Non-Christian Sources for Jesus: An Interview with History.com

Non-Christian Sources for Jesus: An Interview with History.com May 23, 2019

Non-Christian Sources for Jesus: An Interview with History.com

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Number 6 in the May Bart Ehrman series.  /Linda LaScola, Editor

=========================

By Bart Ehrman

I have recently had a written interview about the historical Jesus with Christopher Klein, correspondent with History.com, the web site of the History Channel.  I’m not sure what the title of the article will be; it should be appearing relatively soon, as a lead up to Easter. He has graciously allowed me to post the questions and answers from the interview.  They all deal with the non-Christian evidence we have for the life of Jesus.

QUESTION:

Can you say a few words about why it’s not surprising that there is no archaeological evidence of Jesus?

RESPONSE:

It makes sense that people today would think that we should have archaeological evidence of Jesus – after all, he’s the most important figure in the history of Western Civilization!  If he existed, surely we’d have some physical record of it, right?   The problems are that (a) we too quickly assume that someone who is important *after* his life must have been equally important *during* his life; but that’s absolutely not the case.  No one who has looked seriously into the matter thinks Jesus was “the talk of the empire,” of importance to anyone outside of his small circle of acquaintances in rural Palestine.  Even more important (b) the reality is that we don’t have archaeological records for virtually *anyone* who lived in Jesus’ time and place.

Who was the most important Jewish figure in Palestine for the entire first century (who wasn’t, say, the actual king)?  There’s no doubt.  Flavius Josephus.

Highly placed aristocrat, military leader, political figure, eventually made a court historian by the Roman emperor himself, and our principal source of information for the Jewish people and history at the time.  And how much archaeological evidence do we have of his existence?  None.

So too, who is (by far) the best-known Jewish cultural figure *outside* of Palestine in the first century?   Again, not much competition: Philo of Alexandria, brilliant philosopher, massively prolific author, political activist, known even at the highest levels of government in Rome itself.  How much archaeological evidence do we have of his existence?  Again, none.   The lack of evidence does not mean a person at the time didn’t exist.  It means that she or he, like 99.99% of the rest of the world at the time, made no impact on the archaeological record.  Evidence of existence has to be established, then, on other grounds.

QUESTION:

Can you talk about the importance of Flavius Josephus in describing the history of first-century Palestine and why he can be considered a reliable source?

RESPONSE:

Flavius Josephus is far and away our best source of information about first-century Palestine, without a rival.  That doesn’t mean he’s completely reliable – far from it.  But it does mean that anyone who wants to know about the history, politics, military activities, economy, society, and religion of Palestine is heavily indebted to Josephus more than any other source, by a large margin.

Josephus wrote a six-volume account of the Jewish uprising against Rome in 66-73 CE, which led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the Temple.  He was a bona fide expert.  He was a general in the Jewish military at the beginning of the conflict and, after his surrender, a hostage used by the Romans as an interpreter/mediator.

He later wrote a massive 20-volume account of the history of the Jewish people from the beginning down to his own day, devoting most attention to events and persons nearest his own time.  For both subjects we have very few other sources – scattered and remote.  But since he covered the same ground in these two separate works, his comments in one can be compared with those in another.  When that is done carefully, it is clear that Josephus slants his accounts according to the personal agenda he had in writing (there are discrepancies that are best accounted for this way).  So he was not writing a disinterested history.

But then again, who ever did?  Historians have to do with Josephus what they do with all other ancient sources (from Herodotus and Thucydides onward): carefully note what he says and just as carefully evaluate it, in light internal inconsistencies, discrepancies with other accounts, and general historical plausibilities.   Still, when all this is said and done, Josephus gives us remarkably valuable insights into the history of first century Palestine.

QUESTION:

Why is Tacitus a reliable source for his mention of Christus and his execution by Pontius Pilate?

RESPONSE:

As a Roman historian, Tacitus did not have any Christian biases in his discussion of the persecution of Christians by Nero in 64 CE, as recounted in his multi-volume work, the Annals of Rome (book 15).  He was reporting what was widely known, at least to those who knew anything about it.  It seems unlikely that he had Christian sources of information for his account (he almost certainly was not interviewing Christians for information); his account is as an outsider, who considers Christians to represent a foul and obnoxious superstition involving a crucified criminal.

In order to explain why Nero used Christians as a scapegoat for the fire that devasted much of Rome in 64 CE (Tacitus suspects that Nero himself had directed the arsonists to do his work), Tacitus had to explain why they were susceptible of the charge.  Everyone knew, he indicates, that they harbored a “hatred of the human race,” which, he asserts, is only natural for a nefarious and (in his view) fairly crazy religious superstition rooted in devotion to a leader who was recognized as subversive and executed, as such, by the Roman governor of his province of Judea.  Tacitus helpfully gives us the name Pontius Pilate.

That means that just about everything he says coincides – from a completely different point of view, by a Roman author disdainful of Christians and their superstition – with what the New Testament itself says: Jesus was executed by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate (who ruled 26-36 CE), for crimes against the state, and a religious movement of his followers sprang up in his wake.

QUESTION:

What is the value of these small non-Christian snippets written about Jesus (which you talk about in Chapter 2 of Did Jesus Exist?) compared to the much lengthier accounts in the New Testament?

RESPONSE:

One would certainly not expect any literary reference to Christians or Christianity or Jesus himself in Roman authors of the first century.  Christianity was simply a tiny (TINY) religious movement that no one had heard of.  Most Romans would not even have heard the name Christian until probably the middle or end of the second century, well over a century after the movement started.

The fact that we do have some Roman authors mentioning Jesus and/or the Christian already within eighty years of his death – Pliny the Younger, Tacitus, Suetonius – shows that Roman intellectuals who were interested in such things (some of them) had no trouble understanding where this tiny, odd, religious superstition came from.  It originated with “Christ” (hence the name: Christian), in Judea, at the time of the emperor Tiberius.  These authors have no stake in saying this.  It was just information known from their own Roman sources of information.

This much information does not help us much at all (in fact, almost not at all) in knowing what Jesus said and did during his life.  But it is useful for realizing that Jesus was known by historians who had reason to look into the matter.  No one thought he was made up.   If you want to see what actually happened in his life, of course, you would not want to rely on these kinds of sources – who don’t give us much.  You would need to look at our much earlier and extensive sources.

These are all Christians and are obviously and understandably biased in what they report, and have to be evaluated very critically indeed to establish any historically reliable information.  But their central claims about Jesus as a historical figure – a Jew, with followers, executed on orders of the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, during the reign of the emperor Tiberius – are borne out by these later sources with a completely different set of biases.   That and more is borne out even more fully by Josephus, a Jewish historian with yet other axes to grind, but who also knows that Jesus existed and that we can say something about his teaching, reputation, and death.

========================

Bio: Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He came to UNC in 1988, after four years of teaching at Rutgers University. At UNC he has served as both the Director of Graduate Studies and the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies.

A graduate of Wheaton College (Illinois), Bart received both his Masters of Divinity and Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, where his 1985 doctoral dissertation was awarded magna cum laude. Since then he has published extensively in the fields of New Testament and Early Christianity, having written or edited twenty-six books, numerous scholarly articles, and dozens of book reviews. For more detail, read here. Bart is also an original member of The Clergy Project.  He has given The Rational Doubt Blog permission to repost public blogs from The Bart Ehrman Blog, including this one.

>>>>>Photo Credits: By Dan Sears UNC-Chapel Hill, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41276400; By William Whiston (originally uploaded by The Man in Question on en.wikipedia.org) – https://sites.google.com/site/josephuspaneas/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1058656

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  • ThaneOfDrones

    (Josephus) And how much archaeological evidence do we have of his existence? None.

    We have his writings. Those somehow are not “archaeological evidence”? But we do not have any writings of Jesus H. Christ.

    Josephus wrote a six-volume account of the Jewish uprising against Rome in 66-73 CE, which led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the Temple. He was a bona fide expert.

    Events which happened during his lifetime. But at the alleged time of the alleged Jesus H. Christ, Josephus was not even born. None of these “sources” listed by Ehrman are actually contemporaneous with Jesus H. Christ.
    And as for Tacitus, the existence of Christians is not the same as the existence of Jesus H. Christ.

    The state of the evidence for a historical Jesus H. Christ is very sad indeed.

    • Sophotroph

      Additionally, none of these historians were eyewitnesses. They knew of Christians, who “worshipped Jesus”, but they don’t report on the supposed man himself.

      That the Testimonium Flavianum is a well-known forgery barely needs to be said.

      • Martin Penwald

        And yet, it is still used as proof that the gospels are an exact report of events.

        • OverlappingMagisteria

          No its not. I’ve only ever heard it used as evidence in support of the basics of the story: Jesus existed, was crucified, and Christianity is based on him.

          • Sophotroph

            The embellishment, if it hadn’t been one, would have been some evidence for the existence of Jesus.

            What we know of what might have come before really doesn’t.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            The original likely said that Jesus was a teacher who gained a following, was crucified, and afterward his followers remained loyal to him and became the Christians of his day. The embellishment adds that he was divine, was the messiah, was resurrected, fulfilled prophecies, and performed miracles.

            If I am reading your response right, you are saying that if Josephus actually wrote about miracles and messiahship then that would be evidence for the existence of Jesus, but just describing a teacher who started a religion does not? I’m not sure I follow.

            I think the confusion might be on what is meant by a “historical Jesus.” I and most historians will agree that the miracle working god-man from Sunday school lessons didn’t exist. But a small time religious leader who started a following, was crucified, and who was the basis for Christianity did. That is what we mean when we ask if the historical Jesus existed. There was a guy whose story has been since exaggerated.

          • Sophotroph

            The original likely said

            This is the problem right here. The forgery says pretty straightforwardly that Jesus was real. If we ignored the supernatural claims as normal, that would have given some evidence for a historical Jesus.

            “This is what we think he might have written” doesn’t give us anything.

            The evidence available doesn’t pass muster for the establishment of Jesus as a historical figure. That doesn’t mean he never existed, but it does mean that we can’t say he did.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            The forgery says pretty straightforwardly that Jesus was real.

            And the non-forged part does too. It says there was a crucified guy Jesus who started Christianity. That counts as a real person in my book. I’m not sure if you mean something different.

            What the available evidence does show (and the Testimonium is just one piece) is that early Christianity was based on a real person who walked on earth, was crucified, believed to be the messiah, and believed to have resurrected. The most likely explanation for why early Christians believed in a real historical Jesus was because there was a real historical Jesus.

          • Sophotroph

            For the evidence to show there was a historical Jesus, you would have to have some evidence.

            You have no accounts of Jesus by contemporary historians. What you do have is circumstantial evidence, hearsay, and forgeries.

            We’re not even getting into the massive conflict of interest plaguing the entire field, which is that almost to a man, the historians that have generated the consensus about Jesus passing historical muster all began their studies, let alone their academic careers, as people dogmatically committed to the existence of Jesus being a real person as a matter of course.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            You have no accounts of Jesus by contemporary historians.

            This is a common argument based on lack of evidence. The problem is that we do not expect there to be accounts by contemporary historians for a small-time preacher. So the fact that we don’t have contemporary accounts does not say anything one way or another.

            Like I said before, what does say something is that Early Christianity was based on a real person, so the mostly likely explanation is that there was a real person. Trying to explain Early Christianity without a historical Jesus quickly goes into conspiracy theory.

            …the historians that have generated the consensus about Jesus passing historical muster all began their studies, let alone their academic careers, as people dogmatically committed to the existence of Jesus being a real person as a matter of course.

            This is where you sound very similar to a Creationist. I have often heard that “evolutionists” are educated to dogmatically believe in evolution. Like the Creationist claim, it is simply not true. There are many Non-Christian scholars, Jewish, atheist, etc. that study early Christianity who still believe in a historical Jesus.

          • Sophotroph

            This is a common argument based on lack of evidence.

            It’s common for the same reason it’s successful: it remains unrefuted. By you, or anyone else.

            The problem is that we do not expect there to be accounts by contemporary historians for a small-time preacher.

