          There also are no Roman or Greek sources saying that there was even a group who believed that Jesus lived or did anything the Gospels allege about him.

          There is no archaeological evidence of his activities or of the activities of his group from Jesus’ supposed lifetime.

          That absence of evidence is curious because, when speaking of Christianity, Acts 28:22 (RSV) says “everywhere it is spoken against.” More traces should remain in the first century of a group that everyone was speaking against.

          In the case of Alexander, his fame was present in a wide range of sources as is expected of someone who was said to have conquered the known world. Alexander was closer to someone “everywhere spoken about” and there is independent corroborating evidence to confirm that. ~ Hector Avalos

          https://www.biblestudytools.com/nrsa/1-maccabees/passage/?q=1-maccabees+1:1-7

          When you do, tell them where we today can look at these secondary accounts, and what the dating of the documents is.

          It’s not necessary. Historians that know about this stuff know the value of such things, and the limitations. Secondary sources are referenced all the time…even biblical scholars do it to help establish the But let’s not be a silly bugger and pretend that the later biographies of AtG mean that his place as historical is on a par with that of Jesus, that’s just moronic.

          Early extant text that bear witness of AtG…are the cuniform Astronomical Diaries…

          http://www.livius.org/articles/concept/astronomical-diaries/

          http://www.livius.org/cg-cm/chronicles/bchp-alexander/astronomical_diary-330_02.html

          http://www.livius.org/cg-cm/chronicles/bchp-alexander/astronomical_diary-330_03.html

          Now wise ta fuck up ya cretin.

          ETA 1 Maccabees dates.

        • skl

          TL;DR

          Please send Wiki your corrections on how our texts on AtG were actually contemporaneous and not written hundreds of years after his death.

        • Ignorant Amos

          TL;DR

          I didn’t go to all that effort for you ya cretin…given that you can’t read for shite in any case.

          Please send Wiki your corrections on how our texts on AtG were actually contemporaneous and not written hundreds of years after his death.

          Since my comment was too long for you to read, you can go and get fucking stretched. You know nothing shite stain. At least 5 readers got the benefit from it. Ya dense fucker.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    Many principles of the Art of Magic (i.e. Illusion) rely on just how messed up human memory is. Intelligent design my ass. If your computer’s memory was as fucked up as most human’s you would not trust it to store your 2yr’olds art work , and certainly not important shit like your fiances and favorite porn. (;

    • Greg G.

      Do you remember the video where two groups of college students, one team with black shirts and one team with white shirts, each team is passing a basketball to members of their own team and you are to count the number of passes the people in white shirts make? Then you watch it a second time without counting and you see a man in a gorilla suit walk out in front of them, stop in the middle, wave to the camera, and walk off.

      That is probably why mathematicians and physicists never see Bigfoot or Nessie.

      • Here’s another one that takes the gorilla example to an extreme. Very well done.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3iPrBrGSJM

      • Cozmo the Magician

        LMAO. Thats funny. OTOH , IRL people who consider themselves to be ‘trained observers’ (scientists, doctors, cops, etc etc) make the best damn audiences, because it is soooo easy to fuck with their perception.

      • epicurus

        I watched a version of this with a witch, maybe it was poorly done, but I instantly noticed her. Guess I’m just special.

  • Modern Christians who fervently embrace the four canonical gospels as literal history whose precision and veracity is not even to be questioned, don’t hesitate to dismiss other writings from around the same time as false. For instance, the Gospel of Peter was likely written around the end of the 1st century, about the same time as e.g. the Gospels of Luke and/or John, but has been condemned as “heretical” since the early 3rd century. That work contains, among other things, a description of a walking, talking cross emerging from Jesus’ tomb. For centuries Christians have had no trouble dismissing this as outrageous and incredible, either fictional or a false memory on the part of its writer. 

    There are plenty of other “gospels,” including infancy gospels, which Christians have also largely dismissed for centuries … including the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which relates that a young Jesus magically killed (via cursing them to death) several people. Again, they have no trouble dismissing these “memories” as either fictional or just false. 

