Wednesday, April 25, 2012

An atheist criticizes the Jesus Myth

And the New Atheism's fascination with it. Here.

159 comments:

Eric said...

Personally, I'm almost as interested in (and perplexed by) the New Atheists' fascination with Carrier as I am with their fascination with Mythicism...

Blue Devil Knight said...

Are New Atheists really fascinated by it? Has Dawkins, Harris, Dennett made strong claims that Jesus didn't exist? Richard Carrier isn't exactly mainstream, most people I know have never heard of him, but have heard of Dennett etc..

Aside from that sociological quibble (and note I am not a fan of Harris, Dawins, or Dennett on this topic), it is a nice diatribe he has written. At least the first part: I need to finish it.

I thought Carrier's response to Ehrman was very good, though (although the Catholic cock stuff that he focused on was a bit weird, and easy to rebut, so I'm disappointed that Ehrman focused his entire response on that bit of Carrier's post).

Perhaps that I thought it was very good just shows how abysmally ignorant I am of the relevant scholarship. I am ready to accept that charge. Alas I should just stick to what I know something about.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I should say, rereading Carrier it does seem he has a tendency of picking the least charitable interpretation of Ehrman possible.

BenYachov said...

The thing is Jesus Mythers are pretty much the Young Earth Creationists of Atheism.

AmirF said...

No surprise that they don't know the correct meaning of "myth," yet confidently employ the word.

Crude said...

Are New Atheists really fascinated by it? Has Dawkins, Harris, Dennett made strong claims that Jesus didn't exist? Richard Carrier isn't exactly mainstream, most people I know have never heard of him, but have heard of Dennett etc..

PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne are boosting Carrier heavily in this dispute, and I think Dawkins has at least flirted with the idea in the past. Harris is a no-show (he was also a no-show at the recent Atheist ho-down, from what I hear), and the Cult of Gnu stopped paying attention to Dennett roundabout the time he got schooled in debate by D'Souza. The Scrappy Doo of Christian Apologetics. Given the serious philosopher hate the cult has been into recently, I'm not sure Dennett would even want to be associated with them by now.

Between this and the Krauss backlash, I think we're seeing an evolution of the Cult of Gnu from "angry, typically slow individuals" to full-blown crackpots. I wonder when the accusations will come that Ehrman is a Vatican stooge.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Crude I am frankly out of the loop with 'new atheism' but I'd be surprised if Dennett were really that marginalized. He is often treated as an honorary scientist (cognitive scientist) because of his work on the 'intentional stance' and consciousness.

Losing one debate is pretty common among atheists against Christians (esp "evolutionists" against "creationists"). Look how many debates Carrier and Loftus have lost, often quite badly, but their popularity apparently remains.

I am at this point simply resigned to the fact that there is now a huge number of superficial atheists on the internet, and they are very popular. They play the game of giving a crappy philosophical argument against theists, while at the same time refusing to engage with philosophical arguments, or simply changing the subject once the arguments are addressed.

It goes as follows:
P1: Argument X (e.g., I only believe in one less God than you, and when you understand why you don't believe in Zeus, you will understand why I don't believe in Yahweh).
P2: But here are the 20 reasons I believe in Yahweh and not Zeus, that suggest there is a disanalogy.
P1: I don't have the time for your silly theological distinctions, you are obviously just biased and will believe no matter what I say.

The blogosophere is typically just a Bad Place for serious discussion.

OTOH I do see some benefits of people flat out claiming they think the whole enterprise so riduculous that it would be a waste of time. That is, to really engage would be like spending valuable intellectual energy on extremely complicated fairy tales with no connection to reality.

But to then go on and on in that vein seems like a complete waste of time. Might as well read some of the arguments at that point, if you are writing books on the subject. That's when it becomes a bit odd.

BenYachov said...

I should note the way the Gnus treat Ehrman is not unlike how some extremist Creationists or extremist ID proponents might treat someone like Francis Collins.

There is a class of philosophically ignorant and incompetent Theist that can't comprehend how God might work threw evolution. Ironically the Cult of the Gnu shares their defect. Even more ironic the claim Jesus never existed doesn't pass the laugh test for a serious historian regardless of "god-belief".

Tis bizarre! I don't as a Catholic believe in either Muhammad or Joseph Smith but you don't see me running around saying they didn't exist.

OTOH I might believe someone like Krishna was a mythical figure but I am certainly open to the possibility he was based on a real person. If a Hindu or non-Hindu Christian historian presents evidence or a plausible claims that a fellow named Krishna really existed I'm not gonna stamp my feet & say "You a pro-Hindu and bias". I can still disbelieve in Krishna on the religious level and believe a person was the basis of Krishna existed.

Tweebs like Carrier who oppose Christianity politically seem to need Jesus not to exist. In their minds it makes their case for Atheism more powerful. The YEC thinks the same thing in his anti-evolution polemic.

But I've heard Theistic Evolutionist and some Old Earther complain YEC just hurts the Christian cause and leads to unbelief when it is refuted.

Might I suggest Jesus Mythism is just as much a liability for evangelistic minded Atheist?

Think about it.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Let's not get carried away here.

It has never been a major part of recent atheist arguments that Jesus never existed, and typically the new wave of atheists quite like Ehrman, and consider him an ally.

Mythicism has never been a major plank in "new atheism."

Let's not overreact to Carrier's post and the fallout from Carrier's post, and act like he is the voice of "new atheists". Just because someone likes Carrier's post (I did) doesn't mean they are a myther, or a new atheist dilettante.

If Jesus actually existed, and the scholarly consensus on that is right, then they should be able to make their case for the new wave of people asking the question. If it isn't just a dogma based on shotty methodology (as Carrier suggests), then they will be able to show the evidence, and reasonable people will follow.

It's not as if it is crazy to ask if he actually existed, when the main lines of historical evidence are the documents of the religion itself.

Blue Devil Knight said...

That is a key point in my last sentence. In the transition from apologetics to history, it is key to ask questions anew about what seemed obvious when historians themselves took the "sacred texts" as sacred.

If this "new look" at old questions has already happened, and been answered conclusively, then making the case should be easy. My hunch is that it is not as easy as people think it is.

Anthony Fleming said...

BDK you wrote, "It's not as if it is crazy to ask if he actually existed, when the main lines of historical evidence are the documents of the religion itself."

I don't think it is bad to ask the question but I don't think the documents from the "religion itself" should be minimized as evidence. History is told through those who saw it. The fact that they also believed him should not damage their testimony. In fact, in some ways, it may denote a more accurate reporting because of their belief. Also the "undesigned coincidences" that Tim McGrew is promoting anew are pretty compelling. At least I think so.

Secondly, we don't solely have the gospels. We also have the writings of the apostles. We also have writings of the apostles that are not in the Bible such as the 3rd and 4th book to the Corinthians.

This is also without mentioning the church fathers and Eusebius quoting Papias.

I personally think much of the reason for such deep questioning to Jesus' existence comes from failed attempts to create a historical Jesus. To me, however, getting rid of Jesus doesn't help: who could have made up such a personality? Even more difficult, what person(s)could come up with a story like that, which is not based on a real person, that could get early Jews (who were not Essenes) to believe it and be willing to die for it?

It's one thing to make up Jesus. Its another to make up Paul, Peter, James, and John. While these guys have many legends surrounding them, one thing is clear, the accounts agree on the types of deaths they suffered for Jesus.

Anthony Fleming said...

BDK, on a separate note and off the subject. I really have enjoyed your neural channels blog. May have some questions for you at some point.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Anthony: yes, just because they are in the Bible doesn't mean they can be dismissed as pure propaganda. But it does become a very tricky business!

Thanks re: neurochannels. I'm now pretty much using it as a place to post stuff about Matlab rather than neuro. :) The consciousness stuff blew up into something that is now a manuscript rather than series of blog posts.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Sorry I played a part in derailing the conversation from the actual article Victor linked to, and to less relevant issues.

Tony Hoffman said...

I can't comment on the popular mythicists (I haven't read any that I can recall), but when I was being taught history in college in the 1980's it was commonly understood that the stories told in a period like Antiquity were not necessarily (and rarely) factual. We read things like the story of Romulus and Remus not to understand how Rome was founded, but what stories Romans found useful for building cohesion, establishing a national character, justifying conquest, etc.

Anyone who studies history at a decent university learns very quickly (if they didn't know this already) that history is partly about stories, and those stories that survive do so partly because the group that tells them survives to keep on telling them. To that extent, ancient history need not be true, it need only surve a purpose to improve group cohesion, enlistment, etc.

The fact that Jesus need not have existed in order for the documents of the New Testament to exist are so unremarkable that the fact would not require much, if any comment, in the history classes I remember.

Anthony Fleming said...

Tony,

I find several difficulties with that idea. First, yes many did make things up. Few historical scholars (even those form a "descent university") apply that to the gospels. Why? Because the gospels are not based solely on narrative. They are biographical with the authors full intent on actually researching to learn of the actual events (Luke 1). Mark starts off saying it is the Such a thing was not common in the times of antiquity.

Secondly, there are just too many other difficult historical problems with that idea. Like the lives and writings of the apostles that all concentrate on an actual person and event. Thirdly, there are form difficulties with that view. These things were written in similar time periods, have a boat load of copies, and agree on a central story with some being from a common source (Q), and yet have unique content. Linguistic terms also make this difficult like the common idiom of the synoptics being "this age and the age to come" vs. in John, "a time is coming and is already here." Lastly, there is the difficulty with Jewish culture and religion. This is one that would have had to have been made up in the area in which it is said to have come from. The details of the feasts, places, and the practices of that time are extroidinary and have been backed up with archeological findings.

So, if they are fabricated then we also happen to have a bunch of guys who spread this message and wrote to believers and churches they would preach to on actually seeing these things (2nd Peter 1:16). Furthermore, from these epsitles we see that these guys knew each other and affirmed each other in being witnesses to these events (Paul's talk of Peter in Galatians, Peter affirming Paul's writings). Even more so, we happen to have a story that was "made up" at a particular time (from someone who lived or knew a lot from such a place) that led Jews to travel the world (like Thomas to India) to spread the message of this "not so true" story. All this without even addressing the Gospels themselves.

Crude said...

Crude I am frankly out of the loop with 'new atheism' but I'd be surprised if Dennett were really that marginalized. He is often treated as an honorary scientist (cognitive scientist) because of his work on the 'intentional stance' and consciousness.

The only thing you can mean here is that, among some people into philosophy of mind, he's held in high regard. But A) he's still "just" a philosopher, and B) even among atheists and philosophers, his views are controversial at best, niche at worst.

You really don't have to go far to see the Cult of Gnu bashing philosophy and philosophers regularly.

Losing one debate is pretty common among atheists against Christians (esp "evolutionists" against "creationists"). Look how many debates Carrier and Loftus have lost, often quite badly, but their popularity apparently remains.

Uh... :D

I don't think 'popular' can really be applied to Loftus, except insofar as the guys at Triablogue are popular: they have some fans, but they're not really on the radar. He vacated Freethought Blogs in large part because he was just marginalized over there, and said as much.

Carrier, as near as I can tell, doesn't debate all that much anymore - he mostly hangs out on his blog and works with CFI. The problem with Dennett was that he didn't bring much of interest to the table. He didn't have Hitchens' wit, Harris' passion, or Dawkins' presence. About all he had was an association with Dawkins and a vague reputation (to people who aren't super-interested in philosophy of mind) as a smart academic. And the latter took a big hit when he, early on, had his big loss to what was at that time a complete scrub.

That's my estimation of how it went - reject it if you want. But I don't think it's even controversial to say that Gnuners pay next to zero attention to him now.

It has never been a major part of recent atheist arguments that Jesus never existed, and typically the new wave of atheists quite like Ehrman, and consider him an ally.

Mythicism has never been a major plank in "new atheism."


Like him? Consider him an ally? Tell PZ Myers, who went off on how Carrier cold-cocked him and made him look like a fool. Tell Coyne, who boosted Carrier's reputation, said that if Ehrman doesn't have a substantial reply to Carrier then he will lose all credibility, and then when the reply came Coyne said he'd rather go birdwatching rather than read it.

You're talking about guys who repeatedly go to (verbal) war with "accommodationists". They liked Ehrman when he was 'the guy who argues against Christian biblical claims'. Coyne and Myers - not exactly Dawkins, but considerable bishops in the Cult - are now treating him as having sacrificed his credibility.

