2016-04-09

Questions for Professor McGrath re Those Proofs

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by Neil Godfrey

I trust I have set out Professor McGrath’s proofs for the historical existence of Jesus fairly and accurately in my previous post. Since the Professor has declined to engage in discussion with me I wonder if any interested readers would like to raise the following questions with him and alert us here of his responses.

Paul says Jesus was of the seed of David according to the flesh — thus indicating he believed him to be historical. Here Paul is talking specifically about “the Davidic anointed one” and referring to a “kingly figure” and the “expectation that the kingship would be restored to the dynasty of David”. That expectation meant that the messiah would be made the king, not crucified. So crucifixion was almost automatic disqualification from being the Davidic messiah.

“So if you’re inventing a religion from scratch and trying to convince Jews that this figure is the Davidical anointed one, then you don’t invent that he was crucified.”

If Jesus was crucified then is it not equally unlikely that the early disciples would have come to interpret him as having been the Davidic Messiah? Yet they obviously did interpret Jesus this way despite his crucifixion. So how can we explain a historical crucified man being interpreted as having been the Davidic Messiah? Is not your argument invalidated by the very fact that the early Christians chose to interpret a crucified one as the Davidic Messiah?

Is not the answer to this question found in the fact that the crucifixion was not seen as the end of Jesus’ life but only as the beginning of his highly exalted heavenly life from where he was believed to have subdued all evil powers, even death itself? In other words, is not the crucifixion of Jesus interpreted as the gateway to his being the exalted Davidic Lord having destroyed a far greater enemy than Rome?

Do we not have evidence that the first evangelist to write a gospel interpreted the Davidic Messiah in just this way when he had Jesus utter the opening words of abandonment of a Psalm said to be about David — Psalm 22:1? Does not the same evangelist portray Jesus as like David in other ways, too — e.g. being rejected by his family; the prayerful night-time ascent to the Mount of Olives as he was about to face death? And it is of this point in David’s life that Psalm 22 is thought by some to reference.

Is it not highly conceivable that anyone wanting to create a messiah who emulate and even transvalues the Davidic King, that he would create a figure undergoing similar but even greater trials than David — and having even greater reward and authority at the end of them all? Is that not what we see in Jesus — a Davidic figure warring against demons and undergoing the extreme stress that called to mind Psalm 22? And all of this as a prelude to being exalted to the spiritual throne of David and of his Lord? (Recall Jesus reminded his hearers that the son of David was David’s Lord!)

Do we not have the studies of Hengel and others to support this when they demonstrate the close association between the Son of Man in Daniel and Suffering Servant in Isaiah and one pierced in Zechariah and the strong indications that some Jews were indeed toying with ideas of a messianic figure with Davidic associations who would die and be resurrected to glory and power?

Mythicists often credulously swallow what historians find problematic. Example: mythicists often claim Jesus was based upon Old Testament prophecies as their fulfilment. It seems to McGrath that these mythicists have only heard this claim from Christian apologists or the NT authors themselves and that they haven’t actually looked carefully at these texts. In fact most of the scriptures are not prophecies at all and the few he seems to fulfil he doesn’t really (unless one forces the interpretation) so — if you’re inventing someone who fulfils the prophecies, you invent one who fulfils the prophecies. (Jesus doesn’t fit this bill.)

When we see the evangelists trying to link Jesus’ life with texts that don’t really fit him at all, then we have a situation where they have a real figure and they are struggling to make him fit — they can’t just make up anything about his life that they wanted to.

Understood. But at the same time don’t we have a problem if Jesus’s life did not really fit anything in the scriptures then why did his followers go to such extreme and unpersuasive lengths to try to say he really really did if we just use our imaginations a lot and pretend that these Jewish Scriptures almost say something like what he almost did? Does that make sense if that’s what they did — as you seem to be implying in your criticism here?

On the other hand, don’t we have many examples of Jewish authors using a form of haggadic midrash (and I’m relying on Jewish scholars of midrash when I raise this point) finding what look like bizarre or unnatural connections between Jewish scriptures and literary figures they create? Is not the way Jesus is portrayed in the gospels just another example of this sort of Jewish creative writing?

McGrath: No one would say that Socrates did not exist if the earliest evidence for Socrates came from a disciple of his. So it is bizarre to discount the evidence of early “Christians” for Jesus.

Is not the point of the mythicists that unlike case of Socrates we have no writings from any eyewitness disciples of Jesus? If we had the sort of evidence for Jesus as we have for Socrates — contemporaries, disciples and opponents alike — then there would be no question about the existence of Jesus. Atheists don’t need Jesus not to exist, after all. In fact it’s much easier for atheists to discredit Christianity (if that’s what they want to do) by pointing out the sorts of bad behaviour and teachings that Avalos and Price have dwelt upon in their books (Bad Jesus and Blaming Jesus). I think the problem is that the evidence for Jesus is so much less than it is for, say, Socrates.

