Fictions and Facts about Jesus

Fictions and Facts about Jesus December 22, 2015

Dale Tuggy shared this image on his blog, along with some thoughts on it:

wpid-Photo-20151221222434976.jpgTuggy’s comment on it is worth sharing:

This argument kills with 8th-graders. But any adults should be unimpressed. I’ll wager that any adult can think of many written reports that are important evidence for all kinds of claims!

Dear would-be Jesus de-bunker: kindly reflect on this fact. 0% of historians believe Batman is a real guy. And rounding up (to account for a very, very few kooks) 100% of historians believe that Jesus was a real Jewish man. Now, why is this?

Click through to read the rest. He doesn’t do mainstream scholarship any favors by appealing to Michael Kruger, of course. See also Stephen Bedard’s comparison of Jesus mythicists and young-earth creationists.

Other than Ken Ham and fundamentalists like him, I know of no one who thinks “I have this book” proves anything. And other than mythicists, I know of no one who thinks that showing that such claims are ridiculous says anything about what we should think regarding scientific, historical, or other matters. And so the above meme provides further evidence that mythicists and young-earth creationists are mirror images of one another, equally ridiculous despite their different ideologies, because they approach their diametrically opposed ideologies in strikingly similar ways.

 

 

 

 

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  • “Other than Ken Ham and fundamentalists like him,”

    -That’s a lot of people.

    “And so the above meme provides further
    evidence that mythicists and young-earth creationists are mirror images
    of one another, equally ridiculous despite their different ideologies,
    because they approach their diametrically opposed ideologies in strikingly similar ways.”

    -LOL. No. Not even close. Denying a single ambiguously-attested person existed is not even close to the logical contortions needed to accept YECism.

    • The difference is only in the extent of the conspiracy theory.

  • I AM the night! I’m a master of disguise, a master detective, and a master of Ninjitsu! The only way you will prove my existence is if I let you.

    I’ll be watching you, James…

  • James

    “Other than Ken Ham and fundamentalists like him…” therein lies the problem: there is no one Christianity. There are Christianities. And one of them is Ken Ham’s. Sure, Mr Tuggy picked a weak man version of Christianity (Ham’s) to criticize, but it is one that is substantially agreed upon by a significant number of American Christians – by some measures, by a majority of American Christians. But you too are challenging a weakman version of the opposition by presenting this particular meme.

    Denying the existence of one individual, for whom the historical record is sorely (completely) lacking in consistent, eye-witnessed, unbiased sources – much less in empirically verifiable sources – is not remotely the same thing as engaging in the mental gymnastics that it requires to be a YEC. For starters, YEC theology is falsifiable – YECS simply deny the considerable empirical evidence that shows young Earth theology is false. The mythicists, conversely, seem to be saying simply “the historical evidence for Jesus is very poor” (analogous to a comic book) and therefore unable to meet an extraordinary burden of proof. Sure, the Batman meme is a weak analogy, but it does still make a valid point: very often the Bible is used to “prove” God exists, which is a circular argument. In that sense, a comic book is equally valid evidence for the existence of Batman. What makes the Batman analogy weak is that everyone knows Batman doesn’t exist, whereas Christian theology is widely accepted as true, albeit it is generally defended on the basis of poor (or no) evidence.

    Circular arguments, it should be remembered, are informal logical fallacies. Meaning that they are logically structured, but are not convincing. Very often the best evidence that theists present is similarly circular – “the Bible is true, because it says it’s true – God exists because the Bible says so” and so forth.

    • jjramsey

      Denying the existence of one individual, for whom the historical record is sorely (completely) lacking in consistent, eye-witnessed, unbiased sources – much less in empirically verifiable sources – is not remotely the same thing as engaging in the mental gymnastics that it requires to be a YEC.

      Really? Look at what mythicists say to try to explain away Jesus having a flesh and blood brother named James, or how verses where Paul’s claim of Jesus being the seed of David according to the flesh are read to be somehow consistent with the notion that Paul thought that Jesus was a purely celestial being. Occam’s razor is thrown out to such a degree that “mental gymnastics” becomes a pretty good description.

      What makes the Batman analogy weak is that everyone knows Batman doesn’t exist, whereas Christian theology is widely accepted as true, albeit it is generally defended on the basis of poor (or no) evidence.

