• Strange Notions Strange Notions Strange Notions

Questioning the Historicity of Jesus

Jesus

EDITOR'S NOTE: Today kicks off a four-part series concerning the historical evidence for Jesus. Popular atheist writer Richard Carrier, probably the world's best known Mythicist, begins with his response to our previous article titled “Did Jesus Exist? An Alternate Approach”. Tomorrow, Catholic writer Jimmy Akin will respond. On Wednesday, Richard will offer his take on “Four Reasons I Think Jesus Really Existed" by Trent Horn. Finally, on Thursday, Trent will wrap up the series with a rejoinder.


 
The hypothesis that Jesus never really existed has started to gain more credibility in the expert community. Some now agree historicity agnosticism is warranted, including Arthur Droge (professor of early Christianity at UCSD), Kurt Noll (associate professor of religion at Brandon University), and Thomas Thompson (renowned professor of theology, emeritus, at the University of Copenhagen). Others are even more certain historicity is doubtful, including Thomas Brodie (director emeritus of the Dominican Biblical Centre at the University of Limerick, Ireland), Robert Price (who has two Ph.D.’s from Drew University, in theology and New Testament studies), and myself (I have a Ph.D. in ancient history from Columbia University and have several peer reviewed articles on the subject). Still others, like Philip Davies (professor of biblical studies, emeritus, at the University of Sheffield), disagree with the hypothesis but admit it is respectable enough to deserve consideration.

The most credible alternative theory of Christian origins is that Jesus began life as a celestial being, known only through private revelations, who was believed to have been crucified and resurrected in the lower heavens. The Gospels were the first attempts to place him in history as an earthly man, in parables and fables meant to illustrate Christian theology and ideals. Their picture of Jesus then became the most successful among the competing varieties of Christianity over the ensuing generations, and the eventually triumphant sects only created and preserved documents supporting their view, and very little supporting any other.

To date the best case presented for this hypothesis is by amateur historian and classics graduate Earl Doherty (in his two books, The Jesus Puzzle and Jesus: Neither God Nor Man). My own forthcoming book, probably titled On the Historicity of Jesus, inspired by his work, will be the first making the case for this hypothesis to pass academic peer review. It will be published this February by the publishing house of the University of Sheffield.

The significance of all this is that a commonly voiced objection to this hypothesis is that only cranks and amateurs find it convincing. That is clearly no longer the case. It deserves serious consideration. In the 1970s, the view that Moses and other Old Testament patriarchs were mythical was considered scandalous, but now is largely mainstream. It is now pretty much the standard view in secular academia, and even has begrudging support from many devout Jewish and Christian scholars. The same hypothesis for Jesus is now where that hypothesis was in the 1970s. Within forty years, the same outcome may prevail.

Strange Notions has featured two articles defending the historicity of Jesus, and I was asked to write a short piece on how we advocates of the alternative view respond to the kind of arguments in them. I will address one of them here, and the next in a sequel.

In “Did Jesus Exist? An Alternate Approach”, Jimmy Akin is aware of much of what we find fault with in the evidence presented. (Although he seems unaware of why both passages in Josephus are Christian interpolations, and that Josephus probably never mentioned Christ or Christianity in any respect at all. I present the evidence and scholarship establishing that point in volume 20 of the Journal of Early Christian Studies.)

His alternative approach is to argue that the Christian movement is well attested as originating in Judea in the first century and spreading across the Roman Empire within a couple generations, rapidly and well-organized. But these facts do not argue against the mythicist hypothesis. Mythicists generally agree with both; they simply regard the first apostle (most likely Peter) to be the actual founder of the movement, not Jesus. On our view, at that point the apostles (like Peter) only claimed to be receiving communications from Jesus by revelation (as in Galatians 1). The Gospels had not yet been written. Their version of Jesus only came to be popularized half a century later, when no evidence indicates any of the first apostles were still around. (There actually were Christian sects that said Jesus lived a hundred years earlier, and Akin does not seem aware of this, but I haven’t space to digress on that fact here.)

On our theory, this revealed being, the heavenly Jesus, was the one who chose and “sent” the apostles to spread the gospel. Which is why Paul says no Jews could ever have heard the gospel except from the apostles (Romans 10:12-18). Evidently the myth of Jesus having preached to the Jews himself had not yet developed.

Akin says the “earliest accounts we have agree that Jesus of Nazareth founded the Christian movement, recruited and trained its earliest leaders, and then sent them out as his apostles,” but that’s not true. The earliest accounts (in the letters of Paul) know nothing of Nazareth and never mention Jesus recruiting or training anyone. When Paul mentions Jesus communicating with and sending apostles, it is always in the context of revelations.

Jesus was probably not originally a Nazarene (Greek nazarênos), but a Nazorian (Greek nazôraios), based on a now-lost scripture (Matthew 2:23). This was actually one of the original names for the Christian movement (Acts 24:5) and remained the name of the original Torah-observant Christian sect (Epihanius, Panarion 9). It clearly did not mean “from Nazareth” (Christians did not hail from there, and the words do not share the same roots). Scholars speculate on what “nazorian” may have meant (Proving History, pp. 142-45). But its attachment to the town of Nazareth appears to have been an invention of the Gospel authors. At the very least, we have no evidence otherwise.

Akin’s analogy to Islam is on point, and I would add Mormonism as equally apt: their founders, Mohammed and Joseph Smith, respectively, were “sent by” and “communicated the teachings of” non-existent celestial beings, the angels Gabriel and Moroni, respectively. In the most credible mythicist thesis, Jesus corresponds to Gabriel and Moroni. Only in his case, Jesus was eventually placed in history in mythical tales about him (as was a common trend to do with celestial deities at the time), and that belief became the most popular (as also commonly happened with celestial deities).

Obviously a great deal more can be said on all these points. I treat all the best objections and suggestions and debates surrounding all the evidence in my forthcoming book. I could only be brief here. But this at least can give you an idea of where this new approach to Christian origins is coming from. A great many advocates of it online (and in print) do have their facts wrong or make invalid arguments (often both). But it is fallacious to assume the conclusion of a fallacious argument is false (that’s literally called the fallacy fallacy.) We have to look at the best case for a conclusion, not the worst, before we can conclude on its merits. And producing that best case has been the object of my research the last several years.
 
 
(Image credit: Namaha)

Dr. Richard Carrier

Written by

Dr. Richard Carrier is a published historian and philosopher, specializing in the philosophy of naturalism and the intellectual history of Greece and Rome. He's a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard with a B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in History and Classical Civilizations, and a Ph.D. in ancient history from Columbia University. He has written extensively for the Secular Web and in various periodicals and books, and discussed his views in public all over the country and on TV. He is best known as the author of Sense and Goodness without God, Not the Impossible Faith, and Why I Am Not a Christian. His latest book is Proving History: Bayes's Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus. He is currently working on his next books, On the Historicity of Jesus Christ, The Scientist in the Early Roman Empire, and Science Education in the Early Roman Empire. Follow Richard through his website, RichardCarrier.info.

Enjoy this article? Receive future posts free by email:

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • 42Oolon

    But if mysticism is the case, why the need to have the holy family move to Bethlehem to give birth? My reading of this is that Jesus was a real person, but he was from the wrong place, he needed to be born in the city of David. Accordingly the ridiculous story of moving to your hometown for a census was concocted. Why bother concocting this story if not to square a real person with the prophecy?

    • Ignorant Amos

      The holy family only moves to Bethlehem in one gospel, the Gospel of Luke account. Could it be that Luke had the predetermined notion that Mary and Joseph must have lived there because of his source material. Certainly the Nativity was "made up" to fulfill OT prophecy. There are numerous literary devices employed in both accounts of the Nativity to get the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem as prophecy demanded.

      Scholars agree that the Nativities are much less historical than theological, which fits the stories much better than them being factual in any way.

      Both Luke and Matthew used Markian priority. Both Nativity may have got the idea of Jesus of Nazareth from the author of Mark. Matthew doesn't mention any journey from Nazareth or from anywhere else for that matter, his narrative begins with the holy family already in Bethlehem. Mathew does refer to Nazareth as the place the holy family settled when they returned from their Egyptian exodus.

      "After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead." So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene."

      Trying to retrospectively forcing a square peg into a round hole has caused all sorts of biblical contradiction and confusion.

      Look at the commotion that the authors of the Nativity have caused when they copied the source of the mistranslated meaning of the Hebrew word Almah.

      • Randy Gritter

        So what about Mary, the mother of Jesus? She is with the apostle John. They never talk about the birth of Jesus? This other story just gets published and nobody brings up the topic with her?

        • Ignorant Amos

          Ah, according to "The Word of Relationship".

          Which John, the beloved desciple?

          You aren't inferring that the gospel according to John and the John, an alleged beloved disciple, are one in the same are you?

          When was Mary with John and for how long?

          When were the Nativities written?

          Why, in your opinion, do you think Mary never talks about the birth of Jesus to John if I grant that they were actually together?

          Only the author of the John gospel relates this alleged statement by Jesus on the cross. Why was it not recorded by the other writers?

          Was it made up?

          How would anyone know if it wasn't?

          • Randy Gritter

            You sound like a holocaust denier. Anyone can just hint at huge conspiracies that everyone was lying and everything is faked. But you don't come out with a coherent theory. You just take shots at the official story. Just implying there is some big bad Catholic church that is pulling all the strings.

          • josh

            Randy, you're not paying attention. The idea isn't that everyone is lying and involved in a conspiracy. The idea is that false ideas spread in the way that they normally do with religions, and Christianity isn't an exception. The big bad Catholic church didn't even exist at the time the lies first got going.

          • Randy Gritter

            This is the other bit of hand waving. Christianity is like other religions in some vague and unspecified way. Mohammed claimed a divine revelation. Jesus claimed to work many miracles publicly including His own resurrection from the dead. The difference? Mohammad has one witness. Himself. Jesus has many. Mohammad gains military and political power early on. Jesus does not. There is just no reason for a guy like St Paul to become a Christian unless he was totally convinced it was true.

          • 42Oolon

            I don't think anyone is saying that the writers of the Gospel did not think it was true. They certainly may have... Paul was well aware of Christianity and could easily have suffered temporal lope epileptic seizure and become a believer. You have to remember, this was a time when thousands believed the sun was pushed across the sky by a dung beetle. That Athena burst out of her father's head. Major political and life decisions were made based on astrology and the entrails of animals. All kinds of beliefs were popping up all over the world and there was little interest in being critical of them as we are now. Being convinced it was true, is not much of an argument for those days, especially when you are talking about Paul!

          • Randy Gritter

            An epileptic seizure? Really? It does not actually fit the story we have. The men around Paul heard the voice. Ananias healed Paul's blindness after 3 days. Did they have seizures as well? You still end up saying Paul lied about it and have to explain why. Then you have Paul going out and preaching, writing the New Testament and becoming one of the most influential people in the history of the world while nobody notices he is mentally ill?

          • 42Oolon

            Who reported the men around him heard it?

          • 42Oolon

            It would appear that the unknown author of Acts reported it some 60 years later, based on oral tradition in a document that is not consistent with Paul's own epistles. Same for the curing of his blindness. Forgive me for not finding that credible. Take these two things away and my interpretation is, I think more credible. Not to mention, that among the millions living, many of which were on continents that Jesus knew would not receive his message for centuries, he decides to "appear" in the same land in which he has already delivered his message in person. And then only once? Goodness! Jesus has just redeemed all sin and saved humanity, he wants this message to get out! AND he has no problem intervening and appearing to people to convince them. Why not appear to everyone, why not keep appearing to everyone? Why not appear to me? Richard Dawkins? Do you think he abridged Paul's free will to chose Life by appearing to him?

          • Randy Gritter

            Luke is the author of Acts. It does not make sense to say it was written 60 years later. Acts must have been written before the martyrdom of St Peter and St Paul around 66 AD. It is the only thing that explains the fact that those events are not mentioned. They were huge in the church yet they are not even hinted at. Acts being written before 66 AD dates the gospel of Luke before that because Luke refers to it in Acts.

            As for the rest of the post. We often wonder why God requires faith. That is another topic. He gives some people like Paul very good evidence and others have a lot less. Is it impossible that God could work that way? St Paul did tell his story and did miracles and caused many to believe.

            Still Jesus could have done more. He could have gone into the temple after the resurrection and let everyone see Him. He didn't. He appeared to more than 500 at one time but they were likely mostly disciples. Why? God chooses to work primarily through faith. Yes, to give us freedom to say No. Did St Paul have the freedom to say No? Sort of. He says he remained faithful to the vision. So he did see a choice of convincing himself it was just his imagination or something. Still it is not quite the same.

          • 42Oolon

            Father Raymond E. Brown, of whom the retired Pope was apparently a fan, says that the current opinion concerning Lukan authorship [of Acts] is "about evenly divided".

            You're right about the dating, I was looking at a controversial source. Okay only 30 years after the event by someone who wasn't there.

            Ultimately my criticism with relying on Paul as some kind of witness the historical Jesus is that not even Paul suggests he met Jesus in the flesh.

            But in the end I don't really care, I actually think it makes more sense if there was a person named Jesus who developed a following and was crucified. I just see no reason to accept that a universe creator brought him back to life though. That, like your appeal to faith is for another day.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Acts is attributed to Luke's authorship because the two books are of the same author, indeed, known by scholars as Luke/Acts...but the auther was not Luke.

            Luke gets the glory because the author of Luke and Acts was one and the same. Because the author of Acts was thought to be a travelling companion of Paul, because of the "we" passages and by a process of elimination, it was thought to be Luke the physician...the name stuck and the gospel got called Luke in retrospect.

            But, Luke is only referred to as a physcian in Colossians and 2 Timothy, both forgeries, the Luke in the genuine Pauline epistles is referred to as a "co-worker". So it all gets a bit suspect.

            Because of the inconsistencies between Acts and Paul's teachings in theology, also historical inaccuracies, it is doubtful Luke the travelling companion of Paul, was the author. So, forgery perhaps as Bart Ehrman posits...but whatever the case, anonymous.

          • Randy Gritter

            Modern scholars have to claim everything is a forgery. There is no evidence they were. There is just an assumption. That is that supernatural events could not have really occurred. If you start with that assumption you end up not being able to make sense of any of it. Guys like Bart Ehrman prove that. It is good to know. It becomes a reductio ad absurdum proof that something supernatural is involved.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Modern scholars have to claim everything is a forgery.

            Why do they? Where is your proof they do? Are you engaging in wishful thinking?

            There is no evidence they were. There is just an assumption.

            An assumption that who was doing what?

            That is that supernatural events could not have really occurred.

            We are not discussing supernatural events. We are discussing whether the character of Jesus was real or made up. The supernatural mumbo jumbo is another aspect to the character entirely.

            If you start with that assumption you end up not being able to make sense of any of it. Guys like Bart Ehrman prove that.

            Guys like Bart Ehrman prove nothing. Supernatural mumbo jumbo is outside the remit of the historian and guys like Bart Ehrman are adamant on that issue.

            It is good to know. It becomes a reductio ad absurdum proof that something supernatural is involved.

            You've lost me completely now.

          • Randy Gritter

            When a document describes a supernatural event as fact and you have a world and life view that does not have room for the supernatural then your choices are limited. It has to be a forgery or a lie or a myth. If your world and life view allows for the supernatural then you have the option of saying it is what it appears to be. That is a story of an incredible event.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Supernatural...got evidence of such?

          • Randy Gritter

            Pope Benedict respected Fr Brown but also disagreed with him sharply on many points. He saw him as a scholar who was very smart but often very wrong. A worthy opponent.

            Luke was a traveling companion of St Paul. He makes it clear that Paul told his conversion story a lot. Luke is going to be very familiar with the details.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Luke was a traveling companion of St Paul. He makes it clear that Paul told his conversion story a lot. Luke is going to be very familiar with the details.

            Which the author of Luke/Acts was not...whoever that author was.

          • Pofarmer

            "Acts must have been written before the martyrdom of St Peter and St Paul around 66 AD"

            Unless those events are fabrications.

          • Pofarmer

            "He appeared to more than 500 at one time but they were likely mostly disciples."

            And not one of them wrote an account? Your lack of credulity is interesting.

          • Kevin Wright

            In all honesty, we have functioning mentally ill people now, we also know it's a time when mental illness wasn't understood, and something like schizophrenia could be masked as receiving messages from "God". At a time when understanding of nature was at a low, why should we expect them not misinterpret what they saw?

          • Randy Gritter

            The trouble is Paul became probably the strongest and most respect leader of his time. He trusted how own mind. Others judged him to be sane and became believers based on his testimony. I really don't think people were so unfamiliar with crazy people that they so many would have been so impressed by him.

          • Kevin Wright

            Of course he trusted his own mind, many people in psychiatric hospitals due since it is your only link with reality, so you trust every thing it comprehends (it is as after all your brain). You also speak to them knowing crazy people, but there are varying degrees to what one would call crazy. Paul being ultra-passive made him more acceptable to people, but just because he was not violent or erratic would not at all speak to whether or not he completely appreciated reality. (It could have also been a paranoia which afflicted him).

          • Randy Gritter

            People who have seizures know they have seizures. They know to question anything strange their mind presents to them during a seizure. So the fact that he trusted his own mind makes the seizure theory highly doubtful.

            Was Paul ultra-passive? This guy went to the synagogue and the marketplace to look for arguments. Again people were convinced by him. That means his thinking struck people as more sane than their current philosophy.

          • Kevin Wright

            Passive in the way that he wasn't attacking people. Also, there are many forms of mental illness, so perhaps using seizures is a misnomer. Also, here's an interesting example. there is scientific evidence that the reason for the Salem witch trials were a result of people hallucinating due to mold similar to methamphetamines . No one realized the cause was the wheat supply, they just blamed "witches". This is 1600 years later, after some advancements in understanding, yet people were still unable to understand it.

          • Randy Gritter

            People hallucinate. People know that. You assume that in the 1st century someone like St Paul would not dismiss something as a bad dream or his mind playing tricks on him. Paul would have been highly motivated to find another explanation for his experience. Nobody wants to admit they are wrong. Nobody wants to leave a respected position as a pharisee in order to join some strange new group. If he could have convinced himself it was something he ate he would have. But why did others hear it? Why did he go blind?

          • Kevin Wright

            Firstly, you only know hallucinate if you have a rational grasp of reality, and you know and understand what the hallucination is or what caused it. In a superstitious time, hallucinations could result in or reinforce beliefs. Also, people change positions and belief systems all the time when something becomes more apparent to them or is demonstrated false. "Nobody wants to leave a respected position as a pharisee in order to join some strange new group." Well Jerry Dewitt always wanted to be a pastor until he realized he no longer held a belief in God. I know of Christians who became Scientologists. Belief changes happen all the time, especially in areas which allow many different kinds of beliefs (which Rome definitely did, don't get into the false idea that early Christians were persecuted any more than every other belief.)

          • Ignorant Amos

            Charles Manson, David Koresh, Shoko Ashara. Joseph Smith, Marshall Applewhite, Sun Myung Moon, Jim Jones, L. Ron Hubbard...oh aye, and Adolph Hitler...you can do better than that argument Randy.

          • ksed11

            It’s probably unlikely that a schizophrenic Paul hallucinated seeing Jesus. Combining the three accounts in Acts (chapters 9, 22, 26), they state that both Paul and his companions saw the light, heard the voice and fell to the ground. So it’s unlikely that Paul’s experience was a hallucination since hallucinations are private experiences of things already in the person’s mind. Since he did not believe that Jesus rose from the dead, there would have been no antecedent cause for a hallucination. At worst, one could simply chalk the whole thing up to some strange, unexplainable event. At best, one could say that the risen Christ actually appeared to Paul. And if one accepts the reliability of Acts, then one can accept the second option.

          • Kevin Wright

            So, one source claims there were multiple witnesses. One source that was allegedly written by one guy. If we got independent sources from each of the witnesses, then we would have a bit more of an idea of the validity. As it is, we only have Paul's account as to what occurred, and that he alleges others saw it too. The entire instance it is very possible was a hallucination, which is why he never knew anything about many of the facts of Jesus' life, in fact Paul never even states Jesus walked among men, just that he was a descendant of David (which he technically wasn't since it was Joseph who was the descendant of David, and he wasn't really Jesus' Dad allegedly) sacrificed and resurrected for them. No mention of Jesus' life, barely one mention of his teachings (which could have been added into the gospels later to draw a correlation), and none of Jesus' alleged miraculous birth. Here is a PhD essay about Jesus and Paul's connections by a believer http://barriewilson.com/pdf/If-We-Only-Had-Paul.pdf. There is no proof of the gospels occurring before Paul's accounts.

          • ksed11

            If one wants to dismiss this account then we’d have to
            dismiss all historical accounts based on a single source. Much of what we know of history is based on a single source. The single source in this case just happens to be the main character and most involved in the account
            (Paul). Why shouldn’t we trust him? And as someone else has mentioned, the writer of Acts (let’s call him Luke) was his travelling companion and would have had plenty of time to receive his testimony.

            People can be thrown in jail on the testimony of one
            witness. Reliability is what counts, not necessarily quantity. 10 unreliable witnesses are less valuable than 1 reliable one. In a modern case, Timothy McVeigh was convicted for the Oklahoma city bombing without a single eyewitness. Using your criterion, he should have been let go. The authorities however had a strong circumstantial case. In the case of Acts, we have the testimony of the principal actor in the event in question, given to a reliable historian while he was still alive. This follows best practices for ancient historians. Thucydides, Polybious, Tacitus all believed that the best history was that which was based on the memory of a living eyewitness or eyewitnesses. So we see here that Luke was following, as best as possible, the practice of the best of ancient historians.

          • Kevin Wright

            Yes, Timothy McVeigh was convicted with evidence. Eyewitness testimony is highly suspect, unless you have multiple with similar accounts. It's especially unreliable if someone is paying attention to something completely different. The "hurricane" was convicted with three eyewitness accounts despite the fact he was with several other people miles away from the murder. Humans are notoriously poor at remembering tertiary details. And this fact has been proven!

            I'm not saying Paul wasn't a real person, as I understand it, there is less debate over whether Paul existed than whether Jesus, Noah, or Moses existed. I'm saying that since we understand there are explanations in nature as to why some many of the things in the Bible happen (can you believe they thought that lightning was God's wrath? Just like it was attributed to Zeus and Thor.) there is every possibility and likely hood that we are dealing with a disturbed person who got people to follow him at a time in history when scientific literacy (especially among the poorest) was in a fetal stage, not even in infancy.

            Other leaders who inspired followings based on somewhat questionable personal experiences include Charles Manson, Raëlism founder Claude Vorilhon, Indian Gurus Sri Sri, and Asaram Bapu, even the Black Jesus recently hacked to death recently in New Zealand. I just gave you a nice mix of evil, strange and good people, from all across the spectrum. Each has a different story, each claims different beliefs, and each claims a "divine revelation". Their modern day delusions are no different from old ones.

          • ksed11

            I agree that memory can be unreliable under certain circumstances. Different witnesses to a car accident or a crime of some sort will often give differing details (though usually in the secondary details – everyone will be in agreement that an accident took place). But the type of memory that is quite reliable includes certain factors, such as: 1) a unique (or unusual) and consequential event; 2) an event in which a person is emotionally involved. Such is the case in Paul’s conversion expereicne. He wasn’t simply a detached observer.
            Also, Luke had other testimony, namely that of Ananias. The fact that he is named indicates that he is the source of the particular narrative of Acts 9:10-19.
            The fact that there are “explanations in nature” does nothing to discount the existence of God who can do miracles and ‘signs and wonders’.
            I’m not familiar with most of the people you mentioned. All I can say about Paul is that this devout Pharisee who was going to Damascus to arrest Christians, for some reason, becomes one himself. What could explain this turn of events? If he was a disturbed individual, the other apostles may very well have detected a deranged personality and withdrawn fellowship and rejected his claims to apostleship. Instead, he is viewed is one of the leaders of the early church.
            Luke was a reliable historian. The inclusion of Paul’s conversion seems to indicate that he considered it historically reliable.

          • Ignorant Amos

            All I can say about Paul is that this devout Pharisee...

            Who said this?

            ...who was going to Damascus to arrest Christians,...

            Who said this? And here's a problem...

            "The first problem is that, according to Acts, Paul is travelling to Damascus empowered with authority from the high-priest to arrest dissident Christian Jews and bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. But, whatever about high-priestly power in Judea, it could never have been exercised across Roman provincial borders as far away as Damascus." ~ John Dominic Crossan.

            ...for some reason, becomes one himself.

            For some reason is right.

            What could explain this turn of events?

            If he was a disturbed individual, the other apostles may very well have detected a deranged personality and withdrawn fellowship and rejected his claims to apostleship. Instead, he is viewed is one of the leaders of the early church.

            This is where incredulity comes in. Why is it that when looking out, it is perfectly acceptable for the patriarchs of other religions to be deranged or unscrupulous, but heaven forbid anyone should tar my belief with the same scepticism? Here is a few I prepared earlier...

            Charles Manson, David Koresh, Shoko Ashara. Joseph Smith, Marshall Applewhite, Sun Myung Moon, Jim Jones, L. Ron Hubbard...oh aye, and Adolph Hitler.

            Luke was a reliable historian. The inclusion of Paul’s conversion seems to indicate that he considered it historically reliable.

            No he wasn't. Whoever wrote Luke/Acts, heard or read some books and put his own slant on them.

            "It is not that Luke lacks correct information about Paul. It is that he interprets all he has from the viewpoint of at least two generations after Paul. It is also a viewpoint within which Paul would have been unable to recognize his own mission or message, purpose or intention." ~ John Dominic Crossan

          • ksed11

            ****Who said this? ****

            Paul himself. See his statements in Philippians 3:5 and Romans 11:1 which are both from the undisputed Pauline letters.

            ****Who said this? And here's a problem...

            "The first problem is that, according to Acts, Paul is travelling to Damascus empowered with authority from the high-priest to arrest dissident Christian Jews and bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. But, whatever about
            high-priestly power in Judea, it could never have been exercised across Roman provincial borders as far away as Damascus." ~ John Dominic Crossan.****

            First, an overzealous attempt to squash a movement
            would not let restrictions in authority to prevent their goal. The Jews had no right to enact capital punishment yet that is what happened to Stephen. Second, Acts 9:2 specifically says Paul asked for letters to the synagogues. Of all the peoples in the Roman empire, Jews were allowed to not worship the gods of Rome, but were allowed to exclusively retain[D1] their own religion. As such, anything happening in the synagogues would be within the orbit of Jewish authority.
            An example of this can be found in Acts itself, ch.18:14 – “14 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to them, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. 15 But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.” 16 So he drove them off. 17 Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front
            of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever.”