    Somehow, they’ve arbitrarily decided that the contents of four of these gospels are unassailably true “memories” of Jesus’ career, while all the other gospels are “heretical” (or apocryphal) and false. It can’t be solely due to attribution, since many of the “false” gospels were said to have been written by apostles or their followers, just as the four canonicals are. (Even though we all know, at this point, the four quite literally cannot have been written by their tradition-assigned authors). Patriarch Serapion of Antioch, for instance, had no problem condemning what was presented to him as the Gospel of Peter in spite of it having supposedly been written by Jesus’ prime apostle. 

    Really, it’s all a matter of whatever it is that Christians would like to think is true. And that’s what this all boils down to. The “memories” which are the content of the four canonicals, are — in their minds — “eyewitness testimony” which is absolutely, unquestionably true. To the point where they become incensed that anyone could ever question them. All the other “memories” found in all those other works, are false and not to be believed. What they don’t realize is that, objectively, there’s no meaningful difference between the “memories” recounted in the canonicals and those in the apocryphals. There just isn’t. The only distinction to be found, is theological convenience. 

    So … not only is human memory itself fungible and subject to change, so too is how human beings assess memories! They’ll freely label them “true” or “false” based on nothing more than their emotional judgements of them. 

    • Greg G.

      Somehow, they’ve arbitrarily decided that the contents of four of these gospels are unassailably true

      Well, not “arbitrarily”. Irenaeus explains that there must be four gospels because there are four corners to the earth and four winds plus cherubim have four faces.

      The Gospels could not possibly be either more or less in number than they are. Since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is spread over all the earth, and the pillar and foundation of the Church is the gospel, and the Spirit of life, it fittingly has four pillars, everywhere breathing out incorruption and revivifying men. From this it is clear that the Word, the artificer of all things, being manifested to men gave us the gospel, fourfold in form but held together by one Spirit. As David said, when asking for his coming, ‘O sitter upon the cherubim, show yourself ‘. For the cherubim have four faces, and their faces are images of the activity of the Son of God. For the first living creature, it says, was like a lion, signifying his active and princely and royal character; the second was like an ox, showing his sacrificial and priestly order; the third had the face of a man, indicating very clearly his coming in human guise; and the fourth was like a flying eagle, making plain the giving of the Spirit who broods over the Church. Now the Gospels, in which Christ is enthroned, are like these.

      • Ctharrot

        Sounds legit.

      • epicurus

        Who could argue with such rigorous logic

      • Ficino

        And the reason why there are three synoptic gospels is because there are three persons of the Trinity.

        Oh wait, the Trinity was defined as a doctrine after Irenaeus …

        Oh well, that’s how much Irenaeus was ahead of the curve on the truth of the gospel!

      • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

        i prefer

        “Bless us, divine number, thou who generated gods and men! O holy, holy Tetractys, thou that containest the root and source of the eternally flowing creation! For the divine number begins with the profound, pure unity until it comes to the holy four; then it begets the mother of all, the all-comprising, all-bounding, the first-born, the never-swerving, the never-tiring holy ten, the keyholder of all.”

        (supposedly a “prayer of the pythagoreans”, according to wikipedia: tetractys)

    • Joe

      That work contains, among other things, a description of a walking, talking cross emerging from Jesus’ tomb.

      This is new information to me.

      Plot twist: The cross was resurrected, but Jesus wasn’t! All hail our lord and saviour Crossy the Cross.

      • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

        Please show a little respect and address the cross by its proper name: Crossy McCrossface.

        • Kevin K

          I was 17 HOURS behind! Scroll down before snarking, Kevin.

        • Greg G.

          Great minds…. something something… I forget the rest.

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          Great minds think alike. Unfortunately, so do most of the mediocre ones.

      • For you, or anyone else who’s curious, you can find out about the Gospel of Peter from its Wikipedia page (which isn’t bad, all things considered): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_Peter

        You can read a little more about it, and several translations of it, here: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/gospelpeter.html

        For that matter, the Early Christian Writings site is an indispensable reference for anyone who wants to learn early Christian history. It hosts a very large number of ante-Nicene writings. 

