2011-05-29

From the sublime to the slime

by Neil Godfrey

After deciding not to post on Tim O’Neill’s vendetta against mythicist Fitzgerald’s Nailed yesterday — after posting on Howell Smith recently I had no interest in turning my attention to Tim, and the title of this post tells you why — but since a commenter (Evan) has addressed Tim’s polemic in another post, I have added this post here as a more appropriate anchor and will move his comment to here instead.

  • Evan
    2011-05-29 07:07:19 UTC - 07:07 | Permalink

    Tim O’Neill once again shows his inability to sustain any criticism. He has a long review of David Fitzgerald’s “Nailed” in which he likens the historical record of Jesus to that of Hannibal. Here is what I posted on his blog, which has yet to appear there:

    Unfortunately, as we will see, this is one of several places where Fitzgerald lets his overblown rhetoric run well ahead of what he can then actually substantiate.

    This is a cogent piece of criticism and the fact that you make such confident assertions subsequent to it makes it seem all the more cogent, especially when you say,

    Yet, despite his fame then and now, we have precisely zero contemporary references to Hannibal.

    So I was keen to check this statement out, since if it were verifiable it would be a profound argument in favor of your position.

    One has to wonder whether you are ignorant or dishonest, however, after a cursory investigation of this claim.

    Hannibal has multiple contemporary attestation, from both Silenus, who was a paid Greek historian who Hannibal brought with him on his journeys to write an account of what took place and by Sosylus of Lacedaemon. Sosylus actually wrote a seven volume history of Hannibal. So either you are just finding this fact out now, or you are simply dishonest. In either case you should edit this post to adjust for this fact.

    • 2011-05-29 07:10:01 UTC - 07:10 | Permalink

      I read Tim’s polemic yesterday and it crossed my mind to respond, but Tim is one of those rare people who are so totally fraudulent and slanderous in their vendettas that I let the effort drop. One only has to read his criticism of Fitzgerald’s first point, and then read what Fitzgerald did say (free online) to see how totally disconnected Tim’s comments are from what he is attacking.

      Like McGrath, it is as if he has his pet stock arguments attacking mythicism, and whenever he reads a mythicist piece, all he can do is look for keywords to use as levers to mount his auto-pilot attacks. I recently criticized McGrath for the same. It is irrelevant what Doherty actually says about Ignatius, for example — the fact that the name Ignatius appears in something written by Doherty leads McGrath to mount his same-old in relation to Ignatius.

      Of course, McGrath recommends Tim’s review as a worthy read to his readers. I suspect McGrath has never read Fitzgerald, but how would that affect his assessment of the value of his review?

      I see Tim has since responded to your comment. Like McGrath he plays with words to extricate himself from his corner. Now he is suggesting that all he meant is that we have zero references that are ‘surviving to us’ — we have lost the works of those who are recorded as mentioning Hannibal. Of course, for Tim to use this escape hatch he has to simply ignore mythicist arguments that do address names of contemporaries of Jesus (e.g. Justus of Tiberius) who are known from third party sources, and the motivational and cultural-institutional reasons we could expect third party references to have survived.

      • 2011-05-29 07:46:46 UTC - 07:46 | Permalink

        I’m SO glad you decided not to comment on my blog post Neil, though that does leave me in the paradoxical position of wondering what it is I’m replying to. Surreal. If you did comment then perhaps your readers would be able to read where you detail precisely how my “fraudulent and slanderous” review is so “disconnected” from Fitzgerald’s crappy little book. Given that my review is over 7,000 words long, goes through the book thoroughly and quotes Fitzgerald extensively, I’d be interested to find how I managed to do all this without connecting with the book in question. But you aren’t commenting, so you won’t tell us. Of course, you give the link to Fitzgerald’s book so people can either (a) read the whole book and then my whole review, taking several days or (b) take your word for it. Hmmm, I wonder which they will choose?

        And no, I’m not “playing with words” over Evan’s feeble little nitpick about my Hannibal analogy – I deliberately chose my words very precisely to begin with. You see, I’ve been over this stuff many times with Mythers and have had other gadflies try to pull a “a ha!” on me over Silenus and Sosylus. I’ve responded to Evan both on my blog and on Dr McGrath’s. And everyone else seems to have grasped what I actually said the first time. And I don’t have to “ignore” Justus of Tiberius any more than I have to “ignore” Philo of Alexandria. Since Justus’ work doesn’t survive to us, we can’t know if he mentioned any other Jesus-style preachers and prophets, so no-one can use him for an argument from silence. And they can’t use Philo either, because he *didn’t* mention any other such preachers and prophets, so his non-mention of Jesus tells us nothing.

        But let me know when you uncover some of those “many” writers that Fitzgerald mentioned who, allegedly, detailed lots of Messiahs like Jesus but didn’t mention Jesus. Because they would be the basis of a *real* argument from silence. Strangely, your little pal Fitzgerald refers to them at least twice, but never names them, cites them, quotes them or actually does anything else with them at all. It’s almost as though … they only exist in Fitzgerald’s imagination. How peculiar …

        But, of course, I must be “slandering” him and you will now triumphantly produce these writers who are known to Fitzgerald but unknown to scholarship. Or you would, except you aren’t commenting, are you Neil? No, glad we sorted all that out.

