The Jesus Mythicist Position: Revised 2008

Rook_Hawkins's picture

The Jesus Mythicist Position: Revised 2008


By Rook Hawkins

  

(1) A Brief Introduction to the Revised Article

 

About a year and a half ago, I started a campaign to educate people about Jesus mythicism.  When I had first started working on the campaign I was not as well prepared as I am now.  I have to chalk that up to inexperience.  When somebody says “a lot can happen in a year”, I will consider what they have to say, because they aren’t kidding.  A lot has happened in a year and a half that I felt a revision of this article was a necessity. 

Among the new avenues I have taken is a complete refocusing of my book, a project that has been a very huge learning experience, and I owe a large debt of gratitude to my mentor, colleague and friend, Thomas L. Thompson, who has been in no small way an influence on me personally and my research.  Richard Carrier and Robert M. Price have also stepped in to give me some really important advice and critiques that have also shaped how I see the past.  My debts also include Joseph B. Tyson, who has offered some criticisms as well as kindness and friendship, and to minimalists everywhere who have said in a loud voice, “We will not submit to assumption and speculation.”  It is their mighty tombs and impressively large shadows that I walk behind.  Without their unending sacrifice to keep scholarship in check, the world would still be shrouded in an age of darkness and death that ended with the success of the redaction schools of Germany and the glorious Enlightenment that help shaped western culture.

Additionally, over the past year, I have written a number of articles that supersede many of my older ones.  Many of my older positions imitated Dennis McKinsey, who is still a friend and colleague I admire greatly, yet where he was the one to show me the contradictions of the Bible, I was never able to explain to him the reasons why they existed.  For a long period of my atheism, I have argued with the intent to expose these contradictions.  There are many.  But this has become dull and boring to me.  Sure, it is very easy to show somebody a contradiction, but it is so much more fascinating to explain why they exist.  In other words, the what isn’t as important as the why.  My interest has shifted, and so have some of my positions.

To make this perfectly clear, it is not dishonorable to revise an outdated position.  Revising older material is exactly the intent of science.  As a historian, it is my job to review old data (especially my own!), compare it to new evidence, and adjust accordingly.  It has been a great deal of fun, as well as effort, to bring you this updated article.  I have been longing to write it for a few months, but I knew there were other things that had to come first.  I had to write up several articles that would supplement this one before I could even start conceptualizing an outline.  There were many loose ends that I needed to tie up and I feel I have done a good job of doing just that.

I have decided to write this article as if it were an FAQ.  I have divided this into questions, and to the questions I will provide very basic answers.  This article is intended as a general outline of my position, which I have come to understand as the most honest among other mythicists.  I will link to additional articles I’ve written if somebody wants further reading.  I am open to criticisms and comments, provided that before you comment you read the additional material to see if your positions have already been answered.  I am not a fan of repeating myself, especially not when I spent hours writing so I wouldn’t have to repeat myself.  If I feel your question has been answered elsewhere, I will simply link you to the thread where the answer is located.  I will not do your homework for you (Although, one could say that I have already done quite a bit of it for you already)!

I sincerely hope that you join me in this campaign, and together we can make it a success.  With enough support, we can educate a great deal of people.  And really, isn’t that what being a Rational Responder is all about?       

 

(2) What is the Mythicist Position?

 

To be brief, the mythicist position holds that Jesus, the historical and supernatural, never existed. 


For more reading: Does it Matter if Jesus Existed?  A Response to Rick Hillegas


(Off site) For more reading: Did Jesus Exist? Earl Doherty and the Argument for Ahistoricity (Richard Carrier: 2002)

(Off site) For more reading: Jesus: Fact or Fiction (Robert M. Price: 1997)

(Off site) For more reading: Christ a Fiction (Robert M. Price: 1997)

(Off site) For more reading: Creating Biblical Figures (Thomas L. Thompson: 2005)

 

(3) What about the Historical Jesus Quests?

 

The historical Jesus quests (there have actually been three!) have all failed to provide a historical Jesus.  What they have shown is how easy it is for scholars to look down the well of history and see their own reflections staring back at them—and then assuming that reflection is Jesus.  Each quest set out with the goal of demythologizing the Gospels; that is, they intended to remove all the supernatural, legendary, theological, and political embellishments added by the authors of the four Gospels. (Later quests attempted to remove them from deuterocanonical books as well!)  What was discovered is that it is impossible to do so without infecting your search with your own personal goals as a scholar. 


For more reading: Which Jesus: A Legend with a Multiple Personality Disorder?

 

(4) What about Paul?  Didn’t he believe in a Historical Jesus?

 

Paul did not believe in a historical Jesus, but instead believed in a spiritual Jesus which he considered to be both a mediator between God and man as well as a revealer of knowledge and the mysteries of God.  Paul is the only link between the time period that is generally thought of to be the lifetime of Christ (c. 5-3 BCE – 30-33 CE), yet Paul seems to know nothing at all about this historical man, Jesus, who would have only died a few decades earlier.  Paul even says that he has talked to some of the apostles, but not only does he still remain ignorant, he flat out disagrees with Peter on doctrine and the message of Christianity!  You would think that, as somebody converting into a religion like Christianity, Paul would grant authority to the people who supposedly knew Jesus.  But he doesn’t.  Paul was interpreting scripture, and his savior came from scripture—not from a historical person. 


For more reading: On Paul and Identity

 

(5) What are the Gospels?  Aren’t they biographies of Jesus’ life?

 

The Gospels tell us nothing of a historical Jesus.  They are not biographies at all, unless you redefine biography to mean “a fictional representation of a legend”.  (Or something very close to that)  The Gospels are exactly what their authors intended them to be.  Mark intended his Gospel to be read as edifying fiction, as scripture reinterpretation, much like that of the author of Job and the author of Tobit did.  Matthew, writing later and copying Mark, added new plot lines to his narrative, like a birth story and a short snippet of Jesus as a youth – both of which come from scripture.  But even Matthew was probably writing allegory and fiction.  Luke was writing a polemical Gospel against Marcion, probably around the beginning or middle of the second century.  Luke changed Matthews birth narrative, and added more extravagance to Jesus’ resurrection story, including a scene which imitates the story of Romulus from Roman fiction.  John, most definitely a Gnostic, wrote his Gospel after Luke or around Luke, and expanded dramatically on Mark’s original composition.  None of these stories are accounts of an actual person.  They are Jewish fiction writing, a genre that was very popular during the Hellenistic period and the period known as the Second Sophistic.   The Gospels are a product of their times, they are not—as is commonly thought—separate from them.

 

For more reading: What is a Gospel?

For more reading: Biblical Languages and Dating

For more reading: An Example of Jewish Fiction Writing in Antiquity

For more reading: Jewish Assimilation into Greek Culture

 

(Off site) For more reading: Review of “The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark” (Richard Carrier: 2000)

(Off site) For more reading: Creating Biblical Figures (Thomas L. Thompson: 2005)

 

(6) What about Josephus?

 

Josephus’ testimony, commonly called the Testimonium Flavianum, is most certainly a later Christian forgery.  Many scholars argue for a partial interpolation, but this is probably out of the knowledge that without Josephus there is no evidence for a historical Jesus within the first century—a fact that would damage the credibility of the historical Jesus more than it already is.  They do so based on the assumption that an Arabic version reflects a more reasonable understanding of Jesus, without all the supernatural and obvious Christian elements.  But they ignore the fact that the copy is late and written by Arabs who did not view Jesus as the messiah.  They also ignore, or perhaps are unaware, of the Slavic copies of Josephus with even more interpolations added by Christians, many appearing in Josephus’ Jewish Wars.  This is not only evidence of Christian tampering with manuscripts, and the desire to incorporate whole accounts of Jesus’ life into Josephus, but it also severely damages the credibility of the Testimonium as even a partial interpolation.  Even worse, it exposes how easily scholars can be influenced by personal emotion and agendas, which cloud their research and affect their conclusions.

 

For more reading: Josephus and the Testimonium: Is it Evidence of Jesus?

 

(Off site) For more reading: Josephus Unbound: Reopening the Josephus Question (Earl Doherty: 1998)

 

(7) Do you believe that Jesus was a composite of Pagan Gods?

 

Short answer: Yes and no.  Longer answer:  Jesus is a composite of many different elements, and it honestly depends on which Jesus you’re talking about in order to really make this distinction.  If we are looking at Paul’s Jesus, then his savior is a combination of Orphic, Essenic and Rabbincal traditions, reflecting some themes from each.  If we read Mark’s Gospel alone, Jesus is a composite of five elements: (1) Moses (2) Joshua (3) Homer’s epics (specifically Odysseus) (4) the Hebrew scriptures (mainly the prophets) (5) and Orpheus.  Matthew’s Jesus is decidedly more Jewish, although Orphic themes show through because Matthew, like Mark, is interpreting Paul’s letters which contain these themes.  Luke’s Jesus is both anti-Marcionite but pro-Pauline.  John’s Gospel is a specific type of Gnosticism, which has its roots in Jewish and Greek mystery cults.  They mostly reflect Orphic and Dionysian traditions, and thus reflect Orpheus and Dionysus. 

The claim that Jesus is a compilation of other Egyptian and Eastern demi-Gods is not founded in any fact.  Jesus reflects Egyptian culture because of the Diasporic influence of Egyptian culture on exiled Jews living in Egypt.  The Hebrew Scriptures, more than Jesus, reflect more Egyptian influence than anything else.  And because the Gospel authors are interpreting scripture, the influence comes through.  But there is no direct influence from Horus or Osirius, and there is certainly no evidence at all of eastern traditions like Krishna or Buddha having an influence on the authors of the Gospels—or even Jews in general.  This is outdated scholarship that lacks serious evidence required to make such assumptions.  I do not support it.  The only pagan God that has any direct effect on Christianity is Orpheus, and in some cases Dionysus.  And the evidence for this is overwhelming.

 

For more reading: Problems with Acharya S: A Brief Review

For more reading: Jewish Assimilation into Greek Culture

 

(Off site) For more reading: Kersey Graves and “The Worlds Sixteen Crucified Saviors” (Richard Carrier: 2003)

(Off site) For more reading: Osiris and Pagan Resurrection Myths: Assessing the Till-McFall Exchange (Richard Carrier: 2002)

 

(8 ) If Jesus was not a real person, why were Christians willing to die for him?

 

This assumes that early Christians thought of him as a historical person.  The Roman Legions died for the gods of their emperor, and they never thought of the gods as historical.  Their gods were supernatural, spiritual beings.  Perhaps later Christians died believing Jesus was a historical person, but that doesn’t mean he was.  Nobody would argue that Dionysus was a historical person on the account that Greeks believed he was.

 

(Off site) For more reading: Was Christianity Too Improbable to be False? Chapter 8: Who Would Want to be Persecuted? (Richard Carrier: 2006)

 

(9) Don’t Christians, Muslims and Jews all accept Jesus as Historical?  Doesn’t that mean he lived?

 

No.  It means people are willing to accept things as fact with little or no evidence.

 

For more reading: A Look at Ancient Ghost Stories and Hauntings

 

(Off site) For more reading: Kooks and Quacks of the Roman Empire: A Look into a World of the Gospels (Richard Carrier: 1997)

 

 

(10) If Jesus didn’t exist, why are there so many television shows on the History Channel about his life?

 

There are shows on Jesus because the story of Jesus, and the controversies of many of the apocryphal books on Jesus, make for great television drama and boost ratings.  

 

(11) What Motive would the early Christians have to lie about Jesus?

 

Who claimed they lied?  This is an ad hoc argument.  The early Christians believed differently about Jesus than did their later Orthodox brethren.  The early Christian believed in a spiritual revealer Jesus, not a historical man that was crucified by other men.  They believed this with all their will, and the Gospel author Mark probably did as well.  Mark was not writing fiction to deceive, as other Christians read his fictional account and understood it to be fiction, just as Jews read Tobit and understood it to be fiction.  And, just as you go out to a book store today and pick up a copy of The Catcher in the Rye and read it as fiction.  Jesus Christ is no more real than Holden Caulfield.  The early Christians understood this and appreciated the narrative as a tool of wisdom and inventiveness. 

 

For more reading: What is a Gospel?

For more reading: Biblical Languages and Dating

For more reading: An Example of Jewish Fiction Writing in Antiquity

 

(Off site) For more reading: Creating Biblical Figures (Thomas L. Thompson: 2005)

 

(12) What about all the Gnostic gospels found at Nag Hammadi, don’t they validate the historical Jesus?

 

No, they do not.  Just as the synoptic Gospels show a gradual legendary embellishment, the Gnostic Gospels also do this.  The authors of the various apocryphal Gospels, Acts and Apocalypses are copying and editing earlier works, applying their own politics and theology to them as they write.  This is indicative more of legend than of history.

 

(13) Are the Gospels eye-witness accounts?

 

No.  The Gospels show clear signs of being written by authors after the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem.  Some even show signs of having never been to Palestine at all, and are relying on atlases or maps to formulate plotline.  Some purposefully change or create locations (such as gentile villages in Galilee in the first century) to supplement their fictional narratives.  Matthew and Luke copy (in many cases verbatim) from Mark’s Gospel extensively, and Luke we know for sure had copies of Josephus and wrote against Marcion in the second century.  John has a copy of Mark, but alters his Gospel quite a bit, adding to it extravagantly.  The Gospel authors are also anonymous, the names being given long after their original composition by later Christians vying for power over other Christians who they deemed heretical.  

 

For more reading: What is a Gospel?

For more reading: Biblical Languages and Dating

For more reading: An Example of Jewish Fiction Writing in Antiquity

 

(Off site) For more reading: The Evidence is Inadequate (Richard Carrier: 2006)

(Off site) For more reading: The Formation of the New Testament Canon (Richard Carrier: 2000)

(Off site) For more reading: Luke and Josephus (Richard Carrier: 2000)

 

(14) Don’t we have artifacts of Jesus’ life like the Spear of Destiny and the Shroud of Turin?

 

Both these objects have long since been considered hoaxes.  We have no archaeological evidence for the existence of Jesus at all.

 

(15) Didn’t Jesus fulfill Prophecy?

