2018-10-24

There are two types of Jesus mythicism. Here’s how to tell them apart.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

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Type 1: Scholarly
The authors engage with not only the source documents of early Christianity but they also address the scholarship that has been written about those documents. The arguments are structured around engagement with the scholarship of biblical studies, ancient history (including judaica), the classics and other related fields such as archaeology, religion, anthropology, historiography, mythology. They apply the norms of the scientific method (e.g. evidence-based, falsifiability). e.g. Thomas Brodie, Richard Carrier, Earl Doherty, Robert Price.

Type 2: Pseudo-Scholarly
The authors engage with the source documents but disregard the bulk of related scholarly discussion and focus primarily on interpreting them tendentiously through a conspiracy theory or other unfalsifiable pseudo-historical theory. That is, their arguments are based on an assumption (that is, there is no unambiguous evidence in support) that there are behind-the-scenes powerful and complex forces and actors manipulating or producing the evidence. The emphasis is on arguing for the “missing link” in explaining Christianity and little to no attention is given to addressing alternative explanations in the scholarship for the evidence used. e.g. Christianity as an invention by Roman imperial powers; a strain of astrotheological beliefs dominated secret mystery religions and morphed into Christianity; Christian teachings began and were preserved in some form though centuries, even millennia, before being re-written in the gospels.

What do you think? Do those two “definitions” cover it? I’m sure the wording can be tidied.

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105 Comments

  • MrHorse
    2018-10-24 23:52:49 GMT+0000 - 23:52 | Permalink

    I’d recommend some minor edits –

    Type 1: Scholarly

    … They apply the norms of the Historical [M]ethod (e.g. evidence-based, falsifiability, uses cogent inductive – or sound deductive – arguments) …

    Type 2: Pseudo-Scholarly

    The authors engage with the source documents but disregard the bulk of related scholarly discussion and focus primarily on interpreting them tendentiously through a conspiracy theory or other unfalsifiable pseudo-historical theory. That is, their arguments are based on an assumption that there were behind-the-scenes forces and actors manipulating or producing the evidence. The emphasis is on arguing for a “missing link” to explain Christian origins and little to no attention is given to addressing alternative explanations in the scholarship for the evidence used.

    I think that “(that is, there is no unambiguous evidence in support)” is a confusing inclusion, particularly as it involves a double negative in an already complex but otherwise good explanation

    [feel free to delete this after you’ve contemplated it, Neil]

    • MrHorse
      2018-10-25 19:34:57 GMT+0000 - 19:34 | Permalink

      ‘Falsifiability’ (and other versions thereof) is such a stupid and obsolete term and concept.

      It’s utter irrational crap. Things can be testable, arguable, verifiable (or not), able to be dismissed, able to be not accepted as fact, but falsifiable means not much.

      • 2018-10-26 04:07:48 GMT+0000 - 04:07 | Permalink

        So, the whole scientific community is being utterly irrational?

        • MrHorse
          2018-10-26 04:25:25 GMT+0000 - 04:25 | Permalink

          I’ve been a scientist for 40 yrs (and have published research in world-leading journals in my field). I therefore fully understand hypothesis formulation and testing, experiment design, and methods of statistical analysis, so I full understand what analysis of data means for accepting, rejecting, or ‘not accepting but not rejecting’ a null hypothesis (or an alternative hypothesis if that is what has been applied and tested).

          I never heard or saw the term ‘falsifiable’ (and/or its derivatives) used in the scientific community in all that time. Literally. I. Never. Heard. It.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2018-10-26 07:22:58 GMT+0000 - 07:22 | Permalink

        Karl Popper is dead?

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability

        • MrHorse
          2018-10-26 20:24:46 GMT+0000 - 20:24 | Permalink

          I don’t think Karl Popper’s death can be falsified / refuted.

          The concept of something being ‘falsifiable’ might apply to abstract or not-definitively proven concepts (such as whether the Jesus of the new testament is based on an early 1st century human Galilean preacher), but it is largely a philosophical concept, not a scientific one, and should not be used in relation to pretty well scientlifically proven things like evolution or heliocentrism.

          • 2018-10-27 04:16:57 GMT+0000 - 04:16 | Permalink

            Popper’s death has not been falsified, and we can be justifiably certain that it isn’t going to be. But do you deny that it would be, if he were discovered to be still alive?

            Falsification was never about what we can reasonably expect to happen. Whatever is an actual fact will never be falsified in actuality. That doesn’t mean it could not in principle be falsified. Falsification is about the principle, not the actuality.

  • Rod Green
    2018-10-24 23:57:19 GMT+0000 - 23:57 | Permalink

    You are right on. I just left a discussion group because I quickly discovered they were primarily the second type group. Are there any groups of the first kind anymore? I participated on Jesus Mysteries for 10 years before it imploded. I’m now ready to get back in the game.
    Best
    Rod Green
    jaywrg@tx.rr.com

  • Kelly D Wellington
    2018-10-25 00:22:32 GMT+0000 - 00:22 | Permalink

    I rather agree with your assessment. I came to the field by starting my readings on attempting to understand what scholastic researchers had to say about a historical Jesus. I worked my way through the likes of Meier, Funk, Crossen, Horsley, and Ehrman. It was only after identifying at least three separate historical Jesuses hidden amongst the scriptures, that my eye was caught by G.A. Wells shouting in the wilderness….that all led to Earl Doherty, Robert Price, and finally, Father Brodie. Along the way, my primary support was the work of Burton Mack.

    I’m sorry to hear that Jesus Mysteries has imploded. I was a founding moderator there, but left in 2004 following the death of my wife. I was always proud of my participation in bringing it in to being. I had heard that Clarice, the founder of Jesus Mysteries, had herself succumbed to the grim reaper and suspected that JM would not last long after her departure….she was the unsure soul who made JM the gem is was when I was there.

    This is the best place I have found to follow this interest. I understand that Peter Kirby has an active site that many really like, but I have yet to make my way there. It is good to see that Rod found his way here.

  • nightshadetwine
    2018-10-25 00:40:44 GMT+0000 - 00:40 | Permalink

    “a strain of astrotheological beliefs dominated secret mystery religions and morphed into Christianity”

    It depends on what exactly is meant by this. Some astrological stuff may have gotten into Christianity through outside influences from religions that had astrological based/influenced myths.

    “Christian teachings began and were preserved in some form though centuries, even millennia, before being re-written in the gospels”

    Also depends on what is meant by this. If you mean most Christian teachings and myths aren’t unique to Christianity and were most likely influenced by other religions then that’s in line with scholarship. A lot of these ANE religions picked up influences from each other so you do find a lot of teachings and motifs in Christianity that had been around for a long time.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-10-25 01:02:06 GMT+0000 - 01:02 | Permalink

      Where arguments for these teachings are grounded in the evidence itself, and a range of scholarly interpretations of the same evidence are engaged with (not dismissed without specific argument), then there is no problem.

    • MrHorse
      2018-10-25 01:06:32 GMT+0000 - 01:06 | Permalink

      “Some astrological stuff may have gotten into Christianity …”

      It may have but such astrological stuff is not that overt, and one would still need to show how it got in.

      • nightshadetwine
        2018-10-25 03:18:20 GMT+0000 - 03:18 | Permalink

        “It may have but such astrological stuff is not that overt, and one would still need to show how it got in.”

        I would say it may have got in indirectly through influences from other myths/religions that had more overt astrological influences. For example, in ancient Egyptian religion the sun god and other gods associated with the sun god(which includes the Pharaoh) died and resurrected and have other obvious parallels with the mythology surrounding Jesus. Now, the Jesus stories may have picked up a “solar” influence by being influenced by these Egyptian(and Greco-Roman) myths, whether the influence was directly from pagan myths or indirectly through Judaism(scholars have shown that Judaism is influenced by Egyptian religion and that Yahweh was associated with solar symbolism).

        • Neil Godfrey
          2018-10-26 07:27:19 GMT+0000 - 07:27 | Permalink

          I think there are times when we are at a loss to explain how something happened but are nonetheless left with clear evidence that it did. (But that evidence needs more than the identification of parallels — parallels can have multiple explanations and are not necessarily in a cause-effect or direct copy relationship.)