        PS The only thing I’m annoyed about is that your non-comment revealed that I could have read Fitzgerald’s crappy amateur hour book for free and saved $25 of my hard earned. Still, at least I got the pleasure of writing “WHAT?!!” and “IDIOT!” in the margins next to key howlers. That’s always fun when reading junk like that.

        • 2011-05-29 08:07:53 UTC - 08:07 | Permalink

          Thanks for demonstrating my point. I wrote that you can read your response to Fitzgerald’s “first point” (he has ten, doesn’t he?) free online — not the whole book.

          Readers can see how unrelated your attacks are to what people actually say.

          • 2011-05-29 09:33:42 UTC - 09:33 | Permalink

            Okay, since you are still commenting-while-not-commenting (almost a koan), let’s look at what “slanderous” things I said about your little Myther friend’s first myth.

            “The first – “The idea that Jesus was a myth is ridiculous” – is not really controversial.”

            Wow, such “slander”! I go on to say that the idea that Jesus didn’t exist is valid, though not necessarily true. How vile of me! I then take issue with his claim that “the majority of Biblical historians have always been Christian preachers” as a blatant misrepresentation of the nature of the current scholarship and note that continually refers to the question as though it is debated by “apologists” on one side and “critics who (dispute) Christian claims”, ignoring a vast middle ground. Now, if you want to depict that as “totally fraudulent and slanderous” you’d better quote your little friend and show me where he notes there are many scholars who are not Christians (let alone “preachers”) yet who accept a historical Jesus. Because I can’t see that in his first chapter or anywhere else in his little book.

            That’s the sum total of what I say about his first chapter. Your readers can go and check my post and then check the chapter if they like. They will see I’ve said nothing that isn’t true. So where are these examples of how “disconnected” my critique is from Fitzgerald’s book Neil?

            Oh, he’s run away again.

        • 2011-05-29 09:26:26 UTC - 09:26 | Permalink


          I’ve responded to Evan both on my blog and on Dr McGrath’s. And everyone else seems to have grasped what I actually said the first time.

          Everyone else? I see one name (Kristofer) responding to Tim’s reply.

          Tim’s response concerning Justus here demonstrates another ignorance of the mythicist arguments — and the facts of the evidence in question. We DO know Justus, a Galilean contemporary of Josephus, did not breathe a word about Jesus because of (1) the disappointed testimony of Photius who did read the work of Justus hoping to find reference to Jesus, and (2) the fact that Christian scribes allowed Justus’s work to be lost.

          Tim also likes to insult mythicists by his illiterate labelling of them as mythers. His motive? It’s pretty clear.

          • 2011-05-29 09:46:13 UTC - 09:46 | Permalink

            “I see one name (Kristofer) responding to Tim’s reply. ”

            Look on McGrath’s post and you’ll see some more. And Kristofer responded independently of my reply, his response turned up while I was writing mine.

            “Tim’s response concerning Justus here demonstrates another ignorance of the mythicist arguments”

            *yawn* Really Neil?

            “We DO know Justus, a Galilean contemporary of Josephus, did not breathe a word about Jesus”

            Thanks, I was aware of that – read what I said again. The point is that we don’t know if he mentioned any *other* such figures or if, like Philo, he didn’t at all. If it was the former then an argument for silence could have been made, but unfortunately we don’t have his work. Of course, if it was the latter then Justus would have been no more a basis for such an argument than Philo is.

            You need to read more carefully Neil.

            “Tim also likes to insult mythicists by his illiterate labelling of them as mythers.”

            I have never been able to work out why you guys object to that word. Why is “myther” as a shorthand noun for “people who believe Jesus didn’t exist and was purely a myth” an insult? What’s insulting about it? Others refer to them as “mythicists”. Both words are purely descriptive shorthand and entirely neutral. This sort of crap is simply more evidence that you are desperately scrabbling around for something to whine about.

            • 2011-05-29 09:52:40 UTC - 09:52 | Permalink


              Thanks, I was aware of that – read what I said again. The point is that we don’t know if he mentioned any *other* such figures or if, like Philo, he didn’t at all.

              You once again mis-read what I myself wrote. You are in such haste to kick mythicists.

              I have no interest in discussion with someone who is clearly interested in insult in preference to civil and honest discussion of the issues.

              • 2011-05-29 10:04:22 UTC - 10:04 | Permalink

                “You once again mis-read what I myself wrote.”

                Okay – how, exactly? What exactly was I supposedly ignorant about concerning Justus? You say “We DO know Justus, a Galilean contemporary of Josephus, did not breathe a word about Jesus”, as though I was under the impression we DON’T. I wasn’t. I’ve made it very clear why the fact that Justus doesn’t mention Jesus isn’t very significant and certainly can’t be used to sustain a valid argument from silence.