Myers is explicitly a mythicist now. Coyne hasn't said it outright, but he's certainly backing Carrier over Ehrman here. Dawkins, AFAIK, hasn't weighed in. I don't think Jesus mythicism has been a 'plank' in the New Atheism cause. But I think it's now established as a very popular idea among the gnus - and really, that's bad enough.

Tony Hoffman said...

Anthony, you are fooling yourself if you think that any significant number of historians from the top 100 universities in the country don't apply the same historical standard to the Gospels as they do to the Gospels. You act as if you've never head for the historical critical method, and that you're unaware that this has been the predominant way of looking at history for at least the last 100 years. If you believe otherwise I'd guess that you simply havent' actually researched this topic or been exposed to that environment.

Here's something that I think most Christians should ponder; what is the best explanation that the man who most effectively assumed the mantle of Christianity never met the living Jesus? Isn't it odd that in every other cult of personality that I can think of, the cult continued under the stewardship of one who was closely and intimately associated with the charismatic founder? Christianity certainly breaks this mold, as it does in so many other ways.

I think the thing that apologists most often mistake among skeptics isn't that we think that Jesus did not exist; it is that we know that he need not have existed in order for us to have the kind of historical record that we do. The most interesting thing about Jesus, you see, isn't the possibility of a fact of mundane existence, but the admittedly extraordinary success, through the ages, of what began as a humble cult. And that makes for fascinating history no matter how you look at it.

Tony Hoffman said...

Btw, first sentence should read, "Anthony, you are fooling yourself if you think that any significant number of historians from the top 100 universities in the country don't apply the same historical standard to the Gospels as they do to the EVERY OTHER HISTORICAL TOPIC.

BenYachov said...

So Paul never met the Earthly Jesus? Big deal I never met the Earthly Pope John Paul II but I've met at least 5 people or more who have & Paul met hundreds of people who met Jesus.

>it is that we know that he need not have existed in order for us to have the kind of historical record that we do.

This is the Gnu Atheist equivalent of saying "God created the Dinosaur bones to test Our Faith" as some YEC have been known to do.

Sorry but the nature and the quality of the evidence can only lead to one rational conclusion.

A fellow named Jesus existed. The idea that he didn't is a fringe view.

Is it remotely plausible he didn't exist?

Of course just as it is remotely plausible if there is a God He created the dinosaur bones and is having a laugh at Prof Dawkins' expense. As well as Francis Collins while Jerry Falwell sits in the afterlife with a shit-eating grin saying "I told your so!".

Anthony Fleming said...

Tony,

What exactly did I say that would lead you to my ignorance of the historical critical method? What principles or procedures did I violate or act in ignorance of?

So your saying that because Christianity didn't have a single follower to carry the message it is less reliable? Or it simply breaks the molds of other religions. If the ladder then I agree.

When it comes to most skeptical arguments about the existence of Jesus I am led to believe one of two things (assuming they are not lying). Either the person is uninformed of what the witnesses of Jesus actually wrote and said (including the epistles) or their skepticism is purposely ignorant. Such skepticism becomes hard to trust in other disciplines.

I would be very interested if I could see something from historical criticism or form criticism to help back up the skepticism.

Tony you wrote, "I think the thing that apologists most often mistake among skeptics isn't that we think that Jesus did not exist; it is that we know that he need not have existed in order for us to have the kind of historical record that we do."

Ok..how?

Anthony Fleming said...

One more thing,

"I think the thing that apologists most often mistake among skeptics isn't that we think that Jesus did not exist; it is that we know that he need not have existed in order for us to have the kind of historical record that we do"

I think that the discovery of the law of non-contradiction could have arisen without Aristotle. I still think there was an Aristotle.

Tony Hoffman said...

TF: "What exactly did I say that would lead you to my ignorance of the historical critical method?"

I though this: "First, yes many did make things up. Few historical scholars (even those form a "descent university") apply that to the gospels." The historical critical method, if applied evenly, would incline one to think that just as the stories of Ulysses, Heracles, Dionysius, etc. are largely legends and embellishments that served a cultural purpose, the stories around Jesus should likely be viewed the same way.

TF: "What principles or procedures did I violate or act in ignorance of?"

The one above, where you appeared to exempt the stories around Jesus from being legendary, serving a cultural purpose, etc.

TF: "So your saying that because Christianity didn't have a single follower to carry the message it is less reliable?"

I was pointing out one of the many ways that the Gospels don't comport with what we know of similar happenings. Those who think it is implausible that Jesus did not exist must ignore, it seems, the many things that we do not see that we'd expect to -- relics, veneration of a tomb, independent attestations, a line of succession that depended on first-hand knowledge of the leader, etc. It isn't just the documents that are, you see, it's all the other things that aren't, as well.

TF: "Or it simply breaks the molds of other religions. If the ladder then I agree."

It appears very similar (but more successful) to many religions in many ways. It is dissimilar, as are all, in many others. The only essential difference from one religion to another would be, I'd think, that that religions supernatural claims are true.

TF: "When it comes to most skeptical arguments about the existence of Jesus I am led to believe one of two things (assuming they are not lying). Either the person is uninformed of what the witnesses of Jesus actually wrote and said (including the epistles) or their skepticism is purposely ignorant."

This actually seems like you're making the same claim both times -- ignorance. I have read the entire New Testament, and studied it (from an exegetical perspective, as well as historical critical) for a semester in college. What exactly are you thinking the epistles said about Jesus that I am ignorant of, and why should I find it more persuasive than I did?

TF: "I would be very interested if I could see something from historical criticism or form criticism to help back up the skepticism."

Read history. Lots of it. I highly recommend the work of Peter Brown on late Antiquity. I think that the Gnostic Gospels, by Elaine Pagels, is also an excellent (but sideways) way to understand the period and gives the Gospels a context in which they are rarely read.

TF: Tony you wrote, "I think the thing that apologists most often mistake among skeptics isn't that we think that Jesus did not exist; it is that we know that he need not have existed in order for us to have the kind of historical record that we do."Ok..how?

For the same reason we have legends, stories, and myths in so many other cultures throughout time. Look at the historical record we have of countless other supernatural beings throughout history. Look at the question of whether or not Hannibal crossed the Alps (or even existed as a single man or was a conglomeration of a succession of military leaders), or the aggrandizement of a forefather's military exploits in the middle ages, or any of hundreds of other examples of stories evolving and changing as they were told and passed among groups.

Anthony Fleming said...

Tony,

I wrote, "First, yes many did make things up. Few historical scholars (even those form a "descent university") apply that to the gospels."

Yes, that was clumsy of me. My point was to say that there are not many historical scholars that believe the gospels as such. Very poor wording on my part.

I will get to your other points tomorrow. In the mean time have a nice night.

BeingItself said...

I find this whole Jesus Myth business a tiresome detraction. We just don't have enough information to decide either way. I'm agnostic on the issue.

A more interesting question is this: suppose Jesus was an historical person, what do we know about his life? The answer is almost nothing. The only sources we have are obviously unreliable, with the idiotic stories of demon possessed pigs, shambling zombies, and other fairy tales no reasonable person could believe.

So, if Jesus existed, we know nothing specific about him.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Crude as I said Dennett is treated as an honorary scientist, and escapes the scorn aimed at philosophers. This is partly because he also likes to eviscerate philosophers for being useless nitpicks.

Dennett is still in the fold.

Crude said...

BDK,

Crude as I said Dennett is treated as an honorary scientist, and escapes the scorn aimed at philosophers.

Yeah, I'm not seeing this. Maybe among guys who are big fans of Dennett's writings on philosophy of mind the "honorary scientist" label gets applied, but that's a vastly smaller group than the Cult of Gnu.

Sorry, but Dennett's star plummetted among the cult a while ago. It's not like he's hated, but he's pretty much irrelevant. And the idea that anyone but a real tiny cadre of fans imagine he's an "honorary scientist" is just wishful thinking.

This is partly because he also likes to eviscerate philosophers for being useless nitpicks.

Hahaha, no. Whatever pull Dennett had among the cult at large largely came from "He attacks Christians and likes Darwinism, so he's good!" Are you under the impression that most Gnus delve into philosophy of mind beyond making fun of a caricature of substance dualism? They're barely interested in detailed science, and that's a subject they actually pretend to care about.

Dennett is still in the fold.

Sure. Filed away as "some guy who is also an atheist". As I said, most of the gnus stopped paying attention to him ages ago. He's just pretty irrelevant. Not completely - he does have a fan here and there. But yeah, that star fell years ago.

Crude said...

BI,

I find this whole Jesus Myth business a tiresome detraction. We just don't have enough information to decide either way. I'm agnostic on the issue.

No, we do have enough information to decide. Which is why even agnostics and atheists in NT studies have decided en masse: given the evidence we have, the far and away most reasonable conclusion is that yes, Jesus did exist.

Do you think saying "I'm agnostic about this" doesn't flag you as being either ignorant or a crackpot on this issue? If so, think again. Go be agnostic about whether Socrates lived while you're at it.

So, if Jesus existed, we know nothing specific about him.

Except where he lived, when he lived, when he died, how he died, who he associated with, what he taught, what religion he was, etc. Ignoring your ruling things out entirely due to naturalistic bias.

You freaking crackpot. Wait, let me guess: it's all a conspiracy. ;)

BenYachov said...

Well spoken Crude. People who are "neutral" about the existence of Jesus are on the same level as nutjobs who claim they are "neutral" about either the holocaust or the moon landing.

If you are "neutral" about the existence of Jesus then you are no better than a Myther.

It's a lunatic position held by stubborn irrational people.

Ignacius of Antioch was a disciple of John the Apostle. So who made up Jesus? Did they make up John too? It Ignacious a myth & where is the evidence of the people concocting this myth?

So Jesus and Company are the Captain Tuttel's of the ancient world?

It's a stupid believe. An Atheist who values reason should have more pride then to believe this shit.

Cheers.

Anthony Fleming said...

“The historical critical method, if applied evenly, would incline one to think that just as the stories of Ulysses, Heracles, Dionysius, etc. are largely legends and embellishments that served a cultural purpose, the stories around Jesus should likely be viewed the same way.”

Ok, why? What particular thing about the story of Jesus served a particular cultural purpose? Jesus was a suffering servant instead of a conquering messiah. He was a man who would die and rise again for a “spiritual” kingdom rather than an earthly kingdom. This was incredibly foreign to ideas the Jews had of a messiah. It was also completely foreign to the kind of gods the Romans esteemed, who looked for glory and great victory. In terms of Dionysius, Heracles, and Ulysses, they all flowed within a certain cultural stream. Their stories venerated values of the time.

We also have separate writings by individuals that either knew those who knew Jesus or actually knew him. How does that compare with any of the other legends you bring up?

There are several that we do know, and that one must commit themselves to, even if Jesus did not exist:
- That this story was made up close to the time period that it claims
- That it used real people and events from that time period and even gave genealogical references for the most important characters.
- That they, for no reason, gave anonymity to certain individuals like in Mark 14:51.
- That Jews, from that time period and that area spread the message in Jerusalem – Josephus
- These people, whether they made up the story or not, went throughout the ancient world spreading the message of this made up story and gave their lives for it.

There is actually a lot more that one could add here. I think this is sufficient.

Even so, I think it would be more difficult for you to point out a particular cultural stream that the story of Jesus took advantage of, from Jewish Culture (Pharisees, Sadjucees, or Essenes), Roman Culture, or a mix of the cultures. Jesus was the suffering servant, a messiah that suffered and died. This was a problem for the Roman, the Hellenist, and the Jew. A man who promoted peaceful martyrdom over a culture of war? That didn't appeal to the Roman at the time. A messiah who wouldn't become a literal Davidic king to help break the people of God from Roman rule? That wouldn't appeal to the Jews and especially the Essenes. A man who was a messiah and yet wanted to keep his messiah-ship a secret? Or making up a character who is somehow divine yet couldn't convince everyone to believe in him, even after having seen him raised from the dead? Then upon being raised from the dead the authors of the made up story choose to have women be the first witnesses? It seems the better explanation is that the authors were appealing a man who had actually lived.

Anthony Fleming said...

“Those who think it is implausible that Jesus did not exist must ignore, it seems, the many things that we do not see that we'd expect to -- relics, veneration of a tomb, independent attestations, a line of succession that depended on first-hand knowledge of the leader, etc. It isn't just the documents that are, you see, it's all the other things that aren't, as well.”

