Atheistically Speaking Podcast on Jesus Mythicism

Atheistically Speaking Podcast on Jesus Mythicism

Thomas Smith was kind enough to have me back on his “Atheistically Speaking” podcast for a two part discussion on Jesus Mythicism and why it’s rejected by the vast majority of scholars:

Did Jesus Exist? Part One

Did Jesus Exist? Part Two

Needless to say, some of his audience are not pleased, though others seem more open-minded.  
 

48 thoughts on “Atheistically Speaking Podcast on Jesus Mythicism

  1. Hi Tim, I enjoyed your recent podcast interview. It encouraged me to seek out your first interview with Atheistically Speaking. Unfortunately I can't find it using google or iTunes by searching Tim O'Neill+Atheistically Speaking. It would be lovely if you could share the title or episode number of your first interview.




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  2. Tim,

    I listened to the first part of your podcast (I am considering listening to part two tonight). You discussed one of the most popular arguments against the historicity of Jesus which so many mythicists bring up: the lack of contemporary references to Jesus. You discussed the issue of Hannibal. I remember this issue being discussed before on your other blog. I'd love to see this issue discussed in greater detail and I think a future post on here would be great. In fact, it might be even better if numerous historical figures were discussed whom we lack contemporary historical references for.




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  3. Tim,

    When I had in mind is when I read this from your response to Fitzgerald's "reply" to you:

    "Never one to let a potential petty blow go unstruck, Fitzgerald leapt on the fact that we do have a paragraph of what is most likely a contemporary source about Hannibal: P.Würzb.Inv. 1 is a papyrus fragment that seems to contain a few lines from Book IV of Sosylus' The Deeds of Hannibal. I was gracious enough to note this in an edit to my review, though I also pointed out this still doesn't invalidate my point – the fragment makes no mention of Hannibal and we still have zero contemporary mentions of him.

    Not content with that, Fitzgerald then grandly declares "O’Neill is unaware that we do have at least one complete and contemporary account of Hannibal in book three of Polybius of Megalopolis’ The Histories." As we'll see in a moment, Fitzgerald consistently misfires when he makes these assumptions about what material I am and am not "aware" of. Of course I'm aware of Polybius. I'm also aware that his account of Hannibal's campaigns is not a contemporary mention of him – that work was begun around 167 BC but was later extended to cover events up to 146 BC and it seems he continued to work on the book until his death in 119 BC. This means his account of Hannibal dates to c. 30-60 years after Hannibal's death in 182 BC, depending on how you look at it.

    When I said there are no contemporary references to Hannibal, I had naturally already taken the date of Polybius' work into account. Of course, I'd be happy to graciously grant Fitzgerald that a work written 30-60 years after the death of Hannibal is "contemporary" on the proviso he's consistent and therefore rules the synoptic gospels to be "contemporary sources" as well, given they were written 40-60 years after Jesus. But somehow I don't think he's going to do that."

    Someone named Evan wrote this on your blog comment section:

    "Hannibal has multiple contemporary attestation, from both Silenus, who was a paid Greek historian who Hannibal brought with him on his journeys to write an account of what took place and by Sosylus of Lacedaemon. Sosylus was a companion of Hannibal and actually wrote a seven volume history of the Second Punic War."

    If I remember correctly, there was a discussion over at James McGrath's blog where you, Evan, and Kristofer argued over the issue. I was thinking that it might be useful to discuss the issue in more detail.




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  4. "If I remember correctly, there was a discussion over at James McGrath's blog where you, Evan, and Kristofer argued over the issue. I was thinking that it might be useful to discuss the issue in more detail"

    Okay. What would you like to say in addition to what's already said above? As I noted in my conversation with Thomas, there were contemporary sources about Hannibal. Except we don't have any of them. As I said, we have two paragraphs from one of them, but it doesn't mention Hannibal. So, is there something to add here? I can't see that there is.




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  5. Tim,

    I have given this some thought since I last posted and I actually realized that you have pretty much said all that needs to be said on the subject. More examples really aren't needed. The only time I can imagine you really needing to go through this topic again is if some serious New Atheist author brings up the Hannibal example and claims that you somehow distorted or misrepresented what we actually know about Hannibal. I can't see anyone doing this except possibly Carrier.




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  6. Tim, Regardless of many scholars not going full mythicist, you should also point out in your presentations that scholarly research has raised more questions than in previous centuries concerning the historical authenticity of the stories in the Gospels. The book by "Jesus minimalist" Robert M. Price, titled, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man is therefore quite to the point.