      But this isn’t about Christian theology. Indeed, some defenses for Jesus’ historicity — such as the poor fit between Old Testament prophecy and the events in Jesus’ life that are purported to fulfill it, or the existence of certain “fixed points” that the authors of the Gospel appear to take pains to workaround or downplay — rely on acknowledging possible or actual errors in the Christian documents that we have. And once Josephus is brought into play, theology has hardly a role to play at all.

      • James

        “Really? Look at what mythicists say to try to explain away Jesus having a flesh and blood brother named James, or how verses where Paul’s claim of Jesus being the seed of David according to the flesh are read to be somehow consistent with the notion that Paul thought that Jesus was a purely celestial being. Occam’s razor is thrown out to such a degree that “mental gymnastics” becomes a pretty good description.”

        I frankly don’t see where you engaged my argument at all.
        Please try again. Denying the historicity of one person , a scientifically unfalsifiable claim one way or another, is in no way like YECs who make a whole series of falsifiable claims each of which can and has been conclusively shown to be false. By all means criticize the mythicists – but let’s not make absurd comparisons to YECs. The mythicists are saying simply that the historical evidence for Jesus is poor – and they have a valid point. The *story* says Jesus had a flesh and blood brother named James – and your evidence for this is what? The gospel. Which is/was not remotely a contemporary, eye-witness, unbiased source. What the mythicists tend to forget is that the burden of proof in history is quite low – acontemporaneous hearsay can be “historical,” broadly speaking, but it still isn’t scientific (i.e. evidence of a supernatural event).

        “But this isn’t about Christian theology.Indeed, some defenses for Jesus’ historicity — such as the poor fit between Old Testament prophecy and the events in Jesus’ life that are purported to fulfill it, or the existence of certain “fixed points” that the authors of the Gospel appear to take pains to workaround or downplay — rely on acknowledging possible or actual errors in the Christian documents that we have. And once Josephus is brought into play, theology has hardly a role to play at al”

        Again, I fail to see where you’ve engaged my augment at all. I said it was a weak analogy, what more do you want? The historical record for Jesus is extremely poor – the mythicists simply throw the baby out with the bathwater as opposed to trying to tease out what likely is true from what likely is myth, a la Bart Erhman. Which also is exactly what historians attempt to do with other historical figures for whom supernatural claims are made – Julius Caesar or Cleopatra, for example. By comparison, the historical record for Joseph Smith is extremely good and I dare say that neither of us accepts the well-sourced historical record as good evidence that Joseph Smith’s supernatural claims were/are true. YECs tend to take a mundane but valid point – Jesus was historical – and conflate it with a statement like “the evidence for Jesus’ supernatural claims are strong.” And it is exactly that sort of conflation that the mythicists are really addressing.

        • jjramsey

          The mythicists are saying simply that the historical evidence for Jesus is poor

          That’s not even remotely true. They also attempt to construct explanations for how extant documents (and in some cases other evidence) could be the way they are if Jesus had never existed — and their attempts turn out to be problematic in ways similar to those of YECs’ attempts to construct explanations for how the geological and biological evidence could be the way that they are if creationism were true.

          The *story* says Jesus had a flesh and blood brother named James – and your evidence for this is what? The gospel.

          Not quite true. The case can be made without reference to the Gospels at all, though they can provide some additional confirmation. That you were unaware of this shows just how uninformed you are about the subject. Here’s a good starting point to get you up to speed: http://armariummagnus.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/did-jesus-exist-jesus-myth-theory-again.html

          You’ll also see rebuttals to the mental contortions of mythicists that I had mentioned earlier.

    • …for whom the historical record is sorely (completely) lacking in consistent, eye-witnessed, unbiased sources…

      Is there anyone in history for whom this isn’t the case?

      • James

        And yet in only one case do Christians attempt to use such shoddy evidence in order to meet an extraordinary burden of proof. You’d agree, I assume, that the available evidence for Cleopatra meets the burden of proof for a mundane claim, such as that she was a pharaoh, but not for the claim that she was Isis reincarnated, as her subjects believed. The historical evidence for Muhammad, similarly anecdotal, biased and a-contemporaneous as that for Jesus, meets the burden of proof for the claim that Muhammad existed and founded a major religion, but not for meeting the extraondinary burden of proof for the claim Muhammad ascended into heaven on a winged horse or that he spoke directly with the creator of the universe.