 

No.  In fact the reason why Jesus is rejected by Jews today is because Jesus did not fit the prophecies of the Old Testament.  The reason why Jesus’ actions in the Gospels resemble things from the Old Testament is not because Jesus fulfilled scripture, but rather the author of the Gospels was reinterpreting that scripture to create plot lines.  Jesus did not ride a colt into Jerusalem.  The Author of Mark was reading the verse from Zechariah, and for the purpose of plot, had his character ride a colt into Jerusalem.

 

For more reading: What is a Gospel?

For more reading: Biblical Languages and Dating

For more reading: An Example of Jewish Fiction Writing in Antiquity

 

(Off site) For more reading: The Problem of the Virgin Birth Prophecy (Richard Carrier: 2003)

 

(16) What about the accounts of Jesus traveling to the far East to study the philosophy of Buddhism?

 

None of this has been verified by any archaeological evidence.  This is another attempt to market on the Jesus namesake.  There is no evidence of Jewish settlements in India or China, and certainly there is no evidence that Jews could understand and read, or even speak ancient Hindi or Chinese.  These positions are generally claimed by spiritualists and new age folk who want to make Jesus more like Buddha and Krishna.  No such link exists archaeologically or historically.  This claim rests purely on desire and nothing more.

 

For more reading: Problems with Acharya S: A Brief Review

For more reading: Jewish Assimilation into Greek Culture

 

(17) An Argument from Silence does not mean Jesus didn’t exist.

 

Correct.  However this assumes that an Argument from Silence is all that mythicists have.  Instead we have a strong Argument from Silence along with other evidence that goes against historicity, cumulatively makes a strong case for ahistoricity.  A review of all the articles linked to on this page will clearly show how strong the position is for ahistoricity.

For more reading: A Silence that Screams (Todangst: 2007) 

(Off site) For more reading: Was Christianity Too Improbable to be False? (Richard Carrier: 2006)

(Off site) For more reading: Did Jesus Exist? Earl Doherty and the Argument for Ahistoricity (Richard Carrier: 2002)

 

(18) What about other attestations to Jesus like the Talmud?

 

These references are not only late, but they are conflicting, and are probably based on hearsay (in other words, they got their stories from Christians not historical data).  The Talmud contains some Toldoth Jesu, or Jewish polemics against Christians, which are fictional, and are all very degrading towards the character of Jesus.   

 

(Off site) For more reading: The Great Preposterous (Robert M. Price: 1997)

 

 

(19) Books by Mythicist Scholars


Thomas L. Thompson

(1)   The Mythic Past (2000)

(2)   Early History of the Israelite People (2000)

(3)   The Messiah Myth (2005)

 

Robert M. Price

(1)   Jesus is Dead (2006)

(2)   Incredible Shrinking Son of Man (2003)

(3)   Deconstructing Jesus (2000)

(4)   The Empty Tomb (2005)

 

Richard Carrier

(1)   Sense and Goodness Without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism (2005)

 

Atheist Books, purchases on Amazon support the Rational Response Squad server, which houses Celebrity Atheists. Books by Rook Hawkins (Thomas Verenna)

todangst's picture

Terrific, doctoral level

Terrific, doctoral level work as usual, Rook! Leaps and bounds over the immature, ignorant tripe spewed out of christian universities. I personally hold that the AFS alone dooms christianity; there's no way to reconcile a jesus who both inspires a religion and yet goes completely unnoted by history. But I agree with your point that there's much more than the AFS anyway....

 

Kudos!

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

Books on atheism.

Rook_Hawkins's picture

I was half expecting you to

I was half expecting you to comment in the vein that you did.  That was part of the reason I linked to your Silence that screams thread.  I would agree.  But an AFS alone does not make a case.  Which is why I answered the way I did.  I'm glad to see you around more.  Hope you take the time to dig through some of my newer articles, I'd love your critique.

Atheist Books, purchases on Amazon support the Rational Response Squad server, which houses Celebrity Atheists. Books by Rook Hawkins (Thomas Verenna)

This is a fantastic summary

This is a fantastic summary Rook.  Very well written, easy to understand for the layman and of course has all the links to the more in-depth looks at each area which is fantastic.  I really enjoyed that read, and glad that you have had such an active year.

I am also glad to see this shift away from what and into the why.  It has been a lot more enjoyable to read, and a great look at historical Christianity in general.  Loving it.  Keep up the great work!

Wonderist's picture

Very cool. The part that was

Very cool. The part that was newest for me was the focus on Dionysus and Orpheus and the move away from other saviour gods. I notice you didn't mention Mithras at all in this overview. Mithras was the first of the other gods I read about that made the mythicist position more plausible to me. Where would you place the influence of Mithras on the probability scale? Close to 0, 100, or somewhere in between? Also, what do you make of the idea that maybe there was no direct scriptural influence by these other gods, but that the idea (or meme) of dying and rising gods was floating around because of these other god myths and may have indirectly influenced the Jesus character even if there's no unambiguous evidence in the texts?

By the way, at the beginning you write "My debtors also include". I think debtors is the wrong word, making it look like they owe you something. Maybe you meant 'creditors' or 'I also owe a debt to'. Could give the wrong impression otherwise.

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Rook_Hawkins's picture

Mr. Atheist wrote:This is a

Mr. Atheist wrote:

This is a fantastic summary Rook.  Very well written, easy to understand for the layman and of course has all the links to the more in-depth looks at each area which is fantastic.  I really enjoyed that read, and glad that you have had such an active year.

Thanks brother.  =)

Quote:
I am also glad to see this shift away from what and into the why.  It has been a lot more enjoyable to read, and a great look at historical Christianity in general.  Loving it.  Keep up the great work!

Thanks again.  My Paul article was the one I'm most proud of so far. 

natural wrote:

Very cool. The part that was newest for me was the focus on Dionysus and Orpheus and the move away from other saviour gods. I notice you didn't mention Mithras at all in this overview. Mithras was the first of the other gods I read about that made the mythicist position more plausible to me.

I don't feel Jesus was composed of any ideas from Mithraism.  The ideas that are found in Mithraism (which did not really take off until the turn of the second century) were already extent in Orphism as early as 500 BCE.

Quote:
Where would you place the influence of Mithras on the probability scale? Close to 0, 100, or somewhere in between?

I would place it close to nil.  I don't think there is a strong enough case to be made that Mithraism influenced Christology.  It may have influenced Christian traditions in the second century, which would make sense being that both Christianity and Mithraism were competing with each other in that period.  But it would not have been a competitor in the first century.  Orphism, however, was certainly a competitor in Paul's day.

Quote:
Also, what do you make of the idea that maybe there was no direct scriptural influence by these other gods, but that the idea (or meme) of dying and rising gods was floating around because of these other god myths and may have indirectly influenced the Jesus character even if there's no unambiguous evidence in the texts?

I would say that may be possible, but how would you even go about proving it?  Remember that correlation does not equal causation.

Quote:
By the way, at the beginning you write "My debtors also include". I think debtors is the wrong word, making it look like they owe you something. Maybe you meant 'creditors' or 'I also owe a debt to'. Could give the wrong impression otherwise.

Fixed.  Thanks, I must have missed it.  =)   I hope you stay around and keep reading. 

Atheist Books, purchases on Amazon support the Rational Response Squad server, which houses Celebrity Atheists. Books by Rook Hawkins (Thomas Verenna)

Hambydammit's picture

Great job, rook.  Not only

Great job, rook.  Not only are your facts and documentation impeccable, but your writing style has improved a lot.  This is very easy to read and comprehend, and flows nicely.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism

Wonderist's picture

Rook_Hawkins wrote:I would

Rook_Hawkins wrote:
I would place it close to nil.  I don't think there is a strong enough case to be made that Mithraism influenced Christology.  It may have influenced Christian traditions in the second century, which would make sense being that both Christianity and Mithraism were competing with each other in that period.  But it would not have been a competitor in the first century.  Orphism, however, was certainly a competitor in Paul's day.

Thanks! I didn't know that, and it certainly answers my question.

Quote:
Quote:
Also, what do you make of the idea that maybe there was no direct scriptural influence by these other gods, but that the idea (or meme) of dying and rising gods was floating around because of these other god myths and may have indirectly influenced the Jesus character even if there's no unambiguous evidence in the texts?

I would say that may be possible, but how would you even go about proving it?  Remember that correlation does not equal causation.

I don't think it's relevant for your endeavour which requires a strict evidentiary case. It's more of a speculation on memes, and you wouldn't be able to prove it until a solid theory of memes is developed. Even then it would be more of an inference (extrapolation from theory) than a direct proof. Just curious what you thought.

Quote:
Fixed.  Thanks, I must have missed it.  =)   I hope you stay around and keep reading.

I certainly will. Smiling

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  "My Paul article was the

  "My Paul article was the one I'm most proud of so far." 

----------------------------------

shit yeah .... and it's all good ,

Thanks so very very much ROOK ,  just what the doctor ordered !  Xlint.  Now would the Paulines please go home and think it over ..... You rock dude !

I O U

Rook_Hawkins's picture

Hambydammit wrote:Great job,

Hambydammit wrote:

Great job, rook.  Not only are your facts and documentation impeccable, but your writing style has improved a lot.  This is very easy to read and comprehend, and flows nicely.

Thanks Hamby!  I could really use some reviews of my Jesus and Paul articles.  I know they're long but they're the most important to revise.  =)  (This goes to anybody willing to sit through them.)

 

 

Atheist Books, purchases on Amazon support the Rational Response Squad server, which houses Celebrity Atheists. Books by Rook Hawkins (Thomas Verenna)

Otishpote's picture

Very good summary Rook!

That is a very well thought out summary, and very pleasant and easy to read.  Awesome job.

Rook, if the early Christians did not believe in a historical Jesus, but understood the gospels as edifying fictions -- is it still consistent to interpret them as believing in a literal physical future coming of Christ to earth?

One of my favorite bits of evidence for the ahistoricity of Jesus is in the talk of his future coming.  The New Testament frequently mentions Jesus coming in the future to judge the nations.  The weird thing - a problem, I think, for the historical Jesus interpretation -  is that it does NOT describe it as a RETURN or SECOND COMING, the way modern Christians do.  The coming of the Christ to earth is rather described by the early Christians merely as a long awaited event.  And the early Christians felt they had a special revelation/warning that it would be happening soon.  As I see it, whenever the NT talks about the coming of Christ, the particular choice of phrasing used makes it appear even less likely to me that the author of the passage thought Christ was on earth recently before.

If there is anything on this line of thought that Rook can correct or expand on, I'd love to read it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rook_Hawkins's picture

Otishpote wrote:That is a

Otishpote wrote:

That is a very well thought out summary, and very pleasant and easy to read.  Awesome job.

Rook, if the early Christians did not believe in a historical Jesus, but understood the gospels as edifying fictions -- is it still consistent to interpret them as believing in a literal physical future coming of Christ to earth?

Sure, but I do not believe that is what Paul felt when he said Jesus would come soon.

Quote:
One of my favorite bits of evidence for the ahistoricity of Jesus is in the talk of his future coming.  The New Testament frequently mentions Jesus coming in the future to judge the nations.  The weird thing - a problem, I think, for the historical Jesus interpretation -  is that it does NOT describe it as a RETURN or SECOND COMING, the way modern Christians do.  The coming of the Christ to earth is rather described by the early Christians merely as a long awaited event.  And the early Christians felt they had a special revelation/warning that it would be happening soon.  As I see it, whenever the NT talks about the coming of Christ, the particular choice of phrasing used makes it appear even less likely to me that the author of the passage thought Christ was on earth recently before.

If there is anything on this line of thought that Rook can correct or expand on, I'd love to read it.

Paul believed that Jesus came to those who were mature.  I feel that there wasn't a death, an ascension and then another coming in Pauline theology but rather a continuous mediation between man and God through Paul's Christ.  In other words, Christ has come, is coming, and will continue to come for all eternity.

Atheist Books, purchases on Amazon support the Rational Response Squad server, which houses Celebrity Atheists. Books by Rook Hawkins (Thomas Verenna)

I love Jesus

Jesus is our savior i love him he died for us u should be greatful

Questions

I have a couple questions about Paul not knowing of a historical Jesus but "instead believed in a spiritual Jesus which he considered to be both a mediator between God and man as well as a revealer of knowledge and the mysteries of God."

What is your take on 1 Cor. 15:3-8?

Paul said that after Jesus' ressurection He (Jesus) appeard to over 500 people including the apostles.

What about Paul mentioning the Lord's brother in Gal. 1:19?

Paul mentions James, a physical person, as being the Lord's brother.

What specific doctrine and message of Christianity did Paul disagree with Peter?

"Paul even says that he has talked to some of the apostles, but not only does he still remain ignorant, he flat out disagrees with Peter on doctrine and the message of Christianity!"

Could you exand on what you meant in your article "On Paul and Identity" when you said "I would question the logic behind this, as this rest entirely on speculation and an ignorance of the context behind Paul's theology" concerning Christians saying that the "intent of his letters were not to establish Jesus as historical nor to write a biography but to establish church doctrine to specific locations throughout Christendom at the time"?

Thanks man. Later.

(under #16 at the bottom of the article).

Rook_Hawkins's picture

mac wrote:I have a couple

mac wrote:

I have a couple questions about Paul not knowing of a historical Jesus but "instead believed in a spiritual Jesus which he considered to be both a mediator between God and man as well as a revealer of knowledge and the mysteries of God."

What is your take on 1 Cor. 15:3-8?

Paul said that after Jesus' ressurection He (Jesus) appeard to over 500 people including the apostles.

I believe, first, that Paul is definitely exagerating here.  Why the number 500?  What signifigance is it?  Further, why didn't Paul name any of them?  (Can you?)  But these points are only surface problems and more of an irrelevance.

The key to interpreting this verse is to recall what it means for Paul when he says Jesus was "revealed to" somebody.  Gal. 1:1-11 is a great indicator of exactly what this means.  Paul recounts (and uses the same language) that Jesus revealed himself to him, not as a man but through direct revelation (apocalypse).  In 1 Cor. 15, Paul says that Jesus appeared to the 500, the elders, etc...and lastly himself.  He includes his experience among theirs, and just as he does this, does not make any distinction between his experiences and theirs.  Indicating that Paul believed they shared a similar revelation of Jesus.  This does not indicate that Jesus was walking around (or through walls) in the flesh.  Paul does not believe this, and I make this point very clear in my article on Paul as well.

