Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Suffering Son Revealed in Vision?

My verse for the day is 2 Peter 1:17

For he received from God the Father honour and glory when such a voice came to him from the Excellent Glory: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

The author is describing a visionary experience. While most of us familiar with the Bible have probably assumed the author is referring to the Transfiguration scene in the synoptic gospels, a more attentive reading suggests that this passage is independent of the synoptic scene, and that the synoptic authors more likely created their transfiguration scenes from a tradition of visions such as we read here in 2 Peter. (My point is not to argue that particular case here, but one argument for it is available online here.)

A little while ago I was discussing Paul’s visionary experiences and comparing them with the sorts of vision we also find described in the Ascension of Isaiah. I have since created a special archive for my posts discussing visions, and this post about the vision in 2 Peter will join that archive.

The detail in 2 Peter 1:17 that has been quietly tapping away in the back of my head is the refrain: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. read more »

Jesus Potter Harry Christ, ch.4: Going Pagan — a review

The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962). Cover art b...

The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962). Cover art by Jack Kirby and Paul Reinman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(All posts in this series are archived here.)

Chapter four of Jesus Potter Harry Christ is predominantly a survey of pagan deities and heroes whose stories contain echoes of the Jesus Christ story: Gilgamesh, Dionysus, Pythagoras, Orpheus, Asclepius, Osiris, Tammuz (Adonis), Attis, Mithras. Derek Murphy is not arguing that the Jesus story was a direct borrowing of any of these or that these pagan gods and heroes are the same thing as Jesus. What Murphy does argue is that it is important to understand the cultural and ideological background from which Christianity emerged. To this end, the very clear similarities between these pagan figures, and certain practices associated with the worship of some of them, are significant, and especially so in an age of unprecedented religious tolerance and syncretism.

The title of the book is an attempt to focus readers on the argument that literary borrowing is often a more subtle and complex cultural process than a simplistic, deliberate, one for one correspondence from earlier iconic figures and stories. The author is currently a PhD student in comparative literature so it is not surprising to find a wider range of literary models than the Harry Potter series sprinkled throughout the book. read more »

“Jesus Potter Harry Christ” review, part 3: Where’s the Proof?

All posts in this series are collated here.

Chapter three of Derek Murphy’s book, Jesus Potter Harry Christ, discusses the evidence commonly cited for the historical existence of Jesus. In his view the arguments used to support the historicity of Jesus

are often a mixture of inferences, deductions and references to common knowledge and unfounded associations. (p. 68)

He uses Lee Strobel’s claims for “overwhelming evidence” for Jesus’ existence as his foil, beginning with the claim that gospels such as that of Luke are “so painstakingly accurate” in their historical details. Murphy knocks this argument out flat by comparing the many researched minute details and accurate facts in the tales of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code and Rowling’s Harry Potter.

Other common arguments are addressed and refuted with reference both to the facts of the historical record and the logic of the claims themselves: read more »

Israel-Palestine: A Totally Unique Conflict in Human History

The following post by Gilad Atzmon is copied from his blog with his permission.

GILAD ATZMON: TIME IS RIPE FOR A PARADIGM SHIFT

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27, 2011 AT 11:45AM GILAD ATZMON

It is slightly embarrassing for me to admit that sometime  Zionists are actually well ahead of our favourite  intellectuals in understanding the depth of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It is not that they are more clever, they are just free to explore the conflict without being subject to the tyranny of ‘political correctness’, also being proud  nationalist Jews- they do not need  the approval of the Jewish left thought police.

I have recently come across a short Haaretz article by Israeli writer A.B. Yehoshua*.

Yehoshua is a proud Zionist, He believes in the right of his people to dwell on Palestinian land.  He is also convinced that the Jewish state is the true meaning of contemporary Jewish life. I guess that Yehoshua loves himself almost as much as I despise everything he stands for and yet, I have to confess, he seems to grasp the depth of the Israeli Palestinian conflict’s parameters  slightly better than most  solidarity activists I can think of. read more »

Interview with René Salm

René Salm discusses Nazareth and Nazarenes, James and Paul, Christianity and Buddhism, and Ventures Old and New

René Salm is best known for his publication The Myth of Nazareth: the Invented Town of Jesus that reviews the state of the archaeological evidence for the existence of Nazareth at the supposed time of Jesus. I first came to know of Salm on the original Crosstalk discussion list where I was impressed with the way he debated the question with scholars. In the following interview Salm refers to his Crosstalk discussions and interested readers will find one of his earliest posts to that list on the topic of Nazareth here. Robert M. Price has reviewed Salm’s book here, and I have discussed another review of it here.

But René Salm has much more to contribute to the discussion of Christian origins than his studies on the archaeology of Nazareth, and the following interview will introduce readers to his investigations into Christian origins, including pre-Christian movements, such as the Natsarenes/Nazarenes and gnosticism, and the specific roles of James (“the brother of the Lord”) and the apostle Paul.