                “I have no interest in discussion with someone who is clearly interested in insult in preference to civil and honest discussion of the issues.”

                Yes, so you keep saying. Yet so far I’ve been able to kick holes in every single one of your fumbling attempts at citicism about my blog post and you’ve been curiously reluctant to actually come to the substantive defence of your pal Fitzgerald apart from in the most vague terms. Anyone who actually reads his book will see why.

                Do you really think defending these bumblers does your credibility any good Neil?

              • Evan
                2011-05-29 13:53:30 UTC - 13:53 | Permalink

                It gets better. It turns out, Tim, that we actually do have fragments of Sosylus of Lacedaemon. They are from Book 4 of The Deeds of Hannibal (suggesting his historicity) and are quoted in Jacoby’s Fragmente der Griechischen Historiker. Thus, your original claim is factually false. Will you now retract it?

              • 2011-05-29 14:06:36 UTC - 14:06 | Permalink

                I predict Tim will claim that he knew that all along and that if you were more attentive to his very careful wording you will see that he has no need to retract anything. ;-)

  • 2011-05-29 08:15:39 UTC - 08:15 | Permalink

    I wonder if Tim is a sock puppet for a closet mythicist. When I first encountered J. P. Holding here it facetiously crossed my mind that he was really attempting to parody fundamentalism. Maybe Tim is attempting to parody a certain type of anti-mythicist. ;-)

    • 2011-05-29 09:38:08 UTC - 09:38 | Permalink

      My, what an original little ad hom. While you’re eschewing slander so marvellously Neil, perhaps you can defend your Myther friend’s claims about “scores of writers detailing humdrum events and lesser exploits of much more mundane figures in Roman Palestine, including several failed Messiahs.(Fitzgerald, p. 22) Who are these scores of writers who detail these failed Messiahs Neil? Fitzgerald doesn’t tell us, which is very odd. Perhaps you can help.

      If you can’t, perhaps you need to admit that this Fitzgerald person has either (a) lied to his readers or (b) is an incompetent clown.

      Over to you Neil.

  • Pingback: The aim of name-calling « Vridar

  • Steven Carr
    2011-05-29 17:47:13 UTC - 17:47 | Permalink

    ‘Sosylus actually wrote a seven volume history of Hannibal.’

    I hope I understand Tim’s point. Let me see if I can express it clearly to show if I have understood Tim’s point accurately.

    I think O’Neill is claiming that if a named contemporary had written a seven volume history of Jesus, that was now sadly lost, that would not be any evidence that Jesus existed, because O’Neill is adamant that you are NOT allowed to claim a seven volume history of Hannibal by a named writer as evidence for Hannibal. No way is that seven volume history to be filed under ‘evidence’.

    This is called ‘historical method’. The known existence of seven volume histories of people, written by a contemporary, is NOT evidence for the person having lived.

    Can’t mythicists understand basic historical method like that?

    • Steven Carr
      2011-05-29 18:05:37 UTC - 18:05 | Permalink

      I must point out that a seven volume history of Jesus written by a contemporary, now lost, would *never* be used by O’Neill as evidence of Jesus existing, as his review of Fitzgerald is so honest, fair and balanced that the only reason I can come up for his never mentioning the lost seven volume history of Hannibal is that it is simply not evidence.

      No other reason for O’Neill’s silence about this history in his review is even imaginable.

  • Steven Carr
    2011-05-29 17:51:30 UTC - 17:51 | Permalink

    ‘And they can’t use Philo either, because he *didn’t* mention any other such preachers and prophets, so his non-mention of Jesus tells us nothing.’

    People do spend a lot of time patiently explaining to mythicists why nobody should expect evidence of Jesus having lived.

  • 2011-05-29 17:54:35 UTC - 17:54 | Permalink

    Tim’s latest comment adds nothing to what he has already said — apart from new insults — and I have accordingly filtered further comments from him to spam.

  • Geoff
    2011-05-29 19:19:18 UTC - 19:19 | Permalink

    If Jesus never lived, what was there in the first century?

  • hanery
    2011-05-29 21:11:33 UTC - 21:11 | Permalink

    Steven if I might interject here,

    If you accept Hannibal existed because all* we have are later accounts from writers CLAIMING these records existed and CLAIMING that they were eyewitness material, (and these claims are issued by people who have a vested interest in such a provenance because they want their accounts of Hannibal’s actions to be accurate and founded on good authority, just as later Christians had for Jesus), they you are forced to concede the same fact for the gospels- and indeed the gospel traditions. Just like with Hannibal we have no* contemporary accounts, we just have later writers who are far removed from events writing about Hannibal, and some writers claiming that there apparently existed these numerous historical accounts which now cant be found.

    The point Tim was making, I suppose, is that readers need to familiarize themselves to the reality that we probably have less than 1% of books from antiquity- a fact that Fitzgerald just cannot tell you otherwise it makes a profound counter to his argument from silence. You can make practically anyone in Roman history (aside from perhaps the politicians at the fall of the Republic, and members of the Imperial family) disappear by using this method.

