Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Curious Exchange With Dr. Larry Hurtado

It is generally my policy in the blogosphere not to claim victory in an argument simply because someone declines to respond to a point that I have made.  There are any number of legitimate reasons why a person might choose not to address a particular point such as not finding it particularly interesting or feeling that it is tangential to the main issue under discussion.  Sometimes I suspect that my point was so devastatingly incisive that the person can't answer it, but I find it tiresome when comment threads devolve into "Blogger A still hasn't responded to my point" and "Well Blogger B still hasn't responded to mine."  If I suspect that someone is purposely ignoring my point because he knows it refutes his position, I simply wait for another opportunity to raise it politely again.  I figure that eventually it will become obvious that a point is being ducked.

While I don't like to comment on someone's failure to address a point I have made, I feel no such qualms when in addition to ignoring my point, they delete it. I don't ever recall anything like this happening before I visited Dr. Larry Hurtado's blog and commented on a point he made in a post titled  The "Did Jesus Exist" Controversy and Its Precedents:
So in one sense I think I’m not alone in feeling that to show the ill-informed and illogical nature of the current wave of “mythicist” proponents is a bit like having to demonstrate that the earth isn’t flat, or that the sun doesn’t revolve around the earth, or that the moon-landings weren’t done on a movie lot. It’s a bit wearying to contemplate!
I have never commented on Dr. Hurtado's blog before, but I was interested to see what his response would be to some of the arguments I have making recently.  Rather than respond in a separate comment, Dr. Hurtado inserted his responses into my comment.  However, he deleted what I thought were some important points which I have restored in the following quotes.  Dr. Hurtado's remarks are in italics.
 (L. Hurtado: The following comment attempts serious discussion, but is flawed with invalid claims and inferences. I print it here and respond to it, interleaving corrections below, identified as “LWH”.)

Vinny: According to mainstream scholarship, it is entirely possible that Jesus of Nazareth was an uneducated itinerant preacher who was unknown outside a small group of followers who were mostly illiterate peasants. As likely as not, he spent his life unnoticed by anyone of prominence or importance until he somehow annoyed the Roman authorities sufficiently that he became one of countless insignificant troublemakers that they put to death.

LWH: Two points in response. First, as I say to my students, almost anything is possible (and you’ll find someone asserting almost any possibility), so the task of critical historical analysis is to judge, from various possibilities, what is the most likely. Second, I take it that you’re not denying that Jesus lived, only that if he did he made no mark on history. I don’t know what “mainstream scholarship” you’re drawing on (it’s best to give citations), but what you allege is not in fact widely held. The level of Jesus’ formal education isn’t a major issue; the question is whether he circulated, attracted followers, and became sufficiently odious to authorities that he was executed. All of these things are affirmed by as near a unanimous verdict as you can get among scholars (who delight in differing with one another!). An “insignificant troublemaker” didn’t get executed, and especially not by crucifixion. Flogged maybe.

Vinny: From that starting point, we might expect it to be very difficult to prove that he existed because we would have no specific reason to expect such a person to leave the sort of mark in the historical record that would be readily discernible two thousand years later. A few such people did, but most of the people we know of in the ancient world were either literate or prominent people themselves or they accomplished something during their lives that had an impact on the literate and prominent people of their day. The overwhelming majority of people of Jesus’ social status came and went without leaving a trace in the historical record.

LWH: The impact of Jesus is rather obvious I should think (and so would virtually all historians I’ve read on the subject). He sufficiently polarized contemporaries to make some of them devoted followers, and others mortal enemies. I’d call that impact. Moreover, almost immediately after his execution, his followers were claiming him as God’s ordained Messiah and more. To be sure, that claim rested mainly on experiences that they took as encounters with the glorified/risen Jesus. But the meaning and significance of those experiences (as vindications of Jesus’ messianic status) likewise surely presuppose a prior conviction/execution of him as a messianic/royal pretender (again, as would be very widely held).

Vinny: Unlike every other person from the ancient world who left a mark as the result of the impact that they had during their lives, stories about Jesus of Nazareth were preserved as a result of his supernatural accomplishments after his death. Jesus is only known to us today because some people claimed to have encounters with a supernatural being who they believed had once been a flesh and blood human being named Jesus. While it is certainly possible that such a person existed, the appearances of the supernatural being can’t be considered any evidence that he did.

LWH: Well, yes and no. Certainly, without the rapid emergence of the conviction that God had vindicated Jesus and installed him in heavenly glory, there would have been no such religious movement that we know as earliest Christianity. But this conviction clearly motivated his followers to preserve and disseminate his teachings as well as his deeds. Virtually all scholars in the subject agree that the body of traditions extant in the Gospels distill, adapt and convey a prior body/stream of Jesus-tradition that had been used in preaching and formation over the decades between Jesus and the writing of the Gospels.

Vinny:  This is why I find comparisons to events like the moon landing so ridiculous. If the moon landings really happened, we would expect the evidence to be so overwhelming that no rational person could doubt it, and it is. On the other hand, if the secular historians’ Jesus existed, we would expect to have very little evidence and very little certainty. 

This is not to say that a historian might not reasonably conclude that the existence of a historical Jesus is more likely than not. I simply don’t think that we can ever hope to have the kind of certainty about his existence that we can have about someone like Julius Caesar whose accomplishments during his lifetime left the kind of mark in the historical record that gives us a high level of confidence that he existed in the ancient world.

LWH: Well, everyone is welcome to his/her own judgement. But the overwhelming judgement of others (of any personal stance on religious questions) is that (1) Jesus did live; (2) he did generate a following during his own lifetime; (3) he did come under the condemnation of the political (and likely temple) authorities and suffered crucifixion; (4) remarkably soon thereafter astonishing claims about him arose and a rapidly trans-local and trans-ethnic religious movement erupted and grew thereafter. I should think that by most judgements of historical impact, this one is hard to match. Not even Julius Caesar compares.
I thought it a little odd that he had deleted my paragraph mentioning the moon landing deniers since he had specifically used that analogy, but I didn't want to complain when an eminent scholar responded so thoroughly to everything else I had written.  I also thought that maybe I had been a little out of line in calling his analogy "ridiculous" so I toned that down in my next comment.
(Editor’s note: I have edited this lengthy comment, retaining essentials, and I interleave responses identified with “LWH”).

Vinny: Thank you for your detailed response. I am personally agnostic about whether Jesus of Nazareth was historical in any meaningful sense.

In The Historical Figure of Jesus (pp. 10-11), E.P. Sanders offers the following facts as being “almost beyond dispute”: Jesus was born around 4 B.C.E; He spent his childhood and early adult years in Nazareth; He was baptized by John the Baptist; He called disciples; He taught in the town and villages and countryside of Galilee; He preached “the kingdom of God”; Around the year 30 C.E. he went to Jerusalem for Passover; He created a disturbance in the temple area; He had a final meal with his disciples; He was arrested and interrogated by Jewish authorities; He was executed on the orders of Pontius Pilate. . . . . This seems to me to be pretty typical of the kinds of things that scholars like Bart Ehrman and James McGrath think we can know about the historical Jesus. None of these seem to me to be the kinds of things that we would necessarily expect to leave the kind of mark in the historical record that we would be able to discern 2000 years later.

LWH: Yes, fair enough. But as Sanders also notes, we have to allow for a Jesus (historical figure) adequate to have generated a group of followers among whom after his execution there arose the powerful conviction that God had made him messiah and lord. That conviction certainly required more than Jesus’ own earthly activities, for they ascribe to God the source of it. But it was a conviction about the historical figure to whom they had already been drawn in commitment.

Vinny: Being crucified was certainly a significant punishment, but it was typically applied to the people with the lowest standing in the Roman Empire, sometimes in huge numbers. . . e.g., the slaves of Spartacus’ rebellion and the Jews after the fall of Jerusalem. I would guess that for only a tiny fraction of its victims do we know their identities or do we have more than a general idea about why they were crucified.

LWH: You have to distinguish between crucifixions carried out in times of war/revolt (many crucified) and the crucifixion of individuals. The Romans didn’t go about crucifying people for the hell of it or on a regular basis. Yes, for hardly any do we know much about them, which makes it all the more interesting that for this one crucified man we have a lot of attention and testimony.

Vinny: [Omitted reference to George Washington] After his death, George Washington was thoroughly mythologized for propaganda purposes as the “Father of His Country.” He was put forth as the embodiment of every virtue for which the new nation wished to think it stood. Stories were told about him for the purposes of creating a sense of identity for the fledgling United States. Historians have always struggled to get behind those myths to understand who the man really was. This task is incredibly difficult despite the fact that there is a wealth of primary source material that predates the myth making.

With Jesus of Nazareth, there is nothing that predates the myth making and nothing that can be separated from its effects.

LWH: Sorry, but you’re wrong. We don’t have any textual sources from Jesus’ own lifetime, but we do have reports of his actions and teachings, which are commonly thought to preserve essentials. These point to a figure who generated considerable polarity about him.

Vinny: Our earliest sources are the letters of Paul and he knew only a supernatural being who made himself known through revelation and whose postmortem accomplishments were supposed to usher in the kingdom of God. Paul has nothing to say about a flesh and blood person interacting with people that he knew personally. Paul has nothing to say about the character in the gospels who polarized his contemporaries into devoted followers and mortal enemies. To put it crudely, Paul only knows that there was ever a man named Jesus because he saw his ghost.

LWH: Sorry, but you greatly exaggerate and so distort matters. Paul in fact refers to the human figure of Jesus more than once, e.g., specifying his Jewish birth (Gal 4:4), the claim of Davidic descent (Rom 1:3-4), his death (treated as an action of love, e.g., Gal 2:20), and other matters (see, e.g., David L. Dungan, The Sayings of Jesus in the Churches of Paul (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971). It is simply a non sequitur to take the limited references to the earthly Jesus in Paul as indicating either ignorance or lack of interest in Jesus by Paul. What, after all did Paul and Cephas discuss during their two weeks together in Jerusalem, the weather? (Gal. 18).

Vinny: Supernatural stories arose surrounding Alexander the Great even during his own lifetime, but those stories arose because of the accomplishments of a natural man. If we scrape away the supernatural stories, we still have a significant historical footprint.  With Jesus of Nazareth, the stories about his natural life were perpetuated and preserved, and often invented, in order to propagate a belief that had arisen in his postmortem supernatural accomplishments. If you scrape away the supernatural stories, you scrape away the reason that he left a mark at all. It seems to me that this creates challenges to historical inquiry that I have never seen adequately addressed.

LWH: Again, a bit of over-simplification. But, true, we know of Jesus because his followers were convinced that God had raised him to heavenly glory, vindicating his messianic status (which of course suggests that they had already entertained such a view of him). Also, in fact the problem that you mention has been discussed oooodles of times by scholars over the years, for at least a century. But most scholars don’t see the difficulties of historical inquiry about Jesus as justifying despair.

Vinny:  As I said, this is why I find comparisons to events like the moon landing inapt. If the moon landings really happened, we would expect the evidence to be so overwhelming that no rational person could doubt it—and we do. On the other hand, if the historical Jesus of scholars like Sanders existed, we wouldn’t expect to have much evidence of him. Unlike a George Washington or an Alexander the Great, he wouldn’t have left the kind of historical footprint that would give us any confidence that we could separate the myth from the reality. 
Curiouser and curiouser.  It seems to me that when you write, "I take it that you're not denying that Jesus lived," you have to allow the person to explain exactly what his position is on the question.  I have no idea why he decided to delete the sentence that mentions Ehrman and McGrath or the references to specific mass crucifixions as neither appreciably lengthens the comment.  On the other hand, I thought that deleting the references to Alexander the Great and George Washington as "non-essential" was quite presumptuous.  The reason that I am agnostic about a historical Jesus is that I don't believe that we have the kind of evidence that would allow us to separate myth from reality and the comparison to historical figures where we have such evidence illustrates the problem.

(Editor’s note: Again, I interleave responses to “Vinny”, my responses marked “LWH”. I’ve also deleted some of the unnecessary expansive statements to save space, preserving essential points.)

Vinny: I’m not at all certain what Paul and Cephas discussed during those two weeks in Jerusalem, but I have often thought that it might well have been Paul who did most of the talking. . . . . . After all, Paul was a dynamic and well educated man who had been successfully preaching his message about the region for three years while Cephas was (or might have been) an illiterate peasant who was still sitting around Jerusalem. I would guess that Paul had a very firm idea of the meaning of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus going into that meeting, and given Paul’s reputation for dealing harshly with people who disagreed with him, I can easily imagine that it was Paul’s ideas that dominated. 


LWH: Paul says (Gal 1:18) that he went to Jerusalem to obtain information from Cephas (Greek historesai Kefan), not to browbeat or propagandize him.


Vinny:  Paul does seem to be referring to a human figure of Jesus, but the sources he cites for his knowledge are revelation, appearances, and scripture. There can be no doubt that he knew things other than what he puts in his letters, but I don’t see how the historian can claim to know what those things were. Based on what Paul writes, which is the evidence we have, I don’t think we can conclude that his understanding of the earthly Jesus was particularly close to the portrait we find in the gospels. It could have been, but I don’t think that the evidence is at all sufficient to determine that it was.


LWH: No. Paul explicitly says more than once that he had access to Jesus-tradition, as the two-week interview with Cephas cited in Gal 1:18, and as reflected in his use of sayings of Jesus also reflected in the Gospels (again, Dungan’s book that I referred you to in the earlier comment). If you want to make claims about what Paul did or didn’t know or say, it’s good to have done the work of close analysis of the evidence and interaction with the scholarship on the evidence.


Vinny: I’m simply not persuaded that we do have to allow for a historical Jesus adequate to have generated the Christian movement any more than we would have to allow for a historical Moroni adequate to generate Mormonism. . . . . It was Joseph Smith’s belief that he had encountered a supernatural being that explains the origins of the Latter Day Saints. How can we determine that the beliefs of Peter and Paul that they had encountered a supernatural being would be insufficient to explain the origins of Christianity?  I certainly don’t know for sure, but I just don’t see that we know enough about what happened in those early years to determine that the growth of Christianity necessitates a historical Jesus.

By the way, while I greatly appreciate your responses, I think I might differ with you somewhat about which elements (e.g., George Washington and the moon landing) are essential to the points that I am making.


LWH: Please note carefully: As I’ve tried to indicate at some length in my book, Lord Jesus Christ (2003), pp.27-78 (“Forces and Factors”), there were multiple factors involved in the eruption of the early Christian movement and its intense Jesus-devotion. One of them was surely the impact of the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth. That was a necessary factor, but, in my view, not in itself a sufficient factor to account for the eruption of devotion to Jesus as sharing in divine glory. But, to repeat, by virtual consensus among scholars, it is very hard to account for devotion to Jesus except by granting that the historical figure had a considerable impact on his followers. (I think we’ve now probably dealt with matters sufficiently for this venue.)
Now this is just getting silly. He asks me what I think about Paul's visit to Cephas and simply deletes most of my response.  He's arguing that we need a historical man Jesus as well as the claimed encounters with a supernatural being to explain the origins of Christianity, but he considers it unnecessarily expansive for me to point out another major religion that began with nothing more than the claimed encounters.

I realize that "blogging ethics" is an oxymoron, but I would really hope for better from a respected scholar.  I have no problem when people ignore my comments.  I don't mind when people delete my comments or refuse to allow them through moderation. I don't even mind when people mischaracterize my comments as long as the comment is left standing so others can make their own judgment.  It's another thing altogether to edit my comments and to respond to the edited comment without letting others see what it was that I really wrote.  That's horseshit.

193 comments:

  1. I think he's actually wrong about the mass executions only happening during a time of war. At least, not entirely correct. According to Philo (On The Embassy of Gauis, 38.301-306) Pilate was known for "his corruption, and his acts of insolence, and his rapine, and his habit of insulting people, and his cruelty, and his continual murders of people untried and uncondemned, and his never ending, and
    gratuitous, and most grievous inhumanity"

    It would seem that Pilate would be the type of person to hand out crucifixions like lollipops just for giving him the wrong look.