    See also Howard Teeple's telling of the centuries wide saga of advances in biblical scholarship, The Historical Approach to the Bible, or these recent works by biblical scholars that demonstrate how scholarship has eroded the historical authenticity of Gospel stories: https://rossonl.wordpress.com/2016/04/09/the-vanishing-jesus-reality-checks/

    Also see these admissions by the top conservative New Testament textual scholar in America, Dan Wallace:

    “As remarkable as it may sound, most biblical scholars are not Christians. I don’t know the exact numbers, but my guess is that between 60% and 80% of the members of Society of Biblical Literature [which hosts the largest biblical studies conference in the world each year] do not believe that Jesus’ death paid for our sins, or that he was bodily raised from the dead.”

    Also from Dan Wallace:

    “In one of our annual two-day meetings about ten years ago, we got to discussing theological liberalism during lunch. Now before you think that this was a time for bashing liberals, you need to realize that most of the scholars on this committee were theologically liberal. And one of them casually mentioned that, as far as he was aware, 100% of all theological liberals came from an evangelical or fundamentalist background. I thought his numbers were a tad high since I had once met a liberal scholar who did not come from such a background. I’d give it 99%. Whether it’s 99%, 100%, or only 75%, the fact is that overwhelmingly, theological liberals do not start their academic study of the scriptures as theological liberals. They become liberal somewhere along the road.”

    By the way for all the criticisms you've leveled at Carrier's attempted defense of mythicism, one need not be a mythicist to admit that Carrier's chapters 9-11 in On the Historicity of Jesus sum up a lot of pertinent questions raised by biblical scholars. So there are definitely parts of his book worth reading and sharing with others.




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  7. You don't seem to understand what this blog is about. I'm not posting here to detail the vast scholarship that "has eroded the historical authenticity of Gospel stories", nor am I here to help recovering fundamentalists like you feel superior now that you have finally figured out what people like me worked out in our teens. This blog is about the history that we atheists often get wrong. Nothing else.

    If you want yet another blog bashing the kind of simple-minded literalism that you wasted years of your life fanatically believing and defending, go elsewhere. There is no shortage of that stuff, especially given that it's not "recent scholarship" that has uncovered the reasons your former fanatical belief was stupid – this scholarship has been around for almost 200 years. It just took you longer than most to notice it. And no, this blog is also not about giving equal time to the history that Christians also get wrong – that may still excite you as a recovering fundamentalist fanatic, but it bores me rigid.

    I've made the topic of this blog clear at the top of this and every page. I've pretty sure I've previously made it clear to you that I'm not interested in pandering to your tedious ex-fundamentalist trauma. And if I wasn't clear then, I've been crystal clear now. Any further comments that try to preach to me that I "should" be writing stuff that is not remotely connected to the actual subject of this blog will be ignored and not published here. Stay on topic or go away.




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  8. Thanks for forcing me to drag myself through another example of Carrier's awful writing style. As usual, he overstates his case. But the Christians also overstate theirs on the same subject, so yet again we get the ideologically-motivated extremists cancelling each other out. The Christians try to pretend that there was no cultural influence from the Greco-Roman sphere on the concept of the Virgin Birth. Parallels are only rarely good evidence of direct derivation, but the claim that something like the Virgin Birth could develop in the context of a culture that already had so many examples of similar ideas and not be influenced by them at all is pretty absurd. At the very least, this context would affect the readiness for people to adopt and accept this particular belief.

    But the idea that the whole concept was Greco-Roman in origin ignores a whole tradition of Jewish stories of holy men with miraculous conceptions. Jesus' conception is in the tradition of those of Isaac, Samuel and Samson – a founder, a prophet and a liberator of Israel – all of whom were conceived by a woman who should not have been able to conceive.

    Rejecting any influence from the parallel non-Jewish stories is boneheaded. But pretending that the story wasn't Jewish in origin is equally so.




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  9. Must I? My background is more in medieval science (Carrier says there wasn't any – in contradiction, as usual, of everyone else in the field) and early modern science. I'm afraid I'm not in a position to assess his analysis on ancient science, given that is the one topic that – for a change – he is actually qualified to discuss, given his doctoral topic. But I don't trust Carrier in the slightest. If anyone with genuine standing the field of ancient science actually notices this book – published by a tiny non-scholarly outfit of no account – I'd be interested to see what they had to say. But I doubt that will ever happen, given the non-descript publisher and the fact the author is a total nobody.