Paul says he met the “brother of Jesus (sic)”

I think you’ll find the actual word used in Galatians is “Lord”, not “Jesus”. But this is a common mistake and we can leave it aside for now. The bigger questions pertain to the implications of this passage in Galatians actually being penned by Paul and literally referring to a sibling of Jesus. If James really had been the brother of Jesus then why do we not find a single other reference to this surely most highly significant relationship in any other epistle, in Acts, and why no hint that this James was to become the leader of the Church in any of the gospels? And we have so many other questions relating to Paul’s attitude toward James and the Jerusalem church if this James was so related. Is it not reasonable to at least pause and think through alternative possibilities for Galatians 1:19 given the very major questions our traditional interpretation raises?

If anyone does take any of these questions to Professor McGrath please do remember to approach him humbly, respectfully, politely and sincerely. We don’t want any hint of “despicable behavior” coming from this quarter! 😉

This is my last night in Bangkok. Tomorrow night I’ll be somewhere over Indonesia heading back to Australia after a holiday that really has been a total break from all normal routines. Pity me on Monday morning when I front up to work at 8 am after having landed around 3 or 4 am. Ouch. Reality is about to bite.

 

39 Comments

  • John MacDonald
    2016-04-09 13:05:53 UTC - 13:05 | Permalink

    The thing is, all scholars agree the New Testament writers were taking Hebrew scriptures out of context and relating them to Jesus. But this was not done to force the scriptures to fit with the life events of Jesus, but rather inventing the stories of the life of Jesus using the Old Testament scriptures as models. Price argues that “Thus modern scholars might admit that Hosea 11:1 (“Out of Egypt I have called my son”) had to be taken out of context to provide a pedigree for the fact of Jesus’ childhood sojourn in Egypt, but that it was the story of the flight into Egypt that made early Christians go searching for the Hosea text. Now it is apparent, just to take this example, that the flight into Egypt is midrashic all the way down.” Mythicists and historicists don’t argue “whether” the New Testament writers were doing this, only the extent to which they were doing this. In the case of Hosea 11:1, no one would argue that the New Testament writers were desperately searching Hebrew scriptures to find a model to base Jesus’ actual trip to Egypt on, but rather that it was simple haggadic midrash through and through. Why can we not also suppose that this was the case in the use of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 to create the crucifixion narrative?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-04-09 13:16:55 UTC - 13:16 | Permalink

      Shh…. Past conversations with the professor alerted some of us to the embarrassing situation where he appears to not know what the wide range of haggadic midrash looks like and even denying that the gospels were a form of midrashic writing despite a raft of both specialist Jewish and Christian scholars describing the gospels as such. We need to mind our manners and be very tactful if we, mere lay amateurs, choose to address the professor’s shortcomings. Remember, anything less than the signs of utmost deference may be interpreted as “despicable behavior” and get you banned.

      • John MacDonald
        2016-04-09 14:28:42 UTC - 14:28 | Permalink

        It all seems kind of contrived to me. Dr. McGrath uses circular reasoning by treating the crucifixion as a historical datum, as if it existed in a vacuum. But the crucifixion is always connected to the resurrection in Christian writing. The crucifixion is never thought about as a failure of the mission of Jesus, but as a triumph. For Paul, Jesus resurrection is understood as the “first fruits” of the general resurrection, and so was a selling point for the new religion: “The end of the world is at hand, so you better join the winning team.” Christianity is all about winning converts and spreading the word:

        (A) 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17)

        (B) The Great Commission

        16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

        (C) Sending out Emissaries

        Just as Moses had chosen twelve spies to reconnoiter the land which stretched “before your face,” sending them through the cities of the land of Canaan, so does Jesus send a second group, after the twelve, a group of seventy, whose number symbolizes the nations of the earth who are to be “conquered,” so to speak, with the gospel in the Acts of the Apostles. He sends them out “before his face” to every city he plans to visit (in Canaan, too, obviously).

        To match the image of the spies returning with samples of the fruit of the land (Deuteronomy 1:25), Luke has placed here the Q saying (Luke 10:2//Matthew 9:37-38), “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few; therefore beg the Lord of the harvest to send out more workers into his harvest.”

        And Jesus’ emissaries return with a glowing report, just as Moses’ did.

        – Too many messianic groups had come and gone for the first Christians to think their group was destined for anything else in the face of the powerful Romans and Jewish elites. What was different for the first Christians was they did not have a backup plan if Jesus was killed, but rather that Jesus’ death was the plan.

        This is the case whether Jesus existed or not.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2016-04-09 15:11:09 UTC - 15:11 | Permalink

          Yes, it is surely a sleight of hand whenever the anti-mythicist declares “no one would have invented a crucified messiah” or have taken a crucified man as the messiah — The whole point of the crucifixion message was that it was the gateway to spiritual glory and conquest. I have long tried to think the best but the dishonesty or culpable naivety in the claim just overwhelms me sometimes.

          • John MacDonald
            2016-04-09 20:14:05 UTC - 20:14 | Permalink

            Paul said “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,… (1 Cor 15:3-4).” This was Paul’s gospel, and the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection were all thought of as a complete set – fully grounded in the Hebrew scriptures.

            • 2016-04-09 20:35:32 UTC - 20:35 | Permalink

              Yes , John , ACCORDING to the scriptures , because in a real life people don’t die for sins and raise from death .

