2013-10-23

Mythicism and Arguments from Authority

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by Neil Godfrey

History is not rocket science. It is easy to explain to the general audience the evidence for the existence and career-outline and various assessments of the significance of Julius Caesar. Historical argument is as “easy” as presenting

  • the “historical events/hypothesis”
  • the sources upon which the above scenario is based
  • the evidence for our understanding of the nature of those sources
  • the reasons we interpret those sources and their contents the way we do.

That sort of information can be explained in a good, educational TV documentary.

Take Socrates, for example.

  • Hypothesis/events: Socrates was executed for inspiring others to question the traditional views and values of society
  • Sources: Plato, Xenophon, Aristophanes, Thucydides . . . . some self-attested pupils of Socrates testifying to Socrates as a contrary figure and the general social situation
  • Nature: Genre and style compared with other texts established by primary (“in situ”) evidence . . . apparent independence of sources of a “truth-message/fact-narrative” style . . .
  • Reasons: Analogy of past configurations to their equivalents in today’s first-hand established understandings . . . .

Now that’s not as strong as the evidence for Augustus Caesar that could be linked (at point #2, Sources) to coins and first=person imperial monuments, but it does have a lot of “probabilities” built in there and that your average literate person could understand.

So I cannot help but be quite dismayed reading a post commended by Richard Carrier, an academically qualified ancient historian, that tells all readers to rely entirely upon the counsel of the intellectual elite, to trust the academics, when it comes to questions about the historicity of Jesus.

Carrier commends an article by Finke, saying Finke Is Right. . . . when Dan Finke writes (my bolding)

I [Dan Finke] personally want to take this chance to discourage my fellow atheists who are not historians from publicly making a big deal out of the historicity of Jesus, and especially when engaging with Christians. Why? Because the historical consensus is that there was a historical JesusResponsible, mainstream, qualified history scholars who judiciously disregard supernaturalistic claims about Jesus and have no agenda to promote Christianity nonetheless, as a matter of academic consensus, believe there was a historical Jesus. Could they be wrong? It’s possible. But if they are, that is for qualified historians to prove, not laypeople. And it is for the field of ancient history to be persuaded to change its consensus before laypeople go around making claims that Jesus did not exist.

I don’t recall ever having to assert that the historicity of any event is something that can only be established and preserved by an intellectual elite such that all others can do nothing more than defer to their asserted conclusions.

The first clause that needs to be stopped for questioning in the above quotation is this

the historical consensus is that there was a historical Jesus

Garbage. There has been no “historical consensus” on this. There have been theologians and biblical scholars writing from the assumption of an historical Jesus, but that is not the same as saying that “historians” themselves have established some sort of “consensus” on this question. For that to happen, “historians” (not “theologians”, most of whom, even the most liberal ones, have a personal interest in maintaining the belief in an “historical Jesus” of some kind) would need to come together in an effort to address that very question — “Was there an historical Jesus?” — as opposed to simply making passing references to him as a taken-for-granted figure of popular culture the same way they assume the earth orbits the sun. Have historians “come to a consensus” of astronomy through themselves addressing the physical arguments or simply deferred to popular understanding on this?

Look at the next sentence by Finke:

Responsible, mainstream, qualified history scholars who judiciously disregard supernaturalistic claims about Jesus and have no agenda to promote Christianity nonetheless, as a matter of academic consensus, believe there was a historical Jesus.

Garbage. There has been no coming-together of “qualified history scholars” to “judiciously” assess the evidence for the historicity of Jesus. No such thing has ever happened.

Moreover, look at those theologians who so often seem to call themselves “historians” — presumably entirely on the basis that they have an interest in an historical past, however out-of-touch they may be with the way the “history discipline” has long worked from the nineteenth century von Rankeans though to the post-modern Whites — and just how without “agenda” they really are.

The Crossans and the Borgs of biblical studies, the most liberal Christians like these, are entirely focused on finding a Jesus who supports their personal sophisticated liberal faith. Irish Crossan finds an Irish rebel in Jesus much like Crossan; spiritual and educated Borg finds a sophisticated spiritual being in Jesus — just like Borg. And Crossan and Borg are held up by Finke as exemplars of Christians without any agenda in finding an historical Jesus.

Nonsense. Of course they have a motive. They are both sophisticated Christians who find a Jesus in their own image — just like all other historical Jesus scholars as was pointed out by Albert Schweitzer early last century.