        Re “All hail our lord and saviour Crossy the Cross.” 

        “Crossy crossy!” (shouted to the cadence of “dilly dilly” from Bud Light commercials). 😉 

        Ed. to add: As an aside, one scholar, J.D. Crossan, believes there must have been something he calls a “Cross Gospel” which was a source for the Gospel of Peter as well as for John. He’s well-respected for the most part, but he’s the only one I know of who takes this notion seriously. So it should be taken with a brick of salt. 

        • Ignorant Amos

          I should take Kevin K’s advice and scroll down before commenting…Disqus can be a right pain.

        • No problem! I enjoyed reading the link. I’m not yet sold on Crossan’s “cross gospel” either, but it’s definitely worth consideration and I hope it gets more scholarly examination. 

      • Kevin K

        Crossy McCrossface…

    • Ignorant Amos

      NT scholar John Dominic Crossan thinks the Gospel of Peter based on the hypothetical Cross Gospel, has gospel priority over the canonical NT yarns.

      http://serene-musings.blogspot.com/2009/09/cross-gospel.html

  • RichardSRussell

    1972? I remember that! Dewey defeated Truman, right?

    • Greg G.

      I remember the headline like it was yesterday.

  • Ignorant Amos

    … personal war stories is full of errors…

    As ya may know, my go-to example of just such a state of affairs are the accounts of Bravo-Two-Zero…an SAS section tasked with taking out Saddam’s Scuds.

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

    While I can attest to personal accounts of military escapades whose participants recalled contradictory memories after the fact, they’d be purely anecdotal. But trust, this sort of thing is prevalent. And that’s leaving out the “Walter Mitty” effect.

    • they’d be purely anecdotal

      Which makes them fit nicely into this bin. Honestly held beliefs that are wrong are more common than we think. When those false beliefs are a part of our personal story, then it really becomes interesting (and a little weird).

      Yet another example is the post I did on the search for Miss Ames:

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2017/02/human-memory-vivid-doesnt-mean-accurate-2/

      • Ignorant Amos

        There was a thing in the army we used to call “Third Party Yarning”. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but it may have been elsewhere. In the Royal Engineers we get posted to different units as individuals and not posted as a unit to a new location like the infantry. That means meeting many new people in a plethora of locations, quite often guys would cross one an others paths and meet guys who had served with mutual fellows in other units. This gives rise to “pull up a sandbag” and let me tell ya what happened when I was at…x, y, z, a few years ago. This is where the “Third Party Yarning” c/w embellishment comes into play.

        It goes like this. A group will start reminiscing about an incident that they were involved in, that was relevant for some entertaining reason. Could be because humorous, could be because dangerous, whatever…and drinking alcohol would oft times be involved. Fast forward a year or two and a member of the audience to the previous revelation of an exciting incident has been posted to a new location and is engaged in reminiscing about past events worth an outing. This is where the “Third Party Yarning” comes in. The guy that was in the audience of the earlier story telling, puts himself into the story as if he was involved in that incident he’d heard about at his last unit, firsthand. Things get added to the story, things get omitted…ya can see where this is going?

        Now, there’s a good chance that no one in this new audience was involved in this event, or had heard this story, but on occasion, the story has been heard before by a member of this new audience, just not the way this new retelling is being portrayed…whose account is the accurate one?

        Worse than that, someone that was actually there at the event being retold, and who knows how inaccurate the retelling is going, is sometimes listening to the yarning. Ya can imagine how the ribbing goes from there when the cat gets outta the bag?

        The point is…even the most professional of people make shite up, embellish yarns for a fuller effect, or just lie.