              • John MacDonald
                2016-04-09 21:01:46 UTC - 21:01 | Permalink

                Isaiah 53:5 (NKJV)

                But He was wounded for our transgressions,
                He was bruised for our iniquities;
                The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
                And by His stripes we are healed.

            • 2016-04-09 21:49:37 UTC - 21:49 | Permalink

              Isaiah 53:5 is an allegorical description of ” prevailing-strenght / israel ” , that shows clearly from the context of this chapter depicting it as a “suffering servant “.
              In addition , this chapter speaks of somebody who will have an offspring (Isa 53:10 ) ; “zera” means semen in Hebrew ( f.e GEN 3:15 , NUM 5:28 ) . The character like Jesus , according to OT and Jewish tradition , couldn’t be offered as a sacrifice for sins , because sacrificial object had to be without a blemish ; Jesus was bruised , poked making him physically and morally ( lied , broke the law…etc ) imperfect . Also blood sacrifices / offerings had to be made at the altar .

              • John MacDonald
                2016-04-09 23:09:45 UTC - 23:09 | Permalink

                Jesus was portrayed in the gospels as being representative of Israel, so the typology of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 fits nicely with him. For instance,

                1. Israel had a Joseph (Genesis 30:24)
                And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son.
                COMPARE
                Jesus had a Joseph (Mathew 1:16)
                And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
                2. Israel’s Joseph had dreams (Genesis 37:5)
                And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.
                COMPARE
                Jesus’ Joseph had dreams (Mathew 2:13)
                Behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream…
                3. Israel went into Egypt (Genesis 46:5-6)
                And the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, and their little ones, and their wives…and came into Egypt.
                COMPARE
                Jesus went into Egypt (Mathew 2:14)
                When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt.
                4. Israel came out of Egypt (Exodus 12:51)
                The LORD did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies.
                COMPARE
                Jesus came out of Egypt (Mathew 2:15)
                And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
                5. Israel was baptized (Red Sea) (1 Corinthians 10:2)

                And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
                COMPARE
                Jesus was Baptized (Mathew 3:16)

                And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water.
                6. Israel is called God’s son (Hosea 11:1)
                When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.
                COMPARE
                Jesus is called God’s Son (Mathew 3:17)
                And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
                7. Israel is called God’s firstborn (Exodus 4:22)
                And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn.
                COMPARE
                Jesus is called God’s firstborn (Romans 8:29)

                For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
                8. Israel was in the wilderness for 40 years (Hebrews 3:17)
                But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?
                COMPARE
                Jesus was in the wilderness 40 days (Mathew 4:1-2)
                Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights…

                9. Deuteronomy given in the wilderness (Exodus 24:12)

                And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.
                COMPARE
                Jesus uses Deuteronomy to resist temptation (Mathew 4:4-10)

                But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God…It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God…for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
                10. The Law was taught on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:12)
                And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.
                COMPARE
                Sermon on the Mount teaches the Law (Mathew 5-7)
                And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them,
                11. God made a blood covenant with the 12 tribes (Exodus 24:8)
                And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.
                COMPARE
                Jesus made a blood covenant with His 12 apostles (Mathew 26:28)

                For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
                12. Israel is called God’s vine (Psalm 80:8)
                Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it.
                COMPARE
                Jesus is called God’s vine (John 15:1)
                I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
                13. Israel was called the seed of Abraham (Isaiah 41:8)
                But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.
                COMPARE
                Jesus is called the seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:16)
                Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
                14. Israel started a person and became a people
                Example: Israel (Jacob) grew into the 12 tribes of Israel
                COMPARE
                Jesus started as a person and became a people
                Example: The church is referred to as the body of Christ

            • 2016-04-10 00:54:20 UTC - 00:54 | Permalink

              John , it’s called PLAGIARISM – copy catting from the previous literary source . This side has listed over 100 passages side by side to COMPARE : http://jesusisamyth.blogspot.com
              The same way OT was created ; the 1st set of 10 commandments is a knock off from Egyptian Maat’s Code , making man from clay and breath of life originated from Sumerian epic of Enki and Nimnah and Egyptian Khnum . Other biblical themes were mocked off from Gilgamesh( the flood ) , myth of Sargon of Akkad ( baby in a river in a basket ) , Dionysus ( making water into wine ) even Heracles ( the son of god and earthy woman , who was a savior of people and became god after his death ) …etc .
              There are at least 3 characters named ISOUS ( Jesus) in OT/ Septuagint , 4 in Greek text of NT ( camouflaged in English translation so ISOUS called anointed doesn’t have competition) and at least 15 in text of Josephus .

              • Pofarmer
                2016-04-10 02:11:13 UTC - 02:11 | Permalink

                The story of Heracles is one that keeps coming back to me.

            • rocky
              2016-04-11 13:40:20 UTC - 13:40 | Permalink

              john, i remember you discussing with ehrman about the crucifixion on his blog and he said not all details of the crucifixion are derived from the jewish bible, what is your response to that?

              • John MacDonald
                2016-04-11 14:34:08 UTC - 14:34 | Permalink

                Hi Rocky:

                (1) Paul writes “Christ died for our sins ACCORDING TO THE SCRPTURES, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day ACCORDING TO THE SCRPTURES,… (1 Cor 15:3-4).” So, the essential details of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ can be found in scriptures.

