Is Life Absurd Without God? A Reply to WLC’s Influential Article (2 of 3).

Is Life Absurd Without God? A Reply to WLC’s Influential Article (2 of 3). May 10, 2019

I recently wrote about an atheist who praised the essay “The Absurdity of Life without God” by Christian apologist William Lane Craig (WLC). The praise was so effusive—and coming from a self-declared atheist—that I had to take a look at that influential article. Let’s continue with our critique (part 1 here).

What is the purpose in life?

Craig tells us that life without God has no purpose. Millions of atheists find purpose in life, thank you for asking, but ignore that for now—what purpose does a life with God provide? Drum roll, please, because here’s what Craig tells us we have to look forward to in Christianity: “The chief purpose of life is not happiness, but the knowledge of God.”

That’s the big reward, learning more about God and maybe telling him how fantastic he is? Thanks, but I think the meaning that we find in our lives—learning new things and improving ourselves, striving and sometimes succeeding, doing good for others and enjoying their company, leaving society better than we found it, and so on—is far more satisfying. If an omnibenevolent God existed, I’m certain he’d agree.

What is the meaning in life?

Ever have someone tell you how you should see things from your vantage point? We all enjoy having someone more wise (or maybe just more pompous) than us tell us how we’re doing things wrong.

Craig does a lot of this. Here’s an example where he gets off to a good start:

Camus said that we should honestly recognize life’s absurdity and then live in love for one another.

Yes, there is no ultimate meaning. Loving and serving each other is a good way to live our lives. But this doesn’t satisfy Craig. He continues:

The fundamental problem with this solution, however, is that it is impossible to live consistently and happily within such a world view. If one lives consistently, he will not be happy; if one lives happily, it is only because he is not consistent. . . . If God does not exist, then all we are left with is despair.

And, yet again, millions of atheists see no problem here. Neither does the dictionary—there is no ultimate demand in the definition of “meaning.”

Craig tries again:

The atheistic world view is insufficient to maintain a happy and consistent life. Man cannot live consistently and happily as though life were ultimately without meaning, value, or purpose. If we try to live consistently within the atheistic world view, we shall find ourselves profoundly unhappy.

The millions of ex-Christians who’ve switched to the atheistic worldview disagree.

Another try:

As Dostoyevsky put it: “If there is no immortality then all things are permitted.” On this basis, a writer like Ayn Rand is absolutely correct to praise the virtues of selfishness. Live totally for self; no one holds you accountable! Indeed, it would be foolish to do anything else, for life is too short to jeopardize it by acting out of anything but pure self-interest. Sacrifice for another person would be stupid.

All things are permitted? No one holds you accountable? Tell that to the judge. Most of us are happy to be accountable to the friends and family in our lives (but if Craig would be a rampaging murderer without the constraints of Christianity, then I’m glad he’s a Christian).

As for sacrifice for another, we’re programmed for that because we’re social animals. One wonders if Craig ever gets out of his ivory tower to test his ideas against reality.

Here’s Craig’s advice to any atheist who shares his glum view of reality.

About the only solution the atheist can offer is that we face the absurdity of life and live bravely.

You want joy? Get a puppy. Find a romantic partner. Get involved in life. “Live bravely”? Thanks for the condescension. I can suggest a place where Craig can shove his Godsplaining.

Craig does a poor job of seeing things from someone else’s viewpoint. This isn’t surprising—it’s not his worldview. Atheists have meaning, atheists experience happiness and despair little differently than Christians, atheists consistently accept finite meaning in life, and atheists are able to face reality by following the evidence where it points.

It’s the Christians who have the problem with consistency, especially if they take Craig’s advice to ignore reality and pick a worldview based on how pleasing it is rather than how likely it is to be valid. And it’s the Christians who are most uneasy about mortality. In a 2011 study, “[The most religious study participants were] by far the most likely to exhaust finances on life-prolonging treatment.”

Ask an ex-Christian how much better it feels to drop the cognitive dissonance of juggling unsupportable Christian claims in the face of explanations that are nicely grounded by science.

William Lane Craig declares himself to be Nietzsche’s madman, the only one who sees things correctly. He handwaves that atheists don’t understand the consequences of their worldview, but all he means is, “You don’t see it my way.” Of course I don’t see it your way—you’ve done nothing to argue for its correctness. And, given your inept flailing, I’m sure that I understand my perspective far better than you do.

Craig insists on imposing his childish view on everyone else. He’s in an existential tizzy about the idea that there is no ultimate purpose to life, and he thinks everyone else should share his view. I suggest he approach this the old-fashioned way: by providing compelling evidence for his position.

Concluded in part 3.

I wish to propose for the reader’s favourable consideration
a doctrine which may, I fear,
appear wildly paradoxical and subversive.

The doctrine in question is this:
that it is undesirable to believe a proposition
when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true.
— Bertrand Russell, Sceptical Essays

.

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 4/20/15.)

Image from Max Braun, CC license

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  • ThaneOfDrones

    What is best in life?
    To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!
    – Conan the Barbarian

    • Lex Lata

      “When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.”

      -Moses the Barbarian

      • I Came To Bring The Paine

        “I am the punishment of God. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.”

        “The greatest happiness is to vanquish your enemies, to chase them
        before you, to rob them of their wealth, to see those dear to them
        bathed in tears, to clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters.”

        “Moses ain’t got shit on me.”

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c7ead1b9d6307eb6e5bd47afd30fee70e7a79aa1dce91d60d786ab188182d45d.jpg

        The Khan (You Know Which One)

        • DingoJack
        • Michael Neville
        • Greg G.

          Many Star Trek related sites say:

          From 1992 to 1996, Khan was absolute ruler of more than one-quarter of Earth’s population, including the regions of Asia and the Middle East.

          Change the century and that describes Genghis Khan.

        • Cozmo the Magician

          Yeah, but the ST Khan was a gene spliced test tube baby designed for war. The other one was just a power hungry prick born from human parents.

        • Greg G.

          10% of the males in a certain area of Genghis Khan’s power have the same Y chromosome.

        • Cozmo the Magician

          Citation please?

        • Greg G.

          http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2010/08/1-in-200-men-direct-descendants-of-genghis-khan/#.XNiOd45KiUk

          In 2003 a groundbreaking historical genetics paper reported results which indicated that a substantial proportion of men in the world are direct line descendants of Genghis Khan. By direct line, I mean that they carry Y chromosomes which seem to have come down from an individual who lived approximately 1,000 years ago. As Y chromosomes are only passed from father to son, that would mean that the Y is a record of one’s patrilineage. Genghis Khan died ~750 years ago, so assuming 25 years per generation, you get about 30 men between the present and that period. In more quantitative terms, ~10% of the men who reside within the borders of the Mongol Empire as it was at the death of Genghis Khan may carry his Y chromosome, and so ~0.5% of men in the world, about 16 million individuals alive today, do so.

        • DingoJack

          Pfft:-
          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/dd7bbf78be3274b486810f586d1310a302aae6c1bf6fd43594810fcd1328a01f.jpg
          These are (a copy) of the mummified remains of an approximately 4 year old boy who died near the village of Mal’ta in Siberia (north of Lake Baikal) about 25000 years ago. His Y chromosome haplotype is R*. His brothers are (very likely) your ancestor (certainly mine) — and all North Indians, Iranians, Bashkirs, Ghanese, Western Europeans, Eastern Europeans and more.
          Gengis Khan’s a mere amateur 😉

        • Greg G.

          I recall a study from 15 or 20 years ago (that I am too lazy/caffeine-deprived to search for atm) that said the most recent common ancestor to us all would be from about 2400 years ago. I think that would be when Alexander the Great opened Silk Road trade routes with Asia. It also said that if anyone from 2000 years before that had descendants living today, they would be an ancestor to us all.

          175 generations back would be 2^175 potential ancestors for that generation but there haven’t been that many humans in history. If a person from that time has living descendants, it is not a matter of if they are your ancestor but how many millions of genealogical paths the person is your ancestor.

        • Cozmo the Magician

          Well THAT explains why I wake up cranky most days O_o

        • Greg G.

          That is your inner Genghis.

        • No–it’s cranky with a desire to conquer the world.

    • eric

      “Living well is the best revenge.” -George Herbert.

  • Milo C

    I believe WLC has difficulty with equivocation, separate from his difficulty with other perspectives. Not having an Assigned Ultimate Meaning and One True Purpose for all people does not mean individuals have no meaning and purpose. Besides, I would feel a bit cheated if my purpose was to be just one of a million others created to kiss my creator’s ass for eternity. Bum deal.

    • I would feel a bit cheated if my purpose was to be just one of a million others created to kiss my creator’s ass for eternity. Bum deal

      ISWYDT

      • MR

        if my purpose was to be just one of a million others

        Jealousy rears it’s ugly head….

        • Shan

          Sucks to get caught in the crack of existence.

        • Greg G.

          Jesus said to turn the other cheek.

        • Kodie

          But it took us so long to get to the bottom of this.

        • Oh dear Lord, what have I started … ?

        • MR

          Oh, so you’re the one behind this.

        • I hope we’re at the tail end of this conversation.

        • Guestie

          This thread reminds me of milking cows. All that dairy air.

    • MR

      That reminds me of a train of thought I’d once had that I’d forgotten about. If I’m one of millions of others, exactly what purpose am I fulfilling? Does it matter if there is one more or one less soul worshiping God? Couldn’t God just replace me with another soul? If I had never been born would God be lacking me? Does God need me in some way? I mean, usually when you serve a purpose, you’re needed. Somehow I think God, the universe, would likely go on without me.

      Obviously, the appeal to purpose isn’t about actually having a purpose. It’s an appeal to a selfish desire to live forever. It’s a disingenuous argument.

      • Cozmo the Magician

        I KNOW that the whole reason the universe exists is just so that I can live in it. What other purpose could it have {;

      • Kodie

        I think the gist of the reasoning goes:

        1. Why was I born instead of someone else.
        2. God made it you because you are special.
        3. That means you have to be especially grateful to god
        4. Don’t fuck it up!

        • MR

          One along with millions doesn’t make me feel so special and I still don’t know my ultimate purpose.

        • Kodie

          If I’m one of millions of others, exactly what purpose am I fulfilling?
          Does it matter if there is one more or one less soul worshiping God?
          Couldn’t God just replace me with another soul? If I had never been born would God be lacking me? Does God need me in some way? I mean, usually when you serve a purpose, you’re. Somehow I think God, the universe, would likely go on without me.

          To answer your questions:
          1. You’re supposed to figure out what makes you special and do “god’s work” on earth, because he can’t, because he’s fictional. It might be singing, or volunteering to help old people, or being an EMT, or making as much money as you can so you can attract more people to Christian faith. You have to figure it out just like everyone else.
          2. Yes.
          3. No. You were born, everyone who was born, cannot be replaced.
          4. Yes and no. If you were supposed to be born, i.e. you were at least a fertilized egg, but miscarried or aborted, you would (at least according to ?) automatically be saved. I don’t know what a glob of cells does for fun up in heaven, that’s a different question. If the chance of you were missed, i.e., your biological parents never met, you might be someone else, but you might have been the (one of 200,000 a shot) sperm who never got to go out on a date with a egg. Sperms don’t go to hell, they don’t get saved, they are garbage now.
          5. See 1.
          6. Yes, the universe would go on without you.

          What it comes down to is, yes, the egotism. It’s really easy to live in a bubble of people you know, and really difficult to conceive of the vast number of people, or perhaps, in light of knowing just how many people there are, how very few must be capable of managing their lives as holy as possible. Religion has always been about the chosen. Probably why (in addition to animals and rainbows) Noah’s Ark is the choice bible story for children. God drowned a lot of people he didn’t like, and picked ONE. Ok, out of all the other stories, the animals and rainbows make genocide so super kid-friendly. It’s also got a big weird cartoon boat, with lots of windows for the giraffes and elephants to stick out their heads… in the rain.

        • Jim Jones

          “We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia.

          Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.

          We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?”

          ― Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder

        • DingoJack

          “Some mute, inglorious Milton/ Some Cromwell guiltless of his country’s blood…”

    • Len

      Two things:
      * God put me on this earth to achieve some special things. Right now I’m so behind schedule I’m going to live forever.
      * If god put me on this earth to help other people, what are the other people for?

  • “Meaning” is an emotion. A psychological state. It isn’t some physical feature of the Universe. It does not exist outside our minds. It may not even have any equivalent in other sentient minds, should we discover or create them. Whatever it is, we all experience it in some way, regardless of our beliefs (and barring issues of mental illness). If WLC’s life would lack meaning without his belief in God (or some other god), so be it. I feel sorry for his very limited worldview, but that’s his problem, not mine. He’s in no position to decide what induces the meaning neurons in my brain to fire.

    • Michael Neville

      WLC is indulging in that popular Christian pastime, declaring how complete strangers think and what motivates them. Just because we don’t share his motivations doesn’t mean we don’t have our own.

      • rationalobservations?

        WLC appears to confess the he (and all religionists) are psychopaths who are only constrained from all murderous and anti-humanitarian acts by their fear of punishment and hope of reward after they cease to exist.

        The third largest and fastest growing human demographic need no such lies to live good and more constructive lives.

        • DingoJack

          See Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development. (1958)
          NB: Level I, stage I.

        • rationalobservations?

          Not so much a “theory” but more a biased hypothesis.

          Nonetheless, morality (like everything else) is entirely and exclusively a human matter. No religionism, wishful thinking, indoctrination or mythology can alter that fact.

          Let those psychopaths who need mythology to curtail them from all evil keep it. Fortunately their numbers are few and becoming fewer rapidly.

        • epeeist

          Not so much a “theory” but more a biased hypothesis.

          And based on a very small sample at that, it is no wonder that there are so many retractions of psychology papers.

  • Michael Neville

    As Dostoyevsky put it: “If there is no immortality then all things are permitted.” … Live totally for self; no one holds you accountable!

    I hold myself accountable for my actions. I have empathy for others and a conscience, neither of which require immortality.

    • Kodie

      Technically, for them, punishment in this life isn’t permanent. Everything is permitted because human judges can only hold you to the rest of your life, and you can skip out on the rest of your consecutive sentences. Also, if you are sentenced to die, seems religious people prefer sending a criminal straight to hell, despite that they might have accepted Jesus into their life in the meantime. I think a life sentence is more painful than dying. Relieving someone of that pain because you believe death is the ultimate punishment – come on, let’s put this shit together. It doesn’t fit. The Christian beliefs are wherever on the map they need to be at this moment, so where is the consistency that WLC is yammering on about?

      While an atheist can be unhappy, it’s usually about actual circumstances that impact their actual lives. Trying to tell people that, without belief in god that gives their lives ultimate meaning, they will be profoundly unhappy as a permanent state, it’s again the power of suggestion. Put another way, if you are your parents’ child, and they love you, no matter how much you fuck up, is this any meaning, or totally meaningless, as their love, without god to make their own meaning ultimate, is too finite for you to accept?

    • “If there is no immortality then all things are permitted.”

      Except for those things that aren’t.

      I know first hand. Last time I murdered someone, I smiled at the police officer at my door and say, “You don’t understand–I’m an atheist.”

      It didn’t work out like Dostoevsky promised.

      • Cozmo the Magician

        Did you actually just admit to murder? Actually since you said the ‘last time’ implies there was more than one?

        • Greg G.

          Yes, but he gave it up for Lent so it’s all good.

        • C’mon, bro, I’m an atheist! All things are permitted.

  • I find that knowing how even the Universe is totally indifferent to us, we’re part of it. An Universe maybe infinite and even just one into a whole lot of them that will never stop giving us amazing discoveries far beyond anything Bronze and Iron Age in a godsforsaken part of the world could think of, as long as we keep studying it.

    Also attempting to convert this world in a better place and hoping to leave it in a better shape than when I arrived here. After that, who knows but I very much doubt I’ll spent eternity as a brainwashed sheep worshipping someone unworthy of that.

  • LimeGecko

    As a believer in God, I just have to point out that life is plenty absurd even granting God’s existence.

    • I Came To Bring The Paine

      If there’s one thing the Bible has a surplus of, it is absurdities.

      • rationalobservations?

        … and contradictions, scientific absurdity and historical inaccuracy.

    • rationalobservations?

      The fact of millions of similar and similarly and undetected and undetectable gods goddesses and god-men makes belief in one/some of them appear tuly absurd.

  • eric

    The atheistic world view is insufficient to maintain a happy and consistent life.

    Maybe that’s true as a straw man; if you were to live in a box with minimal external stimuli, being an atheist would probably not make you happy. To be a happy atheist, you also need a reasonably normal range of human stimuli. Society. Family. Things to do. Being free from constant pain. In that way, the philosophy on it’s own is not sufficient. But the philosophy plus a somewhat reasonably successful or prosperous life experience certainly seems to be sufficient for many people.

    Of course, atheism is probably not special in that way. I’d guess no philosophy at all as well as many types of religion combined with a somewhat reasonably successful or prosperous life experience is sufficient for happiness…hey, what’s the common factor here? 😉

    • Len

      Atheism plus living in reality seems to be good.

  • Die Anyway

    What strikes me is that he makes this a totally binary situation… God (of the Bible) believer or atheist. He seemingly ignores the billions of humans around the world and over the last 20 – 30 thousand years who had their own “purpose” without the particular God that WLC finds so necessary. When I look around the world I note that Christians do not have a lock on purpose, happiness, or any other attribute that WLC may mention. Pick any set of paired attributes… happy/sad… rich/poor… healthy/ill… law-abiding/criminal… and you will find people from every religion who fall into every category. Christianity, or more precisely belief in God, does not confer the good attributes any more than any other religion or atheism does. WLC does not explain this nor even seem to consider it.
    Even beyond what I mention above, is the idea of self preservation. I don’t behave in a selfish manner because if I do, others will make my life more difficult… less enjoyable… may even take me out if I’m too egregious.

    Eat well, stay fit,
    Die Anyway

    • Greg G.

      Eat well, stay fit,
      Die Healthy

      • Mostly healthy.

        • Guestie

          Entirely healthy, except for being dead.