So when Finke writes

Jesus is just too controversial, self-contradictory, mediated through the words of others, distanced from us culturally and historically, and important to people theologically and philosophically to take anyone’s reading as totally unbiased and straightforward.

he is wrong. Finke cannot imagine anyone for whom the historicity of Jesus does not come with an agenda.

Dan Finke fails to appreciate that for so many of us that it makes no difference whatever if Jesus was real or fictional. What some of us are interested in is not trying to prove or disprove the historicity of Jesus, but simply in trying to understand the origins of Christianity. That means trying to understand the nature of the evidence of early Christianity, such as the canonical (and the other) Gospels.

For myself, an atheist, it makes absolutely no difference whatever if Jesus was historical or not. If there was such a person, great. Let’s see how this person relates to Christian origins. If not, so what? Let’s see how Christianity originated with such a figure given such prominence.

Liberal Christians and atheists can agree that any such historical person did not, by definition of being both historical and human, perform miracles or rise from the dead.

For the atheist there is no agenda (at least to me) in deciding whether such a person really existed or not.

But for a Borg or a Crossan there is a very good reason/agenda for holding on to such a figure as real in history. Their faith rests upon the witness or testimony of such a figure — even if he is conceived in their own image.

Richard Carrier and Dan Finke are as firmly on the side of Authority of the Intellectuals dictating to unthinking lay-people (lay people are told to defer to the conclusions of the intellectuals, point blank) that they have no business meddling in the debates of the scholars. Tim’s post, Protecting Our Institutions From “Meddlesome” Outsiders, is as applicable to the Carriers and the Finkes and the LessRights (thanks to J. Quinton for that one) as it is to the McGraths, the Hurtados, the Ehrmans.

 

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Neil Godfrey

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35 thoughts on “Mythicism and Arguments from Authority”

  1. I too was startled by Carrier’s post and your reaction is like mine. For someone so well-versed in logic and argumentation, I’m not sure of his actual intention here. Is he just tired of atheists babbling vague claims and arguments they read on the internet as a simple “take that!” to Christians or is he engaging willfully in fallacies? If he thinks scholarly consensus means anything in matters of truth after his research on Christianity, it’s a bit disconcerting. Considering how he admits HJ studies are all over the place and can’t even agree on defining issues besides Jesus’ existence and crucifixion… how is that a consensus I, as a layman, can even appeal to? I can understand appealing to consensus as a layman for events like the French or American Revolution, since at least with these events scholars have major agreements about who did that, where, why and how. Plus, e have ample historical documentation for those events, unlike Christianity’s appeal to very unlikely supernatural events and faith literature.

  2. “Moreover, look at those theologians who so often seem to call themselves ‘historians.'”

    This is the crux of the problem, and has been since the first century. Theology is not history; theology is “history” the way theologians wished it had been, not as it was. That included the freedom to simply make things up, which most early Christian documents attest to. Modern theologians call themselves “New Testament Historians.” Their job is to filter out all of the supernatural bits and thus rationalize the Bible as history.

    The problem is then compounded in modern times when “qualified history scholars who judiciously disregard supernaturalistic claims about Jesus” actually survey the literature and attempt to make an assessment. They are forced to rely on the arguments of theologians who have studied the Bible their entire lives and are emotionally invested in it being “historical” to some degree. Thus you can read a historian like Robert Grant make the statement that the crucifixion must have had happened because nobody would make up such a horrible, humiliating death — an argument straight out of theology.

    The unconscious fear in play here is that Western culture has been grossly wrong about its most important figure for 2,000 years. The credibility of the Western intellectual tradition is at stake.

    1. …the crucifixion must have had happened because nobody would make up such a horrible, humiliating death — an argument straight out of theology.

      Well I’ve read the Swedish theologian Dr. Gunnar Samuelsson’s Crucifixion in Antiquity and it turns out from his overview of the literature that Western Culture could very well have been wrong about crucifixion as we moderns understand it and as Christians usually understood it (likely the one in the same) for all these 2,000 years, for he comes right out and states in his conclusion that crucifixion was invented by Pontius Pilate specifically for the suspension and execution of Jesus of Nazareth. That is, he ordered a cross that resembled more than anything else the frame of a Roman trophaeum especially made rather than using the usual pole-and-yardarm device, whereon the criminal is lifted onto the pole by means of the yardarm.