            Small-time preachers, of whom we know little essentially by definition, aren’t historical figures. The necessity of verification isn’t lessened by an alleged individual’s lack of notability. The most you can say is that the early Christians worshipped someone who was held to be real but for which no reliable account exists.

            There are many Non-Christian scholars

            Anybody can study any religion. That doesn’t make them an expert on the times and places mentioned in the Christian Bible. Those regarded as the authorities in those fields almost universally entered into those studies as already devout Christians. The doctrinal position of a group pre-committed to that position doesn’t hold any epistemological weight.

            As I’ve said, there could certainly have been a rabbi ~2000 years ago named Jesus who preached apocalyptic and had a following that became Christianity, but it would be a mistake to believe that we would be discussing history.

            History is about what we can verify to at least a reasonable degree. If you could have done that for Jesus in the space you’ve been given here, you would have.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            As I’ve said, there could certainly have been a rabbi ~2000 years ago named Jesus who preached apocalyptic and had a following that became Christianity, but it would be a mistake to believe that we would be discussing history.

            Then it seems that we are mostly in agreement, except with what to call “history.” I tend to agree with most historians that asking “How did Christianity originate?” and answering with “With a guy named Jesus” and providing supporting evidence for that counts as history.

            Anybody can study any religion. That doesn’t make them an expert on the times and places mentioned in the Christian Bible. Those regarded as the authorities in those fields almost universally entered into those studies as already devout Christians.

            I realize I was unclear: when I wrote “scholar” I meant to have written “historian.” You are right that if you take into count every seminarian and theologian you would have a very biased field that would not be very credible. But if you take the historians who are experts on the times and places of the New Testament and early Christianity, and even exclude the Christians for good measure, you still get a consensus that Jesus existed.

            If you could have done that for Jesus in the space you’ve been given here, you would have.

            I was mostly responding to claims and misconceptions about the Testimonium, and I like to try (and fail) to keep comments as brief as I can, so no, I did not go through all the reasons that historians believe that Jesus existed. I’m not sure why you are assuming that I was required to do so. If you want a good, but lengthy summary, see here: http://armariummagnus.blogspot.com/2014/01/did-jesus-exist-jesus-myth-theory-again.html The first half addresses many common mythicist claims, and the second half provides supporting evidence for Historical Jesus. The author is an atheist himself who really just summarizes what historians say.

          • Those regarded as the authorities in those fields almost universally entered into those studies as already devout Christians.

            How do you know this? Incidentally, why would a devout atheist not have similarly-toxic biases?

          • ThaneOfDrones

            Incidentally, why would a devout atheist not have similarly-toxic biases?

            Because, as has already been pointed out several times in the comment thread, atheism does not rely on the denial of a human, non-supernatural Jesus H. Christ. Also, there are no atheist seminaries preaching the non-existence of a human Jesus H. Christ to budding atheist clergy, upon penalty of doctrinal purity clauses.

          • S: Those regarded as the authorities in those fields almost universally entered into those studies as already devout Christians.

            LB: Incidentally, why would a devout atheist not have similarly-toxic biases?

            TOD: Because, as has already been pointed out several times in the comment thread, atheism does not rely on the denial of a human, non-supernatural Jesus H. Christ.

            So? The devout atheist will be biased against a divine Jesus and a nice way to prevent that from ever being an option is to deny the existence of any historical Jesus.

            Also, there are no atheist seminaries preaching the non-existence of a human Jesus H. Christ to budding atheist clergy, upon penalty of doctrinal purity clauses.

            Really, so Christian institutions of learning with statements of belief faculty must sign are the only institutions of learning in America which will punish faculty who deviate from the Approved Course™? Note that you can make someone’s life miserable without actually firing them—miserable enough so that they’ll either resign or not do the thing which would bring misery upon themselves in the first place. And we haven’t even gotten into implicit statements of belief which are used to select whom to hire. George Yancey reports some research on this in Compromising Scholarship: departments would decline hiring evangelical Christians, even when there was zero peer-reviewed science to indicate that said individuals would do worse at the job than any other individual with similar qualifications but different religious beliefs.

            If you require more empirical evidence, please say so. There are plenty of ways to be anti-Christian in academia which aren’t so straightforward as Christians are. It’s actually nice that Christians are so straightforward; if only more humans would be like that. But no, plenty is hidden in innuendo and ambiguity.

          • ThaneOfDrones

            It’s actually nice that Christians are so straightforward…

            “… with their bigotry, hatred and exclusion.”

            Not as nice as if they gave up those things.

            Meanwhile, “Intelligent Design” creationist Michael Behe is still on the faculty at Lehigh University, despite his published opinions being so ridiculous that the department has asked him to place a disclaimer on his web page.

          • Not as nice as if they gave up those things.

            Unless you have peer-reviewed evidence that non-Christian institutions of learning are “better”—by an operationalized definition of “better” I can investigate—you’re merely revealing your own prejudice. When George Yancey did the research behind Compromising Scholarship, he found the following multiple times in survey write-ins: “Too many Jews, not enough ovens.” Oh wait, that isn’t right, he found “Too many Christians, not enough lions.” (He himself presented it this way in a lecture, because the latter too frequently does not have the shock value it ought to have.)

            Meanwhile, “Intelligent Design” creationist Michael Behe is still on the faculty at Lehigh University, despite his published opinions being so ridiculous that the department has asked him to place a disclaimer on his web page.

            Do you have any scientific reason to think that Behe is worse at his job than his fellow tenured faculty? Perhaps you can produce peer-reviewed literature of one or both of the following:

                 (1) When a scientist becomes an atheist,
                         [s]he does better science.
                 (2) When a scientist becomes religious,
                         [s]he does worse science.

            If you cannot, then you can either dial back your statements to what science can support, delimit which statements science supports and which it does not, or become known as someone who clumsily mixes the two. Your pet theories about rationality are not science.

          • ThaneOfDrones

            Not as nice as if they gave up those things.

            Unless you have peer-reviewed evidence that non-Christian institutions of learning are “better”—by an operationalized definition of “better” I can investigate—you’re merely revealing your own prejudice.

            I stated that it would be nicer if Christians stopped being bigoted, than if they were straightforward about their bigotry. This has nothing whatsoever to do with non-Christians, except in your mind. Your train of thought follows too twisted a track for me to follow.

          • TOD: Also, there are no atheist seminaries preaching the non-existence of a human Jesus H. Christ to budding atheist clergy, upon penalty of doctrinal purity clauses.

            LB: Really, so Christian institutions of learning with statements of belief faculty must sign are the only institutions of learning in America which will punish faculty who deviate from the Approved Course™? … It’s actually nice that Christians are so straightforward …

            TOD: “… with their bigotry, hatred and exclusion.”

            Not as nice as if they gave up those things.

            LB: Unless you have peer-reviewed evidence that non-Christian institutions of learning are “better”—by an operationalized definition of “better” I can investigate—you’re merely revealing your own prejudice.

            TOD: I stated that it would be nicer if Christians stopped being bigoted, than if they were straightforward about their bigotry.

            Actually, you presented “bigotry, hatred, and exclusion” as a good summary of the “statements of belief faculty must sign [in [some] Christian institutions of learning]”. I objected to this generalization. If you want to see an example of “exclusion” in social psychology, take a look at Political diversity will improve social psychological science, published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences in 2015 (296 ‘citations’).

            This has nothing whatsoever to do with non-Christians, except in your mind.

            False: see the second quote block, above, containing “Approved Course™”.

            Your train of thought follows too twisted a track for me to follow.

            My guess is that you prefer critiquing than being critiqued. Since you didn’t have a rational objection, you decided to go with an insult. This appears to be standard operating procedure for you:

            TOD: You have trapped me in a position where I cannot continue the conversation without resorting to rude insults as to your reasoning ability.

            Fortunately, you can change the standard operating procedure whenever you want. I don’t even think you need Jesus to do so, but I can’t be sure. 😀

          • ThaneOfDrones

            Like I said before, what say something is that Early Christianity was based on a real person, so the mostly likely explanation is that there was a real person.

            Nope, still circular.

            This is where you sound very similar to a Creationist. I have often heard that “evolutionists” are educated to dogmatically believe in evolution…

            Please stop embarrassing yourself. I have degrees in biology. I have followed the creation-evolution debates. When the Creationists bring up the same old tired bad arguments, I can point to the evidence: fossils, DNA, convergence of methods, etc. etc. etc. That’s all we’re asking you for is the evidence. And you continue to disappoint.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            No.. not circular. We know from their own writings that Early Christians believed in an earthly Jesus. Even early critics of Christianity accepted that there was an earthly Jesus. Why did everyone believe in an earthly Jesus? The most parsimonious explanation is because there was an earthly Jesus. Where is the circle?

            I don’t doubt that you are knowledgeable in biology, but its clear that you don’t know much about history which is the topic at hand.

            In terms of embarrassment, you’ve started with an argument from personal incredulity, brought up nonsensical gotchya questions, ignored my explanations and recast them as assumptions, misapplied one of the historical methods I outlined, brought up your degrees in an irrelevant field, and mostly responded with bluster. I suppose embarrassment is in the eye of the beholder.

          • ThaneOfDrones

            I don’t doubt that you are knowledgeable in biology, but its clear that you don’t know much about history which is the topic at hand… brought up your degrees in an irrelevant field

            You are the one who introduced that analogy to the evolution-creation debate. Which spurred my rejoinder. Arguments I would not expect to convince creationists:

            1) Credentialism: “I have a degree in molecular biology, so you have to believe what I say.”
            2) Consensus: “The overwhelming majority of people like me who have built their careers on the truth of evolution-based biology believe in evolution-based biology.”*

            If I used arguments of that quality, I would expect to be eaten by cannibals. And that’s pretty much all you have had to offer.

            * Except I would use this as a rebuttal when a Creationist brought up PhD-toting scientists who believe in creation, and I might point out that belief in evolution-based biolgy has been extremely productive.

            In an earlier comment you said this:

            So the fact that we don’t have contemporary accounts does not say anything one way or another.

            (highlighting by me) Historical Jesusists should stop there. They should admit the lack of evidence. And they should stop running down those who are not convinced by their lack of evidence.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            I don’t think I ever used credentialism here and I only bring up up consensus because it makes sense to at least understand what the experts agree on if you are not an expert yourself. I explained a bit how the experts come to their conclusions but you decided to ignore it and pretend that the experts just make baseless assumptions. I agree that simply pointing to a consensus is not an argument, but when you are a non-expert questioning the conclusions of the experts what do you think is more likely: that the amateur has outsmarted all of the experts or that the amateur doesn’t know what he’s talking about? Again, I’m not saying that’s proof that the experts are right, but when you aren’t even interested in knowing the experts position or methods then you are not arguing in good faith.

            Not having contemporary accounts of Jesus is often used as evidence that he didn’t exist, so I was responding to that. It doesn’t show it, but I’m honest enough to admit it isn’t evidence for my side either. There is other evidence for the existence of Jesus, so no, it doesn’t make sense to stop there and admit lack of evidence. I’ll give you a brief descriptions of other evidence, but I’m not gonna waste my time with them too much since you don’t seem interested in it anyway

            1. Like I said in other posts, early Christians and even critics all agreed that Jesus existed. There were even sects of Christianity such as the Gnostics whose theology would have made more sense with a non-earthly Jesus, but they believed in one anyway. The most parsimonious explanation for this is that he existed

            2. Many parts of the gospels and early Christian beliefs do not make sense for an invented character. For example, the idea of a messiah who gets crucified was utterly bizarre and repugnant at the time. Critics of Christianity ridiculed Christians for it, and Christian writing goes out of its way and bends backwards to try to explain it away. For this and many other reasons, the Jesus in the Bible is a pretty crap messiah. If someone invented the Jesus character it would make little sense to invent a messiah who barely fits the role. Just invent a good messiah. More likely there was a real guy who was believed by his followers to be the messiah and they had to shoe-horn and explain away the inconvenient facts. We see religions and cults do this kind of thing all the time.