        • Well, the being dead part usually follows a single point-of-failure. If you’re lucky.

  • Jim Jones

    I suspect that a definition for ‘god’ from William Lane Craig is as woolly as his arguments.

  • Rudy R

    Seems like WLC has never met a straw man argument he didn’t like. It’s so obvious he is not trying to convince atheists of the veracity of his argument, because if he did, he would use an iron man argument.

    • Len

      His god doesn’t like iron things (eg, chariots).

  • Greg G.

    Jesus walked on water.
    Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

    Science wins again.

    • rationalobservations?

      There’s no evidenc of the existence of “Jesus”.

      I watched the eagle land and Armstrong’s adventures on the moon.

      Evidence based facts always beat confused and contradictory non historical myths legends and lies – as we both know Greg.

      • Certainly, there is evidence for the existence of Jesus. It’s just low quality evidence… the sort that historians- for anybody but Jesus- honestly point out as being weak.

        • rationalobservations?

          What actual tangible pre 3rd century originated authentic and original historical evidence can you name and where is it conserved and available for authentication?

          I have searched and researched for decades but find none and no one can name such evidence.

          Note: Confused and contradictory myths and legends written centuries after the time in which those myths and legends are set is evidence of human fraud, Nothing else.

        • Why place limits on evidence? The gospels are evidence. Paul’s writings are evidence. Josephus and Tacitus are evidence. When we are considering any claims, hearsay is evidence. Confused and contradictory myths and legends written years later are evidence. To pretend otherwise is intellectually weak, if not outright dishonest.

          If we are evaluating the historicity of Jesus, to ignore these things makes our conclusions of low value. Instead, we should include all evidence and weigh the confidence of our conclusions on the quality of the evidence. Which in the case of Jesus is extremely poor, but certainly not non-existent. (And we also need to itemize the lack of evidence that represents affirmative evidence against the historicity of any form of Jesus much resembling the one described in the NT.)

        • Greg G.

          I think Paul’s letters are evidence that epistle Jesus did not exist. He reports nothing about a first century Jesus. All Paul knew about Jesus came from the Old Testament. It is the same with most of the other epistles. The gospels are about that epistle Jesus, not about a first century Jesus.

        • Paul is an interesting case. Some of his writings seem to treat Jesus as a sort of spirit, some to treat him as an actual man. So I think these could be used as evidence both for and against a historical Jesus. Neither of them very strong, given that the writings also indicate somebody who had some serious mental problems.

          The gospels all treat Jesus as an actual person. But they’re hearsay. But hearsay is still evidence.

        • Greg G.

          Where Paul seems to treat Jesus as an actual man, he seems to be drawing on the Suffering Servant metaphor as if it is the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings (from Romans 16:25-26).

          In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says Christ died for sin, was buried, and was raised on the third day. How would an eyewitness know that a particular death was for sins? Why would it look any different than other deaths? It’s because it is “according to the scriptures”. Isaiah 53:8-9 says the Suffering Servant died for sins and was buried. Hosea 6:2 talks about being raised on the third day. It is not at all about a first century person.

          Paul loved to talk about Jesus. He used “Jesus”, “Christ”. and either combination once for every five verses but he doesn’t give any first century information. Every factoid that looks like information about Jesus can be found in the Old Testament from the books that Paul regularly quoted.

          Paul about Jesus and His Sources

          Past
          Descended from David > Romans 1:3, Romans 15:12* > 2 Samuel 7:12, Isaiah 11:10*
          Declared Son of God > Romans 1:4 > Psalm 2:7
          Made of woman, > Galatians 4:4 > Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 49:1, Isaiah 49:5
          Made under the law > Galatians 4:4, Galatians 3:10-12* > Deuteronomy 27:26*, Habakkuk 2:4*, Leviticus 18:5*
          Was rich > 2 Corinthians 8:9 > Isaiah 9:6
          Became poor > 2 Corinthians 8:9 > Isaiah 53:3
          Was meek and gentle > 2 Corinthians 10:1 > Isaiah 53:7
          Did not please himself > Romans 15:3* > Psalm 69:9*
          Became a servant of the circumcised > Romans 15:8 > Isaiah 53:11
          For the Gentiles > Romans 15:9-12* > Psalm 18:49*, 2 Samuel 22:50*, Deuteronomy 32:43*, Psalm 117:1*, Isaiah 11:10*
          Became Wisdom of God > 1 Corinthians 1:30 > Isaiah 11:2

          Was betrayed > 1 Corinthians 11:23 > Psalm 41:9
          Took loaf of bread and wine > 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 > Psalm 41:9, Exodus 24:8, Leviticus 17:11, Isaiah 53:12 (“wine” = “blood of grapes” allusions in Genesis 49:11, Deuteronomy 32:14, Isaiah 49:26, Zechariah 9:15)

          Was crucified > 1 Corinthians 2:2, 2 Corinthians 13:4, Galatians 3:13* > Deuteronomy 21:23*
          Died for sins > 1 Corinthians 15:3, Galatians 2:20 > Isaiah 53:5, Isaiah 53:8, Isaiah 53:12
          Was buried > 1 Corinthians 15:4 > Isaiah 53:9
          Was raised > Romans 1:4, Romans 8:34, 1 Corinthians 15:4, 2 Corinthians 4:14, 2 Corinthians 13:4 > Hosea 6:2, Psalm 16:10, Psalm 41:10

          Present
          Sits next to God > Romans 8:34 > Psalm 110:1, Psalm 110:5
          Intercedes > Romans 8:34 > Isaiah 53:12

          Future
          Will come > 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, 1 Corinthians 15:51-54*, Philippians 3:20-21 > Isaiah 26:19-21, Daniel 7:11, Daniel 7:13; Daniel 12:2, Isaiah 25:8*

          (* indicates that New Testament passage contains a direct quote from the Septuagint.)

          1 Corinthians 11:23-25 appears to be part of an interpolation.

          EDIT: Changed 2 Corinthians 8:9

        • Well, yeah. I’m not sure of your point. You’re just explaining what makes the evidence for a historical Jesus low quality evidence. Which is exactly my point, as well.

        • Doubting Thomas

          People seem to be dismissing bad evidence as if it’s no evidence at all. I guess it makes it easier to argue for a mythical Jesus, it just doesn’t look like a very honest way to do so.

        • Indeed, that’s precisely my point. Weak evidence should be argued as weak evidence, not ignored.

        • Greg G.

          My argument is that the early epistles are better evidence that Jesus was invented than they are for a first century Jesus. If they were about a first century Jesus, there should be references to him in the first century instead of every reference being in terms of the Old Testament scriptures. The only way to make them seem like they are about a first century Jesus is to read the gospels into the epistles.

          The extra-biblical evidence is too late to be of much value and seems to come from Christians who got their Jesus from the gospels. The gospels are mostly obvious fiction so that when the miracles are eliminated, you are left with very little to read back into the epistles for support. Then we have Epistle Jesus based on the Old Testament, Gospel Jesus based on Epistle Jesus, and Extra-Biblical Jesus based on Gospel Jesus. None of that points to a real Jesus. It is better evidence that Jesus was invented out of the OT scriptures.

        • Doubting Thomas

          I agree and lean heavily towards a mythicist position. I just don’t see the need to categorize bad evidence for Jesus as no evidence for Jesus. It’s an unnecessary and counterproductive argument.

        • Greg G.

          True that bad evidence is still evidence but it is a matter of the best evidence for Jesus is bad evidence. Ehrman gave seven pieces of evidence to use for the Multiple Attestation Criterion. One was the Gospel of Mark and the other six were hypothetical documents derived on the assumption that Jesus actually existed and was written about. Hypothetical evidence is not evidence until it is actually discovered. Conybeare did something similar a century ago using some of the same hypothetical documents as evidence for Jesus but counted the Gospel of John as independent, and the story of Paul in Acts as evidence for Jesus.

          When scholars have to resort to imaginary evidence due to the lack of good evidence, that should show how bad the bad evidence is. It also shows that the Quest for the Historical Jesus has been spinning its wheels for a century.

        • Doubting Thomas

          I agree, but my point isn’t about the quality of evidence for the historical Jesus.

          Ehrman frequently remarks about how much evidence we have for Jesus and how certain it is that he existed. When someone actually looks into his claims, they utterly fall apart which hurts his own side by making him look dishonest. When rationalobservations? says “There’s no evidence for the existence of ‘Jesus'” it makes the mythicist side look weak when it turns out that there is evidence. Dishonesty or hyperbole isn’t needed to make a case for mythicism, and so I think we should all point out when someone on either side uses such tactics.

        • Pofarmer

          Counterproductive to what?

        • Doubting Thomas

          Counterproductive to both having a good faith debate and spreading the idea. I understand that the evidence for Jesus is weak, but to dismiss it all as “no evidence” is a dead end as far as discussions go. Also, if someone new to the debate hears mythicist state that there’s no evidence and then they find out that Paul said he hung out with Jesus’ brother, it discredits the integrity of the position much in the way that Richard Carrier complains about having to constantly dig his way out from under the crackpot mythicist positions.

          We do better to point out the weakness of the evidence instead of dismissing it outright.

        • Pofarmer

          You might enjoy this.
          https://www.academia.edu/38953504/Why_Jesus_Most_Probably_Never_Existed_Ehrmans_Double_Standards
          “Why Jesus Most Probably Never Existed: Ehrman’s Double Standards”

          By a philosopher in Norway.

          Look, I honestly don’t think Carrier’s mythicist position is all that good, but I understand he needed to make a postitive case. The problem is, even Paul is obscure on what he actually thinks about the crucifixion and ressurection, and it’s pretty clear there were disagreements about it in the early church. And then, if Paul met Jesus brother, he certainly doesn’t show him any deference and actually derides him later on. The whole thing doesn’t make sense as a “physical” brother of Jesus. I think that, if you take what Paul says, an early group had come up with a dying and rising savior based on the Hebrew scriptures and intermixed with some “mystery” religion tropes that were common in Egyptian and Roman religion. Precisely what they believed about this is lost to us, and it’s pretty clear that there were a variety of beliefs early on, so we can’t know what we can’t know. But what I do know, is that precisely none of it requires and Earthly Jesus for the stories to form, any more than an Earthly Dionysus or Romulus or Osirus.

        • I’d happily grant that 2 billion Christians is evidence for Jesus.

          But, to repeat that same refrain, that doesn’t mean that it’s good evidence.

        • Cozmo the Magician

          8 million Star Wars fans is not evidence for a historical Han Solo. I don’t give a flying fajita how many fans the Jesus character has, that is NOT evidence of existence. Not good evidence, not bad evidence it has NOTHING to do with evidence.

        • 8 bazillion Star Wars fans know that Han Solo is pretend. By contrast, 2 billion Christians think that Jeebus is real.

          I’m sure we’re on the same page that 2B Christians isn’t proof of any tenet or belief of Christianity, but I’d grant that it’s evidence, even if sucky.

        • Cozmo the Magician

          Is a 5 year old’s belief inSanta ‘evidence’ of the existence of a real life Rudolf the Red Nosed Raindeer and Frosty the Walking Talking Snowman? I have a blue crayon in my desk drawer. Is that evidence for the existence of Doctor Who? I once saw something strange in the sky, is that evidence that Elvis is alive and doing fine on the UFO?

          Bullshit beliefs NOT = evidence.

        • Perhaps we’re splitting hairs over what “evidence” means.

          From my perspective, the question is what is practical or useful. “2B Christians is zero evidence of the supernatural” and “Jesus did not exist as a person, either a regular human or a magic god” aren’t useful arguments for me. It’s like what they say about pig wrestling in mud: you’ll just get dirty, and the pig likes it.

          I have more useful arguments. But you do you.

        • rationalobservations?

          “2 billion”?
          Any actual current evidence for that claim?

        • rationalobservations?

          Widely accepted by christians?

          PEW record that over 30% of Americans are regular church goers while the actual total attendance figures published by the American Church leaders reveals fewer than 18% of US citizens are found in a church on any given Sunday.

          It is long known that “the church” lies about most things and although I have been an atheist since childhood, I am counted as a Christian as I was baptised as a baby.

          Religions and religionists lie habitually.

          People lie in polls and surveys habitually.

          Propaganda and surveys are not evidence .

        • epeeist

          Widely accepted by christians?

          The question always is, how do you count your adherents? By childhood initiation, by self-identification as part of the religion or by active participation?

          People lie in polls and surveys habitually.

          I wouldn’t put it that strongly, I think there are strong cultural pressures that make people answer as they do.

        • rationalobservations?

          The most reliable indication of membership levels of any organisation may be the number of active participants and the number of club houses required to accommodate those active participants.

          Religious activity in America is down to fewer than 18% and 6% in Europe and empty rotting redundant churches litter the villages, towns and cities of the developed world.

          Claims made by religions and religionists may be dismissed by the evidence.

        • epeeist

          The most reliable indication of membership levels of any organisation may be the number of active participants and the number of club houses required to accommodate those active participants.

          Agree with the first bit, however I think the thing you may be missing is the occupancy rate of these “houses of worship”. The Church of England here in the UK has a lot of churches but only enough members in most places to fill a couple of rows of seats.

        • It’ll be interesting to see how those vacant churches will be repurposed.

        • epeeist

          Believe it or believe it not, I have some sympathy with the CofE on this.

          Some of the churches they own are culturally significant (some at the level of Notre Dame). Out of the 16,000 or so churches they own 12,500 or so are listed buildings. As such disposing of these is extremely difficult.

        • It’d be ironic if, 50 years from now, they write the obituary of the CofE as a meaningful force within society and note that it was the cost of maintenance that sunk them.

        • epeeist

          The estimate that I have seen is that by 2050 its membership will have sunk to 30,000.

          As for money, the church has quite a set of investments. You can build quite a portfolio when you have been around for a few centuries.

        • But if a church building isn’t actually an asset that they can sell (like you or I could sell a house), it just becomes an obligation, a money sink.

          I wonder how the government’s relationship with the church will change. The monarch is the (figure)head and has been so since Henry VIII, right? It used to be a source of power. Maybe it will become just a glamorous tradition that is kept around just for old time’s sake. Maybe it is so already.

        • Kodie

          I think a little paranoia is normal in any case, but in religious cases, if you would not say something out loud, there’s a good chance you will give the acceptable public answer on a survey also, just in case it comes back to expose you. Let’s not forget – religious people are vicious and exclusive to outsiders and anyone they think is betraying the inner sanctum, and closeted atheists don’t want to lose their established social network. Also, people who don’t go to church regularly may think the survey taker is checking on them, and answer they go more than they actually do, rather than honestly.

          I think religion surveys are always going to be a little warped because believers have this tight lock on each other.

        • epeeist

          I think religion surveys are always going to be a little warped because believers have this tight lock on each other.

          There is apparently a thing called the “social desirability index”. In the States I would guess that being a member of religion is socially desirable, hence the high level of positive answers when asked if you are religious.

        • Kodie

          So, being a social species has its drawbacks. I think some of us already knew that. If it makes you lie to someone anonymously to make you feel like a better person for fitting in, is it really helping anyone?

        • Presumably, this 2.17B number is people who self-identify as Christians.

        • rationalobservations?

          That presumption is unsupported by any evidence and confounded by the published attendance figures of declining christer cults and the rapidly growing number of redundant churches that litter the developed and developing world.

        • Doubting Thomas

          And now we’re to the point that Pew studies aren’t even evidence.

        • epeeist

          And now we’re to the point that Pew studies aren’t even evidence.

          Oh they are evidence, but evidence of what people report, not necessarily what they do.

          Apparently Gallup surveys show some 40% of people in the States report themselves as attending church each week, however the reality is quite different.

        • Doubting Thomas

          I wouldn’t grant that Christians are evidence for Jesus.

          I just don’t see the need to categorize bad evidence as “no evidence.” It makes the mythical Jesus side look dishonest. Mythicism is strong enough to stand without resorting to such tactics.

        • I agree. Atheists should be careful to not dismiss bad evidence as “no evidence.” I hate having to backtrack and admit an error to a Christian antagonist, so I try to make every statement well justified.

          A single Christian is someone who might have gone through some effort to sift through evidence that I havent considered. I’d grant that that’s evidence for Christianity.

          Any other approach, it seems to me, is to be 100% skeptical. I’m not like that about the purity of the next breath of air I take or the safety of the next step I take.

          Am I missing something?

        • Pofarmer

          The problem is, we have zero primary evidence. All we have are secondary sources of dubious quality. The “evidence” for Jesus is exactly the same as the “evidence” for Rhett Butler. Then Apologists posing as Schoalars start doing all kinds of interrogation on the poor quality evidence to make it tell the tale they want to hear.

          https://www.academia.edu/38953504/Why_Jesus_Most_Probably_Never_Existed_Ehrmans_Double_Standards

        • Doubting Thomas

          Paul claimed to have met Jesus’ brother. Of course, that passage is debatable as to it’s meaning, but it’s not the same as anything we have for Butler. I think the analogy fits better as to the Gospels and Gone with the Wind.

        • Pofarmer

          Rhett Butler had a brother and a sister, too. There is ton’s of fanfiction on Gone with the Wind. https://www.fanfiction.net/book/Gone-with-the-Wind/

          The thing is, you have a claim with no evidence, and a clear difference as to how Paul normally used the term.

        • Doubting Thomas

          I understand the problems with Paul’s statement. I just don’t dismiss it outright as “not evidence” because it most certainly is. It might be poor evidence, but it’s evidence none the less.

        • Pofarmer

          Thing is, what it really probably is is a category error.

        • Doubting Thomas

          What do you think Richard Carrier would say to the claim that there’s no evidence for the existence of Jesus? Why do you think he gives him a 1/3 chance of existence if there’s no evidence for such.

          I think the problem is trying to redefine evidence to a standard closer to proof. Evidence, even bad evidence, is still evidence and should be weighed as such.

        • Pofarmer

          So then Maragaret Mitchell’s writings are evidence for Rhett Butler.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Yes. They’re incredibly poor evidence for him and much better evidence that he’s ficticious, but evidence none the less.

        • Pofarmer

          Does it matter if we know she’s writing fiction?