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  10. Far more curious is the lack of any uncontested pagan Greek or Roman mention of Jesus, until about three generations after his death. There were many Romans in Jerusalem, after they annexed it in 64 BC. So why didn't they mention Jesus?




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  11. "There were many Romans in Jerusalem, after they annexed it in 64 BC. So why didn't they mention Jesus?"

    Can you name any works by these many Romans in Jerusalem in which you would expect to find these mentions of Jesus? If you can't, you have your answer.




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  12. Logically? If tons of scholarship now suggests that the Bible overall is unreliable, then doesn't that undercut at least somewhat, many of the arguments for an historical Jesus?

    At the least, it suggests that no argument can justifiably use any part of the Bible as evidence for Jesus.




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  13. "If tons of scholarship now suggests that the Bible overall is unreliable, then doesn't that undercut at least somewhat, many of the arguments for an historical Jesus?"

    No. ALL ancient textual sources are "unreliable" to some extent or another, so if we simply abandoned any text that has supernatural elements or parts that are suspect in some way we'd have to throw almost all of them out. Which is clearly absurd. Historians take the probable unreliable aspects of a source into account and use them with care anyway. No historian reads a source at total face value and treats it as wholly reliable. The gospels etc can and are used in this way.

    At the least, it suggests that no argument can justifiably use any part of the Bible as evidence for Jesus.

    See above. As I argue in the podcast, there are elements in the stories of Jesus that indicate the writers of the gospels were having difficulty shoehorning aspects of Jesus' life into their narrative of Jesus as messiah and saviour of Israel. These indicate that those elements are historical. So there is strong evidence that, regardless of some of the stories being later accretions, key elements actually happened. Ditto for Paul's mention of meeting Jesus' brother in Galatians 1:19. Admitting that he met Peter and James actually undercuts and weakens the point Paul is trying to make, so it's hard to see how that meeting could be anything other than historical. And you can't meet the brother of a man who never existed.




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  14. Jewish Greco-Roman collaborators, like the many Herods, were in constant contact with Romans in Jerusalem, and often in Rome itself. Any major local movement in Jerusalem might well appear in many records. But it doesn't.

    Then too, Jewish writers like Philo would have travelled often to Israel, or spoke to many Jews from there, before, during, and after the time of Jesus.

    As I recall, others mention other local writers, who could have written something; but didn't.

    So rumors of a son of God seem to correlate more to older myths, Old Testament religion, than to any verifiable histories or documents.




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  15. Historians in effect weigh the number of supernaturalistic elements in old accounts, against apparently historical verifications. In the case of the Bible, the weight of supernaturalistic is enough to suggest that figures like Jesus are on balance, overwhelmingly, mythical.

    There was a real Jerusalem say. But historical novels etc. often place fictional characters in historical settings.

    Many writers met pharaohs and emperors who claimed to be day, sons of gods.

    Paul and others indeed had trouble reconciling Jesus and history.




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  16. "In the case of the Bible, the weight of supernaturalistic is enough to suggest that figures like Jesus are on balance, overwhelmingly, mythical."

    Then you'll need to explain why virtually no scholars agree with that assessment and consider that there was a historical Jesus behind the supernatural stories. We get supernatural stories told about all kinds of fully historical figures, so supernatural stories are not a good indicator for or against historicity.

    "Many writers met pharaohs and emperors who claimed to be day, sons of gods"

    Yes. So? I can't see how this helps your argument. If they met them, these people existed.

    "Paul and others indeed had trouble reconciling Jesus and history."

    And that bald assertion might have had some weight if you backed it with examples and cogent argument. Without that it just seems to be another faith statement from you, something you do a lot.




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  17. "Any major local movement in Jerusalem might well appear in many records. But it doesn't. "

    Please name these "many records" in which you would expect these references to appear. I've asked you to do this once already and you keep failing to do so. Why is that?

    "Jewish writers like Philo would have travelled often to Israel, or spoke to many Jews from there, before, during, and after the time of Jesus."

    Please name all the other early first century Jewish preachers, prophets and Messianic claimants that Philo mentions in his works. If the answer is "he names none", please explain to us why you think he should have mentioned this one if he showed no interest in the half dozen others we know existed in his time. It would be nice if you guys learned how to construct a coherent argument from silence.

    "As I recall, others mention other local writers, who could have written something; but didn't."

    You "recall" this but can't actually name … any of them. Why do you think that is?