                (2) Beyond this, The New Testament uses the word “tree” five times to refer to Christ’s execution (Acts 5:30, 10:39, 13:29, Galatians 3:13 and 1 Peter 2:24). One of the five appearances of “tree” occurs in Galatians. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us,” wrote Paul, “for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13). Paul was quoting a phrase found in Deuteronomy 21:23. Since Christ’s death here in Paul fulfilled scripture (Deuteronomy 21:23), it served a theological purpose for Paul, and so there is no reason to think it actually happened, because Paul had reason to invent it. As Paul wrote, “Christ died for our sins ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES (1 Cor 15:3).”

                Paul was referring to the Torah’s prescribed form of execution by stoning for blasphemy and idolatry. After being stoned to death, the person’s body was hung on a tree to show that the individual was under God’s curse. To the Jews, hanging on a tree had become a metaphor for an apostate, a blasphemer or a person under God’s curse. That’s how the Jews viewed Jesus (John 5:18; 10:33; Matthew 26:63-65).

                Their attitude would explain why Peter and Paul sometimes used the Greek word for “tree” (xylon) to describe Jesus’ execution. Three times in the book of Acts the word tree is used to refer to Jesus’ crucifixion. In these cases, it appears in a Jewish context as well.

                (3) Likely the clearest Prophecy about Jesus is the entire 53rd chapter of Isaiah. Isaiah 53:3-7 is especially unmistakable: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

                The only thing is, Isaiah wasn’t making a prophesy aboout Jesus. Mark was doing a haggadic midrash on Isaiah. So, Mark depicts Jesus as one who is despised and rejected, a man of sorrow acquainted with grief. He then describes Jesus as wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. The Servant in Isaiah, like Jesus in Mark, is silent before his accusers. In Isaiah it says of the servant with his stripes we are healed, which Mark turned into the story of the scourging of Jesus. This is, in part, is where atonement theology comes from. The servant is numbered among the transgressors in Isaiah, so Jesus is crucified between two thieves. The Isaiah servant would make his grave with the rich, So Jesus is buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a person of means.

                Then, as Dr. Robert Price says

                The substructure for the crucifixion in chapter 15 is, as all recognize, Psalm 22, from which derive all the major details, including the implicit piercing of hands and feet (Mark 24//Psalm 22:16b), the dividing of his garments and casting lots for them (Mark 15:24//Psalm 22:18), the “wagging heads” of the mockers (Mark 15:20//Psalm 22:7), and of course the cry of dereliction, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34//Psalm 22:1). Matthew adds another quote, “He trusts in God. Let God deliver him now if he desires him” (Matthew 7:43//Psalm 22:8), as well as a strong allusion (“for he said, ‘I am the son of God’” 27:43b) to Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-20, which underlies the whole story anyway (Miller, p. 362), “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law and accuses us of sins against our training. He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. Let us see if his words are true, and
                let us test what will happen at the end of his life: for if the righteous man is God’s son he will help him and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture that we may find out how gentle he is and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”

                As for other details, Crossan (p. 198) points out that the darkness at noon comes from Amos 8:9, while the vinegar and gall come from Psalm 69:21. It is remarkable that Mark does anything but call attention to the scriptural basis for the crucifixion account. There is nothing said of scripture being fulfilled here. It is all simply presented as the events of Jesus’ execution. It is we who must ferret out the real sources of the story. This is quite different, e.g., in John, where explicit scripture citations are given, e.g., for Jesus’ legs not being broken to hasten his death (John 19:36), either Exodus 12:10, Numbers 9:12, or Psalm 34:19-20 (Crossan, p. 168). Whence did Mark derive the tearing asunder of the Temple veil, from top to bottom (Mark 15:38)? Perhaps from the death of Hector in the Iliad (MacDonald, pp. 144-145). Hector dies forsaken by Zeus. The women of Troy watched from afar off (as the Galilean women do in Mark 15:40), and the whole of Troy mourned as if their city had already been destroyed “from top to bottom,” just as the ripping of the veil seems to be
                a portent of Jerusalem’s eventual doom.

                And so we can at least propose there may not be any historical content with a fairly comprehensive haggadic midrash reading of The Passion of the Christ in Mark.

                (4) As I said, the implicit piercing of hands and feet comes from Mark 24//Psalm 22:16b. The Septuagint , a Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Koine Greek made before the Common Era, and which the New Testament writers use , has ωρυξαν χειράς μου και πόδας (“they have dug my hands and feet”), which some commentators argue could be understood in the general sense as “pierced”. The proper way to render the phrase remains disputed, but given the extensive parallels between Psalm 22 and the crucifixion, which I outlined, I have no problem with rendering it as “pierced.”