        • Doubting Thomas

          It matters in the sense that it makes an already small possibility even smaller. But since even fictitious characters are sometimes named after real life people, then the prior probability of a work of fiction referencing a real person is nonzero and so even known fiction can be counted as evidence (a tiny, tiny piece of evidence) for someone’s existence.

        • Greg G.

          I think you have to count it as evidence. You may find out later that Margaret Mitchell once had a lover name Brett Hutler who was like Rhett Butler. Subsequent evidence can strengthen or weaken other evidence.

          Are Kurt Vonnegut’s writings evidence that there was a Professor McCarthy at Ohio University? I once worked with Professor McCarthy’s son who said his father and Vonnegut were friends. IIRC, even his office address was correct in the book.

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, but to verify anything you would have to go back to primary evidence. It’s almost always a surprise to find out a fictional charachter is loosely based on somebody.

        • Greg G.

          Any one data point is a piece of evidence. You don’t know how good it is without other evidence. It might be correct by coincidence or it might be part of a pattern. You need more data points to establish a pattern. Individually, each data point is evidence, even if you don’t know for what.

          A piece of data might be evidence for more than one thing. A wet sidewalk might be evidence that it just rained or that someone hosed it down. You need additional evidence to determine what that one data point means. Maybe your water main broke.

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, but the problem is that what we have as evidence in this case has probably been misidentified for centuries. If, as Thomas Brodie suspects, all of the NT “evidence” is really evidence that the NT is an intertextual creation from the OT scriptures, then all the “evidence” for a historical Jesus just – vanishes. If you try to analyze John Grisham looking for the historical Jack Ryan, all you are doing is guessing unless you know by primary sources that a “Jack Ryan” actually existed via primary sources. There just isn’t a reliable way to tease it out.

        • Greg G.

          A good explanation explains all the evidence without making it go away. Only the other explanations go away.

          Creationists point to clam fossils on mountaintops as evidence for Ye Olde Floode. Plate tectonics explains many things including how mountains are created from ancient sea beds. The clam fossils don’t go away.

          If we compare Ian Fleming’s “James Bond” character with John Grisham’s “Jack Ryan” character, we may find that the deeds done in the books are complete fiction. We may find that Fleming used the name of an ornithologist while Grisham picked the name to be non-distinct. Fleming may have based Bond as a compilation of characteristics of spies he knew. Grisham may created Ryan based on characters in spy movies. If you have enough information about the author’s life and friends, you might be able to work out how each character was created.

          OTOH, for the Jesus thing, I look at the extra-biblical evidence of historical references and other “gospel” accounts and they all appear to be based on Gospel Jesus. I look at the gospels and they lead back to Mark, with other sources for their Jesus stories being drawn from sources that are not about Jesus. Mark appears to use non-Jesus sources, too, but his Jesus appears to be based on Paul’s Jesus. Paul only refers to Jesus in terms of the Old Testament, not a first century person. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that Cephas came up with the idea originally “according to the scriptures”. So I conclude that the idea of Jesus was created by Cephas from the Old Testament literature, Paul put Jesus into our literary record, and a first century Jesus was created by Mark.

        • Kodie

          I’m not even an author, but I could not begin to think of writing any work of fiction without drawing from all the people I knew. I mean, as someone who is probably never going to write a novel, I occasionally come up with the seed of a story with characters completely of people I know or know of.

        • Pofarmer

          But when you got done with the story, what could an outside reader reliably say about the people your characters are based on?

        • Kodie

          It depends on how well I muddled up the details. Of course, even probably a biographical account of a real person is usually embellished. Maybe not embellished, maybe just the interesting parts sound really more interesting and the boring or negative parts are minimized or left out entirely. But if I were writing a story… I mean, the kind of stories I think about, are already based on a particular person. I might not even know a lot about that person, but if there are enough details that are correct, they might even be recognizable to themselves or other people. Have you ever read a book and a character seems so much like you? That’s partly because you’re a human and there are other humans with similar feelings you have, similar lifestyles to you, things about that character you can relate to. I wouldn’t know how to write a story without knowing people and putting the characters together like a puzzle. They would not ring true if they were not based on human characteristics, human behaviors. How better to create characters out of the air than to base it on people you actually observe – human types and prototypes. That’s why I think of Jesus as a likely kind of person, embellished, not necessarily a person who actually existed, but not necessarily someone who did not really exist.

        • I’m a little surprised that you don’t think writing fiction would be fun. Maybe give it a try with a short story or flash fiction? Of course, it’s yet another thing to do, so it may not fit into a busy schedule.

        • Kodie

          1. I don’t think it would be not fun. 2. I really don’t like to write in general. I like to talk. That’s why my posts are like, don’t get me started, I will just go on because no one can interrupt me here, and I’m very sorry. 3. I don’t have any interesting plots worked out, just sometimes I feel like who would make a good potential character. Once, I felt like trolling my upstairs neighbors, a young married couple, by writing a story about them that was so thinly veiled, the characters had names that rhymed with theirs. I hated them so much, they were so loud and self-absorbed. I tracked the lady’s blog, so I had more of a peek into their lives. Still, no plot, really, just all the annoying things they did. Another character didn’t even have another name, and the character depends on having that name, so it would be a dead give-away who she is to me (and it’s not my sister), it’s a name and a nasty nickname at the same time. I am saving it, so I can’t tell you what it is.

          When it really comes down to it, if you ever read a book where the author clearly hates every character, that might be me. Maybe when I collect enough characters, the plot will just congeal. I like words, I want to make the reader feel something when I choose a word like “congeal” to describe how plots of stories work for me, not world-building and beginning-middle-end. Maybe it’s because there’s no point to these people, I just like boxing them up into character studies.

        • Sounds like you’ve got it figured out.

        • Kodie

          I got a lot of titles also. I’m like the Dave Barry of “hey that would be a good title!” but I forget to write them down. But if you want to get to be a character in my book, I guess people who piss me off make me notice them more, and I think being portrayed negatively in a story is how I manifest my revenge fantasies. I’m gonna make some people look so stupid and hateable, so yeah, that’s kind of a lame way to spend my time and focus my energies. I think I realize that, and keeps me from writing.

        • I think that’s how it worked with Dante’s Divine Comedy. It was a parade of all the people who’d pissed him off, getting what they deserved.

        • Kodie

          And besides not being a writer, I’m not really a reader. We were assigned to read the Inferno in a college class, and I half-assed it. I turned in an assignment based on it and I think I got at least a B. I successfully argued some current sinner belonged in the correct ring. I have also downloaded all 3 books to my phone and don’t read it. I think being a reader makes a better writer, so I have a lot of good titles, and more than several are autobiographical, like I’m so interesting, and a bunch of people I don’t like and make mean nicknames for them whenever I see them (for me, not to share with them), and most of these people don’t warrant being memorialized in writing. I’ve also been given to understand it’s not that healthy to harbor resentments. I just think, when someone sucks in a certain way, of course I should be validated by readers agreeing those people suck, and I’ve heard that’s also not a healthy approach. I think my perfect genre would be stand-up, but that’s not happening.

        • Standup? Have you seen “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”?

        • Kodie

          No, I don’t have whatever that’s on. Because I guess it’s streaming, the library only has soundtrack CDs! I don’t really have a lot of funny things to say, but people say I have a dry sense of humor. I think I see a lot of weird shit, and I want to collect incidences and then make fun of it. I guess that’s what stand-up comedians do. Are there still stand-up comedians anyway?

        • A woman supports her husband when he does his standup (which sucks) and then, when her life goes to shit, she drunkenly goes back to the club, takes the stage, and lets life have it. And she’s awesome. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/730668bac7e93b3a22815ee1fcc3a4d05b6182751613b6ed4a9d03a749300545.png

        • All we have are secondary sources of dubious quality.

          Which is an excellent argument, and one that a knowledgeable person can support with other evidence and critical reasoning. An argument we lose if we don’t admit the poor quality evidence for consideration in the first place.

        • Pofarmer

          Keep in mind though, once again, you aren’t the one making the claim. Remember Hitchens “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. If you want me to believe that the Gospels are other than fiction, explain to me why. If you want me to believe that Paul isn’t just making up stuff as he goes along based on the OT, then show me why. I firmly believe that Ockham’s razor is on our side here.

        • We’re not talking (here) about the degree to which the gospels are fiction. We’re talking about the historicity of Jesus. The simple claim that there was a person wandering around 2000 years ago whose life aligns somewhat with NT stories is not remotely an extraordinary claim.

          I hope you understand that I’m not making a case for the historicity of Jesus. I consider that claim to be weak. And the reason I consider it weak is because I didn’t refuse to admit as evidence the stories of Paul, or Tacitus. I accepted them for evaluation, analyzed them, and came to the conclusion that they have many problems. A position I could not have come to had I rejected them without consideration.

          The existence of Jesus is most certainly not being asserted without evidence.

        • Greg G.

          You’re just explaining what makes the evidence for a historical Jesus low quality evidence. Which is exactly my point, as well.

          I agree with that. But I think it is beyond poor for the first century Jesus and is evidence that epistle Jesus was invented from the text. The “hidden mystery” was disguised as the Suffering Servant metaphor. ISTM that epistle Jesus was thought to have lived after David (being a descendant) and before or during Isaiah’s time (since he wrote about the Suffering Servant.)

          In Ephesians 3, whoever forged it thought that the fact that the mystery was revealed to that generation and not to earlier generations was taken as a sign that something big would happen to that generation. If the writer thought that Jesus had existed during the previous generation, that would be a good place to acknowledge that.

        • These, of course, are precisely the arguments that should be addressed in a high quality debate. That would be a debate in which neither side simply refused to discuss some particular point by summarily discarding evidence without analysis because it “isn’t evidence”.

        • epicurus

          Another great list. You should make an ebook of your many lists.

        • Agreed! Greg G. has done a lot of reading/thinking in areas that I haven’t. He’s a great asset.

          @disqus_a9H6kflDom:disqus : let me know if you want to do a guest post.

        • Cozmo the Magician

          “hearsay is still evidence” what the actull fuck? No it is NOT. Neither by science nor by law.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Do you take everything you hear second person as unsubstantiated? I understand that hearsay isn’t typically good evidence, but it is evidence of a sort and can count as perfectly reasonable evidence in certain situations.

          If I meet a friend and they say something like “John said to tell you ‘Hi'” it’s hearsay by definition, but I would still believe it to be true.

        • Cozmo the Magician

          Bigfoot told Elvis to tell me to tell you to re-read my comment. Hearsay is NOT evidence in law or science.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Nor was I talking about law or science. I was giving a mundane example to show that, in certain situations, not only is hearsay evidence, but it is sufficient evidence to believe something.

          If you dismiss everything you hear second hand then your life would be a difficult mess. I’m betting that you too accept hearsay as evidence almost on a day to day basis and so you shouldn’t be so quick to reject it entirely.

        • Thanks4AllTheFish

          Ever play Chinese Whispers?

          “The game is often played by children as a party game or on the playground. It is often invoked as a metaphor for cumulative error, especially the inaccuracies as rumors or gossip spread, more generally, for the unreliability of human recollection or even oral traditions.”

        • Shan

          I grew up calling it “Telephone,” but it’s a strong indicator of how fast a message can be corrupted through transmission.

        • Greg G.

          Even the name of the phenomenon changes with transmission.

        • Doubting Thomas

          I understand that hearsay isn’t the most reliable evidence, but I also understand that it is evidence.

        • Thanks4AllTheFish

          Should it be evidence? My great x 19 grandfather heard Jesus’s sermon on the mount. I know this because my mother told me and this knowledge has been handed down to her for generations and my mother never lied to me. How much veracity should one assign to this evidence? Should it even be called evidence? If we are to accept this as evidence, doesn’t it kind of diminish the term? Where do we draw the line between evidence and nonsense?

        • Doubting Thomas

          Of course it’s evidence. Have you ever had someone tell you “So-and-so said X” or “So-and-so told me to tell you something?” Did you ever believe them or did you dismiss them every time because hearsay isn’t evidence?

          I’m not saying we should accept hearsay for every claim or that it’s good enough to confirm the existence of historical figures. I’m just saying we shouldn’t dismiss it entirely because to do so would simply be wrong.

        • Thanks4AllTheFish

          It should be accepted as “hearsay” – IOW, not given much credence. There is a reason hearsay “evidence” isn’t accepted in court.

          There are four general types of evidence:
          1) Real evidence (tangible things, such as a weapon)
          2) Demonstrative (a model of what likely happened at a given time and place)
          3) Documentary (a letter, blog post, or other document)
          4) Testimonial (witness testimony)

          Broadly defined, “hearsay” is testimony or documents quoting people who are not present in court, and hearsay “evidence” is inadmissible for lack of a firsthand witness. When the person being quoted is not present, establishing credibility becomes impossible, as does cross-examination.

          Accepting what someone says about what someone else says can certainly be evaluated when all the parties involved have knowledge or experience with one another. To call it evidence based on the definition however, seems a bit of a wishful stretch to me.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Let’s try this again.

          Have you ever had someone tell you “So-and-so said X” or “So-and-so told
          me to tell you something?” Did you ever believe them or did you
          dismiss them every time because hearsay isn’t evidence?

          If you’ve ever believed someone in such a situation (and everyone has), then you’ve believed something based on hearsay. If hearsay isn’t evidence, then you’ve believed something without evidence. We call that having faith.

          Either hearsay can be evidence or you’re one of the faithful.

        • Thanks4AllTheFish

          Hmmm, I thought that was gossip. All I’m saying is that the word ‘evidence’ should stand for something substantial in much the same way that the word ‘quality’* should. Hearsay has a definition that precisely describes what we are talking about. To me, evidence has the distinction out of the gate as having some validity. The amount of validity (as Bob S has stated) can then determine its credibility but to automatically assume any hearsay is also evidence just seems wrong to me.

          * I’ll defer that argument to Robert M. Persig.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Let’s try this again.

          Have you ever had someone tell you “So-and-so said X” or “So-and-so told
          me to tell you something?” Did you ever believe them or did you
          dismiss them every time because hearsay isn’t evidence?

          If
          you’ve ever believed someone in such a situation (and everyone has),
          then you’ve believed something based on hearsay. If hearsay isn’t
          evidence, then you’ve believed something without evidence. We call that
          having faith.

          Either hearsay can be evidence or you’re one of the faithful.

        • Thanks4AllTheFish

          I guess, I’m one of the faithful. I assign a greater descriptive value to the word ‘evidence’ than just using it instead of more relevant words like ‘faith’, ‘gossip’, ‘chit-chat’, or ‘hearsay’. Unless there is some corroboration to hearsay, it isn’t evidence. My choice to believe what a second party tells me will become credible when and if I confront the first person. Until then, aren’t we all taking it on faith?

          Apologists love to co-opt language to validate their claims and assertions. A word like ‘evidence’ is a powerful tool in their arsenal.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Instead of admitting to having faith or being concerned about giving religious people a tool, you should understand that even bad evidence still counts as evidence.

          I don’t need to categorize something as “not evidence” to dismiss it. I can still dismiss it because of it being bad evidence.

        • Thanks4AllTheFish

          “I don’t need to categorize something as “not evidence” to dismiss it. I can still dismiss it because of it being bad evidence.”

          Sure, that works for you but what about the wider sphere? Do we care about how others view what you call bad evidence and they call Gospel? Why can’t hearsay be just what it is and evidence be what it is? I provided the definition of evidence earlier and hearsay wasn’t included. In your view, does fully discrediting hearsay “evidence” suddenly NOT make it evidence?

        • Doubting Thomas

          Yes, but you yourself have believed things because of hearsay. If you’re worried about giving ammo to the religious, then saying you believe things on faith seems like a bad idea.

          Instead, I understand that many things can be evidence, but not all are weighed the same. And for many mundane claims, I’ll believe them based on gossip or hearsay or other weak forms of evidence. It’s when we’re talking about virgin births and zombies that I won’t accept weak evidence as sufficient for belief.

        • Thanks4AllTheFish

          Listen, I hear where you are coming from and realistically you have the stronger argument. Assigning value to evidence in a rational context serves to augment our position as critical thinkers. I am playing at being a devil’s advocate in merely pointing out that religious Apologists aren’t as nuanced in their use of the word evidence as we tend to be. As a consequence, once they even hear the word ‘evidence’ they feel they have a foundation upon which to build their beliefs.

          I’ve enjoyed our repartee.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Given many of the comments in this post, I don’t think atheists are all that nuanced in their use of the word either.

          Cheers and thanks for the chat.

        • not given much credence

          Are we all in agreement? I think the distinction is whether some data (say, the existence of Christians) is evidence or not evidence. As step 2, we can argue about how good that evidence is, but let’s at least get past step 1, which is to decide if “there are 2B Christians” is evidence (of any quality) or no relevant evidence for Christian claims at all, akin to “Bob’s car is blue.”

        • Thanks4AllTheFish

          I can live with that.

        • Kodie

          It really depends. It is a claim or assertion, which then must be added to the pile and examined and sifted through for veracity.

          If I tell you a lie that I know is a lie, is that evidence? Is it a claim? I am hoping you believe it, and maybe you believe it for the rest of your life, and tell others, so this lie survives. If I tell you a lie, you can either dismiss it or examine it or believe it. I had no real business introducing something false into the definition of evidence, because I already know it is not evidence. I know it’s not true, and I don’t believe it. That’s sales, though. I want you to believe something, and I want to make you see it as though it fits in with the things you can see. People lie all the time to their children, especially to protect them from something the grown-ups are dealing with, often paternity, status of a missing parent, or stuff the parent dealt with as a child. Is that evidence, it’s made up out of the air. It’s words from someone’s mouth that x happened when they know y really happened, but meant to change the record from here on out.

          Then there is your own senses fooling you. Optical illusions are evidence for what you see, or that you can be fooled by what you think you see? If thousands of people hear the same wrong words when a song is played, what would hearing the wrong words be evidence for something?

        • Where do we draw the line between evidence and nonsense?

          It’s all evidence. Evidence can be nonsense. What we don’t do is draw the line before admitting the evidence, we draw it in discussion and debate by demonstrating why it is nonsense, and thereby weakening or completely destroying its value in reaching a conclusion.