Quote:
What about Paul mentioning the Lord's brother in Gal. 1:19?

Paul mentions James, a physical person, as being the Lord's brother.

Paul considers every Christian a brother of the Lord.  The word "brother" here is the same word Paul uses when he addresses "brothers in Christ" or the "brethren," the word adelphos.  To Paul, James is the Lord's brother, just as Paul is the Lord's brother.  Because everyone is alive in Christ, and has been reborn in Christ; they are reborn as sons of God.  I also explain this in my article on Paul. Carrier also explains these two points brilliantly in his three chapters in The Empty Tomb. 

Quote:
What specific doctrine and message of Christianity did Paul disagree with Peter?

"Paul even says that he has talked to some of the apostles, but not only does he still remain ignorant, he flat out disagrees with Peter on doctrine and the message of Christianity!"

Gal. 2:11-14, "But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?"

Paul then goes on to explain where Peter erred, and expresses his disinterest in whatever teachings Peter taught unto the circumcised (Jews).  I believe this is why Paul referred to himself as having a mission unto the gentiles.  He just didn't like the way the Jewish Christian church was doing things.

Quote:
Could you exand on what you meant in your article "On Paul and Identity" when you said "I would question the logic behind this, as this rest entirely on speculation and an ignorance of the context behind Paul's theology" concerning Christians saying that the "intent of his letters were not to establish Jesus as historical nor to write a biography but to establish church doctrine to specific locations throughout Christendom at the time"?

I thought it was pretty self-explanatory.  Basically, the position is specious as it ignores the content of Paul's letters.  It also rests on an assumption: That Paul was preaching a historical Jesus, which is a doctrine which Paul seems adamantly against. 

Hope this helps.

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Luigi Novi's picture

Good read, Rook. It's all

Good read, Rook. It's all stuff I've read before in greater detail, but since the RRS has some notability, people who might not have read the sources I have might find out about this stuff.

Btw, have you read or are you planning to read Conspiracies of the Cross by Timothy Paul Jones and Dinesh D'Souza? I looked through it, and read some Jones' arguments in response to the influence and/or similarity of other deities to Jesus, and as they weren't very well-argued, I'd love to see you dismantle his canards.


 

I am convinced that the most

I am convinced that the most you can do is prove  that the non existence as well as the existence of a Historical Jesus cannot be proved.

 

I mean, originally and for a long time Jesus was simply one of the many "heretic" rabbies funders of a new belief with a few hundred followers who existed in Palestine. And the Christians in the first century were only a small group, one of the many exothic religion the Roman Empire imported from the four corners of the World. Christianity came unnoticed untill it became the craze of the Roman Empire and invaded it.

Another messiah was John the baptist, who has followers in the ME still today.

The Gospel seems to incorporate John's church too as it claims Jesus himself recognized John's authority.

AS I see it, though it is possible that Jesus never existed, it is highly probable that he did.

 

Rook_Hawkins's picture

Perhaps next time you post

Perhaps next time you post you can give me something that isn't all based on nonsensical speculation?

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Strafio's picture

Great summary.It breaks a

Great summary.
It breaks a lot of content down into easy reading with links to articles for more depth and detail.
I've decided to bookmark it.

Rook_Hawkins's picture

Thanks!  The more the

Thanks!  The more the merrier.  Feel free to pass it around. =)

Rook,I am disappointed in

Rook,

I am disappointed in the fact that you have overlooked other extra-biblical sources: Tactius (Vehement critic of Christianity) and Pliny the Younger.  Each of their writings does not have any interpolations and are accecpted to be authentic.  Pliny the Younger when writing to the Roman emperior, he details some of the Christian practices and reference to Christ as god.  It is very possible that this writing was around 110 AD, less than a century before Christ died.   Regarding Joesphus there is also another  extrabiblical source you have overlooked! Let us set aside from the Testimonium Flavianum, there is still another reference to the historical Jesus from Josephus found in Antiquities 20.9.1 which references the trial of James, the brother of Jesus who was the leader of the early Jerusalem church.  Then finally the New Testament which has been around for 2,000 years that people like you and others spent their life trying to denouce and attack its authenticity!  The sobering reminder is that you and I will die and the New Testament will still be here.  You will never change that.   Thanks for your time!

thingy's picture

Drury wrote:Rook,I

Drury wrote:

Rook,

I am disappointed in the fact that you have overlooked other extra-biblical sources: Tactius (Vehement critic of Christianity) and Pliny the Younger.  Each of their writings does not have any interpolations and are accecpted to be authentic.  Pliny the Younger when writing to the Roman emperior, he details some of the Christian practices and reference to Christ as god.  It is very possible that this writing was around 110 AD, less than a century before Christ died.

Those texts simply talk about christians with a reference or two as to what christians at the time believed.  I don't think anybody here doubts that there were christians in 110CE.  Unless of course you want to tell us that the existence of followers proves the existence of what they follow, in which case every single god ever fathomed is real.

Drury wrote:
Regarding Joesphus there is also another  extrabiblical source you have overlooked! Let us set aside from the Testimonium Flavianum, there is still another reference to the historical Jesus from Josephus found in Antiquities 20.9.1 which references the trial of James, the brother of Jesus who was the leader of the early Jerusalem church. 

The section in Antiquities is even more convoluted and out of place in its entirety than the one in Testimonium Flavianum.

Drury wrote:
Then finally the New Testament which has been around for 2,000 years that people like you and others spent their life trying to denouce and attack its authenticity!  The sobering reminder is that you and I will die and the New Testament will still be here.  You will never change that.   Thanks for your time!

The new testament is extra biblical?  Well I'll be.

Organised religion is the ultimate form of blasphemy.
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Rook_Hawkins's picture

Drury wrote:Rook,I

Drury wrote:

Rook,

I am disappointed in the fact that you have overlooked other extra-biblical sources:

I must question whether you adequately read this article.  A cursory look above would show you I overlooked nothing, and indeed it is you who seems to have failed to do your research.

Quote:
Tactius (Vehement critic of Christianity) and Pliny the Younger.  Each of their writings does not have any interpolations and are accecpted to be authentic.  Pliny the Younger when writing to the Roman emperior, he details some of the Christian practices and reference to Christ as god.  It is very possible that this writing was around 110 AD, less than a century before Christ died.

You speak of Tacitus and Pliny but clearly you have not read them.  What is interesting is that the way Pliny recounts his persecutions of the Christians in Bithynia c. 110-113 CE.  He never relates any historical information about "Christ" (he does not call him "Jesus" ), and in fact says all he has learned is "depraved, excessive superstition." ("Nihil aliud inveni quam superstitionem pravam et immodicam." Letters 10.96.8 )

Digressing: It is interesting that Pliny considers the practices superstitious here, but he also believes in ghosts and haunted houses!

Back to the subject, I am sure Christians by this period did believe the stories of Matthew and Mark's Gospels, because Tacitus (probably learning his information from Pliny, or perhaps from Christians, or from others recounting what they thought about Christians; although far more likely he learned it from Pliny since they corresponded on everything, such as the Vesuvius eruption) claims that the Christians are followers of one who was killed by a Roman prefect, Pilatus. (It is interesting that around this time, the Christians are saying it was the Jews, but Tacitus—seeming to recount this story as if he heard it from the Gospels—blames Pilatus) But again, I am not suggesting that later Christians didn't believe the Gospel accounts.  Remember that for the Greeks, the Argonautika and the Trojan War were both dateable and understood to be real historical events too.  (The so-called Parian Marble or Marmor Parium) But this is really irrelevant, since nobody is suggesting that later Christians did not believe these things.  They certainly did.  But they didn't always, nor did they from the beginning.

Quote:
Regarding Joesphus there is also another  extrabiblical source you have overlooked! Let us set aside from the Testimonium Flavianum, there is still another reference to the historical Jesus from Josephus found in Antiquities 20.9.1 which references the trial of James, the brother of Jesus who was the leader of the early Jerusalem church. 

Please go back to the list and read (6) on Josephus.  Read the whole article, and then read the other links I posted below for further reading.  I suggest you go back and read everything, in fact.  Because before you start accusing me of ignoring certain evidences, perhaps you should first do your homework and see if I have addressed them elsewhere. 

Quote:
Then finally the New Testament which has been around for 2,000 years that people like you and others spent their life trying to denouce and attack its authenticity!  The sobering reminder is that you and I will die and the New Testament will still be here.  You will never change that.   Thanks for your time!

That is sort of irrelevant.  Oh noes!  The Homeric Epics have been around for 1200 years orally, and 800 years scripted, before anything ever written in the New Testament!  That must mean it's real, and all the events happened!  The Cyclops lives!  Please.  Could you be any more pathetic? kthxbai

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Rook,I apologize for not

Rook,

I apologize for not switching thoughts from extra biblical evidence to the biblical evidence of Jesus the Christ.  I think it is important that Jesus was called the Christ in the N.T. as you already know.  In the Pliny's letter to the emperior reinforces the historical fact of Christ existence.  The point I am trying to make is that Pliny stated there was a person called Christ.  I am not surprised Pliny would call Christianity a superstition, he persecuted them; would he said something nice about them?  Your arguement that Tactius received some of the information from Pliny is weak at best.  Here is a quote which gives a valid arguement of Tacticus' reference to Christ: "Because of his position as a professional historian and not as a commentator, it is more likely Tacitus referenced government records over Christian testimony. It is also possible Tacitus received some of his
information from his friend and fellow secular historian, Pliny the Younger. Yet, even if
Tacitus referenced some of Pliny's sources, it would be out of his character to have done so without critical investigation. An example of
Tacitus criticising testimony given to him even from his dear friend Pliny is found here:
Annals XV, 55. Tacitus
distinguishes between confirmed and hearsay accounts almost
70 times in his History. If he felt this account of
Jesus was only a rumor or folklore, he would have issued his usual disclaimer that this account was unverified." Again thanks for your time.
You must remember no one in the world is attempting to denounce, attack or question the authencity of the Homer's Epics.  Why would they do that?  It is interesting many people, including yourself, are spending their life trying to denounce, attack and question the authenticity of a historical Jesus.  Why?  Everyone else has attempted this before you were born but to no avail or success.   Why are you spending your life attempting to do what cannot be done? Celsus was an avid opponent of Christianity. "He went to great lengths to disprove the divinity of Jesus yet never denied His actual existence. Unfortunately for Celsus, he sets himself up for criticism by mimicking the exact accusations brought against Jesus by the pharisees which
had already been addressed and refuted in the New Testament."  My point is what Solomon said, "there is nothing new under the sun."  What you are doing is nothing new!  What does this have to do extra-biblical evidence of Jesus?  There are many things you and I just don't know.  They only way anyone will know for certain of Historical Jesus is death.  He said in the N.T. "that every idle word we will give an account"  My desire is that all you are doing is not just idle words but the pursuit of truth.  Thanks for your time.
 

 

Rook_Hawkins's picture

Drury,(1) Learn to use the

Drury,

(1) Get an account.

(2) Learn to use the quote function.

(3) Don't change the color of things it is difficult to read.

(4) Cite your sources or have your post deleted.

(5) Please read the links before assuming things.  I've already addressed everything you said in the original post.

Drury wrote:

Rook,

I apologize for not switching thoughts from extra biblical evidence to the biblical evidence of Jesus the Christ.  I think it is important that Jesus was called the Christ in the N.T. as you already know.
 You understand that the New Testament wasn't even collected and canonized until after the Council of Nicaea from the Letter of Aristaeus? And it took until the Council of Trent before the canon was made official?   You keep referring to the New Testament as one whole unit, but it was never originally meant to be.  It was not until Marcion in the second century where you have any evidence of somebody collecting letters and epistles, and even at that time there was no orthodoxy.  The response to canonize came from the vast amounts of different perspectives on Christ that existed at the time.  The ones who decided on what went into what you call the New Testament was just the victor in a long slander war between early Christian sects. 
Quote:
  In the Pliny's letter to the emperior reinforces the historical fact of Christ existence.
 No, he does not enforce anything.  He states: Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ--none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do--these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ. They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. That is all Pliny says on the matter.  Not once does he suggest, even in the least bit, that the Christ person existed.  He simply states that they worshiped him.  There is no mention of the man Jesus, just the spiritual Christ, which never existed historically.  You are assuming, or rather, you are jumping to conclusions because you are reading erroneously into something.  You went from "Christ as to a god" to "historical Jesus".  You are, in effect, committing a Fallacy of Equivocation.  If anything, Pliny makes more of a case for me than he does for you.  I already told you I do not doubt that Christians worshiped Christ in the second century.  I just know they didn't worship Christ then as they did one hundred years later. 
Quote:
The point I am trying to make is that Pliny stated there was a person called Christ.
 No, he does not.  He claims they worshiped Christ as a God.  He does not ever once use the Latin equivalent for "human" or "man" or "person" in any relation to the term Christ.  You are trying to pull a fast one, but I am not gullible enough to take you on your word.  Unfortunately for you, I have read Pliny. 
Quote:
I am not surprised Pliny would call Christianity a superstition, he persecuted them; would he said something nice about them?  Your arguement that Tactius received some of the information from Pliny is weak at best.
 That's rather silly.  We have correspondence between Pliny and Tacitus in Pliny's own letters.  (cf. 6.16, 6.20, & 7.13) Why don't you spend more time reading books outside of the New Testament so you don't look so foolish?  Pliny and Tacitus were well known friends. Please get your facts straight, and while you're at it, read my articles and the ones I linked too offside for your own good.

 

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Chris Davis's picture

Holy Mushroom

If you've not already, I hope you'll take a look at the work of John M. Allegro en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_M._Allegro

It's been decades since I read his book 'The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross', which makes the extraordinary suggestion that Christianity was originally an Amanita Muscaria-eating cult with roots going all the way back to the earliest-known monotheisms. It sounds dotty at first, but it sure sheds light on the Tree of Knowledge story.

Nor is Prof Allegro the usual green-ink loony, as his biography on Wikiped will show. He bases his strange assertions on a deep knowledge of ancient languages, which gives him a knowledge of the times that often seems to be lost in translation to modern English.

Anyway - good luck with the excellent work.

CD

Hambydammit's picture

Wasn't John Allegro one of

Wasn't John Allegro one of the committee to translate the Qumran scrolls?