        The multiple witnesses to the Loch Ness Monster are testimony to the bullshitter concept. Many of whom were professional folk, some were religious clerics, a police officer, a doctor, an army officer, an MP who was a knight of the realm…and a saint ffs.

        http://www.loch-ness.com/eyewitnesses.html

        The belief that a monster lived in the loch was deemed beyond doubt, as can be seen in this letter to the Under Secretary of State for Scotland from the Chief Constable for Inverness-shire, where he shows concern for the beastie’s well being.

        http://www.scottisharchivesforschools.org/naturalScotland/Images/680Images/HH000100588-00031–680p.gif

        This was as recently as 1933 would ya believe. Human beings will see stuff that ain’t there…or is something else entirely…Pareidolia it’s called…and we are also good at letting our imaginations run amok and making shite up too.

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

        • America’s Dear Leader is an example of bullshitting made into an art form.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Indeed. He is second to none at it.

          He is so good at it lot’s of fuckwits in his own party don’t even think it’s bullshitting. That’s how bullshit prevails.

        • Greg G.

          You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. –Abraham Lincoln

          Trump’s base is the second group. Unfortunately, it is possible to manipulate enough of the first group to relinquish their voting rights.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Let’s hope the lackadaisical attitude of those democrats who sat on their hands during the election, and the realization that they’ve put a dangerous idiot into the Whitehouse, by the more rational Republicans, is enough to win the mid-terms and allow the rest of the world to have some hope.

          Of course ousting Trump early, still leaves us with the problem of Pence…which is the lesser of two evils?…a bumbling idiot making an arse of himself, or the Dark Lord of Insidiocy?

        • Yes, that is an unpleasant dilemma, but the Dark Lord is less likely to bumble into World War III.

        • Ignorant Amos

          We’ve just identified the Russian assassins that used chemical weapons on UK soil…that is an act of war in any other scenario…I wonder what would happen if it was the US?

        • Luckily, Putin is the the Orange One’s idol, so his bizarre outlook might bizarrely protect us from war in that case.

          Sorry to turn the conversation to politics, but did you hear about the op-ed in the NY Times yesterday? Anything that has the Trumpster fuming makes me happy.
          https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/05/politics/donald-trump-mystery-op-ed/index.html

        • Ignorant Amos

          Just watchin the BBC report on that op-ed as I type…can’t wait for Bill Maher’s take on it Sunday night.

        • We live in strange times when some of our most important commentary comes from late-night comedians. I suppose that’s been true to some extent for decades, but more so now.

          I wish the Daily Show were still on …

        • Greg G.

          It is now the Daily Show with not Jon Stewart.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Not much of a consolation to youse lot if he turns the US into Gilead.

        • Pofarmer

          I don’t know if you’ve been following the news over here with all the books and the Editorial yesterday. Things are decidedly a little freaky deaky.

        • Ignorant Amos

          I have.

          I get a dose of Bill Maher on a Sunday night. He has the authors of some of those books on his show. And talks about everything anti-Trump.

          The US is in our international news reports daily, too.

        • The US is in our international news comedy reports daily, too.

          FTFY

  • Andrej Đeneš

    This is what bugs me when UFO/Bigfoot/etc. people present some military/law enforcement member as a “reliable witness” and their eyewitness testimony is automatically labeled as “evidence” of aliens or whatever because they are an “expert” (of what? Aliens? Is there a school for that?). I have a saying (which, admittedly, I modified from the friendly fire one), it goes: Reliable witnesses – aren’t.

  • Dennis Reeder

    Yes, BUT a christian could and most likely would argue that the Holy Spirit guided, restored and affirmed the memories of those who knew Jesus or were witnesses to his life, death and resurrection. Hard to argue with that; actually it is impossible and not worth the effort. (Ditto for The Book of Mormon).

    Interesting book mining the same theme: “Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens” by Susan A. Clancy, Harvard University Press 2005

    • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

      Even then we’ve got a telephone game of those witnesses passing along stories until they reach the Gospel authors.

      • Greg G.

        But the Gospel authors have unlisted numbers.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          We can’t interview them now anyway. Actually, no information about the identity of the authors is given in the texts, so even if we had read the texts when they were first written, we couldn’t have arranged interviews with the authors. We would not have known who they were or where they lived.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Actually, no information about the identity of the authors is given in the texts…

          Well that’s not strictly accurate…it’s whether the smidgen of information that is there, gets us to where apologists would like. I don’t think it does.