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-10-25 01:55:23 GMT+0000 - 01:55 | Permalink

      To take the “astrological stuff” as an example. There are obvious correlations between the 12 disciples and the 12 signs of the zodiac, the attention to fish cum early Christian fish symbolism and the new age of Pisces (equinoxes etc). But correlations, while tantalising, interesting, are not of themselves proofs of a causal or direct relationship.

      It is not very difficult to find patterns, correlations. What is more difficult is devising rules or criteria to help us decide what correlations are related causally. They may be both evidence of some third factor in common rather than directly related to each other. What time periods do the various layers of evidence come from — earlier or later?

      We also need to look for evidence that there is some other explanation for the correlations. Or try to think of alternative explanations and test them, where we can, against other possibilities.

      And at all times we need to try to inform ourselves of what scholarly research and debate has contributed to our understanding of the phenomena we are looking at. Are their other explanations? How does the evidence for them compare?

      If we find that through all of the above we can establish a plausible argument for the evangelists consciously weaving “astrological stuff” into their narratives, then great.

  • 2018-10-25 03:00:05 GMT+0000 - 03:00 | Permalink

    I would add under Type 1, sociology. Any theory of origins of Christianity that ignores sociology and what we know about the invention and persistence of religions, and belief systems is bound to fail. This IMHO is why there has been almost no progress in this field for hundreds of years. The other reason there has been no progress in this field is that academia has been captured by apologists and vested interests.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-10-25 05:21:46 GMT+0000 - 05:21 | Permalink

      Yes. I thought of sociology but decided “such as” covered a multitude more that I could not think of at the moment. (I may make a few edits if more info comes in through the comments.) Certainly the field has been captured by the apologists, including “liberal apologists” who fail to acknowledge they are apologists, but there is also some sound work there, and so long as “mythicist” engagement is capable of addressing the bias embedded within certain methods and interpretations of the conservative and liberal apologists then all is fine.

  • RoHa
    2018-10-25 06:26:02 GMT+0000 - 06:26 | Permalink

    Type 1: Boring

    Type 2: Fun

  • Giuseppe
    2018-10-25 09:06:50 GMT+0000 - 09:06 | Permalink

    I see that often Robert M. Price (or any similar scholar who argues for Gnostic origins of the myth, where ‘gnostic’ means someonw who, even if in contact with Judaism, rejects the basic tenets of Judaism) is declassed in the group 2 even by people who like Doherty, Carrier, Brodie, etc.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-10-26 07:29:17 GMT+0000 - 07:29 | Permalink

      That’s a shame if they do. Any argument, even at “type 2” argument, needs to be addressed by “type 1” methods.

  • G. Jerome Beers
    2018-10-25 10:57:06 GMT+0000 - 10:57 | Permalink

    About every other posting here (and many other places) tempts me to make the following comment, which is almost, but perhaps not quite, on topic:

    It is good to read (or re-read) chapter 3 of JS Mill’s On Liberty, in which he argues for the value of considering alternative opinions, very much including ridiculous and blatantly false ones. By sticking only to what is known to be sensible and good, what was reasoned becomes but a credo. Also, one can improve even the best formulations at times by insights gained by defending them in honest discussion from faulty alternative perspectives.

    Also good to consider are works by the philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend, such as Against Method, where he argues for application of Mill’s 3d chapter to science, going somewhat beyond Thomas Kuhn to call for anarchy in science. He, who I believe may have studied under Popper, attempts to deflate fetishism of “The Scientific Method.”

    To be sure, there are problems with the suggestions of Mill and Feyerabend, such as that there is something like potential a signal-to-noise problem of spending too much time on each and every ridiculous notion.

    (I vowed not to issue this comment until it was exactly on-topic, but I succumbed to temptation. Please remember it for when it is exactly on-topic.)

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-10-26 07:31:56 GMT+0000 - 07:31 | Permalink

      That’s on topic enough, hitting the issues that underlie the two approaches. 🙂 Thanks. What you say is worth thinking about.

    • 2018-10-26 14:55:28 GMT+0000 - 14:55 | Permalink

      “To be sure, there are problems with the suggestions of Mill and Feyerabend, such as that there is something like potential a signal-to-noise problem of spending too much time on each and every ridiculous notion.”

      Right. It’s one thing to say that no proposition will be declared beyond the pale, off limits, or however you want to say “Never to be discussed or even mentioned.” It’s quite another to say that we have no basis on which to treat some as more prima facie credible than others.

  • Joe Atwill
    2018-10-25 11:20:30 GMT+0000 - 11:20 | Permalink

    Hi Neil,
    Your definitions are Pseudo-Coherent.
    How would it be even possible for my theory of a Flavian origin for the Gospels to be less falsifiable or evidence based than a fantasy about cult that worshiped a Jesus in outer space, a ‘Q community’ or – god help us – a ‘pre Q community’?
    Joe

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-10-26 07:44:51 GMT+0000 - 07:44 | Permalink

      Something is either falsifiable or it is not. We don’t have “less or more” falsifiable.

      Your theory is evidence based to an extent. But you have many additional operations that you infer happened. Inference is not evidence. The more a theory depends on inferences the weaker it becomes.

      There are other ways of explaining the parallels you see between Josephus and the gospels. A theory needs to be able to address the alternatives, and that usually means grappling with the scholarship that may offer alternative explanations.

      We can usually continue to find more and more data that we can interpret in ways to support our theories — but that is nothing but confirmation bias at work.

      A good theory will be tested against alternatives, and we will look for ways to disprove our theories, too.

      • joe atwill
        2018-10-27 15:15:18 GMT+0000 - 15:15 | Permalink

        Hi Neil,

        Agreed that “Something is either falsifiable or it is not.” OK, so please explain how to falsify a conjectured, first century BCE cult that worshipped a Jesus in heaven. Actually quite curious about this.

        To address your critique of my stuff, I just have no idea what you are talking about. No disrespect, but I suspect you haven’t read the book.

        The system of typology I maintain links Jesus forward to Titus is same one that is well known to scholars and links Jesus backward to the OT presented in Mathew’s preministry. The system is built using parallel names, locations and concepts occurring in the same sequence.

        In Caesar’s Messiah all I really do is lay one text next to the other and show that when read in sequence there is a self-evident relationship between Wars and the NT that has been overlooked and appears to continue Matthew’s typology.

        Like in Mathew’s preministry typology some parallels are complicated and can only be seen analytically, however many are no brainers or are simply the same thing – Galilean towns crushed, the AoD, Temple complex razed etc.

        Just to give a sense of the overall sequential relationship here are a few no brainers:

        11) Binding and loosening

        Then Jesus answered and said. . .
        . . . “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matt 16:14-19 – Luke 9:18-20

        “O father, it is but just that the scandal [of a prisoner] should be taken off Josephus, together with his iron chain. For if we do not barely loose his bonds, but cut them to pieces, he will be like a man that had never been bound at all.”
        Wars of the Jews, 4, 10, 628-629

        13) On to Jerusalem – some sent ahead

        Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. Luke 9:51

        Titus, when he had gotten together part of his forces about him, and had ordered the rest to meet him at Jerusalem, marched out of Cesarea. Wars of the Jews, 5, 1, 40

        19) The crowds increase

        As the crowds were increasing . . . Luke 11:29

        The Jews became still more and more in number. . Wars of the Jews, 5, 2, 78

        20) Lying in wait

        And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail [Him] vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things,
        lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him. Luke 11:53-54

        . . . Caesar himself, [who spake to them thus]: These Jews, who are only conducted by their madness, do every thing with care and circumspection; they contrive stratagems, and lay ambushes . . Wars of the Jews, 5, 3, 121

        23) Divide the group 3 for 2

        These followers of John also did now seize upon this inner temple, and upon all the warlike engines therein, and then ventured to oppose Simon.
        And thus that sedition, which had been divided into three factions, was now reduced to two. Wars of the Jews, 5, 3, 104-105

        “Do [you] suppose that I came to give peace on earth?
        “I tell you, not at all, but rather division.
        “For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three.” Luke 12:51-53

        24) Cut down the fruit tree

        ‘And if it bears fruit, [well]. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’ ”
        Luke 13:6-9