Ok. In terms of relics...the shroud of Turin doesn't count? I know people who have been to Jerusalem. There is actually a tomb that they believe he was buried in. They also uncovered Peter's house. They have also uncovered a lot of the places Jesus taught and did miracles at. What else do you want? A roman statue of him? Of course that would be preposterous. Would you like his gold necklaces and his fancy clothes? Jesus was not a rich man of great wealth. He didn't have a lot of possessions and he was not a member of the ruling class. We have inscriptions of Herod, Pilate, and Festus and information on Caiphas. Almost nothing has been found in relation to the lives of common individuals. What little there is is buried from Titus. So what are you looking for exactly?

In terms of independent attestations: that's what I am referring to with the epistles as well as the gospels, as well as epistles not included in the Bible. In terms of succession: what about the apostle John to Polycarp to Ireneaus? Or what about Peter and Paul's pupil, Clement? Do you need a succession of disciples all the way to today? Would churches count? In terms of eye witness testimony: what are you looking for? I think Eusebius quoting Papias is very interesting. The quotes of Tacitus are interesting as well. Other than that, like I already wrote, we barely have anything from the lives of common individuals at that time period.

Anthony Fleming said...

“What exactly are you thinking the epistles said about Jesus that I am ignorant of, and why should I find it more persuasive than I did?”

Because the epistles are coming from people who are not the gospel writers yet give witness to Jesus' existence. Would you like specific quotes?

“For the same reason we have legends, stories, and myths in so many other cultures throughout time. Look at the historical record we have of countless other supernatural beings throughout history. Look at the question of whether or not Hannibal crossed the Alps (or even existed as a single man or was a conglomeration of a succession of military leaders), or the aggrandizement of a forefather's military exploits in the middle ages, or any of hundreds of other examples of stories evolving and changing as they were told and passed among groups. “

I'm looking for something more specific. To simply say, “we find myths and superstitions in history” means nothing to evidence of Jesus' actual existence. If you want to say, “there are myths in history and I choose (based on my own assumptions) that such could be the case for Jesus as well” then fine. People can choose what they want to believe about Jesus. To me, at that point, it sounds very much like a type of fundamentalism. If you want to say, “I think Jesus existed but the stories about him are seeped with legend.” Well, then we will be in a different conversation. If you want to say, “I think the disciples came to the wrong tomb” I would say that such is a fair point and then discuss it. I am willing to discuss actual arguments against the historicity of Jesus. You haven't yet provided one with any real substance.

Anthony Fleming said...

Tony, I have really enjoyed this conversation with you. Thanks for taking the time. Sorry for the book I just posted! If you respond, I will respond once more (but shorter) and then you can have the last word. Thanks again.

Anthony Fleming said...

For Being Itself,

There are a lot of other things we know about Jesus from the gospels. First, he seemed to care a lot about love for a neighbor and love for God and God's love for humanity. He treated humans as an end in themselves with intrinsic value such as the story of the good Samaritan. He refused to be a political ruler or king despite the attempts of the people.

Jesus venerated women, allowed them to be a part of the group, taught them individually, had close women friends, and even first appeared to women after having rose from the dead. He also helped protect a woman who was guilty of adultery from being stoned. This was in a time where the testimony of a woman was worthless.

He helped children. Every time a parent asked him for help in relation to their children he did. He esteemed children in a time where children were not esteemed. In fact, I cannot find another character in antiquity that had such high regard and even fascination for children. Several times he appeals to children in his teachings and made good examples of them.

Those are just a few things. There is quite a bit more. You may even want to open your New Testament and see what he really said and did.

BenYachov said...

Another problem with Jesus "not existing" is a host of Atheist explanations for the resurrection are out the window.

Do you favor the cognitive dissonance theory or hallucination theory? That's out the window as how can you explain the Apostle's feeling guilty about JC's death causing them to imagine his resurrection when they made him up in the first place? Oh wait the Apostles are made up too? So Ignacous and Polycarpt imagined their Teachers John and Peter existed & went to their deaths proclaiming the teachings of persons they never knew?

Every Atheist who wants to be enlightened should travel to the Quodibeta forum and read the rants of Tim O'Nell self discribed Australian Atheist Bastard. He is also a historian it seems. He take great pleasure and with great skill in invicirating Mythers. Unlike Ehrman he is not polite about it.

I never met the man to talked to him but I'm a fan.

Tony Hoffman said...

Archibald Leach (who was better known as the actor Cary Grant), reportedly was once told that "Everyone wishes they were Cary Grant.", to which he famously quipped, "I wish I was Cary Grant, too."

Imagine a world where all we knew of Archibald Leach was the characters played by Cary Grant in movies. How much of the facts of Archibald Leach's story could we put together (some, actually).

The question the mythicist asks is, how much of the roles played by Cary Grant were essential to the existence of Archibald Leach (what other actor could have done a serviceable job in that role)?

The mythicist, I think, believes that Archibald Leach was not indispensible to the role. (As evidence, we have all the movies that have been remade without Cary Grant in that role.)

Now take away Cary Grant as seen on the screen, and leave yourself only the words on the page of a screenplay. Now think of how it is that the words for that character could only have been written if Cary Grant existed. I think that is the position that the mythicist takes, if that helps.

BenYachov said...

I just popped into the Quodibeta forum for a peek.

Anyway to give credit where credit is due. O'Nell is crediting Loftus with not drinking the myther cool aid dispite being a friend of Carrier. He is warning New Atheists that Mytherism is not helpful. Good for him.


http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/christian-reaction-to-jesus-mythicism.html

Somehow Loftus does remind me of a Christian Old Earther or Theistic Evolutionist reminding YEC their militant opposition to Evolution is not helpful either.

Nice.

Cheers again!

BeingItself said...

Crude and Ben,

I am not a conspiracy theorists about Christianity. Read something about anthropology of religion. Religion Explained is a good place to start.

You guys think the Bible is a reliable source of information about historical events. I do not. I'm open to being convinced otherwise.

Do you two believe that after Jesus died on the cross a bunch of zombies came out of the ground and strolled around Jerusalem? If not, why not?

I am agnostic about whether Socrates was an historical person. But that does not matter, he was still awesome.

BenYachov said...

BI

You are an uneducated wannabe.

I could in theory deny God. I could deny the the Bible is a completely accurate source of information like O'Nell but with his professional historical training I can also see only non-historian Atheists are impressed by Carrier & his views are on the fringe.

BTW was that a link? Best fix it.

Jesus Mythers are the YEC's of Atheism. Get over it!

BeingItself said...

"Another problem with Jesus "not existing" is a host of Atheist explanations for the resurrection are out the window."

Ben, we agree about something!

I have always been critical of Carrier and others who try to "explain" the empty tomb or other alleged facts from the bible.

They give away too much by even acknowledging there was an empty tomb.

BeingItself said...

Anthony Fleming,

You are confused. Yes, there is a character in the bible named Jesus who said and did certain things. But Captain Kirk says and does certain things as well.

BenYachov said...

BI thinks Mytherism is credible!

Well I'm not surprised.

Anthony Fleming said...

Being,

Your the one who selectively brought up a few things that Jesus did and then asked, "what else do we know about him?"

Do you actually have an argument against the historicity of Jesus or against the article that Victor posted here?

BeingItself said...

"People who are "neutral" about the existence of Jesus are on the same level as nutjobs who claim they are "neutral" about either the holocaust or the moon landing."

More evidence of Ben's epic failure as a critical thinker. The holocaust and moon landing are events of recent history with overwhelming evidence. We do not have any similar evidence for any event or person from 2000 years ago.

BenYachov said...

BI wouldn't last two seconds arguing with O'Nell.

It would be like a YEC teenager with a 7th grader's knowledge of biology arguing with Richard Dawkins over evolution using talking points from the ICR.

In short it would be a massacre.

Anthony Fleming said...

Being you wrote, "You guys think the Bible is a reliable source of information about historical events. I do not. I'm open to being convinced otherwise."

I do think that manuscripts with thousands of copies from 50-400 years of the event (closer than any other copies to original manuscripts in the ancient world) that correspond with archeological evidence, which correspond with other letters of witnesses and contemporaries of witnesses, which corresponds to belief systems and other historical events is probably reliable.

Now if want to ask which part(s), that is an issue with form criticism. For example, most scholars do not believe that Mark 16:9-20 should be attributed to Mark but a later add-in.

So there is a difference between the historical criticism and the form criticism when dealing with historical documents. Which one would you like to discuss?

Anthony Fleming said...

Tony,

Interesting point. Let me get my head around it.

BenYachov said...

Anthony Fleming,

>So there is a difference between the historical criticism and the form criticism when dealing with historical documents. Which one would you like to discuss?

You assuming he actually know what your are talking about here.

BI is a wannabe. He is no better than Paps.

Speaking of Paps I am surprised by his silence here.

Maybe he read the Loftus link I provided above independently(cause he is a fan) & is following his sage advice?

Well go on him too.

Anthony Fleming said...

Ben, I don't have the same experience with BL as you do. I need to give him a chance. Also, is there a way I can contact you in reference to some other questions I have about Aristotelian Thomism. About a year ago you told and BDK told me some things about it. Since then I have read Spitzer's New Proofs for the Existence of God which touches on some things. I then read Feser's The Last Superstition and started his book on Aquinas. Yet, there are a few questions I have that perhaps you could help out with.

Anthony Fleming said...

my email is anthony.r.fleming@gmail.com

BenYachov said...

>Yet, there are a few questions I have that perhaps you could help out with.

I'll do my best or refer you to someone who I think can do better.

Or you could just drop by Feser's blog and start a conversation.

Sometimes the topics their don't have to match up with the subject of the Blog post.

edwardfeser.blogspot.com

Cheers.

Good luck with BI. I think he is hopeless but then again I have no patience.

BenYachov said...

I'll drop you a line tonight Anthony.

Anthony Fleming said...

Ben thanks...

To Being, I wrote, "I do think that manuscripts with thousands of copies from 50-400 years of the event (closer than any other copies to original manuscripts in the ancient world) that correspond with archeological evidence, which correspond with other letters of witnesses and contemporaries of witnesses, which corresponds to belief systems and other historical events is probably reliable. "

I should have wrote, "I do think that over 20,000 full and partial copies from three languages of manuscripts within 50-400 years of the events (closer than any other copies to originals from the ancient world) that correspond with archeological evidence, which correspond with other letters of witnesses and contemporaries of witnesses, which corresponds to belief systems and other historical events is probably reliable. "

Tony Hoffman said...

Anthony, can you name a piece of archaeological evidence that supports the argument that Jesus existed?

B. Prokop said...

"Do you two believe that after Jesus died on the cross a bunch of zombies came out of the ground and strolled around Jerusalem? If not, why not?"

Well, my answer to that would have to be both yes and no. Yes, I do believe that at Jesus's death, a number of certifiably dead persons were raised to life and did walk the streets of Jerusalem for an unspecified period of time. But no, I do not believe they were "zombies". They were living persons, just like you or me.

Using loaded words in an infantile attempt to discredit something you don't believe in only makes you look stupid, not the other guy.

Anthony Fleming said...

Tony, what do you consider as archeological evidence? I never said there was direct archeological evidence that he existed. What evidence would we find? His cloak? Perhaps coins that they had in their treasury money bag? A statue of the donkey he rode?

We could bring up the Shroud of Turin which has some very interesting features.

Even so, I said the copies of the manuscripts correspond to archeological evidence. So, we have gospels biographical narratives on the life of Jesus. We have letters from the earliest Christians discussing his existence and claiming to be eye witnesses. We have Paul claiming to know Jesus' brother and Peter. Peter claiming to know Paul.

Now, with the events reported we do have archeological evidence. We have inscriptions form Pilate, Herod, and Festus. We have information about Caiaphas. We have uncovered the places like the five covered colonnades.

We also have the letters and writings of the disciples of the disciples. We have the letters and writings of disciples of disciples of the disciples.

My point is this. That for someone to have simply "made him up" has some explaining to do in terms of the type of story made up, the fact that we have writings of people in the time period of the made-up story that believed it and were willing to die for it, and that we have archeological findings that support the events described.

Anthony Fleming said...

Also, like what I have already written, there is very little evidence for individuals. The city was destroyed!

There have been studies to show that the names given for the gospel narrative are completely consistent with the names of that time. If the story had taken place, lets say in Alexandria the most common name was Sabateus.