        • Greg G.

          We can infer things about them and their intended audience. aMark used Aramaic words and Latin words. He explained the Aramaic that isn’t obvious from the context but never the Latin, so his readers were expected to be Romans.

          New Testament scholars and scholars of ancient literature have identified sources that aMark used in books and scholastic articles. Robert M. Price [LINK] assembled them and they account for over 70% of gMark. Then there are direct quotes and allusions to Old Testament verses and their contexts that were not included. Nor were the verses about the travel from place to place to do fictional things. It turns out that most of Mark’s source material is not even about Jesus, so it is fiction, not written by an eyewitness.

          The other gospels contain these fictions from Mark. Some of their sources can be identified as well. The other gospel authors were not eyewitnesses either.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          Oh, I agree. I don’t think any of the Gospel writers were eyewitnesses of Jesus. It is possible that they may have gotten information from some second-handed, third-handed, or more.

        • Greg G.

          But how would anybody know whether the second-hand information was actual information and not made up information? Robert M. Price has said that anything worth remembering as a Jesus quote is worth making up and attributing to Jesus.

          In Matthew, many of the words of Jesus are on topics discussed in the Epistle of James, including an usually high number of words and phrases in common that are found nowhere else in the New Testament. James barely mentions Jesus and his arguments would have been much stronger if he would have had a “Jesus said” attached to them. If Matthew was putting James’ words into Jesus’ mouth, how do we know he wasn’t using a source lost to us for other Jesus words? The Sermon on the Mount Site: James and the Sermon on the Mount [LINK] by Robert I. Kirby points out the “coincidences” regarding topics but I think the concentration of the excessive amounts of unique common words and phrases mean it is a literary connection, rather than oral transmission. If Matthew used James and Luke has the same phrasing as Matthew where James was used, then Luke used Matthew, and there is no need for a Q document.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          GG: But how would anybody know whether the second-hand information was actual information and not made up information? Robert M. Price has said that anything worth remembering as a Jesus quote is worth making up and attributing to Jesus.

          GW: We cannot know, unless we invent a time machine. For now we just have to estimate the probability that any given statement is factual or fictional.

          GG: In Matthew, many of the words of Jesus are on topics discussed in the Epistle of James, including an usually high number of words and phrases in common that are found nowhere else in the New Testament. James barely mentions Jesus and his arguments would have been much stronger if he would have had a “Jesus said” attached to them. If Matthew was putting James’ words into Jesus’ mouth, how do we know he wasn’t using a source lost to us for other Jesus words?

          GW: We don’t know. That is a possibility.

          GG: The Sermon on the Mount Site: James and the Sermon on the Mount [LINK] by Robert I. Kirby points out the “coincidences” regarding topics but I think the concentration of the excessive amounts of unique common words and phrases mean it is a literary connection, rather than oral transmission. If Matthew used James and Luke has the same phrasing as Matthew where James was used, then Luke used Matthew, and there is no need for a Q document.

          GW: Interesting hypothesis. I think we agree that we cannot and should not have much confidence in the truth of NT statements and claims.

    • Gary Whittenberger

      It’s not hard to argue with that. The Holy Spirit does not exist!

  • Elizabeth A. Root

    I once remarked to one of my closest friends that often when she recounts something, I’m thinking that that’s not how I remember it. I don’t contradict her when she is taking to other people, because I could be the one who is wrong.

    Bart Ehrman has made a cottage industry out of detailing how redactions, miscopying, and outright forgeries have made the exact text unreliable (Of course he found them much more authoritative when he wanted to prove
    that Jesus existed.) One of my friends is a New Testament scholar, who doesn’t take the Bible literally or accept accounts of miracles, or verses that say things he doesn’t like. The last time he tried thundering a verse at me, I said that the Bible has been so cherry-picked-over by Christians of all stripes that I didn’t see how it could be considered authoritative. He was telling me how early the gospels were written. I told him that I understood that we don’t have good copies for hundreds of years, so we don’t know how accurate those copies are. He admitted that was true. He also reluctantly admitted that the well-loved story of the woman who is taken in adultery (“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”) is not in the oldest versions of John, just as one example. .