            3. I think we all agree that Christianity existed in the mid 1st century. So how did this religious arise? Although it would take too long to explain in detail, alternate explanations with no historical Jesus are pretty wild and out there, and most importantly, do not make sense of the evidence and facts. I think a lot of amateur mythicists are content to say “not enough evidence for Jesus!” and call it a day, but don’t realize that that leaves a huge hole of what started Christianity. But the existence of a Jesus explains it very neatly. It’s like if your home had a broken window and missing TV and you said “No fingerprints or video footage, not enough evidence to show a burglar!” and then not bother trying to explain what caused the broken window and missing TV.

          • Arguments I would not expect to convince creationists:

            1) Credentialism: “I have a degree in molecular biology, so you have to believe what I say.”
            2) Consensus: “The overwhelming majority of people like me who have built their careers on the truth of evolution-based biology believe in evolution-based biology.”*

            If I used arguments of that quality, I would expect to be eaten by cannibals. And that’s pretty much all you have had to offer.

            As a former creationist who was convinced from creationism → ID → evolution, I agree with your 1) and 2). But I don’t agree with your overall point: what truly convinced me was an evolution advocate saying that evolution offers the best known explanation for the evidence and continues to deliver new results. So until something better came along, they were going to go with evolution—even if it’s badly wrong! After all, there are still plenty of problems with the theory of evolution (see for example A Third Wave Of Evolutionary Thought), due to how science itself works. Those problems are opportunities for further discovery.

            You have yet to produce a better theory for Christianity than Jesus really existing. We can ignore the miracle-claims (including his alleged resurrection) for the moment. Adding to what @overlappingmagisteria:disqus has already said, there is the problem that Jesus is not an excellent person (a kalos kagathos) by any of the groups at the time: (i) Jews; (ii) Jesus’ disciples; (iii) Greeks; (iv) Romans. You would have to explain how and why the particular Jesus we have was fabricated. I discovered this argument in Otto Borchert’s The Original Jesus and asked Richard Carrier about it when he visited San Francisco to give a lecture. He gave a weak-sauce answer and declined my offer to give him my copy of Borchert for further investigation.

            Finally, should we dismiss evolution because there is no known mechanism of abiogenesis? That seems to be the best analogy of contemporary accounts of Jesus’ existence [that don’t come from “zealots”, so we dismiss Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses]. Evolution can’t exist if abiogenesis is impossible [or sufficiently unlikely].

          • ThaneOfDrones

            You have yet to produce a better theory for Christianity than Jesus really existing.

            I think this is overplayed. People believe weird things. Lots and lots of weird things. The number of religions, the number of superstitions, over human history is very large. Do we need to explain why so many people believe astrology? Etc. etc. etc.

            Finally, should we dismiss evolution because there is no known mechanism of abiogenesis?

            I advise y’all to drop the biology analogies. I will toast your muffins on that subject.

            That seems to be the best analogy of contemporary accounts of Jesus’ existence

            What contemporary accounts? Apparently you missed the bit where someone pointed out that all of the sources being mentioned are at least a generation too late to be “contemporary”. When Jesus H. Christ allegedly died and was resurrected, Josephus has not even been born.

            Evolution can’t exist if abiogenesis is impossible [or sufficiently unlikely].

            This is exactly why you should drop the biology analogies. You apparently know squat about it. As Richard Dawkins has pointed out, and I agree with him: even if life was originally created, divinely or otherwise, it would evolve.

          • I think this is overplayed. People believe weird things. Lots and lots of weird things. The number of religions, the number of superstitions, over human history is very large. Do we need to explain why so many people believe astrology? Etc. etc. etc.

            A messiah-figure walking the earth was not a “weird thing” for first century Palestine. I do sense an interesting Catch-22: if there weren’t any other messiah-figures you could claim Jesus was made up of whole cloth, while if there were many other messiah-figures you could claim he was just like them.

            I advise y’all to drop the biology analogies. I will toast your muffins on that subject.

            I would like to see that; the way I was convinced from creationism → ID → evolution was via people respectfully toasting my muffins. However, on this issue it might be a definitional thing:

            dictionary.com: abiogenesis
            1. the now discredited theory that living organisms can arise spontaneously from inanimate matter; spontaneous generation.
            2. the theory that the earliest life forms on earth developed from nonliving matter.
                Compare biogenesis. [the production of living organisms from other living organisms]

            OED: abiogenesis
            1. The original evolution of life or living organisms from inorganic or inanimate substances.
            1.1. historical another term for spontaneous generation

            WP: abiogenesis
            Abiogenesis, or informally the origin of life,[3][4][5][a] is the natural process by which life has arisen from non-living matter, such as simple organic compounds.[6][4][7][8]

            I wasn’t assuming that abiogenesis had to be “natural”; I was thinking the dictionary.com definition #2 where it’s simply not-biogenesis. Evolution cannot happen unless there’s life for it to happen with. Parsimony suggests that it happened naturally; but you will not use parsimony when it comes to a historical Jesus (ignoring any divine or supernatural aspects). You want an invented Jesus without telling us the details of how and why the particular Jesus in the gospels was the one invented.

            LB: Finally, should we dismiss evolution because there is no known mechanism of abiogenesis? That seems to be the best analogy of contemporary accounts of Jesus’ existence [that don’t come from “zealots”, so we dismiss Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses]. Evolution can’t exist if abiogenesis is impossible [or sufficiently unlikely].

            What contemporary accounts? Apparently you missed the bit where someone pointed out that all of the sources being mentioned are at least a generation too late to be “contemporary”.

            Read again: I was working an analogy between “contemporary accounts” and “abiogenesis”, neither of which you think we have. I’m guessing that you believe in abiogenesis on faith, although perhaps you’ll just say it’s the most parsimonious understanding.

          • ThaneOfDrones

            Evolution cannot happen unless there’s life for it to happen with. Parsimony suggests that it happened naturally; but you will not use parsimony when it comes to a historical Jesus (ignoring any divine or supernatural aspects).

            Do we have fictional stories with completely fictional characters, not based on real people? Yes we do. A few you might consider:

            King Arthur: Was there actually a real King Arthur? There is absolutely zero evidence for such. Some believe it must have been based on a real person, some do not. But somehow the insistence on a real person is not as rabid as in the case of Jesus H. Christ.

            Brief thing at history.com, the same site Ehrman which interviewed Ehrman above

            Paul Bunyan: Once again, opinions on a historical Paul Bunyan vary. And once again, the venom for mythicists is simply not as strong as in the case of Jesus H. Christ.

            brief thing at history.com

            This bit is somewhat interesting:

            Historians believe Bunyan was based in large part on an actual lumberjack: Fabian Fournier, a French-Canadian timberman who moved south and got a job as foreman of a logging crew in Michigan after the Civil War…

            In the above, “Historians” means “Some historians”, not “All historians”. A possible historical basis for the Paul Bunyan character – but not named Paul, nor named Bunyan? A question about the same for Jesus H. Christ was ridiculed, rather than answered, in this thread.

            My intention here is to show that yes, magical stories not based around actual people do happen in human history.

          • LB: Evolution cannot happen unless there’s life for it to happen with. Parsimony suggests that it happened naturally; but you will not use parsimony when it comes to a historical Jesus (ignoring any divine or supernatural aspects).

            TOD: Do we have fictional stories with completely fictional characters, not based on real people? Yes we do.

            Already dealt with:

            LB: You have yet to produce a better theory for Christianity than Jesus really existing.

            TOD: I think this is overplayed. People believe weird things. Lots and lots of weird things.

            LB: A messiah-figure walking the earth was not a “weird thing” for first century Palestine.

            You ignored this sub-thread in your current reply.

             
            P.S. I’m still waiting for my muffins to be toasted.

          • ThaneOfDrones

            Evolution cannot happen unless there’s life for it to happen with. Parsimony suggests that it happened naturally…

            So you tried to trick me into invoking parsimony by invoking the one scenario (i.e. that life never originated) that can be dismissed by direct observation, with no recourse to parsimony.
            You have trapped me in a position where I cannot continue the conversation without resorting to rude insults as to your reasoning ability. Goodby.

          • LB: Finally, should we dismiss evolution because there is no known mechanism of abiogenesis? That seems to be the best analogy of contemporary accounts of Jesus’ existence [that don’t come from “zealots”, so we dismiss Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses]. Evolution can’t exist if abiogenesis is impossible [or sufficiently unlikely].

            TOD: What contemporary accounts? Apparently you missed the bit where someone pointed out that all of the sources being mentioned are at least a generation too late to be “contemporary”.

            LB: Read again: I was working an analogy between “contemporary accounts” and “abiogenesis”, neither of which you think we have. I’m guessing that you believe in abiogenesis on faith, although perhaps you’ll just say it’s the most parsimonious understanding.

            TOD: So you tried to trick me into invoking parsimony by invoking the one scenario (i.e. that life never originated) that can be dismissed by direct observation, with no recourse to parsimony.

            Nope, I never meant to include the possibility “that life never originated”. (Please put down your hermeneutic of suspicion—I doubt it’s doing either of us any good.) Instead, I meant to talk about extrapolating from what we do have to what we don’t have. You are very willing to do that when it comes to a natural explanation for abiogenesis. You do this without having anything like a working model of how abiogenesis happened. But when it comes to the historical Jesus, you demand contemporary evidence of him [which doesn’t come from “zealots”] and if you see no such evidence, you conclude that probably he didn’t exist. I claim this is an asymmetry in reasoning.

            You have trapped me in a position where I cannot continue the conversation without resorting to rude insults as to your reasoning ability. Goodby.

            No trap was intended. By posting under my real name, I intend my discussion record to be a testament to who I am.

          • Richard Dennis

            “…what does say something is that Early Christianity was based on a real person, so the mostly likely explanation is that there was a real person. ” I think I get what you are trying to say and this makes a bit of sense. The stories had to start somehow, from something and these people sharing the early stories believed this was all about a real person. Yes, it is easy to imagine much of the various story elements and sayings being mythical but for me it seems a bit harder to imagine the stories getting started without the existence of someone to base the stories on. I would be interested in exploring/pondering this some more, listen to others that can reasonably make the stories and following happen without some kind of real person to base it from.

          • ThaneOfDrones

            And the non-forged part does too. It says there was a crucified guy Jesus who started Christianity

            ‽‽‽‽CIRCULARITY ALERT‽‽‽‽
            How do you know which parts are non-forged?

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            **** Argument from personal incredulity alert ****

          • ThaneOfDrones

            The original likely said that Jesus was a teacher who gained a following, was crucified, and afterward his followers remained loyal to him and became the Christians of his day. The embellishment adds that he was divine, was the messiah, was resurrected, fulfilled prophecies, and performed miracles. But a small time religious leader who started a following, was crucified, and who was the basis for Christianity did.

            I have no idea how you decided which parts were original and which were embellishment. The appearance of the word “likely” in your account is a huge waving, singing red flag. Perhaps you could fill in the blanks for us. For example:
            1) What if such a guy existed, but his name wasn’t Jesus (or Yeshua, whatevs)?
            2) What if this guy existed, but the crucifixion was also an embellishment? After all, we KNOW that certain parts of the crucifixion scenario must be embellishments (i.e. less than 36 hours = “three days”, that such a sequence of events would happen on Passover, unlikely timing of historically verifiable events, etc.)

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            I have no idea how you decided which parts were original and which were embellishment.

            I didn’t decide. I’m just describing what scholars who study this stuff for years have concluded. In case you’re interested, one of the big filters used for that passage is that Josephus was and remained a Jew. So it would be pretty odd for someone to describe Jesus as “the Christ” and say that he is divine, claim that he performed miracles and fulfilled Jewish prophecy…and yet still remain a Jew. So those parts are identified as embellishment. Other parts are very much in-line with Josephu’s style, writing, and beliefs, so those are authentic. The reason I say “likely” is because there is some debate over some phrases over which category they fall into, but that doesn’t invalidate the others.

            1) What if such a guy existed, but his name wasn’t Jesus (or Yeshua, whatevs)?

            Then we’d have to ask the question of why Early Christians got mixed up about his name, i guess… That’s a pretty minor point over all. Are you gonna say that Jesus didn’t exist because his name was really something else? That’s not much a point.

            2) What if this guy existed, but the crucifixion was also an embellishment?