            Now, lest you think this is circular (using Acts to validate Acts), I stated before that Luke was a reliable historian. The evidence of this reliability vouches for the reliability of the narratives in Acts. Luke’s historiographical bona fides can be found in the many details he gets right.

            Acts contains scores of details that are better explained by the presence of eyewitnesses. Historicity can be established to a fairly high degree by these details. These include geographical knowledge (for example, the author lists the correct sequence of small cities (Assos, Mitylene, Chios, Samos, and Miletus) the travelers would have encountered (Acts 20:13),

            knowledge of Jewish and Greek customs, especially those that were obscure and very local, such that only a visitor to the particular area would know about them (e.g. the
            use of the feminine pronoun with the masculine word for god in describing the goddess Artemis in Ephesus (Acts 19:37),

            knowledge of political and legislative matters (e.g. the proper use of the terms politarchs, asiarchs, first man of Malta, that were thought to be wrong but have now been confirmed to be correct),

            and other things such as the presence of the staircase
            from the Roman barracks down to the Temple (Acts 21:30-32 -a detail which would not have been known by a later writer since the temple would have been rubble), the proper itinerary, weather conditions, and ship procedures during Paul trip to Rome (Acts 27). The list of details is quite long (and too long for me to reproduce here - see Colin Hemer’s book The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History).

            There is also an absence of anachronisms that a later
            writer would have committed.
            Plus, Acts notes problems in the early church that would have been irrelevant if it had been written after 70CE, such as the controversy between Jewish and Gentile believers .

            So the argument for historicity is not circular. We find a number of accurately portrayed details in Acts, many of which are confirmed by archaeological finds.

            If the author was so accurate and meticulous in the
            small and essentially trivial details, what reason do we have that he would not be accurate in his recounting of his main topics of concern, including the appearance of Jesus to Paul outside of Damascus, one of the most important events of the early church?

            *****This is where incredulity comes in. Why is it that when looking out, it is perfectly acceptable for the patriarchs of other religions to be deranged or unscrupulous, but heaven forbid anyone should tar my belief with the same scepticism? Here is a few I prepared earlier...

            Charles Manson, David Koresh, Shoko Ashara. Joseph Smith, Marshall Applewhite, Sun Myung Moon, Jim Jones, L. Ron Hubbard...oh aye, and Adolph Hitler.*****

            Well, for one thing (off the top of my head) Manson murdered people, Koresh effectively committed murder suicide by not surrendering to authorities, Jones killed his
            followers by forcing them to drink poisoned koolaid. Are you trying to compare these guys to Paul, who, undoubtedly quite earnest and zealous, did not kill anyone (post-conversion), suffered imprisonment and other hardships for his missionary cause, took no money for his work, allowed women to be his co-workers (in a culture that disdained womens’ rights), willingly associated with Gentiles (showing no racial prejudice), willingly followed Roman law, and was ultimately executed. There’s no comparison. Hitler?
            Not quite.

            ****No he wasn't. Whoever wrote Luke/Acts, heard or read some books and put his own slant on them.****

            There was no Wikipedia in the first century. Nor many reference books. Usually the only way to know such details was to actually be in those places and/or be acquainted with locals in the area. It’s known that well-respected historians of the day got things wrong. Luke on the other hand has been shown to be consistently right in the details.

            ****"It is not that Luke lacks correct information about Paul. It is that he interprets all he has from the viewpoint of at least two generations after Paul. It is also a viewpoint within which Paul would have been unable to recognize his own
            mission or message, purpose or intention." ~ John Dominic Crossan****

            A late dating for Acts is unlikely given that there are reasons for thinking that Acts was written no later than the mid-60’s CE.
            We find a number of things not mentioned that we would expect would have been.

            First, there is no mention of the destruction of the temple and fall of Jerusalem in 70. For Jews, Jerusalem was the “center of the world” and a lot of the narrative of Acts focuses on Jerusalem, so it’s strange that there’s nothing about it. This makes it likely that Acts written before that event. There is also no mention of the Jewish war starting in 66. Since Christians thought that Jesus prophesied about the destruction of Jerusalem, it’s odd that Acts doesn’t mention it, especially if it’s a fulfillment of a prophecy by Jesus.

            Second, there’s no indication of persecution by Nero which started in the mid-60’s.
            Third, there’s no mention of the deaths of key figures such as Peter, James (brother of Jesus) and Paul. This would be expected since Acts already made note of James son of Zebedee’s death in Acts 12.

            So Acts can be dated to the early 60’s. Generally speaking, the closer the writing of a document is to the events it portrays, the more likely that it is giving accurate information because there’s not enough time for inaccurate stories to develop.

            *****The NT is it's own evidence that the oral tradition wasn't all that. ****

            Don’t know what you mean here. Can you please
            elaborate?

            ****Moreover, the New Testament apocrypha is further evidence that all sorts of nonsense was being spoke about in the early days of the Christian church.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N...****

            I agree about the apocrypha, but this is irrelevant since
            the historicity for Jesus is being made from the NT canon, not the apocrypha.

            *****"The Gospel authors were Jews writing within the midrashic tradition and intended their stories to be read as interpretive narratives, not historical accounts." -Bishop
            Shelby Spong, Liberating the Gospels*****

            The antecedent to any use by the gospel writers of midrash techniques would be the use of midrash by Jewish exegetes.
            However, there was a strong tradition of Jewish exegesis that interpreted OT texts according to their original literary context .
            Midrash doesn’t provide a sufficient foundation for the gospels being midrash. If the writers wanted to invent
            events in Jesus’ life in light of OT texts, they wouldn’t have done so in such a partial and awkward manner .
            For example, Jewish exegetes quoted and interpreted OT scripture quite literally. The opposite occurs in the gospels. In most cases the OT references are reworded or reapplied such that the gospel writers were trying to show how the OT fitted the events of the life of Jesus, not the other way around (prime example being Hosea 11:1).
            To quote NT scholar R.T. France,

            “if the history were being created out of the text, there would be no need to adapt the text to fit the history.”

            NT historian Mark Allan Powell states that all the gospel narratives Spong identifies as invented midrash are events that have no adequate scientific explanation. He says:

            “Basically, Spong’s position seems to be this: Events that cannot happen, did not happen….This seems like Bultmann redivivus….literary-critical analysis of the Gospels as literature reveals that the implied readers of these narratives are expected to receive them as narrative reports of events
            that actually transpired in history….the historical evidence does not support Spong’s claim that the Gospel’s original readers would have understood accounts of spectacular events as metaphorical midrash as opposed to literal
            historical reporting.”

            So, it seems that Spong’s only reason to employ the midrash thesis is his bias against miracles. But again, this simply begs the question against theism. Spong would
            need to refute all the theistic arguments and then build a case for a naturalistic worldview before employing the midrash thesis.

            ****Circular argument. Who wrote the themes of “bearing witness ” and “remembering” the life of Jesus?****

            If the argument from Bultmann is that the disciples had no intention of transmitting reliable history, then the disciples’ own words rebut his claim. Even if one wants to say they got the details wrong, the *intention* to transmit reliable history was there. Again, the genre (Greco-roman biography) is
            good indication of their intentions.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Paul himself. See his statements in Philippians 3:5 and Romans 11:1 which are both from the undisputed Pauline letters.

            Okay then...so Mohammad must have flew on a winged horse? Joseph Smith was visited on numerous occasions by an angel called Moroni

            Or that Ron L. Hubbard fellow...

            "The Church of Scientology describes Hubbard in hagiographic terms, and he portrayed himself as a pioneering explorer, world traveler, and nuclear physicist with expertise in a wide range of disciplines, including photography, art, poetry, and philosophy. His critics have characterized him as a liar, a charlatan, and mentally unstable. Though many of his autobiographical statements have been proven to be fictitious, the Church rejects any suggestion that its account of Hubbard's life is not historical fact."

            History is chock full of religious charlatans and Christianity is the champion of hoaxes.

            "Religions, scams, and hoaxes succeed because they exploit powerful psychological processes. These processes are the very ones that have enabled humans to survive and create art and technology, but also transform Homo Sapiens into Homo Suckers!"

            First, an overzealous attempt to squash a movement would not let restrictions in authority to prevent their goal.

            Really? Yet that is exactly what the Sanhedrin is alleged to have done according to the story, let restrictions in authority prevent their goal, hence the reason the story has them going to Pilate. There is no contemporary accounts of all this early persecution of Christian Jews by other Jewish sects outside the Christian texts.

            The Jews had no right to enact capital punishment yet that is what happened to Stephen.

            The Jews had the power to convict and prescribe the death penalty...just not to carry out the punishment. According to the only account of Stephen's death...he was convicted for blasphemy and stoned by an angry mob that got out of control.

            Acts:

            57 But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears, and they rushed upon him with one impulse. 58 And when they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him, and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” And having said this, he fell asleep. 8:1 And Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

            "Raymond E. Brown (An Introduction to the New Testament) says that the scene involving Stephen's trial and death is significant because the death of Stephen in Acts matches so closely the death of Jesus in Luke. Both cases begin with a trial and then the Jewish mob demands the death penalty. Both accounts speak of the Son of Man at the right hand of God (Luke 22:69; Acts 7:56); both have a prayer for the forgiveness of those who are effecting this execution ( Luke 23:34a; Acts 7:60); both have the dying figure commend his spirit heavenward (Luke 23:46; Acts 7:59). Brown says that Acts has shown Peter providing continuity with Jesus' ministry of healing and preaching, while Stephen provides continuity with Jesus' death. He says we can never verify the existence or martyrdom of Stephen. If we can never verify that Stephen was really stoned by the Jews, we can not say with certainty why this happened."

            Now, lest you think this is circular (using Acts to validate Acts),

            Hmmmm! I can't understand why you would think that.

            I stated before that Luke was a reliable historian. The evidence of this reliability vouches for the reliability of the narratives in Acts. Luke’s historiographical bona fides can be found in the many details he gets right.

            What about the facts he gets wrong? The facts he gets right are easily verifiable if the author wrote the book around 80-90 AD as most scholars believe it to be. There are some date it earlier, but some much even much later.

            "A key contested issue is the historicity of Luke's depiction of Paul. According to the majority viewpoint, Acts described Paul differently from how Paul describes himself, both factually and theologically. Acts differed with Paul's letters on important issues, such as the Law, Paul's own apostleship, and his relation to the Jerusalem church.Scholars generally prefer Paul's account over that in Acts."

            Acts contains scores of details that are better explained by the presence of eyewitnesses.

            That is a subjective opinion. Others might adduce that they might be better explained from plagiarizing other sources accurately, while the errors in Acts come from plagiarizing mistakes or making inaccuracies from other sources, say Josephus.

            Historicity can be established to a fairly high degree by these details. These include geographical knowledge (for example, the author lists the correct sequence of small cities (Assos, Mitylene, Chios, Samos, and Miletus) the travelers would have encountered (Acts 20:13),

            I'm sorry, but from what I read, the scholarship is divided on the historicity of Acts for a number of reasons, including its connection to Luke by authorship.

            ...other things such as the presence of the staircase from the Roman barracks down to the Temple (Acts 21:30-32 -a detail which would not have been known by a later writer since the temple would have been rubble),...

            So how is Acts account corroborated?

            "There is widespread agreement that an exact description of the milieu does not prove the historicity of the event narrated"~Talbert, "Reading Luke-Acts in its Mediterranean Milieu", p. 201 (2003)

            ...the proper itinerary, weather conditions, and ship procedures during Paul trip to Rome (Acts 27). The list of details is quite long (and too long for me to reproduce here - see Colin Hemer’s book The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History).

            So how is Acts account corroborated?

            There is also an absence of anachronisms that a later writer would have committed.

            Really? Acts is flawed by internal inconsistencies and anachronisms, especially in the earlier part. An example is the "Italian Regiment".

            http://www.harrington-sites.com/source.htm

            Plus, Acts notes problems in the early church that would have been irrelevant if it had been written after 70CE, such as the controversy between Jewish and Gentile believers .

            Acts is a forgery. The author inferred that he was a travelling companion of Paul. He was not. If the author was aware of the controversy, it would be prudent to include it when pretending to have firsthand knowledge of Paul. Even an early date for Acts puts it 10 years after the Council of Jerusalem, so why do you think the author of Acts would write about it, it being irrelevant by that time already?

            So the argument for historicity is not circular. We find a number of accurately portrayed details in Acts, many of which are confirmed by archaeological finds.

            Well, the fact that scholarship is all over the place on the subject of the Acts is a problem more for you than it is for me. You wouldn't suggest that Sherlock Holmes was a historically accurate account of Victorian London because archaeology confirms the accuracy of the stories details? Robin Hoods adventures are not historically accurate because archaeology and much literature provides clues to just such a person, even if there wasn't.

            "Specific sites linked to Robin Hood include the Major Oak tree, claimed to have been used by him as a hideout, Robin Hood's Well, located near Newstead Abbey (within the boundaries of Sherwood Forest), and the Church of St. Mary in the village of Edwinstowe, where Robin and Maid Marian are historically thought to have wed."

            If the archaeology and literature was copper bottomed, scholarship debate would be moot on the subject.

            If the author was so accurate and meticulous in the small and essentially trivial details, what reason do we have that he would not be accurate in his recounting of his main topics of concern, including the appearance of Jesus to Paul outside of Damascus, one of the most important events of the early church?

            Again...this is special pleading. Supernatural events are beyond evidence. Ockham's razor implies an illusion or hallucination. We have Paul's word for what happened on the road to Damascus as written by who knows who, if anything happened at all that is. If Paul was telling the truth, then so was Mo, Joseph Smith, Ron L. Hubbard, et al. The knife has to cut both ways.

            Well, for one thing (off the top of my head) Manson murdered people, Koresh effectively committed murder suicide by not surrendering to authorities, Jones killed his followers by forcing them to drink poisoned koolaid.

            So what? That is not the point I was making. The point I was making is that gullible people are susceptible to all sorts of nonsense from influential types. Manson didn't murder anyone, he was convicted through the joint-responsibility rule, which makes each member of a conspiracy guilty of crimes his fellow conspirators commit in furtherance of the conspiracy's objective, which kinda proves the lengths people will go to in order to impress. Jones coerced most of his followers into taking the Kool-Aid. That is my whole point. Charismatic cult leaders can induce the idiots that hang on their every word to believe, and do all sorts of stuff that the rational minded wouldn't ordinarily do.

            Are you trying to compare these guys to Paul, who, undoubtedly quite earnest and zealous, did not kill anyone (post-conversion),..

            I'm comparing the ease that these type of guys can brainwash the needy.

            ...suffered imprisonment and other hardships for his missionary cause,

            You know this how?

            ...took no money for his work,...

            You know this how?

            ...allowed women to be his co-workers (in a culture that disdained womens’ rights),...

            You know this how?

            "The inevitable conclusion, as my professor pointed out, is that the picture of first century Jewish women as cloistered and segregated is not much more than an unrealized "ideal" created by a small handful of influential (male) rabbis. It may have been what the religious leaders thought "ought" to be the case, but the actual lives of real people were far different."

            As the author of Acts was conversant with earlier texts, he would be well aware of the role women played in the cult of Christianity.

            ...willingly associated with Gentiles (showing no racial prejudice),...

            That's how proselytizing operates.

            ...willingly followed Roman law,...

            Not much choice really if his mission was to succeed.

            ...and was ultimately executed.

            You know this how?

            There’s no comparison. Hitler?

            The comparison is in that Hitler used diplomatic humiliation, domestic poverty, an alleged crisis of morality, the perception that criminality was rife, and a fractured political landscape prior to 1933 to coerce the German people to follow him blindly into the abyss that was WWII, national humiliation and world pariahs.

            Not quite.

            Yes quite...and a lot of those gullible Germans were also Roman Catholics too.

            There was no Wikipedia in the first century. Nor many reference books. Usually the only way to know such details was to actually be in those places and/or be acquainted with locals in the area. It’s known that well-respected historians of the day got things wrong. Luke on the other hand has been shown to be consistently right in the details.

            You can repeat the mantra as often as you like, nevertheless, the author of Acts used external source material for his writing...take it up with the experts.

            "How can it be that a biographer tells a story so successfully that the subject's own version of the story is overlooked? Such is the case with the author of Acts. A third generation Christian working from his perspective at the end of the first century, and an ardent admirer of the apostle, he crafted an eloquent, dramatic, and edifying portrait which has easily "stolen the scene" from Paul himself. The author was a master of vivid and circumstantial narrative, so much so that every one knows about Saul's falling to the ground when a blinding light flashes about him on the road to Damascus, but few pay much attention to, ". . . and last of all . . . [Christ] appeared also to me" (1 Corinthians 15:8)."

            J. Peter Bercovitz, Ph.D. (New College, University of Edinburgh), was Professor of Religion at West Virginia Wesleyan College, Buckhannon, WV.

            http://www.harrington-sites.com/source.htm

            A late dating for Acts is unlikely given that there are reasons for thinking that Acts was written no later than the mid-60’s CE.
            We find a number of things not mentioned that we would expect would have been.

            The fact remains that the date of authorship is unknown.

            "The range of proposed dates for Acts is quite wide, from c. 60 CE-150 CE. Within this range of dates, three are prominent in the scholarly literature: an early, an intermediate, and a late date."

            http://www.bibleinterp.com/opeds/actapo358006.shtml

            So Acts can be dated to the early 60’s. Generally speaking, the closer the writing of a document is to the events it portrays, the more likely that it is giving accurate information because there’s not enough time for inaccurate stories to develop.

            Does this logic apply to all NT books?

            *****The NT is it's own evidence that the oral tradition wasn't all that. ****

            Don’t know what you mean here. Can you please
            elaborate?

            What it means is that if the oral tradition was so accurate, why all the contradictions, inconsistencies, and also omissions of important details in the earlier texts?

            I agree about the apocrypha, but this is irrelevant since
            the historicity for Jesus is being made from the NT canon, not the apocrypha.

            The apocrypha is important because it was also those books that much of early Christianity used for their preaching of the message. It wasn't until centuries after Christianity got started that the books now being used for the historicity, i.e. the canon, were selected as the standard. It doesn't concern you at all that there was Christians in the earliest days that had no concept of a bodily risen Jesus? Christians who should know better than those writing later being around at the time, or close after.

            The antecedent to any use by the gospel writers of midrash techniques would be the use of midrash by Jewish exegetes.
            However, there was a strong tradition of Jewish exegesis that interpreted OT texts according to their original literary context .
            Midrash doesn’t provide a sufficient foundation for the gospels being midrash.

            The point of the gospels is to convince the reader that Jesus was the messiah mentioned in the Hebrew scriptures. Much of this is done by way of interpreting the OT scriptures in such a way that the narrative in the gospels describes just such a messiah. The gospels use literary devices and even lies to get there. That is not being historically accurate.

            If the writers wanted to invent events in Jesus’ life in light of OT texts, they wouldn’t have done so in such a partial and awkward manner.

            But we know they did...the Nativity narratives and lack thereof.

            For example, Jewish exegetes quoted and interpreted OT scripture quite literally. The opposite occurs in the gospels. In most cases the OT references are reworded or reapplied such that the gospel writers were trying to show how the OT fitted the events of the life of Jesus, not the other way around (prime example being Hosea 11:1).

            " Earlier scholars (e.g., John Wick Bowman), as many today (e.g., J. Duncan M. Derrett), saw gospel echoes of the ancient scriptures in secondary coloring here or redactional juxtaposition of traditional Jesus stories there. But the more recent scrutiny of John Dominic Crossan, Randel Helms, Dale and Patricia Miller, and Thomas L. Brodie has made it inescapably clear that virtually the entirety of the gospel narratives and much of the Acts are wholly the product of haggadic midrash upon previous scripture."

            To quote NT scholar R.T. France,

            “if the history were being created out of the text, there would be no need to adapt the text to fit the history.”

            That's if you consider the NT as historically accurate, I don't.

            So, it seems that Spong’s only reason to employ the midrash thesis is his bias against miracles. But again, this simply begs the question against theism. Spong would
            need to refute all the theistic arguments and then build a case for a naturalistic worldview before employing the midrash thesis.

            No, supernatural events are not history. Critical Bible historians don't deal with supernatural assertions. The believer has onus probandi to supply the evidence for their supernatural claims.

            "Forgotten were the elementary rules of logic, that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and that what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence." ~ Christopher Hitchens

            If the argument from Bultmann is that the disciples had no intention of transmitting reliable history, then the disciples’ own words rebut his claim. Even if one wants to say they got the details wrong, the *intention* to transmit reliable history was there.

            We don't know what the disciples said about anything, we don't have any of their words, only hearsay accounts from anonymous sources. Paul claims to have met Peter, James and John, but he doesn't write about what they talked about regarding Jesus. According to Paul, his authority came from Jesus himself...via vision.

            Again, the genre (Greco-roman biography) is good indication of their intentions.

            You must be confusing the gospel authors with the apostles Mark, Matthew and John.

          • ksed11

            First, the demand for external corroboration for all accounts would leave us in a state of total skepticism about all ancient
            events. NO ancient history can be corroborated on ALL details. But if we have corroboration for a fair amount of material in the document, we can give the benefit of the doubt to the document (and author) in the areas where we
            cannot (as of yet) check on the details. This is not special pleading for the NT but applies to all historical documents. By not applying it to the NT, one sets up a double standard (but why would anyone want to do that?)

            With regard to some of your statements:

            ****Mohammad must have flew on a winged horse*****

            It doesn’t follow that the presence of miracle claims in
            other religions somehow negates Christianity

            *****Really? Yet that is exactly what the Sanhedrin is alleged to have done according to the story, let restrictions in authority prevent their goal, hence the reason the
            story has them going to Pilate.There is no contemporary accounts of all this early persecution of Christian Jews by other Jewish sects outside the Christian texts.*******

            If you read john’s gospel, they were afraid of the people
            turning on them in revolt since they viewed Jesus as the messiah. Their going to Pilate was to keep their hands
            as clean as possible while getting rid of him.

            As for the lack of contemporary accounts, why would there be any with regard to what amounted (at the time) to be a very minor Jewish sect?

            ***That is a subjective opinion. Others might adduce that they might be better explained from plagiarizing other sources accurately, while the errors in Acts come from plagiarizing mistakes or making inaccuracies from other sources, say Josephus.*****

            So he used sources. He states this specifically in his preface to his gospel. And it’s not a subjective opinion. Evidence has been found.
            Colin Hemer shows 84 facts from Acts that have been shown to be true.

            This page gives a short summary.

            http://truthbomb.blogspot.ca/2012/01/84-confirmed-facts-in-last-16-chapters.html

            *****the scholarship is divided on the historicity of Acts for a number of reasons… Acts is a forgery….****

            If it’s so divided why so adamant that it’s fake. At the very least one ought to be agnostic about it.

            Regarding the marine travel account, Colin Hemer writes:

            "Cauda, for instance, is precisely where a ship driven helpless before an east-northeast wind from beyond the shelter of Cape Matala might gain brief respite for necessary maneuvers and to set a more northward line of drift on the starboard tack. As the implications of such details are further explored, it becomes increasingly difficult to believe that they could have been derived from any contemporary reference work. In the places where we can compare, Luke fares much better than the encyclopedist Pliny, who might be regarded as the foremost first-century example of such a
            source. Pliny places Cauda (Gaudos) opposite Hierapytna, some ninety miles too far east (NH 4.12.61). Even Ptolemy, who offers a reckoning of latitude and longitude, makes a serious dislocation to the northwest, putting Cauda too near
            the western end of Crete, in a position which would not suit the unstudied narrative of our text (Ptol. Geog. 3.15.8)”

            So we see that two first century sources actually get the geography wrong, while Luke gets it right meaning he didn’t get it from another source. He was there.

            ******An example is the "Italian Regiment".*****

            All Acts 10 says is that Cornelius was a member of Italian
            cohort – just because it is not specifically attested to be in Caesarea by non-NT sources does not mean it wasn’t there.
            In fact, if not for the fact that it is mentioned in Acts, most skeptics would probably say that Act was the first mention of it.

            Another point. The favorable picture of Cornelius (and the other centurions) is indication that Acts was written pre-66 since most Jews would have had an even more unfavorable view of Roman soldiers after the Jewish war had broken out

            ***Sherlock Holmes*****

            Genre is clearly that of fiction

            ****Robin Hood*****

            The difference between the accounts of Robin and the NT
            accounts can be seen in the chain of custody.
            St. Augustine wrote: “Why does not one doubt the authenticity of the books attributed to Hippocates?
            “[B]ecause there is a succession of testimonies to the books from the time of Hippocrates to the present day, which
            makes it unreasonable either now or hereafter to have any doubt on the subject. How do we know the authorship of the works of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Varro, and other similar writers, but by the unbroken chain of evidence?” (Contra Faustum 33.6).

            The accounts of Robin Hood were passed down by who knows who and we don’t know if embellishments creeped in over the years. The NT documents, by contrast, were passed down from the apostles to their disciples (e.g. Polycarp) and then to their disciples (e.g. Irenaeus), etc. And each of them wrote letters where they quote and allude to the documents. So we know that what was written was
            transmitted carefully, and the attribution of authorship is always to the traditional author.

            *****Supernatural events are beyond evidence*****

            How do you know this?

            ******Ockham's razor implies an illusion or hallucination.*****

            If by this you mean we should accept the simplest
            explanation, then I ask, why is that? More important considerations are explanatory power and scope. The resurrection of Jesus and his appearing to people explains more facts than hallucination. And hallucinations are not plausible given that a risen man (never mind Messiah) in the middle of history was not in the background of Jewish beliefs and thus could not have served as the basis of
            hallucination.
            What we can do is employ abductive reasoning, or argument to the best explanation and infer a reasonable cause.

            *****Charismatic cult leaders****

            Paul quotes his own critics who say that he was “unimpressive”.

            *****can induce the idiots that hang on their every word to believe, and do all sorts of stuff that the rational minded wouldn't ordinarily do.****

            If that’s your point, then Paul wasn’t all that successful. Acts itself tells us not everyone (in fact probably most people he encountered) didn’t accept his preaching.

            ****suffered imprisonment etc.***

            These are found in Paul’s undisputed letters. He’d have no reason to lie about them. Plus, letters to small groups are more likely to contain true accounts, especially to groups of people that he had previously had personal contact with.

            ****coerce the German people to follow him blindly****

            People didn’t follow Paul blindly. The fact that Acts tells us
            this is another piece of evidence that it is not mere propaganda, but intending to report actual events. It doesn’t
            report that everyone fell at his feet and believed.

            ****"The range of proposed dates for Acts is quite wide, from c. 60 CE-150 CE.****

            An allusion to Acts is in 1 Clement (95 CE), so we can date Acts to at least before the second century.

            ****What it means is that if the oral tradition was so accurate, why all the contradictions, inconsistencies, and
            also omissions of important details in the earlier texts?****

            The studies of oral cultures show that such is the nature of oral transmission, namely, the handing on of the core narrative with small differences in the secondary details, which are due to things like differing eyewitness perspectives. But the core narrative is retained and transmitted accurately.