    But yeah, his deleting of your criticism of comparing doubts about the existence of Jesus to doubts about the moon landing are shady. It looks like he wants the evidence in his own field to be comparable to the evidence found in harder sciences. The analogy is legit if we are only comparing Academia :: Fringe, but it's not apt if we are comparing the actual evidence, e.g. Evidence for Jesus :: Evidence for the moon landing.

    His entire response is arguing from that first analogy, when, ironically, people who refute moon landing skeptics, or creationists, or just about any other fringe theory don't take that route; they go by the evidence. And they are more successful. So even the way he's arguing isn't analogous.

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    1. For example, PZ Myers would not argue with a creationist like "Silly Creationist! Evolution is true, this was proven in Scholar A (2003) Scholar B (1993) and Scholar C (2010)! You need to get up to speed with the latest scholarship!"

      No, he would argue like this: "Silly Creationist! Evolution is true, this is due to Evidence A, Evidence B, and Evidence C". I have never seen a biologist appeal to scholarship when refuting Creationists. They always lead with the evidence.

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    2. But Jesus is different.

      Jesus is the one person who helped in the creation of the universe who actually existed as a human being and the only man who his followers believed sat on the right hand of god who actually existed.

      Every other divine figure who died, came back to life never existed.

      Apart from Jesus, of course.

      And his followers were so astonished by him they carefully preserved the teachings he gave while on Earth, such as women not being able to divorce their husbands, and that his followers had to eat his body and drink his blood.

      How could Christians have come to drink the blood and eat the body of Jesus, unless there had been a human Jesus to tell them to do that?

      HURTADO
      'But, to repeat, by virtual consensus among scholars, it is very hard to account for devotion to Jesus except by granting that the historical figure had a considerable impact on his followers.'

      CARR
      I imagine if somebody tells you to eat his body and drink his blood, that would have a considerable impact on you.

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    3. J. Quinton,

      I was recently taking a look at Deborah Lipstadt's Denying the Holocaust to see if I could find any discussion of "denialism" as a general phenomenon or citations of scholarly consensus to disprove the deniers, but all she seems to want to talk about is the evidence.

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    4. Vinny - have a read of "Holocaust Denial and Professional History-Writing", by Robert Angrove, it's available online.

      A quote from the abstract sums up the aim of the thesis.

      "The purpose of this thesis is to examine Holocaust denial and professional historiography. Although much has been written about both subjects, the issue of distinguishing between them seems to have been largely ignored. They are, however, linked because of the way deniers conduct their business: in the attempt to make credible the claim that the Holocaust never happened, deniers mimic the styles and conventions traditionally employed by professional historians. Using footnotes and writing in the third person, deniers hope to get the surface right and make their readers believe their work. But appearances are deceiving, for deniers do not do history and are not historians. Theirs is a claim that defies morality and any sense of historical reality. Professional historians, while undoubtedly recognizing the moral bankruptcy of deniers and certainly not accepting their work as historical writing, have failed to make evident enough that deniers are not historians. Moreover, those who have attempted to refute deniers - and not often have these been professional historians - have usually done so on the basis of evidence: they have gone back to the data and shown how deniers have falsified or misrepresented it. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with that method, my own tack is different. At the same time as I take for granted the fact that deniers are not historians, what I aim to do is show how that is the case."

      Angrove largely avoids a detailed evidence-based refutation of the HD case, and makes more formal comparison about the nature of the debate - I've argued that this approach is also useful in distinguishing between Jesus Denial and actual Biblical scholarship.

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    5. '. Moreover, those who have attempted to refute deniers - and not often have these been professional historians - have usually done so on the basis of evidence: they have gone back to the data and shown how deniers have falsified or misrepresented it.'

      Presumably by changing the words they wrote, omitting them, and then claiming that they are experts and so must be right.

      That is the modus operandus of Dr. Hurtado, who does not produce evidence for Jesus.

      He produces his certificates and claims that because he has certificates, Jesus must have existed.

      Incidentally, Dr. Hurtado is now producing arguments from silence to back up historicity , by claiming that Philo did not think there was a celestial being called Jesus, because Philo only quoted Zechariah 6:12 and not also Zecharaiah 6:11 (the very verse next to it!)....

      So arguments from silence are wrong when mythicists use them, and right when historicists use them, no matter how badly they employ their arguments from silence.

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    6. Paul,

      I don't see anything in there attempting to compare Holocaust denial to any general phenomenon of "denialism." As far as I can see, when he uses the term "denier" he is only talking about Holocaust deniers.

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    7. Indeed he is. I was making the point that criticism of holocaust denial, and contrasting holocaust deniers with mainstream scholarship is not always just about the evidence.

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    8. Paul,

      It seems to me that what Angove is contrasting is the methods of Holocaust deniers and the methods of mainstream scholars. It's about how conclusions are drawn from the evidence. Many mythicists would insist that this is exactly the discussion they wish to have with historicists. The mythicists would say that the historicists just want to talk about the results or consensus of mainstream scholarship because their methods leave something to be desired.

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    9. Vinny, I think that the contrast Angrove makes is wider than that. Many of the contrasts and he makes between professional history writing and the works of holocaust denial apply equally to Jesus Denial - e.g. lack of professional historians in their ranks, use of internet and non-academic media, shared ideology, the idea of an incompatible-competing narrative. That said, I also think that some of the criticisms Angrove makes about HDers use of evidence also apply to JDers.

      Incidentally, as your guest historicist on this particular thread, just a reminder that on numerous occasions I have suggested a comparison between the methods and results of Jesus scholarship with that of comparable figures such as the Buddha etc. No mythicist has yet taken me up on this suggestion, or explained why it would be invalid. So exactly who is avoiding talking about methods?!

      PS: Should you reply to this comment and I don't respond, please note that I'm not giving you the Hurtado - I'm just off on my hols today :-)

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    10. Paul,

      You have suggested a comparison between scholarship on Jesus and scholarship of Buddha, but I don't recall you developing it in any depth either. I don't know much 0f anything about historical Buddha studies so I don't know whether there are any useful insights to be gained by the comparison.

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    11. But you have to know about Buddha!

      Before any mythicist can be taken seriously, they have to have studied Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, got a degree in Biblical studies, and be an expert on the Roman world circa AD 30.

      And if they are, they won't be listened to until they are also world-experts on Buddha, Socrates and Muhammad as well.

      Or else Paul Regnier will denounce them as having double-standards - 'You say Jesus might not have existed, but you won't talk about Muhammad, Socrates, Buddha and Uncle Tom Cobleigh. You're just a denialist.'

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    12. BTW Enjoy your holidays!

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    13. Vinny,

      I think we would have to agree on what would be the key areas to compare, which perhaps would go back to what you see as the key difficulties for you in thinking that Jesus was a historical figure.

      Eg is it the lateness of sources, lack of non-Christian corroboration for the life of Jesus, similarities between Jesus and other mythical figures, or something else?

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  2. I agree with your arguments in the comments and how unethical (I think it applies here) his editing is. Also, I would usually tear him a new one on the moon landing comparison, to say nothing of the currently verifiable science claims he uses. But I had heard decent things about him and I just started reading him, so I gave him a pass. I think he knows what terrible comparisons they were, and I would bet a dollar or two that he has moderated out other comments about it.

    I also think you got the better of Stephan Fischer on another blog somewhere with the same arguments in comments. Keep up the good work!

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    1. The Wordpress sign in didn't work right. One of the main problems with commenting on blogspot with an iPad. It's a real pain.

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  3. Incidentally, one charge against Jews which led to the anti-Semitism that led to the Holocaust was that they ate Christian babies in a ritual meal.

    So the gods of irony are strong as historicists insist that Jews decided to (at least symbolically) eat the flesh of a real person called Jesus and drink his blood in a ritual meal.

    As if they would.....

    Charges of ritually drinking blood by Jews were so inflammatory that Popes had to remind people that 'The law of the Jews specifically forbids them to make sacrifices and to drink blood. They aren't even allowed to drink the blood of the animals."'

    A reminder wasted on historicists who insist that Jews took a recently deceased person and ritually drank his blood....

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  4. Of course, Paul has himself pointed out that some people have questioned the existence of the Buddha.

    Is the Buddha comparable? Did the very earliest followers of the Buddha write a 16 chapter work on theology explaining how the Buddha had totally changed the relationship between God and man, without once quoting a single word the Buddha had said or a single thing the Buddha had done while alive?

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  5. And is the Buddha comparable , because defenders of the Buddha's historicity produce their certificates and degrees when asked if the Buddha existed, or do they produce their evidence instead?

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  6. Paul,

    "..the works of holocaust denial apply equally to Jesus Denial - e.g. lack of professional historians in their ranks, use of internet and non-academic media, shared ideology, the idea of an incompatible-competing narrative."

    These are superficial, also, not entirely accurate. For example, what is the "shared ideology" amongst Jesus doubters? What do you mean by "incompatible-competing narrative?"

    I see a huge difference between Holocaust deniers and Jesus doubters:

    The arguments of Holocaust deniers are easily disproven by presenting actual evidence and logic.

    Historical Jesus adovcates have had a hard time presenting a thorough refutation of the mythicist position. You would have to demonstrate that mythicists misuse, hide, twist, deny the actual evidence. I do not see mythicists doing that.

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    1. gbarrett:

      I agree. In fact, what do we actually see here in Vinny's example? What we ACTUALLY see is an Historicist, Hurtado, denying, hiding, vast bodies of evidence.

      Too much of reality contradicts the religious mind; which has to resort therefore to Denial, repression, and censorship, in order to "face" reality. The worst censors and book-burners in the world, were religious. And to this very day, it is they who are masters of Denial, suppression.

      So Paul: what do you make of all the crossed out parts of Vinny's text? What do YOU make of Hurtado's suppression of the evidence, of critical testimony? Doen't it look like censorship, denial, even to you?

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    2. Anonymous - Is that Breton Garcia I'm talking to?

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    3. Yes; had trouble logging in with facebook.

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    4. BG - I don't know Dr Hurtado or read his blog so I have no idea why he chose to edit Vinny's comments. With the greatest respect to Vinny, I don't see any of the crossed out portions of text as mythicist slamdunks that need to be suppressed before anyone find out about them (though some are certainly interesting).

      However, if you (or Vinny, or Steven with a V) think that the treatment you get on the blogs of NT academics is unfair, please try the following experiment:

      1) Choose a field of study X, in which you have no academic background.
      2) Find the blog of a professor of X.
      3) Make a series of comments on this blog, in which you suggest that X never happened, that this professor of X has therefore got it all wrong about X, that all other professors of X have got it wrong about X, that X is generally a methodologically unsound and intellectually compromised area of study, and that you generally know more about X than he/she does.

      When you have done this, please share the link to your discussion with this professor of X and we can see if they react any better or worse than New Testament scholars.

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    5. gbarrett - what is superficial? Perhaps you could explain?

      In answer to your questions - In my experience, JDers tend to share an ideology which is atheistic and/or generally hostile towards religion and Christianity. The idea of an incompatible competing narrative is explained in the article I linked to. I think it's application to mythicism is fairly straightforward.

      By the way, if you think that the arguments of holocaust deniers (or any other fringe theories) are easily disproved by evidence and logic, go find a forum where you can interact with such people and test out just how easy it is or isn't to use evidence and logic against them.

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    6. I think we now know why Paul does not use evidence and logic to prove that Jesus of Nazareth, Judas, Mary Magdalene, Thomas, Joseph of Arimathea, Bartimaeus, etc etc existed.

      It is not because he does not have a shred of evidence for the existence of these people....

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    7. Paul,

      Why should he delete any part of my comments? Why not let everyone see the whole argument I made and decide for themselves which parts were essential.

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    8. I have no idea Vinny, and I agree - I think it would be better if he had posted them as you wrote them, and let other people read them or not.

      As I guess, perhaps this particular post generated rather more comments than his blog usually gets and he wanted to highlight and respond to what he felt were your key arguments?

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    9. Paul,

      I often deal with long comments by interweaving my response to only those portions which I think significant, but I still leave the unedited comment intact so anyone who happens to read my response can judge its adequacy for himself.

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    10. As I say Vinny, I agree that this is a better approach, I just don't think it's necessary to read any sinister motives into Dr Hurtado's editing of your comments. Have you forwarded Dr Hurtado the link to this post so that he can respond?

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    11. Paul,

      I don't think "sinister" is the word I would use to describe his motives either, but being the trained scholar that he insists he is, Hurtado understands the importance of fairly representing the positions to which he is responding. When he edits out my responses to points that he raised, I think the thing it speaks for itself. If I felt the need to elicit a further response from Hurtado, I would have followed up on his blog. The purpose of this post was just to get my full comments on the record.

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  7. My own reading of the Bible, suggests that most conventional believers, are overwhelmingly, themselves, in "denial of" a major self-critical subtext in this document. A major case in point - would be (against Hurtado), one disciple - Paul's - arguments against other disciples.

    Dr. Larry Hurtado, former head/dean of Edinburg's School of Divinity, has asserted among many other silly things, that Paul could not be the primary source of the Jesus legend; that the disciples must have been there before him. And that Paul must have gone to sit at the feet of the older disciples, in Jerusalem, to humbly learn the early, remembered historical facts about Jesus. But? Hurtado's invocation of a mere misleading fragment of the text - Gal. 1.18 - overlooks the larger subtext. Where in point of fact, Paul adamantly, over and over, says that he "owed nothing to" other apostles; that he "consulted with no" other flesh and blood, in acquiring his vision of Christ.

    Larry Hurtado is in the habit of suppressing/being in Denial of, many parts of texts that he cannot face; that his simplistic Christianity cannot bear. But it is truly amazing that Hurtado has missed, gone into Denial about, more that a dozen solid references from the Bible itself. References that solidly refute his dedication to the Apostles. As we see Paulnot only not following, but actually criticizing Peter, for example, in Gal. 2.11.

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  8. Vinny: here in point of fact, Larry Hurtado's exegetical skills utterly fail, and prove entirely, utterly sophistical. In the larger context of what Paul says here, Paul is over and over again, adamantly, making precisely and exactly the opposite point to what Larry claimed. Larry wants to limit himself justly, to the first visit of Paul to the disciples in Gal. 1.18. Where he claims Paul wants to sit humbly at the feet of the other disciplines, and learn about Jesus from them. Thus disproving Doherty's claim that Paul was the first, authoritative source on Jesus (with whatever minimal information Paul had).

    But Larry here is making an outrageous claim; one utterly, completely at odds with the larger picture; which shows Paul both before and during and after this isolated moment, criticizing the other disciples over and over; and in effect telling the other disciples their understanding of Jesus is false. Here we can offer at least a dozen points showing Hurtado's presentation of the Bible is completely sophistical.

    1) IN Galatians 1.12, Paul first of all makes his famous statement that, regarding his knowledge of Christ, "I did not receive it from any man" (1.12). Then? 2) he notes it came "from revelation." Then 3) Paul says "I did not confer with flesh and blood" (1.16); 4) "nor did I go up to Jerusalem to whose who were apostles" to get his revelations (1.17), for a long time. Finally 5) only after "three years" does he go to Jerusalem to meet Cephas and James (1.18), only. While 6) Paul does not specify the reason for meeting them; nor learning about Jesus from them. While indeed, Paul will go on to criticize Cephas/Paul severely.

    8) In fact, immediately after that brief meeting, content unspecified, 9) far from seeking out the other disciples for more info on Jesus, instead Paul goes fully 14 years before looking them up again (2.1). And 10) there he goes up "by revelation." With 11) Titus, a Greek (2.3). 12) Noting the existence of false "brothers" (2.4), 13) Paul calls those who are said to be religious authorities, "reputed" pillars only (2.6). And regarding specifically and explicitly their knowledge of Jesus? Paul says "they added nothing to me; but on the contrary" (2.6-7).