    • Greg G.

      We can see how much the Gospel of Mark story was changed in Matthew, Luke, and John but they are trying to come up with ways that memory and oral transmission would be essentially accurate after forty or fifty years.

      • Pofarmer

        Hey Greg G. What do you think of this?

        There
        were some large number of Israelite tribes that were residing in the
        land before the 18th Dynasty of Egypt fell. The refugees from that
        dynasty fled Egypt and allied themselves with the Israelites to drive
        out the Phoenicians who had settlements in the land.

        The
        Egyptians were given the tribal affiliation Levi, although Nebi would
        have been the Egyptian spelling (since they didn’t have an “l” sound)
        and is related to the Hebrew word navi meaning leader or prophet.
        They formed the priesthood of the ancient Israelite religion, with two
        levels… regular Levites, and the higher priesthood, the Cohanim.

        The
        name of the Egyptian god Amen is still used at the end of prayers. This
        is the god associated with Akhenaten’s “one god” named Aten, and also
        the god associated with a nitrogen bearing salt (called sal ammoniac)
        that can be used to make explosives, and probably accounts for the
        victory at Jericho, and the destruction of the followers of Korach
        during the Korach rebellion, and the explosive revelation on Mt. Sinai.
        Our word ammonia comes from this god Amen and the temple where this salt was commonly found.

        Eventually
        the fate of the various tribes waned, and only the tribe of Judah plus
        its Levite and Cohanim priests and a few other Israelites who had
        settled or married in were left after some conquests, and the people
        from this nation, called Judea, is where Jews and Judaism evolved from.

        It’s
        difficult to say which is the most important tribe, since without all
        of them the victory against the Phoenicians might not have been
        successful. In modern practice, also, all Jews are equally important.
        The differences in practice between Israelites (including those of the
        tribe of Judah) and Levites and Cohanim are minor and almost all rituals
        are open to all Jews. The religion really does try to keep the
        community together, and the major text relating to religious law, the
        Talmud, shows an indelible predilection for humor and puns. It’s hard
        not to be impressed with how flexible the practices are.

        Caveat:
        The above description is based in supposition, and although I should
        write a scholarly work related to this, so as to open up these ideas to
        some more vigorous debate, I haven’t done so yet.

        The major points:

        • The Canaanites were the Phoenicians. This does not seem to be in dispute.


        I haven’t mentioned the Midianites, who were also present in the land
        and slaughtered by the conquering Israelites. These were probably the
        Mitanni people. This is a supposition based on the similar sound of the
        names, and the fact that the Mitanni did come to an end. Their
        destruction might not have been at the hands of the Israelites, but
        perhaps claimed as such to lend more mythical power to their story.


        The Israelites were likely the Shasu people mentioned in Egyptian
        texts, as local inhabitants of the land. Their gods’ names are
        consistent with the Israelite gods names.


        The god of Moses, represented by the tetragrammaton, is perhaps most
        likely associated with one of the eightfold gods (Ogdoad) named Hehu,
        signifying an unlimited essence. This is speculation based on the idea
        that Moses brought a new god to the Israelites, and this seems to be a
        decent fit both conceptually and linguistically.


        The description of sal ammoniac and its provenance in the temple of
        Amon is well established. The use of ammonia salts in manufacturing
        explosives is also well accepted.

        • The association of the Hebrew Amen with the Egyptian god of the same name is probably the most controversial suggestion, but is supported by words such as amnon meaning
        a temple artisan, as well as by the historical evidence of the
        monotheism of Akhenaten and the accepted association of Aten with Amen
        (or Amun/Ammon, depending on one’s spelling preference.)


        The description of the Egyptian lack of “l” sound and the use of an “n”
        sound in its place is accepted scholarship. There are several titles
        such as Neb which suggest the common usage.