    "So rumors of a son of God seem to correlate more to older myths, Old Testament religion, than to any verifiable histories or documents."

    And a historical Messiah would also be presented as having done so, as we find in the NT with Jesus (though at times they seem to be having trouble making him fit). So this actually indicates historicity. Since the Messiah was meant to be a human descendant of David, the whole idea of a "mythic Messiah" has no precendent in Judaism and makes no sense at all. The Messiah was meant to be a man. I usually find most Mythicists have virtually no knowledge of the Judaism of this period – anyone who does finds the whole contrived idea of a "mythic Messiah" ludicrous.




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  18. As I recall, others mention other local writers, who could have written something; but didn't.
    You recall wrong. If you're thinking of Remsburg's list (or something like it), this is almost exclusively filled with authors who wrote on completely unrelated topics (agriculture, satire, etc). Mind you, as Tim says, some specific examples would be nice.

    Then too, Jewish writers like Philo would have travelled often to Israel, or spoke to many Jews from there

    Oddly enough, Philo is maybe the one person I'm a little surprised didn't mention Jesus – but again, I suspect he simply viewed Jesus as another rabble-rouser who was executed in dishonour, much as the Romans viewed him. Tim, do you agree?




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  19. REMSBURG'S list is "almost" exclusively of authors who wouldn't mention Jesus. So look at the exceptions.

    So for this atheist, the Bible is true enough? Though it is full of supernaturalistic elements; far more than more reliable Roman accounts.

    Even though no uncontested pagan mentions of Jesus appear until around 100 AD. And are not eyewitness reports obviously, but only cite oral rumors, therefore.

    Countless references to earlier myths are clearly a double-edged sword. At the least, indicating heavily mythic content, and intent. Are those mythmaking motives to be trusted?




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  20. "So look at the exceptions."

    What "exceptions" would those be, exactly? Please list them.

    " Though it is full of supernaturalistic elements; far more than more reliable Roman accounts."

    Garbage. Most of them are "Jesus went to this town and told some stories". Even most of the so-called "miracles" are common faith healings and exorcisms. And Roman sources are full of miracles, divination, portents, prophecies and mysterious events. Caesar ascending into heaven after his death. Augustus and his miraculous conception. Vespasian healing the blind and the lame. Modern historians don't reject ancient texts wholesale because of this stuff and your claim that they should is idiotic.

    "Even though no uncontested pagan mentions of Jesus appear until around 100 AD. And are not eyewitness reports obviously, but only cite oral rumors, therefore."

    *yawn* What, you mean like every single account of every other early first century Jewish preacher, prophet or Messianic claimant? Gosh – it's almost as though we'd … expect exactly that of this one as well. Seriously, get a new argument or go away.

    "Countless references to earlier myths are clearly a double-edged sword."

    What "countless references to earlier myths"? Please don't trot out the Acharya S "Horus and Mithras stuff" – you're boring enough as it is.




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  21. The New Testament refers constantly to the Old. Whose Genesis etc. are largely thought to be mythic, not history.

    Supernaturalisms are implied not just in obvious miracles, but also allusions to divine status, etc..

    Exception to the notion that most writers wouldn't notice Jesus, include Philo. Who I did name.

    Its easy to suggest that the reason Jesus wasn't mentioned was that he was too nondescript. But that also acknowledges that there were no mentions. And no early evidence.




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  22. Most scholarly writing on Jesus is by scholars who 1) don't have PhD in History."

    They just use exactly the same techniques as general historians.

    "Who 2) learned from infancy to follow faith."

    That would be news to the ones who are agnostics, atheists and Jews. If all you can do is repeat the same shit arguments that I have already dealt with in the podcast above (which you've clearly not even bothered to listen to), I think future comments from you will be going in the trash pile. I don't have time for this tedious shit.




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  23. "The New Testament refers constantly to the Old. Whose Genesis etc. are largely thought to be mythic, not history.'

    Josephus' history also does so. Does this make everyone he refers to into myths? It would be great if you people could actually think an argument through logically.

    Supernaturalisms are implied not just in obvious miracles, but also allusions to divine status, etc..

    About a dozen Roman emperors were given divine status as well. Does this mean they also didn't exist? Or that the works that refer to them that way must be thrown away and never used as sources? See above about your inability to make a coherent argument.

    "Exception to the notion that most writers wouldn't notice Jesus, include Philo. Who I did name."