                (5) And as Price says, The Empty Tomb (Mark 16:1-8):

                Crossan (p. 274) and Miller and Miller (pp. 219, 377) note that the empty tomb narrative requires no source beyond Joshua (=Jesus, remember!) chapter 10. The five kings have fled from Joshua, taking refuge in the cave at Makkedah. When they are discovered, Joshua orders his men to “Roll great stones against the mouth of the cave and set men by it to guard them” (10:18). Once the mopping-up operation of the kings’ troops is finished, Joshua directs: “Open the mouth of the cave, and bring those five kings out to me from the cave” (10:22). “And afterward Joshua smote them and put them to death, and he hung them on five trees. And they hung upon the trees until evening; but at the time of the going down of the sun, Joshua commanded, and they took them down from the trees, and threw them into the cave where they had hidden themselves, and they set great stones against the mouth of the cave, which remain to this very day” (10:26-27). Observe that here it is “Jesus” who plays the role of Pilate, and that Mark needed only to reverse the order of the main narrative moments of this story. Joshua 10: first, stone rolled away and kings emerge alive; second, kings die; third, kings are crucified until sundown. Mark: Jesus as King of the Jews is crucified, where his body will hang till sundown; second, he dies; third, he emerges alive (Mark implies) from the tomb once the stone is rolled away.

                The vigil of the mourning women likely reflects the women’s mourning cult of the dying and rising god, long familiar in Israel (Ezekiel 8:14, “Behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz;” Zechariah 12:11, “On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo;” Canticles 3:1-4, “I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him but found him not; I called him but he gave no answer,” etc.).

                (6) And as Price says, The Resurrection of Jesus (Matthew 27:62-28:20):

                Matthew had before him Mark’s empty tomb story and no other source except the Book of Daniel, from which he has embellished the Markan original at several points. (Matthew had already repaired to Daniel in his Pilate story, where the procurator declared, “I am innocent of the blood of this man,” Matthew 27:24b, which he derived from Susanna 46/Daniel 13:46 LXX: “I am innocent of the blood of this woman.”) (Crossan, p. 97-98). First, Matthew has introduced guards at the tomb and has had the tomb sealed, a reflection of Nebuchadnezzer’s sealing the stone rolled to the door of the lion’s den with Daniel inside (6:17). Mark had a young man (perhaps an angel, but perhaps not) already in the open tomb when the women arrived. Matthew simply calls the character an angel and clothes him in a description reminiscent of the angel of Daniel chapter 10 (face like lightning, Daniel 10:6) and the Ancient of Days in Daniel chapter 7 (snowy white clothing, Daniel 7:9b). He rolls the stone aside. The guards faint and become as dead men, particular dead men, as a matter of fact, namely the guards who tossed Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-nego into the fiery furnace in (Daniel 3:22).

                To provide an appearance of the risen Jesus to the women at the tomb (something conspicuously absent from Mark), Matthew simply divides Mark’s young man into the angel and now Jesus himself, who has nothing more to say than a lame reiteration of the angel’s words. He appears again on a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16) which he now says Jesus had earlier designated, though this is the first the reader learns of it. There he dispenses yet more Danielic pastiche: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” This is based on a conflation of two Greek versions of Daniel 7:14. In the LXX, “to him [the one like a son of man was] … given the rule… the authority of him [the Ancient of Days].” In Theodotion, he receives “authority to hold all in the heaven and upon the earth.” The charge to make all nations his disciples comes from Daniel 7:14, too: “that all people, nations, and languages should serve him” (Helms, p. 141).

                To Price’s analysis I would add: I would speculate that the SCRIPTURES (1 Cor 15:3-4) Jesus’ resurrection may be thought in relation to could be (i) Psalm 16, and (ii) The sign of Jonah. Regarding (i), Peter stressed the significance of the resurrection and cited the prophecy predicting it in Psalm 16: “God raised him up, losing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it … Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses (Acts 2:24, 29-32).” Regarding (ii), Matthew 12:40 says “for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.…”

                I think these are the “SCRIPTURES” Paul is referring to when he says “(a)Christ died for our sins ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES, and that (b) He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES,… (1 Cor 15:3-4).”

                So Rocky, I would argue there is really no reason to think that the detail of Jesus death, burial, and resurrection have any source beyond what was revealed to the first Christians by reading Hebrew scriptures. What is your position?

        • John MacDonald
          2016-04-09 23:18:34 UTC - 23:18 | Permalink

          (D) Paul was willing to do anything, even deceive, to win converts:

          19For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. 20To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; 21to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.…(1 Cor 9:20)

          • 2016-04-11 15:19:35 UTC - 15:19 | Permalink

            John , “ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES ” , because outside of the Scriptures such absurd didn’t take place .
            Also ” these STORIES have been written so you BELIEVE that Jesus was messiah ” [ rephrased ] John 20 : 31 – the authors made no bones that gospel stories are fiction for believers ; “signs that happened in the presence of his thought ones ” John 20 :30 .
            If you want a chapter that more accurately matches description of Jesus , read ZECH 13 : false prophet with pierced hands , who called himself a shepherd , whom yhvh intended to kill and who was yhvh’s companion .