Seems like I remember hearing about him.  He was the one non-religious guy on the panel, and (whether related to that or not) was dismissed?

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Rook_Hawkins's picture

Chris Davis wrote:If you've

Chris Davis wrote:

If you've not already, I hope you'll take a look at the work of John M. Allegro en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_M._Allegro

I have.  I don't buy into his hypothesis.  To me, it takes a lot for granted.

Quote:
It's been decades since I read his book 'The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross', which makes the extraordinary suggestion that Christianity was originally an Amanita Muscaria-eating cult with roots going all the way back to the earliest-known monotheisms. It sounds dotty at first,

It's actually very dotty.  Especially since early Israelites were not monotheists. 

Quote:
but it sure sheds light on the Tree of Knowledge story.

Not really.  The Tree of Knowledge has roots in the Goddess Asherah-Athirat.  Which dates back to early Canaanite mythology.  She was the consort of El, and in the Israelite pantheon, El-Yahweh.  She has generally been depicted as a tree (not a plant or 'shroom or even a shrub), much like a palm tree.  The symbolism of the tree is also found in Sumerian epics and later Babylonian tablets. 

Quote:
Nor is Prof Allegro the usual green-ink loony, as his biography on Wikiped will show.

I don't think he's a loony.  He knows his material.  But I feel he has just made large leaps in logic to fit his hypothesis together.  His conclusions contradict a great deal of evidence and data that we currently have.

Quote:
He bases his strange assertions on a deep knowledge of ancient languages, which gives him a knowledge of the times that often seems to be lost in translation to modern English.

I would question how many ancient texts he has actually read.  The Dead Sea Scrolls only represent a small history of semitic language, and certainly that does not give him expertise in cuneiform.  

Quote:
Anyway - good luck with the excellent work.

CD

Thank you!  I hope you continue to hang around and read what I have to say.

 

The best,

Rook

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rafael's picture

prosecution

[MOD EDIT] First, let me state that my article was a well thought out, reasoned FAQ.  I am not happy that not only did you not address a single point, but copy-pasted (without posting a source for it) this tripe without even considering the information and how it relates to this article. Second, you've been taken to task on this message board for being a troll, who basically posts this drivel and leaves.  Hit and run theist.  I will not allow you to derail this thread with this crap.  Take your posts to trollville where they belong. [/END MOD EDIT]

troll copy and paste man

HeyZeusCreaseToe's picture

rafael wrote:"You know

rafael wrote:

"You know better in your heart that there is a God. Why bother to look for evidence outside?"Now what would you say?

1. I would say,"HAHAHAHA!!! What a lame argument!"

I don't know if you are aware of this, but the heart doesn't think, it doesn't have subjective consciousness. The brain is the root of our subjective consciousness which you are attributing to the heart. When someone gets a heart transplant, and their heart dies, then thats it. Its over. It is the strategy of the non-thinking person to say, "don't look for evidence anywhere, but withing."

This style of argumentation concedes that all evidence refutes your assertion, but the feeling you think you have inside your mythical "heart" outweighs any evidence to the contrary. This is ludicrous. It is an appeal to emotion and a definitive non sequitir. Actually, the most infuriating thing about the lameness of this argument, is that people like yourself actually find it compelling.

Read a book about anatomy, pay special attention to the parts that deal with the heart and the brain. Either reword your language or resolve yourself to the fact that you are deliberately trying to delude yourself. Good Day!

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Yoda

Rook please go and sort out

Rook please go and sort out Richard Dawkins , he keeps on saying that Jesus probably existed as a person.

I've no idea if has researched the question I doubt it as its not really his area of expertise but I would love to know where he came to that conclusion from. I would have thought a better answer would have been 'don't know'

Me personally as there is no real evidence whatsoever for the existance of god jesus is a bit irrelevant to anyone but ancient historians Smiling

 

 

Hambydammit's picture

Rook and I have been

Rook and I have been discussing this a lot lately, and frankly, I'm a little baffled by the staunchness of some non-Christians.  Granted, I'm the farthest thing from an ancient historian.  I don't have the knowledge to say with any authority that I believe there was or wasn't a historical Jesus.  However, I've been lucky enough to have the chance to become a very astute reader and a good critical thinker, and for my life, I can't understand why everyone gets the Jesus question backwards.

It's patently obvious that there are no contemporary records corroborating a historical Jesus.  If we find some, fine, but until then, we have to go with what we have, and that is zero.

The trouble with Jesus is that the religion built up around him (or his legend) has gained so much authority that it seems like a no brainer that there must have been such a person.  However, we can draw parallels that prove this assumption hasty.  Romulus and Remus come to mind.  You don't see historians getting into pissing matches about whether or not they were real.  (At least I've never seen it.)  Romulus was the son of Mars in legend, but there could very well have been a historical figure that the Romulus story was based off of, right?

But people aren't shitting their pants to refute anyone who claims that he might just be a legend.

Some people claim that Jesus mythicists must come up with a plausible alternative to the historical Jesus, and this seems backwards to me.  With all other figures of mythological status, especially in the Greek and Roman pantheons, we assume that they are just myths until we get some indication that  they might have had an actual earthly inspiration.

 

Dawkins is a very, very intelligent man.  He's also a zoologist.  I take his opinion of the historical Jesus as having the same authority as any other very intelligent person who hasn't spent a lifetime studying the question.  It's a lay opinion.  It's a damn shame that more people don't recognize lay opinions for what they are.  It's also a damn shame that so many experts take so many lay opinions seriously.

For my money, I'm going on the default position that I'll wait for evidence that he might have been real.  Until then, it sounds made up.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism

Hey you lot at the RRS have

Hey you lot at the RRS have all the big wig contacts couldnt you ask Richard Dawkins?

I can think of 3 reasons why he might say jesus existed

 

1) Politics. He has said Jesus probably existed, if he was to say he probably didnt exist and some new evidence came along to prove he did (a low possibility but not zero) it could undermine the rest of his work. Not an unreasonable position for him to take as a politican (which his role currently is)

2) He has read evidence/consulted with other experts who opinions disagree with Rook. I'm interested to know what this evidence is

3) He hasnt really thought about it or even its the default position he was brought up with (everyone is human even stars of Dr Who)

 

 

 

 

zarathustra's picture

In "God is not Great",

In "God is not Great", Hitchens concedes that jesus may be modeled on an actual individual, because of the Nazareth connection.  While one would expect the Betlehem and Jerusalem references in order to bear out messianic "prophecies", Hitchens finds the gospel machinations to place jesus in Nazareth unnecessarily awkward for a pure myth.  As I recall, Ahura Mazda used this to argue for a historical jesus in another thread.

Yet regardless of whether jesus is a myth pulled from thin air, or a kludge with a real person at its kernel doesn't change the fact that jesus is irrelevant to history.  While there are several individuals with myths attached to them (such as Alexander or Genghis Khan), their presence in the historical timeline cannot be denied.   jesus, on the other hand, is fully disposable as a historical figure; he might as well as never existed.

 

 

There are no theists on operating tables.

πππ†
π†††

Rook_Hawkins's picture

zarathustra wrote:In "God is

zarathustra wrote:

In "God is not Great", Hitchens concedes that jesus may be modeled on an actual individual, because of the Nazareth connection.  While one would expect the Betlehem and Jerusalem references in order to bear out messianic "prophecies", Hitchens finds the gospel machinations to place jesus in Nazareth unnecessarily awkward for a pure myth.  As I recall, Ahura Mazda used this to argue for a historical jesus in another thread.

I hear this argument a lot.  The problem, of course, is that Jesus had to be of the Nazirites, because of the allusion the author of the Gospel intended to get across. Just as Bethlehem was used, as well as Jerusalem, because of the intertextual connections.  I would say that this is similar, in effect, to Odysseus being from Ithica, or Apollonius being from Tyana, or Paul from Tarsus (although in the last two instances, the characters were probably real people).   Locations of birth and heritage are as dear to myth as those without them. 

Quote:
Yet regardless of whether jesus is a myth pulled from thin air, or a kludge with a real person at its kernel doesn't change the fact that jesus is irrelevant to history.  While there are several individuals with myths attached to them (such as Alexander or Genghis Khan), their presence in the historical timeline cannot be denied.   jesus, on the other hand, is fully disposable as a historical figure; he might as well as never existed.

Agreed.

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Hambydammit's picture

That's one of the things

That's one of the things that has really nags at me about the Jesus story.  As vehemently as people want to believe in Jesus as a real person, yanking him out of the history books doesn't cause any problems at all.  We certainly can't say the same thing for the other characters people use to compare historicity  (Alexander the Great is a favorite example.   We'd have a lot of 'splaining to do if he wasn't real.)

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Books about atheism

James' fate in Josephus

Since this exchange on James in Josephus has now pretty much run its course(?), I figured I might chime in now without derailing any other exchange.  I'm on the fence myself when it comes to the historicity of Jesus the human being with no special powers, while I don't really credit the notion that a Jesus with special powers ever existed at all.  And I'm impressed with what you've assembled here, having found it quite useful.  Thank you.

The history of the James passage in Josephus is always an intriguing topic, and I was grateful for the chance to follow up with some of the extra links you provide on Josephus (unfortunately, the second of the two links provided after your own take on the Testimonium is no longer operative).  Candidly, in reading the first of those two links and the section there on Origen's take on both Josephus and the fall of Jerusalem, I did become sincerely curious as to your own personal take on the James passage in Josephus.  Please, how do you yourself personally view the James passage in Josephus?  Thanks.

The first article you link to suggests that James in this passage may really have been brother to Jesus son of Damneus, but since this Josephus passage re James does refer (and dismissively?) to James's brother as having been _called_ Christ (thus not really _being_ Christ as seems stated in the more suspicious Testimonium), I'm wondering now if that article's suggestion -- that it's really the son of Damneus's brother here -- totally holds up, since no one (that I know) would probably term the son of Damneus as Christ.  Also, the apparently offhand tone of Josephus writing that the brother has been _termed_ Christ seems more in accord with Josephus elsewhere than with the suspicious Testimonium.  And of course, Origen's reference suggests that this James passage has a longer textual history than the "Johny-come-lately"(?) Testimonium.

Since I'm now having second thoughts about the first article's explanation re Damneus's son, this is what has made me especially curious as to whether or not you yourself have your own specific take on this -- what I sometimes view as the poor cousinEye-wink -- relatively neglected Josephus passage.

Again, I have no axe to grind here myself beyond incorrigible curiosity about all puzzles like this in general and the plain fact that I'm just an addictive and hopelessly omniverous reader who probably needs therapy on that countSmiling  Whether or not Jesus the human being ever existed interests me less, frankly, than do the nuts and bolts of the best arguments, pro and con, which can be made, since they constitute the only interesting reading matter here, IMO.  Hope that doesn't seem too cold-blooded.

BTW, I came across an MP3 of a Bart Ehrman interview where he addresses -- among many other things -- the historicity matter.  I've come to respect him somewhat, since he writes from the standpoint of an agnostic, not a Christian apologist.  So I was wondering re your thoughts on the two sections addressing historicity versus mythicism here: They are at 26:55 - 41:50 and 46:10 - 53:25, and this MP3 is at

http://media.libsyn.com/media/infidelguy/Tape428_bart_ehrman.mp3

Looking forward to your thoughts on all this,

Stone

Rook_Hawkins's picture

Stone wrote:Since this

Stone wrote:

Since this exchange on James in Josephus has now pretty much run its course(?), I figured I might chime in now without derailing any other exchange.  I'm on the fence myself when it comes to the historicity of Jesus the human being with no special powers, while I don't really credit the notion that a Jesus with special powers ever existed at all.  And I'm impressed with what you've assembled here, having found it quite useful.  Thank you.

You're welcome.  I hope you take the time also to visit my book page on the site, and read my online book on the intertextuality of the Gospels, as looked as through the lens of contradictions.  I think it will shed a lot of light on the subject.

You can find that by click here.

Quote:
The history of the James passage in Josephus is always an intriguing topic, and I was grateful for the chance to follow up with some of the extra links you provide on Josephus (unfortunately, the second of the two links provided after your own take on the Testimonium is no longer operative).

How odd.  I'll have to figure out what the problem might be.  Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

Quote:
Candidly, in reading the first of those two links and the section there on Origen's take on both Josephus and the fall of Jerusalem, I did become sincerely curious as to your own personal take on the James passage in Josephus.  Please, how do you yourself personally view the James passage in Josephus?  Thanks.

I would recommend reading my post about it on this site.  Click here.

Quote:
The first article you link to suggests that James in this passage may really have been brother to Jesus son of Damneus, but since this Josephus passage re James does refer (and dismissively?) to James's brother as having been _called_ Christ (thus not really _being_ Christ as seems stated in the more suspicious Testimonium), I'm wondering now if that article's suggestion -- that it's really the son of Damneus's brother here -- totally holds up, since no one (that I know) would probably term the son of Damneus as Christ.

Well, be careful with that thought.  Remember that "Christ" did not just mean "messiah" - to a Roman or Greek such a term meant only "wetted" or "anointed" and it was the process that every High Priest had to be anointed upon taking office.  Please read my article linked above.

Quote:
  Also, the apparently offhand tone of Josephus writing that the brother has been _termed_ Christ seems more in accord with Josephus elsewhere than with the suspicious Testimonium.

Not really.  Again see my article.  There is sufficient reason to think this passage may have been altered.

Quote:
  And of course, Origen's reference suggests that this James passage has a longer textual history than the "Johny-come-lately"(?) Testimonium.

We don't necessarily know what Origen is referring to.  All we know is that he says that Josephus didn't consider Jesus the Christ.  We don't even know if such a passage even exists, at all.  It could just as well be Origen referring to the fact that there is no reference to Jesus at all in Josephus.

Quote:
Since I'm now having second thoughts about the first article's explanation re Damneus's son, this is what has made me especially curious as to whether or not you yourself have your own specific take on this -- what I sometimes view as the poor cousinEye-wink -- relatively neglected Josephus passage.

It isn't as neglected as you think.  I would again refer to my article on it linked above.