    14) Not only is Paul NOT sitting humbly at the feet of the other apostles and pillars of Jerusalem, learning about Jesus from them; in fact by Galatians 2.11, Paul is explicitly denouncing Cephas or Peter, for making huge errors regarding the doctrines of Jesus. Paul calling Peter an "insincere" person (RSV), or a "hypocrite." Paul violatently accusing Peter of making huge errors even in effect regarding a major doctrine of Jesus: Peter refusing to allow Jewish Christians to eat with/share table fellowship with (or ultimately communion with) gentiles, non-Jewish Christians (Gal. 2.11-13).

    When Larry Hurtado asserts that Paul did not know much about Jesus, but went to learn about Jesus from the others in Jerusalem? Hurtado's assertion is exactly and precisely wrong; and is contradicted in fact by at least a dozen points.

    Here the score is Larry Hurtado 0; Mythicists 14.

    Larry Hurtado, asserting that his reading skills are far in advance of mythicists, is ironic in the extreme. Seldom in my many years of teaching the interpretation of texts in universities, have I ever seen a reading of a text so extremely, exactly wrong; as Larry Hurtado's radical - and I would have to say, willful - misreading of Paul, in Galatians.

    Christians have been trained from infancy, to believe the Bible; and to believe that the Bible assured us that the disiciples - like Peter - and their accounts, doctrines of God, were absolutely relaible.

    But ironically? That isn't what the Bible itself really said.

    Believers themselves, are in Denial of a major self-critical theme in the Bible itelf. Where the apostles for example, criticize each other.

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  9. What will happen in Paul's thought experiment is that the professor will wave the evidence in front of us.

    What happened with Dr. Hurtado is that he waved his certificates in front of us.

    All Paul himself can do is claim that because Muhammad existed, Jesus existed, and that mythicists don't have degrees.

    Which, of course, is a plain lie, because people like Doherty and Carrier and Price do have relevant degrees.

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  10. Steven - your misrepresentation my position is becoming utterly tedious. Is this the best you can do?

    If I explain it to you again (as you clearly haven't understood it) would you do me the courtesy of responding to what I'm actually saying rather than attacking a straw man?

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  11. Regnier seems determined to slander mythicists by comparing them to Holocaust deniers.

    He is still incapable of producing a single bit of evidence for Jesus of Nazareth (Just quote Galatians 1:19, it's all you have)

    Let us look at a slightly different universe, one where Hitler fulfilled his lifelong ambition to be a painter.

    In this universe, WW2 scholars have just announced the failure of the Third Quest to find the Historical Holocaust, following the failures of the First and Second Quests.

    Several of them are now saying that what is important is the Holocaust of faith, rather than the historical Holocaust.

    In this alternative universe, Dr. Mark Goodacre is claiming that Theresienstadt never existed. This position is gaining increasing ground among WW2 scholars.

    Documents have been found, written shortly after WW2 where Jews claimed 'The Nazis are God's agents. They do not bear the sword for nothing and hold no terror for the innocent.'

    Another document has been found where a Jew did say there was a Holocaust, but the document was found to have been copied only by Holocaust-claimers, and WW2 scholars agree that Holocaust-claimers had tampered substantially with it.

    In this alternative universe, mythicists and Holocaust-deniers would have a lot in common.

    But in the real universe, all Jesus-claimers can do is point to Galatians 1:19 and then say they have a degree.

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    1. "He is still incapable of producing a single bit of evidence for Jesus of Nazareth"

      Errr... Actually Steven, I have suggested a comparison between the evidence for Jesus and that for comparable figures whose existence is not generally doubted. That you and other JDers seek to avoid such a comparison is hardly my fault.

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    2. Paul,

      You have suggested that comparison, but I don't think that you have fleshed it out enough for it to constitute evidence. I think the point that Steven is getting at is that our earliest sources for Jesus seem only to know the supernatural being and are in many ways inconsistent with the sort of recently deceased human figure described in the gospels which came somewhat later. Are Buddha and Mohammed in any way comparable on that score?

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    3. “our earliest sources for Jesus seem only to know the supernatural being and are in many ways inconsistent with the sort of recently deceased human figure described in the gospels which came somewhat later. Are Buddha and Mohammed in any way comparable on that score?”

      Vinny,

      Thanks for teasing out the point that Steven was trying to make. Unfortunately, in the form that you’ve presented it, Steven’s point contains a no doubt unintended logical muddle: he’s allowed his conclusions about the evidence for Jesus (which are debate to say the least) to become the basis for a comparison with other religious figures. If I rewrite Steven’s point with a historicist slant perhaps you and he can see what I mean:

      “our earliest sources for Jesus seem to reflect a recently deceased human figure who Christians regarded as the Messiah and are in many ways consistent with the sort of figure described in the gospels which came somewhat later. Is the angel Moroni in any way comparable on that score?”

      It’s a loaded question or its petitio principii, pick your logical fallacy.

      However, if you were to ask whether the evidence about the Buddha or Muhammad is inconsistent or whether earliest sources lack some of the details found in later sources (which I think any NT scholar would agree is also the case with Jesus), then yes I’m sure I could find numerous examples where this is the case. Do you think that would help Steven understand that the methods and conclusions of NT scholars are pretty much the same as those of historians who study similar figures?

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    4. Paul,

      I don't think that your rewrite accurately describes our earliest sources. Paul never says where or when Jesus lived or died. Paul never tells us anything that Jesus said or did during his life other than the institution of the eucharistic meal which Paul claims to know of by revelation. Paul never describes the human Jesus teacher or a healer. He never describes his interaction with any other people. There is no indication in Paul that memories of a human Jesus play any role in the faith life of his communities whereas revelations of the risen Christ do.

      It is not a question of the earliest sources being inconsistent or lacking details found later. It is that the earliest source seems to describe a supernatural being who only makes himself known through revelation. Is that how the earliest sources claim to have known Buddha and Mohammed?

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    5. Vinny, you say that it’s not a question of early sources lacking details found later, but even in your post it’s clear that one of the features of the evidence about Jesus that leads you to your conclusion *is precisely* that early sources lacking details found later! “Paul never says where or when Jesus lived or died. Paul never tells us anything that Jesus said or did during his life other than the institution of the eucharistic meal which Paul claims to know of by revelation. Paul never describes the human Jesus teacher or a healer. He never describes his interaction with any other people.” Again I’m quite sure that we could find numerous examples were this is the case in the evidence for comparable figures to Jesus.

      I know you do not agree with my take on the earliest Christian sources. I do not agree with yours either, I think it relies on a completely distorted reading of Paul, puts an unjustified and unnecessary wedge between Paul and other sources, and creates far more logical and historical problems than it solves.

      However, by disagreeing with my assessment I think you prove my point. You are making your conclusions about the evidence for Jesus – that they point to a non-historical figure – form the basis for a comparison with other religious figures. Since the likely historicity or otherwise is one of the things we are trying to establish, this quite clearly constitutes begging the question.

      I don’t wish to offend, but these types of basic errors in reasoning seem to crop continually in conversations with JDs or HJAs. It’s one of the things that I think makes constructive engagement with mythicists so difficult and makes it hard for to take mythicism seriously.

      However, leaving my concerns about your question to one side for a moment...
      When we look at Buddhism, from what I recall of the evidence, it’s usually thought that the jatakas predate any attempt to write a biography of the life of the earthly Siddharta, perhaps by a couple of centuries. Apologies if I’m telling you something you already know, but the jatakas are legendary tales about the past lives of the Buddha as animals or people, that are thought to contain virtually no historical information about the historical Buddha. Moreover, since it’s thought that Buddhist teachings and stories circulated purely orally for about 400 years after the death of the Buddha, you could of course choose to argue that it’s the jatakas and the pre-existent being that come first, and it’s the teachings and life of Siddharta Gautama that are a later invention. Most mainstream scholars of Buddhism would be unlikely to draw such a conclusion of course, any more than most mainstream scholars of Buddhism think that your Moroni-like Jesus is an adequate explanation for the origins of Christianity. Their conclusions might be wrong of course, but even so, I’m not aware of the blogs of professors of Buddhism being trolled by a rather tedious bunch of Buddha deniers.

      So there you go... even looking at the question you asked, (and again I stress I think it’s a loaded question rather than a useful starting point for a constructive discussion), yes you could certainly argue that there are analogous problems with other religious figures.

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    6. Paul,

      Lack of details in Paul pointing to a recently deceased authoritative teacher is one feature of the evidence. Another feature is the many details pointing to a supernatural being who only makes himself known through revelation and scripture. I might add that in Paul, Jesus only reveals himself after he is dead. I suppose it would have been more precise of me to say “it is not merely a question of the earliest sources being inconsistent or lacking details found later.”

      One of the things that I think makes constructive engagement difficult is when people start claiming that I have proved their point by disagreeing with them. I don’t even know how to respond to a statement like that.

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    7. Paul,

      The nature of the Buddha and Buddhism is very different than the nature of Christian faith. CHristian faith turns on the historicity of certain points. It lives or dies based on whether certain things actually happened.

      Buddhism is not quite the same. Buddhists aren't told that if certain facts about the Buddha aren't true then Buddhism falls apart. The Buddha is seen as more of a revealer of pre-existent truth, encouraging other to discover the same truths, rather than as the author of truth, the ruler of the Universe, the authority to which life must be submitted...etc.

      Buddhists simply don't have as much invested in the historical facts about the Buddha. It isn't essential to their faith's understanding of itself.

      A better comparison might be to Mohammed, or Joseph Smith, or L. Ron Hubbard....earthly, historical people who have huge accretions of legend, mythos, and supernatural/otherworldly powers/abilities/insights attributed to them by their followers.

      And in those cases the importance lies in what they claim to have had revealed to them rather than what the nature of their person is.

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    8. Anonymous - the theological importance that a given figure holds within a religion is completely irrelevant to the question of whether that figures is more likely than not to have existed.

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    9. Vinny – what I meant was that your objection to my conclusions about the evidence rather neatly proves the point that making a something which is disputed the basis for some other comparison is nothing more than question begging.

      You don’t agree that the evidence is consistent with a historical figure and I don’t agree that the evidence reveals a first century Moroni. So how could either position serve as the basis for a reasonably objective comparison of the evidence for Jesus and other figures in the way that somewhat less contentious measures might perhaps be able to?

      You, BG, and Steven all seem to think that Biblical Studies has a lower status than other disciplines. With respect I know you have a law degree, and I would not dream of making ill-informed comments about the intellect or motivations of professors of Law. BG has told us about his PhD, and I wouldn’t think of criticising what goes on in departments of cultural history because never having studied in one, my comments would likely be misguided. Steven Carr’s educational level, as far as I can tell, puts him at the lower end of the Biff and Chip series and once again, I would not criticise Biff or Chip because I really don’t know enough about early years education.

      Vinny, I seem to recall you starting a comment over on the Matrix with words to the effect that by any objective measure you were a pretty intelligent guy who graduated near the top of the class at law school.

      Well, by any objective measure I think I’m also a pretty intelligent guy: I also graduated near the top of my class (OK I’ll be smug here, I graduated top) at a good non-religious University, and I score in the top 2-3% of the population in intelligence tests. Oh and without wishing to pull rank, I did I graduate in the subject we’re actually talking about here.

      So again, once again I ask as one intelligent guy to another, do you actually have anything to sustain the view that the methods or conclusions of NT scholars fall below the standards of those historians other comparable figures? Because otherwise it looks like an unfounded assumption to me.

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    10. So again, once again I ask as one intelligent guy to another, do you actually have anything to sustain the view that the methods or conclusions of NT scholars fall below the standards of those historians other comparable figures?

      Paul,

      I consider this to be a loaded question because I don't believe that the extent to which other figures are comparable has been established yet.

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    11. "I consider this to be a loaded question because I don't believe that the extent to which other figures are comparable has been established yet."

      What about isn't comparable exactly? Buddha scholarship and Jesus scholarship have reached a similar conclusion - that their respective objects of study are more likely than historical figures (or at least, you haven't offered any evidence that this is not the most common position held by credentialed scholars of early Buddhism), so that is what we could agree as our "comparable figure".

      Either they've reached the same conclusion because they draw on broadly comparable evidence and methodologies OR they've reached the same conclusion because one of these fields is relying on weaker evidence but a less robust methodology. It should be relatively easy to decide which is the case, if we can both agree to put aside our own assumptions.

      Alternatively you've suggested Jesus as figure more like Moroni. I'd be happy to treat these as comparable figures (both are believed to have revealed themselves spiritually after their deaths) so perhaps we could instead assess evidence pointing towards a historical Moroni vs evidence for a historical Jesus?

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    12. Buddha scholarship and Jesus scholarship have reached a similar conclusion - that their respective objects of study are more likely than historical figures (or at least, you haven't offered any evidence that this is not the most common position held by credentialed scholars of early Buddhism), so that is what we could agree as our "comparable figure".

      That is rather a superficial similarity though, isn’t it Paul? After all, Abraham Lincoln scholars have concluded that he was most likely a historical figure as well, but I doubt that you are going to argue that Jesus denial is equivalent to Lincoln denial.

      I do think that there are some interesting comparisons that can be drawn between Moroni and Jesus. To the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence whatsoever that a historical Moroni existed. Is that your understanding as well?

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    13. It depends on what you mean by evidence Vinny. The book of Mormon is evidence, if you're using that word in the loose sense of testimony or witness.

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    14. I wasn't using evidence in that loose a sense.

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  12. Indeed, Gal. 1:19 is horribly, horribly thin material; it merely mentions the very, 1) very threadbare assertion that Paul going to meet a "James." And that's all. As Vinny noted elsewhere, the text is 2) not clearly telling us who or WHICH "James" he is meeting with. 3) Nor is the text telling us WHY he is meeting this James. 4) Nor WHAT is said.

    And then next, as soon as we begin to look at the larger biblical context, the writing all around this very, very threatbare factotum, it becomes clear right away, that whoever these persons were, Paul did not agree with them, or sit down to learn from them. Quite the opposite: he called them "reputed" leaders only; he explicitly said that "flesh and blood" persons "added nothing to" him. In fact, in addition to the points made above, I might add this: far from getting his gospels from alleged earlier apostles, Paul shows up "and laid before them ... the gospel which I preach" (1.2).

    Hurtado's pathetic invocation of the all but totally empty Gal. 1.19, invokes a mere zero as evidence. While his Denial of the fuller context of that tiny passage, amounts to a horrible misuse of "exegesis." Hurtado utterly missing - or deliberately obcuring - the clear larger message: Paul's disagreements with the other Christian leaders; Paul's refusal in effect to learn about Jesus from them.

    Doherty is right here; in fact this portion of the text is extremely supporting of Doherty's thesis. That no one knew or taught much of anything about Jesus before Paul (in Paul's account); Paul got it all from "revelation."

    As Paul himself clearly said, in Galatians 1-3.

    The conventional Christianity of a "scholar" - or actually, administrator - like Hurtado, can only exist by Denial, suppression, of the larger, fuller messages of the Bible. In this case, of the immediate context of Gal. 1.19. Which exactly and precisely contradicts Hurtado's reading of it.

    To be sure, 1) the text mentions a "brother of Jesus." 2) But many argue that "brother" is used metaphorically. While 3) we now add here: whoever this brother is, the Bible devotes a lot of time in Paul, in the larger text all around this isolated passage, to suggesting this James, whoever he was, was not to be given much attention or authority at all.

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  13. So Paul is still saying that if Muhammad existed, then Jesus must have existed.....

    Change the record, please!

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    1. Er... no, that's not what I'm saying.

      Still setting up straw men? At least introduce a smattering of variety into the logical fallacies you resort to, please!

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  14. Why did Hurtado delete the bit where you said you were agnostic about the existence of Jesus?

    Is that because it did not fit his script of amateur mythicists denying that Jesus existed?

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  15. Paul isn't saying anything. He produces zero evidence for Jesus, claims the evidence for Jesus is similar to Muhammad, and then says it is a straw man to say his argument is , well, Muhammad existed....