        • Thanks4AllTheFish

          Why do we have to call hearsay claims or assertions, evidence? Words should have specific meanings – this is the only point that I am trying to make. When we blur the line between claims or assertions and legal terms like evidence, we end up with semantic discussions like this one. Co-opting language is something apologists thrive on and I see no need to feed their dishonest methodology.

          I consider evidence whether strong or weak to have an inherent quality about it right from the get-go. When we automatically accept the use of the word to bolster uncorroborated, unfalsifiable and/or faith-based arguments, any subsequent conclusion, no matter the inanity, validates in the believer’s mind that evidence exists. I can’t change what a believer insists on believing but please don’t insist that I must accept their belief is based on evidence (as I understand the word) when it clearly isn’t.

        • Why do we have to call hearsay claims or assertions, evidence?

          Because by definition, that’s what they are. Find a definition for “evidence” that would exclude them. Evidence is the something presented to support (or argue against) an assertion. It is information. The word carries zero judgment as to quality or strength. It is merely information. In considering history, hearsay can be the strongest evidence we have. Most of what we believe to be true about Socrates is hearsay- the writings of Plato about him. This has been picked over carefully, and much is viewed as strong evidence for our understanding of Socrates, from whom no significant original writings remain. We do not deny that Socrates was a historical person. We do, however, recognized that much of the biographical information is unreliable.

          The assertion that Jesus was real (I prefer “the Jesus of the NT was derived from an actual person”) is not in the least extraordinary, and certainly does not require extraordinary evidence to support it. The richer the detail we wish to fill in about the mysterious person who left no first-hand writings, who shows up in no contemporaneous records, the more justified we are in tearing into the presented evidence and drawing conclusions as to likelihood. Was there an itinerant messiah-claimant wandering around in Roman Palestine spouting apocalyptic messages? Extremely likely. Does anything support that a single person said everything attributed to Jesus? No, and while it’s plausible, the evidence suggests it is unlikely. Was this Jesus fellow executed by crucifixion? Possible, but unlikely given what we know about how the Roman operated. Did this Jesus fellow walk on water, multiply fishes, rise from the dead? No, because those things are impossible. We come about all this by analyzing the evidence, which includes lots of hearsay… some of which is very useful.

        • Thanks4AllTheFish

          “We come about all this by analyzing the evidence, (things which actually exist, first-person testimonials, corroborated documentation), which includes lots of hearsay (gossip, he said, she said, whataboutisms, yadda, yadda, yadda)…”

          …some of which is very useful (in leading us to actual credible ‘evidence’).

          Not nearly as useful as multiple video cameras, unbiased historians, or a fucking time machine.

          I understand what you are saying and I understand the logic behind it. It doesn’t mean I have to like it.

        • I don’t understand why you wouldn’t like it. It’s the system that allows us to demonstrate that the Jesus of the NT was not a historical figure as described. That elements of his life, as described, are without doubt historically false. If we ourselves did not admit the references I listed, we’d not be able to make that case.

        • Thanks4AllTheFish

          I don’t like it because it isn’t definitive. Not much is, unfortunately.

        • Greg G.

          Good point. It is like where Ehrman uses the Multiple Attestation Criterion and lists the documentary evidence for Jesus in Did Jesus Exist? He lists the Gospel of Mark, the Q document, M source, L source, sayings source, passion narratives, and protoThomas as evidence. Six of those are hypothetical and based on the assumptions that Jesus existed and was written about. 83% of the evidence is imaginary and circular.

        • Cozmo the Magician

          ayup. All I ever hear is the classic mobius strip mining of the bible is true because the bible says that the bible is true…

        • DingoJack
        • mobius strip mining of the bible is true

          Nice!

        • You are wrong. Hearsay is most certainly evidence. A significant amount of accepted history depends upon hearsay.

        • Lex Lata

          Well, with regard to the law (I’ll leave science to the scientists), that’s a common misapprehension. To be sure, there’s a general default rule against admitting hearsay into evidence at trial (which is likely the source of your impression), but both federal and state courts recognize a couple dozen exceptions, some of which see fairly frequent use. Hearsay evidence is not all that unusual.

          And historiography has no formal rule against hearsay at all. Historians (especially of antiquity) take hearsay with an extra grain of salt, of course, but they don’t reject it categorically.

        • rationalobservations?

          Worth noting that the oldest individual “copies” of letters attributed to “Paul” date from the 8th century Germany. There are a few hundred of them and no two versions are identical.

        • 8th c. is far later than Sinaiticus in c. 350, which had Paul’s letters.

        • rationalobservations?

          Yes, Bob. I have covered that many times in many different entries.

          The “letters” of “Paul” within the oldest bibles predate the oldest individual folios. All are different and no two are identical.

        • Papyrus copies of some of Paul’s letters exist that are earlier than 350 CE, the estimated date of the writing of Codex Sinaiticus. Are you saying that this isn’t the historical consensus? Or are you saying that the historical consensus is wrong?

        • rationalobservations?

          I am not convinced there has ever been any scholarly and evidence supported historical consensus.

          Bible literalists base everything upon the conviction that their version of bible is a historical document.

          Independent evidence and scientific investigation is based upon proving or disproving the confused and contradictory, historically inaccurate content of each different version of bible and each claim of a document antiquity.

          Not long ago Everyone agreed the Bible was truth and the propaganda of the church was infallible – on pain of a long slow agonising death. Those times are past…

        • rationalobservations?

          The only limitation I place upon evidence is that it should actually be evidence.
          Ever changing bibles that first appeared in the late 4th century is not evidence of historically unreported people and events in the first three decades of what only became known as the “1st century” at what at the same time became known as the “8th century”.

          Texts written between the 7th and 14th centuries that are merely ATTRIBUTED to Josephus, Tacitus etc et al are not evidence of the actual texts written by anyone.

          Your failed non argument is familiar but unconvincing.

        • Yes, all of those things are evidence. If you dismiss them as something else, you’ve lost the argument before it ever begins.

        • rationalobservations?

          They are evidence of the fictional and fraudulent origins of one of hundreds of fraudulent religions.

          Any evidence based argument in favour of the existence of Jesus or any of the millions of undetected and undetectable gods goddesses and god-men has yet to be made.
          Go ahead, be the first ever and make a name for yourself.

        • Okay. Be an intellectual failure if you want.

        • rationalobservations?

          Ad hominem and projection is a tacit admission of capitulation that I both recognise and accept.

          Your failure to meet the challenge must be humiliating., but don’t worry, no one ever has.

          Next..?

        • There is no ad hominen fallacy in pointing out that a person who rejects evidence on the grounds that it isn’t evidence is demonstrating an intellectual failure. You’d be laughed out of any serious debate on the historicity of Jesus if you did that… and should be. No scholar who has ever examined the question, regardless of the conclusion they came to, has rejected any of the examples I gave as invalid by virtue of not being evidence. That claim is beyond absurd.

        • rationalobservations?

          You have refrenced myths and legends and propaganda relating to those myths and legends.

          What’s the tangible historical evidence that you keep claiming exists?

        • Myths and legends are historical evidence. Always have been, always will be.

        • rationalobservations?

          All hail Oddin, Zeus, Amun-Ra, Quetzalcoatl and a few million other undetected gods goddesses and god-men you appear to think that “evidence” (myths and/or legends) confirms.

        • Doubting Thomas

          That’s nowhere close to his actual position and presenting it as such makes you look dishonest.

        • rationalobservations?

          Really?
          Historically unsupported myths and legends of “Jesus” form “evidence”.
          Myths and legends of all the millions of other undetected and undetectable gods goddesses and god-men are not “evidence” .

          That appears consistent, not.

        • Doubting Thomas

          You appear not to understand the difference between having evidence that something is true and believing something is true.

        • rationalobservations?

          My position regarding religionists is that they do not understand or recognise the difference between having evidence that something is true and believing something is true.

          However:
          Evidence of the nonexistence of the nonexistent is nonexistent because the nonexistent is nonexistent.
          That applies to all the millions of undetected and undetectable gods goddesses and god-men as much as to the nonexistent evidence of any of the millions of undetected and undetectable gods goddesses and god-men.

          The only thing that could contradict me would be authentic and original evidence. No one has ever found any…

        • We’re talking about historical claims for the existence of Jesus, not about claims for the existence of gods. Gods can be largely dismissed on the basis that no evidence supports their existence because they are supernatural beings. The question of the historicity of Jesus does not depend upon supernatural arguments, and is not an extraordinary claim by any means.

          You are confusing the question of whether a particular man existed with the question of whether unicorns exist. A better example would be Beowulf or Hercules… both of whom might well descend from some person who actually existed, and where myths and tales would form part of the evidence a historian exploring that question would evaluate.

        • rationalobservations?

          No one has ever presented authentic and original, 1st century originated, tangible and extant evidence of the existence of a mortal human man named “Jesus”. That is all I assert and no one has ever contradicted me by presenting such evidence.., so far.
          How about you?

        • Who cares? That doesn’t change the FACT that the gospels, Josephus, Tacitus, Paul… all stand as evidence for the existence of an actual mortal human named “Jesus”. No rational person disputes that.

        • Joe

          No, they’re the claim. There is no one, single, human being described in what is a series of separate books.

        • No, they are not the claim. The claim is that Jesus was a historical figure. The items I list represent evidence offered in support of that claim. Of course, in finding contradictions, they may also be used as evidence against the claim. Either way, though, they are, by definition, evidence.

        • Joe

          Which Jesus though?

        • Does it matter which Jesus? The attributes of any possible historical aspect of the Jesus that ends up in the NT are analyzed in the same way any historical issue is analyzed, by studying the evidence.

        • Joe

          It really does matter. One person does not have two different birth stories and four different deaths.

        • Why on earth would you think that the existence of multiple versions of birth stories or other biographical details means that person couldn’t be real? Do you believe that Socrates is a fictional character? We have contradictory stories about a great many important details of his life.

          Historical information is imperfect. It gets corrupted, it gets altered, sometimes deliberately, stuff gets fabricated sometimes. That doesn’t mean the information is “fiction” and it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t offer useful, valuable information.

        • Joe

          I have no idea if Socrates was real. That’s the point.

          If information is imperfect, how do you know which information to trust?

        • If you have no idea if Socrates was real, you really have no business commenting on how history works. You start sounding like Ken Ham… “How do you know? Were you there?”

          Historians utilize many tools for evaluating the quality of evidence. My complaint with most biblical historians (mainly the religious ones) is that they are inconsistent. They don’t apply the same standards of evidence to the information available about Jesus as they do the information available about Socrates, or any number of other figures who don’t trigger their religious bias.

        • rationalobservations?

          You obviously have no care for evidence supported truth?

          You appear to confuse fiction written centuries after the time in which it is set, then re-written edited, added to and deleted from then re-re-re-re-re-written by anonymous authors during more than 1600 years as “evidence” of the validity of the confused internally contradictory, historically inaccurate and historically unsupported myths legends and lies you call “evidence” today?

          That appears totally irrational.

        • I’d like nothing better than to be able to use some of rationalobservations’ claims about the weakness of the Christian case. I just need scholarly backup.

        • Well, the reference linked above, as well as the work of Carrier and other historians provide useful, well supported arguments which make an excellent (but certainly not definitive) case why most, if not all, of the evidence used by those who argue for historicity is quite weak.

        • Cozmo the Magician

          So comic books from the 50’s can be considered ‘evidence’ of the historical Superman? Millions of Harry Potter books should be evidence of a school for wizards? The season 4 finale of Lucifer should make us happy that the world will NOT be overrun by demons? That Vid I ‘researched’ on pornhub the other day means a sexy pizza delivery girl will want to have sex with me?

          Fiction is NOT evidence.

        • Fiction is different from legend or mythology. False tales that are not believed are different from false tales that are.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          Sorry, asking for clarity, are you suggesting that a clearly false story, but one that is believed by some should be treated as evidence? in a thousand years time, when the church of spiderman is in full swing (see what i did there) would the comics now suddenly have more veracity?

        • I think that it’s clearly false, and so do you. But they will tell you about their personal experiences with the Holy Spirit or miracles that they’ve seen happen.

          Of course, we could respond to these with demands to see the evidence, or we could point out how their stories parallel stories from religions that we and the Christian agree are bullshit, and so on. My response is to grant them that this is evidence, even though it’s very small evidence. It seems like appropriate humility on my part. (I also don’t say that I know that there is no supernatural, just that I live my life as if that’s the case and I think that the supernatural is very unlikely.)

          I think my position is a smart move rhetorically. Here’s a parallel: I also don’t want to get into the debate about where to draw the OK/not-OK line for abortion. Countless jurisdictions have already done so, so it’s clearly possible. The pro-lifer is often eager to get into that morass because they can spend hours sifting minutia, but I’d rather rub their face in more powerful pro-choice arguments.

          The same is true for the “2B Christians is no evidence” argument–I’ve got far more powerful arguments, and this just lets them take the conversation off into the weeds.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          Is there not an issue of GIGO, once you concede that personal revelation has any form of evidencial value then you get buried in more examples of the same. there are plenty of people who believe that quantity can make up for quality, specifically these are the people who are likely to use the ‘2B’ argument. the only counter to this is raise the level at which evidence is persuasive to filter out, what they believe, is the weight on their side.

          I think you are right in the pro choice argument, there is no point in getting bogged down in numbers when there are better, more persuasive, arguments for granting women rights over their own bodies. I just don’t see how you are going to defuse the evidence argument for the religious, they are always going to fall back to it, as they consider it a trump card. I mean most arguments with the religious are going to get bogged down at that point, why not just cut straight to end?

        • once you concede that personal revelation has any form of evidencial value then you get buried in more examples of the same.

          Good point. I haven’t experienced this personally—perhaps the Christian knows that once we allow his personal experience of the Holy Spirit, we need to allow the potentially contradicting experience of the next Christian.

          And let me emphasize that granting that Christianity has a non-zero amount of evidence is just how I roll. Not conceding that point seems to be a defensible position as well. It just seems that, for my taste, I’d rather not get into hair splitting over negligible vs. zero.

          specifically these are the people who are likely to use the ‘2B’ argument.

          But then they’re susceptible to the 1.6B argument (there are now 1.6B Muslims, and they’re expected to be at parity with Christians by 2070) or the 1.03B argument (Hindus), etc.

          I just don’t see how you are going to defuse the evidence argument for the religious, they are always going to fall back to it, as they consider it a trump card.

          I’ve never found the discussion to go that way. Maybe they realize that it cuts both ways. But YMMV.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          I think you may have conversations with more logically consistent Christians than me, i find that they have never found a non sequitur, or special pleading that they did not embrace like a long lost relative.

          As i have been discussing with @disqus_4QIAckO8X4:disqus i think it depends what you consider evidence and what that evidence is for, there is lots of evidence that Christianity is a thing and that it is ancient, the documentary and physical evidence is over whelming, but i would have to question if any of that evidence could be used to substantiate a ‘real world’ Jesus. Proving the beliefs of the early church and physical existence of a real person, on whom those beliefs are founded, are not the same thing. Over all i agree that the evidence for the man is non zero, but i don’t find the evidence compelling, certainly less so then for other historical figures mentioned in the bible.

        • The historical Jesus thing is tricky. Mythicists like RM Price and Richard Carrier seem to acknowledge that the null hypothesis is that there was an actual dude at ground zero, since that is a typical way religions start (Joseph Smith, Mohammed, Mary Baker Eddy, etc.).

          It’s one thing for the mythicist to say that they’re not convinced that there was an actual man (and historicists might agree that the evidence is scant), but then they need to provide evidence for the reverse, for which evidence is also scant.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          as i like to tell people, there may well have been a rabbi in the middle east called Jesus who had some funky ideas and apparently some anger issues, however i am not sure how significant that is. I doubt we will ever be able to prove it one way or the other.

          This is only really important to people who believe that the existence of a ‘actual person’ Jesus somehow substantiates the ‘Godman’ Jesus.

        • Greg G.

          as i like to tell people, there may well have been a rabbi in the middle east called Jesus who had some funky ideas and apparently some anger issues, however i am not sure how significant that is.

          Sure, but the early epistles about Jesus are not about that Jesus.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          well that’s another problem, the character of Jesus is so variable that he was either one guy in sore need of some serious help with his mental health, or more than one guy.

        • Yes, comic books are evidence of Superman, and Harry Potter books are evidence of wizards. Evidence is not proof.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          so how do you evaluate a piece of evidence, to decide if it has any actual relevance to reality? Is the issue here as to what exactly the definition of evidence is? as it looks like you and @rationalobservations:disqus are using different ones.

        • Evaluating evidence is precisely what defines debate!

          Rationalobservations is taking the position that there are things that can be summarily rejected without debate. I view that as a profound intellectual failure. (And in this specific case, it represents a profound lack of understanding about historical methods, which necessarily involve evidence in the form of hearsay, circumstantial relationships, and all manner of evidence which is recognized as weak or inconclusive. In fact, that becomes the basis of a very strong argument against the historicity of Jesus: why do most biblical scholars accept that most of our knowledge of the actual person Socrates is anecdotal and unreliable, while treating almost identical sorts of information about Jesus as solid evidence for a solid biographical understanding? Show your opponent as inconsistent, and you’ve succeeded.)

        • rationalobservations?

          You lie when you say that I reject evidence. I observe that there has never been any HISTORICAL evidence and you have responded with references to confused and contradictory myths and legends written centuries after the time in which they are set.

          You imply that you consider much of the history taught in schools as myth based.
          Bingo!
          You are slowly catching up.

        • The references I gave are all historical evidence.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          ok, that makes sense, but i can see where rational is coming from, I assume he is suggesting that there is nothing wrong with having a standard below which you are not going to consider the evidence to have persuasive ability. To shoot down my own go to analogy, i do not need to consider every edition of ‘the amazing spiderman’ before i decide that comic books fall below an evidencial value where i need to care about them. If someone wants to rehabilitate the comic book as a valid piece of useful evidence the onus is on them to make it so.