    Why Hannibal, who almost destroyed Rome, and paraded around the Italian countryside for years has left no* contemporary historian’s writing about him that we can see, but a (seemingly) failed peasant Jewish itinerant messiah figure who, during his lifetime, had enough close followers that we could fit them in a minibus should have induced such a record or attracted the attention of a historian to visit the villages of Galilee is beyond me. As, in fact, so it should to anyone with even the faintest awareness of classical antiquity and a modicrum of common sense. Again, the fact that we know ANYTHING about the existence of Jesus (from quite a long list of near contemporary historians) is amazing. That is the true story. Unfortunately its not one the readers of Fitzgerald’s book seem likely to hear… The rest of his book sounds interesting, though perhaps a lot of it not really new, but this argument, in the way that Fitzgerald has apparently argued it, is faulty.

    * I know that one fragment apparently nows does exists, but you get my point.

    • Steven Carr
      2011-05-30 00:19:36 UTC - 00:19 | Permalink

      ‘If you accept Hannibal existed because all we have are later accounts from writers CLAIMING these records existed and CLAIMING that they were eyewitness material, ‘

      Are you saying that O’Neill was simply lying when he said he was aware that there really had been histories of Hannibal written by contemporaries, and that the truth of the matter is that those histories were only claimed to exist?

      Surely O’Neill has thoroughly researched this material and knows for a fact that there really had been contemporary histories produced by named persons.

      O’Neill is not an amateur.

      He knows that those contemporary histories of Hannibal really did exist, and patiently explained to you that there is no similar evidence for Jesus of Bethlehem, sorry, Nazareth ( or possibly Capernaum)

      But please keep explaining why there is no evidence for the existence of Jesus and ‘common sense’ should tell us that we should not expect any evidence… It really goes a long way to refute those mythicists who say there is no evidence for the existence of Jesus of Nazareth.

      ‘The point Tim was making, I suppose, is that readers need to familiarize themselves to the reality that we probably have less than 1% of books from antiquity…’

      You couldn’t really expect Christian scribes to copy out books not related to Jesus, could you? That explains why so many were not copied out by scribes.

      And you can’t expect the authors of James or Jude to waste their time writing about the deeds of a ‘failed peasant Jewish itinerant messiah figure who, during his lifetime, had enough close followers that we could fit them in a minibus’. They preferred to write about Abraham, Moses, Job, Enoch.

      Similarly, when the author of Hebrews wanted an example of people who heard a message and rebelled, he did not waste his readers time by telling them about people who heard Jesus and did not heed his message.

      When the author of Hebrews wanted to talk about elephants and what rooms they liked to inhabit, he naturally turned his attention to the elephant in the room – namely, ‘Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt?’

      Why anybody expects early Christians to talk about a ‘failed peasant Jewish itinerant messiah figure who, during his lifetime, had enough close followers that we could fit them in a minibus’ is frankly beyond me.

      As, in fact, so it should to anyone with even the faintest awareness of classical antiquity and a modicrum of common sense.

      Naturally, the author of Hebrews talked about the life of Moses, not the life of Jesus, as anybody with a modicum of common sense would realise that that was natural for early Christians looking for example of rebellious Jews.

      • hanery
        2011-05-30 01:13:28 UTC - 01:13 | Permalink

        Steve,

        O’Neil was explaining why the argument from the lack of contemporary extant historiography for Jesus is not a forceful argument, and pointed out that a similar situation exists for Hannibal. It is (with the exception that apparently a fragment does exist) a good argument. I was merely pointing out the fact that Evan’s claim that ‘ but we have later people claiming there was histories from contemporaries about Hannibal’ doesn’t do anything to counter that. That is the simple point, and in fact my only point. No-one is arguing Hannibal didn’t exist, and I am not arguing that the histories probably didn’t exist. Perhaps I have been unclear on that, and in that case my apologies. I hope this is cleared up now.

        You then say: “But please keep explaining why there is no evidence for the existence of Jesus and ‘common sense’ should tell us that we should not expect any evidence… It really goes a long way to refute those mythicists who say there is no evidence for the existence of Jesus of Nazareth.”

        I in no way said we shouldn’t expect no evidence for Jesus. I was quite careful to stick to the point at hand that everyone seems to want to not talk about- the question of the lack of records from historians of the time. That was Fitzgerald’s argument, that is what I responded to, and that quite clearly the evidence I was talking about. So the rest of your post, though interesting, has no consequence.

    • Steven Carr
      2011-05-30 02:18:21 UTC - 02:18 | Permalink

      ‘but a (seemingly) failed peasant Jewish itinerant messiah figure who, during his lifetime, had enough close followers that we could fit them in a minibus should have induced such a record or attracted the attention of a historian to visit the villages of Galilee is beyond me.’

      Gosh, I had no idea Jesus has been so obscure and had just a handful of followers.

      No wonder the Romans killed him. There was nothing more dangerous to the Roman Empire than a handful of people following somebody that almost nobody had heard of.