            • John MacDonald
              2016-04-11 16:10:39 UTC - 16:10 | Permalink

              Hi Ania:

              I tend to think the New Testament writers were producing their writings to appeal to the masses on an exoteric level (lots of exciting miracles to lend authority to the ethical teachings), and to appeal to the learned class on an esoteric level (fully grounding the Jesus stories in the Hebrew scripture and Greek writings). In the end they wanted to sell the Jesus story and win converts. “The Miraculous Jesus” thing could have started off as a scam. I’m sure “conspiracies” happen all the time. It is a part of normal human interaction to sometimes want the real reasons as to why something happened to be withheld. This is probably sometimes true of religion too. Seneca famously said “Religion is true to the masses, false to the wise, and useful to the rulers.” For example, Serapis (Σέραπις, Attic/Ionian Greek) or Sarapis (Σάραπις, Doric Greek), was cleverly instituted as a Graeco-Egyptian god. The Cult of Serapis was strategically introduced during the 3rd century BC on the orders of Ptolemy I of Egypt as a means to unify the Greeks and Egyptians in his realm.

              The original Christians might have even felt they received divine command to lie about Jesus. The bible definitely praises lying in certain circumstances:

              (1) God rewarded the Egyptian midwives for lying to the Pharaoh:
              – And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men-children alive? And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. Therefore God dealt well with the midwives. Exodus 1:18-20
              (2) Rahab was “justified” when she lied about Joshua’s spies:
              – And the woman [Rahab] took the two men and hid them and said thus: There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were; and it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark that the men went out; whither the men went I wot not; pursue after them quickly, for ye shall overtake them. But she had brought them up to the roof of the house and hid them with the stalks of flax. Joshua 2:4-6
              – Was not Rahab, the harlot, justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?. James 2:25
              (3) David lied to Ahimelech when he said he was on the king’s business. (He was King Saul’s enemy at the time.) We know that God approved of this lie, since 1 Kings 15:5 says that God approved of everything David did, with the single exception of the matter of Uriah.
              – David said unto Ahimelech the priest, The king hath commanded me a business…. 1 Samuel 21:2
              (4) Elisha told King Benhadad that he would recover, even though God told Elisha that the king would die.
              – Benhadad the king of Syria was sick … And the king said unto Hazael … go, meet the man of God, and enquire of the LORD by him, saying, Shall I recover of this disease? Elisha said unto him, go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit the Lord hath showed me that he shall surely die. 2 Kings 8:8-10
              (5) In the Deuterocanonical book of Tobit, the angel Raphael lied to Tobias, saying “I am Azarias.”
              – Tobias said to him: I pray thee, tell me, of what family, or what tribe art thou? And Raphael the angel answered … I am Azarias. Tobit 5:16-18
              (6) Jesus lied when he told his family that he wasn’t going to the feast, but later went “in secret.”
              – [Jesus said] Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast. … But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. John 7:8-10
              (7) Even God lies now and then by putting lying spirits in the mouths of his prophets.
              – And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him … I will go forth and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him and prevail also; go forth and do so. 1 Kings 22:21-22

              In fact, lying in the name of God was sometimes considered divinely initiated by God Himself. As I quoted above, even God lies by putting lying spirits in the mouths of his prophets: “And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him … I will go forth and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him and prevail also; go forth and do so. (1 Kings 22:21-22)”

              For Paul, Jesus resurrection is understood as the “first fruits” of the general resurrection, and so was a selling point for the new religion: “The end of the world is at hand, so you better join the winning team.” Christianity is all about winning converts and spreading the word:

              (A) 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17)

              (B) The Great Commission

              16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

              (C) Sending out Emissaries

              Just as Moses had chosen twelve spies to reconnoiter the land which stretched “before your face,” sending them through the cities of the land of Canaan, so does Jesus send a second group, after the twelve, a group of seventy, whose number symbolizes the nations of the earth who are to be “conquered,” so to speak, with the gospel in the Acts of the Apostles. He sends them out “before his face” to every city he plans to visit (in Canaan, too, obviously).

              To match the image of the spies returning with samples of the fruit of the land (Deuteronomy 1:25), Luke has placed here the Q saying (Luke 10:2//Matthew 9:37-38), “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few; therefore beg the Lord of the harvest to send out more workers into his harvest.”

              And Jesus’ emissaries return with a glowing report, just as Moses’ did.

              (D) Paul was willing to do anything, even deceive, to win converts:

              19For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. 20To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; 21to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.…(1 Cor 9:20)

              I think the original Christians just made the whole thing up to win converts.

            • John MacDonald
              2016-04-11 19:07:13 UTC - 19:07 | Permalink

              One more summative thought. In “On The Historicity of Jesus,” Carrier argues the passion narrative may be constructed by a haggadic midrash rewrite of Isaiah 52-3, the Wisdom of Solomon, Psalm 22, Daniel 9 and 12, and Zechariah 3 and 6.

    • 2016-04-09 16:10:39 UTC - 16:10 | Permalink

      John , the authors of gospels knew exactly what they were doing ; they were plagiarizing the old books ( OT ) into a new stories with the twist >>> jesusisamyth.blogspot.com .
      They threw some extras from other texts as well ( f.e.Homer’s literature or Egyptian liturgy texts) and there we have Philo’s idea of “word made flesh ” being turned into gospel fiction .
      My sarcastic bubble is about to burst when I see people with “degrees” debating such an obvious nonsense .