They have also found a medium sized box that had human bones in it for permanent burial after decay. The practice at the time was only employed during the time period of Jesus to the around the destruction of the temple.

On it was inscribed James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus in the Aramaic. I've read that a brother was named only if he had some sort of importance. Yet, the names were very common at the time. So, it doesn't mean Jesus from the gospels but it could.

By the way, have you ever looked through George M. Lamsa's translation of the Aramaic Peshitta texts? Very fascinating especially with the Aramaic idioms used at the time. Also gives great insight to more difficult verses such as the camel passing through the eye of the needle. Camel and Rope look almost identical in the Aramaic.

Food for thought.

Tony Hoffman said...

AF: "Tony, what do you consider as archeological evidence? I never said there was direct archeological evidence that he existed. What evidence would we find? His cloak? Perhaps coins that they had in their treasury money bag? A statue of the donkey he rode?"

I meant the archaeological evidence you were alluding to when you said "achaeological evidence."

AF: "We could bring up the Shroud of Turin which has some very interesting features."

I believe that the Shroud of Turn's most interesting feature is that it is a known fake. Do you think that the shroud is the best archaeological evidence that you are referring to? If not, what is?

AF: "Even so, I said the copies of the manuscripts correspond to archeological evidence."

And I asked if you thought that any of this correspondence between the manuscripts and archaeological evidence related to the existence of a man named Jesus. What is the nature of the correspondence between the two?

AF: "So, we have gospels biographical narratives on the life of Jesus."

Yes.

AF: "We have letters from the earliest Christians discussing his existence and claiming to be eye witnesses."

Name one letter from an early Christian that claims to have been an eyewitness to Jesus of Nazareth.

AF: "We have Paul claiming to know Jesus' brother and Peter. Peter claiming to know Paul."

Which does not relate to archaeological evidence, which was my question.

AF: "Now, with the events reported we do have archeological evidence. We have inscriptions form Pilate, Herod, and Festus. We have information about Caiaphas. We have uncovered the places like the five covered colonnades."

Please relate any of this archaeological evidence to the existence of a man named Jesus. It sounds to me like we have archeaological evidence for Pilate, Herod, and Festus. And the colonnades.

AF: "We also have the letters and writings of the disciples of the disciples. We have the letters and writings of disciples of disciples of the disciples."

I didn't ask about copies of documents. I am asking specifically for you to define what you mean by archaeological evidence for Jesus of Nazareth.

AF: "My point is this. That for someone to have simply "made him up" has some explaining to do in terms of the type of story made up, the fact that we have writings of people in the time period of the made-up story that believed it and were willing to die for it, and that we have archeological findings that support the events described."

What archaeological evidence points to the life of Jesus of Nazareth or to the events of his ministry? The book Harry Potter begins with Harry Potter, living under a stairwell, in a suburb of London. This does not mean, however, that the archaeological evidence we have for the city of London corresponds to the existence of Harry Potter, nor his magicalness.

BenYachov said...

>I believe that the Shroud of Turn's most interesting feature is that it is a known fake.

http://www.innoval.com/C14/

Raymond Rogers(who is himself a religious skeptic or Agnostic I believe) pretty much showed the Carbon Dating was wrong. Little known fact he also wrote a paper on the Maillard reaction as a plausible naturalistic explanation for the image on the Shroud.

Because you are such a narrow thinking Atheist Tony it never occurs to you the Shroud could be authentic but the image not of supernatural origin.

Of course if correct the Shroud doesn't prove or disprove the resurrection.

Tony Hoffman said...

BY: "Of course if correct the Shroud doesn't prove or disprove the resurrection."

No, but if the shroud could be dated to the time of Jesus's death, and its provenance could be verified, that would provide a key missing ingredient in the story: contemporary veneration. Agreed that it wouldn't verify the supernatural aspects of the story, nor even could reasonably be tied to a Jesus of Nazareth, but it would be significantly greater than anything else we have regarding extra-story verification of a man behind the legend. Right now, we don't even have anything archaeological that would suggest Jesus was known and venerated by any followers immediately after his death. Being a Christian, all things considered, a verified shroud is better than a discredited one.

Of course, the Shroud cuts both ways, which is one reason why I think so few are wiling to embrace its cause; if it can be shown with any confidence that the Shroud was created as a kind of forgery, this also bolsters the notion that throughout time Christian proselytizers had been willing to fabricate.

BenYachov said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BenYachov said...

>but it would be significantly greater than anything else we have regarding extra-story verification of a man behind the legend.

No via your kneejerk skepticism it's just the image of a crucified man and we can still doubt it is Jesus.

In fact I mentioned I never met Pope John Paul II well now that I think of it I did see him at Mass at Aqueduct Racetrack from a great distance.

Which then begs the question how do I know it was him and not some double?

Tony why not deal with the Atheist argument against Mytherism. Show me scientifically why they are wrong then come back and talk to me.

BenYachov said...

Funny story, Bonhoeffer and Bultmann where sitting in a study together. A Proffessor runs into the room
shouting. They dug up Jesus' body and proved conclusively it was him. He didn't rise from the grave!!!

Bonhoeffer says in a sullen voice "This is devistating to Christianity. This shatters my Faith!"

Bultmann OTOH is jumping up and down singing Hymns, laughing and then shouts "PRAISE THE LORD! HE REALLY DID EXIST!"

Ha! I'm funny!:-)

BenYachov said...

This is what you are defending Tony.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/03/wonka-vs-mythicists-plus-the-historical-jesus-unicorns-and-atlantis.html

Note interesting factoid I believe Gene Wilder is an Atheist?

Tony Hoffman said...

Ben, as always I provide a hat tip to you for being among the few commenters I come across from whom I have learned nothing. Really, that takes a consistency that anyone would find hard to sustain.

Cheers.

BenYachov said...

Tony your willful obtuseness is of little concern to me.

But hey I'm sure you could learn a lesson or two in using skepticism to the N'th Degree to keep you from believing in anything common sense mandates belief in.

I'm sure the Birthers could give some pointers there.

love that edit function.....

Anthony Fleming said...

Tony in answer to your question I first wrote, "I never said there was direct archeological evidence that he existed."

Then I asked what archeological evidence you want. What you are asking for is not just absent from Jesus, it is absent from pretty much everyone who was not a member of the ruling class. We look at all the evidence together.

Also, in terms of witnesses from early Christians: 1rst Peter 5:1, 2nd Peter 1:16
Hebrews 2:3 also appeals to Christian witnesses that had actually seen Jesus.
Peter also affirms Paul as a writer of the things of Christ - 2 Peter 3:16
Paul also talks about Peter, John, and James who are "Pillars" of the church - Galatians 2:9

My point with what I have said and viritually everything I have written is that there is more that sufficient evidence for Jesus to have existed. Do you have a historical argument to refute anything I have written? Otherwise it just sounds like you are being purposely skeptical. Anyone can do that, even with the law of non-contradiction.

There are not real people who were characters in Harry Potter that have also written their own books and appealed to actual people and events. Not to mention further disciples of those people.

In looking at the evidence you cannot put all your eggs in one basket. You have to look at it collectively. When doing so one sees there is great evidence that Jesus existed. Is it evidence that no one can doubt? No. In fact, upon hearing the disciples testimony I seem to remember that even Thomas kept doubting till Jesus fulfilled his skepticism.

Anthony Fleming said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anthony Fleming said...

Ok...normal HTML does not seem to be working on my end...

Here are a couple of interesting links...
http://www.npr.org/2012/04/01/149462376/did-jesus-exist-a-historian-makes-his-case

Also on the shroud.
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-3445_162-57410982/controversial-new-theories-on-the-shroud-of-turin/

Anthony Fleming said...

Tony, I am out for the day/night. I am enjoying this conversation but tonight it is time for some quality time with the wife! :)

I guess I didn't keep my word on giving you the last word. Then again you asked me a question and I definitely bird-walked in my response. I apologize. Hope you have a great night. Maybe I can pick some of this up again tomorrow and then give you the last word. :)

Tony Hoffman said...

AF: "Tony in answer to your question I first wrote, "I never said there was direct archeological evidence that he existed."

Okay. I think you should maybe be careful to use the term "archaeological evidence" in relation to the topic of evidence for the historical Jesus then. No one (least of all mythers) is denying correspondence between accounts in the Gospels and mundane events and places in that place and time. That is simply not an issue worthy of much contention, I think.

AF: "Then I asked what archeological evidence you want."

I don't "want" any evidence, per se. I was asking you to be more specific about the term you were using, because I thought it was potentially confusing.

Got to go -- I'll answer the last of your latest post later.

Anthony Fleming said...

By the way, many consider numerous manuscripts that correspond to actual places, dates, people, and events as archeological evidence.

Now I'm done for the night.

Tony Hoffman said...

AF: "Tony in answer to your question I first wrote, 'I never said there was direct archeological evidence that he existed.' Then I asked what archeological evidence you want. What you are asking for is not just absent from Jesus, it is absent from pretty much everyone who was not a member of the ruling class. We look at all the evidence together."

Ok. It appears that you are saying that there is no "direct" archaeological evidence for Jesus's existence, but there is "indirect?" This is a common argument, I think -- that because the NT documents accurately report some facts that we know to be true about the ancient world, we should trust them in regards to all that they report. But this is not very persuasive, I think -- the stories around Joseph Smith and the Golden plates are accurate concerning his time and place, but I think you would agree that this does not compel us to therefore believe that God also handed Joseph Smith some golden plates.

AF: "Also, in terms of witnesses from early Christians: 1rst Peter 5:1, 2nd Peter 1:16
Hebrews 2:3 also appeals to Christian witnesses that had actually seen Jesus.
Peter also affirms Paul as a writer of the things of Christ - 2 Peter 3:16
Paul also talks about Peter, John, and James who are "Pillars" of the church - Galatians 2:9"

Questions of provenance aside, I agree that 1 Peter 5:1 reads like a statement to having seen the suffering of Jesus, which sounds like the writer is claiming to have seen the Jesus of Nazareth. Same with 2 Peter 1:16 (with some greater problems regarding its authenticity). Hebrews 2:3 passes this off to hearsay, so I don't agree that the writer is making a claim to having seen Jesus of Nazareth. I am not sure what you think 2 Peter 3:16 attests to, but it doesn't appear to make any claim to having seen Jesus of Nazareth. Same with Galatians 2:9.

So, I agree that 1 Peter 5:1 and 2 Peter 1:16 can be read to understand that the writer saw Jesus of Nazareth. If that is all there is in the New Testament, I find that surprisingly meager. I wonder how many Christians would even guess that the claims of the authors of the NT to having seen a Jesus of Nazareth are that few. Honestly, this reads to me like a kind of "the dog that didn't bark" problem.

AF: "My point with what I have said and viritually everything I have written is that there is more that sufficient evidence for Jesus to have existed. Do you have a historical argument to refute anything I have written? Otherwise it just sounds like you are being purposely skeptical. Anyone can do that, even with the law of non-contradiction."

My historical argument is basically that everything we know about the documents and history of the church indicates that those who found the story about Jesus most compelling were those who had never actually met a Jesus of Nazareth. (As evidence for my argument, I present the indifference and rejection of the Jews of Judea to Jesus of Nazareth's ministry, and the conversion of every Christian who ever existed who never saw the living Jesus, starting with Paul.) My point being that because encountering a living Jesus appears largely superfluous to the success of Christianity, we can suspect that the religion could have become successful without his existence; the stories of his having existed are enough.

Btw, I do think that Jesus of Nazareth probably did exist, but for reasons that would probably insult Christians more than my suggesting that his existence is neither certain nor required. I came across them in a Christopher Hitchens talk recently, and I thought it might be the best argument against mythicism that I had heard. Let me know if you can bear the effrontery and I'll try and relay it.

Cheers.

Anthony Fleming said...

Tony, thanks for the response. Good thoughts. Obviously I have a response and further thoughts for you but today might be a little busy.

Also, I did read Christopher Hitchen's book God Is Not Great. I actually enjoyed a lot of it. I have also watched nearly all his debates. In fact, I was sad that he died. I really liked him. He was incredibly fascinating and by far the most compelling of the all the "New Atheists" in my opinion. So yes, I can handle it. What were the reasons?

I will respond to you as soon as I can. In the meantime; prepare for my amazing response that will dazzle you, and convert you immediately. :)

Have a good day.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Crude is there one "new atheist" who has said something negative about Dennett? I don't know where you are pulling this view about Dennett besides some generic philosphy bashing from the blogs, bashing that is not specifically aimed at Dennett.