Quote:
BTW, I came across an MP3 of a Bart Ehrman interview where he addresses -- among many other things -- the historicity matter.  I've come to respect him somewhat, since he writes from the standpoint of an agnostic, not a Christian apologist.  So I was wondering re your thoughts on the two sections addressing historicity versus mythicism here: They are at 26:55 - 41:50 and 46:10 - 53:25, and this MP3 is at

http://media.libsyn.com/media/infidelguy/Tape428_bart_ehrman.mp3

Looking forward to your thoughts on all this,

Stone

Unfortunately I couldn't hear it.  I do not know why but it would not play for me (I tried in flock and in firefox).  In any event, I know all of Ehrman's arguments for historicity and I do not find them convincing.  Ehrman, by the way, is an agnostic-atheist.  I would say that although I have a lot of respect for Bart (he certainly is a top notch historian and textual critic) I do not think he understands the position I hold, nor do a lot of scholars growing up in a post-Bultmannian and post-Albrightian world.  I imagine that will all change with the publication of my two books on the subject.

Atheist Books, purchases on Amazon support the Rational Response Squad server, which houses Celebrity Atheists. Books by Rook Hawkins (Thomas Verenna)

James' fate in Josephus

Thanks for the first link.  I've started reading through the first chapter you now have up on line.  I have to say, though, that I've always taken the Gospels as intended works of fiction anyway, so reading your first chapter was like "preaching to the converted".  I've no doubt the symbolic nature of practically all that you've detected there is quite conscious and a shaping force in all four narratives.  I hope this does not come with a bad grace, but frankly the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Virgin Birth, the water-into-wine stunt -- all the elements plainly concentrated at the beginnings and ends of these narratives and exclusively obsessed over by Paul -- are precisely the elements of these narratives that interest me least.  What interests me far more are what scholars make of the day-to-day activities of this Jesus "feller"Eye-wink as a grown adult before his death (whether of natural causes, crucifixion, hanging on a tree, whatever).  So I'm eagerly awaiting your chapters on the day-to-day activities.

Since the Gospels are plainly works of fiction, and my chief interest is history, I would prefer to concentrate this exchange, if we can, more on the accounts like the Roman ones and so on, outside both the canonical and non-canonical Gospel accounts and outside of any of the canonized works of Scripture.  I know myself too well not to realize that sooner or later your first chapter will bring to mind all sorts of questions from me in a day or two.  But still, the extra accounts outside of the canon and the Gospel tradition remain my chief interest.  Hey, I outgrew fiction way back in collegeSmiling

I read the post you link to showing your exchange with Stephen.  After reading the exchange with him, I perused the two links you give there to

http://rookhawkins.wordpress.com/2008/02/05/josephus-whats-the-deal/

and

http://www.rationalresponders.com/josephus_and_the_testimonium_is_it_evidence_of_jesus

It's a stimulating discussion with Stephen, and I regret that the exchange seems to have dried up(?).  As for the accompanying article at the two additional links (I didn't make a line-by-line textual comparison of the two, but they appear to be entirely identical[?]), it's very thorough and my sincere compliments.

There's one thing you should probably know about me, though: I detest coincidence.  Consequently, although it's not impossible that one possibly fictional pair of brothers, in this case Jesus an elusive teacher and his brother James, would have the same two names as a real High Priest and his brother only a few years further on, it does strike me as fairly unlikely.  True, both Jesus and James are extremely common names of that time, and any High Priest of the time might well have been termed "annointed", but to have the two names in conjunction twice within two different families and in roughly the same generation and in the same geographical area, one of whom would happen to be entitled to an identical honorific, would seem to be stretching it a bit -- IMO, of course.

Generally speaking, I'm always more comfortable applying Occam's Razor in most historical research.  On the one hand, Occam's Razor certainly appears to favor the conclusion that there are just too many suspicious anomalies surrounding the Testimonium for it to possibly come from Josephus' own pen, but on the other, we may be piling up too many hypothetical constructs (and coincidences) to suppose that the James passage really comes from anyone else than Josephus himself or refers to anyone other than the one James/Jesus brother pair we already know.

I'm still open to being convinced otherwise, BTW, but right now, yours does not strike me as a "single" explanation (so to speak).  Unless I can see some argument against this passage's authenticity and/or its application to the one known James/Jesus brother pair in this equation that is not overly dependent on too much hypothesis and coincidence, I have to wonder still how much is wrong in simply supposing that the offhand tone of the passage and the one known James/Jesus brother pair out there already jointly reinforce the conclusion that here we have Josephus himself writing of James the brother of an eccentric teacher, Jesus.  Can we come up with a "single" explanation that would point to any other conclusion?  I'm still sincerely interested in that.  Thanks.  (Incidentally, I remain very curious as to how come Origen even knew that Josephus did not view Jesus as the Christ; that suggests a specific Josephus put-down of such a notion somewhere, and it remains possible that this James passage may be the "father" to Origen's impression.)

There are two possible problems with my Ehrman link that might be capable of a solution.  I myself bypass any browser with a link like this altogether.  Instead, I call up my WINAMP ap and copy/paste the link in there.  Also, since the type set-up here may divide the link into two lines(?), I would take each line separately and paste in each line one after the next to form a whole single line in the URL space provided in WINAMP.  That way, one prevents corruption of the link with an additional space between the two lines or (especially aggravating) a failure of the second line to paste altogether!  I don't view myself as a high-power techie, so my description of these things can be clunky in the extreme.  Regrets for that.

Best,

Stone

Rook_Hawkins's picture

 Before responding, Stone,

 

Before responding, Stone, I would really appreciate it if you could get an account on here.  Unfortunately, every time I want to reply to you, I have to go through the added trouble of copying your post and pasting it into a new reply screen, because without an account (and because you’re posting as anonymous) it does not allow me to quote your post directly, saving me time.  It would really help me if you could do this.  It’s free.

Quote:
Thanks for the first link.  I've started reading through the first chapter you now have up on line.  I have to say, though, that I've always taken the Gospels as intended works of fiction anyway, so reading your first chapter was like "preaching to the converted".  I've no doubt the symbolic nature of practically all that you've detected there is quite conscious and a shaping force in all four narratives.  I hope this does not come with a bad grace, but frankly the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Virgin Birth, the water-into-wine stunt -- all the elements plainly concentrated at the beginnings and ends of these narratives and exclusively obsessed over by Paul -- are precisely the elements of these narratives that interest me least.  What interests me far more are what scholars make of the day-to-day activities of this Jesus "feller"


Eye-wink as a grown adult before his death (whether of natural causes, crucifixion, hanging on a tree, whatever).  So I'm eagerly awaiting your chapters on the day-to-day activities.

Where do you suppose there are “day-to-day” activities in the Gospels?  If they are fictions, as you admit, what makes you believe that Jesus throwing over the tables at the temple or Jesus discussing philosophy with his disciples is any different than the resurrection and birth narratives?  Do they not all serve a purpose in the narrative?  Are they not all created using the same thread?  How would you even know if this weren’t the case?  I would be careful falling into this trap that too many good scholars do – they assume that somewhere in the text is an inkling of historical truth.  Eissfeldt and Bultmann thought this, but their examples have fallen apart when examined from a perspective of the literary historian.   

Quote:
Since the Gospels are plainly works of fiction, and my chief interest is history,

Do you believe that authors of antiquity made such a distinction?

Quote:
I would prefer to concentrate this exchange, if we can, more on the accounts like the Roman ones

So you believe the Roman “whimsical” mentions of Jesus reflect history?  Do you feel that Tacitus or Suetonius were concerned with such things all the time? 

Quote:
and so on, outside both the canonical and non-canonical Gospel accounts and outside of any of the canonized works of Scripture.

Why would you think that the apocrypha are any less fictional?  They are cut from the same cloth.  Just because they are noncanonical does not make them more true just as the synoptic tradition doesn’t make the events more true (or in this case more fictional).  Fiction is fiction.  Fiction with a different title, or fiction with a different author, does not change the fact that ultimately it is fiction.

Quote:
  I know myself too well not to realize that sooner or later your first chapter will bring to mind all sorts of questions from me in a day or two.  But still, the extra accounts outside of the canon and the Gospel tradition remain my chief interest.

I have to wonder if you have been reading too much of Bart Ehrman.  Again, while I respect him, he has flaws in his presuppositions (this is one of those presuppositions).  Scholars realize the lack of evidence for Christian (and Jesus) origins, so they use what they have.  The problem is that you cannot use text to validate text.  Even if (by some stretch of the imagination) the noncanonical works and the extra biblical “sources” for a historical Jesus were authentic and represented historical information, how would you go about separating (as Bultmann called it – demythologizing) the fact from fiction?  What would make the infancy narrative of Jesus’ life any more historical than the triumphant entry into Jerusalem in the synoptic tradition?  How would you even go about proving the historicity of the triumphal entry? 

Quote:
  Hey, I outgrew fiction way back in college

Smiling

Not believing in it and understanding it are two separate things.  You can outgrow belief, but you should never outgrow understanding.  (Or rather, the will to want to understand.)

Quote:
It's a stimulating discussion with Stephen, and I regret that the exchange seems to have dried up(?).  As for the accompanying article at the two additional links (I didn't make a line-by-line textual comparison of the two, but they appear to be entirely identical[?]), it's very thorough and my sincere compliments.

Thank you. 

Quote:
There's one thing you should probably know about me, though: I detest coincidence. 

You know from reading my work that I always tell people that correlation does not equal causation.

Quote:
Consequently, although it's not impossible that one possibly fictional pair of brothers, in this case Jesus an elusive teacher and his brother James, would have the same two names as a real High Priest and his brother only a few years further on, it does strike me as fairly unlikely.  True, both Jesus and James are extremely common names of that time, and any High Priest of the time might well have been termed "annointed", but to have the two names in conjunction twice within two different families and in roughly the same generation and in the same geographical area, one of whom would happen to be entitled to an identical honorific, would seem to be stretching it a bit -- IMO, of course.

You are making the mistake of assuming the case in point.  You have not shown Jesus to have existed historically.  You have not shown that he really had a brother Jesus (all accounts, canonical or otherwise, differ in opinion to James’ role – in many accounts, Jesus’ brother is never named – in Paul, James is not Jesus’ physical brother – but a “brother in Christ” as Paul is a brother to Jesus).  You are making a false correlation here.  You assume James was the brother of Jesus because you are misreading the context of another work of literature.  You are not the only person to make this mistake.

Quote:
Generally speaking, I'm always more comfortable applying Occam's Razor in most historical research.  On the one hand, Occam's Razor certainly appears to favor the conclusion that there are just too many suspicious anomalies surrounding the Testimonium for it to possibly come from Josephus' own pen, but on the other, we may be piling up too many hypothetical constructs (and coincidences) to suppose that the James passage really comes from anyone else than Josephus himself or refers to anyone other than the one James/Jesus brother pair we already know.

You need to remove yourself from some presuppositions I think.  It is understandable that you carry some – we were all raised with the false conclusion that Jesus had to have existed – it is in our society to think like that as it was in German society in the early twentieth century to think that all Jews were bad people.  Presuppositions are horrid things that cloud our judgments and are often hard to recognize. 

Quote:
I'm still open to being convinced otherwise, BTW, but right now, yours does not strike me as a "single" explanation (so to speak). 

Be careful.  I never suggested there was a single explanation.  Motivations behind literature are often elusive on the surface, and generally there are more than one.

Quote:
Unless I can see some argument against this passage's authenticity and/or its application to the one known James/Jesus brother pair in this equation that is not overly dependent on too much hypothesis and coincidence, I have to wonder still how much is wrong in simply supposing that the offhand tone of the passage and the one known James/Jesus brother pair out there already jointly reinforce the conclusion that here we have Josephus himself writing of James the brother of an eccentric teacher, Jesus. 

Where does Josephus refer to an eccentric teacher?  “brother of Jesus who was called Christ” does not reveal a single instance of information.  You are making a correlation yourself here that is false and without substance.  This is the problem with assuming historicity.

Second, even if this passage were authentic, and Josephus (not a contemporary, and somebody who wrote miles away in Rome before the turn of the second century) did somehow have knowledge of a story about this figure Jesus, we would still only have a non-contemporary recording a rumor.  Josephus would not be a source for a historical Jesus any more than Livy is a source for a historical Romulus.  You are completely ignoring the eponymous value of figures in antique literature.

Quote:
Can we come up with a "single" explanation that would point to any other conclusion? 

Yes, several.

Quote:
I'm still sincerely interested in that.  Thanks.

Read my blog articles.  I suspect that if you spend a few hours reading them through you will have an explanation that is more probable than the one you are giving here.

Quote:
  (Incidentally, I remain very curious as to how come Origen even knew that Josephus did not view Jesus as the Christ; that suggests a specific Josephus put-down of such a notion somewhere, and it remains possible that this James passage may be the "father" to Origen's impression.)

Or, Origen did not see any mention in Josephus, which might have sparked the comment.  You cannot say with any certainty, and neither can I.  He is somewhat elusive on this point.

Quote:
There are two possible problems with my Ehrman link that might be capable of a solution.  I myself bypass any browser with a link like this altogether.  Instead, I call up my WINAMP ap and copy/paste the link in there.  Also, since the type set-up here may divide the link into two lines(?), I would take each line separately and paste in each line one after the next to form a whole single line in the URL space provided in WINAMP.  That way, one prevents corruption of the link with an additional space between the two lines or (especially aggravating) a failure of the second line to paste altogether!  I don't view myself as a high-power techie, so my description of these things can be clunky in the extreme.  Regrets for that.

It matters little.  Ehrman does not have enough insight into my position to correctly critique it anyway.  I, however, am very aware of his. 

 

Atheist Books, purchases on Amazon support the Rational Response Squad server, which houses Celebrity Atheists. Books by Rook Hawkins (Thomas Verenna)

James' fate in Josephus

Rook_Hawkins wrote:


Quote:
So I'm eagerly awaiting your chapters on the day-to-day activities.


Where do you suppose there are “day-to-day” activities in the Gospels?  If they are fictions, as you admit, what makes you believe that Jesus throwing over the tables at the temple or Jesus discussing philosophy with his disciples is any different than the resurrection and birth narratives?  Do they not all serve a purpose in the narrative?  Are they not all created using the same thread?  How would you even know if this weren’t the case?