        So they threw down all the hedges and walls which the inhabitants had made about their gardens and groves of trees, and cut down all the fruit trees that lay between them and the wall of the city . . . Wars of the Jews 5, 3, 106-107

        26) How to build a tower

        “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has [enough] to finish [it — ] Luke 14: 28-30

        Titus went round the wall looking for the best place to build a tower
        Wars of the Jews, 5, 6, 258

        27) Terms for Peace

        “Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.” Luke 14:31-32

        . . . Josephus . . . attempted to discourse to those that were upon the wall, about terms of peace . . . Wars of the Jews, 5, 6, 261

        29) Jerusalem encircled with a wall

        “For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, Luke 19:43-44

        . . . they must build a wall round about the whole city; which was, he thought, the only way to prevent the Jews from coming out any way, a
        Wars of the Jews, 5, 12, 499-501

        A couple of points concerning the crucifixion parallel. First, I discovered it only because I knew where to look within the sequence of events Josephus was recording and notice that the typologically linked names ‘Joseph of Arimathea’ and ‘Joseph bar Mathias’ – which basically prove the dependency between the two stories – are not in the text but must be ‘inferred’ by an alert reader. Finally notice that a sequence creates a rigorous methodology in and of itself. Compare my parallel, which explains ‘arimathea’ and also ‘Joseph’ to, for example, Carrier’s ‘Best doctrine town’ suggestion, which has no ‘Joseph’, group of three, survivor, etc. Then consider he had all of literature to hunt, whereas I had only a few hundred words within which to find the parallel.

        33) Three Crucified One Survives

        ‘And when I was sent by Titus Caesar with Cerealius, and a thousand horsemen, to a certain village called Thecoa, in order to know whether it were a place fit for a camp, as I came back, I saw many captives crucified, and remembered three of them as my former acquaintance. I was very sorry at this in my mind, and went with tears in my eyes to Titus, and told him of them; so he immediately commanded them to be taken down, and to have the greatest care taken of them, in order to their recovery; yet two of them died under the physician’s hands, while the third recovered.’ Vita 420-422 (edition Loeb).

        Hope this is clarifying.

        Joe

        • Neil Godfrey
          2018-10-28 09:05:58 GMT+0000 - 09:05 | Permalink

          OK, so please explain how to falsify a conjectured, first century BCE cult that worshipped a Jesus in heaven. Actually quite curious about this.

          I don’t know of any argument that posits “a BCE cult” that worshiped a heavenly Jesus.

          I do see early texts in which a heavenly Jesus is an object of worship, though. The Pauline corpus, including the deutero-Paulines, speak of a Jesus in heaven who is to be worshiped. The Book of Revelation, certainly. Even our canonical Book of Acts. I suppose this evidence for a concept of a Jesus in heaven being worshiped could be falsified if we were to find documents that showed them all to be late forgeries or the depictions of Jesus in heaven were metaphors for him being on earth.

          But I think there would be little point since even today most Christians worship a Jesus in heaven.

          Hope this is clarifying.

          A perfect illustration of the Type 2 mythicism I described. Yes, I can see plausible relationships between the three crucifixion victims in Josephus’ work and the gospels, and I can see plausible connections between Josephus and Joseph of Arimathea. But you go much farther than that and posit a vast copying and reinterpreting process that is entirely speculative. It is certainly going too far to say, as you do, “which basically prove the dependency between the two stories”.

          Finally notice that a sequence creates a rigorous methodology in and of itself.

          Totally not so at all. That’s a perfect illustration of “type 2”. You have one explanation that you impose on those points paralleled and consider no other explanations for those particular details. That’s not rigorous methodology but confirmation bias, circularity….

          A scholarly approach would examine the contextual meanings of, say, the keys to heaven wrt Peter, and to examine alternative explanations of sources, and then demonstrate how those evidence-based meanings relate, if at all, to Josephus being released from bonds. I think such an argument would be very difficult to construct according to Type 1 methods. But you seem to concede that you don’t accept what I mean by the two types so there is little common basis for a discussion between us.

          Yes, Joe, I have read your book.

          • Joe Atwill
            2018-10-29 16:58:01 GMT+0000 - 16:58 | Permalink

            Hi Neil,

            To your response: “a concept of a Jesus in heaven being worshiped could be falsified if we were to find documents that showed them all to be late forgeries”.

            Exactly. To falsify Q or a group that worshipped a Jesus who was a heavenly being one would need an archeological miracle. No analytic approach using the current data could ever come close. Since the same sort of archeological miracle could obviously falsify a Flavian origin of the Gospels, why did you claim that Doherty’s’ theory is falsifiable and mine is not?

            To your point that: “I can see plausible relationships between the three crucifixion victims in Josephus’ work and the gospels, and I can see plausible connections between Josephus and Joseph of Arimathea. But you go much farther than that and posit a vast copying and reinterpreting process that is entirely speculative.”
            No. What I posit is that there is an unusual parallelism between the stories – what you call “plausible relationships” – and that this parallel exists within a sequential chain of such parallels. How unusual? It is the most coherent parallel to the crucifixion story in literature. Contrast it with Carrier’s ‘parallelomania’ suggestion.

            To your point: “It is certainly going too far to say, as you do, “which basically prove the dependency between the two stories”.

            No. What you are claiming is that there is a reasonable chance that Josephus created the crucifixion story most parallel to the Gospels and placed it where he did accidentally. Even using only the “plausible relationships” seen by others – say, crushing of Galilean towns, decision to go to Jerusalem, Jerusalem encircled with a wall, razing of temple complex, AoD, crucifixion and concluding with Simon being condemned and sent to Rome – the combination of the story’s unusual parallelism and place within the sequence would show that there is no reasonable chance that Josephus’s story is not somehow dependent on the Gospels’. It was both created and placed deliberately.

            To your point that sequence does “not create a rigorous a methodology but confirmation bias, circularity.”

            No. First, to have any meaning, unusual parallels between two stories have to be able to be seen by a fraction of viewers beyond random chance – like your seeing the “plausible connections” between Josephus’s crucifixion story and the Gospels’. No confirmation bias. Second, once a sequence of such unusual parallels is posited, the sequence itself indicates where the parallel events must occur, not the theorist. No circularity, real testable methodology.

            To your point: “A scholarly approach would examine the contextual meanings of, say, the keys to heaven wrt Peter, and to examine alternative explanations of sources, and then demonstrate how those evidence-based meanings relate, if at all, to Josephus being released from bonds.”

            This is example of what I call Type 0 scholarship. In other words, NT scholarship that does not consider Roman humor and typology as an interpretive framework has zero chance of producing anything meaningful. NT scholars are not stupid. They have simply overlooked that it is the sequence of events in Jesus’ adult ministry that is the key to discovering the correct interpretive framework, just as it is in Mathew’s preministry story.

            Joe

            • MrHorse
              2018-10-29 20:17:31 GMT+0000 - 20:17 | Permalink

              Joe wrote

              To falsify Q or a group that worshipped a Jesus who was a heavenly being one would need an archaeological miracle. No analytic approach using the current data could ever come close.

              In recent years a few scholars have proposed reconstructions of Marcion’s euangelion which mean it had to precede the extant Gospel of Luke and some of them have proposed various pathways where other or even all the synoptic gospels arose via the Marcion community or in response to Marcion’s euangelion. These scholars include Joseph B Tyson, Jason BeDuhn, Markus Vinzent, Matthias Klinghardt, and probably David Trobisch and Shelly Matthews (Matthews proposes a core Luke that precedes G.Luke).

            • Neil Godfrey
              2018-10-29 21:59:25 GMT+0000 - 21:59 | Permalink

              Since the same sort of archeological miracle could obviously falsify a Flavian origin of the Gospels, why did you claim that Doherty’s’ theory is falsifiable and mine is not?

              Joe, what you asked me to falsify was not Doherty’s theory. You asked me to falsify what is believed by all Christians today and has been ever since the beginning of Christianity by all Christian sects. They ALL worship Jesus in heaven.

              What you are claiming is that there is a reasonable chance that Josephus created the crucifixion story most parallel to the Gospels and placed it where he did accidentally.