      I wonder how Tacitus learned about this Jesus.

      Probably from one of the contemporary Roman sources that had taken no notice whatever of the existence of Jesus.

      Do you think Tacitus learned about this Jesus from Christians.

  • 2011-05-29 22:20:23 UTC - 22:20 | Permalink

    Hanery fails to grasp the point at issue here. It is not simply a question of the number of surviving sources and their time frames. The nature (e.g. genre) of the sources is also a factor. So where we have primary evidence (sources physically located in the time and place of Hannibal/Jesus) that are credible, then we have virtually ironclad proof of the historical person or event. Secondary evidence alone can never give us the same certainty.

    But when secondary evidence finds independent support (e.g. in the case of Socrates where we have independent testimonies from a philosopher and a playwright) then probabilities are increased. So Plato’s writings alone would leave us never knowing if Socrates is an entirely fictional mouthpiece, and references to Socrates in Aristophanes’ plays alone would not give us confidence in the historicity of Socrates either. But together they give us stronger confidence in the historicity of Socrates. But it is only a degree of probability, and there are some classicists who do question Socrates’ historicity.

    Similarly, ancient historians upon whom modern historians place relatively more confidence are those whose works of history identify their sources. Polybius (who cites Sosylus) is one of these. Literary/genre analysis further helps us to distinguish between genuine history (by ancient standards) from pseudo history. (Much of Herodotus, and much of Primary History in the Bible, are examples of pseudo-history. These works of pseudo history appear to be written as genuine history, and in order to better convey that impression and establish their credibility claim to cite sources that we have reason to suspect are imaginary.)

    We have nothing like any of this for Jesus. The evidence we have for Hannibal is ironclad. For Socrates it is some measure of probability. For Jesus, and for the reasons stated above,
    even Albert Schweitzer said that the evidence does not even rise to positive probability. All the evidence we have for Jesus comes from Christian sources which have a confessional interest in assuring readers of the reality of Jesus.

    If Jesus were not a charismatic leader who had the power to lead his followers to believe he was the Messiah, and even part of the Godhead, after his death, and whose life was not even found worthy of mention by Josephus or Tacitus in a later generation (as many believe), then certainly it would be foolish to expect to find contemporary evidence of him. But if you think that there was no reason at all for anyone in his own time to make a note of him, then you will have to explain how such an individual could conceivably have been the founder of Christianity according to the evidence we do have for its earliest days.

  • hanery
    2011-05-29 22:54:20 UTC - 22:54 | Permalink

    Hi Neil, thanks for the reply.

    No one has made the case that you can claim Hannibal never existed. You, in fact, summarize the reasons why this would be a ludicrous claim quite well, and outline why it is not ludicrous to claim this for Jesus. The point to grasp in this argument is the narrower question of whether the lack of extant contemporary historiography is a legitimate (or particularly forceful) argument against Jesus existence. This is all that is being talked here from either Tim, Kris, or me. The point of raising this case for Hannibal (with the exception of that fragment) is to show it is, in fact, not that cogent an argument at all- and for reasons I outlined above.

    I’m not saying Fitzgerald shouldn’t note the lack of historiography for Jesus. It should be mentioned sure, but it seems (and I will need to get Fizgerald’s book) that he handles this particular argument, well, shoddily. Its quite appropriate to point this out, and warn the reader that the force of this particular argument should be heavily qualified in a way that Fitzgerald did not do. I’m sure you will agree that not all mythicists arguments will be infallible- in fact I have enjoyed reading your review of ‘Jesus Potter’ for the reason that you point out the flaws as well as the strengths.

    • 2011-05-29 23:16:29 UTC - 23:16 | Permalink

      The only reason I posted what I did was to give Evan’s comment an appropriate platform. I am more interested in engaging in discussion and debate that is on the sublime end of professionalism and civility and have no time for Tim’s puerile showmanship. If and when I want to discuss or debate anything to do with Fitzgerald’s work it will be a very different post.

    • Steven Carr
      2011-05-30 00:23:16 UTC - 00:23 | Permalink

      ‘No one has made the case that you can claim Hannibal never existed. You, in fact, summarize the reasons why this would be a ludicrous claim quite well…’

      So did O’Neill when he pointed out that there had been contemporary histories of Hannibal written by named people.

      I forget exactly where and when he did that in his review. Perhaps you could remind me.

      • hanery
        2011-05-30 00:34:44 UTC - 00:34 | Permalink

        Steve,

        Sorry I have read your comment over and over again, I can’t understand what you are asking me.

        • Steven Carr
          2011-05-30 01:24:08 UTC - 01:24 | Permalink

          I was asking you to remind me where O’Neill told his readers that a contemporary had written a 7 volume history of Hannibal, and presumably why it can not be used (by O’Neill) as evidence of Hannibal existing.

          ‘O’Neil was explaining why the argument from the lack of contemporary extant historiography for Jesus is not a forceful argument, and pointed out that a similar situation exists for Hannibal.’