I view the Gospels as obvious works of fiction in the same way that Mallory's Death of Arthur is clearly a work of fiction.  In both cases, a feat of imaginative writing by a perfectly normal human being has clearly brought forth a compelling yarn merely for the purpose of displaying a figure who somehow stands as a moral exemplar of sorts.  But the jury is still out as to whether or not Arthur himself ever existed or any of the described incidents ever happened.  The same is true of the Gospels and their rather extravagant hero Jesus.

By "day-to-day" I mean those incidents that are quotidian in their nature and not surreal: in other words, things like arguing with people on the street rather than making some fantastical meal for thousands out of a mere half dozen or so baskets!  As for the specific examples you cite, overthrowing the tables actually emerges somewhat differently in the earliest textual strata than do the philosophical discussions: Scholarly analyses of the last generation or so have apparently indicated that the brand of Koine Greek in the parallel sayings common to Matthew and Luke is distinctly less refined and less "literary" in nature than any of the narrative material, including even the narrative material in the early Mark.  And this process of greater refinement of linguistic style is heightened even further, apparently, when we get to John.  This seems to indicate that the later the stratum, the more refined and the less colloquial the linguistic style.

Consequently, these various elements in the Jesus story do not seem to be created out of the same "thread" after all.  In the end, only fundamentalists still assume they are.  And the fact that apparently some of the most self-consciously poetic and "literary" sections deal with aspects at the very beginning and end of the story, and that the concentration on supernatural doings is also at its most consistently intense at these very same outer fringes of the narrative, seems to consistently bear out both the fragmented nature of this crazy quilt that became the Gospels and also the later date at which more and more fanciful elements crept into the narrative.  Of course, that still leaves the jury out as to Jesus's historicity, even for the earliest and most philosophical elements.  But I still feel it's a healthy corrective to do what one can in analyzing these texts purely as texts and nothing more.  In doing so, extracting a textual history is clearly worthwhile, if for no other reason than removing the burdensome mystique that has surrounded the Gospels for centuries.

(Even G.A. Wells, who has written on these texts from a mythicist perspective, has recently conceded the _possibility_ that recent research in the earliest sayings stratum common to Matt./Luk. may have unearthed a few genuinely historical elements.)

Rook_Hawkins wrote:


Quote:
Since the Gospels are plainly works of fiction, and my chief interest is history,


Do you believe that authors of antiquity made such a distinction?


Some perhaps didn't, but some probably did.  At the very least, in the case of letters (from Pliny, or whoever), it would seem plausible that they would be attempting a factual account of what they saw, did and said.  Letters are not necessarily a mapped-out chronicle for hundreds and/or thousands, but instead can be the sparest of methods to bring one -- or maybe two or three -- people up to snuff on one's own experiences for any of a variety of reasons, including professional or private.  Being factual in such cases would seem advantageous.

Rook_Hawkins wrote:
Quote:
I would prefer to concentrate this exchange, if we can, more on the accounts like the Roman ones


So you believe the Roman “whimsical” mentions of Jesus reflect history?  Do you feel that Tacitus or Suetonius were concerned with such things all the time?


Probably most of the time, yes.  But I'm more concerned with Josephus here, of course.  Suetonius, for instance, can admittedly be pretty flamboyant in some of his stuffSmiling in ways that Josephus never is.  Whether or not Suetonius's difference in style translates into downright unreliability is still disputable, though, IMO.  And again, Josephus is much blander and more straightforward than Suetonius is, of course.  For this reason, Josephus comes across as steadier and more reliable.  But I don't see that the others need be automatically unreliable.

Rook_Hawkins wrote:
Quote:
and so on, outside both the canonical and non-canonical Gospel accounts and outside of any of the canonized works of Scripture.


Why would you think that the apocrypha are any less fictional?  They are cut from the same cloth.


Excuse me, I never said otherwise.  If I implied otherwise, that was my mistake.  Plainly, what I am expressing primary interest in here are texts that are not and have never been associated with either Gospels, whether canonical or not, or with holy writ, whether Judaic, Christian or apocryphal.

Rook_Hawkins wrote:


Quote:
the extra accounts outside of the canon and the Gospel tradition remain my chief interest.


Scholars realize the lack of evidence for Christian (and Jesus) origins, so they use what they have.  The problem is that you cannot use text to validate text.  Even if (by some stretch of the imagination) the noncanonical works and the extra biblical “sources” for a historical Jesus were authentic and represented historical information, how would you go about separating (as Bultmann called it – demythologizing) the fact from fiction?


Well, to begin with, the noncanonical, extra-biblical "sources" never treat on roughly 90% of the stories found in the Gospels anyway.  And what they do treat on is usually pretty unsupernatural.  Sure, some make reference to some other people's believing in the Resurrection, but they never say on their own recognizance that the Resurrection happened as an objective fact, in the way the Gospels so stubbornly do.  Consequently, there's little internal indication that such noncanonical, extra-biblical accounts are present merely for the sake of astounding or impressing anyone, thus making them more credible than the Gospels.

Rook_Hawkins wrote:
   What would make the infancy narrative of Jesus’ life any more historical than the triumphant entry into Jerusalem in the synoptic tradition?  How would you even go about proving the historicity of the triumphal entry? 


I might not prove the historicity of any one element beyond a reasonable doubt, but very recent nondenominational scholars have pointed to earlier and later elements in the Greek styles throughout the texts.  These have led to indications that, for example, the infancy narrative is, by and large, a leter element in the textual history than is the entry into Jerusalem.  Now obviously, the latter also uses recognizable elements from outside (elements of Old Testament writings in its verses, for instance).  But its overall structure and general tone is apparently much more conversational than is most of the infancy narrative, in whatever form.  That alone does not prove the Jerusalem entry's historicity, but it does indicate that if it is an embroidery on whatever story was there initially (fictitious or not), it at least comes in at an earlier point in the Gospels' textual history than do the infancy narratives.

Rook_Hawkins wrote:
Quote:
There's one thing you should probably know about me, though: I detest coincidence.


You know from reading my work that I always tell people that correlation does not equal causation.

Quote:
Consequently, although it's not impossible that one possibly fictional pair of brothers, in this case Jesus an elusive teacher and his brother James, would have the same two names as a real High Priest and his brother only a few years further on, it does strike me as fairly unlikely.  True, both Jesus and James are extremely common names of that time, and any High Priest of the time might well have been termed "annointed", but to have the two names in conjunction twice within two different families and in roughly the same generation and in the same geographical area, one of whom would happen to be entitled to an identical honorific, would seem to be stretching it a bit -- IMO, of course.


You are making the mistake of assuming the case in point.  You have not shown Jesus to have existed historically.


But Jesus need not exist historically for there to be still an odd coincidence here.  Two fictitious brothers named James and Jesus have an odd doppelganger in real life consisting of two sons of Damneus, not just the one son called Jesus?  And one of them just happens to earn the same honorific as is given the fellow in the story?  And not only that, the one earning the honorific in real life happens to be the same "half" of the brother pair as in the story, the Jesus "half"?  That's why I still feel all this might be stretching it.

Rook_Hawkins wrote:
You have not shown that he really had a brother Jesus (all accounts, canonical or otherwise, differ in opinion to James’ role – in many accounts, Jesus’ brother is never named – in Paul, James is not Jesus’ physical brother – but a “brother in Christ” as Paul is a brother to Jesus).  You are making a false correlation here.  You assume James was the brother of Jesus because you are misreading the context of another work of literature.  You are not the only person to make this mistake.


Yes, the accounts do differ.  But in the earliest texts, Mark among the Gospels and Galatians among the Pauline epistles, James is described as Jesus's brother.  I'll get to Galatians in a moment, since you indicate you have problems with a possible ambiguity there.  But the remark in the Mark Gospel, 6:3, does seem pretty unequivocal.  Whether or not Jesus is a fictional character, he is clearly described by his disgruntled neighbors as having four brothers, and since they are cited in tandem with MamaSmiling, the blood tie seems pretty plain:

 

"Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him."

 

This Mark passage is in both the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus mss., the earliest known mss. of Mark.

As for Galatians, one critical text, 1:18-19, runs as follows:

 

"Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days; 19but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother."

 

It would be odd for Paul, in this context, to fail to call either Cephas or any other apostle here a brother but to still turn around and call James one, unless James's implicit tie to Jesus here is a blood tie.

Rook_Hawkins wrote:
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Generally speaking, I'm always more comfortable applying Occam's Razor in most historical research.  On the one hand, Occam's Razor certainly appears to favor the conclusion that there are just too many suspicious anomalies surrounding the Testimonium for it to possibly come from Josephus' own pen, but on the other, we may be piling up too many hypothetical constructs (and coincidences) to suppose that the James passage really comes from anyone else than Josephus himself or refers to anyone other than the one James/Jesus brother pair we already know.


You need to remove yourself from some presuppositions I think.  It is understandable that you carry some – we were all raised with the false conclusion that Jesus had to have existed – it is in our society to think like that as it was in German society in the early twentieth century to think that all Jews were bad people.  Presuppositions are horrid things that cloud our judgments and are often hard to recognize.

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I'm still open to being convinced otherwise, BTW, but right now, yours does not strike me as a "single" explanation (so to speak).


Be careful.  I never suggested there was a single explanation.

The reason why I put "single" in quotes is because I didn't mean it the way you think.  I mean an explanation that is not dependent on too many suppositions -- in other words, one that abides by Occam's Razor.  So some other explanation would be "single" in that it woud be dependent on, at most, one supposition, if that, rather than several.  What disconcerts me here is an uneasy reliance on multiple hypotheses and coincidences: that there is another James/Jesus pair in real life, that one of them is entitled to the identical honorific as the Jesus in some fairy tale(?), and/or that the one so entitled just happens to be the Jesus half of the brother pair rather than the James half.  I'd like to see some other -- "single" -- argument made instead against the conclusion that the offhand tone of the passage and the one known James/Jesus brother pair out there together reinforce the probability of Josephus's merely writing here of that one known James who had that one known brother Jesus.

Rook_Hawkins wrote:


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Unless I can see some argument against this passage's authenticity and/or its application to the one known James/Jesus brother pair in this equation that is not overly dependent on too much hypothesis and coincidence, I have to wonder still how much is wrong in simply supposing that the offhand tone of the passage and the one known James/Jesus brother pair out there already jointly reinforce the conclusion that here we have Josephus himself writing of James the brother of an eccentric teacher, Jesus.


Where does Josephus refer to an eccentric teacher?  “brother of Jesus who was called Christ” does not reveal a single instance of information.

I wasn't quoting anyone.  I was simply coining the "eccentric" etc. turn of phrase myself in order to make my own distinction between the Jesus who appears in the Gospels and the Jesus who is son of Damneus.

Rook_Hawkins wrote:
Second, even if this passage were authentic, and Josephus (not a contemporary, and somebody who wrote miles away in Rome before the turn of the second century) did somehow have knowledge of a story about this figure Jesus, we would still only have a non-contemporary recording a rumor.  Josephus would not be a source for a historical Jesus any more than Livy is a source for a historical Romulus.  You are completely ignoring the eponymous value of figures in antique literature.

Two related points: Livy is writing about something that happened hundreds of years before, whereas the events in Josephus only happened the previous generation; and we're discussing here a reference to one James in a tale where James isn't even the hero; Ananus is.  Livy glorifies Romulus to a fare-thee-well, but Josephus doesn't even break a sweat over James.  James is an incidental detail in a story about citizens' outrage over Ananus's Draconian behavior.  I don't think the two cases are comparable, frankly.

I also have the uneasy feeling that dismissing this as just a rumor may be an argument from convenience(?).  This James account does not square with certain other conclusions now reached with absolute certitude, and so one just dismisses it as rumor?  If there was the same dubious textual history here as in the Testimonium, I could very well see why.  But this dismissal does not seem to be a case of clear textual history leading one ineluctably to a certain conclusion.  Instead it may be a case of an arbitrary conclusion leading to an arbitrary dismissal regardless of the textual history being far less troubling here than in the Testimonium.  I'm just guessing that stronger and less arbitrary thought than this could be brought to bear on questioning if the James here is the same brother James who appears in Mark 6 and Galatians 1.

Rook_Hawkins wrote:
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Can we come up with a "single" explanation that would point to any other conclusion?


Yes, several.

I remain more than ready to peruse each and every one.  I'm still on the fence as to whether or not Jesus is historical.

Rook_Hawkins wrote:

Read my blog articles.  I suspect that if you spend a few hours reading them through you will have an explanation that is more probable than the one you are giving here.

Candidly, I haven't come across anything more detailed than your arguments relative to the son of Damneus, and I have browsed through much of the site.  Please, if you would, could you either present me with some of those other arguments or provide links to some of them?  Thanks.  I do think that once/if this James passage is effectively debunked, some of the hardest work is done.

Rook_Hawkins wrote:
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  (Incidentally, I remain very curious as to how come Origen even knew that Josephus did not view Jesus as the Christ; that suggests a specific Josephus put-down of such a notion somewhere, and it remains possible that this James passage may be the "father" to Origen's impression.)


Or, Origen did not see any mention in Josephus, which might have sparked the comment.  You cannot say with any certainty, and neither can I.  He is somewhat elusive on this point.

But I'm still not clear on how else Origen could have known that Josephus pooh-poohed the "Christ" title?  Please?

Thanks,

Stone

Rook_Hawkins's picture

Stone, Thank you so much

 

Stone,

Thank you so much for responding.  And I see you have an account now!  Excellent!  I appreciate you doing that.

Stone wrote:

Rook_Hawkins wrote:


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So I'm eagerly awaiting your chapters on the day-to-day activities.


Where do you suppose there are “day-to-day” activities in the Gospels?  If they are fictions, as you admit, what makes you believe that Jesus throwing over the tables at the temple or Jesus discussing philosophy with his disciples is any different than the resurrection and birth narratives?  Do they not all serve a purpose in the narrative?  Are they not all created using the same thread?  How would you even know if this weren’t the case?


I view the Gospels as obvious works of fiction in the same way that Mallory's Death of Arthur is clearly a work of fiction.  In both cases, a feat of imaginative writing by a perfectly normal human being has clearly brought forth a compelling yarn merely for the purpose of displaying a figure who somehow stands as a moral exemplar of sorts.  But the jury is still out as to whether or not Arthur himself ever existed or any of the described incidents ever happened.  The same is true of the Gospels and their rather extravagant hero Jesus.