          I am sure you would agree that stories told and retold for at least a generation before being committed, in any form, to a more physical medium are not good evidence, if they happen to support other evidence then that’s great, they are a support beam rather than a pillar in building a case.

          I think the big argument here is that your definition of evidence is ‘any thing ever written, said or recorded on a subject’ and his more limited, applying filters to attempt to speed up the process of getting to a point, as is often the case in these arguments clarity of definitions would probably clear this up. I am not saying his filters are correct, just that i think you are talking past each other.

        • I assume he is suggesting that there is nothing wrong with having a
          standard below which you are not going to consider the evidence to have
          persuasive ability.

          If that’s what he’s saying, I agree. He’s correct. That’s not what I’m hearing. What I’m hearing is that there’s a range of stuff that he’s refusing to even acknowledge is evidence. That is a flat-out factual error, given the definition of evidence, and it’s a profound and devastating logical failure.

          I can think of no circumstances, ever, where a historian would reject something offered as evidence in support of some claim. It simply doesn’t happen. Because the reality is, anything that is connected in any way to some historical claim or event has the potential of being relevant. It may be deemed false, or of low value, but that is only determined once it is examined. Rational is rejecting the examination completely. That seems to me to go well beyond the definitions we are using.

          And beyond the theory of how history in general is analyzed, his position in this specific case is absurd. To reject the historical writings of people in the first century or two after Jesus, who are writing about Jesus, as not being evidence, is a huge failure. It is conceding the debate to those who make claims for a strong historical basis for Jesus. Because this is, in fact, the mainstream evidence accepted by all historians… even those who argue against the historicity of Jesus. It is evidence that is used by mythicists, in fact, to support their position.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          It would appear that rational assumes any piece of information that is deemed to have no persuasive ability does not count as evidence, a colloquial use of the word that many people would agree with. Not saying you are wrong but I often see people talking past each other because one of them is using a term of art from a subject where it has a subtly different meaning to common usage. Now his tolerance for what is considered persuasive may be off but that is a different and entirely more interesting discussion.

          ‘To reject the historical writings of people in the first century or two after Jesus, who are writing about Jesus, as not being evidence, is a huge failure’

          i think the issue here is what they are evidence for. They are evidence of the existence of Christianity, and the beliefs held by the sect at the time. Rational is saying, at least as i read him, that he does not consider them ‘valid’ evidence of an actual person Jesus. Now that can be debated and could be interesting.

        • Now that can be debated and could be interesting.

          The problem, of course, is there’s nothing to debate if you reject the other guy’s evidence without hearing or argument.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          He has stated why he feels that the gospels and early writings lack persuasive value for a real person Jesus, he has explained how he got to where he is, that would constitute his argument.

          If you want to rehabilitate the evidence you have to explain why he is wrong. which is actually the conversation you want to have anyway on the merits of the evidence, so you get what you want. Of course if he refuses to entertain questioning of his premise then there is nothing to do but walk away.

          You two seem to have got caught up on the definition of evidence rather than actually exploring the issue, a very easy thing to do in the back and forth of posting.

        • If you want to rehabilitate the evidence you have to explain why he is wrong.

          I don’t know what “rehabilitate the evidence” means. I simply require that the evidence be addressed and not dismissed on the grounds it somehow doesn’t qualify as evidence, somehow is below consideration.

          That is most certainly not an issue of different definitions.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          Rational has clearly stated that he considers the gospel evidence as below the level of persuasiveness (or in his words not evidence) to rehabilitate it, in this case, you would need to explain why he is incorrect to dismiss it as such. This would promote the conversation on the value of such evidence, the conversation you seem to want to have.

          You are both clearly using different definitions of what evidence is, you may both be right or wrong or some combination of the two.

          I have no dog in this hunt, i am simply pointing out where i believe your conversation went off the rails and how you could have got it going again, i am attempting to be constructive, but if you would rather i kept my opinions to myself then just say the word.

        • Rational has clearly stated that he considers the gospel evidence as
          below the level of persuasiveness (or in his words not evidence) to
          rehabilitate it, in this case, you would need to explain why he is
          incorrect to dismiss it as such.

          Again, I don’t know what it means to “rehabilitate” evidence. Evidence is just evidence. It is data. Data can’t be “rehabilitated”. And also again, my reading of what Rational is saying is different from yours. Like I said, if that’s what he’s saying, I agree with him. I also think the evidence fails to persuade. I have no problem with him dismissing that evidence through the process of discussion and analysis. But what I hear him saying is that he isn’t willing to admit it as evidence into the discussion in the first place. That is not acceptable.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          his position is that the evidence (your definition of evidence) does not come up to the standard required (his definition of evidence) hence he casts it away. Now you wish for him to consider that evidence, to bring it back into scope, this is what is meant be rehabilitation of evidence. When you take a discarded concept or statement and justify (or attempt to justify) why it should not have been. It’s like in a court case where one side tries to get evidence chucked out, the other side needs to explain why that evidence should be considered.

          Given that you appear to agree with him that the evidence in this case is not persuasive, would a simple addition of ‘valid’ or ‘persuasive’ have moved the conversation forward?

        • My reading is that he has cast it away from the beginning. Refused to consider it. If so, he has lost the debate before it ever begins.

          Evidence is always in scope. It is never discarded. This should not be considered in any way equivalent to a court case, where “evidence” has a strict legal meaning which is substantially disconnected from how the term is used in dialectics and evidence-based reasoning, which is what we’re talking about here. We never reject evidence; we make arguments about why it is or is not persuasive, why or why not it supports or contradicts particular assertions or premises.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          so if a piece of evidence is deemed not persuasive then what happens to it? Do you perhaps no longer consider it, unless something else turns up that casts it in a new light (rehabilitates it).

          ‘”evidence” has a strict legal meaning which is substantially disconnected from how the term is used in dialectics and evidence-based reasoning’

          here you confirm there are two uses for the word evidence, one which seems to conform to rationals usage and one that conforms to yours. Just because you are using one definition of a word, arguably the correct one in the circumstances, does not mean everyone else is familiar with that usage. i would expect most people when asked to define evidence would tend towards to legal one.

          You agree that the gospel are not persuasive as to the existence of an ‘actual’ Jesus, so in essence you agree with rational, it would appear that your argument is with his choice of words not his base premise.

        • so if a piece of evidence is deemed not persuasive then what happens to it?

          Nothing happens to it. All that changes are the conclusions that are drawn from it. If the arguments against it are strong enough, and both sides are unbiased, everyone will agree that this piece of evidence is of no value in coming to any particular conclusion, or that it doesn’t support some premise (although it is rare in practice for either side to wholly reject it).

          i would expect most people when asked to define evidence would tend towards to legal one.

          I would expect most people who are engaged in discussion in forums like this, or who are formally addressing historical questions, would be extremely aware of the meaning of evidence in the context of dialectic discussion, and would be extremely aware that the definition used in court is entirely incorrect. (Legal rules introduce all sorts of ideas that conflict with evidence-based reasoning, such as “proof”.)

          Again, I don’t see you addressing the actual conflict here, which is his apparent willingness to reject some information without hearing, versus my view that this represents a profound intellectual failure.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          ‘I would expect most people who are engaged in discussion in forums like this, or who are formally addressing historical questions, would be extremely aware of the meaning of evidence in the context of dialectic discussion, ‘

          Why? this a general access Patheos blog about religion and it’s follies, while @BobSeidensticker:disqus does an excellent job of taking an intellectual and scholarly approach to these issues you have no reason to believe that the readers here are academics, and assuming that they understand a term of art is probably not the best idea. I certainly would have given a definition closer to the one that rational used before this conversation, and would still use it as working definition, while understanding that there is one more appropriate to a scholarly conversation. Clearly in this case you where incorrect in that assumption, perhaps in the future you will consider actually asking and finding out.

          You have just said that you agree with him that the gospels have no persuasive value for this topic. Given you both agree on that what is the point in discussing the merits of evidence you both agree is bunk?

          the only conflict is in the use of words, not in anything more meaningful, a clear definition of how you where both using the word ‘evidence’ and then agreement on how it would be used going forward would have resolved the only difference i see you having. like i have said before you where arguing over semantics and that stopped dead any actual discussion on the topic. I get that you think that you proving your use of ‘evidence’ is important, but was it important enough to derail a potential conversation?

        • You have just said that you agree with him that the gospels have no
          persuasive value for this topic. Given you both agree on that what is
          the point in discussing the merits of evidence you both agree is bunk?

          I said no such thing, and I don’t think the evidence is bunk. Neither does he, because he refuses to allow it to be discussed.

          What I said is that I find the evidence weak and unpersuasive. That doesn’t mean it is of no value, it doesn’t mean it has no persuasive value, it certainly doesn’t mean it is “bunk”. You will not find a credible historian who refuses to treat it. And you will not find a credible historian who argues that it was certain there was no historical Jesus.

          I’m not sure what else there is to say. You are focused on this idea that our difference is one of definitions. That is not remotely the case. This is not an issue of semantics at all,

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          Again, you are getting hung up on words, definitions, from the context of what i wrote (and you quoted) it is clear that when i describe evidence as bunk i am referring to evidence with no persuasive value, you seem insistent on making sure everyone uses language precisely the way you think it should be used rather than being flexible, or just asking what some one means. I am really sorry to break it to you but not everyone uses language the same way, particularly when you are insisting in academic word usage in a public forum.

          No credible historian will say there was definitely not a Jesus, because proving a negative is next to impossible. That line of argument is the same that the religious use as a ‘gotcha’ for why their belief in god is totally rational. No credible historian will also tell you that Jesus’s next door neighbor was definitely not Jimmy the snake, for exactly the same reasons. That is why more than ‘is it logically possible’ is required to agree that something actually happened. Again, on this forum you are mostly dealing with non historians, so treating them like historians is just going to be frustrating.

          I agree there is little else to say.

        • Okay, I guess I have no way to explain this to you, except to say you’ve missed the point and my complaint has absolutely ZERO to do with definitions or language.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          Well i am sorry you see it that way, I believe i see the point you are making.

          Scholarly history is the logic and reason which goes into considering what evidence is persuasive, in theory if you can sieve out all the good from all the bad then the truth of what happened should then be self evident. No piece of evidence will ever be totally discarded, much like no result from an experiment should be, if it is to be ignored it should be clear why and most importantly that reason should always be open to challenge.

          However that is a highly academic approach to the field, one that the vast majority of people are not going to get, at least at first.

          Rejecting the gospels as persuasive evidence for a ‘real world’ Jesus may be valid, may not be, i don’t know, but you never got as far as discussing that as you kept banging on about what ‘evidence’ means. Rational was very gung ho in his approach but he did give reasons for why he thought they where not persuasive, you never engaged with that, you simply kept on about his usage of the word evidence. I felt that you had missed an opportunity to educate a fellow traveler, which is why i started this conversation in the first place.

          I do get what you are saying, and i have never once said you are wrong, however like many things in life the delivery is as important as the message if you want to get your point across.

          I am guilty of this too, clearly i failed to communicate what my intentions where in this exchange.

        • Greg G.

          How much evidence do we miss that is never considered as evidence? The greatest detectives of all time, Sherlock Holmes, Columbo, and Monk, would solve cases by observations of evidence nobody else noticed so they could consider it as evidence.

        • Pofarmer

          Why place limits on evidence? Because fiction is not evidence. Because trying to tease out what is historical and what is not from fiction without other sources and primary evidence is a fools errand.

        • Fiction certainly can be evidence. We know things about the ancient world because of the fiction they left us. A thousand years from now, why wouldn’t we expect a historian to use an excavated copy of Harry Potter to provide insight into our world, to make some rational observations about London or British suburbs? About what we used for transportation (trains and cars)? About a great many other things. We know with a high degree of certainty that there are many things in both the OT and the NT that are fictional. We also know that there are many things that are not. The things that are not fiction, or arguably not fiction? Thinks like identified people and identified places.

          We don’t place limits on evidence. We analyze evidence and decide how accurate or reliable it likely is, and form conclusions based on the weight of all evidence. If we label something as pure fiction and refuse to look at it, we are discarding valuable information.

        • Pofarmer

          So, are you saying the Ghost Recon series is evidence for Jack Ryan?

        • Someone could certainly offer it as evidence. And it would be evidence, by definition. I’m pretty sure I could offer additional evidence that rather soundly demonstrated why that evidence should not have any significant weight placed on it. BTW, are you quite certain that Jack Ryan isn’t derived from one or more real people? Would you consider the series to be of zero value to a historian 1000 years from now, in a world where only a limited amount of information had survived? I certainly wouldn’t. And I’d expect similar debates… was this character real, a hybrid of a real person and incorrect of fictional material, or wholly fictional? And those debates would certainly center around the evidence, of which the series would represent an important part.

        • Pofarmer

          The problem is, without primary evidence, there isn’t any way to ferrett out what may be attributed to the “real” Jack Ryan. It’s all just wishfull thinking without that primary evidence.

          https://www.academia.edu/38953504/Why_Jesus_Most_Probably_Never_Existed_Ehrmans_Double_Standards

        • You do not necessarily need primary evidence to arrive at reasonable conclusions about the veracity of historical events or claims. You never reject secondary evidence simply because it is of lower quality than primary evidence, or because it requires more effort to tease out possible truths, or because your conclusions have to be qualified with a higher degree of uncertainty.

        • Pofarmer
        • Yes, I know, it makes my point. I guess I don’t know what you’re trying to say here.

        • Pofarmer

          As I replied to Greg G. earlier, if you combine this paper, and another that I just recently read by Tom Dykstra, https://www.academia.edu/17918313/Ehrman_and_Brodie_on_Whether_Jesus_Existed_A_Cautionary_Tale_about_the_State_of_Biblical_Scholarship You can make a pretty darned strong case that what’s going on here is a case of category error. If you’re trying to read scripture as history, then you don’t really have any grounds to base what’s true of false or search for the historical characters, because you simply don’t know what the basis is. That’s how Thomas Brodie came to his conclusions, as well as Tommy Thompson. They argue that intertextual criticism pretty much completely explains the writing of Paul and the rest of the NT. What this means, if they are correct, is that there isn’t actually any evidence of an historical Jesus in the NT.

        • Of course there’s evidence. The paper addresses it. What they conclude is that when you evaluate all the evidence (which is what the paper does… it doesn’t discard it as not being evidence), it doesn’t allow a reasonable person to conclude that Jesus was a real person. Which I don’t disagree with.

        • Pofarmer

          And within the larger point, the main problem is that there is no way to parse out the “historical” bits from the “theological” bits, and upon examination it all becomes theological bits. That’s kind of the point of people like Brodie, and to some degree Mathew Ferguson (who is also an historicist) is that the genre of the Gospels has been misinterpreted. They were never meant to be “evidence” for an Earthly Jesus, any more than whatever stories were supposed to be “evidence” for an Earthly Hercules. They were scripture and morality tales.

        • And within the larger point, the main problem is that there is no way to
          parse out the “historical” bits from the “theological” bits, and upon
          examination it all becomes theological bits.

          I don’t think that’s true at all. We can look for references to places, to people we know with a high degree of certainty existed, to social structures we know existed. Lots of stuff in scripture is supported by other lines of evidence. (And lots is not, of course.) Theological stuff looks very different.

          Another useful clue comes from the fact that most of the theological aspects of Christianity were simply copied with minor adaptation from earlier religion. It’s often easy to detect these things and, at the least, argue that their likelihood of historicity is considerably reduced.

        • Pofarmer

          We can look for references to places, to people we know with a high
          degree of certainty existed, to social structures we know existed.

          So we need Spider Man Homecoming to tell us about the Washington Monument?

        • In a thousand years, that could, in actual fact, represent a historically significant piece of evidence. Do you disagree?

        • Pofarmer

          I think it would be more misleading than significant.

        • I have no way of knowing whether it would be misleading or not, since I lack information about the context in which it would be processed. I’m only suggesting that something you seem to be presenting as a reductio ad absurdum example may not be all that extreme or absurd at all.

        • Pofarmer

          Have you seen the movie?

        • No. I was assuming something in print… more likely to survive 1000 years.

        • Pofarmer

          Oh good lord.

        • ???

        • Pofarmer

          Are you discarding valuable information or simply refusing to be drawn down a rabbit hole?

        • If you are a competent analyzer, you should never be drawn down a rabbit hole.

        • Pofarmer

          LOL. This is the innerwebs.

        • Sure. But we’re not talking about the specific case of a specific forum. We’re talking about how historians evaluate the historicity of things, and of Jesus in particular.

        • Pofarmer

          In general “historians” don’t really weigh in much on the historicity of Jesus.

        • Curiously, they do. But they shouldn’t, because most of the historians who claim Jesus was a real person (and that’s most of them) haven’t actually ever looked at the matter themselves. A rather small number of historians, almost all from religious institutions, have made or now make the claim, based on low quality evidence like the gospels or Josephus, that Jesus was real, and everyone else goes along. The result is what we might think of as a pseudo-consensus.

        • Pofarmer

          A rather small number of historians, almost all from religious institutions

          Yep. And almost all with some flavor of theological or divinity degree.

        • Cozmo the Magician

          I have been asking this for a long time. And NEVER EVER received a valid answer. I have yet see even ONE piece of evidence that this ‘person’ ever existed.

        • rationalobservations?

          There is no authentic and original, 1st century originated historical evidence of the existence of Jesus or any of the fantastical contradictory
          and ridiculous legends of Jesus.

        • Michael Murray

          Doesn’t that depend on what you mean by weak. Bart Ehrman supports the idea of a historical Jesus.

        • I don’t think Ehrman makes a very good case. But the point is that we need to look at all the evidence. We may weigh it differently, but ignoring evidence isn’t a rational option.

        • rationalobservations?

          Again:
          WHAT “EVIDENCE”?

        • Since you don’t understand the meaning of the word “evidence”, there’s no point in explaining your confusion.

        • rationalobservations?

          Since you join all who have failed to offer evidence of any sort or description, your humiliation appears complete.

        • Examples given.

        • rationalobservations?

          No evidence offered by anyone in all history.

          You make empty claims.

        • What claims do you imagine I’m making?