  • Neil Godfrey
    2016-04-09 21:59:08 UTC - 21:59 | Permalink

    Professor McGrath responds to the above post on Facebook:

    David Fitzgerald addressed M with:

    “Vridar’s Neil Godfrey responds to Dr. James McGrath and raises some interesting questions… James? Any thoughts on these points?
    -D”

    James McGrath responded:

    As Neil Godfrey alludes to in his blog post, his notorious history of misrepresenting what I say led me to stop interacting with him. His latest posts are no different, as you would know if you read what I have to say on this topic.

    Ray Covington replied:

    The lack of any response at all is the biggest proof he gotcha.

    James McGrath responded:

    No one other than internet trolls actually believes that, do they? The internet is full of things that aren’t worth reaponding to. Does anyone really mistake them for things that haven’t been responded to because of their overwhelming persuasiveness?!

    • Tim Widowfield
      2016-04-09 22:03:34 UTC - 22:03 | Permalink

      Sigh.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2016-04-09 22:05:58 UTC - 22:05 | Permalink

        I’m watching the case against Holding to see if it will offer any hope for taking action against someone persistently seeking to publicly lie about me.

        • 2016-04-09 22:18:26 UTC - 22:18 | Permalink

          Neil , if you pinch the nerve of a religious fanatic , he will lie about you , because this is his only way of defense . What do you honestly expect from a person who is hooked on Jesus and Santa ? Rationality or tantrum fit ?

  • Neil Godfrey
    2016-04-09 23:41:22 UTC - 23:41 | Permalink

    McGrath has finally actually given some sort of response to one of my arguments above. It is in the Facebook exchange:

    And in his most recent post, one can see the kind of nonsense he does all this in service of, claiming the equivalent of that, if supporters of Bill Clinton wrote about the Monica Lewinski matter, then it could not have been embarrassing to them.

    I think McGrath is referring to my argument about the crucifixion not being an embarrassment to the early Christian view of a Davidic Messiah. (If I am wrong I am sure someone will tell me.)

    If my argument is valid then it would appear the analogy that would follow from McG’s attempt to refute it is that the Christians would have been doing the equivalent of actually boasting in the Lewinski affair when speaking of Clinton, boasting that the affair was what made him great and worthy of respect.

    Such arguments are evidently not thought through. They are clearly ad hoc.

    • HoosierPoli
      2016-04-13 07:24:56 UTC - 07:24 | Permalink

      A better analogy would be Donald Trump. When Trump says something totally un-PC, his supporters crow about it; this is what makes him great! That proves that they are not embarassed about it, but that doesn’t actually make it more likely that such an even occured, since if they support such an action they have an incentive to falsify it.

  • Nonie
    2016-04-10 00:30:49 UTC - 00:30 | Permalink

    I think McGrath keeps repeating the same bad arguments, because the answers are in many different places. Probably he hasn’t tracked down all the scattered responses. So how about this same article, here. But with his arguments numbered – and followed immediately in the text, with point-by-point refutations?

    Once it can all be seen in one place, McGrath might read it all at last.

    If you need help, just ask commentators to list the number of their particular McGrath fallacy, in their comment. Along with their own answer for it. Short answers preferred.

    I think we all need to finally get very, very systematic about answering James McGrath. Or else it’s just going to go on forever it seems.

    This list can be updated periodically, as McGrath adds new misstatements.

    Here’s my contribution: 1) McGrath asserts that.there is no special Christian financial support in his university, to bias his opinions. But a) what about 1,700 years of such support, for seminaries. Which surely have left their mark, even today.

    Especially, b) even today, most students attend religious classes, because they had a childhood emotional attachment to it. Which most professors will at least unconsciously, partly, cater to. To get and retain students.

  • 2016-04-10 01:00:37 UTC - 01:00 | Permalink

    Jesus never existed, eh? Then tell me who taught the Lord’s Prayer? Who told the parable of the prodigal son (which merely means that after sex you have to eat the flesh of cattle to replace the cholesterol lost in the sexual orgasm? Who said he could destroy the temple (his body) and rebuild it in 3 days? Who, larned rectum?

    • 2016-04-10 01:17:50 UTC - 01:17 | Permalink

      These were taught by the same people who told you that earth was flat and rested on pillars with sun was spinning around it , day has 12 hours , birds are bats and 90 years old granny can pop a baby .

    • Mark Erickson
      2016-04-10 04:04:46 UTC - 04:04 | Permalink

      Congratulations! Until now, no one has ever written “after sex you have to eat the flesh of cattle” on the Internet. I also suspect that there has never been a comment on Vridar that mentions both orgasm and rectum, although I can’t be sure. Quite a legendary effort!

      https://www.google.com/search?q=%22after+sex+you+have+to+eat+the+flesh+of+cattle%22

  • vinnyjh
    2016-04-10 13:02:54 UTC - 13:02 | Permalink

    Back in 2005, I wouldn’t have expected the United States to elect a Black president during my lifetime. Nevertheless, it did so three years later. It took a very unique combinations of circumstances that included the financial crisis and and Caribou Barbie; nonetheless, I have to acknowledge that racial attitudes in the United States, while still highly problematic, had made more progress than I had recognized. The 2008 election seems to me to be incontrovertible evidence that there was more going on than I was seeing.