              I don’t understand what it is you are saying that I am claiming and that’s probably because you are reading your own assumptions into what I am saying instead of letting me explain my own words.

              once a sequence of such unusual parallels is posited, the sequence itself indicates where the parallel events must occur, not the theorist. No circularity, real testable methodology

              If you only said there was a series of parallel data that would be fine. We could then step back and consider a range of explanations for that sequence. But you assume without such an investigation of all the options that there can only be one explanation.

              This is example of what I call Type 0 scholarship. In other words, NT scholarship that does not consider Roman humor and typology as an interpretive framework has zero chance of producing anything meaningful.

              I do not exclude Roman humour or typology as possible explanations. I think your options should be placed on the table and compared with other explanations and studies, too. But you don’t do that.

              • joe atwill
                2018-10-31 14:19:09 GMT+0000 - 14:19 | Permalink

                Hi Neil,

                If I misunderstood everything I apologize and please correct me, but I thought when you wrote that Doherty “applies the norms of the scientific method (e.g. evidence-based, falsifiability)” to his research, you were indicating that the claim that “the nucleus of this historicized Jesus of the Gospels can be found in a Jesus-movement which wrote the Q source and believed in a Jesus who was a heavenly being who suffered his sacrificial death in the lower spheres of heaven, where he was crucified by demons and then was subsequently resurrected by God” has the capacity to be to be proven wrong.

                If so, how? Any examples?

                I also thought that your statement that Type 2 theorists (me) who maintained that “Christianity as an invention by Roman imperial powers” interpreted “source documents tendentiously through a conspiracy theory or other unfalsifiable pseudo-historical theory” indicated I did not apply the principle of fallibility to my research in the same way that Type 1 theorist Earl did.

                If so, how?

                I am biased of course but I simply cannot even imagine how a theory of a Roman origin of the Gospels could be less falsifiable than the theory of a Q community.

                Joe

              • Neil Godfrey
                2018-10-31 23:29:20 GMT+0000 - 23:29 | Permalink

                Doherty engages with the mainstream scholarly research and publications that present alternative explanations for the evidence and tests one against the other. You don’t do anything like that but simply present one hypothesis that is really nothing more than a set of inferences (not interpretations of evidence) from the data and ignore all alternative explanations of the data.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2018-10-29 22:50:05 GMT+0000 - 22:50 | Permalink

              To falsify Q . . . . one would need an archeological miracle. No analytic approach using the current data could ever come close.

              All one needs in order to falsify Q is evidence that “Luke” knew and adapted “Matthew”. Ongoing studies may yet uncover evidence that leaves no room for doubt, no room for ambiguity.

              • MrHorse
                2018-10-29 23:14:39 GMT+0000 - 23:14 | Permalink

                All one needs in order to falsify Q is evidence that “Luke” knew and adapted “Matthew”

                Exactly. And there are scholars looking at that.

  • 2018-10-25 12:48:17 GMT+0000 - 12:48 | Permalink

    Joe, I can give you specific examples of discoveries that would falsify Doherty, Carrier, or Robert M. Price. Can you tell me of a discovery would falsify your thesis?

    • Steve Watson
      2018-10-25 17:59:37 GMT+0000 - 17:59 | Permalink

      Don’t encourage him please, else we will be here all day batting away fatuous nonsense.

      • 2018-10-26 04:02:56 GMT+0000 - 04:02 | Permalink

        You do have my sympathy, Steve. However, I assume we have a few lurkers here who don’t have as much background knowledge as the rest of us have, and I don’t wan’t them to get the impression that this guy has an argument to which we cannot respond.

        I also don’t want him going back to his followers claiming “I said X, and they couldn’t answer me,” unless he is prepared to just lie about it.

        • joe atwill
          2018-10-27 15:17:39 GMT+0000 - 15:17 | Permalink

          Hi Doug,

          Your statement is not coherent. Since discoveries are a class without limits there is nothing they do not have the potential to falsify. Please give an example of a way to falsify a conjectured Q community using something in existence or I will be forced to return to my followers and inform them that I had an argument to which you could not respond.

          As far as using your ‘discovery’ standard to falsify my theory, I would note that if we discovered Jesus had made a second coming this would at least give me a reason to doubt.

          Joe

          • 2018-10-27 16:46:24 GMT+0000 - 16:46 | Permalink

            “I would note that if we discovered Jesus had made a second coming this would at least give me a reason to doubt.”

            We’re both claiming that he never existed, and that would be falsified by the discovery of a first coming.

            By “your thesis,” I was referring to something more specific, i.e. that Christianity was a hoax perpetrated by Roman politicians. Could any possible discovery falsify that?

            “Since discoveries are a class without limits there is nothing they do not have the potential to falsify.”

            Yes, for any specific fact, there is an unbounded number of hypothetical statements with which it is inconsistent. The problem is with any hypothesis that could not be contradicted by any fact. I’m asking whether your thesis is such a hypothesis.

            “Please give an example of a way to falsify a conjectured Q community”

            Why? I have said nothing about any Q community.

            • joe atwill
              2018-10-29 16:59:58 GMT+0000 - 16:59 | Permalink

              Hi Doug,

              To your point: “We’re both claiming that he never existed, and that would be falsified by the discovery of a first coming. I was referring to something more specific, i.e. that Christianity was a hoax perpetrated by Roman politicians. Could any possible discovery falsify that?”

              Your train of thought is incoherent. You are agreeing that proof of Jesus’s existence would falsify my theory, but then asking if any fact would falsify my theory. I would go so far as to say that in order to falsify my theory, if it too much trouble for Him to return, even a letter would suffice.

              To your question: Why? I have said nothing about any Q community.

              I never said you did. What you wrote was: “I can give you specific examples of discoveries that would falsify Doherty.”

              Doherty conjectures a Q community therefore:

              “Please give an example of a way to falsify a conjectured Q community”

              Please be aware if all you can come up with is an archeological miracle as Neil did, I will have no option but to report my followers when they assemble in the Coliseum for Pliny the Very Elder’s panegyric, to report to them that you couldn’t answer me.

              Joe

              • 2018-10-30 04:55:19 GMT+0000 - 04:55 | Permalink

                “Your train of thought is incoherent.”

                Yours is evasive. I’ll rephrase my question to you:

                Could any possible discovery falsify your thesis that Christianity was a hoax perpetrated by Roman politicians?

                “Doherty conjectures a Q community”

                So do historicists. The issue of Jesus’ historicity does not stand or fall on whether there was a Q community. Any theory, orthodox or otherwise, about Christianity’s origins needs to posit a provenance for the canonical gospels. With or without a historical Jesus, that provenance might or might not include Q.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2018-10-30 05:14:57 GMT+0000 - 05:14 | Permalink

                if all you can come up with is an archeological miracle as Neil did

                Joe, you failed to notice what it was I was answering — your original question had nothing to do with Doherty’s thesis or any other mythicist idea at all. I was trying to point out to you that your wording is too often vague and full of ungrounded assumptions that makes conversation and contructive conversation very difficult. You asked about belief in a Jesus in heaven. EVERY Christian who has ever lived believes in a Jesus in heaven! (I thought my initial reply would wake you up to what you had asked but it obviously didn’t.)

      • Neil Godfrey
        2018-10-26 07:46:46 GMT+0000 - 07:46 | Permalink

        Comment deleted….. Reminder to stick to comment guidelines, please. No insults. — Neil

  • Amer
    2018-10-26 14:32:24 GMT+0000 - 14:32 | Permalink

    I must beg to disagree slightly with the idea that scholarly people can be Jesus Mythicists.

    There are people who know the science and know the research and there are people who don’t know the science. Both engage in ‘inspection’ rather than ‘investigation’, albeit the former hide it better.

    Inspection is to browse through material looking for material to back up your ideas,
    Investigation is to trawl through material comparing like for like in order to develop ideas and opinions as opposed to actively finding material to agree with your stance.

    So there are indeed Jesus Mythicists that are scholars but they don’t use their scholary methods to conclude Jesus as myth. They already have that belief to begin with.

    There are also people who are in between those who believe Jesus as history and Jesus as myth – they are people who hold that Jesus is historically embellished. Confirming both his historicity but accept some concepts about him as myth.

    • 2018-10-27 04:36:07 GMT+0000 - 04:36 | Permalink

      “they are people who hold that Jesus is historically embellished. Confirming both his historicity but accept some concepts about him as myth.”

