O’Neill-Fitzgerald “Christ Myth” Debate, #8: Why should anyone have noticed Jesus?

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by Neil Godfrey


All posts in this series are archived in the O’Neill-Fitzgerald Debate.


What a careful, honest or even just competent treatment of the subject would do would be to deal with all relevant positions throughout the analysis . . . . (O’Neill, 2013)


Tim O’Neill (TO) repeats, and repeats again and again in both 2011 and 2013, another common apologist mantra in his review of David Fitzgerald’s Nailed: Why would any Greek or Roman or even Jewish author have even noticed Jesus, let alone have bothered to write about him? After all, Jesus was just another nobody Jewish peasant and miracle worker — they were a dime a dozen — and this one was, even worse, in the “backblocks of Galilee”. Why, no-one apart from Josephus even mentions much more politically significant Jewish figures (various Jewish rebels) — (not true, as we saw in an earlier post) — so why would a Jewish peasant who didn’t even lead an armed rebellion against Rome have attracted any notice?

As I explained earlier, I have struck out some of TOs manipulative language and substituted more civil terms. In an effort to make an honest man of TO I have also struck out some blatant falsehoods and substituted statements that are verifiable.

  • Given that these historians make no mention of any other Jewish peasant preachers or miracle workers, it is hard to see why Fitzgerald thinks they should have done so with this one. As for things like his entry into Jerusalem, his trial and his crucifixion, it is equally difficult to see why they would be more than a one day wonder even locally. Why Fitzgerald thinks such minor events would be the talk of the whole Empire is a mystery. (2011)
  • A chanting crowd greeting his entrance to Jerusalem, a trial that no-one witnessed and a run-of-the-mill execution are hardly big news compared to mass movements that required the mobilisation of troops and pitched battles. Yet how many other historians so much as mention Athronges, the Samaritan, Theudas or the Egyptian? None. (2011)
  • Like many Mythers [Christ Myth theorists], he seems to think that the lack of any contemporary reference to Jesus is somehow a particularly telling point . . . (2011)
  • But in every case his argument suffers from the same fatal flaw: given that none of these writers mention any other Jewish preachers, prophets and Messianic claimants, there is absolutely no reason to think they “should” have mentioned Jesus. (2011)
  • None of his writers mention any such figures for the same reason they do not mention Jesus: because these writers had no interest in any such Jewish preachers and prophets. (2011)
  • Like most Mythicists, Fitzgerald attempts to make an argument from silence to support the idea that Jesus did not exist. These arguments usually boil down to this:
    • 1. Jesus is not mentioned by {insert First Century writer/writers here},
    • 2. {First Century writer/writers} should have mentioned Jesus if he existed,
    • 3. Therefore Jesus did not exist. (2013)
  • The key point to note here is that the weakness of the Mythicist argument from silence lies in its second premise: in order for the argument to work, it is not enough for the Mythicist to merely note that the writer/s in question don’t mention Jesus, but they have to also show they should have done so. That is slightly more tricky [and DF to his credit has managed to do just this]. This is why kooky Mythicist claims that, say, because Marcus Annaeus Lucanus [more than a dozen ancient names with an interest in the sorts of things Jesus was noted for, names listed below] makes no mention of Jesus he therefore didn’t exist [it is reasonable to ask why] are so utterly ridiculous. It is very difficult to show why a Roman poet from Spain whose sole remaining works are a single poem and a history of the war between Caesar and Pompey (in the century before Jesus was even born!) “should” have mentioned Jesus when he shows zero interest in Jewish affairs and makes no mention of any other Jewish preachers, prophets, wonder workers or Messianic claimants [so it should be noted that DF makes no such assertion and my example here is merely a cheap shot presented as a silly substitute for the many pertinent examples of authors DF does list and explain. I have no intention of mentioning any of the names he uses to make his case lest anyone think he might have a case after all]. (2013)
  • This [DF’s supposedly “inferred claim” that there were scores of writers who spoke of failed messiahs — see part 5] is because they don’t exist and his claim is complete garbage [flawed — if one ignores the Roman historian exceptions who do indeed mention some messianic hopefuls and whom I completely forgot about]. Which means his whole argument collapses. . . . . (2013)
  • And these people [Christ Myth theorists like DF, at no time I know,] pretend [have ever claimed] they can’t get taken seriously by real scholars because of some vast academic conspiracy [– we all know people like DF are not “conspiracy theorists” and that they do no more than point to the fundamental conservatism of the academy as explicitly addressed often enough by their own peers: Crossley, Hoffmann, Avalos . . . ]. Any rational person can see that someone like Fitzgerald can’t [can] be taken seriously because he can’t [can and does] back up his claims and keep his key arguments from collapsing in a heap. [My] Bluster doesn’t obscure[s the] basic [arguments that DF has presented — and I think I have done a good job of suppressing them completely with my bluster. No reader of my review would have the slightest notion of his real case.] incompetence. (2013)

In case you didn’t get TO’s message:

  • There was nothing distinctive about the public acts of Jesus so we should not expect any contemporary to have noticed him
  • Other writers had no interest in any Jewish preachers and miracle-workers anyway — so why would they have noticed Jesus?

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