        • rationalobservations?

          You claim evidence exists of the existence of “Jesus”.
          You claim to have reference evidence of the existence of “Jesus”.

          I can find neither in any of your entries or within any library, museum, university or religious resource although I have searched and researched for more than 3 decades.

        • Whoosh.

        • rationalobservations?

          Right over your head yet again.
          Thanks for confirmation.

        • rationalobservations?

          Myths, legends and propaganda referenced ONLY.

          You cannot validate any work of human authored fiction by quoting from that fiction and propaganda about that fiction.

          The irony of your claims to understand the meaning of “evidence” appear risible…

        • I’m sorry that you appear to lack the ability to comprehend what is being discussed here, and why your position is such a total failure. I don’t know how many other ways I or others can express it. It’s not a difficult concept.

          I hope you never get involved in an actual debate about the historicity of Jesus, because you’ll do damage to those of us who seek to demonstrate that his historicity is poorly established.

        • rationalobservations?

          Still no actual tangible historical evidence then?

          Your infantile bluster would be amusing if it wasn’t so embarrassing.

        • rationalobservations?

          It appears you are correctly responding to your own previous entries.

          Odd, and even more humiliating for you.

          If you ever discover tangible, authentic and original historical evidence of the existence and exploits of “Jesus” there is at least a Nobel prize and a Papal medal in it for that totally unique achievement.

        • even more humiliating for you.

          Must we?

        • rationalobservations?

          Sorry, Bob.
          Even the patience of the most patient teachers runs thin under provocation and in the face of willful and arrogant ignorance.

          My apologies to you and other more moderate readers.

        • Thanks.

        • Greg G.

          Ehrman’s evidence for Jesus is multiple independent attestations. They are the Gospel of Mark, the Q document, Matthew’s source, Luke’s source, the sayings source, the passion narratives, and protoThomas. We have the Gospel of Mark. The other six are hypothetical documents that assume there was a real Jesus and that they are actually written about him, rather than just pasting the name Jesus into them.

          The Q document is an explanation for the verbatim similarities between Matthew and Luke without having to explain the differences. Luke rejected the spit miracles and the other parts of Mark, so why would he not reject parts of Matthew, too? Many scholars believe Luke used Matthew as a source so that eliminates quite a few of the independent attestations.

          There are a half dozen or so similar stories between Luke and Josephus’ Antiquities and his autobiography. If they were random coincidence as is often heard, they would be scattered about but none of them are in the parts that are like Mark and Matthew. They are all found in the parts that would be the L source, and those coincidences in Josephus are not about Jesus.

          That is what is meant by weak.

        • rationalobservations?

          Everything (EVERYTHING!) you list can be traced to fabrication and origination in or after the 4th century.

          Myths, legends and diverse and different forged documents written by anonymous authors centuries after the time in which those to whom they are attributed died is evidence only of the fraudulent origins of the 4th century Roman “Jesus” cult they cobbled together from mostly “pagan” originated myths.

        • Greg G.

          I see too much conflict within the writings for them to have been written by one cult all of a sudden. Paul levels a lot of sarcasm at James and Cephas while discrediting them in Galatians. The Epistle of James appears to be largely a response to Galatians. Paul responds in Romans to a couple of points in the Epistle of James that were responses to Galatians.

          Mark is composed from material that would have been available in the first century including Jewish Wars but not Antiquities nor Life. Mark uses Latinisms and Aramaicisms but he usually explains the Aramaic but never the Latin so the intended audience would be Romans. The spit miracles appear to be based on Vespasian propaganda which would not be so well known by the fourth century so his target audience appears to be Romans who lived under Vespasian. The analogy of the anger at the fig tree, anger at the temple, the destruction of the fig tree, that leaves unspoken the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem would work in the first century during the generation that lived during the war but would be out of date three centuries later.

          John uses fictional account that Mark made up but has a different theology. John 7:41-43 has a challenge for the Markan Galilean and the OT Messiah from the root of Jesse.

          Matthew accepts John’s challenge by producing a genealogy and a nativity story. Matthew has Mary as the name of Jesus’ mother that is in Mark but not in John, and Joseph as the name of Jesus’ father which is in John but not in Mark. But Matthew rejects bits of Mark and bits of John. Matthew used Antiquities for the nativity story but no real indication of using Jewish Wars or Life.

          Luke seems to use all three of the others, including John 21 which seems to have been added at a later time. Luke appears to use Mark and Matthew primarily but also uses Antiquities and Life but not Jewish Wars.

          Each iteration of the gospel story seems like it is supposed to be a replacement for the others.

          I think the evidence fits better with the model of them being written over several decades early and “improved” over time rather than produced later with an intention of making them look older.

        • rationalobservations?

          The evidence of a very different (from all modern bibles) prototype followed by at least 800 years of deletions, additions, exaggeration, embellishment and much editing is to be found within the oldest near complete Bible (Codex Sinaiticus) that even after 800 years of alteration is still different from modern bibles in thousands of major and less major details. It contains two whole books that have not been included in today’s versions, omits key references to the “resurrection” and many of the quotes so glibly trotted out today do not appear in the original.

          Ignore the fiction of later Bible authors if you want to understand the evolution of the 4th century originated Roman “Jesus” cult and the first prototype bibles that were cobbled together aftert that brutal cult had been so brutally and murderously imposed upon the world in the late 4th century.

        • Greg G.

          There are many alterations to the manuscripts but most of them are honest mistakes by humans manually copying handwritten maunscripts with rather primitive writing utensils, possibly under oil lamps or candles.

          But we can see that there was a history before the Sinaiticus was produced. The epistles are in two groups that have different naming conventions. Paul’s letters are named by the addressee while the other epistles are named by the author but both collections are arranged by size. That was typical when they were written into a book form. There was no adding pages as the first page and the last page were on one sheet. That allowed the copyist to judge how much space was left and how big to make the letters to get it to come out even.

          Galatians refers to James and Cephas a lot. The Epistle of James responds to thing written in Galatians. James 2:8-11 argues against Galatians 5:14 which says Leviticus 19:18 about loving your neighbor fulfills the whole law. James doesn’t think so. He argues that one would be murdering and committing adultery if not following the law. Paul responds to that in Romans 13:8-10 and make the point that one wouldn’t do those things if one loved.

          James 2:21-24 responds to the Galatians 3:6 interpretation of Genesis 15:6 that Abraham was justified by faith. James argues that Abraham was justified by binding Isaac on the altar. Paul responds to that in Romans 4:1-4 & 10-12 by pointing out that Abraham was justified in Genesis 15:6 even before he was circumcised.

          So it appears that James is really written by the person Paul talks about in Galatians. Scholars note that the Epistle of James is written in the finest Greek in the New Testament. Paul mentioned James, John, and Cephas/Peter in Galatians 2:9 and those are the names of Jesus’ main sidekicks in Mark, where they are fishermen, presumably illiterate. Mark has made them caricatures.

          The writings were fiction to start with. It doesn’t much matter if more fiction was added. I think John 21 was added to the Gospel of John. I think Matthew knew the Gospel of John but may not have seen John 21. I think Luke knew Mark, Matthew, and John and incorporated John 21 into Luke 5:1-11.

          These things do not look like they were thrown together just in time to put them into Sinaiticus. IMHO, they show a process of development.

        • rationalobservations?

          Sinaiticus is in a different order from modern bibles and contains over 17,000 differences including two whole books omited from later written versions.

          The prototype for later bibles was obviously cobbled together from previous (often/mostly pagan) myths and legends.

        • Greg G.

          Sinaiticus is in a different order from modern bibles

          The only difference in the order of the New Testament books is that Acts and Hebrews are placed between 2 Thessalonians and 1 Timothy. Other than that, the order is the same.

          The prototype for later bibles was obviously cobbled together from previous (often/mostly pagan) myths and legends.

          What do you mean? The Jesus information in the early epistles can be found in the Old Testament, mostly the Septuagint. Mark gets information from some of Paul’s letters, the OT, Greek Literature, and such.

        • rationalobservations?

          Study the actual Codex Sinaiticus rather recycle propaganda about it. It has been online since 2008 so no excuses.

          There is no mention of “Jesus” in the “Old Testament”.

          The “Jesus” of any of the diverse and very different versions of “New Testament” does not meet the description of Messiah or fulfill “the prophesies of Messiah” of the Hebrew Bible.

          https://www.aish.com/jw/s/48892792.html?mobile=yes

        • Doubting Thomas

          There is no mention of “Jesus” in the “Old Testament”.

          I’m pretty sure Greg means that some of the stories of Jesus are rewrites of OT stories with Jesus inserted as the main character.

        • Greg G.

          The Septuagint spells “Joshua” the same way the New Testament spells “Jesus” in Greek.

          There are many Jesus miracles that appear to be repurposed miracles of Moses, Elijah, and Elisha.

        • rationalobservations?

          Probably.
          That’s not evidence of the actual existence of a human man named “Jesus” of the centuries later written legends.

        • Greg G.

          There is no mention of “Jesus” in the “Old Testament”.

          Zechariah 3 in the Septuagint has a Jesus standing in the presence of God to be accused by Satan as if he had died. It has the same spellings for “Jesus” that are used throughout the New Testament. The New Testament authors favored the Septuagint.

          The “Jesus” of any of the diverse and very different versions of “New Testament” does not meet the description of Messiah or fulfill “the prophesies of Messiah” of the Hebrew Bible.

          So what. The pre-war Jesus was a vague mystery and nothing like the post-war gospel Jesus. There were lots of different Christian religions after the war, and the Gentiles didn’t care much about what the Jews might have expected from a Messiah.

        • richardrichard2013

          there are protestant evangelicals who say that sinaiticus is full of heresies and should be thrown into the bin. full of heresies?

        • Greg G.

          I think the Old Testament of Sinaiticus is the Septuagint which includes the Apocrypha so that wouldn’t sit well with Protestant Fundamentalists, and it includes the Epistle of Barnabas and part of The Shepherd of Hermas, too.

        • I came across this fascinating critique of P45.

          As an editor the scribe of P45 wielded a sharp axe. The most striking aspect of his style is its conciseness. The dispensable word is dispensed with. He omits adverbs, adjectives, nouns, participles, verbs, personal pronouns—without any compensating habit of addition. He frequently omits phrases and clauses. He prefers the simple to the compound word. In short, he favors brevity.

          Since the pre-Sinaiticus papyri are so few, it’d be interesting to see them matched up to today’s consensus Bible to see how dramatic the differences are. It would illustrate how tenuous our version is.

          https://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2019/01/new-testament-manuscript-reliability-less-than-youve-been-told/

        • There are some fragmentary NT documents dated to 300 CE or before. These don’t count?

        • rationalobservations?

          The tiny fragments of papyri claimed as originating in the 2nd century have all been scientifically and forensically proved to originate no earlier than the 3rd century and even the Catholic Encyclopedia admits that there is no significant evidence of and for the “Jesus” cult that dates from before the 4th century.
          1600 years of myths legends and propaganda is all that Christianity has to offer.

        • rationalobservations?

          2nd century originated legends of “Jesus” are increasingly controversial in forensic science.

          Prototype legends written (possibly) in the 3rd century are evidence of the fraudulent human origin of Christianity.

          Even the Catholic Encyclopedia admits there is no substantive evidence and all their documentation dates from the 4th century and later.

          The clincher for many is the fact that the shortly acclaimed “Messiah” Simon “Christ” DID leave much evidence of his existence and exploits while no historical mention of “Jesus” exists.

        • What do you think of the arguments that the gospels were written in the 2nd century? One clue to that is Luke plausibly using Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews, written in 93 CE. Robert M. Price argues that the troubles Jesus warns against are not the siege of Jerusalem in c. 70 CE but rather the Bar Kokhba Revolt in the 130s.

        • rationalobservations?

          The oldest “copy” of Josephus was written in the 7th century and has been considered an edited and interpolated version.
          Like other claimed texts (Tacitus etc) there are no authentic and original first or early “copies” and the modern science if text typing reveals the forgery that has been widely accepted since the 18th century.

          A good test of all claims is now made simple:
          Google: “oldest extant Josephus”.
          Replace Josephus with Tacitus etc but ignore all results that include “claimed to be” or “assumed….”

          Check the results include an actual physical oldest text and the institution within which it is conserved.

          Be thankful for the ease of research. Us old school scholars did research the hard way…

        • I wrote about a similar document, “The Martyrdom of Polycarp.” The Christian claim is quite trivial, but I used it as simply an example of what you’re talking about–the evidence for many Christian claims is flimsy.
          https://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2019/01/christian-historical-claims-are-surprisingly-fragile-a-case-study/

          I agree that research is very easy compared to how it was just a decade ago.

          The case you’re making is that our view of the past is dim. Agreed. But what do you think about arguments that the gospels were written in the 2nd c.?

        • rationalobservations?

          I tend to agree with the Catholic Encyclopedia when they confirm that all extant texts date from no earlier than the 4th century.

        • I haven’t seen that. Can you give me the link?

        • rationalobservations?

          I only have my cellphone to work with but have the website bookmarked on my laptop and hope to get home wthin the next two po days. I will send you that link and any others that I think may interest you.

          A systematic check of “the oldest extant version” of any claimed ancient text was how I discovered that interesting inforaction.

        • I will send you that link

          Thanks.

        • rationalobservations?

          Even from my cellphone I have retrieved the quoted text:

          Our documentary sources of knowledge about the origins of Christianity and its earliest development are chiefly the New Testament Scriptures, the authenticity of which we must, to a great extent, take for granted.”
          (Catholic Encyclopedia, Farley ed., vol. iii, p. 712)

          The Church makes extraordinary admissions about its New Testament. For example, when discussing the origin of those writings,

          “the most distinguished body of academic opinion ever assembled” (Catholic Encyclopedias, Preface) admits that the Gospels “do not go back to the first century of the Christian era”

          (Catholic Encyclopedia, Farley ed., vol. vi, p. 137, pp. 655-6).

          This statement conflicts with priesthood assertions that the earliest Gospels were progressively written during the decades following the death of the Gospel Jesus Christ.

          In a remarkable aside, the Church further admits that,

          “the earliest of the extant manuscripts [of the New Testament], it is true, do not date back beyond the middle of the fourth century AD”

          (Catholic Encyclopedia, op. cit., pp. 656-7).

        • Greg G.

          The Catholic Encyclopedia was published over a century ago.

          “the earliest of the extant manuscripts [of the New Testament], it is true, do not date back beyond the middle of the fourth century AD”

          The “earliest of the extant manuscripts” does not mean they are the original autographs.

        • rationalobservations?

          Of course!
          It means they could not be the original autographs as those to whom they are ALL merely attributed were dead for centuries when they were written.

          There is nothing that relates to an historical “Jesus” at all.
          NOTHING.

        • Our documentary sources of knowledge about the origins of Christianity and its earliest development are chiefly the New Testament Scriptures, the authenticity of which we must, to a great extent, take for granted.”
          (Catholic Encyclopedia, Farley ed., vol. iii, p. 712)

          I found this quote in the Catholic Encyclopedia online (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03712a.htm ).

          The word “authenticity” is unclear here. They define it (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02137a.htm ) to mean either authoritative or that the assigned author is correct. Neither gives this quote a particularly interesting meaning. Am I missing something?

          The Church makes extraordinary admissions about its New Testament. For example, when discussing the origin of those writings,
          “the most distinguished body of academic opinion ever assembled” (Catholic Encyclopedias, Preface) admits that the Gospels “do not go back to the first century of the Christian era”
          (Catholic Encyclopedia, Farley ed., vol. vi, p. 137, pp. 655-6).

          I found this at many sites, though not in the online Catholic Encyclopedia. If the point is that our oldest fragmentary copies of the books of the New Testament are dated later than the 1st c., sure, I think everyone agrees with this.

          This statement conflicts with priesthood assertions that the earliest Gospels were progressively written during the decades following the death of the Gospel Jesus Christ.

          I’m not sure what problem you’re pointing out.

          In a remarkable aside, the Church further admits that,
          “the earliest of the extant manuscripts [of the New Testament], it is true, do not date back beyond the middle of the fourth century AD”
          (Catholic Encyclopedia, op. cit., pp. 656-7).

          I did find this one online (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08438a.htm ). Give it a read. You’ll see that “[of the New Testament]” should read “[of the gospel of John].”

          And note that the Catholic Encyclopedia was published more than a century ago. I suppose some articles must’ve been updated from their original for new editions, but read the bottom of this article. It makes clear that it was written by Leopold Fonck in 1910. New manuscripts have since been found (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_manuscript#Dating ). The “middle of the fourth century AD” is when the complete codices (Sinaiticus, Vaticanus) were written, but there are fragments of John from before this point.

        • rationalobservations?

          I have studied all the papyri fragments first hand or by proxy and also studied recent scientific and forensic 3rd party analyses of the extant studies. Controversy remains only regarding the 3rd or 4th century origin of all the extant fragments.

          The oldest claimed fragment was the Rylands papyrus P55 that was (and still is) widely claimed (assumed) as originating around mid 2nd century. That was never proved and some very recent analysis puts origination of that tiny piece of semi-literate scrawl as late 3rd century at the earliest.

          There is 1600 years of forgery and propaganda that obscures real scientific analysis. The evidence supported truth is out there if you diligently search real science and independent scholarship and ignore the religionist hype and propaganda.

        • I agree that there’s controversy, and I agree that Christian scholars would be eager to err on the early side for these manuscripts.

          You said, “all extant texts date from no earlier than the 4th century.” The Wikipedia article lists dozens that are dated earlier than this. You’re still holding to your claim? You’re saying that that list of papyri must all be dated to 300 CE or later?

        • rationalobservations?

          The earlier dating assumptions are all guesswork, presumption and supposition.
          I work on the oldest / first extant (actual, tangible existing) document, codex, scroll, papyrus or book.

          The most recent modern scientific and forensic examination places all known extant/existing texts as no earlier than fabrication in the 3rd century.

          Wiki is written by the public remember. Most entries are pretty accurate but many are recycled out of date propaganda and some are lies or garbage.

        • Sure, i appreciate that Wikipedia is imperfect.