      Hmm. People believe it, and their belief confirms it?

      • Amer
        2018-10-28 05:01:42 GMT+0000 - 05:01 | Permalink

        Doug … What I mean is that they find enough to say he is historical but not enough to accept everything that is said about him to be historical.

        • 2018-10-28 14:49:05 GMT+0000 - 14:49 | Permalink

          If someone believes something, I always assume that it is for a reason that they consider sufficient. When I examine those reasons for myself, though, I often find them insufficient. That turned out to be the case when I examined the reasons people give for their belief in a historical Jesus. I have yet to find anyone, regardless of their academic credentials, whose reasons do not reduce to a circular argument.

          • Amer
            2018-10-30 03:37:01 GMT+0000 - 03:37 | Permalink

            To be honest Doug … I’m a novice and must rely on the authority. But when I delve in as you have done … I might well come to the same conclusion.

            History is only as perfect as what is found.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2018-10-30 05:24:52 GMT+0000 - 05:24 | Permalink

              Another perspective I think is preferable is to always ask authorities (or any author one is reading) to justify his or her arguments and demonstrate why alternatives fail. When it comes to historical inquiry there is no reason an author cannot do this much for any lay reader.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-10-27 08:13:03 GMT+0000 - 08:13 | Permalink

      Amer, I think you are confusing a preconfirmed belief that one wants to find evidence for confirmation, and a genuine hypothesis that Christianity did not begin with a historical Jesus. It is the former, the one you clearly deplore, and so do I, that I attempted to describe in my Type 2 above.

      If you think Type 1 mythicism does not exist then you will have to demonstrate that Brodie, Doherty, Wells and such like have failed to address contrary evidence in a scholarly manner, honestly addressing the extant scholarship.

      Acharya S, Joe Atwill, certainly follow the fallacy of confirmation bias, which is what you are describing. But I don’t believe you can genuinely say that all mythicist arguments are built on confirmation bias. Have you read the arguments of, say, Brodie? As for Carrier, you may disagree with several of his specific arguments, as I do, but I fail to see how you can say his method is fallacious confirmation bias. Very much the opposite. He argues a fortiori.

      • Amer
        2018-10-28 05:05:05 GMT+0000 - 05:05 | Permalink

        Neil … You’ve got me thinking.

        I always thought Bart Ehrman’s position was solid and not seriously contested.

        I’m gonna have to read up on those names and come back to you.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2018-10-28 08:19:32 GMT+0000 - 08:19 | Permalink

          Have you seen my list of Who’s Who? https://vridar.org/whos-who-among-mythicists-and-mythicist-agnostics/ Quite a few scholars there.

          • Amer
            2018-10-28 10:14:20 GMT+0000 - 10:14 | Permalink

            Wow … what a list!
            Thank you … I shall peruse.

        • MrHorse
          2018-10-30 04:15:17 GMT+0000 - 04:15 | Permalink

          Ehrman was good up until ~2012 but his Did Jesus Exist? book was full of bare assertions, and his books since have not been that great. He has failed to keep up with scholarship since 2012 so has tunnel-vision.

  • 2018-10-30 04:33:43 GMT+0000 - 04:33 | Permalink

    It does take time. My interest was aroused when I read Doherty’s website back in 1999. I’ve done a bunch of reading on the subject since then, including several books purporting to defend historicity. If there is an argument for a historical Jesus that doesn’t assume its conclusion, I haven’t found it yet.

    • 2018-10-30 04:36:51 GMT+0000 - 04:36 | Permalink

      I clicked the wrong “Reply” button. The previous was supposed to be a response to the following by Amer:

      To be honest Doug … I’m a novice and must rely on the authority. But when I delve in as you have done … I might well come to the same conclusion.

      History is only as perfect as what is found.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2018-10-30 05:20:01 GMT+0000 - 05:20 | Permalink

        Unfortunately I don’t think I can change the positions of comments without losing identifying data.

  • Pingback: Why Joe Atwill’s Caesar’s Messiah is “Type 2” mythicism |

  • Pingback: Did Roman Emperors Vespasian and Titus Create Christianity to Fool the Judeans? |

  • Pingback: Once more: My Position on the Jesus Mythicism Question |

  • James Barlow
    2018-12-31 04:55:00 GMT+0000 - 04:55 | Permalink

    I know of someone who will “engage with the source documents but disregard the bulk of related scholarly discussion,” not admitting to his own interpretive errors, at times preferring to “focus primarily on interpreting them tendentiously”; yet not “through a conspiracy theory or other unfalsifiable pseudo-historical theory.”
    But isn’t saying the gospels are entirely akin to literary fable just like saying such ”
    arguments are based on an assumption that there were behind-the-scenes forces and actors manipulating or producing the evidence.”?
    That would be my case for putting Carrier into a Type 3 category: he sacrifices scholarly, scientific modesty for the sake of the ideological promotion of cafe atheism.
    I mean, “I am the greatest philosopher since Emmanuel Kant”. (!) Really. lol.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-01-01 05:06:09 GMT+0000 - 05:06 | Permalink

      But isn’t saying the gospels are entirely akin to literary fable just like saying such ”
      arguments are based on an assumption that there were behind-the-scenes forces and actors manipulating or producing the evidence.”?

      No, because we are not simply saying it, but we are demonstrating it with many pages of argument comparing the gospels with other literature, and many posts also addressing the scholarly work that does the same and comes to similar conclusions.

  • Amer
    2018-12-31 11:34:00 GMT+0000 - 11:34 | Permalink

    Thank you Doug and Neil for the advice and direction …

    I have a few more questions or observations based on what I have read so far.

    It appears that people have a basis (or bias) they choose to begin with. In this case it is either Jesus is historical or Jesus is ahistorical. Let’s call these Type A and Type B.

    Then their approach can be to set out to prove themselves right or prove themselves wrong.
    Let’s call these Type 1 and Type 2, bringing us to 4 kinds of researcher. A1, A2, B1 and B2.

    Then let’s say their conclusions are based on either inference-dependence vs deduction-dependence
    Let’s call these Type $ and Type % … That gives us …

    A1$, A1%, A2$, A2%, B1$, B1%, B2$ and B2% 8 possible permutations of researcher.

    My question – is this way of breaking down of any value here in this discussion?
    My inner scientist tells me that people who set out to prove themselves wrong are less likely to fall in to confirmation bias. So I favour Type 2 over Type 1 as far as the question of historicity is concerned. Also, I guess Type % is better than Type $ in the sense that it relies on things to fall out rather than things to be drawn out.

    This brings us to the last point … Type A vs Type B … That is what is more sensible starting point? To say Jesus is historical or not. I tend to favour the idea that we must start with the idea that Jesus is historical, because present day belief in Jesus obliges us to have that as a starting point. Although it is not necessary – as the paths could converge based on the research, but if we were to apply a sensible methodology to this arena – would you say it is more sensible to start with the idea that Jesus is historical.

    (You know I’m trying my hardest not be biased – but I keep thinking I am being biased … )

    • 2018-12-31 16:35:33 GMT+0000 - 16:35 | Permalink

      Amer, the best definition of bias I ever saw was from one of my statistics professors. Bias, he said, is “any source of error.” One reason I like it is that before you can accuse anyone of bias, you have to demonstrate that they’ve actually committed an error. Another is that from it, we can infer that we’re all biased because we’re all capable of error. The best that any of us can hope to achieve is the minimize our biases. We can’t eliminate them, but the set of strategies often referred to as the scientific method is supposed to, among other desiderata, reduce the effects of our biases.

      I think the best way to avoid confirmation bias is to search, with all the good faith at our command, for evidence contrary to whatever we’re presupposing, be that the truth of whatever conclusion we’re arguing for or the truth of whatever premises our argument is based on. Then we examine any counterarguments that come our way with our minds as open as we can keep them. As seekers after truth, we do the best we can, and whatever our best is as individuals, we cannot do more.