I have seen nothing, and many props. For instance, one of these "philosophy haters" actually was convinced to modify his position precisely because Dennett emailed him and set him straight. As documented at Pharyngula and Coyne's blog.

Atheists tend to dismiss philosophy of a certain sort, not all philosophy. We sometimes are loose in our language, making it sound like we hate all philosophy, but really we like certain philosophers who bow to science in the right ways.

Also, atheists as a rule do not take it as that important whether Jesus existed or not. Most of us think he did, despite a couple of recent blog posts. People here are overreacting to Carrier. Dennett is still in the fold.

Crude you seem to be trying to squeeze orange juice from a baseball. It ain't there.

I guess I am more in the loop with other atheists than I thought.

Tony Hoffman said...

AF: "So yes, I can handle it. What were the reasons?"

This is my memory of the reason Hitchens gave -- I thought it was interesting, and I hadn't heard it before: In order for Jesus to conform with an OT prediction of the Messiah, he needed to come from Bethlehem. So, if Jesus was pure fiction, it would have been easy -- Jesus was born and raised in Bethlehem, and go from there. But if there was Jesus of Nazareth, and he later came to recognized by some as the Messiah, then he needed to be born in Bethlehem. And that explains the convoluted, ahistorical explanation of Joseph and Mary returning to Bethlehem for a census for which there is no other record or precedent. In other words, only the known existence of a Jesus of Nazareth would require the creation of a story like the requirement to return to Bethlehem for a census, to establish his Messiah credentials in the story.

Zach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emanuel Goldstein said...

Does Richard Carrier Exist?

Or is he a creation of the Atheist Community?

http://www.beretta-online.com/wordpress/2012/does-richard-carrier-exist/

Emanuel Goldstein said...

Maaybe Ehrman will wake up and say to himself, "Hey, my atheist friends are screwing me over, smearing me. Maybe they are not all they are cracked up to be."

Blue Devil Knight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BenYachov said...

>Blue Devil "Knight" you must be new here---

But this does show what a noob you are Zack.

BDK "new"? That's like calling Alan Scott the "newest" Green Lantern.

Too funny.

Keep em' coming Zack.:-)

Cheers.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Well at least it shows I've been good about not posting much lately.

Crude said...

BDK,

Crude is there one "new atheist" who has said something negative about Dennett? I don't know where you are pulling this view about Dennett besides some generic philosphy bashing from the blogs, bashing that is not specifically aimed at Dennett.

I didn't say that Dennett was hated or bashed personally. I said that Dennett is largely treated as irrelevant by the Cult of Gnu - and he is. I'm sure he and Dawkins are still good friends, I'd suspect he's friends with Harris, maybe even Myers. But the fact is, his name just doesn't come up much. Certainly the only ones treating Dennett as "honorary scientist" are guys who are really, really into his philosophical meanderings, and that's really not much.

Atheists tend to dismiss philosophy of a certain sort, not all philosophy. We sometimes are loose in our language,

I'm not talking about atheists, full stop. I'm talking about the Cult of Gnu. Quite a different thing. And the Cult of Gnu has been expressly dismissive of philosophy and philosophers, full stop. Do you want me to pull out examples?

Also, atheists as a rule do not take it as that important whether Jesus existed or not. Most of us think he did, despite a couple of recent blog posts. People here are overreacting to Carrier. Dennett is still in the fold.

Again: Cult of Gnu. Not just 'atheists'. And among the Cult, yeah, the 'Jesus is Myth' claim is a big deal. I only have to point as far as Myers and Coyne pounding on Ehrman over this, and the flood of negativity Ehrman experienced as a direct result of him daring to suggest that the Christ Myth folks are wrong.

And show me where I said Dennett was not "in the fold"? I said that Dennett's pretty much irrelevant as far as the Cult is concerned nowadays. Not hated - I said expressly that he's not -, and he's not 'no longer a New Atheist' either. But yeah, no one cares too much about him, save for his fans - and his fans are a tiny group compared to the cult at large. It's like Tom Green. Did Tom Green fall from stardom because people hate him? No. People just don't care much anymore.

As for Zach, he's just butthurt and holding a grudge over me making fun of his stupidity in the past. People bitch about how I 'never admit I'm wrong', but A) they've also never shown me where I was wrong, and B) that's probably because I rarely make claims around here. I mostly criticize errors and exaggerations, and I get ample opportunity to do just that.

Hi Zach. How're those Platonists doing? ;)

Crude said...

By the way, I'll tack on - in neither of those two examples (Which basically add up to "C'mon Krauss, some philosophers are atheists!"), no one is suggesting that Dan Dennett is an 'honorary scientist'. It's not the perception among the cult of gnu, and I'd love to see either Coyne or Krauss say it.

Conceding that some philosophers (namely, the ones they agree with) are 'good people' is nowhere near saying the 'honorary scientist' crap.

B. Prokop said...

If nothing else, at least these comments show the absurdity of John Loftus's repeated assertion that there are no significant differences amongst atheists worth discussing, whilst believers are somehow supposed to lose sleep over the fact that there exist more than one religion. Here we have yet another example of a distinction at least as wide as that between Christianity and Islam (i.e., between atheists who acknowledge that Jesus is a historical figure and atheists who maintain He was a myth).

Walter said...

Here we have yet another example of a distinction at least as wide as that between Christianity and Islam (i.e., between atheists who acknowledge that Jesus is a historical figure and atheists who maintain He was a myth).

Actually it's fairly inconsequential to many atheists whether a historical Jesus existed or not. Neither group of atheists believes in the Christ of faith.

(for the record I believe in an actual historical Jesus)

B. Prokop said...

Walter,

My point exactly. If such vast differences in belief are accepted amongst atheists as "inconsequential" (and I agree with you that you should consider them as such), then by the same token, atheists should not demand that believers see differences between varying faiths as somehow being a show-stopper.

I once posted what it would take to cause me to cease being a Christian (answer: proof that the Resurrection never occurred), and challenged others on this site to state what it would take for them to abandon atheism. Papalinton's response was it would require all religions to be in absolute agreement with each other. And recently, Loftus declared I was not worth his time, since I was unperturbed by there being more than one religion.

But what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander (even though Loftus calls that a logical fallacy).

Blue Devil Knight said...

Crude it is true you never modify your position on these pages. Zach was right about that.

On Dennett, you have no idea what you are talking about, and frankly I do from a lot of experience interacting with the "new atheists" in person. Dennett is given a lot of props from the "new atheists" and treated like they treat scientists. He is not marginalized at all, you simply are wrong. I have no idea where you even would get that idea, it is so obviously false.

See Dawkins speech entitled In honour of Dan Dennett. Or PZ Myers saying how much Dennett deserved the Erasmus prize (given to people who popularize science).

You are wrong. Not only that, this is a stupid tangential point that you shouldn't even care that you are wrong about.

Walter said...

I once posted what it would take to cause me to cease being a Christian (answer: proof that the Resurrection never occurred), and challenged others on this site to state what it would take for them to abandon atheism. Papalinton's response was it would require all religions to be in absolute agreement with each other.

I wouldn't require all religions to be in absolute agreement, but for me to believe in Christianity I would consider it strong evidence if the major tenets of the faith had spread across the globe in a supernatural fashion. IOW, if Columbus came to the New World and discovered a robust belief in Jesus that could not be accounted for by missionary work, then I would be convinced that the one true religion had been directly revealed to all mankind.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Or see this article co-authored by Coyne, Dennett, Dawkins, and Myers.

I could easily go on, but this is a waste of my time now.

BenYachov said...

>Not only that, this is a stupid tangential point that you shouldn't even care that you are wrong about.

Let me intervene & solve it.

Dennett is still very popular among the New Atheists but OTOH it is only in his capacity as a promoter of science not in philosophy since the Gnus or more specifically Coyne, Dawkins, and Myers largely reject or downplay philosophy.

Anyone is free to disagree with these trivial points.

BenYachov said...

>Columbus came to the New World and discovered a robust belief in Jesus that could not be accounted for by missionary work...

How would that be possible? Can you prove I didn't go to Burger King today? Marco Polo went to China and found Christianity. The Nestorian Assyrian Church beat the Catholic by centuries.

If Columbus found belief in Jesus in America how do you exclude a bunch of missionaries crossing either Ocean?

Tony Hoffman said...

BP: "Here we have yet another example of a distinction at least as wide as that between Christianity and Islam (i.e., between atheists who acknowledge that Jesus is a historical figure and atheists who maintain He was a myth)."

Even were that true, it is a difference of opinion without consequence; devout Christians are Muslims believe that there is no greater issue at stake than the question of which God is the true one. Atheists carewhether a historical Jesus of Nazareth existed about as much we care if you prefer chocolate or vanilla.

Walter said...

If Columbus found belief in Jesus in America how do you exclude a bunch of missionaries crossing either Ocean?

That particular example is not important. The point is that a *supernatural spread of the faith would be strong evidence that the Christian religion is something other than just another of many man-made religions which all spread by the very same means.

* perhaps something along the line of an instantaneous revelation occurring around the globe.

B. Prokop said...

Actually, I consider the many analogs to Christ in other religions (such as Mithra, Isis, Persephone, Krishna, etc.) to be among the "soft proofs" for the truth of Christianity. I've posted on this theme previously, but to re-cap for those who haven't seen them, I regard the Incarnation as analogous to dropping a huge stone into a pool of water. Just as ripples will eventually extend out to the furthest extent of the pool, in like manner we can see echoes of the Incarnation to a greater or lesser extent in the mythologies around the world, both backward and forward in time, and to places that never heard of Christ.

So one should expect to find Native American mythologies that resemble Christianity to some extent, and indeed we do. For example, the Hopi legend of Pahana has much in common with the story of Christ. (Having grown up in Arizona, I'm more familiar with the peoples of that region.)

Although Walter might not consider this to be "robust", there it is.

BenYachov said...

>Atheists carewhether a historical Jesus of Nazareth existed about as much we care if you prefer chocolate or vanilla.

If that hasty generalization is true then explain the fierce and obnoxious argument between Atheist Mythers like Carrier vs Ehrman?

Anthony Fleming said...

Tony,

I've actually heard that Hitchen's argument before but had forgotten it. It has a few shortcomings though. I will have to respond to your points and to that tomorrow.

When it comes to Muslims on Jesus however. To Muslims, Jesus was the second greatest of the prophets, he was "the word," and he comes back to judge. So, the existence of a historical Jesus is actually important to Muslims.

What would really fascinate you is how many Jews and Hindus see Jesus. :)

Zach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blue Devil Knight said...

Egads. Adios folks it's been fun. I don't even want to get sucked into this quicksand (e.g., Zach).

Crude said...

BDK,

Crude it is true you never modify your position on these pages. Zach was right about that.

Regarding what, BDK? Theism? Materialism? Naturalism?

As opposed to your conversion to theism, non-materialism, and naturalism on this blog?

Dennett is given a lot of props from the "new atheists" and treated like they treat scientists. He is not marginalized at all, you simply are wrong. I have no idea where you even would get that idea, it is so obviously false.

I get the point from Dennett basically being irrelevant (functionally irrelevant, if we want to get a bit Dennett about it). He's simply not as popular as a figure within the movement as he either used to be, or as other atheists are.

The best part is, you just supplied evidence for me. You link to a post praising Dennett, except A) I said that Dawkins and Dennett are still great friends, and B) that praise comes from 2007. And what about the other link?

Or PZ Myers saying how much Dennett deserved the Erasmus prize (given to people who popularize science).

First off, regarding the Erasmus prize as 'given to people who popularize science', apparently not.

"The Praemium Erasmianum Foundation, a Dutch nonprofit founded to strengthen the position of the humanities, the social sciences and the arts, has awarded the 2012 Erasmus Prize to Professor of Philosophy Daniel Dennett, according to the Foundation's Jan. 25 press release."

So no, that's not what the award is for. Dennett apparently said he thinks it's important to popularize science and tech, but the theme of this year's award was "the cultural meaning of life sciences".

Second, here is the sum total of what Myers had to say about this award and Dennett:

"Dennett has won the Erasmus Prize 2012. Here’s a list of past winners — it’s quite an honor, and well deserved."

In an entry with 9 comments. Oh, all that plus Dennett having signed a 2009 article complaining about a science magazine cover.

Holy hell, how will anyone stop this juggernaut of the New Atheists?