Salm is working on a new book and has been building a new website (Mythicist Papers) on Christian origins, both discussed below.

For a broader view of his interests and achievements, including as a writer and musician, follow these links:

Short story by René Salm

René Salm’s music page

Buddhist and Christian parallels

And of course his NazarethMyth.info webpage. This page includes further biographical information with a “personal statement” by Salm.

The Interview

1. What led to your interest in Nazareth archaeology?

René Salm: My interest in Jesus mythicism. As recently as ten years ago I was not a ‘mythicist’ and, in fact, would have considered the mythicist theory far too fringy to be taken seriously. On the other hand, I had not seriously considered it—because I hadn’t needed to. But, as my researches into Christianity deepened, I realized that Jesus’ very existence was much more open to doubt than I had previously imagined. This led to my Nazareth work. In the late 1990s I came across a couple of passages in obscure works which doubted the existence of Nazareth in the time of Jesus.

Online (in the original Crosstalk forum) this doubt met very strident and universal opposition. read more »

New blog page and categories

I have added a new blog page titled Earl Doherty’s Posts — to keep a handy list of posts by Earl Doherty. (The interview is not strictly a post by Earl but have included it for completeness.)

I have also added a new category for Guest Posts. I am sure I have overlooked one or two from some months or a year ago when I posted someone’s comment as a post. Do let me know if you notice any I have overlooked.

Earl Doherty’s concluding responses to James McGrath’s Menu of Answers for Mythicists

This is the final installment of Earl Doherty’s responses to James McGrath’s Menu of Answers for Mythicists. The previous two posts in this series are at

  1. Earl Doherty’s Antidotes for a James McGrath Menu
  2. Continuing Earl Doherty’s Antidotes . . . 7 to 12

This post completes Earl’s responses up to McGrath’s menu item #23.

Menu Entrée #13:

“If, as Earl Doherty suggests, the ‘life’ and ‘death’ of Jesus occurred completely in a celestial realm, is the same true of the recipients of Ephesians?”

Something went awry in the preparation of this dish. Has there been any implication that the recipients of Ephesians are said to operate in a celestial realm? In any case, the comparison seems a pointless one. Locating the Ephesians and their struggle with the demons (6:12) as taking place on earth does nothing to prove the location of their Christ’s redeeming death, since the demons operated both on earth and in the heavens. And Ephesians is one of those documents which shows not the slightest sign of an historical Jesus in the background of the writer’s thought, not even in regard to traditions about healing miracles performed by Jesus on earth which would have demonstrated his power over the demons, an issue which would have been of key significance to the Ephesians community. read more »

“Brother of the Lord” – Doherty versus McGrath

A drawing of Hong Xiuquan as the "Heavenl...

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Xiuquan

I am copying a comment by Earl Doherty here as a post in its own right. Doherty apparently attempted to post it on McGrath’s blog in response to McGrath’s post, James the Brother of the Lord and Mythicism, but was confronted with word-length issues. James was responding to Earl’s Menu Entree #3 in his Antidotes post.

For ease of referencing I copy James McGrath’s post below, followed by Earl Doherty’s response:

Neil Godfrey has posted a “response” from Earl Doherty that nicely illustrates, as usual, why mythicism is not taken seriously by most people, but more importantly pretty much anyone with actual expertise in history and a genuine interest in applying historical methods to learn about the past.

The post is in fact intended to provide an “antidote” some brief responses to mythicist claims that I offered in a post a while back. My own view is that it fails miserably, but I am not exactly an impartial observer. But since brief responses are only persuasive if one is familiar with the wealth of evidence behind them, presumably it may be useful for me to say a little more. Rather than trying to say something about each of Doherty’s points, let me focus on one in this post: how he, as a mythicist, treats the references by Paul to “James the brother of the Lord.” read more »

Highly esteemed friends and supporters of Steph and Maurice Casey

I have removed several comments from “Deane” of the Remnants of Giants blog from the comments sections here, and have placed all further posts from this person on moderation. This is because when I asked him to refrain from using foul language he has responded by injecting even more varieties of four letter crudities into his replies.

So these are the “honeys” adored by the likes of Maurice Casey’s fans. Charming.

Continuing Earl Doherty’s antidotes for James McGrath’s Menu Items 7 to 12

This post is a continuation of Earl Doherty’s responses to James McGrath’s Menu of Answers to Mythicists. The first installment, items 1 to 6, was posted here. Earl Doherty continues with menu item #7, preceding each of his responses with McGrath’s description in bold italics.

Menu Entrée #7:

“Demonstrating the likelihood that someone existed means showing there are good reasons to think that he did, not that it is impossible for anyone to construct a scenario in which it might have been otherwise. Historical study offers probabilities, not absolute certainties.”