            That is very unlikely. Both Christian and non-Christian sources all agree that Jesus was crucified. And the fact is that Early Christians were often embarrassed by this. Critics of Christianity made fun of Christians for worshiping a crucified guy, and one Paul’s letter’s in the bible calls the crucifixion a stumbling block. So why would Christians make up and accept something that is problematic to their own faith? The most rational explanation is because he was really crucified.

            I think what is a “huge waving, singing red flag” for me is that when you did not know how scholars know something, you assumed that it is all bunk. It suggests that you are not really interested in understanding the topic.

            EDIT: Sorry but i gotta go offline now.. so excuse my delay in any responses for now.

          • ThaneOfDrones

            I’m just describing what scholars who study this stuff for years have concluded assumed.

            FIFY

            Are you gonna say that Jesus didn’t exist because his name was really something else? That’s not much a point.

            And yet is it as well-evidenced as anything you are saying.

            Using your criteria, we would have to ‘conclude’ that a person named Xenu actually existed, and that he probably had some association with volcanoes. We can write off the stuff about Thetans and nuclear bombs as embellishments, but after all, volcanoes actually exist.

            I think what is a “huge waving, singing red flag” for me is that when you did not know how scholars know something, you assumed that it is all bunk.

            I have seen this conversation played out a few times before. When the demand for evidence goes in, what comes back is very disappointing. And you continue that trend.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            I’m just describing what scholars who study this stuff for years have concluded assumed.

            It’s clear that you are not at all interested in honest discussion. I gave you a brief descriptions of how historians analyze these things and come to their conclusions. You do not respond to it but instead ignore it and say that its just assumptions.

            And no… the same criteria would not prove the existence of Xenu. What I described was some criteria for determining whether a writing was original to an author or not. It was not for determining whether someone exists or not. Pay attention.

          • Martin Penwald

            Mmmmh, yes, there are a lot of christianists lurking on Patheos Non-Religious that regularly use it to prove they are right.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            Fair enough… I guess zealots in comment sections will say anything…

          • Martin Penwald

            I’ve seen this one specifically mentionning Josephus, Tacitus and Ehrman yesterday :
            Disqus commenter reformr87:

            Mr. Cromie writes, “…there is no evidence, whether written or archaeological, that JC the man-god, as described in the NT, actually ever existed.”

            What about the writings of Flavius Josephus (37 AD-100 AD), specifically Book 18, chapter 3 of his Antiquities of the Jews? Or the Annals of Tacitus , Book 15, chapter 44 (116 AD)? Better yet…the very learned, yet agnostic, Bible scholar, Bart D. Ehrman recently wrote a book entitled Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (2013). SPOILER ALERT: His answer is YES in opposition to those who present Jesus as a mythological construct.

          • Geoff Benson

            And that’s probably the best that even the best, if honest, apologetic, can ever hope to achieve.

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        That the Testimonium Flavianum is a well-known forgery barely needs to be said.

        You’re only half right. It is well known that Testimonium Flavianum has been embellished from its original, but not forged entirely. The consensus is that Josephus gave an outline of Jesus, but in later copies, some Christian added to his description.

        • Jim Jones

          IMO, that is wishful thinking.

          Josephus

          Late in the first century Josephus wrote his celebrated work, “The Antiquities of the Jews,” giving a history of his race from the earliest ages down to his own time. Modern versions of this work contain the following passage:

          “Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works; a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day” (Book XVIII, Chap. iii, sec. 3).

          For nearly sixteen hundred years Christians have been citing this passage as a testimonial, not merely to the historical existence, but to the divine character of Jesus Christ. And yet a ranker forgery was never penned.

          Its language is Christian. Every line proclaims it the work of a Christian writer. “If it be lawful to call him a man.” “He was the Christ.” “He appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.” These are the words of a Christian, a believer in the divinity of Christ. Josephus was a Jew, a devout believer in the Jewish faith—the last man in the world to acknowledge the divinity of Christ. The inconsistency of this evidence was early recognized, and Ambrose, writing in the generation succeeding its first appearance (360 A. D.) offers the following explanation, which only a theologian could frame: “If the Jews do not believe us, let them, at least, believe their own writers. Josephus, whom they esteem a very great man, hath said this, and yet hath he spoken truth after such a manner; and so far was his mind wandered from the right way, that even he was not a believer as to what he himself said; but thus he spake, in order to deliver historical truth, because he thought it not lawful for him to deceive, while yet he was no believer, because of the hardness of his heart, and his perfidious intention.”

          Its brevity disproves its authenticity. Josephus’ work is voluminous and exhaustive. It comprises twenty books. Whole pages are devoted to petty robbers and obscure seditious leaders. Nearly forty chapters are devoted to the life of a single king. Yet this remarkable being, the greatest product of his race, a being of whom the prophets foretold ten thousand wonderful things, a being greater than any earthly king, is dismissed with a dozen lines.

          It interrupts the narrative. Section 2 of the chapter containing it gives an account of a Jewish sedition which was suppressed by Pilate with great slaughter. The account ends as follows: “There were a great number of them slain by this means, and others of them ran away wounded; and thus an end was put to this sedition.” Section 4, as now numbered, begins with these words: “About the same time also another sad calamity put the Jews into disorder.” The one section naturally and logically follows the other. Yet between these two closely connected paragraphs the one relating to Christ is placed; thus making the words, “another sad calamity,” refer to the advent of this wise and wonderful being.

          The early Christian fathers were not acquainted with it. Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen all would have quoted this passage had it existed in their time. The failure of even one of these fathers to notice it would be sufficient to throw doubt upon its genuineness; the failure of all of them to notice it proves conclusively that it is spurious, that it was not in existence during the second and third centuries.

          As this passage first appeared in the writings of the ecclesiastical historian, Eusebius, as this author openly advocated the use of fraud and deception in furthering the interests of the church, as he is known to have mutilated and perverted the text of Josephus in other instances, and as the manner of its presentation is calculated to excite suspicion, the forgery has generally been charged to him. In his “Evangelical Demonstration,” written early in the fourth century, after citing all the known evidences of Christianity, he thus introduces the Jewish historian: “Certainly the attestations I have already produced concerning our Savior may be sufficient. However, it may not be amiss, if, over and above, we make use of Josephus the Jew for a further witness” (Book III, p. 124).

          Chrysostom and Photius both reject this passage. Chrysostom, a reader of Josephus, who preached and wrote in the latter part of the fourth century, in his defense of Christianity, needed this evidence, but was too honest or too wise to use it. Photius, who made a revision of Josephus, writing five hundred years after the time of Eusebius, ignores the passage, and admits that Josephus has made no mention of Christ.

          Modern Christian scholars generally concede that the passage is a forgery. Dr. Lardner, one of the ablest defenders of Christianity, adduces the following arguments against its genuineness:

          “I do not perceive that we at all want the suspected testimony to Jesus, which was never quoted by any of our Christian ancestors before Eusebius.

          “Nor do I recollect that Josephus has anywhere mentioned the name or word Christ, in any of his works; except the testimony above mentioned, and the passage concerning James, the Lord’s brother.

          “It interrupts the narrative.

          “The language is quite Christian.

          “It is not quoted by Chrysostom, though he often refers to Josephus, and could not have omitted quoting it had it been then in the text.

          “It is not quoted by Photius, though he has three articles concerning Josephus.

          “Under the article Justus of Tiberias, this author (Photius) expressly states that the historian [Josephus], being a Jew, has not taken the least notice of Christ.

          “Neither Justin in his dialogue with Trypho the Jew, nor Clemens Alexandrinus, who made so many extracts from ancient authors, nor Origen against Celsus, has ever mentioned this testimony.

          “But, on the contrary, in chapter xxxv of the first book of that work, Origen openly affirms that Josephus, who had mentioned John the Baptist, did not acknowledge Christ” (Answer to Dr. Chandler).

          Again Dr. Lardner says: “This passage is not quoted nor referred to by any Christian writer before Eusebius, who flourished at the beginning of the fourth century. If it had been originally in the works of Josephus it would have been highly proper to produce it in their disputes with Jews and Gentiles. But it is never quoted by Justin Martyr, or Clement of Alexandria, nor by Tertullian or Origen, men of great learning, and well acquainted with the works of Josephus. It was certainly very proper to urge it against the Jews. It might also have been fitly urged against the Gentiles. A testimony so favorable to Jesus in the works of Josephus, who lived so soon after our Savior, who was so well acquainted with the transactions of his own country, who had received so many favors from Vespasian and Titus, would not be overlooked or neglected by any Christian apologist” (Lardner’s Works, vol. I, chap. iv).

          Bishop Warburton declares it to be a forgery: “If a Jew owned the truth of Christianity, he must needs embrace it. We, therefore, certainly conclude that the paragraph where Josephus, who was as much a Jew as the religion of Moses could make him, is made to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, in terms as strong as words could do it, is a rank forgery, and a very stupid one, too” (Quoted by Lardner, Works, Vol. I, chap. iv).

          The Rev. Dr. Giles, of the Established Church of England, says:

          “Those who are best acquainted with the character of Josephus, and the style of his writings, have no hesitation in condemning this passage as a forgery, interpolated in the text during the third century by some pious Christian, who was scandalized that so famous a writer as Josephus should have taken no notice of the gospels, or of Christ, their subject. But the zeal of the interpolator has outrun his discretion, for we might as well expect to gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles, as to find this notice of Christ among the Judaizing writings of Josephus. It is well known that this author was a zealous Jew, devoted to the laws of Moses and the traditions of his countrymen. How, then, could he have written that Jesus was the Christ? Such an admission would have proved him to be a Christian himself, in which case the passage under consideration, too long for a Jew, would have been far too short for a believer in the new religion, and thus the passage stands forth, like an ill-set jewel, contrasting most inharmoniously with everything around it. If it had been genuine, we might be sure that Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Chrysostom would have quoted it in their controversies with the Jews, and that Origen or Photius would have mentioned it. But Eusebius, the ecclesiastical historian (I, 11), is the first who quotes it, and our reliance on the judgment or even honesty of this writer is not so great as to allow our considering everything found in his works as undoubtedly genuine” (Christian Records, p. 30).

          The Rev. S. Baring-Gould, in his “Lost and Hostile Gospels,” says:

          “This passage is first quoted by Eusebius (fl. A. D. 315) in two places (Hist. Eccl., lib. i, c. xi; Demonst. Evang., lib. iii); but it was unknown to Justin Martyr (fl. A. D. 140), Clement of Alexandria (fl. A. D. 192), Tertullian (fl. A. D. 193), and Origen (fl. A. D. 230). Such a testimony would certainly have been produced by Justin in his apology or in his controversy with Trypho the Jew, had it existed in the copies of Josephus at his time. The silence of Origen is still more significant. Celsus, in his book against Christianity, introduces a Jew. Origen attacks the argument of Celsus and his Jew. He could not have failed to quote the words of Josephus, whose writings he knew, had the passage existed in the genuine text. He, indeed, distinctly affirms that Josephus did not believe in Christ (Contr. Cels. i).”

          Dr. Chalmers ignores it, and admits that Josephus is silent regarding Christ. He says: “The entire silence of Josephus upon the subject of Christianity, though he wrote after the destruction of Jerusalem, and gives us the history of that period in which Christ and his Apostles lived, is certainly a very striking circumstance” (Kneeland’s Review, p. 169).

          Referring to this passage, Dean Milman, in his “Gibbon’s Rome” (Vol. II, p. 285, note) says: “It is interpolated with many additional clauses.”

          Canon Farrar, who has written the ablest Christian life of Christ yet penned, repudiates it. He says: “The single passage in which he [Josephus] alludes to him is interpolated, if not wholly spurious” (Life of Christ, Vol. I, p. 46).

          The following, from Dr. Farrar’s pen, is to be found in the “Encyclopedia Britannica”: “That Josephus wrote the whole passage as it now stands no sane critic can believe.”

          “There are, however, two reasons which are alone sufficient to prove that the whole passage is spurious—one that it was unknown to Origen and the earlier fathers, and the other that its place in the text is uncertain” (Ibid).

          Theodor Keim, a German-Christian writer on Jesus, says: “The passage cannot be maintained; it has first appeared in this form in the Catholic church of the Jews and Gentiles, and under the dominion of the Fourth Gospel, and hardly before the third century, probably before Eusebius, and after Origen, whose bitter criticisms of Josephus may have given cause for it” (Jesus of Nazara, p. 25).