I agree to some extent.  I am not so brash as to say there is absolutely no way at all possible that a man named Jesus existed - my argument is that the Gospels relay absolutely no historical memory about any historical person.  That is my certainty.  What this certainty tells me is that it is less probable for the existence of a historical Jesus than it is for his existence.  The authors clearly did not concern themselves with such questions.

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By "day-to-day" I mean those incidents that are quotidian in their nature and not surreal: in other words, things like arguing with people on the street rather than making some fantastical meal for thousands out of a mere half dozen or so baskets!

Yet these are linked.  His arguments on the street are linked and interwoven with the multiplication of the loaves.  Consider:  The multiplication of the loaves is an allusion to Elijah, who multiplied the yeast and the oil in the lamps in in the book of Kings.  When Jesus is arguing on the streets, the author is alluding to something as well.  Take for example his discussion and teachings in Luke 10 with the Lawyer:

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live." But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise."

On the surface it seems like an ordinary tale, but what is happening here is anything but ordinary.  You, as the reader, are "presented with structure, balance, clarity, and instruction by way of an elaborate rhetorical use of double questions, double textual citations, multiple double exhortations, textual hendiadys, left and right." (Gary A. Phillips, "What is Written? How are you reading?" Gospel, Intertextuality and Doing Lukewise: Reading Lk 10:25-42 Otherwise, Intertextuality and the Bible, SBL Semeia 69/70. pp. 114-115)  What does Phillips mean?  Luke is not recounting this from history, he has created this scene using allusion to create plot.  Luke is interpreting scripture.  He actually tells us this in the passage, "How do you read it?"  Jesus is "opening their hearts to the scriptures" (Luke 24).  He is telling us, in effect, how we should be reading it.  It is not an address to the Lawyer - Luke uses the lawyer, an interpreter of the law, as a way to expose our weaknesses and our failures at interpreting it by besting the lawyer.  By exposing the lawyer he exposes how we not only read the passage but his whole Gospel.  And Luke is not the only one to do it.

This narrative, the lawyer, is followed by another seemingly ordinary conversation - with Mary and Martha.  Once more Jesus is called to play a rule in Luke's narrative that will test our understanding of Jewish law.   How ironic it is (or is it?) that both of these womens name serve what their role is at this point in the narrative.  Mary, the one who seems to disobey the sister, means "rebellious" and Martha, who is serving Jesus, which means "mistress".   Luke is setting the scene for the teaching to follow.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:38-42)

Jesus once again teaches us a lesson, or is it Luke?  Mary is troubling over things that are not important.  "Mary has chosen a good portion," she has chosen what to be worried about.  Her faith and God's kingdom are more important things to concern herself with than what Martha has been toiling over, that is, serving a holy man.  This is two of those "day-to-day", quotidian scenes, but what we find are that they are constructed.  Martha just "happened" to say that and the Lawyer just "happened" to say ask this question...both of which correspond with Luke's overall message and his overall question to us..."How are you reading?" 

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As for the specific examples you cite, overthrowing the tables actually emerges somewhat differently in the earliest textual strata than do the philosophical discussions: Scholarly analyses of the last generation or so have apparently indicated that the brand of Koine Greek in the parallel sayings common to Matthew and Luke is distinctly less refined and less "literary" in nature than any of the narrative material, including even the narrative material in the early Mark.  And this process of greater refinement of linguistic style is heightened even further, apparently, when we get to John.  This seems to indicate that the later the stratum, the more refined and the less colloquial the linguistic style.

Consequently, these various elements in the Jesus story do not seem to be created out of the same "thread" after all.  In the end, only fundamentalists still assume they are.

That does not mean anything to me.  The differences in refinement and linguistic style only mean different authors from a different background with different teachers during their times at Gymnasium wrote different Gospel accounts.  It tells me they had different intentions.  It strengthens the point that these authors did not all see things the same way, which is why there are so many Gospels (not just the four canonical ones, as you will agree with me on).  The canonical Gospels are a part of the same tradition however.  I'm sure if we ever found a Greek copy of some of the Coptic Gospels we have, we would see variations in refinement and in colloquial language where they share common themes and topoi with the canonical ones. 

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And the fact that apparently some of the most self-consciously poetic and "literary" sections deal with aspects at the very beginning and end of the story, and that the concentration on supernatural doings is also at its most consistently intense at these very same outer fringes of the narrative, seems to consistently bear out both the fragmented nature of this crazy quilt that became the Gospels and also the later date at which more and more fanciful elements crept into the narrative.

I'm bothered by the fact that you seem to only think that the fringe parts of the text are altered while the core remains intact.  Such is not the case.  If you read the Gospels side by side, you will note distinct chronological differences, new "teaching" scenes, similar "teaching" scenes (which you think are evidence of historicity that added and dropped by authors' whims) retold differently to reflect a new trope or moral.  The most common example of these teachings scenes that are changed is the fig tree.

In Mark, the story is simple.  Jesus curses the fig tree in Mark 11:12-14.  Note there is no triumphal entry following this scene (it happened in the previous scene).   On their way out of the city in a separate incident and time, the tree is withered (Mark 11:20-25).  In Matthew, the scene is adjusted.  Matthew had the triumphal entry, then the cleansing of the temple, and then introduces the fig tree in one incident.  Jesus goes to the fig tree, sees it lacks fruit and withers it immediately.   Matthew follows up his fig tree incident with Jesus having his authority questioned.  In the Markan narrative,  Jesus' authority is questioned prior to the fig tree withering (or at least prior to notice).  

Why did this happen?  After the triumphal entry, Jesus in Mark goes to Bethany to spend the night, along with the disciples, and outside of Bethany Jesus finds the tree fruitless and curses it.  Jesus then goes back into Jerusalem and overthrows the tables outside the temple.  Mark has Jesus and his disciples leave the city after the incident at the temple.  The next morning, walking around outside Bethany as before, they saw the tree withered.  In Matthew, however, Jesus does not go back to Bethany the night of the Triumphal entry, but goes immediately to the money changers at the Temple area following his entry.  It is only after the priests think of ways to kill Jesus that Jesus runs to Bethany, and Mark fits the two Bethany stories in Mark together into one part of his narrative, shortening the narrative in this area and removing what he saw as a needless flight to Bethany following the entry. 

Luke omits the fig tree entirely from his narrative, but in place of it he has Jesus tell a parable.  This happens not during Jesus' initial entry into Jerusalem, but much earlier in the narrative.  "And he told them this parable, 'There was once a person who had a fig tree...".  Luke is alluding to the event in Mark and in Matthew, but he recognized the narratives as moral teachings.  In Mark and Matthew, the teaching is relatively the same.  God will call to man to have faith.  The barren tree represents the fact that God will come when he is ready, even out of season.  If a person is without faith, they will be no more.  Only those who bear fruit (have faith) all the time can be ready for God's call.  Luke does not agree.  He cleverly changes it so that it is not Jesus who withers the fig tree, but rather in a parable the owner seeks to cut it down as for three years the tree has not produced fruit (in or out of season).  A servant stops him, "it may bear fruit in the future."  Luke is saying that God will continue to give chances to those who lack faith and not curse them outright for their lack of it.  Luke shows intent with altering the narrative.  He changes the event into a saying.  

The point here is that this happens all the time.  In every instance the narrative is adjusted.  The author, not a historical event or person, is writing this story.  It is their intent, not history, that produced the Gospels.

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Of course, that still leaves the jury out as to Jesus's historicity, even for the earliest and most philosophical elements.

This is your own presuppositions working, determining how you interpret the text you read.  "How are you reading?"

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  But I still feel it's a healthy corrective to do what one can in analyzing these texts purely as texts and nothing more.  In doing so, extracting a textual history is clearly worthwhile, if for no other reason than removing the burdensome mystique that has surrounded the Gospels for centuries.

Which also exists because people took Jesus as historical.

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(Even G.A. Wells, who has written on these texts from a mythicist perspective, has recently conceded the _possibility_ that recent research in the earliest sayings stratum common to Matt./Luk. may have unearthed a few genuinely historical elements.)

To me this also means nothing.  I am not G.A. Wells.  I am Rook Hawkins.  I do not see things as he does, nor do I know his reasons.  If he has unearthed elements of historicity he has failed to share them with us.  He does not explain where he got his conclusions.  Richard Carrier and I once thought the Gospels contained historical truths as well, but we were lead in this direction.  The problem with earlier mythicists is that many relied on poor scholarship to create conclusions, and when these positions were destroyed by other secular scholars, many lost their hold on mythicism.  I do not hold to that bad scholarship.  I am using what has been the consensus in scholarship for at least ten years and applying these modern methods to the Gospels to come to my conclusions.  That makes them stronger than any position that has been made previously as far as I am aware.  And nobody has been able to adequately present me with a case otherwise.  Save for speculation, as you have done.  But that is to be expected.  So much of historical Jesus scholarship is based on conjecture and speculation.

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Rook_Hawkins wrote:


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Since the Gospels are plainly works of fiction, and my chief interest is history,


Do you believe that authors of antiquity made such a distinction?


Some perhaps didn't, but some probably did.  At the very least, in the case of letters (from Pliny, or whoever),

Pliny wasn't a historian.  In fact there were two Pliny's (the Elder and the Younger - I assume you are referring to the Younger?).  Pliny only wrote letters, and his letters are full of conjecture, speculation and rumor.  One incident in particular, a ghost story, which is clearly a story borrowed from elsewhere, proves he was not even removed from literary borrowing and imitation, even in something as simple as a letter.  And Pliny never says once that Jesus was a man but a God.  In fact, not even the Christians Pliny tortures ever seems to say that Jesus was killed by Pilate - at least Pliny never once indicates this and you would think such an implication would be important in a letter to the Emperor.  "Hey boss, we killed these guys leader..." should have come up somewhere.  Ironically, it doesn't.  Jesus only ever appears as a God to these Christians.  Which, by the way, clearly existed - I would not suggest Christians didn't exist.  That doesn't mean that Christ did.  Savvy? Eye-wink

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it would seem plausible that they would be attempting a factual account of what they saw, did and said.

Nobody saw anything.  There are no contemporary accounts of Jesus.  Pliny does not even speak factually of himself at all times.   Tacitus recounts a tale of Moses and the Jews that clearly is rumor not record, even though he had access to documents from Jewish leaders which would have contained Exodus.  Josephus invents things wholly from scripture as well, such as the intervention of God who stopped Alexander the Great from destroying Jerusalem - but Alexander the Great never approached Jerusalem, and the high priest (Jaddus, from the Hebrew yada-"knowing&quotEye-wink, he discusses in the story was an invention of his own.

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Letters are not necessarily a mapped-out chronicle for hundreds and/or thousands, but instead can be the sparest of methods to bring one -- or maybe two or three -- people up to snuff on one's own experiences for any of a variety of reasons, including professional or private.  Being factual in such cases would seem advantageous.

But not even the one letter from Pliny we have that discusses Jesus suggests that Jesus is a historical person.  This should raise flags.

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Rook_Hawkins wrote:
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I would prefer to concentrate this exchange, if we can, more on the accounts like the Roman ones


So you believe the Roman “whimsical” mentions of Jesus reflect history?  Do you feel that Tacitus or Suetonius were concerned with such things all the time?


Probably most of the time, yes.  But I'm more concerned with Josephus here, of course.

Why?  We know Christians vigorously edited Josephus.  Have you seen translations of the Slavic versions where Jesus is edited into places he isn't in the Greek?  Christians actually put mentions of him in his Wars!  Clearly the same was done here.

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Suetonius, for instance, can admittedly be pretty flamboyant in some of his stuffSmiling in ways that Josephus never is.

You apparently never read Josephus and no authority on Josephus would agree that Josephus is any less (actually he is more) flamboyant than Suetonius.  Josephus creates things, often from scripture, which never happened.  He alters scripture and uses imitatio to create allusions the same way the Gospel authors do.  Even Josephus' account of the war he was in is not often trustworthy, he often exaggerates numbers and deflates things to his advantage.   He even TELLS us this in his introduction.  He tells us that he is writing with the hope that his histories will be accepted by the Greeks and Romans.  He is writing with the intent to corrupt his histories to better influence these cultures. 

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Whether or not Suetonius's difference in style translates into downright unreliability is still disputable, though, IMO.

I would say everything written in antiquity is disputable to some degree or another.  Nothing should be accepted simply because one believes the accounts to be reliable - such naivety will not bring answers only speculations.

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And again, Josephus is much blander and more straightforward than Suetonius is, of course.  For this reason, Josephus comes across as steadier and more reliable.  But I don't see that the others need be automatically unreliable.

Once more, you show an ignorance of Josephan literature.  He is wholly unreliable as a source generally.

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Rook_Hawkins wrote:
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and so on, outside both the canonical and non-canonical Gospel accounts and outside of any of the canonized works of Scripture.


Why would you think that the apocrypha are any less fictional?  They are cut from the same cloth.


Excuse me, I never said otherwise.  If I implied otherwise, that was my mistake.  Plainly, what I am expressing primary interest in here are texts that are not and have never been associated with either Gospels, whether canonical or not, or with holy writ, whether Judaic, Christian or apocryphal.

Clearly all of the apocryphal literature we have was holy writ to somebody. 

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Rook_Hawkins wrote:


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the extra accounts outside of the canon and the Gospel tradition remain my chief interest.


Scholars realize the lack of evidence for Christian (and Jesus) origins, so they use what they have.  The problem is that you cannot use text to validate text.  Even if (by some stretch of the imagination) the noncanonical works and the extra biblical “sources” for a historical Jesus were authentic and represented historical information, how would you go about separating (as Bultmann called it – demythologizing) the fact from fiction?


Well, to begin with, the noncanonical, extra-biblical "sources" never treat on roughly 90% of the stories found in the Gospels anyway.  And what they do treat on is usually pretty unsupernatural.

Not true at all.  All claims involving the character of Jesus are made with supernaturalism.  Hence why Tacitus calls it superstition.  This is why Pliny says the Christians considered him God, Suetonius does not mention Jesus. 

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  Sure, some make reference to some other people's believing in the Resurrection, but they never say on their own recognizance that the Resurrection happened as an objective fact, in the way the Gospels so stubbornly do.

What are you talking about?

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Consequently, there's little internal indication that such noncanonical, extra-biblical accounts are present merely for the sake of astounding or impressing anyone, thus making them more credible than the Gospels.