          I see.

          O’Neill is claiming that
          1) No contemporary wrote about Jesus
          2) More than one contemporary wrote extensively about Hannibal
          3) These situations are so similar that the lack of contemporary writing about Jesus is comparable to the existence (now lost) of a seven volume history of Hannibal.

          4) These situations are so similar that O’Neill has no reason even to inform people that there did exist contemporary writings about Hannibal.

          Forgive the plain language, but there is something in this logic of O’Neill’s that is not correct.

  • hanery
    2011-05-29 23:01:09 UTC - 23:01 | Permalink

    As for this question:

    “If Jesus were not a charismatic leader who had the power to lead his followers to believe he was the Messiah, and even part of the Godhead, after his death, and whose life was not even found worthy of mention by Josephus or Tacitus in a later generation (as many believe), then certainly it would be foolish to expect to find contemporary evidence of him. But if you think that there was no reason at all for anyone in his own time to make a note of him, then you will have to explain how such an individual could conceivably have been the founder of Christianity according to the evidence we do have for its earliest days.”

    Well the standard, and quite convincing, answer is that Jesus was charismatic enough to attract attention from those around him (but mainly probably no more than a crowd of peasant farmers), but with only 12 close followers. After his death his followers tried to understand what happened, how did this happen? Then you get the reinterpretation of his life and message to explain the events, and it was a message that found a far, far more successful reception that was ever aroused by Jesus during his own lifetime.

    • 2011-05-29 23:09:24 UTC - 23:09 | Permalink

      The problem starts when you try to break down that model of a dozen peasant farmers being suddenly seized of a post-mortem inspiration and converting Jews and gentiles to accept the same inspiration and almost overnight catapult that Jesus to the godhead. Recall those Jews were supposed to have had no interest in Jesus, or to have hated him, when he was alive, and gentiles had never heard of him. Does this really make any sense?

      • hanery
        2011-05-29 23:44:54 UTC - 23:44 | Permalink

        Neil,

        I agree that the way you have narrated the events it would indeed to problematic. But then, as you will know, the standard interpretation is not that they had an overnight change in view or post mortem inspiration. It seems to have been a rather long procedure in trying to analyize what happened and interpret what happened. Looking at Camping or the Seven Day Adventists. They have a prophet who failed, they then (actually in their case quite quickly) go back, spiritualize and re-interpret the teachings due to this failure in the prophetic ministry and come away with a teaching completely different from the original teacher’s pronouncements and understanding- and they do so with upmost conviction and certainty.

        • 2011-05-30 08:27:29 UTC - 08:27 | Permalink

          hanery –

          I don’t understand how the length of time it would take for the disciples to reinterpret the death of Jesus the way they did would make any difference. Does the standard model speak of weeks? months? I have read both suggestions. But the longer the time we allow, the less likely it is psychologically that anyone would feel a compelling need to transform the experience of their leader’s death into something unprecedented.

          The SDAs, the Millerites, etc do rationalize their failure very quickly. Otherwise they would lose everyone — they do lose many and the change of views is necessary as a damage-control. But here we are talking about mere chronological issues, or geographical ones (did X happen on earth or in heaven), etc. This is a very long way from transforming a crucified nobody into a part of the godhead and then persuading masses of Jews and gentiles of this.

          Is there an alternative way of narrating the events that would make sense?

    • Steven Carr
      2011-05-30 01:28:22 UTC - 01:28 | Permalink

      ‘Then you get the reinterpretation of his life and message to explain the events, and it was a message that found a far, far more successful reception that was ever aroused by Jesus during his own lifetime.’

      Yes, going into a Jewish crowd and explaining that a recently executed criminal had been the agent through whom God had created the world, and not being immediately stoned to death as a blasphemer, would have counted as a success.

      Just as explaining that Lee Harvey Oswald was the True President of the United States , and not being locked up as a lunatic, would also be a success.

      • hanery
        2011-05-30 01:49:12 UTC - 01:49 | Permalink

        Well exactly Steven. That’s probably why Christianity 1) wasn’t very successful for hundreds of years, 2) the small number of adherents it had were poor and uneducated, 3) its main centres were not in Jewish lands but Gentile ones. Yet they did have his unpalatable message as it was the one they were forced to construct to explain what happened. Just as Campings new message is not palatable but circumstances force you to make them…

        But their success was better than Jesus’ mission…

  • Steven Carr
    2011-05-30 02:07:03 UTC - 02:07 | Permalink

    ’2) the small number of adherents it had were poor and uneducated, ‘

    According to McGrath, they could hardly afford paper for letters….

    Although Maurice Casey explains that well-to-do women financed the mission and that few of the disciples had been on the breadline, some being educated enough to read and write on wax tablets.

    Historicists always have an answer, don’t they?

    Why weren’t Jews stoned for proclaiming that a recently convicted criminal was the agent through whom God had created the world?

    Because the Christian Jesus had been revealed through scripture, and was therefore foolishness to Jews – lousy Bible exegesis on the lines of Camping’s Bible exegesis, rather than blasphemy?