            ****apocrypha is important because it was also those books that much of early Christianity used for their preaching
            of the message****

            Apocrypha was essentially “entertainment” books for 2nd century Christians.

            Again, it is perfectly rational for a person to look at the evidence for the NT docs and conclude they are
            accurate reports.

          • Ignorant Amos

            First, the demand for external corroboration for all accounts would leave us in a state of total skepticism about all ancient events.

            What? Are you serious? Do you know how the historical method works?

            I don't understand how you can continually ignore the blindingly obvious likelihood that the 'facts' which in your mind confirm these stories may be complete fabrication.

            When we read an account of something we know, as rational, intelligent people, that the author may have an agenda, or a bias, or they may have been deliberately misled into reporting an event in a particular way, it should be treated with skepticism. The same way you regard the ridiculous claims of other religions.

            Therefore, historians use multiple sources to confirm an event. The more precise the event, the more detailed the historical evidence needs to be.

            Henry VIII is a good example, as historical records in various forms exist to tell us about his life, and to corroborate each other. But if I was to read a quote from him, which had only a single source and had extreme implications, I would need an extraordinary amount of evidence to believe it.

            So if you want us to examine what Jesus was supposed to have said as historians, we'd need a lot better evidence than a single source 2000 years old. I'm sure you understand this.

            NO ancient history can be corroborated on ALL details.

            Well that is not strictly accurate, but it doesn't matter. It depends on the importance of the details and the claims being made. A 1st century Jew called Jesus is actually a god who had himself tortured, put to death and resurrected to life before ascending to heaven to sit on his own right hand is a pretty hefty assertion based on some anonymous tales.

            But if we have corroboration for a fair amount of material in the document, we can give the benefit of the doubt to the document (and author) in the areas where we
            cannot (as of yet) check on the details.

            What corroboration? Those details available to anyone with the nous to research? Again, what about the problems that do not corroborate the story? The problem with blatant inconsistencies in an account can through the authenticity of the whole account into question.

            This is not special pleading for the NT but applies to all historical documents. By not applying it to the NT, one sets up a double standard (but why would anyone want to do that?)

            I'm sure you will have no problem pointing to all those historical documents, particularly ones that have had such an impact on humanity over the last two millenia.

            It doesn’t follow that the presence of miracle claims in other religions somehow negates Christianity

            But you have to acknowledge all supernatural claims in that case or you are guilty of more special pleading.

            If you read john’s gospel, they were afraid of the people turning on them in revolt since they viewed Jesus as the messiah. Their going to Pilate was to keep their hands as clean as possible while getting rid of him.

            John's gospel is not considered historical in anyway.

            "The Gospel of John developed over a period of time in various stages, summarized by Raymond E. Brown as follows:

            An initial version based on personal experience of Jesus;

            A structured literary creation by the evangelist which draws upon additional sources;

            The final harmony that presently exists in the New Testament canon, around 85-90 AD.

            In view of this complex and multi-layered history it is meaningless to speak of a single "author" of John, but the title perhaps belongs best to the evangelist who came at the end of this process.The final composition's comparatively late date, and its insistence upon Jesus as a divine being walking the earth in human form, renders it highly problematical to scholars who attempt to evaluate Jesus' life in terms of literal historical truth.

            As for the lack of contemporary accounts, why would there be any with regard to what amounted (at the time) to be a very minor Jewish sect?

            Oh c'mon. We are talking about someone allegedly convicted for raising sedition.The claims being made of the things this guy did, or caused to have done, are astronomical.

            Starting with the slaughter of the innocents and visit by magi through to his crucifixion for sedition and resurrected sighting by the 500 among others.

            No mention of anything he did from a contemporary. Not a sausage from the disciples, if there were such people. Historians of the time of Jesus or within a century make no mention of him. Less a couple of ranker interpolations in Josephus.

            Apollonius
            Appian
            Arrian
            Aulus Gellius
            Columella
            Damis
            Dio Chrysostom
            Dion Pruseus
            Epictetus
            Favorinus
            Florus Lucius
            Hermogones
            Josephus
            Justus of Tiberius
            Juvenal
            Lucanus
            Lucian
            Lysias
            Martial
            Paterculus
            Pausanias
            Petronius
            Persius
            Phaedrus
            Philo-Judaeus
            Phlegon
            Pliny the Elder
            Pliny the Younger
            Plutarch
            Pompon Mela
            Ptolemy
            Quintilian
            Quintius Curtius
            Seneca
            Silius Italicus
            Statius
            Suetonius
            Tacitus
            Theon of Smyran
            Valerius Flaccus
            Valerius Maximus

            Not one had heard the tale of the Jewish miracle worker.with a cult following of and alleged audience of 5,000. Not a snip in that area at that time.

            ""Philo was born before the beginning of the Christian era, and lived until long after the reputed death of Christ. He wrote an account of the Jews covering the entire time that Christ is said to have existed on earth. He was living in or near Jerusalem when Christ's miraculous birth and the Herodian massacred occurred. He was there when Christ made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He was there when the crucifixion with its attendant earthquake, supernatural darkness, and resurrection of the dead took place -- when Christ himself rose from the dead, and in the presence of many witnesses ascended into heaven."

            "These marvelous events which must have filled the world with amazement, had they really occurred, were unknown to him. It was Philo who developed the doctrine of the Logos, or Word, and although this Word incarnate dwelt in that very land and in the presence of multitudes revealed himself and demonstrated his divine powers, Philo saw it not."

            So he used sources. He states this specifically in his preface to his gospel.

            Which makes those facts that he got right unremarkable and at the very least, secondary information.

            And it’s not a subjective opinion. Evidence has been found. Colin Hemer shows 84 facts from Acts that have been shown to be true.

            What is subjective is how the evidence is assessed and where it originated. Colin Hemer shows 84 facts from Acts that may have been shown to be true, he does not know how the author of Acts came by those facts. Because 221B Baker Street is a real place in London doesn't mean Sherlock Holmes was real.

            If it’s so divided why so adamant that it’s fake. At the very least one ought to be agnostic about it.

            It appears you have some misunderstanding on what a forgery in literature means. Pseudepigrapha does not infer necessarily infer fake or false information. Read Ehrman's "Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are"

            "Ehrman also includes the Acts of the Apostles, broadening at this point the notion of “forgery” in discussing evidence that he feels suggests that the author intentionally insinuated that he had been a companion of Paul’s (the “we” passages) when this is unlikely to have been the case. "

            So we see that two first century sources actually get the geography wrong, while Luke gets it right meaning he didn’t get it from another source. He was there.

            You can't know that. To be able to discredit two contemporary historians, one needs to know the facts. How do we know the facts? Why could the author of Luke not used the same source?

            "Nor can the question of Luke’s historical reliability be considered resolved. On the one hand, are those many erudite scholars who continue, in the spirit of William Ramsay, to defend Luke’s reliability. In addition to Hemer (Hemer 1990) and Witherington (Witherington 1998), many of the contributors to the multivolume series on The Book of Acts in Its First Century Setting have as one of their goals the defense of Luke’s historical accuracy (see Winter 1993–1998). On the other hand, Gerd Lüdemann, in his attempts to separate tradition from redaction in Acts, has claimed that while Luke preserves individual and isolated facts accurately,much of his chronology and framework is secondary, and Lüdemann rejects out of hand all reports of the miraculous (Lüdemann 1989). Such presuppositions on
            the part of the interpreter inevitably and profoundly shape the conclusions drawn about this historicity of a narrative like Acts (see appendix in Talbert 1997). Critical evaluation of the historicity of Acts continues with the work of the Acts Seminar, a group of scholars convened by the late Robert Funk and the Westar Institute, to evaluate the reliability of early Christian history as depicted by Luke, in ways analogous to what the Jesus Seminar (sponsored by the same institute) attempted with the historical Jesus.
            ~ Dictionary of Biblical Criticism and Interpretation ~

            Whatever way you want to cut it, the scholarship on Acts is complex and divided...it's not by far the done deal you'd like it to be.

          • arkenaten

            I have always wondered why Paul was sent to Damascus to arrest Christians when the 'leaders' were right there in their midst , in Jerusalem.

            Any thoughts?

          • ksed11

            First, even if they had been arrested, that wouldn’t have
            stopped the movement since the traditions would by then have been wide spread and believed by many.
            Second, Damascus was an important city and home to many
            synagogues  (as well as being considered the
            outer edge of the border of Israel in the minds of Jews).  Many Jews would have been susceptible to the influence of xians who had been forced out of Jerusalem.
            But perhaps the most interesting factor is that the majority
            of converts were Greek speaking Jews.  Stephen,
            likely representative of what the Grecian Jewish Xians were saying to both Grecian Jews (e.g. the Freedmen Synagogue) and  Palestinian Jews, stated that the temple was no longer necessary.  This precipitated
            the persecution and dispersal.  The
            apostles, on the other hand, were highly regarded by the people (Acts 2: 42-47).  They had shown themselves to be pious temple worshippers, generous to the poor and performers of signs and wonders.  Any move against them might have been unpopular.  So  the Sanhedrin (though undoubtedly would have
            liked to silence them) would not have had any feelings of restraint when it came to the Grecian Jewish xians.  The
            Greek speaking Jewish xians were the main focus of this persecution,

          • arkenaten

            First, even if they had been arrested, that wouldn't have stopped the movement since the traditions would by then have been wide spread and believed by many.

            Is this speculation or is there evidence for this claim?

            Widespread? I would be interested where the evidence is found for this statement.

            Second, Damascus was an important city and home to many synagogues (as well as being considered the outer edge of the border of Israel in the minds of Jews). Many Jews would have been susceptible to the influence of xians who had been forced out of Jerusalem.

            Is there evidence of these statements?

            This precipitated the persecution and dispersal.

            Persecution of who? Jews or Christians?

            So the Sanhedrin (though undoubtedly would have
            liked to silence them)

            This seems contradictory to the way they behaved towards Jesus. Logic would suggest they would move swiftly against the disciples as they were now the main carriers of Jesus message. If, as you are suggesting, they were hesitant to actively move against (arrest them) Peter and James - considered the head of the new Jerusalem church and the brother of Jesus- then surely they would have taken steps to at least censure them?
            The Sanhedrin was instrumental in the death of Jesus for blasphemy (sedition) so why would they (or the Romans for that matter) let the disciples continue to openly flaunt this new message when they had only recently put to death their leader?

          • ksed11

            “Is this speculation or is there
            evidence for this claim?”
            Well, when the apostles eventually died out years later, the
            movement continued without them.  This
            would have happened even if they had been silenced earlier. “Widespread?”
            I didn’t mean geographically necessarily; simply that they
            were believed by many people.

            Is there evidence of these
            statements?
            “the border
            of Damascus was considered the boundary of the ideal Jewish state (Ezk. 47:16–18; 48:1; Zc. 9:1).”
            “The city
            had many synagogues ”
            --(Wood,
            D. R. W. ; Wood, D. R. W. ; Marshall, I. Howard: New Bible Dictionary.  3rd ed. Downers Grove : InterVarsity Press; s.v. Damascus)
            The reasonable inference is that there many Jews in
            Damascus.  And it follows there would
            have been many synagogues.

            Persecution of who? Jews or
            Christians?
            Well, not to be pedantic, but of Christians obviously.  Of course, all Christians in Jerusalem at the time were Jews by birth, but the distinction between “jew” and “Christian” tells us who is who.

            “This seems contradictory to the way
            they behaved towards Jesus. Logic would suggest they would move swiftly against the disciples as they were now the main carriers of Jesus message. If, as you are suggesting, they were hesitant to actively move against (arrest them) Peter and James - considered the head of the new Jerusalem church and the brother of Jesus- then surely they would have taken steps to at least censure them?”

            They did try to censure them (even beat them);  see Acts 4.

            “The Sanhedrin was instrumental in
            the death of Jesus for blasphemy (sedition) so why would they (or the Romans for that matter) let the disciples continue to openly flaunt this new message when they had only recently put to death their leader”

            I gave a sufficient answer already.  In addition, Gamaliel’s intervention (Acts 5) explains things.  As for the Romans,
            first, they were pressured to execute Jesus by the Sanhedrin, and second, as far as the Roamsn were concerned this Jesus was dead and buried.  Why would they care about a bunch of crackpots claiming that people ought to follow a dead man?

          • arkenaten

            Well, not to be pedantic, but of Christians obviously. Of course, all Christians in Jerusalem at the time were Jews by birth, but the distinction between “jew” and “Christian” tells us who is who.

            If the Romans could care less about the 'crackpot' followers of a dead man why would they be so keen to persecute them in Jerusalem?
            Please explain?

          • ksed11

            I’m not sure which persecution you’re referring to
            here.

          • arkenaten

            You said:

            This precipitated the persecution and dispersal.

            So, I was asking about which persecution you were referring to?

            In light of this I hope this makes more sense of the question?

            If the Romans could care less about the 'crackpot' followers of a dead man why would they be so keen to persecute them in Jerusalem?
            Please explain?

          • ksed11

            So, I was asking about which persecution you were referring to?

            The persecution of Acts 8 which was by Jews, not Romans.

          • arkenaten

            And we are back to the point that if this were a real event why not drive the apostles out as well?
            It is obvious from the way the account in Acts is written it is solely for the purpose of creating a basis for Paul to begin his mission and then come back to jerusalem and meet the Apostles once he had "seen the light"
            It is a story. A fictional mechanism very much like laying out a plot in a novel.
            There are no extra biblical accounts of this ''Persecution" and simple common sense would suggest that if you were going to drive out the followers you would then arrest and jail the leaders.

          • ksed11

            why not drive the apostles out as well?

            I pointed out earlier that the persecution involved the Grecian Jews who had converted to xianity.

            It is obvious from the way the account in Acts is written it is solely for the purpose of creating a basis for Paul to begin his mission and then come back to jerusalem and meet the Apostles once he had "seen the light"

            It's only obvious if one presupposes that Acts is a fictional work. There are reasons for thinking Acts is reliable history. Colin Hemer's book 'Acts in the setting of Hellenistic History" gives many details. As do Martin Hengel and Craig Keener in his recent Acts commentary. Even John D. Crossan says that Paul had a genuine conversion experience.

          • arkenaten

            You seem to be obfuscating the central point on purpose and it is beginning to become frustrating.
            Even if we assume the story is factual, why would the leaders of the new christian sect be left unmolested?

            If the new sect was considered illegal and a persecution set in motion the leaders would have fled, or gone into hiding.
            But there is no suggestion they did this.
            These is no logic to adopt this position. None, and there is no precedent I can think of where such has taken place.

            Sadly,you are fast making this a straw man argument.

            And why is Crossan's opinion relevant?

          • ksed11

            why would the leaders of the new christian sect be left unmolested?

            As I said, I gave a response to this already. If you'd like to respond to it, you're welcome to.

            These is no logic to adopt this position.

            The logic is found in the historically reliable text of Acts itself, as I pointed out.

            Sadly,you are fast making this a straw man argument.

            Not sure what you mean here. How am I misrepresenting your (or someone else's) position?

            And why is Crossan's opinion relevant?

            A skeptical scholar accepts a major point in Acts, namely Paul's conversion. Just thought I'd throw that in there :)

          • arkenaten

            So the Sanhedrin did not arrest the leaders of the new sect as they were very popular and there might have been a backlash, but showed no compunction to execute their leader, Jesus, and the populace was fine with this?

            Hmm interesting...

            The logic is found in the historically reliable text of Acts itself, as I pointed out.

            Yes, you did, didn't you?
            May I ask
            a) do you have any relevant qualifications to make such a statement as Historically reliable
            and
            b) would you care to comment on how ''Historically reliable'' Paul's boat trip and subsequent sinking etc are?

          • ksed11

            “ but showed no compunction to execute their leader, Jesus, and the populace was fine with this?”

            First, the populace wasn’t fine with this (not entirely – see Luke 23:27). The crowd that wanted Jesus executed was incited by the sanhedrin, but a good number of people were hoping that Jesus was the messiah. But in this case, since the Romans were now in charge of the matter, the people really had no say in the matter. This was not the case with the apostles.

            Second, the Sanhedrin feared that the followers of Jesus were on the verge of a revolt that would end up in the removal of their place of leadership as well as destruction of the nation. As Caiaphas noted, better one man die than the whole nation.

            “do you have any relevant qualifications to make such a statement as Historically reliable”

            I’m relying on the scholarship of experts such as Colin Hemer. One could ask the same question to you, Do you have any relevant qualifications to say that Acts is fiction?

            “would you care to comment on how ''Historically reliable'' Paul's boat trip and subsequent sinking etc are?”

            Well, Hemer writes in his book The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History, p.331:

            “Cauda, for instance, is precisely where a ship driven helpless before an east-northeast wind from beyond the shelter of Cape Matala might gain brief respite for necessary maneuvers and to set a more northward line of drift on the starboard tack. As the implications of such details are further explored, it becomes increasingly difficult to believe that they could have been derived from any contemporary reference work. In the places where we can compare, Luke fares much better than the encyclopedist Pliny, who might be regarded as the foremost first-century example of such a source. Pliny places Cauda (Gaudos) opposite Hierapytna, some ninety miles too far east (NH 4.12.61). Even Ptolemy, who offers a reckoning of latitude and longitude, makes a serious dislocation to the northwest, putting Cauda too near the western end of Crete, in a position which would not suit the unstudied narrative of our text (Ptol. Geog. 3.15.8)”
            Hemer also goes on to point out accuracy in details such as weather patterns, actions of sailors during a storm, etc.

            Given the amount of accurate details througout Acts, the burden seems to be on the skeptic to show that Acts is not historically reliable.

          • arkenaten

            And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves

            Acts 28.3-6.

            Care to have a shot at this?

          • Ignorant Amos

            A skeptical scholar accepts a major point in Acts, namely Paul's conversion. Just thought I'd throw that in there :)

            I think you are over cooking it a bit.

            Why do you call J. D. Crossan a "skeptical" scholar?

            He may accept that Paul converted...every Christian had to and no one doubts that, but how does he agree that this method of conversion was due to a revelation on the road to Damascus, I'm not sure that's the case, anyway, how could he know, J. D. Crossan wasn't there, and neither was the author of Luke/Acts, whoever that person was...so it Acts is hearsay two generations removed at best. However, though Crossan agrees with a vision of Jesus conversion story, not bad for a so-called skeptic, he has difficulties with the Lukian version in Acts.

            "What Really Happened to Paul on the Road to Damascus?"

            By John D. Crossan, Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies, DePaul University

            "The vision of Jesus that changed Paul from a Pharisaic Jew to a Christian Jew happened, says Luke's Acts of the Apostles, on the road to Damascus. That event is so important that Luke records it three times for maximum emphasis: first, as it happens (9:1-19); next, as Paul tells it to the Roman officer in Jerusalem (22:3-21); and, finally, as Paul tells it to the Jewish king, Agrippa II at Caesarea Maritima (26:1-18). But that triple account, written around 50 years after Paul's death, has two major historical problems."

            Read on at...http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-dominic-crossan/paul-and-damascus_b_1348778.html

            "It is not that Luke lacks correct information about Paul. It is that he interprets all he has from the viewpoint of at least two generations after Paul. It is also a viewpoint within which Paul would have been unable to recognize his own mission or message, purpose or intention."

            So Crossan isn't behind you on your Acts assertions after all.

            Some other interesting thoughts from your skeptic on Paul here too...

            http://www.johndominiccrossan.com/The%20First%20Paul.htm

          • ksed11

            Sorry for the confusion. I should have qualified my earlier comment to say, John D. Crossan says that Paul had a genuine conversion experience, even though he doesn’t accept the account as given in Acts since we know that he famously rejects the actual resurrection in favor of Jesus’ burial in a shallow grave. This last part about his rejecting the resurrection surely qualifies the label ‘skeptical’.

            neither was the author of Luke/Acts, whoever that person was...so it Acts is hearsay two generations removed at best.

            On this point I’d disagree. The “we” statements in the second half of Acts indicate the author was part of the action. The naming of specific persons (such as Ananias of Damascus) indicates that the author interviewed the persons in question.

            And the accurate details of things that could be known only by someone who was either an eyewitness or interviewed an eyewitness show that Acts was not written 2 generations after the fact.

            Inordinate skepticism about the reliability of NT documents would apply just as easily to other historical documents from antiquity. If such skepticism doesn’t apply to non-NT docs (which is the case since most people, I think, claim that we have knowledge about the past based on these documents), then the only way to apply such skepticism to the NT is to apply an unjustified double standard; i.e. the NT docs meet the same criteria that would be applied to non-NT docs but we won’t accept the NT because of – well, because of what exactly? There is no good reason given. Every time evidence is given for the reliability of Acts, the skeptic will say, “yes, but he just made it up”. Really? How does he know that? The xian has presented evidence, the skeptic has merely pronounced his personal opinion.

          • Ignorant Amos

            But the point is much scepticism is applied to non NT documents...many of which have been penned by known historians...unlike the author of Luke/Acts. One example is that of Romulus by the scholar Plutarch. You are not suggesting that Plutarch's history of Romulus has any grounding other than myth even though it contains real characters and events from history, are you?

          • Pofarmer

            The problem is, Acts contradicts Paul on many key points.

          • ksed11

            Could you cite some?

          • Pofarmer

            There are several apparent contradictions with the conversion narrative. Acts 17:23-31 vs Rom 1-18-32 is another one. There was a book reccomended to me, called, I think, "The mysteries of Acts" or something to that effect. I'll have to see if I can find that.

          • ksed11

            Re: act17 and rom. 1
            I don’t see a contradiction here. He’s addressing different audiences. In Acts Paul is trying to persuade persons who have never heard the gospel before, and in the process uses the unknown god as a way of finding a point of common interest. This is the way many missionaries work in a different culture.
            In Romans, he is recounting to his readers how certain people, having already been presented the one true god, knowingly and persistently reject God. Paul seems to be saying that once a person has been given sufficient information, that person is culpable for his actions.

          • Pofarmer

            Yep, that's the standard apologetics.

          • ksed11

            I suppose it is.  Were you trying to make a point about standard apologetics?

          • Pofarmer

            I just meant that that's the common apologetic answer, which some or mosf scholars may or may no agree with, sort of like harmonizing the gospels.

          • Paul VB

            Randy only Paul mentions those witnesses, no names are given , we never hear of those witnesses again so the only witness is Paul telling he had witnesses circular reasoning .

          • josh

            I'm not hand waving, I'm assuming you are clever enough to figure out the parallels yourself. Many religions have divine revelations, many have miracle working founders, many have founders whose true origin is buried in mystery--despite a large body of tradition that has grown up around them, many have key teachings and emphases that shift over the years as different factions gain power, many have followers and successors who squabble over the 'true' teachings and from an outside perspective clearly alter the message to suit their own interpretations, many have miraculous births, many were allegedly heralded by seers and prophecies, many 'die' in ways that involve the body transforming or being assumed. Do I need to go on?

            Obviously there are differences too, but a central point to take away is that people will believe things. I don't know how people convinced themselves that Joseph Smith wasn't a charlatan, but they did. I don't know how Mohammed got enough people to side with him that he could have any military success, but he did. Peter and James and Paul (or their self-proclaimed chroniclers) claimed that Jesus worked miracles, it's your interpolation that there really was a person who made these claims for himself. (And really, we don't lack for claims of apostolic and saintly miracles.)

            There are plenty of reasons for Paul to become a Christian but the mythicist position is not that he didn't believe any of it. Now I'm not committed to the mythicist idea, but the version described above is that the original stories were significantly different than how you imagine them: Christ was a spiritual being involved in various spiritual miracles and goings-on, the physical miracles are later additions. And guess what, if you're going to make up a miracle, you can just as easily make up witnesses.

          • Ignorant Amos

            You sound like a holocaust denier.

            Uncalled for ad hom and against the rules I suspect. Bad form.

            Anyone can just hint at huge conspiracies that everyone was lying and everything is faked.

            I'm not hinting that people lied, I'm stating it as a fact.

            According to the NT, what was the last words of Jesus before he died?

            According to the NT, who found the empty tomb?

            According to the NT, who was Josephs father?

            If Jesus was born of a virgin, what is the need for a genealogy of Joseph back to the patriarch David? How was Jesus a descendant of King David as prophecy demanded?

            Perhaps the gospel writers were unaware of Romans 1:3.

            Why did the author of Matthew include 4 women in his version Josephs genealogy?

            One gospel has the birth of Jesus during Herod's reign, the other during the census of Quirinius. How can this be? There is a 10 year discrepancy. I have a god idea the reason...but why don't you explain it?

            The list goes on and on and on. Someone was faking it or lying...whichever you like. All the contradictory accounts can't be correct.

            But you don't come out with a coherent theory.

            The point of the OP is to posit a coherent theory.

            You just take shots at the official story.

            I'm not the only one taking shots at the "official" story, whatever the official story may be. Scholarship is also taking shots at the official story. Ever heard of the Jesus Seminar for example? If the gospel story is as copper fastened as you'd like to think, it would hold up. But because it is full of holes it loses credibility. That is not my fault.

            Just implying there is some big bad Catholic church that is pulling all the strings.

          • Randy Gritter

            Uncalled for ad hom and against the rules I suspect. Bad form.

            Sorry if I offended you. I was just trying to show that radical skepticism can be hard to argue against but it is not the most rational way to think. Just dismissing everything as potentially made up is easy.

            The fact is there is good reason to believe the gospels and Acts as history. Compared to other documents they are well preserved and they seem to include statements against the interests of the preservers. So they sound more like a true story than a legend or propaganda piece.

            Do they differ on a few details? Sure. If they didn't you would take that as evidence of collusion. They are remarkably the same not remarkably different. So much so we think they must have been drawn from a common source like oral and liturgical tradition.

          • Ignorant Amos

            The fact is there is good reason to believe the gospels and acts as history.

            Lets hear them then....that is the point, there really isn't good reasons.

            Compared to other documents they are well preserved and they seem to include statements against the interests of the preservers.

            Never mind other documents, the Christian texts are not, in of themselves, well preserved. Do the research.

            Do they differ on a few details? Sure. If they didn't you would take that as evidence of collusion.

            A few details? We are not taliking about the colour of someones eyes here, or whether they wor a turtle neck or v-neck sweater.

            They are remarkably the same not remarkably different.

            They are remarkably different....that is the whole point.

            So much so we think they must have been drown from a common source like oral and liturgical tradition.

            The problem is that the plebs in the chapels believe that Mark, Matthew, Luke and John wrote the gospels from personal eyewitness accounts....not "a common source like oral and liturgical tradition", which is why the faith succeeded and why the church was keen to keep it from the sheeple over the centuries...it's not rocket science.

      • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

        On the narrow point of the birth narratives, the issue is that both solve the problem of how Jesus can be from Nazereth, and yet be the Messiah who is to be born in Bethlehem. Luke has them from Nazereth, but temporarily in Bethlehem for the census. Matt has them from Bethlehem, but moving to Nazereth when Jesus is young. It is the two different solutions to a theological problem that suggest strongly that nativities were constrained by a pre-existing tradition that associated Jesus with Nazereth. As de-novo creations they don't make theological sense.

        To that extent, they are considered evidence of a historic figure, from a Galilean backwater, who's situation of birth is inconvenient to his messianic claim.

        Having Nazereth drawn from GMark, and therefore a literary rather than a historic constraint is another approach. Though the advocate of that needs to then explain why it is in Mark.

        • Ignorant Amos

          The Nativities are independent de-novo creations in parts. The parts that are contradictory. The non contradictory parts draw from OT prophecy and older Christian texts. This is well understood by scholars.

          If the existing tradition up to then had a Jesus the Nazarene (as from the place), then fair do's. But that issue is not clear cut by any stretch. Misinterpretation was not that unusual, just like it is not that unusual today.

          Having Nazereth drawn from Mark, and therefore a literary rather than a historic constraint is another approach.

          Or perhaps a missing source familiar to all three, or even the oral tradition.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            Not quite my point. The 'de-novo' I was referring specifically to placing Jesus as 'from' Nazareth. Since my point was that they then create independent (de-novo, if you like) solutions to the theological problem, you're response seemed to agree in content while disagreeing in tone.

            This is well understood by scholars.

            Thanks for the gentle patronizing!

            But that issue is not clear cut by any stretch.

            I can't think of any scholar who argues that Matt and Luke independently came up with the idea of Jesus being from Nazareth, since GMark has it prominently in both title and narrative. So to at least that extent, the sources used by the nativity writers we are sure had Jesus from Nazareth.

            What I suspect you're referring to is the question of whether GMark's Nazareth is a misinterpretation of a previous tradition of Jesus as Nazerite or Netzer, for example (other root have been suggested). That isn't settled, but most contemporary scholars see the arguments (which are due to the early fathers) as being synophonic rather etymological.

            Settled, no. But a harder case to make. It sounds-a-bit-like-therefore-could-be is an argument that has somewhat dropped out of favour in the academy. It is too easy to connect any dots that way.

            Or perhaps a missing source familiar to all three, or even the oral tradition.

            If by 'a missing source familiar to all three', you mean that Mark, Matt and Luke all independently used a fourth source, then that we can exclude. Luke quotes Mark's Nazereth in the pericopae of the Capernaum Demoniac and the Healing of Bartimaeus, Matt interprets Mark's Nazereth as a place in Galilee in the Denial of Peter.

            But whether it was just a generally known fact about Jesus, or part of the zeitgeist of traditions that all wrote in, it could well be.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Not quite my point. The 'de-novo' I was referring specifically to placing Jesus as 'from' Nazareth. Since my point was that they then create independent (de-novo, if you like) solutions to the theological problem, you're response is a bit odd.

            Thanks for the gentle patronizing!

            My apologies, it was not meant in that manner. Don't forget, lurkers read these threads too, they may not be aware of the views of at least some of the scholarship. Which is a major point being made by Carrier ironically.

            I can't think of any scholar who argues that Matt and Luke independently came up with the idea of Jesus being from Nazareth, since GMark has it prominently in both title and narrative. So to at least that extent, the sources used by the nativity writers we are sure had Jesus from Nazareth.

            Yes, the source material has Jesus either from Nazareth as in Luke, or going to be from Nazareth, as in Matthew.

            I think we are at cross purposes, probably my bad comms skills.

            The bits of the Nativity that are not from a traditional source or the Hebrew texts, are exactly what one would expect if they had been made up from whole cloth independently. They are at odds with one another and fail the criterion of multiple attestation. The bits that have been developed from Hebrew prophecy also fail the criterion of multiple attestation. What is left comes from the tradition, so fails the criterion of multiple attestation.

            What I suspect you're referring to is the question of whether GMark's Nazareth is a misinterpretation of a previous tradition of Jesus as Nazerite or Netzer, for example (other root have been suggested). That isn't settled, but most contemporary scholars see the arguments (which are due to the early fathers) as being synophonic rather etymological.

            Settled, no. But a harder case to make. It sounds-a-bit-like-therefore-could-be is an argument that has somewhat dropped out of favour in the academy. It is too easy to connect any dots that way.

            Or perhaps a missing source familiar to all three, or even the oral tradition.

            If by 'a missing source familiar to all three', you mean that Mark, Matt and Luke all independently used a fourth source, then that we can exclude. Luke quotes Mark's Nazereth in the pericopae of the Capernaum Demoniac and the Healing of Bartimaeus, Matt interprets Mark's Nazereth as a place in Galilee in the Denial of Peter.

            I'm not sure we can exclude that thought. It is hypotheisised that both Matthew and Luke plagiarized Mark and both to varying degrees. It is also hypothesized that all three may have had an earlier source outside the oral tradition, perhaps the elusive Quelle. Matthew is the enigma though...

            "And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene."—Matthew 2:23

            Wherever Matthew got this prophecy from is any ones guess. Is it yet another literary device to enforce the veracity of Jesus as the messiah to Matt's audience? Perhaps. Or is it a misunderstanding of a passage from Isaiah (11:1), where the Messiah is called a nezer (branch); in other words, a branch from Jesse's (father of David) "stump". Matthew reads into "nezer" the city of Nazareth..."?

            Perhaps the whole deck of Nazarene cards is a misinterpretation of this same passage.

            Could the confusion be the alternate word for the Essenes, nazoraioi?

            But whether it was just a generally known fact about Jesus, or part of the zeitgeist of traditions that all wrote in, it could well be.?

            Indeed. Apparently, if it existed at all at the time, it was nothing more than a couple of houses cobbled together, but evidence for even that is very sparse.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            On the ahistoricity of the nativities - yes, absolutely. There are a few critical scholars who will gamely argue for little bits of historicism in there, but the consensus is indeed that they are mythological inventions.

            It is also hypothesized that all three may have had an earlier source outside the oral tradition, perhaps the elusive Quelle.

            Erm, kinda sorta.

            So it is established basically without challenge (the exceptions being some very fundamentalist evangelical 'scholars') that Luke and Matt have a direct literary dependency on GMark. So they copied, in detail. Q comes into the picture only because there are direct literary connections between Luke and Matt that aren't in Mark (e.g. Sermon on the Mount/Plain). The nativity is not part of Q in any sane reconstruction. The Nazareth origins of Jesus are in Mark, so also, by definition, don't originate in Q.

            Matthew is the enigma though...

            Arguing for a linguistic origin before Mark (can't be unique to Matt, because GMark already has it). It has been argued that Matt preserves an earlier reading here, but there's little reason to suspect that. Matt regularly mistranslates OT passages to fit his story, so it is hard to make the case that in this case, it isn't his mistranslation, but a prior one, is tough. Especially given GMark being firmly of the opinion that Nazareth is a place.

            if it existed at all at the time

            Hmmm. You have a small minority of archaeologists arguing this, cited a large number of times by ardent mythicists. It certainly was small though. Which is the impression we get also from the gospels.

            ---

            You have to be careful, I think. It is tempting to make the mythicist case by arguing to the conclusions of scholars from a range of disciplines (archaeology, linguistics, textual criticism) who are not part of the consensus. And who are, critically, independent of one another. At that point, mythicism starts to feel more like a crank pseudo-science, cobbling together any anti-consensus opinion that seems to support it.

            Some of the objections you raise are the 'usual suspects' which rely a little too much on that, if used in the full bore case for mythicism.

            I think a mythicist case can be made (it has been made before, and perhaps Carrier will make it in a scholarly manner again), and I would like to see it made in more rigorous terms. But I think it is important when considering a particular form of mythicism (there are lots) it is wise to consider how many conclusions from different fields would need to be overturned if it were to be true. The more, the less likely, I'd say. Or at least, the more work needs to be done in making the specific detailed case in each field, rather than the large overall case. And the less you can rely on "well this might be this way, and this might have come from here".

          • Ignorant Amos

            You make very good points. I'm playing Devils Advocate here. While I certainly am not dispensing with an historical Jesus, I am nevertheless swaying past 50/50 agnosticism on the subject to perhaps 60/40 because of what I've been reading lately and the lack of a convincing counter by the other side.

            It is unfortunate that we have to rely on linguistics and textual criticism. Textual criticism has its problems because there is no original autographs. I guess that is more a problem of
            redaction criticism. All the criterion for biblical criticism can and have been addressed by Carrier and others.

            I'm not aware of any archaeology supporting an historical account of Jesus stories apart the Pilate stone or the geography of the ground. But they have no bearing on the theses either way.

            Some of the objections you raise are the 'usual suspects' which rely a little too much on that, if used in the full bore case for mythicism.

            Agreed, and I shouldn't be making any of them because lay people only make the situation worse. But I'm giving my opinion on the questions being asked based on what I remember reading. e.g. the Nazareth question. I guess the question is not a slam dunk either way or the question would be moot already.

            Hmmm. You have a small minority of archaeologists arguing this, cited a large number of times by ardent mythicists. It certainly was small though. Which is the impression we get also from the gospels.

            It isn't a deal clincher in any case.

            According to the gospels it was large enough to have its own church though, it seems both gospels call it a "city" (polis Natzoree) which smacks of copying, I'm not sure whatever archaeology there is, it supports a congregation sized village, let alone a city. But, like I say, I don't suppose it matters whether Nazareth existed at the time as opposed to who might have lived there.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            I agree in general.

            I wasn't suggesting that all these disciplines have evidence that Jesus was historical. I'm suggesting that the mythicist hypothesis, if true, has implications beyond the narrow question of Jesus's existence. So while a non-existent Nazareth might support the mythicist case, one can't merely drive by that argument and say "well, there's archaeological opinion that there wasn't even a Nazareth". One should independently figure that question out and then use it. Otherwise one is being tendentious.

            Similarly Carrier hasn't dealt with the textual critical issues because he isn't a textual critic. Doherty makes claims about the textual status of various passages, which, if true, support his view. But he hasn't made the textual case at all. Instead he suggests the textual case on the basis of his thesis, because, if the status of the texts were as he suggests, that would strongly support his case.

            You see the inversion? That's the problem.

            It is a problem that plagues pseudo-scholarship generally. Creationists are fond of giving alternate explanations for why radioactive dating appears to work, why fossils are buried in sequence, and so on. But explanations have consequences, and as long as you're only interested in making one point, you're not motivated to chase down those implications for the wider method and conclusions of all those fields.

            So, it is important to try not to read the question you're interested in, into the findings of other fields, and pick and choose data from them without fairly reflecting the consensus of folks who are methodologically committed to that field.

            [Standard disclaimer, I use creationism as an example to illustrate a point, not to compare mythicists of the Carrier type to creationists in terms of the quality of their claims!]

          • Ignorant Amos

            [Standard disclaimer, I use creationism as an example to illustrate a point, not to compare mythicists of the Carrier type to creationists in terms of the quality of their claims!]

            The problem with using creationism as an analogy is that it is a false equivalence.

            Science refutes creationism quite conclusively. History is based on probabilities gauged upon what we can know, which in the case of the historical Jesus is very little for what we have. What little we do know doesn't stand up to criticism very well.

            I was happy enough to accept an historical Jesus, I really hadn't considered the subject and it doesn't matter as a non-believer. But I've recently become a bit sceptical having looked at it for a bit. If the argument for an historical Jesus was beyond doubt, this discussion would be moot.

            I'm an ardent fan of Bart Ehrman, but his last book on the historical Jesus was a poor show by his scholarly standards, even if written for the layperson. His arguments were poor and well refuted with no rebuttal. I was somewhat disappointed all in all. I know Ehrman is only interested in the historical Jesus and takes no truck with the supernatural. It's just that after being highlighted, his work was shown to be a bit slovenly. Ehrman is a textual critic, but was not convincing in the arguments found in his latest tome.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            Everything is a false equivalent at some point - analogies are not valid beyond their point. My point was merely that claims have implications beyond the context of the claim, and it is problematic to make claims that would have implications on the consensus in other fields unless you're willing to make the case from within that field.

            As I said (I thought clearly) I don't think creationism and mythicism are on the same epistemic level. [Well, there are versions of mythicism that are that wacky, but those are a long way from anything Carrier would suggest!].

          • Ignorant Amos

            All fair enough, thanks for keeping me right and honest.

          • Pofarmer

            "Especially given GMark being firmly of the opinion that Nazareth is a place.

            if it existed at all at the time

            Hmmm. You have a small minority of archaeologists arguing this, cited
            a large number of times by ardent mythicists. It certainly was small
            though. Which is the impression we get also from the gospels."

            So, is it reasonable that you would have an OT prophesy about a place that-wasn't? Wouldn't that more argue for a different interpretation of Nazorene? Maybe one that had been lost to history by the time of the NT authors?

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            Thanks for the question, pofarmer. The problem is that this isn't an OT prophecy at all. Matthew, who I assume you are referring to, is pulling this out of nowhere.

            Jermone, in the fourth century, thought Matthew might have been misreading 'Netzer' (branch), and be referring to Isaiah 11:1, but even then it is a long way from Matthew's quote. This then comes back to the linguistic argument, and there is no good reason to link Nazarene with Netzer beyond Matt 2:23. If Matthew is referring to that, he is engaging in very creative word-play. There is no evidence that anyone before Matt came even close to interpreting Isaiah that way.

            In fact, Matthew's bungled prophecy may suggest that Nazareth is a real place. The idea being that it is evidence that Matthew was trying too hard to make being from a neckbeard backwater like Nazareth is actually a positive point in favour of Jesus of being genuine. He'd simply not have needed to resort to such trickery, if the idea that Jesus was from Nazareth wasn't already well known, and being used by skeptics as a reason Jesus couldn't be the messiah. That's a subtle argument, but I think the degree of strain in Matthews 'prophecy' is worth noting.

          • Andrew G.

            That wouldn't explain why Matthew removes all of Mark's "Nazarēne" references and uses "Nazaret[h]" and "Nazōraios" instead (note that translators often translate Matthew's "Nazōraios" to "of Nazareth" making it hard to see which was used). Likewise, Acts uses "Nazōraion" applied to Christians generally ("the sect of the Nazarenes").

            There are also some odd places where neither Mark nor Matthew use a place name even when one seems called for. When Jesus is poorly received in his hometown, for example (Mk 6:1, Mt 13:54, Lk 4:16), neither Mark nor Matthew name the town, while Luke names it "Nazara".

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            Why would you think the source of Matthew's prophecy would 'explain why Matthew removes all of Mark's ... references'? Why would the latter question have any bearing on the fact that Matthew's prophecy is simply not in the OT?

            Why would you expect Mark 6:1 to use a place name? The story reads fine without. Basing an argument on that is strained I think.

            So then there's the issue of different ways of spelling Nazareth. You characterisation is sweeping, but misleading. Mark uses Ναζαρὲτ (1:9) (Ναζαρατ in some mss) and Ναζαρηνέ (1:24, 10:47), with textual variants on the latter to Ναζωραῖός (including Sinaiaticus, Alexandrinus, Ephraemi, et al. prob. interpolation). The only conspicuous removal is 1:9, he does not have the entire Capernaum demoniac pericope, rewrites 10:47 quite dramatically. But then uses Ναζαρέτ (several places) and Ναζωραῖός in both the 'prophecy' and in his one use of Nazareth in the genitive (26:71). And refers to the place as πόλιν λεγομένην Ναζαρέτ, (2:23) and Ναζαρὲθ τῆς Γαλιλαίας (21:11) making his meaning indisputable. The Acts passage you quote is reported speech of an accusation against Christians. Luke doesn't use it to mean Christians generally in another context (though it did later come to be used that way).

            So the question is, given those specific facts, what point can you make from it? You can't make a convincing point that Nazareth was originally a status designation. The earliest sources have it clearly as a location, one passage in Matthew does a bit of creating interpretation of what is still explicitly a location, and only later do we have any evidence of it being used more generally. That is very tendentious to argue all that in reverse. You can't make a convincing linguistic argument, on the basis of different forms of a word that are used explicitly about a place in different authors, without considerably more to go on than Matthew's renowned creative use of prophecy.

            So other than vague doubt, what actual textual argument can be made from them? Various people have made various arguments, but the point of an academic subject is that those arguments are tested, applied to other topics, and refined. So casting the consensus aside because an alternative reading supports a pet theory is a huge problem.

            In general, in all kinds of arguments it is easy to sling around data as innuendo. But much harder to build a piece-by-piece case from it. So you can "how about this... or this... or this... seems odd, right?", Sure. But how about actually making a case, and seeing if each bit fits on its own terms. And, crucially, making those cases from within their academic speciality.

            It is easy to make blanket statements on linguistics, for example, but although I know the language well enough to read the NT, I'm a *long* way from being a Koine scholar.

            I don't know, and I assume you don't, to what extent koine greek texts outside the NT use variant spellings for place names throughout the whole corpus. Or what the patterns of variation of spellings in the 1st century Koine transliteration of Aramaic are. Or what variation in Aramaic place terms there is alone. Or to what extent Aramaic place names gave rise to membership nouns of different forms, as English does.

            Do you see the issue with waving facts around without care? You see the problem with doing a drive by discussion of these issues when you don't care less about the actual language, you just want to cast doubt on some unrelated issue, i.e. the historicity of Jesus. That is why mythicism is too often seen as pseudo-scholarship.

          • Pofarmer

            Forgive me if I am being thick headed here. What is the chance that the Nazareth tradition came from possibly a parallel but slightly different scriptural tradition? Say from the Essenes, or a sect like that, or from a version of the Torah before it was all compiled into one book?

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            It is possible of course.

            But can you not see that this is rather reaching? What is the probability of something happening that we've no real reason to think happened, because if it did, it would be evidence that marginally supported a case I'm sympathetic to?

            Not really how scholarship should proceed.

          • Pofarmer

            I'm just askin the questions!;0) Bart Ehrman put a post up today or yesterday talking about "studying" old texts that we only know about because others commented on them. One of them is the "Gospel of the Nazareans" so, naturally,.........

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            No offence intended at all, btw.

            Yes, GN is fascinating. Beyond my area, by quite a bit. But be careful not to confuse its contents and its name. The name has very little attestation before Jerome in the fourth century, and in its full form later than that. The contents may be one or more early gospels, but we have no reason to think those early gospels would have been called that.

            There is no doubt that 'Nazarene' came to be used as a designator of Christians, the word survives as both the word for Christian in Hebrew and Arabic. The issue is whether that use was the original, and the use of the term as a place name was derived from it. Or whether the use of it as a designator was derived from it being the village Jesus originated from.

          • Pofarmer

            I'm just trying to learn, the subject is fascinating.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            I agree, and I've only scratched the surface myself. Always good to have discussions like this to have an excuse to go back through my bookshelf and reread stuff. Thanks :)

          • Andrew G.

            It's by no means certain that the Nativities are independent creations; the possibility exists that Luke copied from Matthew rather than from a hypothesized "Q". See Goodacre's The Case Against Q for more on this (Goodacre is a widely-known mainstream biblical scholar).

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            Hmm, you seem to be making rather general comments, rather than tracking the specific substance of the discussion.

            Farrer's thesis is that there is a literary dependency of GLuke on GMatthew, not that there is no independence between them. Not, particularly, that their theological solutions to the nativity problem are different.

            Goodacre has said that he thinks Luke has cause to rewrite the nativity to match his own theological program. Nobody is suggesting that Luke's nativity is a literary reworking of Matthew's.

            Q was raised by the person I was talking to, and my response was that -- even if one is staunchly supportive of Q -- one cannot argue that Nazareth comes from Q, because it is in Mark, and in particular triple tradition pericopae.

            So Farrer doesn't fundamentally change the point, that both Matthew and Luke felt the need to reconcile Nazareth with Bethlehem, and did it in two different ways.

            [I was a student of Goodacre, incidentally, and (perhaps inevitably) lean towards his view, though he admits to it being a weak case for the nativities, in comparison with, say, the 'minor agreements' in triple tradition material, as in the passage you quoted in your previous comment.]

          • arkenaten

            There is no archaeological evidence to support a Nazareth of the time the character Jesus was supposed to have lived.

            Furthermore , Luke's description is geographically incorrect.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            Anyone who starts a comment with "there is no evidence for X" sounds like a creationist to me "there is no evidence of macro-evolution", "there is no evidence that Jesus was a real person", "there is no evidence we landed on the moon", "there is no evidence for the holocaust".

            What people who usually try that gambit means is "I don't believe what people normally put forward as evidence". The practice of erasing what your intellectual opponents think of as evidence (usually with the bombast of "come on then, show me the evidence", and a good measure of derision if they try), is sadly very common in ideologically sensitive discussion.

            You may be right, and the early Roman finds from Nazareth, or the 1st century building footings and pits, might be actually later, or earlier, or have some other way of being discarded. In the same way a creationist wants to say that transitional fossils aren't really transitional fossils, they are just touted as such by over-zealous scientists. But in either case entering the conversation by pre-emptively rejecting that any such claimed evidence even exists is merely a way to appear like a crank.

            Are you a crank? Or are you capable of reasonable engagement with a position you don't hold? (hint, replying with 'show me the evidence then', is probably not a good start).

          • robtish

            Whoa! "There is no evidence for X" is a perfectly appropriate thing to say. I could understand if you preferred the construction, "I know of no evidence for X," but then I'm taken aback by your statement that "replying with 'show me the evidence then', is probably not a good start."

            It sounds like a great place to start! It opens the discussion rather than shutting it down. It also cuts down on the chance that the person will focus on straw men, because they've now given you a chance to put forth what you see as the *best* evidence, and then the burden will be on them to explain why they don't accept it.

            "Show me the evidence" is frankly one of the most productive things a person can say in a debate.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            "I know of no evidence" is very different from "There is no evidence". The former can be remedied by reading the appropriate archeological field-reports, or looking at the Israeli Antiquities Authorities catalogs of the findings in recent Nazareth digs.

            The dates of occupation of Nazareth is not my dog in the race. And I am not an archaeologist.

            FWIW, I think the evidence for a later 1st century occupation of a small village is pretty good. The evidence for early 1st century occupation is a little less clear. But there is evidence, regardless of whether you think it is *good* evidence, or whether it convinces you.

            Claiming there is no evidence when a few simple searches or a trip to your university library will show the evidential basis of what credential scholars conclude, is a sign of predetermined ideological conclusions, or else someone who has been content to get all their information from apologists they agree with.

            I agree with you "show me the evidence" is one of the most productive things that can be said. But if you've ever had that pulled on you by a creationist who has just insisted that there is no evidence for evolution, you'll probably be aware that the request was in no way intended constructively. "There is no evidence for X" is, in my experience, a very dependable sign that the conversation will go that way.

            Perhaps I'm wrong with Arkenaten. Perhaps he's genuinely not found any reports of first century digs on Nazareth. Perhaps he is genuinely seeking the evidence. That will be cool.

            But I don't think I'm being unduly skeptical for suspecting that he's more likely to respond with a passive-aggresive dismissal of 'so-called evidence' that he (as a non archaeologist) doesn't think meets his standards.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            And apologies to him and you I'm being cranky and unreasonable about this. It could well be.

            But I get this opening gambit pulled on me by creationists, all. the. damn. time.

          • arkenaten

            No. I am neither Creationist nor crank. There is no evidence to support a Nazareth from the time the supposed character Jesus of Nazareth was alive.
            Bagatti couldn't find any and neither has any archaeologist since.
            And Luke's biblical description is fallacious - as well you should know

            This is one of the most contentious issues concerning Jesus.

            If you are merely trying now to obfuscate with rhetoric then you are guilty of being disingenuous.

            Nazareth falls into the realm of the Exodus and Moses.

            However, if you feel you have sufficient evidence. No. Let me amend that. If you feel you have any evidence to support not only the village, Nazareth but also the title Jesus of Nazareth, then please, I am sure everyone on this thread will be eager to see what you have.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            I have discussed the linguistic arguments in detail in this thread. You can read my responses for my opinions on that.

            I'm not an archaeologist, but my understanding of the consensus of scholars, derived from conversations with scholars who are archaeologists of second temple period (but not of the region) is that the issue of when Nazareth was occupied isn't settled, but a majority think it was settled in some form from the early first century. And it is almost unanimously accepted that it was occupied by the middle of the first century.

            As I remarked in response to robtish, the actual catalogues of finds are registered with the Israeli Antiquities Authority, and the field reports are also available. The interpretation of them requires expertise I do not have, so I am willing to defer to the consensus, noting that the lack of unanimity means it is unsettled. I don't play the games of arm-chair experts or pseudo-scholarship, I'm afraid. Elsewhere in the thread I've discussed at length the problem of parachuting into a field and casting doubt around with no actual interest for the field in its own terms.

            You seem to be trying to position me as some kind of opposition, and puff out your chest and strut around as taking the opposite view. Which is sadly very common in these kinds of discussions online, and almost ubiquitous among armchair pundits on these topics. Unfortunately I'm not up for playing that silly game. I've no desire to find a historical or mythical Jesus, no real interest in the showy pissing contests that pass as debates. I am interested in textual and historical critical analysis of the bible and early Christianity, which I'm happy to discuss. That has somethings to say about Nazareth, and forms part of the puzzle.

            But my experience of the "There is no evidence of X" brigade, regardless of their ideological passion, is that they are rarely interested in the details of anything. If it doesn't either support or clearly refute a position, then it is unimportant.

          • arkenaten

            It is the details- especially the little niggly ones that either won't go away or cannot be squeezed, jammed or forced into the overall picture without raising serious doubts - that you seem to wish to gloss over.

            but a majority think it was settled in some form from the early first century. And it is almost unanimously accepted that it was occupied by the middle of the first century.

            Who is questioning this? Not I, sir.

            But the consensus does not lean toward a Nazareth of Jesus' time as described in the bible.

            One could introduce Josephus but that would take us down another path. But we can, if you wish?

            The linguistic argument has been raised, and anyone with an ounce of integrity would be prepared to state that, based on available evidence, the word does not lead to a place but rather the gospel authors concocted a place from the name and later, thanks to people such as Helene,(dear old Constantines mum) Nazareth got the kick it required to wed it to the myth.

            Of course, what isn't often raised, is the amount of vested interest re: tourism and ...oops dare we say it , Money.

            A simple reading of Luke and a non- scholarly understanding of the geography of the area with a smattering of Josephus plus the myriad of opinions from supposed biblical scholars over the years should set off the alarms.

            Last, but by no means least, is simple common sense, something that so often gets turfed overboard in the attempt to find some truth in the biblical text to match the myth.