        And again, these examples are not remotely equivalent to comparing the mythicists to YECs. In his zeal to discredit those who don’t accept poorly sourced historical evidence as credible at all (I.e for meeting even mundane claims), McGrath is comparing mythicists to people who deny abundant, verifiable, testable scientific evidence for a whole series of claims – claims which just happens to directly contradict the dominant historical Christian understanding of Genesis, and which also just happens to be the prevalent view of a plurality of modern American Christians. McGrath is effectively comparing a person who would deny the existence of Julius Caesar (i.e not an empirically testable claim, and one that relies upon fallible, demonstrably imperfect sources) to people who deny genetics, biology, geology and astronomy, among other sciences (I.e a comprehensive series of empirically testable claims that have been tested and demonstrated to meet the limits of what is epistemological possible to verify); it’s a very poor comparison.
        The case for Progressive Christianity is not aided by making such grossly uncharitable comparisons.

        • The comparison is not equal, but have you read some of the highly speculative claims of mythicists? No wonder that most secular scholars compare them to other odd non-academic proponents.

          For instance, what is the evidence that the Christian religion was created about a figure named Jesus who, according to some mythicists, was a fictional being crucified in the heavens?

          I’m not an ancient textural critic, but as a literature teacher it seems most, if not all, of the mythicist claims are weak, and some ridiculous.

          I tried to get through one mythicist book, but finally gave up about 2/3 the way through. The writer didn’t even get some basic ancient texts correct.

        • Cecil Bagpuss

          In his zeal to discredit those who don’t accept poorly sourced historical evidence as credible at all (I.e for meeting even mundane claims)

          So you don’t think the evidence is sufficient to support the existence of Jesus the man. Yet it appears that you don’t know what the evidence actually is, since you didn’t understand jjramsey’s reference to Jesus’ brother James.

          The evidence for evolution and the evidence for Jesus may not be comparable, but there is a similarity between those who reject evolution and those who reject a historical Jesus: they have a tendency not to know what they are talking about.

        • The historical evidence for the existence of a man named Jesus of Nazareth, who attracted a following, taught through aphorisms and parables, challenged to authorities, and was eventually executed, is about as strong as that for any ancient figure.

          If you want to be a consistent mythicist, you’ll end up denying the existence of everyone from ancient times. And that devolves into the same Last Thursdayism of the creationists. The comparison is not uncharitable at all.

          • The evidence for a historical Jesus is completely unlike the evidence for any other ancient figure and very much weaker. Most ancient figures about whose existence we are confident are known to us either because they were prominent or literate themselves or because they did things that had an impact on the prominent and literate people of their day. Jesus, on the other hand, was, as best we can establish, an itinerant preacher who went unnoticed outside of a small band of illiterate peasant followers until such point as he annoyed the authorities sufficiently to get himself crucified. Had it not been for the belief that arose in supernatural events that were believed to have taken place after his death, there is no reason to think that Jesus would have left a historical footprint that would be discernible 2000 years. I cannot think of any comparable ancient figure.

          • I can think of several comparable ancient figures, many of whom had even less impact than Jesus did. Here’s a couple other examples from within Judaism:

            Honi the Circle Drawer: Known mainly for drawing a circle and praying for rain during a drought. A later prayer, denouncing both sides in a civil war, got him stoned to death.

            Judas the Galilean: Known primarily as the founder of the Zealots, a militant anti-Roman sect of Judaism. He led an armed rebellion against Rome, but failed miserably.

            Neither of these men had any direct impact on the “prominent and literate people of the day” (though it could be argued that Judas the Galilean made an impact through his followers). Yet we know of them because someone from a later generation decided to put the oral tradition into writing.

          • I think that leading an armed rebellion is the kind of thing that might get one noticed by prominent and literate people even if it fails, e.g., Spartacus.

            Josephus was not from a later generation than Honi. He was a contemporary.

            You are correct though that there are many obscure figures from the ancient world who left only slight traces in the historical record; however, I was disputing your claim that the evidence for Jesus is “about as strong as that for any ancient figure.” (emphasis added) On the contrary, there are countless figures for whom the evidence is overwhelmingly greater than that for Jesus of Nazareth.