      And if Western culture has been grossly wrong about its most important figure’s death for 2,000 years, the odds are vastly increased that it is grossly wrong about him, too.

  3. “The unconscious fear in play here is that Western culture has been grossly wrong about its most important figure for 2,000 years.”

    Yep. That’s the real elephant in the room.

    1. “The unconscious fear in play here is that Western culture has been grossly wrong about its most important figure for 2,000 years.”

      Completely agree. Otherwise, I can sorta understand what Carrier is saying. The first book I read on Christ-mythicsm was Atwill’s CM. The book plays well to a noobie audience, and my immediate reaction was to be like the kid who has just found out that Santa/Easter Bunny isn’t real and go tell all my friends just to get a rise out of them. But instead I decided to STFU. Over the years I expanded my reading to Doherty, Carrier, Price, etc. As I got a fuller picture of the situation, I’m glad I didn’t go around telling everyone about CM and then looking foolish having to retract it later. I’m well down the path of trying to understand what happened with the beginning of Christianity… but the next issue is, how do we communicate something potentially so startling to believers? There needs to be a diplomatic way, otherwise the “shock” factor would be counterproductive.

  4. I should add that I do agree with Carrier’s message to the extent that it is a misdirection to argue against Christianity via the Christ Myth theory. I myself have made that point several times here. Carrier seemed to be buying in to the assumption that “lesser intellectuals” are somehow motivated in their leanings to mythicism by some sort of anti-Christian agenda. That’s rot, as I am sure most of us reading this would agree. Sure there are some who come across that way, but then again some people equate mythicism per se with conspiracy/astrotheology theorists like Murdock/Acharya S.

  5. I discuss this issue in my book, Secret of the Savior: The Myth of the Messiah in Mark. The Jesus Guild, which consists of those whose careers are based on the study of Jesus, simply took his existence for granted and never studied the issue of historicity. They are understandably resistant to the idea that there is no Jesus to study. Bart Ehrman, for example, claims to be impartial because he’s not a Christian, but his career is based on the tacit assumption that Jesus existed. He also admits that he is only opposed to fundamentalist Christianity. Hence, he is at least a liberal protestant sympathizer. He has both a personal and a professional interest in maintaining that Jesus existed. This, I think, is typical of the Jesus Guild.

    1. “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

      ― Upton Sinclair, I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked

  6. I tried to comment on Richard’s blog, but was not able to complete the process for some weird technical reason. This is what I wrote:

    “The problem here is that the consensus opinion of Biblical scholars on the quality of the evidence for the historicity of JC is so pathetically unjustified, and the consensus opinion of actual secular historians on the topic essentially doesn’t exist, because it hasn’t been studied by even a small minority of real historians. We are left shaking our heads at the adamance of the Biblical set that “Brother of the Lord” is worth hanging one’s hat on, or that the argument from silence is not applicable, because we would not expect to find JC of Galilee, whilst meanwhile, back at the ranch the existence of more than ten tin-pot Jesuses are documented.

    No, I think Fincke has it exactly backwards. I think tip-toeing around around the delicate sensibilities of Biblical apologists and the respect-demanding flock is not justified. It is THEY who make the assertions of historicity (and simultaneous divinity ha-ha) and it is THEY who have not been able to provide persuasive evidence for two millennia. Should we have similar reticence for the historicity of Romulus? Would that even be proper from a secular historical or a scientific null hypothesis perspective? I am no historian or academic, but I think the honest answer would be a full-throated “No”.”

  7. Continuing my Samos theme the Samians were exiled from about 354 to 328BCE and bought back by Alexander. The place that they were exiled to was Iaosos (or Iassus) on the Asian coast.

  8. “The first clause that needs to be stopped for questioning in the above quotation is this
    the historical consensus is that there was a historical Jesus
    Garbage. There has been no “historical consensus” on this.”

    Neil, not every consensus position is based on valid arguments or good reasoning.
    But, the fact is, the vast majority of Biblical scholars hold that there was a historical Jesus.
    That is a consensus! Even if they take it for granted or hold it for dogmatic reasons, it is still a consensus.

    In the context of an Atheism-Christianity debate, that there is a consensus is indeed relevant. As you agree in your comment (#4) above.