            The bottom line is there has never been found a single piece of archaeological evidence to support the biblical Nazareth.

            And I reiterate, if you have something then please , offer it up.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            Why would one introduce Josephus on a question of the dating of archaeological finds?

            anyone with an ounce of integrity

            Right, so you are a crank. Sorry, I've discussed the issue, the details and the problems with both accounts in detail. And I have an ounce of integrity. And you're still trying to engage me in a pissing contest.

            Sorry, if you want to know what the scholarly consensus is, ask scholars. If you want to tell them they're wrong. Tell them.

            If you want to measure your dick and how you can see through the evil plots of capitalist religionists, fine, find a capitalist religionist with a dick to measure.

            Why you're laying all this crap at my feet, I've no idea. You have pretty convincingly mistaken a) what I think and b) that I care.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            In terms of Luke's confused geography. Yes, in fact, it seems unlikely that any of the synoptic authors had a good idea of detailed Galilean geography. In particular, Mark has some problems, which we infer from the routes he describes, which turn out to be illogical. Matthew and Luke have their own issues, and don't correct Mark.

            There's some problems with building too big an argument on this, however. We are inferring their geographies from the routes they describe Jesus taking, and the direction he arrives/leaves in. This has been challenged, because there are reasons we all travel odd routes sometimes. But still, a majority of scholars conclude that none of the synoptic authors, in particular Mark and Luke, had a good knowledge of the regional geography.

            Personally I think it very unlikely that either of them had any first hand knowledge of the village of Nazareth. Mark clearly thinks it is a place, so if it isn't, and was originally a status designator, we can at least say that it had morphed to be misunderstood as a place name by the time he wrote. The NT evidence suggests that Nazareth as a place was a fairly old tradition, (old in terms of early Christianity). It absolutely can't tell us much about what happened before GMark was written.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            ... and finally the title 'Jesus of Nazareth' (Ἰησοῦ Ναζαρηνέ) we first have in GMark, and Mark is unambiguous that it is a place name. It is missing from Paul, but appears in our second-earliest source on Jesus. So again, as a title and as a place name, it is relatively pretty early.

          • arkenaten

            You see, you seem to love verbosity.
            Let's cut to the chase. I raised the initial objection about no evidence simply because the thread was meandering about over the linguistics of the name.
            This is like arguing over the dynamics of Santa's sleigh as if it were real when we all know there is no Santa.
            If you are unaware of what value Josephus brings to the Nazareth debate then maybe you should research it.

            Marrying the scriptural description with archaeological evidence is an impossible task simply because the gospel descriptions are of a fictitious village/town/city (take your pick)

            And as there was no biblical Nazareth it follows there was no biblical Jesus of Nazareth.

            I hope this is succinct enough?

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            It is, and if you'd demonstrated your circular reasoning initially i'd have dismissed you straight off.

            Marrying the scriptural description with archaeological evidence is an impossible task simply because the gospel descriptions are of a fictitious village

            Those of us who care about doing scholarship to find stuff out, however can carry on trying to figure what the evidence actually says and go from there.

            As I initially said folks who start with "there is no evidence for X", never, in my experience, turn out to be genuinely interested in anything but their predetermined conclusions.

            I agree with you, the biblical character of Jesus was an invented character, who rapidly became such a religious and cultural bandwagon that the whole of the history of the Levant is skewed in bizarre ways around his myth. Including Nazareth, perhaps especially so. But that is no reason to adopt the most egregious tactics of pseudo-scholarship in untangling the actual evidence we have. If there was a settlement at Nazareth in the early first century, so what, why would you care? I'm sure Christians will jump up and down about how it proves Jesus, but if they do they are idiots. Christians make all kinds of idiotic arguments to justify their beliefs. The question of the dating of early Roman finds in Nazareth is an archaeological one, nothing else. If you are unaware of how useless reading the Jewish war is to dating pottery fragments by their shape and decoration, then maybe you should research that!

            Sometimes verbosity is needed. Simple answers may make you feel good about sticking it to the man, but the real world is complex. If all you're interested in is being able to prove Christians wrong and feel clever by reading Salm and Doherty, that's fine.

            But real people with a real ounce of integrity do study this period and these texts with a view to understanding them. And the bravado and cluelessness of people who purport to be on their side is embarrassing, frankly.

          • arkenaten

            But real people with a real ounce of integrity do study this period and these texts with a view to understanding them. And the bravado and cluelessness of people who purport to be on their side is embarrassing, frankly.

            Smile, you thought I was referring to pottery fragments and the jewish war did you? Oh well....

            The trouble is those with the vested interest have a nasty habit of drowning out "real people".

            For some reason we seem to be talking past each other and I am now not sure what point you are trying make , other than vaguely defend the Nazareth hypothesis and get all pissy because I stated there was no archaeological evidence for a biblical Nazareth.

            Surely this is the basis to start from?
            Or go even further back and focus on the character 'Moses'.
            The historicity of the character Jesus depends as much on archaeological evidence as it does textual.
            The fictitious biblical village of Nazareth is crucial in rubbishing the erroneous title Jesus of Nazareth and to that aim I would thought anyone seeking truth and eventual closure on this matter would have avidly pursued.

            Continually including Nazareth in any dialogue as if it were real merely adds credence to its claimed status as the hometown of the man god.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            Okay, thanks for resetting the tone of the discussion. I'm unduly cranky at the moment, and have been unhelpful. So I'm glad to have chance to be civil again.

            My point in citing archaeological detail is that there is a genuine question about when settlements were inhabited on the hill at Nazareth. We know for basically certain that there was settlement in the middle Roman period (well after Jesus). But we also have a bunch of Roman material culture, and footings and pits which appear to be from earlier Roman periods. Credentialled experts in the subject generally seem to agree that some of these finds are from at least the late first century, and they are consistent with early first century dates. So, in that very specific sense, there is evidence that a settlement Nazareth existed at the time of Jesus. It is important not to just erase that careful detailed work. Because if we do , we're no better than the creationists who just use derision to dismiss the detailed scholarship of biologists.

            Now, the Nazareth tourist board, of course, would *love* these finds to be from the early first century. They would love nothing better to find a big 1st century find and turn it into a museum so Christians can come and "see where Jesus slept" (no matter how absurd that would be). They fund a lot of the IAA digs, because of that. Lots of the properties in Nazareth are owned by Christian groups (for obvious sentimental reasons), and they love digs on their land for buried Jesuses too. So the whole thing is bizarre, and twisted. Nazareth is getting *far* to much attention for what it is. And it gets that attention because of the myth of Christ and what i means to people (and their wallets). BUT! That *cannot* be allowed to undo any finds or scholarly conclusions that actually come from the area. From a schadenfreude perspective its amusing that with all this interest in the area, at best they've found a tiny hamlet rather than the 'city' claimed by the bible. But if they genuinely have found early 1st century material, it is disingenuous to be hyper-skeptical about the scholarly consensus, just because we don't want to give quarter to religionists.

            There's also a similar question about the use of Nazareth in the biblical texts, one I've discussed in detail below, and one I know more about than the archaeology. But here, also, there is evidence that Nazareth was considered a place name from the earliest sources we have. It might not be very good evidence, it certainly isn't a lot of evidence. But a reasonable person has to consider it. It can't just be ignored or scoffed out of existence. One can say "the totality of the evidence sits more comfortably with the idea that Nazareth was first a religious designator that later came to be thought of as a place" (I don't agree with that conclusion, but it is a reasonable conclusion, and there are good scholars who do come to it), but you don't have to pretend that the evidence is clear cut, when those who actually deal with the evidence in detail don't think it is.

            That's my problem. I got all pissy with you because I get into pissy conversations with Christians and creationists all the time who use that kind of whitewashing tactics. As you say the real scholarship gets drowned out in the politicking and grandstanding.

            And I really don't think the other side (us, atheists and skeptics) of the argument needs to engage in the same tactics. There is plenty enough ammunition in the truth, without pretending things that aren't ideal for our opinion don't exist, or can't make our life harder.

            Continually including Nazareth in any dialogue as if it were real merely adds credence to its claimed status as the hometown of the man god.

            But pretending Nazareth is clearly fictional in a conversation about the textual evolution of its use in the NT just begs the question.

            That's my concern, and why I reacted badly initially.

            Sorry for that, and sorry for the continued verbosity!

          • arkenaten

            So, in that very specific sense, there is evidence that a settlement at Nazareth existed at the time of Jesus. Weak evidence, but significant enough that professionals in the field take it into consideration.

            Sorry, but this raised a red flag for me.

            Which professionals are you referring to?

            I am unaware of anyone digging in this area other than those that were on the Pfann dig of a few years ago and the rather inflammatory statements concerning 'house remains from the time of Jesus' ( that were quickly covered over and built upon.

            If there have been more recent discoveries I would be very happy for you to share such.

            But pretending Nazareth is clearly fictional in a conversation about the textual evolution of its use in the NT just begs the question.

            But not stating that the village is likely a narrative construct to place the biblical character of Jesus is is misleading.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            Which professionals are you referring to?

            I've been asking around friends and colleagues. I stress again, I'm parotting second hand information, because I am not an archaeologist. This paper by Ken Dark

            http://centaur.reading.ac.uk/29782/1/Ken%20Dark%20Nazareth%20paper%20from%20Ant%20J%20.pdf

            was mentioned a couple of times as a survey of the Convent site, and some good links to the history of archaeology of Nazareth. Dark has also worked on the surrounding valley (significant because you can trace road networks, and crucially you typically don't have to demolish properties to dig like you would in central Nazareth).

            The Pfann dig was a legitimate dig. The IAA logged several finds of pottery.

            I am unaware of anyone digging in this area

            The IAA has issued 9 season licenses for digs in and around Nazareth in the last five years, not counting digs on places within Nazareth that I wouldn't know the names of (if any). Some of those are duplicates for multi-year digs (licences are issues each year). Most of them were sponsored by the IAA. I'm at home, so I can't do the legwork, but if you have access to an academic library you should be able to view the field reports.

            The reports in the press are silly yes. But they are for any archaeology in the area. A find on the Sinai desert will always arrive in the press as the place where the ten commandments were given, a site in the fertile crescent could be the Garden of Eden, or (if on a hill) Noah's ark, etc.

            It is sloppy, but comes back to the PR use of the archaeology, vs what the finds actually say. It is doubly important, I think, that we try to consider the evidence on its own terms, rather than fitting it into our preferred framework.

            But not stating that the village is likely a narrative construct to place the biblical character of Jesus is is misleading.

            Is it likely? I'm personally not convinced it is a narrative construct, I think the texts suggest it is, at the very least, a tradition that GMark inherits, and the bizarre and contradictory girations of GLuke and GMatt suggest to me that Nazareth as a location is pretty firmly foundational by the 80s CE. As I've said, the earliest source has it unambiguously as a place, and later texts interpret it to be some kind of prophecy or status designator, the use of the term Nazarene as a Christian designator is put on the lips of *enemies* in Acts, and only attested as a self designation much later still, and the arguments for association with Hebrew or Aramaic terms are largely synphonic. For all those reasons, I think it isn't 'likely' that it is a narrative construct. It may be, but the evidence we have seems to suggest the development went in the opposite direction.

          • arkenaten

            Well, until the likes of Devers or Finkelstein or any archaeologist without a vested interest gives it the okay then the evidence for a biblical Nazareth is non existent.

            I have a copy of the Nazareth farm report.

            Did nobody ever wonder why Eusebius never visited the place?
            Why Josephus makes no mention of it, and he lived just down the road in Yapha?

            The tenth legion under Titus would have marched right by it ...and no mention.

            Luke is supposed to be a good historian.
            Really? Based on his description I wouldn't have even asked him to do my GCE history paper at school.

            People are slowly coming around to the fact that Moses and the Exodus etc is fiction, eventually they will be forced to
            confront Nazareth as a similar fiction.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            Your description of where archaeology is, seems pure fantasy to me, I'm afraid.

            Among scholars there is simply to controversy over the existence of Moses and the Exodus, and very little, in fact, over the historical accuracy of the bible up until the return from exile, i.e. among scholars it is much worse for Christians than perhaps you are aware of. But there are actual digs and actual material culture from a settlement at Nazareth. The question is merely one of dating those layers.

            Why would Finkelstein, a bronze age archaeologist, be 'giving it the okay' and what is 'it': the dating of pottery fragments? the stratigraphy of the site? In what possible forum would he do so? In a popular work? Maybe it is worth reading Israel's book, because he is pretty clear about how real archaeology is done.

            Similarly for Dever [no s], where do you expect his 'okay' to arrive? Will he give a press conference where he gives his official endorsement to the work of the scholars who are actually working on the subject? Would that not be astronomically patronizing for his colleagues who actually work in the correct subspeciality? Isn't this akin to expecting some evolutionary biologist who wrote a popular science book to 'give the okay' to the work of some geneticist?

            The idea that the material finds from Nazareth simply don't exist until someone who's written a book about the archaeology of Bronze Age or Neolithic Israel 'gives it the okay', is utterly bizarre. Can you not see that?

            And what, specifically, is Ken Dark's vested interest? Would you mind laying out why he is incapable of giving a scholarly opininon on the topic? Or is it just that you've not heard of him, or he hasn't written a popular book about the lack of evidence for the Exodus, (despite being a Roman / Byzantine archaeologist) and therefore is clearly not willing to stick it to the faithful?

            Why would the dates of inhabitation of Nazareth be a similar archaeological question to whether the Exodus occurred, or whether there was a Moses?

            Scholarship simply doesn't work that way. It would be bizarre if it did.

            Your view of how scholarship works seems to be at the level of polemic of mythicist literature. I'd suggest if you are actually interested in the topic, taking a continuing ed class in archaeology, so you can find out more about how scholarship works, and the kinds of questions that are being asked, and the way they are expected to be answered.

            Perhaps, as earlier in the thread, you see yourself as paying attention to 'difficult details' that Christians miss in their whitewashing. Probably true, but that's not what I'm talking about by details. Details in archaeology is the actual data, the position of finds, their shape, their context in other layers, their function and what that says about patterns of inhabitation. Similarly with texts, the details are at a much lower level than "Luke was a bad historian". It is about actually reading the texts, seeing the forms of words, as they change, the variants among manuscripts, the dating of those texts.

            Such things can tell us a lot. And from everything I know, such things support your case. So please don't get into defensive mode about this. To ignore or sweep away the details just gives people who are aware of the reality and excuse to ignore you.

            Perhaps that doesn't matter. Perhaps your main target is Christians with a naive and simple view of the world. In which case your rhetoric might be fine. But please be aware that bringing that rhetoric to people who want to discuss the detailed case isn't helpful.

            This, I think, is why Carrier is the first interesting voice in mythicism. Because he at least understands this and can drop down to the appropriate level. Whether he can defend his thesis at that level, remains to be seen, I look forward to his book.

          • arkenaten

            But there are actual digs and actual material culture from a settlement at Nazareth. The
            question is merely one of dating those layers.

            Yes, of course there are ''actual digs'' and have been since

            Bagatti. What an odd thing to say?

            However, based on all current evidence, there is no archaeological material from an actual settlement that could be construed as a biblical Nazareth from the time of the character Jesus.

            Although I would be interested to know where you have gleaned this from to make such a bold claim?

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            Did you read the paper I linked to, or look at the find catalogues from the 2009-2010 digs? There is material from the roman period. It isn't conclusive this is early Roman or hasmonean, but it can certainly be construed as being from the correct time. You haven't said why you think Dark is indelibly intellectually compromised, and so his scholarship should be disregarded until a Bronze age popular archaeologist can rule on the matter.

            What on earth is a 'biblical Nazareth'? Nazareth is a place, it may or may not have been occupied in the first half of the first century of the CE. That is a question that will be answered based on material culture recovered from the digs.

            If a settlement was occupied then, would this be the 'biblical Nazareth' - I've no idea what would constitute a 'Biblical Nazareth'. Luke thinks Nazareth was a city, no archaeologist believes that. So no, GLuke's 'biblical' Nazareth didn't exist. Mark just says Jesus came from a place called Nazareth and taught in the synagogue. What would constitute a 'biblical' Nazareth that met that criteria? The discovery of a synagogue? The whole question is bizarre and meaningless. The question of the dates that the settlement at Nazareth was occupied is a scholarly question.

            You didn't answer all my other questions.

          • arkenaten

            Let me be brief as this is becoming tiresome and with no definitive agreement in sight I am becoming frustrated by your reluctance to address the core issue regarding Nazareth.

            1. There is nothing official that states the settlement is from the time of the supposed character Jesus of Nazareth. Nothing.
            The finds, what little there is does not suggest a settlement at all.
            What material that has been recovered, a few pottery shards some coins are not automatically indicative of settlement and could easily be transient material.

            The funerary oil lamps are just that...found at the site of the tombs.

            2.Nothing from Pfann's digs regarding Nazareth has, to my knowledge, ever been peer reviewed or submitted to a recognised scholarly publication.
            There is only the farm report.

            3. No archaeological statement pertaining to Nazareth that I am aware of has ever stated categorically that it existed directly before or during the time of Jesus' supposed ministry.

            4.

            What on earth is a 'biblical Nazareth'?

            As described in the bible. Time, location, topography, size demographics etc.
            Nazareth is a place constructed around the title of the erroneous messiah.

            People have been digging in the area for how long?
            Has any definitive conclusion been drawn from all the activity regarding Nazareth?
            No.

            If it were not for the sake of Christian interests - and now of course Israeli tourist interests and the amount of money the States are investing the whole thing would have been summarily dismissed.

            As for Dark. Has he issued a definitive statement regarding Nazareth existing during the time of the character Jesus?
            Maybe you have read one. I haven't.

            Let's consider we are done for now, okay?

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            1. There is nothing official that states the settlement is from the time of the supposed character Jesus of Nazareth. Nothing.

            You keep sneaking these words in: what does 'official' mean? Who decides if something is official Finkelstein and Dever?

            I've linked to peer reviewed research that shows that at a dig in Nazareth pottery fragments, a spindle, the footing of a house, and water courses were found dating from the early Roman period, and indicate a building, most likely a residence of the time. You continue to say there is no evidence, or accuse the archaeologist of malpractice, but this is published, peer reviewed research. You can't ignore it. You might come to a different conclusion based on it, but it is not nothing.

            How is that any different to creationists who, when pointed to peer reviewed results in biology continue to insist none exist?

            2. Why are you going on about Pfann? I get he is the star of whatever website debunking Nazareth you happened to have read, but really. The IAA has logged several early Roman finds from the IMC dig, but those finds have not yet been published. You want to build a conspiracy theory off that? Perhaps you'd like to mention how many other of the IAA's >50 licenses for archaeological digs in 2009 have not yet been published?

            3. No, of course. No archaeological statement will say anything categorically when the issue is explicitly the dating of the early roman material and structures. What an odd claim. However, I've referred you to peer reviewed archaeological research that says that parts of the structure found in the dig can be securely dated to the early Roman period. Are you complaining that archaeologists can't give a dating within 10 years? Why would you expect that?

            4. 'Biblical Nazareth' is an apologists errand. At what point would the discovery of 1st century settlement ont he hill at Nazareth meet your criteria. It is easy to throw some hand-wavey criteria around. Can you be specific? How many dwellings, what size, how would you specifically measure demographics, how small a time window? Have you been to Nazareth? If there were, say fifty houses there in the first century, how do you think Archaeologists could locate them?

            You see, its an apologetic question. The archaeological question is different.

            So perhaps you want to say 'there is no archaeological evidence for a pseudo-scholarly claim', true, very true. But that's irrelevant to the question of whether the tradition GMark reports of Jesus being from Nazareth refers to an actual place.

            You're either interested in the actual research or you're not. You're clearly not. In which case saying 'there is no evidence' or saying that the people doing actual work in the digs around there have no ounce of integrity or are ideologically compromised is unfair. Its fine to be a polemicist, but please leave scholars out of your diatribes.

            I'm happy to consider we're done. I'm happy that this discussion stands for anyone who is interested in how archaeology works. If you're into Finkelstein, I'd really recommend reading his book again, for his methodological discussions: he describes the difference between an Archaeological approach and an ideological approach very well. Perhaps you don't think that people opposing Christian claims can be ideological, but it is worth another read, I think.

          • arkenaten

            ..but this is published, peer reviewed research. You can't ignore it. You might come to a different conclusion based on it, but it is not nothing.

            What peer reviewed research from any IAA sponsored or any other early first century dig concerning the Nazareth that the supposed character jesus lived at are you talking about?

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            See there you go again, defining your target in polemic ways so that you can ignore any scholarship on the subject. Now we have to find a dig that is not just at Nazareth, not just at the right time, but is "the Nazareth Jesus lived in". Presumably excluding any other Nazareth the Jesus might have lived in; or a settlement on the location of later Nazareth that might not have been called that at the time; or a Nazareth that is in the right time and place and name but didn't have someone called Jesus living there? Good luck archaeologists! Quite a long way from 'there is no evidence that Nazareth existed'.

            I'm happy for the conversation to stand as is, if you think people will read the above and conclude that there is no evidence for Nazareth at the time of Jesus, then that's fine. I hope people will use their skepticism to beware of pseudo-scholarship, however. I'm happy to leave it to people to make up their own conclusions.

          • arkenaten

            Now we have to find a dig that is not just at Nazareth, not just at the right time, but is "the Nazareth Jesus lived in".

            Truly, I despair of the style of pedantic dialogue you display. What on earth do think the sole reason was for the Catholic Church purchasing the land in the first place? What do you think Bagatti and his Franciscan buddies were looking for?

            What do you truly believe the likes of Pfann and Alexandra have been searching for?

            What do you think was the reason behind them announcing a so -called dwelling ''of Jesus time '' a couple of weeks before xmas 2009? (especially as it had been uncovered weeks before)

            Even Dark mentioned in his paper there was no official report. I hope you read that?

            The initial IAA report differed measurably in its wording and was quickly withdrawn. Only the press release is now available and that's it.

            If you want to ''point score '' your way to what you consider is a debate victory, then so be it. I really couldn't care less.

            Everyone is entitled to an opinion, not their own facts, and those facts that there are do NOT lead to a biblical Nazareth or a Jesus of Nazareth.

            However,If you wish to think there really is evidence for a City of Nazareth, as described in the gospels, super. But all you do is come across as defending a christian leaning perspective.

            And the only reason this is even on the table all boils down to money.

            But, please stop being so naive

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            I'm not being pedantic, I'm trying to get you to understand how actual archaeology is done. And what constitutes archaeological evidence. You seem to be naive about how archaeology works. You seem to think it operates at some grand polemic level, which is untrue.

            If you want to ''point score '' your way to what you consider is a debate victory, then so be it. I really couldn't care less.

            I don't want to point score. I want skeptics, folks who I consider on my side on the issues, to not resort to tactics of pseudo-scholarship and impugning scholars who say things that don't make their arguments easier.

            Look, a while back it seemed that Nazareth was only settled 200 years after the setting of the gospels. This would have made a really cool argument. The problem is, it is clear that is not the case now. So rather than say "oh well, even if there was a settlement there at roughly the right time, it doesn't mean the gospels are any more true", some groups of atheists resort to character attacks on the archaeologists ("not an ounce of integrity" I think you said), and trying to squabble about the definition of Nazareth, etc.

            Who cares? If Nazareth was a village at roughly the right time, it just means that Mark used the name of a village that existed at roughly the right time.

            Folks like Salm claim that the whole thing is a conspiracy and all archaeologists (including Dark, presumably) are conspiring to mis-date everything they find, to lie and falsify records. That is a slander, and the fact that folks who purport to be skeptics are doing it (rather than Creationists, and their ilk who I expect it from) is an embarrassment to me, I'm afraid. So that's why I care.

            I couldn't care less about whether Nazareth was occupied in the early-Roman period. I care very much about the way that ideologically motivated folks feel free to pick-and-choose scholarship and throw around accusations of malpractice at those who's research they don't like.

          • arkenaten

            You attempt to cast aspersions on Salm and his ilk ( I don't jump through their sensational hoops either) and yet you allude that folk like Alexandra and Pfann are somehow beyond reproach and would not smudge the lines?
            They are not and never have been digging in the area merely because it might yield some nice artifacts. No sir.They , like Bagatti began, are looking for evidence to state this is the Nazareth of the bible.
            To suggest there are truly other motivations is naive at best and disingenuous at worst.

            Even if one were to step back a moment and look solely at the facts: at what is known it should be fairly clear that this is a manufactured town for the sake of religious expedience and everything has been done on this basis and where doubt surfaces oblique language and terminology is used that would not be lying but does not tell the real truth, and is enough to sham Christians and non-committals to accept the view Christianity and big business want the public to swallow. Everything that can be done to vindicate their position is good for business.
            Look at the investment figures and revenue from tourism.

            What archaeological finds of this period in question in no way lead to consider a City, town or hardly a village - hometown of a Christian saviour/Messiah, and this is what this is ALL about.

            That the area may well have been settled late first century is eminently possible.
            That there was some sort of thriving community let alone a city as per biblical spec is fallacious.

            Even if one were to accept a version of the gradually shrinking Nazareth it rubbishes the biblical description.

            And when one takes into account all the linguistic interpretations, the ridiculous way in which Matthew tried to shoehorn his ''prophecy '' it makes it all look even the more ridiculous.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            I don't think anyone is beyond reproach. But I do think it is important to have a sense of proportion on what you're accusing people of. There are a lot of people involved in archaeology of the period. A conspiracy by a large group of them I don't buy. The accusations of conspiracy are *very* common in any ideologically sensitive field, however. Name one ideologically sensitive area of research where scholars aren't routinely accused of conspiracy to hide the unpalatable truth!

            ---

            So I think perhaps we can be clear that this conversation has forked.

            1. Is the biblical portrayal of the life of Jesus historically accurate?

            No.

            In that sense, Jesus's Nazareth didn't exist. There is no evidence for it.

            Neither did Jesus's Jerusalem, or his Galilee. Jesus's god-man existence is an invention.

            I think that is true.

            2. Scholars try to figure out the history of early Christianity. Not 'whether early Christian texts are historically accurate' (that's point 1). But 'what is the most likely sequence of events that led to the texts and evidence we have'. So we end up with a mythical Jesus Christ, did we end up with that figure by starting with a poorly remembered historical figure and adding layers of celestial myth and story, or did we start with a celestial myth, and add layers of biography and inaccurate historical detail? On the Nazareth story specifically, Christians generally came to be known as Nazarenes, and identified the name with a place in the Galilee. So did we arrive there because Nazareth was the name of a place first and then become the designator? Or was it originally a designator for the Christian movement that was then invented into a place (where later an actual place was settled)?

            That might be 100% irrelevant to you. I agree it is irrelevant to anything that makes Jesus significant in our culture. Because such scholarship starts at the point that Jesus Christ is a myth, and asks how that myth began.