          • Jim

            Sorry, but I can’t resist circling in on one of your arguments.

            Re “Josephus was not from a later generation than Honi. He was a contemporary.”

            Wasn’t Honi a 1st century BCE dude – he was supposedly captured by some followers of Hyrcanus around 63 BCE. So he’d have been from about a century before Josephus.

            This might make you want to re-think everything you wrote. 🙂

          • It certainly makes me want to re-think that sentence, because I clearly misread the dates in whatever article it was that I read when I googled Honi, but I don’t think that it really impacts anything else I wrote.

            I will acknowledge that I overstated the case when I wrote that “[t]he evidence for a historical Jesus is completely unlike the evidence for any other ancient figure and very much weaker.” I would modify that to “the evidence for a historical Jesus is unlike the evidence for any those from the ancient world about whose existence and activities historians can be reasonably certain and very much weaker.”

          • Jim

            np – I had been prematurely sampling this evenings rum & eggnog and just couldn’t pass on a bit of trivia.

          • I wish that I could blame my mistake on that.

          • Nick Gotts

            The historical evidence for the existence of a man named Jesus of Nazareth, who attracted a following, taught through aphorisms and parables, challenged to authorities, and was eventually executed, is about as strong as that for any ancient figure.

            That claim is at least as ridiculous as mythicism. To take an obvious example, for many Roman emperors and Greek monarchs, we have coins, statues and inscriptions, in addition to the writings of historians whose names, dates and other biographical details we also know, and whose surviving work, when combined, gives us a coherent narrative stretching over centuries and large geographical areas.

          • That claim is at least as ridiculous as mythicism.

            I believe that claims like these are big part of the reason why mythicism flourishes. If I were new to the debate, an article like Valerie Tarico’s would strike me as measured and circumspect. If I came here looking for the other side, I would find claims like this and citations of apologists who insist that the New Testament contains no contradictions.

          • Nick Gotts

            I doubt it. My hunch is that it’s a combination of thinking that establishing that there was no historical Jesus, or even casting serious doubt on his existence, would deal a serious blow to Christianity – which I’m pretty sure it would not, given all the obvious nonsense most Christians believe – and a kind of “athier than thou” oneupmanship.

          • I don’t doubt that something like that goes on in some cases. For atheists who see all religion as completely without redeeming value, mythicism supports their conviction that liberal Christians are just as foolish and misguided as their conservative brethren. I don’t know whether they really see it as “striking a blow” though.

            However, I think that there are many atheists/agnostics like myself whose antipathy towards Christianity is limited to the know-nothing fundamentalist varieties. I would be just as happy to see them develop a more tolerant faith as l would to see them abandon faith altogether, and I don’t think that mythicism has much to offer in encouraging that transition. Much of the reason I remain open to an ahistorical Jesus really is the weakness of the arguments offered on the other side.

  • The Eh’theist

    He doesn’t do mainstream scholarship any favors by appealing to Michael Kruger, of course.

    I went and read the links and Kruger as well, and it gave me some new insight into things. You liked part of what Tuggy wrote (Batman), and disliked part of what Tuggy wrote (his use of Kruger) in the same way that Tuggy liked part of what Kruger wrote (his arguments for Jesus) and disliked part of what Kruger wrote (his claim to no contradictions in the NT).

    In the same way Tarico tried to leverage part of Ehrman’s comments while setting aside one of his conclusions. Contrast all this with your clear-cut rejection of the arguments in Charisma News for the Virgin Birth.

    I think the difference between the two helps to explain the allure of mythicism for some. Rather than having to sift through and decide whether they should accept 2/3 of Tuggy or 4/5 of McGrath or 3/16 of Tarico on an issue, they are offered a blanket “it’s all wrong” just like the Charisma News post.

    For people who already dislike the biblical Jesus (or how the idea has been used) this can seem like a nice, neat solution. When they are told to ignore the inconvenient (as Tuggy tells us to do with Kruger and no contradictions or some do with miracles when discussing historicity) it feels like many of the rationalizations given by clergy and other believers when doubts were brought up and produces a reaction.