    Still, his inability to produce any evidence for the existence of Jesus is telling.

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  16. SO Regnier is back to avoiding any evidence for Jesus, claiming nobody says Buddha or Muhammad does not exist and then saying that if Buddha existed, we have no reason to doubt the existence of Jesus.

    I'm sure he will now post his second post (he only has two, and they contradict each other) that there ARE people who doubt that Buddha or Muhammad existed, and he is not claiming that if Buddha existed, then we have no reason to doubt the existence of Jesus.

    All the while, Regnier will avoid the obvious fact that cult members do not need to eat the body and drink the blood of real people - this is a clue that the body and blood of Jesus was only accessible in a ritual meal.

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  17. Vinny,

    I understand your being puzzled at Hurtado's editing of your comments. I attribute it to his relative unfamiliarity with blogging. (He may have been blogging himself a couple of years, but I don't get the sense that he frequents other blogs and comments on them.) It seems to me that since he was willing to engage your comments, he chose to include only those from you to which he felt inclined to respond. Even then, the vast majority of what you had to say made its way through. Thus, I think Hurtado's intent was to make things concise for the reader, not to censor an argument or question he felt was too much for him.

    If you were to plot academics on a spectrum with civility in the middle, gentlemanliness on the left and surliness on the right. Hurtado would be about as far left as you could get. He chooses his words carefully and always shows respect to alternative points of view. (I've read five of his books and read his blog from time to time over the past year or so.) While he does have convictions, he is by no means doctrinaire. That he published five posts on the subject, attended by scores of comments, with reactions from him, is hardly evidence that he is one who unfairly dismisses Jesus Mythicism.

    Thus, even if Hurtado erred by his editing, I don't it's material one way or the other to the points you wanted to make. He spent considerably more time answering you than I've seen him answer many, many others on different subjects. It struck me that he was going out of his way to defend a position he really didn't think needed defending. In other words, though you may feel your were slighted, the reality is that you were shown much deference.

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    1. Mike,

      I have been impressed by Dr. Hurtado's willingness to engage and I have no problem if he decides to respond to some points and not others. However, I still think he should leave my entire comment posted so people can decide for themselves which points are essential and whether the inferences I draw are valid.

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  18. Vinny,

    On the broader subject of your "Historical Jesus Agnosticism," I feel compelled to point out that I think Paul Regnier's overtures in these comments to you are strikingly different in both tone and value from the other folks commenting.

    I would think that the sort of comparative religion analysis Paul is offering would attract your trust in a way that my "Jesus is the way" approach would not. He offers the sort of "faith-free" discussion that should appeal to you. He is always temperate in tone and always logical. And always relevant. The only I can't understand about him is why he doesn't love and trust Jesus Christ.

    I interrupt myself, however, to say that my making these kinds of remarks is probably self-defeating. That is, given your attitude, I am probably inadvertently giving PR the kiss of death. Therefore, let me close by saying: Ignore Paul Regnier; listen only to Steven Carr and Brettongarcia!

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    1. Mike,

      I appreciate Paul's approach, but I don't find his analogies all that convincing.

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  19. Vinny,

    If you excised the historical record from the New Testament (that is, removed Matthew through Acts and retained Romans through Revelation), and searched what remained (that is, the epistles) for references to words and deeds of the historical Jesus in order to build a historical record, you'd get more from Paul's letters than from any of the others (James, Peter, John, and Jude - all of whom are regarded to have known Jesus according to the flesh). How does this square with the Jesus Mythicist theory that Paul should be regarded as different because he was only concerned with the ethereal Jesus?

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    1. I think that the mythicist interpretation would be that Paul is typical of the epistles rather than different. What creates my doubts is the fact that most of the epistles seem only to be concerned with the risen Christ and few give any indication that there existed a shared tradition concerning the sayings and deeds of the earthly Jesus, and what little indication there is is found in the ones that are considered to be the latest.

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  20. Vinny,

    If writers and recipients of the epistles believed that Christ was risen from the dead, very much alive, and communicating with them regularly through the Holy Spirit (as referenced in passages such as Acts 2, 1 Cor 12-14, and elsewhere), then wouldn't it be reasonable for them (even the ones who walked with him before his crucifixion) to be preoccupied with what they were contemporaneously hearing from him through said Holy Spirit, and, only later, in more reflective times, and as the ranks of eyewitnesses to his earthly walk were thinning out, think to record significant aspects of that earthly life in a more permanent way?

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    1. Mike,

      I don't find that reasonable at all.

      It is apparent from the letters that there were disagreements about what people were hearing through the Holy Spirit. Moreover, there were proponents of false gospels who no doubt claimed to be hearing things through the Holy Spirit as well. I think it completely unreasonable to suppose that people who knew the words of Jesus during his earthly ministry wouldn't have cited them frequently if they could. Moreover, I think it unreasonable to suppose that proponents of false gospels wouldn't have falsely attributed sayings to the earthly Jesus.

      As the earthly Jesus would have been the ultimate authority in any dispute, I think it reasonable to suppose that the meaning of the things he said and did would have come up again and again, as would the question of the authenticity of the stories told about him.

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  21. Three points.

    First, I, as well as many others, think that it is clear from careful study of the epistles that there was a significant oral tradition already in place at the time of the earliest extant New Testament writings (i.e. c. 50 CE). The classic text, "Paul and His Predecessors" by A. M. Hunter (1940, 1961) is an example of the literature covering this phenomenon. So, while I believe, as I wrote earlier, that preoccupation with more contemporaneous communication from Jesus would likely prevail, it's not as though we have texts that are utterly silent about oral transmission of the words and deeds of the earthly Jesus.

    Second, your reply seems to suggest that it's normal for present disciples to be more concerned with a teacher's past communication with other disciples than his current communication with his present disciples. This is not like any class I have ever attended.

    Third, your scenario overlooks (and I have noticed that this is typical of Jesus Mythicism) the pervasive presence and central importance of the Jewish Scriptures in the early Christian movement. Messiah's death and resurrection had opened up an entirely new vista of interpretation, and thereby invoked the eschatological narrative so long way awaited by the Jewish people. Preparation for what was coming was of extreme importance to these folks and direct communications from Jesus through the Holy Spirit along with the written record of prophetic specifics about the climactic age in which they found themselves were resources that directly spoke to their perceived needs. While Jesus' sayings took on more and more significance for his followers as the movement grew, they would never rise above the Scriptures in authority for he himself had taught them that Scriptures were the authority to which he himself submitted. While I know hardly anything about comparative religious studies, I dare say that the Jesus Christ movement was somewhat unique in having a biography of its protagonist written before, rather than after, he lived. The relevance and utility of the Hebrew Scriptures to the first-century Jews who followed Jesus is often lost on the modern mind. The earliest followers of Jesus felt no lack of a text.

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  22. Mike,

    Have you ever attended a class where a non-present teacher delivered his current communication by revelation through multiple disciples who didn't agree on the content and meaning of those communications whereas past communications had been delivered by the teacher personally?

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  23. 1. No one's saying that resurrection wasn't a unique phenomenon.

    2. The NT epistles testify to a unity of message from the core apostles at odds with your characterization.

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  24. Mike,

    I think I agree about the unity of message. I just don't see that it includes the historical Jesus of the gospels.

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  25. While the epistles don't carry the details of the historical Jesus that the gospels do (if they did, they'd be the gospels and not the epistles), they quite clearly carry the outline (born of a woman, descendant of David, virtuous behavior, crucified unjustly, risen from the dead).

    Note also that it is these outline points that triggered the Scriptures (Old Testament), and the eschatological framework they invoked, for those first-century Jews - not some specific parable Jesus told.

    I'll grant you this: if we didn't have the Gospels and Acts we'd be much the poorer, losing rich detail about the life Jesus lived. However, we'd still have ample evidence in the epistles that there had been a historical Jesus, and that his earliest followers believed his life fulfilled prophecies and promises made in the Hebrew Scriptures about a messiah.

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    1. Or perhaps the visions inspired the those first century Jews to search the scriptures in order to create the outline.

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    2. Why and how would they do that?

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    3. C'mon Mike. Don't be purposely obtuse. Searching for clues in the scripture would be a reasonable course of action for a first century Jew seeking to understand the spiritual significance of any experience, whether it was a vision or the loss of a beloved teacher.

      BTW, if Jesus was a real person that the apostles had known personally, no one would have needed to search the scripture to determine that he was "born of a woman." Picking that out doesn't make sense unless the apostles encountered a supernatural being about whose origins they were uncertain.

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    4. Call me obtuse if you want, but I can't figure out what you're thinking. Are you saying that visions led first-century Jews to read the Scriptures and from them fabricate an earthly life of Jesus?

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    5. Regarding your BTW, this is another case where failing to give proper regard to the first-century Jewish milieu limits understanding. Taken at face value, "born of a woman" is a redundant expression. However, to Jews of that age, "born of a woman" was an easily recognizable allusion to Israel's messiah - from the first promise given concerning him (found in Gen 3:15 "the seed of the woman"). The point is that messiah had to be a human being - not an angel. A purely supernatural being would not have qualified.

      As the first century progressed and the proportion of the Jesus movement made up of people who had not known Christ according to the flesh grew larger and larger, there did come those false teachers (I guess the Jesus Mythicists would consider them the true teachers) who said that Christ had not come in the flesh. Thus you see a "late" epistle insisting that Christ indeed had come in the flesh (1 John 4:2) as a means of fending off the falsehood.

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    6. Mike,

      I'm thinking that a first century Jew who had a vision of an exalted being would likely search the scripture to understand the significance of that vision. He might well conclude that the exalted being had once been a man who walked the earth and he might find passages that seemed to him to be describing a man who came to be exalted. He would not see himself as fabricating anything. He would be discovering the truth about what the exalted being's life as a man must have been like.

      I understand perfectly well the idea that the Messiah had to be born of a woman. That tells you that the Messiah was to be a human being rather than an angel or some other heavenly being. However, that only becomes an issue if someone claims that a heavenly being is the Messiah. If someone is claiming that a man is the Messiah, there is no need to point out that he is born of a woman. It goes without saying. On the other hand, if the only encounter anyone had was with the heavenly being it would be necessary to point out he had been born of woman in order to establish that he had once been a man.

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    7. Okay, so you're thinking this first-century Jew has a vision of a supernatural being, then goes to the Scriptures and there finds descriptions of the human life that he sincerely believes this supernatural being must have lived. Do you think this first-century Jew is Paul or someone else?

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    8. Mike,

      I'm thinking that it is one possibility, but not the only one.

      I think Paul is one of the Jews who had the visions, but he doesn't seem all that concerned with the human life beyond some very general details. My guess would be that as the message spread farther from the original visionaries, the stories of the visions would have seemed increasingly abstract to new converts. Stories of encounters with a human being who walked the earth would be easier to understand so people would have naturally sought them out.

      Delete
    9. In all this you still haven't explained why or how one or more first-century Jews would do such a thing.

      Sure, such a Jew might go to his Scriptures after a vision to try to better understand it. But there's no timeline for, or outline of, a messianic lifespan in the OT for him to find. The messianic prophecies are a tapestry of many varied pieces that only make sense when you have an actual life to which to compare them, and around which they coalesce. Therefore, such a Jew would HAVE to fabricate an earthly life and know that he was fabricating one. I can't for the life of me think of a reason a first-century Jew would want to do that, unless it was for the purpose of deceiving others. Is that what you're suggesting?

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    10. Such a Jew? Such a thing? What are you talking about Mike? No one (as far as I know) is suggesting that a single Jew or a small coordinated group of Jews sat down and planned the whole thing out.

      I would guess that it might have happened something like this: Paul preached his vision. Paul's converts preached Paul's vision and supplemented it with a few stories about things that they had determined the earthly Jesus must have said or done. As those stories proved effective, those converts added a few more stories to their preaching. Eventually, enough stories built up to the point where someone tried to pull them together into a narrative of Jesus' life. Eventually, one or more narratives gained widespread acceptance.

      Delete
    11. Leaving aside the absence of any motive for a first-century Jew to make up stories about the messiah, are you suggesting that it didn't occur to any of the folks hearing these manufactured narratives to mosey on over to Jerusalem and check out the stories they were hearing with those who would have had an opportunity to witness this life firsthand?

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    12. "...the absence of any motive for a first-century Jew to make up stories about the messiah"

      Seriously?

      1) Did Vinny not just get through stating that "making things up" is not an apt description of the hypothesised process?

      2) Seriously? You can't think of any motivation for religious people to confabulate religious claims? Have you ever met a religious person?

      3) Seriously?

      "...occur to any of the folks hearing these manufactured narratives to mosey on over to Jerusalem"

      1) How many examples of people acting as the James Randis of the Middle East can you cite from this period?

      2) I make it about a thousand miles as the crow flies, across a treacherous maritime passage, between Corinth and Jerusalem. How would you, as a Corinthian subsistence farmer with a family to feed, go about your "investigation" of these events even if you wanted to?

      3) Off the top of your head, can you think of any examples of claims with entries on Snopes.com, easily checkable by anyone at the click of a mouse, which nonetheless continue to be promulgated?

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    13. Mike,

      I don't have to suggest that it didn't occur to any of the folks who heard the manufactured story to check it out. All I have to suggest is that it didn't occur to enough of those folks to stop the spread of the belief.

      There have always been plenty of people who questioned and challenged the absurd tales told by Joseph Smith. Nevertheless, there are some 14 millions Mormons in the world today because there have been plenty of gullible people who didn't bother to think critically about the stories they were told. I have no reason to think that the people of the first century were any less prone to gullibility.

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    14. Staircaseghost,

      Thanks for making that point.

      Delete
    15. Staircaseghost,

      1) You and Vinny may not like the description "making things up," but that's what he's suggesting the earliest disciples did. They either witnessed an earthly Jesus or they fabricated stories about an earthly Jesus. You can't say they didn't witness him and they didn't make up stories about him either - without being logically incoherent.


      2) I offered deception as a plausible motive but Vinny rejected it.

      3) 1) Skepticism is not exclusive to modernity. The New Testament documents testify to widespread skepticism about Jesus' claims and his disciples' claims - but not regarding whether or not Jesus had lived.

      3) 2) You seem unaware of the dynamics of the Jewish Diaspora and the annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem required by Mosaic law. Even the poor Corinthian farmer you invoked would likely know someone in Corinth who had visited Judea, or had met in the synagogue someone who had come Judea on the way to yet some other location.

      3) 3) Jesus Mythicism.

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    16. Vinny,

      As I've said, I'm not knowledgeable about comparative religion so I'll have to leave the Mormon comparison to others. However, I can venture to say that I don't think any critics of Mormonism suggest that there was not a historical Joseph Smith. But then, who knows? If there can be deniers of the Holocaust and Jesus, I suppose there can be deniers of Joseph Smith, too.

      Delete
    17. Mike,

      I see that you are going with purposely obtuse again.

      You asked me whether I was suggesting “that it didn't occur to any of the folks hearing these manufactured narratives to mosey on over to Jerusalem and check out the stories they were hearing with those who would have had an opportunity to witness this life firsthand?” (emphasis added) My answer is that checking out the stories didn’t occur to enough of the folks to stop them from spreading.

      It doesn’t take any understanding of comparative religion to follow that logic.

      Delete
    18. Vinny,

      My deference to comparative religion experts was not unnecessary, nor was I being purposely obtuse.

      As to your assertion that the early Jesus movement was propelled by gullible converts insufficiently concerned about truth to check out the key facts of a faith taught to them as standing or falling on fact, I find it hard to take such an assertion seriously.

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    19. Mike,

      I would say then that you are very poorly informed. There isn't anything particularly unusual about a religious movement propelled by gullible converts who are insufficiently concerned about truth to check out the key facts upon which their faith is allegedly based. Mormonism is an excellent example. You might want to look at Scientology as well.