      An inquiry into Jesus’ historicity is inseparable from an inquiry into Christianity’s origins. Like any historical inquiry, our beliefs when we begin the investigation matter less than our resolve to open-mindedly examine the relevant evidence and then formulate the most parsimonious explanation of that evidence – all of it. And, that “all of it” cannot be emphasized enough. It doesn’t make a bit of difference, for example, that Paul made three or four remarks in passing that seem to imply his awareness of the man known to history as Jesus of Nazareth, if everything else he wrote seems to suggest otherwise. I’m not saying it’s just a matter of counting proof texts. It’s a matter of asking oneself, considering everything he had to say about the being he called Christ Jesus, whether he more probably did or did not believe that being to have been a charismatic preacher who lived and died just a few decades before he wrote those epistles.

      • 2018-12-31 17:02:44 GMT+0000 - 17:02 | Permalink

        Doug said:

        It doesn’t make a bit of difference, for example, that Paul made three or four remarks in passing that seem to imply his awareness of the man known to history as Jesus of Nazareth, if everything else he wrote seems to suggest otherwise.

        Well, no, that’s not how recalcitrant evidence works in historical inquiry (or hermeneutics generally) at all. For instance, if it can be established as historically reliable that Paul met Jesus’ brother James (as per the usual reading of Galatians 1:19), then all other arguments seemingly consistent with a mythicist interpretation of the evidence become moot.

        And mythicists know how important this text (Galatians 1:19) is, which is why Vridar has a massive, myriad of posts and discussions trying to debunk the usual reading of Galatians 1:19. For instance, see: https://vridar.org/?s=james+the+brother+of+the+lord

        • db
          2018-12-31 17:39:27 GMT+0000 - 17:39 | Permalink

          the usual reading of Galatians 1:19

          Rather: the un-critical reading of Galatians 1:19

          • There is no need to “debunk” material that is “Non Liquet”.

        • Doug Shaver
          2018-12-31 20:07:53 GMT+0000 - 20:07 | Permalink

          “that’s not how recalcitrant evidence works in historical inquiry”

          There does seem to be a difference in methods of historical inquiry between the history of Christianity and the history of anything else. I’ve read several books on historiography, and none of the authors was a biblical scholar. I’m confident that any of them would be OK with my observation.

          • 2018-12-31 20:28:08 GMT+0000 - 20:28 | Permalink

            Would a newly discovered letter from the first century that mentions as an aside that the author ran into Jesus who was preaching, along with Cephas and the gang in Nazareth put the nail in the coffin of mythicism? This is mythicist Dr. Robert M Price’s example!

            • A Buddhist
              2018-12-31 20:59:54 GMT+0000 - 20:59 | Permalink

              John MacDonald: Such a letter, if it were to exist, would be a strong blow against mythicism, but need not be fatal. For example, evidence might suggest that the author of the letter was not writing truth but fiction (rather like the Satyricon).

              The issue, as I see it, is not that there are no early sources that describe Jesus, but that these early sources (Paul’s Epistles) do not describe Jesus as an earthly teacher/preacher, etc. Even the reference to James as Jesus’s brother, if truly meaning that (which it might not) does not develop the idea further – James, for example, is not said to have made reference to Jesus as preacher, etc.

              • 2018-12-31 22:25:01 GMT+0000 - 22:25 | Permalink

                I thought you were going to give me feedback on my blog post, lol? Carrier said it was a well researched case for the Noble Lie theory of Christian origins (which he mentions in On The Historicity of Jesus, along with the other possibility – that Paul et al were hallucinating). See Carrier’s twitter post about my Noble Lie model here: https://twitter.com/RichardCCarrier/status/966713694167228416

              • Gary
                2018-12-31 23:13:06 GMT+0000 - 23:13 | Permalink

                Do you believe that Josephus’ reference to James, the brother of Jesus, is a later Christian interpolation? What is the position of the majority of scholars on its authenticity?

              • Gary
                2018-12-31 23:22:27 GMT+0000 - 23:22 | Permalink

                According to this Catholic website, the “overwhelming” majority of scholars believe that Josepehus reference to James, the brother of Jesus is authentic while the other reference to Jesus in Josephus writing is disputed. Now, just because this one Christian website claims that this is the “overwhelming” majority expert opinion, does not prove it is, but if anyone can give a reputable source that says this is NOT the majority expert opinion, I would like to see the link:

                In his historical work Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus writes that the Roman procurator of Judea died suddenly in A.D. 62. During a three month interregnum period, Annas the younger, son of Annas who is mentioned in Luke 3:2, John 18:3, and Acts 4:6, is appointed high priest and orders the stoning of lawbreakers:

                —[H]e convened a judicial session of the Sanhedrin and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ—James by name—and some others, whom he charged with breaking the law and handed them over to be stoned to death. (Josephus, Antiquities, book 20)—

                This James was probably James the Just, whom St. Paul describes as “James, the brother of the Lord” (Gal.1:19). An overwhelming majority of scholars believe that this passage is authentic, but there is another mention of Jesus in Antiquities known as the Testimonium Flavianum that many are divided on:

              • Gary
                2018-12-31 23:23:51 GMT+0000 - 23:23 | Permalink
              • 2018-12-31 23:24:42 GMT+0000 - 23:24 | Permalink

                @ Gary:

                “A Buddhist” was talking about the James passage in Paul, not Josephus

            • 2018-12-31 22:17:08 GMT+0000 - 22:17 | Permalink

              “This is mythicist Dr. Robert M Price’s example!”

              I heard him mention it many times when I was a regular listener of his Bible Geek podcast.

              Assuming that its authenticity were beyond dispute, yes, that would suffice to establish Jesus’ historicity beyond reasonable doubt.

              • 2018-12-31 23:01:50 GMT+0000 - 23:01 | Permalink

                I learned a lot from Price. I find him to be encyclopedic in terms of his his knowledge of biblical studies. The two points that tend to make me lean in the direction of historicism is the James passage, and the seed of David passage, in Paul. On the former, Paul does use the term brother polysemically, so it could go either way. On the latter, God “forming/making” special people in the womb is a common idea in Judaism, and Carrier’s “Cosmic Sperm Bank” seems a little ad hoc, and it is odd Paul wouldn’t have mentioned it- IMO anyway. Carrier mentioned Price’s health is fading, which is a shame.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2019-01-01 01:58:06 GMT+0000 - 01:58 | Permalink

          John, if you care to scroll through the topics I have covered on Vridar I suspect one theme you will find stands head and shoulders above others: historical methodology; perhaps literary analysis comes in a close second.

          Where I collate posts on a topic it is because there happens to be a wider particular interest in the topic.

          I am surprised that you can mock the numbers of posts on the brother of the Lord yet at the same time indicate that you have not bothered to read a single one of them. Please find for me all the posts (or just a handful of the posts) that argue Galatians 1:19 does not really mean what it naturally means.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2019-01-01 02:05:53 GMT+0000 - 02:05 | Permalink

          I just had a look at your link, John, and see that it is not the same link I have provided for interested parties. That link I have produced points to a grand total over ten years of 20 posts on the brother of the Lord passage.

          Have another look at your link: you have searched for every post that contains the words “of” and “the” and “James” etc — you have not searched by the phrase at all, and if you only look into those post you will see most of them have nothing to do with the brother of the Lord topic.

          I expect readers to actually read what they take upon themselves to criticize. God, I have just been demonstrating the dismal state of affairs of Gullotta and Gathercole simply NOT READING Doherty or Carrier and criticizing them for things they do not argue and have never said. And here you are doing the very same with the posts on Vridar!

          • 2019-01-01 02:19:02 GMT+0000 - 02:19 | Permalink

            You never fail to surprise in your ability to focus in on an incidental detail and miss the main point completely. Allow me to scaffold my point for you (which you would have gotten if you learned how to focus on what is essential when you read):

            (1) The vast majority of critical scholars who are NT specialists teaching at accredited secular universities read Galatians 1:19 to be solid evidence Jesus had a relative named James (as Ehrman points out, it is an off the cuff mention by Paul)

            (2) Given this, mythicists must address the issue because if it is understood as a reliable fact, it invalidates mythicism.

            (3) Hence, mythicists like Doherty, Carrier, and Price focus on it and go through all manner of intellectual contortions to explain away the natural reading of the passage.

            Anyway, I’m going to celebrate New Years!

            • MrHorse
              2019-01-01 02:57:14 GMT+0000 - 02:57 | Permalink

              John MacDonald wrote

              (1) The vast majority of critical scholars who are NT specialists teaching at accredited secular universities read Galatians 1:19 to be solid evidence Jesus had a relative named James (as Ehrman points out, it is an off the cuff mention by Paul)

              (2) Given this, mythicists must address the issue because if it is understood as a reliable fact, it invalidates mythicism.