    I cannot understand how McGrath and Ehrman and the rest of them can make such dogmatic statements about what first century Jews thought about the idea of a crucified Messiah, given that a cult based on such a figure gained the traction it did. I don’t know how they can assess the attitudes of the time without considering that fact. Perhaps the idea was every bit as outlandish as they claim it was, but I think that a reasonable historian has to allow for the possibility that ideas about the Messiah had developed in ways that are not reflected in the other data.

    • 2016-04-10 15:34:02 UTC - 15:34 | Permalink

      Sir , McGarth and Ehrman are people of Christian faith and they are supported by such community so they teach and preach whatever pays their bills , I guess .
      But they are not real historians either , but rather biblical scholars , or they wouldn’t be ignoring historical evidence about Jewish sects of the first century from Greek and Roman inscriptions , the writings of Philo and Josephus ( which are quite exaggerated ) and other sources from that time period . These men simply pick and choose what may support their religious doctrine of “crucified anointed/messiah/christos ” and reject the whole picture , because it is contradictory to their religious believes .
      It is quite possible that Josephus’ descriptions of Jewish troublemakers ( some of them named ISOUS/jesus ) gave later authors of gospels the idea of the NT’s character of “Jesus called anointed/messiah /christos” , not to mention that some passages from Josephus text were indeed copied into gospel stories as well .

      • HoosierPoli
        2016-04-13 07:27:09 UTC - 07:27 | Permalink

        Ehrman is not a Christian anymore, but his wife is. From personal experience I know that marital commitments can lead to a LOT of self-censorship, more even than professional concerns. This should not be read as a criticism but rather an explanation; if it would avoid offending my wife I would say that black was white.

    • Ken Browning
      2016-04-10 16:36:30 UTC - 16:36 | Permalink

      This isn’t a negative reflection of your comment but rather an extension.

      On dogmatism concerning the crucified messiah:
      Just considering the data base of Jewish thought of that time before the destruction of the temple makes a probabilistic likelihood less than 99%+/dogmatic. I think it’s very difficult for many people of faith, pocketbook or tradition to consider their basic beliefs in probabilistic terms: “Hallelujah! I’m approximately 85% percent certain Jesus is alive today!”, “There’s a 19% chance our company will be here in five years!”, “Our tribe is 70% sure we are right!”, etc. But this inability is a problem because probability reasoning is ubiquitous and necessary in fields like history. So, because of this inability to make the connection between math and hypothesis clear, we see a plethora of disguised terms that imply a high to very high reliability but without clear critical ties to the underlying mathematics: very likely… surely… without question… undoubtedly… it’s safe to say… we know that such and such is…, etc.

      • 2016-04-10 17:15:54 UTC - 17:15 | Permalink

        Ken , if you take numbers ( statistics ) into consideration Jews back then ( in the 1st century AD ) were very small community , and not that important to Greeks and Romans to write one whole book about them . Most information about Jews comes exclusively from Jewish sources , and those , as we know , do not match historical records of other nations , in fact , they contradict them . Greco – Roman texts have a paragraph here and a few sentences there about Jewish congregations . Please , also notice that Judeans or Judahites not necessary meant Jews aka followers of LOM .
        History can be quite reliable if you are willing to examine everything it has to offer without cherry picking like Christian scholars do .

  • Nonie
    2016-04-10 17:06:50 UTC - 17:06 | Permalink

    McGrath: You say that a crucified Messiah would not have been made up, because that wouldn’t be a good way of borrowing OT ideas. Or trying to match Jewish expectations, of a messiah who does not die.

    But McGrath? Your premise is wrong. Christianity wasn’t invented from “scratch,” to fit Jewish expectations. It was developed out of the typical mix of pre existing ANE religions, that we see in the Hellenistic era. It was not designed deliberately, but provably evolved in part naturally, out of the mix if many different cultures. It therefore naturally had many non Jewish ideas in it.

    Those who followed it though, wanted to sell it to Jews, among other. To try to sell this to the Jews, apologetics sophistries were developed by the believers. To argue that a dying and rising messiah was Jewish after all. Though this effort, we all know, was belated and strained. And had to stretch many Old Testament passages.

    So McGrath, your premise is wrong. Christianity was not entirely made up wholesale. It was a composite of many different myths. It therefore naturally had many non Jewish things in it. Like a dying messiah.

    Given that eclectic base, Christianity experienced plausibility problems for Jews. Which is the main reason most Jews did not accept Christianity. Though of course, early on, sophistical efforts were made to try to reconcile this unholy mix of conflicting cultures. And to make it seem wholly Jewish. Those efforts were clumsy to be sure. But we find them throughout the New Testament.

    • 2016-04-10 17:59:05 UTC - 17:59 | Permalink

      Nonie , one of these pre existing religions from which Christianity evolved was Judaism . Do “abrahamic ” religions mean anything to you ?
      It could be designed deliberately , because putting together stories for gospel books involved coping the text of OT . It could be also designed to support Jewish doctrine : somebody has to hate Jews to make them a “suffering servant ” . So there they needed Christians who took Jesus bait .

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