Look, BDK. Can you appreciate why your point here isn't convincing when the only evidence you bother to scrounge backs up my point, not yours?

Woah, wait, hold on, I know what you can do for a followup: link me PZ Myers saying Happy Birthday to Dan Dennett. That will show how he's still first and foremost in the minds of the typical cultist of gnu. ;)

Crude said...

Actually, BDK, before we go on, let's test something.

The "Crude never admits he's wrong" bluff goes on a lot. Now, here I am, arguing that Dennett - while not hated, certainly not ostracized - has been irrelevant for years.

As a piece of evidence against this claim, you present praise from Dawkins from 2007. Forget for a moment that 'Dawkins praising a great friend of his' doesn't do much to speak against my point. The fact that it was from 2007, however, completely neutralizes it as a reply to my statement.

So, will you admit you were wrong on this one? Let's find out.

Zach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BenYachov said...

Zach,

What did BDK ever do to you to merit this response?

That is just bizarre.

Crude said...

Where is your evidence, Crude-boy, that Coyne, PZ, Dawkins have changed their mind about Dennett? Burden of proof is on you, never-wrong boy. lol

Ahh, I gotta love the mix of poor reading comprehension and stupidity that comes off you, Zach. Really, it's beautiful. ;)

I didn't say that Coyne, PZ, or the rest have "changed their mind about Dennett". I said that Dennett, among the cult of Gnu, has become irrelevant.

I'm focusing now on the evidence BDK offered for Dennett's continued relevance. One of these things was a letter of praise from Dawkins in 2007.

Time to put up or shut up: I say this does nothing to speak against my claim that Dennett's pretty irrelevant as far as the Cult of Gnu goes. BDK made a mistake with that evidence.

Will you admit it, Zach? Will BDK admit it? Or are you just going to completely blow past this one, and prove my point?

Ben,

Zach's a slow-wit who has serious grudge issues. That's pretty much the beginning and the end of it. Catch him making a mistake once and, holy hell, he will never forget it.

But hey, at least it's funny. Let's see how long it takes him to admit BDK's evidence was wrong. I've caught him out before, and he's backed off - but this time, the stakes are pretty high. Hence his spazzing out.

Waiting on you, Zach mah man. ;)

Crude said...

Too bad this "knight" chickens out when I challenge him with something substantive. Blue Devil Chicken, bashing up on the first graders like Crude.

And in BDK's defense, he's not chickening out. He just has no freaking time for a halfwit like yourself. Despite my disagreements with him, and the fact that I think he's prone to bullshitting, I will gladly put BDK over and above the likes of yourself, Linton, and Hoff. At least he enters into a discussion with some style and knowledge. You've got neither, and odds are, you'll never get them. You'll just continue to be an embarrassment to theism so grand, it makes me wonder if you're a sock puppet.

If it makes you feel better, there's still a career in teaching open to you. ;)

Zach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Crude said...

Zach,

come back when you are ready to run with the big dogs

Oh man, and there it is. 'Run with the big dogs.' We're in the comments section of a mild-traffic blog, half the contributors (myself included) using pseudonyms... but to Zach, this is 'the big dogs' time. This is like, the absolute height of intellectual engagement.

You're not a big dog, Zach, and neither am I. But only one of us seems to think that commenting on a blog is the fucking big leagues.

You got called out, are clearly wrong,

And there we have it, folks. Zach says 'Crude never admits he's wrong!', but here in a clear freaking example of being wrong, Zach can't say it. He's been given multiple opportunities to say "Okay, that evidence was wrong. But I still think you're wrong, and here's why." And he keeps his mouth shut and he keeps squealing - because that's the only trick he has. Name-calling. That and stupidity. ;)

Well done, Zach. You've shown you're an outrageous hypocrite, and incapable of reading besides. But hey, keep wildly ranting and calling people names - including your obvious superiors, like BDK and Ben. Maybe, if you just insult enough people, you'll be able to convince yourself that you're not quite as dumb as you clearly are.

I mean, probably not. But hey, you can dream, right? ;)

FactChecker said...

Dawkins marginalizing Dennett:
"I think you can see why Dan Dennett is my intellectual hero.

He is one of today's most distinguished philosophers, but among philosophers I would describe him as a scientist's philosopher. Many philosophers call themselves philosophers of science. But rather few of them take the trouble to learn much science, to immerse themselves in the scientific literature, to talk to working scientists and understand what makes them tick. One of the things that strikes me about reading Dan's books is how much science I learn from them. New science, new experimental results, fascinating scientific research, often still unpublished but which Dan knows about because he keeps his ear to the scientific ground and travels to visit laboratories, where is he always an honoured guest.

He is, indeed, a scientist as much as he is a philosopher, and he is also a superb explainer."

Clearly nobody ever has treated him as an honorary scientist.

Clearly Dawkins has changed his mind about Dennett, as evidenced by their co-authored papers, the complete lack of any retraction or criticism of Dennett.

Come on guys Crude is right: nobody takes Dennett seriously any more, not since 2007 lol

pwnd

If yer gonna call someone else a sock puppet, use your real name, coward.

Zach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...

Hi Folks. I've just returned home from attending my son's wedding, a wonderful civil ceremony no less, and took the opportunity to turn the occasion into a five day holiday.

In the matter of the jesus myth, whatever evidence there is for a real person is simply too scratchy, and enfolded with millennia of mythological accretions and legendary embellishments to render the case for or against a real jesus moot. Otherwise the issue would have been set aside centuries ago and there would be no continuing questioning and argument as we witness today. Even with the very best of today's technology, skills and methodologies available, history is no closer to resolving the issue one way or the other.

Two issues to keep in mind. One, the overwhelming majority of biblical scholars are unapologetically apologists, with an existential and compelling need to read into even the most patchiest, insubstantial and entirely tenuous nature of the information about the existence of the jesus character, to read it in the best of possible lights. And that is to be expected. Such scholars have a vested and deep personal interest to [as they say in law] 'read-up' the evidence while those subscribing to the mythicist case, rightly 'read-down' the evidence, as a genuine reflective skeptic should do.

Two, historians know for a dead-certain fact that interpolations and insertions were purposefully enjoined acts into a myriad of ancient texts for the purpose of strengthening the case for the existence of a jesus character. We know that fraud occurred. That is irrefutable. What we simply do not know is the extent of the fraud. If there was factually a real jesus character that existed, why would the church fathers and other scribes see the need to promulgate the frauds? The answer? Because they realized the paucity of the evidential trail, as far back as 100CE.

In respect of the jesus myth I am agnostic. What I am certain about is that jesus the insurrectionist was not the jesus of the Gospels. The Gospel jesus is a very different beast. Erhman makes that indisputably clear.

B. Prokop said...

"historians know for a dead-certain fact ... That is irrefutable"

Wow. I had to check the calendar to make sure this really was May 1st, and not April 1st!

Glad you had a good time at your son's wedding. I've got two (extended) family weddings coming up, and such events are truly among the best things in life. You should have been at my niece's wedding a couple of months ago - an interfaith affair, presided over by a Jewish rabbi and a Catholic priest simultaneously. I got to hold one corner of the chuppah (pronounced HOO-pah)!

(Both bride and groom are lawyers, by the way. Imagine the arguments in that house!)

Steven Carr said...

R Joseph Hoffman once said, just a few years ago - '“I happen to believe that Jesus of Nazareth did not exist–I happen to believe that…but I’m completely persuadable. You just have to sort of sit me down and show me the historical elements in the gospels which point me in the direction of a plausible historical figure who is more plausible than the alternative explanation for the origins of Christianity.”'

How come he now thinks mythicism is nuts when he once held such views?

Does he think the Hoffman of a few years ago was a nutcase?

Papalinton said...

Daniel Dennett is one of the foremost philosophers of the past few decades.

"Daniel Dennett is among the most widely read living philosophers, highly regarded for the diversity of his academic contributions. Many of his popular works concern evolution, memetics, and human thought."

http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Book_review_controversy_over_Daniel_Dennett's_'Breaking_the_Spell'

There is no marginalizing of this philosopher, no matter how hard believers shut their eyes tight and cross their fingers behind their backs.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Steven: Interesting find! What is that quote from? I have been thinking about the mythicist-friendly stuff he's written here, and why he is attacking Carrier so strongly. For one, it is mainly Carrier's attitude that he is attacking, but also perhaps the specific reasons Carrier gives may not be good reasons, from a historical scholarship perspective.

Papalinton et al: Now that I've looked into it even more, it is clear that Dennett's standing is just fine, if not growing. I knew he was very popular, and never heard of that popularity fading (which I likely would have heard, given the circles I run in), and also have only seen evidence for his continued popularity since one debate in 2007.

If you look around there is no evidence his influence has faded, or that his "honorary scientist" status has been revoked, and plenty of evidence that he is still respected among folks like PZ, Coyne, et al..

At any rate, too much bandwidth taken on this sociological side issue about Dennett.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Note also that it would be sociologically odd to place Coyne/PZ/Carrier as representative of "new" atheism (especially Coyne). The central figures are Harris, Dennett, Dawkins (and previously Hitchens). I think someone with a bit too much internet focus might hone in PZ and Carrier.

Blue Devil Knight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BenYachov said...

>How come he now thinks mythicism is nuts when he once held such views?

These days I think Young Earth Creationism is nuts but I once held it to be very plausible when I was about 20 years younger then I am now.

A rational Atheist will come to the same conclusion about Jesus Mytherism.

BenYachov said...

BTW I abandoned any hope YEC might be true from reading Catholic Theistic Evolutionists who made the case rationally.

Maybe because Catholicism doesn't mandate YEC I didn't feel all that attached to it as some Evangelical converts to The Church I have known seem too. So my shift in position wasn't traumatic.

Which is why I don't understand the hysteria from Atheists toward fellow Atheists who IMHO have made the rational case a real fellow by the name of Jesus existed in the first century and is the basis of the Jesus of the NT.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Note he addressed this at his blog.

Someone asked:
"Have you changed your mind about the historicity of Jesus? You clearly stated on “Point of Inquiry” in 2007 that you did not believe he was historical, but you now seem utterly dismissive of that position. Thanks for clearing this up."

His reply:
"It is a very simple question. I hope it will not offend you if I say there is not a simple answer.

It depends entirely on what you mean by historical Jesus. If you mean the figure in the gospels in every particular, then I do not know many NT scholars of any repute who believe that.

If you mean “Did Jesus exist?” as an historical postulate, my answer is yes, but with reservations. Bultmann falls into this camp–and I assume you know his arguments?

If you ask, “Is Jesus a myth,” then my answer is, No. First because a myth is a specific literary genre that mythicists including most atheists usually get wrong. Second because it usually implies a deception which cannot be attributed to the sources or their transmission. Does this clear things up? I very much doubt it.

If on the other hand you ask me whether I have changed my mind: that is simple. No. But in order to understand what this means, you would need to read a bit and not listen to a podcast from 2007–my views go back to works as early as 1984. And that requires a bit of effort and concentration.

To help you out: I will tell you that I regard the question of historicity a real question. At this point, I regard the question to have been answered affirmatively: the preponderance of evidence sways in the direction of a historical Jesus. I have said so repeatedly. And finally it is a matter of evidence, not what I “think”or “believe.” Richard Carrier’s arguments have done nothing to convince me that there was no historical Jesus, and indeed, I find his entire methodology ignorant, intellectually flawed, and useless."

Above is from comment thread here.

Tony Hoffman said...

BDK, thanks for that. What I think this whole issue could use more of is a discussion of the heuristics used to determine how something comes to be considered a historical fact, and what the scope of that term (historical fact) covers.

I'd venture that historical facts are something that can be widely accepted as having objectively occurred.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Tony that would be a very interesting discussion from which many of us (well, me anyway) would learn a great deal. I feel a bit embarassed now that I initially was so excited by Carrier's response: a PhD in history being so confident on the attack, I assumed he must be right! Scholars are never so confident and brash, so there must be something to it.

Now I am thinking I drank the kool aid too quickly, and simply need to find some objective, dispassionate scholars. There's the rub, no? How does a nonspecialist like me know who is an objective, dispassionate scholar in a field where I have zero expertise, and limited time for study?

Anthony Fleming said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anthony Fleming said...

Tony, thanks for the response.

“...that because the NT documents accurately report some facts that we know to be true about the ancient world, we should trust them in regards to all that they report. But this is not very persuasive, I think -- the stories around Joseph Smith and the Golden plates are accurate concerning his time and place, but I think you would agree that this does not compel us to therefore believe that God also handed Joseph Smith some golden plates.”