    Being clear about mistaken arguments (as you were about Charisma News and Tuggy had the opportunity to be about Kruger and contradictions) would go a long way to making the distinction between the historical study of Jesus and its conclusions and what is being offered by others who claim to be doing the same thing but who try to square the circle to save traditional beliefs.

    The more those considering mythicism can see the radical break between academic studies of Jesus and traditional beliefs the more they may come to see mythicism as a simplistic answer that requires a “faith” of its own, as many have pointed out here.

    • arcseconds

      WCertainly you must be correct that impatience and antipathy towards the study of the New Testament is often a big motivating factor. Mythicists and sympathisers often are fairly open about it. I’ve had several discussions with casual ‘street’ mythicists where once they realise I’m not talking about a superpowered Jesus and I’m going to continue arguing about it (and maybe — one can always hope — that I have a point) they’re all ‘who cares!? Why would anyone find this interesting?’. And I think Cygnus might be broadly in this camp.

      (But the less casual ones aren’t so impatient with Carrier et al. Must remember to ask the next casual who says this sort of thing what they think of scholarly mythicists…)

      Many of them seem to be reacting against their conservative dogmatic Christian upbringing, so I suspect it’s not so much McGrath they don’t want to be bothered working out how much to believe, but their parents and former pastors, etc.

      But I don’t hold out much hope of convincing such people. If you shut down and start fuming as soon as you hear ‘Gospel’ or ‘Epistle’ you’re not going to be receptive to an argument that takes those texts at all seriously.

      • I agree with the points made here – what makes mythicism so appealing is the same thing that makes Biblical inerrancy appealing, i.e. the apparent simplcity of simply accepting everything or rejecting everything, with no need to sift through primary source evidence and secondary source scholarship.

        • arcseconds

          I also wonder whether there might be a bit of an attitude towards ancient history and humanities in general.

          It’s already clear that mythicists don’t have much, if any, respect for the expertise of biblical scholars, and I’ve always thought I could detect a note of ‘well clearly all the high-wattage minds do science, anyone can do history, and obviously a scientist an waltz in and do it just as well, if not better, as it needs a shot of science in the arm’ from some people.

          I wonder whether some of them might also be a bit ‘who cares about ancient history? It’s not going to get us into Space!’. Certainly you can find people with this as attitude, I’m just not sure to what extent it might motivate mythicism in some…

          • The Eh’theist

            I think that’s likely the case with some who are dismissive of all but science. There are others who see a lot of value in Classics for pre-Christian understanding of morals, philosophy, etc, and Ancient History for helping to put biblical stories and nations like Israel into a broader context than the one they’ve written for themselves. There’s definitely a spectrum of appreciation and of usage, just as we would find among Christians and other faith groups.

            It’s been my experience that those who like mythicism (as opposed to Mythicist authors whom I don’t know personally) tend to value and use this information in the same manner as Christian apologists, but to achieve the opposite ends.

        • The Eh’theist

          Thank you for saying what I was trying to express much more succinctly than I did.

          I didn’t mention it previously because I had already gone long, but I do think the ‘Batman’ argument is very useful when one is confronted with the “Thus sayeth the Lord” approach.

          It quickly sorts respondents into two types: those who then move to describing the external evidence that gives them confidence in the Bible, and those who opt for special pleading via “but that doesn’t apply to the Word of God” and similar comments.

          One can certainly choose different reading material in the example, if that helps the believer to grasp the argument without insult, but when confronted with a cheesy Ham special, I don’t think there’s another argument that highlights the problems and the likelihood of moving beyond it more efficiently.

          Lastly, I have to admit that hearing the phrase, “It’s in the Book” always puts me in mind of this record from my Grandfather’s collection that I loved listening to as a little boy. Perhaps it planted the seed of unbelief.

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

      • The Eh’theist

        I agree part of it is impatience and antipathy. But I also think an additional factor is the lack of clarity of the role of someone like James McGrath relative to Evangelical Christianity (or Catholicism, etc)

        The point I tried to make was that with James partially accepting Tuggy’s work, and Tuggy partially accepting Kruger (and who knows who Kruger accepts) it can be unclear for those looking at material like this to understand where the lines are drawn. Carrier and co. have drawn a clear line (as did James writing abut the Virgin birth article) and it’s easier for them to accept or reject this,

        I think because of these partial connections to apologist/scholars many see James’ work as a sort of firebrake, serving the church by ensuring that the ‘cleansing fire of atheism’ can’t totally engulf the faith and the Bible, particularly when they question the value of the Jesus and the narratives about him.