  9. “Richard Carrier and Dan Finke are as firmly on the side of Authority of the Intellectuals dictating to unthinking lay-people”

    Perhaps you feel Carrier/Finke bracket you with the ‘unthinking lay-people’. But I think if you read Carrier/Finke
    a little more charitably, I think you’ll see that (as I see it), the point is that the lay public needs to understand that
    this is not a settled question. And we need to not claim certitude here.

    I know you don’t. I know you make the point over and over that you don’t know for sure.

    See, when Dawkins tweets out Atwill’s thesis, we have a problem. When Prof Lawrence Krauss goes to debate WLC
    and insists that Krishna was virgin born like Jesus, we have a problem indeed!
    http://youtu.be/-b8t70_c8eE?t=29m23s (29min 23sec)

    The way I read it, what they are saying is that if you really haven’t studied this problem, don’t go claiming stuff.

    1. “The way I read it, what they are saying is that if you really haven’t studied this problem, don’t go claiming stuff.”

      This is a problematic concept in and of itself, because the point is that the Carriers/Finkes believe that what they are studying counts more so than what others have studied. This goes back to not only what constitutes “right” in historical research (including religious history), or whose work we should accept as “gospel,” but who gets to define what’s acceptable as truth or worthy of study.

      Would it be too generic to think some of the arguments are to fuel the purchasing of their materials?

      1. I think a far stronger motivation than sales of books (popular books can be pirated too easily) is reputation, status. Note the numbers of times we read statements indicating regret or fear of being associated with “nutters”, or statements that are little more than ad hominem attacks on those who represent views they despise or want to be distanced from. That smacks of status, ego, reputation, image, more than desire for monetary gain.

        1. Ah, of course, ego. I just want to work to be paid and have my name carry enough weight for a good paycheck; I am not at the level where my name carries any sort of global weight… Such limited thinking.

  10. “Dan Finke fails to appreciate that for so many of us that it makes no difference whatever if Jesus was real or fictional. What some of us are interested in is not trying to prove or disprove the historicity of Jesus, but simply in trying to understand the origins of Christianity.”

    Well said.

    As I have said before, the origins of Christianity are of less interest to me than the origins of Judaism, but the motivation is the same. Religion is a social institution. Social institutions drive societal values. Understanding how social institutions arose historically is of vital importance to anybody who wants to understand the human condition. My lack of belief in a god that is active in the lives of mankind does not set my agenda so much as it allows me to judge the “evidence” by what I believe to be a more logical and legal approach. My interest in understanding the human condition also allows me to identify the cognitive biases that “peer review” and the concept of a scholarly “consensus” drive. I spend a great deal of time reading “scholarly” articles, and much of what I see is obviously marred by the desire to confirm what the scholars believe they already know. By contrast, my own journey, which goes far beyond worrying about the origins of Abrahamic religions, has opened my mind to the possibility of a creator, albeit one that does not demand the fealty of its creations. More importantly, I think, is the realization that secular rationalism is just as subject to the dogmatic assertions of so-called religions.

  11. “…the point is that the lay public needs to understand that
    this is not a settled question. And we need to not claim certitude here.”

    What does “certain” mean? We must distinguish between scientific and philosophical certainty.

    Are we “certain” that Romulus is non historical? Not from a philosophical perspective. But, is it not valid to have a provisional scientific certainty? Eg, Providing there is no new discovery of compelling evidence to the contrary, is it not a valid position to assert that JC of Galilee is non historical?

    Let’s look at scientific certainty. There is no philosophical certainty in science, there is no “proof”; there is only probability.

    A manuscript from 1520 describes an eyewitness account of a wild purple unicorn. How would science properly analyze such a claim?

    It would say the following:

    – There is no independent evidence of any life form which is a unicorn, let alone a purple unicorn. There are no purple mammals, there is no fossil record, there is no dna record, there are no unexplained footprints which only a unicorn might explain. The only references to unicorns we can find are in fantasy literature, where the unicorn is a magical animal associated with miracles and even this literature is self contradictory, incoherent, and full of known forgeries.

    – The idea of a mammalian unicorn is not preposterous, it is within the constraints of biology. On the other hand, unicorns are only described as being magical creatures, and science is very certain indeed, that provisionally speaking, it rejects the existence of magic.