      Delete
    20. Vinny,

      You left out a key element of my point: "a faith taught to them as standing or falling on fact." Most religious movements of which I am aware center on ideology whereas the essence of the first-century Jesus movement was the claim that a human life had been lived which fulfilled divine promises made in a collection of historic national documents. The apostles were quite willing for their story to be checked out, and made no attempt win back through ideology ground they might lose by history. My limited exposure to Mormonism and Scientology reveals them to be quite secretive and proprietary by comparison. But again, I defer to experts.

      As someone has commented elsewhere on this post, faith in Christ is a fact-based, history-based attitude. If Christ did not actually live, and if he did not actually rise from the dead, then I'm as big a fool as there ever was. I've read the New Testament documents, however, and they do not strike me as having been written by fools.

      Delete
    21. Mike,

      I didn't leave any element out. I simply shortened "check out the key facts of a faith taught to them as standing or falling on fact" (which I thought was somewhat awkwardly phrased) to "check out the key facts upon which their faith is allegedly based."

      I suspect that the Book of Mormon doesn't strike most Mormons as having been written by a fool. That's not much of an argument though.

      Delete
    22. Vinny,

      You continue to miss the point: faith in Christ as promulgated by the earliest disciples was utterly dependent upon the life proclaimed actually having been lived. Your theory suggests that the movement grew by attracting people too gullible to care whether the life had actually been lived or not.

      Delete
  26. Buddha and Muhammad were figures whose lives should be emulated by their followers. The sunna, for example, is very important.

    And their teachings were used and quoted by their earliest followers as authoritative.

    Compare that with the Epistle of James, which never quotes a single thing Jesus said or did.

    And who should Christians emulate? James 5 'Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.'

    Duh, was there really no more recent role-model for Christians?

    Of course, if you compare Jesus with Buddha/Muhammad and don't get the result 'Muhammad existed,so Jesus must have existed', Regnier will compare you to a Holocaust denier.

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    1. Steven, you don't seriously believe that the Buddha and Muhammad were REAL people do you? You're such a *doofus*! You'll be telling me you believe in Santa Claus, Pythagoras or Hippocrates next!!

      As for Muhammad - "such documentary evidence as survives from the Sufnayid period makes no mention of the messenger of god at all. The papyri do not refer to him. The Arabic inscriptions of the Arab-Sasanian coins only invoke Allah, not his rasul [messenger]; and the Arab-Byzantine bronze coins on which Muhammad appears as rasul Allah, previously dated to the Sufyanid period, have not been placed in that of the Marwanids. Even the two surviving pre-Marwanid tombstones fail to mention the rasul." He's simply a fiction cobbled together by the Arabs out of the Old Testament and a bit of Greek myth to give their military conquests some kind of sham religious legitimacy.

      And duh, if the Buddha is so important to Buddhists, why did it take over 400 hundred years for them to write anything down about him? In fact, the earliest full biographies of the Buddha were not written down until well into the Christian era, when Buddhists started to get jealous that Christians had a real historical founder and they didn't! Actually I think that "there was in all probability a group of heretical Brahmanists for whom a Buddha signified 'the enlightened one.' Even so, there were many Buddhas before the quasi-historical Buddha had acquired a personality"

      And hey, I know that's true, because it's on the website of the one and only Acharya S.

      Delete
  27. Well, Regnier has finally stopped pretending he is trying to make serious points.

    He is now claiming that Muhammad may not have existed, after claiming that Muhammad really did exist, so Jesus must have existed.

    Regnier loves comparing Jesus mythicism to Holocaust denial.

    The comparison is interesting.

    Holocaust deniers concede that Auschwitz, Theresienstadt, Belsen, Dachau etc existed.

    They also claim that Jews died in those places, and that Nazis murdered some Jews. They just deny the scale of the deaths and the reason for the deaths of most Jews during the war.

    In contrast, Jesus mythicists doubt very much the existence of James the brother of Jesus (as opposed to James the church leader), Judas, Thomas, Mary Magdalene, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Joanna, Salome, Barabbas, Bartimaeus, Nicodemus, Lazarus, Joseph of Arimathea and the rest of the cast of Gospel characters who vanish from the pages of history as soon as there is a public church in Acts 1, as rapidly as the Golden Plates of Joseph Smith vanished as soon as he went public.

    These people don't even appear in any Christian documents, except in unprovenanced, anonymous novels, which also claim Jesus spoke to Satan and that there was a 3 hour darkness which covered the world.

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  28. "Well, Regnier has finally stopped pretending he is trying to make serious points."

    Yes Steven. Interestingly enough I did that at the exactly moment I adopted your own tone and used the type of fallacious arguments you employ in your own case. Odd that you can spot them when others use them!

    Hopefully in the next couple of days I'll get the chance to type up a post on features of denial movements and we can shoot the breeze about it then. In the meantime, if you don't want to be compared to Holocaust Deniers, perhaps you should stop resorting to the same unconvincing arguments from silence that they're also keen on:

    "Why do the wartime inspection reports of the camps made by the International Red Cross contain no references to mass executions? It strains credulity that such monumental crimes could be hidden. The only explanations are that these crimes were not occurring or that the Red Cross was complicit in a cover-up."

    "Why is there no mention of the Holocaust in Churchill's six-volume History of the Second World War or the wartime memoirs of either De Gaulle or Eisenhower or any other lesser luminaries who wrote about the Second World War? Keep in mind all these were written years after the war ended and thus after the Holocaust had been allegedly proven by the Nuremberg Trials. With regard to the Holocaust, the silence of these "conoscenti" is deafening!"

    "Elie Wiesel has been described as the "Apostle of Remembrance" yet in his memoir, "Night," which deals with his stay at Auschwitz, he makes no mention of the now infamous homicidal gas chambers. Isn't this a bit like one of the gospels making no mention of the cross?" [spot the irony there Steven?]

    Now, does that line of argument sound familiar? No, Jesus Denial is *completely* different of course. A bit like Holocaust Denial is completely different to flat earthism:

    "Why do the court historians insist that "denying the Holocaust" is like denying slavery or saying the earth is flat, when it is nothing of the sort? The leading Revisionists are first-rate scholars who hold advanced degrees from the world's leading universities. Is there anyone comparable among those who would say the earth is flat or that slavery never existed?"

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    1. PS:

      "He is now claiming that Muhammad may not have existed"

      Err.... you did realise I was joking right? Even you cannot be that obtuse.

      Delete
  29. I did point out that Paul had stopped pretending he was making serious comments. He then calls me 'obtuse' for not recognising he was joking, after I had said he was no longer even pretending to be a serious thinker on this subject.

    To be fair to him, he never even pretended to have evidence that Jesus of Nazareth existed.

    Once he starts finding reports by Jews that the Nazis were God's agents, who did not bear the sword for nothing and who held no terror for the innocent, then I might take seriously his repeated attempts at malicious slander by characterising people who read the Bible and think about what it says with Holocaust deniers.

    Paul Regnier wants to shut Paul (the apostle) up. Hence he calls Paul 'silent', so that he does not have to listen to Paul the apostle.

    Galatians 1:1 ' Paul, an apostle —sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ....'

    Shut up, Paul! You are supposed to be silent!

    Romans 16
    Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God....

    Here Paul the apostle says flat out that the scriptures had revealed the message about Jesus Christ.

    As this does not fit Paul (Regnier's) idee fixee that Jesus of Nazareth was the medium through which the idea of Jesus became known, Paul Regnier has to declare Paul the apostle silent, so he can avoid listening to him.

    Sorry Paul (Regnier), but calling mythicism arguments from silence indicates that they are silent only because you have your fingers in your ears and can hear nothing.

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  30. And , and Churchill claims in his memoirs that the Jews had suffered '...the virtual extermination of its national existence.'

    A rather clear reference to an 'extermination', would you not say?

    Perhaps Regnier could similarly find one Christian in the first century who put his name to a document saying he had even heard of Judas, Thomas, Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Joseph of Arimathea, Barabbas, Simon of Cyrene, Bartimaeus, Nicodemus, Jairus etc etc

    Where is the evidence , Paul?

    Please, Paul, put up or shut up! You are just wasting everybody's time. Bring something to the table!

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    1. “Churchill claims in his memoirs that the Jews had suffered '...the virtual extermination of its national existence.' A rather clear reference to an 'extermination', would you not say?”

      If you pre-suppose (as of course I do) that the holocaust took place then yes, it’s perfectly clear.

      However, if you think that it didn’t then you would point out that Churchill does not use the word holocaust, nor does he say this extermination was the policy of Hitler or the Nazi regime, or mention gas chambers or name Eichmann or the camps at Treblinka, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau, Chelmno, or Sobibor. He does not even suggest that this extermination took place during World War Two, or that it was a deliberate act (Darwin refers to accidental extermination so Churchill might be thinking in this sense). He talks about the extermination of a nation, not of individual people, so he could be thinking of the more general sweep of a history in which the Jewish people lost their dreams of a nation state.

      No of those silences really matter of course, unless of course, you chose to build an argument around the almost limitless range of things on which a source is silent and suggest that it points to something suspicious. If you do, then Churchill's supposed reference to the holocaust could easily look like evidence that no such event took place. Can you see how easy it is to invert the natural reading of a text so that it suits your conclusions?

      “Perhaps Regnier could similarly find one Christian in the first century who put his name to a document saying he had even heard of Judas, Thomas, Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Joseph of Arimathea, Barabbas, Simon of Cyrene, Bartimaeus, Nicodemus, Jairus etc etc “

      You mean apart from the canonical documents where these figures are mentioned? It would be almost impossible to count the number of ancient figures mentioned in works of history or in letters about whom we know little more than a name, who could reasonably be thought to exist. There is nothing remotely unusual or suspicious about this.

      Perhaps you could find one Roman in the first (or second or third) century who put his name to a document saying he had even heard of Rectina. OK so she pops up in Pliny, but nowhere does he explicitly state that he met her personally, and he could easily have invented her as an archetypal damsel in distress to lend a certain chivalrous heroism to his uncle’s otherwise rather wimpy death. Or perhaps some later scribe inserted the reference. The textual history of Pliny’s letters isn’t even clear about the name of Rectina’s husband which obviously points to uncertainty about her identity.

      It’s easy to make up spurious arguments as to why something which is probably so might be otherwise. Fun for a bit maybe, but I would have thought a Cambridge man could find something more intellectually stimulating to do. Have you tried Sudoku?

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  31. Making things up?

    Has any religious person ever made anything up?

    Why , Jesus is in Heaven right now, reading the Golden Plates of Joseph Smith and talking to the Angel Gabriel about what it was like chatting to Muhammad.

    The Gospellers claimed Jesus spoke to Satan in the desert, that many people rose from the graves and appeared to many people in Jerusalem and that the sun was dark for 3 hours all over the world.

    But they never made anything up....

    Miracle and the Book of Mormon gives photographic, documented evidence of early Christians making things up about Jesus.

    Notice that mythicists can given photographic, documented evidence.

    Which will come as a surprise to the children allegedly being educated by Paul Regnier who will tell them that there are only arguments from silence....

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  32. Steven,

    When I asked Vinny if he was suggesting that the earliest disciples of Jesus were attempting to deceive others he demurred. Staircaseghost agreed with him. Why do those two say that these disciples were not fabricating stories about an earthly Jesus and you seem to suggest that the disciples did fabricate?

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  33. What disciples deceiving people?

    Produce evidence that James, Peter and Paul were preaching that there was a Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph who testified to the new righteousness.

    Romans 3
    What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2 Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God.

    The big advantage the Jews had , according to a leading member of the Jesus fan club , was that they had been given the Hebrew scriptures.

    Oh, and they had also had the chance to listen to Jesus....

    Or possibly not.

    Paul points out, quite reasonably, in Romans 10 that the Jews could hardly be expected to believe in Jesus, because they had never heard of him until Christians had been sent (by God, of course) to preach about Jesus.

    'How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? '

    Paul is clear that Jews had never heard of Jesus until apostles were sent to preach about him.

    I'm sure Paul Regnier will be along shortly to point out that Jews had never heard of the Holocaust either, which is why Jesus mythicism is so like Holocaust denial :-)

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  34. I should point out that Paul Regnier is so totally devoid of understanding that he thinks that Vinny and I deny that Jesus existed.

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  35. Steven,

    I really think Paul Regnier's plan to publish something on Jesus Mythicism as a denial movement would be helpful.

    I myself am dumbstruck by the lapses of logic and leaps of gullibility in mythicist thinking. I started to respond to your post but then it occurred to me it would be a waste of time. Your mind is made up and it holds to a conclusion which will only accept evidence which supports that conclusion.

    I myself would be willing to give up my faith in Jesus if someone could show me that the testimony of Jesus' apostles is unreliable (that is, show me that the New Testament documents are unreliable). But I sense that Jesus Mythicists (including their Historical Jesus Agnostic brethren) have no similar point of vulnerability. That is, their faith is not based on evidence but rather on will. Thus, such people are, at their core, hypocrites. I say this because they themselves hold to a myth and practice blind faith - the very thing of which they accuse others.

    I take no joy of triumphalism in saying any of this. It actually saddens me greatly that it is so. I will not, however, let it discourage me in the least from praying for you.

    Everyone is going to heaven, but we should try to get all the truth we can while we're here.

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  36. 'I myself would be willing to give up my faith in Jesus if someone could show me that the testimony of Jesus' apostles is unreliable (that is, show me that the New Testament documents are unreliable).;

    That's easy.

    Miracles and the Book of Mormon show how carefully Joseph Smith and Muhammad learned from the methods used by the evangelists.

    Of course, a true believer will deny the evidence of his own eyes, no matter what impression such denial makes on the people around him. Provided he believes, it matters not one whit if he is making Christianity look like a religion for the determined-to-believe.

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  37. Your link doesn't prove anything, but it does clarify the issue. That is, the material at the link demonstrates that events in Jesus' life as described in the New Testament followed patterns found in the Old Testament. This is either because Jesus guided his life by the Old Testament (as he claims to have done), or else the New Testament writers plagiarized the Old Testament to fabricate a narrative of Jesus' life. One simply has to choose which scenario he thinks is more plausible.

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  38. Oh yes, Jesus guided his life by the patterns of the Old Testament....

    Jesus knew that Jonah was asleep before the calming of the storm, and so knew that he had to be asleep before he could calm the storm, as he knew that the disciples would , in the middle of the storm, start reading the Book of Jonah and realise they had to wake Jesus (who would otherwise have slept through the whole storm) and start quoting bits of Jonah at him....

    And when the woman came to get her son raised from the dead, she quickly looked up what the woman did with Elijah and realised she had to grab the hem of Jesus.

    And the 'paidarion' knew that he had to bring Jesus barley bread, because the 'paidarion' in the Old Testament had brought Elisha barley bread.

    Still, Mike doesn't really care that he has made Christianity look like a religion for idiots. All that matters is that he can put his fingers in his ear and say he believes, no matter what the evidence.

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  39. REGNIER
    Steven Carr’s educational level, as far as I can tell, puts him at the lower end of the Biff and Chip series and once again

    CARR
    Having been trounced on his own challenge of comparing Jesus to Muhammad and Buddha, Regnier resorts to personal abuse.



    As it happens, I have a first from Cambridge, winning a scholarship while I was there.

    As Regnier knows perfectly well, Hurtado himself complains about the state of NT scholarship - a discipline that cannot even tell us if Q existed, what the alleged 'Markan community' consisted of, or whether early Christians worshipped Jesus as a god.

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  40. Regnier has now been reduced to claiming that if the only sources we have don't mention a Holocaust, then a historian should conclude that a Holocaust happened.

    This is because Paul believes Jesus of Nazareth existed, but doesn't need any sources to tell him that. (Apart from anonymous, unprovenanced novels written by who knows who, and which appear to be as full of lies and plagiarism as the Koran and the Book of Mormon)

    Paul (the apostle) says God appointed apostles. This is like finding a source which claimed that the Russians ran Auschwitz.