First off, as far as I know there is no archaeological evidence that supports any of the claims of Mormonism. So...

“Questions of provenance aside, I agree that 1 Peter 5:1 reads like a statement to having seen the suffering of Jesus, which sounds like the writer is claiming to have seen the Jesus of Nazareth. Same with 2 Peter 1:16 (with some greater problems regarding its authenticity). Hebrews 2:3 passes this off to hearsay, so I don't agree that the writer is making a claim to having seen Jesus of Nazareth. I am not sure what you think 2 Peter 3:16 attests to, but it doesn't appear to make any claim to having seen Jesus of Nazareth. Same with Galatians 2:9.”

Ok, there is some unraveling here. First, my appeal to Galatians 2:9 was to show that these guys, who claimed to be witnesses, knew each other. Paul knew Peter, who was also included in the Bible. Peter knew Paul and stamped the approval of his message (2nd Peter 3:15).

One of the previous links I referenced contained some info on this when Bart Erhman was quoted as saying, “"Paul knew Jesus' brother, James, and he knew his closest disciple, Peter, and he tells us that he did," Ehrman says. "If Jesus didn't exist, you would think his brother would know about it, so I think Paul is probably pretty good evidence that Jesus at least existed," he says. “

Here is the link - http://www.npr.org/2012/04/01/149462376/did-jesus-exist-a-historian-makes-his-case

The test for apostleship was to be an eye witness (Acts 1:21-22). Hebrews 2:3 talks of those who carried the message with attesting signs and miracles. Some try to attest the authorship of 2nd Peter but it really hasn't caught on much. In either case, the author is saying that these things are not made up tales but that he was there through the transfiguration from the gospels from Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2. He also claims to know Paul. Secondly, we also have Luke, the author of Luke and Acts, claiming to have received the story from people who were eye witnesses and that he had followed things closely to write his own ordered account (Luke 1:1-4).

Anthony Fleming said...

“So, I agree that 1 Peter 5:1 and 2 Peter 1:16 can be read to understand that the writer saw Jesus of Nazareth. If that is all there is in the New Testament, I find that surprisingly meager. I wonder how many Christians would even guess that the claims of the authors of the NT to having seen a Jesus of Nazareth are that few. Honestly, this reads to me like a kind of "the dog that didn't bark" problem. “

For one, what we have are letters from these guys to churches. This is exactly the type of stuff that R Joseph Hoffmann was writing about in the article to this post on how people throw aside things like hermeneutics. You can't just say, form within the scripture, “that's it.” I could do the same things with scientific studies in relation to the natural history of evolution: so what? Hey Mr. Gould, how do you really know those snails should be lined up that way? Do you really know that one beget the next? We look at these letters within the context. They were not written to tell people they were eye witnesses of the Jesus of Nazareth. We already have 4 gospels claiming such things. These are letters to the churches that these guys founded because of their witness testimony.

You see, when it comes to these things one cannot just be the skeptic like they can with other theological matters. Your going to have difficulties that you are committed to no matter what position you take.

For example: Lets say the disciples fabricated Jesus completely. Ok, well now we have the problem of why they would make such a story up in the first place: they really didn't gain from it. In fact, most stories that surround the disciples have them dying horrible deaths for their claims. Then we have the problem with certain theological things such as Jesus' favorite and most used designation, The Son of Man. Yet, the disciples never gave Jesus this title. If they fabricated the story, or injected their own theology, why doesn't “The Son of Man” show up in their writings? There are a host of other such similar issues like the use of the word Lord or Kurious in the gospel of John ONLY as a title only after Jesus rose from the dead.

Lets say the disciples were using the made up story. Well, once again we run into issues we just saw in the previous examples but also we have the problem with the claims of actually witnessing Jesus and claiming to have seen him rise from the dead and knowing that others made the same claim (1 Corinthians 15:4-8). Also, they died for this made up story. What's up with that? Even more so, this made up story had to have happened around the time period that these men lived.

Lets just say all of it is fabricated. Well, then we have letters from separate individuals dated in a similar time period who are not aware of it. We have letters from other guys who claim to be disciples of the made up figures. Maybe they made it up. They would have just happened to know a lot about an area and the practices of the people in that area that was destroyed in the year 70.

To me, the idea of Jesus actually existing is far more probable than any other potential theory. Do you have an alternative?

Furthermore, that's not “all we have.” I have continually pointed out Eusebius, Clement, Ignatius and am prepared to defend Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Tacitus, and Lucian as other witnesses of the early Christians and the existence of Jesus. I am sure that R. Joseph Hoffmann is going to bring some of this up.

At the end of the article Victor linked to R. Joseph Hoffmann wrote, “This little rant (and it is a rant, I acknowledge and I do not apologize for it: somebody’s got to do it) will be followed  next week by three essay-length responses to Richard C. Carrier’s ideas:  The first by me, the second by Professor Maurice Casey of the University of Nottingham, and the third by Stephanie Fisher a specialist in Q-studies. “

Also, could you point out to me some serious historical scholars that deny Jesus' existence today? I can think of only a couple, perhaps a few.

Anthony Fleming said...

Lastly, J.P. Moreland wrote a pretty descent article on this.

http://www.bethinking.org/bible-jesus/the-historicity-of-the-new-testament.htm

Sorry for the links, my browser is not letting me do embedding.

Papalinton said...

The reaction to Carrier's treatise is somewhat akin to to that of Galileo when he proposed solar-centrism. It wasn't so much the argument that officialdom objected to, rather the manner in which Galileo presented that information.

There is little to object to in Carrier's work. It is scholarly, historical and quite properly based on the historical critical method. The case for a mythical jesus character is as viable as that for a real character, either way. And should there have been a kernel of a real jesus character amidst the veritable mountain of accretive christian literature, we simply don't know given the paucity of historical evidence. The consensus of scholarship tends towards a real character, a la Erhman. But one remember that the vast majority of biblical scholars are believers with deeply held existential interests for a jesus. And it is by no means settled. Indeed the third wave in search for the historical jesus is perhaps the most currently intense areas of activity in contemporary biblical studies.

Besides it makes for good reading.

Anthony Fleming said...

Papalinton,

You are really going to generalize Carrier with Galileo? Come on!

Anthony Fleming said...

By the way, did you read link that this post is based on? Or how about the comments from R. Joseph Hoffmann to others? I think you would see that you are mistaken in your analysis.

Crude said...

Zachy,

The evidence was not wrong. You implied since 2007 people haven't taken Dennett seriously,

I said no such thing.

I said that Dennett's reputation has been on the downslide since he got schooled by D'Souza.

Now, do this Zach: Check the date of the letter I'm referencing. Then, check the date of the D'Souza/Dennett debate.

with no evidence for a change in this attitude, and plenty of evidence that it continues to this day (including the erasmus award, for goodness' sake, and a co-authored letter written in 2009 by the very people you said had marginalized him

The Erasmus Award does nothing to disprove what I said. I didn't say Dennett was irrelevant, full stop. That's ludicrous. I said as far as the Cult of Gnu goes, yes, he's pretty much irrelevant.

Nowhere did I say 'The Cult of Gnu leadership diss Dennett and think he sucks.' I made it clear that he was on great terms with Dawkins even now, and that among the cult no one hated or badmouthed him. You want to see the irrelevancy? Talk with the cult members. See whose names they bring up, how often, and why. See whether they value philosophy or science. And show me where BDK's claim that Dennett is an 'honorary scientist' is validated. It ain't.

Zach, as I said, you just proved my point. All this shit about "Crude never admits when he's wrong" goes up in smoke when I catch someone else out making a mistake - a blatant, proven mistake - no one says 'Alright, I was wrong.' Even on small shit. You swing and fight and namecall.

In other words, you're engaged in projection. And man, you are a bad bullshitter. ;)

BDK,

Note also that it would be sociologically odd to place Coyne/PZ/Carrier as representative of "new" atheism (especially Coyne). The central figures are Harris, Dennett, Dawkins (and previously Hitchens). I think someone with a bit too much internet focus might hone in PZ and Carrier.

It makes sociological sense, since the Cult of Gnu has far more of an online presence than anything else. Did you see the numbers at the Australian 'Worldwide Atheism Conference'? It was their biggest shindig ever, apparently.

When I checked, the numbers were ~4000.

Anthony Fleming said...

Wow, I need to start proof reading. A lot of little errors.

I wrote, "Some try to attest the authorship of 2nd Peter but it really hasn't caught on much."

Change that with, "some try to challenge the authorship of 2nd peter..."

Walter said...

I wrote, "Some try to attest the authorship of 2nd Peter but it really hasn't caught on much."

Change that with, "some try to challenge the authorship of 2nd peter..."


I didn't think anyone besides the fundamentalist fringe seriously believed that Peter was the author of that particular epistle.

Anthony Fleming said...

Walter, I don't think the difficulties are completely insurmountable and I don't think those like George Eldon Ladd, Donald Hagner, or NT. Wright are fundamentalists.

Tony Hoffman said...

AF, I am sitting on an airport but just read/scanned your replies. Looks like you're a wee tad top deep onto the kool-aid barrel there for my bailing to get you out. I son that've time, and I'm not sure I'd know where to start.

B. Prokop said...

One does not necessarily have to be a "fundamentalist fringe" element to regard the basic thought, and even many (or even most) of the words behind 2 Peter to be from the Apostle himself. I see no bar to regarding the letter as a compilation of statements actually made by Saint Peter, put together and "smoothed out" by a disciple after his martyrdom.

In fact, I find it difficult to believe that the letter would have been accepted into the canon by the early Church without such being the case. After all, there are numerous other writings extant claiming Petrine authorship, all of which are rightly regarded as apocryphal. Something must have set 2 Peter apart as worthy of inclusion, and the least improbable explanation is that the early Christians recognized that the letter was (at least in spirit) traceable to Peter.

Walter said...

Something must have set 2 Peter apart as worthy of inclusion

For starters, this epistle describes Paul's letters as scripture--that alone would be valuable to the early church. It also provides the famous excuse that Christians still use today for the much delayed parousia.

Whether the problems are insurmountable or not there are sufficient grounds for reasonable doubt that Peter had anything to do with that epistle.

Anthony Fleming said...

Tony, I try my best to be objective and to give good reasons for my positions. I thought I made good points. If I am way off I am willing to have it pointed out to me.

What things did I write that infers me being deep in the kool-aid? Like I said, I try my best to give good reasons, perhaps I committed a fallacy or something.

I hope you have a good and safe trip.

Anthony Fleming said...

Walter, as far as 2nd Peter. I will have to look up some things and get back to you. Good points.

Tony Hoffman said...

AF: "Tony, I try my best to be objective and to give good reasons for my positions. I thought I made good points. If I am way off I am willing to have it pointed out to me."

Well, your last set of responses was a tad overwhelming, and it's frankly hard to know where to start. I think that if one were to re-read your posts you show one of two behaviors -- a) asserting specific points (e.g., "we DO have archaeological evidence for the claims of Christianity") that when shown to be overstatements are b) claimed to be part of a broader context that nevertheless supports their validity. I see this a lot, and all I can suggest is drawing a chart and isolating where an individual set of claims (e.g., "The historical evidence for the supernatural claims of Jesus") stands in isolation, because I feel like this is getting balled up with a lot of other baggage that doesn't help.

As a case in point, I mean something like this:

AF: "Furthermore, that's not “all we have.” I have continually pointed out Eusebius, Clement, Ignatius and am prepared to defend Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Tacitus, and Lucian as other witnesses of the early Christians and the existence of Jesus. I am sure that R. Joseph Hoffmann is going to bring some of this up."

There are so many imprecise things here that I truly don't know where to start -- you are balling up the term "witnesses" with 6 individuals from ancient history and the term "existence of Jesus," and yet none of them could actually be a Witness for the Existence of Jesus, unless you want to re-define those terms way beyond their accepted meaning.

I wonder what you might say if I told you that, based on your response above, that "First off, as far as I know there is no archaeological evidence that supports any of the claims of Mormonism. So..." you could also call yourself a witness for the existence of Joseph Smith.

Tony Hoffman said...

Btw, I'd like to point out that whatever transgressions Carrier might have been accused of in the last 10 days, it's hard to beat something as asinine as this from Earhman: ""Paul knew Jesus' brother, James, and he knew his closest disciple, Peter, and he tells us that he did," Ehrman says. "If Jesus didn't exist, you would think his brother would know about it, so I think Paul is probably pretty good evidence that Jesus at least existed," he says."