        The clear message they’ve not gotten (as evidenced by some of the new comments since I wrote) is that ‘the faithful church’ doesn’t want what these mainstream scholars are selling, and don’t see it having any more than a coincidental relationship to their faith.

        If you listen to the most recent ‘Dogma Debate’ where Raphael Lataster i interviewed, you’ll see that it’s almost totally a mix of this misunderstanding of the role of mainstream scholarship, and conspiracy theories (i.e. Ehraman ‘may’ be compromising his academic integrity to please his believing partner *sigh* )

        What I originally wrote was to encourage more promotion of the difference between mainstream scholarship and faith-motivated study of the Bible and Jesus, and to encourage clarity when referring to others’ work where one may otherwise be misunderstood as supporting non-historical points.

        Lastly, I think you are correct with your assertion that the primary battle is with parents/pastors (who may well be of the Ken Ham ‘kind’ ). Contrasted with an unclear understanding of mainstream scholarship and its claims, their understanding of mythicism provides a nuclear option in the battle against their old faith community, which explains the difference in reaction to McGrath vs. Carrier.

        If they better understood mainstream scholarship and its ability to demonstrate with evidence the incorrect nature of many Evangelical claims, there would likely be a warmer reception for it, be that good or bad.

        • arcseconds

          Right, I think I understand your point better now. I thought you were talking about how much of each individual to accept, but now it seems you are emphasising that James is part of a community that includes Tuggy and Kruger.

          I think this is a genuine problem (although of course not hopeless like mythicists would have you believe), and this was why I queried James on Kruger’s bona fides. There are people who have many or all of the trappings of legitimate biblical scholars who make apologetic claims, so one can’t just say ‘if they’ve got a Phd from a reputable institution and published in reputable journals they can probably be trusted’. So it does contrast with biology in this respect. Of course a particular biologist will have their own research which could be quite idiosyncratic which you might be advised not to take as truth, but they probably aren’t proposing ttime travelling psychics as an evolutionary mechanism.

          If one is suspicious one could wonder how many crypto-apologists there are, and if one is paranoid I suppose one could suspect Ehrman is one.

          And again, I’m pessimistic about the possibility of clarifying this for mythicists. James is already pretty clear where he stands if you pay the least bit of attention, and if you’re inclined to think Ehrman might be a crypto-quasi-apologist, no amount of demarcation is going to help.

          • The Eh’theist

            Yes, part of me thinks it would be easier to directly point out the faith-based claims of scholars when citing them, but on further reflection that starts to sound a lot like the ‘biblical separation’ of Fundamentalist Baptists. It’s probably better to emphasize what is mainstream and clarify as needed per your query about Kruger.

            I understand your pessimism, my point in trying to highlight it has been that there are a great number of undecided non-believers some of whom seem open to mythicism for the reasons we’ve discussed. I think part of the reason for that is the perceived service of academia to the church (what I’ll call the Craig Evans problem for the sake of brevity).

            I know there are clear distinctions, but I think if non-believers considering mythicism more clearly understood the more independent relationship of mainstream NT scholarship part from churches as opposed to Evangelical Bible teachers and apologists they would evaluate the arguments and evidence differently.

            Do I know exactly how to do that? Not really, besides repetition and clarity, but I think it’s important to continue to do it, as mythicism gets more microphones from which to speak. Else the suspicion and paranoia spreads to listeners.

          • arcseconds

            Why Craig Evans in particular? Does he explicitly see his role as being helpmate to the church, or something?

            Yes, I agree it would be nice to get newbies some instant clarity about this. I suggested a wiki once, and James went and created one (two, actually) in a fit of enthusiasm, but it never went anywhere.

            Ehrman is a pretty good example, as he’s (pretty much) an atheist, and also he seems to be a bit of a stirrer. He seems to positively enjoy making people uncomfortable — and I sometimes wonder whether that tendency informs his ‘Jesus was discarded’ thesis. I’m sure he’d love to get behind a Jesus myth thesis if it were defensible. Iconoclastic atheists would be able to find something to like here, if they aren’t hung up on a non-existent Jesus.