    Paul (the RE teacher) would claim that if we found a source saying the Russians ran Auschwitz, then that source would obviously be silent about the Germans running Auschwitz and so that would be an invalid argument from silence.....

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  41. 'More likely'?

    Gosh! Anybody who claims that the existence of Jesus of Nazareth has not been proved, and is open to doubt, gets slandered by Regnier as a Holocaust denier, while he himself can say no more than that the existence of Jesus of Nazareth is 'more likely' than not.

    Why the hysterical hyperbole, Paul? When you yourself are forced to concede that it is perfectly possible to regard the existence of Jesus as 'not proven'?

    That's one thing I don't understand about Hurtado as well. Even if Jesus did not exist, he can still do his specialist work of trying to find out when people made different copies of the Gospels. His disicpline would be quite unaffected , even if Jesus never existed.

    Regnier doesn't even dare to touch the question of the existence of Judas, Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, Thomas, Joseph of Arimathea etc etc

    Paul (the apostle) claimed that Jews had not heard of Jesus until apostles (appointed by God, not Jesus) had been sent to preach about him.

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    1. "Gosh! Anybody who claims that the existence of Jesus of Nazareth has not been proved, and is open to doubt, gets slandered by Regnier as a Holocaust denier, while he himself can say no more than that the existence of Jesus of Nazareth is 'more likely' than not."

      Actually Steven, if Jesus Denial or Jesus Agnosticism reflected a consistent position of historical scepticism I would have far more respect for it, and I have made this same point in previous conversations with Vinny.

      However, I think that if you’re being consistent, this scepticism would lead to us trashing a pretty huge chunk of pre-modern history: there are any number of people and events who are documented in sources that are late, uncorroborated, anonymous, contradictory, unprovenanced etc that are nonetheless usually taken to be historical. Personally, I don’t think it would be a terribly productive approach to History, but at least it would be consistent.

      Perhaps “mythicism” will develop into a movement like that, and if it does (and if it can get a decent body of academic literature and academic support behind it) I would certainly welcome it. I’d be happy to present that kind of school of thought to my students in the same way that I present and discuss other significant challenges to religious beliefs that have come from the fields of History, Sociology, Psychology, Philosophy, Science etc.

      Presently however, the mythicists I’ve encountered and the blogs I’ve read just seem to obsess about Jesus and Jewish-Christian figures, and/or descend into ill-informed rants about NT scholarship. I’ve seen almost no evidence that they are willing to apply the arguments they make about Jesus and NT scholarship to other areas of enquiry except, perhaps, when it suits them to do so for rhetorical purposes.

      And that, for me, is one of the reasons why I currently see little reason to think that mythicism is more than just one of many schools of pseudohistory.

      Delete
  42. "Regnier has now been reduced to claiming that if the only sources we have don't mention a Holocaust, then a historian should conclude that a Holocaust happened."

    No Steven, I'm saying that what one person might see as a fairly clear allusion to something another person might twist into another meaning if they choose to think about it in a certain way.

    I've handed you a random chunk of ludicrous bile from the first HD site that came up with with and I think you rather obviously fail to prove that Churchill's allusion survives the same kind of fallacious arguments that JDers make to material about Jesus.

    "Paul (the apostle) says God appointed apostles. This is like finding a source which claimed that the Russians ran Auschwitz."

    Neat point Steven, but of course it's not remotely the same. It's actually like finding a source that says that *God* was responsible for Auschwitz. There are plenty of those types of sources available, perhaps you'd like me to share some links with you?:

    So what would we make of the Aucshwitz then? Well I don't know about you Steven, but I'd say that the most reasonable explanation is that the Germans ran the camp, but that at least one person theologised the event and thought that Auchwitz was a divine punishment. It would seem odd to treat these two sources as if they were offering conflicting historical possibilities when they can so obviously be reconciled, still odder to think that the theology that somebody attached to a perfectly plausible event is a valid reason for doubting that the event happened.

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  43. Paul continues with not producing any evidence, and is still reduced to claiming that mythicism is wrong, not because it is certain that Jesus existed, but because we would otherwise have to doubt the existence of other people.

    This is despite the fact that we don't have Jews eating (even symbolically) the flesh of real people and drinking their blood - something which so reeks of mythicism, that Paul (Regnier , not the apostle) is silent about it.

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    1. "Paul continues with not producing any evidence, and is still reduced to claiming that mythicism is wrong, not because it is certain that Jesus existed, but because we would otherwise have to doubt the existence of other people."

      Errr... once again that's a fail. Could you quote in context some of my actual words where I say any such thing, or where this is a logical consequence of my words?

      You seem unable to respond to the points I make to show that some of your own arguments are invalid. Is this why, once again, you resort to setting up such an obvious straw man?

      Your flesh eating Christians sound rather fun, if a bit ikky for a squeamish vegetarian like me. Could you explain in a bit more detail what you mean, and the evidence you are basing your conclusions upon?

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  44. You continue to miss the point: faith in Christ as promulgated by the earliest disciples was utterly dependent upon the life proclaimed actually having been lived.

    Mike,

    I understand perfectly well that this is what you believe. I also understand that our earliest source is Paul and that his preaching depends only on scripture, appearances, and revelation. He never even hints that any element of his preaching depends on the ability to corroborate any fact about the earthly Jesus. He never suggests that he knows anyone who heard Jesus teach. He never suggests that he knows anyone who witnessed the crucifixion. He never suggests that he knows anyone who ever saw the earthly Jesus work a miracle. He never suggests that anyone he knew had seen where Jesus was buried or had seen an empty tomb. Paul tells us only that he knew other people who witnessed supernatural manifestations of the risen Christ. His preaching is dependent upon convincing people of the reality of his revelation

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    1. The characterizations you make of Paul's writings that are accurate are off the point, and the ones that are on point are not accurate.

      I honestly feel like I'm listening to a Holocaust Denier explain how Winston Churchill did not corroborate the Holocaust in the way Paul Regnier demonstrated above. I mean this as no insult to you; I only mean that I realize that there is no point in my putting in the work to address your points with argument and evidence. They will not change your mind. You are wedded to a conclusion and not to the pursuit of truth.

      For my part, I am fully willing to forsake my view of Christ if I come to see that He is not true. I do not perceive that you share my commitment to truth. This, of course, hinders dialogue.

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    2. Mike,

      I find it hard to see where you have ever tried to address my points with arguments and evidence rather than faith based assertions.

      Delete
    3. In our dialogue on this post, Vinny, I've been focused primarily on trying to draw out of you your alternative hypothesis to the historical Jesus. Who knows? It might persuade me. If not, then I'd have something to argue against. As it is, however, you strongly resist putting forth a hypothesis, preferring to dwell on what you don't believe.

      I think that my upfront profession of faith in Christ puts you in a frame of mind to characterize everything I say as faith based. Yet, when I am trying to make a point, I am always trying to appeal to reason and a reading of the Scriptures. Why should I expect you, or anyone else, to believe in Christ just because I do? I would only expect you to get to Christ by reason and a reading of the Scriptures since that's how I got there.

      The closest you've come to expressing a coherent alternative to the historical Jesus hypotheses is saying that some first-century Jews had visions, narrative accounts of a historical life were added by plagiarizing the Old Testament, gullible people were taken in, and - presto-chango - here is the New Testament and a worldwide movement clinging to it. Yours is not even a serious attempt at explanation. Of course, I added the "presto-chango" but it's implicit in your simplistic hypothesis.

      I've pressed you on why and how these first-century Jews did what you suggest they did, and you have no explanation. You always fall back to "It's possible." Well, of course, anything is possible. What we're after is what's plausible. Once you've staked that out, we can have an argument about what's probable.

      If you ever do get around to stating a hypothesis, I hope I'm around to hear it. I'd be happy to offer arguments and evidence against it - unless it convinces me of its superiority to the historical hypothesis.

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    4. Mike,

      I'm sorry, but that is simply the nature of historical inquiry. Sometimes the evidence is not sufficient to do any more than lay out some possibilities. Sometimes we don't have enough pieces of the puzzle to pick one scenario to the exclusion of all others.

      I understand that you don't consider the possibilities that I suggest to be plausible, but since you seem to be ignorant about the history of religions other than your own, I cannot credit your judgment of the plausibility of gullible people uncritically accepting fantastic stories.

      Your upfront profession of faith is not the problem. The problem is empty assertions like "I've read the New Testament documents, however, and they do not strike me as having been written by fools."

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    5. Vinny,

      I'm am too far removed from a college or even high school environment to know what they're like today. I can tell you that when I was of that age, the Bible enjoyed a reputation in educated circles independent of any faith position. In fact, it was the Bible's reputation as exemplary literature - not its usage in religious circles - that attracted me to read it. My point in making the statement you quoted was that whether one is religious or irreligious he ought to be able to recognize that the New Testament writers were people of substance, the kind of people who cannot be dismissed easily. This is not the verdict of religion; this is the verdict of education. If you think the writers of the New Testament documents were fools, say so. But don't dismiss me for a comment that could have just as easily been made by your unbelieving ninth grade English teacher.

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  45. Paul,

    Is there any secular scholar of antiquity who wouldn’t acknowledge that “sources that are late, uncorroborated, anonymous, contradictory, unprovenanced etc” are serious impediments to our ability to determine what it was that most likely happened in the ancient world? To acknowledge the gaps in our knowledge and the problems with our sources is not “trashing” history. It is simply expressing the appropriate degree of uncertainty about the conclusions we reach.

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    1. Yes of course they are serious impediments, and no doubt it's a tricky business. That's why I when I form my opinions about the evidence, I tend to listen more to the views of actual people with appropriate expertise, relevant linguistic skills, a track record of peer-assessed publications in respected journals etc.

      And again, if mythicists were consistent in the ways they assign their degrees of uncertainty, I'd have much less of a problems with them, but they're not. They just look suspiciously like a bunch of fanatics with an agenda.

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    2. Paul,

      I like to hear the views of people with the appropriate credentials, but I expect them to be able to explain how their conclusions follow from the evidence.

      From what little I have read, it seems to me that there is very little about the historical Buddha that can be known with any certainty. If most scholars think that there was a historical Buddha, I am inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. However, I cannot say much beyond that without knowing how they get to that conclusion from the evidence.

      I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but I think that I would express a fairly high degree of uncertainty about the existence of anyone in antiquity who was thought to have led as obscure a life as many mainstream scholars think Jesus did. I wouldn't consider tales of supernatural appearances to be very strong evidence of any historical person's existence.

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  46. Regnier is still unable to even talk about the evidence for Jesus of Nazareth.

    But he remains convinced that Jesus really did tell his followers to symbolically eat his flesh and drink his blood....

    He remains a waste of time, who brings nothing to the table, except an eagerness and desire to bash mythicists.

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    1. On the contrary Steven, I think it’s now time to turn to the evidence. But before we do, let us recap on where we’ve reached in our discussion. These are the points I’ve made that I assume you agree with, since you offer no evidence or rational argument in response to them:

      1) The methods used by NT scholars are comparable to that used in the study of other figures or events in ancient history.

      2) The evidence for Jesus is comparable to that for figures such as the Buddha who are usually thought to be historical.

      3) Arguments from silence are a feature of denialist discourse and pseudoshcolarship: they are actually quite easy to construct, and generally prove very little.

      4) There are many historical figures who are little more than names. There is nothing unusual or suspicious about this.

      5) Where a source thinks that an otherwise mundane event has or divine origin or significance, it’s illogical to think that excludes or even necessarily contradicts more rational explanations. God (like fate or karma) is not usually thought of as a historical agent.

      6) Mythicists *really* enjoy setting up straw men (because I take it that’s a no, you can’t quote any of my actual words that suggest I claim that “mythicism is wrong, not because it is certain that Jesus existed, but because we would otherwise have to doubt the existence of other people").

      So then, let’s turn to the evidence for Jesus: you seem to think that those flesh eating Christians constitute an argument against the historicity of Jesus, so I take it that’s important to you. Who knows, perhaps it’s such a good point that it will make me a mythicist?!

      Again, could you explain to me what you mean by this and what evidence you base your conclusions upon (are you perhaps referring to the pericope revenantorum)? I’m afraid neither is immediately obvious to me.

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    2. Paul,

      #1 is an assertion you have made, but I do not believe that you have demonstrated it. The fact that Steven hasn’t made a counter-argument that satisfies you does not establish its truth. The same is true of #2.

      #3 All sorts of people use arguments from silence. For example, almost every attempt I have seen to date the gospels relies on things that don’t get mentioned, i.e., arguments from silence. Historicists regularly offer the lack of any early record of anyone challenging the historicity of Jesus as evidence for his existence. Bad arguments from silence are very common.

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    3. Vinny, as for 1&2, if you could point out where Steven has made a good counter-argument, then please do and I'll respond to it.

      Moreover, if a person or group claim that the conclusions, methods, or expertise of scholars in one area are inferior to those who study other areas which might reasonably be thought similar (such as historians studying different religions) do you not think that the onus lies on them to prove that this is the case?

      As for the argument from silence used by Jesus historians, I think there is a difference between looking at all the available evidence and saying “there’s no evidence that anyone thought this” and playing one source off against another.

      Have a look at this outline of the use of the argument from silence the website of a historian of ancient China.

      http://www.umass.edu/wsp/methodology/outline/silence.html

      Note that he says that there is no implication of non-existence when (among other things):

      1) “The item is too familiar to need explicit reference by members of the culture.” Early Christians did not need Paul to tell them that Jesus was a teacher. They knew. Most of the JD arguments from silence vanish when apply this simple principle.

      2) “The item is unlikely to be mentioned in the type of texts which have survived.”. Our earliest texts are occasional letters, not narratives of Jesus’ life.

      3) “The item actually is referred to, but allusively”, Historians note that there are allusions to Jesus tradition in Paul’s letters, JDers just try to explain away or deconstruct them. This historian also notes that ancient China was virtuoso culture, just as Jesus historians point out that Paul was writing in a high context culture.

      So when Historians object to mythicist arguments from silence on the above grounds, this isn’t special pleading. It’s simply using the same methods that historians of other periods use.

      JDers either don't know or don't care about this, but then they're not trying to do history, they're tyring to prove that Jesus didn't exist, which is something else entirely.

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    4. Paul,

      I didn’t claim that Steven made a good counter-argument. I said that lack of counter-arguments doesn’t prove your assertions true. You need to establish them.

      As for your points regarding the argument from silence, mythicists and agnostics are aware of them all and have addressed them all on many occasions. You may not find their arguments convincing, but to simply deny that they exist is just…well…denialism

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    5. "As for your points regarding the argument from silence, mythicists and agnostics are aware of them all and have addressed them all on many occasions. You may not find their arguments convincing, but to simply deny that they exist is just…well…denialism"

      If you could point me how or where they've been addressed, I'd be interested to read it.

      Delete
    6. PS regarding your other point - again: if JDers are making an accusation about NT scholars, don't you think the onus is on them to prove it.

      You're a lawyer - whatever happen to innocent until proven guilty?!

      Delete
    7. Paul,

      Whoever makes a claim has the onus of establishing it.

      Delete
    8. If you could point me how or where they've been addressed, I'd be interested to read it.

      You can find countless discussions of Paul's silence on Neil Godfrey's blog.

      Delete
  47. Steven, I'm mystified at why you are so antagonistic toward Paul. He is not speaking from a faith stance as I am. He could be a great ally to you and Vinny if you'd just be responsive to his overtures.

    Paul, please don't dull your sword by too much fencing with Steven. You have a good mind, deal fairly with others, and you use a clever wit when appropriate. You deserve interlocutors of the same mettle.

    Vinny, you strike me as a person who has faith in modernity and a distrust of antiquity. Certainly there are things from our past that are worth forsaking, but there is also the tried and true in that same basket. Wisdom requires us not to throw out the whole basket. Similarly, not everything in the future is worth looking forward to, as Orwell made clear.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. Mike, I think you’re probably right. I’ve been meaning to write up a couple of posts of my own on features on denial movements and the Jesus/Moroni analogy so perhaps it’s time to leave this thread alone for a bit. Assuming Vinny doesn’t object, I’ll post the links here when I’m done and you can have a read.