I truly don't know where to begin with that, other than starting with a request to Earhman to clarify if he thinks he was misquoted and, if so, to try to re-phrase that one.

Anthony Fleming said...

Tony, could you please copy and paste from my comments that would quote me as saying anything about direct archaeological evidence or evidence that directly supports the claims of Christianity.

I wrote, "I do think that manuscripts with thousands of copies from 50-400 years of the event (closer than any other copies to original manuscripts in the ancient world) that correspond with archeological evidence,"

Yes, I do know that I spelled it wrong.


When it comes to the names I listed off. You could also ask to see my arguments. I made other points that did not depend on Josephus, or Tacitus however.

Anthony Fleming said...

Tony, as far as the Ehrman quote.

There is something to it. To say that these people knew each other, who were given titles like being related to Jesus, does carry some weight.

We have gone on for a while here. My frustration here is that you seem to just want to say, "that's not enough evidence" or "that doesn't seem good enough" without providing a theory of your own, without citing any historians, and without taking on the real issues. You don't cite any other historical documents, historical finds, or why we should expect any other evidence than what we have.

Now, to your credit you have inspired me to take this subject on in greater depth. I even bought Ehrman's book and I will read Carrier's when it comes out. I have read some of Carrier's other work and listened to him in his numerous debates and even heard some of his talks. Personally, I never found him very compelling. If you would like I would be willing to cite my reasons.

I try to read books on both sides of the issues. I will do that more here too. However, it will be tough to find any major historical scholar who takes the other side of this one. Do you know of any works that are published by more trustworthy historians that claim Jesus never existed?

Of the New Atheists, I personally find Dennett the most compelling and I personally miss seeing Hitchen's in debates. His knowledge of history was truly compelling and fascinating.

With all of that, I will let you have the last word unless you ask me some direct questions you would like me to answer.

Anthony Fleming said...

On a separate note, I have read Karen Armstrong's A History of God and took a lot of time to investigate the claims she makes. Some of them were very compelling.

Tony Hoffman said...

BDK: "How does a nonspecialist like me know who is an objective, dispassionate scholar in a field where I have zero expertise, and limited time for study?"

Hah. I have no idea either. I could make suggestions, but I'm sure they'd be no better than shouts from a crowd.

I think there is a reason that History gets the term "soft" instead of its "science" classification. I love history, but I'd be the first to say that it's imprecise and wooly, and goes with an FAR (feels about right) approach that defies precise classification.

I think the historical Jesus question has a life on the Internet that it doesn't in academia because the study of history is about facts and effects, which (maybe somewhat surprisingly, but it sure seems obvious to me) can allow one to treat the actual existence of, say, Dionysisus as a non-issue. What matters is not whether or not Dionysius visited earth or not, but what his followers did, believed, and what the effects of their behavior were on their contemporaries. Historians can study all those things and leave untouched the question of whether or not Dionysius actually existed because it just doesn't matter.

I think that maybe one way to look at the question is whether or not historians would care about a) a Jesus who existed who no one noticed or wrote about, or b) a belief in Jesus that people acted on and influenced their contemporaries. It seems obvious to me that historians could only care about the second, and the question of the first is left to those who are concerned about religious or metaphysical issues.

All of this being said, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find many reputable Historians (teaching at one of the top 50 universities in the U.S.?) who would subscribe to something like what apologists describe regarding the impossibility of Christianity arising without a supernatural occurrence at its heart. That's just plain batshit crazy, and I'd hope that enough of those hiring committees can smell that on an applicant from a mile away,

Tony Hoffman said...

AF: "Tony, could you please copy and paste from my comments that would quote me as saying anything about direct ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE or evidence that directly supports the claims of Christianity. "

Okay. Originally, you wrote this:

AF "I do think that manuscripts with thousands of copies from 50-400 years of the event (closer than any other copies to original manuscripts in the ancient world) that correspond with ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE, which correspond with other letters of witnesses and contemporaries of witnesses, which corresponds to belief systems and other historical events is probably reliable. "
I then asked you, Me: "Anthony, can you name a piece of ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE that supports the argument that Jesus existed?"
You replied, AF: "Tony, what do you consider as archeological evidence? I never said there was direct ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE that he existed."

I think that I can see how you should modify your position from the above, but I'd prefer that you explicate it for me. You brought up archaeological evidence for Christianity, then appear to modify that with (in)direct, but at this point I think you should explain what it is the archaeological evidence supports regarding the claims of Christianity.

In other words, what do you think the archaeological evidence supports regarding the existence or non-existence of Jesus of Nazareth? Please, be specific about what it is about the archaeological evidence (apart from the documents we have) that would incline you to believe that Jesus of Nazareth existed.

Anthony Fleming said...

Tony,

I just quoted the same comment you just quoted.

I said the copies correspond with archaeological evidence. I did not say they validated or completely alleviated all doubt from the copies or they were direct evidence for the copies. Correspond could simply mean that the places, practices, and the people mentioned are real. You asked me to clarify and I did.

Tony Hoffman said...

Anthony, what archaeological evidence corresponds with the existence of Jesus of Nazareth?

Anthony Fleming said...

Tony, I am going to paste my quote again...

Being wrote, "You guys think the Bible is a reliable source of information about historical events. I do not. I'm open to being convinced otherwise."

I wrote, "I do think that over 20,000 full and partial copies from three languages of manuscripts within 50-400 years of the events (closer than any other copies to originals from the ancient world) that correspond with archaeological evidence, which correspond with other letters of witnesses and contemporaries of witnesses, which corresponds to belief systems and other historical events is probably reliable. "

On another comment to Being I made a distinction between the form criticism and historical criticism. So, do you want to keep asking me questions in reference to things I did not say. I took plenty of time pointing out the difficulties with negating Jesus' existence based on the evidence we do have. You are welcome to answer them.

Tony Hoffman said...

Anthony, I am trying to figure out exactly what it is you are saying. I think the quote you gave is obscure -- it certainly implies, to me, that you think we have archeological evidence for the beliefs of early Christians. As I pointed out earlier, it would be easy for me to write the same thing about Mormon beliefs and it would be equally true.

Anthony Fleming said...

I've just provided the quote in the context. I hope that helps you.

Also, if you are talking about the central claims of Mormonism that Joseph Smith claimed like his findings in "the Americas" then have it. I would love to see your archaeological evidence.

If you mean with Joseph Smith's existence then I would be open for that one too. I've been feeling big doubt lately over whether Joseph Smith actually existed or not.

Tony Hoffman said...

AF: "I've just provided the quote in the context. I hope that helps you."

Then I read it as I have in the past, that you are claiming that there is historical evidence that helps support the claim that Jesus of Nazareth existed. Seeing as how you won't rephrase or elucidate this claim for me, and it's unsupported, I see no reason why either of us should believe this. So I assume that you a) don't, or b) are mistaken.

AF: "Also, if you are talking about the central claims of Mormonism that Joseph Smith claimed like his findings in "the Americas" then have it. I would love to see your archaeological evidence."

No, I am talking about the various monuments to Joseph Smith, the pilgrimized site where he received the plates, etc. Regarding the absence of some archaeological evidence, pot, kettle and all that. (Global flood, Red Sea parting, etc.)

"If you mean with Joseph Smith's existence then I would be open for that one too. I've been feeling big doubt lately over whether Joseph Smith actually existed or not."

If you think that the archaeological evidence supports the existence of a Jesus of Nazareth, then you should be even more confident in the existence of a Joseph Smith.

Anthony Fleming said...

Tony,

A few comments ago you wrote, “Anthony, what archaeological evidence corresponds with the existence of Jesus of Nazareth? “

“Then I read it as I have in the past, that you are claiming that there is historical evidence that helps support the claim that Jesus of Nazareth existed. Seeing as how you won't rephrase or elucidate this claim for me, and it's unsupported, I see no reason why either of us should believe this. So I assume that you a) don't, or b) are mistaken.”

Whoa there. Perhaps you should respond to any of my arguments and provide a historical argument of your own that explains the evidence we do have before you conflate the lack of direct archaeological evidence with lack of historical evidence.

In fact, I don't know what you are tying to get at here. You claim Jesus existed. So, is this about being able to maintain some doubt? I am all for that. Unfortunately I would need to see a counter argument, like Carrier's, that attempts to offer alternative theories. Like I wrote earlier, negating Jesus' existence poses other difficulties. Carrier, in his previous debates, at least understood that much.

“If you think that the archaeological evidence supports the existence of a Jesus of Nazareth, then you should be even more confident in the existence of a Joseph Smith.”

My comment on doubting the existence of Joseph Smith was a joke. Yes, what pilgrimized sites were the plates at? What cities? Where are they located? I'm starting to wonder if you know anything about Mormonism. I've actually read the book of Mormon and spent time studying it.


Now, I really want to give you the last word here. Do you have an actual response to what I have written?

Tony Hoffman said...

AF: "Whoa there. Perhaps you should respond to any of my arguments and provide a historical argument of your own that explains the evidence we do have before you conflate the lack of direct archaeological evidence with lack of historical evidence."

I have pointed out that you appear to be making a confusing and inaccurate claim by conflating the issues of a historical Jesus and archaeological evidence. I have been paying attention to your comments, but I don't see you clarifying this issue, so I can only conclude that you are confused -- I don't know any way to express my question any more clearly.

It is trivially easy to explain the documents in the New Testament, in the same way that it is trivially easy to explain the documents found in other religions. Have you never take a comparative religion course?

AF: "In fact, I don't know what you are tying to get at here. You claim Jesus existed."

To be clear, I think it is more probable that a Jesus of Nazareth existed than not, but I also find it entirely plausible that a Jesus of Nazareth need not have existed in order for the NT documents to have been written and preserved. This seems like a modest and sensible position.

AF: "So, is this about being able to maintain some doubt? I am all for that. Unfortunately I would need to see a counter argument, like Carrier's, that attempts to offer alternative theories."

Do people ever think something occurred that did not actually happen in the way they perceived or remember? Are some people ever convinced in something that's not true based on others' persuasion? If you agree that both of the above happen, and in fact happen all the time, then the story of Christianity just becomes a question of ascertaining the facts and filling out the explanations. This, by the way, is what Ancient History classes cover, comparative religion courses, etc. Saying that you need a counter argument to Christianity is like saying you can't find any sand on the beach. Taken an Ancient History course, preferably one on Antiquity. Do not take this course from a religious site, or a religious school, or you'll just be closing your mind to what you already know.

AF: "Like I wrote earlier, negating Jesus' existence poses other difficulties. Carrier, in his previous debates, at least understood that much."

I have learned this much: I truly had no idea how difficult it is for some Christians to imagine a world in which Jesus did not need to exist.

Anthony Fleming said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anthony Fleming said...

Tony, I responded at first and then realized you didn't ask me any questions. However, I want to be true to my word and give you the last word. If you want me to answer for something else then have at it.

Secondly, I have actually taken a couple classes from non-religious teachers that would be considered as comparative religion. I also have taken my free time to study these things as well. I have read the Koran, some parts of it many times. I enjoyed the Upanishads and the Wisdom of Buddah. Just want you to know I am not ignorant of these subjects and have found some awesome stuff in some of the other world religions!

Tony Hoffman said...

AF: "Tony, I responded at first and then realized you didn't ask me any questions. However, I want to be true to my word and give you the last word. If you want me to answer for something else then have at it."

Anthony, I appreciate your consistent politeness and kind tone, but I stopped asking you questions when I couldn't find a way to get you to answer the one I posed. My question wasn't designed to put you in an awkward position, but to ask you to look into, to detail, the things that support your belief. I value these discussion with theists because they have made me pay much finer attention to issues I was too casual about before -- mainly, philosophical axioms, epistemology, and a range of sub-topics I hadn't looked into closely enough because I hadn't bothered with some of the details behind my arguments.

I enjoy the discussions and always learn something, even when (as they always do), peter out.

Cheers.

Anthony Fleming said...

Tony, thanks for the comment. I really did enjoy this discussion! I like discussing these topics with people of different world views and I always learn something as well! I am completely willing to continue the discussion if you would like or you have questions you would like me to answer. However, when it comes to these topics I find there is a point where most of the cards are on the table. Each side will maintain their viewpoint and those who are willing to be persuaded can read the comments and decide for themselves.

Have a great day!

- tony