    Please list the other early first century Jewish preachers, prophets and Messianic claimants that Philo mentions. When you fail to come up with any, please explain why Philo "should" mention this early first century Jewish preacher/prophet/Messianic claimant when he clearly had no interest in any of the others. And Philo also doesn't mention about a dozen high priests and Roman prefects of this period – does this mean they are all myths as well?

    But thanks for demonstrating how stupid Mythicist arguments are. You're doing a fantastic job.




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  24. Not too many atheists writing among religious scholars, proportionately or as a percentage.

    Theology PhDs claim to use the same methods as Historias … usually without any professional graduate courses in History.




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  25. Philo was very interested in persons who claimed to be sons of God; he advised against it. Likely he was thinking about the New Imperial Roman emperors. Who couldn't be mentioned directly. But if there had been a fellow Jew with the same interests, Philo would definitely be interested. And might have alluded to such a person in a detailed way.

    Yes, most Romans had some divine attributes. However, it's a matter of proportionality. In addition to divine aspects, their historically is attested by tons of more realistic and credible material. Caesar wrote a detailed and famously realistic and practical autobiography. Roman realism was by far the best attested of the day. As we know from Art History, etc.. For this reason we should give most Roman writings far more attention. Their claims overall are far, far more reliable. And far, far less supernatural.

    It's easy to explain away the lack of early evidence for Jesus, by his obscurity. But that explanation after all, admits there is no early evidence for him.




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  26. "Not too many atheists writing among religious scholars, proportionately or as a percentage."

    There are plenty of non-Christians doing so, including a sizeable number of Jews. Please explain how the wicked Christians manage to control these scholars minds to keep them from accepting the amazing obvious truth of Mythicism. While you're at it, please also explain why the Christians actually write whole books complaining that these other scholars are peddling ideas about Jesus that are not Christian enough (like this one and this one and this one) and yet don't seem to understand the incredible mind control they somehow also manage to have over these non-Christian scholars when it comes to Mythicism. Can you explain why these non-Christian scholars have no problem proposing all kinds of other ideas about Jesus as a rabbi, an apocalyptic preacher, a Cynic sage etc, all of which are completely contrary to Christian conceptions, yet somehow manage to be controlled by some kind of orthodox Christian hegemongy when it comes to Mythicism? Try explaining this while making some kind of sense for once.

    "Theology PhDs claim to use the same methods as Historias … usually without any professional graduate courses in History."

    We aren't talking about theology, we're talking about historical Jesus studies. And they use exactly the same methodologies used by historians in other historical fields – textual analysis, source criticism, numismatics, iconography, archaeological data, epigraphy, linguistics etc. If you claim otherwise you're simply displaying the fact that you don't know what the hell you're talking about.




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  27. Philo was very interested in persons who claimed to be sons of God; he advised against it. Likely he was thinking about the New Imperial Roman emperors. Who couldn't be mentioned directly. But if there had been a fellow Jew with the same interests, Philo would definitely be interested. And might have alluded to such a person in a detailed way

    All of which assumes that Jesus claimed to be divine. All the evidence indicates pretty clearly that he didn't. It's amazing how often people like you think they are making arguments against the historical Jesus and turn out to be arguing against the Jesus of a literalist form of Christianity.

    But if you have a passage where Philo mentions any early first century Jewish preachers, prophets or Messianic claimants but neglects to mention Jesus, now would be a good time to finally produce it. Because that is all the historical Jesus was. The claims that he was also somehow divine didn't come until much, much later.




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  28. I should have said that say, 97% or more of the major writers on Jesus, come from a Christian background. And a childhood in churches. Though some believe they have put aside their childhood of faith, old habits die hard. Others simply admit they are still faithful, churchgoers; like James McGrath.

    Such persons are still emotionally tied to Jesus. And so they can't quite take the final step of concluding he was entirely fictional. They accepted the incremental whittling down of Jesus. But that last step is difficult. Especially since the major employer in Christianity, by far, are the churches. And two billion paying believers.

    Historical Jesus scholars claim to use the same methods as secular scholars. However, most were not credentialed by secular graduate departments in History, etc.. Their sense of other disciplines is not complete.

    Most still get their PhD degrees from old religious institutions. Who, as Dale Allison admitted at Princeton Theological Seminary, still retain emotional ties to belief, and theology.




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  29. "I should have said that say, 97% or more of the major writers on Jesus, come from a Christian background.And a childhood in churches."

    That can be said for most atheists I know as well. Are they all closet Christians as well?