          The most recent modern scientific and forensic examination places all known extant/existing texts as no earlier than fabrication in the 3rd century.

          You’ve got authoritative links? Share!

        • rationalobservations?

          Will do when back home with my laptop, Bob.

          It was researching the validity of religionist’s claims that led me to the evidence I pass on. Time consuming but worthwhile. Happy to save others some time now.

        • rationalobservations?

          The speculation you recycle us not supported by a single shred of historical evidence.

        • Uh, OK. I thought we were largely on the same page. Perhaps not.

        • rationalobservations?

          I am sure we are very much on the same page overall.

          I am still waiting for any authentic and original, 1st century originated historical evidence of the existence of “Jesus” however.

          All the best to you and yours Bob.

        • Greg G.

          Those warnings appear in Mark first. RM Price, IIRC, thinks the reference to fleeing in winter would be more like the Bar Kochbar Revolt.

          I think Mark used Jewish Wars and there are several references to problems of winter and how Pompey made progress against the Jews because they only fought defensively on the Sabbath.

        • I have yet to do a post on the argument in favor of a late dating (2nd c.) for the gospels. Fascinating.

          And, of course, a corollary is that if plausible cases can be made for such widely different dates, how can a supernatural claim be built upon such tenuous evidence??

        • Pofarmer

          Every bit of external attestation we have, indicates the Gospels being written starting about 125 AD at the earliest. This was the consensus view until apologists acting as scholars started trying to push the dates back using dubious methods. I think that’s still valid. I think the Gospel of Luke may be Early 2nd century.

        • I can see “there’s no external attestation that demands that the gospels be written in the 1st century,” but your claim is stronger, that the external attestation positively argues for a 125 CE date or later. Can you expand on that? Is there a compelling article that you have in mind?

        • Pofarmer

          Sources, you want sources? Lol. No, I don’t have a particular article in mind. The argument goes like this. None of the early Church Fathers mention or quote the Gospels at all. No mention of them, or quotation from them, shows up until a quotation from the Gospel of Mark from sometime around 123 A.D. The Gospel of Luke Mentions Theophilus in the introduction. One Theophilus in the Christian Tradition is Theophilus of Antioch, around 225 A.D.

        • Thanks

        • Jim Jones

          It’s always possible that one quote is used in two different works. That doesn’t prove dependence of the two.

        • Pofarmer

          I’m talking about someone quoting a work in an argument.

        • Jim Jones

          Interesting when it happens!

        • Pofarmer

          Yes call bugs it’s called external attestation and it’s one of the ways to date the New Testament

        • Jim Jones

          It’s amazing how often something tracks back to Eusebius. Which is always a red alert.

        • rationalobservations?

          The history of the Roman religion they called “Christianity” started in the 4th century and all the texts and the first bibles date from the 4th century onward.
          Many different versions of bibles and texts merely attributed to Eusebius, Josephus, Tacitus etc et all and the total absolute and complete absence of any historical evidence condemns the fraud of christianity.

        • Jim Jones

          I believe there’s a hypothesis that the original name may have been “The Way” in Greek or some other language. This may have started as a Jewish sect.
          I’ve always suspected that Jesus the Magical Jew was as interesting to the Greeks as [someone] the Mystical Tibetan would be to us. And for the same reasons.

        • rationalobservations?

          There are historical references to many diverse and different “messiahs” and messianic cults. That’s a fact.

          There is no tangible historical evidence of the existence and centuries later written legends of “Jesus”. That’s another fact.

          All else is propaganda, assumption, presumption, supposition, delusion and fiction

        • Michael Murray

          Thanks. I’m trying to sort out in this conversation “weak evidence”, “historical evidence” and what I suspect is something different again “evidence that would be deemed worthy of consideration by historians” !

        • Greg G.

          Let’s not forget that a piece of evidence might favor more than one hypothesis while ruling out other hypotheses.

        • rationalobservations?

          There is only utter total and complete historical silence regarding “Jesus” from within the first century.

        • sandy
        • Cozmo the Magician

          So that means he MUST have been real. Just like the fact that Hillary was never convicted of murder just proves how good she is at covering her tracks …. AMIRITE! /s

        • rationalobservations?

          Bart offers no historical evidence of a historical Jesus.

        • Rational Human

          I love Ehrman’s books, they played a major role in my deconversion. But his weakest book by far is Did Jesus Exist, where he “argues” against the mythicists. I suspect he has a really good gig at UNC, that would be jeopardized if he took the mythicist position, which is still at this point a fringe opinion. He would lose credibility and possibly his platform, so he plays it safe as a n agnostic historicist, when an honest appraisal of his body of work would make him an atheist mythicist.

        • rationalobservations?

          Your assessment is accurate and consistent with the evidence.

          It is also worth remembering that Bart was a Bible believing fundie before he studied the oldest 4th century fabricated prototype Greek language Roman bibles and noticed the many thousands of differences and discrepancies between the first human authored bibles and those later very different bibles in circulation today.

          Self interest and perhaps childhood indoctrination may hold some sway but Bart admits that no historical evidence of the existence of Jesus has ever been discovered.

        • And probably will never be unearthed, if he was just another of those anti-Roman preachers of the time. It would be just academic if so many did not attempt to force down on us their beliefs.

        • rationalobservations?

          The argument against that is the abundance of evidence of the life and adventures of “Simon Christ” who was briefly acclaimed as “the Messiah” in Rabbinical circles and had coins struck showing him under the messianic star outside the temple that are in museums and collections today.

          The legends of “Jesus” are far more flamboyant yet remain unnoticed and unnoted in history.

        • Jim Jones

          And then there’s Bar Kokhba.

        • rationalobservations?

          The “Simon Christ” referenced is the historically recorded and briefly acclaimed Messiah Simon bar Kochba aka Simon Ben Cosibah.

          The excuse that that provincial preachers like the apparently fictional “Jesus” would not leave tracks in history is contradicted by the number of Messiah claimants and messianic cult leaders who did and quite possibly form some basis for the ridiculous and progressively exaggerated legends of “Jesus” of whom no historical trace exists.

        • LastManOnEarth

          “Did Jesus Exist?” was more like an extended tantrum.

        • rationalobservations?

          Ehrman confirms there is no historical evidence of the existence and centuries later written adventures of “Jesus”.

        • Greg G.

          Ehrman makes such a statement about Greek and Roman sources but he does think that there were written adventures of Jesus from the first century from Christian sources, like the gospels, for example.

        • rationalobservations?

          Assumptions, presumptions and suppositions are not evidence.

          There is no authentic and original historical evidence of the existence and centuries later written adventures of “Jesus”.

        • Greg G.

          Widely divergent copying errors are evidence of copies of copies of copies which implies a sequence of older copies.

        • rationalobservations?

          I am reminded of a story by tonce believedhe majority of the population. It is about a human man who was gathered by a god, grew to perform amazing deeds and was acclaimed as a “saviour” of humanity. He was killed but soon rose from the dead to join his father in immortal glory.
          His name was Hercules/Herakles but many other similar stories of similar god-men predate a 4th century story of a god-man that some people actually still believe today – incredible as that appears!

          The evolution of bibles is traced from the 4th century. The origins of those stories appears mostly “pagan”.

        • Jim Jones

          “She said yes”, the Cassie Bernall story.

        • Centuries later? How late do you think the gospels were written?

        • rationalobservations?

          The oldest prototype bibles (Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus) were cobbled together by anonymous authors in the late 4th century.
          Both are different from each other and both are very different from the diverse and different, confused and internally contradictory, historically inaccurate, historically unsupported bibles written by later teams of men.

          There is no authentic and original evidence of the existence and exploits of “Jesus” that originate from within the 1st century.

        • Greg G.

          The oldest prototype bibles (Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus) were cobbled together by anonymous authors in the late 4th century.

          How do you know these were prototype bibles? There may have been many collections before them that were lost to fire, decay, or recycling. These two just happen to be collections of various documents that happened to survive fairly intact to the present day. They are composed of copies of copies of copies of copies of different manuscripts and sometimes they note variations of some of the manuscripts that existed when they were assembled.

        • rationalobservations?

          How do I know that the late 4th century originated Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vatican’s are the world’s oldest bibles? Because no one has discovered any older books or identical/near identical texts.

          As for being prototypes?
          Sinaiticus includes evidence of at least 800 years of editing and amendments yet includes two whole books omited from later versions and omits many quotes of “Jesus” added to later versions among over 17,000 major and minor differences and discrepancies.

          All else is assumption, presumption and supposition.

          Evidence supported facts are infinitely more reliable than wishful thinking, guesswork or propaganda.

        • Greg G.

          How do I know that the late 4th century originated Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vatican’s are the world’s oldest bibles? Because no one has discovered any older books or identical/near identical texts.

          That is not a question I asked.

          As for being prototypes?
          Sinaiticus includes evidence of at least 800 years of editing and amendments yet includes two whole books omited from later versions and omits many quotes of “Jesus” added to later versions among over 17,000 major and minor differences and discrepancies.

          So you have no evidence that there were no forerunners of a collection of writings in a group, which is my point.

          Sinaiticus was produced in the early 4th century, about the time of the first ecumentical council when they were deciding what books to canonize and which books to reject. So the fact that it does not contain the exact list of books found in later collections is trivial. Every manuscript will have minor discrepancies due to human error. That passages were added to or dropped from later manuscripts has nothing to do with Sinaiticus.

          All else is assumption, presumption and supposition.

          But to ignore that there may have been earlier versions of each book contained in the earliest collection of those writings is also a presumption, and a less rational one at that.

          Evidence supported facts are infinitely more reliable than wishful thinking, guesswork or propaganda.

          There are more facts available now than there were a century ago when the Catholic Encyclopedia was written. Your argument doesn’t seem to reflect that.

        • rationalobservations?

          You write- “So you have no evidence that there were no forerunners of a collection of writings in a group, which is my point.”

          I wonder what form evidence of the nonexistence of the nonexistent could possibly take?

          Sinaiticus has been forensically dated to fabrication in the late 4th century.

          17,000+ differences between Sinaiticus and the KJV is not what most people would consider “trivial”.

          Please study Sinaiticus before recycling religionist propaganda. It’s been published online since 2008 so no excuses. Some of us had to travel 1000s of miles to study the real things that are now on line among the junk, lies and propaganda.

        • It’s been published online since 2008 so no excuses.

          Is “I don’t read Greek” an excuse?

        • rationalobservations?

          Much has already been translated and that work continues rapidly.

          Some pcs and laptops can copy old Greek texts that Google translate make a fair job on.

        • Jim Jones

          > But to ignore that there may have been earlier versions of each book contained in the earliest collection of those writings is also a presumption, and a less rational one at that.

          You could claim that there were earlier sources of the stories in the Harry Potter series. You’re probably right. These stories work for humans and that’s why they are repeated.

          More:

          15 flood myths similar to the story of Noah

          https://www.mythoreligio.com/15-flood-myths-similar-to-the-story-of-noah-2/

        • Jim Jones

          I’m sure there was something before Paul. He just took it over and turned it into a tool for his own purposes. Of course later it was recreated all over again.
          And we know little of his religion since it was spread orally, not in writing. But the whole thing has been rebuilt repeatedly.
          The gospels were creations of oral stories, plus the biases of the authors.

        • Greg G.

          Also, centuries later than what?

        • rationalobservations?

          The first bibles and the 4th century Roman Christian religion were cobbled together over 300 years after the time in which the confused and contradictory historically unsupported and historically inaccurate scientifically absurd myths and legends of “Jesus” are merely set.

        • Greg G.

          The first bibles and the 4th century Roman Christian religion were cobbled together over 300 years after the time

          Cobbled together from what? From scratch?

          in which the confused and contradictory historically unsupported and historically inaccurate scientifically absurd myths and legends of “Jesus” are merely set.

          Confused and contradictory would be indications that it was cobbled together over centuries in different parts of the world.

        • rationalobservations?

          “Cobbled together from what? From scratch?”

          I doubt it. Cobbled together from a mass of mostly pagan mythology with hints at some of the non “Jesus” historical Messiah claimants like Simon “Christ” who is recorded by historical evidence including coins stuck depicting Simon outside the temple under the messianic star.

          “Confused and contradictory would be indications that it was cobbled together over centuries in different parts of the world.”

          Quite likely and since we know the handwriting style of the four Sinaiticus writers and the names of the large committee po f writers of the KJV there is evidence of the evolution of bibles from the 4th century onward.

          Meanwhile evidence of the existence and centuries later written exploits of “Jesus” has never been discovered.

        • Jim Jones

          See http://pocm.info

          They were built out of the Greek ‘Lego’ set from which all gods were made. Jesus is not a copy of other gods, just another version.

        • Jim Jones

          In the 4th century, around 350 CE. This was post Constantine.

          They are fan fictions describing a “Slender Man” character. They are utterly Greek.

        • Jim Jones

          And his book on this was rubbished by many critics.

          Here’s something he wrote earlier:

          Then I began to see that not just the scribal text but the original text itself was a very human book. This stood very much at odds with how I had regarded the text in my late teens as a newly minted “born-again” Christian, convinced that the Bible was the inerrant Word of God and that the biblical words themselves had come to us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. As I realized already in graduate school, even if God had inspired the original words, we don’t have the original words. So the doctrine of inspiration was in a sense irrelevant to the Bible as we have it, since the words God reputedly inspired had been changed and, in some cases, lost.

          Moreover, I came to think that my earlier views of inspiration were not only irrelevant, they were probably wrong. For the only reason (I came to think) for God to inspire the Bible would be so that his people would have his actual words; but if he really wanted people to have his actual words, surely he would have miraculously preserved those words, just as he had miraculously inspired them in the first place. Given the circumstance that he didn’t preserve the words, the conclusion seemed inescapable to me that he hadn’t gone to the trouble of inspiring them.

          Misquoting Jesus — Bart Ehrman

        • Michael Murray

          Was it rubbished by historians though ?

          I’m not sure what you are deducing from this quote ? Not believing the Bible is the inspired word of God doesn’t have to imply there was no historical person around whom the myths of a divine Jesus attached themselves.

        • Jim Jones

          > Was it rubbished by historians though?

          I believe so.

          http://www.biblicalcatholic.com/apologetics/ReviewEhrmanDidJesusExist.htm

          “…I can officially say it is filled with factual errors, logical fallacies, and badly worded arguments….it completely fails….to effectively critique the arguments for Jesus being a mythical person. Lousy with errors and failing even at the one useful thing it could have done, this is not a book I can recommend….”

          http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/ehrman.html

        • Michael Murray

          The first of those seems to be Richard Carrier who I would expect to disagree with Ehrman. I couldn’t find out what the qualifications of the other guy are but he has published mythicist books.

          I guess I would like to see some mainstream historian of Christianity saying Ehrman had got things wrong. Not just mythicist bloggers.

          What I find hard to assess is how much the supposed consensus amongst biblical scholars that probably there was a historical Jesus is influenced by that fact that for so many centuries people believed not just in the historical Jesus but the divine one. Is the opinion of a modern day, atheist/agnostic historian really reliable on this topic ?

        • Jim Jones

          I suspect you will find many more links.

        • rationalobservations?

          “One of the most amazing and perplexing features of mainstream Christianity is that seminarians who learn the historical-critical method in their Bible classes appear to forget all about it when it comes time for them to be pastors. They are taught critical approaches to Scripture, they learn about the discrepancies and contradictions, they discover all sorts of historical errors and mistakes, they come to realize that it is difficult to know whether Moses existed or what Jesus actually said and did, they find that there are other books that were at one time considered canonical but that ultimately did not become part of Scripture (for example, other Gospels and Apocalypses), they come to recognize that a good number of the books of the Bible are pseudonymous (for example, written in the name of an apostle by someone else), that in fact we don’t have the original copies of any of the biblical books but only copies made centuries later, all of which have been altered. They learn all of this, and yet when they enter church ministry they appear to put it back on the shelf. For reasons I will explore in the conclusion, pastors are, as a rule, reluctant to teach what they learned about the Bible in seminary.”
          ― Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible & Why We Don’t Know About Them

          Always remember that (like many of the world’s third largest and fastest growing human demographic of the godless atheists) Bart Ehrman was a born again Bible-believing Evangelical until he read the original 4th century Greek language bible texts and noticed thousands of discrepancies between the oldest 4th century originated bibles and those in circulation today.

          Bart also admits that there is no historical evidence of the existence of “Jesus”.

          http://i.imgur.com/zEW3q.jpg

        • Michael Murray

          Bart also admits that there is no historical evidence of the existence of “Jesus”.

          I’m not sure Bart would agree with “no historical evidence”, I think he is saying “no contemporary historical evidence”. He writes a book called “Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth” in which he makes a historical case that the existence of a historical Jesus is the theory most consistent with the data we have. He says

          “The reality is that whatever else you may think about Jesus, he certainly did exist.”

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, I agree with Narve Strand here. I think Ehrman has goofed on this point.

          https://www.academia.edu/38953504/Why_Jesus_Most_Probably_Never_Existed_Ehrmans_Double_Standards

        • Greg G.

          The quote from the graphic is limited to first century references to “Greek or Roman historian, religion scholar, politician, philosopher, or poet.” The Pauline epistles and the Gospel of Mark would not fall under those qualifications. So Ehrman is definitely not saying there is no first century evidence.

          He says

          “The reality is that whatever else you may think about Jesus, he certainly did exist.”

          But the evidence Ehrman bases the claim on are seven documents” The Gospel of Mark, the Q document, Matthew’s independent source, Luke’s independent source, the sayings source, the passion narratives, and protoThomas. We have one of those documents. The other six are hypothetical documents based on the assumption that there was a historical Jesus and the documents were about him.

          Luke and Acts have dozens of similarities to passages from Josephus’ Antiquities of the jews and his autobiography. If these were just coincidences, we should expect to see them scattered throughout the Gospel of Luke, but they are found in the one third that does not correspond to Mark and Matthew. For example, Luke 2:39-52 is about Jesus teaching at the temple at age 12. In Life of Josephus 2, Josephus says the high priests and principle men were impressed by his love of learning and wanted his opinion of the law at the temple when he was 14. Luke made it about Jesus, changed the age to twelve, and added “three days” as foreshadowing.