Forgive me, but this conclusion is irrationally drawn.  How can you even begin to make such a claim? 

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Rook_Hawkins wrote:
   What would make the infancy narrative of Jesus’ life any more historical than the triumphant entry into Jerusalem in the synoptic tradition?  How would you even go about proving the historicity of the triumphal entry? 


I might not prove the historicity of any one element beyond a reasonable doubt, but very recent nondenominational scholars have pointed to earlier and later elements in the Greek styles throughout the texts.  These have led to indications that, for example, the infancy narrative is, by and large, a leter element in the textual history than is the entry into Jerusalem.  Now obviously, the latter also uses recognizable elements from outside (elements of Old Testament writings in its verses, for instance).  But its overall structure and general tone is apparently much more conversational than is most of the infancy narrative, in whatever form.

Based on what?  The entry into Jerusalem as shown is clearly fictitious.  It was created using scenes from Zechariah 9:9 and from 2 Samuel.  Both accounts are interpreted scripture.  The entry of Jesus is the entry of David, both triumphantly returning from "exile".  Both stories involve a prayer at the Mount of Olives, both stories end with a crucifixion (to be hung on a tree - in the Gospels it is Jesus and Judas, in 2 Samuel it is Absalom - the false messiah).  There is no history here as there is no history in the birth narratives.  Both represent key parts of the plot, which the author devised before putting it to paper.

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  That alone does not prove the Jerusalem entry's historicity, but it does indicate that if it is an embroidery on whatever story was there initially (fictitious or not), it at least comes in at an earlier point in the Gospels' textual history than do the infancy narratives.

Well, d'uh. (forgive me) The story first appears in Mark; Matthew, Luke, and John copied it and rewrote it to fit their stories, just as they did with every other part of Mark, adding to it and adjusting it to fit their particular perspectives.  This is why so many contradictions exist between the narratives.   They were intentionally contradicting an earlier Gospel based on what they felt.

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Rook_Hawkins wrote:
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There's one thing you should probably know about me, though: I detest coincidence.


You know from reading my work that I always tell people that correlation does not equal causation.

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Consequently, although it's not impossible that one possibly fictional pair of brothers, in this case Jesus an elusive teacher and his brother James, would have the same two names as a real High Priest and his brother only a few years further on, it does strike me as fairly unlikely.  True, both Jesus and James are extremely common names of that time, and any High Priest of the time might well have been termed "annointed", but to have the two names in conjunction twice within two different families and in roughly the same generation and in the same geographical area, one of whom would happen to be entitled to an identical honorific, would seem to be stretching it a bit -- IMO, of course.


You are making the mistake of assuming the case in point.  You have not shown Jesus to have existed historically.


But Jesus need not exist historically for there to be still an odd coincidence here.  Two fictitious brothers named James and Jesus have an odd doppelganger in real life consisting of two sons of Damneus, not just the one son called Jesus?  And one of them just happens to earn the same honorific as is given the fellow in the story?

Jesus is never said to be crucified in Josephus' James passage.  In fact, there is no mention that Jesus died at all in the James passage.  He is not even talked about in the past tense.  If you mean James, you'll have to show me this is the case. 

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  And not only that, the one earning the honorific in real life happens to be the same "half" of the brother pair as in the story, the Jesus "half"?  That's why I still feel all this might be stretching it.

You will have to explain your meaning more clearly here.  Are you suggesting James died the same way as he did somewhere in the New Testament?  Where?!  if Jesus, you're going to have to show me where in the James passage it suggests that Jesus died.

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Rook_Hawkins wrote:
You have not shown that he really had a brother Jesus (all accounts, canonical or otherwise, differ in opinion to James’ role – in many accounts, Jesus’ brother is never named – in Paul, James is not Jesus’ physical brother – but a “brother in Christ” as Paul is a brother to Jesus).  You are making a false correlation here.  You assume James was the brother of Jesus because you are misreading the context of another work of literature.  You are not the only person to make this mistake.


Yes, the accounts do differ.  But in the earliest texts, Mark among the Gospels and Galatians among the Pauline epistles, James is described as Jesus's brother.

I've already told you, James is not the physical brother of Jesus in Galatians.  He is a brother in Christ, as Paul is a brother in Christ.  Read my "On Paul and Identity" article for more information which can be found on my blog page here.  Please stop making me repeat myself.  I really enjoy our conversations, but having to repeat myself makes me annoyed and frustrates me.

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I'll get to Galatians in a moment, since you indicate you have problems with a possible ambiguity there.  But the remark in the Mark Gospel, 6:3, does seem pretty unequivocal.  Whether or not Jesus is a fictional character, he is clearly described by his disgruntled neighbors as having four brothers, and since they are cited in tandem with MamaSmiling, the blood tie seems pretty plain:

"Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him."

Once more this is added with purpose.  Note how his "brothers" are named here?  Now read the ending of Mark.  His mother Mary is not the one weeping at his death nor visiting the tomb the next day to mourn.  It is another Mary who fills this spot (just as another Joseph - not his father Joseph - does the fatherly thing and buries Jesus), a Mary who has two sons, James and Salome (lit. peace).  Mark is switching things up for us, as he has elsewhere.  Simon Peter, who Jesus demands to pick up his cross and follow him, is not the one who carries his Cross - it is Simon of Cyrene, who does instead.  The link Mark makes early in his Gospel all have means to come around and be explained later.  It was imperative for Mark to make note of Jesus' brothers because he would defy our expectations later by having two other brothers from a different Mary come from nowhere later. 

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This Mark passage is in both the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus mss., the earliest known mss. of Mark.

See above.

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As for Galatians, one critical text, 1:18-19, runs as follows:

"Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days; 19but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother."

It would be odd for Paul, in this context, to fail to call either Cephas or any other apostle here a brother but to still turn around and call James one, unless James's implicit tie to Jesus here is a blood tie.

Wrong. So far all of your criticisms are speculative and unsupported.  Why make a position against mine with so whimsical a case?  In this instance, for example, you claim Paul does not make the relation to Cephas as a brother.  Paul does not deem Cephas an apostle.  He makes it known straightaway that "but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother" - James is an Apostle - worthy of the title brother.  Cephas may not have been an Apostle to Paul, and therefore not a part of the brethren.  Maybe Cephas was a friend of Paul's from before Paul became a Christian?  You cannot make this case because your case is not supported by anything.  Mine, however, is.  

Concerning the brothers of the Lord, it is a common title, not a designation of actual bloodly ties.  The Greek adelphe and adelphon are figurative for brother and sister.  In early Christendom it was common for Christians to call each other “brother” and “sister”. (1 Cor. 1:1, where he states that Sosthenes is “our brother;” 1 Cor. 1:10 states “I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…;” Galatians 1:2, “…and all of the brothers who are with me…&rdquoEye-wink  The verse before 1 Cor. 9:5 is Paul discussing marriage between Christian sisters (adelphe) and brethren (adelphon). 

 

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Rook_Hawkins wrote:


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Unless I can see some argument against this passage's authenticity and/or its application to the one known James/Jesus brother pair in this equation that is not overly dependent on too much hypothesis and coincidence, I have to wonder still how much is wrong in simply supposing that the offhand tone of the passage and the one known James/Jesus brother pair out there already jointly reinforce the conclusion that here we have Josephus himself writing of James the brother of an eccentric teacher, Jesus.


Where does Josephus refer to an eccentric teacher?  “brother of Jesus who was called Christ” does not reveal a single instance of information.

I wasn't quoting anyone.  I was simply coining the "eccentric" etc. turn of phrase myself in order to make my own distinction between the Jesus who appears in the Gospels and the Jesus who is son of Damneus.

You shouldn't do that, it muddies the water.  There is a clear distinction between the two anyway - the only similarity is the mention of "Christ".  That is the only joining factor between the two Jesus' aside from the commonality of the name 'Jesus'.

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Rook_Hawkins wrote:
Second, even if this passage were authentic, and Josephus (not a contemporary, and somebody who wrote miles away in Rome before the turn of the second century) did somehow have knowledge of a story about this figure Jesus, we would still only have a non-contemporary recording a rumor.  Josephus would not be a source for a historical Jesus any more than Livy is a source for a historical Romulus.  You are completely ignoring the eponymous value of figures in antique literature.

Two related points: Livy is writing about something that happened hundreds of years before, whereas the events in Josephus only happened the previous generation; and we're discussing here a reference to one James in a tale where James isn't even the hero; Ananus is.

It doesn't matter - the style in which they are written reflect a similar genre.  THAT is my point.  It doesn't matter if Josephus is recounting an event ten years earlier.  The manner and style are the same.

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  Livy glorifies Romulus to a fare-thee-well, but Josephus doesn't even break a sweat over James.

Clearly there is something there, as Josephus writes that the people despised Ananus for doing what he did, and was removed from his position after.  James is clearly the protagonist in the narrative.

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James is an incidental detail in a story about citizens' outrage over Ananus's Draconian behavior.  I don't think the two cases are comparable, frankly.

That belays your ignorance of ancient literature.

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I also have the uneasy feeling that dismissing this as just a rumor may be an argument from convenience(?).  This James account does not square with certain other conclusions now reached with absolute certitude, and so one just dismisses it as rumor?  If there was the same dubious textual history here as in the Testimonium, I could very well see why.

But there is.  It does have a dubious textual history.

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Rook_Hawkins wrote:
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Can we come up with a "single" explanation that would point to any other conclusion?


Yes, several.

I remain more than ready to peruse each and every one.  I'm still on the fence as to whether or not Jesus is historical.

I've already given them.  You have yet to adequately address them.  Read my blog for more articles.  There are many there.

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Rook_Hawkins wrote:

Read my blog articles.  I suspect that if you spend a few hours reading them through you will have an explanation that is more probable than the one you are giving here.

Candidly, I haven't come across anything more detailed than your arguments relative to the son of Damneus, and I have browsed through much of the site.  Please, if you would, could you either present me with some of those other arguments or provide links to some of them?  Thanks.  I do think that once/if this James passage is effectively debunked, some of the hardest work is done.

No.  All you would have is a first century-second century Jew writing about a literary character.  You are using text to prove text.  This is, once more, no different than using Livy to prove Romulus.  It is the same method, whether it represents different eras or not.

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Rook_Hawkins wrote:
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  (Incidentally, I remain very curious as to how come Origen even knew that Josephus did not view Jesus as the Christ; that suggests a specific Josephus put-down of such a notion somewhere, and it remains possible that this James passage may be the "father" to Origen's impression.)


Or, Origen did not see any mention in Josephus, which might have sparked the comment.  You cannot say with any certainty, and neither can I.  He is somewhat elusive on this point.

But I'm still not clear on how else Origen could have known that Josephus pooh-poohed the "Christ" title?  Please?

He never says anything more than that about Jesus.  Origins interest was elsewhere.  As I have described in my article.

 

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zarathustra's picture

Rook_Hawkins wrote:I hear

Rook_Hawkins wrote:

I hear this argument a lot.  The problem, of course, is that Jesus had to be of the Nazirites, because of the allusion the author of the Gospel intended to get across. Just as Bethlehem was used, as well as Jerusalem, because of the intertextual connections.  I would say that this is similar, in effect, to Odysseus being from Ithica, or Apollonius being from Tyana, or Paul from Tarsus (although in the last two instances, the characters were probably real people).   Locations of birth and heritage are as dear to myth as those without them.

Just so I understand:  Are you saying that the reference to jesus as "a Nazarene" is a different form of "Nazirite", and not "a person from Nazareth"?  I ask this now since I've just listened to an Infidel Guy interview with Rene Salm, who claims that based on archaeology, the city of Nazareth didn't even exist at the time jesus was supposed to have lived.

 

There are no theists on operating tables.

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Rook_Hawkins's picture

zarathustra

zarathustra wrote:

Rook_Hawkins wrote:

I hear this argument a lot.  The problem, of course, is that Jesus had to be of the Nazirites, because of the allusion the author of the Gospel intended to get across. Just as Bethlehem was used, as well as Jerusalem, because of the intertextual connections.  I would say that this is similar, in effect, to Odysseus being from Ithica, or Apollonius being from Tyana, or Paul from Tarsus (although in the last two instances, the characters were probably real people).   Locations of birth and heritage are as dear to myth as those without them.

Just so I understand:  Are you saying that the reference to jesus as "a Nazarene" is a different form of "Nazirite", and not "a person from Nazareth"?  I ask this now since I've just listened to an Infidel Guy interview with Rene Salm, who claims that based on archaeology, the city of Nazareth didn't even exist at the time Jesus was supposed to have lived.

People are welcome to accept Rene Salm's conclusions, but I do not.  I think it is a travesty that he would not publish his findings in an academic journal or through an academic series.  At the very least he could have gone to an academic publisher like Equinox or T&T.  He has remained outside of scholarship, and for that he has earned my suspicion.  I have his 6 pamplets he published through American Atheist press, and while he can make compelling points, they remain outside scholarship and as such do nothing but gather dust.  The subject is never discussed openly and therefore no scholarly debate can take place.

Aside from this, I don't doubt the existence of Nazareth - at the very least i could say I'm agnostic on it until somebody can publish an article academically arguing for its nonexistence.  However, that doesn't mean that Nazareth was *not* used for this very reason.  And yes, Nazirite and Nazareth have the same root - nazar meaning 'seperate'.  When Jesus is rejected at Nazareth, this is not just a coincidence - he is seperated from the seperate.  Just as Mary Magdalene is not "Mary from Magdalla" - her name has meaning.  She is the "Rebellious Tower". 

Note: Nazar can also be read as "consecrated" and in that case it would have a whole new interpretation for Jesus and also David.  Those who are of the nazar - the consecrated - kingly

Atheist Books, purchases on Amazon support the Rational Response Squad server, which houses Celebrity Atheists. Books by Rook Hawkins (Thomas Verenna)

Rook I agree with your

Rook I agree with your assessment. Your book should be interesting.

darth_josh's picture

A book is already out by

A book is already out by Rook.

In other words, Rook's book written in the nook can be given a look or bought and took from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Men-Muses-Thomas-Verenna/dp/055707312X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1272928772&sr=8-1

Atheist Books, purchases on Amazon support the Rational Response Squad server, which houses Celebrity Atheists.