    "Though some believe they have put aside their childhood of faith, old habits die hard. "

    So now you claim to know what they believe better than they do? This is getting more ridiculous by the moment.

    "Others simply admit they are still faithful, churchgoers; like James McGrath."

    Yet, strangely, while this terrible grip of orthodoxy prevents McGrath from embracing the one true faith of Mythicism, it somehow doesn't prevent him from holding a view of Jesus that doesn't fit with orthodox Christianity at all. Your whacko attempts at mind-reading still don't explain why it seems it's only Mythicism that these liberal Christians, semi-Christians and ex-Christians resist.

    "But that last step is difficult. Especially since the major employer in Christianity, by far, are the churches. "

    Has it occured to you that they don't take "that last step" because it simply doesn't make any sense? And now you're off in some conspiracy theory La La Land where all academics in this field are in the pay of the churches?! What exactly are you smoking?

    "Historical Jesus scholars claim to use the same methods as secular scholars. However, most were not credentialed by secular graduate departments in History, etc.."

    Because they are in a separate but related field. Can you give some evidence that they don't use the same techniques as any other historian? Because you keep failing to do anything more than insinuate you somehow know their "claim" to use the same methods is wrong.

    "Most still get their PhD degrees from old religious institutions."

    And yet still manage to come up with and embrace all kinds of ideas about Jesus that are not in any way compatible with orthodox Christanity. But, somehow, the mind-control rays of the Christians succeed in keeping them from embracing just one non-Christian conception of Jesus – Mythicism. You keep failing to explain how these magical mind-control powers can be so effective on that one topic but totally ineffective on anything else.

    It's getting dull just listening to you drone on and on with these baseless claims, illogical conspiracies and wishful hand-waving. Any further repetitions of this kooky crap will not be published here. My patience has limits.




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  30. Philo lived in the historical moment when the Roman Republic had just ended; and now Imperial Roman Caesars were declaring themselves to be emperors. And some increasingly said, gods, or sons of gods.

    Philo himself spoke with a few people in these circles.

    So Philo certainly knew about say, in effect, Roman "messiahs" or alleged saviors. And I'm suggesting that the new idea of a Jewish son of God, was borrowed from, ironically, Romans. Though many Jews resisted Roman influences to the death, others did not. Philo was a hellenized Jew, collaborating with the Romans.




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  31. So Philo certainly knew about say, in effect, Roman "messiahs" or alleged saviors.

    You still haven't given any context in which Philo would be detailing a Jewish preacher, prophet or Messianic claimant. Because there is none. Therefore your bullshit claim that Philo "should" have mentioned Jesus fails.

    Any vague reference that may be to divine emperors or emperors as sons of gods are totally irrelevant, since there is zero evidence Jesus was regarded as divine until long after Philo was in the grave.

    Your failure on this point is complete. No repetation of your failed argument will be published – you've been given far more of a hearing than your pathetic attempts were worth.




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  32. Psychology and sociology both suggest that old habits and extremely strong cultural beliefs, mores, die hard. For that matter, the Bible itself insisted that if you train a child in biblical beliefs, they will never be able to abandon them.

    Probably the Bible was exaggerating. But…? Let's use a little psychology and sociology here.

    Most people indoctrinated from childhood into strong religious ideologies, values, find it hard to cast off these, and central cultural narratives, entirely. So we'd expect residual belief even in scholars.

    For that matter, even in many who believe they are atheists.




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  33. "Psychology and sociology both suggest that old habits and extremely strong cultural beliefs, mores, die hard"

    Gosh. So I wonder how anyone who was raised religiously ever manages to become an atheist then. According to your crackpot pseudo psychology, that should almost never happen, yet there are millions of formerly religious people who have embraced atheism – myself included. It seems that the iron grip of religion is pretty weak when there is sufficient reason to abandon it. Now, what does that tell you about Mythicism, logic boy?

    And you keep gingerly avoiding the issue of all the Jewish scholars who specialise in this period of Judaism and who fully accept a historical Jesus. In fact, I can't think of a single example of a Jewish Mythicist scholar. Yet there is a whole cadre of Jewish scholars who specialise in the study of the New Testament from a wholly Jewish perspective – just four years ago about 50 of them came together to produce the Jewish Annotated New Testament. None of them are mythicists either. Your bullshit excuses above don't explain why Mythicism is as totally unconvincing to these non-Christians as it is to … pretty much everyone else in the field.