              Appealing to a vast majority of scholars is a fallacy. Appealing to ‘NT specialists’ is another fallacy. Appealing to ‘accredited secular universities’ is also a fallacy.

              Asserting Galatians 1:19 to be ‘solid’ evidence is yet another fallacy of , especially when you contradict that ‘solid’ emphasis with then saying “it is an off the cuff mention by Paul”.

              “reliable fact”, lol.

              These NT books are merely unverified stories.

              • MrHorse
                2019-01-01 03:04:24 GMT+0000 - 03:04 | Permalink

                application of solid as an adjective is an accent fallacy.

                The tone of your post is of ad baculum, ad lapidem, and ad ignoratum fallacies (and probably more).

                The onus is on you to prove these theological narratives have veracity and for you to prove the characters in them were real people in the times these narratives are set.

              • Gary
                2019-01-01 03:07:12 GMT+0000 - 03:07 | Permalink

                Wrong. You are incorrectly using the Appeal to Authority Fallacy. Appealing to consensus expert opinion is NOT a logical fallacy. (I feel like I am having a discussion with fundamentalist Christians!)

              • MrHorse
                2019-01-01 03:18:52 GMT+0000 - 03:18 | Permalink

                Yes it is, Gary. And you saying I’m like a fundamentalist Christian is an ad hominem fallacy.

                You’re not addressing the issues and the context of the information on which the issues are based.

              • db
                2019-01-01 03:23:55 GMT+0000 - 03:23 | Permalink

                Cf. Carrier (8 May 2014). “On Evaluating Arguments from Consensus“. Richard Carrier Blogs.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2019-01-01 04:59:43 GMT+0000 - 04:59 | Permalink

              Oh John, if anyone has been folllowing half attentively this blog they would know very well that my complaint with NT scholars is that they do NOT use the same methods other historians of ancient times.

              Yes of course most NT scholars who have posted something on Gal 1:19 seem to assume it is evidence of Jesus’ historicity (but have you really counted all of them?) and they do so on entirely fallacious grounds and a culpable naive reading of the text out of context with the other relevant literature.

              You are simply flat wrong when you accuse me of trying to make the passage say something it obviously does not say. You do not bother to read my posts, evidently. You just count pages with words of “of” and “the” and “James” in them and accuse me of somehow being obsessed with denying the plain facts about the topic.

              I would appreciate a little bit of honest and half-way competent effort from you to read and understand my posts instead of just fallaciously counting them and making wild baseless assumptions and accusations.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2019-01-01 05:02:43 GMT+0000 - 05:02 | Permalink

              John, I really think an apology would be nice for your fallacious way of counting posts supposedly on the brother of the lord and for your resultant insinuation that I am obsessed with the topic for intellectually dishonest reasons. — And also an apology for accusing me of focusing on an irrelevent detail when I pick you up on it, and your accusation that I am always avoiding the relevant points of your baseless and fallacious interpretations of my posts.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-01-01 02:21:07 GMT+0000 - 02:21 | Permalink

      If I may add my own two cents’ worth to what others have said — because this is one of my favourite discussions.

      Biases are inevitable. What we hope is not always inevitable is awareness of our biases and efforts we undertake to counter them. I know I have a bias for Luke copying Mark and Matthew and dispensing with Q. But I am very aware that part of the reason I like that idea is its simplicity and promise of leading to clearer understandings of Luke’s time and audience and theology. So I do not close my eyes to the arguments for Q, but even try to give at least as much if not more time to following up arguments for Q and against the Luke used Matthew hypothesis.

      It was the same when I became an atheist: I was terrified when challenged to examine some of my long-held beliefs and really was frightened to let go of God. But that only spurred me to be all the more sure of what I was learning and questioning. I had been very very wrong many times before.

      It was the same when I came across Earl Doherty’s challenge to question the historicity of Jesus. I certainly had no wish to jump on any bandwagons and thought I’d be a lot more comfortable with a historical Jesus in attempting to explain Christian origins. What began to turn me towards the Christ myth idea was approaching many NT scholars and asking them to address certain points Doherty had made. When one gets on the whole in response personal attacks and logical fallacies and inferences in place of genuine evidence, then one does begin to suspect that the other side is resting more on bias than intellectual integrity.

      I even like Bayes’ theorem as an occasional aide because that helps you keep an even balance of the pros and cons of each side of the question regardless of your biases.

  • Amer
    2018-12-31 11:59:49 GMT+0000 - 11:59 | Permalink

    Er … While I’m at it … Do we need to distinguish between

    The postulate that “The Jesus idea is not historical therefore a myth” from “The Jesus idea is contrary to history therefore a myth” from “The Jesus idea was intentionally fabricated as found in history” ?

  • 2018-12-31 17:10:19 GMT+0000 - 17:10 | Permalink

    The relevant postulate for me is “The historical Jesus did not exist.” We then have to define “historical Jesus.” In my mind, the historical Jesus, if he existed, was: a Jewish preacher who lived in Palestine during the early first century who was executed by Roman or Jewish officials and some of whose followers, sometime after his death, initiated a religious movement in his name that evolved, over the next two centuries or so, into the religion known to history as Christianity.

    I’m not comfortable saying the the idea was fabricated, because it tends to imply some kind of fraud. I don’t believe that the people who wrote the gospels were trying to deceive anyone. I think they were writing fiction, and that certain of their readers later came to believe that the stories were supposed to be historically factual.

    • Amer
      2019-01-01 05:59:51 GMT+0000 - 05:59 | Permalink

      Thank you Doug for your replies …

      Personally, I’m not happy with setting up a “historical Jesus” as “as Jewish preacher who lived in Palestine, executed by Romans and Jews” because this ignores the Jesus we are supposed to be looking for in history.

      Why can’t we look for a “A messiah from Palestine, miracle worker, who brought a message of reform, rebuked his people, largely unaccepted, was alive after his death penalty”?

      Because in the latter version we will look for evidence of an embarrassing cover up, (but we will not do that in the demystified illustration of Jesus), given the fact that the history we have from the outset is supposed to have come from his detractors, who later may have converted or from his followers whose texts could have been edited.

      We know that Christ followers in the earliest times were persecuted by both Jews and Romans. We also know that the motive of having killed a messiah claimant in the eyes of the Romans was to show their power and the motive for the Jews was to disprove the claim itself. Having escaped death either by not being killed at all or by resurrection – all we need to do is to find evidence that these salient points were being avoided or diminshed in someway by the chroniclers. It would wrong to look for what they are saying and more correct to look at what they are not saying – avoiding.

      I think doing this type of investigation might have merit. The first thing we can establish is that there were several messiah movements at that time. I think that is a good starting point.

      • 2019-01-02 23:34:48 GMT+0000 - 23:34 | Permalink

        Amer, I’m not trying to set up the historical Jesus. I am trying to define a person who, if he existed, I would agree to call the historical Jesus, but while I’m at it, I don’t want to stack the deck against anyone who might disagree with my conclusion. That means among other things using as few criteria as I can. That is because I believe in using a Bayesian analysis on the evidence, and to avoid stacking the Bayesian deck, I need to maximize the prior probability of Jesus’ historicity, and that requires minimizing the specified details of what he would have said and did if he had existed. The prior probability of any messiah and miracle worker is far lower, by statistical necessity, than the prior probability of a preacher with some disciples.

        No evidence for a coverup will be needed until somebody alleges that there was one, and the evidence will have to be produced by whoever makes the allegation.

        I don’t agree that we know anything about any persecution of the first Christians by either Jews or Romans. It is a fact that later Christians said that their predecessors had suffered persecution, but I’m not prepared to assume that it must have happened just because they said it happened.

        As for what anybody was not saying . . . that is not prima facie evidence of anything. It is prima facie an absence of evidence. Under certain conditions (i. e. not prima facie) an absence of evidence can be evidence of absence, but it is not good historiography to start by looking at what people were not saying and then trying to figure out what they were trying to hide.

  • 2019-01-01 05:14:58 GMT+0000 - 05:14 | Permalink

    “Appealing to consensus expert opinion is NOT a logical fallacy.”