          Concerning this passage, Hausrath, another German writer, says it “must have been penned at a peculiarly shameless hour.”

          The Rev. Dr. Hooykaas, of Holland, says: “Flavius Josephus, the well known historian of the Jewish people, was born in A. D. 37, only two years after the death of Jesus; but though his work is of inestimable value as our chief authority for the circumstances of the times in which Jesus and his Apostles came forward, yet he does not seem to have mentioned Jesus himself. At any rate, the passage in his ‘Jewish Antiquities’ that refers to him is certainly spurious, and was inserted by a later and a Christian hand” (Bible for Learners, Vol. III, p. 27). This conclusion of Dr. Hooykaas is endorsed by the eminent Dutch critic, Dr. Kuenen.

          Dr. Alexander Campbell, one of America’s ablest Christian apologists, says: “Josephus, the Jewish historian, was contemporary with the Apostles, having been born in the year 37. From his situation and habits, he had every access to know all that took place at the rise of the Christian religion.

          “Respecting the founder of this religion, Josephus has thought fit to be silent in history. The present copies of his work contain one passage which speaks very respectfully of Jesus Christ, and ascribes to him the character of the Messiah. But as Josephus did not embrace Christianity, and as this passage is not quoted or referred to until the beginning of the fourth century, it is, for these and other reasons, generally accounted spurious” (Evidences of Christianity, from Campbell-Owen Debate, p. 312).

          Another passage in Josephus, relating to the younger Ananus, who was high priest of the Jews in 62 A. D., reads as follows:

          “But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper and very insolent; he was also of the sect of Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all of the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity. Festus was dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrim of judges and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned” (Antiquities, Book XX, chap. ix, sec. 1).

          This passage is probably genuine with the exception of the clause, “who was called Christ,” which is undoubtedly an interpolation, and is generally regarded as such. Nearly all the authorities that I have quoted reject it. It was originally probably a marginal note. Some Christian reader of Josephus believing that the James mentioned was the brother of Jesus made a note of his belief in the manuscript before him, and this a transcriber afterward incorporated with the text, a very common practice in that age when purity of text was a matter of secondary importance.

          The fact that the early fathers, who were acquainted with Josephus, and who would have hailed with joy even this evidence of Christ’s existence, do not cite it, while Origen expressly declares that Josephus has not mentioned Christ, is conclusive proof that it did not exist until the middle of the third century or later.

          Those who affirm the genuineness of this clause argue that the James mentioned by Josephus was a person of less prominence than the Jesus mentioned by him, which would be true of James, the brother of Jesus Christ. Now some of the most prominent Jews living at this time were named Jesus. Jesus, the son of Damneus, succeeded Ananus as high priest that very year; and Jesus, the son of Gamaliel, a little later succeeded to the same office.

          To identify the James of Josephus with James the Just, the brother of Jesus, is to reject the accepted history of the primitive church which declares that James the Just died in 69 A. D., seven years after the James of Josephus was condemned to death by the Sanhedrim.

          Whiston himself, the translator of Josephus, referring to the event narrated by the Jewish historian, admits that James, the brother of Jesus Christ, “did not die till long afterward.”

          The brief “Discourse Concerning Hades,” appended to the writings of Josephus, is universally conceded to be the product of some other writer—“obviously of Christian origin”—says the “Encyclopedia Britannica.”

          https://www.gutenberg.org/files/46986/46986-h/46986-h.htm#ch2

      • Geoff Benson

        I think that it’s the fact that they weren’t eyewitnesses makes their evidence a little more compelling. They referred to Jesus as a sort of ‘aside’ comment, a passing remark unworthy of further discussion. They report on what they hear, that somebody called Jesus existed, but don’t in anyway endorse the totally fictional accounts that we call the gospels.

        • ThaneOfDrones

          think that it’s the fact that they weren’t eyewitnesses makes their evidence a little more compelling.

          This is thoroughly wrong. The fact that they were not zealous believers is what makes their writing more convincing. But that it is not first-hand does not improve its believability.

          • Geoff Benson

            I perhaps put that badly. I am coming from the point of view that the only eyewitnesses to Jesus, if he did exist, were likely illiterate, zealots as you say, so would not have had historical authority in the way that Josephus and Tacitus had. However, being first hand is seldom relevant to historians, it’s the quality of the source that is important.

        • Jim Jones

          Another proof that the Christ of Christianity is a fabulous and not a historical character is the silence of the writers who lived during and immediately following the time he is said to have existed.

          That a man named Jesus, an obscure religious teacher, the basis of this fabulous Christ, lived in Palestine about nineteen hundred years ago, may be true. But of this man we know nothing. His biography has not been written. E. Renan and others have attempted to write it, but have failed—have failed because no materials for such a work exist. Contemporary writers have left us not one word concerning him. For generations afterward, outside of a few theological epistles, we find no mention of him.

          The following is a list of writers who lived and wrote during the time, or within a century after the time, that Christ is said to have lived and performed his wonderful works:

          Josephus,
          Philo-Judaeus,
          Seneca,
          Pliny the Elder,
          Arrian,
          Petronius,
          Dion Pruseus,
          Paterculus, [25]
          Suetonius,
          Juvenal,
          Martial,
          Persius,
          Plutarch,
          Justus of Tiberius,
          Apollonius,
          Pliny the Younger,
          Tacitus,
          Quintilian,
          Lucanus,
          Epictetus,
          Silius Italicus,
          Statius,
          Ptolemy,
          Hermogones,
          Valerius Maximus,
          Appian,
          Theon of Smyrna,
          Phlegon,
          Pompon Mela,
          Quintius Curtius
          Lucian,
          Pausanias,
          Valerius Flaccus,
          Florus Lucius,
          Favorinus,
          Phaedrus,
          Damis,
          Aulus Gellius,
          Columella,
          Dio Chrysostom,
          Lysias,
          Appion of Alexandria.
          Enough of the writings of the authors named in the foregoing list remains to form a library. Yet in this mass of Jewish and Pagan literature, aside from two forged passages in the works of a Jewish author, and two disputed passages in the works of Roman writers, there is to be found no mention of Jesus Christ.

          https://www.gutenberg.org/files/46986/46986-h/46986-h.htm#ch2

          • Geoff Benson

            As far as I understand, and I’m not personally that interested so go only by the consensus of reputable bible scholars, the later embellishment quotation attributed to Josephus is forged, but the earlier reference is considered genuine. The reference by Tacitus is also considered genuine, though he supplies no source. The latter is seen as authoritative because Tacitus is well regarded as a historian and would be unlikely to write something he considered unreliable.

            Even so, I don’t deny that the evidence for the historical existence of Jesus is poor, and that anything more than mere existence is almost entirely speculation.

          • Jim Jones

            But Tacitus was reporting what he heard, since he was much later than Jesus (supposedly). He was writing about stuff that happened 50 years or more before his books.

            Born: 56 AD, Gallia Narbonensis

            Died: 120 AD, Roman Empire

          • Geoff Benson

            I still don’t think this in itself is a valid criticism. When Gibbon wrote his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire the Roman civilisation was long gone. Most history is written by people who were not party to the events, neither by time nor geographically. It’s their source material that is important.

    • OverlappingMagisteria

      I was also confused by the claim that we have no archaeological evidence of Josephus when we do have his writings. But i think its that we only have later copies of Josephus’ writings, not the writings from his own pen.

      But I think the point is still valid. Josephus was a much more prominent figure in his lifetime than Jesus and we don’t have much from him. How much do we expect to have survived from a small time, likely illiterate preacher? I’m not sure why you expect to see writings of Jesus when he was most likely illiterate like most people of the day.

      • Erp

        Writings unless they are the original manuscripts dug up or an engraving or something similar are not archaeological evidence. The known writings of Josephus and almost every other classical writer come from copies of copies of copies (and sometime copies of translations). And each copy introduces the possibility of errors (or deliberate changes). If we are lucky there are multiple surviving copies that trace back to the same original and these can be compared to try to figure out what the original might have been (this is btw why the Testimonium Flavianum is not considered a complete forgery though seriously modified in one branch of the manuscript tree).

      • Jim Jones

        That’s the Goldilocks Jesus.

        So unimportant that we don’t even have records of the years he was born and died.

        So important that 2 billion people worship him weekly, in word if not in deed.

        • OverlappingMagisteria

          You might have missed one important point in the article. Jesus was not particularly well known during his lifetime, but did become very important and very well known afterwards. We don’t have birth and death records for the vast majority of people of that time, including people who were more prominent (during their lives) than Jesus. So we should not expect to have birth records of Jesus.

          Saying that 2 billion people worship him weekly today is not relevant to how important and well known he was during his lifetime. The Goldilocks Jesus claim depends on someone being both prominent and not prominent at the same time in the same place. But it does not take into account that someone’s prominence can change over time.

          • Jim Jones

            Not exactly the plot of The Day The Earth Stood Still is it?

          • Your Goldilocks objection is about as good as the remake. It is sad that atheists want more evidence, including of miraculous power, when such power could equally be evidence of God or Satan. I thought we [post]moderns had learned that powergoodness, but apparently not?

          • Jim Jones

            Have you tried modern medicine? I hear they have drugs that can help control delusions such as yours.

          • Jim Jones (profile): Have you tried modern medicine? I hear they have drugs that can help control delusions such as yours.

            I prefer to define ‘delusion’ as manifesting empirical consequences which can be observed objectively. Now, if you can provide peer-reviewed empirical evidence of either of these—

                 (1) When a scientist becomes an atheist,
                         [s]he does better science.
                 (2) When a scientist becomes religious,
                         [s]he does worse science.

            —I’m all ears. I’ve asked many an atheist for such evidence and the best I’ve got is ‘cognitive dissonance’ so perfect that the delusion is empirically invisible. Talk about faith in the unseen! I suspect the same holds true of your use of ‘delusion’ here.

          • Jim Jones

            Actual scientists rarely ‘become’ deluded. They need to be infected early, and be unable to throw off the conditioning.

    • Jim Jones

      Philo of Alexandria should be the goto for Jesus info. But nothing.

      As it happens, we have an excellent witness to events in Judaea and the Jewish diaspora in the first half of the first century AD: Philo of Alexandria (c25 BC-47 AD).

      Philo was an old man when he led an embassy from the Jews to the court of Emperor Gaius Caligula. The year was 39-40 AD. Philo clearly, then, lived at precisely the time that “Jesus of Nazareth” supposedly entered the world to a chorus of angels, enthralled the multitudes by performing miracles, and got himself crucified.

      Philo was also in the right place to give testimony of a messianic contender. A Jewish aristocrat and leader of the large Jewish community of Alexandria, we know that Philo spent time in Jerusalem (On Providence) where he had intimate connections with the royal house of Judaea. His brother, Alexander the “alabarch” (chief tax official), was one of the richest men in the east, in charge of collecting levies on imports into Roman Egypt. Alexander’s great wealth financed the silver and gold sheathing which adorned the doors of the Temple (Josephus, War 5.205). Alexander also loaned a fortune to Herod Agrippa I (Antiquities 18).

      One of Alexander’s sons, and Philo’s nephews, Marcus, was married to Berenice, daughter of Herod Agrippa, tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea, 39-40. After the exile of Herod Antipas – villain of the Jesus saga – he ruled as King of the Jews, 41-44 AD. Another nephew was the “apostate” Julius Alexander Tiberius, Prefect of Egypt and also Procurator of Judaea itself (46-48 AD).

      Much as Josephus would, a half century later, Philo wrote extensive apologetics on the Jewish religion and commentaries on contemporary politics. About thirty manuscripts and at least 850,000 words are extant. Philo offers commentary on all the major characters of the Pentateuch and, as we might expect, mentions Moses more than a thousand times.

      Yet Philo says not a word about Jesus, Christianity nor any of the events described in the New Testament. In all this work, Philo makes not a single reference to his alleged contemporary “Jesus Christ”, the godman who supposedly was perambulating up and down the Levant, exorcising demons, raising the dead and causing earthquake and darkness at his death.