    Why? Because it just doesn't work. That's why it's the preferred theory of crackpot New Age loons and weird fringe contrarians and pretty much no-one else. Go away – you're beaten here.




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  34. A small percentage of Jewish scholars, mostly in recent years, might accept an historical Jesus, for theological reasons. Because 1) recent ecumenicalism would allow some acknowledgement of Jesus. Then too, 2) a minimal Jesus is no threat to Judaism.

    Christian scholars also like minimal Jesus for theological reasons too. As a fig leaf or compromise device. The minimal Jesus still 1) doesn't quite entirely deny Jesus, to believers. Even as 2)it allows scholars to discover many negative elements in the faiths.

    So the historical minimal Jesus is a politically useful compromise between the old faith, and a more critical era.

    Why did so many Christian scholars continue to bother with this fig leaf, this compromise? Because in part, 3)they more than atheists, had professionally studied religion out of a typically stronger childhood devotion, than most. And a minimal Jesus retains at least a memory or vestige of their childhood devotion.

    In contrast, those who are atheists today, were mostly able (except you and proportionately a few others) to cast it all off.

    The social pressure to continue nominally acknowledging Jesus is immense. Most very religious scholars were not able to entirely cast it off. Those who became atheists though, have been overall, more capable of that.

    Some atheists, particularly under the influence of believing religious scholars like McGrath, have bought their argument that they present real history. But that is a mistake. Their minimal Jesus is actually their nominal compromise with their childhood faith.




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  35. ""I should have said that say, 97% or more of the major writers on Jesus, come from a Christian background. And a childhood in churches. Though some believe they have put aside their childhood of faith, old habits die hard. Others simply admit they are still faithful, churchgoers; like James McGrath.

    Such persons are still emotionally tied to Jesus. And so they can't quite take the final step of concluding he was entirely fictional. They accepted the incremental whittling down of Jesus. But that last step is difficult. Especially since the major employer in Christianity, by far, are the churches. And two billion paying believers.

    Historical Jesus scholars claim to use the same methods as secular scholars. However, most were not credentialed by secular graduate departments in History, etc.. Their sense of other disciplines is not complete.

    Most still get their PhD degrees from old religious institutions. Who, as Dale Allison admitted at Princeton Theological Seminary, still retain emotional ties to belief, and theology."

    Bretton, the tragedy here is that you're serious. And you're part of the problem. You seem to regard yourself as part of an educated elite group of people who have the education and maturity to completely throw off the shackles of religions, the last pathetic vestige being the idea that a man named Jesus actually existed. Historical Jesus scholars use the same methods as other scholars but guess what? Most historians agree with the Jesus scholars! All serious historians agree with New Testament scholars that Jesus actually existed. You make it sound as though all serious secular historians believe that Jesus never existed and it's only the pathetic and childish New Testament scholars, all of them religious, because they still need to desperately cling to some mythical holy man who never lived.

    I have a hard time being polite to mythicists. I used to believe that Tim was perhaps being a tad bit harsh and a bit too scornful of them but after the grotesquely stupid bullshit that I have seen from many of them, I have concluded that Tim's scorn is perfectly justified.




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  36. Hi Tim,

    You wrote in http://www.strangenotions .com (I think it was 2014) this paragraph:

    "Since it is wholly unlikely that a Christian interpolator invented the whole story of the deposition of the High Priest just to slip in this passing reference to Jesus, Mythicists try to argue that the key words which identify which Jesus is being spoken of are interpolated. Unfortunately this argument does not work. This is because the passage is discussed no less than three times in mid-third century works by the Christian apologist Origen and he directly quotes the relevant section with the words "Jesus who was called the Messiah" all three times: in Contra Celsum I.4, in Contra Celsum II:13 and in Commentarium in evangelium Matthaei X.17. Each time he uses precisely the phrase we find in Josephus: αδελφος Ιησου του λεγομενου Χριστου ("the brother of that Jesus who was called Messiah"). This is significant because Origen was writing a whole generation before Christianity was in any kind of position to be tampering with texts of Josephus. If this phrase was in the passage in Origen's time, then it was clearly original to Josephus."

    Why at that time Christian scribes would not be "in any kind of position to be tampering with texts of Josephus"?




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  37. Because Origen was writing in the mid third century, meaning any copy of Josephus he was referring to was written earlier than that. And in the third century Christianity was a very small, highly marginalised, illegal and occasionally actively persecuted sect. It's estimated that Christians represented only 5-10% of the population when Constantine converted in the early fourth century. Which means they were an even smaller minority 50-60 years earlier, and one made up mainly of the lower classes. They were not large enough, educated enough or significant enough to somehow influence the text of a Jewish work.