        • DingoJack

          So let me get this straight – your knockout evidence of a historical Jesus – is one document and six totally imaginary ones that are assumed to have existed. This existence is based on the assumption that a historical Jesus existed, and these totally imaginary documents, in turn, are basis for the assumption that there is a totally for-real historical Jesus.
          Oooh sign me up, that’s soooooo convincing, really it is!

        • Greg G.

          Don’t forget “the Lord’s brother” in a letter filled with sarcasm aimed at James, Cephas, and the circumcision faction, but that one verse is not sarcastic at all, no sir.

        • I dunno why so many discussions about a historical or not Jesus. Even had he existed, which I concede, it would not absolutely mean that the supernatural elements would be automatically true.

        • Greg G.

          It is an academic question. The evidence for existence is poor. I think the evidence that he was invented is stronger.

        • Remember that what literalists want is the supernatural version. Anything less than that does not count for them.

        • Doubting Thomas

          I think mythicism wins simply by being a defensible position. If the evidence is so weak that even Jesus’ existence can be reasonably debated, then certainly the evidence is insufficient for the miraculous claims about him.

        • LastManOnEarth

          I think the Mythicists buried the lede. The best answer is neither “historical” or “mythical” but rather “based on the evidence, we can’t know”. More importantly, the gospel story hangs entirely on a single source, the Gospel of Mark, that has the hallmarks of contemporary Greek literature.

        • Perhaps because Christians feel like it’s a winner for them. They can respond with, “You’re gonna challenge the overwhelming consensus of NT scholars??”

          I find the argument intellectual interesting but unhelpful for making a counter-apologetic argument. It’s an unhelpful quagmire.

        • “You’re gonna challenge the overwhelming consensus of NT scholars?”, yes, but “You’re gonna challenge the historical records that show the events (zombies, the Sun going dark, etc) never happened?”

          As you say, I’m also fully aware Fundies would cherry-pick what they want and ignore everything else.

        • “You’re gonna challenge the overwhelming consensus of NT scholars?”, yes, but “You’re gonna challenge the historical records that show the events (zombies, the Sun going dark, etc) never happened?”

          But these are two different things. “You’re gonna challenge the overwhelming consensus of NT scholars?” is used by Christians (and atheists like Bart Ehrman) to defend the idea of a historical Jesus.

          By contrast, “You’re gonna challenge the historical records that show the events (zombies, the Sun going dark, etc) never happened?” could be used by any atheist to attack the idea of a magic Jesus.

          Perhaps we’re on the same page.

        • It seems so, thanks to threats of Hell from street preachers when their attempts to convert me failed and the BS I found when I decided to research more about Evangelicals.

          One of the few moments when I desired to punch in the face one of those Fundy assholes was when one, a Pentecostal, claimed that it was far more believable the Sun had turned off when Jesus died, which is in just one of the Gospels, than the Big Bang.

        • and the idiot who dismisses the Big Bang gets as many votes for president as you do …

        • The Big Bang, (of course) evolution, that any faith up to Islam that is not centered in Jesus is false and cannot turn/rebuke demons, that Buddha, Zarathustra, Confucious, etc. will knee upon Jesus and will confess Him as the Lord, other stuff I cannot remember now… I often wish that man was talking that way just to sell his product to the sheeps and not being dead serious. And not only he’s not alone at all on that station, another that closed down because of insufficient donations was even richer in lulz.

        • I overheard my wife today listening to a documentary about Tony Alamo (think Jim Jones except without the Kool-Aid). Scary shit.

        • Jim Jones

          I’ve never found a cite for this supposed consensus.

        • The consensus for the historical Jesus? Good question. It’s claimed with defiance by many, but of course that confidence makes one want to dig deeper to see if it’s well founded.

        • As a matter of FACT, the supernatural elements are false. Whether Jesus existed as an actual person, an amalgam of multiple people, or a pure fiction is of modest historical interest. Unless, of course, you’re a Christian, in which case your entire world hangs on the answer. Which is why I place little value in the conclusions of Christian historians on that question.

        • I’m aware of that. It’s because of what you mention and especially if you’re of the literalist (read: Fundy) variety.

        • I’m aware of that.

          I know. I wasn’t suggesting you needed schooling in the lack of existence of supernatural phenomena!

        • But you must avoid going too far and saying that all Christian historians are biased. Any thoughts on how to thread that needle?

        • It’s tricky. I think it is reasonable to ask them explicitly to explain how they avoid being unbiased when a fundamental component of their worldview hangs on the conclusions they reach. That rarely if ever applies to other historical or scientific questions explored by researchers. If I found myself in a debate with such a person, I’d arm myself with analogous examples supported by similar types of evidence. What are their views on the historicity of Mohammad, of Socrates, of Buddha, of Hillel, of Robin Hood?

        • Another angle: faith statements force Christian scholars to accept conclusions before they begin. My post on that:

          https://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2017/11/william-lane-craig-replies-attack-faith-statements/

          What are their views on the historicity of Mohammad, of Socrates, of Buddha, of Hillel, of Robin Hood?

          Yes! I’ve never seen a simple algorithm that can be applied to all these cases (fiction, history, legend, myth, mixtures, etc.). Heck, I’m not even focused initially on whether their algorithm works or is biased; I simply want to see that they have one!

        • Related to faith statements, I’d present them with a hypothetical: “What would your response be to solidly convincing evidence that major elements of Christian doctrine were fictional? For instance, what if a letter between a pair of first century apocalyptic cult leaders was unearthed, putting forth the idea of creating a martyr via Roman crucifixion, followed by a divine resurrection, as a tool to advance their cause?”

        • Pofarmer

          If you are any kind of subscriber to the “viral” theory of beleif, they can’t help but be biased, it’s absolutely baked in.

        • Everyone has biases. But people differ considerably in their ability to detect those biases and minimize their impact on deliberate rational thought processes.

        • Pofarmer

          Well sure, but it seems like different religions have come up with specific Mechanisms Adapted to actively shield people from those biases.

        • I would say that religions have developed mechanisms to exploit biases. To enable them, not to shield people from them.

        • Pofarmer

          I disagree, I think religion’s not only exploit biases but have a vested interest in reinforcing them.

        • Sorry… isn’t that exactly what I said? Where do we disagree?

        • Pofarmer

          Excuse me, I miss read you.

        • Aside: a popular Christian position lately is, “Biased? Sure, I’m biased, but so what? Everyone is biased!”

          Perhaps we’re old fashioned in thinking that biases can and should be minimized.

        • Then call me old fashioned. (Of course, I’m a professional scientist; detecting and minimizing certain biases was part of my training and remains integral to my work.)

        • Jim Jones

          Ask them to walk you through their argument, step by step. It’s easy to spot the flaws then.

        • Pofarmer

          If you follow the thinking of Darell Ray and “The God Virus” they are all biased. This makes their behavior predictable, we’ve all seen it. It also renders them quite unreliable on matters of pretty much anything pertaining to their faith.

        • To get a hearing within that community, I’ve tried to give them the benefit of the doubt, but that may be an unrealistic Pollyanna attitude.

        • Pofarmer

          If you combine the works of Eric Hoffer, and Darrel ray, it doesn’t look good for that attitude. The best we can do is probably chip at the edges.

        • Jim Jones
        • Jim Jones

          It’s weaker even than that for Robin Hood, King Arthur, William Tell – or Ned Ludd or John Frum.

          The evidence for Glycon, however, is superb.

    • Scooter

      “To look out at this kind of creation and
      not believe in God is to me impossible.”
      – Astronaut John Glenn

      • Greg G.

        I wonder if John Glenn ever looked at the parasitic flies that lay eggs in eyeballs?

        A beautiful sunset might be the result of a deadly hurricane over the horizon.

        You have to cherry-pick what you observe to pretend there is a benevolent being. The universe is indifferent.

        • Susan

          I wonder if John Glenn ever looked at the parasitic flies that lay eggs in eyeballs?

          Or what his thoughts would have been in the last few moments if his spacesuit malfunctioned.

        • Greg G.

          Or what his thoughts would have been in the last few moments if his spacesuit malfunctioned.

          Probably “space sucks” as the last of his oxygen escaped into the vacuum.

        • Guestie

          From an otherwise forgettable sci-fi story or novel (that’s how forgettable it was). Someone is descending to earth after months in space and is vomiting from the loss of weightlessness.

          “Gravity sucks” she said, as she threw up.

          A friend and I debated for days whether or not this was a deliberate joke.

      • Doubting Thomas

        At least he recognized the limitation as his own.

      • I will pray Ehlonna, Goddess of the forests, for you.

      • Thanks4AllTheFish

        “Everything you see or hear or experience in any way at all is specific to you. You create a universe by perceiving it, so everything in the universe you perceive is specific to you.”
        — Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

        • Susan

          “Everything you see or hear or experience in any way at all is specific to you. You create a universe by perceiving it, so everything in the universe you perceive is specific to you.”

          Which leads directly to my favourite Douglas Adams creation (maybe tied with the Probality Drive).

          The Total Perspective Vortex.

          Extrapolated from a piece of fairy cake, in response to the inventor’s wife’s demand that he have more perspective.

      • Phil

        “To see parasitic flies that lay eggs in eyeballs and believe in a god is to me impossible” Ordinary guy Phil 2019. (Thanks Greg)

        • Jim Jones

          Also cymothoa exigua

      • Jim Jones

        1903: First heavier than air flight

        1969: Man stands on moon.

        66 years. Science, bitches, ‘cos you can’t pray that shit into space!

        • Scooter

          Here’s 3 pretty good science boys who didn’t have a problem acknowledging the Creator from space.

          William Anders

          We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.

          In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
          And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
          And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
          And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

          James Lovell
          And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
          And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
          And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
          And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

          Frank Borman
          And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
          And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called the Seas: and God saw that it was good.
          And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.

        • epeeist

          Here’s 3 pretty good science boys

          So, three astronauts were believers and repeated something from scripture, therefore their (and your) god exists.?

          The Soviets were in space before the US, their astronauts were not believers, therefore your god doesn’t exist.

          The Chinese are now sending astronauts into space, again their astronauts are not believers, therefore your god doesn’t exist.

          Alternatively, Kalpana Chawla was an Indian astronaut, I am unable to discover her religion (if any) but presumably if she was Hindu then this would mean that the Hindu pantheon of gods exists.

        • Scooter

          What makes you think that God’s existence or non-existence depends on anyone’s belief system-theist or atheist?

        • MR

          (Whoosh)

        • Jim Jones

          What makes you think that the Yeti’s existence or non-existence depends on anyone’s belief system-theist or atheist?

        • epeeist

          What makes you think that the Yeti’s existence or non-existence depends on anyone’s belief system-theist or atheist?

          Oh come on, the name of this hotel should be sufficient to establish the existence of the Yeti
          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c98195c651d48be5f767de19f097790eab1d13111c518558384a719027e92633.jpg

        • MR

          I heard something once that I can’t explain, so, yeah, Yeti totally exists. Probably yaks, too, for all I know.

        • epeeist

          What makes you think that God’s existence or non-existence depends on anyone’s belief system-theist or atheist?

          It doesn’t, which is why your original post was so completely ridiculous.

        • Adam “Giauz” Birkholtz

          Part of it has to do with theists being the only ones speaking for Gods as if God is their invention and not a real being.

        • That’s a neck-snapping series of proven gods, so let me get this straight–now the Hindu gods are the only correct ones? I just want to make sure I’m praying correctly.

        • epeeist

          One of my standard examples when this particularly stupid “argument” is raised is the 1979 Nobel prize in physics. This was won by Steven Weinberg (atheist), Sheldon Glashow (Jewish) and Abdus Salam (Ahmadia Muslim).

        • Greg G.

          Here’s 3 pretty good science boys

          Do they have any unambiguous evidence for their religion?

        • Scooter

          I guess you’d have to ask them.

        • Jim Jones

          Many, far too many, go through life with their illusions unexamined.
          And you see it most in the ‘hard’ sciences etc. Physicists and engineers particularly. Pilots would be expected.

  • DingoJack

    Lady Presenter: Well, that’s the end of the film. Now, here’s the meaning of life.
    [Receives an envelope]
    Lady Presenter: Thank you, Brigitte.
    [Opens envelope, reads what’s inside]
    Lady Presenter: M-hmm. Well, it’s nothing very special. Uh, try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations. And, finally, here are some completely gratuitous pictures of penises to annoy the censors and to hopefully spark some sort of controversy, which, it seems, is the only way, these days, to get the jaded, video-sated public off their fucking arses and back in the sodding cinema. Family entertainment? Bollocks. What they want is filth: people doing things to each other with chainsaws during tupperware parties, babysitters being stabbed with knitting needles by gay presidential candidates, vigilante groups strangling chickens, armed bands of theatre critics exterminating mutant goats. Where’s the fun in pictures? Oh, well, there we are. Here’s the theme music. Goodnight.

  • rationalobservations?

    The major flaw in Craig’s non argument is that it offers a god Vs no god binary that ignores the millions of undetected and undetectable gods goddesses and god-men among which the originally Canaanite god “Yahweh” and the Roman god-men “Jesus” have nothing to distinguish them.

    The mysanthropy and self hatred that is at the core of christer indoctrination corrupted and enslaved the western world for centuries. If religion poisons everything it is fortunate that the 3rd largest and fastest growing human demographic have already discovered the antidote to that vile and deadly poison to be education and peaceful, loving, humanitarian free secular democracy.

    The universe and all it contains is evidence only of the universe and all it contains. Fatuous and childish attempts to shoehorn an undetected and undetectable god or “the gods” into reality always fails and merely demonstrates the ignorance and gullibility of the indoctrinated.

    • I’ve occasionally heard him wishy-washy himself around the possibility of some other god than God… but in the end, the god he’s talking about is pretty obviously the one that got burned into his brain at an early age by his parents and his culture. Like just about everyone who believes in a god or gods.

  • Norman Parron

    As far as I can tell all of WLC arguments and discussions eventually ends with ‘it makes my tummy feel good, so its true’.

  • I Came To Bring The Paine

    It’s funny how Slippin’ Willy, like all apologists like him, completely ignore the Eastern religions like Buddhism and many Chinese folk religions where any god is either not worshiped or not a factor in their day-to-day lives.

    • Oh, they do not forget them. I know of a Pentecostal who claims in the radio that when Jesus comes every knee shall bow down and every tongue shall confess, up to the ones of Buddha and Confucious, that said religions (Confucianism is not one, as far as I know) do not bring salvation, nor allow to battle demons. Muhammad, by the way, is included in the pack.

      These are the same who complain of being prosecuted when someone mocks them.

      • Pofarmer

        Persecution claims are largely projection, and with christians it has probably always been thus.

        • Greg G.

          But… but… but… we are persecuted! We are persecuted! The Bible says we will be persecuted so we are persecuted! Nero persecuted the Chrestians and that’s close enough.

        • Michael Murray

          Just wait until someone makes you bake a cake with two blokes on it! Then you’ll know real persecution.

  • Kodie

    Chrissy, bring me the big knife!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUPc7frUlD8

  • Cozmo the Magician

    Must really piss him off when people like me are very content and make others happy. I guess he probably tells himself that i am not REALLY happy, that satan is just confusing me.

    • Rational Human

      Ah, but do you possess “ultimate” happiness?

      Next will come the Christian trope that happiness is situational and fleeting, while their joy unspeakable is transcendent.

    • Kit Hadley-Day

      clearly you are the ‘crying on the inside’ type

  • JustAnotherAtheist2

    There is no criticism for Craig’s argument here….. because he never actually makes an argument, just a series of unjustified assertions.

    When you feel up to supporting these claims, Bill, just let us know.

  • Michael Murray

    Surely life is absurd with God. Or at least when you try to map God onto it. Because reality doesn’t give a damn about what we think.

  • LeekSoup

    “Ask an ex-Christian how much better it feels to drop the cognitive dissonance of juggling unsupportable Christian”

    Yep. Ask me and I will happily tell you how light-headed I felt not trying to make Christianity make sense.

  • Jack the Sandwichmaker

    I’m not ashamed to say that “Enjoying myself and generally having a good time” is definitely an important component in the purpose I find in my life. Not the only important thing, but definitely one important thing.

    • Huh? That’s better than adoring God forever and telling him how fabulous he is??

    • Kodie

      I think there’s another question nobody’s asking, or another way to ask the same question – what do I need to be alive for?

      If you have a religion, no matter what shit your life is, they tell you that there’s a greater purpose and you have to stay alive, and even the worst of times that you experience, the kind of shit life that never eases up, you have a greater purpose. Your suffering is for some greater purpose. By then, you have probably obligated yourself to a family anyway, so trying to keep everyone else alive and fed becomes your purpose, even if it’s not fun.

      But the big picture, what do I need to be alive for? What reason do I exist? I think this is the secret underlying question. If life is tough, maybe it will get better. Experiencing good times, or conjuring up positive emotions even during the darkest times, or being optimistic that you will get to a positive place in life where you feel more relaxed and enjoy more free time or have a job you don’t feel oppressed by…. these are ways to cope and maybe even see the light at the end of a tunnel, and so is religion’s function. Their promise is after death, but it’s the same – chug along until things get better. They also offer a social network at times when you need it, and reinforcement of having children so you either feel meaning or feel obligated by their existence to stick out the hard times, or process some emotional optimism onto them for their future.

      I mean, though, if you’re not finding a way to enjoy the experience of life, at least some of the time, if you can’t find a reason to chug along, that’s the point of the question. People despair in their lives and wonder what it’s all for. They see it’s not getting better, and they cannot figure out what reason, what special purpose or path in life will signal to them, “this is why YOU are here.” That’s not why “YOU” are here, that’s just to find the thing that keeps you getting out of bed and putting on shoes every day, the thing that nourishes you emotionally. If you can never find this thing, or you never have the capacity to get where you know you want to be, there really is no point.

  • John Grove

    Craig got his ass handed to him by Shelly Kagan years ago on this topic. So not sure why he is still regurgitating the same shit again and again.