      With Philo’s close connection to the house of Herod, one might reasonably expect that the miraculous escape from a royal prison of a gang of apostles (Acts 5.18,40), or the second, angel-assisted, flight of Peter, even though chained between soldiers and guarded by four squads of troops (Acts 12.2,7) might have occasioned the odd footnote. But not a murmur. Nothing of Agrippa “vexing certain of the church” or killing “James brother of John” with the sword (Acts 12.1,2).

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

      • How much supernatural activity does Philo record about anything?

        • Jim Jones

          We have almost a million of his words. And yet no Jesus, no Christians.

          • Without knowing his selection criteria, we don’t know whether this is surprising, to be expected, or something in between. He lived 20 BC – 50 AD; putting aside the supernatural, was Christianity even worthy of note by his death?

          • Jim Jones

            So Goldilocks?

          • If Philo were unwilling to report on alleged supernatural occurrences, or willing only to report on ones he had personally, then he would have a sampling bias which precludes heeding that aspect of Jesus’ life, as reported by the gospels. Jesus without the miracles could easily be dismissed as yet another panderer to the people. Such demagogues are dangerous to power, including the aristocracy, and need to be dealt with somehow. Philo would have known this. One way you deal with them is to not record anything about them. That way, future would-be insurrectionists would lack any inspiration. (In contrast, Jan Hus was an inspiration to Martin Luther.) Excluding the miraculous, Christianity wasn’t noteworthy by the time Philo died. Why would Philo write about it?

            Wherever you say sampling method is irrelevant, you are being anti-science.

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        Although Philo did record a lot of info about Judea during Jesus’ time, he did not seem to have an interest in Jewish preachers and prophets like Jesus. Along with Jesus, he also doesn’t mention Athronges, Hillel, Theudas, or Honi. So his silence on Jesus does not really say anything since he didn’t seem to be interested in people like Jesus.

  • piyaren

    I’ll start out with a quick disclaimer. I have no horse in this race. It makes no difference to me whether the Jesus of the NT was based on a unique individual Yeshua bar Yosef (like the Elvis legends), or some number of apocalyptic preachers, or on nothing more than some tall tales. (I believe Richard Carrier suggested Paul Bunyon as a parallel.) I don’t know and at this time, I see no real need to care. If, at some time in the future, I do find some need to care, then I’ll have to form a real opinion. Right now, the whole “mythicist” vs. “historicist” question looks (to irrelevant me) much like the “who wrote Shakespeare” question. It’s of interest to scholars, but has little to no bearing on the literary/aesthetic value of “Shakespeare’s” works. Similarly, the Jesus question regarding whether the NT character is based on a specific individual has (for me) little to no bearing on the overall spiritual or religious truth of Christianity as a whole. (That is, I don’t believe it and don’t see any reason to believe it.) Others doubtless care more about the question than I do and I don’t feel any need to disparage their interest. So I don’t “care” but I will confess to a mild curiosity about the state of the scholarship.

    As far as I can tell, we see a lot of people missing the point that we have two questions here: (1) are the Gospels true, and (2) whether the Gospels are true or false, are they based on a specific individual. These questions are somewhat independent. At least, the Gospels can be true (to the extent that they don’t contradict one another, which they do) only if they are based on one individual. OTOH, the “Jesus” of the Gospels certainly does not have to be based on a single individual if the Gospels are not factual reports. AFAICT, the contradictions pretty much preclude regarding them as simple factual reportage, so the relevant question here is (2) only.

    Let’s take a brief look at Tacitus, since the Annals look like they are probably as good as it gets. From my brief “research” (ahem, Wikipedia, cough, cough) it appears that the Annals were written in approximately 116 CE, that is, almost 80 years after the alleged events. Tacitus apparently refers to Jesus’ execution by Pontius Pilate, but as far as I see (and I say this to invite anyone who actually knows better to correct me), he gives no indication of how he came by this “information.” There appear to be some scholars who believe that Tacitus may have had access to actual official records, but others who believe that he was simply reporting hearsay. If the former is really the case, then Tacitus would be a definitive source for the existence of a single historical Jesus. If the latter, then Tacitus would not be a relevant source since his “information” would simply be based on the same religious tradition that we already have.

    Dr. Ehrman appears to be in the former camp, believing that Tacitus does provide independent confirmation for the life of a historical Jesus. (I.e., NOT for the life of a divine Jesus, merely for the existence of a single individual that the stories would have been based on, divine or not.) The question, then, is what reason do we have to believe that Tacitus actually had reliable, independent evidence for the existence of “a leader who was recognized as subversive and executed, as such, by the Roman governor of his province of Judea.”

    I have not seen, in my “extensive” (cough, cough) investigations, any such reason. OTOH, I do not pretend to be even a dabbler. I am far lower than that and at most an occasional, low-information reader who considers this question to be an mildly interesting bit of trivia, much as I would regard the Shakespeare question. Again, I don’t intend to disparage Dr. Ehrman or any of the other scholars who actually care about the question. It’s out of my field and I don’t intend to invest the time and energy to learn enough to evaluate all the arguments, let alone to form a worthwhile opinion. Still: Do we have any reason to believe that Tacitus had independent evidence?

    • ThaneOfDrones

      Right now, the whole “mythicist” vs. “historicist” question looks (to irrelevant me) much like the “who wrote Shakespeare” question.

      The Paul Bunyan analogy is closer. After all, the works of Shakespeare undeniably exist. They could have been written by a single individual, either William H. Shakespeare or someone else, or they might have been written by multiple people. The possibility of “neither” is nonexistent.

    • ThaneOfDrones

      The question, then, is what reason do we have to believe that Tacitus
      actually had reliable, independent evidence for the existence of “a
      leader who was recognized as subversive and executed, as such, by the Roman governor of his province of Judea.”

      Lacking the production of that evidence, the assumption is clearly “No.”
      Imagine if I wrote a book today on the life and death of John F. Kennedy, in which I made several novel claims. These are events that happened a similar time ago (> 50 years). Probably the first question anyone would ask (beyond questioning my sanity) would be “what are your sources”? Suppose I replied, “Sources? Why, here is the book I have written. This is my source.” What sort of reception do you imagine that would get me?

      • piyaren

        That’s pretty much my default assumption too. Dr. Ehrman may have a different answer, and I’ll be happy if he has some evidence, but I sure don’t know of a reason to think so.
        Your example seems on target. I just don’t know how different the standards might have been 1900 years ago. At this time (2019) I’d sure expect to see something better than “I heard it from somebody” (which sounds very Trumpian).

  • alwayspuzzled

    It is unclear that atheism requires the denial of the historicity of Jesus. The issue would seem to be the reliability of the Christ theology that was attached to the historical Jesus. If there was no historical Jesus, then the Christ theology was fabricated out of thin air by presumably nefarious people for a presumably nefarious purpose. An atheism that denies the historicity of Jesus can then reasonably be described as a somewhat paranoid conspiracy theory.

    • The problem is the lack of evidence. We don’t need a conspiracy theory. We have no evidence for Jesus’ life or his resurrection, so no reason to believe it happened. As for a theology fabricated out of thin air – that’s the only way ANY theology comes into being. Or are you suggesting that Zeus and Odin and Krishna and the Xenu are all real? Give me a break!

      • ThaneOfDrones

        I agree. Denying a historical Jesus is not necessary for atheism. I am perfectly willing to consider and accept quality evidence for the existence of such. But the evidence put forward is so laughably bad, coupled with the demonization of anyone who fails to accept the laughably bad evidence.

        In the opening post we have Bart Ehrman, a competent and well-respected scholar at least trying to make a case, unlike certain commenters who rely on credentialism and consensus. And it’s so bad! Things written down, unsourced, literally generations later. This is just sad.

    • ElizabetB.

      I’ve been “always puzzled” by the appeal of thinking there was no historical figure the stories attached to….

      • alwayspuzzled

        Sometimes I wonder if, particularly in the case of atheists who began as Christians, it is psychological – the need for a total break, a total repudiation. Not only is the Christ theology rejected but the historical Jesus to whom the Christ theology is attached is denied existence.

        • Jim Jones

          Not even close. We could have excellent evidence for ‘Jesus’, just as we do for ‘Glycon’.

          But I don’t believe in Glycon either. It’s just odd that there’s so little for ‘Jesus’, and that so much of what there is tracks back to Eusebius the Forger.

    • Jim Jones

      It’s reminiscent of the evidence for Slender Man. Same sort of people, same sort of reasons.

  • Wisdom, Justice, Love

    Here’s my issue:
    We barely have records of ORDINARY people.
    If someone actually brought someone back from the dead, i think we’d have LOTS more information on that person. By the shear fact of an unprecedented event. At any point in history/time, if someone performed “miracles” (lots of) people would notice.

    Is it possible someone existed that was seen as an agitator. I’m sure.
    Could this person have developed a following. Quite possible.
    Is there an Egypt and a Palestine. You bet.
    But is there any evidence of miracles? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

    We also don’t have proof of Capt. Caveman. But cavemen did exist, ergo…

    • If someone actually brought someone back from the dead, i think we’d have LOTS more information on that person. By the shear fact of an unprecedented event. At any point in history/time, if someone performed “miracles” (lots of) people would notice.

      Consider what Rome’s response would be to Pilate claiming that Jesus had returned from the dead. As to Jesus’ disciples, they did leave records, at least according to Bauckham. But you might want to consider what purpose would have been served by better records than the ones we have. Would more people be clamoring to get access to miracle power to get more of what they want? Jesus had some things to say about what people wanted. If you truly believe that “Might does not make right.”, then miracle-power is 100% irrelevant to matters of what is good and right and beautiful and true. Why then leave better records of the miracles?

      But is there any evidence of miracles? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

      Again, what would change if there were better evidence? Mere evidence of power cannot distinguish between God and Satan. The Tanakh’s claim of how humans would respond to miracle power shows up in 1 Ki 18:20–19:21: Elijah out-magicks the prophets of Baal and subsequently gets a price put on his head, at which point he flees and tells God that he’s had it.

      • Wisdom, Justice, Love

        Extraordinary claims
        .
        For Christians the claim of miracles is everything. Christians don’t walk around expounding any virtue Jesus taught. Unless he taught to hate corrupt religious leaders, I mean gay people…

        For the Christian it’s ALL about Jesus dying for their sins and how that has EARNED their way in to heaven. If Christianity were Tae-Bo/P90/Pilates/a workout routine, Christians would go around telling everyone the benefit (and requirement) of sucking up to Tony Horton, Billy Blanks, Inventor of workout routine; not the actual routine.
        Simply sucking up to the inventor of the routine is how you benefit from it. Coincidentally, not sucking up is the one way to get kicked out. You can show up for weeks, months and not do the routine, not problem. Show up and don’t kiss the inventor’s arse. Immediate expulsion.

        The religion is not a set of guides and suggestions that might make life more enjoyable. It’s a genie in a bottle, granting wishes.

        So for the Christian, the miracle and the power implied/inferred is way more important that any life lessons. And if there is no power, other than your ability to adjust in life , then what are you afraid of, and what are you praying for?

        And we wouldn’t have to go for the home run, although that would probably be easiest.
        Stories of Jesus’ resurrection would have certainly circulate. But what of other miracles? Did no one know this guy named Lazarus? Would they have not had something to say about his condition before and after seeing “christ”. When Roman soldiers come for Jesuus and he “heals a soldier’s ear, would the soldiers simply kept quiet? All these things are possible, but highly improbable.
        And if true, that there is a god that performs “miracle”, what’s with the embargo? What’s with the radio silence? Why has this god that made sure people recorded his desires at a time when most are illiterate, appears to be disinterested in telling people now? Why did he decide to stop writing? None of it makes logical sense. But I encourage god to let any humans know, in an unambiguous way (very publicly), what the deal is.

        • The religion is not a set of guides and suggestions that might make life more enjoyable. It’s a genie in a bottle, granting wishes.

          Why should I accept this characterization of all [remotely orthodox] Christianity?

          So for the Christian, the miracle and the power implied/inferred is way more important that any life lessons.