    A century later things had changed considerably. Christianity was now not only legal, it was sponsored by the rulers of the Empire and people began converting to it in droves. By then more and more educated people were Christians and they were in a position to influence which version of Josephus' text survived. This is why we only find references to the Bk XVIII account of Jesus then – after it had been doctored to bolster Christian claims.

    But the references to the Bk XX mention of Jesus and James by Origen dates to a much earlier and very different period of early Christian history and this means the key phrase is most likely original, not added.




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  38. Thank you Tim for your previous reply.

    The surviving manuscripts of non-Christian Greco-Roman text (e.g. Tacitus' Annuals. Plato's works) are often dated as 500 to 1000 years after the original copy. How do scholars of such classical works justify their confidence that GENERALLY the text in these late copies (e.g. Josephus) reflect the original since during the years in between others could be adding or changing the text?




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  39. Given that pretty much all of our texts from classical writers come from copies made centuries later, scholars have to work with what they have. Despite what Mythicists tell you (given that they "see" interpolations whenever a text says something they don't like), scholars don't assume tampering with the text unless there is something to clearly indicate it – a phrase or passage that sticks out linguistically or stylistically or contains content that indicates a later idea or attitude. Or if there are textual variants across copies or paraphrases. The Testimonium has all these elements. The Bk. XX reference does not.

    So scholars can't be sure that there aren't other interpolations in any of these ancient works. But unless there is some sign there are, they work on the assumption that the textus receptus is more or less what the author wrote. The alternative would be to mistrust all our sources completely and abandon historical analysis from them altogether, which doesn't really make much sense.




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  40. Hi Tim,

    I forgot where I have read you writing that Josephus returned from Rome to Jerusalem before James the brother of Jesus was executed (i.e. Josephus would have been back in Jerusalem by 62CE). Hence when James was executed, Josephus would be in Jerusalem. Elsewhere I thought I read others saying that Josephus returned from Rome to Jerusalem only around 65/66 CE. If the latter is the case, would Josephus be around in Jerusalem when James was executed? Which should be the case – Josephus returned to Jerusalem before or after James' execution?

    Are you the same Tim who earned a PhD from the University of Washington and who specialized in the cultural and intellecutal history of East Asia?




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  41. "Elsewhere I thought I read others saying that Josephus returned from Rome to Jerusalem only around 65/66 CE. If the latter is the case, would Josephus be around in Jerusalem when James was executed? Which should be the case – Josephus returned to Jerusalem before or after James' execution?"

    To be honst, it's hard to say exactly when Josephus returned to Jerusalem. His Vita 3 says he travelled to Rome to free some priests who had been arrested and sent to Rome by Marcus Antonius Felix, who we know left office in 60 AD, so the journey to Rome can't have been after at least that year. And he says he succeeded in his embassy thanks to winning the favour of Nero's wife, Poppea Sabina, who died in 65 AD, so we have a five year window in which he could have been in Rome.

    But he finishes Vita 3 by saying simply "I returned home again" directly after saying he had received "many presents from Poppea". And then begins Vita 4 by saying "[a]nd now I perceived innovations were already begun, and that there were a great many very much elevated in hopes of a revolt from the Romans." This is why some surmise that this refers to 65 AD and to the events that led to open revolt. But his accounts of the rule of both Lucceius Albinus and his successor Gessius Florus in The Jewish War and Antiquities indicate that the escalation of radicalism that lead to the revolt did not suddenly begin the year before the war began, but had been building over the whole of the previous two procuratorships, so its not really possible to pin the "now" of Vita 4 to 65 AD. So I think the best we can say is that he returned to Jerusalem sometime between 61 and 65 AD, though given that this is a very long time to be away I'm more inclined to him returning in 61-62 AD – i.e. before or around the time of James' execution.

    Not that it makes much difference. Whether he had returned from Rome or whether he did so not long after the execution in 62 AD, the deposition of a high priest was a big deal and a young man from a priestly family would have been well informed about the sequence of events regardless of whether he was in the city at the time or not. The point stands.

    "Are you the same Tim who earned a PhD from the University of Washington and who specialized in the cultural and intellecutal history of East Asia?"

    No, I'm not. I'm Australian and I did a Masters in Medieval English at the University of Tasmania.




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