  • Steven Carr
    2011-06-01 01:05:55 UTC - 01:05 | Permalink

    O’Neill is still claiming that the existence of seven volumes of history about Hannibal is irrelevant to his claim that the evidence of contemporary writing about Hannibal is similar to that of contemporary writing about Jesus.

    And notice how naturally Tim uses arguments from silence ‘Then there’s the problem that there is zero evidence that this was ever considered a Messianic prophecy before Christians came along and insisted it was about their crucified guy.’

    Of course McGrath chimes in with cries of ‘The texts are silent! The texts are silent!’ ‘We have texts from before and during the first century which fail to do anything with Isaiah 53, even though they wrote about a coming Anointed One.’

    If a text is silent about something , McGrath will bash mythicists over the head with proof that something did not exist – for behold, here are some texts that are silent.

  • Steven Carr
    2011-06-02 17:36:27 UTC - 17:36 | Permalink

    O’Neill has the usual stuff he repeats.

    If you remove the obvious interpolations from Josephus, you get something that is Josephan….

    A 10 the century work by a Christian Bishop contains the words of Josephus without Christian interpolations (!) (O’Neill forgets to tell his readers that Agapius was a Christians Bishop, just as he forgets to tell his reader about 7 volume of contemporary evidence for Hannibal that did exist)

    O’Neill claims a 12th century (!) work by Michael the Syrian is also independent evidence of what Josephus wrote, as though the text had not been corrupted before the 12th century, as even O’Neill admits.

    Guess what! Sit down before reading this, because it will come as a shock.

    O’Neill forgets to tell his readers the date of this Michael of Syrian.

    Told you it would be a shock. Admit it, you never guessed that O’Neill forgot to mention that.

    O’Neill also claims that Origen is quoting from Josephus when he writes ‘that these disasters happened to the Jews as a punishment for the death of James the Just, who was “the brother of that Jesus who was called Messiah”,’

    Of course, no such reference to ‘James the Just’ appears in Josephus, and no such reason for the disasters of the Jews appears.

    Nor could it. Josephus would never have thought that the killing of a Christian brought down punishment upon the Jews. Surely even O’Neill has some contact with reality to see that.

    And , lo and behold, the very phrase that Origen used turns up in later quotes of Josephus, almost as though a careful Christian scribe had corrected his presumably faulty edition of Josephus by comparing it to what that famous scholar of textual criticism, Origen, had said it contained.

    All this O’Neill bluster has been dealt with elsewhere, but he just keeps on repeating it as though it had never been seen before, let alone answered.

    • 2011-06-02 21:29:04 UTC - 21:29 | Permalink

      Where does he spew this deceit?

      O’Neill does not argue for anything. He is a fraudulent attack dog for orthodox apologetics. I don’t really feel like repeating the clear evidence that what is left after you remove the obvious Christian overlay from the TF is all Eusebian phraseology:

      1. TF: More clues from Eusebius: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2009/03/08/the-testimonium-flavianum-an-additional-clue-from-eusebiuss-against-hierocles/

      2. Jesus in Josephus: Point 4: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2009/03/14/the-tf-eusebian-clues-point-4/

      3. Jesus in Josephus: Points 5-12: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2009/03/15/jesus-in-josephus-pts-5-12/

      4. Jesus in Josephus: Not extinct at this day: http://vridar.wordpress.com/2009/03/15/jesus-in-josephus-not-extinct-at-this-day/

      He was exposed as a fraud with his attack on Nailed. As Doherty drove home, the whole point of one of his original arguments was to claim that there was no contemporary historical witness to Hannibal as there was none to Jesus — and then attempted to weasel out of that by saying he didn’t mean that at all when shown to be wrong. His attack on the first myth in that work was to argue that David Fitzgerald’s argument was invalid because it supposedly only addressed conservative views as if liberal theology undercuts the argument against historicity.

      He is as big a fraud as a Butler biblical scholar who likewise ignores anything that does not fit his preconceptions and repeats ad nauseam whatever he has been saying since way back when.

      • Steven Carr
        2011-06-02 22:41:51 UTC - 22:41 | Permalink

        All of the above was in O’Neill’s review of Nailed, when he hammered Fitzgerald for not using 12th century Christian translations of Josephus as evidence that the text had not already been corrupted by the 4th century.

        ‘The work is extant in a single manuscript written in 1598 in Syriac in a Serto hand. This was copied from an earlier manuscript, itself copied from Michael’s autograph. ‘

        So the earliest manuscript of what Michael the Syrian wrote is from 1598 (!), and O’Neill slams Fitzgerald as an amateur for not including 16th century copies of 12 th century Christian works, as evidence of what Josephus had written.

        http://groups.yahoo.com/group/crosstalk2/message/16163 talks about Michael the Syrian’s work.