          Given that you’ve set yourself up as an authority of all [remotely orthodox] Christianity, please tell me the meaning of the following:

          For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:22–25)

          These “signs” and “wisdom” seem to be what is prohibited in the passage I quoted, Deut 12:32–13:5. And it seems wisdom is important. And what’s up with the “weakness” thing?

          Christians don’t walk around expounding any virtue Jesus taught. Unless he taught to hate corrupt religious leaders, I mean gay people…

          Did Jesus “hate” the scribes and Pharisees? That aside, this is the most insightful thing I see in your comment. I’m inclined to first deal with you setting yourself up as an authority for all [remotely orthodox] Christianity, before getting to the other bits.

          • Wisdom, Justice, Love

            Why should I accept this characterization of all [remotely orthodox] Christianity?

            You don’t. I may not have made it clear that this is all my opinion. You don’t have to adopt the opinion. Just as long as you accept it is an opinion.

            Given that you’ve set yourself up as an authority of all [remotely orthodox] Christianity, please tell me the meaning of the following:

            For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:22–25)
            These “signs” and “wisdom” seem to be what is prohibited in the passage I quoted, Deut 12:32–13:5. And it seems wisdom is important. And what’s up with the “weakness” thing?

            Again. I’m no authority. Just a person with an opinion. As best I can see, the passage is mostly (braggadocios) hyperbole. What is the “wisdom” in Christ’s crucifixion? Certainly if “we preach it” there must be some value in it other than “he died for you, now you get cash and prizes”. The “weakness” thing is saying even when god is at his weakest, he’s much stronger than you. And here’s what my bible (Revised Standard) says:

            Duet:
            12:32″Everything I command you you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to it or take away from it.13:1″If a prophet arises among you or a dreamer of dreams and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2and the sign or wonder which he tells you comes to pass, and if he says ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul. 4You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him, and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and cleave to him. 5But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from the midst of you.

            So much wisdom…
            Obedience is never about wisdom. I look before crossing the street not because my parents command me to do so. I do so because when they we teaching me things growing, that’s one bit of advice I adopted, among others.

            Notice god commands you walk a certain way. He doesn’t advise, or suggest. He COMMANDS it. You can only obey or disobey a command. You’re either an obedient poodle or EVIL.

            And this guy god is too funny. Those “prophets and dreamers” are really me just testing you, but kill them anyway; they, as me, are evil.

            Did Jesus “hate” the scribes and Pharisees? That aside, this is the most insightful thing I see in your comment. I’m inclined to first deal with you setting yourself up as an authority for all [remotely orthodox] Christianity, before getting to the other bits.

            Solved. I’m no authority.
            Steve Martin is funny. That’s my opinion. Should I consider myself an AUTHORITY on Steve Martin? Are others views not valid on the matter?
            I think you see an opinion differing from those that consider themselves authorities (in an Authoritarian system, imagine that) and thus in order to have an opinion, I must be an authority. Nope. Largely because theology is OPINION based.

            Steve Martin is funny. I get to have that opinion. Regardless of anyone else having it.
            2 + 2 = 7, is not my opinion. Can’t be my opinion. I’m free to BELIEVE that 2 + 2 = 7. But I’m just factually wrong.

            Which brings me to this point.
            Why when judging Christianity specifically (but religion in general) must we always defer to the stories written thousands of years ago, and not the actions of those who claim to be an Authority on the matter? Why always look to the ideals of yesteryear’s “dreamers” and not of documented historical records of their “representatives”?
            Why do we not get to judge an Inquisitions? Why can’t we discuss Vlad the Impaler or Pope Pious (VI? VII?)? No need to mention Copernicus or Galileo? Should we ignore people telling us medicine is sorcery, elected officials are witches, or how god gave them the power to save their property from natural disasters?
            Why are ancient writings more of an AUTHORITY of a group and not the observable, recorded actions of the group?

          • As best I can see, the passage is mostly (braggadocios) hyperbole.

            That, or anything different would be an unironic affirmation of “Might makes right.”

            The “weakness” thing is saying even when god is at his weakest, he’s much stronger than you.

            So while God’s wisdom is foolishness to humans and God’s power (in raising Jesus) is weakness to humans, actually it’s just that God is wiser than humans and more powerful than humans? It seems to me that those who taught you Christianity would fail middle school English class.

            Notice god commands you walk a certain way. He doesn’t advise, or suggest. He COMMANDS it. You can only obey or disobey a command. You’re either an obedient poodle or EVIL.

            Did Moses obey in Ex 32:9–14, Num 14:11–20, and Num 16:19–24? How about Num 11:10–15? I get that plenty of Christianity either ignores these or views them all as God “testing” Moses. It seems to me that Moses is using his wisdom. He certainly isn’t “an obedient poodle”. What about Jacob wrestling with YHWH? Ever look at the meaning of the name ‘Israel’?

            You seem to have been taught a Christianity which is unfaithful to the OT. I get why—truth can be used for evil purposes and the more truth you have, the more evil you can be. It’s just that I had hoped you might be able to pierce through the matter, given your “Unless he taught to hate corrupt religious leaders” bit.

            And this guy god is too funny. Those “prophets and dreamers” are really me just testing you, but kill them anyway; they, as me, are evil.

            Nowhere does the text say that YHWH sent the “prophet and dreamer”. He is happy to use said character, but pay careful attention: said character is saying that power constitutes evidence of goodness. In other words: “Might makes right.” Might it be a rather good thing that YHWH eschewed “Might makes right.”?

            I think you see an opinion differing from those that consider themselves authorities (in an Authoritarian system, imagine that) and thus in order to have an opinion, I must be an authority.

            Incorrect; I was going off your failure to ever indicate you could be targeting a strict subset of [remotely orthodox] Christianity. Go back to your comment and see how it seems to target “ALL” [¿remotely orthodox?] Christianity.

            Why when judging Christianity specifically (but religion in general) must we always defer to the stories written thousands of years ago, and not the actions of those who claim to be an Authority on the matter?

            I prefer both/and. See, both Tanakh and NT are really big on religious and political authorities having a tendency to suck—majorly. This is something that humans find very hard to believe, apparently. If there’s any message God wanted to get through our skulls, perhaps it’s this one.

            Why always look to the ideals of yesteryear’s “dreamers” and not of documented historical records of their “representatives”?
            Why do we not get to judge an Inquisitions? Why can’t we discuss Vlad the Impaler or Pope Pious (VI? VII?)? No need to mention Copernicus or Galileo? Should we ignore people telling us medicine is sorcery, elected officials are witches, or how god gave them the power to save their property from natural disasters?
            Why are ancient writings more of an AUTHORITY of a group and not the observable, recorded actions of the group?

            Dude, have you ever read Hebrews 11? Not a single one of those “heroes of the faith” is without serious deficits in character. So aside from the many who are described by Mt 7:21–23, God works through a lot of imperfection. That’s good news, given how imperfect you and I are. Indeed, isn’t the enemy people who, due to their ostensible perfection, get to “lord it over” / “exercise authority over” others? (Yes, those people are utterly ignoring Mt 20:20–28 and Lk 22:24–30—but we were warned!)

          • Wisdom, Justice, Love

            Again more reference to the bible.
            Not one opinion of any of the names mentioned.

            actually it’s just that God is wiser than humans and more powerful than humans? It seems to me that those who taught you Christianity would fail middle school English class.

            As if knowing English is a prerequisite to teaching Christianity? What language do Christians in China or South America speak? It’s not Arameic. Maybe Latin? Nice try at an insult. You’ll have to try harder. Imagine that, a Christian trying to insult someone with no substance.

            You seem to have been taught a Christianity which is unfaithful to the OT.

            Wait. There is A Christianity that is unfaithful to Judaism? I am shocked. I notice you didn’t say the bible as a whole, or the New Testament. I thought that was the part Christians like, not that no-casting-of-lots (mention that at bingo, or on the way to the casino) stuff. Considering there are THOUSAND of Christian “sects”, what’s the chance YOU have been taught an “unfaithfully” brand of Christianity? All sects can’t disagree and ALL be right. They CAN all be wrong though. Well, they can disagree about OPINION all day, there is no “right” or “wrong”. Facts are a little different.
            Let me guess, YOUR group of Christians have it right, and other groups have it wrong? Those Christians aren’t good Christians like Us Christians. Seriously? What’s YOUR (you know the true faith) denomination/”sect”?

            Incorrect; I was going off your failure to ever indicate you could be targeting a strict subset of [remotely orthodox] Christianity.

            Yes, I’m speaking of every christian to ever exist. In every country. Because I’ve been there to witness all of their behavior first-hand. Since I need to be EXPLICIT. My statement are in reference to MOST Christians in the United States: Southern Baptists and Catholics in particular. I’ll include the KKKlan and Nazis as Christian organizations.
            Feel better?
            Did I overcome my “failure”?
            I get it though. Not specifying a subset was a failure on my part. You have yet to identify a subset you think if free of scrutiny. No failure there…
            Like most Christians I gather once you see Christianity being scrutinized it means you must defend Christianity, not any particular subset. God will be pleased with your obedience.

            Nowhere does the text say that YHWH sent the “prophet and dreamer”. He is happy to use said character, but pay careful attention: said character is saying that power constitutes evidence of goodness. In other words: “Might makes right.” Might it be a rather good thing that YHWH eschewed “Might makes right.”?

            Wow.
            I posted the Deut. passage for a reason. The “dreamer” makes a claim that comes to pass and says let’s follow other gods. Where is he saying power constitute evidence of goodness? Do you have a different opinion/interpretation? If you can’t produce text that EXPLICITLY says that then YOU’RE assuming/speculating. Let me guess. You said what you want to believe so that’s what the passage says, to you.

            I prefer both/and. See, both Tanakh and NT are really big on religious and political authorities having a tendency to suck—majorly. This is something that humans find very hard to believe, apparently. If there’s any message God wanted to get through our skulls, perhaps it’s this one.

            Two points:
            A.
            So speculation and conjecture are just as valid are recorded actions? Can I benefit from speculation and conjecture? Why was you mother/father/sister/brother/son/daughter trading blowjobs for heroine? Pure speculation. I don’t even know the person. But you’re certainly going to give my statement as much credibility as those who do know the person, right? I mean, that’s what you PREFER, Isn’t it? I think what you mean is, I want to believe in my religion, so I take the writings as an authority. I give it considerations I don’t extend anywhere else in my life.
            B.
            Really? Because the Deut. passage is all about obeying god. So you’re saying god, in his attempts to teach us “wisdom” encourages people to scrutinize religious leaders? Anyone not saying god is the most, sure, scrutinize them. But where does tell us to scrutinize leaders? Not garden-variety “dreamers and false prophets.” I’ll give you a freebie. Give me a idea/concept originating from god that has held up over time. Something he teaches in his infinite wisdom. Wales are fish?

            Here’s a tip I go by:
            Whenever you have to resort to violence, you’re ideas are not very good. That’s why god wants you to show you superior wisdom and discredit the “dreamers” ideas, i mean kill the “dreamer”.
            A battle of wits should never require violence. The fact the god is INCLINED to violence says all you need to know about his “wisdom and intellect”.

            So god is willing to work with imperfect “tools” (and I do mean tool), but will drown the entire planet because…
            He can accept imperfection and character flaws, but Mary needs to be a virgin, because….

            And again more bible quotes. Quote every passage. It’s all speculation and conjecture, you know hearsay ,gossip.
            I notice you FAILED to address anything or anyone I mentioned NOT in the bible. When you want to discuss the Council of Nicea, The Spainsh/Roman/Holy Inquisitions, Trinitarian doctrine, or anything about the history of “Christians” OUTSIDE/AFTER the bible., let me know. Do you know what Appeal to Authority or Appeal to Tradition mean?

            You can now tell the bible study how you stood up for Christianity. You don’t have to mention the part where I asked you to address Christian history AFTER the bible, and you avoided doing so, instead relying on your “biblical authority” passages. Courage.

          • Unfortunately, your comment starting “Again more reference to the bible.” has been marked as spam. Disqus’ spam filter likes false positives. Do we know how active the mods are around here, to fix this?

          • Wisdom, Justice, Love

            Why should I accept this characterization of all [remotely orthodox] Christianity?

            Again…
            You don’t. It’s MY opinion. Do you accept that I hold this opinion? I thought we covered this with the “what makes me an authority” part.