            But point 2 is the question that Carrier is trying to answer in his book. It is the one I was discussing in this thread you responded to. It is the one that the archaeological evidence from Nazareth feeds into.

            Sure, there are Christians (and people who want to sell to them) who take the answers to question 2 and treat it as if it were an answer to 1. So if, for example, we conclude Nazareth went from place->designator, then some Christians will say "Nazareth exists - therefore the resurrection!" Clearly nonsense. But it is just as illogical to say "There was no God-Man Jesus, therefore Nazareth didn't exist." The questions need to be separate, or point 2 cannot be answered.

            Our textual evidence (as described below) suggests Nazareth was first understood as a place, and later as a designator (though it can be interpreted the other way, this is the most natural reading of it, for reasons I describe below). Also the archaeological evidence seems to suggest that there was a settlement at Nazareth in roughly the right time period (certainly much closer to the time period that we'd previously thought). Therefore, I would tentatively suggest the place->designator hypothesis is a little stronger than the designator->place hypothesis. Though I'm not going to reject either, we're always dealing with balances of probability in questions concerning antiquity.

            But if you or anyone else takes that to mean I think the gospels are historically accurate, then you're misunderstanding the question at point 2, and trying to make it change the answer to 1.

            See where I'm coming from?

            The conversation i was having here, and the one Carrier is entering with his book, is 2, not 1. So I thought that's what you were interested in too. If not, sorry about that, this disagreement has been a misunderstanding, I agree with your conclusion on 1.

            I would ask you, though, to try not to read your concern with 1 into the work being done on 2, and thereby accuse people who are genuinely interested in 2 of lacking integrity, because they aren't coming up with answers to 2 that seem the easiest to turn into the right answer to question 1.

            Does any of that make sense?

          • arkenaten

            Archaeologists working on these digs sponsored by those with a vested interest obviously adhere to the belief that the character , Jesus,was

            A) historical and therefore

            B) there is no real reason to suggest /believe that there wasn’t a (some sort of) Nazareth he came from

            As no definitive statement or archaeological evidence has ever been put forward to back such a
            character and/or place of the time indicated in the bible then one is forced to ask what is the motivation behind continually
            issuing ambiguous statements the likes of ‘Jesus' time' as opposed to merely saying mid first century CE

            I don't recall having used the word conspiracy, but you seem to be at pains to be trying to put this word in my metaphorical mouth.

            Yes, Nazareth was likely understood as a place, But this is from an erroneous reading of the gospel as it does not feature in any pre Christian literature, and noone of the early Christian period was even aware of where the “City of Nazareth’’ was situated.

            It is referred to as a City (polis) four times in the bible.

            There is nothing ambiguous about this word.

            Yes, there was a settlement, but not in the time frame that
            the character, Jesus was said to have been walking around, and what evidence has been recovered suggests maybe a single farm rather than even a village.

            Nazareth is an integral part of any Jesus Myth argument.

            No Nazareth –No Jesus of Nazareth.

            And as I have mentioned on several occasions, what facts we
            have should be quite enough that anyone with common-sense will see that the biblical description is a complete fiction:

            Archaeologists maybe digging for remains of a Nazareth settlement but they are not digging for a Nazareth that Jesus lived in as none existed, and for them to tacitly imply what they have found is of Jesus time/era or whatever word
            they wish to use is disingenuous.

            There has to come a time when a much more inclusive view of this Jesus of Nazareth is taken into consideration.
            When the fictional Moses/Exodus is eventually acknowledged by mainstream Judaism its impact on Christianity and Islam will be far-reaching and maybe all this to-ing and fro-ing over Nazareth will prove to be futile.
            Archaeologists the likes of Albright couldn't make jam his Christianity into the reality of archaeology and I suspect that a similar scenario will eventually manifest over Nazareth and much of the biblical nonsense.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            But again you're just making claims that don't match the pubiished evidence.

            You can say "but not in the time frame that the character, Jesus was said to have been walking around," but, that is contradicted by the evidence. When faced with this you've previously tried to nuance what 'biblical Nazareth' or 'Nazareth of Jesus' meant. Now you're back to making untrue claims about the dates of occupation of a settlement at Nazareth.

            Archaeologists maybe digging for remains of a Nazareth settlement but they are not digging for a Nazareth that Jesus lived in as none existed,

            Indeed, you've given the same tautology before. A foregone conclusion. Fair enough, but misses the point I'm trying to make.

            No point going around this again, if you want to keep insisting the same things, I'll keep insisting you look at the actual archaeology. So perhaps it is worth letting anyone who stumbles on this discussion look things up themselves and see who's telling the truth.

          • arkenaten

            What published evidence!

            I have looked at the evidence as reported.
            What on earth are you looking at?

            making untrue claims about the dates of occupation of a settlement at Nazareth.</blockquote?

            What untrue claims?

            Dark does NOT say anything pertaining to a Nazareth Jesus may have lived in.

            And Alexandra?

            Give me a link, a peer reviewed paper an official IAA report ANYTHING that states this is the City or town or even village that Jesus probably lived in around the turn of the century.

            Are you even aware of what has actual actually been recovered by Alexandra? Have you read the Nazareth farm report?

            Do you appreciate the significance of the funerary lamps and the tombs?

            The wine press etc?

            Are you even aware of the post publication amendment to the farm report because of factual errors?

            Or are you merely giving a cursory read of the link you provided?

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            I gave a link to a peer-reviewed published paper detailing evidence of occupation from the early Roman period in Nazareth.

            Anyway, I get that you don't think that evidence is good, or means what they claim, or whatever. I don't think we need to go around your doubts again. I acknowledge your dismissal of what I've presented, and I think you've expressed them in several different ways. As I've tried to express why I think your dismissal is unfair or misdirected. Clearly I'm not convincing you, and vice versa. Shall we leave it there? Unless you have a new angle you want to pursue.

          • arkenaten

            Dark's paper makes no allusions to what you are implying - the possibility that there existed a settlement when the character Jesus was supposed to have lived.and I already mentioned that he brought up Alexandra's claim and was explcit that no official statement is available as it was withdrawn soon after the discovery, leaving only the inflammatory and ambiguous press release in circulation.

            I will state one final time.
            The meagre amount of artifacts recovered in the area do not presuppose there was a settlement that could in any way be construed as a city, town or even a village.
            At best there may have been a small single family farm.

            This evidence alone refutes any claim pertaining to a biblical Nazareth.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            God, do we have to go through this again, haven't you made those claims already, before we had a long discussion about dating and time periods and so on, and what you'd expect to find if there were a village there?

            As for what you say Dark says, the paper is linked, people can read what he actually says. I've read it, I think you're being tendentious and imagining things. Dark describes the IMC dig, but the results he presents are from his own dig.

            Really, I get your point. I think it is a lousy one. I think you've stated that your conclusion is foregone twice now. Do we have to do it again?

          • arkenaten

            You see, your whole approach is ambiguous and seems to be argumentative just for the sake of it.

            You continually sidestep the points raised pertaining to Alexandra and even Bagatti.

            I cannot even work out what you are trying to defend, or why?

            You did take notice of what Dark said about Alexandra's report, yes or no?

            If Carrier's point of a lack of historicity to Jesus is true, and there is enough evidence or lack thereof for it to merit credence then there is little point in any of the Nazareth digs that have been going on for years.

            If you actually have a point that is diametrically opposed to what I have been saying then please, for the sake of any god you fancy, spit it out in a single paragraph or preferably less.
            Are you able to do that?

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            Okay, brevity is a problem for me. Particular as you raise several questions. Sorry. I'll try.

            I am defending the idea that there is evidence that a settlement was present at Nazareth in the first half of the first century, which I take to be the scholarly equivalent to "the time of Jesus", a phrase I've never used here, i don't think.

            That's all I'm saying. If you think that I'm defending the historical accuracy of the bible, then I'm happy to tell you I'm not, and never have been anywhere on this post. Either with you, or with the other folks I've talked to.

            ---

            I agree that if Carrier's Christ Myth theory is true then it makes the existence of Nazareth moot

            If Nazareth was genuinely only founded as a town much later, then it supports the idea that GMatt preserves an earlier tradition than GMark about what Nazareth is. Which in turn helps the Christ Myth hypothesis.

            But the converse is not true, even if there is a small settlement at Nazareth in the early Roman period, it doesn't mean the Christ Myth hypothesis is wrong.

            It just makes it more likely that Mark is name checking a place. It most certainly doesn't mean that the bible suddenly becomes historically accurate. We know, even if it were a place, that the gospel writers are unfamiliar with it, for reasons I've described in detail elsewhere on this thread.

            I personally find the Christ Myth hypothesis unlikely. Or at least, less likely than other possibilities. But my reasoning is detailed, just as Carrier's reasoning in support of it is (or I expect it to be, when the book comes out). But please don't interpret me as saying that I think therefore the bible is historically accurate, or that what we know about the period in any way supports Christian doctrine.

            ---

            Alexandre and Bagatti:

            The Christmas press release where Alexandre [not -a] was quoted saying "the time of Jesus" was tendentious, yes, and as it turned out, the conclusions at that time were early or mid-Roman. I'm reluctant to read into this foul play on behalf of her, given that it was the official statement of her organisation that put a better and wider range of time on the finds.

            Bagatti was motivated in his search by his faith? Yes. He didn't find the Nazareth he wanted to find? Yep. He thoroughly excluded the claim that Nazareth was a city or even a town of any notable size? Yes. This torpedoes the idea that the gospel writers were portraying Nazareth accurately? Yes (though that's hardly news, we also can conclude they were inaccurate for other reasons).

            ---

            I don't have a point that is diametrically opposed to you. No. I've said I agree with your conclusions on the historicity of the biblical Jesus. But to me, that is a separate question to whether you are presenting the scholarship, and scholars, fairly and accurately. I don't think you are when you say 'there is no evidence'.

            I am asking for you to do understand and acknowledge the evidence (such as it is), and to present it fairly.

            --

            any god you fancy

            No, thanks. For the avoidance of doubt, I am an atheist.

          • arkenaten

            I am asking for you to do understand and acknowledge the evidence (such as it is), and to present it fairly.

            The onus on fair presentation lies with the archaeologists, surely?

            It is their job to present the material in as honest and unbiased manner.

            To suggest that the archaeologists who have been digging in this area for all this time, from Bagatti have had any other motivation that did not include the bible and specifically the character Jesus is to believe Egyptologists examine the great Pyramids solely because they are nice pointy buildings.

            Jesus & the New Testament is Nazareth's whole raison d'etre.

            But to me, that is a separate question to whether you are presenting the scholarship, and scholars, fairly and accurately. I don't think you are when you say 'there is no evidence'.

            Let me rephrase the sentence, 'there is no evidence' ;something I maybe should have done at the onset of this dialogue.
            I thought the rider was implied but we have been dancing to different tunes and obviously you are looking for a more definitive understanding of what I wrote
            So...

            There is and never has been nor will be any evidence that portrays the biblical Nazareth before the turn of the first century or beyond and anything that might suggest it was a city or established settlement as described in the bible.

            There never was a Nazareth that Jesus lived at.

            Even if there was a character called Yeshua he never lived in any place called Nazareth as this was established later.

            The word Nazareth does not feature in any pre christian literature and any allusion to the word likely referred to a Jewish sect and not coming from anywhere

            In other words, there is no connection with the Nazareth archaeologists are/have been digging for and the bible.

            None.

            I sincerely hope this was succinct enough as I am knackered.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            "I am knackered." - me too, and on the road, so typing is a pain.

            "any allusion to the word likely referred to a Jewish sect" - now you're in the textual area where I do know more. I think you're wrong, (though it is impossible to say 100% either way) as I've explained below. There is no evidence(!) GMatt preserves an earlier tradition that GMark here, despite being later. There is no evidence for a sect of Judaism of that name at the time. Christians came to be called that by the end of the century, but the earliest text has Nazareth portrayed as a place only, nothing else. That doesn't mean it was a place, but we have only two allusions to Nazareth as something other than a place, neither are in GMark, compared to tens of uses as a place in the synoptics. The linguistic argument isn't a good one, based on the most common etymologies suggested into Hebrew, Aramaic, and Syriac. Scholars are divided on this, but I know enough greek and semitics to form an opinion. And I think you're wrong. Some scholars would agree with you (conservative catholic and evangelical scholars in particular, incidentally, for reasons I don't have time to describe), and I respect that position. We can get into the scholarship, I'll have more time next week. Or not, if the conversation is tedious.

            Thanks for clarifying. Glad we got some kind of understanding, if not agreement!

          • arkenaten

            "any allusion to the word likely referred to a Jewish sect" - now you're in the textual area where I do know more. I think you're wrong, (though it is impossible to say 100% either way) as I've explained below.

            Well then, as well read as you are you are merely voicing an educated POV and, sadly, have no more evidence that the archaeologists.

            But common sense...ah, now this is where people don't want to go.
            It is my understanding the the original designated title of Yeshua was:
            Jesous o Nazoraios which meant Jesus the Nazarene.

            No Nazareth here, right?

            As you have studied the texts then you will be aware of the gnostic gospel of Phillip and what it had to say?

            I always thought the Nazarenes were a sect of the Essenes?
            And of course there is this naughty little verse that the writer of Matthew misquoted or mistranslated to suddenly make it a fulfillment of prophecy.

            "And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene."

            – Matthew 2.23.

            CITY see?

            And where might he have got this idea?

            "For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines."

            – Judges 13.5.

            When taken into consideration with every other anomaly,
            not least Matthew's virgin birth narrative and the cock up that caused, then no matter which way one tries to justify it it simply wont fit.

            As one of the characters on the movie Life of Brian says:

            "He's making it up as he goes along"

            Maybe this is a bit of a sweeping statement to apply to genuine scholars ( or at least scholars who genuinely believe they are as honest as the day is long) but I truly believe they and everyone else have been suckered along by the keepers of the faith.

            Besides, as an atheist you should have already accepted Finkelstein's appraisal of Moses etc and this well and truly piddles on Christianity, and especially everything related to Jesus of Nazareth(sic)

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            On this point, the evidence is for me. Of 30+ references in the texts of the NT, only 2 suggest anything other than a place.

            There are various ways to say Jesus of Nazareth, GMark has Ἰησοῦν ζητεῖτε τὸν Ναζαρηνὸν (Jesus who lives in Nazareth), σὺ μετὰ τοῦ Ναζαρηνοῦ (he who is from Nazareth), Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲτ τῆς Γαλιλαίας (Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee). The form you mention is particularly associated with Acts, i.e. after the purported resurrection.

            See my detailed comments on the sequence. Reading Nazarene as a status or sect designator is only suggested by the prophecy in GMatt, but the other half dozen times in Matt it is clearly a place, e.g. : Οὗτός ἐστιν [a]ὁ προφήτης Ἰησοῦς ὁ ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲθ τῆς Γαλιλαίας. (This is the prophet Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee) and the earliest source has Nazareth as a place only. The form you mention isn't the earliest the earliest reference we have are those in Mark. Mark is not ambiguous at all that it is a place.

            Philip is gnostic and much later, 3rd century. By that time we known Christians were called Nazarenes, but they don't start calling themselves that until the second century (there's a crinkle to that in Acts, but that's another rabbit hole). I think I mentioned this above. I've gone through this on the thread somewhere.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            Don't just connected Nazarite with Nazareth because they sound the same. That way lies foolishness. A case can just about be made to connect them, but it isn't a good one. Jesus was not a Nazirite. Or at least, the portrayal in the gospels is a long way from what we know Nazirites were. John, however, could possibly be a Nazirite.

          • arkenaten

            And the supposed fulfilled prophecy from the verse in Judges?
            I notice you didn't bring this up.
            Whats your take on this?

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            Another comment below, sorry for the multiples.

            Matt has been linked to this passage by Christians desperate to have Matt's 'prophecy' be an actual part of the OT, but it is highly tendentious. Jesus isn't a Nazirite, there is no solid linguistic connection between Ναζωραῖος and ναζιρ (the word in Judges). If Matt had meant Nazirite, he could have easily said it, to invent a new word that sounds a bit the same is odd. Jesus's status as a Nazirite is not used again in early Christian tradition (though several other members of the early church explicitly do take Nazirite vows, and the word used is never the word used by Matt).

            For all those reasons, I think evangelicals are wrong in thinking Matt is quoting Judges here. I think Matts weasel words introducing the 'quote' indicate he's making it up.

            There are other suggestions people have made for what Matt means by Ναζωραῖος, incidentally. Including 'branch' (as of branch of David), magician (from an Aramaic root), and so on. Still, doesn't change the fact that Matt's 'prophecy' does not appear to be what Nazareth originally means. Or at least, we have no evidence of its use before that verse, but many examples of Nazareth's use as a place name by Matt and Matt's main source, Mark.

          • arkenaten

            I am no scholar, but the translation seems to favour Jesus the Nazarene rather than Jesus of Nazareth.

            Of the 31 times the various words appear 19(?) times the terms Nazarene or Nazorean are used rather than Nazareth.

            Your take is worthy of consideration but it is not cut and dried; if it were there would not be so much contention.

            Again, taking everything else into consideration I am of the mind that it is a sham, and each Synoptic writer merely added to the myth.

            The texts were rewritten and suffered from interpolation, and Luke did his famous 'number/ and invented his city and Christians and their cohorts have been trying to shoehorn
            archaeology to somehow make the texts look halfway respectable with all the theological two step they are mst adept at

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            the terms Nazarene or Nazorean are used rather than Nazareth

            Indeed, but be careful of relying on the Christian translation. There are five different terms, and they are translated into two different English terms. Some of them translated Nazarene very clearly mean the place (as I showed), there's only Ναζωραῖος which we're actually debating, at that appears 6 times in the gospels.

            The view you're leaning to is the one favoured by many Christians, particular conservative Christians. So be careful not to just take the linguistic tricks they play at face value!

            Your take is worthy of consideration but it is not cut and dried; if it were there would not be so much contention.

            No, indeed. It is absolutely a complex linguistic puzzle. I think my view is most likely right, based on the work I've done, and I'm certainly not alone in that. Many scholars think that, particularly those on the minimal end of the spectrum (i.e. those who think there is little or no historical accuracy in the NT). But there are scholars who back a wide range of positions. So anyone with any sense has to concede it is in no way cut and dried.

            I am of the mind that it is a sham

            Doesn't surprise me! I think it is a sham too. But that's not the point. It can be a sham if the transmission history was designator->place as easily as place->designator. Again, one must separate the narrow, geeky, rather irrelevant scholarly question, from the important question of historicity, which isn't affected much either way by the conclusion of the academic question.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            each Synoptic writer merely added to the myth.

            Just a note on that, notice that Ναζωραῖος is not in the earliest gospel, Mark. And by the latest gospel, John, it appears 3 times. So if each synoptic writer added to the myth it is more likely they were adding this than this being original and them adding Nazareth the place (which is very explicitly in Mark).

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            Last thought on this for now:

            "the translation seems to favour Jesus the Nazarene rather than Jesus of Nazareth."

            I can't agree, and I can't imagine any greek scholar agreeing. In some cases you can certainly translate it Nazarene, (even then I have qualms about thinking that two different greek words mean the same 'Nazarene'), and I would translate it as that at some points too. But in others you have prepositions or verbs like ζητεῖτε, μετὰ, ἀπὸ. There's just no way that means 'Jesus the Nazarene' in the way you mean. And no translator will render it that way.

            The argument doesn't rest on the fact that some parts can be read in both ways, but that other parts cannot be read both ways, and clearly refer to a place.

            As I said before, you appear to be making an argument that no scholar would want to make. Your conclusion is a reasonable one, but it is based on the idea that the change happened before GMark, not that it happened during the creation of the synoptics, and certainly not that the synoptics were later rewritten to add the place. That's not totally impossible, but its unnecessary, there are much less convoluted ways for you to be right!

          • arkenaten

            I can't agree, and I can't imagine any greek scholar agreeing.

            Could you cite any other Greek scholars that specialize in such biblical texts that would substantiate your claim?
            Not necessarily doubting merely checking for facts. The ''I can't imagine'' is a bit open-ended.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            You can look through any translation, or commentary. The critical commentary by Collins in the Hermeneia series, or Marcus's commentary for Anchor. Of course, given your latent sketpicim of biblical scholars, that might not be convincing! But really Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲτ τῆς Γαλιλαίας is such basic greek, that if you head into any greek forum and ask them whether Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲτ means that Jesus is part of a group called the Nazarenes, I'm confident you'd get a unanimous answer. (If you ask "could it mean Jesus the Nazarene" you might get some yeses, but clarify if you do, because I bet those people think "the Nazarene" means "of the place Nazareth" which is what you're trying to exclude!).

            ---

            But anyway, I think I should wean myself off this conversation now. I don't think any of this really matters to your conclusion. I'm quite happy with those who want to conclude that Matthew's 'Nazaraios' segues into 'Nazarene' (which there is no doubt comes to be a general term) and preserves an earlier form.

            Carrier is not the only person to conclude that, by a very long shot, even ardent anti-mythicists like James McGrath, who regularly posts against Carrier and other mythicists views, argues for a variation of that idea. So if that sounds convincing to you, then you're in very broad company!

            The only thing I'd say is that your argument is easier than you're perhaps making it. You've no need to propose that it has to be *later* corruption. it could be, but if you're right, the corruption could just be early. Whoever makes up the basic structure of the historical Jesus story to fit the myth needs to put his hometown somewhere, because they want to do the whole 'prophet rejected by his own town' story, because they're setting up the 'prophet rejected by the whole nation' thing at the crucifixion. So they set it in some backwater that nobody could ever check (or even invent Nazareth all together), because there's some word that sounds a bit like it that people already use to talk about the mythical God-man (Nazirite, Nazaraios, Nazarene, Nazir, or some combination, say).

            Then, once it is in Mark, Matthew and Luke can't exactly remove it, so they then have to find ways to put Jesus's birth in Bethlehem, even though the earlier story doesn't mention Bethlehem, and so on.

            That's certainly the model mythicists seem to be suggesting. And it doesn't require any hypothetical editing of the gospels after they are written.

            ---

            On the whole issue of whether Nazareth was invented, Carrier, interestingly, seems to previously have been on-the-fence-leaning-towards-there-being-a-Nazareth.

            http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.co.uk/2009/04/richard-carrier-on-existence-of.html

            I know his thoughts about some of these topics have developed towards the mythicist position since 2009. I'm very much looking forward to his book to see where he is now on several of these topics.

          • arkenaten

            Here's a post I am sure will make youy smile.

            http://thesuperstitiousnakedape.wordpress.com/

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            Which post, that link just goes to the front page of the blog.

          • arkenaten

            Sorry, Ian. This one.
            It isn't directly related to our chat but I am sure you will see the relevance as soon as you start to read.

            http://thesuperstitiousnakedape.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/of-course-what-you-say-is-true-but-we-should-not-say-it-publically-13/

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            Thanks, a good read.

            I know several Christians, including Christian ministers, in the same position over the reality of many NT accounts, including the resurrection. It frustrates me that large numbers of Christians don't believe in the stories, but for some reason there is this veneer of using the language anyway, saying the creeds, singing the songs. Would it be so bad to just be honest?

            I mean, I'm as guilty as anyone of 'playing along' with the Santa myth, and Halloween. But, if there were large numbers of adults who really did believe that Santa came down the chimney, or that ghosts came out on Oct 31, I don't think I'd want to carry on the pretence. I enjoy them partly because we all agree to suspend our common disbelief. I find it bizarre that anyone would call themselves a Christian and not believe.

            Yet I know folks who do, even in my own family. There are a *lot* of Christian atheists, I think.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            Besides, as an atheist you should have already accepted Finkelstein's appraisal of Moses etc and this well and truly piddles on Christianity, and especially everything related to Jesus of Nazareth(sic)

            Moses doesn't piddle on the historicity of Jesus, because they are separate texts from five hundred years apart, written by people with totally different cultures and irreconcilable ideas. Christians like to pretend there is a continuity between the OT and the NT, but that's another lie. But yes, there was no biblical exodus, no biblical Moses. I also think there is basically nothing historical in the bible until the exile. We have corroboration to confirm the basic outline from there, and into the intertestamental books, the Hasmonean war, etc. Though the specific details are often either wrong or unverifiable. The biblical account of Jesus is ahistorical for its own set of reasons. Even if we only had the NT, there'd be plenty of reasons to disregard it as history, the OT doesn't impact it much that I can see.

            Matthew and Luke's nativities are pure theological fabrications. I think it is obvious what they are doing (trying to get someone known for being a Galilean to be born in Bethlehem to fulfil a prophecy). They both do it in different and incompatible ways. Clearly rubbish. But, I have to say, it is more obviously rubbish if you read Nazareth as a place, not a sect. Which is why, I alluded to, evangelical scholars tend to agree with you, that Nazareth was a long-standing sect or status within Judaism.

            Gah! Now I'm spending my afternoon I should be prepping typing long missives very slowly... Maybe you could take pity on me and not reply for a bit? Maybe I should stop checking my email...

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            Just FYI, I have to go awol, so I won't be around to respond to replies for a week or so. So feel free to wrap the convo up with a devastating take down :)

            Thanks for the conversation, though its been frustrating.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            At the risk of comedy verbosity, again, I want to agree with a particular point you made.

            They are not and never have been digging in the area merely because it might yield some nice artifacts. No sir.

            Indeed.

            I'm an example here. I've been studying the new testament texts seriously for 20 years. I learned greek (and Hebrew and a bit of Syriac) to study it better.

            I know other folks who study Homer, and ancient Greek drama, and Mithras, and Zoroastrianism, and the Vedas.

            I'm not studying a collection of greek texts of a first century cult just at random. I am studying them because of their huge, disproportionate significance in our culture.

            That is not to say I study them with deliberate foregone conclusions, or that the scholars who work on these texts do not do so honestly and carefully.

            So I agree with you. But one shouldn't leap from the social reasons why something is studied to conclusions about necessary bias in the results.

          • arkenaten

            Oh, and this is what the term Early Roman Period means when cited by archaeologists.
            This has often led to a certain amount of ambiguity and this is why In was a tad confused by your continual (apparent) reluctance to acknowledge certain aspects of so-called Jesus related claims re Nazareth.

            Hope it helps clear up certain misunderstandings?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaeology_of_Israel#Roman_period

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            Not really, you have to understand what archaeology can do. The styles of construction, goods, decoration change slowly in antiquity. So dating anything is done in periods, often those periods have boundaries that are marked by political change, or else they are boundaries of convenience. Early Roman spans a period of about 150 years, and it is often difficult to pin things down more closely than that. In the research I showed, some features are dated first century, so the second half of the early roman period.