            ‘Course, one can end up appealing to Ehrman too much… ultimately people need to trust the scholastic community, not one or two individuals.

          • The Eh’theist

            I chose Evans because I’m familiar with his work (to be clear, my comments are about what is done with his work, not him, I’ve found him to be very nice on the occasions I’ve met him), and he’s in my corner of the world, so I see the sorts of activities he participates in (check out his books and papers for examples). He also has several debates with Ehrman where he always tries to salvage as much of the conservative approach to the New Testament as he can, and typically he ends up acknowledging that Ehrman’s argument better represents the consensus view among scholars.

            Also, when having discussions on topics with Baptists around here, it’s almost a certainty that on one or more topics I’ll get a version of “Craig Evans said one can believe the traditional understanding of [insert topic here] and still have an intellectually respectable approach to Scripture. When I ask what his specific argument was, they typically don’t remember, but his ok was good enough for them. While I’m sure if one directly asked him a question on the topic (like Ehrman in a debate) you’d get the consensus answer, he frequently lets his listeners walk away with the idea that if something hasn’t been explicitly disproved, then it’s ok to hold.

            (I’m also not happy that he’s damaging antiquities on the chance of finding some NT textual nugget within the leftover material, but that’s a topic for a different day)

            So yes, it’s this sort of approach that I think helps to muddy the waters as to the role of NT scholarship vis a vis the church and mythicism.

            I wasn’t familiar with the Wiki efforts, perhaps just a simple FAQ or 101 page like many social justice activists have created. Not so much about the specific subjects, but about the relationships and clarifying certain points, like you have, about the level of assumptions for mythicism vs the consensus view, for example.

            I think your comments about Ehrman have merit I’m glad you don’t have the ‘spawn of the Evil One’ attitude I’ve gotten from some local professors. I do tend to prefer his ideas a bit, both because of his association with Metzger (and his influence in changing my thinking about the NT) and because he makes it easier than most NT scholars to access his thinking. I do try to look around at other writers who react to his work (I think his new book on forgery will be a lightning rod for that).

            I don’t know if he’d like a Jesus myth theory to champion. I think he enjoys being able to ‘concede’ the reality of Jesus, and then challenging the traditional understandings of words and actions and narratives associated with Jesus. His new book on memory and information seems to go in that direction, as showing that there are many issues associated with memory and accurate transmission of information, making the conservative position even more untenable, and further supporting the view of the creation of many of the key portions of the Gospels for theological purposes.

            It will be interesting to see some of the responses to it and whether it popularizes a new field of NT study in using cognitive and behavioural sciences to establish frameworks for a model of the creation of the books of the NT.

          • arcseconds

            Why does pointing out faith-based claims when citing seem like biblical separation to you?

          • The Eh’theist

            If James had taken the information he provided you about Kruger and had explicitly included it in the original post, and did so for every future discussion of another’s work where he felt there was a faith-based component, the qualifications might become as long as the rest of the text.

            The only times I’ve come across that phenomenon were in the writings of Fundamentalist Baptists practicing what they call ‘biblical separation’ and to a lesser extent among some traditionalist Catholics making reference to non-Catholic research tools, but always qualifying with the statement that the tools don’t have an imprimatur or nihil obstat

          • arcseconds

            Ah, I obviously don’t know what ‘biblical seperation’means. I googled it, but I came away with the impression that it is separation of ‘godly’ people from ‘worldly’ society, e.g. by means of different institutions etc.

          • The Eh’theist

            Yes, some use the phrase in that way also. I’ll give you a link that provides their definition while doing what I spoke of at the exact same time. http://www.biblicalbaptist.info/2012/09/what-is-biblical-separation.html

            Note how long the definition is relative to all the qualifications and exposés of the other institutions mentioned.

            While I would like to see the distinction made between faith-based beliefs and hard scholarship, I don’t think falling into this sort of style would be beneficial either.

  • Cygnus

    Instead of the Batman comic book there should be “Testimonium Flavianum” cover book, and instead of Batman there should be a picture of Jesus from the movie “The Passion of the Christ” saying, “Why, why me?”