  • ROO BOOKAROO
    2011-07-31 22:49:46 UTC - 22:49 | Permalink

    Excellent. I was also subjected to Tim O’Neill’s diatribe when entering what I thought was a humble comment to his review of Nailed in Amazon.
    I was somewhat shocked at the virulence and low-class style of this reviewer. This was my first exposure.
    I tried to research who he was, and on page 4 of Google came up on your discussion. Extremely appropriate.
    I took the liberty of extracting some quotes of your text that I am including in my last reply to Tim O’Neill’s vitriolic and vulgar attack. This man has a chip on his shoulder, something he has to prove to the world.

    • 2011-07-31 22:53:41 UTC - 22:53 | Permalink

      Steven Carr’s comments here also expose a few pertinent points about Tim’s “review”.

      • Tim O'Neill
        2011-08-01 17:22:50 UTC - 17:22 | Permalink

        Steve Carr’s comments are, as usual, a string of weird non-sequiturs and exercises in deliberately obtuse strawman bashing. Still, that’s better than the outright nonsense you tried above about how I said “slanderous” things about poor Fitzgerald’s weak little book. When challenged, you backpedalled and said you only meant his first chapter. And when backed into a corner by a summary of the completely reasonable things I said about his first chapter, you … shut off my ability to reply. To the amsusement of many observers.

        It’s tactics like that which speak volumes.

        Meanwhile the oddball character who said that my perfectly mild responses to him on Amazon.com were a “diatribe” (!) and “vitriolic and vulgar” (?!) has since posted a reply based on his clumsy cyberstalking of me which promptly got removed by the Amazon.com staff. I think reasonable observers can work out who was simply responding with clear and cogent argument and who was “vitriolic” there. You really do attract some weirdos to your neck of the woods.

        • Steven Carr
          2011-08-03 08:07:24 UTC - 08:07 | Permalink

          ‘Steve Carr’s comments are, as usual, a string of weird non-sequiturs and exercises in deliberately obtuse strawman bashing.’

          In other words, Tim can’t quote a single thing I wrote to back up his allegations of ‘non sequitors’ , although he will quote 16th century copies of 12th century Christian paraphrases of Syriac translations of Eusebius as ‘evidence’ of what Josephus wrote (and I use the word ‘evidence’ simply because it is the word Tim uses, although almost any other word would be more appropriate.)

          Simply put, anybody who slams Fitzgerald as an ‘amateur’ for not using the 12th century Syriac ‘translation’ of Josephus is somebody who is not worth reading.

  • ROO BOOKAROO
    2011-08-03 03:36:38 UTC - 03:36 | Permalink

    After this experience, my personal resolution is to avoid getting again entangled in dialoguing with Tim O’Neill. It is a waste of time.
    My encounter with him on Amazon and here was my first exposure. I was dumbfounded by his arrogant self-assurance, and obnoxious language, and I tried to find out who this man was.

    By Googling his name, you can discover that he posts practically on ALL blogs and forums involved with the origins of Christianity: Luke Burrage’s blog, Patheos/Exploring Our Matrix (James McGrath’s own blog), Amazon, Ignatius Insight, Armarium Magnum (his own blog), Rational Skepticism, Quora, the Bible Truth, James Hannam, Secular News Daily, Movements, History vs the Da Vinci Code, Interfaith, Total War Center, Clayboy, Christian Article Bank, Rational Response Squad, etc…

    I copied quotes about him from this blog Vridar, and from those other blogs, including his own, and posted them on Amazon. Many were outrageous, even disgusting, and Amazon was correct in removing my collection of remarks.

    His spiel is always the same: He loves to pile on a lot of insults on the opponent, and no need to go very far to find examples, just pick a few right above: “weird non-sequiturs…obtuse strawman bashing…oddball character…clumsy cyberstalking…weirdo,” and those are the mild ones.
    He uses only demeaning and derogatory phrases and expressions for the other party “myther…amateur…hobbyist…half a brain….amusement of observers, clown, etc..” He uses a lot of cute remarks “this person Fitzgerald… your pal Fitzgerald….precious prejudices,” and so on, and so on. A lot of which I nearly consider gutter language (or could it be just friendly-sounding Australian disputation, that sounds so offensive in an American context? but I doubt it, considering your own comments in here.)

    For himself, the language is solemn and respectful, practically sanctimonious, as this man is firmly convinced he is always right, just as above: “the completely reasonable things I said…my ability to reply…my perfectly mild responses…reasonable observers…clear and cogent argument…etc…” This kind of self-patting makes you puke.

    It’s all so repetitive and annoying, that once you know his spiel, you simply expect more of the same.

    His simplistic veneration for “peer-reviewed scholars” makes you wonder if this man has ever had an undergraduate or graduate education.
    That’s par for the territory. We often don’t know what kind of educated or non-educated person we have to deal with on those blogs or forums. Instead of learning something from an intelligent connoisseur, we get linguistic games, invectives, diatribes and self-glorification, and spinning of wheels.

    • 2011-08-03 05:50:20 UTC - 05:50 | Permalink

      i only now noticed Tim’s comment above. My spam filter should not have let that one through but it has at least stopped another comment from him.

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