    – Any scientific hypothesis which has no objective evidence to present, which describes an incoherent entity, and for which there is no compelling need for such an entity to exist to solve other scientific questions -> is rejected. This would appear to be the case for the historical JC of G.

    Therefore, from a scientific perspective, I would argue that it is completely proper to assert that the historical JC of Galilee did not exist, and barring discovery of new evidence to the contrary, that would be the proper provisional position.

    History, properly done, is, I believe, supposed to be a scientific, not a philosophical endeavor.

    1. “Therefore, from a scientific perspective, I would argue that it is completely proper to assert that the historical JC of Galilee did not exist’

      And you would be doing science wrong, IMHO. I disagree with your conclusion here. It would be proper to assert that we don’t know what exactly happened.

      We do have evidence from the 3rd and 4th centuries that suggest that a certain preacher got killed under Pontius Pilate and those events spawned off a very successful religion.
      The evidence is indeed patchy. The evidence has obvious legends. We also have some evidence that suggests otherwise. To make matters complicated, the evidence has tampered with many times over.

      To make the strong claim that “the historical JC of Galilee did not exist” would simply require more evidence than what you have marshaled. Sorry.

      1. The converse is important. If we assert that we can’t be sure Jesus existed, we can easily assert, using the definitions being used to describe the possible Jesus, that Sherlock Holmes and Superman existed. Both were based on known historical figures.

      2. “We do have evidence from the 3rd and 4th centuries that suggest that a certain preacher got killed under Pontius Pilate and those events spawned off a very successful religion.”

        Actually, what we have from a legal perspective cannot be considered for the truth of the matter asserted because it is inadmissible hearsay.

        “To make matters complicated, the evidence has tampered with many times over.”

        Actually, spoliation of documents simplifies matters from a legal perspective because, even if you could find an exception to the hearsay rule, the documentary record cannot be authenticated and, therefore, is not admissible as evidence for any purpose.

        Moreover, spoliation allows the fact finder to draw negative inferences against the person who altered the documents and in favor of his adversary.

    1. In 1942 it was an author arguing against the Christ Myth theory who in the same book also argued that that “brother of the Lord” passage in Galatians (Ehrman has been conditioned to read that as “brother of Jesus” and cannot read it any other way) was not evidence for Jesus’ historicity at all. See my earlier post about Howell-Smith’s point. Ehrman should like it, given his interest in Christian forgeries and interpolations.

    2. EHRMAN
      (since Paul differentiates him from himself and Peter by calling him the “brother”

      CARR
      Has Ehrman ever been to a church? Has he never heard anybody say that ‘Charles was at church today, and also Brother Stephen.’?

    3. FYI, here is what Ehrman had to say in a 2008 debate with Dan Wallace:

      Can we trust that the copies of Galatians we have are the original copies. No. We don’t know. How could we possibly know? Our earliest copy of Galatians is p46 which dates from the year 200. Paul wrote this letter in the 50’s. The first copy that we have is 150 years later. Changes were made all along the line before this first copy was made. How can we possibly know that in fact it is exactly as Paul wrote it. Is it possible that somebody along the line inserted a verse? Yes. Is it possible that someone took out a verse? Yes. Is it possible that somebody changed a lot of the words? Yes. Is it possible that the later copies were made from one of the worst of the early copies? Yes. It’s possible. We don’t know.
      . . . .
      What I have said to my colleagues is that we are as close as we can hope to be to what we might imagine as the earliest text. What I have said in popular audiences is we don’t know if we can get back to the original text. And I stand by both statements. We don’t know what Paul originally wrote to the Galatians, and we no hope of getting any closer in the future than we are already now. We have no evidence that can get us any further back than we have already gotten and our earliest evidence is from the year 200, 150 years later. So can we know for certain? No. We can’t know for certain that the text is reliable. You might want to think it is. You might want to hope it is. You might want to say there are intelligent people who say it is so probably it is. But think about it. There are people copying these texts year after year, decade after decade.

      Well I’ve thought about it and “the brother of the Lord” looks like the kind of thing that any scribe might have added to the text just to be helpful so readers would know which James it was that Paul met on that first visit to Jerusalem. Can any one tell me that such a possibility is so remotely improbable that it can just be ignored?