            So it is difficult to say whether the finds from Nazareth dated to the time tradition has Jesus living there, or whether Nazareth was suddenly settled for the first time 10 or 30 years later. If you read my early posts I made this clear: the evidence is good for occupation by the second half of the first century and there are reasons (outlined in the paper I referenced) to think it is earlier (Dark has a detailed explanation of his logic at this point).

            If you are saying "we have no evidence that in the exact year of 6BC, there was a village that was called Nazareth by the surrounding populations, that a person called Jesus lived in" then you're right. But this is a bizarre request, there is no possible way we *could* have such archaeological evidence. It is akin to a creationist complaining that we've never seen a fish turn into a mammal.

            That was not my complaint with your mischaracterisation. My complaint with your naivity was that you ignored the fact that there is evidence that Nazareth existed at the right time. One can quibble with that evidence, push it later or earlier, argue it away in many ways, but one shouldn't pretend it doesn't exist. Because in doing so, you're just content to wallow in pseudo-scholarship.

            Again, a re-read of Finkelstein may help you to understand how archaeology works.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            Incidentally, early Church fathers rather disagreed with you that no Nazareth = no Jesus of Nazareth. They were rather keen to have Nazareth be something beyond a place, i.e. a religious term. Because Jesus was born in Bethlehem, so the Nazareth angle was a bit more inconvenient. Modern fundamentalists are a bit more constrained by their interpretation, so can't wiggle out of GMark as easily, so would be upset if Nazareth didn't exist. But it is always important not to believe the fundies lies that their version of Christianity is old or significant. It is not even 150 years old.

          • josh

            There is no evidence that homeopathy works. There is no evidence that vaccines cause autism. There is no evidence that Joseph Smith spoke Ancient Egyptian. There is no evidence that the US Government was involved in the 9-11 attacks...

            I think you need a better marker of creationist-style thinking.

          • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

            Indeed, but I've rarely had my posts hijacked by anyone making such statements. So the point is not one of syntax, but of context.

    • Randy Gritter

      Why bother concocting this story even then? Why not another angel? Why come out with the most falsifiable lie you can imagine? Make up a census so that anyone anywhere in the Roman empire can find somebody who is older and can confirm or deny that it happened. It you are going to lie that is about the worst lie you could tell. The gospel writers seem to go from being the best liars ever to being the worst liars ever on issue after issue. Or they are simply telling the truth.

      • Ignorant Amos

        The synoptic gospel writers were writing for a parochial audience. An audience that wasn't about to jump up and go research the minutiae of the story they had had written for them. I doubt the first gospel readers were even aware that conflicting versions even existed.

        Do you imagine the gospel authors had any concept that their accounts would be selected from a bag of accounts 3 centuries later and go on to be investigated and held up against the history and geography of the area in question 2 millenia later? I wouldn't have thought so otherwise more of an effort to accuracy might have been employed in their research and sources...which was evidently just about nil.

        The fact that Herod died a number of years before the Nativity is set in one version, or that no such census occurred at all, didn't bother the story writers. The fact that the nonsense in one account was not mentioned in the others account doesn't seem to have bothered the authors. And that none of the nonsense was recorded by earlier writers, Paul and Mark, bothered them even less. Why should misunderstanding words like Nazorean, Nazarene, or whatever the different spelling ya like to choose, from a source with no veracity in and of itself have been of any concern? Concocting theological stories was the norm. It was all about proving to those who'd listen that Jesus was the messiah through prophecy fulfillment.

        I know it's hard to accept, but that is how fiction works. Unless we don't give the authors the benefit and just declare that they were lying to deceive their audience. Who would have even thought such a thing?

        • Randy Gritter

          You are right. It is hard to accept mostly because it makes so little sense. You see Christians believe Christianity is true. If on the one hand they have to make stuff up and change stuff and lie about everything. On the other hand those same people have to live like Christians and reorder their lives around the truth of Christianity. But not just one or two people. These same lies must be told by church leaders in every city around the empire. Nobody should notice.

          • Ignorant Amos

            History is replete with just such examples...yet Christians have no problem crying folly on such examples. Even in these modern times the gullible have been coerced into believing the most ridiculous stuff. First century Jews living in the Palestinian Levant were also believing all other sorts of stuff...why not this cult?

            I'm assuming you have no truck with denying Mormonism, a religion only 200 years old with much of it plagiarized from Christianity by a known charlatan. Or what about Islamism, Christianities baby brother? Scientology is the new boy on the block, yes, I know, it is hocus pocus, but that doesn't prevent it having followers every bit as adherent as Christians who believe it to be true, but whose followers should know better having a lot more intelligence than first century Christians. The popularity fallacy is well understood.

            "Christians believe Christianity is true"

            Which one of the 39,000+ versions is true?

            That is not even the issue at hand. Religions exist. "Mormons believe Mormonism is true", "Hindus believe Hinduism is true", "Zoroastrians believe Zoroastrianism is true"...see how it works. What this debate is about is to whether the character which the religion is founded upon is historical or myth. It matters not to me as I have no investment in the answer per se...but it is interesting all the same.

          • Randy Gritter

            You compare apples and oranges here. Sure religions can change. People can lie. But nobody in Mormonism is supposed to have embrace Mormonism at great personal cost and then changed it radically for no real reason and had nobody notice.

            BTW, the 39,000+ versions of Christianity is a anti-protestant comment. It does not really make sense with Catholics.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Don't cherry pick Randy. Hinduism is allegedly the oldest religion. Hindus had to embrace Hinduism at great personal cost. Muslims too. Never mind apples and oranges, we are talking about religion, Christianity to be precise. Early Christianity was very diverse prior to Nicaea. Those Christians embracing great personal cost were not all singing off the same hymn sheet no matter what you might think.

            BTW, the 39,000+ versions of Christianity is a anti-protestant comment. It does not really make sense with Catholics.

            I'm not interested in whether it makes sense to Catholics or not...it is what it is. There has never, in its history, been one church of Christianity. From the days of Paul to the present. There was never even one universal Catholic church. All that misses the point. Each Christianity believes it is the true Scotsman. By your logic, early Protestants should curry more favour due to their great personal cost. It's a red herring.

          • Randy Gritter

            So what is you point? Hindus had to embrace Hinduism at great personal cost but do they change Hinduism radically while they do so? Early Christianity was very diverse prior to Nicaea? In what sense? When they convened the council of Nicea they knew who their leaders were. Those leaders got together and had remarkable unity. So I am not sure what you are talking about.

            You need to actually understand Catholicism to refute it. The Catholic church is the one, holy, universal, and apostolic church. That is our faith. To simple assert that it is not is to fail to make any argument. It was started at Pentecost. It is the same church that exists today with a continuous succession of popes back to Peter and a a continuous succession of bishops back to the apostles.

          • Ignorant Amos

            So what is you point? Hindus had to embrace Hinduism at great personal cost but do they change Hinduism radically while they do so?

            Did Christianity?

            Early Christianity was very diverse prior to Nicaea? In what sense?

            Did ya read the OP?

            Prior to Nicaea...

            Artotyrite, Ascitans, Encratites, Marcionism, Montanism,
            Valesians, Angelici, Antidicomarianite, Apotactics, Arabici,
            Elcesaites, Gothic Christianity, Novatianism, Arianism‎, Church of Caucasian Albania‎ , Abelians, Circumcellions,
            Colluthians, Collyridianism, Donatism, Meletians,
            Pneumatomachi, Priscillian and Celtic Christianity‎ ... many with many numbers of sub-sects.

            When they convened the council of Nicea they knew who their leaders were. Those leaders got together and had remarkable unity. So I am not sure what you are talking about.

            I don't know what you are talking about. Nicaea was convened by Constantine to repair the rifts between the numerous Christian sects and to unify the churches and to agree on a doctrinal statement. In particular, address the trouble brought about by the Arian controversy and Meletian schism.

            They might have known who was leading who, but they differed in agreement on doctrine.

          • Pofarmer

            Does it matter that the papacy was sometimes bought and sold? Or that there were wars for the Papacy? Or that Popes sometimes posthumously excommunicated other Popes?

          • Pofarmer

            A couple hundred years after the events, when literacy was maximally maybe 10%, how would anyone know?

      • 42Oolon

        I'd really rather hear from a pro-mythicist. I am guessing the response will be that the Christians were calling the Messiah the "Nazorian". Easily by broken telephone this turns into "the man from Nazareth". This story is challenged by Jews who point out that the Messiah must come from the city of David. So someone says maybe his parents had to come there for some reason and the myth develops. That would make sense.

        Anyway, I think historicity is interesting but not as relevant as the supernatural claims. Atheists can easily accept a man named Jesus existed. I just don't believe that if he existed, he was a god.

    • Toadaly

      Once people come to see Jesus as real, it no longer matters whether he was or not. A mythical Jesus that people had come to think of as real, needs to have a story concocted about Bethlehem, just as much as a real Jesus would. What the Bethlehem fabrication does, is establish that Jews who expected the messiah to originate from Bethlehem, had joined Christianity. It doens't tell us anything about whether or not Jesus was historical.

  • Peter Piper

    Jesus was eventually placed in history in mythical tales about him (as was a common trend to do with celestial deities at the time).

    Would you mind giving a few examples of such tales from the time which are comparable to the gospels?

    • Ignorant Amos

      "euhemerization ...a Greek named Euhemerus started the practice of writing stories to place mythical deities in historical settings on Earth. Supposedly, this was based on the assumption that such deities were originally demigods, who walked the Earth as men before ascending to full godhood."

      Romulus and Remus?....Hercules?

      • Peter Piper

        What I was hoping for was a few specific examples of actual texts that I can look up and compare with the gospels, rather than a quote that appears to be from a review of one of Carrier's own talks.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Forget about the review...I quoted it as a definition of the genre and trend Carrier was alluding too.

          Look up Romulus and Remus...

          Look up Hercules...

          "Euhemerus has become known chiefly for a rationalizing method of interpretation, known as "Euhemerism", which treats mythological accounts as a reflection of historical events, or mythological characters as historical personages but which were shaped, exaggerated or altered by retelling and traditional mores. In more recent literature of myth, such as in Bulfinch's Mythology, Euhemerism is called the "historical interpretation" of mythology. Euhemerism is defined in modern academic literature as the theory that myths are distorted accounts of real historical events. Euhemerus was not the first to attempt to rationalize mythology through history, as euhemeristic views are found in earlier writers, including Xenophanes, Herodotus, Hecataeus of Abdera and Ephorus. However, Euhemerus is credited as having developed the theory in application to all myths, considering mythology to be "history in disguise"

          • Peter Piper

            There are lots of texts about Romulus and Remus and about Hercules. That is why I have asked, and am asking again, for specific texts. After all, if I just pick a text at random and find it is nothing like the gospels then I have no idea whether I just chose unluckily or whether they are all like that.

            Do you agree with the characterisation of Euhemerism in the quote I gave above, and if not why not?

          • Ignorant Amos

            After all, if I just pick a text at random and find it is nothing like the gospels then I have no idea whether I just chose unluckily or whether they are all like that.

            Carrier never said they were the same as the gospels. He said mythical tales...

            "Only in his case, Jesus was eventually placed in history in mythical tales about him (as was a common trend to do with celestial deities at the time), and that belief became the most popular (as also commonly happened with celestial deities)."

            Therefore, the trend of turning myth into history was not uncommon for antiquity as you can see with any version of Hercules or Romulus and Remus.

            The few accounts I've looked at do just fine as examples of myth being made to look like history. Try wikipedia or read Carriers books.

            Do you agree with the characterisation of Euhemerism in the quote I gave above, and if not why not?

            Nope.

            "Euhemerism is a rationalizing method of interpretation, which treats mythological accounts as a reflection of historical events, or mythological characters as historical personages but which were shaped, exaggerated or altered by retelling and traditional mores. It was named for its creator Euhemerus. In more recent literature of myth, such as in Bulfinch's Mythology, Euhemerism is called the "historical interpretation" of mythology. Euhemerism is defined in modern academic literature as the theory that myths are distorted accounts of real historical events.Euhemerus was not the first to attempt to rationalize mythology through history, as euhemeristic views are found in earlier writers, includingXenophanes, Herodotus, Hecataeus of Abdera and Ephorus. However, Euhemerus is credited as having developed the theory in application to all myths, considering mythology to be "history in disguise"

            Which I believe the manner in which Carrier was defining it also.

          • Peter Piper

            Carrier's argument only has any force if there were other texts of the time which were examples of Euhemerization and were at least comparable to the gospels. Otherwise it is not plausible that the gospels are examples of Euhemerization.

            If any texts will do, then it should be easy for you to give examples of specific texts, on which we can focus. Please do so. If you do not, I will choose the texts myself and proceed as if any problems with Carrier's argument based on the texts I have chosen are present for all texts you could have picked.

            By the way, and sorry for missing this before, you seem to be mixing up euhemerism (the theory that myths tend to arise from distorted versions of historical events) with euhemerization (the practise of writing stories which place mythical figures in historical contexts). It is a subtle difference, I know, but Carrier is claiming that what took place was euhemerization, and that is the claim that the quote I gave earlier is directed at.

            Nothing in the quote you have given (twice) contradicts the quote I have given. So I must ask once more why you disagree with it.

          • Ignorant Amos

            By the way, and sorry for missing this before, you seem to be mixing up euhemerism (the theory that myths tend to arise from distorted versions of historical events) with euhemerization (the practise of writing stories which place mythical figures in historical contexts). It is a subtle difference, I know, but Carrier is claiming that what took place was euhemerization, and that is the claim that the quote I gave earlier is directed at.

            My first quote and definition from the review...

            "euhemerization ...a Greek named Euhemerus started the practice of writing stories to place mythical deities in historical settings on Earth. Supposedly, this was based on the assumption that such deities were originally demigods, who walked the Earth as men before ascending to full godhood."

            My second quote and definition from the wikipedia entry

            Euhemerism in the modern world...

            "Euhemerus has become known chiefly for a rationalizing method of interpretation, known as "Euhemerism", which treats mythological accounts as a reflection of historical events, or mythological characters as historical personages but which were shaped, exaggerated or altered by retelling and traditional mores. In more recent literature of myth, such as in Bulfinch's Mythology, Euhemerism is called the "historical interpretation" of mythology. Euhemerism is defined in modern academic literature as the theory that myths are distorted accounts of real historical events. Euhemerus was not the first to attempt to rationalize mythology through history, as euhemeristic views are found in earlier writers, including Xenophanes, Herodotus, Hecataeus of Abdera and Ephorus. However, Euhemerus is credited as having developed the theory in application to all myths, considering mythology to be "history in disguise"

            But for all the semantics and to give you peace of mind and keep you content, here is the lay down

            euhemerization:
            1. The interpretation of myths as historical events

            euhemerism
            1. interpretation of myths as traditional accounts of historical persons and events

            Nothing in the quote you have given (twice) contradicts the quote I have given. So I must ask once more why you disagree with it.

            I disagree because the quote misrepresents Carriers position as outlined in my definition example above. The research the reviewer carried out was a wikipedia search, but like many an apologist, he quote mined the bits that suited his argument and omitted the common usage of today. No surprise there then.

            The fact is, mythical characters where given historicity.

            "The ancient Greeks celebrated the festival of the Heracleia, which commemorated the death of Heracles, on the second day of the month of Metageitnion (which would fall in late July or early August)."

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heracles#Greek_mythology

            Doesn't sound to me like the Greeks personification of Hercules was for derogatory ends.

            Remember, Jesus had to be personified and made an historical person for the story to progress. The story requires him to suffer on the cross, not the trait of a deity.

          • Peter Piper

            Until you understand the distinction between euhemerization (a practise which Carrier claims was common at the time the gospels were written) and euhemerism (a theory which may, for all I know, be held by some academics right now) we will not make much progress in this discussion.

            The quote I gave was from the very same article from which you quoted `Carrier's position'. As you might expect, this article does not misrepresent itself. Of course, the quote does disagree with Carrier's position (this is different from misrepresenting it), but that is hardly an objection to it.

            You say that the author of this review `quote mined' and `omitted the common usage'. It is not possible to quote mine without giving a quote: thus it is impossible that this reviewer quote mined wikipedia. I was unable to find any examples of common usage in opposition to what this reviewer said. Please note that the quote you have given has no hope of providing such an example, since it discusses euhemerism rather than euhemerization.

            Your example of a festival commemorating the death of a demigod proves nothing, since it is possible for an account of a death to be given either with or without historical context.

            You say that the logic of the story pushes presentations of it towards a more historical form. How then do you explain the fact that later gospels, such as that of Peter, make Jesus less of a man and more of a demigod?

          • Pofarmer

            What about the stories of Apallonius of Tiana?

          • Peter Piper

            What about them? As far as I know they are about a real guy. Are you suggesting that instead they are examples of Euhemerization (that is, that previously there was a myth of a demigod Appolonius and that the stories about this demigod later had historical context added to them)? If so, what evidence do you have?

          • Pofarmer

            Sorry, I had gotten my terms mixed up.

          • Peter Piper

            No problem.

  • Timothy Reid

    A very interesting article.
    Thank you for contributing to this debate and for engaging in it respectfully.
    I think about what you've said here and say to myself that while there are not writings that exist from the estimated years of Jesus' public ministry (c. 27-33 A.D.) that mention Him or any of the activity of His disciples....... within 30 years there are multiple documents written by His followers speaking to his existence in the flesh and his public ministry. His movement was not as large as the philosophical academies of Athens or as respected as the Roman historians, but these writings came into existence a relatively short amount of time after the events that took place. Christian scholars believe that by the beginning of the 2nd century, all of the New Testament had been written. For the next 200 or so years, the Roman Empire had many periods of severe persecution of this sect that had produced these documents. That's 2 centuries of Roman citizens being aware of, having prejudices towards, arresting, torturing, killing, being disgusted by and in general dismissing these bizarre folks belonging to this new sect called "Christians". Could a sect that reviled and despised have survived intact after 200 years of persecution and rejection with its' writings, hierarchy and theology intact?
    AND even if it did...... could 1 emperor (Constantine) change so many Roman's minds towards this new religion so that any attempt to return to the gods of Rome was thwarted?
    To me that makes us humans look like absolute idiots. In essence, if Jesus were not historical, then we (for 1,600 years, or at least 1,100 if you think this ended in the Enlightenment) have been victims of the cruelest and most embarrassing prank perpetrated by a few odd Jews living almost 2,000 years ago.
    I would like to think more highly of our ancestors and believe that many of the amazing figures of human history were not rubes, but were AMAZING human beings with intelligence as well as faith in Jesus Christ. Do we think that human intelligence only started to exist when the apple hit Newton on the head? I don't.
    Yes, of course there are few pieces of evidence from the exact decade of Jesus' public ministry........ but the mounds and mounds of written documents and evidence in the decades that followed lead me to believe that so many people living in the Roman Empire believed in Jesus' historicity not because they'd been bamboozled, but because they were smart.

    • Pofarmer

      If you are really interested, read "Not the impossible Faith."

  • Kevin Aldrich

    Paul says no Jews could ever have heard the gospel except from the apostles (Romans 10:12-18). Evidently the myth of Jesus having preached to the Jews himself had not yet developed.

    This seems bizarre to me. Romans 10:12-18 says nothing remotely like these two claims.

    • Timothy Reid

      I just re-read Romans 10:12-18. It does not say that Jesus didn't preach to the Jews at all. What about 1 Corinthians 11 where Paul says explicitly that Jesus spoke the words of institution to his disciples at table?

  • Kevin Aldrich

    Mythicists . . . regard the first apostle (most likely Peter) to be the actual founder of the movement, not Jesus. On our view, at that point the apostles (like Peter) only claimed to be receiving communications from Jesus by revelation (as in
    Galatians 1).

    Galatians 1 is yet another of St. Paul's claims that he had received a special revelation of Christ (his road to Damascus experience) that set him apart as unique among the apostles. Carrier is taking a claim to an unique experience and applying it to the very apostles that Paul would deny had this experience.

    The Gospels had not yet been written.

    The fact that the Gospels had not yet been written down does not mean the Gospel did not exist in the oral preaching of the apostles.

  • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

    Dear Richard,

    If someone's not really all that interested in biology, and he's asked whether he thinks all life came from a single common ancestor, he might say yes. If asked why he'd say it's because most biologists say so and he trusts the experts. Same with people who are uninterested in physics and quantum mechanics. They actually accept quantum mechanics, not because there's good evidence, but because experts say there's good evidence and they trust the experts.

    I'm not an historian. I'm not interested in history. Most experts say Jesus existed. I trust the experts. Let me know when your theory about Jesus becomes consensus, and I'll change my mind.

    Cheers,
    Paul

    • Octavo

      This, so much this. Some historians and professors of religion, have been amused to refer to this as the Intelligent Design theory of Christianity.

    • David Nickol

      Paul,

      I am actually quite interested in the "historical Jesus" and have read many books on the topic. However, I have to echo your sentiments somewhat. Carrier says:

      To date the best case presented for this hypothesis is by amateur historian and classics graduate Earl Doherty (in his two books, The Jesus Puzzle and Jesus: Neither God Nor Man).

      Apparently (according to Wikipedia) Doherty has a BA in Ancient History and Classical Languages but no advanced degrees. The first book mentioned was published by Canadian Humanist Publications, which appears to be a journal that has published only a handful of books (ten or which are currently available) and the second book is just a revised and expanded version of the first, self-published by Doherty (who has also self-published a few other titles).

      This, of course, does not say necessarily anything about Doherty's work. But the question is for those of us who have no particular reason to take "mythicism" seriously, why would we want to spend our time reading an 800-page book self-published by an amateur historian that contradicts the consensus about the existence of Jesus even by scholars who are not Christian? Whether or not Carrier and Doherty are right is not the primary issue. What is the issue is if they can make a compelling case that ordinary folks like us should devote a significant amount of time to read their books when we could spend the time in other pursuits.

      Every once in a while I will have a book recommendation from Amazon for a book on physics, cosmology, or some related area of science that presents a "whole new approach" to something in the field. Although the topics interest me greatly, I don't buy such books, because I don't know enough to evaluate a "whole new approach."

      If the "mythicists" want my attention, they will have to grab it by presenting some new discovery or by giving a few very simple examples of how their theory is more plausible than the theory that Jesus existed. It's not going get my attention if they present long, detailed critiques of what is usually given as evidence for the existence of Jesus and try to raise doubts.
      I believe Jesus did exist, but I also believe it is difficult to know very much with certainty what he really said and did. If I thought the "mythicists" could explain the difficulty of knowing the historical Jesus by demonstrating that he didn't exist better than historical Jesus scholars can explain why it is so difficult to speak with confidence about what he said and did, then I would be intrigued. But I think all the difficulties, contradictory statements, different interpretations, and so on about Jesus are understandable given a relatively obscure figure who lived in the fist century and grew in stature and reputation after his death.

      • Ignorant Amos

        But the question is for those of us who have no particular reason to take "mythicism" seriously, why would we want to spend our time reading an 800-page book self-published by an amateur historian that contradicts the consensus about the existence of Jesus even by scholars who are not Christian?

        Because the arguments Docherty makes are worthy of Richard Carriers attention to the point that he was inspired by it...

        "My own forthcoming book, probably titled On the Historicity of Jesus, inspired by his work, will be the first making the case for this hypothesis to pass academic peer review."

        Richard Carriers books are well researched and sources ware ell cited in the bibliography for those that wish to follow up.

        You do know that Einstein formulated his ideas that eventually led Einstein to his radical conclusions about the nature of light and the fundamental connection between space and time while working in a patent office?

        You do know that Michael Faraday had very little formal education and educated himself while working as a bookbinder and developed his understanding of science and experiment while working as secretary to the partially blinded Sir Humphrey Davey?

        Just Saying.

        • David Nickol

          You do know that Einstein formulated his ideas . . . . while working in a patent office?

          Yes, but he published his three great papers of 1905 (which were peer reviewed) in Annalen der Physik, which had been publishing since 1799. (The Walter Isaacson biography of Einstein is one of the best books I have ever read, in case you haven't read it.) If there has been any "revolutionary" scholarly work in the last fifty years that was self-published and now is taken quite seriously in its field, I would be interested to hear about it. This is not to say it is impossible that Doherty and Carrier are right. But how many of us here have sufficient knowledge of the field to even judge? Anything I read aside from fiction I choose based on the reputation of the publisher and on the reaction of people in the relevant fields to the author and his or her work.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Anything I read aside from fiction I choose based on the reputation of the publisher and on the reaction of people in the relevant fields to the author and his or her work.

            So peer review will fit the bill then?

          • David Nickol

            So peer review will fit the bill then?

            Peer review is only the first step of vetting scholarly work. Just because something has gone through the review process doesn't mean it is considered to be correct, even by the reviewers. It merely means it meets certain standards that make it worthy of publication. I don't know if you have ever tried to tackle a serious work on the historical Jesus, but one of the most notable at the moment is John P. Meier's five-volume work A Marginal Jew (four volumes published, the fifth to come). I urge you to pick up one of the volumes, or somethings similar (for example, James D. G. Dunn's Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making, Volume 1, and Beginning from Jerusalem, Christianity in the Making, Volume 2) and see if you feel you are qualified to read, understand, and pass judgment on the scholarship.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I don't profess to pass judgement on anything, especially without checking it out...unlike some.

          • David Nickol

            I don't profess to pass judgement on anything, especially without checking it out...unlike some.

            It is not so much a matter of passing judgment as deciding what is worth the time to dig into further and what is not worth pursuing. Sam Harris makes the point that Sathya Sai Baba has worked all kinds of wonders that eyewitnesses swear to. I am not about to spend more than a few minutes of my time investigating Sathya Sai Baba, and I bet you aren't either. (I believe he is no longer alive, actually.) It is not so much that I have passed judgment, it's just that I seriously doubt that it would be worth the time. There are many religions in the world that I know almost nothing about, and probably many more that I have never heard of. It is not so much that I pass judgment on them, and if someone ridiculed them, my first instinct would probably be to leap to their defense. But another phrase that I have heard Sam Harris use is "What are the odds?" What are the odds that an amateur historian, after 2000 years, has revealed in his self-published books the true story of the origins of Christianity? I'm not saying the odds are zero. But I am saying I don't intend to read an 800 page book on the topic.

        • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

          Faraday was recognized for his achievements by the scientific community. He was awarded a named professorship at the Royal Institution, was elected to the Royal Society, the French Academy of Science, was twice offered to be president of the Royal Society and refused to be knighted. He was twice awarded the Royal Medal for "the most important contributions to the advancement of natural knowledge".

          Einstein won the Nobel Prize.

          As far as I know, Doherty's got the attention of one expert in the relevant history, a Richard Carrier. It seems even the creationists have more biologists on their side than mythicists have historians on theirs.

          So I think I'll wait to see what happens to Doherty's and Carrier's ideas before changing my mind about anything. I think Carrier got a book of his past some serious peer review. If so, that's a good first step.