            It seems to me that those who taught you Christianity would fail middle school English class.

            A.
            The people that originally “taught” Christianity were bad at English as well. How’s your Aramaic or Latin?
            B.
            Non sequitur. What does someone else’s (the people that taught me Christianity) knowledge of the English language have to do with my claim? You assume I relied on others teaching me Christianity. You assume I haven’t read things for myself, or formed MY own opinions.
            C.
            “Why should I accept this characterization of my teachers ability to pass middle-school English?”
            Because it’s your OPINION, I can accept YOU think this. I don’t have to adopt your opinion. See how that works?

            He [Moses] certainly isn’t “an obedient poodle”.

            And what was his ultimate reward? Something about not reaching the “promised” land…

            You seem to have been taught a Christianity which is unfaithful to the OT. I get why—truth can be used for evil purposes and the more truth you have, the more evil you can be. It’s just that I had hoped you might be able to pierce through the matter, given your “Unless he taught to hate corrupt religious leaders” bit.

            Ah. Christianity that is “unfaithful” to Judaism. Really? What’s your religious affiliation? What’s your denomination?

            Given the number of “sects”/denominations of Christians in the U.S. alone, what’s the chance YOU have taught an “brand” of Christianity that is “unfaithful” to the OT? They can disagree and ALL be right. They CAN all be wrong though.

            Let me guess YOUR group of Christians totally have it right, and “those other Christians” are wrong. Those Christians aren’t Real Christians™ like Us Christians. Am I on the right track?

            And you’re saying you are “faithful” to the teachings of the OT?
            How many non-virgin brides did you stone in the last 5 years?
            How about disobedient children? How many stones does it take to finish them off?
            How often do you go to Bingo, or the casino (boats) and mention “No Casting of Lots”?
            Do you have ay piercings or tattoos? How many “faithful followers” do you know that have one?

            And you hoped I’d be able to “pierce through” it? You’re so concerned for my wellbeing. I believe it’s genuine. Faux concern, from a theist? That ever happens. /s

            Do you not accept my characterization of Jesus’ relationship with the Pharisees? Which part do I have wrong?

            Incorrect; I was going off your failure to ever indicate you could be targeting a strict subset of [remotely orthodox] Christianity. Go back to your comment and see how it seems to target “ALL” [¿remotely orthodox?] Christianity.

            More insults. Nice try. You’ll have to try harder.
            And let me make sure I have this correct.
            I didn’t specify a group of Christan in my opinion and I “failed”. You have yet to specify a group of Christians exempt from scrutiny or whom you feal my opinion is unwarranted. No failure there…

            I prefer both/and. See, both Tanakh and NT are really big on religious and political authorities having a tendency to suck—majorly. This is something that humans find very hard to believe, apparently. If there’s any message God wanted to get through our skulls, perhaps it’s this one.

            And then you proceed to CONTINUE to throw out Bible verses and ignore/avoid anything or anyone I mentioned regarding Christianity OUTSIDE of the Bible. Because you PREFER it. Relying on the ideals of the rule book and not the actions of the players.

            Why should I give the bible or any religious texts any “authority” based on others’ OPINION of the text? You see how that works?

            Let me know when you want to discuss the Council of Nicea, the Roman/Spanish/Holy Inquisitions, Trinitarian doctrine, Strange Fruit, or anything or anyone NOT in the Bible. Or any Apocrypha/Pseudepigrapha.

            You can now tell the Bible study how you were “brave” and stood up for Jesus. You don’t have to mention the part where I asked about Christianity outside the Bible and you ignored/avoided it.

            It seems those that taught you about (the thousands of years of historical) Christianity OUTSIDE the Bible would need help finding Waldo. Ooh I showed you (my maturity)…

          • Argh, your second comment (first comment) has also been “marked as spam”. I’ve emailed the RD folks to see if they can un-spamify your comments.

  • See Noevo

    Ultimately, the one and only reason to
    believe the Bible is the word of God is this:

    Because the Catholic Church said so.

    • Michael Neville

      Since the Catholic Church is an immoral organization known for lying about numerous topics, we can therefore disregard the Bible as anything other than a collection of myths, fables and lies.

    • Geoff Benson

      If that’s the only reason to believe then it explains why so many don’t!

    • IIRC, Catholics say that miracles serve as confirmatory evidence that they are following the one true God. Let’s compare & contrast this with what we find in Torah:

      “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it. “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 12:32–13:5)

      Anyone who uses miracle-power to say that [s]he knows the right god(s) to worship and others should follow is to be executed. So what does that tell us about the epistemological weight of miracles? Simple logic prevails: if power is evidence of what/who is good, that results in “Might makes right.”

      In contrast to your model, truth is detected when language proves a trustworthy guide to reality. It’s a little hard to do that when the language is incomprehensible to the layperson, like speaking Latin to Germans. Preventing or discouraging laypersons from directly accessing the Bible is itself a power-play. And no wonder, given passages like the above!

      • See Noevo

        IIRC, Catholics say that miracles serve as
        confirmatory evidence that they are following the one true God.

        IIRC, so do you.
        That is, if you’re a Christian of some type.
        Christianity is founded on miracles, first and foremost of which is Christ’s
        resurrection.

        In contrast to your model, truth is detected when language proves a trustworthy guide to reality.

        I think I disagree.

        Luke, what would you say is the support and protection of truth,
        Christian truth?

        • If you don’t want to engage with Deuteronomy 12:32–13:5, I’m disinclined to engage with you in this thread, @seenoevo:disqus.

          • See Noevo

            I agree with Deut. 12:32-13:5.

            Now, Luke, what would you say is the support and protection
            of truth, Christian truth?

          • LB: IIRC, Catholics say that miracles serve as confirmatory evidence that they are following the one true God.

            SN: Christianity is founded on miracles, first and foremost of which is Christ’s
            resurrection.

            SN: I agree with Deut. 12:32-13:5.

            Ok, so if Jesus’ message in any way constituted “let us go after elohim acherim“—obviously supplemented by plenty of miracles—the proper response would have been to follow him? Or kill him?

            Now, Luke, what would you say is the support and protection of truth, Christian truth?

            Not the organization which condemned the statement “That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.” On the one hand, I am inclined to say the support is internal:

            By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. … Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:10,15)

            And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:33–35)

            Suppose that you are a believer and are in error in thinking that someone is not your brother/​sister in Christ. Suppose you hate or just fail to love that person. What is the consequence?

            On the other hand, I was taught to take passages like the above at face value by a mentor who was the most ecumenical Christian I’ve met, who simultaneously thought that scripture actually says things—like the relational sin passages. So I would say that the Bible instantiated in disciples of Jesus who in their being merge language and reality. (Compare this to hypocrites.)

          • See Noevo

            You still haven’t answered, so I’ll ask one last time:
            What would you say is the support and protection of truth, Christian truth?

          • Please read my previous comment more carefully. If you don’t like my answer, you are welcome to explain what you will accept as possible answers. I cannot read your mind.

          • See Noevo

            Oh, I see. Your answer is pretty much as expected –

            1)

            I was taught to take passages like the above at face value by a mentor who was the most ecumenical
            Christian I’ve met…

            And how are you assured that you’re being taught correctly?

            2)

            So I would say that the Bible instantiated
            in disciples of Jesus who in their being merge language and reality.

            So basically, what the Bible says, or more precisely, what you think the Bible’s words mean.

            That’s what you say is the support and protection of truth.

            Too bad that’s not what the Bible says.

          • And how are you assured that you’re being taught correctly?

            I need to assume a very minimal “taught correctly”: that my current method is the optimal way to unlearn what I need to unlearn and learn what I need to learn. I can actually be quite wrong and have this still work, just like scientists can be quite wrong and still improve our knowledge about reality. In saying this and applying it not to just scientific knowledge but my own goodness (or *ahem* lack thereof), I appear to be going further than most atheists or Christians (or humans in general) seem willing to go.

            So basically, what the Bible says, or more precisely, what you think the Bible’s words mean.

            Just like the scientist can be quite wrong about the phenomena (just recall the shift from classical to quantum), I believe I can be quite wrong about the Bible. What I can do is presuppose that God meant language to match reality (past, present, and future)—if I’m a competent user of that language. My experience is that many humans much prefer to be incompetent with their language or deceptive with their language. Partly due to my faith, I believe that both of these behaviors are optional and that humans are therefore culpable for choosing them when they do.

            That’s what you say is the support and protection of truth.

            Too bad that’s not what the Bible says.

            Am I to understand from this comment that you think I should trust the very organization which condemned “That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.” and thus permitted the Thirty Years’ War to involve religious justification? Jesus said something about judging trees by their fruit.

            If you want to get into Mt 16:18 matters, I request that happen over at Strange Notions (I discussed that with @randygritter:disqus); here I have self-limited myself to five comments per day due to slander.

          • See Noevo

            If you want to get into Mt 16:18 matters, I request that…

            What about Mt. 16:19 matters?

          • LB: If you want to get into Mt 16:18 matters, I request that happen over at Strange Notions (I discussed that with @randygritter:disqus); here I have self-limited myself to five comments per day due to slander.

            SN: What about Mt. 16:19 matters?

            Yes, you can include v19. You can even include a few more! I currently have Jesus, Peter & the Keys: A Scriptural Handbook on the Papacy checked out from the library, per Jim the Scott’s recommendation. So feel free to refer me to sections within. But I repeat the bit you did not quote from my comment, which I have included above.

          • See Noevo
          • I’m highly unlikely to read it outside of critical engagement with you. That would start with you telling me why I should read this, given our exchanges to-date. I have requested it from my interlibrary loan system, so I’ll have it on hand in case you’re willing. Now, I suspect the Rational Doubt people might want this conversation to take place elsewhere; Strange Notions seems like a pretty good site for it, given that they are Catholic and have been happy with similar conversations in the past.

          • See Noevo

            I’m highly unlikely to read it outside of
            critical engagement with you.

            Maybe you’re more likely to watch/listen.
            Here’s some Scott Hahn from 2010:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btYWd31QIy8

            And from earlier:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XilzGLfgd7A

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFTEHuqlJW0

          • LB: I’m highly unlikely to read it outside of critical engagement with you.

            SN: Maybe you’re more likely to watch/listen.

            Ummm, it’s even harder to critically engage video content. You went in the wrong direction. Do you have something against critical engagement, including but not limited to Socratic dialogue?

          • See Noevo

            Ummm…no, pope Luke.
            (Or should I call you Diotrephes (cf. 3 John 1:9)?)

            But WE are done on this thread.

            I’ll sign off with some Scripture which relates to my
            original post and to my subsequent question to you of “What would you say is the support and protection of truth, Christian truth?”:

            if I am delayed, you may know how one
            ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.

            1 Tim 3:15

          • But WE are done on this thread.

            Then you reveal yourself for who you are:

            Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:13–18)

            Your “pillar and bulwark of the truth” condemned the statement “That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.”, keeping open the door to one of the worst wars humanity has ever seen, 98 years later. Worse, everyone involved was able to justify that killing heretics is ok. That is, they were permitted religious justification for genocide, because the so-called “Vicar of Christ” said what he said. I’m sorry, but I see it very difficult to see that bit from Exsurge Domine as anything other than the most hideous of lies. Where in Jesus’ words or behavior can one find justification for the execution of heretics? Nowhere. This is Jesus:

            “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16–17)

            The Catholic Church, on the other hand, is quite willing to condemn. Or in James’ words—

            Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11–12)

            —the Roman Catholic Church arrogated itself the right to destroy.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Uh, you ARE aware that we’re mostly atheists here?

    • DoctorDJ

      More brilliant logic from See!

      Sing along with me, children: “…Cuz the bible tells me so…”

      • See Noevo

        No, not “…Cuz the bible tells me so…”

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          A distinction without a difference, thou wingnut.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      That’s a worthless reason, considering the catholic church’s abysmal reputation.

    • Jim Jones

      Because they would torture or murder you for denying their myth – if they could.

  • Jim Jones

    We know what good evidence is. The evidence for Glycon, for example.

    And yet no Glycon believers exist. The ‘evidence’ for Jesus is wishful thinking and nothing more.