      Even if Paul did write it, the reason that he wrote it was so that the Galatians would know which James he met. He didn’t any qualifier to Peter’s name because there was only one Peter while James was a common name. Later that James was known as “James the Just,” as a way to distinguish him from other men named James, but that didn’t mean that every other James was unjust. While it might have had some descriptive value, its primary purpose was identification. It was used for the sake of convenience Moreover, why would another identifier be used at all if it was universally understood that he was Jesus’s biological brother?

      1. I think it does look exactly like the sort of thing that started out as marginalia, at first intended to clarify the reference to James, eventually added into the text proper.

        I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before, but if you look at the Codex Sinaiticus, in the verse above (1:18) you can see “petros” in the righthand margin as an explanation of “KEPHAS” in the main text.

        http://codexsinaiticus.org/en/manuscript.aspx?book=40&chapter=1&lid=en&side=r&verse=19&zoomSlider=0#40-1-19-4

        Zoom in and take a look.

        My point is that you can see this kind of thing in many manuscripts. In fact, Ehrman himself argues that the story of the woman taken in adultery began as a marginal item that eventually worked its way into main text of John’s gospel.

        It’s worth asking, “Is this the best ya got?” I mean, in the final lecture of his most recent course from The Great Courses, he gives us the two “best” arguments for the existence of Jesus.

        1. Paul said James was “Jesus’ brother.” (I’m starting to think Bart remembers it that way now.)

        2. Jews would never invent a crucified messiah.

        Really? Those are the two best arguments?

        1. Even Ehrman seems to apply a presumption of authenticity absent manuscript evidence of variants, which I do not understand at all. Our manuscripts come from after the point at which Christianity had a recognized hierarchy and state sanction when the benefits of intentionally altering texts would have been reduced. We have no manuscripts for the period when the controversies addressed in the letters would have still been raging with no authoritative arbiter. That’s the time in which the benefits of altering a text to get Paul or some other important figure on one’s side in a debate would have been greatest.

          1. It is somewhat jarring to read Ehrman’s explanation of why we can’t trust the text of Galatians as authentic and compare it to his complete trust of Galatians when it comes to “proving” that Jesus was real (‘cuz he had a brother; only real people have brothers!).

            I think his “presumption of authenticity” varies, depending on whether or not he needs it for the current argument. Perhaps we would know exactly when we can presume authenticity if we had a higher-level degree in biblical studies. But from the outsider looking in, at best it looks random — at worst, self-serving.

            1. I wonder whether it’s not a product of arguing with fundamentalists for too long. No one has ever challenged him on his presuppositions and assumptions that favor the text so he has never had any reason to think about them..

    4. house-ahiel-storage-jars-and-toilet

      house-ahiel

      This is my first post in Vridar:
      Is it possible that “James the brother of the Lord” was a translation of the hebrew name “Yaʻaqov (James) Ahiel”?
      Ahiel= The Lord is my brother in hebrew.
      Apparently there were Jewish families called ‘Ahiel’ – perhaps Paul was referring to an apostle named James that came from such a family?
      And what about the greek equivalent of Ahiel, Adelphotheos? were there any people going by that name in Paul’s time?

      1. Ahiel means brother of god. I would think that Ahijah would be closer to brother of the lord (Ahiadoni would literally be brother of the lord). And I don’t think Paul knew Hebrew.

        Besides, the convention at the time would have been to write X son of Y; “James Barahiel (i.e. , son of Ahiel)” or something. There weren’t family names like there are today.

  12. There are several reasons for doubting that Paul even said “James the Lord’s brother”. One of them is that there were two apostles named James and neither one of them was Jesus’ brother. Another reason is that according to the gospels that were written 30+ years later, James, the brother of Jesus was not even a follower but was among those who thought Jesus was mad and Jesus had to lie to him about going to Jerusalem for the feast. Another reason is that James, the brother of Jesus, didn’t even visit the empty tomb. There are more…

  13. I think the various comments here provide the substance of a very good case against the phrase being used as a pillar for the historicity of Jesus. I might do them up as a post some time (with acknowledgements to each of the contributors, of course.)

    But even quite apart from any of these points, the fact that such weight for historicity is placed on this single phrase really accentuates how scant is the evidence for historicity. With known historical persons such a type of phrase (which does not even name Jesus) would never in itself be counted as foundational evidence for the historicity of Jesus. It could only be considered supporting evidence within the context of other more certain concrete or substantial evidence.

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