Let’s break down this entrée and do a taste test on its ingredients:

(1) Demonstrating the likelihood that someone existed requires showing that there are good reasons for thinking so.

(2) Demonstrating the likelihood that someone existed does not require showing that no scenarios are possible which could suggest that he did not.

(3) The implication is that this particular historical study is able to demonstrate that No. 1 can be shown to be more probable than any counter scenario envisioned in No. 2. read more »

A serious take on Maurice Casey’s “Jesus of Nazareth”

Someone has posted a favourable review of Dr Maurice Casey’s Jesus of Nazareth. Anyone disappointed with my own difficulties in finding much of value in the book (my various references and discussions relating to it are archived here) may be pleasantly surprised to find that this “independent” scholar’s treatment has found a most favourable reception with a series of reviews on the Remnant of Giants blog: Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? Maurice Casey’s doctoral student, Stephanie Fisher, is effusive in her praises of these reviews, complementing them for their

careful attention to detail, clear argumentation, and refusal to reply on accepted authority for its own sake. No embarrassing amateurish agenda driven groupie opinions. Compared to other reviews generally by other reviewers, your reviews of this book are exceptional. I had no doubt of your independent mind or sophisticated, broadly learned, honest scholarship before, but you are inspiring. There’s hope for this discipline and a point to honest historical inquiry after all. read more »

Earl Doherty’s Antidotes for a James McGrath Menu.

Alka Seltzer Plus packaging and tablet

Image via Wikipedia

Earl Doherty has visited James McGrath’s Matrix Restaurant and sampled for himself all 23 items offered on his Menu of Answers for Mythicists. Here is the first part of Earl’s complete culinary report on his experience along with tips for other prospective diners.

Herewith a response to Jim McGrath’s blog feature A Menu of Answers to Mythicists

Dr. Jim McGrath has kindly offered historicists who visit his Matrix restaurant a handy “Menu of Answers” to arguments and claims put forward by mythicists. With his white napkin of pre-washed orthodoxy draped securely over his forearm, waiter McGrath hands diners his menu and wishes them “bon appetit.” The problem is, the entrées on this menu as often as not produce indigestion, since they have not been properly cooked with reason at fallacy-killing temperatures, seasoned with critical acumen or sautéed in clarity, and the accompanying beverage list offers only the cheaper vintages of biased brews. So I would like to offer a selection of antidotes, guaranteed to restore equilibrium to the digestive system and a measure of rationality to the world outside his establishment, since at the end of the day we all have to return to it.

Menu Entrée #1:

Jesus and Entrées at other Establishments read more »

How quickly a “historical” person can emerge from a myth: a case study

Miguel Cabrera, Juan Diego

Image via Wikipedia

A week ago Evan posted a comment that piqued my curiosity. He raised a case study of a seventeenth century “historical figure” whom historians have come to deem was completely fabricated. Those with a strong interest in arguing for his historicity pointed to oral traditions, the earliest written testimony, even a personal physical artefact, in support of their case. Scholars casting doubt on this person’s historical reality have in turn pointed to silences where one would expect outspoken witness, and to a few coincidences with motifs from tales that preceded the supposed historical events.

It is very hard to avoid comparing the kinds of evidence cited for the historical existence of Jesus, and to reflect upon the arguments  scholars will advance for questioning the existence of Juan Diego and how similar they are to those arguments advanced by some today to argue that Jesus, also, was not a true historical person.

A special thanks to Evan for taking the time to prepare the following when I explained to him that I had not investigated the case of Juan Diego myself but would be very interested if he could write something to bring me up to speed. I’m sure there are others who would be just as interested.

Juan Diego and Jesus read more »

The historical Jesus hypothesis “does not even rise to the level of requiring investigation . . . “

I’m posting here a recent comment by Tim in which he explains his reason for rejecting the Historical Jesus hypothesis. I’ve posted along a similar vein in the past (Alice in Wonderland’s trial; Making detectives look silly; Like Sherlock Holmes) but Tim’s comment is a more sober clarification of the insubstantial foundations of historical Jesus studies.

I’d like to examine this paragraph from the McG’s Matrix:

But third and most disturbing – and reminiscent, I might add, of the similar problem with various forms of creationism – is that all the “criticism” offered is akin to what we get from those who complain that the judicial system is fundamentally flawed, because it at times allows the innocent to go to prison or a criminal to go free, but without offering any suggestion on how the system we have can be improved upon, and what better criteria of evidence would allow juries to convict fewer innocent parties and acquit fewer guilty ones.

Here we have real insight into the mindset of apologists and many mainstream scholars who cling to the canon and are convinced it contains truth — either total truth for the apologists or “some” truth for the scholars. The problem lies not so much with the methodology as with the evidence itself. read more »