        The association of the fleeing Egyptians after the end of the 18th
        dynasty is suggested by the Biblical description of the tenth plague,
        i.e. the Death of the Firstborn. This suggests an end of the inheritance
        structure, that is, an end of the dynasty. The final pharaohs of the
        18th dynasty were commoners, so the history is also consistent with the
        passage in the Bible of there arising a Pharaoh who “did not know” the
        people who would flee. The story described above is also supported by
        the literary nature of the Joseph story, suggesting that it was composed
        after the fact. The Torah thus plays a mythical role in consolidating
        the Israelite nation’s new identity, in much the same way that the King
        Arthur story accomplished this for the English. It is a mythology of
        unity, showing a common bond.

        • The name
        Moses is perhaps a reference to Ramses, the name of the Pharaohs of the
        next (19th) dynasty. The name Aaron is perhaps a reference to Akhenaten.
        Thus the two superheroes of the story would have been given stature
        with such heroic names. Neither makes it into the land itself, so there
        is some speculative evidence based on the literature that they were
        inventions.

        Forgive me for this long answer!
        I have tried to shed some light both on the religion and the possible
        historical events that led to its formation. Comments welcome.

        • Greg G.

          That sounds a lot like The Moses Mystery, The Egyptian Origins of the Jewish People by Gary Greenberg. His idea was that when Ahkenaten was overthrown, his priests would have become refugees. It dovetails with what you present here, though I don’t know about the dynasty number off the top of my head.

          His other book explains a lot of the Old Testament in terms of the Egyptians.

        • Greg G.

          I often talk about the relationship between Legion, the demonaic in Mark, and Polyphemus, the Cyclops in The Odyssey.. The name “Polyphemus” means “famous”. It is “poly”, meaning “many as in “polygon” and “phem” for “speaking” as in “blasphemy” so literally it means “many speak of”. In the Textus Receptus, Mark 5:9 has “lego” for “said” immediately followed by “legio”, for a large number of soldiers, but it emphasizes the “many” by saying “for we are many”, using the Greek word “polys”. It is like Mark is telling his readers that he is likening this to the famous Polyphemus, the Cyclops.

          A few years ago, I made a note that I hadn’t thought of until I happened to see it tonight. In Mark’s version of the Woman with the Ointment:

          Mark 14:9 (NRSV)9 Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

          She recognized Jesus and washed his feet and Jesus says she will be famous. In The Odyssey, Odysseus’ old wet nurse washes his feet, sees a scar and recognizes him. Her name is “Eurycleia”, which means “broad fame”. [LINK] Odysseus’ biological mother was “Anticleia”, meaning “unfamous”. That link goes on to explain how Odysseus was famous but played a beggar, while his two mothers are have opposite names regarding fame. I thought of when Odysseus introduced himself to the famous Polyphemus, he said he was “Nobody”.

          So, now I am pondering if Mark had Jesus being Odysseus’ opposite, gaining fame but dying as a nobody.

          Can you think of any more input for me about fame in Mark?

          ETA: The “lego legio” would be a visual bilingual pun with the similar spelling of the Greek :lego” and the Latin “legio” that would be a parallel of :Polyphemus”.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Anyone who thinks there is a “plain reading” of the Gospel according to Mark, knows nothing about the gospel and how cryptic it actually turns out to be.

          It is a secret writing intended for the in-crowd.

        • Pofarmer

          You are way ahead of me here.

          I didn’t realize the whole “washing the feet” thing, was in more than just the Bible. Where else does that show up?

        • Greg G.

          The Wikipedia page is only about Christian foot washing. I found this article that has a little more:

          https://www.zionlutherannj.net/footwashing-in-the-old-and-new-testament-the-graeco-roman-world-the-early-church-and-the-liturgy-2/

          [In the Graeco-Roman World…] Thomas says, “It appears that footwashing was so common in domestic contexts for hygienic purposes that it gave rise to a traditional saying which described the commencement of a course of action without due preparation as rushing into matters with unwashed feet.”

          In the Bible, it is used as a euphemism for sex, too. After David knocked up Bathsheba, he called Uriah the Hittite to the palace and suggested he go to his house and “wash his feet”. But Uriah knew what he meant and refused because his men were camping outside the city so he didn’t think he should partake of the comforts of home. So David had Uriah killed so he would doubt Bathsheba when he came home to a child.