      If Steven clarifies his point about flesh eating Christians and gives me some evidence to consider, I’ll have a think and write something up about that too.

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    3. Paul,

      I think such studies could be particularly valuable. Here's a statement you made above:

      "They just look suspiciously like a bunch of fanatics with an agenda."

      You wrote a similar thought, more expansively, on James McGrath's blog a few months back
      (http://bit.ly/MUqAHL)

      I would like to understand this issue better. My experience in interacting with both Neil Godfrey and Vinny entails this phenomenon. That is, they both seem like nice and reasonable guys. Yet, I find it impossible to draw out of them a coherent point of view. But it's like they do have an intellectual center of gravity somewhere...they just never reveal what it is. If I say they have a hidden agenda, it sounds pejorative - but maybe it's hidden even from them. Maybe denialists aren't aware of what's driving them.

      With a Christopher Hitchens, by contrast, you knew exactly where he stood. Jesus Mythicists/Agnostics, however, seem inscrutable. There is more there than meets the eye, but, as I said, maybe it's more than meets their eye, too. You seem to have grasped it, and I hope you'll explain it.

      Here's just one example of this inscrutability. In his interactions with me on this post, Vinny keeps trying to draw me on to the comparative religion playing field - where I have no significant knowledge to bring. Yet when you offer to engage with him on that very field, he finds various ways to decline. All I can do is scratch my head.

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    4. Mike,

      I believe that the evidence is insufficient to reach any more than a provisional conclusion about the historicity of Jesus. What about that statement don't you understand? How is that incoherent?

      I think the problem may be that you are so fixated on finding my hidden agenda that you cannot logically respond to what I am actually saying.

      Delete
  48. One thing that's perplexing about that statement is that it puts you at odds with people like Larry Hurtado, James McGrath, Bart Ehrman, Joseph Hoffman, and Maurice Casey. Why, I ask myself, is a bright guy like Vinny taking issue with other bright people on an issue like this - one which they have probably spent more time studying than he has. It's not as if faith, or the absence thereof, explains it. Some of these guys have no more faith in Christ than you do. There is something causing you to come to a different conclusion on something that so many experts - believing and unbelieving, liberal and conservative, young and old - agree.

    Repeated questioning is not able to draw out of you a reasonable, coherent explanation for why you come to a different conclusion. As I said to Paul, perhaps you are being as forthcoming as you know how, but there's got to be something else in the formula to make the answer come out different.

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  49. Do you know what I find fascinating Mike?

    It is inconceivable to you that my conclusions about the historicity of Jesus could be based on a sincere attempt to evaluate the evidence honestly and objectively. The only thing you find harder to conceive is that first century Christians might have reached their conclusions in any other way.


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  50. Actually, I have thought quite hard about how the NT documents could have been the result of a sequence of events other than the one they describe. In fact, this is why your own responses to my queries in this regard have been so frustrating to me. You might think I'd be pleased to hear that all you can come up with is implausible, half-baked scenarios. But I haven't been. I'm thinking that smart guy like you has to be considering a plausible alternative scenario. It's not that I want to be disabused of my faith (though, as I've said, I don't want for a minute to believe anything not true), but all the hooping and hollering from the JM/HJA camp had convinced me that there was a there there. I guess you can have a lot of smoke with very little fire.

    You're right that I cannot conceive of how first-century disciples might reached their conclusions in a way different than what they've testified to us, but it's not for lack of trying. And it's not for lack of giving folks like you, Neil Godfrey, and Richard Carrier opportunities to help me. I continue to be stunned at the vacuity of the objection to the historicity of Jesus.

    I have come to this conclusion, however: I do believe you are being completely sincere. You are not intentionally withholding information. I don't think you know why you object any more than I do.

    And for the sake of clarity, let me say again: I'm not expressing surprise that you don't agree with me about the historicity of Jesus. I'm expressing surprise that you don't agree with Bart Ehrman and the many other scholars like him who have no interest in a faith answer.

    As always, thanks for engaging with me.

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    1. Mike,

      I believe that Paul reached his conclusions in the way that he says he did, too. The way he says he reached his conclusions is scripture, appearances of a heavenly being, and direct revelation. If he ever suggested that anyone he knew came to their conclusion in any other way, it would resolve many of my doubts.

      Delete
  51. Why do you omit two other sources of information to which Paul testified: 1) those whom he persecuted, and 2) those who were disciples before him?

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    1. Mike,

      Where does Paul testify that either source provided him with any information that was any different than what he learned by appearances, scripture and revelation? Where does he testify that either source had any source other than appearances, scripture, and revelation?

      Delete
  52. I don't mind answering your questions, but don't you think you ought to answer mine first...or at least simultaneous to asking me others?

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  53. Mike,

    Your question assumed that Paul had in fact testified to two other sources of information. My response challenged that assumption. I could have put it in the form of declarative statements, e.g., "Paul doesn't testify that either source provided him with any information that was any different than what he learned by appearances, scripture and revelation" and "Paul doesn't testify that either source had any source other than appearances, scripture, and revelation," but on a whim I decided to phrase them as questions. I truly did not believe that you were so obtuse that you would be unable to figure out that I was responding to your question. Live and learn.

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  54. You still haven't answered my question.

    Nevertheless, can we drop the cat-and-mouse game? It looks like you have the makings of a hypothesis. Why don't you just tell me what it is rather that make me try to tease it out of you?

    Further, let me try to advance the discussion: It sounds like your theory is that 1) Paul only testifies to information about Jesus that he himself received by appearances, scripture, and revelation, 2) in none of the testimony from those sources does he say that there was a historical Jesus, 3) therefore Paul cannot be counted as someone who gives testimony that there was a historical Jesus.

    Please confirm or correct.

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    1. Mike,

      The answer to your question is that Paul doesn't testify to those sources of information. If you can't understand that this constitutes an answer to your question, I can't see much hope that answering other questions is going to advance the discussion.

      Delete
  55. Just when I thought we might be getting somewhere...

    It's times like this, Vinny, when it feels like you are more interested in winning an argument than exchanging views.

    You've actually now given two different answers to my question. One is that "Paul doesn't testify to those sources of information" and the other is that "Paul doesn't testify that either source provided him with any information that was any different than what he learned by appearances, scripture and revelation." But I'm perfectly willing to give up sorting this out (just chalk it up to my obtuseness) if you can just tell me the degree to which I have or haven't understood the point of view you hold.

    Therefore, let me try again: It sounds like your theory is that 1) Paul only testifies to information about Jesus that he himself received by appearances, scripture, and revelation, 2) in none of the testimony from those sources does he say that there was a historical Jesus, 3) therefore Paul cannot be counted as someone who gives testimony that there was a historical Jesus.

    Please confirm or correct.

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  56. You've actually now given two different answers to my question.

    No Mike. I have merely rephrased my answer in the hopes that it would penetrate that thick skull of yours. My basic point is the same.

    Your summary of my theory shows a glimmer of comprehension, but since I've thought that before only to find that you have gone off on some tangent that I didn't anticipate, I'm not really certain whether you get it or not.

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  57. Here's how the answers are different: The first says Paul doesn't testify to the two other sources of information I mentioned while the second says only that whatever information he may have received from those sources did not differ from what he'd received on his own. Thus in the latter case you might very well agree that Paul received information from those two sources. The difference in the two is not insignificant, especially if, for example, Paul was reinforced in what he believed by hearing it corroborated.

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    1. Mike,

      For the point that I am making, there is no difference.

      In either case, it is entirely plausible that Paul received information from the people he persecuted or those who were apostles before him. However, even if Paul did receive such information, he does not tell us its content, i.e., whether it concerned the earthly ministry of a historical Jesus, or its nature or source i.e., whether it consisted of his predecessors' memories of the earthly Jesus or their revelations of the risen Christ.

      So while we might logically conclude that Paul likely had sources of information other than those he cites in his letters, we cannot claim that he testifies either to their existence or their content.

      The problem I suspect is that you are so convinced that I have some hidden agenda, that in order to figure out what it might be, you are reading things into my statements that I don't intend. If you wish to make some substantive point about what you understand my theory, I will have a much better idea of whether your statement of it needs to be refined.

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    2. Vinny,

      As I've recently said, I have concluded that you do not have a hidden agenda and that whatever is making you think differently from people like Bart Ehrman on this fundamental issue is something as unknown to you as it is to me. Having said that, discussions with you are exhausting because you are slow to release information. Perhaps it's the lawyer in you - I don't know. I feel like I sat down to get to know someone, yet I ended up in a chess match with him. As I've said, it just doesn't feel like a free exchange of views.

      As far as giving you a reaction to your view, it sounds like the typical view I've heard from JM/HJA sources. It's a denialist's hypothesis. That is, it is constructed, not to find the truth, but rather to prevent a conclusion for historicity. I've learned the hard way that bringing evidence to it is an unwelcome move as far as its proponents are concerned.

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    3. Mike,

      I have devoted much effort to responding to your repetitive comments and questions. If you find it exhausting, then stop.

      I have never felt like you were someone who was trying to get to know me. Every discussion I have been in with you feels like someone who is trying to proselytize me. You have no need to find the truth because you think you have a magic book that tells it to you.

      I rather expected such a shallow response to what you understood my theory to be. Surely any effort I expended in trying to refine your understanding of my position would have been wasted.

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    4. Vinny,

      Since you feel like my characterization of your responses has been unfair, let me give you the benefit of the doubt and continue.

      So, your argument is 1) Paul only testifies to information about Jesus that he himself received by appearances, scripture, and revelation, 2) in none of the testimony from those sources does he say that there was a historical Jesus, 3) therefore Paul cannot be counted as someone who gives testimony that there was a historical Jesus.

      What documents do you view as relevant to this theory - the New Testament or only a subset? If a subset, which ones?

      Delete
    5. Mike,

      If you would like to exchange views, then express views. Don't play quiz master.

      Delete
    6. I thought you knew my view.

      I'm just trying to understand yours.

      What about my view is unclear to you?

      Delete
    7. Mike,

      So why were you whining about the fact that it didn't feel like we were exchanging views when that's not what you were trying to do?

      Delete
    8. 1) You gave indication that you felt like you understood my view, and expressed no further curiosity about it.

      2) The ostensible purpose of the original post is the question of Jesus' historicity. My interest in Jesus goes far deeper that his historicity, but I have been restricting myself to the topic of the post.

      3) Therefore, what's left to accomplish in the exchange of views is for me to come to understand yours. If, however, you feel I've been less than forthcoming about my own view, please clarify where and I will happily address before asking you any more questions about yours.

      4) If you don't want to know any more about my view, could you address the question about documentary evidence I asked you above?

      Delete
    9. Mike.

      If you have nothing to contribute to the conversation, I'm not going to waste any more time on you.

      Delete
    10. You're leaving me to guess what you consider a valid contribution, so I'll venture two: one regarding my view, the other regarding yours.

      My view regarding the historical Jesus is that the New Testament documents testify to an early first-century Jewish messianic candidate named Jesus who was crucified by Roman authorities. This seems to be the lowest common denominator of everyone who has studied the subject - Jesus Mythicists and Historical Jesus Agnostics excepted.

      Regarding your view, let me begin by restating it: 1) Paul only testifies to information about Jesus that he himself received by appearances, scripture, and revelation, 2) in none of the testimony from those sources does he say that there was a historical Jesus, 3) therefore Paul cannot be counted as someone who gives testimony that there was a historical Jesus. I don't see any difference between your view and the following argument: 1) My father was close to his mother, but she died before I was born; he's now dead, too, 2) in all that my father told me about my grandmother, he never mentioned whether or not she had once been a baby herself, 3) therefore, I cannot count my father as giving testimony that my grandmother was ever a baby.

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    11. Mike,

      Of necessity, all human beings were once babies. Babyhood is a necessary cause of adulthood. Therefore, if a person's existence as an adult can be established, their earlier state of infancy can be inferred.

      Supernatural beings who appear in visions were not necessarily ever anything else. Even if we accept that Paul had the experiences he claimed to have and that he believed that others had similar experiences, nothing can be inferred about the supernatural being's previous states of existence.

      That you are incapable of seeing the difference merely confirms for me your inability to understand my position is entirely your own responsibility.

      BTW, from your father's existence, you can infer that he had a mother and that she was once a baby. However, if he never mentioned it and he wasn't around to see it, I don't see the sense in which you would count your father as giving testimony that your grandmother was a baby. It seems like a very strained use of the word "testimony."

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    12. Just as babyhood necessarily precedes adulthood, so death necessarily precedes resurrection from death...and life precedes death.

      Paul did not preach a undefined supernatural being; rather, he preached a resurrected-from-the-dead supernatural being. Thus the being's death and earlier life can be inferred, just as an adult's babyhood can be inferred.

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    13. Mike,

      If I report seeing the ghost of Robin Hood, that is no evidence whatsoever that an actual historical Robin Hood existed regardless of what I might preach or believe about my experience. That Paul believed that he had encountered a supernatural being who had once been a man who walked the earth doesn't prove that such a man existed. Do you think that Paul's belief in a historical Adam constitutes evidence of the historicity of Genesis? Are you so obtuse?

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    14. Neither Robin Hood nor Adam are valid analogies.

      Robin Hood fails because England did not have in the Magna Carta and its other national documents prophecies of the life he would live, nor the general expectation of a resurrection of the dead - both of which gave context to the vision Paul experienced and described. As stated, resurrection implies prior earthly life.

      Adam fails because in your argument Paul claims visions of - that is, experiences with - a resurrected Jesus. As stated, resurrection implies prior earthly life. Paul claims no such experience with Adam. Paul's belief about Adam's historicity is irrelevant to your argument.

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    15. Mike,

      You are wasting my time by being obtuse and thick-headed, but at this point I am still curious to see how far you will take it so I'll play your cat and mouse game for another round.

      If you could establish the resurrection with the same certainty that you could establish the existence of your father, then we could infer a historical Jesus with the same confidence that we can infer your grandmother's infancy. Unfortunately, all you can establish is Paul's claim (and perhaps his belief) that he encountered a resurrected being from which we can infer doodley squat. Paul's belief in the Old Testament prophecy simply explains why the vision was sufficient to convince him that the earthly Jesus existed. The prophecy provides no proof.

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    16. Vinny,

      Having conceded the loss of your former argument ("Paul's belief in the Old Testament prophecy simply explains why the vision was sufficient to convince him that the earthly Jesus existed."), you are now making a new argument - this one to say that the resurrection cannot be proven.

      Your new argument is a stronger one because you control the threshold of evidence required to establish proof. You can always say that the evidence is not enough. Therefore, let me simply say that I am quite persuaded by the evidence of Paul and the other New Testament writers. I find their testimony credible. I could say much more in this regard, but will do so only if you are interested.

      As for cat-and-mouse games, I don't play them. For one thing, I'm not smart enough. For another, and more importantly, they are distracting to my purpose which is to bear witness to the simple and profound truth I have found by listening to, and responding to, what the Scriptures tell us about Jesus Christ.

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    17. Mike,

      I understand that your personal spiritual experience is very important to you and I do not wish to denigrate it. However, my doubts about the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth arise from the inferences that I can reasonably draw from objective empirical evidence. The sincerity of your subjective experiences of the divine don't factor into the analysis.

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    18. Vinny,

      I've offered you no "subjective experiences of the divine." Apparently, it's the same objective empirical evidence - that is, the first-century writings we call the New Testament - which accounts for both your doubts and my faith. If you choose not to believe those things to which the writers testify, then so be it. But don't think that I have any other source for my faith.

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    19. Mike,

      "[T]he simple and profound truth [you] have found by listening to, and responding to, what the Scriptures tell [you] about Jesus Christ" is the subjective experience upon which your faith is based. You cannot bear witness to it by pretending that it's something else.