          • Ignorant Amos

            You miss my point. Before Faraday and Einstein were somebody's they were nobody's. In both cases, there formative years academic qualifications left a bit to be desired, yet in spite of that, they formulated theories they revolutionized science. Their recognition came after.

            Of course Docherty is not a pup, but none of this matters, it was an idea found in his work that Carrier appears to be expanding on. Carrier will, if what I've read of him so far, will be supporting his theses with reference.

            Now I was not saying Docherty is a future Faraday or Einstein, but to write someones hypotheses off without knowing what it is, because of academic snobbery, is a bit arrogant. Just my opinion.

            BTW, amateurs are, and have, made important contributions to all sorts of disciplines.

            As far as I know, Doherty's got the attention of one expert in the relevant history, a Richard Carrier.

            "As far as you know"?

            "Writers who do not necessarily support the hypothesis that Jesus did not exist have found merit in some of Doherty's arguments. Hector Avalos has written that "The Jesus Puzzle outlines a plausible theory for a completely mythical Jesus."

            It seems even the creationists have more biologists on their side than mythicists have historians on theirs.

            And for all the wrong reasons too. Approximately 40% of Americans are creationists. Most people know as much about evolution as they know about biblical studies....very little. No believer I know has passed the "have you read the bible?" test, let alone have any knowledge on how the thing came about.

            How's about someone knocking down the mythicist accusations with an unrefutable argument? That would impress me a lot more than ad hom attacks, straw men and non sequiturs.

            Evolution theory is clear cut. An historical Jesus, not so much so.

            So I think I'll wait to see what happens to Doherty's and Carrier's ideas before changing my mind about anything.

            Which is everyone's prerogative of course.

            I think Carrier got a book of his past some serious peer review. If so, that's a good first step.

            Yes it is. His next book, out in February. I'm guessing you are not au fait with Carriers previous books?

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            Evolution theory is clear cut. An historical Jesus, not so much so.

            The historians I've talked with say different about the historical Jesus. They think it's pretty clear cut. I'll stick with what they say for now...

            Which is everyone's prerogative of course.

            ...and with your permission.

            I'm guessing you are not au fait with Carriers previous books?

            Like I said above, I'm not that very interested in history (I have read nothing longer than 10 pages from either side). Let me know if more than a half dozen relevant historians start taking his idea seriously.

          • Ignorant Amos

            The historians I've talked with say different about the historical Jesus. They think it's pretty clear cut. I'll stick with what they say for now...

            ...and with your permission.

            If you think you need it, knock yerself out!

            Like I said above, I'm not that very interested in history (I have read nothing longer than 10 pages from either side).

            Ah...like those who have an opinion on taking ecstasy that haven't bothered their arse trying it...figures...opinion from ignorance. So why are you getting yerself into a debate where, from your own admittance, you are asinine.

            Let me know if more than a half dozen relevant historians start taking his idea seriously.

            More asinine ignorance...mythicism as a genre dates back to 1700's with Volney and Dupuis.

            Earl Doherty, Robert Price, Frank Zindler, Thomas L Thompson, Richard Carrier, Tom Harpur, and George A Well...there's seven...including Carrier...do you reckon there isn't any more?

            What about arguing the points and stopping with the ad populum fallacy.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            Ah...like those who have an opinion on taking ecstasy that haven't bothered their arse trying it...figures...opinion from ignorance.

            Or:

            Ah...like those who have an opinion on taking heroin that haven't bothered their arse trying it...figures...opinion from ignorance.

            Or:

            Ah...like those who have an opinion on Christianity that haven't bothered their arse trying it...figures...opinion from ignorance.

            Yes, that's about right! Happy trusting the experts, forming my opinion on that basis, and not giving MDMA a try.

            Earl Doherty, Robert Price, Frank Zindler, Thomas L Thompson, Richard Carrier, Tom Harpur, and George A Well...there's seven...including Carrier...do you reckon there isn't any more?

            There are dozens and dozens of scientists who accept creationism. http://creation.com/creation-scientists

            The problem is that most on the creationist list do not do recognized research in evolutionary biology (although maybe you'd get a list of four or five there).

            I don't think Earl Doherty (no relevant degree or relevant peer-reviewed scholarly works), Frank Zindler (same), Thomas Thompson (specialized in old testament), Tom Harpur (as far as I can tell, a theologian and classicist, whose works include "prayer, the hidden love" but not a historian and has never published any real history), George Well (who seems to accept that Jesus existed, but didn't perform any miracles; if that's what mythisicm means, then the group should change their name; I think Julius Caesar existed but I don't believe in the miracles attributed to him) count. Amazing what some half-interested google and wikipedia can accomplish.

            So you got two. Robert Price and Richard Carrier. You doubled the number of relevant historians and mythicists for me. Only about four or five to go, and I'd be willing to call it "silly fringe history" instead of "absurd pseudohistory".

            What about arguing the points and stopping with the ad populum fallacy.

            Not interested enough. I'll stick with the experts.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Ah...like those who have an opinion on Christianity that haven't bothered their arse trying it...figures...opinion from ignorance.

            Thats the problem with a lot of believers when engaging the non-believer. The assumption that they were always non-believers and never knew a religious environment.

            Yes, that's about right! Happy trusting the experts, forming my opinion on that basis, and not giving MDMA a try.

            So you'll argue from ignorance or authority before saying nothing or finding out for yourself? Fair enough.

            There are dozens and dozens of scientists who accept creationism. http://creation.com/creation-s...

            Yes, and there used to be thousands and thousands of scientists who accept creationism. Not so much these days though. It wasn't until 1950 that Catholicism came to terms with evolution...many Catholics still hold to creationism. But generally speaking, it is considered a ridiculous position for those that are ignorant. Go figure.

            The problem is that most on the creationist list do not do recognized research in evolutionary biology (although maybe you'd get a list of four or five there).

            That's because of a little thing called compartmentalization.

            "Compartmentalization is an unconscious psychological defense mechanism used to avoid cognitive dissonance, or the mental discomfort and anxiety caused by a person's having conflicting values, cognitions, emotions, beliefs, etc. within themselves."

            (who seems to accept that Jesus existed, but didn't perform any miracles; if that's what mythisicm means, then the group should change their name; I think Julius Caesar existed but I don't believe in the miracles attributed to him) count.

            Well, from what I can gather, there is as diverse a group of definitions of what it is to be a mythicist as there are to be a Christian.

            Amazing what some half-interested google and wikipedia can accomplish.

            Yip...time enough to gather up credentials but still nothing on the core arguments.

            So you got two. Robert Price and Richard Carrier. You doubled the number of relevant historians and mythicists for me. Only about four or five to go, and I'd be willing to call it "silly fringe history" instead of "absurd pseudohistory".

            Call it what you will, you have still not refuted a single argument.

            Not interested enough. I'll stick with the experts.

            Yet here you are, making a non argument about the players involved...good for you.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            Yip...time enough to gather up credentials but still nothing on the core arguments.

            Exactly!

            It's been fun.

  • Linda

    This is an interesting article. It seems, though, that the idea that the hypothesis should be taken more seriously because more people are starting to believe it is the same one Christians and any other religion uses, and that atheists use against religion: just because more people believe it doesn't make it true. Also, I don't understand how scholars know that Nazorean is not from Nazareth if you don't have the text to begin with. How do you speculate on what it is and say definitively what it is not if you have only this one verse to go on? Still, I am looking forward to the second of your articles. I imagine it will clarify things for me. Thanks for contributing.

    • Ignorant Amos

      You are stating the appeal to authority fallacy or argumentum ad auctoritatem.

      The strength of this authoritative argument depends upon two factors:

      1.The authority is a legitimate expert on the subject.

      2. There exists consensus among legitimate experts in the subject matter under discussion.

      Does the authority cited by Carrier fulfill those two factors?

      I'd say "yes" to number one.

      I'd say "getting there" to number two.

      The point of listing those esteemed scholars is to show that it is not just a few cranks that are asking questions on the scholarship, like many believers and non-believers like to think.

      He gave the example of the historicity of the Hebrew patriarchs being questioned in the seventies as fringe. Now just forty years later, the tables have turned.

      • Linda

        I think you could say "yes" to both your points with regard to Christianity as well.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Who is a legitimate expert on Christianity and by whose standard?

          • Linda

            I would imagine its someone with advanced degrees in history and or theology, and by whatever standard defines reputable universities that confer such degrees.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Who decides the standard which defines what is reputable when the bible is about interpretation, bearing in mind there is over 38,000 different Christianities? What makes a particular interpretation any more valid than any other, and who decides?

          • Linda

            I feel like you are quarreling with me about something but I can't figure out what or why. My understanding is that Universities are accredited based on independent standards. They award their degrees based on the merit of the work done. These degrees, plus continued experience in their chosen fields, make people experts or authorities on particular topics. These authorities then present their theories, hypotheses and opinions on different subjects. However, being an authority or an expert means only that you are qualified to present that theory, hypothesis or opinion; not that the theory, hypothesis or opinion is accurate and regardless of whether others agree with you. The number of differing opinions is irrelevant. Shakespeare and his works is a good example. There are many different interpretations of his work, and even disputes of authorship. Though I will add that most people study things because they love the subjects, not because they hate them or want others to dislike them. That version of scholarship seems suspect and a bit untrustworthy.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I'm not quarelling with you, I'm just trying to get to the bottom of what constitutes an expert in Christian theology.

            Was Martyn Luther an expert? Aquinas? Who decides and by what standard given the many variables and interpretations?

            Well the number of differing opinions is not irrelevant. An expert theologian learning theology at an Protestant evangelical seminary and one learning at a Catholic seminary might consider themselves experts on their respective beliefs, but what does that mean to a LDS theologian at a Mormon college?

            Though I will add that most people study things because they love the subjects, not because they hate them or want others to dislike them.

            What about finding out the truth?

            That version of scholarship seems suspect and a bit untrustworthy.

            An unbiased search for the truth is hardly suspect or untrustworthy.

          • Mikegalanx

            So you'd only trust a biography of Hitler that was written by a
            Nazi ? You would think a study of Marx's thought suspect unless it was by a Communist? A Catholic scholar writing on Martin Luther seems untrustworthy?

  • Kevin Aldrich

    Their picture of Jesus . . . became the most successful among the competing varieties of Christianity over the ensuing generations, and the eventually triumphant sects only created and preserved documents supporting their view, and very little supporting any other.

    So a theory of the existence of non-triumphant sects is evidenced by the non-existence of any evidence for those sects.

    • Ignorant Amos

      Why do you quote mine to build a straw man to demolish?

      "The most credible alternative theory of Christian origins is that Jesus began life as a celestial being, known only through private revelations, who was believed to have been crucified and resurrected in the lower heavens. The Gospels were the first attempts to place him in history as an earthly man, in parables and fables meant to illustrate Christian theology and ideals. Their picture of Jesus then became the most successful among the competing varieties of Christianity over the ensuing generations, and the eventually triumphant sects only created and preserved documents supporting their view, and very little supporting any other."

      Why leave out the four character "then" and replace it with a three character ellipsis changing the comments context?

      Docetists, for example, who believed Jesus as purely spiritual, where declared heretical in 325...while the "orthodox" sects, believing in a flesh and blood Jesus were accepted as, well, "orthodox".

      Subsequently Docetic texts were maligned and burned, while those that made the canon excelled.

      Many other Christian sects were also declared heretical and were all but forgotten and left without much of a trace. The rest were subsumed into the big orthodox church for the most part.

    • Pofarmer

      Actually, scholars know that exactly this happened.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        To which "this" are you referring?

        And do you have a name?

        • Pofarmer

          I am referring to the fact that we know the Gospels of non-triumphant sects were destroyed, or at least neglected, because what remains is refutations of those Gospels/letters/ whatever, with quotes from those that were refuting them. Of course I have a name.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Of course I have a name.

            One of the rules of this forum is that people are supposed to use their actual names.

          • Pofarmer

            Was not aware.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            We know the Gospels of non-triumphant sects were destroyed, or at least
            neglected, because what remains is refutations of those Gospels/letters/
            whatever, with quotes from those that were refuting them.

            I agree. Lots of evidence exists that there were all kinds of religious adherents with some connection to Christianity from the Apostolic period on.

            What Carrier does not establish is that one of them (which is not the orthodox Christianity established by the Ecumenical Councils) was the actual original seed of Christianity rather than an aberration.

          • Pofarmer

            I guess I'll have to go back and see where he makes that claim?

  • AThanatos

    I find it interesting that the "Nazorian" idea that this theory puts a heavy burden on comes from Matthew. The scholarly consensus of the most rigorous historical-critical scholars (read those that have no stakes in Christianity) is that Mark came well before Matthew. That there is no mention of a Nazorian in Mark (which instead is much more clearly geographical in Mk 1:9 - saying that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galiliee). The common rule of thumb in the textual criticism is to favor the older texts over the newer.

  • Pete

    Hi Richard,

    I really love your work, despite not being swayed
    entirely by your arguments. I am still holding onto the Ehrman camp
    with the tips of my fingers, but I will be following this debate to see
    if you can wrestle another finger off :)

    All the best - your a great ambassador for your cause :)

    Kind regards
    Pete

  • http://decentfilms.com/ SDG

    I'm a little nonplused at just how little I understand Dr. Carrier's position after reading his article.

    For instance, if the Gospels were "the first attempts to place Jesus in history as an earthly man," does Carrier mean to say that Paul had no concept of Jesus in history as an earthly man?

    Even though Paul describes Jesus as "born of woman, born under the law" (i.e., a Jewish man), a biological descendant of David "according to the flesh" (Gal 4:4, Rom 1:3)? Does Carrier mean for us to imagine Jews believing in celestial beings descended from David and born of women under the Torah of Moses? I have no idea.

    In what is generally regarded as the first extant Christian document, 1 Thessalonians, Paul describes the persecution of Christians in Judea at the hands of "the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out…" (1 Thes 2:14-15).

    Jesus' death is here situated in a historical continuity from the deaths of the Old Testament prophets to the persecution of the early Christians, including Paul and his fellow evangelists. Jesus was killed, Paul says, by the same Jews who persecuted the prophets and are persecuting the early Christians.

    How does this very earthly picture relate to Carrier's notion of a crucifixion "in the lower heavens"? I have no idea.

    Jimmy Akin's new article today raises many of the thoughts I had yesterday reading Carrier's piece.

  • Matjaž Črnivec

    Carrier's argument has two fundamental flaws:

    1. It does not explain why a purely "spiritual" revelation would have to develop into a "myth" which perfectly fits into the 2nd temple Judaism, which clearly establishes itself in the Old Testament history and prophecy (which was, this must be admitted, at least perceived to be historical by 1st century Jews). Why the necessity to ground itself (and that in a masterful way!) into a religious tradition which was stressing the concrete realm (the land, the temple, the resurrection of the body), while there were many other religious traditions which were intrinsically more open to purely spiritual speculation. Where is the need - and how likely is it - that a purely spiritual revelation would clothe itself in this vast, complex and masterful realistic story that concretely responds and in a radically unexpected way resolves some of the deepest concrete concerns of the Judaism? Celestial deities of the time might have been clothed in mythical tales which could appear historic (although I would really like to see some examples here - I believe that they would reveal a lot), but the genre is clearly fundamentally different, without any or with just a few historical and geographical references that the four Gospels are replete of.

    2. The "triumphant Christian sect" (~ the "orthodox" Christianity) was heavily opposed from the beginnings. It is telling that it was never attacked with this argument (Jesus' nonexistence), although at those early stages it would be the most easy and devastating. If this was the case it is absolutely unthinkable that absolutely none of the many opponents would use this argument. The earliest Jewish critiques that are preserved independently accuse Jesus of witchcraft and mock him as an illegitimate child. Gospels actually seem to know about this (Mark 3:22; John 8:41). It is also quite natural that Jesus' opponents would see him this way. This actually shows that this attack on the historicity of Jesus lacks its own historicity. The absolute silence of the early opponents of the "triumphant Christian sect" about Jesus' nonexistence is a lethal piece of historical evidence against the "Mythicist" hypothesis.

    If this is really the "most credible alternative theory of Christian origins", I think the case for the "standard" theory remains pretty strong. The ring of, shall we say "randomness", and disconnection with the actual (Jewish!) world where these documents emerged, which pervades the Mythicist's hypothesis, could be actually properly seen as a good case FOR the "standard" theory. Thank you, dr. Carrier.

  • ksed11

    If by “mythicist” one means that the accounts of Jesus are myths, then this seems wrong-headed. The Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology states:

    …"myth" would appear to have three characteristics….First, a myth is a story. Second, this story is concerned with the sacred in Emile Durkheim's sense of the word, that is, with persons or things surrounded with reverence and respect in the society where the story is told. Third, the events described in this sacred story are set initially in a previous age that is qualitatively different from the present age."

    If the early church were making stories up, they most likely would have placed the
    narrative in some primordial time or epoch, such as the time of the early
    chapters of Genesis, not during the reign of Augustus and Tiberias.

    • Pofarmer

      But they sort of were. None of the accounts were written down until a minimum of 20 years after the proposed crucifixion, and some say more like 40. The later ones may have been close to a hundred. If you were wanting to influence things now, it would make sense to have a tradition closer to your own time. "Remember that fellow who........"

      • ksed11

        My point was just that the category of ‘myth’ is the wrong one for gospels. In any case, Richard Burridge and others have pointed out that the genre that is best represented by the gospels is Greco-Roman biography. The genre alone would tell us that the gospel writers were intent on conveying an accurate account of the life of Jesus.

        • Ignorant Amos

          And the late Rudolf Bultmann, German Lutheran theologian and professor of New Testament at the University of Marburg, states the gospel authors had no interest in history or in a historical Jesus and the gospels must be read and interpreted in this light.

          The gospels are not written in a biographical manner. Only Luke attempts to claim as such...but fails way short of what would fulfill the criteria even by the standards of the times.

          • ksed11

            Form critics like Bultmann made certain assumptions that have been shown to be unwarranted. Recent scholarship on oral cultures have shown that the transmission of historic traditions is a rather conservative activity which preserves the historic information quite well . This overturns that assumption of the unreliability of oral transmission.

            In addition, his assumption that modern peoples who use electric lights cannot believe in miracles is, again, unwarranted. Only by begging the question against a god who intervenes in history can he make that claim; but of course that is a central point of dispute, and Xians have independent arguments for god’s existence. Only after dealing with those arguments, and with the historical record can he be justified in making that claim.
            As I mentioned elsewhere, many scholars today belive the gospels to be Greco-roman biographies. Genre is a good indicator of the writer’s intent. Additionally, the N.T. is replete with themes of “bearing witness ” and “remembering” the life of Jesus. These recurring themes cannot be squared with the form critical assumption that the early disciples had no interest in relaying accurate information.
            Luke meets the historical standards of his time. He interviewed primary eyewitnesses and when they weren’t available, he used extant written sources (such as Gospel of Mark).

          • Ignorant Amos

            Recent scholarship on oral cultures have shown that the transmission of historic traditions is a rather conservative activity which preserves the historic information quite well . This overturns that assumption of the unreliability of oral transmission.

            The NT is it's own evidence that the oral tradition wasn't all that. Moreover, the New Testament apocrypha is further evidence that all sorts of nonsense was being spoke about in the early days of the Christian church.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Testament_apocrypha

            As I mentioned elsewhere, many scholars today belive the gospels to be Greco-roman biographies. Genre is a good indicator of the writer’s intent.

            "The Gospel authors were Jews writing within the midrashic tradition and intended their stories to be read as interpretive narratives, not historical accounts."

            -Bishop Shelby Spong, Liberating the Gospels

            Additionally, the N.T. is replete with themes of “bearing witness ” and “remembering” the life of Jesus. These recurring themes cannot be squared with the form critical assumption that the early disciples had no interest in relaying accurate information.

            Circular argument. Who wrote the themes of “bearing witness ” and “remembering” the life of Jesus?

        • Pofarmer

          My take is that "accurate account" would be much different for the early Greco-Roman historians than it would be for us today. Even Josephus has a lot of miraculous things going on in his accounts.

        • Ken Scaletta

          Are familiar with the works of Ehhemerus?

    • Ken Scaletta

      That third thing is not a requirement of myth and the Romans frequently set mythical stories and characters within a historical context. Virgil's Aneiad, for instance and Romulus.

  • jasmine999

    There's a lot of guesswork here.

    Re "Jesus was eventually placed in history in mythical tales about him (as was a common trend to do with celestial deities at the time)," Romans also deified humans post-mortem, and believed in miracle workers like Apollonius of Tyana, who could raise the dead. Hebrews were no different; there were plenty of miracle worker/prophet contemporaries of Jesus in Judea, some of whom had fairly large followings. Given this, why is it more likely for Jesus to be Peter's divine messenger than for him to be a miracle worker/prophet whose legend caught on?

    Re Paul: That his letters conflict with later gospels proves little. Paul could not see the future, and lived decades before the gospels developed. We could argue about what Paul means by a "resurrection," but not about the fact that he presents Jesus as a historical person.

    btw I don't believe that Jesus was god, or the son of god. I believe a man called Jesus existed, and was incorporated into the myth which developed around him. I need more evidence to change my mind.

    • Sid Martin

      There are three methods of relating myth and history in the Gospel. Evangelicals treat the Gospel as pure history. Mainstream scholarship sees the Gospel as myth mixed in with history. Their job is to filter fact from fiction and isolate the "real, historical Jesus," the nucleus around which myth developed. The fhird approach is to treat the Gospel as pure myth. This is Carrier's position. What all of these views have in common is that they are linear, i.e., myth expands at the expense of history. I suggest another, nonlinear approach. The Gospel is a myth about history. The narrative as such is myth but the myth figuratively reflects history. The Gospel of Mark, the earliest Gospel, is an allegory of the history of Israel from the Essenic point of view written in response to the fall of Jerusalem. Jesus is a symbol of salvation. The story of Jesus recapitulates the history of salvation. Although some pagan mythic motifs may be incorporated, the messiah myth is essentiallly Jewish, not paga. I explore this analysis in my new book, Secret of the Savior: The Myth of the Messiah in Mark. http://amzn.to/14XwpHt

  • crewe49

    12 Disciples who fawned over and recorded every word he spoke yet totally neglected to to record the date of his birth. The dates he made all these alleged pronouncements, or the date of his death.
    Nothing that could pin down when he was born or died and therefore be verified by third parties. He didn't exist.

  • ORAXX

    The mere fact people have to debate this issue should be raising questions. The question people should be asking is: Why would a divine being, capable of willing the universe into existence, communicate the most important message imaginable, in such a hap hazard fashion? This question becomes even more troubling when played out against history, and the horrors that resulted from trying to determine the 'correct' interpretation of the Bible. Surely, such a divine being could have anticipated the problems, and made the message as unambiguous as mathematics and evidence for the messenger overwhelming and incontrovertible.

  • Ralph Ellis

    I would not believe anything Carrier says: he does not even know that Jesus is mentioned many times in the Talmud. He is mentioned as Yeshu the Nazarene in Sanhedrin 43, and called Balaam in many other locations. If Carrier does not even know that, then of what value are his pronunciations?

    If you want to find the historical Jesus - the person, not the demigod - the complete evidence for this if contained in the books ‘King Jesus’ and ‘Jesus, King of Edessa’.

    Jesus was a king of Edessa called King Izas-Manu (while Jesus was called King Jesus Em-Manu-El). And all the kings of Edessa wore a ceremonial Crown of Thorns.

  • James Hartic

    On the historical Jesus matter.....the general consensus among historians, atheist and otherwise is that Jesus actually lived. Carriere is not taken seriously even among his peers.
    Perhaps atheist/agnostic Bart Ehrman historian and biblical scholar can shed light on this matter and will put to bed for some of you, the claim that Jesus did not exist. I should remind the reader, that I too fit into the agnostic/atheist camp. So I have no axe to grind one way other the other. I try my best to be objective in all matters of religion, history and the sciences.

    Bart Erhman on youtube.

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

    • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

      I disagree that Carrier isn't taken seriously. That's true of folks like Acharya S and Earl Doherty, who have no relevant experience or qualifications in the area.

      But, in my experience, Carrier is treated a bit more seriously. It isn't clear, yet, what Carrier's case for mythicism is, if indeed he is actually pressing that as the most likely reading of the evidence. He has a book due early next year that aims to develop his argument. It is a scholarly book that has received a pre-press peer review. It will, I suspect, be reviewed in the relevant venues as a work of scholarship. Whether it succeeds or fails in the academy is another matter. If it does not persuade, no doubt ardent mythicists will see it as evidence of the closed-mindedness of the scholars. Who knows.

      Did Jesus Exist, Ehrman's, book is not a scholarly treatment. In terms of presenting a case for a historical Jesus with comprehensive rigour, it is rather weak, IMHO. And I say that as someone who is not a mythicist.

      You are right that the vast majority of non-theistic biblical scholars think the evidence supports a historical figure mythologized, rather than a mythical figure historicized.

      Though ardent mythicists, who see the lack of a historical Jesus as a stick to beat religions with, tend to not really 'get' where the actual scholarly argument. They want to claim that the character of Jesus portrayed in the gospels is mythological. That is pretty much the view of all scholars I know: 'historical Jesus' doesn't mean that what any particular person thinks of as Jesus, was historical. Particularly not the Jesus of Christian theology or tradition. Read the comments and see how many people miss the point and respond with variations of "of course Jesus didn't exist, how could a god-man really rise from the dead?", which isn't at all the discussion Carrier is participating in.

      I've said before that, for the ways that Jesus is important to our culture, it is pretty uncontroversial among scholars that Jesus is a myth. There are a few exceptions, but the folks (like NT Wright) who's names come up in that camp are on the fringes of historical Jesus scholarship, if they would describe themselves as that at all.

  • newenglandsun

    I can't access the article you wrote so I can't see what you have to say about the Josephus interpolations. Until then, I would have to contend that Horn has established well-credited scholarly sources emphasizing that Josephus and Tacitus both provide evidence that there was *some* sort of historical person called Jesus.

  • Bill D

    Dr. Carrier's reference to Romans 10:12-18 reference is fascinating, because I believe it destroys his position entirely. By quoting it, Dr. Carrier is tacitly admitting that Paul's letter to the Romans is valid, and that Paul is a credible witness. And, while the doctor's interpretation is debatable, just 3 verses prior Paul points explicitly to a historical Jesus. Romans 10:9, ESV: "because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." That sentence witnesses Paul's belief in Jesus' life, death, resurrection and divinity. In first Corinthians, Paul is just as explicit: "And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." 1 COR 15:14 Now, I'm not sure if Dr. Carrier would challenge the validity of first Corinthians, but the refutation stands without it. There is no way one can imagine Paul writing Romans 10 with a mythical Jesus in mind - so long as one reads the whole chapter, and not just verses 12-18.

    Jesus is Lord.