        • Ignorant Amos

          YahwehJesuses most righteous and chosen one, broke every rule in the Decalogue. But what punishment befell him? Bugger all. A one week old baby was offed by God because of David’s extra marital activities though.

          Bible morality? I’ve shit it.

        • Greg G.

          If only God had arranged for Bathsheba to have a spontaneous abortion, as with most fertilized ova, instead of the infant mortality, David would not have taken those drastic means.

        • Ignorant Amos

          So all Gods fault then. Ya couldn’t make the shite up…oh, wait a wee minute, they did.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Ritual cleansing goes way back…the Zoroastrians were right into it. Uncontaminated rain water was the preferred medium… but sand or dust was used in certain circumstances.

          To perform any acts of cleansing effectively the doer must himself be clean. It is, moreover, an absolute duty for Zoroastrians to keep themselves so, since man too is one of the good creations of Ahura Mazdā and must strive constantly to “ward off the demon of defilement (Av. Nasuš, Pahl. Nasā) from his person” (Šāyest nē šāyest, suppl., 20.4). “Washing the hands” (Pahl., Pers. dast šostan) was necessary before engag­ing in any pious task, and the whole person was supposed to be frequently washed by pouring water over the body from head (Av. barəšnu-) to foot. This form of ablution is described as “washing hair and body” (cf. Vd. 8.11: frasnayānte varəsāsca tanūmca) or “washing head and body” (Pahl. sar ud tan šustan, Ardā Wīrāz-nāmag 2.12), often abbreviated to “wash­ing the head” (sar šustan). In the Zoroastrian dialect of Yazd it is called ōweraḵt “pouring of water,” but when speaking Persian the Persian Zoroastrians adopted the Arabic term ḡosl, which they pronounce ḡosel, while the Parsis came to use Gujarati nāhn “bath.” This ablution is proper before taking part in any major religious ceremony. “He who wishes that the worship he performs should reach the gods best, let him wash his hands clean and keep his body and clothes in cleanliness” (Dēnkard 6.125, tr. Shaked).

          http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/cleansing-i

          A lot of the rituals at that link sound very familiar to Judaism…a wonder how much the Hebrews “borrowed” from the Babylonians during the exile? They plagiarized other stuff, so why not indeed.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Sounds a wee fanciful without supporting evidence, perhaps the book Greg cites has just such support.

          Still, it suffers from the same problems the biblical version, does it not?

        • Greg G.

          Greenberg’s 101 Myths of the Bible was pretty good. The Moses Mystery seemed speculative. I bought a book on Ancient Egypt that was written 1952 and was still in print and on the book shelves to compare. Greenberg’s facts seemed to be OK. He shows that the regencies and co-regencies of Egypt aligned with the ages in the genealogy of the antediluvian men. I didn’t get into that so much to verify it.

          But the idea that Ahkenaten’s priests may have brought monotheism out of Egypt and some of them were eventually able to persuade a subset of one culture of it does not seem so far-fetched.

    • Ignorant Amos

      Decent buybulls…(is that an oxymoron or what?)…have a footnote that tells the reader that the “Pericope Adulterae” ain’t in the earliest mss copies.

      Many translations of the Bible simply denote this fact by supplying a footnote of the pericope’s exclusion from early manuscripts, or including a brief insertion in the appendix.

      https://caffeinatedtheologian.wordpress.com/2015/01/17/on-the-inspiration-of-the-pericope-adulterae/

      The pericope becomes a periscope in that article…more than once in that apologetic. lol. They admit it is problematic, but why should that even matter? It must’ve still been inspired, just not to the author of John. The fuckwits don’t realize they are propagating a lie…even if it is a pious one.

      • Greg G.

        No, no, no. John was inspired to write it originally but forgot to do it. Just like Mark was inspired to finish his gospel but forgot to.

  • Gary Whittenberger

    Bob, another excellent essay! Keep them coming.