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    20. I read the New Testament and trust what it says about Jesus. That is faith. You read the New Testament and do not trust what it says about Jesus. That is doubt. That's the only difference between us.

      If you want to call my faith a subjective experience then you have to call your doubt a subjective experience. It's just two different reactions to the same reality - fli sides of the same coin.

      By the way, the only difference between you and practically the entire scholarly community that has studied these same documents is that they, at the very least, trust what the New Testament says about Jesus having existed. You don't even trust that much.

      There's no need to make these issues sound more complicated than they are.

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    21. Mike,

      If a scholar concludes that an ancient story contains some truth, it is not because he trusts the story. It is because he has critically examined the evidence and he has concluded that a particular fact which the story reports is true. People of faith like to misuse words like "trust" and "testimony" in order blur the distinction between their magical thinking and the critical thinking of others.

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    22. The use of separate vocabularies to describe the same phenomena is a sure path to confusion.

      I don't use words like "trust" and "believe" and "testimony" and "fact" one way when I read a history book and another way when I read the Bible.

      I have critically examined the New Testament documents in light of each other and in light of the Old Testament documents. I have concluded that what they say about Jesus Christ is more plausible than the possibility that they are lying about him, or otherwise testifying erroneously. You can call this process "magical thinking" if you want to, but there's no rational basis for you to do so. It's the same process I use for any text I read.

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    23. Mike,

      Effective communication requires words to be used according to agreed definitions. The fact that you are so frequently confused about the positions of others indicates that the problem is on your end. Only using words in one way is no virtue if that way is wrong.

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    24. Having lost your argument, you're just tossing insults now.

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    25. Mike,

      Your confusion continues.

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    26. I don't want to quibble.

      Thanks for engaging, Vinny.

      Delete
    27. Mike,

      You have left nearly fifty comments on this post. You live to quibble.

      Delete
  58. As for your theory, then, it sounds like I've stated it correctly. However, are you sure you don't want to refine it so that it's a more accurate reflection of your view?

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  59. Regnier claims Paul did not need to tell people that Jesus was a teacher, but desperately needed to tell people that Jesus had a mother.

    Paul claims God appointed apostles.

    I guess this is like finding somebody who said the Russians ran Auschwitz. Paul Regnier would simply explain that as 'He didn't need to say that the Germans ran Auschwitz, as everybody already knew that.'

    Similarly, Paul (the apostle) says the Romans were God's agents, who did not bear the sword for nothing and who held no terror for the innocent.

    Obviously, (according to Regnier) , Paul could rely on everybody knowing that Jesus had been a horrible person, who deserved to be killed.

    Paul (the apostle) explains that Jews could hardly be expected to believe in Jesus, as they had never heard of him until apostles were sent (by God, of course) to preach about him.

    I guess all Paul's readers knew that Jews had never heard of Jesus....

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    1. Regnier claims Paul did not need to tell people that Jesus was a teacher, but desperately needed to tell people that Jesus had a mother.

      I think that this is an excellent point. If you are going to use "everybody knew it already" to explain silences, then you have to treat the things Paul does mention as points of controversy that needed to be clarified or corroborated. How can it be that everyone didn't already know that Jesus had been born of a woman?

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    2. "then you have to treat the things Paul does mention as points of controversy that needed to be clarified or corroborated."

      OK Vinny, can you point to another example outside of Christian literature where you would think it reasonable that the things the author mentions have to be treated as points of controversy that have to be clarified or corroborated?

      Or better still a work of historiography that suggests that this is a reasonable way to treat the things that a source refers to?

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    3. Paul,

      No I can't, but that is only because I am not aware of any instances where historians invoke "high context culture" to explain away specific silences in the way that historical Jesus scholars try to explain away Paul's silences.

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  60. Why doesn't Regnier simply put up or shut up?

    Just tell us the evidence for the existence of Judas, Thomas, Barabbas, the saints who rose from their graves, Lazarus, Bartimaeus etc etc?

    The guy took money claiming to be an RE teacher.

    And yet , even when challenged to his face, to demonstrate that he knows what he is talking about, he habitually ducks any challenge to put something on the table.

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  61. Paul also complains in 2 Corinthians 11 about people preaching different Jesus's to the one he preached.

    So he could hardly rely on 'everybody knew it' , as he tells us that lots of misinformation was being spread by Christians.

    Who knows?

    Perhaps the false Jesus's that Paul rails about in 2 Corinthians 11 was a Jesus who came from Nazareth, and who had disciples...

    Who can say?

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  62. "Paul claims God appointed apostles."

    Did I? Can you quote me on that?

    "I guess this is like finding somebody who said the Russians ran Auschwitz. Paul Regnier would simply explain that as 'He didn't need to say that the Germans ran Auschwitz, as everybody already knew that.'"

    Did you read my point about Auschwitz above? You didn't respond to it so I assume you agree with me.

    "Similarly, Paul (the apostle) says the Romans were God's agents, who did not bear the sword for nothing and who held no terror for the innocent.

    Obviously, (according to Regnier) , Paul could rely on everybody knowing that Jesus had been a horrible person, who deserved to be killed."

    Er....... Paul tells us that he was imprisoned, flogged, and beaten with rods. I guess, following your (completely stupid logic), what he's saying in 2 Corinthians 11 is that he was a really horrible person who deserved to be imprisoned, flogged, and beaten with rods?

    "Just tell us the evidence for the existence of Judas, Thomas, Barabbas, the saints who rose from their graves, Lazarus, Bartimaeus etc etc?"

    I have answered this point above. Again, you didn't respond so I thought that you'd realised I was right.

    "The guy took money claiming to be an RE teacher.

    And yet , even when challenged to his face, to demonstrate that he knows what he is talking about, he habitually ducks any challenge to put something on the table."

    I don't mind a bit of banter Steven, but this is simply being ridiculous. Nobody whose opinion I care about (and you certainly aren't one of them) would ever say that I don't know what I'm talking about when it comes to RS. And you have plainly shown you have no interest in any areas of religion that don't concern your ideologically driven views about Jesus.

    Again, I've suggested above that we could start a discussion about the evidence with your flesh eating Christians as they seem to be important to you. If you could explain what you mean and give me some evidence to think about, I'd be happy to do so. Or choose somewhere else to start, your call.

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  63. Regnier still won't produce any evidence that Judas, Thomas, Barabbas, Mary Magdalene, Joseph of Arimathea existed.

    And judging by the inanity of his comparing Paul (the apostle) calling the killers of the Son of God 'God's agents,who hold no terror for the innocent', with Paul (the apostle) saying he had been flogged, we can understand his reluctance to reveal the emptiness of his postion.

    (note that Paul the apostle does not think the people flogging him were doing God's work, unlike the people who allegedly crucified his Lord and Saviour),


    REGNIER
    Again, I've suggested above that we could start a discussion about the evidence with your flesh eating Christians as they seem to be important to you....

    CARR
    I'm not sure what to make of this.

    I shall put it down to simple ignorance.

    Not everybody can be an expert on the Bible, or have a reasonable knowledge of what it says, so I shall cut Regnier some slack here.


    Paul (the apostle) says in 1 Corinthians 11 that Christians gathered together to eat (if only symbolically) the flesh of their saviour and to drink his blood.

    Of course, historicists have huge difficulty explaining how Jews began to eat the body and drink the blood (if only symbolically) of a real person, or how said real person could possibly have known that his followers would not also be killed by the Romans.

    Regnier has never come up with any real person who is commemorated in such a way.

    Which tells us something (but not him obviously, he can't be told anything)


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  64. Steven,

    At it stands I suspect there is something of a false dichotomy in your argument.

    There are arguments for and against 1 Corinthians 11 as genuine Jesus tradition, but you seem to be implying that the passage is evidence against a historical Jesus. Could you be more specific in explaining why you think this is the case?

    If you can provide me with some articles to read that explain or support your point, then I'd be happy to spend time reading them and come back to you with my thoughts.

    Incidentally, there's no need for you clarify which Paul you're referring to, as I think everyone here knows which Paul wrote 1 Corinthians and which one is the RS teacher.

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    1. Well, curiously 1 Corin 11 seems concerned with setting up the idea of the Eucharist, the bread as the "body" of Christ. Which might suggest that Christ was for some significant period (and arguably from the beginning with the apostle Paul), without a real or sufficient physical body or existence.

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  65. So why would Steven Carr be so rightly indignant about 1 Corin. 11? The problem with 1 Corin., is that it in fact begins to imperfectly acknowledge, and very clumsily deal with, the key problem in Christianity: the lack of a physical/historical Jesus. Either originally, or in our own time.

    Though the Bible often promised that Jesus was a real, historical, physical person, that person was executed, c.33 AD. While his "resurrection" lasted only 40 days; and then he disappeared up into heaven. So that Jesus exists largely as a spirit; a "cosmic" spirit, as Doherty might suggest. Even though the Bible promised that when God came to earth, he would not arrive on earth to die, but would remain physically here on earth to rule his kingdom (Isa. 65-6; Rev. 21 etc.).

    So here's the problem for Christianity: the physical god or Christ. Where is he? Did he ever exist?

    To try to "fix" this, dozens of possible apologetic solutions were advanced in the Bible, that would give Jesus a "body." In say a "church"; or in the communion bread; the "body of Christ" ("this is my body," etc.).

    And yet however, the problem has been that all these efforts to find a possible physical body for Christ, are strained - even to the point of perversity.

    Specifically, in the case of the assertion that the piece of bread you eat in communion/eucharist, is the body of Christ? This leads to the connotation that you are a CANNIBAL; and that it is necessary to be a cannibal to be a Christian. Since you are eating the body of Christ. (And drinking his blood etc; which scholars note are profoundly non-Jewish ideas. Or as we now add here, they are deeply offensive to normal human beings).

    So Mr. Carr's native revulsion at 1 Corin. 11 is correct: on the surface the text, and its cannibalism, IS very deeply offensive. And what is more? As we look more deeply into all that, we find that underneath it all was another, deeper, theological problem and offense as well: the problem with locating the promised material /historical manifestations of Christ.

    If we reject a weird cannibalism, what other solutions are there to the non-physical existence of Christ? Many priestly apologists went on to suggest that if not a piece of bread, then the Church of course, ws the body of Christ. But given the absurdity and offense of the Church's cannibalistic reading of the Eucharist, as well as countless other sins, finally we must also reject the notion of the Church as the resurrected Christ too.

    In fact, finally this and much other evidence leaves us wondering, with Doherty and Mythicism, whether any of this EVER had ANY real physicality - or Historicality - at all.

    It's very hard to find any physical or historical reality to Christ at all; and many attempts to cover this up or fix this, are even more offensive, if possible, than the original problem.

    Like the resort to cannibalism, in 1 corin. 11.

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  66. I was also censored very extensively, in the very same debate with Hurtado.

    The fact is that much of religion works by censorship; denial and suppression of information.

    By the way? rjHoffmann is also in the habit of simply deleting Mythicist posts he doesn't like; including some recent commentaries of mine like this one. Which summarizes the case against Historicism:

    CENSORED POST:

    It seems as if most of us here are conceding that there isn't a very strong historical case for Jesus. For many different reasons. One reason is that 1) the main evidence is only from a partial and highly disputed text, written by highly partial zealots: the Bible.

    The main problem indeed is that there is no truly "independent" evidence, or "data," or "facts," from OUTSIDE the Bible to support it. FIrst 2) there is no scientific or archeological evidence that supports much more than the bare existence of say, Jerusalem, and Judaism, in the 1st century AD; while Science even firmly suggests that promises of "miracles" are false. Furtthermore 3) there are very few 1st cent. references to Jesus, from external, "pagan" commentaries, to verify what zealots are telling us in the New Testament. At most, Josephus refers to several "Jesus"es; and Roman works refer to a BELIEF in a JESUS, or say a "Chrestus," among Jews; without verifying that belief however, was true.

    So the problem for the "Historicist" position, is ironically, that there is no real, solid HISORY at all here. There is nothing that would be considered real historical or archeological evidence, to support the existence of Jesus. In fact, all the Scientific evidence goes against about half of Jesus: the Jesus that worked physical miracles.

    4) For some time, the search for HJ - Historical Jesus - has attempted to examine the cultural milieu around the time of Jesus; to hint that it can find links between the culture of the time, and what appeared in the New Testament. And yet however, just noting the existence of a militant, "kingdom" Judaism in Galilee, or Jerusalem, does not prove the existence of specifically, Jesus. While 5) Two Source, or mainly Q theory - which finds the earliest level of the Bible seems to be a kind of "Cynic" sage philosophy - does note even entirely match the larger picture of Jesus at all; some think that voice was the voice of say, John the Baptist's cult. Or perhaps a general ascetic voice. Or even a Roman, Hellenistic cynic. Even as Q is rather contested.

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  67. 6) Finally? To get around all that, it is commonly asserted next that for Mythicists however, to insist on PHYSICAL evidence and so forth, is too "Fundamentalistic." The cliched criticism of Mythicists today, is that they are too Fundamentalistic - even in their atheism. It is often said that their criticism of Christianity, is for lack of physical miracles, or firmness. While it is claimed that this criticism misses the fact that much of "higher" Christianity concedes that; but has moved on to a "higher" "spiritual" Christianity. A spiritual Christianity that asserts that the lack of material accomplishments and proofs is irrelevant; we don't really need miracles or even physical things to get by in life; but only spirits.

    But as it turns out? There are problems with "spiritual" Christianity too (as in James 2.4-15). As when St. James noted that a religion that gives us only kind words, spirits, but not material phsyical things ... leaves us starving to death for lack of physical necessities (ref. Dr. Woodbridge Goodman).

    While then too? Recently Earl Doherty has added another criticism of the allegedly immune, higher Christianity, in effect. As Doherty has begun confirming that whatever spirituality higher Christianity has, seems to be a Hellenistic, Platonic, "cosmic" philosophy ... mostly borrowed from Greco-Roman and ANE ... myth.

    So Historical Jesus assertions are in trouble today,in many ways. Furthermore, "spiritual" Christianity is not above or exempt from these critiques. As Mythicism suggests that even its allegedly higher "spirituality," has it's real origins ... in Myth.

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  68. "So why would Steven Carr be so rightly indignant about 1 Corin. 11? The problem with 1 Corin., is that it in fact begins to imperfectly acknowledge, and very clumsily deal with, the key problem in Christianity: the lack of a physical/historical Jesus. Either originally, or in our own time. "

    I assume that's a BG comment.

    What exactly about 1 Corinthians suggests the lack of a physical/historical Jesus?

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  69. 1) It is written after the death of Jesus; after Jesus according to Acts, after 40 days, was taken up into Heaven. So that? He would not have been a physical being on earth.

    2) Paul does not claim to have met much of a substantial Jesus; but only a "voice" or conversely, a "vision," that others could not see.

    3) While there are no accepted canonical accounts of Jesus being physically on earth, after the 40 days.

    4) So the problem is: there is certainly no physical Jesus on earth at this point, by most accounts. Even though the Bible had promised that when God came to earth, he would be here to stay, in person, in Jerusalem probably (isa. 65-6; Rev. 21, etc.).

    5) So there is no physical Jesus after the 40 days for sure. Perhpas for this reason, perhaps for others (like the original non existence of Jesus), the texts begin to try to deal anxiously with this problem: where is the physical Jesus? To try to answer this, some say a)his spirit is in our physical Bibles; or b)believers or c) churches are his "body." Or among dozens of other places, d) the piece of bread is his physical/historical body.

    The point being that certainly, there is no physical Jesus after Easter or so; and for this but also other reasons likely, the text of the NT is quite anxious to try to establish a physical Jesus. Anxiously proposing one after another different locus for his physical body however.

    This bodes poorly, for the search for a physical/historical Jesus. Since already, one aspect of that is being dealt with inconsistently, anxiously, by the text. Which generated suspiciously many different stories on this.

    - (Yes; it is Brettongarcia. It seems more reliable to log in with "anonymous" here, due to my weak wi-fi connection).

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