  • Jim

    So I was thinking a bit about conservation laws while reading the Tuggy post … and say if Michael Kruger was a positron and Richard Carrier was an electron …

  • It doesn’t help the case against mythicism when bloggers reference apologist bloggers, referencing apologist writers like Richard Bauckham, claiming Jesus eyewitnesses.

    • Mark

      Tuggy doesn’t seem to have discussed Bauckham’s book on eyewitnesses. Maybe I’m missing it…

      • Tuggy’s main source (with a link) is Michael J. Kruger, who cites Richard Bauckham’s book.

        • Mark

          Ah, I see your point.

  • These Batman mythicists are at it again! As any D.C. comics historian could tell them, the origin of the name “Bruce Wayne” is in the historical figures of Robert the Bruce of the Wars of Scottish Independence and Anthony Wayne, hero of the American Revolution. Behind the mythological elements of the Batman gospel, there are real historical men.

  • Dale Tuggy quotes Michael Kruger and suggests that we “[j]ust ignore the bit where he insists no one can show there contradictions between the New Testament books,” because that’s not at all essential to his case.” I disagree. I think that understanding the problem with the sources is essential to understanding the arguments on either side.

    If secular scholars agree on the historicity of Jesus as overwhelmingly as alleged, why can’t Tuggy find someone to quote whose confessional biases are not so obvious?

    • Mark

      The way you exhibit acceptance of the historicity of Jesus is by presupposing it in the simple use of the name in passing. It looks like this, to take an unrelentingly atheistical, and immeasurably great, writer from my bookshelf https://books.google.com/books?id=MSPttWbUPZsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=de+ste+croix+class&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiX3oXWxfTJAhVBOCYKHVuVDeMQ6AEIHTAA#v=onepage&q=Jesus&f=false Explicit affirmations of ‘historicity’ make no sense except in the polemical context where some people have proposed to deny it.

      • That is the problem I see, too.

        • Mark

          Note that de Ste. Croix was an old 30’s style communist (this book is from the 70s) and was thus certainly /quite aware/ of the old Jesus myth theory. Note also that many of his earlier works from say the 50s were militantly anti-Christian exposures of pious frauds about martyrs and persecutions and so on. It’s just that he’s aware that Jesus myth theories bottom out in willful ignorance and anti-semitism; there’s just no way around it.

          • Like many other scholars, he knows that mythicists are are grubby, nasty people. Unfortunately, that is not a positive argument for historicity.

          • Mark

            Right, and that the alternative can only be sustained under conditions of willful ignorance, is also not a positive argument for historicity. … I guess.

    • I hope it is obvious that Tuggy could have. As to why he didn’t, that was my question, and he has not seen fit to answer, as far as I am aware, although he may not have noticed that I asked the question.

      • It is not obvious to me. Why should I think that Tuggy is familiar with any arguments concerning historicity other than those made by apologists?

        I have a conservative Facebook friend who is fond of citing Donald Trump’s pronouncements on various economic issues, while disowning Trump’s xenophobic diatribes. I doubt that my friend is actually familiar with any respectable conservative economists. Moreover, I think I am justified in evaluating my friend’s political acumen based on his willingness to ignore Trump’s shaky grip on reality. At least he has never urged me to ignore it.

        • Tuggy was able to inform himself and find such a source, if he hasn’t already, just as your friend could. If either has not actually done so, that is not because it was not possible. And as to what Tuggy already knows or does not know, and what choices he made and why, I still think you ought to ask him on his own blog rather than speculating here.

  • arcseconds

    James, what rules out Kruger as being someone to refer to? He has a Ph.D. from Edinburgh, under Hurtado, and has published under OUP.

    • Good question. Kruger (based on past online interaction with him) appears to regularly adopt stances that are driven by the ideological impulses of conservative Evangelical Christianity rather than evidence and scholarly reasoning. And so, even though he may have proven himself capable of doing rigorous scholarship, he has also proven himself capable of ignoring such constraints when it suits him. And so appealing to him is going to be less persuasive, if someone knows this about him, than it would be to appeal to someone like Dale Allison, who says quite frankly that, as a Christian, he doesn’t like where scholarly methods and reasoning have compelled him to go, but has gone there nonetheless.