    But it is. Whenever you make any statement of the form “A, therefore B,” it is a fallacy if it is possible for B to be false notwithstanding that A is true. In words, if, in the real world, it is possible for a consensus of experts to be mistaken, then any appeal to consensus expert opinion is a fallacy.

    This is not to say an appeal to expert consensus is never justified, but it is not justified because it is a valid argument. It is justified when it is a cogent inductive argument. In the lexicon of most logicians, any inductive argument is fallacious, strictly speaking.

  • Neil Godfrey
    2019-01-01 05:55:48 GMT+0000 - 05:55 | Permalink

    Appealing to scholarly consensus is identified as the fallacy of the prevalent proof by historian David Hackett Fischer:

    The fallacy of the prevalent proof

    Theologians’ Miracle: Turning Fallacy into Proof

    The Fallacy Few Historians Have Avoided

  • Amer
    2019-01-04 22:32:12 GMT+0000 - 22:32 | Permalink

    Thank you Doug for the very comprehensive answer. I need to do some reading up on the Baesiyan analysis thing you mentioned.

    I’m not a Jesus mythicist as you have guessed. For me not finding a preacher named Jesus in history means simply that history may have missed it or records that would have become history may have been erased or altered as two possible options other than concluding Jesus is not in history therefore he is myth. That is my current thought process.

    But I’ll keep reading and learning.

    How and where would the following be entertained?

    I’ve made a few assumptions … I’ve thought that since followers of Christ according to scripture saw him as a Prophet and miracle worker then it would be reasonable for his detractors to look at such a man as a magician. So to look for Jesus in his opposition’s books would mean I would need to look at the way they would have viewed him. Is this a sound way to look at this topic?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-01-04 22:43:25 GMT+0000 - 22:43 | Permalink

      But we don’t know that “followers of Christ . . . saw him as a prophet and miracle worker”. What we have are narratives, written stories, and those written narratives give us a literary figure who is depicted as a prophet and miracle worker.

      Whether there was a real historical figure behind such a literary character is the question that we seem to be asking.

      So if we see non-Christians engaging with a literary character, is that evidence for a historical Jesus behind the literary person? Or if non-Christians speak of a historical character in the “real world” is that evidence that there was such a character in history?

      • Amer
        2019-01-05 03:56:59 GMT+0000 - 03:56 | Permalink

        Thank you Geoff for your clarification …I’m having trouble working out … How does a starting point such as yours – that is a “real world” I guess – “Jesus who is not a miracle worker” possibly lead to the conclusion that the literary character is actually his more historical? It seems somewhat rigged to fail. I can’t find an out.

    • 2019-01-05 01:19:25 GMT+0000 - 01:19 | Permalink

      “Is this a sound way to look at this topic?”

      No, because you’re assuming your conclusion, which is that the documents you call “scripture” are historically reliable. Those documents do mention a man whom some called Christ, and they say he had some followers, and they say his followers thought he was a prophet and miracle worker. But just because those documents say those things doesn’t mean any of them was true.

      “For me not finding a preacher named Jesus in history means simply that history may have missed it or records that would have become history may have been erased or altered”

      Of course that is possible. It is also possible that we don’t find him in history because he was never there. So we have two possibilities. So then what do we do? What we do then is try to figure out which is more probable, and there are ways for us to reach a reasoned judgment about that. One of those ways, and the best way in my opinion, is Bayes’s Theorem.

      • db
        2019-01-05 02:22:35 GMT+0000 - 02:22 | Permalink

        • Both the the ahistoricity thesis and the historicity thesis have to be tested side by side.

        Per Carrier (25 April 2016). “Bart Ehrman Just Can’t Do Truth or Logic”. Richard Carrier Blogs.

        [Per Bart Ehrman] A common logical error he and many historians make is to say “My theory explains the evidence, therefore my theory is true!” They forget to ask if an alternative explanation also explains the same evidence just as well (or even better). See OHJ, pp. 512-14. And here, Ehrman isn’t even testing the mythicist thesis.

  • Amer
    2019-01-05 04:13:11 GMT+0000 - 04:13 | Permalink

    Open Questions:
    If A is Amazing Jesus and B is Basic Jesus, If we are to search for B in history and find he does not exist there, then what do we conclude?

    B is not in history therefore B doesn’t exist
    B is not in history therefore A doesn’t exist
    Or is it more like this … A is part of B?
    If B doesn’t exist then A cannot exist too?

    If I were to argue that A is not suitable as a subset of B then what would a mythicist do to conclude that he was wrong about A?

    • db
      2019-01-05 04:49:56 GMT+0000 - 04:49 | Permalink

      • First define a minimal “Historicity Jesus”.

      Per Carrier, Richard (2014). On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt. Sheffield Phoenix Press. ISBN 978-1-909697-35-5.

      [T]hree minimal facts on which historicity rests:
      1. An actual man at some point named Jesus acquired followers in life who continued as an identifiable movement after his death.
      2. This is the same Jesus who was claimed by some of his followers to have been executed by the Jewish or Roman authorities.
      3. This is the same Jesus some of whose followers soon began worshiping as a living god (or demigod).
      That all three propositions are true shall be my minimal theory of historicity. —(p. 34)

      Cf. “Did Jesus Exist 1. Terms of debate”. YouTube. Fishers of Evidence. 15 February 2016.

      Dr Sarah responded to Carrier′s minimal “Historicity Jesus”:

      A couple of quibbles:

      a) He would in actual fact have been named Yeshu or Yeshua, as Jesus was the Latinised version of the name, which a historical Jesus wouldn’t have used.

      b) I’d add ‘This is the movement which grew into what we now know as the Christian faith’. (…it’s otherwise theoretically possible that there might have been some other movement of people following a Yeshua who was executed while meanwhile Christianity arose from a mythical Yeshua/Jesus.)

    • 2019-01-05 15:52:54 GMT+0000 - 15:52 | Permalink

      “If A is Amazing Jesus and B is Basic Jesus, If we are to search for B in history and find he does not exist there, then what do we conclude?”

      You keep trying to make the issue more complicated than it needs to be. This discussion is about whether there is any truth at all in the narratives recorded in the canonical gospels. If there was a historical Jesus as I have defined him, then the answer is yes. If there was not, then the answer is no. What you are calling the Amazing Jesus is more often referred to as the Christ of faith, i.e. the object of Christian worship. If he was real, then so was the historical Jesus, but it is possible that the historical Jesus was real but not the Christ of faith. In other words, if you want to prove the reality of the Amazing Jesus, you have to start by proving the reality of the Basic Jesus.

      If you find sufficient evidence for the historical Jesus, then and only then you can take another look at that evidence and see whether it establishes the reality of the Christ of faith beyond reasonable doubt.

  • Amer
    2019-01-06 10:33:41 GMT+0000 - 10:33 | Permalink

    Thank you Doug

    That is very clear now. It’s just that I’m doing my own research from another point of view and I need to understand the various perspectives. I believe in order to describe the characteristics of a historical Jesus one would need to identify elements that not only believers, but also non-believers would be happy with. That is to have those characteristics that are universally or objectively true. He was a man for example would be agreeable to anyone and therefore finding a man, would be easy or optimal. As a opposed to a special man, and so on. I guess I understand this.

    • db
      2019-01-06 12:51:31 GMT+0000 - 12:51 | Permalink

      “Eschatology Jesus” from the “Historicity Jesus” set, is plumped for by:

      • Albert Schweitzer (1913). Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung (in German) (2nd, Revised and Expanded ed.). Mohr. p. 512. “Das moderne Christentum muss von vornherein und immer mit der Möglichkeit einer eventuellen Preisgabe der Geschichtlichkeit Jesu rechnen.”

      • Bart Ehrman (28 May 2017) [2012]. The Bart Ehrman Blog. “Would I be traumatized if the mythicists were right after all? Not in the least. I would probably feel energized.”

      • Richard Carrier

      Per Carrier, the probability that Jesus existed (“Historicity Jesus”), could not reasonably be higher than 1 in 3 (i.e. ~33%).
      Cf. Widowfield, Tim (2 May 2015). “More Thoughts on Minimal Historicity: When Bigger Isn’t Better”. Vridar.

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